O God, O Thou Who hast cast Thy splendor over the luminous realities of men, shedding upon them the resplendent lights of knowledge and guidance, and hast chosen them out of all created things for this supernal grace, and hast caused them to encompass all things, to understand their inmost essence, and to disclose their mysteries, bringing them forth out of darkness into the visible world! … O Lord, help Thou Thy loved ones to acquire knowledge and the sciences and arts, and to unravel the secrets that are treasured up in the inmost reality of all created beings. … Make them to be leaders unto Thee, guides unto Thy path, runners urging men on to Thy Kingdom. – Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 103.
What “splendor” has God “cast … over the luminous realities of men”?
As the prayer indicates, such “splendor” includes “the resplendent lights of knowledge and guidance”—and much more. “Splendor” is a subtle topic, even as Baha’u’llah intimates in his most celebrated mystical work:
And the splendor of that light is in the hearts, yet it is hidden under the veilings of sense and the conditions of this earth, even as a candle within a lantern of iron, and only when the lantern is removed doth the light of the candle shine out. – The Seven Valleys, p. 24.
“Splendor” (Arabic: Bahāʾ) is the first month of the Baha’i Calendar (March 21 to April 8).
The Arabic word is bahāʾ. It means “beauty, brilliance, elegance.” Arabic is the “source language.” How about the “target language” (a term used by translators), i.e. English? Here’s how the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary defines splendor:
- Great brightness; brilliant light or lustre.
- Magnificence; great show of riches or costly things; pomp, parade.
- Brilliant distinction, eminence, or glory; impressive or imposing character.
- Brilliant or ornate appearance or colouring.
These definitions of “splendor” can be both literal and figurative, physical and spiritual, outward and inward, visible and invisible, extrinsic and intrinsic, gross and subtle, manifest while hidden from view, yet discernible to those gifted with insight. Think of outward “splendor” as pomp and circumstance, and inward “splendor” as “impressive character”—but not so obvious. For it takes an inner eye to discern the ethereal luminescence of inward “splendor.”
“Splendor” is an attribute of God, according to the Baha’i writings. As a divine “Name,” “Splendor” describes one who is “Splendid.”
In many ancient texts, the idea of “splendor” is associated with the sun. Splendor is the brilliant radiance generated by the sun, as in the “Fire Tablet” wherein Baha’u’llah prays this praise: “Darkness hath enveloped most of the peoples: Where is the brightness of Thy splendor, O Radiance of the worlds?” Too bright to look at directly, the sun’s blinding light illuminates the world, and gives life to it. In the same way, spiritual splendor enlightens the consciousness of all those it reaches.
It’s easy to think of God in superlatives. God is the most “splendid,” luminous being in all creation. Yet “splendor” is hard to define. In a figurative sense, “splendor” perhaps best means “renown” or “reputation.” Here’s where splendor can be transformed from a godly perfection into goodly action, as in philanthropy:
O ye that pride yourselves on mortal riches! Know ye in truth that wealth is a mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire, the lover and his beloved. The rich, but for a few, shall in no wise attain the court of His presence nor enter the city of content and resignation. Well is it then with him, who, being rich, is not hindered by his riches from the eternal kingdom, nor deprived by them of imperishable dominion. By the Most Great Name! The splendor of such a wealthy man shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth! – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 41.
What a fascinating statement: “The splendor of such a wealthy man shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth!” The idea that our actions on earth have effects in heaven is striking.
Very few of us are wealthy—but all of us can be generous, if we choose to be. So here’s a related attribute of God that can be expressed as a sterling human quality and a praiseworthy deed:
O children of dust! Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues. – Ibid., p. 39.
Here, notice how Baha’u’llah draws a dynamic connection between generosity (“To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine”) and “him that adorneth himself with My virtues.” While Baha’u’llah speaks of the “rich,” the wealthy are not the only ones who can live up to Baha’u’llah’s moral imperative, “to give and to be generous.” Those of modest means, out of their own magnanimity, can bestow whatever resources they have for the benefit of others as well.
“Splendor” is not only an attribute of God; nor does “splendor” only belong to a prophet of God, such as Jesus Christ or Baha’u’llah. “Splendor” is a quality that you or I can potentially manifest as well (although not to the same degree, of course), such that:
…perchance all the names and attributes of God may be reflected in the mirror of the human reality and the meaning of the blessed verse “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” may be realized. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 11.
This is what Baha’u’llah says about letting your “splendor” shine forth in your personal life:
O my friend! Thou art the daystar of the heavens of My holiness, let not the defilement of the world eclipse thy splendor. Rend asunder the veil of heedlessness, that from behind the clouds thou mayest emerge resplendent and array all things with the apparel of life. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 47.