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Even if you’re not religious, and whether or not you’re a fan of religion, you have to admit: nothing as penetrating, potent and permanent has ever come from the power of words.
After all, the founders of the world’s great Faiths had no monetary or military might. They didn’t command massive armies or media empires. They wielded no earthly authority. They had no wealth, worldly dominion or sovereignty. The founders of those now-global religions—Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad and now Baha’u’llah—were exiles, prisoners, poverty-stricken prophets.
All they had was the Word, and the way they lived the Word.
They each taught, with only their words and their examples, a new system of belief. They each exemplified those Words, inspiring others mightily. They each gave their Words meaning, and gave humanity meaning in the process. The vast majority of the world’s people revere and try to reflect the Words those prophets gave us.
This is one of the great proofs of the existence of God—that one human being, alone and unaided, could inspire billions and create entire civilizations. No earthly power could ever accomplish what those prophets accomplished.
Despite their outward privation, the prophets and messengers of God created everlasting kingdoms. They built enormous and permanent worldwide edifices using only their teachings. They brought about codes of law and behavior that resulted in the construction of entire civilizations. The greatest and best-known kings and queens of the past are now gone and forgotten, but the prophets, despite their persecutions, are still worshipped and followed virtually everywhere:
…all truly great men, the benefactors of the human race, those who have moved men to love the right and hate the wrong and who have caused real progress, all these have been inspired by the force of the Holy Spirit.
The Prophets of God have not all graduated in the schools of learned philosophy; indeed they were often men of humble birth, to all appearance ignorant, unknown men of no importance in the eyes of the world; sometimes even lacking the knowledge of reading and writing.
That which raised these great ones above men, and by which they were able to become Teachers of the truth, was the power of the Holy Spirit. Their influence on humanity, by virtue of this mighty inspiration, was great and penetrating. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 163.
The universal messengers of God subdued the entire world with spiritual power, not with weapons of war. They conquered the kingdom of human hearts with love, not with invasions and armed combat. They promoted their teachings with kindness and the moral force of example, not with tyranny and force.
When you contemplate human history, and review its greatest, longest-lasting and most profound influences, you’ll see that the teachings of those prophets prevailed over every other form of power.
How, historians have asked, could this be? How could one human being with no ostensible means of garnering the support of millions and even billions of people have such a huge impact?
The Baha’i teachings have an answer—the Word of God:
The Word of God is the king of words and its pervasive influence is incalculable. It hath ever dominated and will continue to dominate the realm of being. The Great Being saith: The Word is the master key for the whole world, inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked. No sooner had but a glimmer of its effulgent splendour shone forth upon the mirror of love than the blessed word ‘I am the Best-Beloved’ was reflected therein. It is an ocean inexhaustible in riches, comprehending all things. Every thing which can be perceived is but an emanation therefrom. High, immeasurably high is this sublime station, in whose shadow moveth the essence of loftiness and splendour, wrapt in praise and adoration. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 173.
“The master key for the whole world,” Baha’u’llah calls the Word of God. What does that mean?
In this series of essays we’ll see if we can answer that question, and explore, along the way, how the creative power of the Word of God works in the world. How do the prophets create such permanence? How does the Word inspire such devotion and loyalty? When our hearts open to the Word of God, could it affect us forever? How do we identify the Word of God from all other words? Most importantly, how can we immerse ourselves in that “ocean inexhaustible in riches?”
If we can answer those questions, Baha’u’llah suggests, we can plant and nurture the tree of life in the fertile land of our hearts:
Incline your hearts, O people of God, unto the counsels of your true, your incomparable Friend. The Word of God may be likened unto a sapling, whose roots have been implanted in the hearts of men. It is incumbent upon you to foster its growth through the living waters of wisdom, of sanctified and holy words, so that its root may become firmly fixed and its branches may spread out as high as the heavens and beyond. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 97.