So, why Simeon for a puzzle? We all know of transient austerities performed to this day: the self-flagellation of Muharram, the piercings with spikes, needles, and hooks during Thaipusam in southern India (and S.E. Asia), the angapradhikshanam - ritualized, tamed, and monetized - in Tirupati and many, many others. The Christians had such traditions too. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, wore a cilice (a hair shirt**) under his archbishop's garments. In what will almost certainly come as a surprise to most of you, he also eschewed hygiene as vanity, a practice far more common in the middle ages than you might imagine. Upon Becket's death, his clothes and body were found to be crawling with lice, the fruits of his radical asceticism; there have been claims that he deliberately infested himself with vermin, but that is another story! Bodily mortification is undertaken as penance or in search of mystical powers, especially in Indian mythology. Voluntary control of the mortal body provided access to celestial forces and spiritual technology. We have all heard tales of Ravana's tapas or the much more amusing - to little Indian children on Dada/Dadi's lap - story of Viksha. Among these many mythical tales, I have found some real examples of asceticism more fascinating than most - these include the silent monks of the Carthusian order*** and Simeon the Stylite to choose just two. Archaeological and textual evidence suggests that Simeon spent most of the last 37 years of his ~70-year life standing atop the pillar, 50 feet high, now marked by the boulder you see in the picture of the Basilica, on a 3x3 feet platform. Once ascended, he never came down. Even so, he advised the Pope and maintained an active correspondence. Foot gangrene he ignored as penance. He spent most of his time contemplating his God and advising the simple folk who sought him out. What sort of people are they who can sustain a lifetime of such ascetcism, devotion, and unwavering faith? What might Simeon's DMT level be? **Thomas More's hair shirt you can see: The hair shirt was rescued after More’s execution and held by the Augustinian abbesses of Abbotskerswell Priory in Devon until it came to the care of the Diocese of Plymouth. It has now been encased in Buckfast Abbey for public veneration, erected above the altar of the Chapel. ***As incentive to watch Philip Gröning's film on the Carthusian monks, allow me to add this: "Groning approached the Carthusians for permission to shoot the film in 1984, and they said they weren't quite ready. Sixteen years later, they said they were."