From birth, humans have a great gift—an innate ability to investigate reality that comes from the soul. It is part of our essential being to be curious creatures and seek answers to life’s difficult problems.
Physically this power of investigation also comes from the power of the mind, associated with our brains. Many consider that only the brain’s abilities assist us in discovering all things. But realistically speaking, the mind is intimately associated with the soul. In the Baha’i teachings, Abdu’l-Baha refers to these two combined forces of human consciousness as “the Rational Soul:”
The rational soul—the human spirit—did not descend into this body or subsist through it to begin with, that it should require some substance to depend upon after the constituent parts of the body have decomposed. On the contrary, the rational soul is the substance upon which the body depends. The rational soul is endowed from the beginning with individuality; it does not acquire it through the intermediary of the body. At most, what can be said is that the individuality and identity of the rational soul may be strengthened in this world, and that the soul may either progress and attain to the degrees of perfection or remain in the lowest abyss of ignorance and be veiled from and deprived of beholding the signs of God. – Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 277.
Abdu’l-Baha also gives us a physical view of the gradual evolution and maturation of the rational soul in humans:
The embryo gradually grows and develops until it is born, and thereafter it continues to grow and develop until it reaches the stage of maturity. Although in infancy the signs of the mind and the spirit are already present in man, they do not appear in a state of perfection, and remain incomplete. But when man attains maturity, the mind and the spirit manifest themselves in the utmost perfection. – Ibid., p. 228.
The Baha’i teachings emphasize the idea of spiritual maturity. For Baha’is, the age of maturity is 15. After all, by that age one can hold a job, take public transportation, do chores, wake up for school and study hard, advocate for themselves and much, much more. Most 15-year-olds understand the concept of the common good, and know the difference between right and wrong. A few youth at this age are finishing college!
Even in the teenage years, the power of the rational soul can unravel abstruse secrets of reality. Often those discoveries don’t result from “book learning.” Take young Michael Faraday, with no formal education, who tremendously advanced our understanding of electricity, chemistry and more. Or consider the example of Srinivasa Ramanujan, an impoverished Indian teenager who revolutionized our understandings of mathematics, and on whom the 2014 film Ramanujan was based. If you haven’t seen it I recommend you watch this riveting and touching film, which rivals its more popular cousin Good Will Hunting.
So we know, even in the youngest adults, that the mind and spirit and soul are all linked closely together. Abdu’l-Baha again uses the embryo analogy to describe this linkage:
From the beginning of his [Man’s] formation, the mind and the spirit existed, but they were hidden and appeared only later. In the world of the womb, too, the mind and the spirit exist in the embryo but are concealed and appear only afterwards. It is even as the seed: The tree exists within it but is hidden and concealed; when the seed grows and develops, the tree appears in its fullness. In like manner, the growth and development of all beings proceeds by gradual degrees. This is the universal and divinely ordained law and the natural order. – Ibid., pp. 228-229.
We are created such that no one will ever be able to separate mind, spirit, and soul. We are one entity, whole and unique. Making revelatory discoveries—like understanding the mission of the Glory of God, Baha’u’llah—are due to our susceptibility and our power to reflect on reality. That susceptibility and power could be instantaneous or take years, even decades. Baha’u’llah said:
Wert thou to reflect upon that which We have revealed unto thee, thou wouldst undoubtedly grasp Our purpose in this utterance and discover that which We have desired to impart unto thee within this paradise. Perchance thine eyes may rejoice in beholding it, thine ears take delight in hearing that which is recited therein, thy soul be enthralled by recognizing it, thy heart illumined by comprehending it, and thy spirit gladdened by the fragrant breezes that waft therefrom. Haply thou mayest attain unto the pinnacle of divine grace and abide within the [paradise] of transcendent holiness. – Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 44.