Hermit Habit

One of the oldest monastic traditions is that of the hermit.   It is a life “being alone with God, not just for your benefit but for the benefit of the church and the world.

The hermit is the classic guru on a mountain top who chooses communion with the universe over conventional society.   People come to the hermit to share in the experience.

The vast majority of people, though, don’t really understand this eremetic calling.   They may be hip enough to go to an ashram, but a hermitage seems beyond any comprehensible sensibility.

Lots of people want to be an author, to have a book out that shows them in a good light, to be able to use that book as a platform on which to campaign, giving lectures, going on talk shows, getting approbation or at least notoriety.

Many fewer people want to be a writer, a modern ink stained wretch fighting carpal tunnel while facing a blank screen.    You know how to write, don’t you?  You just get out a blank sheet of paper and open a vein.

The writer’s urge is essentially hermetic, based in the demand to listen to the voices you hear in the universe and capture them for time.  You cannot simultaneously be in the world of chatter and also be in the world of your own creation, telling your own stories and understandings in a distinctive, compelling voice.

The process of writing is meditative and poetic.  Stephen Sondheim talks about crying after he has written something that moves him, or, maybe more precisely, about crying after being able to capture something that moves him in writing.

My calling has been essentially monastic and very individual.  My practice has been centred around discipline and ascetic denial, focused on becoming more righteous and closer to truth.   My life has been working to be of service, on basic levels and on higher ones.

I am a hermit, not because I don’t need human connection but because I need connection to the spiritual even more.

The Roman Catholic church position on homosexuality has been consistent.   It is possible to have homosexual desire, but it is a sin to act on that desire.   Gay people are required to a life of celibacy and denial if they want to be right with God.

While the church also demands celibacy from priests, they are able to make that choice when they take their vows, usually after a period of exploration of their own desires.

Gay people aren’t allowed that choice, aren’t allowed to explore.  Their celibacy is required, imposed against their consent if they do not want to be bold sinners in the world.

My experience of my life mirrors this notion.   My own celibacy was enforced, without a period of exploration in my formative days, a time when transgender had no sanctioned presence in the world at all.

I learned to deny expressing and exploring the passion of my heart in the world as a very young person, without the ability to learn the power of my own Eros.  That time was lost.

Unlike other transpeople, though, who made other choices, I did have a nature that suited the monastic life.   I did have the chops for theology and denial, for service and for exploration.   That is an unusual thing in the world.

If I lived in another time, another culture, I might have found a religious order that venerated special gifts like mine, might have been taken in and found community with shared beliefs and goals.   There were places where gynemimetic shamans were valued as part of the leadership, offering connection and healing past opposites.

In my time, though, the only life that seemed open to me was the hermetic life.

And so, even with my regrets from the exploration of vitality that I was denied, I learned the habits of a hermit, as incomprehensible as that is to most people.

That, I suspect, is calling.

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5 thoughts on “Hermit Habit”

  1. I have eremitic and contemplative leanings myself, Miss Callan. It is definitely not only my being trans that makes me an odd one in this life. My whole life long I have felt that there was something true and valuable in being able to make profitable use of my own company, and to find solace in my solitude. These days I am perhaps the most outgoing that I have ever been, and yet I also have the strongest sense that my alone times are of significance.

    I think there can be great power in being odd, perhaps just because it teaches you to stand on your own two feet and to draw down and nurture inspiration from other realms (however we understand this, whether figuratively, literally, or somewhere in between), being apart to some extent from the regimenting forces of society. Indeed I wouldn’t have minded being a priestess or shamanic type, one who stands apart from the group in order to be of service to the group, though today I content myself with being something like an artist. (I appreciated the artist quotes you shared the other day.)

    Make of this what you will, but I’ve been reading a bit of Rudolf Steiner lately, and yesterday I read through the text of a lecture he gave in 1916 called “How Can the Destitution of Soul in Modern Times Be Overcome?” He speaks of our present period of history as the “fifth post-Atlantean epoch” (yes, Atlantis: let’s be up front about that bit right from the start), which began somewhere about the fifteenth century and will continue for centuries to come. The task of humanity during this epoch is to develop what Steiner calls the “consciousness soul,” which concerns a deep sense of individuality and a personal connection to the realms of spirit.

    Steiner says that a potential liability of this evolutionary push to develop the consciousness soul is that human beings should find it harder to relate to each other socially than was the case during the previous epoch, when certain faculties were endowed by nature which have since receded and must be brought forth anew, in one form or another, by moral effort. But it is just because we are to be faithful to the contours of our own inward experience of life, to the working out of our own karma, and to establishing conscious relationships with others (whom we’ve likely met before, in another life, so Steiner says, and vis-a-vis whom we do not start out this life with a blank slate), that people will have a tendency to be more solitary and introspective, and humanity as a whole possess less group consciousness than it did during the fourth post-Atlantean epoch.

    (He cites this as a reason why the old forms of religion in particular are no longer appropriate to our age, and need to be reimagined to fit who we are today. One of the things we need is greater freedom of thought for the individual, and less groupwide shared dogma, which tramples personal connection to meaning before it gathers enough strength to come into its own.)

    At any rate, I realize this could all seem a bit fantastical, but I have taken it aboard and am letting it work upon me as it will, as potential truth. Rudolf Steiner really has something, I feel, although I do find it more difficult to size up what he says here than I do some of his other writings on self-development, which hit a bit nearer to home.

    Lecture: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/KnoSpi_index.html

  2. One of the things I had to learn in my quest to open up to queerness — including opening up my own queerness — was that when we make our art we always end up mixing the brilliant with the crackpot. Trying to categorize someone or even one of their works as one or the other just misses the damn point; see what resonates with you, what moves you, what they were trying to say and respect that it comes with artifacts from their own very human process.

    The whole arc of needing to struggle harder the farther we get past Atlantis — past our time in the womb? — makes perfect sense to me. We grow more separate and then we have to work to know so we can connect.

    I have worked to create my own “Consciousness Soul” and hope that I have helped others in the world in creating theirs.

    Thank you for sharing the gifts of your journey, for that moment of coming together to feed me and keep me nourished.

    It is good to hear your voice.

    1. Indeed, the brilliant mixed with the crackpot.

      I appreciate your response. Past Atlantis or past our time in the womb? Is Atlantis a mythic symbol, a concrete reality, or both? We don’t need to make up our minds once and for all. See what resonates today, what throws light on the journey, and keep moving.

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