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Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 3: Relax and Retreat > Chapter 5: Solitude

Solitude
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ne needs a pla!e "here the only noise is that "hi!h one #akes oneself$ %hen& the
lo'ely stillness "ithout helps to indu!e the lo'ely stillness "ithin$
(
%he solitude "hi!h a!!o#panies or is ne!essary to these first periods of stillness should
be a!!epted and gloried in to preser'e the experien!e fro# being broken into$ )o not
run and lea'e it pre#aturely$ *or although at the end of this +uest the #ind,s silen!e !an
be found any"here "ithin the bustle and a!ti'ity& the tur#oil and the noise of #odern
!ity life& the first faint tender 'entures #ust be guarded& prote!ted: solitude& out"ard
solitude& is the best "ay$
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-e go apart into solitude or take a "alk alone to think o'er a personal proble# "hi!h
has suddenly !o#e up$ .o" #u!h #ore is solitude desirable to think o'er the larger
proble# of life and to #editate deeply on oneself/
0
1t is harder to find solitude in this #id2t"entieth !entury than it "as in the #id2
eighteenth !entury$ -e ha'e gained #ore neighbours& easier !o##uni!ations "ith the#
and transport to the#$ But "e ha'e lost #u!h of our !han!e of 3ust being alone& 3ust
being "ith our o"n self and getting a!+uainted "ith its deeper aspe!ts$ 4et the pressures
of !i'ili5ation ha'e in!reased& so that this need of finding inner strength and gaining
inner poise has also in!reased proportionately$
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%his need of !o##uning "ith our o"n soul expresses itself as a need of solitude& as a
disgust "ith so!iety& or as a ner'ous hypersensiti'ity$
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-hen his !o##er!e "ith 7od be!o#es his #ost i#portant a!ti'ity and re#e#bran!e of
7od the #ost habitual one& solitariness gro"s deeply on a #an$ .is need for friends
gro"s less$
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1f he gro"s in real spirituality& and not in the e#otional i#itation of it& he "ill gro" to
lo'e solitude as #u!h as #ost people dread it$
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.e "ill !o#e to en3oy solitude as #u!h as for#erly he en3oyed so!iety$ *or "hen alone&
he is alone "ith the beauty and serenity of the Soul but "hen "ith people& he is also
"ith their greedy natures& their bad te#pers& and their ugly insin!erities$
:
-e are least troubled and #ost !ontent "hen "e are in solitude and silen!e "ith the
'erself$ 1t is "hen "e are "ith others that these states are harder to feel$
1;
-hoe'er is "illing to take up the inner "ork of +uietening the a!ti'ity of thoughts and
add the dis!iplining of feelings "ill find "ith ti#e that solitude is a 'aluable help$ 1f the
possibility of !ountry rather than to"n life !an also be reali5ed& his "ay "ill be easier$
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1f you "ant to kno" "hy so #any her#its ha'e sought their solitude& the ans"er a"aits
you in the !hara!ter of #an$
1(
-e #ust find oursel'es& our spiritual !entre$ -e kno" that the dis!o'ery !o#es only in
solitude& but #ake no #istake: 4ogi! !a'e& nun,s !on'ent and as!eti!,s #onastery are
only for the fe"$ -ithdra"al fro# the affairs of life is not for the #any$ %heirs is to be
the solitude of the inner life& the keeping of a reser'ed spot in the heart "hile busy in
so!iety$
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<'erything depends on the point of 'ie"$ %o #ost people this experien!e is a retreat
fro# reality but to a fe" people it is a return to it$
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1t is not that he shuts hi#self up in his o"n life be!ause he has no interest in so!iety,s
but rather that the fulfil#ent of the purpose "hi!h& he belie'es& 7od has i#planted in
his being& is para#ount$
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1n the end and perhaps after #any years he finds that he !annot get a"ay fro# #an,s
innate loneliness$
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%here is a 'ast differen!e bet"een an idle #orbidly2introspe!ti'e solitude and the
in"ardly2a!ti'e !reati'e solitude ad'o!ated here$
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Sufi idea: %o be "orldly or to be in the "orld is to forget 7od$ 4ou #ay go to !a'es and
#ountains but that is not to lea'e the "orld$ =i'e a nor#al life and re#e#ber 7od$
%hat,s all$ )on,t li'e out"ardly but in"ardly$
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.e "ill learn to appre!iate and e'en be!o#e tough enough to like this aloneness$ .e
"ill reali5e that he has enough in hi#self& as "ell as in the inspired "ritings that he "ill
keep around hi#& to last a lifeti#e$ .e "ill !o#e to see ho" soft& ho" "eak are all
those "ho !annot li'e "ithout !ra'ing for& and !onstantly ha'ing at least one other
hu#an being near at hand$
1:
>loneness is good for a #an& but "hen it is felt as too o'erpo"ering& it is not$ %hen the
balan!e #ust be redressed by so!iety$
(;
%he de!ision by un#arried persons to li'e alone rather than to share an apart#ent or a
