When one of the great Greek philosophers, Pythagoras, reached Egypt to enter a school — a secret esoteric school of mysticism — he was refused. And Pythagoras was one of the best minds ever produced. He could not understand it. He applied again and again, but he was told that unless he goes through a particular training of fasting and breathing he cannot be allowed to enter the school.
Pythagoras is reported to have said, “I have come for knowledge, not for any sort of discipline.” But the school authorities said, “We cannot give you knowledge unless you are different. And really, we are not interested in knowledge at all, we are interested in actual experience.
No knowledge is knowledge unless it is lived and experienced. So you will have to go on a forty-day fast, continuously breathing in a certain manner, with a certain awareness on certain points.”
There was no other way, so Pythagoras had to pass through this training. After forty days of fasting and breathing, aware, attentive, he was allowed to enter the school
It is said that Pythagoras said, “You are not allowing Pythagoras in. I am a different man, I am reborn. You were right and I was wrong, because then my whole standpoint was intellectual. Through this purification, my center of being has changed. From the intellect it has come down to the heart. Now I can feel things. Before this training I could only understand through the intellect, through the head. Now I can feel. Now truth is not a concept to me, but a life. It is not going to be a philosophy, but rather, an experience — existential.”