Anchorite or anchoret (female: anchoress; adj. anchoritic; from Ancient Greek: ἀναχωρητής, one who has retired from the world, from the verb ἀναχωρέω, signifying "to withdraw", "to retire") denotes someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society.
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- Monasticism owes some of its early surge to the conversion of the fourth-century emperor Constantine and his subsequent endorsement of what became the "politically correct" Christian religion. When the state turned from persecutor to protector of Christianity, the church became "worldly" and the faith became secularized. Prosperity, patronage, doctrinal and political strife, and mixed motives for converting to Christianity and holding church office infected the church like viruses. In this setting monasticism became a reform movement—"a living protest against the secularization of Christianity and the cheapening of grace." The protest took the form of withdrawal (anchoresis in Greek, from which we derive the word anchorite, meaning one who lives in seclusion) to the desert (eremos, from which we get the word hermit), literally following Jesus into the wilderness to fight the demons (Mark 1:13) and to achieve the perfection to which Christ called his disciples and which some thought to be unobtainable in the existing churches in contact with the world. With withdrawal came spiritual discipline (askesis, from which we get the word ascetic and which was applied to the rigorous training undertaken by those preparing for athletic and military contests.
- Dennis L. Okholm, Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, p. 24.
- Henry Cavendish ... dwelt apart, and bidding the world farewell, took the self imposed vows of a Scientific Anchorite, and, like the Monks of old, shut himself up within his cell. It was a kingdom sufficient for him, and from its narrow window he saw as much of the Universe as he cared to see. It had a throne also, and from it he dispensed royal gifts to his brethren. He was one of the unthanked benefactors of his race, who was patiently teaching and serving mankind, whilst they were shrinking from his coldness, or mocking his peculiarities.
- George Wilson, The Life of the Honble Henry Cavendish (1851) p. 186.