The focus of religion

It’s starting to seem to me that religion has a very clear focus:

  1. Human reality consists of a gem, which we have been created to reveal. This is the “finely tempered sword hidden within its sheath”.
  2. Such a revelation causes the attributes of God to become manifest; but at the same time we reveal these attributes, selfhood must diminish so as not to “cloud” that revelation.
  3. The greatest barriers to true-self realization are self and passion.

Since becoming sensitive to this idea, I think I’ve read the phrases “self and passion” and “self and desire” at least twenty times now. It surprises me how constantly they are referred to, as if they are humanity’s greatest foes.

In this light, I see more and more of the Writings addressing this fundamental process of spiritual unfoldment. For example, in the prayer “Is there any remover of difficulties save God?”, perhaps the difficulties being spoken of are not really the outward difficulties I’m used to thinking about. Maybe He’s talking about the difficulties of self we face when trying to “sanctify our hearts for His descent”. Or in the healing prayer, when He says, “Remembrance of Thee is my remedy”, maybe physical ailments are not the major concern here, but rather, remedying the afflictions of worldly desire.

O Son of Man! If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee.

This presents the same dynamic: “turn away from thyself”, “regard not thine own (pleasure)”, that “I may eternally live in thee”. Or in this Hidden Word, which was always puzzling to me before:

Thou art My stronghold; enter therein that thou mayest abide in safety.

Is it telling us to abandon our mortal selves and turn unto our true nature, that we may find safety in Him, emanating from within our own hearts? Perhaps this is the kind of communion `Abdu’l-Bahá meant when He said, “man must live in a state of prayer”.