Today, it makes sense to independently investigate what is true.
Can you imagine how radical this principle must have seemed in 1800s Persia when Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, declared the independent investigation of truth as one of the core principles of his revelation?
His son, ‘Abdu’l-Baha spoke about this:
“Among these teachings was the independent investigation of reality so that the world of humanity may be saved from the darkness of imitation and attain to the truth; may tear off and cast away this ragged and outgrown garment of 1,000 years ago and may put on the robe woven in the utmost purity and holiness in the loom of reality.
“Furthermore, know ye that God has created in man the power of reason, whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to imitate blindly his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth, and that which he finds real and true he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul.”
Baha’is embrace the fundamental unity of all the religions through an understanding of “progressive revelation”—that is, the principle that religious truth is not absolute, but relative to the age in which it appears; that divine revelation is progressive, not final. Each prophet can be seen as another chapter in God’s never-ending book.
The prophets speak to the spirit of the time and the needs of humanity.
In another talk, ‘Abdu’l-Baha said: “For every era hath a spirit; the spirit of this illumined era lieth in the teachings of Baha’u’llah. For these lay the foundation of the oneness of the world of humanity and promulgate universal brotherhood. They are founded upon the unity of science and religion and upon investigation of truth.”
Baha’u’llah taught that in this day and age, everyone has both the capacity and the responsibility to use the gifts of reason and intellect combined with the power of the heart to ascertain what is true. He said:
“God has given man the eye of investigation by which he may see and recognize truth. He has endowed man with ears that he may hear the message of reality and conferred upon him the gift of reason by which he may discover things for himself.”
This holds true of his own revelation. Baha’u’llah asked no one to accept his statements and his tokens blindly. His teachings issued emphatic warnings against blind acceptance of authority, and urged humanity to openly, independently and fearlessly seek the truth.
The independent investigation of truth is not the only a benefit to the individual soul. The dispelling of ignorance and blind imitation plays a significant role in overcoming dogmatic influences that have led to social conflict and blocked human progress, as illumined in these Baha’i Scriptures:
“Blind imitation of the past will stunt the mind. But once every soul inquireth into truth, society will be freed from the darkness of continually repeating the past.
“He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. The greatest cause of bereavement and disheartening in the world of humanity is ignorance based upon blind imitation. It is due to this that wars and battles prevail; from this cause hatred and animosity arise continually among mankind.”
Likening humankind to a garden, the Baha’i writings ask us to weed our hearts and minds:
“Holy souls are like soil which has been plowed and tilled with much earnest labor; the thorns and thistles cast aside and all weeds uprooted. Such soil is most fruitful and the harvest from it will prove full and plenteous. In this same way man must free himself from the weeds of ignorance, thorns of superstitions and thistles of imitations, that he may discover reality in the harvests of true knowledge.”
Let us tend the garden of the heart with love and care.