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
4. Potentialities and Limitations of Human Knowing Powers
[from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh:]
As to the words—“Immediately after the oppression of those days”1
…. by “oppression” is meant the want of capacity to acquire spiritual knowledge and apprehend the Word of God.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Íqán, paragraphs 28,30, pp. 27,30)
Would that the hearts of men could be cleansed from these man-made limitations and obscure thoughts imposed upon them! haply they may be illumined by the light of the Sun of true knowledge, and comprehend the mysteries of divine wisdom.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Íqán, paragraph 49, p. 43)
Know verily that Knowledge is of two kinds: Divine and Satanic. The one welleth out from the fountain of divine inspiration; the other is but a reflection of vain and obscure thoughts. The source of the former is God Himself; the motive-force of the latter the whisperings of selfish desire.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Íqán, paragraph 76, p. 64)
Please God, that we avoid the land of denial, and advance into the ocean of acceptance, so that we may perceive, with an eye purged from all conflicting elements, the worlds of unity and diversity, of variation and oneness, of limitation and detachment, and wing our flight unto the highest and innermost sanctuary of the inner meaning of the Word of God.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Íqán, paragraph 170, p. 148)
So great is the folly and perversity of the people, that they have turned their face toward their own thoughts and desires, and have turned their back upon the knowledge and will of God….
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Íqán, paragraph 183, p. 158)
….when a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the path leading to the knowledge of the Ancient of Days, he must, before all else, cleanse and purify his heart, which is the seat of the revelation of the inner mysteries of God, from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge, and the allusions of the embodiments of satanic
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Íqán, paragraph 213, p. 177)
Open your ears that ye may hearken unto the word of God….
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Hidden Words, Persian #52)
Cleave to the Root of Knowledge, and to Him Who is the Fountain thereof, that thou mayest find thyself independent of all who claim to be well versed in human learning, and whose claim no clear proof, nor the testimony of any enlightening book, can support.
(Bahá’u’lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Selection LXXXIX, p. 177)
We can well perceive how the whole human race is encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned. They that are intoxicated by self-conceit have interposed themselves between it and the Divine and infallible Physician. Witness how they have entangled all men, themselves included, in the mesh of their devices. They can neither discover the cause of the disease, nor have they any knowledge of the remedy. They have conceived the straight to be crooked, and have imagined their friend an enemy.
(Bahá’u’lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Selection CVI, p. 213)
Rid thyself of all attachment to the vain allusions of men, and cast behind thy back the idle and subtle disputations of them that are veiled from God.
(Bahá’u’lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Selection CXXXIX, p. 303)
Thine ear is a sign of My bounty, let not the tumult of unseemly motives turn it away from My Word that encompasseth all creation.
(Bahá’u’lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Selection CLII, p. 322)
….the minds of the wise and learned are impotent to fathom the secrets of Thy handiwork ….
(Bahá’u’lláh: Prayers and Meditations, Selection LVIII, pp. 92-93)
The learned, one and all, stand aghast before the signs and tokens of Thy handiwork, while the wise find themselves, without exception, impotent to unravel the mystery of Them Who are the Manifestations of Thy might and power.
(Bahá’u’lláh: Prayers and Meditations, Selection LXII, pp. 98-99)
….as the wise Sana’i hath written: “….Wouldst thou that the mind should not entrap thee? Teach it the science of the love of God!”
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, Second Valley of Four, p. 52)
Idle fancies have debarred men from the Horizon of Certitude, and vain imaginings withheld them from the Choice Sealed Wine.
(Bahá’u’lláh: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 44)
In this day, whosoever rendeth not asunder the veil of his idle imaginings will assuredly fail to hear the Voice of God. Well is it with them that with the aid of the power of God have shattered the idols of their fancies and, with ears attentive to His call, have risen from the dead.
