4. How Can Religion Transform the Self?

The origin of both feelings and actions are thoughts. If we change our thoughts, everything will change. Religion transforms us by changing the negative into the positive:

I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.

Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.104 _ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Since our essence is spiritual, that which can ultimately reach us and touch us must also be spiritual, it must come from both above and within. Purity can be inspired only by a Source endowed with a greater purity; perfection can bloom only by a Power gifted with a greater perfection.

A noble thought stands as a fragrant flower. Until we walk to the garden and see it grow from the ground we cannot believe that the lowly earth can give rise to such exquisite charm and fragrance. The exemplar, like enchanting flowers, attracts us to the garden of peace and fulfillment. He awakens and elevates the seed of our dreams. He shows us that every lowly heart can blossom and become a paradise of the most enduring hopes and dreams.

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. _Christ (John 13:15)

We can be inspired to nobility and greatness by an absolute belief in a Creator who loves all, who knows all, and who rewards all; by believing in the immortality of the human soul, and the immortality of every act performed by the soul; by recognizing our eternal purpose, by knowing and being fully devoted to our enduring and exalted mission.

What is there in man so worthy of honor and reverence as this, that he is capable of contemplating something higher than his own reason, more sublime than the whole universe from which all truth proceeds?

Consider the contrast between our physical and spiritual nature:

The human body is in reality very weak…One mosquito will distress it; the smallest quantity of poison will destroy it; if respiration ceases for a moment, it will die. What instrument could be weaker and more delicate? A blade of grass severed from the root may live an hour, whereas a human body deprived of its forces may die in one minute. But in the proportion that the human body is weak, the spirit of man is strong. It can control natural phenomena; it is a supernatural power which transcends all contingent beings. It has immortal life, which nothing can destroy or pervert.

If all the kingdoms of life arise against the immortal spirit of man and seek its destruction, this immortal spirit, singly and alone, can withstand their attacks in fearless firmness and resolution because it is indestructible and empowered with supreme natural virtues…How wonderful it is! How powerful the spirit of man, while his body is so weak! If the susceptibilities of the spirit control him, there is no created being more heroic, more undaunted than man; but if physical forces dominate, you cannot find a more cowardly or fearful object because the body is so weak and incapable.

Therefore, it is divinely intended that the spiritual susceptibilities of man should gain precedence and overrule his physical forces. In this way he becomes fitted to dominate the human world by his nobility and stand forth fearless and free, endowed with the attributes of eternal life.105 _Abdu’l-Bahá

Love of God is the most potent and pervasive of all powers. Nothing can ever compare— in courage, purity, peace, and power—with a heart stirred and enchanted by the love of God. “The death of God inevitably leads to the death of man.”

The greatest question of our time is not communism versus individualism…not even the East versus the West: it is whether man can bear to live without God. _Will Durant

It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels he is worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him. _Abraham Lincoln

If an Arab in the desert were suddenly to discover a spring in his tent, and so would always be able to have water in abundance, how fortunate he would consider himself—so too, when a man, who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him; not to mention his discovery that the source is his relation to God. _Sören Kierkegaard

Since we are in essence spiritual beings, what we value and cherish should also be spiritual.

Who has ever seen an idea? Who has ever seen love? Who has ever seen faith? The real things in the world are the invisible spiritual realities. _Charles Templeton

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honor; duty; mercy; hope. _Winston Churchill

People are like stained-glass windows; they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. _Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

It seems so natural to us to judge our worth and that of others only by what we see, without recognizing that the visible is but a burden on our souls and a veil that obscures our vision. Unless we are able to acknowledge this simple truth we will remain out of touch with the reality of our own selves: that the only power that can lift us to the heaven of enduring tranquility and peace is the love of God and the knowledge of our exalted spiritual destiny. Once we fill our hearts and souls with that power, we stay permanently aloft, beyond the reach of earthly bonds and fetters. We are not bodies but souls and minds. Our bodies are naught but burdens we need and must carry while on an earthly plane.

Man is a candle, knowledge the wax, love the flame, and God the hand that lifts and guides the flame.

Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendor, and the majesty; for everything in heaven and on earth is thine. _I Chronicles 29:11

O Lord my God, thou art great indeed, clothed in majesty and splendor, and wrapped in a robe of light. _Psalms 104:1-2

Better one day in thy courts than a thousand days at home… _Psalms 84:10

O Son Of Man!
Wert thou to speed through the immensity of space and traverse the expanse of heaven, yet thou wouldst find no rest save in submission to Our command and humbleness before Our Face.106 _Bahá’u’lláh

Faith is the light that illumines the way and dispels darkness. The forces that activate true faith are pure motives and noble deeds. Motives and deeds are intimately intertwined, yet each has its own domain and commands, its own unique purpose and power. Unless they cooperate, victory over self is impossible. To escape darkness, first we must desire light (motive), then we must stretch our hand to turn on the light (deed). Without desire and action, darkness continues.

Contentment is not a wild plant of the wilderness. It is a tender tulip that grows only in the heart. It must be cared for with patience and nourished with faith, hope, and love. Happiness is not a weed of chance; it is a flower of choice.

When good deeds spring from a pure heart, they deserve the highest praise. But when they also bathe in the radiance of God’s splendor, then they turn into the most perfect and powerful force in all the universe. They join the heart of God and glow in the radiance of His glory with enchanting beauty and brightness.

To conclude: Bahá’u’lláh’s new World Order stands on two pillars: the individual and society. On the one hand, He transforms, inspires, and elevates the hearts to absolute trust in divine Wisdom as reflected in His teachings; and on the other, He reshapes society into a cohesive, intimately harmonized whole.

The followers of Bahá’u’lláh have already brought about a real unity of hearts in their communities. Although coming from so many diverse backgrounds and speaking different languages, they are motivated by a strong bond of love which binds them together spiritually. This love is not… due to any special talents which the believers may possess…This love is generated through the influence of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. It is like the flow of electric current in a vast network, energizing every circuit which is connected to it.107

As William James notes:

What we now need to discover in the social realm is the moral equivalent of war: something heroic that will speak to men as universally as war does, and yet will be as compatible with their spiritual selves as war has proved itself to be incompatible.

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