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Praise and thanksgiving be unto Providence that out of all the realities in existence He has chosen the reality of man and has honored it with intellect and wisdom, the two most luminous lights in either world. …
This supreme emblem of God stands first in the order of creation and first in rank, taking precedence over all created things. Witness to it is the Holy Tradition, “Before all else, God created the mind.” From the dawn of creation, it was made to be revealed in the temple of man.
Sanctified is the Lord, Who with the dazzling rays of this strange, heavenly power has made our world of darkness the envy of the worlds of light. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 1.
Luminosity is the phosphorescence of the spirit.
The 17th year in the Baha’i cycle of 19 years is called “Luminous.” What a beautiful name! Even more attractive is the inner human quality. The 18th Baha’i year is related, since the name for that year is “Most Luminous.”
Becoming luminous is not what it appears. That’s because being luminous isn’t obvious or visible. “Luminous” refers to one’s spiritual condition, not one’s physical appearance.
As you know, appearances can be deceiving—but they can also be revealing. So how do you know the difference? How can you tell if someone is luminous?
To be luminous means to have spiritual radiance. To be luminous is to be a source of spiritual light. This is light that you cannot see physically! But it is light that you can discern.
Abdu’l-Baha describes the luminous appearance of “six school girls”:
O ye daughters of the Kingdom! … The reflection of your forms (photograph) arrived in this Holy Land. Praise be unto God, these figures are luminous. From your eyes the light of the love of God is emanating. … Praise ye God, that in this age of youth ye have entered the Kingdom of God! Ye have become enlightened. Ye have become celestial, divine and heavenly. – Abdu’l-Baha, Japan Will Turn Ablaze!, pp. 38–39.
In other words, to be luminous is to radiate “the light of the love of God,” especially from the eyes. Thus this quality refers to an inner beauty, and an invisible, yet perceptible, radiance. Luminosity is subtle, yet can be seen by those who have the vision to see spiritual qualities.
To be luminous is a spiritual gift. To see a luminous spirit is the gift of spiritual discernment.
That said, being luminous can sometimes be discerned through a physical appearance as well, in which a certain brightness or subtle radiance emanates from the eyes and face of a person in whom the light of wisdom and virtue appear in perfect harmony, as Abdu’l-Baha describes in the passage below, in his discourse on the ideal education of the child:
But the indispensable basis of all is that he should develop spiritual characteristics and the praiseworthy virtues of humankind. This is the primary consideration. If a person be unlettered, and yet clothed with divine excellence, and alive in the breaths of the Spirit, that individual will contribute to the welfare of society, and his inability to read and write will do him no harm. And if a person be versed in the arts and every branch of knowledge, and not live a religious life, and not take on the characteristics of God, and not be directed by a pure intent, and be engrossed in the life of the flesh—then he is harm personified, and nothing will come of all his learning and intellectual accomplishments but scandal and torment.
If, however, an individual hath spiritual characteristics, and virtues that shine out, and his purpose in life be spiritual and his inclinations be directed toward God, and he also study other branches of knowledge—then we have “light upon light” (Quran 24:35): outer being luminous, his private character radiant, his heart sound, his thought elevated, his understanding swift, his rank noble. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet translated from the Persian, A Compilation on Baha’i Education, p. 32.
Spiritual light has to come from somewhere, from some place. Yet the place is not physical, so it is placeless. Luminosity comes from within:
O banished and faithful friend! Quench the thirst of heedlessness with the sanctified waters of My grace, and chase the gloom of remoteness through the morning-light of My Divine presence. Suffer not the habitation wherein dwelleth My undying love for thee to be destroyed through the tyranny of covetous desires, and overcloud not the beauty of the heavenly Youth with the dust of self and passion. Clothe thyself with the essence of righteousness, and let thine heart be afraid of none except God. Obstruct not the luminous spring of thy soul with the thorns and brambles of vain and inordinate affections, and impede not the flow of the living waters that stream from the fountain of thine heart. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 323.
So how do you increase the flow of that spiritual well-spring that Baha’u’llah calls “the luminous spring of thy soul”? One way is through enhancing one’s own “intellect and wisdom,” which are “the two most luminous lights in either world,” as stated in the opening quote at the beginning of this article. Of these two “most luminous lights,” wisdom is greater:
Above all else, the greatest gift and the most wondrous blessing hath ever been and will continue to be Wisdom. It is man’s unfailing Protector. It aideth him and strengtheneth him. Wisdom is God’s Emissary and the Revealer of His Name the Omniscient. … Thanks to its educating influence earthly beings have become imbued with a gem-like spirit which outshineth the heavens. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 66.
So, to amplify your own inner light, you will do well to enhance your wisdom. Easy to say, and hard to do. But here is a place to start: turn to Baha’u’llah, who writes:
The Great Being saith: The Tongue of Wisdom proclaimeth: He that hath Me not is bereft of all things. Turn ye away from all that is on earth and seek none else but Me. I am the Sun of Wisdom and the Ocean of Knowledge. I cheer the faint and revive the dead. I am the guiding Light that illumineth the way. I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty. I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight. – Ibid., p. 126.
May your spirit phosphoresce with the luminosity of wisdom.
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"I pray for each and all that you may be as flames of love in the world, and that the brightness of your light and the warmth of your affection may reach the heart of every sad and sorrowing child of God." (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 95-96)
"Let your light shine before the eyes of men. Such must be the purity of your character and the degree of your renunciation, that the people of ...the earth may through you recognize and be drawn closer to the heavenly Father who is the Source of purity and grace." (Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 92)