The Eternal Quest for God: Chapter 7
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Striving Towards Perfection: Dynamics of Human Transformation

The method

Everything is perfectly arranged: man stands at the end of imperfection (i.e. he is the fruit of the world of creation and is possessed of all its qualities) and at the beginning of perfection (i.e. he is potentially possessed of the capacity for all the spiritual qualities of the world of the Kingdom). The instrument through which he can set in motion and operate the process whereby his divine potentialities will be manifested, is his power of understanding, typical of human nature. Man can avail himself of his power of understanding so that he may recognize the Manifestation of God, who manifests, within the reach of human beings, the spiritual qualities and the creative forces of the world of the Kingdom, and who in doing do bestows upon mankind two great bounties:

  1. A set of teachings and laws representing a reflection of the great laws and truths of the world of the Kingdom; whoever adheres to these teachings and observes these laws will have concrete results in his own life: personal excellence and collective progress.

  2. The forces required for man on the one hand to conquer in himself such material qualities as belong to his animal nature and hamper his transformation, and on the other to both manifest the qualities of his divine nature and achieve a deeper comprehension of the Revelation. `This quickening spirit emanates spontaneously from the Sun of Truth',[1] says `Abdu'l-Bahá. These two great bounties are often referred to, in the Bahá'í texts, as the bounty of the Holy Spirit[2] and the spirit of faith.[3]

The Manifestation of God thus reveals to mankind the path and the method of its transformation, and at the same time puts at its disposal the powers -- if mankind is but willing to reap them -- through which this transformation may occur. Mankind can obtain such powers only through its willing compliance with the method prescribed by the Manifestation.[4]

The transformation of man from his animal nature to his divine nature -- or spiritual progress -- is the highest evolutional stage attained upon the earth by one who is born from the composition of elemental atoms and who has successively traversed, in the course of long ages, the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms. Recognizing the Manifestation of God is there-fore `the first step in the path of God, but the distance of the way is great...'[5]

Since this transformation is a process of growth, it complies with the laws of evolution in the same way as any other process of this kind: it is gradual and may be compared to the growth of a `seed',[6] which, cultivated by the farmer, germinates, grows and yields its fruits by virtue of the energy poured out by the sun, and of the mineral substances absorbed from the air and the soil -- thus expressing its potential qualities. This is one of the metaphors `Abdu'l-Bahá suggests in order to explain the dynamics of spiritual transformation.[7]

Other metaphors are as follows: a stone which must be cleared from `the dust and dross of this world', so that it may mirror forth the light of the sun; a `sterile soil' which must be laboriously tilled so that it may become fertile and yield its fruits. One of the most suggestive amongst these metaphors is that of light. `Abdu'l-Bahá refers to God as `Supreme... Centre of Light' and says: `the more we turn to this Centre of Light, the greater will be our capacity'. And moreover:'... spiritual advancement may be likened to the light of the early dawn. Although this dawn light is dim and pale, a wise man who views the march of the sunrise at its very beginning can foretell the ascendancy of the sun in its full glory and effulgence. He knows for a certainty that it is the beginning of its manifestation and that later it will assume great power and potency.'[8]

He likens moreover `the brilliant realities and sanctified spirits... to a shining crescent... [This crescent], He writes, has one face turned toward the Sun of Truth, and another face opposite to the contingent world. The journey of this crescent in the heaven of the universe ends in (becoming) full moon. That is, the face of it which is turned toward the divine world becomes also opposite to the contingent world, and by this, both its merciful and spiritual, as well as contingent perfections become complete'.[9]

Finally, He describes this process as a process of approaching God, and He adds: `nearness is likeness',[10] because `The prophets teach us that the only way to approach God is by characterizing ourselves with the attributes of divinity'. Such can (and must) be this likeness that one's existence may become `non existence', `for when the ray -- `Abdu'l-Bahá writes -- returneth to the sun, it is wiped out, and when the drop cometh to the sea, it vanisheth and when the true lover finds his Beloved, he yieldeth up his soul'.[11]

Prerequisites of human transformation

The Bahá'í texts offer so much advises and so many admonitions concerning the prerequisites of human transformation, that it would be impossible to list them all. Besides, there would be the risk of making arid and cold that which -- written in the peer-less, metaphoric language typical of revelation -- has the capacity not only to make the concepts clear to any searching mind, but also to awaken in receptive hearts such feelings whereby the inherent obstacles of this process may be overcome. We will therefore content ourselves with discussing just a few of the topics which seem both vital and easier to understand and set forth.

Voluntary submission to the will of God

Three are `the most holy words' prescribed by God for human souls when they are brought to existence, as prerequisites for the quickening of their inherent divine potentialities: `Prefer not your own will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings.'[12]

These words are expressive of that voluntary and conscious `submission to' the `command' or will of God which -- accepted for the sake of His love and abundantly exemplified in the lives of the Manifestations of God, who have always willingly accepted any affliction in the fulfillment of their missions -- is conducive to detachment from `worldly desires and cravings' and to the attainment of the `nearness of God'.


`Abdu'l-Bahá says, `Nearness to God is dependent upon purity of the heart and exhilaration of the spirit through the glad tidings of the Kingdom.' In this context, it seems that `pure' is anyone possessed -- either because he never lost it or because he regained it -- of such inborn susceptibility as enables him, on the one hand, to rejoice in his inmost heart at that which satisfies the demands of his divine nature drawing his soul closer to the world of the Kingdom, and, on the other, to suffer because of that which draws his soul far away from that same spiritual world. A pure soul, therefore, is strongly attracted towards the words and the teachings of the Manifestation of God, in that they are the expressions of the world of the Kingdom (such is the `exhilaration of the spirit through the glad tidings of the Kingdom'[14]). As that pure soul follows this attraction, it will advance along the path of its search for the Kingdom.


