Hermits have thrived in every major historical era, geography, culture, and society - from antiquity to the present, East and West, in deserts, forests,
and mountains, depicted in art, literature, and lore.
What are their motives?
Religious, spiritual, philosophical? Ethical, aesthetic, psychological? From a love of wilderness to a desire for the anonymity of life as a "hermit in the city." From an inkling about the universe to a desire for radical simplicity. The historical hermits have reflected all of these.
As Kahlil Gibran put it, "A hermit renounces the world of fragments to enjoy the world wholly, without interruption." Hermits want, as Thoreau proposed of himself, to "live deliberately."
Within these pages, all these motives are explored, all the hermits considered: poets, sages, teachers, philosophers, the eccentric, pious, irreverent, sociable, reclusive, and wise - men and women. Hermits from India, China, Japan, and South Asia, huts, cells, and cabins, from the Middle East to Europe to the United States. The waning of hermits shifted the modern Western world to solitude. But the persistence of hermits, even today, is universal.