The benefit of friendships can become more profound and enduring, to the extent that those friendships expand in the spiritual realms of life.
In this world, much emphasis is placed on the marriage relationship which always has sexual, emotional, financial, and social dimensions to it as well as the central purpose of spiritual friendship. The Baha’i teachings say that a husband and wife who are deeply attuned to each other, sharing a worldview that includes the infinite and eternal, can look forward to traveling together forever. That happy condition would indeed be “light upon light,” meaning graced by a mutual understanding and companionship in both this world and the worlds to come.
The true marriage of Baha’is is this, that husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity throughout all the worlds of God. This is Baha’i marriage. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 118.
But the emphasis is on the potential for ALL spiritual friendships to last forever, not one special or exclusive friendship. In fact, the term “soul mate” itself is not found in the Baha’i teachings. Instead, the teachings shift our attention from marital status to the spiritual status of all our relationships, calling us to appreciate the purpose and destiny of these blessed friendships to dissolve prejudices, heal wounds, restore vitality, remind us of life’s purpose, and help us all return to the Divine Friend.
Spiritual Friendships Dissolve Barriers of Prejudice
Homogeneity has a way of creating stagnation, the opposite of growth. That is why one of the most precious attributes of a Baha’i community is its diversity.
As we allow ourselves to leave behind the familiar and the superficial, to reach out and become acquainted with the stranger, and most importantly, to look past superficial details of tradition and culture to the very heart of those we befriend, we will find ourselves on common ground with all humanity. As Abdu’l-Baha said:
If we abandon these timeworn blind imitations and investigate reality, all of us will be unified. No discord will remain; antagonism will disappear. All will associate in fellowship. All will enjoy the cordial bonds of friendship. The world of creation will then attain composure. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 344-345.
Spiritual Friends Heal and Restore Each Other
True friends share with each other those spiritual teachings that revive our sense of conscience, our sense of existential orientation and direction. Friends satisfy each other’s hunger for belonging when we enable each other to recognize ourselves within the community of the love of God:
O ye friends of God! True friends are even as skilled physicians, and the Teachings of God are as healing balm, a medicine for the conscience of man … They waken those who sleep. They bring awareness to the unheeding, and a portion to the outcast, and to the hopeless, hope. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 23.
The dust of daily ordinariness provides the soil from which our soul longs to spring upward, bloom and bear fruit. We can be weighed down by that ordinariness, losing our way, our strength and even our hope. At that point, though, service from one friend to another—a single righteous act—can help renew our hope, reverse conditions, enable us to overcome our limitations and reach our divine potential:
One righteous act is endowed with a potency that can so elevate the dust as to cause it to pass beyond the heaven of heavens. It can tear every bond asunder, and hath the power to restore the force that hath spent itself and vanished … – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 287.
Spiritual Friends Remind Each Other of Life’s Purpose
While we have freedom of choice in our friends and associations, we are also on a quest that has purpose and value. This means we watch for companionship that will lead to advancement, both for ourselves and for those whose company we choose to keep.
Finding the essence of truth, the point of origin, is our primary human directive. Concomitant with that search is our desire not only to draw near, but to establish relationship with the divine Friend. This is the destiny and destination of every soul—its reason for being.
The further we go in our life explorations and the closer we get to perceiving the journey’s goal, the clearer our vision becomes to determine who actually have become our true friends and travelling companions on the mystical road of life.
Spiritual Friends Share the Ultimate Journey
Our exodus out of mortality and the material world, our pilgrimage to purity and paradise, is a form of ‘return,’ this time to our point of origin. Each one of us must make the journey on our own. But to our left and right, before us and behind us, is the company of friends equally determined to succeed in this journey, their gaze and their willpower fixed on the object of their devotion. In truth, this is my tribe, my people, my companions, my real and true friends; and God is our Lord:
Empower me, then, O my God, to be reckoned among them that have clung to Thy laws and precepts for the sake of Thee alone, their eyes fixed on Thy Face. – Ibid.
The Perfect Exemplar of Spiritual Friendship
Baha’u’llah presented Abdu’l-Baha to the world as the very embodiment of all those qualities to which we would aspire. In Abdu’l-Baha’s life, in his example, the potency of his inspiration is such that it can revive the weakest heart, and revitalize the faintest spirit:
Render thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance; for verily He is the most great Favour unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you; and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. – Baha’u’llah, quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 135.
Abdu’l-Baha, an unparalleled spiritual model and mentor, referred to by Baha’is as “the Master,” led a life based entirely on selfless and sacrificial service to humanity—and urged everyone to do the same.
Together, Friends Return to the Divine Friend
All paths lead homeward, so eventually all guides become one, all friends a foretaste of the one, final Friend:
After passing through the Valley of Knowledge, which is the last station of limitation, the wayfarer cometh to the First Station of Unity and drinketh from the cup of oneness, and gazeth upon the manifestations of singleness. In this station he pierceth the veils of plurality, fleeth the realms of the flesh, and ascendeth unto the heaven of unity. – Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, newly translated edition, p. 27.
Eventually, even the lover’s love for the Beloved becomes too much separation to bear, and in a conflagration of love, all that remains is the Friend:
For when the true lover and devoted friend reacheth the presence of the Beloved, the radiant beauty of the Loved One and the fire of the lover’s heart will kindle a blaze and burn away all veils and wrappings. Yea, all that he hath, from marrow to skin, will be set aflame, so that nothing will remain save the Friend. – Ibid., pp. 45-46.