Any pure and attracted person who is seeking the world of the Kingdom, should be `lofty in endeavour'; in fact `as long as he lacks susceptibility to divine influences, he is incapable of reflecting the light and assimilating its benefits' and therefore `he must seek capacity and develop readiness'. This is the path of spiritual perfection, through which two capacities may be achieved: on the one hand, `capacity, susceptibility and worthiness that [he] may hear the call of the glad tidings of the Kingdom', i.e. the capacity of understanding the teachings of the Manifestation; on the other, the `susceptibility to the divine influences', so that he may `reflect the light and assimilate its benefits',[15] i.e. the capacity of expressing the divine virtues in his life. It is certainly not a quick and sudden transformation; on the contrary, it is often a slow and troublesome change, made possible through constant endeavour in one's effort to rise above one's inherent animal nature, as well as through such generous divine bounties as are the teachings of the Manifestation and the forces of the Holy Spirit and of the spirit of faith.

Directions of human endeavours

When we study the Bahá'í texts, we will immediately find certain vital prerequisites a man should meet if he is to progress along the path of spirituality:

  1. The first prerequisite is `the knowledge of God', i.e. the recognition of the Manifestation of God. In the absence of such a prerequisite, spiritual life is sorely crippled: `his cry shall not be heard by God',[16] sound the dramatic warning uttered by Bahá'u'lláh.

  2. The second prerequisite is `steadfastness in His love' and `in His Cause'. Whoever aims at the gift of such `steadfastness',[17] should recognize that `He [God] shall not be asked of His doings'. In other words, he should recognize the infallibility of the Manifestation of God and fulfil the duty of surrendering to His will. Through such recognition he will be delivered `from all manner of doubt and perplexity'18 and will attain a condition which is referred to as `knowledge'.[19]

    Whoever wants to attain the bounty of such steadfastness is also recommended to meditate upon the words of the Manifestation, so that he may grasp their inner meanings and draw from their creative forces.

  3. The third prerequisite is strict observance of certain prescribed commandments:[20] daily prayer, daily reading of and pondering upon the Holy Writings, so that the truths enshrined within them may be discovered; mirroring forth the moral and spiritual teachings of the Manifestation in everyday life; teaching the Faith with the twofold purpose of assisting other souls so that they may find their way towards God and of contributing to bringing about the unity of mankind in the world.[21]

The special meaning of the Revealed Word

Prayer and the perusal of the Holy Texts are an instrument of spiritual progress, because the words revealed by the Manifestations of God have a special meaning, as has been previously explained. In fact, the Manifestations of God translate their own direct knowledge of the world of the Kingdom and of the world of creation into words which are within the reach of human understanding -- words which they convey to mankind through their utterances and Writings. It is clear, therefore, that such words are a vital link between mankind and the world of the Kingdom.

The messages of the Manifestations of God are worded quite differently from those of ordinary human beings. The Manifestations mostly avail themselves of metaphors, because in so doing they can convey spiritual truths which could not be described through such univocal language as is rightly required and usually used in scientific activity. The topic of the literary style of the Bahá'í texts is beyond our scope.[22]

It is enough here to quote an important statement by `Abdu'l-Bahá, explaining how the comprehension of such metaphors is always gradual and adequate to the spiritual capacities and susceptibilities of the audience: `Consider how the parable makes attainment dependent upon capacity. Unless capacity is developed, the summons of the Kingdom cannot reach the ear, the light of the Sun of Truth will not be observed, and the fragrances of the rose garden of inner significance will be lost.'[23]

Through prayer -- whose daily practice is recommended in the Bahá'í texts using those numerous prayers which, revealed as they are, by the Manifestation of God, are perfectly worded -- a goal is pursued which, as a man advances in his spiritual growth, rises from an invocation aimed at obtaining satisfaction of a material need, to a supplication for aid so that a spiritual gift may be obtained, to the expression of feelings of contrition for a past transgression, or of feelings of personal helplessness, to an anthem of praise and thanksgiving to God for His abundantly bestowed bounties, to the contemplation of His manifest Beauty in the world of creation and in one's own innermost being.[24]

The Bahá'í texts explain, moreover, that true prayer, like any other activity of human thought, cannot remain in the plane of thought only, but should be translated into actions, otherwise it is utterly useless.

Therefore, the devout reading or chanting of the specially revealed prayers of the Manifestations of God is a means through which such spiritual forces may be obtained as are required to attain the spiritual goals that those prayers recommend and that are being eagerly pursued.

Meditation on the Holy Writings is very similar to prayer in its meaning. Through this important practice, a deeper under-standing of the truths enshrined within those same words may be achieved, so that they may be mirrored forth in daily life.

Finally, through the perusal of the Holy Writings (a practice which implies a mental activity aiming at understanding their contents) a deeper knowledge of the Writings and the Teachings may be obtained, so that they may be practised and taught more easily.

Serving mankind

Teaching the Faith is viewed in the Bahá'í texts as `the most meritorious of all deeds'.[25]

Many important spiritual purposes are fulfilled through this activity:

  1. First of all, teaching the Faith is viewed as an activity aiming at drawing a soul closer to God and thus to itself. If the Manifestations of God mirror forth all the attributes of God, if they are the source of all the bounties vouchsafed by God unto mankind, there is no higher goal for a man to aim for, than recognizing them and being exposed to their quickening influence. Could any other greater gift be bestowed upon a soul than assisting it in recognizing such an exalted Being?

  2. Secondly, whoever recognizes the Manifestation of God will immediately put himself at the service of His primal purpose: to realize the unity of mankind. Therefore, when the followers of Bahá'u'lláh teach the Faith, they fulfil another of the duties prescribed by Him: to devote all their energies to the attainment of the unity of mankind.

  3. Finally, `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `... in spiritual training it is impossible for an imperfect one to perfect another, or train another, unless he first conquer his own self and desire, and become purified from selfish iniquities in order to become capable of Merciful Splendours'.[26]26

Indeed, when we study the Bahá'í texts on topic of teaching, we come to understand that this vital task requires wisdom, tolerance, kindness, patience, tact, moderation, love, sincerity, consistency, a good character and holy deeds, courage, dignity, humility, modesty and many other virtues. Therefore while the spiritual seeker strains every nerve so that he may befittingly deliver the Message, he finds a training ground and a strong motivation for the inner improvement he is aiming at and a good opportunity to practice in his life those same spiritual truths he is attracted to.

However, the Bahá'í texts suggest many other deeds of service to humanity. They offer two kinds of directives: on the one hand, they recommend, through exhortations and admonitions, those virtues which should be acquired so that mankind may be befittingly served; on the other, they offer practical instructions in view of such service. The former inculcate a standard of behaviour and kindle in the hearts a yearning to rise up to those heights; the latter outline those practical steps through which the standards recommended may be realized.

