We human beings use reason, rationality and logic to make sense of things—so why should we leave them behind in our spiritual search?
The Baha’i teachings strongly call for the use of the rational mind and the heart and soul in the quest for spiritual meaning. Too often, seekers put their reasoning faculties on hold when they search for deeper truths in metaphysics or religion, but Baha’is believe that God gives us rational minds so we can use them:
Until now it has been said that all religions were composed of tenets that had to be accepted, even if they seems contrary to science. Thanks be to God, that in this new cycle the admonition of Baha’u’llah is that in the search for truth man must weigh religious questions in the balance of science and reason. God has given us rational minds for this purpose, to penetrate all things, to find truth. If one renounce reason, what remains? The sacred texts? How can we understand God’s commands and to what use can we put them without the balance of reason? – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 102.
In his short mystical book The Four Valleys, Baha’u’llah utilizes the Arabic word “Mahmud” in the opening sentence of the second valley. Mahmud means “the praiseworthy one,” but it also includes the noble, admirable and praiseworthy aspects of God—and refers to “the divine, universal mind” of the Creator, where all enlightenment originates:
If the wayfarer’s goal be the dwelling of the Praiseworthy One (Mahmud), this is the station of primal reason which is known as the Prophet and the Most Great Pillar. Here reason signifieth the divine, universal mind, whose sovereignty enlighteneth all created things… – Baha’u’llah, The Four Valleys, p. 52.
I call this second valley the stage of reason or knowledge, because Baha’u’llah includes the word “reason” twice in his introduction to the second valley. What do you suppose the phrase “primal reason” means?
Let’s review: The Four Valleys starts as all spiritual paths do, by recommending an unfettered search after truth and an exploration of the self. In the second stage on the journey—which encourages seekers to enlarge the focus on the self past its limits toward a wider expanse of consciousness—Baha’u’llah asks seekers to open their hearts, minds and souls to the knowledge and primal reason of God. In the second stage, The Four Valleys suggests, “man should make ready his heart that it be worthy of the descent of heavenly grace…” (p. 54.) In this stage of the journey, the tests begin. “On this plane,” Baha’u’llah wrote, “the traveler meeteth with many a trial and reverse.” (p. 53.)
Like every mythological hero and heroine, each true seeker undergoes tests and trials. When we climb out of one valley and hike up our spiritual path toward the next one, we encounter mountains to cross.
That’s what it takes to grow spiritually—tests and trials. We progress when we confront our inner obstacles and try to overcome them. We only gain the inner knowledge and reason we need to grow by facing life’s challenges and exerting every spiritual muscle to overcome them. Do you know that feeling? When we grow spiritually by overcoming our tests, trials and character weaknesses, we feel a sense of accomplishment, growth and happiness.
Yes, those mountain peaks we all have to climb can test us with cold, wind-whipped and treacherous ordeals, severe trials of our courage and stamina, seemingly insurmountable obstacles; but they can also serve as vantage points, attained with exertion and struggle, producing joy and exultation, and ultimately revealing magnificent vistas, granting us the glorious, standing-above-it-all encounter some call enlightenment. Moving beyond the limitations of the self and overcoming tests on the seeker’s path helps the human spirit grow, expand and gain knowledge. Perhaps that self-knowledge is what Baha’u’llah refers to when he uses the phrase “primal reason.”
In its higher and progressively more permanent forms, this kind of struggle on the seeker’s path leads to new stages of consciousness. Our vision multiplies and our vistas enlarge, all by moving past the limitations of our mere selves and seeing a bigger and more encompassing picture. These spiritual peaks function as the headwaters of our happiness and joy. This kind of peak-experience waits for every seeker who gains insight, reason and knowledge, and who starts to transcend the self and see past the narrow concerns of the human ego.