“Investigate and study the Holy Scriptures word by word so that you may attain the knowledge of the mysteries hidden therein.
The Bahá'í month of ’Ilm (Knowledge) is the nineteen day period beginning October 16.
When thinking of knowledge, most people may immediately think of the material comforts of modern life. After all it is the knowledge of scientists that has led to the great inventions and myriad products available today that we all take for granted and feel entitled to. A pervasive feeling of “I deserve this” seems to permeate our acceptance of life’s conveniences, with little thought of why we deserve them. Bahá'í Teachings provide a contrary view of our contemporary mood as noted below:
Knowledge of Spiritual Texts
“Investigate and study the Holy Scriptures word by word so that you may attain the knowledge of the mysteries hidden therein. Be not satisfied with words, but seek to understand the spiritual meanings hidden in the heart of the words….These are the mysteries of God. It is not the reading of the words that profits you; it is the understanding of their meanings. Therefore, pray God that you may be enabled to comprehend the mysteries of the divine Testaments.
All the texts and teachings of the holy Testaments have intrinsic spiritual meanings. They are not to be taken literally….May your souls be illumined by the light of the Words of God, and may you become repositories of the mysteries of God, for no comfort is greater and no happiness is sweeter than spiritual comprehension of the divine teachings.” “The Divine Art of Living” pg. 58, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1986 edition
When one accepts the Bahá'í Teachings she has already discovered, in her search after truth, that the world is in some sort of transitional phase. Material comforts are accepted by modern society merely as elements of an advancing civilization and nothing more. Of themselves they have not brought any sort of peace, nay, they have brought with their wonders unprecedented bloodshed, greed and imbalance. Since they have evolved largely with ever increasing speed in the last century and a half, a conundrum exists. A person of knowledge may ponder why all this material progress has not brought an aura of peace and comfort as well? The words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’ cry out for an audience; “…for no comfort is greater and no happiness is sweeter than spiritual comprehension of the divine teachings.“
That is not to say that material wealth is to be avoided. When Baha’u’llah brought His message to humans, it was infused with the potential to develop both the material and the spiritual elements of our lives with the wonders of new capabilities. Material comforts are meant to be enjoyed by all within a prescribed moderation, rather than to encourage a society such as today’s with its materialistic extremes.
One of the lessons we’ve learned in the last century and a half is that humans are plenty smart in the pursuit of material progress. While the powerful infusion of the Bahá'í Spirit has prompted an unprecedented promotion of the material, its pillar of spirituality has been largely ignored. Yet, the Teachings predominantly emphasize a theme of spirituality, proclaiming a solution for all the world’s ills. There is a spiritual solution for the economic problem; there is a spiritual solution that will lead to the abandonment of warfare; there is a spiritual solution for the elimination of prejudice, even among those who are caught up in the reliving of the prejudices of their fathers and fore-fathers.
And how does a society become spiritual? One person at a time. A good first step would be for each of us to take to heart such statements as the lead-in to this article suggests: “…All the texts and teachings of the holy Testaments have intrinsic spiritual meanings. They are not to be taken literally….May your souls be illumined by the light of the Words of God, and may you become repositories of the mysteries of God, for no comfort is greater and no happiness is sweeter than spiritual comprehension of the divine teachings.”
To follow that advice will require modification of the thought processes that most humans pursue. The “past” dictates a common practice for those of faith to try to closely and literally heed the advice of their scriptures, with an understanding that “the spirit” will be taken care of for them by their clergy. Not any more. Not only do the Bahá'í Teachings require that all humans must become educated, but that each person must glean an understanding of the Holy Scriptures for herself, for, in the New Order, a clergy will be no longer specified.
Additionally, the deeper one gets into the Writings, the more apparent it becomes that a new mode of participation is expected from its adherents while they are in their life-long search after Truth. On closer look, many of the passages (such as those cited above) request a new concept of study when reading the scriptures. The Mystery beyond the word content of the Writings is such that no matter where a person is in her spiritual development, there is always more to glean from a course of study.
Could it be that there is a mysterious vibration surrounding the holy words that we presently cannot comprehend? Since we are only now experiencing the opening chapters of this new world order, “…the likes of which mortal eyes have never witnessed…” it is very probable that human progress will require a new dimension of understanding beyond what we now follow. How else may one explain a future based upon the promise of “…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”
As suggested by ‘Abdu’l-Baha’, the pure meaning and purpose of the Bahá'í Writings may only be fully realized when one learns to comprehend the mysteries of the divine Testaments. No doubt, through God’s love, that understanding will lead to the throwing off of prejudices and shackles of the past generations, and reaping the harvest of God‘s will on earth.