The Eternal Quest for God: Chapter 8
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The Soul: The Reality of Man

`Man -- the true man -- is the soul...',[1] says `Abdu'l-Bahá. However, there is no more difficult theme to deal with, nor more elusive reality to know. Its existence is even denied by many who think man to be merely a body and his mind just an outcome of his brain. For the soul is a spiritual, metaphysical reality which cannot be perceived through the senses, and therefore eludes anyone who relies only upon sensory and intellectual perception. `Abdu'l-Bahá remarks: `If we wish to deny anything that is not sensible, then we must deny the realities which unquestionably exist... The power of attraction is not sensible, though it certainly exists. From what do we affirm these existences? From their signs...'. And He points out how in man there are `signs, powers and perfections'[2] from which it may be inferred that a spiritual reality exists in him, which is unique in the world of creation, i.e. the soul or spirit of man.

Rational proofs of its existence and immortality

The Bahá'í teachings uphold the existence and the immortality of the soul and produce many rational proofs demonstrating these concepts. A short, incomplete list of such proofs is offered as follows.

Proofs of its existence.

Human rational faculty.

  1. A proof from which the existence in man can be inferred of a particular power which is absent in the world of nature, is that man is capable of escaping the rule of nature and of surpassing all the animals of the earth. As far as we know, man is the only creature who has been capable of creating a civilization and of establishing his rule in the world. This capacity is not due to his physical qualities, because `In the physical powers and sense... man and animals are partners. In fact, the animal is often superior to men in sense perception. [3]

    On the contrary, it depends on that very particular power man is possessed of, which is called soul or spirit of man.

  2. The same argument is set forth also in other words:

    Man is possessed of qualities (consciousness, volition, ideation, conscious reflection and intelligence), which are absent in nature. [4]

    `If we accept the supposition that man is but a part of nature, we are confronted by an illogical statement, for this is equivalent to claiming that a part may be endowed with qualities which are absent in the whole.'

    `The truth is that God has given to man certain powers which are supernatural.'[5]

Inner perception. The fact that man is possessed of the power of knowing and seeing without instruments or organs, as is for example the case when he sleeps, is mentioned by `Abdu'l-Bahá as further evidence of the existence of the soul: `... how many times it happens that a question that one cannot solve in the world of wakefulness is solved in the world of dreams. In wakefulness, the eye sees only for a short distance, but in dream he who is in the East sees the West. Awake he sees the present; in sleep he sees the future.'[6]

Human inner reality. A further proof of the existence of the soul is that a reality exists within man which is independent from the body, a reality which he consults: `When you wish to reflect upon or consider a matter', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `you consult something within you. You say, shall I do it, or shall I not do it? Is it better to make this journey or to abandon it? Whom do you consult? Who is within you deciding this question? Surely there is a distinct power, an intelligent ego.[7].Were it not distinct from your ego, you would not be consulting it. It is greater that the faculty of thought. It is your spirit which teaches you, which advises and decides upon matters.'[8]

* * *

The Bahá'í texts uphold not only the existence, but also the immortality of the soul. Created as an individual entity at the moment of conception, the soul has a beginning, but it has no end. In fact, `... the individual realities of mankind, when spiritually born, are emanations from the reality of Divinity... and inasmuch as eternality is a property of Divinity, this emanation is everlasting.'[9]

Elsewhere He explains: `... the world of things is the world of imperfection in comparison with that of man, and the world of man is the world of perfection in comparison with that of things. When imperfections reach the station of perfection, they become eternal (i.e. in the kingdom of man, where alone the Spirit manifests immortality).'[10]

In the Bahá'í texts, many proofs are advanced demonstrating and explaining this concept. A preliminary short list of these proofs is offered here. These proofs will be divided, in conformity with the classical philosophical canons, into metaphysical proofs (i.e. founded upon the attributes of the soul) and moral proofs (i.e. founded upon the purpose of its existence).

Metaphysical proofs of its immortality

On the grounds of movement: `We have seen that movement', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `is essential to existence; nothing that hath life is without motion... it must either ascend or descend. But with the human soul, there is no decline. Its only movement is towards perfection; growth and progress alone constitute the motion of the soul.

`Divine perfection is infinite, therefore the progress of the soul is also infinite... When the body dies the soul lives on. All the differing degrees of created physical beings are limited, but the soul is limitless!'[11]

On the grounds of the soul defined as substance:

  1. `The realities of all phenomena,' says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `are immutable and unchangeable. Extinction or mortality is nothing but the transformation of pictures and images. But the reality back of these images is eternal.'[12] Thence since the soul is not a form, but reality or substance, it is immortal.

  2. `... the human body', says moreover `Abdu'l-Bahá, `has one form. In its composition it has been transferred from one form to another but never possesses two forms at the same time. For example, it has existed in the elemental substances of the mineral kingdom. From the mineral kingdom, it hath traversed the vegetable kingdom and its constituent substances; from the vegetable kingdom it has risen by evolution into the kingdom of the animal and from thence attained the kingdom of man. After its disintegration and decomposition it will return again to the mineral kingdom, leaving its human form and taking a new form unto itself. During these progressions one form succeeds another, but at no time does the body possess more than one.

    `This spirit of man, however, can manifest itself in all forms at the same time... the form of the physical body of man must be destroyed and abandoned before it can assume or take unto itself another. Mortality, therefore, means transference from one form to another... But the human spirit in itself contains all these forms, shapes and figures. It is not possible to break or destroy one form so that it may transfer itself into another. As an evidence of this, at the present moment in the human spirit you have the shape of a square and the figure of a triangle. Simultaneously also you can conceive a hexagonal form. All these can be conceived at the same moment in the human spirit, and not one of them needs to be destroyed or broken in order that the spirit of man may be transferred to another. There is no annihilation no destruction; therefore, the human spirit is immortal because it is not transferred from one body into another body.'[13]

  3. `... the soul has no place in space,' says `Abdu'l-Bahá. `Space is a quality of material things and that which is not material does not partake of space. The soul, like the intellect, is an abstraction. Intelligence does not partake of the quality of space, though it is related to man's brain. The intellect resides there, but not materially. Search in the brain, you will not find the intellect. In the same way, though the soul is a resident of the body, it is not to be found in the body.'[14]

    `If the spirit of man -- He says moreover -- belonged to the elemental existence, the eye could see it, the ear hear it, the hand touch. As long as these five senses cannot perceive it, the proof is unquestioned that it does not belong to the elemental world and, therefore, is beyond death or mortality, which are inseparable from that material realm of existence. If being is not subject to the limitation of material life, it is not subject to mortality.'[15]

  4. `... the spirit is not affected by... changes or transformations' of the body, says `Abdu'l-Bahá. `The body of man becomes lean or fat; it is afflicted with disease, suffers mutilation; perhaps the eyes become blind, the ears deaf; but none of these imperfections and failings afflict or affect the spirit. The spirit of man remains in the same condition, unchanged. A man is blinded, but his spirit continues the same. He loses his hearing, his hand is cut off, his foot amputated, but his spirit remains the same. He becomes lethargic, he is afflicted with apoplexy; but there is no difference, change or alteration in his spirit. This is proof that death is only destruction of the body, while the spirit remains immortal, eternal.'[16]

    `Abdu'l-Bahá mentions also the example of sleep, `...when all the physical faculties are in abeyance and the soul travels in all realms seeing, hearing, speaking, so when the physical body is decomposed, the soul is not affected'.[17]

On the grounds of the soul being simple, as a substance: `The soul is not a combination of elements', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `it is not composed of many atoms, it is of one indivisible substance and therefore eternal. It is wholly extraneous to the order of physical creation: it is immortal.'[18]

In fact, `... according to natural philosophy it is an assured fact that single or simple -- elements are indestructible', because death means decomposition of a composed being into its component simple elements. But simple elements cannot subdivide, and therefore they are eternal. `Abdu'l-Bahá remarks: `If an elementary substance is possessed of immortality, how can the human spirit or reality, which is wholly above combination and composition, be destroyed?'[19]

On the grounds of the presence of truth within the soul: `Reflect', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `that no effect, no trace, no influence remains of any being after its members are dispersed and its elements are decomposed, whether it be a mineral, a vegetable, or an animal. There is only the human reality and the spirit of man which, after the disintegration of the members, the dispersing of the particles, and the destruction of the composition, persists and continues to act and to have power.'[20] Therefore, `the traces of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the influence of His Divine Teaching... the Sacred Writings (with ever the same Teaching) prove the continuity of the spirit', whose traces they are, because `anything which does not exist, can, of course, give no sign of its existence.'[21]

On the grounds of its natural aspiration for immortality: `The very fact that our spiritual instinct, surely never given in vain, prompts us to pray for the welfare of those, our loved ones, who have passed out of the material world: does it not bear witness to the continuance of their existence?'[22]

On the grounds of the idea of mortality: `... the idea of mortality presupposes the existence of immortality -- for if there were no Life Eternal, there would be no way of measuring the life of this world.'[23]

Moral proofs of its immortality

As a requirement of human moral life:

(i) `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `The consummation of this limitless universe, with all its grandeur and glory hath been man himself, who in this world of being toileth and suffereth for a time, with diverse ills and pains, and ultimately disintegrates, leaving no trace and no fruit after him. Were it so, there is no doubt that this infinite universe with all its perfections has ended in sham and delusion with no result, no fruit, no permanence and no effect. It would be utterly without meaning... this Great Workshop with all its power, its bewildering magnificence and endless perfections, cannot eventually come to naught. That still another life should exist is thus certain....'[24]

And in one of His talks he explains: `... the world of existence does not culminate here. If this were so, existence itself would be sterile. There are many worlds of light. For even as the plant imagines life ends with itself and has no knowledge of our existence, so the materially-minded man has no knowledge of other worlds of consciousness.'[25]

(ii) `The immortality of the spirit', says moreover `Abdu'l-Bahá, `is mentioned in the Holy Books; it is the fundamental basis of the divine religions. Now the punishments and rewards are said to be of two kinds: first, the rewards and punishments of this life; second, those of the other world.'[26]

And He adds: `We read in the sacred writings that "all good works are found again". Now, if the soul did not survive, this also would mean nothing.'[27]

On the grounds of consensus gentium:

(i) `In all religions', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `the belief exists that the soul survives the death of the body. Intercessions are sent up for the beloved dead, prayers are said for the forgiveness of their sins. If the soul perished with the body all this would have no meaning... If it were not possible for the soul to advance toward perfection after it had been released from the body, of what avail are all these loving prayers of devotion?'[28]

(ii) Bahá'u'lláh writes: `How could such Souls [the Manifestations of God] have consented to surrender unto their enemies if they believed all the worlds of God to have been reduced to this earthly life?'29 And `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `If the spirit were not immortal, how could the Manifestations of God endure such terrible trials?'[30] And moreover: `Were there nothing after death, Christ would have not accepted the cross; the prophets of all time would not have sacrificed their lives.'[31]

From the above quotations it clearly appears that most of the rational proofs of the existence and immortality of the soul mentioned by `Abdu'l-Bahá in His writings and talks may be found in the writings of the great philosophers. However, He comes to the conclusion that these proofs, as rational proofs of the existence of God, are neither indispensable nor fundamental to the understanding of human reality. `This is a rational proof which we are giving, so that the wise may weigh it in the balance of reason and justice. But if the human spirit will rejoice and be attracted to the Kingdom of God, if the inner sight becomes opened, and the spiritual hearing strengthened, and the spiritual feelings predominant, he will see the immortality of the spirit as clearly as he sees the sun, and the glad tidings and the signs of God will encompass him.'[32]

Once again, we find a warning in the Bahá'í texts not to be satisfied with a merely rational investigation of reality, but to make use of all those cognitive means we have been given by God. Only thus shall we discover our own reality, the most luminous trace of God we can find in the universe: the soul of man.

