Human beings are social animals, and they crave contact and relationship with others. Modern society has broken or weakened many of the links that formerly brought people together, including the nuclear and extended family, and tight-knit communities where people socialized and interacted with one another. The attempt to interact through social media or through mass gatherings, or even through joining clubs, groups or gatherings of various sorts, is an effort to find comfort for the feeling of emptiness that arises inwardly as people feel disconnected from one another in any meaningful way. Social media ‘likes’ cannot replace true person-to-person interaction and relationship.
Yet if we examine the matter deeply, loneliness has been with humanity as far back as we can see, certainly long before the alienating effects of modern society. Poets have examined the feeling of loneliness that arises even when one is among friends and family, loved ones, and in social settings that have traditionally been used to bring people together. Loneliness is not a function of social interaction, but a sense of disconnectedness when one recognises that regardless of how much we surround ourselves with other people, we are still alone, as long as we live in the ego-consciousness. We can reflect also on the impermanence of life and relationships and we understand that separation, illness, death, estrangement can cut short even the deepest and most intimate of relationships. There is no cure for loneliness in human interactions, even if we may temporarily mask this feeling in the vital energy that comes from social activities.
There are individuals who feel this loneliness keenly, who recognise the inner sense of emptiness, the feelings of alienation, the ‘alone-ness’ of our individual existence. They recognise that no amount of human relationship can solve this feeling, and in many cases, they experience an even greater sense of loneliness when they are amidst large numbers of people. As these individuals explore the depth of their feelings, they may begin to recognise that the true cause of loneliness is a feeling of being disconnected from the oneness of the creation and a lack of a true sense of purpose and direction in their lives.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “The inner loneliness can only be cured by the inner experience of union with the Divine; no human association can fill the void. In the same way, for the spiritual life the harmony with others must be founded not on mental and vital affinities, but on the divine consciousness and the union with the Divine. When one feels the Divine and feels others in the Divine, then the real harmony comes. Meanwhile what there can be is the goodwill and unity founded on the feeling of a common divine goal and the sense of being all children of the Mother. … Real Harmony can come only from a psychic or a spiritual basis.”
“To be alone with the Divine is the highest of all privileged states for the sadhak, for it is that in which inwardly he comes nearest to the Divine and can make all existence a communion in the chamber of the heart as well as in the temple of the universe. Moreover that is the beginning and base of the real oneness with all, for it establishes that oneness in its true base, on the Divine, for it is in the Divine that he meets and unites with all and no longer in a precarious interchange of the mental and vital ego. So do not fear loneliness but put your trust in the Mother and go forward on the Path in her strength and Grace.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 11, Human Relationships in Yoga, Harmony with Others, pp. 339-342