166. Parables: In the Bahá’í Faith we understand that in the past God has spoken to man through His prophets and messengers in symbols and what is known as parables. In the bible John tells us: the cross-5pix Christianity: John 4:24 “God is a Spirit:” and since God is a spirit or of the spirit it only stands to reason that Gods messengers would talk to our distant ancestors in a more primitive form of language due to earlier man’s lack of understanding of the world around him. In the past man has been unable to grasp certain spiritual truths and the manifestations of God, like Christ, have felt the need to talk to mankind in symbols and parables to get Gods message across to a simpler form of man. Christ tells us this through John: the cross-5pix Christianity: John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit.” John tells us that we must worship God in spirit, which means, for one thing, we have to look for the spiritual truths hidden in Gods holy word and not just except everything at face value thereby missing the deeper spiritual intent hidden within the words: the cross-5pix Christianity: John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” God wants us to worship Him by seeking the hidden spirit within His message and worshipping Him with spiritually enlightened hearts.

Many Bahá’ís feel that by God speaking to man in this cryptic language man has failed to see the true meaning of the word hidden within the message, which is one of the reasons for much of the dissension and lack of understanding and disunity on the part of the major world religions today. Because, of man’s lack of spiritual understanding of the word, it has caused mankind to fail to see the essential oneness and unity of the world religions for himself (see Oneness of religion for more information).

Jewish symbols-13pix JUDAISMDeuteronomy 29:4 “Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” We find that Moses, as early as in Deuteronomy, hints at man’s lack of spiritual insight into Gods holy word, which Christ later refers to in John. the cross-5pix Christianity: John 5:46 “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.” John 5:47 “But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” Christ, in John, confirms what Moses had already warned the people about; that they were not seeing the whole truth, but were blind to the inner meaning of the word. Jewish symbols star-8pix Judaism: Isaiah 6:9 “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.” Isaiah out right states that man is not seeing the true meaning of Gods holy word and we have to ask ourselves, why are the teachings of most of the religions expressed largely in symbols, parables and metaphors and not in the plain language of the people?

The Bahá’í Faith tells us that the: the greatest name 8 pixBaha’i Faith: “Divine things are too deep to be expressed by common words. The heavenly teachings are expressed in parable in order to be understood and preserved for ages to come.” (Bahá’í Faith, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 79) And Jesus through John tells us: the cross-5pix Christianity: John 6:63 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” These are Christ’s very own words, the words he speaks to us are spirit, or spiritual, which means they need to be understood spiritually and not just literally. This only reinforces our understanding that Christ is speaking to the people in a symbolic language that takes effort on our part to understand. We can’t just take everything we read in the scriptures at face value, we have to try and understand the deeper hidden meaning if we want to know the whole spiritual truth.

the greatest name-12pixBAHA’I FAITH: “They also said that the scepter of Christ would be of iron — that is to say, He should wield a sword. When His Holiness Christ appeared, he did possess a sword but it was the sword of his tongue with which he separated the false from the true; but the Jews were blind to the spiritual significance and symbolism of the prophetic words.”

(Bahá’í Faith, Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 74)

the cross-25pix CHRISTIANITYHebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.”

The shrine-17pix BABI RELIGION: “The Báb, his only weapon was the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The Bab: (Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 297)

Jewish symbols-13pix JUDAISMHosea 12:9 “And I that am The LORD thy God,” Hosea 12:10 “I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions and used similitude’s, by the ministry of the prophets.” Job 34:32 “That which I see not teach thou me.” Job, in the Old Testament, is pretty clear on the spiritual nature of the word of God. Job asks God to teach him that which he is not able to see, or not able to figure out on his own out of the holy books of God. Isaiah 44:18 “They have not known nor understood: for He hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.” Isaiah hints that some of the reasoning behind Gods messengers’ usage of symbols, parables and metaphors may be to separate out the spiritually enlightened from the spiritually blind and possibly, in some instances, distinguish between the good people and the bad people.

Abdu’l-Baha explains to us that: the greatest name 8 pixBaha’i Faith: “The generality of mankind are unable to grasp a sequence of logical arguments. For this reason they stand in need of symbols and parables.”

