Some of us are called to leave the ordinary, everyday, work world and isolate from others. History is replete with individuals who find it necessary to live outside of their
community, even if it is only for awhile. Whether to create a space to contemplate, heal, make music, paint, or write, some folks are not exactly social beings everyday,
all of the time. As a twin, I personally had a fascination with aloneness from a young age and developed a deep inner universe full of questions, wonder, and where books kept me company.
Stick your head in the sand about politics, or prefer to not watch the news about the ruthless massacre of Israelis; although understandable, this is not the types of social isolation at focus here. Alan Paton's poem on the SIDE STREET page of this website speaks to some of those concerns. Rather, of interest is a particular kind of isolating which hinges on one's intention. I'm reminded of the tarot card The Hermit. Traditionally, he is depicted as a contemplative, hooded old man who holds a shinning lantern atop a mountain. He is not up there because he hates people. On the contrary, he will become a beacon of light in the darkness for many. You see, The Hermit willingly isolates to "receive" knowledge, which is what Kabbalah means in Hebrew. But the Hermit has a simultaneous obligation to return to the city he once seemingly abandoned to dispense his recently obtained insights and wisdom.
Moses spends 40-days and nights on Mount Sinai before he goes down and sees the Golden Calf. He breaks the tablets, goes back up the mountain where the finger of God engraves the Ten Commandments, then Moses goes back down the mountain, deals with the idolators, and moves the Tent outside and away from the encampment, away from any further impurities due to the idolatry. Now it is called the Tent of Meeting where Moses speaks to the Lord God face to face . (Exodus 33:6-11)
Moses is an archetype for the isolationist who seeks to purify himself from the tainted elements of society, receive knowledge, and becomes a guiding light for others. For our purposes, of course the mountain is a metaphor, but purification rituals and isolation for a time can be real. In this context: Jesus in the wilderness; the shamanic practices of the Yanomamo in the Amazonian forest; or a spiritual seeker doing an intense meditation retreat in Big Sur, California is Moses-lite when she returns to her Berkley neighborhood compelled to open an apothecary store selling supplements and vitamins. At it's best, even a period of depression coupled with loneliness can be a vehicle to connect with your spiritual core. Heal thyself before you can heal others. Often people turn to God in their darkest hour. As the famous Psalm 23 emphasizes, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
What we do with this divine guidance is a personal question to answer. It may include a greater-than-oneself purpose. However, it is understandable not everyone can achieve the mountaintop, or be like Moses, a great statesman who led a group of people to become a nation. However, his example, which I term "Moses-lite" is embedded in the tarot card, The Hermit. In a traditional deck it is ninth in the suit of Trumps which, in my humble opinion, is a useless 0-21 number sequencing. I prefer the 22-Hebrew letter association which starts with 1. To learn more, click STREET SMARTS on this website. The Hermit correlates to the 10th letter in the Hebrew alphabet, which is Yud. She sometimes sounds like a "y" as in yes, or is used as a vowel. Her numerical value is also a 10. Her symbolic meaning is perfectly fitting to our analysis since Yud is associated with the hand, particularly the hand of God.
As a meditation, use Yud's sacred geometry to visualize sending blessings of wellbeing to yourself, and others, even your foes. An image of this letter is also on the STREET SMARTS page. Now, imagine the divine hand sprinkling manyYuds over yourself or others, as if the letters were tiny flower petals raining down guidance and protection.
In Psalm 23, it's not exactly a rod and staff that's imperative, rather, it is the sacred hands holding those now symbolic objects that leads one to safety. Yud informs us the function of a guide and guidance is precisely the role of The Hermit when she comes down from the mountain, or returns after a silent retreat. This isolationist may be likened to a modern day prophet if she takes up the virtuous conduct to give back and share her new found wisdom.
Frankly, not everyone can afford a luxury retreat facing the Pacific Ocean or is a shamanic initiate. In the hustle of our everyday, work world it is not easy being single and loneliness is rampant. However, the modern day Hermit pushes through negativity. He takes heed of his mystical calling and willingly goes it alone wherever. Later, he hopes to return to the hoi palloi and share what he has discovered. And making money is not forbidden since most of us are not saints living on the charity of others. In this post-Rabbinic era, sometimes people pay attention when there is a fair and reasonable price to pay for wisdom. A Buddhist monk gave me that bit of advice for a wholesome life!