We are accustomed to the fragmentation of authority among branches of government, institutions, corporations and the like in modern times. But in ancient societies, the king or emperor was typically the sole authority. Thus the emperor was the responsible model for ethical conduct. In ancient China, the emperor embodied all human potentialities. Hence Confucius made service to the emperor the axis of social and religious expression. Easy was it for him to deal with the emperor’s failure, however. “When the emperor is good,” he advised, “serve. When the emperor is evil, withdraw.” There was no system through which to work out grievances, no checks and balances, recalls or elections, no due process. “Withdraw,” he said simply.
And this was the beginning of eremicism.