house "ith other adults is not ne!essarily a #isanthropi! one: it #ay be a ner'ous
ne!essity$ %here is too #u!h strain and pressure in'ol'ed in su!h sharing& too #u!h
!onfine#ent and li#itation& too #u!h la!k of freedo#$
(1
-hen in meditation a #an fa!es 7od& or his o"n higher self& he arri'es at a !o#plete
solitude in the sense that no other person is present to his !ons!iousness$ 1t is a !urious
fa!t that on his "ay to this uni+ue experien!e& he tends to li'e #ore and #ore "ithin
hi#self& less and less in the mental sphere of so!iety$
((
<'en Paul did not straight"ay start on his #ission to the 7entiles after the 'ision of
?esus& but li'ed for three years of solitude in >rabia to prepare hi#self$ -hat did he do
there/ -hat else !ould he do other than pray& learn& #editate& purify hi#self& and
strengthen hi#self/
(3
1t is enough at the beginning to #ake these o!!asional ex!ursions into the +uieter and
lonelier pla!es$ 1f they !an be absolutely +uiet and utterly lonely& his purpose "ill be
best a!hie'ed$
(0
%here are ti#es in the !areer of an ad'an!ed #editator "hen he needs to a'oid !onta!t
"ith hu#anity and li'e entirely alone$
(5
ne #ay take a "ar# interest in "hat is happening in the "orld& be thrilled or saddened
by dra#ati! e'ents& and yet refuse to 3oin in the s!ra#ble to get on& the fight bet"een
opposing parties& the denigrating gossip or foolish #o'e#ents$ ne #ay li'e as a
her#it& "hile li'ing in the "orld& and thus li'e "ith oneself$
(6
1f he refuses to gi'e hi#self to the de#ands of so!iety& that is not be!ause of disdain for
it& but be!ause of a felt need to gi'e his highest ai# his "hole attention$ By isolating
hi#self fro# "orldly !onta!ts he !an de'elop "ith less hindran!e those +ualities "hi!h
the "orldly do not possess& and e'en dis!ourage$
(8
%o the #an "ith suffi!ient and a!ti'e !ultural interests& solitude #ay be +uite tolerable
but to the #an "ithout the# it #ay be unbearable$ %o the #an "ho has learnt the se!ret
of entering inner stillness& it !an be an ex+uisite pleasurable experien!e$
(9
%he #ysti! "ho disso!iates hi#self fro# the affairs of his era and shuts hi#self up in
se!lusion #ay still !ontribute so#e influen!e on that era$ But it "ill be ne!essarily
li#ited to the plane nearest to the one on "hi!h his #editation operates$ .e "ill affe!t
the #inds of sensiti'e persons$
(:
%his need of solitude and pri'a!y as being not #erely a te#pera#ental but also a 'itally
spiritual one& is re!ogni5ed by so#e #onasti! orders$ 1n Catholi!is#& the Carthusians
li'e shut in their indi'idual !ells$
3;
%he !riti!is# is heard that this idea if put into pra!ti!e today sedu!es the intelligent
indi'idual to try to strengthen hi#self by "eakening so!iety at a ti#e "hen so!iety
itself is #ost in need of being strengthened& and that it "ithdra"s the unselfish #an
fro# the !o##on effort at a ti#e "hen his ser'i!es !ould be #ost fruitful$
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-hen a #an enters this phase& he begins to feel a great "eariness "ith life$ .e loses his
interest in #any things "hi!h #ay ha'e absorbed hi# before$ .e be!o#es e#otionally
indifferent to a!ti'ities and persons for#erly attra!ti'e to hi#$ .e "ithdra"s #ore and
#ore fro# people and so!iety$ -hen this fatigue "ith all existen!e des!ends upon hi#&
then he "ill be #ore ready and #ore "illing to lose the personal ego in the uni'ersal
o!ean of being$
3(
So far as the rest of #ankind li'e for ai#s dire!tly !ontrary to his o"n& he hi#self #ust
li'e in"ardly apart fro# the#$
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*or a sensiti'e person pri'a!y is a need$ >nd if he also happens to be both a s!holar and
a "riter22"ithout #entioning a #editator22then it be!o#es a 'ery real need$ %he irony is
that& the #odern "orld being as it is& his possession of it depends on #aterial things&
that the only "ay to assure it is to ha'e #oney@ the #ore #oney the #ore is pri'a!y
possible22and su!h a person is the least likely to a!!u#ulate #oney$
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%he desert has gi'en #ankind so#e of its greatest prophets$ ut of its solitude there
appeared a "ild2looking #an& dressed in a rough !a#el,s hair girdle$ .e !a#e li'ing on
lo!usts and "ild honey& but fasting often$ .e "ent a#ong the !ities of ?udea& praying&
!alling for repentan!e& denoun!ing "i!kedness& and pro!lai#ing the Co#ing$ %his #an
"as ?ohn the Baptist$
1##ediately after illu#ination !a#e to hi# on the road to )a#as!us& Saul "ent to the
desert$ .e stayed for three years& engaged in self2training and inner de'elop#ent$ -hen
he e#erged fro# it& he "as Paul the 1nitiate$
1sla# "as born in the desert "astes of >rabia$
1t "as not for nothing that the early Christian #ysti!s of lo"er <gypt fled fro#
populous !ities to the open spa!es of the desert$ %heir instin!t "as right$
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.e "ill find the Path leads hi# a"ay fro# the !ro"d into solitude@ and& later& a"ay
fro# the thoughts of the !ro"d that people solitude into hi#self$
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1t is hard to get this pri'a!y& harder still to get solitude in the full sense$ ther people
