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."
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?
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Heritage Dictionary defines "hermit" as "a person who has withdrawn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?
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
Why does a person become
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
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!