Before he would initiate a neophyte into the mysteries of his teachings, the philosopher Pythagoras would subject the candidate to various ordeals which were designed to strengthen his character and which would allow the great sage to judge his personality and future prospects.
The newcomer amid the sages of Croton, was therefore permitted to listen but never allowed to speak or ask any questions. For months on end, he was subjected to the discipline of silence, so that when he was finally able to speak again he would do so only with circumspection and respect.
He had learned inwardly, through personal experience, that silence is an almost divine power, the mother of all virtues.
Why are we not still today under the paternal authority of Pythagoras?
The main trouble with today’s world is the lack of silence. Not only is contemporary society literally poisoned by the tumult of machines, but also, and especially, it is saturated with loud and empty words.
It is a question of who will speak the loudest, who will make the most statements, who will tell the story with the most trifling details.
How right was Kierkegaard, the great Danish philosopher, when he wrote:
“The world in its present state is sick! If I were a doctor and was asked for advice, I would answer: ‘Be silent!’”
True Rosicrucians can be recognised by their oral temperance, among other virtues. They speak only sparingly, and their words are rich in meaning. And they practise the following advice from a Sufi teacher:
“If the word you are about to speak is not more beautiful than silence, then do not say it!”
When we seek initiation into any new form of knowledge or ability, we must remain silent, not only with others but with ourselves also.
We really need to understand this well; for it is only in silence that our God communicates with us.
In order for us to hear this Sacred advice, to receive intuitive flashes, we must know how to silence the profane voice within.
The Bible teaches this symbolically in the First Book of Kings (Chapter 19, verses 11 and 12), where the prophet Elijah is shown taking refuge in the desert and waiting for a message from the Lord:
And he said: ‘go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord.’
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the lord was not in the wind.
And after the wind, came an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake came a fire; but the lord was not in the fire.
And then, devoid of any of the fanfare of a strong wind, earthquake or fire, a still small voice spoke to Elijah and it was his God.
In his famous treatise entitled Language of the Birds, the Persian mystic Attar expresses the same truth in a different way.
“As long as they walked, they talked; but when they arrived all talk ceased. There was no longer a guide nor a traveller, and even the road had ceased to exist.”
A great French mystic, Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, deserved to be named “the Unknown Silent One” by his disciples.
More than anyone else at the time, he exalted the virtues of silence.
“Great truths are taught only through silence…” he wrote. Better yet, he made this remark, which unfortunately applies so well to our own times: “Is there a greater proof of our weakness than the multiplicity of our words?”
It is true that silence is a real test to the one who, through habit or tendency, does not know how to observe it. Tradition relates that the ancient Greeks and Romans had a goddess especially in honour of silence, and this shows to what extent our ancestors worshiped this virtue.
As related in this message, the discipline of silence is a great power for good, for it allows us to maintain within is a vital influx that useless words would waste away.
Before you speak, try to evaluate if what you intend to say is worthwhile, if it can do some good, and especially if it is not going to cause any harm.
You will notice that the effort you exerted in repressing a useless word causes a reaction within, a struggle against temptation. And each victory will give you new power.
That is why it is wise to follow the Sufi’s advice, and if what you are about to say is not more beautiful than silence, then abstain from speaking.
Meditate upon this message; think about it often. I hope it will help you to ascend one more step on the ladder of spiritual discovery.