Answer: Imagination has a very
important role to play in the life of faith. But its role is an
ambiguous one. Like a double-edged sword, imagination may lead us into
truth or error. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the successor and authorized
interpreter of the teachings of his father, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892),
the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, said: “Imagination is one of
our greatest powers and a most difficult one to rule” (Grundy, Ten Days
in the Light of Akká, p. 30).
On the one hand, the word “imagine” allows people of faith to envision
and to bring into being those higher realities which do not yet exist
in the “real” world or our individual lives. A great university began
as a one-room tutorial school. Imagination was required for its
development. Bahá’ís imagine the world as one and work diligently for
Many people of faith have discovered that visualization exercises
restore inner peace or lead to the realization of a cherished desire.
All the great holy books give an ideal vision of the individual as a
noble creation of God or a society living under divine rule.
Imagination has God-like qualities, possessing the ability to capture
the esthetic qualities of truth and beauty in the arts, literature,
drama and music.
In its negative aspects, however, the Bahá’í writings warn against the
seductive powers of “idle fancies” and “vain imaginings.” Many of the
higher prophets have been rejected, persecuted and slain because the
manner of their coming or their teachings did not conform to what the
hearts of the leaders of religion and the people had devised. History
repeats itself in our day.
In contemporary society, fantasy, diversion, and wish-fulfilment have
become marketable commodities that have created a profitable, non-stop
“dream machine.” It is vital that we refine our sense of vision
(imagination) to the point that we do not confuse the thorn with the
flower: “Even as the swiftness of lightning ye have passed by the
Beloved One, and have set your hearts on satanic fancies. Ye bow the
knee before your vain imagining, and call it truth. Ye turn your eyes
towards the thorn, and name it a flower ... ” (Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian
Hidden Words, no. 45). -