Answer: In the voluminous sacred
writings of Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) (the Glory of God), the
Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, we find this aphorism that is also
a warning: “True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter
ignorance of his self.” Knowing oneself must have high priority.
Today’s question inevitably begs another. What do we mean by the self?
Volumes have been written on that theme by the psychologists, but as
for other faith communities, Baha’is view the self as including at
least two components: the personality, which has both higher and lower
natures, and the eternal self, that is, the soul.
Now the essence of the soul, the motive power of the body and mind, the
eternal reality created by God, that reflects His divine attributes and
survives death, remains an unfathomable mystery.
The human personality is almost as challenging to penetrate because it
is difficult for subjectivity to understand itself.
Regarding self-knowledge, we humans are like the fish who swim along,
blithely unaware of the ocean waters. In his poem To a Louse, Robbie
Burns famously supplicated some great power to grant us the gift to see
ourselves as others see us.
In practical terms, it is very helpful in understanding the self, to
strive gradually to become more conscious of the negative factors that
have formed our personalities, and which continue to drive us. The more
we become conscious of these arbitrary, tyrannical drives, the less
capable will they be of controlling us and causing disruptions in our
In “living the life,” we arrive at a heightened knowledge of true self,
our divine identity, by reflecting in our deeds and actions divine
attributes. Simply put, knowing oneself is not merely a matter of
belief. Belief must be demonstrated in action by the daily practice of
both human and divine virtues.
Spiritual practice must be demonstrated, not by intellect alone, but by
loving service to friends, family, society and to humanity. In sum, we
discover best who we are by reflecting in thought, word and deed the
divine self that is the essence of each human being. -