FASTING DAY 16: Testing the Fitness of Our Souls

Fasting is about aligning our will with the Will of God. During this time we are to bring ourselves to account, weigh our actions, develop a deeper and more consecrated spiritual life, and rid ourselves of our selfish and animal natures. You’ve heard the phrase “Many are called, but few are chosen,” but have you ever reflected on how the few are chosen? That is what this session will help us explore.

Our ultimate goal is transformation for the good pleasure of God. We want God to be pleased with what we have done with the precious life given to us and to daily through our prayers, meditation, and deeds, to show our gratitude for “rescuing us from the wretchedness of nothingness.” Through a humble posture of learning, we begin to understand that the ego causes us to challenge, deny, become apathetic and unhappy, or to just blatantly disobey the laws of God.

In the last few reflections, we have defined what the ego is, and have discussed the role of tests in subduing it. In this reflection, we will discuss the means by which the fitness of the soul can be realized. Did you know that everyone is tested? Did you know that the same test will return if you do not pass it? Did you know that the tests will get progressively harder each time?

We must first remember what the purpose of tests are. They are for the purpose of assessing our worthiness, exalting our stations, subduing our egos, and strengthening us; no one is exempt! Because our ego thinks it can survive without God, has tried to become partners with God, or thinks it knows better than God, the Creator sends us tests to humble us and to save our souls. These benevolent tests are to help us to remember that we are soul and to not get so attached to this earthly fleeting vanishing existence.

“Tests are a means by which a soul is measured as to its fitness and proven out by its own acts. God knows its fitness beforehand, and also its unpreparedness, but man, with an ego, would not believe himself unfit unless proof were given him. Consequently, his susceptibility to evil is proven to him when he falls into the tests, and the tests are continued until the soul realizes its own unfitness, then remorse and regret tend to root out the weakness.”(2)

Have you ever thought that remorse and regret were actually good things? That it is this realization of our errors that “roots out our weaknesses?” Because we are imperfect humans, we are as Baha’u’llah explained it, “prone to error,” we are therefore susceptible to making mistakes and errors. Tests help us to recognize the dust on the mirror of our hearts so that we will realize our condition and put energy into polishing our mirrors, and as a consequence become attracted to the light and capable of reflecting its radiance.

As stated in the Holy Quran, “Do men think when they say ‘We believe’ they shall be let alone and not be put to proof? (1)

We all live by a set of beliefs. We say we believe. But, do our actions conform to our beliefs? When they don’t we experience cognitive dissonance, a discomfort that can cause anxiety or dis-ease until we rectify it. Either we change our beliefs, or we change our behavior so that our beliefs and actions are in sync. This discomfort when viewed from a humble posture of learning can lead to deep reflection where we realize this inconsistency or untruth in ourselves. At that point, those that are humble and sincere experience remorse and regret. This dissonance is resolved when we change our ways.

We know that we will be called to account for our final deeds, but few realize that we get quizzes and midterms along the way as a way of testing us continually. That is why our tests get progressively harder each time we fail. Spiritual tests continue until our spiritual weaknesses become strengths.

The same test comes again in greater degree, until it is shown that a former weakness has become a strength, and the power to overcome evil has been established.”(3)

Tests provide us continuous feedback of our spiritual fitness, and if we are observant and repentant, we learn, change, and transform. Only those who make spiritual transformation a priority are “chosen.”

“In this day, everyone must be tested, as the time of the “chosen ones” to prove their worth is indeed very short. The day of attainment is drawing to a close for them. The “first fruits” must be ripened in spirit, mellowed in love, and consumed by their self-sacrifice and severance. None other are acceptable as first fruits, and all who fail to attain to the standard through the tests, are relegated to the “many who are called”.

“The more one is severed from the world, from desires, from human affairs, and conditions, the more impervious does one become to the tests of God.” (3)

Maybe, the greater the ego is, the greater the tests? We were created to reflect the light of God and our egos prevent us from receiving our portion of Divine light. Let us thank God for the tests that are sent to us that allow our true light to shine.

Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears; but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped.” (5)

Walking the spiritual path together

Your study partner, Barbara

1. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 26)

2. (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – 4)



5. Paris Talks

FASTING DAY 15: The EGO Has Got to GO!

Parents have always been cautious in watching their children pick their friends. Why, because people are contagious and if we are not careful, we can become like those we hang around most. We want to make sure that our closest confidants won’t encourage us to get in trouble and are of good character. The ego is like a very close, but very bad friend. In the last message, we talked about the ego and how we must subdue it if we want God’s grace. Our true essence is soul and not body. Both require education, but a different kind of education.

Baha’i education will strongly emphasize, therefore, the true nature of man, as an immortal soul which has both the opportunity and the obligation of spiritual development. In accordance with his dual nature, man’s selfhood or “ego” can become either degenerate or regenerate. Either we are constantly advancing on the spiritual path, or we are daily retrogressing. Even to remain inactive is to decay. (1)

Pause, “to be inactive is to decay”? Perhaps that is why we are taught that death is better than to spend our lives only on our “sensual desires,” especially when we have been singled out with so great an honor to be humans with a soul and endowed with the attributes of God.

“…If the health and welfare of man be spent in sensual desires, in a life on the animal plane, and in devilish pursuits — then disease is better than such health; nay, death itself is preferable to such a life. If thou art desirous of health, wish thou health for serving the Kingdom.”(2)

It requires a bit of humility to realize that we need help in subduing the ego. We have Abdu’l-Baha as our example:

“…One must be able with the spiritual eyes to see the things of the spirit. If we are like Him we must realize that we are nothing and that God is all – must eliminate the ego – surrender the self – and allow God to do His work in us instead of imagining that we have any power to accomplish it within ourselves.”(3)

We needn’t fear the powerful ego because through prayer, living the life, obedience to the commands of God and submission to His Will, we can subdue it! My sister used to say, “We need to stay prayed up!” I agree that it is through prayer that we get our power to soar and be protected against violent tests.

“We must pray night and day to endure unto the end and be protected from the shock of tests and trials. Prayer is the wing whereby the soul of man soars upward to the heaven of nearness.”(4)


  1. “Man’s selfhood or “ego” can become either degenerate or regenerate.
  2. Either we are constantly advancing on the spiritual path, or we are daily retrogressing.
  3. Even to remain inactive is to decay.” (1)
  4. “Self and ego,” he said, “were like a cage, a prison. A man may be outwardly prosperous, but if he does not save himself from egotism, he is degraded and debased; while outside of the prison of self he is free, though (bodily) he might be in the greatest prison.” (5)
  5. “The ego is the animal in us, the heritage of the flesh which is full of selfish desires.” (6)
  6. “This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan — the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside. (7)”
  7. Asked, “What is Satan?” He replied: “The insistent self.”
  8. “The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has,
  9. The lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on. It is this self we must struggle against, or this side of our natures, in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection.”(8)
  10. “Intelligence, as it appears, is but an instrument of the ego by which it succeeds in achieving its desires, and as such can make no guarantee of continuity or stability to human progress.”(9)
  11. Envy, jealousy, hatred, ambition — all the demoniacal forces which the ego of man can give rise to … have raised, in the hearts of more than one person, their ugly heads.” (10)

Walking the spiritual path together as we subdue our egos

Barbara Talley 2019,2021, 2022


1) (BW – Baha’i World Volumes, Volume 12, p. 877)

2) (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 376)

3) (David’s Collection, Hooper Harris Notes 1907) of Abdul-Baha’s Talks

4) (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – 4)

5) (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

6) (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 286)

7) (BW – Baha’i World Volumes, Volume 13, p. 1187)

8) (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 113, From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 10, 1947)

9) (BW – Baha’i World Volumes, Volume 9, p. 749)

10) (BW – Baha’i World Volumes, Volume 11, p. 122)

FASTING DAY 14: Self-Restraint Against the Powerful EGO

The Fast is also known as the season of self restraint. We have learned that tests are necessary for our growth as spiritual beings. We have also reflected on the promise that we are destined to receive a greater portion of Divine Bounty during these days of the Fast. Well, it seems that there is a condition for receiving that bounty, and that is allowing our ego to veil us from receiving.

