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Throughout my spiritual journey, I’ve found this to be true:
Indeed, I was recently reminded of this when I came across a quotation online that’s often erroneously attributed to Albert Einstein, but the actual author is unknown:
“There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us. This universal force is Love. When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force. Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it. Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others. Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness. Love unfolds and reveals. For love we live and die. Love is God and God is Love.“
It made me reflect on how discovering this divine force can only happen through spiritual education.
Why Do We Need Spiritual Education?
Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, wrote: “In the world of existence there is nothing so important as spirit, nothing so essential as the spirit of man. The spirit of man is the most noble of phenomena. The spirit of man is the meeting between man and God. The spirit of man is the animus of human life and the collective center of all human virtues. The spirit of man is the cause of the illumination of this world.”
In God’s creation, the human spirit distinguishes it from the rest of nature. If we don’t use our intellectual and spiritual faculties for our spiritual virtues to develop, and if we don’t make these spiritual virtues manifest in creation, then we don’t fulfill the purpose for which we have been created.
As Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “The world may be likened to the lamp chimney, whereas man is the light. Man himself may be likened to the lamp; his spirit is the light within the lamp.”
Spiritual virtues make the body come alive. The spirit is the reality of life, and the body is the instrument for expressing that life. Therefore, spiritual education helps us develop spiritual virtues that make the spirit of man manifest in the world.
What Is Spiritual Education?
The condition of the world reflects the condition of human nature. Abdu’l-Baha said that spiritual power is one of the two wings of man: “One wing is physical power and material civilization; the other is spiritual power and divine civilization. With one wing only, flight is impossible. Two wings are essential. Therefore, no matter how much material civilization advances, it cannot attain to perfection except through the uplift of spiritual civilization.”
Today we let the material world dominate our minds and seek solutions from material power. But over thousands of years using only material means to find solutions — only one of our two wings — humanity has not found the solution for world peace. It is time for human awakening and to realize that we are more capable to love one another. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
He [man] puts forth arduous labors to fathom terrestrial mysteries but is not at all concerned about knowing the mysteries of the Kingdom, traversing the illimitable fields of the eternal world, becoming informed of the divine realities, discovering the secrets of God, attaining the knowledge of God, witnessing the splendors of the Sun of Truth and realizing the glories of everlasting life. He is unmindful and thoughtless of these… How conducive to his degradation! It is as if a kind and loving father had provided a library of wonderful books for his son in order that he might be informed of the mysteries of creation, at the same time surrounding him with every means of comfort and enjoyment, but the son amuses himself with pebbles and playthings, neglectful of all his father’s gifts and provision.
With this understanding of our divine nature, we can discard the traditional concept of religion: of oppressive authority, of obedience out of fear, of uniformity over diversity. Religion is God’s spiritual education. Through spiritual education, we discover the power of the word of God and the love of God, and we come to love Him. Baha’u’llah wrote: “O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.” Through loving God, the source of everything, we understand how that power can help us transform our lives and improve the world.
Spiritual education helps us understand the connection between spiritual and physical reality, and how to use divine power to help us control our lower nature (our animalistic nature) and raise it to a higher nature (our divine nature). It is like another wing of the educational system where we learn tools and then exercise them to create something new to benefit all — whether it’s inventions, ideas, or acts of kindness. It helps us discover the reality of creation — the power within us, and how it is sustained by God’s power.
It also helps us know how to use the resources of the spiritual realm, such as prayer and meditation, and to ask for divine assistance. God has made everything available for us to achieve our life purpose.
When scientists delve into the knowledge of their predecessors, their intellect is strengthened and they enter a creative mode. In the same way, when we allow ourselves to be submerged in the knowledge of God, our intellectual and spiritual facilities can be strengthened. We become ready to discover more of the divine mysteries and channel our abilities to bring peace and unity to society.
The barriers of separation among humanity are due to lack of spiritual education and knowledge of the universal laws. God’s teachings are not religious doctrine — they are the love of God protecting us, like the rules in a school or in a lab to provide a safe learning environment. Prayer and meditation are the pathway from outward to inward, to the laboratory of divine science — our hearts.
The Baha’i Framework for Spiritual Education
Baha’is believe that through Baha’u’llah’s teachings, God has revealed even more divine knowledge than in the past — his message for this day is like the newest grade in the school of spiritual education.
Because of this, the Baha’i community created what’s called the “Ruhi institute” process, a space for collective learning. The goal of this framework is to enable us to work toward world peace and unity through building spiritually vibrant communities all around the world, where individual transformation can happen through community service, and at the same time, each individual’s effort becomes an active force for community transformation.
This community building process takes place all around the world — in groups of adults learning together, in neighborhood classes for children, in spiritual empowerment programs for pre-teens and teens, and at interfaith prayer gatherings. All these activities take shape according to local culture, interests, and the unique connections between people, leading to diverse manifestations of collective spiritual practice — and the vision for a more peaceful world, founded on the greatest bounty of God: spiritual education.