ABSTRACT

The traditions of the kind of holy men we have reviewed can be followed in two directions: forward into the fourth century and the great proliferation of Christian monasticism; and forward towards the holy men arising in other cultures and as a result of more recent developments, wherever similarities are seen to occur. In both cases comparison is instructive. We can find in the burgeoning of holy men at the end of Antiquity a proliferation and consolidation of the kind of figures we have witnessed; and we can note persistent similarities with more recent and less directly related examples of the type. We are constantly forced to ask why this or that similarity should be there at all. In attempting to answer all such questions we can hope to move gradually nearer to attempting to identify the essence and appeal of the holy man as such. The most obvious difficulty with both classes of comparative material is its sheer bulk; we shall be forced to be increasingly eclectic.