Does it mean a spiritual attitude only or physical gesture or both, to "bow in submission to them" here?
Of course it is metaphorical and figurative and is the spiritual attitude in one’s journey for searching after the Truth, because those who after their long endeavours, found the Truth and attained His presence were warned against such behaviour and found that they were absolutely forbidden to prostrate themselves before Him.
In one of HisTablets, inscribed in the Second Volume of His Writings which is in Arabic and has not translated into English, Bahau’u’llah addressing those Baha’i pilgrims who had come from different religious backgrounds and had it in their minds that when they would attained His presence, they would kiss His hands or feet, and fall at His feet and bow in prostration before His countenance. They were prevented, told and warned by Him, that such actions and attitudes are only fitting and worthy towards God:
" لا تقبلوا الايادي و لا تنحنوا حين الورود انه يامركم بالمعروف و هو الامر المجيب * ليس لاحد ان يتذلل عند نفس هذا حكم الله اذ استوي علي العرش بسلطان مبين * قد حرم عليكم ما ذكرناه خذوا سنن الله و امره و لا تتبعوا سنن الجاهلين * من حضر لدي الوجه انه من الزائرين لدي الله مالك هذا المقام الكريم * من حضر زار انه ممن فاز بما كان مسطورا في كتب الله رب العالمین. قد حرم عليكم التقبيل و السجود و الانطراح و الانحناء. كذلك صرفنا الايات و انزلناها فضلا من عندنا و انا الفضال القدیم. ان السجود ینبغی لمن لا یعرف و لا یری و الذی یری انه ممن شهد له الکتاب المبین.لیس لاحد ان یسجده و الذی سجد له ان یرجع و یتوب الی الله انه لهو التواب الرحیم. قد ثبت بالبرهان بان السجدة لم تکن الا لحضرة الغیب اعرفوا یا اهل الارض و لا تکونوا من المعرضین".
اثار قلم اعلي - جلد ٢: صفحه ۷۸(
“DO NOT KISS THE HANDS AND DO NOT BOW DOWN AS HOMAGE WHEN YOU ENTER HIS PRESENCE (the presence of Baha’u’llah). He in truth guides you to do what is laid down by religious laws and He is the Commander, the One Who grants requests.
IT IS NOT FOR ONE TO HUMILIATE HIMSELF BEFORE ANOTHER. This is what God has ordered when He was established upon the Throne with clear majesty. It has been forbidden you what has been mentioned. Obey the ordinances of God and what He has ordained and do not follow THE CUSTOMS OF THE IGNORANT.
He who attains His presence, is as a pilgrim in the sight of God, the possessor of the noble station.
He who has done pilgrimage, is he who hast attained to that which is written in the scriptures of God, the Lord of the Worlds.
It is forbidden for you to kiss hands, to prostrate and throw oneself at the feet of another, and bow down before them.
Thus do We elucidate the verses and reveal them, as a favour from Us, I am the Merciful, the Ancient of Days.
Verily, prostration is worthy to the Unknown and Unseen (God) and He Who is seen is He Who is, witnessed by the Unerring Book.
Nobody has to prostrate before Him (Baha’u’llah), and he who prostrated before Him has to revoke his action and repent unto God, He is He Who accepts repentance, the Merciful.
It is now shown that prostration is only fitting for His Holiness, the Unseen (God). Know this, O people of the world and be not of those who turned back from the truth.
(N.B. The above translation is not an authenticated one and this servant has done it just for the post).
Baha’u’llah has also written:
Fall prostrate on your faces before God, and celebrate His praise in the daytime and in the night season. (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 38).
O SON OF MAN!
Transgress not thy limits, nor claim that which beseemeth thee not. Prostrate thyself before the countenance of thy God, the Lord of might and power.
(Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words).
The Bab has mentioned that prostration beseemed our worship of God:
Fire and paradise both bow down and prostrate themselves before God. That which is worthy of His Essence is to worship Him for His sake, without fear of fire, or hope of paradise. (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 77).
اما ايشان به احترامات فائقه قانع نبودندبلكه توقع تعظيم و تكريم فوق العاده داشته حتي طمع دست بوسي و اما ايشان به احترامات فائقه قانع نبودندبلكه توقع تعظيم و تكريم فوق العاده داشته حتي طمع دست بوسي و پا بوسي در دل ميپرورانيدند و اين طمع باعث انزجار خاطر بسياري از ثابتيدن بود. و ا ما حضرت مولي الوري در ان ايام ميفرمودند: احبا كه پيش من ميايند بمن تعظيم نكنند و به تكبير الله قناعت كنند كه باعث سرور خاطر من است ..."
) خاطرات نه ساله: صفحه ۲۲۳ (
Dr. Yunis Khan Afrukhtih in his book, “The Reminiscences of Nine Years in Akka” wrote that ‘Abdul-Baha did not like the friends to bow down before Him:
“…. But ‘Abdu’l-Baha on those days telling that, “THE FRIENDS WHO COME TO ME, DO NOT PROSTRATE AND BOW DOWN TO ME AND BE CONTENT BY SAYING ALLAH’U’ABHA, WHICH IS THE CAUSE OF MY JOY”. (It is not an authenticated translation too).
'Abdu'l-Baha states that the resting-places of the holy souls deserve to be honoured and respected. But the honour is not given to the earth, rather it is intended for the soul which is sanctified from all material things. However, since the soul was once associated with the body, it is only natural that we respect the earthly remains of holy ones. But it is not proper to seek assistance and confirmations from any source except from the Blessed Beauty. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah v 4, p. 164)
The Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi asks the friends not to bow down before him too:
My recent hope is that the friends of God in their letters and their conversations ADDRESS ME NOTHING EXCEPT SHOGHI EFFENDI. The glory and honour of this servant is just by this name and nothing else, because it was issued from the most pure mouth and so in my view point it is dearer, sweeter, and nobler than any name or title. ALSO HIGH EXALTATION (RESPECT), BOWING DOWN AND HONOUR OF ANY KIND ARE OPPOSITE TO AND CONTRADICT WITH THE STATE AND REQUEST OF THIS SERVANT. Consider me as brothers and express and manifest this view in their speech and their deeds. (Shoghi effendi, Messages to the Baha’is of Iran, 1922-1926, P.11). (It is not an authenticated translation too). (توقيعات مباركه ١٩٢٢-١٩٢٦: صفحه۱۱)