Manifestations of God?

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SpiritualSeeker
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Manifestations of God?

Postby SpiritualSeeker » Wed Apr 01, 2009 6:58 am

Hello all,

as you can see from my display name I am seeking spirituality. (I wouldnt say I am truely spiritual yet, but I seek it). I am trying to find truth. Right now I feel myself very drawn to Shia Islam. Though I have some tendencies to want to give all religion up and study buddhism, but my heart seems attached to the belief in a particular Deity. I am also approaching bahai with an open and clear mind (hopefully) but I have some questions.

With all due respect I find that some terms used by the bahais are a bit ambiguous. Such as Manifestations of God like a messenger. Now, from how I understand it is a manifestation is not GOD nor does the manifestation have any qualities of God but instead they reflect the qualities of God like His mercy compassion, love etc...

However I hear that if a Manifestation said they were God that would be okay. Now this throws up a red flag especially since I am so closed to Shia islam (which focuses much on strict monotheism). So what is exactly the nature of the Manifestation of God?

Also how do we know a Manifestation of God is a true messenger? I hear that bahais even accept Joseph smith of the mormon faith to be a true prophet. How do you separate charlatans from truthful slaves of God?

Your responses are deeply appreciated

Thanks
Live your daily life in a way that you never lose yourself. When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger, and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself. The practice is always to go back to oneself.Thich Nhat Hanh

brettz9
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Re: Manifestations of God?

Postby brettz9 » Thu Apr 02, 2009 2:14 am

A Manifestation of God reflects the qualities of God perfectly in a manner we can fathom: e.g., demonstrating kindness, love, justice, and peace. The analogy given in our Writings is that of a perfect mirror reflecting the sun. You could point to the mirror and say that it was the "sun", but doing so would only be symbolic.

Our Writings strongly reject, however, the idea of God being able to literally incarnate Himself:

Let no one meditating, in the light of the afore-quoted passages, on the nature of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, mistake its character or misconstrue the intent of its Author. The divinity attributed to so great a Being and the complete incarnation of the names and attributes of God in so exalted a Person should, under no circumstances, be misconceived or misinterpreted. The human temple that has been made the vehicle of so overpowering a Revelation must, if we be faithful to the tenets of our Faith, ever remain entirely distinguished from that "innermost Spirit of Spirits" and "eternal Essence of Essences"--that invisible yet rational God Who, however much we extol the divinity of His Manifestations on earth, can in no wise incarnate His infinite, His unknowable, His incorruptible and all-embracing Reality in the concrete and limited frame of a mortal being. Indeed, the God Who could so incarnate His own reality would, in the light of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, cease immediately to be God. So crude and fantastic a theory of Divine incarnation is as removed from, and incompatible with, the essentials of Bahá'í belief as are the no less inadmissible pantheistic and anthropomorphic conceptions of God-- both of which the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh emphatically repudiate and the fallacy of which they expose.

(Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, pp. 112-113


Such an (official) explanation offers a means of reconciling the teachings of Islam, which emphasize more the station of Servitude of His Prophets, with the teachings of Christianity, which emphasize the high station of the Prophet/Manifestation. In the Kitab-i-Iqan, Baha'u'llah's most important doctrinal work, in elaborating on His theme, He offers two passages from the Qur'an in evidence of this:

Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare: "I am God!" He verily speaketh the truth, and no doubt attacheth thereto. For it hath been repeatedly demonstrated that through their Revelation, their attributes and names, the Revelation of God, His name and His attributes, are made manifest in the world. Thus, He hath revealed: "Those shafts were God's, not Thine!"[Qur'an 8:17] And also He saith: "In truth, they who plighted fealty unto thee, really plighted that fealty unto God."[Qur'an 48:10]

(Baha'u'llah Kitab-i-Iqan, par. 196)


As you may have heard, the Baha'i teachings also recognize Buddha as having been a Manifestation of God, though His original teachings have been lost to time.

As far as Joseph Smith, we do not see him as any kind of prophet:

"As for the status of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Faith, he is not considered by Bahá'ís to be a prophet, minor or otherwise. But of course he was a religious teacher sensitive to the spiritual currents flowing in the early 19th century directly from the appearance of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh and the Revelation of Their Messages of hope and divine Guidance. In this respect you might find chapter ten in the late Hand of the Cause George Townshend's book, 'Christ and Bahá'u'lláh,' interesting."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, February 7, 1977)


(On our relation to Mormonism, there are three quotes here, the above being the 2nd one.)

