Archive for October, 2014

Anniversary of The Hermitage

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2014 by citydesert

October 26 is the Commemoration of Saint Cedd (Cedda) (620-664), Bishop of the East Saxons, Abbot of the Monastery of Lastingham (Laestingaeu) in Northumbria (England); brother of Saint Chad (Ceadda) (d 762: Bishop of the Northumbrians and subsequently Bishop of the Mercians and Lindsey People, and, after Cedd, Abbot of Lastingham); and brother of Saint Cynibil and Caelin (Bishop of Deira).
It is also the second anniversary of the foundation of The Hermitage of Saint Cedd. The Hermitage was provisionally established on the Feast of Saint Alban (c.209), Protomartyr of Britain, June 22 2012. It was formally established on the Feast of Saint Cedd, October 26 2012.
Hermitage sign 2 (2)
The Hermitage gardens, notably the herb and vegetable gardens, are much improved following Father Edward’s residence here, and, with the arrival of Summer they are bursting into enthusiastic growth. Father Edward’s horticultural skills, no less than his theological and liturgical knowledge, have been greatly appreciated.
The highlight of the period leading up to the second anniversary of The Hermitage was our pilgrimage to the cave of the Hermit Father Guri (Demidov)(1894-1992), Australia’s first Orthodox Hermit, at Kentlyn, on the outskirts of Sydney – see

Saint Ethbin, Hermit of Kildare

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2014 by citydesert

October 19 is the Commemoration of Saint Ethbin, Hermit of Kildare
“Born in Great Britain; died c. 600. Saint Ethbin’s noble father died when he was only about 15 years old. His widowed mother then entrusted his education to his countryman, the great Saint Samson (f.d. July 28), at Dol Abbey in Brittany.
At Mass one day, he really heard the words: “Every one of you that cannot renounce all that he possesses, cannot be my disciple.” He immediately resolved to renounce the world. Because he was a deacon, Ethbin sought the permission of his bishop to withdraw from the world. Upon receiving it, Ethbin retired to the abbey of Taurac in 554. For his spiritual director, the saint chose another: Saint Winwaloee (f.d. March 3). The community was dispersed by a Frankish raid in 556 and Winwaloee died soon thereafter. Ethbin then crossed over to Ireland, where he led the life of a hermit in a forest near Kildare called Nectensis (unidentified) for 20 years.

Troparion of St Ethbin
Tone 8
As a disciple of our Father Samson,
thou wast radiant in thy asceticism, O Father Ethbin,
and having been driven out of Tantac by the unruly Franks
thou didst seek refuge in the remoteness of Erin’s green desert.
Wherefore, O Saint, pray for us that we may not be swayed from our course,
despite all difficulties, that our souls may be saved.”

“St. Ethbin was born in Great Britain; and died in Kildare about the year 600. He was of noble birth. His father died when he was only about 15 years of age. His widowed mother then entrusted his education to his countryman, Saint Samson of Dol Abbey in Brittany.
One day, while Ethbin was at Mass, he really heard the words: “Every one of you that cannot renounce all that he possesses, cannot be my disciple.” He immediately resolved to renounce the world. Because he was a deacon, Ethbin sought the permission of his bishop to withdraw from the world. Upon receiving it, Ethbin retired to the abbey of Taurac. This was about the year 554.
For his spiritual director, this saint chose another: Saint Winwaloë. The community of Taurac was dispersed by a Frankish raid in 556 and Winwaloë died soon thereafter.
Ethbin then crossed over to Ireland, where he led the life of a hermit for 20 years in a forest near Kildare, now unidentifiable, called Nectensis. Historically, there was no cultus for Saint Ethbin in Ireland. His relics are claimed by Montreuil and Pont-Mort in France.
Ethbin tomb
The date assigned to his feast, for example, in the Martyrology of Donegal, is 19th October.”