“For, no veil is greater than egotism and no matter how thin that covering may be, yet it will finally veil man entirely and prevent him from receiving a portion from the eternal bounty. (1)”

“For man, by his constitution, has an ego, a lower self within… The quelling of this ego is indeed the essential task that confronts the aspiring soul.” (2)

Tests have a vital purpose, for they remove “the rust of egotism from the mirror of the heart until the Sun of Truth may shine therein. (3) ”

‘Abdu’l-Baha calls the ego by different names, the insistent self, Satan, the animal within us, and the lower nature. He warns that,

“The love of self, which if directed to the ego will deprive man of all true development, but if the love of self is a realization that one is a creature of God and must therefore attain to the station appointed for him, this love will be an uplifting one.” (4)

We were created noble! The ego abases us and is one of the sources of our shame.

Our sense of shame is because the nobler element within us, the divinely bestowed reality, is fully aware of the surrender of the conscious ego to inferior and wholly mortal snares.” (5)

“Attachment to the self includes attachment
1) to
ideas which are “mine”,
2) to the
ego which can be bruised,
3) to the
desire for one’s own wishes to be accepted.”

We all want clarity and certitude; fortunately, “A mind freed from personal ambition and detached from the ego, can see more clearly.” (7)

We have also learned that we cannot afford to become hopeless. So, what can we do? The All-Merciful Creator, through His Manifestation, has shown us four specific things we can do to subdue the powerful ego:

1) “By OBEYING the laws of God,

2) SEEKING to LIVE THE LIFE laid down in our teachings, and

3) PRAYER and

4) STRUGGLE, we can subdue our egos.

We call people ‘Saints’ who have achieved the highest degree of mastery over their ego.”(8)

Walking the spiritual path together as we subdue our egos

Barbara Talley 2019,2021, 2022


1. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 371)

2. George Townshend(BW – Baha’i World Volumes, Volume 15, p. 792)

3. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 371)

4) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in A Brief Account of My Visit to Acca, Chicago, 1905, p. 38. page 127 (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – 5)

5) (BW – Baha’i World Volumes, Volume 5, p. 623)

6) (BW – Baha’i World Volumes, Volume 15, p. 776)

7) (BW – Baha’i World Volumes, Volume 11, p. 690)

8) (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – 

FASTING DAY 13: How to Become More Optimistic by Understanding the Two Phases of Optimism

In our last message, we talked about the need for us to bring joy to others and help them to remain hopeful as part of our spiritual practice. That’s a good goal, for even everyday people love to advise people going through something, to just cheer up, be optimistic, and focus on the good. And, while that is very good advice, it is not easily achieved because many have not been taught how to do so. As I reflect on today’s message of optimism, I’m realizing that both science and religion together can be helpful partners in this endeavor. I’m reminded especially of NLP, Ho’oponopono, and David Hawkins, Power vs. Force.

These are very useful practices. Perhaps I will share in the future how these practices have been helpful to me. Today I will be focusing on an explanation on optimism from the Star of the West as explained by Abdul-Baha who advised us to “be joy to the sorrowful.”

We know that we will be constantly tested, so how can we be optimistic when as Baha’u’llah says we are “surrounded by darkness and that the evil one is lying in wait ready to trap us?” Well, that’s where faith comes in, because, despite all the tests, we should be optimistic about the future. If our reality is based on our thoughts, it makes sense to focus on hope and optimism, doesn’t it? Abdu’l-Baha explained:

“We hold that there are two distinct phases of optimism.

One is based on the ASSUMPTION of CONDITIONS, which the objective mind has first CONCEIVED and PICTURED, as it were, on the walls of the subjective mind.