"ill not let hi# alone$ 1f they !annot intrude physi!ally& they do it by letter$ 1f not that
"ay& then by thoughts about hi#$
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Aost of those "ho ha'e attained this pure philosophi! truth not only re'olted against
and deliberately li'ed apart fro# "orldly !o##unities& but also fro# #onkish
!o##unities$ %his "as not only be!ause they "ere entirely free fro# religious se!tarian
bias B"ith "hi!h religious organi5ations tend to be!o#e identifiedC sin!e they usually
a!kno"ledge no ties22but also be!ause the physi!al habits of li'ing a#ong "orldly
people "ere repellent to the#$
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People #isunderstand his #oti'es& resent his keeping to hi#self& re3e!t his need of
solitude& and pro'e totally unable to understand his reasons for staying on his o"n lone
path rather than so!iety,s beaten path$ So they des!end to in3usti!e& !all hi# haughty or
self2!entered or poseur$ .is refusal to get in'ol'ed in relationships "hi!h "ill sap ti#e
and energy needed for higher things or in situations "hose troubled out!o#e he !an
foresee +uite !learly& "ill be denoun!ed "ith anger as inhu#an$
3:
.e #ay ha'e good"ill to all #ankind but this does not #ake hi# so!iably in!lined to
all #ankind$
0;
-ithout #o'ing fro# one,s ho#e& "ithout any experien!es in the "orld outside it& a
#an #ay for# !hara!ter and a!+uire "isdo#& but only if he !orre!tly understood and
faithfully follo"ed the philosophi! #editations$
01
%otal independen!e is i#possible to attain in this or any other so!iety$ But "hat #ay not
be found out"ardly #ay still be found in"ardly$
0(
1 ha'e kno"n +uite a nu#ber of her#its& as!eti!s& and #onks in #y ti#e and tra'els&
but 1 ha'e ne'er kno"n one "ho "as so totally "ithdra"n fro# the "orld that he "as
not& in so#e s#all or large "ay& dependent on the "orld$ Co#plete isolation is
theoreti!ally possible but pra!ti!ally it is not per#anently possible$ <'en the #illionaire
"ho seeks it needs those "ho "ill help !reate it for hi#& and to that extent he depends
on the#$
03
But the essential thing is "hat "e do "ith the #ind$ So!rates nurtured his philosophy in
"hat "as for that ti#e a large !ity@ he did not need& like %horeau& to "ithdra" into
Nature,s solitudes$
00
1t is i#portant to his su!!ess or failure that this te#porary isolation be prote!ted against
un"anted intrusion$
05
%he old yogi& sitting under the shade of a nee# tree& un!on!erned "ith the bustling
"orld& is entitled to his "ithdra"al and 3ustified in his 'ie"$ But those "ho follo"
another "ay& "ho stay in the "orld "ithout being Dof itD are not less deser'ing of
toleran!e and respe!t$
06
%he #ore he !an find a pla!e& a ti#e& and a !ir!u#stan!e "hen he is least likely to be
distra!ted by any !ause "hate'er& the better "ill his #editation be$ 1n this !onne!tion it
is needful to re#e#ber that to help a!hie'e this purpose of solitude& se!lusion is better
than so!iety22e'en than the so!iety of one person and that a #e#ber of the fa#ily or a
!lose friend$ %his is be!ause the other,s thoughts and feelings #ay penetrate his
!ons!iousness in a 'ague "ay and disturb it sin!e he is sitting re!epti'ely and passi'ely$
08
.e #ust resist the interruptions of his pri'a!y "hether they be boorish or "ell2#eant if
they lead to interruptions of his pea!e$
09
1t "ould be interesting to !ount the #en of your a!+uaintan!e "ho are able to stand on
their o"n solitary opinion& "ho refuse to be strapped do"n in the strait3a!kets of
!on'entional publi! opinion$ 4ou "ill usually find that su!h #en& by taste or by
!ir!u#stan!e& are a!!usto#ed to pass so#e"hat lonely li'es$ %hey like to se+uester
the#sel'es@ they prefer to li'e in +uiet pla!es$ 1f destiny grants the# the !hoi!e& they
!hoose the pla!e of +uiet #ountains rather than the prattle of little #en$ Su!h #en
de'elop their bent for independent thought pre!isely be!ause they prefer "ithdra"n
li'es$ So!iety and !o#pany !ould only assist to s#other their best ideas& their nati'e
originality& and so they a'oid the#$ %horeau& that po"erful ad'o!ate for solitude& !ould
ne'er be inti#idated by anyone$
0:
1n the still hours of the e'ening& "hen the a!ti'ities of the "orld drop fro# its tired
hands& the #ind !an find ane" its olden pea!e$ But in solitude there !an be !o#fort and
healing$ 7enius fleeing the #ultitude& as -ords"orth did& kno"s this to be true$
5;
So fe" kno" either the #eaning or the delight of inner silen!e@ so #any kno" only the
depressi'e asso!iations of outer silen!e& su!h as an!ient ruins and peopled !e#eteries$
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Pri'a!y is a great pri'ilege22al#ost& in these noisy days& a luxury$ %o be able to li'e
"ithout being interrupted by others& to be able to !on'erge all one,s thoughts& "ithout
being disturbed& upon the highest of all thoughts& the dis!o'ery of the 'erself& is a
satisfa!tion indeedE
5(
Not #any persons are suited for solitude$ %o get the best it has to gi'e re+uires a spe!ial
sensiti'ity of te#pera#ent& a fine appre!iation of Nature& and a little kno"ledge of the
#ind,s possibilities$
