BAHAISM — A STUDY OF A CONTEMPORARY MOVEMENT
ALBERT R. VAIL
More and more there is being brought to our attention
the news of a great spiritual awakening in Southwestern
Asia, that home of the prophets and birthplace of relig-
ions. At first it was called Babism, and centered around
the brilliant youth, Mirza Ali Mohammed, the Bab, who
after six years of teaching was martyred at Tabriz,
Persia, in 1850. Later, most of his followers accepted
the leadership of Mirza Husain Ali, generally known
today as Bahá'u'lláh, and following his more universal
teaching called themselves Bahais. Bahá'u'lláh after
forty years of heroic teaching in exile and imprisonment
closed his earthly existence at Acca, Syria, in 1892. The
present leader of the movement, Abdul Baha (Abbas
Effendi), under whose guidance the Bahai gospel has
spread with remarkable rapidity into many countries, has
recently spent more than a year in Europe and America,
making its principles known, and through his great kind-
ness, his words of wisdom, his sweet persuasiveness, has
reflected its pure spiritual light. Apparently, it is not so
much an organization as a spiritual attitude, not so much
a new religion as religion renewed. Its followers are
found in all sorts of ecclesiastical organizations. To be
a Bahai a man need not sever his previous religious affili-
ations; he may remain a Buddhist, or Hindoo Braman,
a Parsee, a Mohammedan, or a Christian. He becomes
one of the Bahai Movement when he catches the Bahai
340 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
This is part of a world-wide movement, for without
doubt we stand at the dawn of a great spiritual renais-
sance. New religions are appearing and sweeping through
the world with a vigor that makes the religious awaken-
ing of our age, as William James has said, "analogous
in many respects to the spread of early Christianity,
Buddhism, and Mohammedanism." * William James
referred merely to America. But clearly this is a more
universal revival, a spiritual spring-time, as the Bahais
call it, when the formalism and dogmatism of the ecclesi-
astical winter give way to the flowers, the joy, and the
gentle breezes of true and spiritual religion. For the
reason that the flood of spiritual warmth and sunlight
which appears in such an awakening is so great, estab-
lished institutions, even though they be revived and en-
larged, are unable to contain it all. Hence it clothes
itself in scores and hundreds of new sciences, philanthro-
pies, and reforms. It is an old truth that the newest
and most active wine must often be put into brand-new
Here is a fascinating opportunity for the study of the
psychology of religion, when that mysterious force ap-
pears, as now, in its innate freshness, vigor, and con-
quering power. In fact, it is difficult to see how we can
comprehend religious history in the past without the
study of contemporary experience. It is easy enough
to pronounce the heroes of ancient days illustrious when
the world has with unanimous vote put them among the
company of immortals, but the task of passing judgment
on contemporary men, reforms, and visions, though
harder and more adventurous, is far more interesting.
What is the secret of the growth of this Bahai gospel?
What makes such a religion, in the face of the most
terrible persecution, spread like wild-fire until in a little
more than fifty years it counts its followers by the mill-
1 Memories and Studies; Longmans, Green, & Co., p. 259.
ions? What inspires 20,000 men, women, and children
to become willing martyrs in its path? These are ques-
tions of universal interest, because they get at the heart
of vital religion wherever it may appear.
The Bahai Movement clearly supplies some rather
universal need. Otherwise it could not win men of all
classes, in all countries. This need is in part intellectual.
The Bahai teaching presents a clear and beautifully
ordered interpretation of the universe. But this is of
course not a universal need. A few intellectually culti-
vated men crave philosophical consistency. To the mass
of men it is a secondary concern. They want not so
much new and clear ideas as new life. They are worried
and confused; they cry for peace. They are unhappy;
they long for joy. They are dissatisfied with mere mate-
rial pleasures; they pray for something that is satisfying.
