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Monthly Reflection: Mulk – On Striving for a Dominion of Understanding

February 5, 2024, in Articles > Baha'i Blog, by

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Welcome to the month of Mulk (Dominion)! In a previous post, I explored how the concept of dominion in the Baha’i Faith differs from the more commonly accepted definition: having absolute control or power over things that exist in the physical realm like countries, kingdoms, or people. In the Baha’i Writings dominion is described as a state of being or spiritual power—one which finds its fullest expression not in the physical plane, but rather in the city of the human heart. Baha’u’llah writes:

O My Name! The Daystar of utterance, shining resplendent from the dayspring of divine Revelation, hath so illumined the Scrolls and Tablets that the kingdom of utterance and the exalted dominion of understanding vibrate with joy and ecstasy and shine forth with the splendor of His light, yet the generality of mankind comprehend not. 1

I’m intrigued by the idea of there being a “dominion of understanding”. I’m curious what it looks like and how one accesses it.

Most of us have pondered a question and then come across something that at first seems entirely unrelated, but in fact mysteriously expands our understanding of the question we’ve carried in our heads and hearts. My curiosity about the dominion of understanding dovetailed with seeing an empowering short film that was recently added to Baha’i Blog that highlights how treating the creative process as a means of communing with God helped Aussie artist Malini Parker find glimmers of spiritual understanding within the darkness of long-term personal adversity. By reflecting upon the following words, penned by Baha’u’llah, Malini came to see creative expression as a tool that could help her gain a greater degree of self-knowledge as she navigated through some of the most challenging and vulnerable moments of her life:

“True loss is for him who has spent his days in utter ignorance of his self.” ((Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 156)

In the film, Malini explains that while there is no doubt that she has experienced profound loss, using her creative process as a way to “rummage around in the dark” until she finds a “glimmering of understanding” has helped her to turn the adversities in her life into an avenue for greater self-knowledge and a means of avoiding “true loss”—the loss of never getting to know her true self.

In her book Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown writes that “vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” 2 Malini explains that she sees the creative process as a place of extreme vulnerability because just like confronting adversities in life, there are no certain outcomes when you make art. You are creating something where before there was nothing, and you might not like the end-result. Regardless of the outcome, though, Malini shares that stepping into the realm of uncertainty with a light, curious heart has nurtured a little more courage in her every time she does it, and with it a greater confidence in her own courageousness.

As I listened to Malini reflect on the value of knowing ourselves, I felt intuitively that while it might not be the entire picture, using creative expression as a form of deepening self-knowledge felt like a piece of the “dominion of understanding” puzzle. Through her work she seems to have found a gate into the “dominion of understanding,” and I wanted to join her there. Could approaching the month of Dominion as if it were an invitation to engage in my creative endeavours with a greater degree of awareness about how my work helps me to deepen my self-knowledge increase my spiritual capacity and aid me to more effectively serve and empower others?

Abdu’l-Baha has written:

“…in this wonderful new age, art is worship. The more thou strivest to perfect it, the closer wilt thou come to God. What bestowal could be greater than this, that one’s art should be even as the act of worshipping the Lord? That is to say, when thy fingers grasp the paintbrush, it is as if thou wert at prayer in the Temple.” 3

Being an artist, Malini cites this quote as her invitation, but the Baha’i Writings tell us that any form of work, when pursued with a pure heart and in the spirit of service, is a form of worship. As we step into the month of Mulk, this is my invitation to you: Can we be more conscious of the attitude with which we pursue our work—whatever it happens to be? As we practice greater consciousness, can we be more aware of the qualities we are developing as we pursue our chosen professions? And how can we use our own deepening self-knowledge to benefit others?

Below is the full short film with Malini’s story:

The gate of the “dominion of understanding” is waiting for us to step through. Join me? 

Footnotes & Citations

  1. Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed After the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p.13[]
  2. Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, p. 14[]
  3. Abdu’l-Baha, retrieved from reference.bahai.org[]
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Ariana Salvo

Ariana Salvo was born in the United States, and spent sixteen years of her childhood on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. She moved to Prince Edward Island to do her master’s degree in Island Studies, fell in love with the tightly knit community, and has never left. When not writing, she can be found exploring art at galleries around the world, flower farming, traveling to remote islands, hiking and taking photos of the wild natural landscapes of Canada’s eastern shore, teaching English to international students and reading historical fiction with a good cup of tea.
Ariana Salvo

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