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Not all persons lea'e the "orld be!ause they !annot !ope "ith it: so#e do so for the
'ery opposite reason$ %hey !an handle its affairs only too "ell& they kno" its hu#an
"eaknesses and defor#ities fro# personal experien!e and !an !ounter the#$ But
enough is enough: their s!ale of 'alues is no" on a ne" higher le'el$
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%he higher !reati'e "orks are best de'eloped in isolation$ %hose to "ho# they are
offered later "ould& if present& disturb the !on!entration needed or obstru!t the blo"ing
"ind of inspiration$
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> her#it sitting in a se+uestered retreat #ay e'entually dra" to hi#self by the #ind,s
#ysterious po"er& as so#e riental sages ha'e done& !ertain spiritual seekers& those
"ho "ere then benefited by the !onta!t$
56
%he #an "ho !annot be as happy in his o"n so!iety as in that of others "ill ne'er attain
true happiness at all$
58
> ti#e #ust !o#e to e'ery sensiti'e person "hen he tires of the #ultiple distra!tions
a!ti'ities and tensions of t"entieth2!entury !i'ili5ed li'ing& "hen he yearns for a
si#pler& less exhausting& less !o#pli!ated existen!e$
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%he #ind ger#inates "ith great truths after these lonely sessions$
5:
%he de#ands #ade by a!+uaintan!es& and e'en by friends& ought not be per#itted to
supersede those of the inner life$
6;
%he enfor!ed !essation fro# external a!ti'ity "hi!h i#prison#ent #ay bring !ould be a
help to spiritual a"akening$ > fe" #onths before he died s!ar -ilde said& D1 ha'e
li'ed all there "as to li'e$ 1 found the s"eet bitter and the bitter s"eet$ 1 "as happy in
prison be!ause there 1 found #y soul$D
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-hy should he !ontend "ith a so!iety that is do#inated by #aterialis#& #oti'ated by
egois#& and saturated "ith sensualis#/
6(
> #an "ho is spiritually #inded often has #oods "hen he si!kens of fre+uent !onta!t
"ith his #ore sordid fello"s& "hen he prefers to "ithdra" and be!o#e a #ere
!o##entator on life$
63
%he theory of breaking all !onne!tion "ith the "orld in order to #ake !onne!tion "ith
the <ternal Spirit& is sound enough$
60
%hey "ithdra" fro# experien!es be!ause they "ant to "ithdra" fro# the senses$
65
1t does not need #u!h thought to understand "hy it is easier to find the presen!e of 7od
in the absen!e of people$
66
*or a #onth e'ery year Auha##ed "ithdre" fro# the "orld and fro# Ae!!a into
!o#plete solitude& and thus balan!ed a!ti'ity "ith !onte#plation$
68
.e deliberately isolates hi#self fro# the !ro"d at these regular inter'als be!ause he
belie'es that only in loneliness !an he approa!h the 1deal$ Not that he e'er really
a!hie'es su!h a !ondition for 7od alone is alone$
69
%he #an "ho is frightened by loneliness is not yet ready for philosophy$
6:
1f solitude is filled "ith gro"ing kno"ledge and deepening pea!e& one ne'er "earies of
it$
8;
1 a# too ena#oured of this tran+uillity "hi!h solitude gi'es #e to a!!ept the o'ertures
of those "ho ha'e no !onne!tion "ith #e ex!ept a geographi!al one$ 1f there is no
spiritual propin+uity it is better to stay alone$
81
%he !reator in art and the thinker in philosophy need pri'a!y for their "ork$ %hose "ho
break into it "ithout being in'ited22"hether in person or by letter or& "orse& by
telephone22depri'e others& rob hu#anity$
8(
1t is his inner apartness that enables hi# to keep his freedo# and pursue his +uest$
-hether it has to be translated into outer ter#s is another #atter& and one dependent on
his !ir!u#stan!es: it is not inexorable and essential$
83
Solitude be!o#es intolerable to those "ithout inner resour!es$ %he ti#e passes too
slo"ly for the#& too boringly$ Fnless they ha'e so#e outer a!ti'ity to keep the# busy
all the day& the ina!ti'e hours be!o#e unendurable$
80
-hether a bodily "ithdra"al should follo" the inner one at the sa#e ti#e& or at so#e
later date& or is not ne!essary at all& #ust be deter#ined by ea!h person for hi#self in
a!!ord "ith his outer !ir!u#stan!es and personal strength$
85
%o be al"ays a#ong other hu#an beings& be they in a !ity or a 'illage& is suffo!ating to
the gro"th of a"areness of one,s o"n higher indi'iduality$ %here are ti#es "hen e'en
the in'ol'e#ent of fa#ily or the !loistered life of a #onasti! institution ha'e saturated
one,s aura and o!!asional liberations are needed$
86
%he her#it "ho tries to i#pro'e hi#self& to deepen hi#self& to purify hi#self& and to
enlighten hi#self is& indire!tly& also !ontributing to the i#pro'e#ent of #ankind
generally$
88
%o put it plainly he has less ti#e for so!iety be!ause he "ants #ore ti#e for 7od$
89
=oneliness he is thankful for and !o#es to regard as a blessing& not as the #isfortune it
is so "idely supposed to be$ 1f !hoi!e and destiny ha'e brought hi# se!lusion& he "ould
not gi'e it up easily$
8:
%he re!luse "ho finds his spiritual and !ultural resour!es suffi!ient !o#pany is as
happy22in a different "ay22as the householder en3oying his fa#ily$
9;
=oneliness is !old to those "ho kno" only the self "hi!h gi'es the# a personal
existen!e& but 'ery "ar#& 'ery friendly& to those "ho kno" their other self$
