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In this chapter the various areas within Bahá'í-apocalypticism (theology, cosmology, Universal and Specific Revelation, and prophetology) will be introduced and examined. As a whole, these areas serve as a general framework to the subsequent analysis of the concept of progressive revelation.
The Bahá'í-religion is a monotheistic religion since one of its fundamental principles is the belief in the "oneness of God" or "unity of God." An example of this is seen in one of the obligatory Bahá'í prayers where the oneness of God is emphasized. Further, the oneness and unity of God is also mentioned in several other Bahá'í-prayers. In addition, one of the "names" of God is "the One" which is mentioned in the following passage by Bahá'u'lláh:
This, in truth, is the very root and essence of belief in the unity and singleness of God. "God was alone; there was none else besides Him." He, now, is what He hath ever been. There is none other God but Him, the One [. . .] He is, and hath from everlasting been, one and alone, without peer or equal, eternal in the past, eternal in the future, detached from all things, ever-abiding, unchangeable, and self-subsisting.
As in the Judeo-Christian and Islámic traditions, the word for "God" (Alláh) in the Bahá'í-religion is in the masculine gender ("He") and thus question concerning gender and anthropomorphism can therefore appropriately be raised. The Semitic languages lack a neutrum and the word for God is in the masculine genus and since the Bahá'í-religion emerged within a Islámic cultural context it has followed suit in this semantic tradition. However, the Bahá'í-authors refute that God has a gender or is a man. For example, Bahá'u'lláh writes that "God, the unknowable Essence, the Divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute," or that "He hath through all eternity been free of the attributes of human creatures, and ever will remain so." Furthermore, Shoghi Effendi comments on the topic of a personal God as follows: "Such conception of Divine Being . . . is not anthropomorphic, for it transcends all human limitations and forms." Yet, the Bahá'í-authors portrays God as a personal God who is addressed in prayers in rather intimate terms, e.g., as "a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God," or "Friend."
Although God is described in personal terms, with innumerable attributes or "names," the essence of God is defined in an almost agnostic terminology. In his Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá'u'lláh depicts God as "the unknowable essence" who "hath ever been veiled in the ancient eternity of His Essence, and will remain in His Reality everlastingly hidden from the sight of men." The following excerpts from Bahá'u'lláh further emphasize this point:
Immeasurably exalted is He above the strivings of the human mind to grasp His Essence, or of human tongue to describe His mystery. No tie of direct intercourse can ever bind Him to the things He hath created, nor can the most abstruse and most remote allusions of His creatures do justice to His being. . . He is and hath ever been veiled in the ancient eternity of His own exalted and indivisible Essence, and will everlastingly continue to remain concealed in His inaccessible majesty and glory.
[. . . ] I beseech Thee by Thy Name which no scroll can bear, which no heart can imagine and no tongue can utter a Name which will remain concealed so long as Thine own Essence is hidden and will be glorified so long as Thine own being is extolled.
In the first quotation Bahá'u'lláh states that: "No tie of intercourse can ever bind Him to the things He hath created." This is a significant point which shall be addressed below. In the last citation, which is a prayer, even the name of God remains unknown. These statements that the essence of God "hath ever been veiled in the ancient eternity" and that God's "Essence is hidden" seem to be quite contrary to some of the definitions of revelation above which were stated as an "unveiling" or a "disclosure of a superhuman reality" to human beings. However, this is also a paradox since the "short obligatory prayer" in the Bahá'í-religion states that God has created human beings in order to be known and worshipped. How is this possible if God is completely hidden, inaccessible and thereby unknowable to human beings? The enigma may be solved in that although God is "One" he is on one hand a personal God, possessing innumerable attributes, and yet on the other hand, an impersonal God, who is "sanctified above all attributes and holy above all names." The following lines delineates this mystical duality of God's nature: "Thou art the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden!" and "God . . . Who is both the Visible and the Invisible." Here God is described as being both completely immanent (most manifest, visible) while being absolutely transcendental (most hidden, invisible). The immanent nature of God could be equated with a personal, or manifest, God who is the possessor of innumerable attributes and names, and the impersonal and hidden nature of God with the unknowable essence of God.
