The Pentagram (or Haykal) as the Symbol of the Bahá’í Faith
Alláhu Abhá, dear friends!
This is my first blog entry on WordPress, and I’d like to mention why I wear pentagrams instead of any other star (especially the nonagram or 9-pointed star). Why I decided to write this blog is because it gets really annoying when Bahá’ís ask me questions like:
- what is that?
- why are you wearing that?
- isn’t that the Devil’s symbol?
- have you become a Satanist?
It’s time to put an end to such ignorance, bigotry, and to some extent, fanaticism. In order to answer this question, let me provide as many sources from Bahá’í literature possible.
From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, dated 28 October 1949:
“Strictly speaking the 5-pointed star is the symbol of our Faith, as used by the Báb and explained by Him.” [Lights Of Guidance, #1375]
He also said in the same letter, “The 9-pointed star is NOT a part of the teachings of our Faith…” From a letter by the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, dated 22 August 1963:
“We wish to point out…the 9-pointed star…[is] NOT in any way the symbol of the Bahá’í Faith, in the sense that the cross is the symbol of Christianity or the crescent the symbol of Islám.”
From a letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, dated 30 August 1981:
“In a letter to the Temple Guides Committee, dated 5 December 1944, the Guardian’s secretary stated on his behalf that the 9-pointed star [i]s NOT a symbol of the Faith in any special sense, but that it was developed by Mr. Bourgeois (the architect of the House of Worship in Wilmette) and other Bahá’ís…”
A few interesting points: the 5-pointed star (or pentagram) IS the symbol of the Bahá’í Faith, as established, used and explained by the Báb; the 9-pointed star (nonagram) is NOT the symbol of the Faith, and that it was developed by individual Baha’is, Louis Bourgeois and others, who were neither Manifestations of God nor authoritative figures of the Faith. Let’s ask the real questions. If the 9-pointed star is NOT the symbol of the Bahá’í Faith and not a part of its teachings, why are we continuing with its usage? Also, if the pentagram is the symbol of the Faith, why isn’t that being used? Would a Bahá’í accept something from a Bahá’í authority (whether a Central Figure or the Universal House of Justice), or any lay ordinary Bahá’í?
The Báb wrote many tablets and prayers in the form of a pentagram. According to `Abdu’l-Bahá’, the Báb produced 360 derivatives of the word Bahá’ in the shape of a pentagram in the Shikastah script (A Traveler’s Narrative 42; see also The Dawn-Breakers 505). The pentagram, in the Bahá’í Faith is called Haykal. Haykal, in Arabic, means “temple” or “sanctuary”. The Báb wrote tablets addressed to men in the form of a Haykal, and to women in the form of a Dá’irah. In Arabic, Dá’irah means “circle”. In the Persian Bayán, the Báb refers to men as the possessors of the Haykal (ulu’l-hayákil), and women the possessors of the Dá’irah (ulu’l-dawá’ir) (IV:4-5) [courtesy of http://www.bahai-library.com/bab_daira_haykal_1]. Both the Haykal and the Dá’irah were used as talismans, and as some form of supernatural protection. The Báb also wrote a prayer of protection in the form of a pentagram (Selections from the Writings of the Báb 221-222).
Bahá’u’lláh wrote a tablet called Súratu’l-Haykal, or “Súrah of the Temple” (available in The Summons of the Lord of Hosts). In the Súratu’l-Haykal, Bahá’u’lláh says that the Haykal symbolizes the human temple, and the Manifestation of God (paragraphs 73-74). It is ordained as “the source of all existence in the new creation” (13). It is the gatherer of all created things in heaven and on earth (18). It is a sign of God’s majesty, and an emblem of His Cause (36). It is a representative of God’s most excellent titles, august attributes, manifold virtues, grace and bounty (72).
The Haykal is represented by members and limbs of the human body, and each symbolizing some attribute, feature or characteristic of God. Bahá’u’lláh mentions namely 7:
- Eyes as God’s Beauty (19)
- Ears as God’s Voice (20)
- Tongue as God’s Name (21)
- Hands as God’s Will and Command (31)
- Feet as God’s Path and Cause (61)
- Breast as God’s Mirror and Reflection (64)
- Heart as God’s Knowledge (67).
The word Haykal is composed of 4 Arabic letters: Há’ (37), Yá’ (38), Káf (39), and Lám (46). Their numerical values are 5, 10, 20, and 30 respectively. Há’ symbolizes the Arabic word Huwiyyah (Quintessence). Yá’ symbolizes Qadír (Almighty), of which Yá’ is the 3rd letter. Káf symbolizes Karím (All-Bountiful). Lám symbolizes Faḍl (Grace), of which Lám is the 3rd letter.