They feel the chains of self -centered living; they long
for release. Their inner self is a prison; they would
exchange it for a palace. To the multitude of mankind,
as to our new philosophers, knowledge is primarily an
instrument for the production of life. This truth is
written all over the history of the world. Men value
religious truth just so far as it gives them this life. In
short, that religion grows and persists which gives to
men regeneration. We have come to distrust this word
"regeneration," because in the past it has been defined
so largely in unethical terms. But seen in its true light
the longing for redemption is simply the deep urge of
an evolving universe, which, pressing through the minds
of men, constrains them to climb from a merely physical
existence to one that is spiritual. All men at a certain
level of development feel this divine urge upward. The
religion which helps them in that climb they greet with
Many movements are popular today because they
offer, with the spiritual, the more material redemption —
342 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
release from sickness and poverty. The Bahai Movement
offers no physical prizes. On the contrary, it declares
the supreme height of spiritual attainment is revealed
when man is enabled to meet sickness, poverty, and
death with unclouded brow, "radiant acquiescence,"
perfect joy. The appeal is a purely spiritual one. It
bids men come and "drink of the pure Wine which has
no likeness, from the Chalice of everlasting Glory" 2
— the wine of union with God.
The Bahai teaching also differs from various spiritual
movements of the day in its exaltation of social redemp-
tion. The body of humanity is sick; it must be healed.
"These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars, shall pass
away and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come." 3 Ine-
quality of opportunity must give way to justice, equality
of the sexes be established, and the fiction of "inferior
races" melt before the dawning light of universal broth-
erhood. It takes for granted that the social conscious-
ness is part of man's native endowment, that every man
at his best wants not only individual regeneration but
the redemption of the world. 4
The Bahai Movement then makes its appeal to the
high human instincts for spiritual, social, universal re-
demption. It promises only the reward of spiritual joy
for the individual and social welfare of the nations.
It spreads with surprising rapidity because to such a
large degree it is fulfilling these exalted promises. Its
converts will often tell you of the power of the spirit
they have won in this new teaching, how it opens the
doors of inspiration within them while they speak, how
2 Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 18; Bahai Publishing Society, Chicago. All
references to the words of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdul Baha are English translations of the
Persian and Arabic originals.
3 Bahá'u'lláh quoted in A Traveller's Narrative, by Edward G. Browne, p.
xxxviii; Cambridge, 1892.
* The social gospel of the Bahai Movement is finely presented in The Modern
Social Religion, by Horace Holley; Sidgwick & Jackson, London and Toronto,
it strengthens them to endure suffering, how it makes
the rewards of the material world look like tinsel and
ashes and sets them afire with the love of the wealth which
Among the oriental Bahais the spiritual results are
said to be the most remarkable. Mr. Charles M. Remey
in his Observations of a Bahai Traveller' 1 ' describes the uni-
versal spirit of hospitality and brotherly love which
prevails in the Bahai communities of Persia and South-
ern Russia. Bahais he had never met would travel a
day's journey to see him on the train. Mr. Sydney
Sprague tells us of the beautiful spirit of comradery
which prevails among the Bahais of India and Burmah. 6
They are gathered from half a dozen religions which
formerly shunned each other as some dreadful poison.
Professor Edward G. Browne describes the remarkable
and unforgettable spiritual atmosphere at Acca. 7 Mr.
Myron Phelps, after his visit to Palestine and the neigh-
boring regions, dwells on the "pure and gentle spirit of
the Bahais — of them all, so far as I have seen them."
He declares there is a spiritual exaltation and certainty
about them which makes it impossible to question the
reality of the unseen in their presence. He tells how
their devotion to each other is so perfect that if an officer
seeking men for martyrdom takes the wrong Bahai,
that Bahai will often not declare the mistake but gladly
die in his friend's stead. 8
In fact, nowhere does the spiritual dynamic in the
movement appear more vividly than in its martyrdoms.
A man of eighty when assaulted cried out, '"We are
from God, and to Him we are returning,' and in the
very moment of his expiration he called out in a loud
6 Bahai Publishing Society, Chicago.
6 A Year with the Bahais in India and Burmah; Priory Press, London.
7 A Traveller's Narrative, p. xxxix.
8 Abbas Eflendi [Abdul Baha], His Life and Teachings; Putnam's, 1902; pp.
344 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
voice with great joy and exultation, 'You have done us
no harm! You are only transmitting us to our Lord!'" 9
A child of eleven is tortured to death by his fanatical
school-mates and teacher. They afterwards said:
"When we were stabbing him he only cried out, 'Oh
Most Glorious God! oh my Supreme Beloved!' never
wavering for an instant, but with greatest joy and de-
light he yielded up his life to his Beloved One." 10 A
youth named Badi was present when Bahá'u'lláh asked
for a volunteer to take a letter to the Shah of Persia
on the chance that it would allay the horror of the mar-
tyrdoms, though it would mean practically certain death
for the bearer of the letter. Badi offered himself; and
the bystanders declared that as he was granted the
commission his face was transfigured. 11 He walked
hundreds of miles, delivered his message in person to the
Shah, was rewarded by being slowly burned to death
during a period of three days, but every moment pre-
served radiant joy. We need only imagine ourselves
in such a position to realize that something has happened
within the martyr's mind. A death like that requires
a spiritual reinforcement most of us have not yet learned
to rely upon.
