Stumbling through historical documents the way I usually do, in other words I read through or rather skim through until something catches my eye besides creative spelling and what have you, I came across the mention of immurement (literally being walled in) as a means of religious practice. In the text I was reading, it referred to how the cells of religious followers known as anchorites were designed to allow for small things, such as shuttered windows from which they might hear the Mass and see the altar of the church. Another small opening was present to provide for small yet basic needs of the follower. The understanding is that the person walled in never leaves his/her cell again. This life would be one of communion, albeit solitary in nature, with God via contemplative prayer.
I can’t fathom what that life would be like. What would even go through a person’s mind while the work on being walled in was taking place? Yes a great spiritual journey may await you but that journey would include long, lonely hours interrupted with the hearing/sights of a ceremony and the smallest, most frugal of food offered to you. If you were fortunate you would be able to speak with others (I have read in some instances where an anchorite would simply be walled up in a cell completely, left to starve or dehydrate to death as there were no windows provided) when they came to seek you out for wisdom or to intercede upon their behalf for religious matters and such.
As much as I cannot fathom that lifestyle I also cannot say that a different form of this isn’t going on today. How many people are ostracized from mainstream society due to illness, medical conditions or simply being different? How many times do you read articles about people being found only after neighbors complain of a foul odor or the mail-person notices the mail hasn’t been picked up for a number of days? I suspect that when you start to live a very solitary existence, and for the record there is nothing wrong with that if that is by the person’s choice, that it is may be not too far off form a walled in experience, expect you have the freedom to move out of your “confinement” if you wish. Of course when one is ostracized there isn’t the freedom to “join” back into the rest of the group unless you go forth and seek out your own group.
Of course this method could be used for reasons other than religion, such as punishment, an out of sight and out of mind approach where people would simple die of starvation and dehydration. A most horrible way to spend one’s last hours, starved, thirsty, dehydrated and probably injured from trying to claw one’s way out. Not to mention you would be completely shut off from all human contact with only your own thoughts, voice and hallucinations to keep you company.
I can honestly say that although I thoroughly enjoy my solitude and my privacy, I can’t imagine being stuck with just myself 24 hours a day for the reminder of my life.