(Bahá’í Faith, Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 83)

Jewish symbols-13pix JUDAISMIsaiah 32:3 “The eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken.” Isaiah only confirms here that Gods word has a hidden element in it that is used to separate out the spiritually enlightened people from those individuals that are spiritually blind. Jeremiah 5:21 “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:” Jeremiah reiterates what Moses, John and Isaiah are saying: Isaiah 42:18 “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.” It takes effort on the part of man to see the spirit in the words of Godthe cross-5pix Christianity: John 6:63 “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Nothing worthwhile comes without effort on our part. We need to look always for the hidden meaning within the words of God. Jewish symbols star-8pix Judaism: Ezekiel 12:2 “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.” the cross-5pix Christianity: Matthew 13:13 “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” Jesus is clear on the usage of parables in the writings of God. Though men have physical eyes most don’t see the spiritual nature behind Gods holy word. Matthew 13:14 “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:” Or, In Jesus’ holy words: Matthew 22:14 “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

Abdu’l-Baha tells us in Divine Philosophy: the greatest name 8 pixBaha’i Faith: “Let us acquire a new intelligence in order to interpret the symbols and become acquainted with the mysteries.”

(Bahá’í Faith, Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 36)

The shrine-17pix BABI RELIGION: “Extreme Shi’i esotericism such meaning was not necessarily related to the obvious meaning of particular words and phrases. At the least, scriptural texts were to be understood in terms of symbol and metaphor. Thus messianic prophecies were not to be literally fulfilled. Such stars as would fall from heaven were the ulama, the leading luminaries of Islam. The world that would end was a former cycle of revelation. Again, each verse, each letter even, contained a complex store of meaning which might be unveiled by one possessed of divine knowledge. Hundreds of verses could be revealed to expound the ‘manifold implications’ of even a single letter of the Quran.”

(Peter Smith, The Babi & Baha’i Religions, p. 37)

the cross-25pix CHRISTIANITY: 2 Corinthians 4:3 “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” 2 Corinthians 4:4 “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 1 Corinthians 2:7 “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:” 1 Corinthians 2:10 “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Matthew 13:15 “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” Matthew 13:16 “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” Matthew 13:17 “For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” Matthew 13:34 “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:” Matthew 13:35 “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Mark 4:2 “And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,” Mark 4:11 “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:”

the greatest name-12pixBAHA’I FAITH: “Consider how the parable makes attainment dependent upon capacity. Unless capacity is developed, the summons of the Kingdom cannot reach the ear, the light of the Sun of Truth will not be observed, and the fragrances of the rose garden of inner significance will be lost.”

(Bahá’í Faith, Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace. p. 149)

The shrine-17pix BABI RELIGION: “They (The Babis) never ceased to give an example of charity and gentleness. They attended regularly the public prayers in the mosques. However, they did not renounce their beliefs, each one of them was a prophet and an apostle. When a Turk would conic to buy tobacco at the shop of a Bábí, the shopkeeper would speak to him of salvation, of the reform of souls, and of virtue; he would do it in a familiar tone and with that facility characteristic of his race, not without mixing into his discourse metaphors and parables. If the listener was interested in the conversation, the Bábí would touch on some of the points particular to the new doctrine.”

(Moojan Momen, The Babi  and Baha’i Religions, p. 198)

the cross-25pix CHRISTIANITY: 1 Corinthians 2:6 “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to naught:” 2:7 “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:” 2:8 “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (Jesus Christ).”

the greatest name-12pixBAHA’I FAITH: “Whatever proceeded from the tongue of the Son (Jesus Christ) was revealed in parables, whilst He Who proclaimeth the Truth in this Day speaketh without them. Take heed lest thou cling to the cord of idle fancy and withhold thyself from that which hath been ordained in the Kingdom of God, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful.”

(Bahá’í Faith, Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts)

the greatest name 8 pixBaha’i Faith: “A humanity which has come of age can respond to a directness of teaching that goes beyond the language of parable and allegory; faith is a matter not of blind belief, but of conscious knowledge.”

(Baha’i International Community, 1992 May 29, Statement on Baha’u’llah, p. 5)

The shrine-17pix BABI RELIGION: “This is the divinely-inscribed Book. This is the outspread Tablet. Say, this indeed is the Frequented Fane, the sweet-scented Leaf, the Tree of divine Revelation, the surging Ocean, the Utterance which lay concealed, the Light above every light… Indeed every light is generated by God through the power of His behest. He of a truth is the Light in the kingdom of heaven and earth and whatever is between them. Through the radiance of His light God imparteth illumination to your hearts and maketh firm your steps, that perchance ye may yield praise unto Him.”