Abdul Baha gives a beautiful summary of the effects
of this new teaching on the people of Persia, where it is
said one person in every three is a Bahai, showing how
already the movement is achieving its ideal of social
redemption. In speaking to Miss Laura Clifford Barney,
the author of Some Answered Questions, 12 who had spent
a number of years studying the Bahai Movement, he
9 Bahai Martyrdoms in Persia, by Mirza Husain Ali, p. 12; Bahai Publishing
Society, Chicago, 1904.
10 Bahai Martyrdoms in Persia, p. 9.
11 Flowers from the Rose Garden of Acca, p. 81; Bahai Publishing Society,
12 Some Answered Questions, pp. 343-344; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trttbner, &
Co., London, 1908.
turns to her with the exclamation, "Praise be to God,
you have been to Persia, and you have seen how the
Persians, through the holy breezes of Bahá'u'lláh, have
become benevolent toward humanity. Formerly, if
they met any one of another race, they tormented him,
and were filled with the utmost enmity, hatred, and
malevolence; they went so far as to throw dirt at him.
They burned the Gospel and the Old Testament, and if
their hands were polluted by touching these books, they
washed them. Today the greater number of them
recite and chant, as is suitable, the contents of these
two books in their reunions and assemblies, and they
expound their teaching. They show hospitality to their
enemies. These sanguinary wolves have become as gentle
as gazelles in the plains of the love of God. You have
seen their customs and habits, and you have heard them
speak of the manners of former Persians. This trans-
formation of morals, this improvement of conduct and
of words, are they possible otherwise than through the
love of God? No, in the name of God! If, by the help
of science and knowledge, we wished to introduce these
morals and customs, truly it would take a thousand years,
and then they would not be spread throughout the masses.
Today, thanks to the love of God, they are arrived at
with the greatest facility."
Here then is a religion which is succeeding in the
undertaking to which all religion is committed, of edu-
cating men out of the image of the earthly into that of
the heavenly. It is demonstrating its power by enter-
ing what are perhaps the darkest countries of the Orient
and lifting their people toward the light. What is the
secret? What is the method by which it accomplishes
It is all summed up in one word — education. Of
course in outlining the way to the new social order, to
the salvation of the nations, the Bahai teachers suggest
346 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
certain laws, especially for the regulation of excessive
fortunes, the prevention of poverty. In a hundred years,
Abdul Baha believes, poverty will have disappeared from
the civilized world. International laws will be neces-
sary for the settling of international disputes. Laws
should be framed to accomplish everything within the
power of law to accomplish. But this power is limited.
We cannot bring in the Kingdom of God by legislation
alone. Furthermore, it requires education of the social
conscience of men to pass the law and to enforce it.
Hence the first and the last word in the regeneration of
the world must always be — education.
Abdul Baha distinguishes between education which is
material and that which is spiritual. Both are needful.
Material education builds up the body of our material
civilization. Spiritual education, however, is the only
power which can bring to birth that divine civilization
which is its light and soul. Upon this heavenly educa-
tion must the religious teachers concentrate, for therein
lies the hope of humanity.
Spiritual education is the proclamation of spiritual
truth. Of contemporary thinkers none glorify Truth
more than Bahá'u'lláh and Abdul Baha. To them, as
to all liberals, it is the only power under heaven which
can set men free. "The Sun of Truth is the word of
God, upon which depends the training of the people in
the country of thought. It is the Spirit of Reality and
the Water of Life." It is "the Fire of God which, glow-
ing in the hearts of people, burns away all things that are
not of God." 13
Religion in all lands and all ages sets men's spirits
free in so far as it keeps pure this eternal Word of Truth.
