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'Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy

by Abdu'l-Bahá

compiled by Elizabeth Fraser Chamberlain.
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Chapter 3

Dost thou think thy body a small thing, while in thee is enfolded the universe? — (BAHA'O'LLAH IN SEVEN VALLEYS)

CHAPTER III

SOUL, MIND AND SPIRIT

A MEDITATION OF ABDUL BAHA

I walked in the Trocadero Gardens near the Eiffel Tower this morning. The grass was so green, the weather so delicious, I began thinking and became amazed at all the material wonders — amazed at how men deprive and limit themselves. I thought of how the spirit radiates in all the realms of nature according to the receptive degree. In the mineral world the spirit shows itself, but limited to that mineral condition. It is proved through science that the mineral has the power of attraction, the vegetable has the power of growth; life is according to capacity.

Man's spirit comprehends the realities of kingdoms which have no knowledge of him, even as the child in the womb has no knowledge of exterior existence; nevertheless, the mother comprehends the child's existence. The superior kingdom understands the inferior, but that the inferior comprehends it not is no proof of the non-existence of the superior kingdom. In the human world, if we do not understand the divine world, is that a proof that the world of God does

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not exist? When we view the universe we see it as endless space, for we cannot restrict the universe to the lower kingdoms and to man who is here for a few days only, then vanishes.

This physical universe is infinite, and if material existence is endless, how much more so are the worlds of God! When we think of the visible worlds as infinite, how can we think that the worlds of God are limited? There is no beginning and no end to the material or spiritual worlds. Man passes through different phases and when in a lower consciousness he cannot comprehend the consciousness above. When we were in the state of the unborn child we had no knowledge of the world of man. If the vegetable kingdom could speak it would cry out, "Where is the world of man?" We cry out, "Where is the kingdom of the spirit?"

My hope for you is that as you travel through the universe of existence you will ever become acquainted with new and wonderful significances; that your knowledge will ever be increased — knowledge without limitation; then you will understand the realities existing in all kingdoms. Capacity is in accordance with striving and sincerity.

I pray that your inner sight may become clear, that you may be able to perceive things the heedless do not see, that you may understand the infinite worlds of God. A man who has no knowledge of the heavenly universe has missed a portion of his heritage and is like unto

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a stone which knows nothing of humanity. May God open your inner sight, so that you may know his secrets, attain to the highest degree of existence, become manifestors of a spiritual humanity and have your share of the heavenly wisdom that BAHA'O'LLAH bestows. These divine effulgences have enveloped the Orient and Occident, but the eyes know not how to perceive, the intelligences are weak and so men are deprived and are in manifest loss. I commend you to turn towards the kingdom of El-Abha, so that the divine mysteries may be revealed.


I have the greatest desire to speak with you, but if I do not talk with my tongue I commune with my heart and my soul is with you. Without the medium of words it speaks to you of mysteries. Those who understand can converse with me thus for night and day I cry, "Ya Bahá El-Abha," and I proclaim the kingdom of BAHA'O'LLAH so that intelligent hearts can understand the significance. Those turned toward the kingdom perceive the light of BAHA'O'LLAH; but if they are not turned, even should I address them in eloquent and resonant words, it would be like playing a marvelous instrument for the deaf. Thanks be to God, your hearts and intelligence are awakened, so that you hear the divine mention night and day. I hope that you understand what I say, that you comprehend the praises of BAHA'O'LLAH, for I

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have no aim save to proclaim the kingdom of El-Abha; I have no occupation save to explain the book of BAHA'O'LLAH. My hope in you is great, that the song may penetrate.


Some one desires an explanation of the terms soul, mind and spirit. The terminology of ancient and modern philosophers differs. According to the great ancient philosophers the words soul, mind and spirit implied the underlying principles of life; the essence was expressed under different names and these three terms designated the various functions of the absolute reality, or the operations of the one single essence; for instance, when they dealt with the sensations of emotion they called it the soul; when they desired to express that power which discovers the reality of phenomena they gave it the appellation of mind and when they discussed the consciousness which pervades the world of creation they gave it the title of spirit.

A man sees, hears, or speaks — seeing, hearing and speaking being the different functions of the same power or reality which animates him; the eye being the organ of sight, the ear of hearing and the tongue of speech. The one invisible primal essence had various names, but this in brief is the synopsis of the ancient philosophy.

