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Heavenly teachings applicable to the advancement in human conditions have been revealed in this merciful age. This re-formation and renewal of the fundamental reality of religion constitute the true and outworking spirit of modernism, the unmistakable light of the world, the manifest effulgence of the Word of God, the divine remedy for all human ailment and the bounty of eternal life to all mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 10.
By now, if you’ve read the first nine installments of this ten-part series on the Word of God, you already know that Baha’is try to read from the sacred scriptures of all Faiths every day. Those “heavenly teachings” reveal the mysteries of life and give us “the divine remedy for all human ailment.” That does not mean, however, that reading the Word of God is an easy or simple task—it takes serious work:
It is difficult to comprehend even the words of a philosopher; how much more difficult it is to understand the Words of God. The divine Words are not to be taken according to their outer sense. They are symbolical and contain realities of spiritual meaning. For instance, in the book of Solomon’s songs you will read about the bride and bridegroom. It is evident that the physical bride and bridegroom are not intended. Obviously, these are symbols conveying a hidden and inner significance. In the same way the Revelations of St. John are not to be taken literally, but spiritually. These are the mysteries of God. It is not the reading of the words that profits you; it is the understanding of their meanings. Therefore, pray God that you may be enabled to comprehend the mysteries of the divine Testaments. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 458.
If you’d like to begin reading the sacred scriptures yourself, I’d like to offer a few informal ideas to make the journey go a little smoother: don’t take the holy writings literally; look for their intrinsic, inner meanings; read them in small doses; and open your mind and heart to their larger implications:
All the texts and teachings of the holy Testaments have intrinsic spiritual meanings. They are not to be taken literally. I, therefore, pray in your behalf that you may be given the power of understanding these inner real meanings of the Holy Scriptures and may become informed of the mysteries deposited in the words of the Bible so that you may attain eternal life and that your hearts may be attracted to the Kingdom of God. May your souls be illumined by the light of the Words of God, and may you become repositories of the mysteries of God, for no comfort is greater and no happiness is sweeter than spiritual comprehension of the divine teachings. If a man understands the real meaning of a poet’s verses such as those of Shakespeare, he is pleased and rejoiced. How much greater his joy and pleasure when he perceives the reality of the Holy Scriptures and becomes informed of the mysteries of the Kingdom! – Ibid., pp. 459-460.
Personally, I started out reading the Words of God by perusing Baha’u’llah’s short book of spiritual aphorisms called The Hidden Words every day. Here’s one of those Hidden Words as an example:
O Son of My Handmaid! Be not troubled in poverty nor confident in riches, for poverty is followed by riches, and riches are followed by poverty. Yet to be poor in all save God is a wondrous gift, belittle not the value thereof, for in the end it will make thee rich in God, and thus thou shalt know the meaning of the utterance, “In truth ye are the poor,” and the holy words, “God is the all-possessing,” shall even as the true morn break forth gloriously resplendent upon the horizon of the lover’s heart, and abide secure on the throne of wealth. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 40.
These short passages, packed with meaning and power, sustain me throughout the day. They take only a minute to read, but they bring me enormous spiritual benefits for hours and hours, giving me something to meditate on and contemplate all day long. When you read the Word of God daily, and it slowly becomes a positive habit, you really miss it when you skip a day. Like nutritious food, it sustains the soul and allows it to grow and develop. Like the water of life, we need the “Primal Word of God,” so we can begin to understand the inner meanings of all things:
Praise be to the all-perceiving, the ever-abiding Lord Who, from a dewdrop out of the ocean of His grace, hath reared the firmament of existence, adorned it with the stars of knowledge, and admitted man into the lofty court of insight and understanding. This dewdrop, which is the Primal Word of God, is at times called the Water of Life, inasmuch as it quickeneth with the waters of knowledge them that have perished in the wilderness of ignorance. Again it is called the Primal Light, a light born of the Sun of divine knowledge, through whose effulgence the first stirrings of existence were made plain and manifest. Such manifestations are the expressions of the grace of Him Who is the Peerless, the All-Wise. He it is who knoweth and bestoweth all. He it is who transcendeth all that hath been said or heard. His knowledge will remain forever above the grasp of human vision and understanding and beyond the reach of human words and deeds. To the truth of this utterance existence itself and all that hath appeared therefrom bear eloquent testimony.
It is clear and evident, therefore, that the first bestowal of God is the Word, and its discoverer and recipient is the power of understanding. This Word is the foremost instructor in the school of existence and the revealer of Him Who is the Almighty. All that is seen is visible only through the light of its wisdom. All that is manifest is but a token of its knowledge. All names are but its name, and the beginning and end of all matters must needs depend upon it. – Baha’u’llah, The Tabernacle of Unity, pp. 3-4.