An inspiring epitome of the former is the following exhortation addressed by Bahá'u'lláh to one of His sons, to which Rúhíyyih Rabbani refers as `the most succinct and perfect guide to what should constitute the character of a true human being':[27]

`Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbour, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgement, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength to the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility'.[28]

Many passages in the Bahá'í texts offer practical counsels. The directions suggested, the examples proposed and the situations provided for are so various, that any seeker is immediately faced by a difficulty he must learn to overcome. As this new era is characterized by the spiritual maturity of mankind, decisions and choices are always left to the responsibility of individuals. Whoever looks in the Bahá'í texts for precise and binding recipes, a sort of casuistry to comply with in the various specific circumstances of life, will be disappointed. The Bahá'í texts establish only a few fundamental and universal principles, and it is on this ground that everyone must learn how to manage his own life in full consciousness and freedom. It is the duty of everyone to identify each time, in his own specific and peculiar condition, the best decision to take so that the sought-after `good pleasure of [the] Beloved'29 may be obtained. The best thing to do is to identify the `spiritual principles or what some call human values',[30] because on that ground solutions for any personal or social problem may be found. When these are identified, then the context should be raised `to the level of principle, as distinct from pure pragmatism'.30 Here lies the secret of such a life in the service of mankind as is an indispensable prerequisite of spiritual progress.

It would be impossible to enumerate all the practical counsels offered by the Bahá'í texts for the different circumstances of our daily lives. Such a comprehensive view may be conceived and such intimate feelings may be kindled only from an open-minded and thorough perusal of the Holy Writings. Whether within the family, or in the sphere of studies or job, in the sociopolitical field or in interpersonal relationships, a spiritual seeker will never lose sight of his goal, which is the world of the Kingdom. Wherever he happens to act, he will strive so that he may show forth those qualities of the world of the Kingdom he is seeking for and discovering in his own inner self. These qualities are indeed both `means'[31]

for the entrance into that spiritual Kingdom and `qualifications of the divinely enlightened souls',[32] who have already attained to it. And in the course of his efforts, he will not waste his time in metaphysical hairsplitting or in strange occult practices. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Averse is God from putting aught into effect except through its (material) means', and moreover He says that `God hath made the achievement of everything conditional upon material means.'[33]

And when an inquirer asked of `Abdu'l-Bahá, what is the relationship between material means and prayer, He answered:

`Prayer is like the spirit and material means are like the human hand. The spirit operateth through the instrumentality of the hand. Although the one True God is the All-Provider, it is the earth which is the means to supply sustenance... . but when sustenance is decreed it becometh available, whatever the means may be. When man refuseth to use material means, he is like a thirsty one who seeketh to quench his thirst through means other than water or other liquids. The Almighty Lord is the provider of water, and its maker, and hath decreed that it be used to quench man's thirst, but its use is dependent upon His Will. If it should not be in conformity with His Will, man is afflicted with a thirst which the oceans cannot quench.'[34]

The Bahá'í texts clearly recommend that human goals be achieved through such instruments as the world itself offers. Therefore, scientific discoveries can and must be employed. Many passages in the Bahá'í texts will be starting points for the most acute minds, in their endeavours to promote science -- psychology, sociology, anthropology, medicine and others -- for the benefit of mankind in its pursuance of physical, intellectual and spiritual progress, both individual and collective.

Means of the entrance into the Kingdom

`Abdu'l-Bahá mentions in one of His talks seven `means' that should be achieved for the purpose of spiritual transformation. These `means' are: `... the knowledge of God... the love of God... faith... philanthropic deeds... self- sacrifice... severance from this world... sanctity and holiness'.[35]

He says elsewhere: `Entrance into the Kingdom is through the love of God, through detachment, through holiness and chastity, through truthfulness, purity, steadfastness, faithfulness and the sacrifice of life.'[36]

Qualifications of the enlightened souls

`Abdu'l-Bahá enumerates, in one of His writings,
`seven qualifications of the divinely enlightened souls:

`Knowledge. Man must attain the knowledge of God.



`Truthfulness. Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity. Without truthfulness, progress and success in all the worlds of God are impossible for a soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also become realized.

`Uprightness. And this is one of the greatest divine attainments.

`Fidelity. This is also a beautiful trait of the heavenly man.

`Evanescence or humility. That is to say, man must become evanescent in God. He must forget his own selfish conditions that he may thus arise to the station of sacrifice... When he attains to this station, the confirmations of the Holy Spirit will surely reach him.'[37]

It is clear that the `means' for `entrance into the Kingdom' and for spiritual transformation more or less coincide with such `qualifications of the divinely enlightened souls' as are the fruits of the process of spiritual transformation. It would therefore seem a vicious circle: these means are required for `entrance into the Kingdom'[38] and for spiritual transformation; at the same time they are themselves `merciful gifts'[39] i.e. the fruits of the process. However, what is up to the seeker is his choice between the world of creation and the world of the Kingdom; this is the first step. `Knock, and the door shall be opened to you'[40] reechoes the comforting warning uttered by Christ. `And whoso maketh efforts for Us, in Our ways will We guide them',[41] says the Qur'án. `... He, verily, will aid every one that aideth Him, and will remember every one that remembereth Him',[42] writes Bahá'u'lláh; and moreover: `He is the prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God.'[43]

For the very reason that the world of the Kingdom is being sought; that the attraction towards that spiritual Kingdom has been preferred to the attraction towards the world of nature; that the required steps are being taken so that such an attraction may be favoured -- steps which are mostly practical and by no means mysterious -- for all those reasons, `merciful gifts... and powers' are received as a reward. As those efforts continue, they are rewarded through a more bountiful outpouring of those same `gifts' and an increasing rate of spiritual growth. At the beginning that growth is slow and painful, but when the method has been learnt through action, the progress will be faster and easier, supported as it is by those `merciful gifts' (which `Abdu'l-Bahá also describes as `powers... [or] forces...') through which spiritual progress is promoted.[44]

Obstacles to human transformation

The Bahá'í texts mention some important obstacles in the path of spirituality: these are the self, or self-centredness, estrangement, malice, envy, backbiting, excess of words.

