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The outer sun is a sign or symbol of the inner and ideal Sun of Truth, the Word of God. Inasmuch as this is the century of light, it is evident that the Sun of Reality, the Word, has revealed itself to all humankind. - Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 71.
Shockingly, I said something one of my kids agreed with the other day. He answered “Word!”
Because admittedly I’m just not that cool anymore, and because the slang terms of my youth now seem positively Mesozoic, I surreptitiously looked it up in the Urban Dictionary later. It seems that the word “Word,” when used that way, can mean 1.) well said; or 2.) said in agreement. I think it probably means “Right!” or “I agree!” Those darn kids these days.
It turns out, though, that the “Word!” usage isn’t that new—in fact, it’s pretty ancient. It didn’t just start with hip-hop culture in the recent past—it comes originally from ancient Greek philosophy. In the 5th Century BC, the philosopher Heraclitus used the Greek term “logos” (which literally means “word”) to define his principles of order and knowledge.
After Heraclitus, lots of philosophers latched on to the term logos, which can also mean an opinion, a plea, a reason or an expectation. Additionally, it means “a ground,” which refers to the basic bedrock assumptions of any philosophical or religious system. Your logos, then, defines your fundamental opinions, your baseline beliefs, the spiritual ground you walk on. Word!
Which words define your most deeply-held beliefs?
The Baha'i teachings say that we get our most important words from the prophets of God, the founders of the world’s great Faith, the manifestations of God’s grace to humanity. Those words of God—what Abdu’l-Baha calls “an all-comprehending wisdom”—form the ground of being for our entire lives, our civilizations, our reality:
Surely for everything there is an all-comprehending wisdom; especially for the great and important affairs of life. The supreme and most important happening in the human world is the Manifestation of God and the descent of the law of God. The holy, divine Manifestations did not reveal themselves for the purpose of founding a nation, sect or faction. They did not appear in order that a certain number might acknowledge their prophethood. They did not declare their heavenly mission and message in order to lay the foundation for a religious belief. Even His Holiness Christ did not become manifest that we should merely believe in him as the Christ, follow him and adore his mention. All these are limited in scope and requirement whereas the Reality of Christ is an unlimited essence. The infinite and unlimited Reality cannot be bounded by any limitation. Nay, rather His Holiness Christ appeared in order to illumine the world of humanity, to render the earthly world celestial, to make the human kingdom a realm of angels, to unite the hearts, to enkindle the light of love in human souls, so that such souls might become independent, attaining complete unity and fellowship, turning to God, entering into the divine Kingdom, receiving the bounties and bestowals of God and partaking of the manna from heaven. Through Christ they were intended to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, attain a new spirit and realize the life everlasting. All the holy precepts and the announcements of prophetic laws were for these various and heavenly purposes. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 104.
This fascinating passage from the Baha'i teachings defines a much larger ground of being than most of us can conceive. It asks us to expand our vision and begin to consider the advent of a new prophet of God as not just the foundation of a religious belief system, and not just as the building up of a new group of followers, but as a transcendent event that completely transforms the very essence of earthly life:
…to illumine the world of humanity, to render the earthly world celestial, to make the human kingdom a realm of angels, to unite the hearts, to enkindle the light of love in human souls, so that such souls might become independent, attaining complete unity and fellowship, turning to God, entering into the divine Kingdom, receiving the bounties and bestowals of God and partaking of the manna from heaven. – Ibid.
The Word of God, then, from a Baha’i perspective, actually reinvigorates and re-boots the entire world. When it appears, it changes everything. A transformational new era in human history begins with each new prophet of God, and the energy and power of the Word that prophet brings transmutes the old into the new:
May our eyes be ever awake; may the windows of our minds be flung awide, so that when the messenger appeareth, we may not be deprived of his glory through the veils of preconceived ideas; so that when the heavenly herald shouts the word of God, we may not be deaf; so that when the holy fragrance of the paradise of the Almighty be diffused, our nostrils may not be afflicted with cold. May we be enabled to inhale the perfume, behold the splendor, hearken to the voice and be regenerated with the spirit of the new day. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 171.
Next: In the Beginning was the Word