Knowledge of God and Knowledge of Self in One's Spiritual Transformation, Powered by Love of God

By Bijan Ghafari

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #128
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, MI
October 9–12, 2014
(see list of papers from #128)


    We live in a time of chaos, in an ever changing world in which the only constant is the change, rich in potential for new possibilities. A new world order is being born. We need new ideas, new ways of seeing, and new relationships to help us now. New science—the new discoveries in biology, chaos theory, and quantum physics that are changing our understanding of how the world works---offers this guidance. It describes a world where chaos is natural, where order exists "for free". Chaos is a necessary process for the creation of new order. This is a world where chaos and order exist as partners, where stasis is never guaranteed or even desired.

    1. How to make sense of chaotic events which seem insurmountable at the time of their occurring?

    2. How to find meaning in sufferings and changes sometimes so painful yet necessary in essence for our spiritual and emotional development?

    3. How do we prepare ourselves to create an intrinsic stable changeless core within us based on principles in the teachings of Bahá'í faith which in times of turbulence and chaotic change will provide us with guidance, wisdom, power and security in order to face the challenges and make sense of chaos, learn from it, and make the optimum decision possible for our spiritual transformation?

    We need to learn how to facilitate the process of change. We need to become savvy about how to foster relationships, how to nurture spiritual growth and development. All of us need to become better at listening, conversing, respecting and embracing one another's uniqueness, because these are essential for strong relationships.

    The Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, made the staggering claim that His Revelation would be the chief instrument by which the unification of mankind would take place and through which world order and world peace would ultimately be established. Whoever is truly interested in world peace will, therefore, need to have an interest in how that transformation can take place. The Bahá'í Faith having spread throughout the world in such a short time and having demonstrated its power to transform the lives of so many human beings, there has developed much interest in the nature of the actual process by which the Faith does enable a human being who embraces it to become transformed into his/her true self.

    Bahá'í Writings shed a great deal of light on the way in which the Faith transforms the lives of its adherents by releasing the human potential.

    A letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi states: "The whole purpose of Bahá'u'lláh is that we should become a new kind of people, people who are upright, kind, intelligent, truthful, and honest and who live according to His great laws laid down for this new epoch in man's development. To call ourselves Bahá'ís is not enough, our inmost being must become ennobled and enlightened through living a Bahá'í life." (Compilation of Compilations, vol. 2, p. 13.) What are those fundamental capacities endowed within every human being that when released through proper true education will ennoble one's character and enable him/her to serve humanity?

    These are the capacities of Knowing and Loving.

    Bahá'u'lláh states: "I bear witness, o my God, that Thou hast created me to know thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is non-other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting."

    A spiritual person is one who knows and loves God and who is committed to the struggle of developing those knowing and loving capacities for the purpose of serving humanity. In other words, knowing and loving used in the right way through faith and courage will increase the knowing and loving capacity — will release human potential. Each capacity supports and facilitates the development of the other. In order to know, for instance, we must love learning; if we are to love, we must know how to love and how to be loved.

    All other virtues can be understood as expressions of different combinations of these basic fundamental capacities of loving and knowing as they are applied in different situations.

    Of course Baha'u'llah's teachings concerning the transformation process are stimulating to the mind, but knowledge of them has also a practical purpose, for conscious knowledge of what is happening to oneself during that process helps to consolidate the gains and enables one to identify and accept, often through painful experiences that may at first appear needless or cruel, opportunities for further growth.

    Bahá'u'lláh Himself affirms that: "The object of every Revelation" is to "effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions." Otherwise, He observes, "the futility of God's universal Manifestations would be apparent." (Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 241) What is the highest and fundamental source of power needed to provide the individual with energy, enthusiasm and intrinsic motivation to go through the multiple phases of transformation defined by Bahá'u'lláh?

    Creative Word of God and The Power of love.

    He states: "In the world of existence there is no greater power than power of love." And `Abd'u'l-Bahá explains: "For when the heart of Man is aglow with the flame of love, he is ready to sacrifice all—even his life."