“He was of a noble British family, and was sent early into France to be educated under the care of his countryman, Saint Samson, who was then bishop of Dole. Under this excellent master he made great progress in virtue: and hearing one day at mass these words of the gospel: Every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple, he immediately formed a resolution to renounce the world. He was at this time a deacon, and having obtained his prelate’s consent he retired to the abbey of Taurac, in the year 554. Here he chose for his guide a holy monk named Guignole, or Winwaloe.
The community of Taurac being dispersed about the year 560, by an irruption of the Franks, and Guignole dying soon after, Saint Ethbin passed into Ireland, where he lived twenty years in a cell which he had built for himself in the midst of a forest. He was famous for his austerities and his miracles, and died at the age of eighty-three, towards the close of the sixth century, on the 19th of October, the day on which his name occurs in the Roman Martyrology.”

St Gallus, Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16, 2014 by citydesert

October 16 is the Commemoration of St Gallus, Hermit
Gall 1
“Saint Gall, Gallen, or Gallus (c. 550 – c. 646) was an Irish disciple and one of the traditional twelve companions of Saint Columbanus on his mission from Ireland to the continent. Saint Deicolus is called an older brother of Gall.
The fragmentary oldest Life was recast in the 9th century by two monks of Reichenau, enlarged in 816–824 by the celebrated Wettinus, and about 833–884 by Walafrid Strabo, who also revised a book of the miracles of the saint. Other works ascribed to Walafrid tell of Saint Gall in prose and verse.
Gall was born in 550. As a young man he went to study under Comgall of Bangor. The monastery at Bangor had become renowned throughout Europe as a great centre of Christian learning. Studying in Bangor at the same time as Gall was Columbanus, who with twelve companions, set out about the year 589, bidding a lifelong farewell to home and friends to face unknown difficulties and dangers in the extension of the Gospel.
St Gall 2
Gall and his companions established themselves with Columbanus at first at Luxeuil in Gaul. In 610 A.D., St. Columban was exiled by leaders opposed to Christianity and fled with St. Gall to Switzerland. He accompanied Columbanus on his voyage up the Rhine River to Bregenz but when in 612 Columbanus travelled on to Italy from Bregenz, Gall had to remain behind due to illness and was nursed at Arbon. He remained in Swabia, where, with several companions, he led the life of a hermit in the forests southwest of Lake Constance, near the source of the river Steinach. Saint Gall was soon known in Switzerland as a powerful preacher.
St Gall 3
When the See of Constance became vacant, the clergy who assembled to elect a new Bishop were unanimously in favour of Gall. He, however, refused, pleading that the election of a stranger would be contrary to Church law. Some time later, in the year 625, on the death of Eustasius, abbott of Luxeuil, a monastery founded by Saint Columbanus, members of that community were sent by the monks to request Saint Gall to undertake the government of the monastery. He refused to quit his life of solitude, and undertake any office of rank which might involve him in the cares of the world. He was then an old man.
St Gall 4
He died at the age of ninety-five around 646–650 in Arbon.”

Saint Levan, Hermit of Cornwall

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14, 2014 by citydesert

October 14 is the Commemoration of Saint Levan (Selevan, Selyr, Selyf), Hermit of Cornwall

“Prince Selevan of Dumnonia, like his brother, St. Just, entered the church. He was known by the commom people as St. Levan and he lived in the village now named after him. Originally he settled in Bodellan, but quickly moved on to St. Levan, treading the path that still exists today between there and Chapel Porth Cove (alias Porth Selevan). On the clifftop here stands his well and a flight of steps descend to the ledge were the remains of his chapel and hermitage.
St Levan stone
In the churchyard at St. Levan is a large rounded pre-christian sacred boulder. The clever saint used the site of this pagan idol to build a church, so its holy reputation was maintained. St. Levan used the stone as a resting place on which to sit on his return from his numerous fishing trips. He often preached from here. Just before he died Levan struck the stone hard with his fist. The rock split in two and the saint declared:
When, with panniers astride,
A pack-horse, one can ride,
Through St. Levan’s stone,
The World will be done.
We’ve got some way to go yet! One writer declared in 1881 that despite knowing the stone for fifty years he had never discerned any movement at all.
Levan ate but one fish a day, and refused to fast even on the Sabbath. Once while on his way to do a little fishing on a Sunday, the saint was rebuked by a local woman named Joanna who was out tending her herb garden. The saint quickly retorted that fishing was no worse than gardening. The woman insisted he was in the wrong. An argument ensued in which St. Levan finally called the woman a fool and proclaimed that in the future any child of the parish called Joanna would find herself to be as stupid as her namesake. Hence no Joannas have since been born in St. Levan.
On one of his fishing trips he caught two chad (bream) on the same hook. Only wanting his customary one fish, he threw them both back, but a second and a third time the two returned to his hook. Taking this as a sign, St. Levan eventually returned home with the both fish and found his sister, St. Breaca, awaiting him with her two sons. St. Levan cooked the chad and served them up to the two ravenous children, but the unfortunate pair neglected to remove the bones and both choked on their dinner. The accursed fish have since been known as chuck-cheels or “Choke-childs”. “