What is the soul?

Bahá'u'lláh writes: `... the human soul is, in its essence... a mystery among His mysteries', and moreover: `Wert thou to ponder in thine heart, from now until the end that hath no end, and with all the concentrated intelligence and undertaking which the greatest minds have attained in the past or will attain in the future, this divinely ordained and subtle Reality, this sign of the revelation of the All-Abiding, All-Glorious God, thou wilt fail to comprehend its mystery or to appraise its virtue'; and then He adds: `This confession of helplessness which mature contemplation must eventually impel every mind to make is in itself the acme of human understanding, and marketh the culmination of man's development.'[33]

Thus, it is impossible to comprehend the soul.

`Abdu'l-Bahá explains the reasons why the soul cannot be comprehended:

(i) `Be it known that to know the reality or the essence of the soul of man is impossible, for, in order to know a thing, one must comprehend it, and since a thing cannot comprehend itself, to know one's self in substance or essence is impossible...'[34]

(ii) `Man discerns only manifestations, or attributes, of objects, while the identity, or reality, of them remains hidden',[35] thence how could a man know his own soul, which is his own innermost essence?

As it is impossible to comprehend the soul, so it is impossible to give its exact definition. However, in the Bahá'í texts many statements may be found describing the soul, statements which may assist us in grasping some of its aspects.

  1. The soul is `the reality of man',[36] says `Abdu'l-Bahá; or else `the substance'[37] of man; and also `a pure and unknown essence',[38] and, finally, the `inner reality'.[39] He writes that `... the body has to die, when its light has come to an end. Therefore, of what importance is it?',[40] suggesting that the true man is the soul and undoubtedly the body is of minor importance.

  2. `... man has a soul in which dwells the divine spirit',[41] suggesting that the soul belongs to the divine world.

  3. `As to the soul', writes Bahá'u'lláh, `... it is sent forth by the Word of God';[42] and `Abdu'l-Bahá says that the soul is `a spirit with which God has endowed him [man] at creation';[43] it is `... a depository, emanating from the light of the Ancient Entity -- God',[44] `It is a divine bounty. It is the effulgence of the Sun of Reality',[45] suggesting that the soul is a spiritual entity created by God through emanation.

  4. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes that the soul is `the intermediary between the Supreme Concourse and the lower concourse',[46] suggesting that the soul acts as a link between the world of creation and the world of the Kingdom.

  5. He says moreover that the soul is `... the medium of the spiritual life',[47] `... the heavenly body, the ethereal form which corresponds to this body',[48] suggesting that man belongs, by virtue of his soul, to the spiritual world, whose life he can live.

  6. He says also that the soul is `the conscious reality', `the heavenly gift of consciousness', suggesting that consciousness is the most important among the qualities of the soul which appear in this world.[49]

  7. In the soul, Bahá'u'lláh writes, `are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God',[50] and `Abdu'l-Bahá says that it is a `collective reality', `the collective centre of all human virtues', `the world of exemplars',[51] suggesting that the soul has the capacity of expressing all the divine attributes, or exemplars.

  8. The soul is `the harbinger that proclaimeth the reality of all the worlds of God', writes Bahá'u'lláh, a `... sign of the revelation of the Divine Being';[52] and `Abdu'l-Bahá says that the soul is `sign[s] and trace[s] of the divine bounty', suggesting that the soul -- `collective centre'[53] of all the divine attributes as it is -- is a proof of the existence of God.

  9. Bahá'u'lláh mentions an Islamic tradition which says: `... the soul... is divine and celestial. It is a divine energy, a substance, simple, and self-subsistent.'[54] And `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `The spirit... is a single essence, fine and delicate, incorporeal, everlasting and of God.'[55]

The above-mentioned concepts could be thus summarized: from God the world of the Kingdom emanates; from the world of the Kingdom the spirit emanates; the spirit manifests itself in different realities which differ from each other in the degree they occupy in the world of being. The soul of man is one of these realities. Therefore, the relation of the soul to God `... is similar to that of the ray to the sun -- the effect to the primal cause.'[56]

It is similar to the relation between God and any other of His creatures. But whereas the other creatures reflect only one of the attributes of Divinity, the soul of man reflects them all. `Abdu'l-Bahá explains that `... for each name, each attribute, each perfection which we affirm of God there exists a sign in man.'[57]

For this reason the soul of man -- a sign of God -- is said to be the `collective reality', the centre where `the perfections of God, the divine virtues are reflected or revealed', where God has engraved `the mysteries of the divine Kingdom'.[58]

The soul is a ray of the divine Sun of Reality: though it does not partake in the essence of the sun, it is however possessed of all its attributes, first among them consciousness.

Its individuality

The spiritual reality of the soul is individual. In other words the soul is characterized by potential endowments and qualities -- metaphorically described by Bahá'u'lláh as `gems that lie hidden within the mine of their [man's] true and inmost selves'59 -- which, taken as a whole, are unique, inimitable and infinite. In the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá, as `there are no repetitions in nature', so each man `differs in natal capacity and intrinsic intellectual endowment.'[60]

Moreover, as the attributes of God are infinite, so, in the words of Bahá'u'lláh, `the favours vouchsafed by Him unto mankind have been, and will ever remain, limitless in their range.'[61] other words, as `Abdu'l-Bahá says, `... the virtues of humanity and the possibilities of human advancement are boundless.'[62]

The soul `is not susceptible of any change' in `its original state or character',[63] writes Bahá'u'lláh, whereas `Abdu'l-Bahá says that it `... is the natural God- given personality... the inner aspect of man which is not subject to change.' Its characteristics are `divine attributes, invisible in the rest of creation...'. These attributes `are divine in origin...they are emanations of the Father. They are the significance of his names and attributes, the direct rays of which illuminate the very essence of these qualifications.'[64]

Since individuality `consists of the attributes of the heavenly Kingdom', it is `the image of the Merciful': `Therefore, it is said that man has been created in the image and likeness of God.'[65]

Individualities differ from each other and thus there is `a difference in the intrinsic or natal capacity of individuals', as well as a `difference in degree of capacity... among human souls'.[66]

From the explanations of the differences among human souls given by `Abdu'l-Bahá we may understand that there is no soul who is not possessed of its own, however limited, excellence. `... although divine creation is purely good', He says, `yet the varieties of natural qualities in man come from the difference of degree; all are excellent, but they are more or less so, according to the degree.'[67]

Because of these varieties of natural qualities, `each human creature has individual endowment, power and responsibility in the creative plan of God'. No wonder therefore that individuality -- viewed as `capacity to attain human virtues' -- is considered by `Abdu'l-Bahá `the greatest bestowal of God to man':[68]

In fact it is because of this endowment that man is the apex of creation.

`Abdu'l-Bahá writes that the spirit of man `... is like unto the light which is potential and in the candle and gets inflamed with the fire of the love of God, then streams its light in the stage of visibility'.[69]

In this sense He says that `... the human reality may be compared to a seed... the merciful God, our Creator, has deposited within human realities certain latent and potential virtues. Through education and culture these virtues deposited by the loving God will become apparent in human reality, even as the unfoldment of the tree from within the germinating seed.'[70]

Therefore a man should endeavour, while he lives on this earth, to manifest the divine qualities enshrined in his soul, of whose individuality they are a part, in the form of knowledge, feelings, deeds and words. In the process of such growth and endeavour `... his individuality which is divine and heavenly should be his guide'.[71] This is the real self-realization.[72]

Its dual nature

`The essence of man', writes Bahá'u'lláh, `is hidden in his individuality which must appear through the polish of education. This is man's glory, and all else which depends upon other things, is not a part of man himself.'[73]

That which thus appears of a man's individuality is called personality. Personality, says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `... is the result of acquired arts, sciences and virtues with which man is decorated' and `... is obtained through the conscious effort of man by training and education'. Human personality, He says moreover, `... has no element of permanence. It is a slightly changeable quality in man which can be turned in either direction. For if he acquire praiseworthy virtues, these strengthen the individuality of man and call forth his hidden forces; but if he acquire defects, the beauty and simplicity of the individuality will be lost and its God-given qualities will be stifled in the foul atmosphere of self.'[74]

The same concept is repeatedly explained in the Bahá'í texts: for instance, Bahá'u'lláh writes: `... the soul hath two wings. If it flieth in the air of the love and will of God, it will be attributed to the Merciful; but if it flieth in the atmosphere of desire, it will be attributed to satan -- may God protect us and you against it... And if it is kindled by the fire of the love of God, it will be a pleasing and tranquil soul; but if it be kindled by desire, it is a passionate soul.'[75]

And moreover: `If it be faithful to God, it will reflect His light, and will, eventually, return unto Him. If it fail, however, in its allegiance to its Creator, it will become a victim to self and passion, and will, in the end, sink in their depths.'[76]

`Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `... soul is the intermediary between the Supreme Concourse and the lower concourse. It (the soul) hath two phases -- the higher aspireth to the kingdom of El-Abha and the lights of the mind shine forth from that horizon upon its higher sphere. The other side inclineth to the lower concourse of the material world, and its lowest phase is enveloped in the darkness of ignorance.' He writes moreover: `There is a human spirit and a divine spirit, the latter arising through knowledge and belief in God. The human spirit is superior to the body and struggle with it for control of the soul: when it succeeds, the soul becomes heavenly; when the body obtains control, the soul becomes degraded.'[77]

`Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... the human personality appears in two aspects: the image or likeness of God and the aspect of Satan. The human reality stands between these two: the divine and the satanic.'[78]

He says moreover: `As long as man is a captive of habit, pursuing the dictates of self and desire, he is vanquished and defeated. This passionate personal ego takes the reins from his hands, crowds out the qualities of the divine ego, and changes him into an animal, a creature unable to judge good from evil, or to distinguish light from darkness. He becomes blind to divine attributes, for this acquired individuality, the result of an evil routine of thought, becomes the dominant note of his life.'[79]

And He writes: `In short, man is endowed with two natures: one tendeth towards moral sublimity and intellectual perfection, while the other turneth to bestial degradation and carnal imperfections.'[80]

It is clear therefore that the soul, in the process of developing its individuality in this world, is subject to the influences of two realities which are equally active upon it: its divine nature, urging the soul to develop its potential spiritual qualities typical of the world of the Kingdom; and its material or animal nature, leading the soul to indulge in the natural emotions of its natal self and thus to lower itself from the spiritual kingdom whence it comes to an inferior, animal level, to which the body belongs and into which it allures the soul.

