Psychology and Knowledge of SelfResearch Department of the Universal House of Justice
From the Writings of Bahá'u'lláhThe first Taraz and the first effulgence which hath dawned from the horizon of the Mother Book is that man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty . . .
(Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas (Haifa: Bahá'í World Center, 1982), pp. 34-35) 
True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter ignorance of his
Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth every man will advance and
develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the
potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed. It is
for this very purpose that in every age and dispensation the prophets of God
and His chosen Ones have appeared amongst men, and have evinced such power
as is born of God and such might as only the Eternal can reveal.
And now, concerning thy question regarding the creation of man. Know thou
that all men have been created in the nature made by God, the Guardian, the
Self-Subsisting. Unto each one hath been prescribed a pre-ordained measure,
as decreed in God's mighty and guarded Tablets. All that which ye
potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own
volition. Your own acts testify this truth . . .
Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence
of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as
within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to
the revelation of that most Great Light. Methinks, but for the potency of
that revelation, no being could ever exist. How resplendent the luminaries
of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that
surge within a drop! To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all
created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath
been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are
potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no
other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and
attributed are applicable to him. Even as He hath said: "Man is My mystery,
and I am his mystery." Manifold are the verses that have been repeatedly
revealed in all the Heavenly Books and the Holy Scriptures, expressive of
this most subtle and lofty theme. Even as He hath revealed: "We will surely
show them Our signs in the world and within themselves." Again He saith:
"And also in your own selves: will ye not, then, behold the signs of God?"
And yet again He revealeth: And be ye not like those who forget God, and
whom He hath therefore caused to forget their own selves." In this
connection, He Who is the eternal King -- may the souls of all that dwell
within the mystic Tabernacle be a sacrifice unto Him -- hath spoken: "He
hath known God who hath known himself."
The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He
perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy.
Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration.
The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the
same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with
the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its
exigencies and requirements.
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can,
alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit
therefrom . . .
From the exalted source, and out of the essence of His favour and bounty He hath entrusted every created thing with a sign of His knowledge, so that none of His creatures may be deprived of its share in expressing, each according to its capacity and rank, this knowledge. This sign is the mirror of His beauty in the world of creation . . .
There can be no doubt whatever that, in consequence of the efforts which
every man may consciously exert and as a result of the exertion of his own
spiritual faculties, this mirror can be so cleansed from the dross of
earthly defilements and purged from satanic fancies as to be able to draw
nigh unto the meads of eternal holiness and attain the courts of everlasting
fellowship. . .
Whoso ariseth among you to teach the Cause of his Lord, let him, before all
else, teach his own self, that his speech may attract the hearts of them
that hear him. Unless he teacheth his own self, the words of his mouth will
not influence the heart of the seeker. Take heed, O people, lest ye be of
them that give good counsel to others but forget to follow it themselves . .
Blessed art thou for having utterly abolished the idol of self and of vain
imagination, and for having rent asunder the veil of idle fancy, through the
power of the might of thy Lord, the Supreme Protector, the Almighty, the one
Beloved . . .
O My servants! Could ye apprehend with what wonders of My munificence and
bounty I have willed to entrust your souls, ye would, of a truth, rid
yourselves of attachment to all created things, and would gain a true
knowledge of your own selves -- a knowledge which is the same as the
comprehension of Mine own Being. Ye would find yourselves independent of all
else but Me, and would perceive, with your inner and outer eye, and as
manifest as the revelation of My effulgent Name, the seas of My
loving-kindness and bounty moving within you. Suffer not your idle fancies,
your evil passions, your insincerity and blindness of heart to dim the
luster, or stain the sanctity, of so lofty a station . . .
. . . certain invalid souls have confined the lands of knowledge within the
wall of self and passion, and clouded them with ignorance and blindness, and
have been veiled from the light of the mystic sun and the mysteries of the
Eternal Beloved; they have strayed afar from the jewelled wisdom of the
lucid Faith of the Lord of Messengers, have been shut out of the sanctuary
of the All-Beauteous One, and banished from the Ka'bih of splendour. Such is
the worth of the people of this age!
From the Utterances of 'Abdu'l-BaháToday the confirmations of the Kingdom of Abha are with those who renounce themselves, forget their own opinions, cast aside personalities and are thinking of the welfare of others. Whosoever has lost himself has found the universe and the inhabitants thereof. Whosoever is occupied with himself is wandering in the desert of heedlessness and regret. The "master-key" to self-mastery is self-forgetting. The road to the palace of life is through the path of renunciation.
(Star of the West, vol. 17, no. 2, p. 348) 
From letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi. . . self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses, in the Bahá'í writings; one is self, the identity of the individual created by God. This is the self mentioned in such passages as "he hath known God who hath know himself", etc. The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on. It is this self we must struggle against, or this side of our natures, in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection . . . .
(10 December 1947 to an individual believer) 
Life is a constant struggle, not only against forces around us, but above
all against our own "ego". We can never afford to rest on our oars, for if
we do, we soon see ourselves carried downstream again. Many of those who
drift away from the Cause do so for the reason that they had ceased to go on
developing. They became complacent, or indifferent, and consequently ceased
to draw the spiritual strength and vitality from the Cause which they should
have. Sometimes, of course, people fail because of a test they just do not
meet, and often our severest tests come from each other. Certainly the
believers should try to avert such things, and if they happen, remedy them
through love. Generally speaking nine-tenths of the friends' troubles are
because they don't do the Bahá'í thing, in relation to each other, to the
administrative bodies or in their personal lives.
From letters written by or on behalf of the Universal House of JusticeYour letter of 4 December reports certain pilgrim's notes which have attributed to the beloved Guardian unfavourable comments on psychiatry and psychology. For your assistance we offer an excerpt from a letter from the Guardian published in U.S. Bahá'í News No. 236, October 1950, in which it is stated:
There is nothing in our teachings about Freud and his method. Psychiatric treatment in general is no doubt an important contribution to medicine, but we must believe it is still a growing science rather than a perfected science. As Bahá'u'lláh has urged us to avail ourselves of the help of good physicians Bahá'ís are certainly not only free to turn to psychiatry for assistance but should, when available, do so. This doesn't mean psychiatrists are always wise or always right; it means we are free to avail ourselves of the best medicine has to offer us.
Doubtless what the Guardian has said about psychiatry may also in general be
said about psychology, including child psychology, but we have not found any
texts to support this view.
In all this we have been speaking about the attitude that Bahá'ís should
have towards the law of Bahá'u'lláh. You, however, as a doctor working
mainly as a counsellor in family and sexual problems, will mostly be
concerned with advising non-Bahá'ís who do not accept, and see no reason to
follow, the laws of Bahá'u'lláh. You are already a qualified practitioner in
your field, and no doubt you give advice on the basis of what you have
learned from study and experience -- a whole fabric of concepts about the
human mind, its growth, development and proper functioning, which you have
learned and evolved without reference to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. Now,
as a Bahá'í, you know that what Bahá'u'lláh teaches about the purpose of
human life, the nature of the human being and the proper conduct of human
life, is divinely revealed and therefore true. However, it will inevitably
take time for you not only to study the Bahá'í teachings so that you clearly
understand them, but also to work out how they modify your professional
concepts. This is, of course, not an unusual predicament for a scientist.
How often in the course of research is a factor discovered which requires a
revolution in thinking over a wide field of human endeavour. You must be
guided in each case by your own professional knowledge and judgement as
illuminated by your growing knowledge of the Bahá'í teachings; undoubtedly
you will find that your own understanding of the human problems dealt with
in your work will change and develop and you will see new and improved ways
of helping the people who come to you. Psychology is still a very young and
inexact science, and as the years go by Bahá'í psychologists, who know from
the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh the true pattern of human life, will be able to
make great strides in the development of this science, and will help
profoundly in the alleviation of human suffering.
As for the system called individual psychology, there is nothing in the
Writings which supports any particular theory of that science . . .
Doubtless, in time, Bahá'ís of talent and scholarly bent who will have
access to the full Texts of the Holy Writings will effect great progress in
the development of psychology, as in other sciences, for the benefit of all
Your concern about the overemphasis upon the self and ego echoes a central theme of the Manifestation Himself, and it is the subject of many allusions in His Writings wherein, for example, He speaks of "the evil of egotism" and of those who are "captives of egotism." The Master refers to "the rust of egotism" and tells of ". . . the subtlety of the ego of man. It is the Tempter (the subtle serpent of the mind) and the poor soul not entirely emancipated from its suggestions is deceived until entirely severed from all save God." In another passage He says: "As long as the ego is subjected to carnal desires, sin and error continue." And He promised that with assiduous effort "Man will become free from egotism; he will be released from the material world . . . ".
Extracts from letters written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretaries will be most helpful in clarifying certain of your questions.
Regarding the question you asked in your letter: The only people who are truly free of the "dross of self" are the Prophets, for to be free of one's ego is a hallmark of perfection. We humans are never going to become perfect, for perfection belongs to a realm we are not destined to enter. However, we must constantly mount higher, seek to be more perfect.
The ego is the animal in us, the heritage of the flesh which is full of selfish desires. By obeying the laws of God, seeking to live the life laid down in our teachings, and prayer and struggle, we can subdue our egos. We call people "saints" who have achieved the highest degree of mastery over their ego.
