There comes a stage where some hand over responsibility to the next generation and gradually withdraw from the world. Some are born to that stage and lead no other life, some come to it much later. Some, perhaps the majority, never reach that point in their lives and remain devoted to the material and the worldly.
It is a search for the soul, a search for the very essence of meaning. It is not a giving up, it is a progression. Are they seeking the divine? Almost certainly, but divinity is not to be narrowly defined by religious dogma.
It is hard not to use religious imagery to illuminate and explain that search, since from time immemorial mysticism has been at the very heart of it. A yearning for the numinous has invariably been linked to the concept of a god, or at least to some explanation for the origin of creation and consciousness.
We are creatures of our background and of our cultural history and are bound to think in terms of the images we have been brought up with. In the West we might think of plainsong, a gothic cathedral or a quiet monastic garden. In the East we might think of the stunning beauty of Zen or the moving words of the Tao Te Ching.
It is wiser by far to see the common essence of all such traditions and not to be blinded by the sad divisions resulting from the reification of dogma. Religion is a mere finger pointing to the moon.
This is so very true.