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The Hermit

The Hermit Solitude is the furnace of transformation.
Henri Nouwen

When questions about the nature of existence and the purpose of life start eating away at your mind, answers will not be found in the physical world. They can only be found inside of you. You have risen above your desires and emotions because they will no longer help you on your journey. Now you must become like the Hermit, who seeks the answers alone. Only the whispers of his Inner Voice, and the light of his lamp, will guide him now. Eventually even that lamp shall be cast away, because it is artificial and will not help the Hermit forever. His own inner light must learn to shine in the absence of the light of others.

For true wisdom to emerge, there can be no distractions. Any preoccupations of the world, no matter how small or inconsequential they may seem, will be heard as shouts that drown out the still voice within. It is not enough to rid yourself of inner turmoil, though that is a step in the right direction. The next step is to eliminate outer turmoil, through isolation and withdrawal from the world. This is the path of the Hermit, who slips into darkness in order to have the light revealed to him when he is ready. Like the Fool, he is once again alone, separated from all others. But this time it not only by choice, but by necessity.

Once he has learned the lessons and seen his true wisdom, the Hermit will often pick up his lamp and return to the real world, in order to help others see their own potential as well. But the Hermit is not a teacher; he will not lecture his students and tell them all about his experiences of solitude and isolation. They must experience it themselves, for wisdom earned simply by listening to another person is not really wisdom at all. True wisdom and true enlightenment always come from within. A teacher may tell the student how he found wisdom, but the student must go and find it for himself. Wisdom is not a gift presented to you on a platter. It is a gift you give yourself.

The lessons of life cannot be rushed, or forced, or made to happen before it is time for them to happen. This statement, in fact, is one of those lessons that everyone must learn. But simply reading it on a page, or hearing others tell you about it, will not give you the experience of the lesson. Only by doing - or not doing - can we ever hope to understand. Knowledge only becomes wisdom when we earn it, through the sacrifice of our familiar surroundings and all the people we hold dear. If you think about it logically, everything you leave behind when you follow the Hermit's call will remain when you return. The only thing that will have changed is you.

The appearance of the Hermit is a call to learn more about yourself and the nature of your existence, and everyone experiences this call at some point in their lives. Take this as a sign that your worldly problems and affairs can safely be put on hold; there is greater, inner work to be done now. Often this will refer to a problem you must solve or a part of your nature you must deal with before a situation can progress. Only in rare circumstances will this refer to a spiritual transformation, but when it does, know that it will be a powerful change requiring much effort and commitment. A more long-term withdrawal may be needed.

The Hermit can also show you that a mentor is entering your life. This is a person who will not teach you overtly, but who will show you how to find the answers you are seeking within yourself. Perhaps you will be the mentor who is indicated by the Hermit, in which case you must be careful not to preach to your student, but guide him. Your wisdom will not be your student's, and you must accept that before any teaching can be done. If you are ever in doubt, know that all the wisdom you will need is already inside you, waiting to emerge. This light will not come unless sought out, but when it does, you will see that you had the answers all along.

Copyright 2000 James Rioux