Lying between Chesed and Tiphareth, the Hermit shows the Perfected Man preparing to claim his throne. As he turns his attention to the Merciful God, Adam Kadmon receives the Divine Light: as He reaches down the Heavenly Father finds a fitting vessel for His wisdom that it might be revealed to the world. There is an organic element of maturation and development to this card. The things lost to the Querent are not ripped away so much as outgrown. But there is also a profound sense of isolation and loneliness: the Hermit has come alone to the mountain because there is nowhere else he can call home and no one else he can call friend.
Wherever it falls in a reading the Hermit represents renunciation and withdrawal. As a Greater Trump, its message is both critically important and inescapable. The Querent will be forced to take an inventory of affairs. Illness or injury may force him to give up cherished time-wasting activities. Financial constraints may drive away her fair-weather friends and make bad habits unsustainable. These tribulations are likely to be uncomfortable: purgation usually is. But they are necessary: the Querent will arise from them with a clearer focus and a better understanding of that which gives their lives meaning.
It can be tempting to interpret the Hermit in strictly spiritual or religious terms. Yet he can also represent a withdrawal away from the esoteric and toward the practical and mundane. The Desert Fathers arose as a reaction to organized Christianity. The Querent may find himself expelled (voluntarily or otherwise) from a magical order. She may find herself drifting away from a cause or a group she once supported enthusiastically, no longer able to ignore its faults or limitations. This is not a betrayal or a failing: it is a retreat both in the spiritual and strategic sense, a letting go of the dross to make room for treasure.
The Querent may feel that mundane responsibilities are detracting from spiritual ones, that overtime at work is leaving no time to pursue the Great Work. To them the Hermit may be a sign that they need to quit their day job and concentrate on feeding their souls. But the Desert Fathers spent a great deal of their day weaving baskets, tilling fields and otherwise engaged in practical activities: they believed those mundane chores were a vital part of their spiritual path. The Hermit certainly demands commitment, sacrifice and life-changing choices. But the reader is advised to examine the surrounding cards and the spread's general tone, and to remember the difference between renunciation and escapism.
Though he spends plenty of time alone, sooner or later the Hermit leave his cell. The monastics started out in the wilderness but ultimately built monasteries and nunneries: they found their solitude took its deepest meaning within a faith-based community and a living tradition. A.E. Waite's Hermit (as drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith) exposes his lantern as a beacon to those who have eyes to see. For all its mystical trappings this is a very practical card. The Hermit sells everything he has for the Pearl of Great Price, then comes down from the mountain and corners the jewelry market. The knowledge he brings the Querent is not for the masses: it conceals itself from those who are unprepared. But for those who are ready it cannot be hidden.