91
1t is a #atter of te#pera#ent and !ir!u#stan!e "hether he shall bury hi#self in a
solitary existen!e or not$ %he inner life is al"ays a'ailable& "hether he is a!ti'e or
passi'e& for in both !ases it is a'ailable only as he turns toward it& retreats into it& or
dra"s upon it$
9(
.e finds that his solitude is inhabited by another being than his fa#iliar o"n& that a
higher presen!e has entered the area of !ons!iousness$
93
By !o##uning "ith his deeper self in +uietude and solitude& he !an rene" his battered
ideals and fortify his aspirations$
90
%here are a fe" periods of his inner life "hen !o#plete isolation is greatly needed and
greatly ad'antageous$
95
%he la" "hi!h !o#pletes e'ery thing and e'ery #o'e#ent in Nature by its opposite or
!ontrary a!ts here& too$ 1f a period of self2sought isolation is prolonged enough& a #an
ine'itably gets tired of it and desires a !hange$
96
Read the Book of 7enesis and note ho" ?oseph,s in"ard liberation !a#e during his
out"ard i#prison#ent$ Read the biography of Sri >urobindo and note ho" his spiritual
a"akening !a#e during the year spent in 3ail$ Read the poe#s "ritten by Sir -alter
Raleigh during his last !onfine#ent in the %o"er of =ondon and note the depth of
religious feeling they rea!hed$
98
Periodi! retreats into solitude are a ne!essity to the ad'an!ed soul if he is to fulfil his
purpose in attaining true& free& and inspired 1ndi'iduality$
99
>lthough fe" "ill ha'e troubled to per!ei'e the fa!t& or #ay e'en be able to per!ei'e it&
"e all ha'e to li'e in inner solitude any"ay$
9:
%he need of "ithdra"ing at !ertain ti#es fro# outer !onta!t "ith other hu#an beings
"ill be felt and if so should be obeyed$ 1f he disregards it& he #isses an opportunity to
progress to a higher stage$
:;
S"a#i Ra#das: D4ou should not take refuge in any ashra# for the purpose of reali5ing
the supre#e state$ -hat you need is solitude and suitable en'iron#ents$D
:1
%he differen!e bet"een seeking holiness in a !orporate #onasti! life and seeking it in a
solitary one is "ide$
:(
Aan,s long sear!h to find hi#self #ay begin "ith a !ro"d but #ust end in !o#plete
loneliness$
:3
.e "ill ha'e to endure at ti#es the solitude of the #an "ho finds hi#self on a su##it$
:0
.e "ill tend to be!o#e #ore and #ore solitary in his so!ial habits& less and less
disposed to !arry on "ith external "ork& for he "ill grudge the ti#e and feel that it
belongs by right to the prayers and #editations "hi!h are leading hi# in"ards$ %he
sa#e solitude "hi!h #ay lead others to despair or #adness #ust lead hi# to !al#ness
and "isdo#$
:5
Be!ause he has to find a balan!e bet"een the "ordly life and the inner life& he dis!o'ers
and de'elops a portable solitude$ %his he takes "ith hi# to "ork or so!ial leisure$
:6
%he sa#e #ental isolation "hi!h #ay lead to illusion in the #ad #ay lead to truth in the
"ell balan!ed$
:8
-hen the disad'antages of fa#e are se'erely felt& the ad'antages of flight into obs!urity
be!o#e attra!ti'e$
:9
1t is not so #u!h that he& as an indi'idual& has !o#e into !onfli!t "ith so!iety as that he
finds the goals offered hi# by so!iety to be unsatisfa!tory& so#eti#es e'en frightening$
So he "ithdra"s fro# it$
::
%he lo'e of solitude "ill not be felt by those "ho are still enthralled by the lo'e of
gregariousness$
1;;
.is sensiti'ity to the "orld,s e'il !urrents #ay be!o#e unbearable& for!ing hi# to
"ithdra" into isolation or else to suffer enor#ously$
1;1
.is sensiti'ity to the "orld,s e'il !urrents #ay be!o#e unbearable& for!ing hi# to
"ithdra" into isolation or else to suffer enor#ously$
1;(
%he "orld thinks it !ould hardly "ish one a "orse fate than to be !ast a"ay like Crusoe
on an uninhabited isle& and the #ysti! !ould hardly "ish hi#self a better one& for then
he #ight !o#e to !o#plete grips "ith hi#self and follo" >riadne,s thread till he finds
the Soul$
1;3
1f for a "hile and in !ertain "ays the student has to learn to li'e unto hi#self alone& this
is only that he #ay later and in other "ays better !arry out his responsibilities to"ards
his fello" !reatures$ .e has not "ashed his hands of this responsibility but he has
de!ided to e+uip hi#self better for it$
1;0
> prin!ess on!e told #e about a friend of hers "ho had been an offi!er high in the
Russian >r#y and a popular #e#ber of the Russian aristo!ra!y$ >fter the Bolshe'ik
Re'olution he es!aped to 7ree!e& renoun!ed the "orld& and #ade his ho#e in Aount
>thos$ %here& in the her#it settle#ent per!hed on the "inds"ept !liff2fa!e of Garoulia&
he o!!upies a kind of half2!a'e& half2hut& per!hed high abo'e the sea and rea!hed by
perilously steep unprote!ted steps$ .e slept on the floor "ith his head on a stone pillo"
and "ith the bony skulls of for#er #onkish inhabitants of the !ell lined up on a shelf$
*ather Nikon& as he is !alled& is one of the 'ery fe" edu!ated and #annered #en to be
found in the peasant2sto!k illiterate !o##unity of Aount >thos$ 1n a #essage he sent
the Prin!ess after #any years of this solitary existen!e and in response to her en+uiry& he
said that he had found great pea!e and had ne'er before kno"n su!h happiness$ %he
'isitor "ho !arried the #essage "as stru!k by the !ontent#ent "hi!h radiated fro# hi#