`Abdu’l-Bahá’ designed the Ringstone Symbol as a symbol and emblem of the Faith. In the Ringstone Symbol, there are 2 Haykals, and they represent the Manifestations of God for this Day and Age: Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb.
The Master also made it clear that the Manifestation of God and the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár represent each other. In The Promulgation of Universal Peace, `Abdu’l-Bahá’ refers to both the Manifestation of God and the temple as “collective centers”, and that “the real Collective Centers are the Manifestations of God, of Whom the church or temple is a symbol and expression. That is to say, the Manifestation of God is the real divine temple and Collective Center of which the outer church is but a symbol” (163).
The words “Haykal” and “Huwiyyah” both begin with the Arabic letter Há’, whose numerical value is 5. In Bahá’í cosmology, which is based on Súfí cosmology, there 5 major realms of existence. Bahá’u’lláh mentions these worlds in detail in His Lawḥ-i-Kullu’ṭ-Ṭa‘ám or “Tablet of All Food” (which hasn’t been translated yet). 4 of the 5 worlds are briefly mentioned in “The Valley of Unity” from The Seven Valleys. They are:
- Háhút – Realm of the unknowable Essence of God
- Láhút – Heavenly Court
- Jabarút – Empyrean Heaven
- Malakút – Angelic Kingdom
- Násút – Mortal World
Note # 28 of the Aqdas says that the letter Há’ has been given spiritual meanings in the Writings, among which is a symbol of the Essence of God. God’s realm, Háhút, also begins with the letter Há’. It’s interesting how the terms “Háhút” and “Huwiyyah” are interconnected due to God’s unknowable Essence. The maximum number of Intercalary Days in the Badí‘ calendar are 5, and they exist during leap years. Hence, the Intercalary Days are called the Ayyámu’l- Há’ (the Days of Há’).
`Abdu’l-Bahá’ mentions, in Some Answered Questions, that there are 5 divisions of the spirit:
- Vegetable spirit
- Animal spirit
- Human spirit
- Heavenly spirit
- Holy Spirit.
The essence of all numerology, of single-digit numbers, is that 1 and 9 are very extreme numbers; 2 and 8 are regular extreme numbers; 3 and 7 are moderately extreme numbers; 4 and 6 are moderate numbers; and 5 is the balanced number. So, between 1 and 9, number 5 is right in the middle. In the Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh says: “seek ye the Middle Way which is the remembrance of Me…Thus informeth you He Who is the Omniscient, He Who is aware” (44). It’s interesting that the concept of the Middle Way is a core teaching of Buddhism, and that the Middle Way is the path to liberation and of wisdom.
The pentagram is also the symbol of Paganism, mainly Neo-Pagan religions like Wicca. It represents the 5 elements of nature: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit (also called Ether, Akasha, or Sky). 4 of the 5 elements represent the 4 cardinal directions: Earth as north, Fire as south, Air as east, and Water as west. Spirit most likely represents the center. These elements also symbolize the 4 major seasons of the year: Earth as winter, Air as spring, Fire as summer, and Water as autumn. Earth and Water symbolize the feminine energy of the Spirit, and Air and Fire the male. In various cultures and traditions, the pentagram symbolizes the 5 senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
And what about the pentacle? A pentacle is basically a pentagram (Haykal) within a circle (Dá’irah). The circle symbolizes unity, wholeness, interconnectedness, and universality. The pentacle is an overall manifestation of the element Earth. Like in the Bahá’í Faith, the pentacle is also a symbol representing man. This symbol is a very ancient one.
And what about Satanism? Satanism is merely a Judeo-Christian heresy, and its modern version is a corruption of the occult and Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy of nihilism. Its history is debated. The pentacle that they use is an inverted one (with the head pointing down and the 2 legs pointing up) to represent man’s lower, base and carnal nature, while the upright pentacle represents man’s higher, intellectual, divine and spiritual nature.
Since I mentioned something about Paganism and Wicca, I need to mention that from my religious experience and research, there are 2 types of religion: logical and natural. The logical or revelation-based religions are those dependent on the word (“logos”). Natural or nature-based based religions are those that have more to do with action and experience, and not the word. Pagan religions are nature-based religions, and they’re not revelation-dependent. Hence, Bahá’í Faith is a logical religion, and Wicca is a natural religion.
Do I wear a pentacle or merely a pentagram? I wear a pentacle, and not merely a pentagram. Bahá’u’lláh mentions various times in His Writings the religion of God is one. In the Aqdas, He further adds that the Faith of God is “changeless…eternal in the past, eternal in the future” (182). This makes full sense because the pentacle or Haykal has been used, by Pagans, as a religious symbol since very ancient times. Báb and Bahá’u’lláh revived, reaffirmed and adapted its use. So, the pentacle or Haykal is a uniting factor between Bahá’ís and Pagans since it is the common symbol. Therefore, it is the uniting factor between logical and natural religions, and, hence, the religion of God is one.
