Derived from the Latin solitudo, the English “solitude” has always conveyed a state of “deprivation”; but according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was a word not commonly used until the seven-teenth century. Its current meaning as “living alone, loneliness, seclusion” assumed general coinage in the eighteenth century. The celebratory connotation of solitude belongs to those who have sought solitude in the higher, nonworldly venues of the spiritual realm, or to those who see solitude as personal space for pleasure and creative self-indulgence. The former reigns in the Middle Ages; the latter takes root in the Renaissance. However, Petrarch writes a secular celebration of solitude, and solitude as a spiritual experience never really loses its relevance. In any case, for most solitude is a hard choice: even Thomas Merton writes in No Man is an Island that “One has to be very strong and very solid to live in solitude.”


Human Relationship Spiritual Experience Epistemological Implication Spiritual Realm Dramatis Persona 
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© Edward Engelberg 2001

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  • Edward Engelberg

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