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I’d like to share a very brief account of how I became a Baha’i, a journey that began in 1972, and tell you about the poetry that journey inspired.
That journey has been rich both spiritually and intellectually, and it has filled my life with joy, meaning, understanding, service and gratitude.
Kindle the fire of love and burn away all things, Then set thy foot into the land of the lovers. – Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 11.
In this mystical verse, Baha’u’llah set forth the path to truth and God’s purpose for humanity, and gave us three steps toward those goals.
First comes the earnest fire of the love of God, or in my case so many years ago, the burning fire to know the truth. I had spent some years as an atheist, but the very instant that I once more began believing in an Almighty Creator, I realized that life without understanding my reality, purpose and relationship to that Unknowable Essence we call God would have no meaning. At that point, I had no interest in any religious affiliation and had not contemplated that step—I just wanted to understand more about the purpose of creation.
Next, Baha’u’llah said, “and burn away all things.” What did he mean by this, I wondered, if not a detachment unswayed by peoples’ opinions, norms of culture, social ties and the like.
This step, I learned, is essential for an independent search after truth to be authentic. Baha’u’llah states this clearly for us:
No man shall attain the shores of the ocean of true understanding except he be detached from all that is in heaven and on earth. Sanctify your souls, O ye peoples of the world, that haply ye may attain that station which God hath destined for you … – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 3.
Having experienced this firsthand, I can still recall the exhilaration, the passion to be freed from the shadows of my dimly lit understandings, and the energizing force that spiritual stage of my journey engendered.
The third step is, as I would describe it, to have the courage to act, to not be held back from the sacred relationship with our Creator as ordained by Him and expressed in every great religion. With this third step we enter into a covenant with our Creator to know and love Him and observe His teachings. In one of his writings, Baha’u’llah expresses it this way:
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation …. It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 19.
God has ordained divine mediators between Him and ourselves—spiritual luminaries who walk among us from age to age, suffer beyond human endurance, but who, like springtime, renew the Faith of God.
As divine physicians tending to the ills of humanity, these prophets and messengers prescribe the spiritual remedies required for the betterment of the world and its peoples. Baha’u’llah teaches that those messengers are sent from age to age to provide progressive, orderly and continuous God-given education to humanity, and that their coming provides the supernatural force, commonly referred to as the power of the Holy Spirit, to propel us forward in our spiritual, scientific, intellectual and societal evolution.
Baha’is believe these holy beings, or manifestations of God, the teachers in that divine system of progressive revelation, include Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, The Bab, and Baha’u’llah:
Among the bounties of God is revelation. Hence revelation is progressive and continuous. It never ceases. It is necessary that the reality of Divinity with all its perfections and attributes should become resplendent in the human world. The reality of Divinity is like an endless ocean. Revelation may be likened to the rain. Can you imagine the cessation of rain? Ever on the face of the earth somewhere rain is pouring down. Briefly, the world of existence is progressive. It is subject to development and growth. …
Therefore, Baha’u’llah appeared from the horizon of the Orient and reestablished the essential foundation of the religious teachings of the world. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 378-379.
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