Who lights your path? When you need light, when your life cries out for illumination, where do you turn?
Let’s say, just for the sake of discussion, that tomorrow you learn one of the people closest to you, like a parent or a child, faces a serious personal crisis. Where do you go for advice?
We each have confidants who light up the dark places for us. Close friends, mentors, family members, loved ones—they’re the people we usually turn to when we need our questions answered, our fears addressed and our way made clear. Some of us seek professional help for those perplexing life questions from a cleric, a counselor or a trusted therapist. We read books by experts; consult recognized authorities; or turn to God and pray.
Wherever we turn, though, we want support, advice and illumination—essentially, we seek wisdom.
So ask yourself this question: where does wisdom come from? Sure, you may know wise elders, counselors and trusted advisors—but where did they get their wisdom? Where does wisdom actually originate?
The Baha’i teachings answer those crucial questions in a unique and interesting way, starting out with a fascinating analogy:
In our solar system the center of illumination is the sun itself. Through the will of God this central luminary is the one source of the existence and development of all phenomenal things. When we observe the organisms of the material kingdoms, we find that their growth and training are dependent upon the heat and light of the sun. Without this quickening impulse there would be no growth of tree or vegetation; neither would the existence of animal or human being be possible; in fact, no forms of created life would be manifest upon the earth. But if we reflect deeply, we will perceive that the great bestower and giver of life is God; the sun is the intermediary of His will and plan. Without the bounty of the sun, therefore, the world would be in darkness. All illumination of our planetary system proceeds or emanates from the solar center. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 93-94.
The primal source of light and heat is the sun—could the originating source of enlightenment be the metaphysical sun? The Baha’i teachings say yes:
Likewise, in the spiritual realm of intelligence and idealism there must be a center of illumination, and that center is the everlasting, ever-shining Sun, the Word of God. Its lights are the lights of reality which have shone upon humanity, illumining the realm of thought and morals, conferring the bounties of the divine world upon man. These lights are the cause of the education of souls and the source of the enlightenment of hearts, sending forth in effulgent radiance the message of the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God. In brief, the moral and ethical world and the world of spiritual regeneration are dependent for their progressive being upon that heavenly Center of illumination. It gives forth the light of religion and bestows the life of the spirit, imbues humanity with archetypal virtues and confers eternal splendors. This Sun of Reality, this Center of effulgences, is the Prophet or Manifestation of God. Just as the phenomenal sun shines upon the material world producing life and growth, likewise, the spiritual or prophetic Sun confers illumination upon the human world of thought and intelligence, and unless it rose upon the horizon of human existence, the kingdom of man would become dark and extinguished. – Ibid.
This definition of illumination traces it back to the source—the Word of God—and its expression by the prophets of God. Perhaps that’s why the Baha’i teachings call it “the creative word”—because once a true prophet utters that Word, it actually creates and generates spiritual illumination and wisdom, which enlightens those wise souls we trust and turn to for our own benefit:
… the holy Manifestations of God are the focal Centres of the light of truth, the Wellsprings of the hidden mysteries, and the Source of the effusions of divine love. They cast Their effulgence upon the realm of hearts and minds and bestow grace everlasting upon the world of the spirits. They confer spiritual life and shine with the splendour of inner truths and meanings. The enlightenment of the realm of thought proceeds from those Centres of light and Exponents of mysteries. – Abdu‘l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, pp. 184-185.
So whose authority do you accept and trust?