“St Levan was born near St Buryan in the sixth century and was one of numerous Celtic saints who established hermitages around the Cornish coast when Christianity was under siege by the Anglo-Saxon pagans who flooded into Britain after the Romans left. These tiny chapels were usually near a beach (many of the saints arrived by sea from Brittany, Ireland and Wales) and were always near a spring which provided the hermit’s drinking water. St Levan’s chapel was near the beach at Porth Chapel and linked by about 50 stone steps to the well on the hillside above. The name Levan is a corruption of St Selevan, the Celtic form of Solomon.”
St Levan's Well
“St Levan’s Holy Well is close to the Hermit Cell of St Levan – there’s a flight of 40-50 stone steps leading down to it. These are the original medieval steps, leading from the beach at Porthchapel down to the St. Levan Holy Well which were discovered and uncovered in the 1930s as part of an excavation by Rev. H T Valentine and Dr Vernon Favell.
The holy well of St Levan is alongside the path on the clifftop above Porth Chapel beach. Here you will see three walls of large granite blocks, about 4′ high, and a floor which is a huge slab of granite covering the spring which flows out at the southern end.
Below the well there used to be another ancient chapel and burial ground, lost over the cliffs. Locals called the well Parchapel Well and those recorded 160 years ago by Blight (1850s) remembered how, in their youth, they’d visit Parchapel Well twice a year, for repairs and to clean it out and clear the ground around it. The steps leading down to the well were also weeded, cleared and sanded. Parchapel Well would be dressed at the beginning of May every year as well as at Feasten tide. Water from St Levan’s Well was collected and taken to the church for baptisms.”
St Levans Church
For St Levan’s Hermit Cell and St Levan’s Church, see further:

A 19th Century European Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2014 by citydesert

Hermit Butterworth
A delightfully romantic portrayal of a 19th century European Hermit from Hezekiah Butterworth “Zigzag Journeys in Europe: Vacation Rambles in Historic Lands” [Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1879] – available on-line at:
Zig zag cover
Hezekiah Butterworth (1839-1905) was an American writer of books for young people, and a poet.

