The Potential Purposes of Solitude
Updated: Aug 13
(Note, this is a translated excerpt from my book, Hermitericum. A link for it, in the end of this article).
As you may already know if you have read my writings before, I am an advocate of not only individuality, but also solitude. In my opinion, solitude can be used for productive and meaningful purposes if we can stop seeing it as a purely bad or wasteful state of being.
Just think of all the artists, authors, scientists, and religious individuals throughout history, who gave great contributions to humanity (and to themselves as well) and were natural recluses.
Think of how you can use your time alone not only for your own benefit, but, in addition, as a time for altruism, through creation and deep thought, which can be most optimal in production when in seclusion, away from social distractions.
As an INFJ (which is one of the 16 types in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), I find it hard to waste my time by being lazy or unproductive, so even though I usually have plenty of time, there are barely a few minutes when I’m not doing anything (or doing something that I find to be purely time-wasting and thus meaningless).
This is why I have learned in my contemplation the following: that one can lead an active and rich life even at extensive times of solitude with minimal social interaction.
I would like to translate and share with you an article I wrote in my first book to be published, The Hermitericum, called The Purposes of Solitude. Probably being one of the longest articles in this book (which generally contain only a few pages, and this as well).
In this article, I think of the various usages and functions one can achieve while in solitude in the following fields: religious and spiritual. The other two aspects can be found in the book itself (and for Hebrew speakers). My apologies for not revealing the other aspects.
The Purposes of Solitude
It is probably common to think that the experience of seclusion has some kind of higher spiritual purpose, such as being with a god or gods (depending on your religion, of course), finding serenity, reaching self-enlightenment, reaching a state of holiness or nirvana, finding quiet and peace, achieving independence, and so forth.
All of these are fine purposes, and they are based on an iron will for going out on an adventure in the quest to achieve a meaningful or desired value, whether on the religious, psychological, intellectual, or other level.
However, the matter is, as simple as it may sound, that solitude has no purpose of its own.
Solitude, at least as it is explained by Solitary individualism, is of a nihilistic nature, meaning it is meaningless and purposeless.
However, it does not mean it has no value, because the meanings it contains are only individual, or, in other words, subjective and up for personal interpretation. Every loner/monk/hermit, if they look for a higher meaning for solitude, didn’t decide to seclude "out of the blue" unless they were forced against their will into solitude by society.
Regardless, of whether that particular loner/monk/hermit is an existentialist (i.e., someone who brings or creates meaning into their lives).
They would naturally look for a purpose to their solitude and thus gradually produce a complete philosophy around it, and about life and the world as well; a philosophy that could serve as a guide and thus help them adjust to being on their own.
This falls under two possibilities: in the name of sanity or in the name of hatred and self-misery and hurting one’s mental health.
However, Solitary Individualism shall always prefer the first possibility, since it is a humanist ideology that advocates for asceticism not for self-harm but for health and self-improvement.
Out of the assumption that solitude is objectively meaningless (one can argue that there is no such thing as "objective meaning"), the initiates (the ones who first begin to experience extensive solitude), might find themselves in a state of invalidity, boredom, or insufferable misery.
Therefore, given the psychological and philosophical nature of man, he needs a higher purpose (i.e., an existential purpose).
Not only does that initiate need to learn to be alone, but they also need to acknowledge their solitude if they are indeed determined to be alone for long periods of time.
Only through conscious acknowledgment is it possible to create a rational and sane meaning.
Especially in solitude, since there is no higher invalidity at first for those who are not yet experienced in "sology" (i.e., being alone).
This is why, being alone may be seen as an almost inevitable state of anxiety, especially for those who become acquainted with it for the first time.
By creating a purpose for solitude, the initiates start to develop an immune nature against the anxiety of the uncertainty of solitude.
Thanks to the power of thought and adjustment, it takes on a more philosophical form; the solution to the problem of solitude is found in a different approach than the normally accepted one, which may be more immature.
This is probably the most basic seclusion known to man, which was based solely on creating an intimate relationship with a divine entity.
The religious loners/monks/hermits were ascetics, prophets, priests, and pastors, who dedicated their existence to elevation, to a state of holiness, through ascetic and sometimes negative means, in the quest to find communication with a god, to pray to him/her/them, to glorify them, and to ask for their forgiveness on various sins.
Fasting, extreme seclusion, vows of silence, and continuous prayer were and are inseparable parts of this hermetic existence of the highly devoted religious individuals in the name of divinity.
Similarly, religious solitude could have resulted from either voluntary or coerced behavior.
There may be a difference between the religious person who becomes one out of their own will and sacrifices everything for his idol and a religious cult that forces its members to do the same thing without their approval. But by brainwashing them and breaking their spirits or out of manipulation.
The religious seclusion may be radical in a way that its specific doctrine may demand the loner/monk/hermit deny his sexual, materialistic, social, and unethical urges, along with even needs that psychology may see as part of human nature.
In fact, this type of solitude might focus majorly, if not completely, on saying "no" to the individual’s personal drives, wills, and needs, for them to be "better", "humbler", "more zealots," or "more moral" through self-torment.
Solitary Individualism may not focus on and does not encourage such a radical type of solitude, since it may be unhealthy, damaging, and extremely repressive of the authentic self and the liberty of the individual, although it is up to the individual themselves to choose what to practice and what not.
In contrast to religious solitude, spiritual solitude focuses on bringing the loner’s attention into the present moment, on living more simply, and on looking at the world and human existence with a less hostile and detached nature, and instead developing a more loving and harmonious perspective in the name of unity.
The spiritual loner, hermit, or monk does not have to be necessarily religious, even though religion and spirituality seem to be at times inseparable.
In this seclusion, the individual goes out on a journey; it can be a physical journey around the world or a more abstract, metaphorical concept of going inward rather than externally.
This, in order to obtain a higher purpose to life’s daily and grayish grounds, to "get rid" of the ego and never-ending passions, and also to find an authentic self - some sort of nucleus that is found beyond the production of the external environment (a concept that may be controversial).
There are many schools in this type of seclusion that aspire to teach their students how to live more "correctly." However, who knows what intention or motive lies beyond a guru’s serenity that he preaches to his students?
There is no need to be a student of a guru or a spiritual mentor in order to have spiritual intentions and practices.
As seen in the Hermitericum, all there is to being spiritual, according to this book, is the willpower to find existential meaning, which brings its receiver or creator a sense of emissary, destiny, and deep and honest satisfaction.
Spirituality, in the eyes of Solitary Individualism, views today’s society (or, if to compensate, today’s mainstream society) as a body devoid of deep meaning.
Some sort of machine absents philosophical reason from its existence, and finds all its purpose through passing, short-term meanings of materialism and ‘earthly’ issues.
This approach toward society may also be true in the eyes of religious seclusion. However, unlike spiritual seclusion, the religious approach may point out more moral indications of an eternal conflict between "good" and "bad", "purity" and "sin," and so forth.
It may also claim, if the claim is extremely radical, that in a more secular society, hedonistic materialism is the possession of a diabolical being (such as Satan in the Abrahamic religions) that threatens to rule over the individual’s free will.