The Divine Within Us

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"He hath known God who hath known himself" (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 178)

Knowing God by knowing ourselves - this is a concept that has always really struck a chord with me. It is fascinating to think that by truly knowing exactly who I am, I somehow gain a better understanding of the Almighty. Isn't that extraordinary?

Don't get me wrong. I think that God is ultimately Unknowable. There is absolutely no way that we will ever fully comprehend Him. How could the created ever truly fathom the Creator? But I do believe we can strive to learn and know more about God, and one of the ways we do that is through knowing ourselves. But how do we do that? Where would I find God within me?

In the Bahá'í Faith, Baha'u'llah teaches that God "...hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes" upon humanity and made us like "a mirror of His own Self" (full quote below). Ultimately this means that we have the potential to mirror forth the infinite qualities of God - patience, humility, compassion, trustworthiness, love, etc. When we see these qualities within ourselves and strive to embody them, we become closer to God and begin to know Him. We recognize the Divine within us.

In fact, this is the way in which I personally interpret the Christian teaching from Genesis that we were created in the image of God. Our likeness is spiritual, rather than physical. That just makes more sense to me. Obviously, this "likeness" isn't always apparent. It takes time to truly mirror forth these attributes of God. We have to struggle against our baser, more selfish nature. But the more I am able to develop and incorporate spiritual qualities into my daily life, it only makes sense to me that I would know at least a tiny bit more about God. What a gift.

Each religion teaches the concept of "God Within" in one way or another as the quotations below can attest. Read through them and let me know your thoughts.

I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting." (Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (King James Bible, 1 John 4.16)

"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (King James Bible, Ephesians)

"Yea! knowing Me the source of all, by Me all creatures wrought,
The wise in spirit cleave to Me, into My Being brought;
Hearts fixed on Me; breaths breathed to Me; praising Me, each to
So have they happiness and peace, with pious thought and speech;
And unto these- thus serving well, thus loving ceaselessly-
I give a mind of perfect mood, whereby they draw to Me;
And, all for love of them, within their darkened souls I dwell,
And, with bright rays of wisdom's lamp, their ignorance dispel." (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation." (Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

"The Prophet said that God has declared,
"I am not contained in aught above or below,
I am not contained in earth or sky, or even
In highest heaven. Know this for a surety. O beloved!
Yet am I contained in the believer's heart!
If ye seek me, search in such hearts!"
He said also, "Enter the hearts of my servants
To gain the paradise of beholding Me, O fearer of God" (Mathnavi of Rumi (E.H. Whinfield tr), The Masnavi Vol 1)

"Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him -- a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation.... Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty.

These energies with which the Day Star of Divine bounty and Source of heavenly guidance hath endowed the reality of man lie, however, latent within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp. The radiance of these energies may be obscured by worldly desires even as the light of the sun can be concealed beneath the dust and dross which cover the mirror. Neither the candle nor the lamp can be lighted through their own unaided efforts, nor can it ever be possible for the mirror to free itself from its dross. It is clear and evident that until a fire is kindled the lamp will never be ignited, and unless the dross is blotted out from the face of the mirror it can never represent the image of the sun nor reflect its light and glory." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 65)


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