“The Heritage of the Desert Fathers” Research Project

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2014 by citydesert

“When I first met with Jan Ciglenečki, a scientific member of the Institute for the Study of Christian Tradition (Ljubljana, Slovenia), working at that time in the library of the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology (IFAO) in Cairo, I could not really understand what it meant when he first said there is no map of the hermitages in the deserts around monasteries, the information being scattered hidden in the archaeological literature on dynastic pre-Christian period(since the abandoned pharaonic tombs had been often inhabited by the hermits). How could this be significant to a historian of ideas? As he explained more, I gradually arrived at a basic idea of how from geographical data the patterns of dissemination and migration of ideas could emerge, which would in turn help to reconstruct the daily lives of the early hermits, and consequently providing a theological and philosophical understanding of their teachings, and the rich variety of local influences on their practices.
Hermitage project 1
More and more I could see the need for locating the hermitages to fill the gaps in the bigger picture of Coptic hermitism. After the first trip, I joined the project of “the Heritage of the Desert Fathers”, in deep conviction of the importance of the work that has to be done for our heritage. The mission I undertook is submitting the heritage of the Desert Fathers for nomination to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, while simultaneously raising awareness of the general public….
In order to make the map, the team needed desert survival experts, who would help us in finding the exact geographical coordinates of caves and hermitages, as well as monasteries and sites of functional importance (e.g. sources of water). For this purpose, Guillaume Grac and Samuel Forey, each with exceptional experiences in desert navigation, have joined our team. Once the coordinates are established, it will be possible to create a series of layer files, containing valuable information on individual hermitages as well as on the overall pattern of their distribution.
And there we set off to the desert, although the sight of the almost all red map of the country circulated by embassies is definitely not the most encouraging. There seemed to be no turn of events that the country could not take, which had left a perpetual state of alertness in the air. Not without reason. The curfews that left the roads intimidating and heavily monitored had created the ghostly monsters of anticipated violence. Had it been just the scarey myths of terror we heard everyday, it would have been tolerable. But, not an Egyptian would say without regret the fact that all the monsters in our heads seemed to materialize month after month in all forms and ways.
Hermitage project 6
The preliminary survey trips were made in the desert mountains North and South of Wadi Araba in the Eastern desert, the cradle of hermitism where the hermitage of Saint Anthony is, the region of Al Fayoum oasis, where, we scanned the areas partly excavated by the Polish archeologists from the Polish Center for Mediterranean Archaeology (PCMA) in Cairo, whose director drew our attention to the picturesque hermitages in the rocky desert around the monastery of Archangel Gabriel (deir al Malak Gabriel); the numerous pharaonic tombs in the Nile valley, hardly accessible due to the current political instability; the remnants of the Christian communities in the Bahareya and Farafra oases in the Libyan desert (Eastern Sahara); and on the edges of the Delta region in the ancient Kellia sites and the hermitages in Wadi Natrun, where monastic life has not only lived to the modern times, but also remained to be one of the most influential.
The idea of making the map, and the outcome of these preliminary surveys, raised a lot of interest in the scientific communities. Soon, positive feedback came from several researchers and institution all around the globe….
Hermitage project 2
“The Heritage of the Desert Fathers” research project aims at creating a comprehensive map of the geographical distribution of early anchorites and providing a firm basis for more detailed archaeological research of the hermitages. An in-depth documentation of artificial modifications in the caves around the monasteries might help in the efforts to reconstruct the architectural diversity and the gradual transformations of the hermitages. Once the coordinates are established, it will be possible to create a series of layer files, containing valuable information on individual hermitages as well as on the overall pattern of their distribution. The maps will be made available for the unrestricted use of the community of researchers from all disciplines….
The reception of the project has been exceptional and very promising, but in order for such scale of work to proceed towards its goals on the long term, organization on steady, well-established grounds for systematic progress is indispensable…
Hermitage project 3
If there is any mission that I am after, it is the mission of helping us to achieve a true knowledge of a significant aspect of our heritage. Such consolidated knowledge is not a fake, empty source of pride, but a strong pillar, among others needed, around which we can weave our present and future.”
Hermitage project  7
An extract from: Amira Nagati “The Heritage of the Desert Fathers. Slovenian expedition in the deserts of Egypt and the ancient Christian kingdoms of Nubia” (October 9, 2014)
Hermitage project 4
For the Project, see:
“”The Heritage of the Desert Fathers” research project aims at mapping and photographic surveying of the locations of hermitages in the deserts around monasteries in Egypt and in the Sudan (the ancient Christian kingdoms of Nubia), in addition to the study of the ancient and modern eremetical traditions in their different psychological, theological as well as philosophical aspects.
Although much of the focus of the previous work on the Christians in the deserts has been laid on the archaeological research of the ancient monasteries around Egypt and the Sudan, a systematic overview and recording of the hermitages is lacking. This is especially the case in the more remote areas of Upper Egypt, the Eastern desert, the Western oases, and the Sudan.
The premise of our team is therefore set to the task of finding the exact geographical coordinates of caves and hermitages, in addition to those of monasteries and sites of functional importance (e.g. sources of water). Once the coordinates have been established, it will be possible to create a series of layered filters, containing valuable information on individual hermitages including the overall pattern of their spatial distribution.
Hermitage project 5
The purpose is to develop an interactive map of hermitism and monasticism in Egypt and Sudan, which will include three different registers: (1) the geographical map; (2) photographic material and (3) the philosophical, theological and historical related texts. The resulting data collection of maps and photographic material will be made freely available to the community of researchers from a variety of disciplines.”

