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…the life in the human body… blends all differences of parts and members in unity and agreement. Consider how numerous are these parts and members, but the oneness of the animating spirit of life unites them all in perfect combination. It establishes such a unity in the bodily organism that if any part is subjected to injury or becomes diseased, all the other parts and functions sympathetically respond and suffer, owing to the perfect oneness existing. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 321.
This oneness existing within a single body also exists within the body of humanity. What is felt by one member affects every other member. But for the time being, much of the body of humanity is unaware of this interconnection. In the future we know this will be different, and each of us alive at this moment has the opportunity to contribute to this awakening.
…they will become even as one being and one soul… Strive ye by day and night to cultivate your unity to the fullest degree. Let your thoughts dwell on your own spiritual development, and close your eyes to the deficiencies of other souls. Act ye in such wise, showing forth pure and goodly deeds, and modesty and humility, that ye will cause others to be awakened. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 203.
Perhaps injustice numbs us, makes us unaware and insensitive. It’s said in other writings that if we forget God, he causes us to forget our own selves. By remembering God, the source of our own light, we are connected with every human being. Self-knowledge requires us to pay attention to what’s going on inside—to be aware of our spiritual identity as human beings. “One must, then, read the book of his own self, rather than some treatise on rhetoric.” – The Seven Valleys, p. 54.
Perhaps one meaning of reading the book of our own self is mindfulness or phenomenology, in the language of psychology. If we are mindful of our inner state, we may perceive our connection with everything and everyone else.
The Baha’i writings affirm the spiritual identity of human beings. To acknowledge our spiritual identity is to perceive what is most noble in humanity, sometimes referred to as the light in our heart, the beauty of God reflected in us. This is what defines us as human beings—the potential to reflect all the names and attributes of God.
For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and attributes are applicable to him. Even as He hath said: ‘Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.’ Manifold are the verses that have been repeatedly revealed in all the Heavenly Books and the Holy Scriptures, expressive of this most subtle and lofty theme. Even as He hath revealed: ‘We will surely show them Our signs in the world and within themselves.’ Again He saith: ‘And also in your own selves: will ye not, then, behold the signs of God?’ – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 177-178.
Our self is like a conch containing the ocean, if we listen to the waves and resonance. The child might listen to a shell with wonder, but how much more spellbound should we be when we find this wonder within our own self?
Prayer and meditation open this possibility, and are practices available in devotional gatherings in every Baha’i community. And from prayer flows service. The human spirit, when connected with others, when sensitive to their pain, can feel it as one’s own; that vision and understanding causes us to arise naturally in humanitarian service to others.
Although a person of good deeds is acceptable at the Threshold of the Almighty, yet it is first ‘to know,’ and then ‘to do.’ Although a blind man produceth a most wonderful and exquisite art, yet he is deprived of seeing it. Consider how most animals labor for man, draw loads and facilitate travel; yet, as they are ignorant, they receive no reward for this toil and labor. The cloud raineth, roses and hyacinths grow; the plain and meadow, the garden and trees become green and blossom; yet they do not realize the results and outcome of all these. The lamp is lighted, but as it hath not a conscious knowledge of itself, no one hath become glad because of it. Moreover, a soul of excellent deeds and good manners will undoubtedly advance from whatever horizon he beholdeth the lights radiating. Herein lies the difference: By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, pp. 382-383.
These profound words train our attention on something wonderful: a knowledge of reality, expressed in service to others. Every person has this beautiful reality within them, and when we develop that reality, it can light the world.