Some people will reach a point in their growth when they will wish to withdraw from the world. It is not the withdrawal of an antisocial or fearful person running away from the world. Short periods of withdrawal are, of course, beneficial to everyone. However, the type of withdrawal we are talking about is for the purpose of deep, spiritual transformation. It is the withdrawal of someone who is, generally, already competent in the world. Otherwise, our shortcomings will rise to pull us back into the world where they will be thrown at us again for educational reasons. Withdrawal is not really a choice, nor is it difficult. The attachment to the world will have already diminished and we will crave the solitude that seems to be the only way that we can connect to that which we seek.
A Fresh Universe
After a serious fall in 1866, Mary Baker Eddy was bedridden and those around her feared for her survival. However, not only did she survive but from this near-tragedy came the birth of Christian Science. The fall was at the end of a long line of sufferings as Mary had suffered from many illnesses and problems for most of her life. Having reached despair, on the third day of being bedridden, Mary had a sudden and stunning realization while reading her Bible,
As I read, the healing Truth dawned upon my sense; and the result was that I arose, dressed myself, and ever after was in better health than I had before enjoyed. That short experience included a glimpse of the great fact that I have since tried to make plain to others, namely, Life in and of Spirit; this Life being the sole reality of existence. Mary Baker Eddy
Mary needed to distil the thrilling (but still new and unclear) spiritual truths that were becoming apparent to her. She consciously withdrew from society for three years, in order to make sense of the truths and in preparation to present them to the world in a form that was worthy of their importance. In those three years, she pondered her mission, searched the Scriptures, wrote the foundation of her seminal book, and sought to clarify her teachings. The quest was calm, and the time alone was both recuperative and strengthening.
The divine hand led me into a new world of light and life, a fresh universe – old to God, but new to His ‘little one’. Mary Baker Eddy
Bernadette Roberts was a former Carmelite nun and modern mystic who died at eighty-seven, a few years ago, in her sleep. She entered the Carmelite monastery as a teenager and remained there as a secluded, cloistered nun for ten years. During that time, she went through a dark night of the soul until she reached a unitive state with God. She then re-entered the world, got a degree, married, had four children, worked as a school teacher, and all the while continued her contemplative practices. Some thirty years after re-entering the world, she went through another, more advanced, process of losing the self. It was not sought but, she said, was brought on by God taking away her sense of herself. This naturally took her a long adjustment period – ten more years. In describing this pathway, she explained that the sense of two progressively became One. She did not take students or enter into correspondence and, other than her books, her sole public presence was through a small, annual retreat. She said that she had never had any interest in taking students and that she was too busy with family duties, anyway. She was a mystic who choose to remain semi-invisible.
Rite of Passage
Some type of separation or seclusion is, for some of us, a necessary rite of passage. When we see through the self-confirmatory nature of human interaction, we can decide to refrain from participating in it for some time. One must learn to tolerate and live with silence before one is ready to talk the talk of the angels. For a few people, the silence remains in the form of seclusion. For all, it remains internally and is regarded as precious. It, sometimes, requires the silence of withdrawal to spiritually work through some inner milestones. What other people think about this is only of concern because of our love for others and our compassion for their inability to understand what we may be doing. However, the focus is not on what others think of us but on how we can fulfil our spiritual potential and help the world. There can be a transitory conflict between spiritual evolution and the pull towards that which is conventional, acceptable, and normal human behaviour. The world, as ignorant as it is, accepts very little deviation from its ridiculous and unfounded ideas of normalcy.
As the underlying motives of typical human behaviour become clearer to us, we can be shocked and disconcerted by the selfish, inconsiderate, disingenuous, and harmful intentions of routine, daily interaction. All of this is not apparent to the average man or woman who is engrossed in life without much awareness. We can become rather dismissive of all human interaction and find it stupid, pointless, and destructive. Our tolerance even for fundamental, polite niceties which are considered crucial in customary, day-to-day convention can become rather thin. We may withdraw from mainstream behaviour in order to go within and metamorphose into something else more real and good. We all know of the introverted artist, the isolated mystic, and the unsociable philosopher who have withdrawn from traditional, societal communication.