Self or selfcentredness[45]

`Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `self-love... is a strange trait and the means for the destruction of many important souls in the world. If a man be imbued with all qualities but be selfish, all the other virtues will fade or pass away and eventually he will grow worse'.[46]

He writes moreover: `... there is no veil more obstructive than the self, and however tenuous that veil may be, at the last it will completely shut a person out, and deprive him of his portion of eternal grace.' And He wrote to two inquirers: `Do all you can to become wholly weary of self, and bind yourselves to that Countenance of Splendours; and once ye have reached such heights of servitude, ye will find, gathered within your shadow, all created things. This is boundless grace; this is the life that dieth not...'47

He refers moreover to `the rust of egotism' and tells of `... the subtlety of the ego of man. It is the Tempter (the subtle serpent of the mind) and the poor soul not entirely emancipated from its suggestions is deceived until entirely severed from all save God.'[48] Whereas attraction towards the world of the Kingdom is the first step in the process of spiritual growth, self-centredness is exactly the opposite. It is attraction towards the natal self, the animal nature in man belonging to that same plane of existence which must be consciously and of one's own free-will overcome, so that the divine world of the Kingdom may be attained. Self-centredness leads a man to put his powers of understanding at the service of his own natal self, expressing and developing its obscure attributes: such a man will thus yield to his own `lusts and corrupts inclinations' and will be numbered among `the lost'.[49]

Conversely, whoever is attracted to the world of the Kingdom yearns after its qualities. In fact, `nearness is likeness', and `nearness to God necessitates sacrifice of the self'.[50]

A selfish man is inclined to consider himself `a little better than, a little superior to, the rest'; `Abdu'l-Bahá says that such a man `is in a dangerous position'.[51]

Our self is therefore our real enemy, and `Life is a constant struggle, not only against forces around us, but above all against our own "ego"'.[52]51 However, `... the complete and entire elimination of the ego would imply perfection, which man can never completely attain. But the ego can and should ever-increasingly be subordinated to the enlightened soul of man. This is what spiritual progress implies.'[53]


Estrangement is a kind of self-centredness. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `When the souls become separated and selfish, the divine bounties do not descend, and the light of the Supreme Concourse are no longer reflected even though the bodies meet together.'[54]

Quoting the Qur'án, He writes: `"Verily God loveth those who, as though they were a solid wall, do battle for His Cause in serried lines!"... meaning crowded and pressed together, one locked to the next, each supporting his fellows,'[55] because cooperation is the mainspring of civilization; whoever is not willing to cooperate with his fellowmen is opposing the progress of civilization in the world, which is one of the fundamental purposes of human life.


Bahá'u'lláh writes: `... malice is a grievous malady which depriveth man from recognizing the Great Being, and debarreth him from the splendours of the sun of certitude. We pray and hope that through the grace and mercy of God He may remove this mighty obstacle.' In the concept of malice, an inclination to transgression is implied, a propensity to act wickedly, to harm people, to indulge in vices, sustained by a conscious will, an inner gratification, a capacity of dissimulation, a customary wont.[56]

This attitude is exactly the opposite of such sincere submission to the laws and such purity of heart as are the indispensable prerequisites of anyone who is struggling for his own spiritual transformation.


Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Know, verily, the heart wherein the least remnant of envy yet lingers, shall never attain My everlasting dominion, nor inhale the sweet savours of holiness breathing from my Kingdom of sanctity.'57

In fact envy -- characterized as it is by regret and resentment when faced with the happiness, the well-being, the prosperity of other people -- is the negation of that love `Abdu'l-Bahá thus refers to: `Until love takes possession of the heart, no other divine bounty can be revealed in it.' `Abdu'l-Bahá says elsewhere that one of the most important reasons why Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus was because he was envious of Peter the Apostle being so highly considered by Christ.[58]57


Bahá'u'lláh writes: `... backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul' and forbids it specifically in His great Book of Laws.[59]

How could a society be united whose members, far from being mutually sincere and frank, indulge in backbiting, proving themeselves disloyal towards each other? Since backbiting is conducive to disunity, it is a highly prejudicial deed to both individuals and society.

Exceeding in words

Bahá'u'lláh writes: `he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life'.[60]

The glory of a man and the beginning of his spiritual life is in his deeds. Good words, in this respect, are only an obstacle, because, when they are not translated into actions, they imply hypocrisy, cowardliness and boastfulness.

* * *

The concept is now very clear: the prerequisite of spiritual progress is the attainment of the bounties of the Holy Spirit through the knowledge and the love of the Manifestation of God, and the observance of the laws of His Revelation. Such a condition is realized whenever a man submits his own will to that of the Manifestation, forgets his own little self and circles around the Self of God, i.e. His Manifestation. Whosoever gravitates towards his own self, and does not love his fellow men, and does not act righteously, and keeps aloof from society, will not achieve such spiritual forces as are required for his own spiritual transformation. He will be like a vessel whose sails are stricken, or upwind: that vessel will toil along and sooner or later capsize.

Meanings of sorrow and sacrifice

The process of spiritual growth requires detachment from the natal self and the turning to the Self of God, i.e. His Manifestation. This is the meaning of sacrifice, a sacrifice which implies -- at least in its initial phases -- sufferings. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `The companions of all who adore Thee are the tears they shed, and the comforters of such as seek Thee are the groans they utter, and the food of them who haste to meet Thee is the fragments of their broken hearts.'[61]

And yet, most people are put to the test because of human suffering in general or of their own afflictions in particular, and some of them reach the point of denying the existence of a merciful and just God. But the Bahá'í texts abundantly enlighten the manifold meanings of human sufferings, explaining that they are a vital and essential aspect of life and that it is impossible to avoid them.

