Myths and Symbolism in the Bahá'í­ Writings:
The Case of Joseph

By Vahid Rafati

Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #138
Centre for Baha'i Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 5–8, 2016
(see list of papers from #138)


    The Bahá'í­ Writings contain vast numbers of mythical, allegorical, and symbolic expressions. These enrich Bahá'í­ literature and connect the writings of the Faith to the religious and literary heritage of humankind. Their purpose is to convey tangible realities as immaterial qualities. Thus for example the Wolf stands for bloodshed and cruelty, while the Dog is a symbol of protection and faithfulness.

    On the other hand, spiritual expressions convey tangible realities. When one reads in the writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá that "you should become like the heavenly angels," what is meant is purity of heart, obtaining divine character, chastity, and other virtues and qualifications.

    In an allegorical language, terms such as "wine," "drunken," "cup," and so on are meant to convey spiritual and supernatural realities, as are numerous other terms and expressions used throughout the Bahá'í­ Writings that draw on mythical expressions rooted in religious and literary human history. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is the story of Joseph, references to which have enriched the beauty of the Bahá'í­ Writings while showing the strong links to the literary and spiritual heritage of biblical and Qur'anic literature.


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