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A '''hermit''' (from the [[Greek language|Greek]] erēmos, signifying "desert", "uninhabited", hence "desert-dweller") is a person who lives to some greater or lesser degree in seclusion from society.
Originally the term was applied to a Christian who lives the ''eremitic life'' out of a religious conviction, namely the Desert Theology of the Old Testament (i.e. the 40 years wandering in the desert that was meant to bring about a change of heart).
Often – both in religious and secular literature – the term is used loosely for anyone living a solitary life-style – including the misanthropist – and in religious contexts is sometimes assumed to be interchangeable with ''anchorite''/''anchoress'' (from the [[Greek language|Greek]] anachōreō, signifying "to withdraw", "to depart into the country outside the circumvallated city"), [[recluse]] and ''solitary''. However, it is important to retain a clear distinction.
Christian hermits in the past have most often lived in [[cave]]s, [[forest]]s, or [[desert]]s, but some of them preferred an isolated cell in a [[monastery]] or even a city. From what we know from their contribution to our Christian heritage, male hermits were more common than female. As regards the anchorites, one that has left a lasting impression on Christian spirituality is the [[England|English]] anchoress [[Julian of Norwich]].
==Hermits in religion==
[[Image:Kerkzomerpiep.jpg|thumb|right|Hermitage "Our Lady the Garden Enclosed" in [[Warfhuizen]], [[the Netherlands]].]]
From a [[religion|religious]] point of view, the solitary life is a form of [[asceticism]], wherein the hermit renounces wordly concerns and pleasures in order to come closer to the [[deity|deity or deities]] they worship or revere. This practice appears in [[Christianity]], [[Hinduism]], [[Islam]], and [[Buddhism]]. In ascetic hermitism, the hermit seeks solitude for [[meditation]], [[contemplation]], and [[prayer]] without the distractions of contact with human society, [[sex]], or the need to maintain socially acceptable standards of [[cleanliness]] or [[dress]]. The ascetic [[discipline]] can also include a simplified [[diet (nutrition)|diet]] and/or [[manual labor]] as a means of support; for example, the early Christian [[Desert Father]]s often wove baskets to exchange for bread.
Ironically, religious hermits are often sought out for spiritual advice and counsel and may eventually acquire so many [[disciple]]s that they have no solitude at all. Examples include [[Anthony the Great]], who attracted such a large body of followers in the [[Egypt]]ian desert that he is considered by both Catholics and the [[Eastern Orthodoxy|Orthodox]] to be the "Founder of [[Monasticism]]", and [[Gautama Buddha]], who, having abandoned his family for a solitary quest for spiritual enlightenment, ended up as the founder of Buddhism.
One interesting variation of the eremitic life is the [[Carthusian]] order of [[Roman Catholic]] [[monk]]s and [[nun]]s. Carthusians live in what are essentially "[[Community|communities]] of hermits", each monastic having their own cell (with sleeping chamber, study, and workshop) where they spend most of their time alone, except when they meet in [[church]] for [[worship]], and on other occasions.
Other religious hermits include [[Simeon Stylites]], [[Herman of Alaska]], [[Thomas Merton]], [[Sergius of Radonezh]], [[Seraphim of Sarov]], and Charles de Foucauld.
It is also possible for people to forsake human society for reasons other than religious. For example, [[Henry David Thoreau]] spent two years living an essentially solitary life near [[Walden Pond]] in pursuit of a simple, [[environmentalism|environmentally-friendly]] life. In a more notorious case, [[Theodore Kaczynski]], known as the "Unabomber", lived in a remote cabin in [[Montana]] which gave him both refuge from what he viewed as a society corrupted by [[technology]] and privacy to build [[mailbomb]]s.
==Hermits in philosophy==
[[Friedrich Nietzsche]], in his influential work [[Thus Spoke Zarathustra]], created the character of the hermit [[Zarathustra (fictional philosopher)|Zarathustra]] (named after the [[Zoroastrianism|Zoroastrian]] [[prophet]] [[Zoroaster|Zarathushtra]]), who emerges from seclusion to extol his philosophy to the rest of humanity.
[[Diogenes the Cynic]], an [[Ancient Greece|ancient Greek]] [[philosopher]], led an ascetic life in a barrel. According to [[legend]], when [[Alexander the Great]] came to him one day and offered to grant him a wish, Diogenes asked Alexander to step out of his sunlight.
*[http://www.hermitary.com/ Hermitary: the hermit, hermits, recluses, eremiticism, solitude]
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