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Baha’is believe that the unprecedented energies of our time are spiritual in nature, and that they result from the coming of God’s most recent representative to humankind, the Manifestation of His own light and glory, Baha’u’llah.
As the revealer of God’s Word in this age, Baha’u’llah set in motion processes that are creating a new, divine civilization representing the inevitable destiny of humanity. He has released energies that transform human hearts, shape new social institutions and open up the possibility of a higher order of organization and well-being on earth. In response to this unprecedented outpouring of divine power, negative forces, metaphoric eddies along the banks of this irresistible and swiftly flowing river, have risen in the world around us. This turmoil results from humanity’s resistance to the divine purpose and is, therefore, also a consequence of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation.
The Baha’i writings explain that spiritual forces are the foundation of reality, the fundamental basis of life. From a Baha’i point of view, spirit or spirituality is not just one dimension of human life, it is the motivating impulse of existence, without which nothing can live or move. Abdu’l-Baha uses the image of the sun to illustrate this. Just as the sun is the source of physical existence, the Word of God is the source of human life and civilization. After pointing out that no life would be possible without the warmth and light of the sun, Abdu’l-Baha says:
Likewise in the spiritual realm of intelligence and idealism there must be a centre of illumination, and that centre is the everlasting, ever-shining Sun, the Word of God . . . Just as the phenomenal sun shines upon the material world producing life and growth, likewise, the spiritual or prophetic Sun confers illumination upon the human world of thought and intelligence, and unless it rose upon the horizon of human existence, the kingdom of man would become dark and extinguished. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 94.
Far more than holy scripture to be read and left upon a page, Baha’is believe that the Word of God is the source of light and life, and separation from it is darkness and death. The reality of the Manifestation of God, His power pervading the world, creates and shapes the individual and gives life to humankind.
The Baha’i writings say that Spirit is one; even though we often distinguish the separate functions it performs and call them by different names. Baha’u’llah explains that the soul, mind, spirit, heart, sight and hearing of human beings are all one thing. They are “but one single reality” with different names according to the function they perform. In other words, it is our spirit, or soul, that sees through our eyes and hears through our ears. The latter are simply instruments. The spirit is the hearer. The spirit is the seer. The spirit is the knower.
We can understand Baha’u’llah’s Revelation in the world as a new infusion of divine spirit bursting upon us, as spirit itself, as the force or forces, as energy, creative energy, as the bounty of God or the grace of God. All of these refer to one divine spirit being expressed by different facets.
The Baha’i teachings explain how spiritual power can have many different names:
Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings. Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul. Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things. Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 26.
In this beautiful passage Abdu’l-Baha describes the cohesive power in the universe and calls it love — the power holding the planets in their orbits, the attracting force and connective tissue between everything. Love unites, composes and sustains all things. When love ceases to act on anything, or if a thing moves itself out of the influence of that love, it becomes decomposed, disunited and discordant.
Abdu’l-Baha might have called this the power of unity, or the power of attraction, or divine energy; the name is not the point. We enhance our understanding of spiritual forces when we concentrate on how they function in the world.
Read the next article in the series: Every Dimension of Reality Expresses Spirit
This essay, an edited excerpt from Forces of Our Time: The Dynamics of Light and Darkness, by Hooper C. Dunbar, George Ronald, Publisher, is used with the permission of both the author and the publisher.