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It is clear and evident to thee that all the Prophets are the Temples of the Cause of God, Who have appeared clothed in diverse attire. If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt behold them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, pp. 153-154.
With these words, the founder of the Baha’i Faith announced the unity of all religions. The prophets of God, he wrote, soar in the same heaven, utter the same speech and proclaim the same Faith.
That’s the nexus of Baha’i belief—that no religion trumps any other; that religion is progressive by nature; and that all religions are one:
To contend that any particular religion is final, that “all Revelation is ended, that the portals of Divine mercy are closed, that from the daysprings of eternal holiness no sun shall rise again, that the ocean of everlasting bounty is forever stilled, and that out of the Tabernacle of ancient glory the Messengers of God have ceased to be made manifest” would indeed be nothing less than sheer blasphemy.
“They differ, explains Baha’u’llah in that same epistle, “only in the intensity of their revelation and the comparative potency of their light.” And this, not by reason of any inherent incapacity of any one of them to reveal in a fuller measure the glory of the Message with which He has been entrusted, but rather because of the immaturity and unpreparedness of the age He lived in to apprehend and absorb the full potentialities latent in that Faith. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 58. (portions enclosed in quotations from Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude.)
These excerpts from the Baha’i teachings show the power of the word of God on our minds to introduce earth-shaking and unifying new concepts.
Like turning swords into ploughshares—that is, into healing words—the utterances of the prophets contain power and truth. That power and truth inevitably result in change. The change begins in the human heart, affects us deeply, and then translates itself into action. The Baha’i teachings, in the context of today’s misconception and abominable belief that religion must be promoted through the use of the “sword,” or modern weapons and bombs, exalts the power of words and utterance:
We have decreed that war shall be waged in the path of God with the armies of wisdom and utterance, and of a goodly character and praiseworthy deeds. Thus hath it been decided by Him Who is the All-Powerful, the Almighty. There is no glory for him that committeth disorder on the earth after it hath been made so good…
Beware lest ye shed the blood of any one. Unsheathe the sword of your tongue from the scabbard of utterance, for therewith ye can conquer the citadels of men’s hearts. We have abolished the law to wage holy war against each other. God’s mercy hath, verily, encompassed all created things, if ye do but understand. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 24-25.
My convictions regarding the power of words—which I’ve seen amply demonstrated in my own 20-year experience as a dispute mediator in my local court system—centers on Baha’u’llah’s peaceful approach to the influence of moderation, tact and wisdom in choosing what we say:
Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement, which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 143.
Just as a mother does not feed steak to her newborn, the milk of loving-kindness and patience is the nourishment required.
If you’ve ever been involved, even as an onlooker, in a disagreement between people, you will know that calmness, control, and keen listening brings insight into the principles of truth contained in their spoken words. This can often best come from the perspective of a neutral observer, learned in the skills of mediation, diplomacy and arbitration, so universally used in today’s world to solve human problems.
Active listening, emphasized in schools for decades now, is more than just hearing someone’s words. It means truly attempting to understand the thoughts, motivations and feelings behind the words. We can best respond to those thoughts, motivations and feelings, the Baha’i teachings say, when we allow our own words to aspire to purity and moderation:
Utterance must needs possess penetrating power. For if bereft of this quality it would fail to exert influence. And this penetrating influence dependeth on the spirit being pure and the heart stainless. Likewise it needeth moderation, without which the hearer would be unable to bear it, rather he would manifest opposition from the very outset. And moderation will be obtained by blending utterance with the tokens of divine wisdom which are recorded in the sacred Books and Tablets. Thus when the essence of one’s utterance is endowed with these two requisites it will prove highly effective and will be the prime factor in transforming the souls of men. – Ibid., pp. 198-199.
Next: Scripture, Facebook, and the Impact of the Written Word
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