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Throughout religious history, God has endowed the station of prophethood by revealing Himself to his divine messengers through various spiritual symbols.
Moses received his revelation through the burning bush. Later, Jesus saw the spirit of God descending as a dove lighting on him. Gautama Buddha received his revelation while in deep meditation under the bodhi tree. The angel Gabriel visited Muhammad, revealing to him the beginnings of what would later become the Qur’an. Most recently, Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, received his revelation from “The Maid of Heaven” — a symbol of the divine female principle, and an important symbol of the new, more feminine age of humanity the Baha’i teachings promise.
In His “Tablet of the Temple”, Baha’u’llah described his vision:
While engulfed in tribulations I heard a most wondrous, a most sweet voice, calling above My head. Turning My face, I beheld a Maiden – the embodiment of the remembrance of the name of My Lord – suspended in the air before Me. So rejoiced was she in her very soul that her countenance shone with the ornament of the good-pleasure of God, and her cheeks glowed with the brightness of the All-Merciful.
Betwixt Earth and Heaven she was raising a call which captivated the hearts and minds of men. She was imparting to both My inward and outer being tidings which rejoiced My soul, and the souls of God’s honoured servants. Pointing with her finger unto My head, she addressed all who are in Heaven and all who are on Earth saying: “By God! This is the best beloved of the worlds, and yet ye comprehend not. This is the Beauty of God amongst you, and the power of His sovereignty within you, could ye but understand.
These spiritual revelations, when traced through time, came successively in a distinct pattern of ascendency. The burning bush denoted the vegetable kingdom, Christ the animal kingdom, and Muhammad represented the mortal kingdom. Finally, the Maid of Heaven represents the culmination of the human condition in the divine feminine.
This ascendant symbolism exemplifies the exalted station of women in its highest form — as the holy intermediary between the Creator and a messenger of God’s revelation. With this powerful assertion of divinity, we enter a new dispensation which elevates and praises feminine qualities rather than ranking them as secondary.
In the Baha’i revelation, not only do women take their rightful place beside men, but they will help to bring about a new era of enlightenment, as Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, repeatedly said in various talks and writings:
The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting-force is losing its weight and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine, and more permeated with the feminine ideals — or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.
The woman is indeed of the greater importance to the race. She has the greater burden and the greater work. Look at the vegetable and the animal worlds. The palm which carries the fruit is the tree most prized by the date grower. The Arab knows that for a long journey the mare has the longest wind. For her greater strength and fierceness, the lioness is more feared by the hunter than the lion.
The woman has greater moral courage than the man; she has also special gifts which enable her to govern in moments of danger and crisis.
That Maid of Heaven, also known in the Baha’i writings as the “black-eyed damsel,” represents a feminine metaphor that personifies Baha’u’llah’s truth and spiritual reality — and expresses the beginning of a fascinating journey to understand what Baha’u’llah called women’s “lustrous brilliance” and the exalted station of women.