Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Ocean of My Words

In Man's Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote:

"There is nothing in the world…that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is meaning in one’s life."

In the Baha'i Faith, the primary source of meaning in life are the words of Baha'u'llah (meaning The Glory of God in Arabic). Baha'u'llah (1817-1892) is the Founder of the Baha'i Faith and his writings are considered to be the revealed Word of God by Baha'is. These writings, totaling some one hundred volumes range from mysticism to laws, from theology to social commentary. You've heard the term "People of the Book." Baha'is are People of the Books.

Some key works include the Kitab-i-Iqan (the Book of Certitude) which explains the oneness of religion, the Kitab-i-Aqdas (the Most Holy Book) which contains Baha'i laws, and the Hidden Words, a collection of aphorisms similar to the Psalms. Recitation, study and meditation on Baha'u'llah's writings is a twice daily obligation of Baha'is. Baha'u'llah encouraged his followers to: "Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths."

So important is the practice of reading the writings that he prescribed the promotion of literacy as a religious obligation of parents and the wider community. Literacy is extremely important in a religion that has no clergy and emphasizes the independent search for truth. Baha’u’llah explains that daily immersion in the Word of God has profound spiritual effects:

“Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul.”

I once felt far from God and trapped in impenetrable darkness and agony. I became spiritually isolated and could not even pray. I literally groped for something in the writings of Baha'u'llah to save me. What I found was this: "Put your whole trust and confidence in God who hath created you and seek ye His help in all your affairs. Succor cometh from Him alone. He succoreth whomsoever He will with the hosts of the heavens and of the earth."

I would weep my way through reciting this verse. I would carry it with me where ever I went. I even posted it in large letters on the ceiling of my bedroom so it would be the first thing I would see when I woke each morning. I continued this for several weeks and slowly, painfully, a flicker of faith turned into flame. I had been baptized in the ocean of Baha’u’llah’s Words and born again. This experience confirmed my faith in the creative power of his writings.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia, taken by "Wiki" and considered in the public domain


  1. Anonymous10:38 AM

    Love your explanation of the healing process you undertook to overcome deep depression, I have begun a programme of saying the Long Healing Prayer every day for myself and for those who come into contact with me. It is having a profound effect, especially in terms of creating a higher level of connection between people. Definitely change starts by immersion in the writings and engraving them on the table of our heart. Thank you Phillipe.

  2. Beautiful Phillipe, thank you for sharing such a personal experience. Your willingness to be vulnerable creates a powerful connection between you and your readers and facilitates the transmission of your message. I too have been in that place; I was fished out of my ocean of despair and dunked into the ocean of his Words by a friend who saw my peril. Truly a rebirth!

  3. Thank you for sharing this experience from the depths of your soul and heart. It is so important to share such experiences and to share how the creative word of God can penetrate even the darkest times - if we allow it to.

    Your experience resonates because I have also had dark times when faith goes cold and has been reignited by the Word!

  4. Anonymous9:50 AM

    Thanks for sharing this most intimate and uplifting story.

  5. Anonymous3:23 AM

    Thank you. Like Anon mentioned above I used the Long Healing Prayer(intoned) to get me through a difficult time. Played it every morning jsut to get my day going. Your blog always serves as my personal fireside, I so appreciate your web prescence.


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    1. Phillipe, this piece was powerful and very personal. I enjoyed your reflection and could see the beauty of your tradition as well as your faith through words. For me, coming from the Christian tradition and as a teacher your emphasis on literacy within your community was inspiring. So many times within my tradition there is an emphasis on reading sacred text, but then there is also emphasis on someone else being an authority to teach you what's true and not true about the sacred text. There are pros and cons to this reality. Your emphasis on the spiritual and literacy in the "independent search for truth" through the word of God is empowering! Thank you for sharing! -Kit Evans

  7. Phillipe, this is very timely for me. In the last few days I've been thinking intensely about the gift of faith, as something that God does in people's hearts, when they volunteer for it, like lighting candles, and He might use each candle to light others. If so, then maybe the best that any volunteer can do for the world and for every person in it, is to learn what to do to have a bigger and brighter flame, and to put it where God can use it to light other candles.

  8. M.A-V.1:37 PM

    I too loved this piece - I'll also share it with friends who are going through a difficult time.
    I just wanted to add a quote from Abdu'l-Baha, which is of practical help when one is in a state of despair.

    "Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you.