The discussion of such a deep and important topic deserves a more complete
study than ours. However we shall do our best to set forth in the following
pages some fundamental concepts.
The Manifestations of God in the history of mankind
From a historical point of view, the Manifestations of God are a small
number of famous personages, whose existence is sometimes questioned, but whose
traces are so evident in human history that no unbiased observer can fail to
acknowledge them. They are the founders of the great revealed religions: Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha,
Krishna, Zoroaster and, more recently, the Báb and
We will now study these extraordinary personages in their common historical
aspects, so that we may understand them in a theological and philosophical
perspective. They are men of the most dissimilar social backgrounds: princes
such as Buddha and Bahá'u'lláh, priests like Zoroaster, merchants
such as Muhammad and the Báb, craftsmen like Jesus, courtiers such as
Moses. None of them attended any school, or availed himself of worldly power.
They announced to their fellow-men a message in the name of a Creator God Whose
mouthpiece they proclaimed themselves. Their message has always been indicative
of the importance of rising above certain limitations, which they referred to
as earthly, so that an ethical-theoretical goal, which they referred to as
spiritual, might be attained. They have thus urged mankind to accept hardships
and renunciation so that these goals may be achieved, and promised as a reward
or as a chastisement life or death of the spirit respectively.
In the beginning, a mere handful of God-intoxicated disciples follows this new
Master, giving rise to a scandal among the right-thinkers, observant of the
traditional rules -- such a scandal as to raise storms of persecution against
the Manifestation and His followers. However, despite their often violent
deaths (e.g. Jesus and the Báb) and the murder of many of their early
followers (martyrs) their ideas, which are at first strongly opposed,
eventually, as they show their power of renewal, transform society and usher in
a new civilization.
Their teachings therefore, unlike the teachings of philosophers, conquer
mankind through their intrinsic power and, when they are put into practice,
prove themselves fruitful and give birth to flourishing civilizations. No
civilization, including modern Western civilization, is known that was not born
through such a process.
However, in the course of time these teachings lose their effectiveness amongst
men and -- according to the universal law of evolution -- having yielded their
fruit they decline and die. It is then that a new Manifestation appears
announcing a new message and new teachings so that mankind may achieve a new
spiritual life. The cycle of the ages -- an expression of the never-ending
`circle of existence' -- proceeds in its
eternal motion even in the case of historical religions which -- like any other
phenomenal reality -- are born, grow, yield their fruit, decline and die.
These personages are fundamentally different from the great heroes of history.
They are characterized by two distinctive features:
Their teachings -- set forth by words and mostly in the form of one
or more holy texts -- represent the essence of such spiritual laws as are fit
for mankind in its specific stage of growth. In fact, when mankind complies
with them, its spiritual, intellectual and social progress is realized. They
are the `science of reality', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `the greatest bestowal
of God'; and He adds: `... the sphere of the divine teachings is boundless...
without the teachings of God the world of humanity is like the animal kingdom',
which anyhow `is not cap-able of apprehending them'. In fact, these teachings
`are the bestowals specialized for man', `above all other source of instruction
and development for man', `the basis of all civilization and progress in the
history of mankind', `a power above and
beyond the powers of nature', `a power' that can `change this
black darkness into light.'
Their spiritual power -- which they bestow upon anyone who of his
own free will and consciously identifies himself with those teachings -- is
that force through which man can be transformed into a creature endowed with
the spiritual virtues of the world of the Kingdom and capable of great
spiritual attainments in the world.
Their threefold reality
What is this power that enables them to bestow upon mankind such
teachings and spiritual forces? The Bahá'í texts maintain that
they convey to mankind `the revelation of the Soul of God', in other words they are the visible expression
of the spiritual reality of the world of the Kingdom.
This spiritual reality, the First Emanation of the Divine Reality, is
reflected in the human reality of these personages, like the sun is reflected
in a perfect mirror. They are therefore characterized by a threefold
Material: that is, their bodies, which -- like all human bodies -- are
bound to be born, to grow up, to develop and to die.
Human: that is, their souls, their individualities. In this regard
Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Everyone of them is a mirror of God...
All else besides them are to be regarded as mirrors capable of reflecting the
glory of these Manifestations Who are themselves the Primary Mirrors of the
Divine Being...'. He writes moreover that the soul of the Manifestation of
God is `a pure and stainless Soul'99 and `Abdu'l-Bahá
explains that it is `a perfect soul', `like a mirror wherein the Sun of Reality
is reflected... a perfect expression of the Sun'.