As far as the standard of a true Messenger of God, 'Abdu'l-Baha (the Son and appointed Successor and Interpreter of Baha'u'llah's teachings) explains:

Therefore, the Universal Educator must be at the same time a physical, human and spiritual educator; and He must possess a supernatural power, so that He may hold the position of a divine teacher. If He does not show forth such a holy power, He will not be able to educate, for if He be imperfect, how can He give a perfect education? If He be ignorant, how can He make others wise? If He be unjust, how can He make others just? If He be earthly, how can He make others heavenly?

Now we must consider justly: did these Divine Manifestations Who have appeared possess all these qualifications or not? [Divine Manifestations are the founders of religions. Cf. "Two Classes of Prophets," p. 164.] If They had not these qualifications and these perfections, They were not real Educators.

Therefore, it must be our task to prove to the thoughtful by reasonable arguments the prophethood of Moses, of Christ and of the other Divine Manifestations. And the proofs and evidences which we give are not based on traditional but on rational arguments.

('Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, Chapter 3)


He then goes on, in subsequent chapters, to offer rational proofs about how Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha'u'llah meet the criteria of true Educators. My own understanding is that those proofs can essentially be summarized as stating that each true Manifestation of God faced enormous obstacles and opposition, and yet overcame in producing enormous results.

FYI, other of our Writings focus on what features the seeker of truth should develop (e.g., ardent in seeking, not being attached, etc.), what modalities they might use (e.g., reason, traditions, inspiration), and the various aspects of the religion that can be considered (e.g., the heroism of the followers or corrupt nature of its enemies, the Prophet's Life and Writings, to a lesser extent Their prophecies, etc.).

Hope that helps gives some idea/direction...

best wishes,
Brett

onepence~2
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Re: Manifestations of God?

Postby onepence~2 » Thu Apr 02, 2009 10:18 pm

"to a lesser extent Their prophecies "

???

why is that ?

one would think that would be more important
perhaps even the most important aspect of any religion that can be considered

onepence~2
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Re: Manifestations of God?

Postby onepence~2 » Sun Apr 05, 2009 10:59 pm

onepence~2 wrote:"to a lesser extent Their prophecies "


ok ... i have been thinking about it ... on my own
thinking about it ... and got a private message saying in effect to keep thinking about it ...

and ... i still have questions ... like am i/we fullfilling prophecy by just declaring our belief and then acting upon it ???

but ... i also am beginning to see how Prophecy could be considered a "lesser" proof of known reality because of ...

interpretation

ding ding ding ... smile ... lol ... yes ...

interpretation

the idea being who says what means what ...

for instance recently i have been in an online dialogue with people who adamantly deny Christ as being the Redeemer ...
and when i saw adamantly i mean adamantly ... *ugh* ... but still a rather interesting dialogue ... allowing ourselve to display virtue to each other ... *smile*

but ... for these deniers of our Redeemer ... their understanding ... their interpretation of Prophecy ... is simply that
their interpretation of Prophecy ... nothing more ... nothing less ... just an interpretation of Prophecy that allows them to deny Christ ... and not only to deny Christ but also to vilify what we consider to be sacred ...

so ... obviously ... Prophecy is part interpretation ... one could also say
Prophecy is all interpretation ... therefore it (prophecy) is a lesser proof then say
the heroism of the followers or corrupt nature of its enemies, which are basically facts not interpretations .

so ... yea ... i can sorta see why we consider "to a lesser extent Their prophecies "

and ... as an individual we should be concerned about the day to day acts of obediance

such are our thoughts

such is uderstanding

"to a lesser extent Their prophecies " because Scripture can have various meanings to various individuals at various points of time thus leading to a wide and often meaningless interpretation of prophecy.

as a side note to our thoughts ...

it is our community , the community of The Greatest Name , that has been blessed with the Center of the Covenant, Abdu'l Baha ...

in brief ... we appreciate this discussion ... allowing ourselves to reason ...

awesome experience ... anyone may chose to further the dialogue if they so pleaseth

thanks again

1
dh

brettz9
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Re: Manifestations of God?

Postby brettz9 » Mon Apr 20, 2009 9:56 am

Ok, sorry, finally getting back to the thread.

I probably should not have said "Their prophecies", because the promises of what They promised would come to pass in Their own Dispensation is indeed very interesting and was often used by 'Abdu'l-Baha in His proofs of Baha'u'llah's greatness and advised to us as well:

In at least one situation, 'Abdu'l-Baha said, "...speak of the greatness of Baha'u'llah, of the events that took place in Persia and Turkey, of the astonishing influence that He exerted, of the contents of the Epistles which He addressed to all the sovereigns, and of their fulfilment. Also speak of the spread of the Baha'i Cause. Associate with the Committee of Universal Peace at The Hague as much as possible, showing them every courtesy.”
(`Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Baha, p. 308)


I really meant to say "Their claims to fulfillment of prophecies", though perhaps even here I was not exactly correct (though I think you offer good reasoning on this, Onepence). (There was a book/compilation called "Proofs of Baha'u'llah" (a green cover) which I do not have where I am now, but it organized chapters I believe which indicated the inadequacy of prophecies, so I may be missing some quotations which indeed did indicate their lesser importance, but from the ones I could find, that may be less clear.)

