Definition of Exile by Merriam-Webster
(Entry 1 of 2)
a: the state or a period of forced absence from one’s country or home.
b : the state or a period of voluntary absence from one’s country or home.
Definition from Oxford dictionary:
Exile: State of being expelled or long absence from one’s native land.
Definition from Britannica dictionary:
Exile – prolonged absence from one’s country imposed by vested authority as a punitive measure. Exile and banishment probably originated among early peoples as a means of punishment…
Exile as a punishment is perceived as being removed by one degree from a death penalty.
One of the example of exile as a punishment is in the myth of Sisyphus who put himself in exile as a self-punishment for killing his father Aeolus and sleeping with his mother.
When we hear of exile we think of detachment, not to belong, being victims of persecution, an unsafe and foreign place. With all this comes the longing for a place to which you belong, a home, a homeland.
And with all which is written above, being in exile could be, for the creative person, a significant step towards subjective expression of his creativity.
And from this aspect of creativity – the exile of an author or an artist, can allow him to create, and in fact many writers and Intellectuals lived and created in exile, some of them were forced to live their homeland like Stefan Zweig who was running away from the Nazis, and some were going to exile from their free will like James Joyce who came from Ireland to live and write in Paris and wrote there about life in Dublin. Also Henry miller, an American, lived and wrote in Paris for 10 years. He indeed saw the exile as a punishing experience but at the same time it allowed him to have introspection that could lead to revelation. And he added that this is because his natural surrounding could not allow him a transformative process.
Another person living in exile is the prophet Ezekiel, According to the Bible, Ezekiel and his wife lived during the Babylonian captivity on the banks of the Chebar River, in Tel Abib, with other exiles from Judah.
The book of Ezekiel opened with the following lines:
” On the fifth day of the fourth month of the thirtieth year, I, Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, was living with the Jewish exiles by the Chebar River in Babylonia. The sky opened, and I saw a vision of God. (It was the fifth year since King Jehoiachin had been taken into exile.) There in Babylonia beside the Chebar River, I heard the Lord speak to me, and I felt his power”.
His prophesies were may be the most mystical of the other prophesies. The influence of his vision on the mystical traditions of Christianity and Judaism were great )Kingsley 1992(. And so it seems that there is a connection between prophesy in exile and a high mystical revelation.
It is not possible to write about exile without relating to the Jewish nation being in exile for about 2000 years. The life of Jews in exile were very difficult; the Nationalities in which they lived saw them as outsiders, and their life were full of persecutions, humiliation, pogroms, and killings, the climax of which was the killing of 6 million of them.
But, being in exile they succeeded to build life around their religious writings, one of which was the Talmud that influenced the life of Jews everywhere.
Generally, Jews considered the exile as a very negative situation.
The survival of the Jews in exile could not persist without their creative power. They created mystical, philosophical and legal and moral -writings. It seems that the survival of Jews in exile was not possible without this great creative force.
But the Jews, at least many of them, returned to their homeland: Israel, but this return brought with it territorial occupation of land and the territorial war with Palestinians.
Most of the wars were on territory that one country claimed as their own while the other country said the same. An invasion into a foreign territory is a reason for war.
In the book: The Significance of Territory by JEAN GOTTMANN he claims that no one can understand a country, which is a political institute, without it’s Spatial definition – it’s territory.
Here it is being said that: you cannot worship two masters: territory and spirituality, in its wider meaning.
Which means that choosing territory comes on the account of words such as: spirituality, consciousness, the souls and more.
Is it just a coincidence that Cain who was a land owner murdered Able that had not land (The word Able in Hebrew is a synonym for spirit and spirituality). Here we find the connection between owning a land (territory) and blood shade.
We are educated to a territorial loyalty to one’s country, it is called: patriotism, and is so powerful that one is ready to die on the defense of the territory of his homeland
The territorial complex and the obsession exists not only about land that belongs to one country and another country claims as their own (which is the main cause for wars) – it exists in the dispute over parking space (which leads often to violence), and on the road where drivers are being violent over the space around their car.
Without territorial invasion there is hardly any aggression or violence.
Thus it could be said that the surrender to the territorial dominance is the divorce from the higher dimension, and the opposite is also true; focusing of the center of gravity on spirituality – separates us from territorial slavery.
What is said, in other words, is that the territorial men is disconnected from higher dimensions (spirituality, the arts, philosophy, classical music, theater, literature, mysticism, poetry and more of the like), in the same way that the spiritual person (in the wider meaning of the word) is disconnected from the territorial world, and being disconnected from it means: being in exile.
And to be in exile is to be in longing. And to long for, is the core and the heart of the higher dimension. We are destined to wonder and to long for truth and spirituality.
