Seclusion

Hello everyone,

Interestingly, most Sages, Prophets or Mystics prefer periods of seclusion to phases of public speaking. The Arabic Khalwa or Hebrew Hitbodedut mean seclusion; both can signify either the outer seclusion - spiritual retreat to a secluded place, traditionally to a cave or a cell, or, the inner seclusion - the meditation practised during such a retreat. Prototypes of seclusion in the Jewish tradition include Moses’ and Elijah’s seclusion in the desert. In the Islamic tradition Muhammad’s sojourn in the cave of Hira comes to mind. Of course we also have the desperate search of Jesus by his followers when he sought seclusion, making clear that he too looked for peace in separation.

Meditative seclusion has been practised at least since the Essenians and Therapeuts. It has been said that researchers suspect that the ritualistic notion of Khalwa came into Sufi usage from the Christian monastic tradition. Thus we have an interaction between the Mystic factions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but there is a similarity too in many other religious movements, not least amongst the eastern traditions.

In our modern age, however, we seem to have less and less time for such secluded meditation. Could this be the reason why many people fail to see any value in religion, let alone seclusion and meditation?

Shalom
Bob

In an age where brainwashing and mental abuse are increasingly acceptable and practiced, and we are thought only intelligent if we are trainable like animals, it leaves no wonder why people think religion has no power. There is more to the mind than brainpower. There is more to intelligence than being brainwashed. Besides that, the world is also a world of high stress. It’s much harder to dwell on why you should be able to do something when you can’t even excercise you’re God given right to think.

Hi Bob,

I’ve been batting around a similar question.

It seems that religion is primarily focussed on behavior and a proper relationship with god as expressed in doctrine and dogma. It doesn’t seem to be particulary interested in how we see our own awareness.

This is perhaps the difference between western religions and eastern philosophies. The former talks about content, and the latter talks about how we should view the content. If this is even reasonably close to an accurate generalization, it is no wonder that seclusion or meditation is almost ignored by western religions, and is considered a prime methodology for introspection by the eastern philosophies. I think that there is much more in religious doctrine that discourages introspection. With god as a sort of super ego at the top and us at the bottom, our own awareness is almost irrelevent. It is far more important to know all the attributes of god, and our ‘work’ is to behave in those ways that would be pleasing to god.

Yeah, that’s it. Religion teaches what to think and the eastern philosophies teach how to think. Self- awareness needs seclusion and meditation. Religion just needs a copy of Cliff’s Notes.

JT

I was once told that I should “Shut-up! Shut-up and stop speaking for a year.” I was told that I should think about what I understood of myself, the world, and the mystery (of life).

Best advice I have ever received…
(though I did not go quiet for nearly that long)

Now that my better half is around a lot more often I find myself wishing I had a good 4 hours a week for meditation/seclusion. It is such a valuable aid in life. Sometimes I wish I could give a few (just a few :wink:) people here at ILP the same advice I received.

Hi JT,

I think this happened because the idea of utter sinfulness made anything that I could claim came from within just as sinful. In Christianity there are two main strands as far as I can see, although they both complement each other and are occaisionally mixed up. There are those who seek awareness by contemplation of the life of Jesus, and those who see the earthly Jesus as only incidental to the cosmic Christ. Those who are mainly concerned with the cosmic Christ as doubtful of the value of any ‘awareness’ that a human-being could have. Those who study the Gospels are more likely to listen to an ‘inner voice’.

Hmm, is it really content or is it the perception of content that western religions talk about? My perception is very often just ‘my’ perception. I feel the same about theologians discussing the metaphysical. There are more of them saying that the words are just the form into which ideas and visions are poured to make them attainable. But ideas and visions have a different nature to words and even the most modern of those theologians have an inherent distrust of that nature.

I see the problem lying in the prevalue of certain words without the certainty of knowledge. That is why religion is primarily hope or vision, not proven fact. The eastern religions are more careful. I remember reading (if only I could find the quote) how Buddha was approached and asked to tell his listeners about the divine. He says to them that they haven’t understood the secular yet, why would they want to know about the divine.

Hi T4M,

You are right, that is probably good advice for us all - but then again, would we return after a year?