When the soul of the Manifestation is compared to God, it is like a perfect
mirror reflecting the divine rays; when it is compared to mankind, that soul
occupies a quite different position. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... the
individual reality of the Manifestation of God is a holy reality, and for that
reason it is sanctified and, in that which concerns its nature and quality, is
distinguished from all other things...'.
In this context, He likens this perfect Soul to the sun, which is the direct
source of its shining rays, and human souls to the moon, which merely reflects
These souls are different from human souls also in another respect: `The
Prophets are pre-existent. The soul or spirit of the individual comes into
being with the conception of the physical body. The Prophets, unlike us, are
pre-existent. The soul of Christ existed in the spiritual world before His
birth in this world. We cannot imagine what that world is like, so words are
inadequate to picture His state of being...'.
Also the Manifestations of God have a `rational soul, which is the human
reality', or `human spirit', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, and they `... share it
with all mankind'. However, He explains that the degree of perception typical
of the Manifestations of God is not the same rational perception which is
typical of human souls, but a `universal divine mind' transcending human
knowledge, in that it is `a conscious power, not a power of investigation and
of research'. Such power `is the special attribute of the Holy Manifestations
and of the Dawning-Places of Prophethood; a ray of this light falls upon the
mirrors of the hearts of the righteous'.
Therefore human knowledge is but the reflection of a ray, when compared to
such a sun as is the knowledge of the Manifestation of God.
Moreover, in the station of their individualities `the Divine Manifestations
are so many different mirrors, because they have a special individuality... It
is clear that the reality of Christ is different from that of Moses.'
Nevertheless `that which is reflected in the mirrors is the one sun', therefore it is easy to understand how,
though the Manifestations of God differ from each other in many respects, yet
they are essentially one and the same.
Divine: that is the Word of God, the Logos. This reality has neither a
beginning nor an end; it is eternal, yet it is inferior to God, because it was
created by Him. `... this third state is alone partaken of by the divine
messengers, although great saints have attained extraordinary pre-eminence and
reflect the splendour of the sun,'
These three aspects of the reality of the Manifestation of God are described by
`Abdu'l-Bahá through the following metaphor: their material nature is as
a niche, their human nature is as the lamp within the niche, their divine
nature as the light which emanates from the lamp.
Therefore, since the Manifestations of God are endowed with a `divine universal
mind', they know the essence of things, and not just their attributes. Their
knowledge of the essence of things is likened by `Abdu'l-Bahá to the
self-consciousness of human beings: `it is a conscious power, not a power of
investigation and of research', He says.
As they are endowed with such perfect knowledge-consciousness of the world,
they know also `the essential connection which proceeds from the realities of
things', which `Abdu'l-Bahá
defines as `nature' in its meaning of will of God. Therefore they can convey to
mankind as much of their knowledge as mankind can profit from in its specific
time and circumstances, a knowledge which may well be defined as `science of
As to their spiritual power, it is an emanation of the world of the Kingdom
whose Manifestation they are. In fact, Bahá'u'lláh writes that
they are `the vehicle for the transmission of the Grace of the Divinity
itself'; and `Abdu'l-Bahá
explains: `The greatest power of the Holy Spirit exists in the Divine
Manifestations of the Truth. Through the power of the Spirit the Heavenly
Teaching has been brought into the world of humanity... everlasting life has
come to the children of men... the Divine Glory has shone from East to West
and... will the divine virtues of humanity become manifest.'
The Essence of God and the Manifestations of God
The relation between the Essence of God and the Manifestations of God
falls within the concept of emanation which has been explained in the second
chapter of this book. The Essence of God is sanctified above anything else. It
is Its active attributes that shine in the world of the Kingdom and appear in
the human world through the Manifestations of God. Therefore, the
Manifestations are not incarnations of God, nor do they manifest His Essence, from which they are
They are an emanation of God -- His First Emanation. `Abdu'l-Bahá
explains that they `... are as mirrors which have acquired illumination from
the Sun of Truth, but the Sun does not descend from its high zenith and does
not effect entrance within the mirror. In truth, this mirror has attained
complete polish and purity until the utmost capacity of reflection has been
developed in it; therefore, the Sun of Reality with its fullest effulgence and
splendour is revealed therein.'
