Bede: The Life and Miracles of St. Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindesfarne (721)
CHAPTER XVII - OF THE HABITATION WHICH HE MADE FOR HIMSELF IN THE ISLAND OF FARNE, WHEN HE HAD EXPELLED THE DEVILS
WHEN he had remained some years in the monastery, he was rejoiced to be able at length, with the blessing of the abbot and brethren accompanying him, to retire to the secrecy of solitude which he had so long coveted.
He rejoiced that from the long conversation with the world he was now thought worthy to be promoted to retirement and Divine contemplation: he rejoiced that he now could reach to the condition of those of whom it is sung by the Psalmist: "The holy shall walk from virtue to virtue; the God of Gods shall be seen in Zion."
At his first entrance upon the solitary life, he sought out the most retired spot in the outskirts of the monastery. But when he had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict, and more remote from the eyes of men.
There is a certain island called Farne, in the middle of the sea, not made an island, like Lindisfarne, by the flow of the tide, which the Greeks call rheuma, and then restored to the mainland at its ebb, but lying off several miles to the East, and, consequently, surrounded on all sides by the deep and boundless ocean.
No one, before God's servant Cuthbert, had ever dared to inhabit this island alone, on account of the evil spirits which reside there: but when this servant of Christ came, armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, all the fiery darts of the wicked were extinguished, and that wicked enemy, with all his followers, were put to flight.
Traditional and orthodox Christians need to recover the mode of thinking in which we can read the above account - by Britain's first great historian writing of her greatest Saint - and regard it as an account of what happened.
For instance, that Inner Farne was un-inhabitable because of the evils spirits, and after Cuthbert arrived to set-up his hermitage, the first thing he did was to expel these devils.
And it was participation in this cosmic conflict, on behalf of Good, that was the highest activity of Holy Elders of the past, that towards which the greatest Saints strove.
In other words, ascetic monasticism (and the Via Negativa) was (in part) intended to be a spiritual training for unseen warfare for the benefit of mankind - when [Cuthbert] had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict...