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I love the sun, the way it shapeshifts as it moves throughout the sky, the way it warms my community’s mood and lightens the entire world.
Mention of the sun riddles our prose, poetry, songs, and stories. Most of us love the sun. Not only does it sustain our physical well-being, but it carries spiritual meaning, too. As in many other faiths, the sun represents an important symbol and metaphor in the Baha’i writings.
In a Baha’i metaphor, the sun symbolizes the Creator, and prophets like Krishna, Moses, Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Zoroaster, Buddha, the Bab, and Baha’u’llah act as mirrors, as pure and perfectly-polished reflectors of the sun’s rays. This passage describes that metaphor in the context of progressive revelation, one of the central beliefs of the Baha’i Faith:
The Sun of Divinity and of Reality has revealed itself in various mirrors. Though these mirrors are many, yet the Sun is one. The bestowals of God are one; the reality of the divine religion is one. Consider how one and the same light has reflected itself in the different mirrors or manifestations of it. There are certain souls who are lovers of the Sun; they perceive the effulgence of the Sun from every mirror. They are not fettered or attached to the mirrors; they are attached to the Sun itself and adore it, no matter from what point it may shine. But those who adore the mirror and are attached to it become deprived of witnessing the light of the Sun when it shines forth from another mirror. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 115.
The concept of progressive revelation points out that God will never leave humanity without spiritual guidance – and as time passes and humanity changes with it, we need updated guidance. We can develop higher and higher levels of understanding as God reveals new teachings to us.
Through a sequence of different prophets, the Baha’i teachings say, God sends us the necessary spiritual message for each era in human history. Every one of these prophets and messengers, rather than competing with each other, comes from the same source. This is what Baha’is mean when they say they believe in the oneness of religion. Through studying the holy texts of many different faiths, it becomes clear that the underlying purposes of these diverse writings coheres in harmony with one another:
The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. … The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 156-157.
Baha’is believe that the Holy Spirit guides these messengers and prophets to reflect God’s light to humanity. Through the Holy Spirit we can foster uniquely human potentialities: we can use science to discover and create, and we can develop spiritual virtues that override our animalistic nature:
The Holy Spirit is the Light from the Sun of Truth bringing, by its infinite power, life and illumination to all mankind, flooding all souls with Divine Radiance, conveying the blessings of God’s Mercy to the whole world. The earth, without the medium of the warmth and light of the rays of the sun, could receive no benefits from the sun.
… The Holy Spirit it is which, through the mediation of the Prophets of God, teaches spiritual virtues to man and enables him to attain Eternal Life.
All these blessings are brought to man by the Holy Spirit; therefore we can understand that the Holy Spirit is the Intermediary between the Creator and the created. The light and heat of the sun cause the earth to be fruitful, and create life in all things that grow; and the Holy Spirit quickens the souls of men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 58-59.
In this quotation, the sun symbolically represents the divine source of the Holy Spirit. If we imagine ourselves as mirrors who can reflect the light of the sun, it becomes very clear that although we can never become God, or the sun itself, we can always strive to better reflect its light.
When I think about the sun as God, I think about how even on the cloudiest day, or in the nighttime, the sun is present somewhere. All life depends on its radiance. Even when it feels like the sun is gone, it never truly leaves us:
As the light of the sun shines on the whole world, so the Mercy of the infinite God is shed on all creatures. As the sun ripens the fruits of the earth, and gives life and warmth to all living beings, so shines the Sun of Truth on all souls, filling them with the fire of Divine love and understanding. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 25.
I think about this when times get tough, and life just seems hard to bear. Sometimes, we can feel alone, as if we live in a chaotic, godless world. But perhaps in these darkest times the sun has become obscured. Maybe we simply don’t recognize its light behind a storm cloud of our own anxieties, or hidden behind a mental barrier we put up ourselves. If we imagine God as the sun, even when we feel alone, we just have to patiently wait for the dawn.