The great prophets have given it to men in all its pristine
purity, dressed of course in garments fitted to their
age and time. Their followers continually imprison it
13 Hidden Words, pp. 58, 59.
in the husks of barren and materialistic creed and
ritual. Dogmatic imitations of celestial Truth always
destroy its effectiveness in spiritual regeneration. Be-
hold the history of Buddhism or Mohammedanism or
The truth therefore must be rediscovered and restated
with each new age. The eternal in the message of
the prophets must be dissevered from the merely material
provisions and ordinances. This is possible only to those
who are free from prejudice and possessed by a passion
for Reality. 14 Today it is first necessary to recognize
the value of reason and scientific method. "Weigh care-
fully in the balance of Reason and Science everything
that is presented to you as religion. If it passes this test,
then accept it, for it is truth. If, however, it does not
so conform, reject it, for it is ignorance." For "it is
impossible for religion to be contrary to science even
though some intellects are too weak or too immature
to understand truth." 15 "Religion and science are the
two wings upon which man's intelligence can soar into
the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It
is not possible to fly with one wing alone. Should a man
try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly
fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other
hand with the wing of science, he would make no progress
but fall into the despairing slough of materialism." 16
Religious truth, however, comes primarily through
spiritual insight. It is conformable to reason. It also
transcends the measuring rod of our mere rationalistic
processes and rests ultimately upon spiritual intuition.
The Bahai teachers declare further that the validity of
a man's intuition depends upon the purity of his heart.
We may hear within us not the voice of the spirit but of
the satanic ego. It is only in the spotless mirror of a
14 Paris Addresses of Abdul Baha, p. 134.
15 Ibid., p. 146. 16 Ibid., p. 143.
348 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
pure heart that the rays of the Sun of Truth are reflected
with unbroken clearness and splendor. The purest
and most perfect of men, therefore, attain the highest
degree of certainty in intuitive knowledge. These by the
common testimony of mankind are the great prophets.
To them we turn for the knowledge of Reality. The
true seeker studies their utterances without prejudice,
remembering that "light is good in whatever lamp it is
burning. A rose is beautiful in whatever garden it may
bloom. A star has the same radiance if it shines from
the east or the west." 17 The words of the most illumined
prophets, however, are often imperfectly reported and
always need interpretation. Therefore traditional script-
ure alone will not suffice as a criterion for truth. In fact,
no one of the four accepted standards of truth — the sen-
sory, the rationalistic, the intuitive, or the traditional —
is in itself sufficient. When, however, all are combined
and all agree, we may count their deliverance the truth.
This is at least the nearest approach that the seeker
possesses until, after long spiritual discipline, the voice of
the assurance of the Holy Spirit speaks from the serene
depths of his own pure and God-illumined heart. 18
What then are the spiritual truths which, passing this
test, stand forth as enduring certainty? Or, to narrow
our quest, what are the truths by the teaching of which
the Bahai Movement is effecting the transformation of
its followers' lives? They are very few; in fact they can
all be gathered under one supreme concept — the inherent
unity of the universe. Written on almost every page of
the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdul Baha are the
words, oneness, unity. Their supreme aim is to bring
men to "the Tent of Unity," the "presence of single-
ness," the "ocean of oneness." And "oneness, in its
true significance, means that God alone should be real-
17 Paris Addresses of Abdul Baha, p. 136.
18 See Phelps' Abbas Effendi, p. 149; also Some Answered Questions, p. 886.
ized as the One Power which animates and dominates all
things, which are but manifestations of Its energy." 19
All nature is one and reveals to the seeker the splendor
of the "Ideal King." All the prophets speak one truth,
declare one religion, manifest one God. The individual
man is the potential manifestation of this one God. The
immanence of God in the "servants" is taught with per-
sistent intensity. Hence men of all classes and races
are the "drops of one sea and leaves of one tree."
Many a mystic has beheld God in his own soul. The
Bahai teaching invites men to advance to the more
universal view and behold His light in all humanity.
Abdul Baha was asked, "Why do the guests that visit
you come away with shining countenances?" He an-
swered, "I cannot tell you, but in all those upon whom
I look I see only my Father's face." By the inculcation
of these few but sublime truths would this new gospel
not only regenerate the individual but heal the disease
of war, annul the blight of racial, creedal, and class antag-
onisms, and bring in the "Most Great Peace."
There are however many liberal thinkers in different
parts of the world who are announcing these same truths
of universal religion and universal brotherhood. The
Bahais are part of a great world-movement. Their sig-
nificance lies in the effectiveness of their teaching.
