Asceticism is a lifestyle of rigorous self-discipline, often using some form of self-denial, simple living, or both as the means for spiritual improvement. The word itself is rooted in the Greek word ascesis, emphasizing a disciplined lifestyle. The ancient Greeks used it in reference to both athletes and philosophers. Athletes were ascetic in the sense that they were disciplined to train hard every day in preparation for competition. The term was used about philosophers when discussing those who, for the sake of wisdom, spent more time in contemplation for the development of character and virtue and avoided what were considered more worldly pursuits.

In the Christian tradition, the goal of the ascetic was union with God. This union occurred once one passed through several classic stages ...

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