Today, more and more people recognize that we are spiritual beings, that we can only obtain the ultimate happiness if we learn how to live an inner life. How can we achieve that? What type of knowledge do we need to possess?
Knowledge is of two kinds: existential knowledge and formal knowledge, that is, intuitive knowledge and conceptual knowledge. The knowledge that people generally have of things consists in conceptualization and observation; that is, either the object is conceived through the rational faculty, or through its observation a form is produced in the mirror of the heart. ……The other kind of knowledge, however, which is existential or intuitive knowledge, is like man’s knowledge and awareness of his own self. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions
This tells us we may acquire knowledge through intuition and awareness of self. This type of knowledge is within us, and the reality can only be recognized by observing ourselves inwardly. By gaining this type of knowledge — the reality of ourselves — we learn to live well as a spiritual being, just as material knowledge can help us live well with our physical body. What do we need to observe inwardly to gain this type of knowledge already within us? Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
For example, the mind and the spirit of man are aware of all his states and conditions, of all the parts and members of his body, and of all his physical sensations, as well as of his spiritual powers, perceptions, and conditions. This is an existential knowledge through which man realizes his own condition. He both senses and comprehends it, for the spirit encompasses the body and is aware of its sensations and powers. This knowledge is not the result of effort and acquisition: It is an existential matter; it is pure bounty. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions
This tells us our mind and soul have the power to be aware of our inner states and inner conditions. So, we can ask the questions ourselves:
- Am I aware of the condition of the parts and members of my body, and of my physical sensations that are interconnected with my emotions?
- Am I aware of what is in my mind, and can I see how I respond with actions that are interconnected with the feeling in my heart?
- Am I aware of the emotions in my mind and the feelings in my heart that are the indicators of the condition and strength of my spiritual powers and “possessions”?
- What is the connection between my body and emotions — between my emotions, heart, and mind — can I pay closer attention to the interaction among them?
As Abdu’l-Baha explained, this kind of existential knowledge is within us. We can realize it through observing our inner condition and the interconnectedness between our body, mind, and spirit. God bestows the power of both senses and comprehension in our soul for us to recognize and know what is within ourselves. This self-knowledge is not the result of effort and acquisition — it is through self-awareness.
This awareness is the fundamental observation skill we must exercise in our spiritual living, which is inner life living. Abdu’l-Baha explained in Some Answered Questions that “human spirit has two aspects: one divine and one satanic — that is, it is capable of both the greatest perfection and the greatest deficiency. Should it acquire virtues, it is the noblest of all things; and should it acquire vices, it becomes the most vile.”
The knowledge of our inner being is an existential knowledge, which is the knowledge of our spiritual reality. The condition of our inner being is related to the choices we make and which spiritual powers we chose to use, either divine or evil. It also relates to the virtues we have developed, or not. If we can recognize that what is in our mind is related to the powers we draw from — and to what virtues we have developed — then we might learn to be the master of our mind and be more skillful in using the spiritual power within us for the betterment of the world. This is awakening, through the awareness and recognition of our inner condition.
Spiritual living is not necessarily mystical. Two hearts can share the experience of what they observe within themselves — both the physical and spiritual condition. We share scientific knowledge from what we observe in the physical world. In the same way, we share existential knowledge through what we observe (recognize) by learning about our inner selves.
Up to this point, knowledge, either existential or formal, is encompassed within us. With our rational faculty, we observe and discover both existential (inward) and formal (outward) knowledge. There is another type of knowledge, divine knowledge, which the divine teacher, Baha’u’llah, brought to us. The recognition of divine knowledge with divine intellect is beyond human spirit power. It is bestowed by God.
With the portion of the divine intellect, man can discover the mystery of the Kingdom and bring his inner living into a different spiritual realm. In this dispensation, God truly guides us into a higher spiritual realm, and His grace can help us:
…(this) universal divine Intellect, which transcends nature, is the outpouring grace of the pre-existent Power. It encompasses all existing realities and receives its share of the lights and mysteries of God. It is an all-knowing power, not a power of investigation and sensing. The spiritual power associated with the world of nature is the power of investigation, and it is through investigation that it discovers the realities and properties of things. But the heavenly intellectual power, which is beyond nature, encompasses, knows, and comprehends all things; is aware of the divine mysteries, truths, and inner meanings; and discovers the hidden verities of the Kingdom. This divine intellectual power is confined to the holy Manifestations and the Daysprings of prophethood. A ray of this light falls upon the mirrors of the hearts of the righteous, that they may also receive, through the holy Manifestations, a share and benefit of this power. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions
The Difference Between Divine and Human Power
When the light from the divine illuminates a man’s heart, and his soul receives the divine power, he can sense with his spiritual perceptions, his heart can feel it, and his body has physical sensations of it.
This experience of divine power is different from human power. This brings the utmost joy to a man, which he would never experience with his power. And that is the place where he can understand the deeper meaning of the Holy Writings and discover the mystery of the Kingdom through heavenly knowledge. He feels the Word of God is like living water. He tastes the sweetness and is inebriated with the wine of heavenly knowledge. He feels the heat of the burning fire of love. He recognizes that the tree of knowledge brings forth its fruits in the dominion of the heart.
Spiritual living has many levels, and the progress of the human soul is endless. In this Revelation, through Baha’u’llah, God has opened the door of heaven for man to discover the Ancient Mystery. His bounty and grace are endless.