We make a differentiation in these subjects. When we speak of the soul we mean the motive

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power of this physical body which lives under its entire control in accordance with its dictates. If the soul identifies itself with the material world it remains dark, for in the natural world there is corruption, aggression, struggles for existence, greed, darkness, transgression and vice. If the soul remains in this station and moves along these paths it will be the recipient of this darkness; but if it becomes the recipient of the graces of the world of mind, its darkness will be transformed into light, its tyranny into justice, its ignorance into wisdom, its aggression into loving kindness; until it reach the apex. Then there will not remain any struggle for existence. Man will become free from egotism; he will be released from the material world; he will become the personification of justice and virtue, for a sanctified soul illumines humanity and is an honor to mankind, conferring life upon the children of men and suffering all nations to attain to the station of perfect unity. Therefore, we can apply the name "holy soul" to such a one.

There is, however, a faculty in man which unfolds to his vision the secrets of existence. It gives him a power whereby he may investigate the reality of every object. It leads man on and on to the luminous station of divine sublimity and frees him from all the fetters of self, causing him to ascend to the pure heaven of sanctity. This is the power of the mind, for the soul is not, of itself, capable of unrolling the mysteries of phenomena; but the mind can accomplish

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this and therefore it is a power superior to the soul.

There is still another power which is differentiated from that of the soul and mind. This third power is the spirit which is an emanation from the divine bestower; it is the effulgence of the sun of reality, the radiation of the celestial world, the spirit of faith, the spirit His Holiness the Christ refers to when he says, "Those that are born of the flesh are flesh, and those that are born of the spirit are spirit." The spirit is the axis round which the eternal life revolves. It is conducive to everlasting glory and is the cause of the exaltation of humanity.

In another instance His Holiness the Christ says, "Whosoever has not received a portion of the spirit is as dead. Let the dead bury their dead." This means that although the souls of humanity are living, yet if they are deprived of contact with the spirit they are as dead. In another place Christ says, "You must be baptized with the spirit." This spirit of faith is the flame of reality, the life of humanity and the cause of eternal illumination. It inspires man to attain the virtues and perfections of the divine world.

It is my hope that each one of you may become conscious of this flame.


Regard this globe. Its divisions are mineral, vegetable and animal. Man is the result of all these; therefore man is the result of all existence here. He stays fives days on this earth in great

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trouble and hardship. One day he is ill, the next day he is poor, another day he is sad, one day his father dies, the next his son dies. He has not one moment of peace. Think you the whole earth life culminates in one who spends but five days on its surface — days encompassed with difficulties? Those who think thus — verily, are they not the children of error?

But praise be to God, the world of existence does not culminate here. If this were so, existence itself would be sterile. There are many worlds of light. For even as the plant imagines life ends with itself and has no knowledge of our existence, so the materially-minded man has no knowledge of other worlds of consciousness.

But some there are who have found divine intelligence and have obtained spiritual understanding. They have the real sight. They know of the other worlds. That is why the prophets of God forfeited this world, renounced everything material and gave their hearts to the heavenly world. Were there nothing after death, Christ would not have accepted the cross; the prophets of all time would not have sacrificed their lives. They were in touch with the celestial world and they overlooked this transitory life. This is the fruit of the tree of creation — to be freed from the darkness of the planet in order to enter the worlds of light. This is the object of existence; this is the fruit of the tree of humanity.

If not for this fruition, what is the purpose of the tree? For this world is like unto a tree,

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and the fruits thereof are the divine worlds; assuredly the tree of creation is adorned with luscious fruits. Were it not for the existence of the divine worlds, the kingdom of being would be fruitless. Were it not for the inspiration of the breath of the Holy Spirit, this life would be a farce.

May the radiant sea of reality become clear and unveiled of its clouds; may people become freed from the quagmires of the world of matter and soar upward to the city of light.


The test of existence is motion. An object which has in itself the power of motion lives. If motion is withheld growth ceases. That is mortality.