Now to answer the main question, by putting everything into perspective from both Bahá’í and Pagan contexts, I wear the pentacle or Haykal because:
- It is the symbol of unity between Bahá’ís and Neo-Pagans, and hence, between revelation-based and nature-based religions. Therefore, I practice and promote the Bahá’í principle of religious unity.
- The pentagram (Haykal) represents the male, and the circle (Dá’irah) female. Therefore, I practice and promote the Bahá’í principle of gender equality.
- The pentagram as a whole represents Earth, and the circle unity and universality. Hence, global unity and the Earth as one country and entity. Also, this manifests humanity’s love for Earth. Therefore, I practice and promote the Bahá’í teachings of cosmopolitanism.
- The pentagram as a whole represents man, and the circle unity. Therefore, I practice and promote the Bahá’í principle of oneness of humanity.
- The pentagram is everything that Bahá’u’lláh has explained in His Súratu’l-Haykal, and that it symbolizes the Manifestation of God as the temple and sanctuary.
- The pentagram represents the physical temple or Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, and the circle the universe, i.e. humanity. Thus, the temple unites humanity, and it is the place for humanity to receive protection and peace.
- The pentagram represents the Manifestation of God, and the circle the universe. Therefore, the Manifestation of God is the center of the universe, the Qiblah.
- The pentagram is reaffirmed by `Abdu’l-Bahá’ as symbolizing the Manifestation of God. He put 2 Haykals in His design of the Ringstone Symbol to represent Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb.
- `Abdu’l-Bahá’ clarified that the Manifestation of God and the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár represent each other, and that the Manifestation of God is the real divine temple, of Whom the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár is the symbol and expression. Therefore, the word “Haykal” can be used as the common term for both the Manifestation of God and the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, as they both are “collective centers”.
- The pentagram may represent the 5 realms of existence in Bahá’í cosmology, which Bahá’u’lláh explains in more detail in His Lawḥ-i-Kullu’ṭ-Ṭa‘ám.
- The pentagram may represent the 5 divisions of the spirit, as explained by `Abdu’l-Bahá’.
- The numerical value of the letter Há’ is 5, and the pentagram is a 5-pointed star. The words “Haykal”, “Huwiyyah” and “Háhút” all begin with the letter Há’, and that the word Haykal refers to the pentagram, the Manifestation of God, and to any physical temple. Both words “Huwiyyah” and “Háhút” have to do with God’s unknowable Essence. Also, among the spiritual meanings of the letter Há’ is the symbol of the Essence of God. Therefore, the pentagram or Haykal may overall represent Quintessence.
- The Haykal may represent the 5 Intercalary Days, of the Badí‘ calendar, during leap years. Hence, those days are called the Ayyámu’l- Há’ (the Days of Há’).
- The Haykal represents the Middle Way, the path to liberation and of wisdom.
- The Haykal symbolizes perfect balance because 5 is the most balanced single-digit number between 1 and 9 as it is right in the middle.
- The pentagram represents the 5 elements of nature, and the circle symbolizes unity, wholeness, interconnectedness and universality. Therefore, the pentacle or Haykal represents and promotes a relationship of unity with nature.
- The pentagram represents the 5 senses, and the circle unity. Therefore, the pentacle symbolizes unity of the senses, and, hence, conscience.
- The pentacle represents the higher self of human nature.
- The Haykal had been recognized and reaffirmed as the symbol of the Faith of God by the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá’, and Shoghi Effendi. Also, the Haykal is equally recognized by the Universal House of Justice. So, that’s 13 people in total. They are all Authorities of the Faith. That’s pretty interesting because the numerical value of the word “Haykal” is 65, and that number divided by 13 gives you 5. Therefore, it is an authentic and a lawful symbol.
And what about the 9-pointed star or nonagram? The 9-pointed star is also called the Star of Goliath (http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Nonagram.html). I find this pretty interesting. Goliath was the arch-enemy of David, and was killed by him. The Star of David represents Judaism, a religion recognized by the Bahá’í Faith. I wonder whom did the 9-pointed star represent during David’s time. Most probably Goliath’s followers. As mentioned earlier, the 9-pointed star is NOT the symbol of the Faith, it is NOT a part of the Bahá’í teachings either, and that it didn’t come from any authoritative Bahá’í sources, but from some ordinary individual Bahá’ís. Therefore, I reject the 9-pointed star as it’s unauthentic and invalid.
I’d be very happy when the Haykal is reinstated as the official symbol, and totally replacing the 9-pointed star. Pentagrams rock and rule!