Man’s essential being is inward, invisible, spiritual, and as such it derives its life, its strength, from within, not from without. Outward things are channels through which its energies are expended, but for renewal it must fall back on the inward silence.
As the body cannot thrive on empty husks, neither can the spirit be sustained on empty pleasures. If not regularly fed, the body loses its vitality, and, pained with hunger and thirst, cries out for food and drink. It is the same with the spirit: it must be regularly nourished in solitude on pure and holy thoughts or it will lose its freshness and strength, and will at last cry out in its painful and utter starvation.
The pure life of the spirit cannot be found, but is lost, in the life of the senses. The lower desires are ever clamorous for more, and they afford no rest. The outward world of pleasure, personal contact, and noisy activities is a sphere of wear and tear which necessitates the counterbalancing effect of solitude. Just as the body requires rest for the recuperation of its forces, so the spirit requires solitude for the renewal of its energies.
Solitude is as indispensable to man’s spiritual welfare as sleep is to his bodily well-being; and pure thought, or meditation, which is evoked in solitude, is to the spirit what activity is to the body. As the body breaks down when deprived of the needful rest and sleep, so do the spirits of men break down, being deprived of the necessary silence and solitude.
Man, as a spiritual being, cannot be maintained in strength, uprightness, and peace except he periodically withdraws himself from the outer world of perishable things and reach inwardly toward the abiding and imperishable realities. The consolations of the creeds are derived from the solitude which those creeds enforce. The regular observance of the ceremonies of formal religion, attended, as they are, with concentrated silence and freedom from worldly distractions, compels men to do unconsciously that which they have not yet learnt to do consciously – namely to concentrate the mind periodically on the inward silence, and meditate, though very briefly, on high and holy things.
In solitude a man gathers strength to meet the difficulties and temptations of life, knowledge to understand and conquer them, and wisdom to transcend them. As a building is preserved and sustained by virtue of the foundation which is hidden and unobserved, so a man is maintained perpetually in strength and peace by virtue of his lonely hour of intense thought which no eye beholds.
It is in solitude only that a man can be truly revealed to himself, that he can come to understand his real nature, with all its powers and possibilities. The voice of the spirit is not heard in the hubbub of the world and amid the clamours of conflicting desires. There can be no spiritual growth without solitude.
Culled from MIND IS THE MASTER by JAMES ALLEN