Meanings of sorrow

An instrument of human perfection. First of all, `Grief and sorrow do not come to us by chance,' says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `they are sent to us by the Divine Mercy for our own perfecting,'[62] therefore they are adequate to our capacity (`... God hath never burdened any soul beyond its power...'63 echo the reassuring words written by Bahá'u'lláh). `Men who suffer not, attain no perfection',[64] says `Abdu'l-Bahá. Moreover He writes: `Unless one accept suffering, undergo trials and endure vicissitudes, he will reap no reward nor will he attain success and prosperity.'[65]

Then He explains: `Were it not for tests, genuine gold could not be distinguished from the counterfeit. Were it not for tests, the courageous could not be known from the coward. Were it not for the tests, the people of faithfulness could not be known from those of selfishness... As the servants and the handmaidens of the Merciful stand firmly and persevere, the good seed will soon grow in the field and bear the fruit of blessing. Then will spirituality and fragrance prevail and joy and rejoicing come from the Heavenly Sphere, sorrows and toil shall be forgotten and eternal peace and rest appear.'[66]

Therefore, the first meaning of grief and sorrow is to put men to the test as to the purity of their intentions, the sincerity of their love, the genuineness of their attraction towards the world of the Kingdom. Until these requirements are met, no seeker will be able to welcome the fire of trials, in other words, to forget his own natal self which with its natural emotions is the mainspring of such grief,[67] and to fix his gaze upon the intended goal, the Self of God in His Manifestation.

An instrument of self-knowledge. The less a man is aware of his own weakness, the more such tests are needed. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `Tests are a means by which a soul is measured as to its fitness, and proven out by its own acts. God knows its fitness beforehand, and also his unpreparedness, but man, with an ego, would not believe himself unfit unless proof were given him. Consequently his susceptibility to evil is proven to him when he falls into the tests, and the tests are continued until the soul realizes its own unfitness, then remorse and regret tend to root out the weakness. The same test comes again in greater degree, until it is shown that a former weakness has become a strength, and the power to overcome evil has been established.'[68]

Therefore, a second meaning of grief is that it helps us to understand ourselves: our faults, so that we may overcome them, and our talents, so that we may make use of them.

An instrument of detachment from the world of creation. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `All calamities and afflictions have been created for man so that he may spurn this mortal world -- a world to which he is much attached. When he experienceth severe trials and hardships, then his nature will recoil and he will desire the eternal realm -- a realm which is sanctified from all afflictions and calamities. Such is the case with the man who is wise. He shall never drink from a cup which is at the end distasteful, but, on the contrary, he will seek the cup of pure and limpid water. He will not taste the honey that is mixed with poison.'[69]

This is a third meaning of grief and sorrow: to show that the world of the Kingdom is superior to the world of creation; from the former we receive only joy, from the latter we draw but ephemeral and apparent joys, and in reality mostly trials and tests.

Meanings of sacrifice

However, if grief and sorrow are to play their educational role, the station of sacrifice must be attained to. The concept of sacrifice -- whose etymological meaning is sacrum facere, i.e. to make holy deeds -- is clearly explained in the Bahá'í texts.

Conquering the natal self. `With reference to what is meant by an individual becoming entirely forgetful of self: the intent is that he should rise up and sacrifice himself in the true sense, that is, he should obliterate the promptings of the human conditions, and rid himself of such characteristics as are worthy of blame and constitute the gloomy darkness of this life on earth -- not that he should allow his physical health to deteriorate and his body to become infirm.'

`Abdu'l-Bahá writes moreover: `This is the true sacrifice; the offering of oneself, even as did Christ, as a ransom for the life of the world.' And elsewhere: `... this plane of sacrifice is the realm of dying to the self, that the radiance of the living God may then shine forth. The martyr's field is the place of detachment from self, that the anthems of eternity may be upraised.' And moreover, describing sacrifice, He writes: `... he [man] must renounce his own self... he must renounce his inordinate desires, his selfish purposes and the promptings of his human self, and seek out the holy breathings of the spirit, and follow the yearnings of his higher self, and immerse himself in the sea of sacrifice, with his heart fixed upon the beauty of the All-Glorious.'[70]

Self-sacrifice for a universal cause. This twofold meaning of sacrifice, as self-sacrifice for a good and universal cause and as the giving up of the natal self, is thus explained by `Abdu'l-Bahá in one of His writings: `The moth is a sacrifice to the candle. The spring of water is a sacrifice to the thirsty one. The sincere lover is a sacrifice to the beloved. One must wholly forget himself... He must seek the pleasure of the True One, desire the face of the True One, and walk in the path of the True One; he must become intoxicated with His cup, resigned in His hand and close his eyes to life and living... This is the first station of sacrifice.'[71]

Attaining the qualities of the world of the Kingdom. `The second station of sacrifice: Man must become severed from the human world; be delivered from the darkness of this world; the illumination of mercifulness must shine and radiate in him, the nether world become as non-existent and the Kingdom become manifest.' `Abdu'l-Bahá suggests the metaphor of a piece of iron: as it becomes hot, it loses its own qualities -- `blackness, coldness and solidity' -- and becomes soft, red-hot, as luminous as fire.

`Likewise, when souls are released from the fetters of the world, the imperfections of mankind and animalistic darkness and have stepped into the realm of detachment, have partaken from the outpouring of the Placeless and have acquired lordly perfections, they are the "ransomed one" of the Sun of Truth, who are hastening to the altar of heart and soul.'[72]

In this sense, sacrifice is a process of purification, and purification -- in the words of the Báb -- `... is regarded as the most acceptable means for attaining nearness unto God and as the most meritorious of all deeds'.[73]

Human transformation as spiritual progress

Briefly, `Abdu'l-Bahá says that a man should not `... follow his own natural impulse but govern his action by the light of Their [the Manifestations'] precept and example...', and that `... he should do that which is found to be praiseworthy by the standard of reason and judgment of intellect, even though it be opposed to his natural human inclination'.[74]

`Abdu'l-Bahá refers to this transformation from his animal to his spiritual nature as `development of the spiritual nature in man' or else as `spiritual progress', and He says that `spiritual progress is through the breaths of the Holy Spirit and is the awakening of the conscious soul of man to perceive the reality of Divinity'. As this transformation draws man closer to God, it is an essentially mystical process; however, it develops only by virtue of an active daily endeavour in the world and not through escaping from it. Thus `Abdu'l-Bahá describes this path of service every man should tread, if he is to achieve his cherished goal: `... nearness to God is possible through devotion to Him, through entrance into the Kingdom and service to humanity; it is attained by unity with mankind and through loving-kindness to all; it is dependent upon investigation of truth, acquisition of praiseworthy virtues, service in the cause of universal peace and personal sanctification. In a word, nearness to God necessitates sacrifice of self, severance and the giving up of all to Him.'[75]

Only when man is thus transformed, does he quicken the world.

