The Early Modern Jesuit Attitude towards Hindu and Ethiopian Strains of Asceticism


This book presents an early modern Jesuit attitude towards Hindu and Ethiopian strains of asceticism. The Jesuits’ descriptions of both the yogis and the Ethiopian renunciates were marked by ambivalence. While critical of these ascetics, the missionaries also pointed out admirable facets of their comportment. In both the Society of Jesus’ positive and negative impressions, there are glaring ethnocentric views that shift the spotlight onto the other’s flaws. Like many historical cases, these perceptions evolved into a sort of inverted mirror image of the self that revealed differences between the European Catholic and the native renunciate.

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Leonardo Cohen, Ph.D. (2007, University of Haifa) is Professor at the Department of Middle East at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He has published articles on the history of the Jesuit mission in Ethiopia, and the book The Missionary Strategies of the Jesuits of Ethiopia (1555–1632) (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009).

Introduction: The Early Modern Jesuit Attitude toward Hindu and Ethiopian Strains of Asceticism
 1 A Comparative View of Jesuits and Ascetics

1 Historical Background to the Jesuit–Eastern Ascetic Encounter
 1 The Missions and the Portuguese Padroado of the East
 2 The Jesuit Experience in India and Ethiopia
 3 The Jesuit Approach to Asceticism: In Search of Symmetry
 4 Hindu Ascetism

2 Understanding Ethiopian Asceticism
 1 Interest in the Origins of Ethiopian Asceticism
 2 Description and Assessment of the Ethiopian Ascetic
 3 The Danger of Relaxing Ascetic Norms
 4 The Virtues of the Virgin and the Question of Who Is a Good Christian
 5 Conclusion

3 Jesuits and Yogis: Description and Ambivalence
 1 The Visual Impact of Yogis
 2 Yogi as Role Model (Imitatio yogii)
 3 The Excesses of the Renunciants
 4 Conclusion

4 Confronting Yogis and Ethiopian Monks
 1 Doctrinal Errors and “Inadequate” Biblical Exegesis of Ethiopian Monks
 2 Degenerate Christianity
 3 Conclusion

5 Another Polemical Front: Faith, Healing, and Medicine
 1 Exorcisms and Healing
 2 Salvation through Images, Relics, Crosses, and Amulets
 3 Volatility, Social Tensions, and Natural Disasters
 4 The Allure of Shrines
 5 Conclusion

6 Jesuit Ambitions to Convert Ascetics
 1 The Motivations of Converts and the Genuine Conversion Dilemma
 2 “Conversion of the Heart”: The Jesuit Approach to the Evangelization of the Yogis
 3 The Conversion of Ethiopian Monks
 4 Coercion, Intimidation, and Punishment
 5 Fake Catholics
 6 Conclusion

All interested in the history of the Society of Jesus and their perception on the phenomena of asceticism in different cultures. Keywords: Jesuits, Ethiopia, India, Hinduism, Christianity, Catholicism, religion, asceticism, monks, yogis.
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