There are different degrees of motion. There is a motion of transit, that is from place to place. For example, the revolution of the earth around the sun; a bird flies from branch to branch. Another kind is the motion of inherent growth, like that of man from the condition of childhood to the estate of manhood, or the development of a tree from the seedling to its full fruition. The third is the motion of condition — the sick man passes from the stage of sickness to the state of health. The fourth motion is that of the spirit. For instance, the child while in the mother's womb has all the potential qualities of the spirit, but those qualities begin to unfold little by little

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as the child is born and grows and develops, finally manifesting all the attributes and qualities of the spirit. The fifth is the motion of the intellect whereby the ignorant become wise; the indifferent, alert; the dark, illuminated and the carnally-minded, spiritual.

In this century a great impelling stream is manifest in the world of intellect. Minds have been stirred by this impulse and have made marvelous progress. The sixth motion is that of the eternal essence. That is to say, all phenomena either step forth from the arena of non-existence into the court of objectivity, or from existence into non-existence. Just as being in motion is the test of life, so being stationary is the test of death and when a moving object stops it retrogrades. To stop means to fall. When a tree stops giving fruit it decays.

In other words, man must throughout all the degrees of life evolve and progress day unto day, for life is continuous. The manifestors of divine law have appeared so that they may confer upon man an ideal power which will enable him to advance along all the degrees of human attainment. The power of the world of existence is limited, while the power of God is unlimited. If the reality of man should not be confirmed by a divine power human progress would terminate.

On the other hand, the divine reality is unlimited and immeasurable and can never stop or deteriorate, therefore the holy souls who are confirmed with this divine power are likewise

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endowed with eternal motion. Their progress becomes unlimited. Day unto day their lives are strengthened, the circle of their comprehension becomes wider, the sphere of their intellects becomes more effectual and their capacities are increased.

I desire for you that ideal power, so that you may come into the stream of uninterrupted motion and never cease progressing.

Day unto day may you inherit eternal qualities, so that you may continue to travel along all the infinite degrees of human and divine attainments.


The spirit of man has two means of action. Sometimes it acts through an intermediary. For instance, the spirit of man sees through the intermediary of the eye, hears through the ear, walks with the help of the legs and smells with the nose.

In order to seize the actions of the rational soul, we need the mediation of the body; but the soul can act directly without this intermediary. Thus, when we sleep the soul sees without the help of the eyes. The auditory nerves are inactive, but the soul hears. Our members are in repose, but the soul is in movement. Our body is in the room, our soul is traveling through all horizons. It is clear, therefore, that the soul evolves with and without the intervention of the material body. In the same way when we study an object, sometimes we observe it with the help of some optical

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instrument and sometimes with the naked eye. Sometimes we move by ourselves, sometimes with the help of a machine of locomotion.

The soul acts in the physical world with the help of the body. When it is freed from the body it acts without an intermediary. We see with our physical eyes, but with the help of our thoughts we can see other lands. America was discovered through the mind. The day the soul becomes detached from the body it has but this second means of action — without intermediary.

It is the same with the holy messengers when they have left the earth. Christ acts to-day without an intermediary. His expressions in the world are numerous. The sun shines once through the medium of the mirror and again without it. Now we are looking at the sun which is reflected in the mirror and when the mirror is broken we look at the sun itself. The body is the horse, the soul is the rider and sometimes the rider moves without a mount. But people who do not reflect say that when the soul has left the body it can no longer act. The divine teachers act more powerfully after the detachment of their souls from the body. In his time the Christ was not able to influence many people. Afterward his influence became widespread. Spirit has no body. Reflect on this subject.


What becomes of the soul after its separation from the body? The question concerns that which

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has a place and that which is placeless. The human body is in space; the soul has no place in space. Space is a quality of material things and that which is not material does not partake of space. The soul, like the intellect, is an abstraction. Intelligence does not partake of the quality of space, though it is related to man's brain. The intellect resides there, but not materially. Search in the brain you will not find the intellect. In the same way though the soul is a resident of the body it is not to be found in the body.

When man dies, his relation with the body ceases. The sun is reflected in the mirror; the mirror reflects the light and brilliancy of the sun, but the sun does not reside in the mirror. It does not enter nor come out of the mirror, nevertheless one sees it in the mirror, so the soul reflects itself in the body. If the mirror be broken the sun does not die. The body is the temporary mirror; the spiritual soul suffers no change, no more than the sun does remaining eternally in its own station. Even as in the world of dreams when all the physical faculties are in abeyance and the soul travels in all realms seeing, hearing, speaking, so when the physical body decomposes, the soul is not affected.

