It was Aleister Crowley who made a profound observation that I have always remembered from the time I first read it. He pointed out that there is one – and only one thing – in common in the lives of Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and other great spiritual teachers.
Apart from this, their lives and teachings were totally different. So too were the people they preached to and the message they taught. However, there is one unique experience that they all shared in exactly the same way.
Think for a moment what it might be. It’s not an easy question……
I won’t keep you in suspense. Crowley points out that all of these founders of world faiths, without exception, retreated into a wilderness prior to receiving and delivering their great revelation to the world.
Jesus was baptised by John and promptly disappeared into the desert for forty days and forty nights. The Buddha escaped from the samsaric slumber of the royal palace in which he was born, and went to meditate under a bodhi tree for many years before enlightenment came. Alone, Moses disappeared to the top of Mount Sinai and received the ten commandments, and more, from the burning bush of God. The Prophet Mohammed spent much time in a lonely cave at night in the hills outside Mecca before he received the Koran from the Angel Gabriel.
Silence. Retreat. A Wilderness experience. Communing deeply within. This is the X factor. It can truly be said that prior to this inner retreat, there was actually nothing spiritually distinctive about these people at all. Virgin birth apart, the life of Jesus prior to this isolation is hardly even discussed in the Gospels. The Buddha was one of many Indian princes. You couldn’t have picked Mohammed out in a crowd. And Moses, though an accomplished magician at the time, and leader of a nation of homeless and hungries, still had his best days very much ahead of him.
When they returned from the place of silence and solitude, they came with FIRE! The flames of that fire spread with unquenchable force. It set light to the world. The truth they revealed differed very markedly, according to their own times, as well as the history and traditions of the people they taught. But it was new. It was powerful. It came from a place where most of us never go. It was divine revelation.
Perhaps none of us will start a major world faith or would even wish to. Yet, the power these spiritual masters tapped is available to us all. In fact, they are the first to say this. This power can transform our personal and spiritual development. It is the power to break the boundaries of our own limitations and ego consciousness.
Now, from this dramatic comparison of the lives of the Spiritual Masters, we have a strong hint of how to get there ourselves. It is through silence, withdrawal and inner stillness. It is only by BEING, i.e. willing to spend time with ourselves, to conduct our own retreats. This is how we can truly break through the barriers and blocks that prevent us from realising who we really are and what our life destiny is.
If you need any more persuading, consider the following from some of the greatest minds that have ever been:
“All of Man’s problems stem from his inability to sit quietly with himself” –Pascal
“You can’t teach anybody anything, only make them realise the answers are already inside them” –Galileo
“When you go into the space of nothingness, everything becomes known” –Buddha
“You can never learn anything that you did not already know” –Aristotle
“The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” –Jesus Christ
An old story relates that the Gods debated as to where to hide their wealth of wisdom and spiritual power. They finally settled on hiding it deep within Man himself. They knew he would look for it everywhere across the planet except there!
Thus, if you wish to make progress in anything – spiritual, material, or even financial – the place to start is to go within. This is where the Inner Genius lies, the Higher Self, the Power of God. Spend time with yourself in contemplation. Wait upon that inner voice. Do not bring your preconceptions with you. Allow what comes to be virgin-born.
How different this teaching is to that of the world; even of the spiritual authorities. The Church will tell you that spiritual growth comes through regular attendance, good works, holy communion and other outward forms. The business world will tell you to attend more seminars, read up on presentation techniques, and jump onto the latest trend.
However, the wise person knows that inner victory must always precede outer. There are no shortcuts. This way of silence is tougher. It takes time and patience. It is out of sorts with the ways of the world, which is precisely its power. You may not even know how to begin or what to expect. Just begin. Schedule regular time for it. All questions will be answered in time. By You!
It is the way the Masters have walked. It is the way they recommend. Practise it yourself. Begin today.
By Asoka Selvarajah, Ph.D