A hermit is a person living in self-reclusion by his/her choice, as many early Christians did. But this term can also be applied to certain practitioners of Hinduism or Buddhism.

Hermits often dwelled in caves, forests or deserts, but some of them preferred an isolated cell in a monastery. Most hermits are men.

Hermits in Religion

From a religious point of view, a hermit chooses that form of life to be closer to his god, spending most of his time in meditation, contemplation and prayer (sometimes also preaching, like John the Baptist).

Hermits renounce to all pleasures of life, beginning with sex, following with luxury and cleanness, a good diet, etc., and ending in most cases with the contact between them and other people. They try to reach sanctity by means of this way of life, and Catholicism has canonised many of them. The term saint is also used in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing, a 19th century psychiatrist, had already referred to the desire of reaching sanctity as a hysteric manifestation.

John Chrysostom is an example of misogynous hermit; he said that it was preferable to remain single than to have to bear the burden of a woman (among other contemptuous concepts on women).

Anthony the Great is an example of psychotic hermit that suffered hallucinations, characterised by visions of demons tempting him with beautiful women to commit sexual "sins".

Gautama Buddha can be cited as an example of misogynous hermit (he abandoned his wife and son, and when re-encountered them never had sexual intercourse with her again) that also suffered hallucinations, blaming the demon Mara for showing him beautiful women with nice huge breasts and fragrant hips.

Diogenes the Cynic was an ancient Greek philosopher who led an ascetic life in a barrel. When Alexander the Great came to him one day and offered to grant him a wish, Diogenes asked Alexander to step out of his sun.

Hermits in Medicine

From a psychiatric point of view, hermits are persons suffering a religious mania, a mental alteration characterised by misogyny (misandry in case of women), hysteria, and many times psychosis. The tendency to self-reclusion is a schizophrenic characteristic, present not only in schizophrenia but also in pre-schizophrenic persons.

It is common the presence of hallucinations in hermits, as well as hearing voices (psychotic characteristics).

See Eden Ahbez