One of our values is that of Community, not unlike convents or monasteries, other "churches," communes (old and new types).  So, is there a place for a Quaker hermit?

Just as Thomas Merton received permission from his abbot to have times of solitary existence, I do think there are times when individual Quakers may have a need for solitary time of silence and contemplation.  Even Thoreau went to the woods. 

In the "noise" of this world, in the contention that at times seeps into Quaker communities, sometimes the best way we can tap that which is of the Spirit withing ourselves is to separate from the "noise" from without. 

Admittedly the solitary pursuit is not for everyone, yet for some it is quite healing.  Solitary contemplation removes the distractions, allows focus, and brings clarity to issues that may have seemed to be unsolvable puzzles if one remains in the midst of the "noise." 

This is an extremely difficult pursuit for those who are tied to urban living, when one's only transportation is the city bus system, when (as Paul Simon so aptly put it) "one man's ceiling is another man's floor."  However, think of the victory that would come of finding peace within while existing in such mayhem?  

Naturally, the solitary life is not permanent.  We must go to the grocery store occasionally.  We may find fulfillment in volunteer activities serving others.  And eventually, we may be able to return to our original or another Quaker Meeting.  But "to everything there is a season," and sometimes we find ourselves best suited to a season of solitude. 

Is this too mystical for the present day?   I don't think it is.  Any thoughts from others?

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Comment by Olivia on 4th mo. 23, 2012 at 9:31pm

Hi Betsy,

I think this is a wonderful idea!   How to live it is another matter -- hard to arrange. 

Yes, I claim the urban excuse but also the hope and gut feeling that that my dislike of the city noise is meant to be overcome, despite itself. 

I feel a longing for a life of spiritual rest.  I have discovered that this is not the same as wanting a solitary life....that the life of rest is the one in which I'm doing whatever it is I'm here to do and in this case it involves city life and a whole lot of community.   I try to channel my longing for stillness and solitude into my attempt to simply do whatever I'm here to do, because I believe that peace and inner silence come in response to following that path.

Comment by Marcie Tillett on 4th mo. 24, 2012 at 6:16pm

Hello Betsy,

As the years have gone by, I have become more and more of a hermit. I've found that sitting in secluded garden allows me to more fully with our Lord and allows me to better hear my inner voice. Right now I live in town and have virtually no privacy for outdoor solitude. I can feel my soul and heart aching for the country and quiet.

I do believe there is a place for a Quaker hermit.

Thank you for posting!

Comment by Bruce R. Arnold on 4th mo. 25, 2012 at 12:29am

The old hermits in the contemplative Catholic order had a spiritual director who would call on them to pray and talk. It was to help make sure that they were not mistaking hallucinations or ego inflation for true spiritual visions or leadings. It seems something of the sort would be in order for a Quaker hermit as well. Like grounding a lightning rod, perhaps.

Comment by Betsy Packard on 4th mo. 26, 2012 at 1:24pm

Thank you all for your enlightened responses and suggestions!  Yes, I do have access to two very trusted spiritual advisors, one a "weighty Quaker" locally whose wisdom I trust and who keeps me thinking (on top of meditating, since the 2 are not the same), and another who is not geographically close at hand, but is ordained in the Anglican church. 

I've read much Merton, and he was part of the Trappist community about 100 miles from where I now live.  And I've immersed myself in Quaker writings for years, and continue to do so, and some items (Barclay's Apology and Fox's Journal) have warranted repeated readings. 

I love the concept that Heinz expressed about how solitude make an open space, and as the old saying goes, "Nature abhors a vacuum."  By making that open space within, inviting the Light to fill it would be a passionate pursuit.  Heinz, you've just sent me on to my next blog posting:  What would be the purpose of a Quaker hermit?  


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