Here are a few quotations that I could find which might have influenced me to believe that is what the Writings had said (the first quotation of Baha'ullah may be referring more to traditions as in Hadith, since He earlier quoted the Bible and Qur'an):

Although We did not intend to make mention of the traditions of a bygone age, yet, because of Our love for thee, We will cite a few which are applicable to Our argument. We do not feel their necessity, however, inasmuch as the things We have already mentioned suffice the world and all that is therein.

(Kitab-i-Iqan, par. 266)


Therefore, it must be our task to prove to the thoughtful by reasonable arguments the prophethood of Moses, of Christ and of the other Divine Manifestations. And the proofs and evidences which we give are not based on traditional but on rational arguments.

(Some Answered Questions, p. 11)


The appearance of such wonderful signs and great results; the effects produced upon the minds of the people, and upon the prevailing ideas; the establishment of the foundations of progress; and the organization of the principles of success and prosperity by a young merchant, constitute the greatest proof that He was a perfect Educator.

(Some Answered Questions, p. 26)


This is a spiritual proof, but one which we cannot at the beginning put forth for the benefit of the materialists. First we must speak of the logical proofs, afterward the spiritual proofs.

(Some Answered Questions, p. 197)


(Note that in the above what is translated as "spiritual proof" might not be the same as "traditional proof", given a somewhat different context)

This one, however, is a bit stronger:

First of all, let us determine whether these Prophets were valid or not by using rational proofs and shining arguments, not simply by quoting traditionary evidences, because traditions are divergent and the source of dissension.

(Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 345)


However, the translation in Some Answered Questions seems to sometimes refer to traditional arguments as quotation of Scripture, and at other times as references to accounts of miracles--it is possible, I think, that He may only be discouraging the latter proofs.

In any case, He does offer proofs based on Scripture, of course, however, and speaks to their usefulness in some circumstances:

Every subject presented to a thoughtful audience must be supported by rational proofs and logical arguments. Proofs are of four kinds: first, through sense perception; second, through the reasoning faculty; third, from traditional or scriptural authority; fourth, through the medium of inspiration.

(Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 240)


Consequently, it has become evident that the four criteria or standards of judgment by which the human mind reaches its conclusions are faulty and inaccurate. All of them are liable to mistake and error in conclusions. But a statement presented to the mind accompanied by proofs which the senses can perceive to be correct, which the faculty of reason can accept, which is in accord with traditional authority and sanctioned by the promptings of the heart, can be adjudged and relied upon as perfectly correct, for it has been proved and tested by all the standards of judgment and found to be complete. When we apply but one test, there are possibilities of mistake. This is self-evident and manifest.

(Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 255)


...while discouraging them in other circumstances:

The divine philosophers proclaim that the spirit of man is ever-living and eternal, and because of the objections of the materialists, these wise men of God have advanced rational proofs to support the validity of their statement. Inasmuch as the materialistic philosophers deny the Books of God, scriptural demonstration is not evidence to them, and materialistic proofs are necessary.

(Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 240)


As a side note, Onepence, in your prose posts, I think we might be able to concentrate more on what you have to say--and you have some very good things to say--if you could follow standard conventions like capitalization. :) While I don't mean to "crimp your style", I really think it could be easier to read your posts if you did, as we use those conventions, as in oral communication, to have some redundancy which confirms for us that a sentence has ended, etc., so we can concentrate on one unit of your thought at a time, etc. Of course, it's your choice, and please don't take offense, as it's just a suggestion, but if it's easier for people to read by relying on familiar conventions, you may get more of a reaction from your ideas...

take care,
Brett

BritishBahai
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Re: Manifestations of God?

Postby BritishBahai » Mon Apr 20, 2009 12:00 pm

brettz9 wrote:.
.
.
I really meant to say "Their claims to fulfillment of prophecies", though perhaps even here I was not exactly correct (though I think you offer good reasoning on this, Onepence). (There was a book/compilation called "Proofs of Baha'u'llah" (a green cover) which I do not have where I am now, but it organized chapters I believe which indicated the inadequacy of prophecies, so I may be missing some quotations which indeed did indicate their lesser importance, but from the ones I could find, that may be less clear.).
.
.
I have that book. If you need me to cite anything from there, email me

O:-)
"I have desired only what Thou didst desire, and love only what Thou dost love"


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