and the serene self2#astery "ith "hi!h he bore hi#self$
1;5
%he "ider his experien!e of the "orld& the #ore he is te#pted to be!o#e a re!luse$
1;6
%he i#pinge#ent of other people,s auras& if they be inferior and if he be sensiti'e&
!auses hi# a kind of suffering$ Can he be bla#ed for preferring solitude to so!iability/
1;8
%he #an "ho seeks to defend his solitude and prote!t his pri'a!y for spiritual purposes
is not the type that the publi! ad#ires$ 4et "hy should he present his sa!red treasures
before s!offers/ -hy should he !ast the di'ulge#ents "hi!h !o#e to hi# in +uiet
#editation before a sneering "orld/
1;9
%he #an "ho prefers his solitude to listening to the silly !hatter of those "ho talk
endlessly but say nothing "orth saying& has at least done no "orse$
1;:
-hen a #an be!o#es disgusted "ith the "orld,s "ays& he #ay de!ide to lea'e it to its
o"n fate& retreat into solitude& and seek out his o"n progress$
11;
.e is not afraid of being alone& nor e'en of li'ing alone$ 1t is in su!h solitude& he kno"s&
that he !an be!o#e a!+uainted "ith his real self$ But neither is he afraid of sharing his
solitude "ith so#eone else,s$ %he Spirit is large enough to be findable in one or the
other& despite all #onkish or as!eti! !lai#s to the !ontrary$
111
People bla#e hi# for being a re!luse& but then he "ill rarely #eet a beautiful soul
"hereas he !an al"ays #eet a beautiful bit of Nature$ )o they bla#e hi# for preferring
Nature/ Besides& he is so taken up "ith this task of getting to kno" hi#self that he has
little in!lination left to get to kno" others$
11(
1f he is to be a"ay fro# outer te#ptations "hi!h sti#ulate afresh and keep ali'e
thoughts that he is desirous of subduing& then it is better he should be a"ay fro#
so!iety$ 1f he is to a'oid the se#blan!e of situations "hi!h #ay out"ardly !o#pro#ise
hi# e'en though he is in"ardly guiltless& it is again better that he should be a"ay fro#
so!iety$
113
%here are ti#es "hen a #an needs to be alone& apart fro# others& to be "holly hi#self
and think his o"n thoughts$
110
1t is hard for su!h a #an to stay in so!iety "ithout !o#pro#ise& "ithout playing the
hypo!rite& "ithout be!o#ing half2insin!ere$ 1t is understandable if& disgusted& he "ould
rather retire fro# the "orld and be a re!luse$
115
.is re'ulsion against this #aterialis# is understandable$ 1ts denial of the finer !ulture
"hi!h he is beginning to find is reprehensible$ Shall he follo" the 1ndian exa#ple and
"ithdra" fro# the "orld& repudiate its 'alues& and disengage hi#self fro# all
relationships/ 1t #ay not be the easiest "ay to li'e but it is !ertainly the sin!erest$
116
.earing so#e nearby "orshipper singing out of tune& say +uite flat& does not pro#ote
the feeling of re'erential "orship& let alone of brotherly lo'e$ 4es& the argu#ent for
pri'a!y in "orship is a strong oneE
118
=eft alone& "ith no intrusion of other people,s auras to !reate tensions& a beautiful
pla!idity takes o'er the #ind of a philosophi!ally de'eloped #an$
119
:> D1 regard #y last eight #onths in prison as the happiest period in #y life$ 1t "as then
that 1 "as initiated into that ne" "orld $ $ $ "hi!h enabled #y soul $ $ $ to establish
!o##union "ith the =ord of all Being$ %his "ould ne'er ha'e happened if 1 had not
had su!h solitude as enabled #e to re!ogni5e #y real self$ >lthough 1 did not study
#ysti!is#& the #ysti!s 1 read in prison appealed to #e tre#endously$DHt22>n"ar el
Sadat& for#er president of <gypt
11:
No #atter ho" #any other persons anyone surrounds hi#self "ith& he is and re#ains
funda#entally alone$ .e #ay not re!ogni5e it& or #ay refuse to re!ogni5e it& but an hour
!o#es "hen the hidden truth is for!ed upon hi#$
1(;
.e #ust use a shield against intrusi'e so!iety& against aggressi'e egos e'er ready to
dese!rate "hat he holds #ost holy$ %hat shield is !on!eal#ent$
1(1
%he lonelier he is the likelier is #editation to appeal to hi#$
1((
Solitude is not a ne!essity of the #editati'e existen!e$ > #an #ay go his o"n "ay in
the #idst of a so!iety in"ardly deta!hed& !al# "hile out"ardly busy and alert& "eary of
the "itless talk that i#poses upon their de#entia a po#posity "hi!h pro'okes right and
proper ridi!ule$
1(3
%his is not #y o"n dis!o'ery$ %he an!ients and the #edie'als kne" it& too$ Ri!hard
Rolle& the fourteenth2!entury <nglish #ysti!& states& D1n an!ient days #any of the #ore
perfe!t "ent out fro# the #onasteries to d"ell alone$D 1 #yself "itnessed the
pro!ession of the #ore ad'an!ed of Ra#ana Aaharshi,s dis!iples exiling the#sel'es&
one by one& fro# his ashra# during his lifeti#e$
1(0
>t su!h ti#es& "hen he is alone "ith the best in hi#self& he "ill !o#e to appre!iate the
"orth of solitude$
1(5
%he re!luse "ho re3e!ts so!iety is entitled to do so and to find his o"n spiritual path in
his o"n "ay@ but it is neither 3ust nor "ise for hi# to i#pose his "ay upon the others
"ho ha'e to li'e in so!iety& "ho !an not re3e!t it$
1(6
%o the #an of thought& feeling& and #editation& pri'a!y is a treasure22a ne!essity of his
"ay of life& a !reati'e and fruitful period$
1(8
Solitude is the best "ay of life& Nature is the best !o#pany& 7od is the best presen!e$