    The loving capacity includes not only the ability to love but also the ability to be loved — to attract love.

    As `Abdu'l-Bahá states, "The essence of Bahá'u'lláh's teaching is all-embracing love, for love includeth every excellence of humankind. It causeth every soul to go forward; it bestoweth on each one, for a heritage, immortal life. Ere long shalt thou bear witness that His celestial Teachings, the very glory of reality itself, shall light up the skies of the world." (Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p.66)

    The knowing capacity also includes knowledge of how to learn and how to teach. Teaching and learning are reciprocal aspects of the knowing capacity. From a Bahá'í point of view, true education refers to a development of potential to the fullest extent possible. It has been demonstrated that if the loving capacity is blocked in any way, there will be learning problems and the development of the knowing capacity will be impaired.

    We must love — be attracted to, have a particular attitude towards — that unknown in our own selves if it is to become released. If we relate truly to the unknown in ourselves, we will be able to relate to the unknown in others. In other words, we have to accept others not only for what they presently are but also to their potential latent within them for what they can become; otherwise, we impede their process of transformation and keep them from becoming their own true selves. If you do not accept the unknown possibilities in yourself, you will not be able to establish anything more than superficial relationships with other human beings, and you will not be able to help them to develop their potential nor yourself to develop your own.

    As `Abdu'l-Bahá states: "The love which is between the hearts of believers {"..} is attained through the knowledge of God. {"} Each sees in the other the beauty of God reflected in the soul, and, finding this point of similarity, they are attracted to one another in Love. This love will make all men the waves of one sea. This love will make them all the stars of one heaven and the fruits of one tree. This love will bring the realization of true accord, the foundation of real unity." (Paris Talks, pp. 180-181)

    Faith & anxiety of the Unknown

    In essence, faith means a loving of the unknown or unknowable — an attraction to whatever is unknown and a capacity to approach it. Since, as Bahá'u'lláh affirms, God is unknowable, it takes faith to become attracted and related to Him.

    The power of the Bahá'í Faith to transform human beings by releasing their potential stems directly from the fact that it keeps doubt and anxiety of uncertainty and chaos from reaching unmanageable proportions and provides an incentive and motivation to deal with them constructively through faith and courage. Bahá'u'lláh himself indicated that the primary source of the power for transformation comes from an acceptance of his Word — the Word of God. His Writings are often referred to as "the creative word" precisely because human beings have felt themselves being created anew as they have become more and more exposed to it. Bahá'u'lláh clearly affirms that if you want to become transformed, you must "immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words."

    As we continually explore the Writings, we begin to see ourselves differently and to see the environment differently. As we begin to see ourselves and the environment differently, we begin to feel differently about things. As we begin to feel differently, we begin to behave differently. Behaving differently is the tangible manifestation of one's having embarked upon the adventure of becoming what one potentially can become.

    However, Bahá'u'lláh has not come merely to establish yet another alternative religious congregation in pursuit of its own aims. Rather, He has renewed the wellspring of revelation in order to raise up a new "Race of Men," "incomparable in character," who will "cast the sleeve of holiness over all that hath been created from water and clay."(Bahá'u'lláh, in The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 31.)

    Thus, as greater and greater numbers of human beings find a way in the Bahá'í Faith to become their own true selves — to reflect the image of God in their lives, society will also be in the process of becoming its true self — the Kingdom of God on earth.

    But what is the "excellence" of what one can potentially become? Bahá'u'lláh teaches that the highest expression of the self is servitude.

    For a Bahá'í happiness and success is not a life free from anxiety or tension. That is the Bahá'í definition of boredom. Happiness and success for a Bahá'í is having tests and knowing how to muster the courage to pass them in such a way that his knowing and loving capacities are further developed in service to humanity. Living in the community provides the tests which become the opportunities to acquire experience in translating abstract principles into concrete realities, and this gives faith a foundation of conscious knowledge.


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