Reality, Soul and
the Worlds of God
III. The Reality of the Soul – Understanding Your True Self
G. Mind and Knowledge in the Soul’s Activities
3. The Mind of Man and the Divine Nature’s Knowing Powers
a. The Human Mind
[from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh:]
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 transcendeth, thy physical senses or spiritual perceptions, all proceed from, and owe their existence to, this same faculty. So closely are they related unto it, 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 function, and will be deprived of the power to manifest the evidences of its activity. It is indubitably clear and evident that each of these afore-mentioned instruments has depended, and will ever continue to depend, for its proper functioning on this rational faculty, which should be regarded as a sign of the revelation of Him Who is the sovereign Lord of all.
(Bahá’u’lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Selection LXXXIII, p. 164)
If the wayfarer’s goal be the dwelling of the Praiseworthy One (Mahmud)1
, this is the station of primal reason which is known as the Prophet and the Most Great Pillar.2
Here reason signifieth the divine, universal mind, whose sovereignty enlighteneth all created things—nor doth it refer to every feeble brain;….
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, Second Valley of Four, p. 52)
1(An attribute of God and one of the titles of Muḥammad)
2(Maqám-i-Maḥmúd—Praiseworthy Station—is the rank of Prophets endowed with constancy)
[from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:]
An authoritative Tradition states: “As for him who is one of the learned:1
he must guard himself, defend his faith, oppose his passions and obey the commandments of his Lord. It is then the duty of the people to pattern themselves after him.” Since these illustrious and holy words embody all the conditions of learning, a brief commentary on their meaning is appropriate.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 34)
1(‘Ulamá’, from the Arabic ‘alima, may be translated learned men, scientists, religious authorities)
The first attribute of perfection is learning and the cultural attainments of the mind, and this eminent station is achieved when the individual combines in himself a thorough knowledge of those complex and transcendental realities pertaining to God, of the fundamental truths of Qur’ánic political and religious law, of the contents of the sacred Scriptures of other faiths, and of those regulations and procedures which would contribute to the progress and civilization of this distinguished country. He should in addition be informed as to the laws and principles, the customs, conditions and manners, and the material and moral virtues characterizing the statecraft of other nations, and should be well versed in all the useful branches of learning of the day, and study the historical records of bygone governments and peoples. For if a learned individual has no knowledge of the sacred Scriptures and the entire field of divine and natural science, of religious jurisprudence and the arts of government and the varied learning of the time and the great events of history, he might prove unequal to an emergency, and this is inconsistent with the necessary qualification of comprehensive knowledge.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 35-36)
The third element of the utterance under discussion is, “opposes his passions.” How wonderful are the implications of this deceptively easy, all-inclusive phrase. This is the very foundation of every laudable human quality; indeed, these few words embody the light of the world, the impregnable basis of all the spiritual attributes of human beings. This is the balance wheel of all behavior, the means of keeping all man’s good qualities in equilibrium.
For desire is a flame that has reduced to ashes uncounted lifetime harvests of the learned, a devouring fire that even the vast sea of their accumulated knowledge could never quench. How often has it happened that an individual who was graced with every attribute of humanity and wore the jewel of true understanding, nevertheless followed after his passions until his excellent qualities passed beyond moderation and he was forced into excess. His pure intentions changed to evil ones, his attributes were no longer put to uses worthy of them, and the power of his desires turned him aside from righteousness and its rewards into ways that were dangerous and dark. A good character is in the sight of God and His chosen ones and the possessors of insight, the most excellent and praiseworthy of all things, but always on condition that its center of emanation should be reason and knowledge and its base should be true moderation.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 59-60)
….illumine my brow with the light of adoration in Thy court of holiness, and of prayer to Thy Kingdom of grandeur.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selection #237, p. 319)
Now concerning mental faculties, they are in truth of the inherent properties of the soul, even as the radiation of light is the essential property of the sun….It is through the power of the soul that the mind comprehendeth, imagineth and exerteth its influence, whilst the soul is a power that is free. The mind comprehendeth the abstract by the aid of the concrete, but the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own. The mind is circumscribed, the soul limitless. It is by the aid of such senses as those of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, that the mind comprehendeth, whereas the soul is free from all agencies.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Tablet to August Forel, p. 8)
….regarding the question whether the faculties of the mind and the human soul are one and the same. These faculties are but the inherent properties of the soul, such as the power of imagination, of thought, of understanding; powers that are the essential requisites of the reality of man, even as the solar ray is the inherent property of the sun. The temple of man is like unto a mirror, his soul is as the sun, and his mental faculties even as the rays that emanate from that source of light. The ray may cease to fall upon the mirror, but it can in no wise be dissociated from the sun.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Tablet to August Forel, pp. 24-25)
[from the talks of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:]
The human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal is the rational soul, and these two names—the human spirit and the rational soul—designate one thing. This spirit, which in the terminology of the philosophers is the rational soul, embraces all beings, and as far as human ability permits discovers the realities of things and becomes cognizant of their peculiarities and effects, and of the qualities and properties of beings. But the human spirit, unless assisted by the spirit of faith, does not become acquainted with the divine secrets and the heavenly realities. It is like a mirror which, although clear, polished and brilliant, is still in need of light. Until a ray of the sun reflects upon it, it cannot discover the heavenly secrets.
