I have been thinking lately that material things satisfy us only because their reality draws from a deeper Source. What brought this to a point for me is a statement by Bahá’u’lláh, where He projects God as saying to humanity:
O Son of Light! Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit. This is of the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it.
This is one of my favorite statements of His, and I say it to myself each night before going to bed. What does He mean to “Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit”? It would seem to suggest dispensing with all consciousness of the world, to reach a purer consciousness of “My spirit”. But in other places He rejects asceticism entirely, so I don’t believe He means for us to turn away from the one reality we know, to point ourselves toward one we can know nothing of.
I’m beginning to think that by “spirit” He means that which makes this world come to life (in the same way our own spirit makes our bodies come to life): it’s Quality. After all, there is somehow a difference between a mere collection of atoms and a refreshing glass of water.
Material forms have a capacity to lift our spirits, but my question is: how do they have this capacity? I understand that light stimulates photoreceptive cells in my eye, which stimulate electrochemical signals throughout the neurons of my brain – but at what point does this chain of events end in the experience of beauty? What final chemical, or electric charge, is it that comprises the transporting feel of great art?
I think these base media are simply carriers. They bring to us a message – albeit filtered by the limits of each medium. But no matter how reduced from its original perfection Quality may become – whether in the form of a drink of water, a painting, a chocolate bar – the underlying character of its manifestation is always the same.
Take light, for example. Most of our light originates from a blinding source too far away to grasp. It illuminates everything indiscriminately, yet is reflected from each place according to the nature of that place. Although the manifestations of light are unique in themselves, the underlying properties of its illimunation remain the same. That is, some places reflect the light in a manner closer to its pure form, such as mirrors, while others absorb most of its energy, presenting us with a silhouette of darkness. Yet what reaches our eyes in every case are those original quanta of energy from our faraway star. However filtered, the essential properties of the light remain undisturbed: in effect, everything we see when we go outside is the Sun, seen through a lens of Earthly form.
Now if we are beings meant to commune with the potentialities of God’s spirit, then it is with that Spirit we should form our closest bond. Continuning the analogy of light to spirit: A painter may use a brush and canvas, but his real task is carving the light, so as to present what it’s capable of revealing. The pen and paper are not significant in themselves – however important in their role as media – it’s the Reality conveyed by their means which is the raison d’etre.
One could even suggest that such a being discount the medium entirely, until they have transcended its utility – beyond, to what it serves to manifest. “Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit”. Bahá’u’lláh statements now suggest to me that all things reflect His spirit, but we should never get caught up in the things themselves. Rather, penetrate them, move with the eye of the soul beyond their immediate appearance, until one reaches what they were created to convey.
Another example of this is found in watching a television program. Assume it’s a good program; a great program! Something which moves you and causes you to experience a genuine beauty.
First, there is the television signal transmitting the program. Since it’s invisible to you, there’s no way for it to reach you or touch you. A television is required. Thus, by necessity, we bring in the physical medium of the television. One may even love their television, but in fact it only serves to bring those programs into the scope of your vision.
Let’s say the television is a bit old: it has scratches on the screen, it’s dusty. As you watch, you might get distracted by these things. You may want another television altogether. But if you concentrate on the program you’re watching, it’s funny how all these minor flaws quickly disappear. Soon, no matter how tiny or beat up or black and white your television may be, it becomes all about the program.
Yet even the program is only a form of expression. There are sets, actors, dialog, etc. One could get caught up even here: attracted to a beautiful actor, disturbed by another’s voice. But if the material of the program is really worth it, even these are passed in your mind: you focus deeper, to what the program is about, to the ultimate message beneath.
In the end, if all of these stages of manifestation are passed beyond, and the heart is filled and the soul informed, then all of these physical realities will have served their purpose: of bringing you into connection with something you deeply desire. To get there requires bridging each of the gaps placed in your way, all of the physical obstacles in the way of spiritual experience. But it’s not that these obstacles don’t belong between you and the experience – they are even necessary to it! But depending on your point of view, they may or may not get in the way.
I think what Bahá’u’lláh says in this quote is that the world is only a vehicle, much like an Existential Television. It uses matter and form to present a message to us, for the sake of our souls. How much we receive of that Message is directly up to us, and deeply we choose to look.