There is no contradiction between Gleanings" p. 66 and p. 262. In one place
He says the mirror will never be free from dross, in the other He says it
will be "so cleansed . . . as to be able," etc. It is relative thing;
perfection will never be reached, but great, and ever greater, progress can
The believers, as we all know, should endeavour to set such an example in
their personal lives and conduct that others will feel impelled to embrace a
Faith which reforms human character. However, unfortunately, not everyone
achieves easily and rapidly the victory over self. What every believer, new
or old, should realize is that the Cause has the spiritual power to
re-create us if we make the effort to let that power influence us, and the
greatest help in this respect is prayer. We must supplicate Bahá'u'lláh to
assist us to overcome the failings in our own characters, and also exert our
own will power in mastering ourselves.
Regarding the points you refer to in your letter: the complete and entire
elimination of the ego would imply perfection -- which man can never
completely attain -- but the ego can and should be ever increasingly
subordinated to the enlightened soul of man. This is what spiritual
For further assistance in this complex matter of self and its attributes you may find it helpful to consult Bahá'ís who have been trained in psychology and psychiatry and who may be able to elucidate the differences between the current scientific concepts of the mind and it functions and those concept which emerge from the Holy Writings.
The Writings are rich in allusions to the individual and his integrity, but
also to the social disciplines based upon the moral precepts of the Faith,
precepts which each of us must heed lest we fail to reflect in our lives
those virtues propounded by the great Teacher for our day, and hence fail to
meet our true destinies as spiritual beings.
Regarding your request to know what concepts of psychology are valid
according to Bahá'í standards, the House of Justice suggests that an
intensive study of Part IV of "Some Answered Question", particularly chapter
XLVIII on "The Difference which exists between Man and the Animal", will
help you to view, in their proper perspective, any concepts being taught in
your doctoral program. As a Bahá'í you will be able to detect when a concept
ignores the spiritual part of a human being.
Your inquiries into matters of mental health are timely, for of all medical
science studies, remedies for disorders of the brain and mind are possibly
the most important for mankind. In a letter written on behalf of the beloved
Guardian, which refers to Freudian methods, it is stated that "psychiatric
treatment . . . is still a growing rather than a perfected science," hence
requires contemporary disciplined study. In another letter he provides
guidance by suggesting that, despite the many mental diseases and troubles
of the present day, the power in the Faith is such that it can sustain
Bahá'ís, whatever their ailments may be, on a much higher level than is
given to others who are denied its healing grace.
You are advised to bear in mind the fact that mental illness is not spiritual, although its effects may hinder and be a burden to an individual who is striving toward spiritual progress. In a letter written on behalf of the Guardian is found the following passage: "You must always remember, no matter how much you or others may be afflicted with mental troubles . . . that your spirit is healthy, near to our Beloved, and will in the next world enjoy a happy and normal state of soul."
The House of Justice advises you to persevere in your efforts to secure good
medical assistance, from psychiatrists or others, and to follow the advice
of these specialists. It also suggests that through daily prayer, and
specially by observing the daily obligatory prayers, through study of the
Writings, through active participation in teaching efforts and in the
activities of the community, and through constant effort to sacrifice for
the Faith you love so well, you will obtain a spiritual counterpart to the
professional help you will receive from the experts. In general, the best
results for the healing process are found when the spiritual approach is
combined with the remedy offered by competent doctors.
Regarding your question about the term "scientific system of healing", that phrase was first used by the beloved Guardian; subsequently the Universal House of Justice was asked whether the meaning of "scientific" might not vary from country to country. In response, the House of Justice concurred that the term "scientific" is not fixed, its connotative meanings may vary.
What the friends must try and grasp, however, is that the Bahá'í Faith at this stage in its evolution cannot place its seal of approval on any one of the plethora of healing techniques. In the rising Bahá'í society of the future, it may then be possible to make definitive judgement or to evolve practices more directly predicated on the Bahá'í Writings. However, there is at present enough development in the medical field and a wide record of experience to enable a person after reasonable investigation to choose a suitable doctor or medical institution to deal with a case of illness.
The basic instruction in the Writings to one who is ill is to find a doctor
in whom confidence can be placed, to follow his advice and to put one's
trust in God through prayer. Of course, no healing technique which would
lead the practitioner or the patient to contradict the Laws of the Faith is
acceptable. We must be careful not to fall prey to quackery or to
unnecessarily endanger the lives and health of either ourselves or of the
loved ones with whose welfare we have been entrusted because of an arbitrary
distrust of scientific methods of healing. If one feels that one in unable
to make valid distinctions, it would be well to turn to others for advice,
whether to Assemblies or to individuals possessing good judgement.
The House of Justice is pleased that you are making a determined effort to
resolve the problems in your marriage and that you are consulting with a
professional therapist. You should feel under no obligation to continue to
consult with someone in whom you have lost confidence or who you believe may
cause you to act contrary to the teachings of the Faith. However, it should
be understood that counselling of the type you are receiving may cause a
variety of emotions to surface as a normal part of the therapy. Individuals
sometimes feel close attachment to their therapist or experience other
feelings which might be unsettling because they are unexpected; such
emotions may simply represent a beginning of helpful change and need prove
no danger to one's own moral standards.