  • We may possibly bring things to pass.
  • We may brighten our own paths by happy, cheerful thoughts, and
  • [We may] help uplift others who are in negative states of mind.

The other kind of optimism is WHOLLY BASED ON THE SPIRITUAL MIND. It comes by a CALM and ABSOLUTE TRUST in the power of God to bring to pass all things for our highest good, whatever they seemingly may be. Circumstances and environments cannot destroy it.

OUR GOOD MAY OFTEN COME THROUGH SEVERE TESTS AND TRIALS, so that it may not appear as such on the face of it, but BY FAITH in the POWER and PROMISES of God to do all things, the SILVER LINING OF EVERY CLOUD IS MADE VISIBLE, and ONE IS ENABLED TO OBEY HIS COMMAND, given through Bahá’u’lláh, to “CHEER UP thy heart with delight, that thou mayst be fitted to meet Me and become a mirror of My beauty.” (4)

“Now show thou forth FIRMNESS and STEADFASTNESS WITHOUT WAVERING. If any test fall upon thee, it will be conducive to the strength of thy faith. ” (5)

“‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Servant of God, whose office is to unlock to man spiritual truth, says, that the Holy Spirit dominates every part of the human being when its will is subservient to His Will; that
>>>by it we may be healed in body and soul;
>>>by its operation we may be transformed and attain to wisdom and spiritual power which nothing on the material plane can withstand.

In speaking of his own station, he says that the Holy Spirit moves his limbs.

Note the difference between, the two processes:

1. one is attaining physical power and understanding of the natural laws given by Infinite Mind for the control of matter only,

2. while the other is accomplished by the Holy Spirit alone-man’s part being simply to yield his will to its guidance and quickening influence.” (6)

This is a very powerful message that Abdul-Baha is teaching us. We can be optimistic through two different methods, from our own rational and subjective mind, or through the power of the Holy Spirit. So, clearly there is a way to develop optimism. To repeat, one is based on our power and will, the other requires us to give up our ego and will and allow the Holy Spirit alone to guide us.

My hope is that today, as we enter into our last week of the 19 day Fast, that we begin to think about bringing hope to the hopeless and joy to the sorrowful, that we use our powers to subdue the ego, and yield our will to the guidance and quickening influence of the Holy Spirit. My hope is that we each may have a cheerful countenance and a pure, kindly, and radiant heart. My prayer is that we focus on polishing our own mirrors so that we are reflecting the Divine light, that we have more faith and less fear, that we have more compassion and less judgment, that we have more love and less hate, more trust and fewer doubts, and most importantly, that we have more selfless world embracing deeds and fewer words.

Happy Fasting
Barbara Talley


4) (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – (1)

5) (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 552)

6) SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – (1)

FASTING DAY 12: The Danger of Being the Cause of Hopelessness

Humanity, as a result of turning away from God and relying on material resources, political power, and the carnal and selfish dreams of mortal men, has set itself on a course leading to destruction. The Fasting time is about responsibility, recalibration and reflection; a time to cleanse our hearts and motives. We have been talking about tests for a while and I know that this topic can be very heavy. So, I thought today, to share a word of caution while we “detox our own spiritual selves.” We must be very careful that our knowledge, perceptions, and awareness of the exigencies of our time do not make us feel saddened, angry, afraid or hopeless and cause us to magnify that doom mindset and infect those around us. We must remember that we are all contagious; we can spread joy or we can spread sorrow. Remember Abdul-Baha’s desire for us: “I want you to be happy.., to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you.” (1)

Abdul-Baha was always asking people if they were happy and encouraged them to “be joy to the sorrowful.” God not only wants us to be happy, but He also wants us to not ‘test others’ by causing another person grief or wishing them ill-will, even if they mean us harm. There are so many contentious conversations now that are causing grief: vaccines, climate, war, identity, abortion, politics, gender, CRT, and of course, race. Consider these words of Abdul-Baha about the danger of offending each other and causing hopelessness.