(The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 154)

In others writings of God we find, in essence, the same teachings on the use of parables and allegorical speech to convey knowledge to man that can see beyond the literal word into the deeper meaning of spiritual truth as we do in the Bahá’í Writings and the bible:

Islamic symbol-10 pix ISLAM: 7. “He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: in it are verses basic or fundamental; they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical.” (symbolisms or parables)

(The Qur’an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surah   3)

Islamic symbol-5pix Islam: 25 “But give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that their portion is Gardens, beneath which rivers flow, (heaven). Every time they are fed with fruits therefrom, they say: ‘Why, this is what we were fed with before,’ for they are given things in similitude (allegories, symbolisms, parables); and they have therein companions (pure and holy); and they abide therein (forever).” 26. “Allah (God) disdains not to use the similitude of things, lowest as well as highest. Those who believe know that it is truth from their Lord; but those who reject Faith say: ‘What means Allah by this similitude?’ By it He causes many to stray, and many He leads into the right path, but He causes not to stray, except those who forsake (the path).”

(The Qur’an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surah   2)

Islamic symbol-5pix Islam: 46. “Think ye, if Allah (God) took away your hearing and your sight, and sealed up your hearts, who — a god other than Allah — could restore them to you? See how We explain the Signs by various (symbols): Yet they turn aside.” 108. “Those are they whose hearts, ears, and eyes Allah has sealed up, and they take no heed.”

(The Qur’an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surahs 6 and 16)

Islamic symbol-5pix Islam: 16. “Say: Who is the Lord and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth?” Say: ‘It is Allah.’ Say: ‘Do ye then take (for worship) protectors other than Him, such as have no power either for good or for harm to themselves?’ Say: ‘Are the blind equal with those who see? Or the depths of darkness equal with Light?’ Or do they assign to Allah partners who have created (anything) as He has created, so that the creation seemed to them similar?’ Say: ‘Allah is the Creator of all things: He is the One, the Supreme and Irresistible.’ ‘He sends down water from the skies, and the channels flow, each according to its measure: but the torrent bears away the foam that mounts up to the surface. Even so, from that (ore) which they heat in the fire, to make ornaments or utensils therewith, there is a scum likewise. Thus doth Allah (God) (by parables) show forth Truth and Vanity: for the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth. Thus doth Allah set forth parables.’ ‘For those who respond to their Lord, are (all) good things.”’

(The Qur’an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surah  13)

Islamic symbol-5pix Islam: 17. “Allah (by parables) show forth Truth and Vanity: for the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth. Thus doth Allah set forth parables.”

(The Qur’an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surah  13)

Islamic symbol-5pix Islam: 35 “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guideth unto His light whom He will. And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things.”

(The Qur’an (Pickthall tr), Sura  24 – The Light)

Islamic symbol-5pix Islam: 35. “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the East nor of the West, whose Oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light. Allah doth set forth Parables for men: and Allah doth know all things.”

(The Qur’an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surah  24)

Islamic symbol-5pix Islam: 27. “We have put forth for men, in this Qur’án every kind of Parable, in order that they may receive admonition.” 28. “It is a Qur’án in Arabic, without any crookedness therein, in order that they may guard against Evil.”

(The Qur’an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surah   39)

Zoroastrian symbol-12pix ZOROASTRIANISM: 11. “And this our word I have proclaimed as a symbol (parable) to be learned, and to be recited, as it were, to every one of the beings under the influence of and for the sake of Righteousness the Best.”

(Zoroaster, The Zend-Avesta, Avesta – Yasna 19)

Zoroastrian symbol-5pix Zoroastrianism: “Mazda (God) gives to the prophet, the scriptures. The scripture containing the lessons of the prophet is his main instrument. It lays down the rules and regulations which bring salvation to mankind. But unless man has the goodwill to accept the (real spiritual truths of the words) of the gospel (and go beyond the symbols) it does not benefit him at all.” “Hear the best with your ears, and discern by pure mind. Choose the ought, man by man (every man), for his own self. Before the great trial comes, wake up to this my counsel.” “One should rely on his own conviction, and not allow himself to be drifted by the opinions of others.” (ZOROASTER, the unknown and Hymns of Atharvan pp. 87 and 197)

Hindu symbol-10pix HINDUISM: 218. “As the man who digs with a spade (into the ground) obtains water, even so an obedient (pupil) obtains the knowledge which lies hidden (in the words of Brahma, God).” “The hidden truths of religion, embalmed in the ancient Upanishads, have never been excelled within the last three thousand years.”