The Manifestation of God is, therefore, the visible expression of that same
spirit which creates, moves and guides the entire universe and which manifests
itself in a Being who ex-presses man's material, human and divine natures in
their perfection, so that mankind may freely recognize him and of his own free
will submit to his laws, thus undergoing -- by virtue of those spiritual forces
the Manifestation bestows -- such a transformation as is the essence of human
spiritual growth or progress.
Though the Manifestations of God are powerful and yield absolute power over
mankind, yet they are wholly submitted unto God and have no will of their own.
Bahá'u'lláh refers to Himself as `but a leaf which the winds
of the Will of Thy Lord... have stirred'.
And elsewhere He describes His Own station thus: `This station is the
station in which one dieth to himself and liveth in God. Divinity, whenever I
mention it, indicateth My complete and absolute self-effacement. This is the
station in which I have no control over mine own weal or woe, nor over my life
nor over my resurrection.'
The lives of the Manifestations of God -- beset as they are with trials and
hardships -- are the evidence of their utmost submission to the will of God.
Endowed with the power of omnipotence as they are, they accept a life of
humility, giving the highest and purest example of such voluntary submission
unto the will of God as is their foremost teaching.
In the Bahá'í texts the Manifestations of God are given
Prophet, that is one who speaks in the name of God;
Messenger, representative or apostle of God, that is one who is sent
by God into the world so that he may bestow upon mankind the divine bounties of
the world of the Kingdom;
Word of God, inasmuch as the Manifestations of God have the capacity
of giving perfect expression to the spiritual meanings of reality, whereas
human beings, limited as they are, have not such a capacity and therefore are
referred to as `letters';
Sun of Truth or of Reality. In relation to the world of mankind they
are like the sun in relation to the earth. They are the only source of life,
enlightenment and growth for mankind, as the sun for the earth.
Bahá'u'lláh writes: `... if for one moment the tide of His
mercy and grace were to be withheld from the world, it would completely
perish,' and `Abdu'l-Bahá
ex-plains: `The outer sun is a sign or symbol of the inner and ideal Sun of
Truth, the Word of God... a function of the sun is the revelation of the
mysteries and creative purposes hidden within the phenomenal world.' This Sun
`gives forth the light of religion and bestows the life of the spirit, imbues
humanity with archetypal virtues and confers eternal splendors'; `its lights
are the lights of reality';
Perfect Man. The Manifestation of God is perfect in comparison with
other men. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Upon the inmost reality of
each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and
made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of
man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes,
and made it a mirror of His own Self.' In the metaphor presented by
Bahá'u'lláh, the Manifestations of God, in comparison with other
men, are `the Primary Mirrors'.
Divine Physician. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Regard the
world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, hath
been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and
maladies...'; the Manifestation of God is that `skilled... all-powerful
and inspired Physician' who gives the `remedy' fit for its
In the same vein, `Abdu'l-Bahá explains: `Every divine Manifestation
is the very life of the world, and the skilled physician of each ailing soul.
The world of man is sick, and that competent Physician knoweth the cure,
arising as He doth with teachings, counsels and admonishments that are the
remedy for every pain, the healing balm to every wound'.
In the Bahá'í texts the Manifestations of God are also given many
other names which describe their attributes: a deeper study of such a topic is
beyond the scope of this book.
Relations between the Manifestations of God
In the Bahá'í texts, the Manifestations of God are viewed,
in their mutual relations, in two different perspectives: The station of
unity, that is `of pure abstraction and essential unity': in this station `they all have but one
purpose; their secret is the same secret', writes Bahá'u'lláh. Therefore, at the
times of their Dispensation each one of
them is the depository of the `Most Great Infallibility'37
and `to none is given the right to question His authority'; whosoever
does so deprives himself of any possibility of spiritual growth, like a tree
shut out from the sun. In this respect, `Whoso maketh the slightest possible
difference between their persons, their words, their messages, their acts and
manners, hath indeed disbelieved in God,' writes Bahá'u'lláh.