Some teachers present these ideas, and their hearers say,
"How true, how beautiful!" The Bahais proclaim the
same truths, and often those who listen rise as from the
dead, possessed by a new heart, aflame with the love
which moves the world. There must be some dynamic
in their method of presentation.
What is it? Truth regenerates men when they really
believe it. Belief is something far more vital than mere
intellectual assent. We may in a vague way surround
a truth with the light of our intellect; but if that is all,
19 Hidden Words, p. 61.
350 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
it has little effect upon us. The power comes when the
truth surrounds us, grasps our will, kindles our heart,
possesses our thought day and night, conquers and sub-
dues our desires, our ambitions, our hopes, and our loves.
When the truth shines through the horizon of our mind
with such conquering brilliance that we cry, " Woe be to
me if I do not do its bidding!" then we really believe.
Such belief, as Abdul Baha says, invariably regenerates
a man. "If his reality is dark, he will become enlight-
ened; if he is heedless, he will become conscious; if he
is sleeping, he will be awakened; if he is earthly, he will
become heavenly; if he is satanic, he will become divine.
This is the meaning of true belief."
A teacher brings his hearers to this pitch of belief
only when he in like manner believes the truth he is
proclaiming. Belief is contagious. He who has it not
can never transmit it. The Bahais succeed as teachers
because of the intensity of their belief. To them, at
their best, it is all in all — life for the world, the hope of
the ages, the will of God. They die rejoicing, if their
service to that Truth requires it.
The fact of their absolute belief in what they teach is
made apparent by what they have sacrificed to do its
bidding. This is especially clear in the lives of their
three great teachers — the Bab, Bahá'u'lláh, and Abdul
Baha. These teachers say that material things count
for nothing, are so much "water and clay." The whole
material universe is to the spiritual man of no more
consequence, says Abdul Baha, than an insect's wing.
They show they believe it by giving up all physical
comforts. Abdul Baha and Bahá'u'lláh lost all their
property, lived in prisons most of their lives, endured
privations and tortures, often in underground dungeons
the horrors of which, to Western ears, are almost beyond
belief. Yet every day, as Abdul Baha has declared, was
a day of joy. They slept of their own choice on the
floor that the poor might have their beds, ate the scan-
tiest food that the hungry might share their meals, re-
fused to flee from their imprisonment when the gate was
open. Therefore when they declare the life of physical
comfort, of self-centered ease, is nothing, the life of
spiritual love is the one glory of existence, their hearers,
beholding their life, believe them and toss away their
fortunes, their homes, their lives, with the same perfect
joy. Their teachers had put their gospel to the severest
test and had lived it without wavering. Hence, when
the followers heard their prophet proclaiming the word
of God, "If My Will thou seekest, regard not thine own,
that thou mayest die in Me, and I live in thee," 20 they
knew he had proved it true in his own experience and
were constrained to offer "what they had for the hope
of what [God] had." 21 Bahá'u'lláh puts this law of
spiritual education thus: "The effect of the word spoken
by the teacher depends upon his purity of purpose and
his severance." 22 "Guidance hath ever been by words,
but at this time it is by deeds." 23 "The truth of words
is tested by deeds and dependent upon life. Deeds
reveal the station of the man." 24 "He whose words
exceed his acts, know verily that his non-being is better
than his being and death better than his life." 26 In
short, they had power as teachers because they lived the
truth they taught. "The spiritual teacher shows his
belief in his own teaching by himself being what he
recommends to others." He is the Truth.
Here is one of the supreme laws in spiritual pedagogy.
Religious truth is a life. It manifests itself in man as
pure love, wisdom, joy, sublime vitality, peace, far-
reaching service. This divine life in man is but an image,
a reflection of the life of God, which is Reality. The
divine life, therefore, whether in man or God is the same.
20 Hidden Words, p. 5. 21 Ibid., p. 69. * Ibid., p. 62.
» Ibid., p. 53. M Ibid., p. 62. * Ibid., p. 63.
352 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
Now we may describe this life in essay or treatise. That
is a word-picture or photograph of Reality; but it is
quite different from the Life itself. The motive power in
spiritual advancement is love. And we are so made that
we love not abstractions but realities, not cold prin-
ciples but the life incarnate. For that reason phil-
osophic religions are always a failure. No mere "system
of philosophy has ever been able to change the manners
and customs of a people for the better." That is the
reason all the greatest religions of the world gather
around some noble personality — a Moses, a Confucius,
a Buddha, a Zoroaster, a Jesus — who lives the creed he
proclaims. The effect of the prophet in exalting the
lives of the people lies in the degree in which he can say,
"I am the Way, the Truth, the Life." True Buddhism
is the life that was in Buddha; Christianity, the spirit
which was in the Christ. Until he sees the "splendor
of the life" incarnate in a human friend, not one man in a
thousand is able to appreciate its glory and take the hard
steps which lead to the summit of its transfiguration.