Derwas James Chitty

Posted in Uncategorized on October 9, 2014 by citydesert

Not long ago a friend gave me a large collection of Orthodox publications, including a number of editions of the “Eastern Churches Review”. Volume VI Number 1 (Spring 1974) focuses on the life and work of the remarkable scholar, Derwas James Chitty (1901-1971), author of “The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian Monasticism under the Christian Empire” [Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1966; St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1977].
Scan_20141009 (2)
“Derwas James Chitty (1901-1971) was an English Anglican priest and member of the Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius. He was known as a writer on the spirituality of the Greek Orthodox tradition.
After a childhood in the country rectory of Hanwood, Shropshire, an education at Winchester where he and his brother were Scholars, and at New College, Oxford, followed by 2 years at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, in 1929 he and his friend Michael Markoff excavated the Monastery of St. Euthymius in the Judaean wilderness. In 1931 he became Rector of Upton near Didcot, 15 miles from Oxford, in what was then Berkshire, where he remained until 1968. In 1943 he married the archaeologist Mary Kitson Clark whose Gazetteer of Roman Remains in East Yorkshire is still in use. During the Second World War he was a Chaplain in the Royal Navy, posted in Columbo and Bombay among other places (hence possibly the erroneous mention of India on this page previously).
He published a large number of articles and works on early Eastern Monasticism, including his magnum opus, ‘The Desert a City’.”
Desert a city 1
“This study of early Christian monasticism by Derwas Chitty has already proved to be a classic. No other account of this vital period in the history of the monastic movement equals it for detailed scholarship combined with vivid and dynamic writing. Dr. Chitty, one of the major scholars in this period, deals with the golden age of Egyptian monasticism and describes the three founders of the movement, Anastasius, Anthony and Pachomius. He follows the development of monastic life in all its forms in Egypt to the end of the fourth century, when the center shifted to Palestine; the following chapters are devoted to accounts of the great ascetics of Palestine. The controversies surrounding the monastic movement are examined in their political and ecclesiastical aspects and the book concludes with an account of the monastic history of Mount Sinai. This book contains a wealth of material indispensable to any serious student of monasticism; it is also a book which will bring alive for any reader the great questions underlying monasticism in any age. As Dr. Chitty writes in his prologue, ‘This making a City of the Wilderness was no mere flight…it was rooted in a stark realism of faith in God and acceptance of the battle which is not against flesh and blood… Has it not its challenge for today?’”

This issue of “Eastern Churches Review” also contains a paper by Chitty: “The Books of the Old Men” (a study of the sayings of the Desert Fathers); and several other fascinating papers: Jean-Claude Guy “Educational Innovation in the Desert Fathers”, and Antoine Guillaumont “The Jesus Prayer Among the Monks of Egypt”

Saint Ywi, Hermit of Lindisfarne

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2014 by citydesert

October 8 is the Commemoration of Saint Ywi, Hermit of Lindisfarne
“Ywi (d.c. 690) + Benedictine monk and hermit at Lindisfarne Abbey, England. He was ordained a deacon by St. Cuthbert. When Ywi died as a hermit, his relics were enshrined at Wilton, near Salisbury.
Ywi (alternatively, Iwi, Iwigius, or Iwig of Lindisfarne) was a saint venerated in Wiltshire in the Middle Ages. He was reputedly a Northumbrian monk, said to have died and to have been buried in Brittany. Historian David Dumville called him “the other principal saint of Wilton”, in reference to Saint Eadgyth. He was supposedly a follower (alumnus) of Saint Cuthbert. He is listed in two 11th-century litanies. A narrative of this century claimed that his relics had been brought to Wilton Abbey by Breton monks in the 10th-century, and left for safe-keeping at the altar of Saint Eadgyth.
wilton abbey
The narrative claims that the relics subsequently became immovable [through the wish of the saint to reside there], though historian John Blair suspected that this story may have been invented to justify Wilton’s theft of the relics. His feast day was celebrated on 8 October.
ivy church
The Priory of Ivychurch in Wiltshire is thought to have been named after him.”

