Amish and “plain” Quakers

Amish and “plain” Quakers are representative of what one observer (referring to Catholic religious orders, however) calls “corporate solitude.” The Amish and plain Quakers form a society in the corporate sense but practice “solitude” or voluntary social disengagement in the larger context of the country in which they reside. The content of their religious beliefs is both a source of internal cohesion and external separation. However, this disengagement is viable not only because of the sectarian beliefs that separate the groups from the mainstream (physical way of life, rejection of state authority) but also because of the presumed tolerance of the society around them. This is the same factor that has been the bane of hermits and eremites throughout history and throughout the world: the attitude of others not embracing their vision of life. The ideal has always been to find not only tolerance or even acceptance but a positive attitude from the larger society, as in traditional Hindu India or ancient China or desert Egypt. In the case of the Amish and plain Quakers, perhaps no successful equivalent exists in history, but the sense of tolerance from the larger society is a necessary and tenuous element in their successful “solitude.”