All physical perfections come to an end; but the divine virtues are infinite.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 137)
Although there are mystical aspects that are not easily explained, the spiritual dimension of human nature can be understood, in practical terms, as the source of qualities that transcend narrow self-interest. Such qualities include love, compassion, forbearance, trustworthiness, courage, humility, co-operation and willingness to sacrifice for the common good—qualities of an enlightened citizenry, able to construct a unified world civilization. The profound and far-reaching changes, the unity and unprecedented cooperation, required to reorient the world toward an environmentally sustainable and just future, will only be possible by touching the human spirit, by appealing to those universal values which alone can empower individuals and peoples to act in accordance with the long- term interests of the planet and humanity as a whole. Once tapped, this powerful and dynamic source of individual and collective motivation will release such a profound and salutary spirit among the peoples of the earth that no power will be able to resist its unifying force.
(Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Apr 01, Sustainable Development Human Spirit)
As for the spiritual perfections they are man’s birthright and belong to him alone of all creation.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 72)
As the child in the womb does not yet know the use of its members, it does not know what its eyes are for, neither its nose, nor ears, nor tongue—so also it is with the soul on earth. It cannot understand here the uses and powers of its spiritual gifts, but directly it enters the eternal kingdom, it will become clearly apparent.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers 9, p. 48)
Bahá’ís believe that human beings are inherently noble, and that the purpose of life is to cultivate such attributes, skills, virtues and qualities as will enable them to contribute their share to the building of an ever-advancing civilization. True education releases capacities, develops analytical abilities, confidence, will, and goal-setting competencies, and instills the vision that will enable them to become self-motivating change agents, serving the best interests of the community.
(Bahá’í International Community, 1990 Mar 08, Teacher’s Situation Determining Factor of Quality)
Behold the courage, firmness, detachment, unity, co-operation, zeal and enthusiasm with which these loyal lovers of the Beloved daily face their tests and prove and demonstrate to the world, with radiant and shining faces, their purity, their heritage, their quality, and their virtue. With the utmost meekness, truthfulness, wisdom, and courage they meet the challenges presented to them, the challenge of defying the enemies, dispelling misunderstandings which are a result of the proliferation of calumnies and false accusations. They have met their fate with acquiescence, have bowed their heads in the valley of submission and resignation, and have borne every tribulation with radiance, for they know with absolute certainty that the fulfilment of divine prophecies will coincide with dire events and the bearing of innumerable afflictions.
(The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 440)
Clearly, the set of capacities necessary for building up the social, economic, and moral fabric of society depends upon the resources of both mind and spirit. The civilizing virtues of honesty, duty and loyalty so central to human progress are cultivated by the language of the heart and the voice of conscience. Legal imperatives and penalties, while essential, are limited in their efficacy. To draw upon the spiritual roots of motivation that lie at the heart of human identity and purpose is to tap the one impulse that can ensure genuine social transformation. From the Bahá’í perspective, then, the emergence of public institutions that engender public trust and that are devoid of corruption is intimately bound up with a process of moral and spiritual development. As Bahá’u’lláh confirms: “So long as one’s nature yieldeth unto evil passions, crime and transgression will prevail.”
(Bahá’í International Community, 2001 May 28-31, Overcoming Corruption in Public Institutions)
In many Tablets Bahá’u’lláh dwells on this theme. For instance, in His Tablet to Shaykh Salman which was revealed in Adrianople, He states that a believer who is truly faithful to the Cause of God manifests divine virtues. Because of his devotion to God, the Sun of Truth sheds its radiance upon his soul and consequently these virtues come to light. As long as he remains in this state, his praiseworthy attributes, which originate from God, are evident and undeniable. Should the same individual at a later time repudiate the Cause of God, all his virtues will return to their origin and his achievements become void. Shorn of divine qualities, he may no longer be regarded as the same person. Bahá’u’lláh states that even the clothes he wears, though physically the same as before, are different in reality. For, as long as a person is a true believer, though he may wear the coarsest of cotton, in the sight of God his clothes are as lustrous as the silk of paradise, while after his denial they are fit only to burn in hell-fire.To illustrate this point Bahá’u’lláh cites the example of a candle. As long as the candle is lighted, it sheds its radiance around. But if the wind blows it out, the light will be extinguished.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 263-264)
In the beginning of his human life man was embryonic in the world of the matrix. There he received capacity and endowment for the reality of human existence. The forces and powers necessary for this world were bestowed upon him in that limited condition. In this world he needed eyes; he received them potentially in the other. He needed ears; he obtained them there in readiness and preparation for his new existence. The powers requisite in this world were conferred upon him in the world of the matrix so that when he entered this realm of real existence he not only possessed all necessary functions and powers but found provision for his material sustenance awaiting him. Therefore, in this world he must prepare himself for the life beyond. That which he needs in the world of the Kingdom must be obtained here. Just as he prepared himself in the world of the matrix by acquiring forces necessary in this sphere of existence, so, likewise, the indispensable forces of the divine existence must be potentially attained in this world.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 225-226)
O friends! Be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been endowed, neither be neglectful of your high destiny.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 196)
