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The One true God, exalted be His glory, hath wished nothing for Himself. The allegiance of mankind profiteth Him not, neither doth its perversity harm Him. The Bird of the Realm of Utterance voiceth continually this call: ‘All things have I willed for thee, and thee, too, for thine own sake.’ — Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed After the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 162.
When I first read this passage—around 35 years ago, in 1978, as I recall — it amazed me. So thunderstruck I started to feel lightheaded, I realized that I had begun to breathe rapidly, without noticing it, probably because this statement so emotionally moved me. Why, you may ask?
Raised a devout Christian, I remained so until I became a Baha’i a little over 40 years ago, on Dec. 15, 1972. What struck me about this passage? Well, I had been religiously brought up with a completely different conception of God. Forgive my being so blunt: I understood God, from my Christian perspective, as an authoritarian figure. Nothing wrong with that, of course.
In my limited understanding, God also seemed (although I would never admit this) quite demanding. One of the things He required was total subservience. Nothing wrong with that, either. Yet I was also taught that I had to continually praise God, day and night, more or less at the expense of myself. What mattered was God (and Jesus, of course, who was also considered as God). I didn’t matter. Well, maybe a little, in the grand scheme of things. But not really.
So I had this sense (wrongly), that God was some kind of megalomaniac (God forbid!), who demanded that I grovel in the dust of His feet (which Daniel, as I recall, described as brass), and literally “beg” for what I was earnestly praying for. Then, and then only, might the Almighty deign to grant the wish of this lowly creature (myself). This, I must admit, felt somewhat demeaning. Praising God with such utter devotion was tantamount to my non-existence. In other words, in continually exalting God, I was losing my dignity in the spiritually ascetic course of self-deprecation, self-abnegation, and self-denial.
How shocked I was, therefore, to read these astonishing words: “The One true God, exalted be His glory, hath wished nothing for Himself.” On pondering these magnificent words, my heart was stirred to its depths. My spirit was moved, my soul shaken, the core of my very being was dumbfounded, with awe and with profound love. I was swathed in renewed purpose, bathed in light, immersed in holiness, and exalted in grandeur in such a way, strange to say, as another passage of Baha’u’llah states:
“On this plane, the self is not rejected but beloved; it is well-pleasing and not to be shunned.” – The Four Valleys, p. 50.
For the very first time in my life, I realized that the Self of God was selfless.
And something more: When I read these words — “The Bird of the Realm of Utterance voiceth continually this call: ‘All things have I willed for thee, and thee, too, for thine own sake.’” — I felt wanted, loved, endowed with purpose. In a word, I understood, for the first time, my own divine origin. My very existence was a selfless act of God, an act of genuine and profound love.
My spiritual identity crisis immediately transformed into an unexpected moment of self-realization. I went from being frightened to being enlightened. By this, I don’t mean that I became truly enlightened—just that I received a kind of clarity that I had never before experienced.
By nature, I’m a selfish guy. I need a lot of “ego strength,” which probably explains why I’m a writer and a creative personality. I try my best to practice “enlightened self-interest” as the starting point on the path to true spirituality. And so God’s selfless act, in bringing me into being, has inspired whatever selflessness I now have the rare ability to muster and bestow, of whatever I have to give.
This passage, in a word, has probably deepened my love for God more than any other jewel of scripture. For the very first time, I can truly say that I’ve heard “the Bird of the Realm of Utterance” warble in the garden of my heart.