Shalom
Bob

Hi Bob,

Of course you are right, but only when we are speaking of those who have questions. I guess I was looking at how religion is practiced by the majority of followers of any religion. It is sad, but religion, in the best sense of that term, is only practiced by the few. Their whispers are drowned out by the superficial literalists who never look beyond any interpretation that doesn’t confirm their pre-conceived ideas.

Yes, if one cannot see the illusions of mind, the maya that trap’s us, then divinity has no meaning. It is simply another illusion.

t4m,

Great advice! I doubt that many could manage a whole day, let alone a year! :stuck_out_tongue:

JT

Hi JT,

“Maya is Existence”, writes Heinrich Zimmer, “…the supreme power that generates and animates the display…” As the mother of the universe, Maya is the goddess Maya-Shakti-Devi, “…the creative joy of life: herself the beauty, the marvel, the enticement and seduction of the living world…”

Isn’t it interesting that creative joy is regarded as seductive by so many religions, and finding our centre of balance means to close our senses to it? I believe that is because we are called to transcend our existence, but we are so very existential and caught up in those senses. We can choose to remain in the creative joy of life, or to rise above it and perceive, and by perceiving, overcome those things that hurt us. “In the world you are troubled, but have faith, I have overcome the world.”

In meditative seclusion, we do not leave the world, nor are we taken out of it’s tribulations. But we are strengthened to overcome them. The 23rd Psalm describes the righteous as passing through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ with the assurance of the shepherd guiding us. It is this assurance that has the Psalm singer say at the end, “my dwelling is in the house of Jhvh, for a length of days!” It is the house of Jhvh that is his seclusion and strength for the journey through the valley, and the pastures of tender grass where he lies down, the quiet waters where he is lead and where his soul is refreshed are all available to him, even in the ‘shadow of death.’

Shalom
Bob

Absolutely, the mind is easily seduced and can remain suspended in its’ illusions. It is interesting that so many interpret the release of illusion to mean that there is nothingness, So wrong. The mind doesn’t go away, nor does the world, transcendence is simply putting the mind and world in its’ proper place. Both mind and world become ‘tools’ of our freedom.

Must we visit the valley of the shadow of death? Without question. Only there can we throw off the shackles of mind, to “dwell in the house” of the Lord.

There is a reason that Buddhist monks meditate in grave yards. Only in accepting our own death are we truly able to live life as life.

JT

The Elephant and the Rat by Anthony de Mello

An elephant was enjoying a leisurely dip in a jungle pool when a rat came up to the pool and insisted that the elephant get out.
"I won’t,‘’ said the elephant.
"I insist you get out this minute,‘’ said the rat.
"Why?‘’
"I shall tell you that only after you are out of the pool.‘’
"Then I won’t get out.‘’
But he finally lumbered out of the pool, stood in front of the rat, and said, "Now then, why did you want me to get out of the pool?‘’
"To check if you were wearing my swimming trunks,‘’ said the rat.

An elephant will sooner fit into the trunks of a rat than God will fit into our notions of him.

Shalom
Bob

Is it important that our notions of god be accurate?

Assuming god exists would it be necessary that we should know him? Would not that god make him/herself known?

Should we know god? I mean… if we (mankind) were certain of god’s existence would not our existence be changed?

I have often thought that perhaps the search for god is essential to our purpose in life… to find god (or not) gives our life purpose: to live for god, or to live life to the fullest without the fear of false notions, etc.

:astonished: Any thoughts???

WOW! That is the best interpretation I have ever read of the Psalm…

Do you think that prayer is a form of meditation?

To a degree, I think this is partly why I would rather god did not exist: to live life as simply life is perhaps purpose enough to exist.

Life is more beautiful if it ends permanently…
I think I saw something in a movie akin to: The gods envy us because we are mortal and consequently doomed.

Hi T4M,

The first question that we have to place before we ask whether God exists is, what difference would it make to our lives? As a famous German writer put it, it is the question whether we ‘need God’ to lead different lives. Most believers accept that they need God.