%hose "ho are "ealthy surround the#sel'es "ith ser'ants& so that they ne'er ha'e
solitude& but al"ays other presen!es& other auras around the#$ Pri'a!y is the
a!!o#pani#ent of solitude and "here there is no solitude there is no pri'a!y$
1(9
1t is pleasant to li'e ignored and unkno"n$ %he "orld then lets you alone and keeps its
negati'e thoughts off you& dire!ting the# to so#eone else$ %o be regarded as a nobody
and let others find out after you ha'e passed fro# their physi!al ken or #o'ed
else"here that you are a so#ebody pre'ents un"anted intrusions$
1(:
.e is a prudent #an "ho does not #u!h en!u#ber hi#self "ith !o##it#ents to other
persons upon the 3ourney of life but retains so#e #easure of the freedo# "hi!h is
found in aloneness and independen!e$
13;
-ho has full freedo# and !o#plete independen!e/ -ho is "alled against the a!tions&
the influen!e& the suggestions& and the presen!e of others/ <'en the re!luse "ho
"ithdra"s fro# so!iety "ill find it diffi!ult to li'e or be alone$ .e prefers to be
in!onspi!uous a#ong others& to li'e +uietly in so!iety& to ha'e a hu#bler rather than a
grander position& and to hide hi#self in anony#ity or obs!urity$ But these are his o"n
preferen!es$ 1f& ho"e'er& the .igher Po"er "ills or instru!ts hi# intuiti'ely to !o#e
into the publi! eye& to be publi!ly a!ti'e& he "ill relu!tantly ha'e to obey the !all$
131
%his #ental solitude "ill see# to be en!hanted& al#ost #agi!al& outside the "orking of
ti#e itself$
13(
.e #ust not be afraid to hide hi#self if that is the only "ay he !an a'oid being
disturbed$
133
Aany people look upon li'ing alone and staying alone as often as possible "ith
so#ething like horror and to be a'oided$ %he philosopher has no su!h attitude for on the
!ontrary he is able then really and truly to be hi#self and not "hat the pressures of
others for!e hi# to try to appear to be$
130
%he large spread of 'ulgarity in the "orld #akes a fastidious person find #ore
en3oy#ent in solitude$
135
%he better part of his !hara!ter re'olts against #u!h that he finds in the "orld but "hi!h
others ha'e long sin!e re!ei'ed into their !on!ept of an a!!eptable and respe!table
so!iety$
136
%he #ysti!al te#pera#ent !o'ets solitude and +uietude& detests #ultitude and noise$
%he #ysti!al "ay of life renoun!es the li#ited ego& battles against the lo"er instin!ts&
and ab3ures personal strife$ Conse+uently& the #ysti! is ine'itably repelled by #u!h that
belongs to the a!ti'e life$ .is breadth and depth of outlook find little attra!ti'e in it$ .e
"ants to sa'e the ti#e and energy it absorbs so as to #ake his life in"ardly profitable$
138
1f he seeks to li'e apart fro# others for long periods& he is entitled to do so$ So!iety and
!o##unity #ay do #u!h for a #an but they do not gi'e hi# inner pea!e$ *or that he
#ust fight alone in the full sense of the "ord$
139
> sensiti'e #an is entitled to prote!ti'e shelter fro# intrusions to his pri'ate tent in the
"ilderness of this "orld$ >loneness "ith the 'erself #ay be his parti!ular "ay of life$
Solitude #ay be his ne!essity& but so#eone else,s !urse$
13:
.as he obligations to so!iety "hi!h re#ain unfulfilled if he !hooses solitude "hilst he
re#ains in it& or "ithdra"al into a retreat "hen he does not/ 1s he a!ting dishonourably/
%he ans"er is that he is entitled to his de!ision: it is personal$ .is o"n future life is at
stake& not so!iety,s$
10;
%he !riti!is# that the #an "ho "ithdra"s and ex!ludes hi#self fro# the tur#oil and
agitation of ordinary life for spiritual reasons is antiso!ial and selfish is a narro"& one2
sided& and superfi!ial one$ 1f he uses the her#it2like retreat to i#pro'e his !hara!ter and
to foster resol'es to a#end his !ondu!t "hen he returns to so!iety& he "ill surely be a
better #e#ber than before$ Sin!e so!iety is !o#posed of indi'iduals& that "hi!h leads to
their #oral ele'ation !annot fairly be !alled antiso!ial$ >nd sin!e e'eryone benefits by it
in the end& it !annot be !alled selfish$
101
1s the #an "ho has gone aside for a "hile to !olle!t his for!es& to +uieten his #ind and
to study the an!ient "isdo#& to be labelled a deserter of !i'ili5ation/ .o" false su!h a
label& ho" foolish the !riti! "ho affixes itE >ll that is best in !i'ili5ation has !o#e fro#
#en "ho for a ti#e "ent aside to gain the inspiration or the 'ision out of "hi!h their
!ontributions or !reations "ere born$
10(
%he disgust "ith the "orld "hi!h Shankara regards as one of the four essential +ualities
for the Iuest& or dispassion as it is so#eti#es translated& #ust also in!lude disgust "ith
hu#anity$ %herefore& if it leads a #an to seek a solitary existen!e in order to find "hat
the "orld,s influen!es obstru!t& he ought not to be bla#ed$
103
1f the her#it is busy "ith +uietening his thoughts& penetrating his !ons!iousness&
deepening his attention and uplifting his e#otion& his unso!ial beha'iour is +uite
3ustified$ .e kno"s no" that he #ust fulfill his duty to hi#self and that it takes ti#e
and strength$ 1f he lea'es other persons alone& does not intrude into their li'es& it is
be!ause he is trying to #ake his o"n life so #u!h #ore 'aluable& and this in the end
"ill #ake hi# so #u!h #ore 'aluable to so!iety$ %hus& not only is his o"n patien!e
