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Spirituality

Finding the Light Within Us

Ken McNamara | Mar 23, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Ken McNamara | Mar 23, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Let’s consider a few things.  Why do strawberries taste so good? Why is the sound of water in a stream flowing gently over stones so pleasing to the ear? How about the wonderment of seeing a meadow come alive with an array of flowers of all shapes and colors? Why do we find in nature all the things needed to feed, clothe, and shelter us, as well as advance us materially in every human endeavor? 

RELATED: Does Nature Prove There Is a Creator?

One of the best-known verses of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, is one in which He encourages us to not just read His writings in a cursory fashion, but truly concentrate and search for their inner meanings.  

He 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.”

In the book “Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah,” one can find a tablet (XXVII) which to many is especially meaningful because of its insights, beauty, and the remarkable clarity of its logic. In this tablet, Baha’u’llah describes how creation came about, the realities of that creation, the uniqueness of humanity within all of creation, the potential that is within every person, and the role of Messengers of God in releasing that potential.  All that found in just a few pages! Of course, entire books have been written on these subjects but let’s take a look at each of these individually as found in this remarkable tablet.

Creation

A fundamental principle of the Baha’i Faith is the agreement of science and religion, so Baha’is recognize fully the role of evolution and other forces that shaped the development of life on this planet over eons of time. Of this, Baha’u’llah writes:

All praise to the unity of God, and all honor to Him, the sovereign Lord, the incomparable and all-glorious Ruler of the universe, Who, out of utter nothingness, hath created the reality of all things, Who, from naught, hath brought into being the most refined and subtle elements of His creation… How could it, otherwise, have been possible for sheer nothingness to have acquired by itself the worthiness and capacity to emerge from its state of nonexistence into the realm of being?

These phenomena however do not answer the question of where did the most elemental building blocks of creation, i.e. atoms and their components come from. They assuredly did not create themselves! Thus, because no person or force can come anywhere close to being able to create any part of an atom, it must have come from a Being that is far above our abilities or understanding. All the Messengers of God teach that God is All-Knowing and All-Powerful who has brought about creation.  Although the creation stories may vary in different cultures, traditions, and religions, (e.g. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden), all recognize God as the Creator, the Life-Giver. 

Uniqueness of Humanity Within an Amazingly Diverse and Beautiful Creation

Having established that God is the Creator, it stands to reason that there must be a reason for creation.  Anyone who produces something, whether it is music or art, a building project, or a piece of writing, has a goal in mind.  Surely God must have brought the universe and everything in it with some purpose or goal.  Again, we look to Baha’u’llah, for an answer in this tablet:

Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him—a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation.… Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty.

In several of the Baha’i writings, it is made clear that the purpose of life and all of creation is for each and every person to know and to love God. Can it truly be possible that all created things have developed with the sole aim of helping humans achieve this very goal? 

Of course, there are answers to these questions found in science and exploration, but if one looks at the creation as a reflection of God’s purpose for us to better know and love Him, these wonders and countless other amazingly beautiful things of this world, are signs of a merciful and compassionate God, the Creator who designed all of creation in such a way that helps us better understand, appreciate and worship Him.

The above passage also explains the concept held by some faiths that God created us in His physical image.  Baha’is believe that this does not mean we look like God.  Rather that God created us with the potential to manifest many of His qualities. No other creature on the planet has this potential within them to the extent as humans do. The Baha’i writings make it clear that God is above any physical limitations or attributes.  God is not a man or woman, of a certain race, does not live on a cloud in the sky or any other thing our limited minds can imagine about Him. He is on a level that we cannot comprehend.

The Light Within Us

After reading these passages, the next question that may come to mind is, “if God made us in His image and we have all these attributes within us, why is humanity not perfect? Why do we have prejudices, cruelty, injustices, and dishonesty in our society?” Again, let us turn to Baha’u’llah for insight on this question found in this remarkable tablet:

These energies with which the Daystar of Divine bounty and Source of heavenly guidance hath endowed the reality of man lie, however, latent within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp. The radiance of these energies may be obscured by worldly desires even as the light of the sun can be concealed beneath the dust and dross which cover the mirror. Neither the candle nor the lamp can be lighted through their own unaided efforts, nor can it ever be possible for the mirror to free itself from its dross. It is clear and evident that until a fire is kindled the lamp will never be ignited, and unless the dross is blotted out from the face of the mirror it can never represent the image of the sun nor reflect its light and glory.

RELATED: Baha’i “Theosis”: Exemplifying Godly Attributes by Acquiring Virtues

Here Baha’u’llah uses the examples of a lamp and a mirror, easily understood images, to bring about profound truths to difficult questions. Yes, every person has it within themselves to bring out the light of love, compassion, justice, and every other positive/spiritual quality. But we need help in manifesting these good qualities; someone to assist us in order to light the lamp within us so we can clearly see the purpose of our very lives as Baha’u’llah so lovingly explained. This might be called being re-born in the spirit, or attaining Nirvana, or gaining spiritual enlightenment.

Where does such help come from?

The Manifestations of God

Baha’u’llah writes:

And since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one true God with His creation, and no resemblance whatever can exist between the transient and the Eternal, the contingent and the Absolute, He hath ordained that in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven…..These Essences of Detachment, these resplendent Realities are the channels of God’s all-pervasive grace. Led by the light of unfailing guidance, and invested with supreme sovereignty, They are commissioned to use the inspiration of Their words, the effusions of Their infallible grace and the sanctifying breeze of Their Revelation for the cleansing of every longing heart and receptive spirit from the dross and dust of earthly cares and limitations. Then, and only then, will the Trust of God, latent in the reality of man, emerge, as resplendent as the rising Orb of Divine Revelation, from behind the veil of concealment, and implant the ensign of its revealed glory upon the summits of men’s hearts…

And again:

From the foregoing passages and allusions, it hath been made indubitably clear that in the kingdoms of earth and heaven there must needs be manifested a Being, an Essence Who shall act as a Manifestation and Vehicle for the transmission of the grace of the Divinity Itself, the Sovereign Lord of all. Through the Teachings of this Daystar of Truth every man will advance and develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed. It is for this very purpose that in every age and dispensation the Prophets of God and His chosen Ones have appeared amongst men, and have evinced such power as is born of God and such might as only the Eternal can reveal.

In these few sentences, Baha’u’llah explains how the divine messengers from God, the founders of the world’s great religions have had such a profound and everlasting impact on the lives of billions. This despite the humble conditions of their lives and the cruel persecutions They and Their followers suffered at the hands of their enemies. These Messengers were empowered by God to change the hearts of all people and free them from the darkness of love of self, materialism, and all forms of immorality. History again has been repeated with the lives and revelation of the twin manifestations for this age, the Bab and Baha’u’llah. 

There are many reasons why this is one of Baha’u’llah’s most beloved and meaningful tablets for His followers. To come to a better understanding of God’s creation, His purpose in creation, the unique role of humans, and the nature of the manifestations of God can be found in this tablet. There are so many “pearls of wisdom” to be found within it.

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