Other attributes of perfection are to fear God, to love God by loving His servants, to exercise mildness and forbearance and calm, to be sincere, amenable, clement and compassionate; to have resolution and courage, trustworthiness and energy, to strive and struggle, to be generous, loyal, without malice, to have zeal and a sense of honor, to be high-minded and magnanimous, and to have regard for the rights of others. Whoever is lacking in these excellent human qualities is defective.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 40-41)
Pray to God that He may strengthen you in divine virtue, so that you may be as angels in the world, and beacons of light to disclose the mysteries of the Kingdom to those with understanding hearts.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 60)
The Community, on the contrary, ought day and night to strive and endeavour with the utmost zeal and effort to … acquire virtues, to gain good morals and to avoid vices, so that crimes may not occur.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 271)
The divine ideals are humility, submissiveness, annihilation of self, perfect evanescence, charity and loving-kindness.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 213)
The purpose of the creation of man is the attainment of the supreme virtues of humanity through descent of the heavenly bestowals.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 4)
The spiritual qualities acquired by the soul in the course of a lifetime—qualities such as knowledge, wisdom, humility, love and other virtues—are acquired gradually. The individual grows in maturity with the passage of time. The spiritual growth of the soul is similar to the organic growth of living creatures. To return to the metaphor of the tree, whose life begins with the planting of a seed: it grows gradually, bringing forth branches, leaves, shoots and offshoots one after another, until the time comes when it produces its 18 fruit. The stage of fruition may be said to constitute the crowning achievement of the tree; it is that stage in which the tree has fulfilled the purpose for which it was created. But the tree cannot produce its fruit by itself. It acts as a female and has to be pollinated by a male element which fertilizes its ovules. Other living creatures which produce their young also go through the same process of intercourse with their male counterparts.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 17)
The study of the Writings clearly indicates that the purpose underlying the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh is to create a new race of men whose thoughts and deeds will reflect and manifest in this world the most lofty attributes and divine virtues.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 140)
The virtues and attributes pertaining unto God are all evident and manifest, and have been mentioned and described in all the heavenly Books. Among them are trustworthiness, truthfulness, purity of heart while communing with God, forbearance, resignation to whatever the Almighty hath decreed, contentment with the things His Will hath provided, patience, nay, thankfulness in the midst of tribulation, and complete reliance, in all circumstances, upon Him. These rank, according to the estimate of God, among the highest and most laudable of all acts. All other acts are, and will ever remain, secondary and subordinate unto them.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 290)
There are spiritual principles, or what some call human values, by which solutions can be found for every social problem. Any well-intentioned group can, in a general sense, devise practical solutions to its problems, but good intentions and practical knowledge are usually not enough. The essential merit of spiritual principle is that it not only presents a perspective which harmonizes with the inherent nobility in human nature, it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures.
(Bahá’í International Community, 1992 Mar 05, Earth Charter Rio De Janeiro Declaration Oneness of)
They will ascertain the truth that the purpose of religion is the acquisition of praiseworthy virtues, betterment of morals, spiritual development of mankind, the real life and divine bestowals.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 15)
Verily, it is better a thousand times for a man to die than to continue living without virtue.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 112)
We must strive with energies of heart, soul and mind to develop and manifest the perfections and virtues latent within the realities of the phenomenal world, for the human reality may be compared to a seed. If we sow the seed, a mighty tree appears from it. The virtues of the seed are revealed in the tree; it puts forth branches, leaves, blossoms, and produces fruits. All these virtues were hidden and potential in the seed. Through the blessing and bounty of cultivation these virtues became apparent. Similarly the merciful God our creator has deposited within human realities certain virtues latent and potential. Through education and culture, these virtues deposited by the loving God will become apparent in the human reality even as the unfoldment of the tree from within the germinating seed.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 267)
Yet, religion is an indispensable source of knowledge and motivation-a wellspring of values, insights, and energy without which social cohesion and collective action are difficult if not impossible to achieve. Through the teachings and moral guidance of religion, great segments of humanity have learned to discipline their baser propensities and to develop qualities that conduce to social order and cultural advancement. Such qualities as trustworthiness, compassion, forbearance, fidelity, generosity, humility, courage, and willingness to sacrifice for the common good have constituted the invisible yet essential foundations of progressive community life. Religion provides the bricks and mortar of society-the ethical precepts and vision that unite people into communities and that give tangible direction and meaning to individual and collective existence.
(Bahá’í International Community, 2001 May 28-31, Overcoming Corruption in Public Institutions)
You belong to the world of purity, and are not content to live the life of the animal, spending your days in eating, drinking, and sleeping. You are indeed men! Your thoughts and ambitions are set to acquire human perfection. You live to do good and to bring happiness to others. Your greatest longing is to comfort those who mourn, to strengthen the weak, and to be the cause of hope to the despairing soul. Day and night your thoughts are turned to the Kingdom, and your hearts are full of the Love of God. Thus you know neither opposition, dislike, nor hatred, for every living creature is dear to you and the good of each is sought. These are perfect human sentiments and virtues. If a man has none of these, he had better cease to exist. If a lamp has ceased to give light, it had better be destroyed. If a tree bear no fruit, it had better be cut down, for it only cumbereth the ground.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 112)