Historically, spiritual seekers have recognised the need to separate themselves from the life of the world to cultivate their spiritual life and seeking inwardly. This has led to traditions all around the world of the renunciate, whether in the form of the Indian Sadhu, or the sojourn in the desert or life in a cloister or monastery. Essentially this inner movement helps the seeker to develop and strengthen his connection with the Eternal, the Transcendent, which can get overwhelmed in the awareness by the force of action in the world. At the same time, there is a call to embrace and expand outwards the spiritual expression through oneness and compassion with the entire manifested universe. The ideal of the Bodhisattva is one such attempt to bring the spiritual focus to action in the world.
The gnostic being, embracing the deeper significance of the manifestation and evolution of consciousness, cannot simply escape into a transcendent status, but must find the way to maintain the connection with the transcendent while concurrently acting in the world from the basis of knowledge. Sri Aurobindo describes this relation as follows: “The gnostic being will have indeed an inmost existence in which he is alone with God, one with the Eternal, self-plunged into the depths of the Infinite, in communion with its heights and its luminous abysses of secrecy; nothing will be able to disturb or to invade these depths or bring him down from the summits, neither the world’s contents nor his action nor all that is around him.”
“But at the same time God-love and the delight of God will be the heart’s expression of that inner communion and oneness, and that delight and love will expand itself to embrace all existence. The peace of God within will be extended in the gnostic experience of the universe into a universal calm of equality not merely passive but dynamic, a calm of freedom in oneness dominating all that meets it, tranquillising all that enters into it, imposing its law of peace on the supramental being’s relations with the world in which he is living. Into all his acts the inner oneness, the inner communion will attend him and enter into his relations with others, who will not be to him others but selves of himself in the one existence, his own universal existence. It is this poise and freedom in the Spirit that will enable him to take all life into himself while still remaining the spiritual self and to embrace even the world of the Ignorance without himself entering into the Ignorance.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”