Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Baha'i View of the Fear of God

In His Book "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf," Baha'u'llah writes:
In the treasuries of the knowledge of God there lieth concealed a knowledge which, when applied, will largely, though not wholly, eliminate fear. This knowledge, however, should be taught from childhood, as it will greatly aid in its elimination. Whatever decreaseth fear increaseth courage. Should the Will of God assist Us, there would flow out from the Pen of the Divine Expounder a lengthy exposition of that which hath been mentioned, and there would be revealed, in the field of arts and sciences, what would renew the world and the nations. A word hath, likewise, been written down and recorded by the Pen of the Most High in the Crimson Book which is capable of fully disclosing that force which is hid in men, nay of redoubling its potency. We implore God—exalted and glorified be He—to graciously assist His servants to do that which is pleasing and acceptable unto Him.
So important is this trait, the fear of God, that in His Will and Testament, when Abdu'l-Baha sets forth the requirements for the Guardian of the Faith, for the members of the Universal House of Justice, and for the Hands of the Cause of God - among these requirements is that they must possess the fear of God. (Pages 12, 13 and 14)

Abdu'l-Baha also writes that mothers must teach their children the fear of God:

"Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved . . . "
Perhaps teaching the fear of God from childhood, is what Baha'u'llah says will remove fear. Shoghi Effendi clarified:

"In explaining the fear of God to children, there is no objection to teaching it as 'Abdu'l-Bahá so often taught everything, in the form of parables. Also the child should be made to understand that we don't fear God because He is cruel, but we fear Him because He is just, and, if we do wrong and deserve to be punished, then in His justice He may see fit to punish us. We must both love God and fear Him." (From a letter dated 15 February 1957 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi; from the Compilation on Child Education)
Now, as to that specific verse from the Supreme Pen quoted at the top of this posting, Shoghi Effendi wrote two letters through his secretary stating that we do not know for sure what Baha'u'llah was referring to: "Unfortunately it would seem that the knowledge 'which could largely eliminate fear' has not been disclosed or identified by Bahá'u'lláh; so we do not know what it is'. (From a letter dated 5 January 1948, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 249) "You have asked the exact meaning of the term 'Fear of God' mentioned in Bahá'í Sacred Writings; it often means awe, but has also other connotations such as reverence, terror and fear. "We have no way of knowing what science Bahá'u'lláh meant when He said it would largely eliminate fear; as no further mention of it was ever made in the teachings, the Guardian cannot identify anything with this statement. To do so would depart from his function as interpreter of the teachings; he cannot reveal anything apart from the given teachings." (Lights of Guidance, p. 236 # 789)

So the first letter from him says that this knowledge was either not disclosed, or was disclosed but not identified - so he could not tell us what the Manifestation was referring to. So we do not know if this knowledge is among His Writings, but unidentified; or if it remains hidden in His knowledge for a future Manifestation to reveal. It is interesting to me that the Master says to teach the fear of God to the children; maybe that means that this is the knowledge Baha'u'llah says should be "taught from childhood." But we cannot know for sure; and maybe Baha'u'llah is referring to something entirely new and unknown to us.

Looking at Badi's face, in both of the pictures of him with his executioners, 1, 2, he shows no fear whatsoever. In the first of those pictures he almost looks careless of the fact that the men surrounding him are about to inflict upon him unbelievable tortures. And Baha'u'llah spoke of the time he spent with Badi, preparing him, "We took a handful of dust; mixed it with the waters of might and power, and breathed into it the spirit of assurance." I have always wondered if Baha'u'llah gave Badi certain knowledge that freed him from this world, freed him from concern over pain - and if this might be that hidden knowledge He refers to in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf - knowledge still unknown and unrevealed to the rest of us.

On the other hand, the Writings do say that if a person fears God, He will fear nothing else. Baha'u'llah wrote to the kings of the earth in the Suriy-i-Muluk:

Know ye that I am afraid of none except God. In none but Him have I placed My trust; to none will I cleave but Him, and wish for naught except the thing He hath wished for Me. This, indeed, is My heart's desire, did ye but know it. I have offered up My soul and My body as a sacrifice for God, the Lord of all worlds. Whoso hath known God shall know none but Him, and he that feareth God shall be afraid of no one except Him, though the powers of the whole earth rise up and be arrayed against him.
So, maybe, on the other hand, He did reveal this knowledge to all of us, and it is the fear of God which eliminates fear. He wrote, in the Tablet of Four Valleys, quoting an Arabic saying:

"Verily, the wayfarer who journeyeth unto God, unto the Crimson Pillar in the snow-white path, will never reach unto his heavenly goal unless he abandoneth all that men possess: 'And if he feareth not God, God will make him to fear all things; whereas all things fear him who feareth God.'"
In one of my favorite of Baha'u'llah's prayers, He refers to God as the One Who "changeth fear into calm:"

I give praise to Thee, O my God, that Thou hast awakened me out of my sleep, and brought me forth after my disappearance, and raised me up from my slumber. I have wakened this morning with my face set toward the splendors of the Day-Star of Thy Revelation, through Which the heavens of Thy power and Thy majesty have been illumined, acknowledging Thy signs, believing in Thy Book, and holding fast unto Thy Cord.

I beseech Thee, by the potency of Thy will and the compelling power of Thy purpose, to make of what Thou didst reveal unto me in my sleep the surest foundation for the mansions of Thy love that are within the hearts of Thy loved ones, and the best instrument for the revelation of the tokens of Thy grace and Thy loving-kindness.
Do Thou ordain for me through Thy most exalted Pen, O my Lord, the good of this world and of the next. I testify that within Thy grasp are held the reins of all things. Thou changest them as Thou pleasest. No God is there save Thee, the Strong, the Faithful.

Thou art He Who changeth through His bidding abasement into glory, and weakness into strength, and powerlessness into might, and fear into calm, and doubt into certainty. No God is there but Thee, the Mighty, the Beneficent.

Thou disappointest no one who hath sought Thee, nor dost Thou keep back from Thee any one who hath desired Thee. Ordain Thou for me what becometh the heaven of Thy generosity, and the ocean of Thy bounty. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful.


  1. Brent, this is absolutely brilliant! It makes total sense!! Thank you so much for this insight!

  2. Brent, this is absolutely brilliant! It makes total sense, explains so much! Thank you so much! Jacki O-G

  3. Indeed! Yes! A lovely conclusion to fear.

  4. as a child psychologist working with children in very challenging situations, like youth justice, I have come to think one part of this "knowledge" is something like Aikido, e.g. non-resistance and knowing the "science" of defeating an attack without harming the person. Aikido is the basis of Safe Crisis Management which is a science of de-escalating a situation (90%) through words, tone, body positioning, with the last 10% of the training being when the child or inmate 'acts out'. one or two caregivers restrain the person is scientifically safe way, which is true love, until they calm down. One can't have a lasting therapeutic relationship if the client/child fears hurt from you. this is keeping them, other children and the staff "safe", e.g. they come to Trust you for keeping them safe from themselves. Along with this physical practice we were trained to have unconditional Love and Respect for the inmate/offender/child. Without that, they fear you instead of Trust you. Any safe martial art taught to a child is self-discipline. This though is a path to told Trust in God, and like Badi, then one can transfer "safe" over to God. Children learn to trust God by having Trustworthy parents, and then learning to trust themselves as well (the God or light within us). All the same really. Dr Derek Patton

  5. Wonderful, the fear of god, may be it is the fundamental , and the cornerstone of the faith , and the mothers have the privilege and also the responsibility to teach this pilar to kids god bless all the mothers .