“in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” So starts the New Testament to the Christian Bible in the Gospel of John. It is interesting to recognize that the various spiritual paths of the world, throughout history, have placed the Word at the center of the teaching. The Word represents the spiritual truth being communicated to the seeker. In the time before written scriptures, the teachings were passed down orally. But the Word means more than specific scriptural texts. The wisdom traditions of the world speak of words of power, words that embody the energy that can manifest the change being sought. Thus we also have the tradition of the power of prayer, and chanting, and the power of Mantra.
Sri Aurobindo describes the sources of the Word for the spiritual seeker: “The Word may come to us from within; it may come to us from without. But in either case, it is only an agency for setting the hidden knowledge to work. The word within may be the utterance of the inmost soul in us which is always open to the Divine or it may be the word of the secret and universal Teacher who is seated in the hearts of all.” Few are those who can gain the realisation, however, purely from the inner Word of guidance. For most of us, we need confirmation and the support of an external vehicle to deliver the Word and support our quest.
“Ordinarily, the Word from without, representative of the Divine, is needed as an aid in the work of self-unfolding; and it may be either a word from the past or the more powerful word of the living Guru. In some cases this representative word is only taken as a sort of excuse for the inner power to awaken and manifest; it is, as it were, a concession of the omnipotent and omniscient Divine to the generality of a law that governs Nature.”
“But usually the representative influence occupies a much larger place in the life of the Sadhaka. If the Yoga is guided by a received written Shastra,–some Word from the past which embodies the experience of former Yogins,–it may be practiced either by personal effort alone or with the aid of a Guru. The spiritual knowledge is then gained through meditation on the truths that are taught and it is made living and conscious by their realisation in the personal experience; the Yoga proceeds by the results of prescribed methods taught in a Scripture or a tradition and reinforced and illumined by the instructions of the Master. This is a narrower practice, but safe and effective within its limits, because it follows a well-beaten track to a long familiar goal.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 1, The Four Aids, pp. 48-49