Spirituality as love in action

`Abdu'l-Bahá says: `Spirituality... is love in action.'[76]

This statement may well be considered the epitome of all the concepts we have been expounding on the dynamics of the transformation of man: the first step of this transformation is the recognition of the Manifestation of God; the second one, is the love of God, i.e. of His Manifestation. This love is an irresistible attraction towards the perfections of the world of the Kingdom, mirrored forth into the world by the Manifestation of God; this love leads its preys to a conscious and willing submission to the laws revealed by the Manifestation. In this regard Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Walk in My statutes for love of Me,'[77] and `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... the first principle of the divine teaching... is love.'[78]

In the Bahá'í texts, love is described as the prime motor of the process of transformation: God is the `magnet' and the soul is the iron which is attracted closer and closer to it. Love is also described as a `fire'79 capable of burning away `the veils of the satanic self',[80] thus bestowing upon the soul the bounty of the inner vision and of the `likeness'[81] unto God. As man, attracted by the magnetic force of the love of God, comes closer to Him, he burns away, at the fire of this same love, the imperfect attributes of his natal self and more vividly mirrors forth into the world the attributes of Divinity. This process is painful and only in the `insanity' of his love towards God is man willing to accept it; it is `the dying from self',[82] at first laden with anguish and sufferings, but ultimately conducive -- as it is the cause of his `second birth' or `his release from the captivity of nature'[83] -- to infinite joy.

The second birth

To summarize what has been said: the body and the natal self with its natural emotions belong to the physical plane of creation; they come from the world of creation and they return to it when at the time of physical death the bonds of affinity between the component elemental atoms come to an end, as soon as the connection soul-body is broken off.

In the body there is a very delicate and perfect instrument: the nervous system, which was created so that the power of understanding vouchsafed unto human spirits might be expressed in the physical plane of existence.[84]

This power of understanding is very important, because it can discover the mysteries of the physical universe and, when it is guided and confirmed by the Manifestation of God, it can grasp the reality of the transcendental world. When the power of understanding is enlightened, guided and confirmed by the Manifestation of God, it enables man to express his divine nature in the world through the instrumentality of his body. This divine nature is his `divine aspect or spiritual nature', `the potentiality of divinity', or else the `potential power to attain... likeness to God', `the image or likeness of God... the world of exemplars constituting the heavenly body of man', `the most noble of phenomena... . the meeting between man and God... the animus of human life and collective centre of all human virtues';[85] `... a celestial power which is infinite as regards the intellectual as well as the physical realms... [a] power... conferred upon man through the breath of the Holy Spirit... an eternal reality, an indestructible reality...'[86]

It is this reality `which belongs to the divine kingdom... [that] delivers man from the material world' and is `... the power which enables man to escape from the world of nature'.[87]

When this divine reality prevails upon the animal reality, the natural emotions of the natal self -- which are expressions of the world of nature whence the body is born -- give way to divine virtues and the inner vision appears, a power of spiritual perception, which cannot be found in any other of the living beings of the world.

The forces required for this transformation -- from natural emotions to divine virtues, from sense perception to intellectual and inner perception -- are not inherent in man, who is possessed only of their potentialities. These forces are bestowed upon him through the spirit of faith and the Holy Spirit. These spirits are emanations of the world of the Kingdom and therefore man can attain unto them whenever -- out of his love towards the Divine Reality -- he of his own free-will and consciously surrenders his own will unto the Will of the Manifestation of God, Who manifests in the human plane the Reality of the world of the Kingdom.

This mystical concept is indeed extremely rational and practical, when viewed within the context of the evolutionary concept of reality set forth in the Bahá'í texts. Just as the power of growth, typical of the vegetable kingdom, appears whenever the elemental atoms composing matter properly combine by virtue of the power of cohesion and in conformity with natural law, and its appearance occurs because those elemental atoms have become arranged according to a certain order whereby they have acquired the capacity of growth, so the qualities of the spirit of faith and of the Holy Spirit appear within man whenever he has acquired the capacity for them, inasmuch as he has created an order within himself according to the laws revealed by the Manifestation of God, which he has observed of his own free-will. It is as though man metaphorically orders his inner being in such a way as to acquire the capacity to reflect those spiritual qualities. The process of evolutionary growth is therefore the same both in the world of creation and within the soul of man. The active forces are those of the spirit. But the level of the process is quite different: it is a conscious and voluntary process, in the world of the soul; an unconscious and involuntary process, in the world of creation. Both are educational processes: universal, the former; individual, the latter.

Through such a growth certain vital purposes are achieved:

  1. `... witness[ing] the effulgence of the Sun of Reality... behold[ing] the manifest evidences of the reality of Divinity, comprehend[ing] irrefutable proofs of the immortality of the soul.'[88]

  2. `the attainment of the supreme virtues of humanity through the descent of the heavenly bestowals', which `Abdu'l-Bahá says is both `the honour allotted to man' and `the greatest bestowal of God to man'.[89]

  3. `... reflect[ing] the spirit of the Kingdom... liv[ing] in conscious atonement with the eternal world and becom[ing] quickened and awake with the life and the love of God'.[90]

When a man is thus transformed, `there is no created being more heroic, more undaunted than' him, because he has attained `the highest development of man': `his entrance into the divine Kingdom'. Herein lies his glory:'... in the knowledge of God, spiritual susceptibilities, attainment to transcendent powers and the bounties of the Holy Spirit... in being informed of the teachings of God'.[91]

In this stage, his spirit `receives illumination from the light of God and reflects it to the whole universe'; his reality is `a radiant light in the world of creation, a source of life and the agency of constructiveness in the infinite fields of existence'; `the cause of the illumination of this world'; it is `... as the spirit of this world, for just as the animus of life quickens the physical human body, so the body of the world will receive its vivification through the animating virtue of the sanctified spirit of man'.[92]

He thus fulfils the purpose of his creation: `to irradiate the Divine light and to illumine the world by his words, action and life'.[93]

Such a creature is certainly a man and not a `perfect animal', because he has fully acquired those qualities which distinguish him from animals, and which `Abdu'l-Bahá thus enumerates :'intellectual attainment, spiritual perception, the acquisition of virtues, capacity to receive the bestowals of Divinity, lordly bounty and emanations of heavenly mercy'. He has thus attained that stage `Christ has interpreted... as the second birth' and `Abdu'l-Bahá defines as `spiritual progress'[94] or `spirituality'.[95]

End notes:

[1] Promulgation, p.59.