Once the natives were wanders, from place to place to where food is, and in the meanwhile they lived in temporary home, that could be dismantled quickly, and on they go.
The absence of a permanent lodging caused the longing for a home, and in the absence of a physical home the longing is for a spiritual home (through the Shaman which was the authority for the spirit world) and this longing is the entry port for the mystical spiritual awakening state.
And the wondering and the longing are a natural state for a person who is in the quest for higher dimension in his life (meaning, truth, pick experience and the like) and maybe this is one of the main reasons for young people to leave their parents’ home in order to visit distant cultures, knowing deep inside that soon they will be chained to mortgage for a house (a territory that will belong only to them) that they will have to work for, for most of their life.
The real wanderer is being in a journey for a home that he might never reach, but he could not stop being in a continuous quest for what might be for him untenable. Like it is being portrayed in this poem by Kavafis, Ithaca:
By Konstantinos P. Kavafis
When you leave for Ithaca,
may your journey be long
and full of adventures and knowledge.
Do not be afraid of Laestrigones, Cyclopes
or furious Poseidon;
you won’t come across them on your way
if you don’t carry them in your soul,
if your soul does not put them in front of your steps.
I hope your road is long.
May there be many a summer morning,
and may ports for the first time seen
bring you great joy.
May you stop at Phoenician marts,
to purchase there the best of wares,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber, ebony,
hedonic perfumes of all sorts;
may you go to various Egyptian towns
and learn from a people with so much to teach.
Don’t lose sight of Ithaca,
for that’s your destination.
But take your time;
better that the journey lasts many a year
and that your boat only drops anchor on the island
when you have grown rich
with what you learned on the way.
Don’t expect Ithaca to give you many riches.
Ithaca has already given you a fine voyage;
without Ithaca you would never have parted.
Ithaca gave you everything and can give you no more.
If in the end you think that Ithaca is poor,
don’t think that she has cheated you.
Because you have grown wise and lived an intense life,
and that’s the meaning of Ithaca.
But the journey is not linear and horizontal, for another piece of land which is ahead of one, for the searcher the journey is vertical, from up to down so the muse, or an inspiration or a higher presence – will land on him, and it could be done as long as he is unchained to a fixed territory, and is in a search, a quest and a continues longing.
The real ancient Egyptians saw themselves as being in exile from their homeland in the sun, they despised this place and saw it as the underworld, all their life a process of preparation of returning to their longed for home.
It is interesting to note that in all of their paintings there no one smiling, their face were sad, as a person that does not feel that he belong to this place.
We, as human beings, at large, chose the land, the territory as our home, and with that we deserted our nonphysical home, a home that requires one to be in constant quest for the eternal and the hidden.
And with all our investment in a permanent territorial home, our situation here is provisional and very temporary, but exactly this temporary life of ours is what could and should be a drive for a transadental state of being, which acts as a counter balance for our temporary life on the planet.
With it the wish for a permanent solid home on earth is understood, for life of wandering means being exposed to the unknown and the unknown brings with it anxiety, thus being connected to a fixed territory is a kind of anti-anxiety antibody, but if we get separated from anxiety then we also get separated from the holy spirit, you cannot work for two masters, you cannot be safe and secure and to long for the higher.
The spirit is not in a specific temple or synagogue or a shrine or a mosque, she is everywhere, always current, always new and fresh, thus the need to look for it each time anew.
One of the holly books in the Kabala (Jewish mysticism) is the Zohar, it describes the teaching of the master Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to his students, and it is never done in one place, they were moving across the land and the teachings took place everywhere.
And there is the person living in his country, in his home and feels in exile, this person is an outsider.
Albert Einstein said the following: “As a matter of fact I am a ‘lonely traveler’ and I never belonged in my heart to my country, to my home, to my friends, even to my closest family, therefore existed in me a feeling of distance and the need to be alone”.
Raymond Carver gave it a beautiful expression in one of his poems:
“It happens that a person is born into a foreign land, and despite of the fact that he has a father and mother, brothers and sisters, a language and a culture – he is actually from a different place and he does not know that. He is painful all his life, until he understands and begins the journey back to his homeland, in which he never be in and no one can promise him that it actually exist. This person is born into hell, and in the beginning he does not know that this is hell. He continue to live his life and only after long time something happens: a kind of moment of grace, in which he succeeds to see, even for a clear and fleeting moment his place. A turn piece of postcard from his place, it could be said. Or that someone from there that is passing him and smiles – a moment that changes his life, because at once he understands that indeed there such a place. That he is not dreaming. That there are a better life from the one that he lives now. And also, of course, at that moment he also understands that he lives in hell”.
From: Raymond Carver: Poems.