Baha’i Writings

 

1.     Spiritual / Relational

 

1.9                   Nature & Environment (Reverence & Care)

 

1.9.1                   Nature & Environment - MAN AND NATURE

            If we look with a perceiving eye upon the world of creation, we find that all existing things may be classified as follows: First -- Mineral -- that is to say matter or substance appearing in various forms of composition. Second  -- Vegetable -- possessing the virtues of the mineral plus the power of augmentation or growth, indicating a degree higher and more specialized than the mineral. Third -- Animal -- possessing the attributes of the mineral and vegetable plus the power of sense perception. Fourth -- Human -- the highest specialized organism of visible creation, embodying the qualities of the mineral, vegetable and animal plus an ideal endowment absolutely minus and absent in the lower kingdoms -- the power of intellectual investigation into the mysteries of outer phenomena. The outcome of this intellectual endowment is science which is especially characteristic of man. This scientific power investigates and apprehends created objects and the laws surrounding them. It is the discoverer of the hidden and mysterious secrets of the material universe and is peculiar to man alone. The most noble and praiseworthy accomplishment of man therefore is scientific knowledge and attainment.

 

Science may be likened to a mirror wherein the images of the mysteries of outer phenomena are reflected. It brings forth and exhibits to us in the arena of knowledge all the product of the past. It links together past and present. The philosophical conclusions of bygone centuries, the teachings of the prophets and wisdom of former sages are crystallized and reproduced in the scientific advancement of today. Science is the discoverer of the past. From its premises of past and present we deduce conclusions as to the future. Science is the governor of nature and its mysteries, the one agency by which man explores the institutions of material creation. All created things are captives of nature and subject to its laws. They cannot transgress the control of these laws in one detail or particular. The infinite starry worlds and heavenly bodies are nature's obedient subjects. The earth and its myriad organisms, all minerals, plants and animals are thralls of its dominion. But man through the exercise of his scientific, intellectual power can rise out of this condition, can modify, change and control nature according to his own wishes and uses. Science, so to speak, is the "breaker" of the laws of nature.

 

Consider, for example, that man according to natural law should dwell upon the surface of the earth. By overcoming this law and  restriction however he sails in ships over the ocean, mounts to the zenith in aeroplanes and sinks to the depths of the sea in submarines. This is against the fiat of nature and a violation of her sovereignty and dominion. Nature's laws and methods, the hidden secrets and mysteries of the universe, human inventions and discoveries, all our scientific acquisitions should naturally remain concealed and unknown, but man through his intellectual acumen searches them out of the plane of the invisible, draws them into the plane of the visible, exposes and explains them. For instance, one of the mysteries of nature is electricity. According to nature this force, this energy should remain latent and hidden, but man scientifically breaks through the very laws of nature, arrests it and even imprisons it for his use.

 

In brief, man through the possession of this ideal endowment of scientific investigation is the most noble product of creation, the governor of nature. He takes the sword from nature's hand and uses it upon nature's head. According to natural law, night is a period of darkness and obscurity, but man by utilizing the power of electricity, by wielding this electric sword overcomes the darkness and dispels the gloom. Man is superior to nature and makes nature do his bidding. Man is a sensitive being; nature is minus sensation. Man has memory and reason; nature lacks them. Man is nobler than nature. There are powers within him of which nature is devoid. It may be claimed that these powers are from nature itself and that man is a part of nature. In answer to this statement we will say that if nature is the whole and man is a part of that whole, how could it be possible for a part to possess qualities and virtues which are absent in the whole. Undoubtedly the part must be endowed with the same qualities and properties as the whole. For example, the hair is a part of the human anatomy. It cannot contain elements which are not found in other parts of the body, for in all cases the component elements of the body are the same. Therefore it is manifest and evident that man, although in body a part of nature, nevertheless in spirit possesses a power transcending nature; for if he were simply a part of nature and limited to material laws he could possess only the things which nature embodies. God has conferred upon and added to man a distinctive power, the faculty of intellectual investigation into the secrets of creation, the acquisition of higher knowledge, the greatest virtue of which is scientific enlightenment.