The station of distinction. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Each
and every-one of them hath been the Bearer of a distinct Message' of a
`divinely revealed Book', and has shown forth special qualities. In this
station, therefore, they are different from each other. According to the
Bahá'í texts, in fact, divine revelation through the
Manifestations of God is an eternal phenomenon. Bahá'u'lláh
writes: `... the Manifestations of His Divine glory and the Day Springs of
eternal holiness have been sent down from time immemorial, and been
commissioned to summon mankind to the one true God. That the names of some of
them are forgotten and the record of their lives lost is to be attributed to
the disturbances and changes that have overtaken the world.'
And `Abdu'l-Bahá explains: `... the Kingdom of God is an ancient
sovereignty... it is not an accidental sovereignty...' and there-fore there
have always been Manifestations of God coming to mankind. `... [T]here have
been many holy Manifestations of God. One thousand years ago, two hundred
thousand years ago, one million years ago, the bounty of God was flowing, the
radiance of God was shining, the dominion of God was existing.'
The Manifestations of God come one after the other, each one of them
representing a different stage in a progressive phenomenon. The
Bahá'í texts explain that the law of evolution operates also in
the succession of the Manifestations of God amongst men. In the divine
revelation, there are evolutionary cycles whereby a fruit appears, through
successive stages, from a seed. Each of the Manifestations of God is a stage in
this process that Bahá'u'lláh calls `the chain of successive
Revelations' and the teachings they bring are progressive. In this regard
Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Know of a certainty that in every
Dispensation the light of Divine Revelation hath been vouchsafed unto men in
direct proportion to their spiritual capacity'; and moreover: `Should
the Word be allowed to release suddenly all the energies latent within it, no
man could sustain the weight of so mighty a Revelation'. Elsewhere He
writes: `Their Revelation may be likened unto the light of the moon that
sheddeth its radiance upon the earth. Though every time it appeareth, it
revealeth a fresh measure of its brightness, yet its inherent splendour can
never diminish, nor can its light suffer extinction.'
`Abdu'l-Bahá likens progressive revelation to human spirit appearing
with different power in the embryo, the newborn baby, and so on through the
various stages of human life, or to the spirit of growth which is present in
the seed but manifests itself in different ways in leaves and fruits; He says:
`... revelation is progressive and continuous. It never ceases. It is necessary
that the reality of Divinity with all its perfections and attributes should
become resplendent in the human world.'
Revelations come into the world one after the other, even as springtimes follow
one another, year after year. `Abdu'l-Bahá develops the metaphor of the
Sun of Reality as the Manifestation of God and says: `The coming of a
Manifestation of God is the season of spiritual spring'; and elsewhere: `...
just as the solar cycle has its four seasons, the cycle of the Sun of Reality
has its distinct and successive periods.' These periods can be compared
respectively to springtime, when the new spiritual era begins; to summertime,
when the civilization ushered in by the Manifestation of God has attained its
greatest flourishing; to autumn, when its fruits are gathered, but at the same
time its decline begins; and to winter, when there is `the death and
disappearance of the divine growth and extinction of the light and love of
God', whereas only `dogmas and blind imitations' remain. At that time `...
again the cycle begins and a new springtime appears'.
`Abdu'l-Bahá explains the same concept in different words: `From the
days of Adam until today, the religions of God have been made manifest, one
following the other, and each one of them fulfilled its due function, revived
mankind, and provided education and enlightenment. They freed the people from
the darkness of the world of nature and ushered them into the brightness of the
Kingdom. As each succeeding Faith and Law became revealed, it remained for some
centuries a richly fruitful tree and to it was committed the happiness of
humankind. However, as the centuries rolled by, it aged, it flourished no more
and put forth no fruit, wherefore was it then made young
Elsewhere thus He ex-plains the origin of materialism: `When the sun sets, it
is the time for bats to fly. They come forth because they are creatures of the
night. When the light of religion becomes darkened, the materialists appear.
They are the bats of the night. The decline of religion is their time of
activity; they seek the shadows when the world is darkened and clouds have
spread over it.'
Through these explanations the reasons may be understood why the progress of
civilizations cannot be described as a continuous ascending line, but rather as
a discontinuous ascending line. E. Laszlo acutely writes: `The historical
record... gives good reasons to believe that societies... do not change at all
times and in small increments. Rather, the mode of change appears saltatory and
intermittent... progressive yet discontinuous...'.
These periods of transformation may be compared to that which the
Bahá'í texts call `Day of God'47 or, through a
metaphor, `the season of the spiritual springtime', that is `the coming of a
Manifestation of God.'