The second question is, whether God can be known like we know our family, our friends our neighbours? I would say that this isn’t possible, being as God is utterly different to us. It is, however, possible to be extremely knowledgeable about what people have written about God, about experiences that gave us a feeling of presence, about principles of life that seem to be ‘God-given’ etc.

The third question is, what do we do when we find God? Do we put him on the mantelpeice, wear him around our necks, carry him around wherever we go? Or do we live in the assurance that we are no longer alone, that through our life we have a source of strength we can call upon? Do we build our lives on what we become aware of in this mystical presence, whilst reading scripture or hearing a sermon?

Finally, once it becomes clear that periods of seclusion are good for us, do we use those times in our lives to take stock of our lives, gain direction and set a course and fathom what we can of the secrets of life?

Indubitably

Shalom
Bob

T4M,

As usual, I say things and sorta’ forget to add a little explanation. Accepting our death is crucial. It is the release of illusion. It is putting our mind in its’ place so that we may live out of our genuine nature. That’s the eastern explanation, kinda sorta. To put it in christian terms, it is the ‘born again’ experience, through the apprehension of the mystical ‘Christ’ unto our salvation. In this sense, it isn’t our physical death, but the ‘death’ of our illusions and our re-birth with a new way of seeing. It is the direct connection with that which is called God, through the Christ. Our meditation or prayer is opening our hearts to God/Christ/Holy spirit, to transcend that which is of mind/illusion. Regardless the source of inspiration, whether bible, quran, Tao, or other, it is the letting go of illusion that allow’s us to be ‘aware’, or in the presence of God.

Bob, help me out here. What have I missed? It’s tough being a heathen.

JT

truer words have never been spoken.

Accepting the inevitable is a hard. Especially when one is unsure of what happens after death. (like myself). Do I settle on the easy belief that heaven is what is after death or do I push through the valley to truly see what lies beyond?

Heaven like living without knowledge of one’s demise is maya.

In ‘knowledge’ I mean truly accepting that you are mortal. dropping the pretense of heaven, the pretense of afterlife, and you realise just how hard a proposition that is.

Hi JT,

Ps.90:12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom.”

Wisdom begins when we accept our finiteness, when we understand that we are living in the “valley of the shadow of death” and see through it. Immortality begins when we have faith that it is no coincidence that we are here and that the creation of life or the recreation of life are one and the same. Our life is given, and it will be taken back. Who says that it cannot be given again, in what form ever?

The baptism ritual, as an answer to the redemptive crucifixion, is death and resurrection - and new life. Death of the old life of illusion and resurrection to hope. That is what Paul was talking about in Romans 6.

Seclusion helps us connect out of the valleyof the shadow of death to life, and is why Jesus told all that want to follow him to look at their cross squarely. It is also why the mystics often say that what the modern man calls life is in fact death, and what the modern man terms ‘dead’ is life.

Shalom
Bob

"When people are born, they’re supple and soft;
When they die, they end up stretched out firm and rigid;
When the ten thousand things and grasses and trees are alive,
they’re supple and pliant;
When they’re dead they’re withered and dried out.

Therefore we say that the firm and rigid are companions of
death,
While the supple, the soft, the weak , and the delicate are companions of life."

If this is true of all nature, perhaps it is true of the mind? Does doctrine and dogma promote death of the mind?

JT

Could doctrine allow for being supple, being soft? For example, the bible teaches that Jesus said that we should be as children… Could the intent of the scripture have multiple levels of the statement?

Do not children have the capacity for faith that most (wo)men lose?
A child does not think evil nor does a child harbor hate: Nay, I say!

Some observations on children:
Children have minds like sponges and have the capacity to learn quicker than adults.
Children are more open to ideas like santa, the big bang theory, god, Harry Potter, etc. They thirst 4 knowledge!
Children do not need a purpose for life… life is its own purpose.
Children are awed by the creations of life and find small things interesting.
Children laugh and play and always want to be friends: they love everyone.
Children are innocent and are only corrupted by the demands of others (adults).

Perhaps it is man that corrupts doctrine!
Is not the intent of many doctrines to free man and not to enslave him?