 

This endowment is the most praiseworthy power of man, for through its employment and exercise, the betterment of the human race is accomplished, the development of the virtues of mankind is made possible and the spirit and mysteries of God become manifest.

 

As material and physical sciences are taught here and are constantly Columbia University, New York City.  unfolding in wider vistas of attainment, I am hopeful that spiritual development may also follow and keep pace with these outer advantages. As material knowledge is illuminating those within the walls of this great temple of learning, so also may the light of the spirit, the inner and divine light of the real philosophy glorify this institution. The most important principle of divine philosophy is the oneness of the world of humanity, the unity of mankind, the bond conjoining East and West, the tie of love which blends human hearts.

 

Therefore it is our duty to put forth our greatest efforts and summon all our energies in order that the bonds of unity and accord may be established among mankind. For thousands of years we have had bloodshed and strife. It is enough; it is sufficient. Now is the time to associate together in love and harmony. For thousands of years we have tried the sword and warfare; let mankind for a time at least live in peace. Review history and consider how much savagery, how much bloodshed and battle the world has witnessed. It has been either religious warfare, political warfare or some other clash of human interests. The world of humanity has never enjoyed the blessing of Universal Peace. Year by year the implements of warfare have been increased and perfected. Consider the wars of past centuries; only ten, fifteen or twenty thousand at the most were killed but now it is possible to kill one hundred thousand in a single day. In ancient times warfare was carried on with the sword; today it is the smokeless gun. Formerly battleships were sailing vessels; today they are dreadnoughts. Consider the increase and improvement in the weapons of war. God has created us all human and all countries of the world are parts of the same globe. We are all his servants. He is kind and just to all. Why should we be unkind and unjust to each other? He provides for all. Why should we deprive one another? He protects and preserves all. Why should we kill our fellow-creatures? If this warfare and strife be for the sake of religion, it is evident that it violates the spirit and basis of all religion. All the divine Manifestations have proclaimed the oneness of God and the unity of mankind. They have taught that men should love and mutually help each other in order that they might progress. Now if this conception of religion be true, its essential principle is the oneness of humanity. The fundamental truth of the Manifestations is peace. This underlies all religion, all justice. The divine purpose is that men should live in unity, concord and agreement and should love one another. Consider the virtues of the human world and realize that the oneness of humanity is the primary foundation of them all. Read the gospel and the other holy books. You will find their fundamentals are one and the same.  

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 50)

 

1.9.2                   Nature & Environment  - THE MICROCOSM AND THE MACROCOSM
     When we ponder over the reality of the microcosm, we discover that in the microcosm there are deposited three realities.  Man is endowed with an outer or physical reality. It belongs to the material realm, the animal kingdom, because it has sprung from the material world.  This animalistic reality of man he shares in common with the animals.
     The human body is like animals subject to nature's laws.  But man is endowed with a second reality, the rational or intellectual reality; and the intellectual reality of man predominates over nature.


     All these sciences which we enjoy were the hidden and recondite secrets of nature, unknowable to nature, but man was enabled to discover these mysteries, and out of the plane of the unseen he brought them into the plane of the seen.
Yet there is a third reality in man, the spiritual reality.  Through its medium one discovers spiritual revelations, a celestial faculty which is infinite as regards the intellectual as well as physical realms. That power is conferred upon man through the breath of the Holy Spirit.  It is an eternal reality, an indestructible reality, a reality belonging to the divine, supernatural kingdom; a reality whereby the world is illumined, a reality which grants unto man eternal life.  This third, spiritual reality it is which discovers past events and looks along the vistas of the future.  It is the ray of the Sun of Reality.  The spiritual world is enlightened through it, the whole of the Kingdom is being illumined by it.  It enjoys the world of beatitude, a world which had not beginning and which shall have no end.

     That celestial reality, the third reality of the microcosm, delivers man from the material world.  Its power causes man to escape from nature's world.  Escaping, he will find an illuminating reality, transcending the limited reality of man and causing him to attain to the infinitude of God, abstracting him from the world of superstitions and imaginations, and submerging him in the sea of the rays of the Sun of Reality. This fact is proved from scientific as well as spiritual evidence.