The periods of stagnation are the phases of religious de-cline, of the triumph
of fanaticism which in its turn is the direct cause of the victory of
materialistic forces, which find their origin and the confirmation of their
theories in the mistakes perpetrated by the followers of religions. After all,
the judgement pronounced by Karl Marx against religion refers to religious
phenomena studied during their spiritual winter.
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the differences between them, all the
Manifestations of God manifest all the names and attributes of God. `They
only differ, writes Bahá'u'lláh, in the intensity of their
revelation and the comparative potency of their light.'
The Bahá'í texts are very emphatic on this point: whoever does
not believe in the oneness of the Manifestations of God does not believe in the
oneness of God.
The Manifestations of God have a twofold purpose: to promote the
spiritual growth of individuals and to further the progress of
Promoting the spiritual growth of individuals: `Abdu'l-Bahá
says: `God hath sent forth the Prophets for the purpose of quickening the soul
of man into higher and divine recognitions'; `to train the souls of humanity
and free them from the thraldom of natural instincts and physical
tendencies'; `to teach and en-lighten
man, to explain to him the mystery of the Power of the Holy Spirit; to enable
him to reflect the light, and so, in his turn, to be the source of guidance to
others'; and, in the words of
Bahá'u'lláh, `to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within
the mine of their true and inmost selves'. In this sense,
Bahá'u'lláh compares the revelation to the mythical elixir: the
former changes copper into gold, the latter transforms the animal nature of man
into a divine nature.
Bahá'u'lláh writes concisely that the purpose of the
Manifestations of God is `to endue all men with righteousness and
understanding, so that peace and tranquillity may be firmly established amongst
And `Abdu'l-Bahá says: "... the wisdom of the Manifestation of God is
directed toward the establishing of the bond of a love which is
The first purpose fulfils also the second: furthering the progress
of society or, in the words of Bahá'u'lláh, `to carry forward
an ever-advancing civilization',
or, in the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá, `... unifying humanity and
establishing universal peace'. In this sense `Abdu'l-Bahá says also:
`The Prophets have founded divine civilization.'
Therefore, the Manifestations of God are the great Educators of mankind, which
is in need of them because `the world of existence is but a jungle of disorder
and confusion, a state of nature producing nothing but fruitless, useless
They are sometimes likened to `the heart [of] the body of the universe...
Through his spiritual faculty he receives the teachings and bounties of the
Almighty God and then imparts them to the world through material means in which
he shares with other men'.
As their religions have a twofold purpose, two aspects can be identified in
them: `one, the essential or fundamental, the other, the material or
accidental. The first aspect... concerns the ethical development and spiritual
progress of mankind, the awakening of potential human susceptibilities and the
descent of the divine bestowals. These ordinances are changeless, essential,
eternal. The second function... deals with material conditions, the laws of
human intercourse and social regulation. These are subject to change and
transformation in accordance with the time, place and condition.'
In the light of all these qualities and functions, we may well understand the
following exalted words Bahá'u'lláh wrote describing the
Manifestations of God: `It is God's supreme testimony, the clearest evidence
of His truth, the sign of His consummate bounty, the token of His all-
encompassing mercy, the proof of His most loving providence, the symbol of His
most perfect grace.'
We understand also why it is so vitally important for men to recognize the
Manifestation and to submit wholeheartedly to his guidance.
Through what signs is mankind enabled to identify these Perfect Men,
these Unique Teachers? Thus Bahá'u'lláh answers such an important
question: `The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His
own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to
recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath
revealed as proofs of His reality and truth. This is, verily, an evidence of
His tender mercy unto men. He hath endowed every soul with the capacity to
recognize the signs of God.'62
Thus `Abdu'l-Bahá explains this important issue: `One of the proofs is
through the fulfillment of former prophecies, the second proofs are the
creative words and phrases which salute the hearts of humanity, the third are
their deeds and the fourth are their teachings.' `Abdu'l-Bahá does not
seem to attach great importance to prophecies, very difficult to interpret and
very easy to refute. He does not ascribe a great value to their miracles,
`convincing to a limited number only'.