Nonpersonal, Intelligent Love
We may wonder if we are on the right track because, for a while, we may seem less loving than we were before. It helps to remind ourselves of the shallowness of most normal love and that we are seeking something better. At least, in solitude and withdrawal, one is offering a more sincere, albeit, silent and unconventional love of a nonpersonal, intelligent nature. There is no need to doubt the worth of our developing capacity to radiate a quiet, unpretentious energy field. Our goal of true, spiritual love is concerned with neither niceness nor prevailing behaviour patterns. It is a radical transition. This transformation occurs step by step. Mostly, it is the unexplainable and deeply welcomed grace of God. It has its own timing and evolution. We keep offering up everything which is not in accord with the desired goodness we seek. And we are kind to ourselves, allowing as much solitude as needed, knowing that our worth to the world is growing daily in a precious and uncommon manner.
Withdrawing creates an environment for the diminishing of the ego. The person loses interest in the normal worldly goings-on. One will have little or no interest in the media and will, probably, actively avoid it because of its negative impact on one’s consciousness. In some cases, one can go for years without knowing even the most basic information about world affairs. One keeps going forward until, quite surprisingly, one realises that the valley has been passed. One has to wait until the ego has dissolved enough for the Light to take up residence within one’s being to the extent that is required for that individual, at that time, in their evolution.
The period of isolation may be deceptive in appearance. A person can live an, apparently, solitary lifestyle but the mind is full of interaction and busy noise. That is not solitude. It is a crowd. On the other hand, one can live the appearance of a normal life but, unbeknown to onlookers, be transgressing through a self-imposed solitary confinement. In my own case, my most intensive period of isolation was during my late twenties. However, this was totally unknown to anyone at the time. How was this possible, particularly given that I had two young children and was married? My young family had moved countries from Australia to England. My Australian relatives and friends would have assumed I was living a normal life in England but they just didn’t happen to hear much about it. This was a good arrangement because, certainly, one doesn’t want to worry people unnecessarily. I deliberately kept to myself during my three years in England because I was involved in this inner work. My husband worked long hours in a demanding CEO position and spent many weeks travelling abroad and was not aware of what I was doing.
My days were spent in the company of two very little children. As we communicated quite naturally in a telepathic manner, as many mothers do with their little children, there was little need for speech. It was silence, indeed. The solitary period had started before moving to England and continued for a year after our return to Australia. Then, all of a sudden, life took one of those unexpected and totally transforming turns and the children and I happily threw ourselves into the busy life of a lively community when the children started school. I was back in the bustling marketplace after returning from the hermitage caves. By now, however, the solitude had taken up permanent residence within my being.
In the Midst of Humanity
In travelling through this spiritual territory, one does one’s part, to the best of one’s ability, but it is not really a process that can be greatly altered by individual will. The work comes from Beyond. Eventually, we come out the other end of our withdrawal with a renewed interest in other people and a rekindled desire for participation in life. To most people, we seem more or less the same (except that we are more direct and honest and we may seem a little disinterested in some things), however, inside we are totally different. Driven by God’s unconditional love, we have a great deal more strength, courage, wisdom, and equanimity. We do not open our mouth without the express desire to be of service in contributing something of value to that which is around us. It is a process well worth every little pain. For a few Great Ones, the road ultimately leads to the fulfilment of their spiritual potential as a master or rishi. Their energy holds the world together.
In the beginning, being a stranger to the world can feel alone. As spiritual beings, to some extent, we are ever a stranger to normal human life. We are in the world but not of it. When the humanness has diminished enough and the human karma worked through enough, the alone-feeling evaporates, never to return. In fact, it becomes apparent that it would be impossible to ever feel alone again as one is intimately connected to a thriving life-force. We feel intrinsically related to everyone. We have a deep solitariness but we can never be lonely because there can no longer be any separation from God. We are more a part of humanity than ever before. We are joined irrevocably in the evolution of humanity both individually and collectively.
It could be said that we become so much a stranger that we disappear and find ourselves reborn in the midst of humanity which is quite a paradox. What remains is invisible, wordless, comforting, strong, and soft. It is every beautiful leaf, every moving human emotion, and every breath of every living thing. It is everything, yet, it is nothing. It grows silently and steadily. We are already it, and It is already us. We continue to go forward with our spiritual practices and these practices increasingly envelop us in loveliness. We come out the other side as a transparent being, nameless but with the mark of God. One could wish for nothing more.
This article is from The Love of Devotion