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As I write this article, I see nothing but clouds blanketing the horizon. I see neither a blue sky nor a radiant sun, just a sheet of whiteness obscuring them all.
Clouds remind me that there is more than what meets the eye and that our understanding may be limited because of our own obstructed points of view. The Baha’i writings discuss the spiritual meaning of clouds and use them to symbolize what prevents humanity from recognizing true reality.
The Spiritual Meaning of Clouds in the Bible
According to the King James Bible, Christ said, “They shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven.” And Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, said, “When Christ came for the first time He came upon the clouds.”
Baha’is don’t believe that He literally came from the sky, but rather the “Heaven of the Kingdom of God.” Christ’s body was born of His mother, Mary of Nazareth, but His spirit came forth from God.
By the term ‘clouds’ is meant those things that are contrary to the ways and desires of men. …These ‘clouds’ signify, in one sense, the annulment of laws, the abrogation of former Dispensations, the repeal of rituals and customs current amongst men, the exalting of the illiterate faithful above the learned opposers of the Faith.
In another sense, they mean the appearance of that immortal Beauty in the image of mortal man, with such human limitations as eating and drinking, poverty and riches, glory and abasement, sleeping and waking, and such other things as cast doubt in the minds of men, and cause them to turn away. All such veils are symbolically referred to as ‘clouds.’
Christ’s body was like a cloud that made it more difficult for people to recognize His station as a prophet, or Manifestation of God, at the time. “As clouds are obstacles to the shining of the sun, so the clouds of the world of humanity hid from the eyes of men the radiance of the Divinity of Christ,” said Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah and the authorized interpreter of the Baha’i writings, at a talk in Paris in 1911.
How the Spiritual Symbolism of Clouds Relates to the Coming of Baha’u’llah
Baha’is believe that God promised humanity that He will never leave us alone without guidance. So, since time immemorial, God sent divine luminaries like Abraham, Zoroaster, Moses, the Buddha, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha’u’llah to reveal His messages to humanity.
At a talk in Washington, D.C., in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha explained:
Although the divine teachings are truth and reality, yet with the passage of time thick clouds envelop and obscure them. These clouds are imitations and superstitions; they are not the fundamentals. Then the Sun of Truth, the Word of God, arises again, shines forth once more in the glory of its power and disperses the enveloping darkness.
For a long time the divine precepts of the effulgent Word were obscured by clouds of superstition and error until Bahá’u’lláh appeared upon the horizon of humanity, rent the shadows, scattered the clouds and revealed anew the foundations of the teachings of God.
Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah’s coming is foretold in many of the world’s religions. The Baha’i writings say:
To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the ‘Everlasting Father,’ the ‘Lord of Hosts’ come down ‘with ten thousands of saints’; to Christendom Christ returned ‘in the glory of the Father’; to Shí‘ah Islám the return of the Imám Ḥusayn; to Sunní Islám the descent of the ‘Spirit of God’ (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Sháh-Bahrám; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha.
In 1863, Baha’u’llah began sharing the revolutionary principles of the Baha’i Faith, including the oneness of humanity, the oneness and truth of all religions, the abolition of all forms of prejudice, the equality of women and men, the agreement of science and religion, the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty, and the importance of a universal language and education.
I hope that you will turn with unclouded eyes towards the Sun of Truth, beholding not the things of earth, lest your hearts be attracted to the worthless and passing pleasures of the world; let that Sun give you of His strength, then will not the clouds of prejudice veil His illumination from your eyes! Then will the Sun be without clouds for you.
May you all prevent earthly desires and attachments from obscuring the light of your spirit and hindering you from recognizing the light of truth in whatever form it may appear in. This is Abdu’l-Baha’s prayer — for everyone to clear away the symbolic clouds, or veils, that they’ve placed before their eyes.