People who know the truth say that the physical body of man is put into motion by the soul and in the same way man is the vital spark of this world. If man had not been put upon this earth the world would be dead. I do not speak of the physical man, but of the human attainments

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which are the adornment of existence. If man did not exist, this world would have no beauty, no eternity, no object. In the same way that the essence of man is the soul, the soul of this world is the subtle growth of spirituality, heavenly morals, divine favors and sacred powers. Were the physical world not accompanied by this spirit, it could not exist. A beautiful creature without a soul signifies nothing. A most sumptuous habitation set in darkness is non-existent. The most wonderfully wrought lamp, if it give no light, is useless. Europe, the most adorned of the continents, has progressed to the apex of refined material civilization. It is a beautifully formed body, — alas, that it has no soul! It is one of the most polished mirrors, — alas, that the sun of truth is not reflected in it! It is an orchard without fruit, — alas, it has no spiritual fragrance.

Arise! Put forth a supreme effort, secure some new and heavenly attraction — that this Europe may be set in motion, for it is lamentable that it should be deprived of the heavenly wisdom; lamentable that it knows nothing of the heavenly rays; that it has not the health of the Holy Spirit; that a being of such great beauty should have no soul; that so exquisite a flower should have no scent; that so magnificent a structure should have no light. Do not remain inactive for one moment, perchance you may shed light in this darkness.

I beg of God to illumine you with the light of his love so that you may enter into the kingdom

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and draw nigh unto the threshold. His bounties are inexhaustible and this world is very dark. It shows forth no attributes save that of animal characteristics, for the world of nature is an emanation of the animal kingdom, not an emanation of the world of humanity. The human world is a spiritual emanation, but if it become devoid of its distinguishing virtue it retrogrades and becomes akin to the animal.

I desire for you such a spiritual effulgence as will give you power to make ideal advancement and enter the kingdom of El-Abha, so that you may become superior to the whole of creation and find an illumination which is eternal. May you become assisted with confirmations that are enduring and attain to an enjoyment of life that is without interruption, without beginning and without end.

I will pray for you.


Some one has asked a question on personality. From what source does it come? What are its attributes? What are its characteristic features or aspects?

Personality is of two kinds. One is the natural or God-given personality which the western thinkers call individuality, the inner aspect of man which is not subject to change; and the other personality is the result of acquired arts, sciences and virtues with which man is decorated. When the God-given virtues are thus adorned, we have character. When the infinite effulgences of

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God are revealed in the individuality of man, then divine attributes, invisible in the rest of creation, become manifest through him and one man becomes the manifestor of knowledge, that is, divine knowledge is revealed to him; another is the dawning place of power; a third is trustworthy; again, one is faithful, and another is merciful. All these attributes are the characteristics of the unchangeable individuality and are divine in origin. These qualifications are loved by all, for they are emanations of the father. They are the significance of his name and attributes, the direct rays of which illuminate the very essence of these qualifications.

As regards the personality which is the result of acquired virtues, let us take this mirror as an example: In the beginning it was a piece of black stone; now, through the process of purification, it has become a mirror and has reflecting power and displays its innate perfections so that they are clearly visible to all. The rock was endowed with a distinct individuality which acquired a personality through the process of education.

The individuality of each created thing is based upon divine wisdom, or in the creation of God there is no defect. However, personality has no element of permanence. It is a slightly changeable quality in man which can be turned in either direction. For if he acquire praiseworthy virtues, these strengthen the individuality of man and call forth his hidden forces; but if he acquire defects, the beauty and simplicity of the individu-

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ality will be lost to him and its God-given qualities will be stifled in the foul atmosphere of self.

It is evident that every human being is primarily pure, for God-created qualities are deposited in him. If man extend his individuality by acquiring sciences, he will become a wise man; if he be engaged in praiseworthy deeds and strive for real knowledge, he will become godlike. If, on the other hand, when God has created him to be just and he practices injustice, he denies his God-given attribute. Man was created to be merciful, he becomes a tyrant; he was created to be kind to all the children of men and given the capacity to confer life, but he becomes the destroyer of life.

Personality is obtained through the conscious effort of man by training and education. A fruitless tree under the influence of a wise gardener becomes fruitful; a slab of marble under the hand of a sculptor becomes a beautiful statue. The ruined places are built up by captains of industry; the ignorant children learn the secrets of phenomena under the tutelage of a wise teacher. The crooked branch becomes straight through cultivation.

