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“Names” (Persian/Arabic: Asma’) is the name of the ninth Baha’i month in the 19-month, 19-day Baha’i Calendar. The month of “Names” lasts from late August to early September, each year.

In the Baha’i writings, the term “Names” does not simply mean “names” in the ordinary sense. Rather, the word “Names” often combines with another term, “attributes,” to construct the phrase, “names and attributes,” which occurs quite often in Baha’i texts. Usually, the phrase refers to the perfections of God; the perfections of the prophets of God; and our human perfections. We can begin to understand and appreciate these “Names”—as perfections across all three domains—in the passage below:

Nay, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that most great Light. … How resplendent the luminaries of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that surge within a drop! To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and attributes are applicable to him. Even as He hath said: “Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.” – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, pp. 100–101.

Think of the “names and attributes” of God as part of our spiritual DNA. The primary difference between our spiritual DNA and our individual genetic code is that, when we are born, our genes, more or less, are fully expressed, or are in the process of expressing themselves throughout our development over the span of our lifetime. At our physical birth, we begin our journey in this world, and develop our abilities and capacities as best we can.

Each of us has inherent talents and faculties. The role of education is to awaken them. These are powers that are latent within us. It remains for each of us to realize those potential powers.

In the same way, our spiritual being develops in a somewhat parallel way here on Earth. Baha’u’llah often refers to these spiritual names and attributes as “energies:”

Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him—a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation. … Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty.

These energies with which the Day Star of Divine bounty and Source of heavenly guidance hath endowed the reality of man lie, however, latent within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 65–66.

brainJust like we need education and training to develop our inherently physical powers and faculties, we need spiritual training to awaken and bring to fruition our spiritual energies.

Education requires teachers. Spiritual education requires spiritual teachers. The best spiritual teachers are the founders of the great world religions. Baha’is refer to these extraordinary individuals as prophets of God.

The purpose of the prophets—counseling, guiding, inspiring and perfecting each and every one of us—is manifested in their mission to educate humanity, both individually as well as collectively. In the aggregate—in the grand scheme of things—they exert a cumulative effect when the teachings of such extraordinary individuals as Moses, Zoroaster, the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad,  the Bab and Baha’u’llah bring their power and influence to bear on the world at large, through the Word of God:

Should the Word be allowed to release suddenly all the energies latent within it, no man could sustain the weight of so mighty a Revelation. … No sooner had mankind attained the stage of maturity, than the Word revealed to men’s eyes the latent energies with which it had been endowed—energies which manifested themselves in the plenitude of their glory… – Ibid., pp. 76–77.

So here’s a simple set of equivalences: “names” are “attributes,” which are spiritual “energies.” Shoghi Effendi calls these “ennobling energies.” They have the power to transform individual and society alike. Some examples of these spiritual dynamics are given in the extraordinary passage below:

The Faith of Baha’u’llah has assimilated, by virtue of its creative, its regulative and ennobling energies, the varied races, nationalities, creeds and classes that have sought its shadow, and have pledged unswerving fealty to its cause. It has changed the hearts of its adherents, burned away their prejudices, stilled their passions, exalted their conceptions, ennobled their motives, cöordinated their efforts, and transformed their outlook. While preserving their patriotism and safeguarding their lesser loyalties, it has made them lovers of mankind, and the determined upholders of its best and truest interests. …

This universal, this transcending love which the followers of the Baha’i Faith feel for their fellow-men, of whatever race, creed, class or nation, is neither mysterious nor can it be said to have been artificially stimulated. It is both spontaneous and genuine. They whose hearts are warmed by the energizing influence of God’s creative love cherish His creatures for His sake, and recognize in every human face a sign of His reflected glory. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 197–198.

So there it is, in a nutshell! In a sense, the Baha’i month of “Names” invites each of us to reflect and meditate on the attributes of God, as conveyed through the prophets of God, and as exemplified by God’s creatures. We can meditate on each and every one of these “names and attributes,” which are really “perfections” by studying the Baha’i calendar.

