The Bahá’í writings use the word “spirit” to refer to certain powers and potentialities that pervade the various kingdoms of existence.
The power to grow, or the “vegetable spirit”, appears in the vegetable kingdom and continues to manifest itself in higher levels of existence. But however perfect may be the growth of a tree, it can never know the powers of the senses that manifest themselves in the animal kingdom.
The animal sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels. But the animal, observed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, is “a captive of the world of nature and not in touch with that which lies within and beyond nature; it is without spiritual susceptibilities, deprived of the attractions of consciousness, unconscious of the world of God and incapable of deviating from the law of nature.”1
Inherent to the “human spirit” is the capacity to attain knowledge about the visible and the invisible. “From known realities—that is to say, from the things which are known and visible—he discovers unknown things,”2 said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Humanity’s advancement in spiritual and material knowledge—encompassing such areas as scientific progress, the development of just systems of governance, technological innovation, and the efflorescence of seemly artistic endeavours, to name but a few—can be viewed as expressions of the power of the human spirit.
In order to become acquainted with spiritual realities, human beings must be assisted by the spirit of faith. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains that the “spirit of Faith” is “of the Kingdom”, and that, “the human spirit, unless assisted by the spirit of faith, does not become acquainted with the divine secrets and the heavenly realities. It is like a mirror which, although clear, polished and brilliant, is still in need of light. Until a ray of the sun reflects upon it, it cannot discover the heavenly secrets.”3 In another passage He has described the spirit of faith as “the power which makes the earthly man heavenly, and the imperfect man perfect.”4
The boundless divine power which illumines all existence is the Holy Spirit, the intermediary between God and His creation. The Manifestations of God were single and alone and faced great opposition without worldly powers, yet through the power of the Holy Spirit, They became the Great Educators of humanity. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains that every time a Manifestation of God appears through the power of the Holy Spirit, “the world is renewed, and a new cycle is founded. The body of the world of humanity puts on a new garment. It can be compared to the spring; whenever it comes, the world passes from one condition to another. Through the advent of the season of spring the black earth and the fields and wildernesses will become verdant and blooming, and all sorts of flowers and sweet-scented herbs will grow; the trees will have new life, and new fruits will appear, and a new cycle is founded.”5