Therefore man, guided by `... his individuality which is divine and heavenly' develops a personality `through the conscious effort... by training and education'. Thus `capacity' appears in him `in accordance with striving and sincerity'.[81]

This process of growth has been described in previous chapters. Bounties or powers of the soul required for that process to unfold will be described in the following pages.

The oneness of the spirit

Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Say, that spirit, mind, soul, hearing and sight are one, but differ through differing causes. In the case of man, for instance, ye see that by which man understands, moves, speaks, hears, and sees: all of these are through the power of his God in him, but they each one are different, according to the difference of their cause. Verily, this is indeed the truth.

`For example, if all these faculties are turned to that which causes hearing, then hearing and its results become manifest, and if they are turned to that which causes sight, another activity and another result will appear; if turned to the brain, head, etc., the manifestations of mind and soul will appear.'[82]

Bahá'u'lláh writes, moreover: `Consider the rational faculty with which God hath endowed the essence of man. Examine thine own self, and behold how thy motion and stillness, thy will and purpose, thy sight and hearing, thy sense of smell and power of speech, and whatever else is related to, or trascendeth, thy physical senses or spiritual perceptions, all proceed from, and owe their existence to, this same faculty.'[83]

And `Abdu'l-Bahá explains: `It is the same reality which is given different names, according to the different conditions wherein it is manifested. Because of its relation to matter and the phenomenal world when it governs the physical functions of the body, it is called the human soul; when it manifests itself as the thinker, the comprehender, it is called the human soul; when it manifests itself as the thinker, the comprehender, it is called the mind. And when it soars into the atmosphere of God, and travels in the spiritual world, it becomes designated as spirit.'[84]

These words enables us to understand the fundamental oneness of the spirit, beyond the multiplicity of its expressions. The instruments of the soul (or spirit of man) should not, therefore, be viewed as independent entities, but as different aspects of the same reality in its different functions.

Soul and body

The relation between body and soul is explained in many passages of the Bahá'í texts. `Abdu'l-Bahá says that `... this essence or soul of man because of its innate purity and its connection with the unseen Ancient Entity is old as regards time, but new as regards individuality.' The soul therefore -- as regards its individuality -- has a beginning at the time of fertilization. In that circumstance, the zygote or fertilized ovum which potentially contains in itself a future human being becomes as `a mirror'[85] reflecting into the world of creation the `effulgences' of that `spirit' `emanated from the reality of Divinity',[86] i.e. the soul. Elsewhere it is said that the zygote is like `a magnet... for the spirit' which `will become manifest in [it] with all its perfections'.[87]

This event is part of the great `creative plan of God':[88]

Matter -- in its evolution and transformations -- acquires different capacities of expressing in the world of creation the spiritual realities of the world of the Kingdom. In the stage of human zygote, matter acquires the capacity of manifesting the spirit of man.

Explaining the relation between soul and body, Bahá'u'lláh uses the metaphor of the sun (the soul) and the earth (the body),[89] whereas `Abdu'l-Bahá adduces other examples. He says that `... the human spirit does not enter into the physical body, nay, rather, it has some `attachment' (to it). This `attachment' is like that of the mirror and the sun.'[90]

Other examples He mentions are: `... the body is a mere garment utilized by the spirit', and moreover: `The spirit, or human soul, is the rider; and the body is only the steed.'[91]

In other words, on the one hand, the soul is mirrored forth from the body and, on the other, it utilizes the body as an instrument through which its qualities may be expressed. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `The soul acts in the physical world with the help of the body.'[92]

Therefore `... the soul is the intermediary between the body and the spirit...',[93] and `The soul is a link between body and spirit. It receives bounties and virtues from the spirit and gives them to the body, just as the outer senses carry that which they receive from the outer world to the inner senses, in order that (these impressions) may be deposited in the memory and, through his various powers, may be utilized by man.'[94]

Though the soul is closely related to the body, nevertheless it is independent of it. `That a sick person', writes Bahá'u'lláh, `showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments.' The body, on the contrary, is strictly dependent on the soul: `So closely are they [the senses] related unto it [the rational faculty]', writes Bahá'u'lláh, `that if in less than the twinkling of an eye its relationship to the human body be severed, each and every one of these senses will cease immediately to exercise its functions and will be deprived of the power to manifest the evidences of its activity.'[95]

The body therefore is but a machine functioning thanks to the `bounties'96 the soul receives from the world of the Kingdom and continuously bestows upon it (`It is the soul...', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `that directs a man's faculties, that governs his humanity'[97]) and at the same time it is an instrument through which the soul expresses itself in the world of creation.

Its bounties or powers[98]

`Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `... the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own'99 and therefore it is impossible to describe all those `bounties'100 the soul bestows upon the body; in other words the powers it manifests in the world of creation. However, when the Bahá'í texts are studied, the most important of those bounties and powers may be understood.

The soul as coordinator and motor of the body ... the various organs and members, the parts and elements, that constitute the body of man, though at variance, are yet all connected one with the other by that all-unifying agency known as the human soul, that causeth them to function in perfect harmony and with absolute regularity',[101] writes `Abdu'l-Bahá. And moreover: `the mind force -- whether we call it pre-existent or contingent -- doth direct and coordinate all the members of the human body, seeing to it that each part or member duly performeth its own special function.'[102]

And He says: `It is the soul... that directs a man's faculties, that governs its humanity.'[103]

He says moreover that the mediator between the soul and the body is the `sympathetic nerve'104 -- to which He refers also as `common faculty'[105] -- and regarding which He writes: `[it] is connected with both. Its phenomena shall be perfect when its spiritual and physical relations are normal'.[106]

The body therefore is an instrument through which the soul materializes itself, and which the soul utilizes so that its allotted purposes in the world may be accomplished. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `The attainment of any object is conditioned upon knowledge, volition and action. Unless these three conditions are forthcoming, there is no execution or accomplishment.'[107]

Since human life bears its fruits only when it is spent in the pursuance of the God-given goal of human souls `to know Him and to love Him',[108] he three conditions of knowledge, volition and action are realized in human life, i.e. the powers of knowing, loving and willing.[109]


Each human cognitive process is realized through the soul. `Abdu'l-Bahá states clearly that the soul can know `through instruments and organs'[110] and without them.[111]

The instruments which the soul utilizes so that it may know are the senses, through which `sense perception' is realised; and the brain, through which the `reasonable perception' or `intellection'[112] is realised. The soul can also know directly `without instruments and organs':[113] this is `insight, the power of inner perception',[114] or `intuitive knowledge'.[115]

Sense perception. It is shared by men and animals and one of its purposes is `to separate the beneficial from whatever causeth harm.'[116] In the animal it is the typical expression of the spirit at that level. In men, it is one of the expressions of the animal spirit. However in men, the typical expression of spirit is the `reasonable perception'.[117]

Bahá'u'lláh writes: `... if all these faculties [the faculties of the spirit] are turned to that which causes hearing, then hearing and its results become manifest, and if they are turned to that which causes sight, another activity and another result will appear; if turned to the brain, head, etc., the manifestations of mind and soul will appear....'[118]

And `Abdu'l-Bahá explains: `[the body] is only the medium of the grossest sensations',[119] and elsewhere He says: `It is not the body which feels pain or trouble, but the soul... though the body is the cause of that trouble.'[120]

He writes moreover that `feelings' in men and animals `are one and the same'.[121]

But it seems that though `sense perception' is shared by men and animals -- yet in men it has a different meaning and importance: in fact -- though it is undoubtedly produced through the body -- yet it is immediately elaborated by the soul through its power of `reasonable perception' through which it becomes conscious.

`Reasonable perception' or `intellection'.[122]

`Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `... the human spirit is an all-encompassing power that exerteth its dominion over the inner essences of all created things, uncovering the well kept mysteries of the phenomenal world'. Through this power, He adds, man `... graspeth universal ideas and layeth bare the secrets of creation' as well as `abstract and universal ideas'.[123]

He explains that this kind of knowledge is possible because of certain powers of the soul expressing themselves through the agency of the brain. In fact, among `the inherent properties of the soul' there are those to which He refers as `mental faculties'124 or `spiritual powers': imagination, thought, comprehension, memory, common faculty.[125]

He says that they are properties of the soul `as the radiation of light is the essential property of the sun',[126] and that they find their expression in the world of creation through the instrument of the brain. This `... action of the soul's power'127 expressed through the brain is called mind. The mind, says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `is the power of the human spirit. Spirit is the lamp; mind is the light which shines from the lamp. Spirit is the tree, and the mind is the fruit.'[128] Mind is strictly dependent on the brain, where `Abdu'l-Bahá says it `has its seat':[129] `For the mind to manifest itself, the human body must be whole; and a sound mind cannot be but in a sound body.' Because mind depends on the brain, it is `circumscribed'.[130] In fact mind comprehends through senses: without them it cannot function.

`Abdu'l-Bahá explains the process of intellection. Senses perceive material reality and convey their perceptions to the brain. In the brain, perceptions are conveyed through the common sense to the mind; the mind in its turn elaborates them through its mental faculties, i.e. imagination, thought, comprehension and memory. Thus `The mind comprehendth the abstract by the aid of the concrete.'130

`Abdu'l-Bahá writes that `... the human spirit is an all- encompassing power that exerteth its dominion over the inner essences of all created things, uncovering the well kept mysteries of the phenomenal world.

`The divine spirit, however, doth unveil divine realities and universal mysteries that lie within spiritual world.' Therefore the mind -- assisted by the `divine spirit'131 or `spirit of faith'[132] -- enables man to know also the reality of the spiritual world. This knowledge of the spiritual world is confirmed and strengthened through the soul's direct knowledge, its `inner perception or insight'.[133]

`Inner perception or insight'134 or `intuitive knowledge'.[135]

The Bahá'í texts very often refer to inner eye and vision, inner ear and hearing, as well as inner mind[136] and `Abdu'l-Bahá very often mentions two instruments -- mind and heart as factors of spiritual progress.[137] Mind has been previously discussed. The heart might be viewed as that kind of knowledge which the soul achieve without instruments and organs. This kind of knowledge is immediate, independent of any physical instrument, reflection or reasoning and leads man directly to the `knowledge of being'.[138] It is insight or intuition.[139]

In the Bahá'í view, this cognitive capacity is not bestowed only upon the chosen ones, through God knows what occult, mystical and magical arts. It is a power shared by all mankind; but today it is atrophied because it is very seldom used. In fact `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... if the spiritual qualities of the soul, open to the breath of the Divine Spirit, are never used, they become atrophied, enfeebled, and at last incapable...'[140]

Very few people make a deliberate, conscious and methodical use of their insight. Most of its fruits are reaped without an awareness of their origin. Contrary to this pattern, the Bahá'í texts prescribe a systematic use of this extraordinary cognitive power, and point to meditation as the specific practice through which this power may be both used and developed. Such is the importance attached in the Bahá'í texts to meditation, that `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `You cannot apply the name "man" to any being void of this faculty of meditation; without it he would be a mere animal, lower than the beasts.'[141]

But it is primarily the spiritual progress resulting from the choice made by the soul of turning towards the world of the Kingdom and its endeavours in facing the necessary sacrifices while it perseveres in that choice, that quicken such intuitive powers, as will be very useful in daily life. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `The human spirit possesseth wondrous powers, but it should be reinforced by the Holy Spirit... Then will that human spirit uncover realities, and unravel mysteries.' And elsewhere He writes: `The divine spirit... doth unveil divine realities.'[142]

He writes moreover:'I now assure thee... that if thy mind become empty and pure from every mention and thought and thy heart attracted wholly to the Kingdom of God, forget all else besides God and come in communion with the Spirit of God, then the Holy Spirit will assist thee with a power which will enable thee to penetrate all things, and a Dazzling Spark which enlightens all sides, a Brilliant Flame in the zenith of the heaven, will teach thee that which thou dost not know of the facts of the universe and of the divine doctrine.'[143]

We may thus epitomize some of the most important finctions of this power of the human soul:[144]

  1. Since it is a source of thought, it strengthens the mind and promotes creativity.
  2. It assists man in his moral choices, helping him in understanding the spiritual principles relevant to any issue to be faced and solved.
  3. It assists man in understanding the true nature of his own or another's individuality, behind the veil of personality; thus it assists man in loving himself and others, showing to him the sign of God in man.
  4. It assists man in comprehending the Revealed Words, whereas mind often leads to a superficial understanding and may sometimes even be an obstacle, particularly when it falls a prey to prejudice.
  5. It assists man in consultation, because it draws him closer to truth and helps him in understanding and loving his fellow-men.

`Abdu'l-Bahá explains that insight and mind cannot function simultaneously. `The sign of the intellect is contemplation', He says, `and the sign of contemplation is silence.'[145]

`Abdu'l-Bahá therefore indirectly recommends that the importunate mind be silenced from time to time, so that in that inner silence the voice of the spirit may be heard.[146]

Self-consciousness. Man, unique among the creatures on the earth, is self- conscious. Such is the importance of this divine bestowal that `Abdu'l-Bahá says that `the spiritual faculty' is `the heavenly gift of consciousness'. This extraordinary power of the soul bestows upon man the capacity of `conscious reflection', `conscious ideation', `conscious intelligence', `consciousness'. `Abdu'l-Bahá says:'God has created such a conscious spirit within him [man] that he is the most wonderful of all contingent beings.'[147]

Consciousness distinguishes man from animals, since animals cannot have such self-image as he has.[148] This concept set forth by `Abdu'l-Bahá is shared by modern scientists. It is well known that when a chimpanzee, which is the most evolved among the primates, sees its own image reflected in a mirror, it does not understand that it is its own image. At most it looks behind the mirror, searching there for another animal. In fact the animal is not possessed of the capacity of memorizing the image of its own body and therefore it cannot know itself as an individual.

Thanks to this power, men know and are conscious of their knowledge. Sense perception, reasonable perception of material reality achieved through the mental faculties of the soul, intellectual perception of `the Divine reality of things',[149] inner perception or insight and any other human activity (emotions and feelings, attraction and attachment, volition and endeavour) are, one and all, conscious activities.

The Bahá'í texts say that this consciousness has been bestowed upon man so that certain important purposes may be achieved:
  1. `to investigate and discover the truth' `for himself'; to `perceive what is true' arriving at `valid conclusions' and `at the verities of existence';[150]
  2. to `safeguard and protect himself';[151]
  3. to apprehend `the divine teachings';[152]
  4. to arrive at `the choice of good or evil';[153]
  5. to free himself `from all the fetters of self';[154]
  6. `to render effective the will of God and give it material station';[155]
  7. to acquire and manifest `... the bounties of God, that he may establish the kingdom of God among men and attain to happiness in both worlds, the visible and invisible'.155


Love is another fundamental.characteristic of the soul. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `I have breathed within thee a breath of My own Spirit, that thou mayest be My lover',[156]

suggesting that this capacity of loving typical of man is one of the divine qualities shining within him. In the Bahá'í texts, love is described as an eternal, marvelous, irresistible, all-pervading force which is `the cause of the existence of all phenomena'.[157]

Creation is the outcome of `the love of God towards the Self or Identity of God':[158] This love shines forth in the various levels of existence -- in different degrees according to their respective capacities -- in conformity with a single, universal law enunciated thus by `Abdu'l-Bahá: `the whole attracteth the part, and in the circle, the centre is the pivot of the compasses', with its corollary: `... any movement animated by love moveth from the periphery to the centre.' In the mineral kingdom we see the affinity among the elemental atoms to which `Abdu'l-Bahá refers as: `the unique power that bindeth together the diverse elements of this material world'; we see moreover `the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms';[159] in the animal kingdom we find `certain affiliation and fellowship... and selective affinity',[160] typical of that kingdom. In the human kingdom we see that man, being possessed of an animal nature belonging to the world of creation, is attracted towards that world; while being possessed of a divine nature belonging to the world of the Kingdom, he is also attracted towards that Kingdom.[161]

The human soul therefore is subject to such typical tension previously mentioned, as arises from the divergent attractions towards those two different kingdoms of existence. At first the human soul hesitates and is doubtful in its choice between material reality or the world of creation and divine reality or the world of the Kingdom. When the soul chooses the love of the divine reality, its spiritual growth begins. Thus, the soul arises to a superior degree of reality and loves both the world of the Kingdom and the world of creation. But if the soul chooses the world of creation, which is an inferior degree, it will ignore the world of the Kingdom, which is a superior degree.

The most important characteristics of this capacity of loving typical of man are described in the Bahá'í texts.

The capacity of feeling joy and pain. Love is always attended by feelings of joy and pain: pain whenever the loved one is far away, joy whenever the loved one is close.[162]

This important capacity of feeling joy and pain is typical of the soul: `It is not the body which feels pain or trouble', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `but the soul... though the body is the cause of that Trouble',[163] and He adds: `If we are caused joy or pain by a friend... it is the soul that is affected.'[164]

This capacity of feeling joy and pain is very important for the soul. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `It is the nature of man to find enjoyment in that which is gratifying to his senses,' and moreover: `God originally endowed man with an individuality which enjoyed that which was beneficial...'. Joy and pain are therefore for man's protection, so that he may not draw close to that which harms him or escape from that which profits him. However, `... man through his evil habits changes this creation and transforms the divine illumination into satanic darkness'.[165]

And moreover, He writes: `...every individual is born holy and pure, and only thereafter may become defiled.'[166]

We understand now why purity is such an important human quality: when a man is impure, his capacity of judgment is undoubtedly impaired; when he is pure, he is able to turn towards that which profits him.

Purity of heart is inborn in man. `The hearts of all children are of the utmost purity', says `Abdu'l-Bahá and therefore they are `near to God'. He says moreover: `They are mirrors upon which no dust has fallen.' Yet, the original purity of children is because of their weakness. In the course of their lives, their purity may be strengthened `through the power of intelligence... through the great power of reason and of understanding', so that when those children grow to manhood, they become `pure... simple... sincere.'[167]

These qualities enable them to be aware of their truest human needs, which are their spiritual needs, above their less noble, material instincts, which may draw them far away from their true spiritual reality. But sometimes those children are enticed by their natal selves with their natural emotions. In this case their purity is lost and, `Abdu'l-Bahá says, their souls may fall prey to `selfish disorders, intellectual maladies, spiritual sicknesses',[168] so that they go so far as to love harmful things and to hate beneficial things. The soul is, in a sense, subject as regards its purity to a phenomenon of addiction, i.e. it may easily fall into bad habits. It is like the nose which at first smells any odour, but after a prolonged exposition to an odour, it no longer perceives it.[169]

Such is the condition of impurity. Man must therefore be possessed of the capacity and of the ability to distinguish between harmful and beneficent things, to avoid harmful things lest he get accustomed to them and stop feeling such repugnance for them as is caused by the trouble those same things originally give him. Purity is closely connected with that human faculty `which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy or unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame'.[170]

In this regard `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `It is clear... that the emergence of this natural sense of human dignity and honour is the result of education', `one of the bounties deriving from the instructions of the Prophets of God'.[171]

The Manifestation of God, in fact, reveals to man how he should behave in his life in view of his own material, mental and spiritual progress. His sense of shame is trained at the school of religion, where man is taught how to satisfy his inborn -- animal, human and spiritual -- needs, in view of a harmonious and balanced growth of all his potentialities. It seems therefore a potential human capacity, a part of his individuality, which will grow and become manifest only through training.

The power of love. Love is described in the Bahá'í texts as an amazing power, `the most wonderful, the greatest of all living powers.'[172] Love very often works independently of the power of reason. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `... the lover hath no desire save union with his beloved.' In his eagerness to reach his goal, the lover ignores any other thing, and is capable of any insanity: `... when the fire of love is ablaze', Bahá'u'lláh writes, `it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason.'[173]

The Bahá'í texts very often describe love through metaphors drawn from the experience of human love between a man and a woman. This passion may therefore be viewed as a metaphor of the highest expression of love which a man may experience: the unselfish, total love towards the Absolute, i.e. God Himself. The object of love is important, as regards its results in daily life. In fact the consequence of such insanity will be either destructive or constructive depending on whether its object is beneficent or maleficent. It is one thing to eat a healthy food giving strength and energy to the body, and another to become poisoned by a venomous draught.

Love and knowledge. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `When reality envelops the soul of man, love is possible,'[174] and He explains: `When man's soul is rarefied and cleansed, spiritual links are established, and from these bonds sensations felt by the heart are produced. The human heart resembleth a mirror. When this is purified human hearts are attuned and reflect one another, and thus spiritual emotions are generated.'[175]

Knowledge assists man in choosing the object of his love: the closer to reality this knowledge is, the closer to the Absolute is the object of love, and the nobler are the deeds produced through his will.

Love and courage. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear'; and moreover: `A lover feareth nothing and no harm can come nigh him.' The logic of love would have the lover ready to do anything that he may reach his beloved, even to offer `a hundred lives'. Therefore Bahá'u'lláh writes: `The steed of this Valley [of love] is pain.' This pain is caused not only by the separation from the beloved, but also because love `seeth life in death': in the reunion with the beloved, the lover longs for total annihilation, and is there any greater pain than the dying to oneself? In the path of the spiritual search the lover is ready to give up the attributes of his natal self that he may take on the divine qualities. For this purpose, `at every step he throweth a thousand heads at the feet of the beloved'.[176]

The growth of love. The capacity of loving -- as any other reality within man -- is a potential capacity, bound to develop. This growth is a gradual change of the object of love, from the love of the natal self to the love of greater and more universal realities, until it focus upon the Self of God, the Logos.

Man is endowed with dynamics, attributes and capacities which assist him in developing his own capacity of loving: the dynamics of joy and pain, the attribute of purity, the capacity of knowing reality, and thus of somehow choosing the object of his love. But none of these endowments will prove sufficient to preserve the soul from the destruction ensuing from a love, whose object is unworthy. Divine assistance is needed. `Wouldst thou the mind should not entrap thee? Teach it the science of the love of God', writes Bahá'u'lláh. And `Abdu'l-Bahá explains that this science is religion, suggesting that man should always adhere to such laws of the Universal Mind as are expounded by the Manifestation of God, so that he may not be deceived by his own mind, in its proposing objects of love. Bahá'u'lláh writes moreover: `The lover's teacher is the Loved One's beauty; His face their lesson and their only book',[177] suggesting that the world of creation is a marvelous school of the love of God, if man only learns how to look at it.


Knowledge, as self-consciousness, and love, as awareness of such feelings as are generated from attraction, qualify choice, or will. Will, therefore, seems to be the choice of a satisfying attraction or, in other words, the choice of the object of love. This choice is made by the soul. The soul is confined within the condition of `servitude',[178] and of powerlessness, yet it has been endowed by God with the bounty of free will or free choice. `The essence of all power is God's',[179] writes Bahá'u'lláh; and moreover: `Know, also, that the life of man is from the Spirit and to turn indeed is from the soul.'[180]

And also: `All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition',[181] suggesting that the soul is free to manifest either its divine nature or its animal nature. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... in the choice of good and bad actions he [man] is free, and he commits them according to his own will.'[182]

And moreover: `God, himself, cannot compel the soul to become spiritual; the exercise of a free human will is necessary.'[183] Explaining this particular human condition, `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... this condition is like that of a ship which is moved by the power of the wind or steam; if this power ceases, the ship cannot move at all. Nevertheless, the rudder of the ship turns it to either side, and the power of the steam moves it in the desired direction... in all the action or inaction of man, he receives power from the help of God; but the choice of good or evil belongs to the man himself.'[184]

The soul therefore may `turn', or make his choice of inner and outer attitude, according to such attraction as it feels and to its understanding of that attraction. The choice of the world of creation -- which in man expresses itself as animal nature -- is the easiest choice, because it does not imply any change, any transition from an inferior to a superior stage. On the contrary, the choice of the world of the Kingdom -- which in man expresses itself as divine nature -- is a difficult choice, at least at the beginning, because it implies an awareness of a remote reality, a change, a transition from an inferior to a superior stage: it is the second birth or spiritual progress.

In the Bahá'í texts, human freedom is viewed as a moral liberty of choosing between the attraction towards the world of nature and the attraction towards the world of the Kingdom, between love of the natal self and love of the Self of God. Most of the facts and circumstances of human life belong to a process which eludes the command of human will. They may be viewed as expressions of the will of God. Therefore, whosoever rebels against them somehow rebels against the will of God Himself. Man's dignity and freedom lie in his striving to mirror forth the qualities of the world of the Kingdom in such particular circumstances as are his lot. In fact, these circumstances are both an outcome of his choices and of a chain of events which do not depend on him. He may try to modify those facts and circumstances in his life which do not mirror forth the world of the Kingdom, so that they may do it. On the other hand, he may rebel against the will of God in several ways. One of the most widespread kinds of rebellion in the Western world is the attitude of changing pain into despair. Pain cannot be avoided. Whenever acutely-felt needs cannot be satisfied, or realities encountered in which the light of the world of the Kingdom is too dimly reflected, any soul feels pain. Rebellion occurs whenever a soul dwells unduly upon such unpleasant aspects of life, whenever it indulges in its painful feelings, whenever it does not show those concrete and positive attitude through which that need may be satisfied, that dim light may become more brilliant. In fact, God has willed joy and high aims for us. `I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved, I will be a happy and joyous being... I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life',[185] is the promise `Abdu'l-Bahá exhorts us to make in one of His prayers. And elsewhere He gives the following advice to an inquirer: `Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All- Merciful Lord.'[186]

It is clear that human choice, or the exercise of the `power of will',[187] depend on both attraction (or love), and knowledge. Man chooses what he knows will satisfy such needs as he is aware of, because he feels them as pain. That is why `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `Regarding the "two wings" of the soul: These signify wings of ascent. One is the wing of knowledge, the other of faith, as this is the means of the ascent of the human soul to the lofty station of divine perfections.'[188]

And elsewhere He says that faith is: `love that flows from man to God... attraction to the Divine, enkindlement...'[189]

Knowledge, therefore, is but the first step into the path of spiritual progress. Through his knowledge man becomes, on the one hand, conscious of his needs, and, on the other, aware of the means through which those needs may be satisfied. Having attained such consciousness and awareness, he will be ready to make his choice by the agency of his will. His heart will be ready to choose its `attachment',[190] an attachment that may be called in this context love. Will, in this context, is the choice of the object of attachment, or of love. Only at this point will he be ready to act, and his action will thus be guided by a faith which is both `conscious knowledge'[191] and `love'.[192]


If knowledge, love and will must be conducive to action, an effort is requested from the soul. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Success or failure, gain or loss must, therefore, depend upon man's exertions.' And moreover: `The greater the effort exerted... the more faithfully will it [the soul] be made to reflect the glory of the names and attributes of God.'[193]

And `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `we must strive with energies of heart, soul and mind to develop and manifest the perfections and virtues latent within the realities of the phenomenal world.'[194]

And moreover: `Capacity is in accordance with striving and sincerity.'[195]

Therefore, the soul leads the body to act in the world of creation on the grounds of its understanding of reality and of the attraction it has decided to follow, prompted in this decision by its, sometimes vague, feeling that its needs will be satisfied thereby. Any action implies a change of a previous condition, and therefore requires an effort. The soul is possessed of the required qualities for its efforts to be successful: steadfastness, perseverance, firmness, courage and many other qualities of the soul which are indispensable for any action.[196]

`Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `... the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own.'[197]

In fact, the powers of knowledge, love and will are three great categories of qualities expressed by the soul in accomplishing the purpose of its creation. In each of these three categories, many qualities may be recognized. These qualities are reflections of the divine qualities of the world of the Kingdom, and constitutes potential endowments at the disposal of any human soul in its endeavour of approaching, step by step, the goal of its existence: to return conscious into that world of the Kingdom whence it came forth unconscious.

Moreover as knowledge, love and will are closely interrelated, so knowledge, will and action -- being their outcome -- should be viewed not as three successive and independent steps of a linear process, whose reciprocal relations are univocal cause-effect relations. They should rather be viewed in the light of the concept of unity and of the evolution of reality set forth in the Bahá'í texts. They are the outcome of three aspects of a single reality, the soul, and therefore they interact. Sometimes, in the sight of God there is no difference between intention and action: `Every act ye meditate is as clear to Him as is that act when already accomplished,'[198] writes Bahá'u'lláh. Knowledge and love influence will, and will is conducive to action. But each one of them is influenced as well by the other. Knowledge is no longer the same, once will has been fulfilled, through the impulse of love, in an action. Any action confirms or denies cognitive or volitional-affective data through a dynamics which is very similar to biological feed-back.[199]

Moreover, knowledge, love and will are so strictly interrelated that divided from one another they lose their meaning. An unconscious and involuntary action is not the same as a conscious and a voluntary one.[200]

Whenever knowledge, love and will are not translated into actions, they lose importance. The cognitive, affective, volitional and practical aspects of human reality are therefore closely interrelated and, depending on the circumstances, they confirm or deny one another.

The dynamics of the choice

Such are the reasons and the dynamics of the choice. The following steps are required, so that the choice may be properly directed:

  1. Whenever the cognitive powers are properly used, knowledge of reality is achieved.
  2. Knowledge of reality fosters the soul's `attraction to the Divine', which, in the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá, is faith, in its meaning of `the love that flows from man to God.'[201]
  3. Faith is realized as `conscious knowledge and the practice of good deeds'202 whenever the attraction to the world of the Kingdom is favoured.
  4. The attraction to the world of the Kingdom and the conscious knowledge of reality are conducive to the willing acceptance of any consequence ensuing for the soul from its efforts to become attracted towards the world of the Kingdom. This is the real meaning of sacrifice.
  5. All these conditions (knowledge, love and will as expressed through action) attract `the power of the Holy Spirit',[203] which in its turn transforms the nature of man and draws out of him his potential divine virtues, or in other words his capacities.
    (vi) As man's divine virtues emerge, he becomes more and more fit to reach his spiritual goal, and the process of his spiritual growth becomes more and more easy and speedy.

Now it is clear that knowledge, love and will are not enough for a man to produce concrete and positive results through his actions. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `... every great Cause in this world of existence findeth visible expression through three means: first, intention; second, confirmation; third, action.' Therefore a confirmation is required so that intention may be translated into action. In the same text, He explains that `confirmation' means `the confirmations of the Kingdom', `a Dynamic power', `the power of the Word of God':[204] in other words the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

The Bahá'í texts say that if we are to receive such a confirmation, we should -- out of pure love -- orientate our choices and efforts according to the prescriptions of the Manifestation, that is towards the world of the Kingdom. Only thus will such divine virtues be achieved as are both means for the entrance into the Kingdom and qualifications of the enlightened souls, i.e. fruits of spiritual progress.

Whenever, on the contrary, a man decides that he will not follow the guidance of the Manifestation of God, either because he does not know it, or because, although he knows it, he has nevertheless preferred to turn his back on reality and to rely upon his own fancies, the process will follow a quite different course. Mostly, a man decides that he will favour his attraction towards the world of nature whenever he has used improperly his cognitive powers and has thus not understood the greater importance of the world of the Kingdom when compared to the world of creation. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes in this regard: `... some souls are ignorant, they must be educated; some are sick, they must be healed; some are still of tender age, they must be helped to attain maturity, and the utmost kindness must be shown to them.'[205]

This concept is reminiscent of the `Socratic identification of science and virtue'.[206]

On the grounds of this fundamental mistake, such a man places his faith -- which is both knowledge and love -- in an unworthy reality and his deeds will mirror forth the qualities of that same reality. Those deeds therefore will not be conducive to love, unity and cooperation, but will manifest the law of self-centredness and of the struggle for existence with the survival of the fittest, typical of the world of creation or nature. Thus his love will not be attraction towards the world of the Kingdom, but only attachment, i.e. bondage to the material reality in which he was created so that he might become detached from it. As there is no spiritual love within him, neither will there be any willing acceptance of pain and suffering, whose meaning he has not understood. To him such pain will be both retribution for a wrong choice, and an encouragement to change his ways. Since such a man makes no sacrifice, the power of the Holy Spirit will not be attracted and none of the divine virtues enshrined in his inner reality will become manifest. He will sink deeper and deeper into the world of creation, at whose service he will have put his own mind, `God's greatest gift to man';[207] `daily [will] he strut abroad with the characteristic of a wild beast', be it `a ferocious tiger', or `a creeping, venomous viper' and will become `viler than the most fierce of savage creatures.'[208]

In this condition, the qualities of the world of nature will emerge in that man: cruelty, ruthlessness, aggression, selfishness, as well as fear, anguish, anxieties, agony, cares; and he will not be able to escape them. He will experience the hell of his `insistent self', with its `evil promptings' and `carnal desires.'[209]

His spiritual progress will stop. Of such men Christ said: `... let the dead bury their dead,'[210] and Bahá'u'lláh wrote that they abide in `the abode of dust' or in the `plane of heedlessness'.[211]

Until they abandon such behaviour, they will not reach the goal intended for men: knowing their own true being, which is divine, through the realization of divine virtues.

The choice is thus a dynamic process, rich in negative and positive feed-backs. But each forward step will lead to higher levels of knowledge, will and action.

The soul as the mirror of human choices[212]

The results of the choice are manifest in the soul, which will mirror forth either the natural emotions of its natal self, i.e. the darksome world of nature, or its spiritual feelings and divine virtues, i.e. the luminous world of the Kingdom, depending on whether the attraction towards the former or the latter has been chosen. Between these two extremes there are indeed many intermediate degrees, closer to one or to the other end depending on the spiritual progress achieved, and which are actually expressed by human beings in their daily lives. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `The souls of the believers, at the time when they first become manifest in the world of the body, are equal, and each is sanctified and pure. In this world, however, they will begin to differ one from the other, some achieving the highest station, some a middle one, others remaining at the lowest stage of being.'[213]

The bounties of the spirit, reflected within the soul, become visible in the world of creation -- through the instrumentality of the body -- as spiritual knowledge, feelings, deeds and words.

Spiritual knowledge.214

Bahá'u'lláh writes: `... keenness of understanding is due to keenness of vision.'[215] And `Abdu'l-Bahá writes to an inquirer: `Verily, it [the Holy Spirit] is the shining morning and the rosy dawn which will impart unto thee the lights, reveal the mysteries and make thee competent in science, and through it the pictures of the Supreme World will be printed in thy heart and the facts of the secrets of the.Kingdom of.God will shine before thee.'[216]

Elsewhere He writes: `Once a soul becometh holy in all things, purified, sanctified, the gates of the knowledge of God will open wide before his eyes.'[217]

It is the Holy Spirit that bestows the bounty of knowledge. The Holy Spirit opens the inner eye and therefore confers a deeper comprehension of both the material and spiritual worlds.

Moreover, spiritual perception and virtues are closely interrelated, because whoever shows forth any virtue will have an experience of it, and therefore will know it. It follows that any virtuous man has a deeper spiritual understanding of the world of the Kingdom to which his own virtues belong.

Spiritual feelings. Spiritual feelings are virtues of the world of the Kingdom reflected in human hearts. Whoever is adorned therewith will not need words or deeds to manifest them. They are part of his individuality and personality. They radiate from him, as a light from its source. Of these men the Báb, quoting the Qur'án, said: `On that day will We set a seal upon their mouths; yet shall their hands speak unto Us, and their feet shall bear witness to that which they shall have done.'[218]

Joy is one of the most typical feelings of spiritual men. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Whoso keepest the commandments of God shall attain everlasting felicity.'[219]

And `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `Afflictions and troubles are due to the state of not being content with what God hath ordained for you. If one submits himself to God, he is happy.'[220]

And moreover: `The most great, peerless gift of God to the world of humanity is happiness born of love -- they are the twin sisters of the superman; one is the complement of the other.'[221]

But He says also: `Although the bestowal is great and the grace is glorious, yet, capacity and readiness are requisite. Without capacity and readiness, the divine bestowal will not become manifest and evident... Therefore we must obtain capacity in order that the signs of the mercy of the Lord may become revealed. We must endeavour to make the soil of the hearts free from these useless weeds and sanctified from the thorns of useless thoughts in order that the cloud of Mercy may bestow its power upon it.' Therefore, only a sacrifice met for the sake of love will deliver man from the natural emotions of his natal self, will confer upon him `capacity and readiness',[222] and will enable him to achieve true happiness. Happiness is a `spiritual state',[223] and is `... dependent upon the susceptibilities of the heart and the attitude of the mind'.[224] He writes: `As to material happiness, it never exists; nay, it is but imagination, an image reflected in mirrors, a spectre and shadow... It is something, which but slightly removes one's afflictions... All the material blessings... bestow no delight on the mind, nor pleasure to the soul: nay, they furnish only the bodily wants...

`As to spiritual happiness, this is the true basis of the life of man, because life is created for happiness, not for sorrow; for pleasure, not for grief... This great blessing and precious gift is obtained by man only through the guidance of God.'

He writes also that spiritual happiness is `... light... glad-tidings... the Kingdom... life... the fundamental basis from which man is created, worlds are originated, the contingent beings have existence and the world of God appears like unto the appearance of the sun at midday. This happiness is but the love of God', whereas sorrow is `darkness... disappointment... the earthly world... non existence'. `Were it not for this happiness,' He adds, `the world of existence would not have been created.'[225]

This condition of `spiritual enjoyment' is of such importance, that He mentions it among the peculiar traits of man `to which the animal can never attain', because it `depends from the acquisition of heavenly virtues'226 animals are debarred from.

Spiritual deeds. Spiritual deeds are in the Bahá'í view of life those actions which, suggested by love, promote the unity of mankind, through a well pondered voluntary action. Whether they are humble actions in the modest sphere of a limited personal existence or great deeds relevant to the well-being of the whole of mankind, their meaning is always the same: `to render effective the will of God and give it material station.'[227]

In fact, God's will for today is that the divine attribute of unity may become manifest in the world and that a society of unity and peace may be created. Such deeds are well-pleasing unto God, because when they are weighed `in the scales of divine teachings',[228] they comply with them. This topic has been previously discussed.

Spiritual words. As to spiritual words, `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `The heart is like a box, and language is the key.' Then He adds: `... the function of language is to portray the mysteries and secrets of human hearts.'[229]

Words may be thus viewed under two aspects:

(i) Words are the key to open the `boxes' of the hearts;

(ii) Words portray the mysteries and secrets of human hearts.

The Bahá'í texts recommend certain conditions, so that words may be properly used as unique and powerful means of communication.

First, Bahá'u'lláh attaches the greatest importance to words: `... the impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible... One word may be likened unto fire, another unto light, and the influence which both exert is manifest in the world... One word is like unto springtime causing the tender saplings of the rose-garden of knowledge to become verdant and flourishing, while another word is even as a deadly poison,'[230]

He writes. And elsewhere: `... the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison.'[231]

Numerous are His counsels we should follow, if our words are to `possess penetrating power' whereby they may `exert [their] influence.' He recommends `hearts which are detached and pure... spirit... pure and heart stainless', so that words may be possessed of `penetrating power.' He recommends moreover `tact and wisdom', so that `moderation' may be achieved, as well as `leniency and forbearance'.[232]

The Bahá'í texts recommend that, once the use of words is perfected, they should be devoted to the fostering of unity and peace in the world. This purpose may be achieved in two fundamental ways: teaching the Faith and consultation.

  1. Teaching the Faith. The best use of words, in such a world of unity and peace as Bahá'u'lláh wants mankind to build, is for the opening of `the city of the human heart',[233] or for causing `the bushes to be enkindled and the call "Verily, there is no God but Me, the Almighty, the Unconstrained" to be raised therefrom',[234] i.e. for the kindling in human hearts of love of the Manifestation of God.

  2. Consultation. The proper use of words represents moreover

    one of the fundamental elements of that method of confrontation of ideas and deliberation Bahá'u'lláh describes as an expression of `the maturity of the gift of understanding', one of the `two luminaries' enlightening the `heaven of divine wisdom', and which He recommends as a unique instrument of `welfare' and `wellbeing', as `a cause of awareness and awakening', 235 i.e. the method of consultation.

Consultation is recommended not only as an effective method of finding solutions to personal and interpersonal problems, but is also prescribed for the administration of public affairs. Issues of social life find a better solution whenever groups of specially elected or appointed people meet in consultation. Consultation will be well conducted and will produce good results only when certain simple technical rules are observed, and whenever the hearts of those consulting (where the required words for any exchange of ideas during consultation find their origin) are well advanced in their spiritual progress. Without these prerequisites, consultation will not be optimal, it will be more difficult to find solutions, and it will be more likely that those solutions may be wrong. Nevertheless consultation, however imperfect it may be, is in itself a means of spiritual perfecting, because any effort aimed at achieving a harmonious view of an issue is in itself an effort towards spiritualization. Consultation is therefore recommended also as an instrument of personal and collective spiritual progress. We may now well understand why the spiritualizazion of mankind is required for any real improvement of the political and social conditions of the world.

* * *

Spiritual knowledge, feelings, deeds and words are therefore an expression of the qualities of the soul -- knowledge, love and will -- manifested in the world of creation through the instrumentality of the body. The Perfect Man, the Manifestation of God, in His perfect consciousness of inner and outer reality, realizes a perfect unity and harmony between these expressions of His reality. Imperfect man, in his almost total ignorance of reality, realizes disharmony and conflict and creates difficulties for himself and for others. Spiritual progress implies a growing consciousness of inner and outer reality and a more and more bountiful confirmation of the spirit and therefore an increasing harmony between knowledge, feelings, deeds and words.

The journey of the soul

`Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... the human spirit is a Divine Trust, and it must traverse all conditions, for its passage and movements through the conditions of existence will be the means of its acquiring perfections... when the human spirit passes through the conditions of existence, it will become the possessor of each degree and station.'[236]

Human life is therefore a `journey', a `pilgrimage' of the soul, the `journey back to God', and `the pathway of life is the road which leads to divine knowledge and attainment',[237] whereas `every atom in existence and the essence of all created things' have been ordained by God for man's `training'.[238]

Preexistent as an undifferentiated potentiality in the divine world of the Kingdom, the human soul appears as a potentially self-conscious individuality in the world of creation at the moment of conception. The purpose of its journey through the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdom is for the soul to make the experience and to acquire the qualities of those kingdoms, so that it may go back adorned with consciousness and will into that world of the Kingdom whence it departed unconscious, and whose attraction it has always felt, albeit obscurely and dimly.

It is the pen of a poet that assists us in expressing the feelings of this human condition: the mystical pen of Rumi, that tells of the consuming yearning of the soul in its remembrance of that world of the Kingdom whence it departed and from which it feels so remote:

Listen to the reed how it tells a tale, complaining of separations -
Saying, `Ever since I was parted from the reed-bed, my lament hath caused man and woman to moan.
I want a bosom torn by severance, that I may unfold (to such a one) the pain of love-desire.
Every one who is left far from his source wishes back the time when he was united with it.
In every company I uttered my wailful notes, I consorted with the unhappy and with them that rejoice.[239]

It is once again his pen which suggests a prayer -- mentioned by Bahá'u'lláh Himself in His Four Valleys -- to be raised up to God, that He may assist our souls in their quest:

O Lord! O Thou Whose bounty granteth wishes
I stand before Thee, all save Thee forgetting.
Grant that the mote of knowledge in my spirit
Escape desire and the lowly clay;
Grant that Thine ancient gift, this drop of wisdom,
Merge with Thy mighty sea.[240]

That same inspired pen thus describes -- after a toilsome journey through endless times and spaces -- the enraptured amazement of self-annihilation and of the vision of God in the innermost heart:

Cross and Christians, from end to end
I surveyed; He was not on the Cross.
I went to the idol-temple, to the ancient pagoda;
No trace was visible there.
I went to the mountains of Herat and Candahar;
I looked: He was not in that hill-and-dale.
With set purpose I fared to the summit of Mount Qaf;
In that place was only the `Anqa's habitation.
I bent the reins of search to the Ka'ba;
He was not in that resort of old and young.
I questioned Ibn Sina of his state;
He was not in Ibn Sina's range.
I fared towards the scene of `two bow-length' distance';
He was not in that exalted court.
And.I gazed into my own heart;
There I saw Him; He was nowhere else.
Save pure-souled Shamsi Tabriz
None ever was drunken and intoxicated and distraught.[241]

End notes:

[1] Paris Talks, p.85. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `...true life is not the life of the flesh but the life of the spirit. For the life of the flesh is common both to men and animals, whereas the life of the spirit is possessed only by the pure in heart who have quaffed from the ocean of faith and partaken of the fruit of certitude. This life knoweth no death and this existence is crowned by immortality.'(Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.120.)