Furthermore, this life seems actually to pass from
teacher to listener. This experience has been recorded
in all ages. It is the secret of every inspiring teacher.
His inward glory breaks away and through his words,
his face, his deeds, and enters the minds of those who
hear or see him. In this experience it seems as though
reality were transmissible, as if the divine light could
pass from mind to mind awakening the slumbering divin-
ity in the hearts of men by the warmth and brilliance
of its shining. "The unusual intellects, for instance, of
Plato, Aristotle, Pliny, and Socrates, have not influenced
men so greatly that they have been anxious to sacrifice
their lives for their teachings; whilst some simple men
[have] so moved humanity that thousands of men have
become willing martyrs to uphold their words." 26 A
26 Paris Addresses of Abdul Baha, p. 167.
carpenter, Jesus, was able to light the Roman world
with a veritable spiritual conflagration. When the fire
of the love of God and men blazed forth in his heart it
needs must kindle the hearts of millions, for it is the
nature of such fire that it spreads, and burns from the
minds it touches all that is not of God. Only "such
Fire of Love will assemble all the different peoples into
one court." 27 Only by the transmission of this holy
fire from man to man will the Kingdom of God appear on
Its penetrative and re-creative power lies in this: it
is the light of God by which all things have come into
being. It is creator of the world. It is an easy matter,
therefore, for it to re-create man. This divine life in the
good man is God. "He who desires to associate with
God, let him associate with His beloved; and he who
desires to hear the word of God, let him hear the words
of His chosen ones." 28 God is incarnate in these "chosen
ones" in the degree of their spiritual perfection. The
sun shines on the stone and the polished mirror. But
only the polished mirror reflects its real splendor. The
Sun of Reality, which is God, shines on the hearts of all
men, but only those which are pure, burnished by the
spirit, reflect its Divine Glory. For instance: "Christ
was the mirror; God was the Sun. The Sun appeared
with all its effulgence and splendor in the mirror; that is,
the virtues, the perfections, and the characteristics of
God appeared in Christ. That is what is meant where
it is written in the Bible that 'We have created man in
our own image.' The perfect man is the visage and
image of God, just as the mirror reflects the sun. We
cannot say the sun has come down from heaven and
taken a place in the mirror. The sun is eternal, living in
27 Tablet of the World, from Tarazat and other Tablets, by Bahá'u'lláh, p. 27;
Bahai Publishing Society, Chicago, 1918.
*• Hidden Words, p. 72.
354 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
its own station. It has no ascent or descent; but the
rays and the heat of the sun have become fully reflected
in the clear mirror." 29 The sun is in the mirror; God
is in Christ. Therefore he that hath seen Christ hath
seen the Father.
The Bahais also emphasize an often forgotten truth.
This Light, the Spirit, may be put into a book, clothed
with the transparent garment of words. Some books
contain ideas; others, ideas wrapped and drenched in the
living spirit of Reality. These latter books awaken life,
transmit the fire of love, usher one into God's very pres-
ence, as did their author when he met men in the flesh.
Jesus was incarnate not only in the body of the car-
penter. He was incarnate also in the words of the Gos-
pels. Reading their pages with pure and receptive heart,
we may behold him rising from them in glory. The
Bibles of the world have this power: they preserve as a
living presence the spirit of their author for future gen-
erations. They grasp men's hearts, stir their hopes,
strengthen their wills, as did the prophet himself. They
move the world. A few pages of the Gospels turned the
course of history.
The Bahais, who make a practice of reading as far as
possible the sacred books of all religions, declare the words
of the Bab, of Bahá'u'lláh, and Abdul Baha, possess this
same re-creative power. They illumine, exalt them, re-
veal to them the presence of God, and set them aflame
with His love. They shake their soul awake with the
divine thirst for the "immortal, everlasting chalice" of
union with God. And that is the first aim of spiritual
education in every land, every age. Inertia is the wall
which blocks the pathway of men's spiritual advance-
ment. They are asleep, they must be awakened; spir-
itually dead, they must be called forth from the tombs.