He attaches the greatest importance to their deeds, to their teachings and to
the power of their words. Regarding their deeds, `Abdu'l-Bahá writes:
`... the Divine Educator must teach by word and also by deed, thus revealing
to all the straight pathway of truth'. Among their deeds He mentions
particularly their `strength and endurance'64 under tests
and trials. Regarding their teachings and the power of their words, He says:
`The proof of the validity of a Manifestation of God is the penetration and
potency of His Word, the cultivation of heavenly attributes in the lives and
hearts of His followers and the bestowal of divine education upon the world of
humanity. This is absolute proof. The world is a school in which there must be
Teachers of the Word of God.' Else-where He says: `If we wish to discover
whether anyone of these Souls or Messengers was in reality a Prophet of God, we
must investigate the facts surrounding His life and history, and the first
point of our investigation will be the education He be-stowed upon mankind.'
And moreover: `It is evident, then, that the proofs of the validity and
inspiration of a Prophet of God are the deeds of beneficent accomplishment and
greatness emanating from Him. If He proves to be instrumental in the elevation
and betterment of mankind, He is undoubtedly a valid and heavenly Messenger.'
And finally: `The essential requirement and qualification of Prophethood is the
training and the guidance of the people.'
This transformation produced by virtue of the influence exercised by the
Manifestation of God upon His followers is such that some of them go so far as
to offer their lives, rather than recant their faith: these are the martyrs,
the pride of all revealed religions.
History, therefore, is -- once more -- the tribunal which will judge, by
demonstrating his meanness, anyone who may unduly lay claim to prophethood,
whereas the fruits manifest in the lives of the followers of any true divine
Messenger and in the characters of the civilization he has ushered in are clear
evidence of his truth. When Christ was asked by His disciples how they could
distinguish the false from the true prophet, He answered: `Ye shall know them
by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?'
The Manifestations of God are seemingly as frail creatures as any human
being, ever wholly deprived of any worldly power; and yet they are the bearers
of teachings which are really `iconoclastic' in their disruptive influence on time-honoured
traditions, traditions which in the long run have mostly turned into
prejudices. No wonder, then, that they have always been rejected and persecuted
by their contemporaries, or that at the beginning it is so difficult for most
people to accept their teachings and recognize their station. On the other
hand, that is part of the rules of the game of human spiritual growth. It is a
process that rests upon a free and conscious choice between a concrete and
alluring, sensible reality, and a difficultly perceived and appreciated,
spiritual reality. In fact how could such a choice be free, and such a process
achieve its educational purpose, if the signs of the Manifestations of God were
evident and attractive to human eyes, i.e. to that same animal nature that must
be conquered and overcome? Or if those signs were easily grasped by human
minds, which are requested to independently put themselves at the service of
the Manifestation? It is the human soul's attraction towards the world of the
Kingdom that, despite all else, must be the guide of human beings, so that they
may over-come any obstacle raised by the natal self, with its natural emotions,
and by the mind itself, through the prejudices it may easily fall prey to, and
may recognize the shining reality of the Manifestation of God.
 Regarding the concept of the Manifestation
of God see J. R. Cole, `The Concept of the Manifestation in The
Bahá'í Writings', in Bahá'í Studies, IX and
A. Bausani, `La Nascita di Bahá'u'lláh,' in Opinioni
Bahá'í, VIII, no. 4, p.3.
 For a deeper study of this topic see
J. Mahmudi, `The Institutionalization of Religion', in World Order, XI,
no.1, pp.16- 25.
 Regarding the topic of the birth of
civilizations, see `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, pp.283-4.
 Bahá'u'lláh writes:
`Know thou of a certainty that the Unseen can in no wise incarnate His
Essence and reveal it unto men. He is, and hath been, immensely exalted beyond
all that can either be recounted or perceived... He Who is everlastingly hidden
from the eyes of men can never be known except through His Manifestation, and
His Manifestation can adduce no greater proof of the truth of His Mission than
the proof of His own Person.' (Gleanings, p.49.) He writes moreover:
`However, let none construe these utterances to be anthropomorphism, nor see
in them the descent of the worlds of God into the grades of the creatures; nor
should they lead thy Eminence to such assumptions. For God is, in His Essence,
holy above ascent and descent, entrance and exit; He hath through all eternity
been free of the attributes of human creatures and ever will remain so. No man
hath ever known Him; no soul hath ever found the pathway to His Being.'
(Seven Valleys, pp.22-3.)
