Doulas the hermit

Not much is known of the Christian desert hermit Doulas — the fate of hundreds of such hermits. Only a couple of sentiments are ascribed to him, wherein he speaks directly of the “enemy” in one and asceticism in another. But how easily they are conjoined.

The “enemy” is taken to be the devil, of course, though clearly the desert fathers and mothers understood the psychology of daily living and the temptations and foibles of self. Abba Doulas warns us to hold on to our inner peace because there is no substitute for it. He sees control of appetite or “privation of food” as the practical means of complementing inner peace, in order to “make interior vision keen.” This combination ought to work for “fighting the enemy,” no matter how we define “enemy.”

Of course, if we work in the world, then turning away social occasions that challenge our monitoring of food and of inner peace will make of ourselves strange objects to co-workers and worldly companions. So we get to the heart of integrity with the second sentiment ascribed to Doulas:

Detach yourself from the love of the multitude lest your enemy question your spirit and trouble your inner peace.

We may not be willing to consider our necessary social rounds an outright “love of the multitude,” but what solitary has not experienced the inevitable offense to a sense of psychological integrity, to our values, to our “inner peace,” when in the “multitude”? Perhaps “love” of the multitude is the distinction, though none of the desert hermits had even any fondness for it.