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O servant of the Blessed Beauty! Solomon, son of David — peace be upon Him — hath said: “O my Lord! Grant me a sovereignty which suits not another after me.” [See Qur’an 38:35.] That sovereignty is earthly and not the intended meaning, for earthly sovereignty is, in the end “He loseth both this world and the Hereafter.” [Qur’an 22:11.] And this [true] sovereignty is the sovereignty of the world of inner meanings and the kingdom of the dominion of the most exalted Paradise. This region is the Kingdom of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet written in Turkish (provisional translation by Necati Alkan)
O My Servant! Abandon not for that which perisheth an everlasting dominion, and cast not away celestial sovereignty for a worldly desire. This is the river of everlasting life that hath flowed from the well-spring of the pen of the merciful; well is it with them that drink! – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 35.
“It’s good to be king.” So the old saying goes. Just one problem: I’m no king. As the Seals & Crofts song says:
When I was 17, I
Dreamed of being king and
Having everything I wanted
But that was long ago and
Dreams did not unfold so
I’m still the king of nothing
But suppose for a moment that you could be crowned king, or queen, as the case may be. You’d be the ruler. Top dog. Fat cat. Cat’s meow. Pinnacle of power. Acme of influence. You’d be the royal sovereign. King for a day. King for a lifetime. Monarch over the mini-kingdom of your own self.
Throne of gold? No, but in control of your life. And, based on good diplomacy—the positive interpersonal relations you cultivate—you might even have a beneficial influence on others.
That dream can become a reality, in a small but significant and very personal way. Here’s how:
A sovereign, by definition, possesses sovereignty, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “Supremacy in respect of power, domination, or rank; supreme dominion, authority, or rule.” In the Baha’i writings, “sovereignty” is an attribute or quality of God—the pure intelligence of God that pervades creation in all its hidden and manifest mysteries:
If the wayfarer’s goal be the dwelling of the Praiseworthy One, this is the station of primal reason which is known as the Prophet and the Most Great Pillar. Here reason signifieth the divine, universal mind, whose sovereignty enlighteneth all created things… – Baha’u’llah, The Four Valleys, p. 52.
Did you know that “Sovereignty” is the name of one of the months of the Baha’i calendar? Last night, my wife, younger son and I attended the Feast of Sovereignty here in the Pittsburgh Baha’i community. I was asked to explain “sovereignty” to the youth and children present.
I said that “sovereignty” meant having power and dominion over something. For example, a king has power and dominion over a country. God has power and dominion over the universe. A prophet of God, a great spiritual teacher, has spiritual power, sovereignty and dominion over this world.
“Did you also know,” I added, “that you and I can each manifest a degree of sovereignty?” I did not say that you or I could be the “King of something.” But that’s basically what I meant! Let me explain:
First, a personal anecdote: I first started writing for BahaiTeachings.org when the Baha’i actor Rainn Wilson encouraged Baha’i scholars and writers to write short articles on “Baha’i Quotes That Changed My Life.” Rainn wrote the very first article in the series: Do You Have a PKR Heart? That spirited article meditated on this well-known “Hidden Word” of Baha’u’llah:
This Hidden Word is remarkable for its brief yet profound message. In my own understanding, it is a formula for spiritual success. Although the emphasis is on having a “PKR” (“pure, kindly and radiant”) heart, note that the word “sovereignty” is the everlasting result.
This is personal sovereignty, not political sovereignty. Even though I can agree with Seals & Crofts that “I’m still the king of nothing” in the larger scheme of things, I can also say, based on this Hidden Word, that “I’m still the king of something.” So are you!
To the extent that you and I can exercise power and dominion over our own selves, then we can safely say that we have achieved sovereignty. That’s a lot easier said than done. It’s a lifelong quest, in fact. The heart of spirituality is individual transformation. Changing the world can follow. Having individual sovereignty requires submission to the true Sovereign of the world, God and, by proxy, the prophet of God.
So a power, perfection or “name” of God can, in a small but significant way, represent some quality, capacity and personal attribute that you and I have the potential to develop and manifest. Think of this as a kind of “spiritual empowerment,” inspired and guided by the Baha’i teachings.
Now look at this powerful spiritual dynamic more broadly. In a sense, every attribute of God represented by the name for each of the months in the Baha’i calendar can somehow be translated into human perfections. Godly attributes can become goodly virtues.
In other words, each of us has the capacity to become the bearers of the names and attributes of God, in a limited, yet potentially powerful way. Over time, this spiritualizing process can lead to a metamorphosis, or profound transformation, first of yourself, then of the world around you.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not trying to be preachy, I’m just sharing an insight. I have no authority to pontificate. Life is challenging, which makes self-control and personal sovereignty a full-time job. Fortunately, having such good advice from the Baha’i teachings makes life a lot easier.