But the mind 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. Mind is the perfection of the spirit and is its essential quality, as the sun’s rays are the essential necessity of the sun.
This explanation, though short, is complete; therefore, reflect upon it, and if God wills, you may become acquainted with the details.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Some Answered Questions, Chapter 55: “Soul, Spirit and Mind”, pp. 208-209)
[from the talks of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (no authority):]
The spirit of man is itself informed and strengthened during meditation; through it affairs of which man knew nothing are unfolded before his view. Through it he receives Divine inspiration, through it he receives heavenly food.
Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries. In that state man abstracts himself: in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves. To illustrate this, think of man as endowed with two kinds of sight; when the power of insight is being used the outward power of vision does not see.
This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.
This faculty brings forth from the invisible plane the sciences and arts. Through the meditative faculty inventions are made possible, colossal undertakings are carried out; through it governments can run smoothly. Through this faculty man enters into the very Kingdom of God.
Nevertheless some thoughts are useless to man; they are like waves moving in the sea without result. But if the faculty of meditation is bathed in the inner light and characterized with divine attributes, the results will be confirmed.
The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these.
But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained.
Therefore let us keep this faculty rightly directed—turning it to the heavenly Sun and not to earthly objects—so that we may discover the secrets of the Kingdom, and comprehend the allegories of the Bible and the mysteries of the spirit.
May we indeed become mirrors reflecting the heavenly realities, and may we become so pure as to reflect the stars of heaven.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Paris Talks, “Address by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at the Friends’ Meeting House, St. Martin’s Lane, London, W.C., Sunday, January 12th, 1913”, pp. 174-175)
….fourth, human—the highest specialized organism of visible creation, embodying the qualities of the mineral, vegetable and animal plus an ideal endowment absolutely absent in the lower kingdoms—the power of intellectual investigation into the mysteries of outer phenomena. The outcome of this intellectual endowment is science, which is especially characteristic of man. This scientific power investigates and apprehends created objects and the laws surrounding them. It is the discoverer of the hidden and mysterious secrets of the material universe and is peculiar to man alone. The most noble and praiseworthy accomplishment of man, therefore, is scientific knowledge and attainment.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “19 April 1912, Talk at Earl Hall, Columbia University, New York, From Stenographic Notes”, p. 29)
God has conferred upon and added to man a distinctive power—the faculty of intellectual investigation into the secrets of creation, the acquisition of higher knowledge—the greatest virtue of which is scientific enlightenment.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “19 April 1912, Talk at Earl Hall, Columbia University, New York, From Stenographic Notes”, p. 31)
Just as human intellects have revealed the secrets of matter and have brought forth from the realm of the invisible the mysteries of nature, may minds and spirits, likewise, come into the knowledge of the verities of God, and the realities of the Kingdom be made manifest in human hearts.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “21 April 1912, Talk at Studio Hall, 1219 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D.C., Notes by Joseph H. Hannen”, pp. 38-39)
God has created man and endowed him with the power of reason whereby he may arrive at valid conclusions. Therefore, man must endeavor in all things to investigate the fundamental reality. If he does not independently investigate, he has failed to utilize the talent God has bestowed upon him.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “5 September 1912, Talk at St. James Methodist Church, Montreal, Canada, From Stenographic Notes”, pp. 312-313)