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Re: DSS Course (monastery theory)

It would be a mistake to base your analysis on the assumption that there were
no "Chasidim" before the 18th century.  The term may have been used
generically much earlier, but I am aware of at least two groups referred to
specifically as Chasidim well before the 18th century.  A mystical group
arose around the 12th century in Germany known as the Chasidei Ashkenaz.
 They were somewhat ascetic, and atypically focused on martyrdom, perhaps in
reaction to the persecution being suffered by European Jews at that time.
 They leave us a book appropriately titled Sefer Hasidim (The Book of the
Pious), as well as a number of significant contributions to Jewish liturgy. 
Perhaps more pertinent to this discussion, there was also a group, I believe
starting late in the Second Temple era, called the Chasidim Rishonim or some
such thing, usually referred to as the "Early Chasidim".  There is a
reference to them in the Talmud itself or other rabbinic writing of that era,
mentioning that they spend longer over their prayers than others.  Some
speculate that they were engaged in meditative techniques.  I apologize for
the vagueness on them.  Perhaps someone more knowledgable than I can fill in
some details.  If anyone cares, I can probably do some research and provide
more definitive answers, but I'm just an amateur enjoying eavesdropping on
the rest of you.
Aaron Hoffman