It is evident that we have two modes for the expression of life, — individuality and personality, — the former becomes as the son of God and the latter the son of man. As we have shown, the personality of some is illumined, that of others is dark; the personality of some is seen in the manifestation of divine justice, while that of

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others is the embodiment of tyranny. The personality of some is divine guidance made visible, while that of others is choked in the veils of self and desire. That which was hidden in the capability of these souls has been made manifest; just as, for instance, when you sow a seed, that which is hidden in the reality of that seed becomes revealed and unfolded — the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the blossoms and the fruits, which are in the seeds as potentialities. A teacher brings out the potentialities of the pupils. The clouds pour down rain, the sun shines, and that which was hidden in the bosom of the earth springs forth.

The personality of man is developed through education, while his individuality which is divine and heavenly should be his guide.

Poison is harmful to man. It is the nature of man to find enjoyment in that which is gratifying to his senses; if he pursue this path he subverts his individuality to such a degree that the poison of darkness which was the means of death becomes the means of his existence and his nature becomes so degraded and his individuality so deflected that his one purpose in life will be to obtain the death- dealing drug.

What causes the change in the individuality? It comes through the acquirement of evil habits. God originally endowed man with an individuality which enjoyed that which was beneficial and shunned the drug; but man through his evil habits changes this creation and transforms the divine illumination into satanic darkness.

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As long as man is a captive of habit, pursuing the dictates of self and desire, he is vanquished and defeated. This passionate personal ego takes the reins from his hands, crowds out the qualities of the divine ego and changes him into an animal, a creature unable to judge good from evil, or to distinguish light from darkness. He becomes blind to divine attributes, for this acquired individuality, the result of an evil routine of thought, becomes the dominant note of his life.

May all of you be freed from these dangers and delivered from the world of desires that you may enter into the realm of light and become divine, radiant, merciful, Godlike.


All that has been created is for man who is at the apex of creation and who must be thankful for the divine bestowals, so that through his gratitude he may learn to understand life as a divine benefit. If we hold enmity with life, we are ingrates, for our material and spiritual existence is the outward evidences of the divine mercy. Therefore we must be happy and pass our time in praises, appreciating all things. But there is something else: detachment. We can appreciate without attaching ourselves to the things of this world. It sometimes happens that if a man loses his fortune he is so disheartened that he dies or becomes insane. While enjoying the things of this world

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we must remember that one day we shall have to do without them.

Attach not thyself to anything unless in it thou seest the reality of God — this is the first step into the court of eternity. The earth life lasts but a short time, even its benefits are transitory; that which is temporary does not deserve our heart's attachment.

Material favors sometimes deprive us of spiritual favors and material rest of spiritual rest. A rich man said to Christ, "I would fain be thy disciple." "Go and put into practice the ten commandments," replied the Christ." "But I know them by heart and have always practiced them." "Then sell what thou hast and take up thy cross and follow me." The man returned to his home. But the rich who are attracted through their hearts have the spark and are like unto brilliant torches. BAHA'O'LLAH has spoken of the importance of their station. Certain rich ones have sacrificed their possessions and even their lives for this cause. Riches did not prove an obstacle for them and they are like unto stars in the heaven of both worlds — flames of reality. Detachment does not consist in setting fire to one's house, or becoming bankrupt or throwing one's fortune out the window, or even giving away all one's possessions. Detachment consists in refraining from letting our possessions possess us. A prosperous merchant who is not absorbed in his business knows severance. A banker whose

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occupation does not prevent him from serving humanity is severed. A poor man can be attached to a small thing.

A rich man and a poor man lived in the same town. One day the poor man said to the rich man, "I want to go to the Holy Land." The rich man replied, "Very good, I will go also," and they started from the town and began their pilgrimage. But night fell and the poor man said, "Let us return to our houses to pass the night." The rich man replied, "We have started for the Holy Land and must not now return." The poor man said, "The Holy Land is a long distance to travel on foot. I have a donkey, I will go and fetch it." "What?' replied the rich man, "are you not ashamed? I leave all my possessions to go on this pilgrimage and you wish to return to get your donkey! I have abandoned with joy my whole fortune. Your whole wealth consists of a donkey and you cannot leave it!" You see that fortune is not necessarily an impediment. The rich man who is thus detached is near to reality. There are many rich people who are severed and many poor who are not.

