A time in which many of us are forced to physical isolation lends itself naturally to a brief pondering of ‘solitude’ on the Gnostic’s path. Now when I say ‘solitude’ I mean a form of being alone where you, no matter whether it is self-chosen or imposed upon you, do not feel lonely. This distinguishes solitude from ‘loneliness’ but also from the feeling of ‘being alone among people,’ which is often rather a feeling of loneliness and alienation. Solitude implies being content in your isolation. This also means that you do neither yearn for company nor seek it out, e.g. with nearly constant online interaction or activity. But neither should its sole purpose be to escape company/society! Again (compare my previous post): To follow the Gnostic’s or Magician’s path as the main route of one’s life should come from inner vocation and necessity, not because of social awkwardness or not being able to function properly in society. If one feels drawn to the path solely because of being a social misfit or out of an inner lack of self-worth, this is exactly the wrong motivation in my opinion. In that case, I would rather take care of my Self first, and start/use the magical work as a (serious) hobby – a word which I by the way use without any judgment in contrast to many self-proclaimed super-practitioners. What really matters is attitude and objective success (in the form of development and corresponding output, not self-perceived grandeur or material gain). Actually, I by far prefer someone who approaches, for example, our Kosmic Gnostic current with an honest yearning to integrate this esoteric work into a life that is already stable and fulfilling, where the Gnosis can then take root and the transformation begins to grow and progressively takes more room, to someone who has no life to speak of and seeks out magic to feel more worthy, powerful or important. All it takes is a bit of honest self-reflection and, to come back to the topic, solitude is a good precondition to reconsider your work’s purpose.
To repeat, utilizing solitude should not be rooted in a wish to escape company/community. For it must not become another excuse or escapism, another comfort zone we hide in. Only in interrelation with community/society, in balance with ‘being-with-many’, can ‘being-alone’ bear fruits for our work. In particular because true antinomianism and nonconformity (as well as true revolutions) do not happen in an empty space! To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson (on the topic of nonconformity in his essay “Self-Reliance”): “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
Emerson does not refer to the misfit at the fringes of society so again that is hardly a badge to wear proudly. The “independence” he talks of is exactly the nonconformity, i.e. to not be dependent on society’s truths but rely on one’s own (hence, “Self-Reliance”). While I do not agree with all aspects of his philosophy nor of his concept of self-reliance, I think this quote (as other passages of this text) goes straight to the core: The independence, i.e. non-conform truths and values, that we achieve in solitude have to be uphold “in the midst of the crowd” that we are (or want to be) independent of. Only then does it become a badge to wear proudly. We cannot take up camp in solitude or isolation forever (nor in the metaphoric wilderness) but have to carry it and its truths and values with us – directly into the heart of society, onto the true battlefield of Life.
As has been said elsewhere, the Kosmic Gnostic does not seek to transcend nor to escape this world. Even though she might often prefer the company of nature, the dead and the gods, she knows that solitude must be implemented as a (temporary) means to an end. While we have to retreat regularly in esoteric company to do important aspects of our ritual work, we should additionally seek and make use of solitude in prolonged phases as a means to acquire the independence from a Spirit-ruled mankind, to shatter our conform Self in the transgressive experiences of the wilderness. However, while we then use solitude to step into the liminal spaces, to transform, to confront ourselves with the necessity of Life and Death, to access the magical reality, to transgress against our Self, the work is not done by staying there. The hermit is not the hero but a station on the hero’s path, and more often than not is he an escapist if not a coward – albeit, possibly, a wise and knowing one. The hero, however, must return.
I know that many of us are involuntarily in isolation, many not alone, and that there is a lot to worry about right now. And yet, try to find some use for it that goes beyond mindless entertainment or the same old routines. Seek out solitude to contemplate your path, do your work, find your soul’s independence and prepare for your return!