What they say about Hermitary

About hermitary & its resident; plus FAQs

What they say about Hermitary

CITYDESERT, Desert Spirituality for the City, re Hermitary (March 8, 2014):
"Do look at Hermitary on a regular basis! It reminds us that the eremitical tradition is universal. It is deeply humbling and greatly awe-inspiring to be reminded that those of us who seek to follow the path of the Hermit follow in the footsteps (if, alas, we cannot claim to walk in the shoes) of a vast lineage of men and women from all religious and cultural tradition (and none), in every age and in every place and in every culture."

UTNE Media blog re HERMITARY (Nov. 19, 2010):
"Want to get away? Far away? Feel like disappearing for a time, even if only vicariously? Hermitary is a one-stop resource for your inner hermit. One of the most consistently wondrous sites on the internet."

SHEDWORKING blog re HERMITARY (May 1, 2007):
"A fantastic site for those who regard a bit of peace and quiet as, on the whole, a good thing is The Hermitary which has a wide range of articles, book reviews and links on the subject of hermits and solitude. There's also an interesting blog, Hermit's Thatch."

Hermitary & its resident; plus FAQs

[This section was written in 2002 and remains unchanged.]

A hermitary is a dwelling for a hermit. Hermitary is an obsolete medieval English word, which, however, referred to enclosed anchorites more than to hermits. But that is by the way.

This hermitary is the dream hut of the pseudonymous Meng-hu, the dreamtiger, whose Western name is derived from a short story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The title of the story, entitled in English, is dreamtigers.

In that story, the narrator recalls that as a child he was impressed by the tigers in the zoo, then dreamed of them. As an old man, he tries to dream them again, but they are no longer the same shape or color or clarity. Instead, they are "dreamtigers."

So Meng-hu tries to dream, not of tigers, perhaps, but of what his face was like before his parents were born. But he does not worry about whether the dreamtigers are clear and distinct. It is enough that the sun shines, the trees in the forest sway with the breeze that is cool against his face, and that the birds still sing outside his ramshackle hut.



[This section was written in 2002 and remains unchanged.]

What is a hermit?
A hermit is a person who lives apart from society. Traditionally, this has meant living alone and self-sufficiently, but not always. The word "hermit" is derived from the Greek eremia for "desert," in reference to the Desert Fathers of the fourth century; and eremos came to mean solitary. The Latin equivalent is solitarius. The term recluse is often taken as a synonym but it has a more behavioral sense to it, while the term "hermit" often retains its deliberate, even spiritual sense. For example, the famed eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica defined "hermit" as "a solitary, one who withdraws from all intercourse with other human beings in order to live a life of religious contemplation." However, the American Heritage Dictionary defines "hermit" as "a person who has withdrawn from society and lives a solitary existence; a recluse."

What is eremitism?  What is a cenobite?
Eremitism is the term describing the way of life or system of being a hermit. The term is used to distinguish religious forms of living. A monk or nun living in a community of others, as opposed to living as a hermit, is a cenobite. Cenobite (as opposed to eremite) is derived from the Greek koinos, meaning community.

Why does a person become a hermit?
In every religious tradition, the individual has been advised to withdraw within the self, separate from the world, in order to achieve inner peace, if not insight. What has differed among these religious cultures is the degree to which this inwardness is permitted, even cultivated. Eastern cultures have encouraged, respected, even admired the decision to become a hermit. In the West, the primacy of social and external life has often opposed or put strictures and sanctions on hermits.

Are there other reasons for seeking solitude?
One need not be religious or spiritual to appreciate the ability to find space for oneself, to seek self-expression, and to be indifferent to or choose not to conform to the ways of the world. A spiritual tradition or culture has often been the frequent context, but some individuals have created their own philosophical reasons for pursuing solitude, especially as wilderness solitude. Others have discovered renewed creativity from limited periods of solitude. As long as solitude is voluntary, not forced by psychological illness or institutional confinements or oppressions, solitude has been universal.

What about people who live apart from society but seem to have "problems"?
Solitude must be an option based on a mature level of consciousness. Enforced solitude is not at all what we refer to here. Psychological and mental problems, social conflict, addictive and violent behavior, imprisonment, diseases - all have been factors in isolating people from society. Even voluntary solitude such as survivalism or egoism is not the solitude to which we refer. These concepts have no relation to the tradition of solitude and eremitism seen over the centuries and across all cultures.

How can one be a hermit when daily life is so complex?
An Eastern passage describes the true hermit as one who can be in a crowd. Of course, that is not a literal eremitism, but the point that matters is the consciousness of the individual. The responsibilities and entanglements of the world must be understood for what they are, from a philosophical or spiritual perspective. How to go about it? Externally, simplifying one's life is the best path toward peace of mind, and peace of mind is a prerequisite to solitude. At that point, solitude can begin to enhance and strengthen the conviction of how external things are precisely that: external. In the Zen tradition, one is bidden to begin practising (i.e., meditating) at once, not to begin by trying to analyze one's responsibilities and entanglements and present life situation or predicament. Meditation will begin to put all these externals into perspective.

How many hermits are there or have there been? How have they done it?
It is the purpose of Hermitary to explore these questions and provide information. You are always welcome to communicate with us at the e-mail account listed on this page. Thank you for visiting!

BBC RADIO 4 - In Our Time (June 19, 2014), selects Hermitary for its recommended web resources on "The Philosophy of Solitude."