(Bahá’u’lláh, quoted in Bahá’í World, vol. 2, “Excerpts from Bahá’í Sacred Writings”, translated by Shoghi Effendi, p. 63)
[from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:]
Man,…though in body the captive of nature is yet free in his mind and soul, and hath the mastery over nature.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Tablet to August Forel, p. 10)
[from the talks of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:]
….the spirit of man has two aspects: one divine, one satanic—that is to say, it is capable of the utmost perfection, or it is capable of the utmost imperfection. If it acquires virtues, it is the most noble of the existing beings; and if it acquires vices, it becomes the most degraded existence.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Some Answered Questions, Chapter 36: “The Five Aspects of Spirit”, p. 144)
…. the difference of conditions in the world of beings is an obstacle to comprehension. For example, this mineral belongs to the mineral kingdom; however far it may rise, it can never comprehend the power of growth. The plants, the trees, whatever progress they may make, cannot conceive of the power of sight or the powers of the other senses; and the animal cannot imagine the condition of man—that is to say, his spiritual powers. Difference of condition is an obstacle to knowledge; the inferior degree cannot comprehend the superior degree…. How then can the phenomenal reality comprehend the Preexistent Reality? Knowing God, therefore, means the comprehension and the knowledge of His attributes, and not of His Reality….. For the phenomenal reality can comprehend the Preexistent attributes only to the extent of the human capacity. The mystery of Divinity is sanctified and purified from the comprehension of the beings, for all that comes to the imagination is that which man understands, and the power of the understanding of man does not embrace the Reality of the Divine Essence. All that man is able to understand are the attributes of Divinity, the radiance of which appears and is visible in the world and within men’s souls.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Some Answered Questions, Chapter 59: “Man’s Knowledge of God”, p. 221)
….there are two sorts of spiritual discoveries. One is the revelations of the Prophets….
The other kind of spiritual discoveries is made up of pure imaginations, but these imaginations become embodied in such a way that many simple-hearted people believe that they have a reality.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Some Answered Questions, Chapter 71: “Visions and Communication with Spirits”, pp. 251-252)
[from the talks of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (no authority):]
Because man has stopped his ears to the Voice of Truth and shut his eyes to the Sacred Light, neglecting the Law of God, for this reason has the darkness of war and tumult, unrest and misery, desolated the earth.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Paris Talks, “The Sun of Truth, October 22nd”, pp. 32-33)
….man’s intelligence has been enabled to free him from the limitations of nature, and to solve many of her mysteries. Man, to a certain extent, has broken the chains of matter.
The Holy Spirit will give to man greater powers than these, if only he will strive after the things of the spirit and endeavour to attune his heart to the Divine infinite love.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Paris Talks, “The Universal Love, October 24th”, p. 38)
If a man is successful in his business, art, or profession he is thereby enabled to increase his physical wellbeing and to give his body the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights. All around us today we see how man surrounds himself with every modern convenience and luxury, and denies nothing to the physical and material side of his nature. But, take heed, lest in thinking too earnestly of the things of the body you forget the things of the soul: for material advantages do not elevate the spirit of a man. Perfection in worldly things is a joy to the body of a man but in no wise does it glorify his soul.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Paris Talks, “Material and Spiritual Progress, November 2nd”, pp. 62-63)
Just as … mists and vapors conceal the phenomenal sun, so human imaginations obscure the Sun of Truth.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “2 May 1912, Talk at Hotel Plaza, Chicago, Illinois, Notes by Marzieh Moss”, p. 78)
How strange then it seems that man, notwithstanding his endowment with this ideal power, will descend to a level beneath him and declare himself no greater than that which is manifestly inferior to his real station. God has created such a conscious spirit within him that he is the most wonderful of all contingent beings. In ignoring these virtues he descends to the material plane, considers matter the ruler of existence and denies that which lies beyond. Is this virtue? In its fullest sense this is animalistic, for the animal realizes nothing more. In fact, from this standpoint the animal is the greater philosopher because it is completely ignorant of the Kingdom of God, possesses no spiritual susceptibilities and is uninformed of the heavenly world. In brief, this is a view of the pathway of nature.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “9 June 1912, Talk at Baptist Temple, Broad and Berks Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Notes by Edna McKinney”, pp. 178-179)
Reason is the discoverer of the realities of things, and that which conflicts with its conclusions is the product of human fancy and imagination.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “5 September 1912, Talk at St. James Methodist Church, Montreal, Canada, From Stenographic Notes”, p. 316)