(Hindu, Laws of Manu chapter 2 and The Mababharata (R. Dutt, abridged tr))

Buddhist wheel symbol-10 pix BUDDHISM: “The ignorant and simple-minded declare that meaning is not otherwise than words, that as words are, so is meaning. They think that as meaning has no body of its own that it cannot be different from words and, therefore, declare meaning to be identical with words. In this they are ignorant of the nature of words, which are subject to birth and death, whereas meaning is not; words are dependent upon letters and meaning is not; meaning is apart from existence and non-existence, it has no substratum, it is unborn. The Tathagatas do not teach a Dharma that is dependent upon letters. Anyone who teaches a doctrine that is dependent upon letters and words is a mere prattler, because Truth is beyond letters and words and books.” “This does not mean that words and books never declare what is in conformity with meaning and truth, but it means that words and books are dependent upon discriminations, while meaning and truth are not; moreover, words and books are subject to the interpretation of individual minds, while meaning and truth are not. But if Truth is not expressed in words and books, the scriptures which contain the meaning of Truth would disappear, and when the scriptures disappear there will be no more disciples and masters and Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, and there will be nothing to teach. But no one must become attached to the words of the scriptures because even the canonical texts sometimes deviate from their straightforward course owing to the imperfect functioning of sentient minds. Religious discourses are given by myself and other Tathagatas in response to the varying needs and faiths of all manner of beings, in order to free them from dependence upon the thinking function of the mind-system, but they are not given to take the place of self-realization of Noble Wisdom. When there is recognition that there is nothing in the world but what is seen of the mind itself, all dualistic discriminations will be discarded and the truth of imagelessness will be understood, and will be seen to be in conformity with meaning rather than with words and letters.” “The ignorant and simple-minded being fascinated with their self-imaginations and erroneous reasonings, keep on dancing and leaping about, but are unable to understand the discourse of the words about the truth of self-realization, much less are they able to understand the Truth itself. Clinging to the external world, they cling to the study of books which are a means only, and do not know properly how to ascertain the truth of self-realization, which is Truth unspoiled by the four propositions. Self-realization is an exalted state of inner attainment which transcends all dualistic thinking and which is above the mind-system with its logic, reasoning, theorizing, and illustrations. The Tathagatas discourse to the ignorant, but sustain the Bodhisattvas as they seek self-realization of Noble Wisdom.” “Therefore, let every disciple take good heed not to become attached to words as being in perfect conformity with meaning, because Truth is not in the letters.” (Buddha, Lankavatara Sutra)

Dharma wheel Buddhist symbols-5pix Buddhism: “Objects are discriminated by the ignorant who are addicted to assertion and negation, because their intelligence has not been acute enough to penetrate into the truth,” (Buddha, Lankavatara Sutra)

Dharma wheel Buddhist symbols-5pix Buddhism: “Understand, words carry only an imaginary phenomenal meaning. When The Lord referred to them He never referred to their actual existence He has only used the words as figures and symbols.” (Buddha, Diamond Sutra)

Dharma wheel Buddhist symbols-5pix Buddhism: “The Blessed One adumbrates (partial disclosure, hint at) in the terms of the Dharma is, in reality, inscrutable and inexpressible. Being a purely spiritual concept,” (Buddha, Diamond Sutra)

Dharma wheel Buddhist symbols-5pix Buddhism: “By making use of skillful means and expedients, are intended to awaken in all beings a true perception of the Dharma.” (Buddha, Lankavatara Sutra)

Mandaean symbol-15pix SABEANISM: “The name of the great Mystery, the mystic Word, is pronounced upon thee.” “He who partaketh of this bread (pihta), put out (for him) will be sinless in the Place of Light, the Everlasting Abode.” (Sabeanism, Ginza Rba- chapters 43 and 173)

Mandaean symbol1 Sabeanism: “Strengthened, enhanced was the great mystery of radiance, light and glory dwelling on the mouth of The First Life (Haiyi, God), for from It came forth Manda-d-Hiia (Savior, Knowledge-of-Life). For he knew and interpreted the thoughts of The First Life and perceived that they are wondrous.”  (Sabeanism, Ginza Rba- chapter 32)

Hear what this Sabean parable tells us: Mandaean symbol1 Sabeanism: “There were those who bought my wares (Manda-d-Hiia Holy Words). The eyes (of such a one) were filled with light, Filled with light were his eyes (On) beholding the Great (One) in the House of Perfection. There were those who did not buy my wares. (or ignored the spiritual content of His holy words) They went on, reached their end and lay down. They were blind and saw not, Their ears were stopped and they heard not And their hearts were not awakened,” and understood not. (Sabeanism, Ginza Rba- chapters 70 and 90)