May our spirit be at rest!


God has given man a heart and the heart must have some attachment. We have proved that nothing is completely worthy of our heart's devotion save reality, for all else is destined to perish. Therefore the heart is never at rest and never

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finds real joy and happiness until it attaches itself to the eternal. How foolish the bird that builds its nest in a tree that may perish when it could build its nest in an ever-verdant garden of paradise.

Man must attach himself to an infinite reality, so that his glory, his joy, and his progress may be infinite. Only the spirit is real; everything else is as shadow. All bodies are disintegrated in the end; only reality subsists. All physical perfections come to an end; but the divine virtues are infinite. How many kings have flourished in luxury and in a brief moment all has disappeared! Their glory and their honor are forgotten. Where are all these sovereigns now? But those who have been servants of the divine beauty are never forgotten. The result of their works is everywhere visible. What king is there of two thousand years ago whose kingdom has lived in the hearts? But those disciples who were devoted to God — poor people who had neither fortune nor position — are to-day trees bearing fruit. Their banner is raised higher every day.

When they imprisoned Peter, in the time of Nero, the Roman empire was very powerful, extending from Europe to Asia. Few empires can be compared to what Rome was. Peter and another disciple arrived in Rome a chain around their necks and reduced to the last extremity. But they have triumphed over Nero. His banner is now in the dust whereas theirs is on the summit.

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These two beings were severed from all else save God, and Nero was attached to temporal power. Nothing has remained of him save the mention of his iniquities, but the works of the disciples eternally prevail!

Therefore let us yearn for the kingdom of God, so that our works may bear eternal fruit. Otherwise the flower will be lost. Attach your hearts to BAHA'O'LLAH. He is the eternal glory. Then from day to day you will become more enlightened; day by day your efforts will increase; day by day your work will become universal, and day by day your horizons will broaden until in the end they will embrace the universe.

Glory be upon the people of glory.


My fatigue does not matter — as long as I find loving souls like yourselves, my heart is happy. My hope is that this city may become illumined and pulsate with the health of the Holy Spirit.

The sea of materialism is at flood tide and all the nations of the world are immersed in it. It is my hope that the fish will rise to the surface, so that they may behold other wondrous aspects of creation; for the people are like unto the fish swimming in the deep — ignorant of the rest of the universe. May they be transformed into birds of the air and soar in the nether atmosphere! May they break all bonds of limitation, so that they can observe from the height the lordly


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processions of infinite creatures; they will see the blue heavens studded with luminous stars, rivers flowing with salubrious water, gardens bedecked with fragrant flowers, trees adorned with blossoms and fruits, birds singing songs of light, humanity ever striving forward, every atom of existence breathing life and force — the universe of God a wonderful theatre upon the stage of which every created thing plays its part.

If you strive unceasingly, if you make a great effort, if you put forward extraordinary exertion, then these people will be awakened, their eyes will be opened and their ears unstopped, so that they can hear the melodious music which streams down from the supreme concourse, the notes and strains of which have been played from all eternity and will be played through all eternity ever enrapturing with the thousand harmonious accompaniments the pure in heart.

It is my hope that you may be the means of changing this wild jungle of materialism into a fruitful orchard, this thorny thicket into a rose garden. May Europe become the divine university wherein heavenly sciences and divine arts are taught and learned!

By heavenly sciences I mean divine philosophy and spiritual teachings; by the songs and fragrances of the rose garden I mean the mysteries of the kingdom of kingdoms, the secrets of the degrees of existence and the knowledge of the results of human life.


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This universe is not created through the fortuitous concurrences of atoms; it is created by a great law which decrees that the tree bring forth certain definite fruit. Verily, this universe contains many worlds of which we know nothing.

Is the materialistic philosophy of this Europe, so much praised by contemporary agnostics and atheists, a philosophy to be admired? Are these people wooers of the spirit? Nay, they have drowned that capacity and are out of touch with the kingdom of reality. Is this an enviable goal to which humanity may aspire? Is this a system of philosophy through which people may become glorified? No, by God, the philosophy of glory needs no scholastic curriculum.

Strive so that these people may be released from their nature worship and become like sons of wisdom from the city of light.

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