- Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages.
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As we near the Feast of Light, I was thinking that Light is such a beautiful name for a month. There are so many different kinds of light in the world: of course, we have the sun. Personally, I think I take the sun for granted along with the beautiful light it provides–though I am always grateful for its heat. I just can’t imagine living in cities in the Northern Hemisphere where the light never rises for a few months in the freezing cold of winter. Similarly, there are some areas where the sun never sets in the summer months. That could also be a challenge as our brains need to rest and our eyes need darkness to sleep. I presume that houses in those areas have accessories like blackout blinds to create darkness in the house.
For the rest of the world, we are blessed with a wonderful middle ground: we can enjoy beautiful daylight and its opposite, darkness, at night, which allows us to rest and replenish our energy, and then in turn allows us to appreciate daylight all the more.
I was also reflecting that there are other forms of light, for example, knowledge. In The Four Valleys, Baha’u’llah writes: “Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth.” 1 And in The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf: “Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone.” 2
So knowledge is a light that elevates us and I find that reading about current scientific research is so rewarding. But what is knowledge and how do we acquire it? I love this enlightening (pun intended) article by Sonjel Vreeland who wrote about the various sources of light as well as this article by Margaret Appa who illuminates us about the concept of harmony between the sciences and the arts as well as how both can often be found intertwined in one subject. I also like Maia James’ article about understanding; she proposed approaching the Writings in a scientific-like method by having no attachment at the beginning to the outcome (our opinions) but seeing where the truth leads us (Writings).
In this Instagram post, we see what two great scientists have to say about using scientific knowledge to increase humanity’s potential; and in this TikTok video, I talk about how we can use scientific knowledge to shed the light on the concrete steps needed to achieve our spiritual goals. For example, if we want to create more unity in our communities, we can reach out to sociologists, psychologists, even neuroscientists and immigration specialists who can offer us very useful tools to put into practice in our community-building activities. Similarly, if we want to learn which steps we can take to promote the equality of women and men, sociologists in women’s and men’s studies have many practical insights to offer. It is more profitable to use the wisdom of the current knowledge that for us to try to re-invent the wheel.
I was thrilled to read about this same concept in the recent 2023 Ridvan letter from the Universal House of Justice:
In this new series of Plans, increasing attention needs to be given to other processes that seek to enhance the life of a community—for example, by improving public health, protecting the environment, or drawing more effectively on the power of the arts. What is required for all these complementary aspects of a community’s well-being to advance is, of course, the capacity to engage in systematic learning in all these areas—a capacity that draws on insights arising from the Teachings and the accumulated store of human knowledge generated through scientific enquiry. As this capacity grows, much will be accomplished over the coming decades.
From Ancient Greece until the Middle Ages, music was always part of any curriculum, alongside arithmetic, astronomy and geometry. Back then, the sciences and the arts were considered as one and not at all diametrically opposed. Even in the Baha’i Writings, we find multiple mentions of “the sciences and the arts” as one unified concept, so it seems that Baha’u’llah’s Revelation is telling us all fields of human knowledge can illuminate the world of humanity and help us progress faster by combining both religion and science to further peace and well-being for humanity.
In this beautiful quote, Baha’u’llah enjoins us to increase our knowledge, thereby bringing more light to the world:
Knowledge is one of the wondrous gifts of God. It is incumbent upon everyone to acquire it. Such arts and material means as are now manifest have been achieved by virtue of His knowledge and wisdom which have been revealed in Epistles and Tablets through His Most Exalted Pen — a Pen out of whose treasury pearls of wisdom and utterance and the arts and crafts of the world are brought to light. 3
Brightening the world is particularly of interest to Baha’is around the world as we call attention to the 40th anniversary of the execution of the 10 women in Shiraz who were hanged because they refused to recant their beliefs in a religion that promotes the equality of women and men, universal education, and the elimination of prejudice. Baha’i Blog has created a special collection of artistic expressions relating to the ongoing persecution of the Baha’is in Iran and Michael Day offered us some recollections on hearing the devastating news of the cruel deaths of the 10 women. By shining a light on this anniversary, we illumine a story that is not limited to a minority of people in a particular country but that affects us all. Our story is one. May we all “ignite a candle that shall never be extinguished, and which shall pour out its light eternally illuminating the world of mankind!”
- Baha’u’llah, The Four Valleys, pp. 53-54
- Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 26.
- Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 39
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