[2] `Abdu'l-Bahá says that the `Holy Spirit is the energizing factor in the life of a man' because `whosoever receives this power is able to influence all those with whom he comes into contact', whereas `the greatest philosophers without this Spirit are powerless.'(Paris Talks, p.165.) The Holy Spirit is the `mediator between God and His creatures', (Some Answered Questions, p.145.) `... the mediator of the Holy Light from the Sun of Reality which it gives to the sanctified realities.' (ibid. p.145.) The Holy Spirit in fact conveys the spiritual knowledge of reality, mostly through the Utterance and the written Revelation of the Manifestation of God.

[3] `Abdu'l-Bahá says that the spirit of faith is that `power which makes the earthly man heavenly, and the imperfect man perfect. It makes the impure to be pure, the silent eloquent; it purifies and sanctifies those made captive by carnal desires, it makes the ignorant wise.'(Some Answered Questions, pp.144-5.) It `comes from the breath of the Holy Spirit'. (ibid. p.144.) He writes also: `But the Spirit of Faith which is of the Kingdom (of God) consists of the all-comprehending Grace and the perfect attainment...'. (Tablets, p.116.)

[4] In various circumstances, `Abdu'l-Bahá refers to a supreme gift conferred by God to man: the intellect which He says to be `the most precious gift bestowed upon man by the Divine Bounty'; Paris Talks, p.41.) See above, p.177; `the attainment unto His unfailing guidance', (quoted in Bahá'í Education (comp.), p.12) which he says to be `the most precious of gifts'; (ibid.) the individuality, as `capacity of attaining human virtues', (Promulgation, p.378) which He says to be `the greatest bestowal of God to man'; (ibid.) and `spirituality' (Paris Talks, p.112) viewed as `the awakening of the conscious soul of man to perceive the reality of Divinity' (Promulgation, p.142) and made possible only through `the breaths of the Holy Spirit', (ibid. p.142) which He says to be `the greatest of God's gifts'. (Paris Talks, p.112.)

If we make a deeper study of those `precious gifts', we will discover that man knows through his intellect; through the `attainment unto His unfailing guidance', he directs his own understanding towards such goals as God Himself indicates to him; through his `individuality', he expresses in his life, in the form of spirituality, the results of his turning towards the guidance of God.

`Abdu'l-Bahá concisely expounds those concepts in the following words: `The greatest bestowal of God in the world of humanity is religion, for assuredly the divine teachings of religion are above all other sources of instruction and development to man. Religion confers upon man eternal life and guides his footsteps in the world of morality. It opens the doors of unending happiness and bestows everlasting honour upon the human kingdom.' (Promulgation, p.361.) See below, pp.269, 338.

[5] `Abdu'l-Bahá quoted in `Join the Army of Peace' in Star of the West, XIII, p.113.

[6] Promulgation, p.91.

[7] See Promulgation, pp.16, 21, 131, 420, 451.

[8] ibid. pp.14, 148, 15, 131.

[9] Tablets, pp.108-9.

[10] Promulgation, p.148.

[11] Divine Philosophy, pp.93, 76.

[12] Hidden Words, Persian no. 19. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Walk in My statutes for love of Me.' (Hidden Words, Arabic, no. 38.)

[13] See `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, pp.146- 50. Purity will be studied in the Chapter 8. See below, pp.162-3.

[14] Promulgation, p.147.

[15] ibid. pp.186, 148, 149, 148.

[16] Gleanings, pp.5, 293. See Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp.139 passim.

[17] Gleanings, pp.289, 290.

18 Kitáb-i-Aqdas, in Synopsis, pp.25, 26.

[19] Seven Valleys, p.11.

[20] Bahá'u'lláh writes: `The beginning of all things is the knowledge of God, and the end of all things is strict observance of whatsoever hath been sent down from the empyrean of the Divine Will that pervadeth all that is in the heavens and on the earth'. (Gleanings, p.5). See also ibid. pp.289-90.

[21] These laws are set forth in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. See The Importance of Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude, (comp.) p.3.

Regarding the topic of teaching, A. Taherzadeh wrote, in October 1982, an important letter: `Notes on the Bahá'í Concept of Spirituality', in New Day, May-June 1984.

[22] See Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp.3 passim; Some Answered Questions, pp.83-6; Promulgation p.149. See also A. Bausani, `Some Aspects of the Bahá'í Expressive Style', in World Order, XIII, no.2, p.36; John S.Hatcher, `The Metaphorical Nature of Material Reality', in Bahá'í Studies, III; A. Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. I, pp.18-44.

[23] Promulgation, p.149.

[24] On the topic of prayer see The Importance of Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude (comp.); Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, `The Prayers of Bahá'u'lláh' in Bahá'í World, IX, p.792; R. Rabbani, The Desire of the World, pp.104- 153; W.& M. Hellaby, Prayer: A Bahá'í Approach; R. Moffet, Du'á: On Wings of Prayer; G.A. Shook, Mysticism, Science and Revelation, pp.82-107, 120-41.

[25] Gleanings, p.278.

[26] Quoted in `Become Lamp of the True One' in Star of the West IX, p.162.

[27] R. Rabbani, The Desire of the World, p.47.

[28] Epistle, p.93.

29 Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.129.

[30] The Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, p.14.

[31] Promulgation, p.226.

[32] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets, p.459.

[33] Quoted in Huqúqu'lláh (comp.), nos. 32, 33.

[34] Quoted in The Importance of Prayer (comp.), p.9.

[35] Promulgation, p.226.

[36] Some Answered Questions, p.459.

[37] Tablets, p.459.

[38] Some Answered Questions, pp.242, 459.

[39] Promulgation, p.226.

[40] Matt 7:7.

[41] Qur'án 29:69.

[42] Quoted in Shoghi Effendi, Advent, p.64.

[43] Bahá'í Prayers, p.86.