The next three excerpts illustrates and contrasts the hidden, or transcendental, nature of God who wants to reveal, or manifest, himself and that this manifestation is seen as connected to the very act of creation:
He [God] was a hidden treasure. This is a station that can never be described nor even alluded to. And in the station of 'I did wish to make Myself known', God was, and His creation had ever existed.
The Cause of creation of all contingent beings has been love, as it is mentioned in the famous tradition: "I was a hidden treasure, and I loved to be known. Therefore I created the creation in order to be known."
Thou didst wish to make Thyself known unto men; therefore, Thou didst, through a word of Thy mouth, bring creation into being and fashion the universe.
According to these passages, God expresses a wish, or desire, from His side, to be known, and this is ultimately upheld as the generating impulse of creation. Thus, God's desire to be known, and God's creation of human beings in order to be known, appear to be intimately complementary. Although Bahá'u'lláh writes that the "door of the knowledge of the Ancient Being hath ever been, and will continue for ever to be, closed in the face of men," he also states in another context that:
Every created thing in the whole universe is but a door leading unto His knowledge, a sign of His sovereignty, a revelation of His names, a symbol of His majesty, a token of His power, a means of admittance into His straight path.
The sentence that everything in the universe is "a revelation of His names" can be noted in the passing since it alludes to the concept of "Universal Revelation" which shall be discussed below. Further, even though human beings may not know the essence, or the totality, of God, he can still be known through "Every created thing" and consequently, this implies that the human being can also know God by knowing himself. On this subject Bahá'u'lláh, apparently referring to another source, says that:
"He hath known God who hath known himself." . . . From that which hath been said it becometh evident that all things, in their inmost reality, testify to the revelation of the names and attributes of God within them. Each according to its capacity, indicateth, and is expressive of, the knowledge of God.
Again one can see that the "names and attributes of God," which exists in all things, is described as a "revelation." Notice also that these names and attributes of God are known and expressed according to "capacity." This is an important and recurrent key term and concept of Bahá'í- apocalypticism which shall be discussed in various contexts throughout this thesis.
In like manner, 'Abdul-Bahá also on the one hand states that God's "attributes are unknowable," and that the "Universal Reality with all its qualities and attributes . . . is holy and exalted above all minds and understandings." Yet, on the other hand, he also states that one can know God "by His attributes . . . by His signs . . . by His names." In comparing the reality of God to the reality of the sun, 'Abdul-Bahá continues to say that "We know not what the reality of the sun is, but we know the sun by the ray, by the heat, by its efficacy and penetration." In distinguishing between the "Reality" and the "attributes" of God he also says that "Knowing God, therefore, means the comprehension and the knowledge of His attributes, and not of His Reality." Consequently, the "Reality" of God can be equated with either the essence of God, or the Universal Reality (God) with "all its qualities and attributes." The latter phrase is suggestive to the totality of God's qualities and attributes.
From the above one may conclude that humans are capable not only to know the attributes and names of God through: 1) creation and 2) themselves, but that they were created for this very reason. However, humans can know neither the essence of God nor the totality of the attributes, or names, of God. In the subsequent sections (Cosmology, Universal and Specific Revelation, and Prophetology) it will be shown that there is a third way to know God, namely through the mediation of revelation (M).
From this brief survey of Bahá'í-theology one could readily see that revelation is intimately related to theology, and that theology (the knowledge of God) in its turn is connected with cosmology (creation). The question is now how cosmology is further associated with revelation. The following prayer by Bahá'u'lláh may illustrate this relationship:
Wishing to reveal Thyself, Thou didst call into being the Greater and the Lesser Worlds, and didst choose Man above all Thy creatures, and didst make Him a sign of both these worlds . . . Thou didst raise Him up to occupy Thy throne before all the people of Thy Creation. Thou didst enable Him to unravel Thy mysteries, and to shine with the lights of Thine inspiration and Thy Revelation, and to manifest Thy names and Thine attributes.