 In this regard Bahá'u'lláh
writes: `Ten thousand Prophets, each a Moses, are thunderstruck upon the
Sinai of their search at God's forbidding voice, "Thou shall never behold Me!";
whilst a myriad of Messengers, each as great as Jesus, stand dismayed upon
their heavenly thrones by the interdiction: "Mine Essence thou shall never
apprehend!".' And moreoever: `When I contemplate, O My God, the
relationship that bindeth Me to Thee, I am moved to proclaim to all created
things "verily, I am God"; and when I consider my own self, lo, I find it
coarser than clay.' (Bahá'u'lláh, in Shoghi Effendi, The
World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p.113.)
`Abdu'l-Bahá says: `By the "word" we mean that creation with its
infinite forms is like unto letters and the individual members of humanity are
likewise like unto letters. A letter individually has no meaning, no
independent significance, but the station of Christ is the station of the word.
That is why Christ is the "word" -- a complete significance. The universal
bestowal of divinity is manifest in Christ. It is obvious that the evolution of
other souls is approximate, or only a part of the whole, but the perfections of
the Christ are universal, or the whole. The reality of Christ is the collective
centre of all the independent virtues and infinite significances.' (Divine
Promulgation, pp.74, 94. The
locution Sun of Reality or of Truth is often used to indicate the world of the
Kingdom in its essence. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `... the Sun of Truth
dwelleth in a sky to which no soul hath any access, and which no mind can
reach, and He is far beyon the comprehension of all creatures. Yet the Holy
Manifestations of God are even as a looking-glass, burnished and without stain,
which gathereth streams of light out of that Sun, and then scattereth the glory
over the rest of creation. In that polished surface, the Sun with all Its
majesty standeth clearly revealed'. (Selections, p.50.)
 For a meditation on the names of the
Manifestations of God see R. Rabbani, The Desire of the World.
She writes: `We now come to a selection from the passages of
Bahá'u'lláh's writings which might be defined as the essence of
theology, which consists for the most part of the titles of God and the titles
of Bahá'u'lláh Himself.' (ibid. p.163.) She then proceeds with
that which she describes as a `not complete... nevertheless a comprehensive and
impressive selection of the gem-like metaphors and phrases He has used' to
convey such a difficult concept, and which may be suggested as an effective
starting point in studying and meditating upon this important theme.
 `Dispensation' is intended as a religious
system as a stage in a progressive revelation.
37Tablets, p.108. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Know
that the term "Infallibility" hath numerous meanings and divers stations. In
one sense it is applicable to One Whom God hath made immune from error.
Similarly it is applied to every soul whom God hath guarded against sin,
transgression, rebellion, impiety, disbelief and the like. However, the Most
Great Infalliblity is confined to One Whose station is immeasurably exalted
beyond ordinances or prohibitions and is sanctified from errors and omissions.
Indeed He is a Light which is not followed by darkness and a Truth not
overtaken by error. Were He to pronounce water to be wine or heaven to be earth
or light to be fire, He speaketh the truth and no doubt would there be about
it; and unto none is given the right to question His authority or to say why or
wherefore.' (ibid. p.108.)
 Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, `The
Heart', in Star of the West, X, p.115.
Promulgation, pp.97-8. In this
regard, `Abdu'l-Bahá says also: `Each one of the divine religions has
established two kinds of ordinances, the essential and the accidental. The
essential ordinances rest upon the firm, unchanging, eternal foundations of the
Word itself. They concern spiritualities, seek to stabilize morals, awaken
intuitive susceptibilities, reveal the knowledge of God and inculcate the love
of all mankind. The accidental laws concern the administration of outer human
actions and relations, establishing rules and regulations requisite for the
world of bodies and their control. These are ever subject to change and
supersedure according to exigencies of time, place and condition. For example,
during the times of Moses... divorce was sanctioned and polygamy allowable to a
certain extent... Briefly, the foundation of the divine religions is one
eternal foundation, but the laws for temporary conditions and exigencies are
subject to change. Therefore, by adherence to these temporary laws, blindly
following and imitating ancestral forms, difference and divergence have arisen
among followers of the various religions, resulting in disunion, strife and
hatred. Blind imitations and dogmatic observances are conducive to alienation
and disagreement; they lead to bloodshed and destruction of the foundations of
humanity. Therefore, the religionists of the world must lay aside these
imitations and investigate the essential foundation of reality itself, which is
not subject to change or transformation. This is the divine means of agreement
and unification.' (Promulgation, pp.338-9.)