[2] Some Answered Questions, pp.189-90.

[3] Promulgation, p.241.

[4] See Some Answered Questions, pp.185-190; Promulgation, pp.17, 30, 54, 58, 61, 80, 90, 172, 178, 241-2, 332, 357, 417. See above p.97 and no. 76.

[5] Promulgation, p.17. See ibid. p.360.

[6] Some Answered Questions, p.17. As to the meaning of dreams, Shoghi Effendi wrote through his secretary: `That truth is often imparted through dreams no one who is familiar with history, especially religious history, can doubt. At the same time dreams and visions are always coloured and influenced more or less by the mind of the dreamer and we must beware of attaching too much importance to them.' (Quoted in Bahá'í Institutions (comp.), p.107.)

[7] As to the meaning of the words self or ego, see above pp.126-7 and no. 45.

[8] Promulgation, p.242. See ibid. pp.242-3, 464.

[9] Ibid. p.59.

[10] Some Answered Questions, p.152.

[11] Paris Talks, p.89. This argument, supporting the immortality of the soul on the ground of its motion, seems similar to an argument set forth by Plato in his Phaedrus.

[12] `The Three Realities' in Star of the West VII, 119. This argument may paralleled by an argument set forth by Plato in His Phaedo, stating that the soul is immortal because it is not an accident, but a substance.

[13] Promulgation, p.307. See ibid. p.242, 306. This argument may be brought back to argument b.i

[14] Divine Philosophy, p.124.

[15] Promulgation,p.308. See p.308. This argument may be brought back to argument b.1.

[16] Promulgation, pp.417, 308.

[17] See Divine Philosophy, p.124. Some Answered Questions, p.229; Promulgation, p.308. This argument may be brought back to argument no. (i) immediately above.

[18] Paris Talks, p.91.

[19] Promulgation, p.260. See ibid. pp.260, 306, 415; Paris Talks, p.91. This argument seems similar to the arguments set forth by Plato in his Phaedo and by St Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Contra Gentiles, when they declare that the soul is immortal because it is `simple.'

[20] Some Answered Questions, p.225.

[21] Paris Talks, p.91. See Some Answered Questions, p.225; Promulgation, pp.307-8; Paris Talks, p.91. This argument seems similar to the argument produced by Platon in his Menon, by St Augustine in His Soliloquia and by St Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Contra Gentiles, when they say that the presence of truth in the soul is a warrant for its immortality.

[22] Paris Talks, p.93. St Thomas Aquinas mentions this argument as a signum (as something that seemingly reveals something else) in his Summa Theologica.

[23] ibid. p.93 See Paris Talks, p.93.

[24] `Tablet to Dr. A. Forel', in Bahá'í World XV, p.40. See `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, pp.184-5; Paris Talks, p.92; Divine Philosophy, p.119.

[25] Divine Philosophy, p.119.

[26] Some Answered Questions, p.223.

[27] Paris Talks,pp.89-90. See ibid. p.93. As to this argument, upholding the immortality of the soul as `a requirement of human moral life', N. Abbagnano writes: `This argument was not successful in ancient times; it has rather proved the reason (very often hidden) why philosophers were lead to seek out other arguments proving the immortality of the soul.'(Dizionario di Filosofia, p.471.)

[28] Paris Talks, p.89. It is the ancient, recurring argument called consensus gentium (general consent), set forth by Cicero in his Tusculanae Disputationes.

29 Gleanings, p.158.

[30] Paris Talks, p.93.

[31] Divine Philosophy, p.119. The argument of the consensus becomes more pregnant, when that consensus is not given by common people, but by such authorities as the Manifestations of God.

[32] Some Answered Questions, pp.115-16.

[33] Gleanings, pp.160, 182.

[34] `Survival and Salvation', in Star of the West, VII, p.190.

[35] Promulgation, 421.

[36] `Survival and Salvation', in Star of the West, VII, p.190.

[37] Some Answered Questions, p.239. It seems that `Abdu'l-Bahá gives to the word `substance', in this statement, the Aristotelian meaning: that which necessarily is what it is.

[38] `Survival and Salavation', in Star of the West, I, p.190. Essence, in this statement, seems accepted in its meaning of `necessary essence', i.e. `substance.'

[39] Promulgation, p.464.

[40] Quoted in M. M. Rabb, `The Divine Art of Living', in Star of the West, VII, p.151.

[41] Paris Talks, p.25.

[42] Quoted in `Studies in Immortality', in Star of the West, XIV, p.8.

[43] Promulgation, p.60.

[44] `Survival and Salvation', in Star of the West, I, p.190.

[45] Promulgation, p.60.

[46] Tablets, p.611.

[47] ibid. p.591.

[48] Promulgation, pp.464-5. The word `form' here refers to an immaterial reality; it is not therefore used - it seems - in its Aristotelian meaning of `substance of things which are possessed of matter', but in its Scholastic meaning of `necessary essence, or substantial principle which characterizes a being and determines its specific nature'.' (See N. Abbagnano, Dizionario di Filosofia, pp.145-7.)

[49] Promulgation, pp.465, 258. The Bahá'í texts attach the greatest importance to human consciousness; however, consciousness is viewed as one of the divine qualities of human soul and not as its essence, such as in the case of certain modern philosophers. In the Bahá'í texts, the greatest importance is attached also to love and will.

[50] Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.101.

[51] Promulgation, pp.418, 239, 464. For an interesting discussion of this topic See W. S. Hatcher, `The Concept of Spirituality', in Bahá'í Studies, XI, pp.19-23. He says: `A close examination of the psychology of the spiritual growth process as presented in the Bahá'í writings indicates that the proper and harmonious functioning of our basic spiritual capacities depends on recognizing a hierarchical relationship among them. At the apex of this hierarchy is the knowing capacity.' And he supports his statement quoting passages from the Bahá'í texts. Then he writes: `In the above passages and in many others not quoted, the hierarchical ordering of spiritual faculties is the same: Knowledge leads to love which generates the courage to act (i.e., faith) which forms the basis of the intention to act (i.e., motive and good will) which in turn leads to action itself (i.e., good deeds.) Of course, the knowledge which starts this psycho-spiritual chain reaction is not just any kind of knowledge, but the knowledge of God which is equivalent to true self-knowledge.' (ibid. pp.19-20.)

[52] Gleanings, pp.160, 191.

[53] Promulgation, pp.286, 239.

[54] Epistle, p.112.

[55] Selections, p.167.

[56] `Survival and Salvation', in Star of the West, VII, p.190.

[57] Some Answered Questions, p.196.

[58] Promulgation, pp.418, 69, 303.

59 Gleanings, p.160.

[60] Promulgation, pp.285, 85. Bahá'u'lláh writes that for every man God `poureth forth' a `share of the flood of grace' and then He adds: `Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle. The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man's hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure.' Gleanings, p.8.) Elsewhere He writes: `Unto each one hath been prescribed a pre-ordained measure....' (ibid. p.149.)

[61] Gleanings, p.194.

[62] Promulgation, p.377.

[63] Gleanings, p.160.

[64] Divine Philosophy, p.127.

[65] Promulgation, pp.335, 70.

[66] ibid. Pp.85, 24.

[67] Some Answered Questions, p.212.

[68] Promulgation, pp.293, 378.

[69] `Recent Tablets to Baháis in America', in Star of the West, II, p.58. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition.'(Gleanings, p.149)

[70] Promulgation, p.70.

[71] Divine Philosophy, p.129.

[72] As to the topic of self-realization, See W.S. Hatcher, `The Concept of Spirituality', in Bahá'í Studies, XI. See moreover D.C. Jordan, Becoming Your True Self: The Meaning of Deepening.

[73] `The Federation of the World', in Star of the West, XIV, p.297.

[74] Divine Philosophy, pp.127, 128.

[75] Quoted in `Studies in Immortality', in Star of the West, XIV, p.8.

[76] Gleanings, p.159.

[77] Tablets, p.611.

[78] Promulgation, p.464.

[79] Divine Philosophy, p.130.

[80] Selections, p.288.

[81] Divine Philosophy, pp.129, 128, 114. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `He [man] has the innate character, the inherited character, and the acquired character which is gained by education.

`With regard to innate character, although the divine creation is purely good, yet the varieties of natural qualities in man come from the difference of degree; all are excellent, but they are more or less so, according to the degree...

`The variety of inherited qualities comes from strength and weakness of constitution - that is to say, when the two parents are weak, the children will be weak; if they are strong, the children will be robust...

`But the difference of the qualities with regard to culture is very great, for education has great influence...Education has a universal influence, and the differences caused by it are very great.'(Some Answered Questions, pp.212-4.)

Therefore, in the Bahá'í view, individual characters depend on the interaction of those three factors and on the efforts exerted so that those God-given qualities (innate character and inherited qualities) may be mirrored forth in the plane of concrete reality, under the particular circumstances allotted by God Himself (characters acquired from education.) Since those efforts are conscious and voluntary, (See above pp.190-6, 265-70 and below pp.331-5), each individual is responsible of his own personality under his own particular circumstances.

[82] Quoted in `Studies in Immortality', in Star of the West, V, p.8.

[83] Gleanings, p.164.

[84] `Survival and Salvation', in Star of the West, VII, p.190.

[85] Some Answered Questions, p.144.

[86] Promulgation, p.59.

[87] Some Answered Questions, p.201.

[88] Promulgation, p.293.

[89] Bahá'u'lláh writes: `The soul of man should be likened unto this sun, and all things on earth should be regarded as his body...The soul of man is the sun by which his body is illumined, and from which it draweth its sustenance, and should be so regarded.' (Gleanings pp.154-5.)

[90] Quoted in `Studies in Immortality', in Star of the West, IV, p.37.

[91] Promulgation, pp.259, 416.

[92] Divine Philosophy, p.123.

[93] Paris Talks, p.98.

[94] Tablets, p.611.

[95] Gleanings, pp 154, 164.

96 Tablets, p.611.

[97] Paris Talks, p.86.

[98] See also H.A. Weil, Closer than your Life Vein, pp.42-70.

99 `Tablet to Dr. A. Forel', in Bahá'í World, XV, p.38.

100 Tablets, p.611.

[101] ibid. pp.39-40.

[102] Selections, p.48.

[103] Paris Talks, p.86.

104 Tablets, p.309.

[105] Some Answered Questions, p.210.

[106] This concept deserves further discussions and studies in the light of the concept of the spiritual nature of man. Then many aspects of human behaviours and neurosis will be better understood, and more effective ways of curing and preventing the so called psychosomatic diseases will be discovered. See H.B. Danesh, `Health and Healing', in World Order, III, no. 3, p.15.

[107] Promulgation, p.157.

[108] Gleanings, p.65.

[109] See Some Answered Questions, pp.300-305. For an interesting exposition of these three fundamental spiritual powers of man, See W.S. Hatcher, `The Concept of Spirituality', in Bahá'í Studies, XI, pp.19-23.

As to these attributes - knowledge, love and will - as expressed in the act of creation, see above pp.75-6.