!alled for& but also the patien!e of so!iety& to bear "ith his solitary "ays$
100
<xperien!e "ill instru!t hi# that until he attains a !ertain inner status& the #ore he
#o'es "ith others& the less often he finds the inner light$ %he #ore he is alone the easier
it is to !o##une "ith Nature$ 1t needs !ourage to pra!tise solitariness at the proper
ti#es& for too #any #eetings and too #u!h !hattering depri'es$
105
-hen he sees ho" #u!h #alignan!y there is in the "orld& a #an #ay be ex!used if&
"ithout turning #isanthrope and for the purpose of higher de'elop#ent& he !uts hi#self
off fro# his fello" #en and "ithdra"s into se!lusion$
106
%he her#it "ho isolates hi#self fro# neighbours in order to enter a deeper inter!ourse
"ith hi#self& is entitled to do so$ 1t is the spiritual #oti'e "hi!h 3ustifies the antiso!ial
a!t$
108
%o lea'e the "orldly life& out of !lear per!eption of its insuffi!ien!y and
unsatisfa!toriness& or out of disgust and fatigue& is not ne!essarily a !o"ardly a!t$ 1t #ay
"ell be the only proper and prudent a!t$
Dangers of solitude
109
%he benefit "hi!h !an be got fro# solitude& is had only by properly balan!ed #inds$
%he others "ill be still #ore unbalan!ed by it$
10:
%he her#its "ho go& self2banished& into their rural retreats ha'e as #u!h right to their
solitude as "e to our so!iety$ But if they a'oid all !onta!t "ith others for too long a
period& they fall into fresh danger of #ono#ania& hallu!ination& or illusory progress$
.ere& as in all things& a balan!e #ust be kept$
15;
%he tenden!y to "ithdra" into oneself in disgust "ith the "orld is useful so long as it
does not end in a "ithdra"al to so#e other part of the ego$ %he result is likely to be that
one shuts oneself up in sulkiness& if not #orbidity22a sterile #o'e$
151
1f he loses interest in the "orld to the extent that he is +uite "illing to let it go hang& for
all he !ares& "here is the e'iden!e of spiritual unselfishness in this/ 1s it not rather a
!o#plete obsession "ith personal de'elop#ent/
15(
So long as he does not go into a!tion& the her#it is in no danger of being sho!ked into
dis!o'ering all the truth about hi#self and about his theories$ .is #editation #ay re'eal
so#e or #u!h of it but so far as this pra!ti!e is s"ayed by his i#aginings or per#eated
by his ego& it #ay lead hi# only to false results$ But in the "orld he "ill #eet "ith
e'ents& ro!ks& oppositions& te#ptations& that for!e hi# to bring up to the surfa!e "hat is
really in hi# or test the ad'an!es he has #ade to #easure "hether they be real or
i#aginary$
153
.er#its "ho d"ell o'erlong in #ountain eyries get out of tou!h "ith !o##on life$
%heir outlook be!o#es narro" and !onfined@ their thoughts be!o#e unable to take "ide
generous and balan!ed 'ie"s$ %hey fall into a fatal !o#pla!en!y$
150
%here is a dangerous side to ex!essi'e solitude spent in efforts at #editation$ 1t #ay lead
to a dried2up& holier2than2thou san!tity "hi!h hides and prote!ts the 'ery egois# he sets
out to kill$ 1t #ay breed hallu!inatory 'isions and pseudo2re'elations& in "hi!h he
gradually be!o#es lost to the truth and sanity of real 'ision and authenti! re'elation$
155
>n ex!ess of solitude #ay lead to a degeneration of #anners$ %he #an "ho li'es too
#u!h in hi#self #ay forget ho" to li'e "ith others$ =i'ing alone& unso!iable& ha'ing no
!o#panions& #u!h less !onfidants& a her#it #ay lose polish& gra!iousness$
156
%he dangers of introspe!tion exist #ostly if he is to re'el in egoisti! thoughts$ But the
philosophi! ai# is the 'ery !ontrary22to !ut a passage2"ay through all su!h thoughts
and es!ape entirely fro# the#$
158
%he #ere indifferen!e to"ards other #en and the self2sought blindness to e'ents "hi!h
!hara!teri5e su!h a re!luse are not ne!essarily the highest kind of deta!h#ent$
159
%here is so#ething out"ardly ironi! in asking su!h a #an to lo'e his neighbour as
hi#self$ .a'ing se!luded hi#self fro# all nor#al !onta!ts "ith his neighbours& ho"
!an he find the !han!e to lo'e the#/
15:
1solation fro# all !ulture #ay either breed insanity or foster "isdo#$
16;
Prolonged isolation fro# his fello"s !an fill his #ind "ith unreal i#aginings about his
o"n experien!es and "rong ideas about other people,s$
161
.e be!o#es too "ithdra"n into hi#self in a negati'e "ay& ending in a lethargi!
apatheti! self$ %his is not at all a philosophi! result but +uite the re'erse$
16(
%he solitary #an #ay or #ay not ha'e a better !han!e to attain stillness& not
enlighten#ent$ %his is be!ause he is likely to ha'e less distra!tions of !ertain kinds$ But
in that !ase he is likely to ha'e other kinds instead$
163
Solitude #ay help a #an i##ensely in his spiritual life during !ertain periods "hi!h
#ay be +uite long or +uite short$ But 3ust as any good that is o'erdone be!o#es a bad or
turns to a folly& so it is "ith solitude$ %oo #u!h of it #ay !ause a #an to go astray and
lose hi#self in !hi#eras and illusions$ *or if he has no other hu#an !onta!t he has no
one "ith "ho# to !he!k his ideas& fro# "ho# to re!ei'e !onstru!ti'e !riti!is#& and by
"ho# he #ay be "arned about de'iations fro# the !orre!t path$
The Notebooks are !opyright J 1:9021:9:& %he Paul Brunton Philosophi! *oundation$