St Triduana, Hermit of Rescobie

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2014 by citydesert

October 8 is the Commemoration of St Triduana, Hermit of Rescobie

“St. Triduna, 4th century. A virgin who, according to tradition, assisted St. Regulus in his mission to Scotland during the fourth century. She is also listed as Trallen and Tredwall. Her shrine at Restalrig was long venerated until its destruction in 1560 during the Scottish Reformation.”
St Triulla
“ST. TRIDUANA devoted herself to God in a solitary life at Rescobie in Angus (now Forfarshire). While dwelling there, a prince of the country having conceived an unlawful passion for her is said to have pursued her with his unwelcome attentions. To rid herself of his importunities, as a legend relates, Triduana bravely plucked out her beautiful eyes, her chief attraction, and sent them to her admirer. Her heroism, it is said, procured for her the power of curing diseases of the eyes. Many instances are related of such miracles worked after her death.
St. Triduana died at Restalrig in Lothian, and her tomb became a favourite place of pilgrimage.
Before the Reformation it was the most important of the holy shrines near Edinburgh. On account of this prominence her church was the very first to fall a victim to the fanatical zeal of the Puritans. After being honoured for a thousand years her relics were desecrated by the destruction of her shrine.
The General Assembly, decreed on December 21, 1560, that “the Kirk of Restalrig, as a monument of idolatrie, be raysit and utterlie castin downe and destroyed.” An interesting discovery was made in 1907 in connection with this church, which had long been used as a Presbyterian place of worship after restoration. An octagonal building, standing near, was thought to have been a Chapter House in Catholic times; it was filled with earth and rubbish, after having served as a burial place, and a mound of earth surmounted it on the outside on which trees had rooted. The Earl of Moray, superior of the village, offered to restore the church to its original state, and, when examined by competent authorities, the supposed Chapter House was found to be a beautiful little Gothic chapel with groined roof supported by a central pillar, similar to the building which once covered St. Margaret’s well at Restalrig.
Triduanas well
Further explorations proved that the little octagonal building had evidently been raised over the miraculous well of St. Triduana, so much scoffed at by Reformation satirists. Steps led down to the water, thus covered in, and a chapel, which must have formed an upper story above the well, is thought to have been the “Triduana’s Aisle” alluded to in ancient documents. The building has now been thoroughly restored after its original form and is regarded as a valuable monument of antiquity. Thus do more enlightened ages condemn the foolish fanaticism of bygone days!

This saint was honoured in various parts of Scotland, and her name has undergone so many changes in the different districts as to be often unrecognisable. It occurs under the various forms of Traddles, Tredwell, Tradwell, Trallew, Trallen, etc.

Among these dedications are Kintradwell in Caithness and Tradlines in Forfarshire. Near the island of Papa Westray in the Orkneys is St. Tredwell s Loch, and on the east side of the loch is a small peninsula containing the ruins of a little building measuring 20 feet in length and 22 feet in breadth, known as St. Tredwell’s Chapel. At Rescobie a fair used to be held on her feast-day, but in the beginning of last century it was transferred to Forfar. It was known as “St. Trodlin’s Fair.” Relics of this saint were honoured in Aberdeen Cathedral in Catholic ages. Devotion to St. Triduana has been revived in the modern Catholic church at Restalrig.”
Triduanas chapel
“St Triduana’s Chapel, Restalrig, Edinburgh St Triduana’s Chapel, dating from the 15th century, stands at the south-west corner of ancient parish church of Restalrig. The chapel was dedicated to the obscure St Triduana, who acquired a reputation for curing eye complaints. The chapel, a low hexagonal building, was originally on two levels. The upper level, which contained the altar, was destroyed during the Reformation, and the lower vaulted area, which may have contained a well, was covered by an earthen mound until 1907. In 1907, under the direction of the Earl of Moray, the earthen mound was removed to reveal the lower chamber and evidence that it may have contained the well which once attracted blind pilgrims from all over the country to bathe in its special waters.”
See further:
John Foster “The Legend and Shrine of Saint Triduana” Br J Ophthalmol. Dec 1953; 37(12): 763–765 – text available on-line at:
A. S. Cowper “St Triduana in Caithness”:

The Alone or Lonely Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2014 by citydesert

For modern (possibly all) Hermits, the life of the Hermit may lead to loneliness, or even be a response to loneliness. Living alone and with “aloneness” is an integral part of the eremitical life. When is the solitude and “aloneness” of the Hermit creative and enlivening? When might it be pathological loneliness?
desert monk
This afternoon I listened to an interesting Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) program on loneliness: it can be heard or downloaded at:
The speakers were Professor John Cacioppo, world expert on loneliness, who says that there are drugs for loneliness but they come with a downside; social commentator Stephanie Dowrick who says that our quest for autonomy can lead to loneliness; and author Emily White has never found a solution that works.

