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The Baha’i writings say that there are two types of seeing: one through outer vision and the other through inner vision. Our outer vision helps us see physical reality, and our inner vision helps us see spiritual reality. How can we develop our spiritual sight?
Reading the Holy Writings
God sends prophets, or manifestations of God, to mankind so that over time we will all learn to see with both visions and gain knowledge for the betterment of our lives, both physical and spiritual. Just like we rely on reason to understand scientific theories, we can use reason to cultivate our understanding of God. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:
Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.
Understanding the holy writings raises our nature from lower to higher, animal to divine. Without cultivating this understanding, we can’t sharpen our spiritual perception.
Following Divine Laws
Baha’u’llah laid out a map for us in his many writings. Some of the laws he outlined were: that we should seek God in spirit and commune with Him; that we should bring ourselves to account each day, be chaste in our eye, faithful in our hand, and truthful in our tongue; and that we must let our deeds, not words, be our adorning. He also said, “Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty.”
The laws and principles from God are the grace of God, which we obey out of love — not out of fear. When we apply them to our daily life — especially in moments of difficulty — we become purified, we let our heart be enlightened, and see spiritual reality more clearly.
We develop our spiritual sight by following divine laws, and over time we understand why God prescribes those laws. The more inner transformation happens, the more insight we gain from the divine.
Detaching From the Material World
The biggest veil between man and God, physical reality and spiritual reality, is our ego. In the “Four Valleys,” one of Baha’u’llah’s most poetic writings, he described the individual’s challenging path towards God as a journey on foot through four valleys. In one of these valleys — the valley of self — he made reference to the words of the Persian poet Rumi, saying,“O Abraham of the Spirit and God’s Friend in this day! Slay! Slay these four thieving birds of prey!”
What are the four thieving birds of prey? In Rumi’s poetry, they are four: the duck, the rooster, the peacock, and the crow. The duck represents greed, the rooster is lust, the peacock is superiority, and the crow is worldly desire. Baha’u’llah encouraged us to master these feelings and be detached from them.
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This detachment requires each individual’s endeavor and perseverance. Tests and difficulties help us recognize what we still need to detach from. Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son and his designated successor, said:
We must strive to attain to that condition by being separated from all things and from the people of the world and by turning to God alone. It will take some effort on the part of man to attain that condition, but he must work for it, strive for it. We can attain to it by thinking and caring less for material things and more for the spiritual. The further we go from the one, the nearer we are to the other. The choice is ours. Our spiritual perception, our inward sight must be opened, so that we can see the signs and traces of God’s spirit in everything. Everything can reflect to us the light of the Spirit.
In this process of developing spiritual sight, we learn to find new ways to solve problems, using the resources God provides instead of seeking solutions only through material means.