Dogma is doctrine corrupted by man… (sigh) :frowning:

Bob wrote:

I often hear of explanations for the connection and/or how a successive religion is influenced by a predecessing religion. The one above has a similar loose and hollow feel to it. Then a conclusion is drawn how a religion was motivated by some ritual or practice that took place by some other people somewhere else. While I do not reject the possibility, and while I acknowledge that certain practices by fact have been influenced by others prior, many charges of this sort are so weak and illucid. Further, these explanations undermine the originality and sincerity if you like of the later group. Often, these practices cited many wish to connect with different and previous schools of thought are not so unique and peculiar that one might be driven to search and give some hollow explanation anyway. Seclusion/meditation for example. I rather think that there were people who might have taken on such practices free from influence, but being that they are philosophers, some from group A, B, and C from respective eras D, E, and F might have found seclusion conducive to focus of some kind, irrespective of what other groups might be doing/have done whom they share strictly no bonds with.

Besides, if the Sufi’s were to practice seclusion to the credit of some influencing entity, it would be clear to me that their influencer would be Prophet Mohammad. Prophet Mohammad would go into seclusion for meditation. Moreover, he received his revalations from Angel Gabriel while in seclusion in a mountainous area thousands visit today.

Sufi’s, being Muslim, would more than likely be influenced into such a practice by their Prophet whom they believe is the Messenger of God who delivered their Holy Scriptures they hold sacred as God’s written word…not Christian monastic tradition.

To the question now:

It would be prudent to say that this might play one factor in many failing to see the value in religion. Another factor, at least for me in Los Angeles, is the lack of substance in human beings. Humans are not brought up being taught philosophy and the classics as was the case in antiquity. The faculty of reason, intellect, and wonder is not cultivated. Aristotle said “Philosophy begins in wonder.” Such wonder is suppressed by the preoccupation with sex, appearance, money:the base whims…VICTIM :blush:

Long Live Plato’s Republic!!

Hi AVICENNA A.D.,

Whilst I appreciate what you are saying, my intention was not to undermine anyone, but show that there are commonalities and that the interaction of these religions encourgae such exchange. I think that much of this has been lost on the mainstream Religions, but wasn’t uncommon on the fringe of cultures. It was often the power structures that ensured that enmity and prejudice grew and wars were fought, using people like pawns on the board.

Once we overcome the fear of the other, we very often find that our intuitive understanding of what is good and bad, of what is wholesome and helpful, isn’t so far away. So too with spiritual exercises that are commonly similar where cultures rub shoulders. No wonder then that in modern times, Anthony de Mello’s “Sadhana” has many eastern influences whilst remaining destinctly Christian.

But isn’t it clear who influenced Mohammed? In these days I have spoken to many Islamic people who have expressed an understanding of Christ that many supposed Christians lack, just as many Jews are ‘rediscovering’ their brother, differentiating between the Gospel figure and the polemic the surrounded him. The abrahamic basis of our religions is clear, and there is much more if we look into it.

But if potential Sufi’s came into contact with Christian monks with a mystical tradition (assuming neither the one or the other killed each other) and they were prepared to walk some of the way together, why shouldn’t they influence each other? The question isn’t then who can claim originality (which is impossible anyway), but “why are we enemies?”

I don’t think that classical philosophy is the answer, but we need a different relationship to Myths, Legends, Analogies, Fables and the like. This is what I see as the greatest loss since Rationality tried to take over. Rationality is sometimes like brute strength, of course it’s stronger, but is it the be all and end all? The intuitive capability to pass on or accept philosphical ideas via imaginative stories is well documented and acceptable when we are children. Then we suddenly pretend that the world ends with adolescence and starts again rationally. “I’m grown up now, so I don’t listen to stories anymore!” people seem to claim.

Shalom
Bob

Hi Bob,

Isn’t it interesting that all or most spiritual movements include some form of seclusion, meditation, deep prayer, [insert label here] in order to shut out the extraneous and focus on the nature of existence?

As to who ‘invented’ what or who might have borrowed what from whom is so irrelevant, it is past ridiculous. That all or most spiritual movements recognized and held this ‘methodology’ in common is the salient point. It’s too bad that the fractious religions of today so conveniently ignore what is right under their noses. Preach tolerance, practice exclusiveness. The founding visionaries are sad indeed.

JT