God simply changes the way people think. He exposes their minds to the light of His knowledge. It is an established fact that any change in human life originates in the mind. “As a man thinketh, so is he.”
When the lens of a camera opens, the light rushes in to imprint images on the film. The same is true with the heart. A good picture requires at least two conditions: the lens must open properly; the unexposed film must face the desired subjects. The same is true with the spirit.
The following examples show the difference between the thoughts that come from God and the thoughts that come from human beings; the images that originate in the natural world, and the images that originate in the spiritual:
Natural: I count first. I must love and serve myself.
Spiritual: I am part of a bigger whole. I must see everyone as part of me and myself as part of everyone else. I do not need to love myself less. I just need to love others more. Natural: Pleasure is the chief goal in life.
Spiritual: God is the goal. Once I allow His images in me to unfold, my pleasures will expand and multiply. His hope will lift me to the heavens on high. Once my heart is stretched by that marvelous vision, it will never return to its original shape.
Natural: Happiness comes from serving myself.
Spiritual: True happiness comes when I serve myself and others in the light of God’s knowledge.
Natural: Life is short. I will try to enjoy it and have as much “fun” as possible.
Spiritual: Spiritual fulfillment offers the deepest joy, the kind of “fun” that endures. Life is too precious to be invested in fun alone. I invest it for spiritual growth, for seeing that which “no eye hath seen.” My span of life is brief here, but it continues into the hereafter. I am a gem on God’s hand and rejoice in that knowledge. As long as His hand endures, so will the gem.
Natural: Man is a political animal.
Spiritual: Man is the glory of creation, the noblest of all beings; a being for whom God made the universe and “many mansions” in heaven.
Natural: Man is a body. What matters is what you see.
Spiritual: Man is a soul. His body is his home. What matters is what you don’t see.
When an individual allows these spiritual images to enter his mind and soul, he becomes a new creature. He sees, thinks, feels, and acts differently. The whole process of transformation is as simple and yet as complicated as this; simple when “the ego” does not stand in the way; complicated, when it does. “The humble are the empty vessels God loves to fill.”
The complete and entire elimination of the ego would imply perfection—which man can never completely attain… 134 _Shoghi Effendi
Attachment to the status quo or tradition, and the fear of exploring new frontiers of knowledge, pose further obstacles to transformation.
Reality or truth is one, yet there are many religious beliefs, denominations, creeds and differing opinions in the world today. Why should these differences exist? Because they do not investigate and examine the fundamental unity, which is one and unchangeable. If they seek reality itself, they will agree and be united; for reality is indivisible and not multiple. It is evident, therefore, that there is nothing of greater importance to mankind than the investigation of truth.135 _ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Be not the slave of your own past—plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience, that shall explain and overlook the old. _Ralph Waldo Emerson
We can respect and even appreciate the past and the ways of our ancestors. We can love them for having chosen to go their own way. But to be attached to having to live and think the way others before you did, because you showed up looking like them in form, is to deny yourself enlightenment. This is how people and their institutions have controlled others for thousands of years.136 _Wayne Dyer
Many philosophers, humanists, educators, and politicians present wonderful ideas for changing the world, but they often fail to follow them in their own lives. Information alone does not lead to transformation. “A wise man of ancient China was noted for his wisdom and ability to solve problems. One day a merchant came to him seeking advice. It seems that the merchant had a problem in his accounting department. ‘I have six men and six abacuses, but my needs have expanded to the point where I need a 20 percent increase in output. I cannot afford the capital investment of another man and another abacus; and even if I could, one man would not be enough, and two men would be too much.’ The wise man pondered the problem for several days and finally summoned the merchant. ‘The solution to your problem,’ he told him, ‘is simple. Each of your present accounting staff must grow another finger on each hand. This will increase your abacus output exactly 20 percent and will solve your problem.’ The merchant smiled. His problem was solved. He started to leave, paused a moment, and looked at the wise old man. ‘Oh, Wise One,’ he said, ‘you have truly given me the solution to my problem. But…’ and he paused, ‘how do I get my people to grow extra fingers?’ The wise man puffed on his pipe. ‘That is a good question,’ he said. ‘But alas, I only make policy recommendations. The details of execution are up to you.’”
Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh’s message is the most timely, practical, and dynamic force on our planet. It transforms pessimism into optimism, weakness into strength, despair into a desire for perfection. It appeals to all peoples and is potent against all maladies. The following example of transformation is one of thousands that can be told about unnumbered communities across our planet, from the simplest villages to the most sophisticated cities:
About two years ago, after his son accidentally killed a member of the Daga people [Papau, New Guinea] in a car accident, Levi George fully expected that he and his own family would face death in a traditional “payback” killing.
Mr. George, a former official in the Milne Bay provincial planning office, spent a week in hiding after the accident. Finally, forced to return to work, he found a group of Daga waiting to see him—people that Mr. George had regarded as among the “worst known killers and sorcerers in the area.” He felt certain he was to be attacked and killed.
“To my surprise they smiled and walked towards me, extended their arms, and shook hands with me,” Mr. George recounted recently. “They said, ‘Brother, we are from the area of the dead boy. We came to tell you that you and your family must not be worried. We are brothers and sisters. We are Bahá’ís and we want to assure you and your children that there will be no payback killing.’”
To outsiders, the Daga people have long been known for tribal fighting and intimidating sorcery. By tradition, transgressions call for quick and often lethal vengeance.
Recently, however, reports of dramatic changes—such as this account by Mr. George—have begun to emerge. According to regional government officials and travelers to the Daga area, several of the tribes are acquiring a reputation for peace making and intertribal harmony.137