The teacher who can through deeds, through spoken or
29 Abdul Baha in Star of the West, vol. Ill, no. 6, p. 8.
written words, awaken that love of the divine life will
save men. The first step in the Bahai method of spir-
itual education is that of reading inspired words or meet-
ing exalted teachers, until one is able for a moment "to
taste of the honey of union with [God]. If we drink
of this cup we shall forget the whole world." 30
After this arousing from without, man must take the
process into his own hands. His active co-operation is
imperative. God puts great responsibilities upon our
will. When once "the world-illuminating sun of long-
ing dawns forth, and the fire of love becomes ablaze,"
we must quickly sever ourselves from all lower ambi-
tions, from "aught else save God," turn our "face from
the faces of all created beings unto the Holy Face of
[His] Oneness," 31 and pray. Few religious teachers give
to prayer a more central place than the Bahais. The
good Bahais rise, if possible, at dawn with a prayer of
awakening, turn to God in adoration as they dress, spend
a half hour or so in earnest supplication and praise before
breakfast, pray as they leave the house for the daily
business, pray in the stillness of the evening, and drop
away to sleep committing their bodies and spirits into
the hands of God's care and protection. Prayer, they
declare, is one of the chiefest pillars of all religion. With-
out it the highest human life is impossible. To them
prayer is "giving up the outward eye and opening the
inward eye." It is the concentrating of the whole mind
upon that "central radiance" of the universe which is
God. Above all, it is cleansing our motives by absorp-
tion in the thought of God. "A pure heart is like unto
a mirror. Purify it by the polish of Love and Severance
from all else save God, until the Ideal Sun may reflect
therein and the Eternal Morn may dawn." 32 As such
30 Seven Valleys, by Bahá'u'lláh, p. 10; Bahai Publishing Society, Chicago. A
little treatise describing man's journey to union with God.
31 Hidden Words, p. 72. 32 Seven Valleys, p. 28.
356 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
prayer grows perfect, he who is traversing the valleys
towards the "sea of nearness and union" attains a won-
derful knowledge of God. "In an ocean he will see a
drop, and in a drop he will detect the mysteries of an
ocean." "The core of whatever mote thou mayest split,
therein thou wilt find a sun." "He beholds the beauty
of the Friend in everything. In fire he sees the face of
the Beloved; in unreality he perceives the sign of the
Reality." 33 He discerns the "goodness at the heart of
things evil." " He finds life in death and glory in shame."
His character is therefore transfigured. "If he experi-
ences any oppression, he will endure it with patience, and
if he sees any wrath, he will show forth affection." 34
He passes on and on in the divine journey until the self-
centered self vanishes as a shadow. He has "abandoned
the drop of life and reached the Ocean of the Beloved
One." Nay more, he has "plunged into the seas of
Grandeur." He is of those who "swim in the sea of
Spirit and roam in the sacred atmosphere of Light." 35
"The Beauty of the Face unveils itself from the Orient
of the Eternal World and the meaning of 'Everything
is mortal save the Face of God' becomes manifest."
Such is the height to which Bahá'u'lláh would lead his
spiritual students through contact with inspired prophets
and the intensive practice of prayer. But there is noth-
ing approaching other-worldliness about this exalted state.
He who sees God in everything will behold Him first of
all in the neighbor who needs his service, in the great
causes which make for the upbuilding of spiritual civiliza-
tion. Abdul Baha declares that today the supreme con-
firmations of the Holy Spirit come to those who rise to
serve the "Most Great Cause" of universal religion and
universal brotherhood. 36 Immersion in the "sea of
union" is the final preparation for the service of such a
33 Seven Valleys, p. 40. M Ibid., p. 17. » Ibid., p. 36.
34 Tablets of Abdul Baha, passim.
divine cause. It brings that baptism of fire which makes
him in whom it is burning a light to illumine all those
who hear his word or see his face. "The minds of the
lovers are ever aflame with this fire." 37 It transforms
character, destroys ignorance, quickens civilization. It
made a few illiterate fishermen of Galilee the leaders of
the Western world. It is at once the mightiest and the
most contagious force known to man. The Bahai Move-
ment is but a new statement and a new demonstration
of the power of the Holy Spirit in the education of
" Hidden Words, p. 59.