The overall broadest framework is one in which the universe's most fundamental patterns play out, and the broadest frame-work related to the spiritual aspect of man will be one in which the fundamental patterns of its greatest spiritual heroes also called spiritual archtypes are played out.
There may be very many spiritual men and women but religions will be born only after the names or deeds of those who would have gone through such a pattern. For the very fundamentalness of such patterns suggests that it is through them One or God or logos takes first steps to become flesh. So that in them we can almost see or hear the One or God face to face.
Such a pattern involves what is variously known as the Night Journey, or Death-and-Rebirth motif. It is at the end of such a Night Journey or Rebirth that the man can speak out his new-found Truth which then becomes irresistible for people to accept in due course of time and a new religion is born. Night Journey signifies a break from a past spiritual paradigm to a new one.
Arthur Koestler in his book The Act of Creation has explained the above in a beautiful way and all we need to add at the end may be just the name of Nanak to complete the story. Before I quote him I may however add that in this context creation of new religion may be seen as the highest act of creation of man or of Man-God or God-Man.
Writes Arthur Koestler, in his book The Act of Creation, under the chapter titled The Belly of the Whale - Night Journey :
One archetype remains to be discussed...It is variously known as the Night Journey, or the Death-and-Rebirth motif; but one might as well call it the meeting of the Tragic and the Trivial planes. It appears in countless guises; its basic pattern can be roughly described as follows: Under the effect of some overwhelming experience the hero is made to realize the shallowness of his life, the futility and the frivolity of the daily pursuits of man in the trivial routines of existence...He then suffers a crisis which involves the very foundations of his being; he embarks on the Night Journey, is suddenly transferred to the Tragic plane - from which he emerges purified, enriched by new insight, regenerated on a higher level of integration...
The symbolic expressions of this pattern are as old as humanity. The crisis or Night Journey may take the form of a visit to the underworld (Orpheus, Odysseus); or the hero is cast to the bottom of a well (Joseph), buried in a grave (Jesus), swallowed by a fish (Jonah); or he retires alone into the desert , as Buddha, Mahomet, Christ, and other prophets and founders of religions did at the crucial turn in their live...
He may well have just added "drowned in a river" (Nanak) to complete the story for Nanak if he had but known Nanak as well!
Yet this Night Journey is actually within one's own self, towards the mental roots and beyond of one's own being, where our usual concepts of space and time dramatically change (much like what science has come to know as the quantum world in which the whole actual or outer world is virtually or nonlocally connected). Where our three days may be like three seconds and 80 kilometres like 80 centimetres for its experiencer. So that it would have been equally true if Nanak or somebody in his place would have said that he remained drowned in river for even 80 days. (I wonder if an expert in Einstein's relativity theory or a future expert in quantum theory when it would have been fully understood would explain it in a better way.)
Just as I was writing this post I came upon the Night Journey of prophet Muhammad for the first time, in which he says that he travelled some 700 miles to Jerusalem in one night. I hope it too can be better understood in the light of the above discussion.
Arthur Koestler further adds:
...Where the Tragic and the Trivial Planes meet, the Absolute becomes humanised, drawn into the orbit of man, while the banal objects of daily experience are transfigured, surrounded by a halo as it were. The meeting may have the majesty of an incarnation where the logos becomes flesh; or the charm of Krishana's descent to dally with the shepherdesses.
With the above meeting in Nanak not only the logos of the One became flesh in his body but the Word became melodious Mool Mantra and burst out from his lips: "Ek Oankar, Satnam, Karta Purakh, Nirbhao, Nirvair, Akaal Moorat, Ajoonee Saibhan, Gur Prasaad." (One God, Name Truth, Sole Doer, Without Fear, Without Favour, Beyond Time, Beyond Birth and Death, Realisable by the Grace of Guru.)
So beginning from the Very Beginning and taking spiritual heros of all times of all humanity along and with heavenly Mool Mantra on our lips let us now take the next step on our journey with Nanak.