[110] Some Answered Questions, p.277.

[111] See Some Answered Questions, p.227; Promulgation, pp.86, 90; Paris Talks, p.86.

[112] Promulgation, pp.357, 417.

[113] Some Answered Questions, p.227.

[114] Promulgation, p.325.

[115] Some Answered Questions, p.157.

[116] Selections, p.155.

[117] Promulgation, p.357.

[118] Quoted in `Studies in Immortality', in Star of the West. IV, p.8.

[119] Promulgation, p.417.

[120] Quoted in M.M. Rabb, `The Divine Art of Living', in Star of the West, VIII, p.230.

[121] Selections, p.159.

[122] Promulgation, pp.357, 417.

[123] Selections, pp.170.

124 `Tablet to Dr. A. Forel', in Bahá'í World, XV, p.38.

[125] Some Answered Questions, p.210.

[126] `Tablet to Dr. A. Forel', in Bahá'í World, XV, p.38.

127 Tablets, p.611.

[128] Some Answered Questions, p.209.

[129] Divine Philosophy, p.92.

[130] `Tablet to Dr. A. Forel', in Bahá'í World, XV, p.38.

131 Selections, p.170.

[132] Some Answered Questions, p.208.

[133] Promulgation, p.325.

134 ibid.

[135] Some Answered Questions, p.157.

[136] `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `He has given us material gifts and spiritual graces, outer sight to view the lights of the sun and inner vision by which we may perceive the glory of God. He has designed the outer ear to enjoy the melodies of sound and the inner hearing wherewith we may hear the voice of our Creator.'(Promulgation, p.90.)

[137] See Promulgation, pp.187, 270. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes moreover: `...the sight of the heart is illumined. It discerneth and discovereth the divine Kingdom. It is everlasting and eternal.' (Selections, pp.37-8.)

For a preliminary study of the knowledge of the heart, see J. McLean, `The Knowledge of God: An Essay on Bahá'í Epistemology', in World Order, XII, no. 3, p.3; A. Bausani, `Cuore, cervello, mistica, religione', in Opinioni Bahá'í, II, no. 1, p.5.

The word intuition has its etymology in the locution intus ire, to go inside. It suggests therefore a kind of knowledge which goes beyond the surface, or the qualities of things, reaching to the core, or essence. Insight means to see inside.

[138] Some Answered Questions, p.157.

[139] For the concept of insight, See above pp.4-5, 135-6, 139-40.

[140] Paris Talks, p.97.

[141] ibid. p.175. As to the concept of meditation, see above pp.120, 121. 153.

[142] Selections, pp.160, 164.

[143] Tablets, p.706.

[144] See H.A. Weil, Closer Than Your Life Vein, pp.48-55.

[145] Paris Talks, p.174.

[146] `Abdu'l-Bahá delivered a very interesting speech on the topic of intuition, which is recorded in the collection of His French talks. See Paris Talks, pp.173-6.

[147] Promulgation, pp.258, 17, 58, 51, 178.

[148] See Promulgation, pp.17, 30, 58, 61, 173, 177, 241, 332. As to the differences between men and animals, see above pp.63-4.

[149] Paris Talks, p.85.

[150] Promulgation, pp.291, 293, 63, 312-3, 316. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `This gift giveth man the power to discern the truth in all things.'(Gleanings p.94.)

[151] Promulgation, p.48.

[152] ibid. p.61.

[153] Some Answered Questions, p.250. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `This gift [consciousness] ...leadeth him to that which is right.'(Gleanings, p.194.)

[154]Divine Philosophy, p.117.

[155] `Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in M.M. Rabb, The Divine Art of Living' in Star of the West, VII, p.161.

[156] Hidden Words, Persian, no. 19.

[157] Promulgation, p.255.

[158] Paris Talks, p.180.

[159] Selections, pp.63, 189, 35.

[160] Promulgation, p.255.

[161] `Abdu'l-Bahá says also that men are possessed of `...spiritual instinct, surely never given in vain.' (Paris Talks, p.90.)

[162] This process is one of the expressions of a fundamental condition in the world of existence: the previously mentioned process of `demand' and `supply' (Promulgation, p.83) which in man, a conscious being, expresses itself as the process of joy and pain. See above pp.86-7.

From the cognitive sphere we have thus come to the affective sphere. First, man knows and understands reality. Then he feels the attraction towards reality and becomes conscious of his own relation to it: he feels attracted to or rejected by it; he loves or hates it; he receives from it joy or pain. The soul is originally attracted towards such aspects of reality as it is in need of. Such a need is felt by the soul as a pain, which continues until the need is satisfied.

This capacity is expressed in the human body as sensitivity to pain, one of the most important instruments for the protection of physical integrity. Congenital agnosia to pain is a very dangerous condition: anyone affected by it may be horribly mutilated, without being aware of it.

[163] Quoted in M.M. Rabb, `The Divine Art of Living', in Star of the West VIII, 230.

[164] Paris Talks, p.65.

[165] Divine Philosophy, pp.129-30.

[166] Selections, p.190,

[167] Promulgation, p.53.

[168] ibid. pp.204-5.

[169] Bahá'u'lláh writes, alluding to the prevailing irreligion of our times: `In this day the tastes of men have changed, and their power of perception hath altered. The contrary winds of the world, and its colours, have provoked a cold, and deprived men's nostrils of the sweet savours of Revelation.' (Bahá'u'lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, Promised Day, p.119.)

[170] Tablets, p.63.

[171] Secret of Divine Civilization, pp.97-8.

[172] Paris Talks, p.179.

[173] Seven Valleys, pp.8, 10.

[174] Promulgation, p.234.

[175] Selections, p.108.

[176] Seven Valleys, pp.55, 9.

[177] Seven Valleys, pp.49, 53.

[178] Some Answered Questions, p.230.

[179] Gleanings, p.341.

[180] Quoted in Studies in Immortality', in Star of the West, XIV, p.8.

[181] Gleanings, p.149.

[182] Some Answered Questions, 248.

[183] Quoted in J.M. Grundy, Ten Days in the Light of `Akká, p.6.

[184] Some Answered Questions, pp.249-50.

[185] Bahá'í Prayers, pp.80-81.

[186] Selections, p.51.

[187] Promulgation, p.83.

[188] Tablets, p.178.

[189] Paris Talks, p.180.

[190] Divine Philosophy, p.133. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `...the heart must have some attachment.'(ibid. p.133.)

[191] Tablets, p.549.

[192] Paris Talks, p.180.

[193] Gleanings, pp.81, 262.

[194] Promulgation, pp.90-1.

[195] Divine Philosophy, p.114.

[196] It is vitally important that the soul act in conformity with what it understands and its chosen attraction. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `The first and foremost duty prescribed unto men, next to the recognition of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, is the duty of steadfastness in His Cause.'(Gleanings,p.290.) In this regard `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote, praising a group of believers: `[they] remain steadfast under all conditions, neither at the first sign of trouble do their footsteps slip. They are not changeable, playing fast and lose with some project and soon giving it up. They do not, for some trivial reason, fail in enthusiasm and zeal, their interest gone. No, in all they do they are stable, rock solid and staunch.'(Selections, p.219.)

[197] `Tablet to Dr. A. Forel', in Bahá'í World, XV, p.38.

[198] Gleanings, p.150.

[199] Feed-back or retroaction is a process through which in a given system, if A influences B, any variation produced by A in B in its turn modifies A in its acting upon B.

[200] For an explanation of this concept, See Some Answered Questions, pp.300-305. See above pp.72-3, 155.

[201] Paris Talks, p.180.

202 Tablets, p.459.

[203] Paris Talks, p.85.

[204] Quoted in Peace (comp.), p.13.

[205] Selections, p.28.

[206] N. Abbagnano, Storia della Filosofia, p.70. This Socratic concept is expounded in Plato's Protagoras.

[207] Paris Talks, p.41.

[208] Selections, p.288.

[209] ibid. pp.242, 205.

[210] Matt. 8:22. The same concept is explained also in a famous Islamic tradition, mentioned by Bahá'u'lláh in His Kitáb-i-Íqán: `... two of the people of Kúfih went to `Alí, the Commander of the Faithful. One owned a house and wished to sell it; the other was to be the purchaser. They had agreed that this transaction should be effected and the contract be written with the knowledge of `Alí. He, the exponent of the law of God, addressing the scribe, said: "Write thou: A dead man hath bought from another dead man a house. That house is bounded by four limits. One extendeth toward the tomb, the other to the vault of the grave, the third to the Sirát, the fourth to either Paradise or hell".' (p.119.)

[211] Seven Valleys, pp.4, 5.

[212] See H.A. Weil, Closer than your Life Vein, pp.58-60.

[213] Selections, p.171.

214 Bahá'u'lláh mentions in His Kitáb-i-Íqán a divine knowledge and a Satanic knowledge. See above, p.13 and no.64.

[215] Tablets, p.35.

[216] ibid. p.706.

[217] Selections, p.191.

[218] Nabíl-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, p.92.

[219] Gleanings, p.289.

[220] Quoted in M.M. Rabb, `The Divine Art of Living', in Star of the West, VII, p.187.

[221] Quoted in `A Fortune That Bestows Eternal Happiness', in Star of the West, XIII, p.103.

[222] Quoted in `Capacity and Spiritual Revelation', in Star of the West, XIII, p.214.

[223] Quoted in `A Fortune That Bestows Eternal Happiness', in Star of the West, XIII, p.103.

[224] Quoted in `From the Unpublished Diary of Ahmad Sohrab', in Star of the West, XIII, p.153.

[225] Quoted in M.M. Rabb, `The Divine Art of Living', in Star of the West, VII, p.163.

226 Promulgation, p.185.

[227] Quoted in M.M. Rabb, `The Divine Art of Living', in Star of the West, VII, p.161.

[228] Divine Philosophy, p.98.

[229] Promulgation, p.60.

[230] Tablets, p.173.

[231] Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.193.

[232] Tablets, pp.188-9, 173.

[233] Gleanings, p.304.

[234] Tablets, p.143.

235 Quoted in The Heaven of Divine Wisdom (comp.), pp.5, 1, 5. For a discussion of the topic of consultation see The Heaven of Divine Wisdom. A Compilation; J.E. Kolstoe, Consultation: A Universal Lamp of Guidance.

The main characteristics of consultation are thus epitomized in a recent paper written by Dr H.B. Danesh:

`a) The main goal of consultation is to increase the level of unity, harmony and understanding among the participants...

`b) The most important objective of consultation is to act with justice so that the rights of every person affected by the decision are safeguarded...

`c) The most essential tools for consultation are frankness and openness, on the one hand, and mutual respect and trust, on the other...

`d) All ideas, once expressed in the course of consultation, become the property of the communicating group and not of the individual who initially expressed the idea.' (H.B. Danesh, `Conflict-free Conflict Resolution'. Unpublished.)

[236] Some Answered Questions, p.200.

[237] Promulgation, pp.294, 336, 294.

[238] Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words, Persian, no. 29.

[239] Quoted in R. A. Nicholson, Selected Poems from the Divan Shamsi Tabrizi, p.5.

[240] Seven Valleys, p.54.

[241] Quoted in Nicholson, Selected Poems, pp.71-3.

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