See further:
Emily White “Lonely: A Memoir” [Harper, 2010]
“Many people, over the course of the past several years, have asked me why I would want to write a book about chronic loneliness. The subject, they hint, is embarrassing; it’s best kept unmentioned. And loneliness, they say, isn’t “real” – at least not in the way that depression or bipolar disorder are real. Every word I’ve written has been penned against a chorus of “Don’t” and “Why bother?”
“It’s too trivial,” I’ve been told, “too shameful,” “too irrelevant.” And it was, after all, just me. Even if my own loneliness was somehow significant, even if it did change my life, derail my health, cloud my intelligence and turn me into someone I didn’t used to be – all of that was just my problem.
One of the things I made sure to do when writing this book was talk to other lonely people. Before every conversation, I thought about my own experiences, and drew up questions meant to probe how closely their battle with loneliness mirrored my own. I used to be a lawyer, and what I was looking for was evidence. I wanted to prove that what I went through as a lonely person was neither immaterial nor unique. I phoned loneliness researchers in places ranging from Arizona to Scotland; I talked to lonely people across the continent. I asked about symptoms, manifestation, mortality, disease, responses, rates. I plowed through hundreds of articles, followed up footnotes, searched the Internet, and paid for out-of-print books that were shipped to me long-distance.
Throughout this entire process, I’ve been fuelled by the conviction that I had to give voice to an experience that mattered, one that affected people far and wide. What I wanted throughout my years of loneliness was recognition. I needed others to see and understand my state as a real problem. I needed others to ask me about it, help me through it, and view it as something valid and potentially life-altering. I also needed to hear other people talking about it. Right now, loneliness is something few people are willing to admit to. There’s no need for this silence, no need for the shame and self-blame it creates. There’s nothing wrong with loneliness, and we need to start acknowledging this through a wider and more open discussion of the state.
The fact that I’m the author of this book is little more than coincidence. The story set out in the pages that follow is my own, but I think any lonely person could have written a similar account. The state, I’ve discovered, is something of a universal, afflicting people from a variety of age groups and backgrounds, and affecting men and women in equal measure. The only thing that perhaps sets me apart from other lonely people is that the worst years of my loneliness coincided with years in which I was repeatedly instructed – as a lawyer – to examine everything. No question was to leave my desk until it had been answered; no argument was to be put forward until every angle had been explored. And so it became natural for me – once my rage had subsided after painting class, and I was back out on the streets of Toronto, walking and walking in the darkening evening – to start asking questions, and begin wondering whether my state had substance, whether it was in fact as significant as it felt.
Given the choice, it’s not a journey I would have gone on. I would have preferred to have lived a life of connection, one in which loneliness did not assault me on a daily and yearly basis. But we don’t get to chose the main facts of our lives. Loneliness was something I was born into, something that claimed me as its own. The only thing I could do in response was to try to follow and understand it, to chart it as fully and cleanly as I could. If it was clutching me, the least I could do was twist in its grip and really look at it. If I couldn’t ward it away, I could at least see it as clearly as it saw me.”
See also:

Emily White “Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude” [Harper Perennial, 2011]
Lonely learning
“In a boldly honest and elegantly written memoir—the first on this topic—Emily White reveals the painful and sometimes debilitating experience of living with chronic loneliness. In the vein of popular favorites such as “Girl, Interrupted” and “Manic”, “Lonely” approaches loneliness in the way that Andrew Soloman’s “The Noonday Demon” approached depression, and lifts the veil on a mostly ignored population who often suffer their disorder in silence.”

John Cacioppo “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection” [W. W. Norton & Company, 2009]
Loneliness Carp
“University of Chicago social neuroscientist John T. Cacioppo unveils his pioneering research on the startling effects of loneliness: a sense of isolation or social rejection disrupts not only our thinking abilities and will power but also our immune systems, and can be as damaging as obesity or smoking. A blend of biological and social science, this book demonstrates that, as individuals and as a society, we have everything to gain, and everything to lose, in how well or how poorly we manage our need for social bonds.”

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