The mind comprehendeth the abstract by the aid of the concrete, but the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel
‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote: Man is endowed with an outer or physical reality. It belongs to the material realm, the animal kingdom, because it has sprung from the material world. This animalistic reality of man he shares in common with the animals.
The human body is like animals subject to nature’s laws. But man is endowed with a second reality, the rational or intellectual reality; and the intellectual reality of man predominates over nature.
Yet there is a third reality in man, the spiritual reality. Through its medium one discovers spiritual revelations, a celestial faculty which is infinite as regards the intellectual as well as physical realms. That power is conferred upon man through the breath of the Holy Spirit. It is an eternal reality, an indestructible reality, a reality belonging to the divine, supernatural kingdom; a reality whereby the world is illumined, a reality which grants unto man eternal life. This third, spiritual reality it is which discovers past events and looks along the vistas of the future. It is the ray of the Sun of Reality. The spiritual world is enlightened through it, the whole of the Kingdom is being illumined by it. It enjoys the world of beatitude, a world which had not beginning and which shall have no end.
That celestial reality, the third reality of the microcosm, delivers man from the material world. Its power causes man to escape from nature’s world. Escaping, he will find an illuminating reality, transcending the limited reality of man and causing him to attain to the infinitude of God, abstracting him from the world of superstitions and imaginations, and submerging him in the sea of the rays of the Sun of Reality.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity
This series will proceed to discuss abstraction in four different ways:
1) an overview of abstract artist Vassily Kandinsky and his views from his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art.
2) abstract art in the light of this quotation from Joseph Campbell: Behind all these manifestations is the one radiance, which shines through all things. The function of art is to reveal this radiance through the created object.
3) the Prophets or Manifestations of God considered as Artists.
4) The Prophets or Manifestations of God as “abstracted essences”, a recurring theme in Bahá’í sacred text.
Download a nine-page compilation on the terms abstract and abstraction from the Bahá’í writings.