There are four means of knowledge. Among scientists and philosophers a method of attaining knowledge is through the senses, principally through observation. Light shows us that light exists. Reality is limited to the perceptible thing; all that is not perceptible is subject to doubt.
Among the ancient philosophers the infallible way to knowledge was through logic. The different schools of logic weighed everything in the scales of cold scholasticism. As to religious people their criterion has ever been the sacred text which must be accepted as final. One is not allowed the slightest reflection. “The word of God,” they say, “is truth.” Inspiration is the fourth criterion. Occultists say, “I have had a revelation. This truth has been revealed to me.” 94 For them everything outside direct revelation is viewed with doubt. So we have indicated the four criterions: the senses, reason, the sacred text, inspirations. There is no fifth.
Let us speak of the first criterion — that of the senses. Contemporary philosophers say, “We have spent our time in universities and laboratories analyzing composition. We have not encountered the spirituality of God, or any sign of the soul’s existence. We are people of truth, intelligent, learned men, but we can find no proof of the existence of a divine being.”
The senses mistake a mirage for water; the eyes see the sun move; your train or boat seems immobile and the landscape seems to pass by, planets look like fixed points of light; but they have measurable dimensions. A lighted point set in rotation appears like a circle. These examples show the senses subject to error. How can we put our trust in them?
The test of logic is just as imperfect, for were this criterion perfect there would never have been the continual clash of opinion as to the sacred texts. How can they be interpreted by logic if the means be at fault?
Inspiration, what is it? Whence comes it? Is that which reaches our heart divine or satanic? How can we judge?
It is no proof of intelligence to reject everything which does not strike the senses. Nay, rather, such a one is brother to the animal. The cow has no idea of God; she does not know the 95 soul. So the only difference between her highness the cow and a materialistic philosopher is that the latter takes a great deal of trouble! It is not a special or exclusive privilege to be the prisoner of one’s senses; the cow is the example of this theory.
Man has a sacred power beyond the confines of the senses. The power of the rational mind is the power of the soul over the senses. This cycle is radiating love and the bestowals of God are descending like unto rain. Man’s glory lies in the difference between him and the animals. In Persia a small child who has been taught to think universally can talk with the learned. The religious people no longer question the followers of BAHA’O’LLAH, being unable to reply to their arguments. The priests and rulers call them necromancers, persecuting and martyring them; and with great joy these disciples give all their worldly goods and gladly lay down their lives for the cause of BAHA’O’LLAH. They go to death crying aloud, “Ya Baha El-Abha!”
I supplicate to God that you may become inspired with a like spirituality. In the West you have not the same prejudices; you have not that fire of oppression, but have complete liberty of belief. Work, pray, day and night, and you will see the splendors of the kingdom of El-Abha descending upon you.
Materially, man is the prisoner of nature; the least wind disturbs him, the cold hurts him, the heat incommodes him, a mosquito irritates him; 96 but when we consider the intelligence of man, an elephant is powerless before him, a lion is his prisoner, and a boy of twelve can lead twelve hundred animals. Man dries up the sea, inundates the desert, circumnavigates the globe, discovers what is under the earth, rides upon the air and creates new sciences. These are the signs of the crowning spiritual power of man, — that power which can make nature his prisoner.
Reflect on the divine forces. What has assembled us together? It is not a material but a spiritual force which has created this bond between our hearts, this attraction and affection for one another, — a power stronger than reason, a power which founds nations, creates human unity and makes us renounce the world to discover sciences and organize laws which work through all creatures. Man, the victim of a mosquito, by his spiritual intelligence is conqueror, for by spirit he is completed; he stands upright and gives well-being to humanity. We must care for man’s two natures; for as the material man makes certain demands for food and raiment and if not looked after suffers, even so his spiritual reality suffers without care. This is why the divine messengers come to the rescue — to care for the reality, that man’s thoughts may unfold and his aims become realized, that he many inherit a new field of progress, for the spiritual side should be cared for as much as the corporeal; the help that comes is through the resuscitating breath of the Holy Spirit. 97
Each power is localized. Reason has its seat in the brain, sight in the eye, hearing in the ears, speech in the tongue. The force of gravity is localized in the center of the earth. Everything on the surface of the earth is attracted toward the center. Our light is localized in the sun. The heat of the sun transforms minerals, vegetables, animals, and man.
In the world of beings, some have specialized in statesmanship, some in morals, others in commerce, agriculture, art, politics, laboratory work, or industrial activities, for these are the outer expression of spiritual, philosophical and scientific faculties. In brief, each individual expresses himself through some special occupation; but one does not hold the others in condemnation.
Certain religious teachers, however, think only of their creeds. They believe a holy war can conquer the world. They reason thus: “All the other religious teachers are in error and I am obliged to chastise them and show them their mistakes for their own salvation.”
The belief of the friends of God is quite different. They believe that one must affiliate with all, love all humanity and seek ever to better its condition. God is one, the true shepherd of all creation. Let us be kind to every one in order to unify the world and spread affection abroad.