The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
Soon after Baha’u’llah wrote The Hidden Words in the late 1850s, many people who first read that little book of aphorisms saw it as a masterpiece of deep mystical insight. Its audience — the Babi community, persecuted and constantly threatened with torture and death – had to secretly pass handwritten copies of the Hidden Words among themselves. Even possessing a copy of the book could result in immediate execution. And that small community, emerging as it did out of the traditions and practices of the Sufi mystics, understood the book’s elevated, musical language, its transcendental symbols and its profound mythical content as a set of Baha’u’llah’s revelatory ruminations on the life of the human soul.
Even today, when scholars describe The Hidden Words, they tend to focus on its mystical dimensions. Some call the eleven years (1852-1863) Baha’u’llah spent in Baghdad “the mystical period”, citing The Hidden Words and Baha’u’llah’s authorship of the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys during that time as their main rationale.
So yes, the Hidden Words certainly fits the description of a mystical treatise, as a profound spiritual examination of the human heart and soul. But it also contains more than just one layer of meaning – in fact, the Hidden Words also reveals the seeds of the entire Baha’i revelation, which brings a completely new set of values, spiritual laws and moral guidelines to humanity. In the second Hidden Word, you can see this theme begin to emerge:
O SON OF SPIRIT!
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 3-4.
Of course this passage encourages and enshrines justice as a powerful, positive human virtue. The Baha’i teachings on social justice create an entirely unique and universal set of moral truths based on attaining equal justice for all people. Baha’i leadership, elected democratically, focuses on building justice-centered governance, and The Universal House of Justice leads the Baha’is at the international level. So, yes, this passage speaks about the temporal justice we need to bring about in this earthly existence – but it speaks directly to the Baha’i principle of the independent investigation of spiritual truth, too.
For forty years Baha’u’llah suffered torture, exile and imprisonment at the hands of the fanatical Muslim clerics and the rulers of Persia and the Ottoman Empire. His followers faced wholesale slaughter. Thousands died. Even today, the government of Iran and its fundamentalist clerical establishment persecutes, unjustly jails and executes Baha’is for their Faith. That fact underlies the Baha’i principle of an unfettered search after truth.
In this passage about justice, Baha’u’llah exhorts all people to judge fairly and without prejudice. He asks everyone to “see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others.” This powerful Hidden Word points out why the Baha’is have no clergy; why the Baha’i teachings prohibit proselytizing; and why Baha’u’llah encourages every seeker to conduct an independent search for their own truth. The Baha’i teachings advise us all to make up our own minds, to use our intellects and our spiritual instincts to decide what we believe. Baha’u’llah cautions us not to rely on the perceptions, the ideas or the understandings of others, but to see things clearly, fairly and equitably.
Baha’is have no ritual, dogma or priesthood. In past ages, humanity needed an educated clergy, to explain religious truth to the masses, who often had little access to literacy, education or knowledge. But today, the Baha’i teachings explain that humanity has reached a collective stage of maturation and education which allows us to acquire our own knowledge and make our own decisions.