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Have you ever seen a mirage? Most of us have witnessed these temporary, naturally-occurring optical phenomenon, where light refracts to form an image that seems real.
One of the most common types of mirage—a distant body of water appearing in a dry desert or on the road ahead—usually happens on hot days. The intense shimmering blue of the sky reflects on the ground, and suddenly a lake seems to appear.
But mirages are not hallucinations. Instead, light rays create them, because they travel through differing layers of air with different temperatures, and bend accordingly. Light that comes from the top of an object—the sky, for example—will arrive at the human eye lower than light from the bottom. That makes an inverted image, which creates the illusion of sky as water.
In the same way the problems, troubles and tests of this material world seem so real—but the Baha’i teachings say they’re ultimately a mirage:
Grieve thou not over the troubles and hardships of this nether world, nor be thou glad in times of ease and comfort, for both shall pass away. This present life is even as a swelling wave, or a mirage, or drifting shadows. Could ever a distorted image on the desert serve as refreshing waters? No, by the Lord of Lords! Never can reality and the mere semblance of reality be one, and wide is the difference between fancy and fact, between truth and the phantom thereof.
Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water, and seeming as pictures to the eye. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 177-178.
From a spiritual perspective, you can consider the transitory nature of this world, the physical place we call home, as a mirage, too. For all of us, this mirage won’t last more than a hundred years or so—and then we move on to the next world, one where the material aspects of life no longer have any lasting reality.
Of course, this world we all live in now isn’t a hallucination, either—it’s all too real, as we each know—but the Baha’i teachings say that its reality pales in comparison to the eternal existence beyond this temporary one.
In fact, the Baha’i calendar designates several days in each year that symbolize attaining the Kingdom of God and inhabiting that eternal kingdom. Ayyam-i-Ha, the Arabic name for the four or five Baha’i Intercalary Days that occur at this time every year, refers symbolically to the eternal life of the soul by going beyond the attributes and characteristics of the Creator and focusing on a future existence that surpasses all time:
O Son of Worldliness! Pleasant is the realm of being, wert thou to attain thereto; glorious is the domain of eternity, shouldst thou pass beyond the world of mortality; sweet is the holy ecstasy if thou drinkest of the mystic chalice from the hands of the celestial Youth. Shouldst thou attain this station, thou wouldst be freed from destruction and death, from toil and sin. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 46.
Struggle and strive to reach that high station, and to make a splendour so to shine across these realms of earth that the rays of it will be reflected back from a dawning-point on the horizon of eternity. This is the very foundation of the Cause of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 261.
The prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, designated the annual Intercalary Days “amid all the nights and days” as a time to directly recognize and joyfully praise and celebrate the Divine Essence. The Ayyam-i-Ha holy days, separated as they are from the ordinary cycle of weeks and months, allow us to symbolically transcend the calendar–in the same way the infinite reality of the Creator transcends time and place. Ayyam-i-Ha stands for infinitude, for the eternal and lasting realities of existence, for contemplating the mystery and unknowable essence of the Supreme Being:
O ye loved ones of God! Know ye that the world is even as a mirage rising over the sands, that the thirsty mistaketh for water. The wine of this world is but a vapour in the desert, its pity and compassion but toil and trouble, the repose it proffereth only weariness and sorrow. Abandon it to those who belong to it, and turn your faces unto the Kingdom of your Lord the All-Merciful, that His grace and bounty may cast their dawning splendours over you, and a heavenly table may be sent down for you, and your Lord may bless you, and shower His riches upon you to gladden your bosoms and fill your hearts with bliss, to attract your minds, and cleanse your souls, and console your eyes. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 186.