We have the power to incarnate these virtues and to develop these capacities, especially if we benefit from the spiritual education that the Baha’i writings provide. To realize our spiritual potential, to awaken our inherent greatness, we should, all the while, remain humble, as we put our own individual lives into a broader perspective. The Baha’i writings enshrine moral and social principles that have the power to transform society, even to change the face of the earth.

8 Comments

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  • May 15, 2016
    Thank you for your comment and question. If I understand your thinking correctly, then I'd take your argument one step further: (1) The ipseity (i.e. essence) of the "names and attributes" transcends plurality; (2) In Baha'i epistemology, moreover, the essence of anything cannot be known; (3) Only the ipseity's attributes can be cognized; (4) That said, the energies that these attributes radiate is not like the sun, when in a latent (unmanifest) state, as Baha'u'llah explains: "These energies with which the Day Star of Divine bounty and Source of heavenly guidance hath endowed the reality of man lie, however, latent ...within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp."; (5) I agree that, in their active (manifest) state when potentialized in the spiritual ipseity of the human soul (to varying degrees), then, and only then, can these energizing attributes "produce energy, create light, emanate glory, display radiance," as you have eloquently phrased; (6) Each attribute of God, as manifested in this world of duality/plurality, is analogous to a color within the broader spectrum of light; (7) That said, I agree with you that each attribute is susceptible to a philosophical/epistemological "essence/attribute" distinction; (8) In other words, each "attribute of God" can be analyzed as an impenetrable essence, with an inherent attribute (or constellation of attributes); (9) Therefore each "attribute of God" has its own attributes (1) that transcend the essence/attribute distinction; (10) That said, the essence/attribute distinction dissolves in reality for the simple reason that they function as one; (11) While this is a "hair" worth "splitting" (or, as the ancient Romans would say, "dividing cumin seeds"), arguendo this is a distinction without a functional difference; (12) Each attribute of God is refracted through the "prism" of the Word of God: "the Word revealed to men’s eyes the latent energies with which it had been endowed—energies which manifested themselves in the plenitude of their glory."; (13) The main point of this series, "Transforming Time: Turning Godly Perfections Into Goodly Actions," has been to draw attention to these attributes of God as spiritual resources worthy of our reflection; (14) Once awakened and set in motion, each attribute of God will, as you say, "produce energy, create light, emanate glory, display radiance"; (15) When this happens, the result is "Light upon light!" (the "Verse of Light," Quran 24:35). Just my personal reflections, for what they are worth! (-;
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    • Greg Billington
      May 16, 2016
      Clearly and beautifully wrought. I thank you.
  • Greg Billington
    May 15, 2016
    I am afraid my mind is too feeble to follow the development of your argument. Could I impose upon you to make it more explicit, please? I cannot see the equivalence of names with energies in the quotes you provide. It seems to me to be just as reasonable to conclude the attributes, or names, have energies, or emit radiance, to empower their manifestation and effects thereof in the world of being. That is, the radiance is a power of the attribute, and not its ipseity; even as the sun radiates light, charge and heat, but ...its essence is none of these. The fusion of hydrogen into helium produces light, charge and heat. Hence, the names or attributes produce energy, create light, emanate glory, display radiance. But they are not these things.
    I do not wish to split hairs. This could be an important distinction in something else I am working on.
    I am sorry to ask this effort from you, but I cannot on my own follow the logic and conclusion.
    I love the spiritual DNA concept, and can see how all things can have this DNA, as all things reflect signs and tokens of God. Excellent analogy, eloquently worded.
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  • Robin Castle
    May 10, 2016
    Energy sources - energy drinks, caffeine, the sun, and wow, spiritual energy. This article has given me new insights in the sources of energy and channeling spiritual energy from The Word. Thanks for this food for thought (and energy)...
  • May 09, 2016
    Wonderful an well said and quoted in regard to education and transformation and effect on the the individual believer in God thank you sir!
    • May 10, 2016
      What a worthwhile idea! Imagine if the Baha’i friends in a given community, such as yours, were to collectively meditate on a particular “Name” and then try to exemplify that virtue throughout that Baha’i month:
      To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and attributes are ...applicable to him. -- Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, p. 177.
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