Beware! Beware! lest ye offend any heart! Beware! Beware! lest ye hurt any soul! Beware! Beware! lest ye deal unkindly toward any person! Beware! Beware! lest ye be the cause of hopelessness to any creature!

Should any soul become the cause of grief to any heart or despondency to any soul, it is better for him to hide himself in the lowest strata of the earth than to walk upon the earth. Should any soul desire the abasement of his kind, undoubtedly his non-entity is better for him, for his non-existence is better than his existence and his death better than his life.

Therefore, my advice to you is, endeavor as much as ye can to show kindness toward all men, deal with perfect love, affection and devotion with all the individuals of humanity. Remove from amongst yourselves racial, patriotic, religious, sectional, political, commercial, industrial and agricultural prejudices, so that you may become freed from all human restrictions and become the founders of the structures of the oneness of the world of humanity. (2)

We are to bring hope to those who grieve, serve each other, prefer each other, participate in discourses that uplift and educate, and not waste our precious time in actions that cause hopelessness. We were not created to make people despondent or to grieve, and if we do, it is better that we did not exist, Abdul-Baha warned us! We’ve also got to learn to move beyond dichotomous thinking, that either/or thinking, that self-righteous closed-mindedness that sees things only one way. We must widen our vision if we wish to do no harm and to be worthy of being shown greater possibilities for how to bring about the kingdom of God on earth. We tend to think of good as only coming with joy and calm, but: “Our good may often come through severe tests and trials…”(3)

The November 25, 2020 letter from the Universal House of Justice was optimistic about the community’s capacity, and at the same time they cautioned us about the coming dangers in the years ahead. They acknowledged that in some quarters, “hope had become a depleted resource.” Our duty is to bring hope to the hopeless and to support each other.

Your resilience and your unwavering commitment to the well-being of those around you, persistent through all difficulties, have filled us with tremendous hope, wrote the Universal House of Justice.But it is no wonder that, in some other quarters, hope has become a depleted resource. There is a mounting realization on the part of the world’s people that the decades ahead are set to bring with them challenges among the most daunting that the human family has ever had to face. The current global health crisis is but one such challenge, the ultimate severity of whose cost, both to lives and livelihoods, is yet unknown; your efforts to succour and support one another as well as your sisters and brothers in society at large will certainly need to be sustained, and in places expanded.

We must realize the potential damnation we inflict upon ourselves when we cause grief, despondency, and abasement to others. Like a boomerang, “we reap what we sow!” During our meditation, we may wish to seriously reflect the possible repercussions we will attract to ourselves from inflicting pain on others!

Abdul-Baha warned us:

O army of God! Beware lest ye harm any soul, or make any heart to sorrow; lest ye wound any man with your words, be he known to you or a stranger, be he friend or foe. Pray ye for all; ask ye that all be blessed, all be forgiven. Beware, beware, lest any of you seek vengeance, even against one who is thirsting for your blood. Beware, beware, lest ye offend the feelings of another, even though he be an evil-doer, and he wish you ill. Look ye not upon the creatures, turn ye to their Creator. See ye not the never-yielding people, see but the Lord of Hosts. (4)

Baha’u’llah taught that the reality of man is his thought. So, clearly since we create reality by our thoughts, and our reality is influenced by what we see and hear from those who we hang around the most, we must learn to exercise self-control. Controlling our thoughts is not always possible, so in addition, before we respond, we must learn to do what the October 2019 letter from the Universal House of Justice asked us to do, which is to “search the soul for the right response.” If we wish to help humanity “advance to the highest levels of unity,” we must develop a reflective mindset that is conscientiously cautious. The Fast provides the perfect time for this ‘soul searching.’

Here are a couple of questions to guide your reflections:

  • What have we personally done or not down to cause the negative things that are happening now to happen or not happen?
  • What are we going to start, stop, or continue doing as a result of the insights gained during this Blessed Fasting time?

Happy Fasting

  1. Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace
  2. Star of the West (Volume 1)
  3. Ibid
  4. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 73)