     When we ponder over the conditions of phenomena, we observe that all phenomena are composed of single elements.  This singular cell-element travels and has its coursings through all the grades of existence.  I wish you to ponder carefully over this.  This cellular element has at some time been in the mineral kingdom.  While staying in the mineral kingdom it has had its coursings and transformations through myriads of images and forms.  Having perfected its journey in the mineral kingdom, it has ascended to the vegetable kingdom; and in the vegetable kingdom it has again had journeys and transformations through myriads of conditions.  Having accomplished its functions in the vegetable kingdom, the cellular element ascends to
the animal kingdom.

     In the animal kingdom again it goes through the composition of myriads of images, and then we have it in the human kingdom.  In the human kingdom likewise it has its transformations and coursings through multitudes of forms.  In short, this single primordial atom has had its great journeys through every stage of life, and in every stage it was endowed with a special and particular virtue or characteristic. Consequently, the great divine philosophers have had the following epigram:  All things are involved in all things.  For every single phenomenon has enjoyed the postulates of God, and in every form of these infinite electrons it has had its characteristics of perfection.


     Thus this flower once upon a time was of the soil.  The animal eats the flower or its fruit, and it thereby ascends to the animal kingdom. Man eats the meat of the animal, and there you have its ascent into the human kingdom, because all phenomena are divided into that which eats and that which is eaten.  Therefore, every primordial atom of these atoms, singly and indivisible, has had its coursings throughout all the sentient creation, going constantly into the aggregation of the various elements.  Hence do you have the conservation of energy and the infinity of phenomena, the indestructibility of phenomena, changeless and immutable, because life cannot suffer annihilation but only change.

           
`Abdu'l-Baha:  Foundations of World Unity*      Pages 51-52

 

1.9.3       Nature & Environment  - The Spirit

            The vegetable spirit is the power of growth which is brought about in the seed through the influence of other existences.
     The animal spirit is the power of all the senses, which is realized from the composition and mingling of elements; when this composition decomposes, the power also perishes and becomes annihilated.  It may be likened to this lamp:  when the oil, wick and fire are combined, it is lighted; and when this combination is dissolved - that is to say, when the combined parts are separated from one another - the lamp also is extinguished.
    

The human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal is the rational soul, and these two names - the human spirit and the rational soul - designate one thing. This spirit, which in the terminology of the philosophers is the rational soul, embraces all beings, and as far as human ability permits discovers the realities of things and becomes cognizant of their peculiarities and effects, and of the qualities and properties of beings.  But the human spirit, unless assisted by the spirit of faith, does not become acquainted with the divine secrets and the heavenly realities.  It is like a mirror which, although clear, polished and brilliant, is still in need of light.  Until a ray of the sun reflects upon it, it cannot discover the heavenly secrets.
    

But the mind is the power of the human spirit.  Spirit is the lamp; mind is the light which shines from the lamp. Spirit is the tree, and the mind is the fruit.  Mind is the perfection of the spirit and is its essential quality, as the sun's rays are the essential necessity of the sun.

           
`Abdu'l-Baha:  Some Answered Questions       Pages 208-209

 

 

1.9.4                   Nature & Environment  - Kindness to Animals

Then, O ye friends of God! Ye must not only have kind and merciful feelings for mankind, but ye should also exercise the utmost kindness towards every living creature. The physical sensibilities and instincts are common to animal and man. Man is, however, negligent of this reality and imagines that sensibility is peculiar to mankind, therefore he practices cruelty to the animal. In reality what difference is there in physical sensations! Sensibility is the same whether you harm man or animal: there is no difference. Nay, rather, cruelty to the animal is more painful because man has a tongue and he sighs, complains and groans when he receives an injury and complains to the government and the government protects him from cruelty; but the poor animal cannot speak, it can neither show its suffering nor is it able to appeal to the government. If it is harmed a thousand times by man it is not able to defend itself in words nor can it seek justice or retaliate. Therefore one must be very considerate towards animals and show greater kindness to them than to man. Educate the children in their infancy in such a way that they may become exceedingly kind and merciful to the animals. If an animal is sick they should endeavor to cure it; if it is hungry, they should feed it; if it is thirsty, they should satisfy its thirst; if it is tired, they should give it rest.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 373)