[44] Promulgation, p.226. As to the topic of spiritual progress, see W.S. Hatcher, `The Concept of Spirituality', in Bahá'í Studies. XI, p.22.

He writes also: `As in the case with any new discipline, so it is with learning spiritual growth. Our first step are painfully self-conscious and hesitant... . Yet, as we pursue the process, we become more adept at it... the rate of progress increases as we go along because we are not only making progress but also perfecting our skill at making progress.' (ibid. p.2.)

[45] The Bahá'í texts refer to the self as a `veil' shutting out man from truth. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Tear asunder, in My Name, the veils that have grievously blinded your vision... Suffer not yourselves to be wrapt in the dense veils of your selfish desires...' (Gleanings, p.143.) And moreover: `Burn away, wholly for the sake of the Well- Beloved, the veil of self with the flame of the undying Fire...'. (ibid. p.316.) In The Kitáb-i-Íqán He quotes two Islamic traditions: `Knowledge is the most grievous veil between man and his Creator', (p.69) and `The most grievous of all veils is the veil of knowledge' (p.188): from these words it would appear that whenever human intellect is subjected to the natal self with its natural emotions, it produces such knowledge as may well be defined as `satanic' (ibid. p.69), because it is conducive to `arrogance, vainglory and conceit'.(ibid.) Elsewhere He mentions `the wrappings of illusion'.(Seven Valleys, p.24.) Other metaphors describing the self are: a `cage'(Hidden Words, Persian, no. 38) a `prison',(ibid. Persian, nos. 39 and 40) `fire', (ibid. Persian, no. 66) `dust', (ibid. Persian, no. 69) `mire' (Epistle, p.131), `the spotting of self' upon `the mirror of the heart' (Selections, p.182), `... the Tempter (the subtle serpent of the mind)...) (`Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in a letter dated 4 August 1977 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)

As to the meaning of the word `self' in the Bahá'í texts, Shoghi Effendi wrote through his secretary the following explanation: `... self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses, in the Bahá'í writings; one is self, the identity of the individual created by God. This is the self mentioned in such passages as "he hath known God who hath known himself etc". The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on'.(quoted in Living the Life (comp.), p.28.)

[46] Tablets, p.136.

47 Selections, pp.182, 76-7.

[48]47a `Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in a letter dated 4 August 1977 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer.

[49] Gleanings, p.297.

[50] Promulgation, p.148. `Abdu'l-Bahá says moreover: `The prophets teach us that the only way to approach God is by characterizing ourselves with the attributes of divinity'.(Divine Philosophy, p.93.)

He writes moreover that the process of approaching God implies a progressive expansion of a man's concerns, so that he will gradually forget his own self and think of his family, his tribe, his country, his race and at last of all mankind. (See below, p.201.) Therefore `Abdu'l-Bahá recommends universality; He says: `Every universal cause is divine and every particular one is temporal'.(Selections, pp.68-9.)

[51] Quoted in Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, p.84.

[52] Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Principles of Bahá'í Administration, p.87.

[53] On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Living the Life (comp.), pp.17-18.

[54] Promulgation, p.4.

[55] Selections, p.260.

[56] Epistle, p.96. S. Battaglia explains the meaning of the world malice thus: `Natural or acquired (and mostly practiced through cunning dissimulation and wicked satisfaction, until it becomes customary) inclination toward transgression of moral and religious laws, through perverse actions, conducive to harm and suffering for others or by indulging in vices and perversions.' (Il Grande Dizionario della Lingua Italiana, vol. IX, p.158.)

57 Hidden Words, Persian no. 6.

[58] Promulgation, p.15. Regarding Judas Iscariot and his envy, `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `Such is the outcome of envy, the chief reason why men turn aside from the Straight Path'. (Selections, p.163.)

[59] Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.193. See Gleanings, p.164; Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, pp.47, xxii. In this regard, `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honour of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would ear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth.

`If, however, a person setteth about speaking well of another, opening his lips to praise another, he will touch an answering chord in his hearers and they will be stirred up by the breathings of God...'.(`Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, pp.230-1.)

[60] Tablets, p.156.

[61] Epistle, p.95.

[62] Paris Talks, p.50.

63 Gleanings, pp.106-7.

[64] Paris Talks, p.51.

[65] Quoted in M. M. Rabb, `The Divine Art of Living' in Star of the West VIII, p.240.

[66] Quoted in `Extracts from Tablets from Abdul'Baha to Mrs Isabella D. Brittingham' in Star of the West, XIV, p.353.

[67] `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... all the sorrow and the grief that exist come from the world of matter -- the spiritual world bestows only the joy!' (Paris Talks, p.110.)

[68] `The Worst Enemies of the Cause are in the Cause' in Star of the West, VI, p.45.

[69] Selections, p.239.

[70] ibid. pp.180, 65, 76, 207.

[71] Tablets, p.354.

[72] ibid.

[73] Selections, p.98.

[74] Promulgation, p.40.

[75] ibid. p.60, 142, 148.

[76] Quoted in `Join the Army of Peace' in Star of the West, XIII, p.112.

[77] Hidden Words, Arabic no.38.

[78] Promulgation, p.8

79 Selections, p.191.

[80] Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, p.11.

[81] Promulgation, p.148.

[82] Seven Valleys, p.36.

[83] . Promulgation, pp.304, 305.

[84] `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `Reason has its seat in the brain'.(Divine Philosophy, p.92.) Thus we might even -- almost paradoxically -- accept the statement pronounced by materialistic philosopher Cabanis, who maintained that `thought is a secretion of the brain',(Cabanis, Rapport du physique et du moral de l'homme), as long as the soul is intended as the promoter of those secretions.

Regarding the concept of mind, see above, pp.4-5, and below, pp.156-7, 218 and no. 69.

[85] Promulgation, pp.41, 317, 302, 464, 239.

[86] `The Three Realities' in Star of the West, VII, p.118.

[87] ibid.

[88] Promulgation, p.328.

[89] ibid. pp.4, 166, 378.

[90] ibid. 329.

[91] ibid. pp.264, 352, 239, 330-1

[92] ibid. pp.264, 352, 239, 330-1

[93] Paris Talks, p.113.

[94] Promulgation, pp.304, 332, 142.

[95] Paris Talks, p.112.

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