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Title: Some fundamental organizing concepts in a Greek monastic community on Mount Athos.
Author: Sarris, Marios.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3553 3526
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2000
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This social anthropological thesis reports on fieldwork in a coenobitic Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos. In Part I the thesis is concerned with metanoia - repentance from sins. Penthos, mourning, is a personal condition of extreme sobriety in which both laughter and anger are avoided, and repentance must be expressed in word and posture if ever anger is shown. But tacitly, there can be a competitive element in seeking pardon. If a monk weeps, this is seen as a gift - charisma - from God, and this is most likely to be conferred on senior and notably devout monks. Part II is concerned with the transition from the newcomer status through to three higher degrees of spiritual maturity. This progress is marked both by transitional rituals, such as tonsure, and the formal donning of robes which signify higher stages. The insights of Van Gennep are helpftil in appreciating the general transition from the secular to a more spiritual condition, and in appreciating particular rituals. But the condition of spiritual vulnerability is not captured by either a particular rite, or practices in a particular place. The fuller understanding of passage requires Seremetakis' wider and more flexible approach, expressed in the concept of "ritualization". She directs our attention away from the specificity of any particular rite, to the wider context of fragmented social experiences, and understandings which are precipitates of an unstable flow of ordinary social events. Part ifi deals with the problems presented by parastaseis - representations - or, more simply, memories of secular life. Monks should have utterly renounced their secular affections to their consanguineal kin. Nor should they be proud of their previous communities of origin, or educational attainments. In principle, the value of humility - tapeinosis - should reign. But here is a further context for inequality to occur. For the minority of monks who have been previously married, no matter how they struggle to obliterate memories of their attachments to wives or children - are deemed to be in an inherently inferior condition to those whose purity has never been compromised by sexual congress, or procreative pride. The thesis concludes with the observation that Turner's concept of an inherently egalitarian communitas is not supported by the monastery. Rather, Dumont's proposal that in all religious value commitments, there are inevitably implicit rank differences, fmds support. Just as the monks in their own eyes are spiritually superior to the laity, so within the community of monks, the nevermarried are ranked in their own eyes above the pandremenoi, the "married" monks. In a substantial Appendix, the monastic naming system is examined within the framework of suggestions from Levi-Strauss, and against the contrast medium of previous Greek ethnography.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Metanoia; Status; Monks; Ritual; Greece