In this prayer one can discern the three mentioned areas above: God, in His wish to reveal Himself (revelation) has created both "the Greater and the Lesser Worlds" (cosmology), and the human being has been chosen above all other creatures with the unique capacity to know God (theology) and to manifest the names and attributes of God. In other words, the creation of cosmos has an intimate connection with the purpose of the creation of the human being (teleology), and as will be seen below, the structure of cosmos is related to the nature of revelation. Further, one may notice that humans occupy a unique rank in creation. Bahá'u'lláh also distinguishes between "the Greater and the Lesser worlds" above, and 'Abdul'-Bahá comments and elaborates upon this cosmological distinction as follows:
Man is the microcosm; and the infinite universe, the macrocosm. The mysteries of the greater world, or macrocosm, are expressed or revealed in the lesser world, the microcosm. The tree, so to speak, is the greater world, and the seed in its relation to the tree is the lesser world. But the whole of the great tree is potentially latent and hidden in the little seed. When this seed is planted and cultivated, the tree is revealed. Likewise, the greater world, the macrocosm, is latent and minitured in the lesser world, or microcosm, of man. This constitutes the universality or perfection of virtues potential in mankind. Therefore it is said that man has been created in the image and likeness of God.
In this quote cosmology is again associated with revelation and theology in that macrocosmos is "revealed in the lesser world" (revelation) which portrays that "man has been created in the image and likeness of God" (cosmology/theology). The macro/microcosmos structure is also a recurrent scheme in the Bahá'í writings. In this context one can also observe the organic metaphor with the seed and the tree where the tree, which is potentially latent in the seed, is subsequently "revealed."
In two quite general statements 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes that "all creation is growing and evolving. It never ceases," and that "the world of existence is progressive. It is subject to development and growth." The important key terms here, in connection with the cosmos, are: growth, progress, development, and evolution. These progressive characteristics of cosmos can also be seen from other passages by 'Abdu'l-Bahá which highlights other key terms of progress in that the cosmos is seen as a gradual and sequential unfoldment:
[. . .] this terrestrial globe in its present form, did not come into existence all at once; but that this universal existence gradually passed through different phases until it became adorned with its present perfection. Universal beings resemble and can be compared to particular beings, for both are subjected to one natural system, one universal law and divine organisation. So you will find the smallest of atoms in the universal system are similar to the greatest beings of the universe. It is clear that they come into existence from one laboratory of might under one natural system and one universal law; therefore they may be compared to one another. Thus, the embryo of man in the womb of the mother gradually grows and develops, and appear in different forms and conditions, until in the degree of perfect beauty it reaches maturity and appears in a perfect form with the utmost grace. And in the same way, the seed of this flower which you see was in the beginning an insignificant thing, and very small; and it grew and developed in the womb of the earth and, after appearing in various forms, came forth in this condition with perfect freshness and grace. In the same manner it is evident that this terrestrial globe having once found its existence, grew and developed in the matrix of the universe, and came forth in different forms and conditions, until gradually it attained this present perfection, and became adorned with innumerable beings, and appeared as a finished organisation.
[. . .] the world evolved gradually. . . God did not allow the world to come into existence all at once, rather, the divine breath of life manifested itself in the commanding Word of God, logos, which engendered and begot the world. We thus have a progressive process of creation, and not a one-time happening . . . both scholars and Prophets have testified to the progressive creative action of the logos (divine breath of life).
In these citations it can be observed that the universe has not been created in an instant but that it has "gradually passed through different phases," or that it is a "progressive process of creation." Again, the macro/microcosmos scheme is brought up since "the smallest of atoms in the universal system are similar to the greatest beings of the universe." However, this last point shows that the macro/micro scheme is not limited, or exclusively applied, to human beings but that this scheme can be found on many levels, and thus, can "this terrestrial globe" be compared to "the embryo." Once again one may notice the usage of different organic metaphors (e.g., embryo, seed, flower). The notion of progress is also, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, depicted as a "universal law" which reigns on all levels, from microcosmos to macrocosmos. In addition, 'Abdu'l-Bahá defines progress as follows:
'Progress' is the expansion of spirit in the world of matter. The intelligence of man, his reasoning powers, his knowledge, his scientific achievements, all these being manifestations of the spirit, partake of the inevitable law of spiritual progress and are, therefore, of necessity, immortal.
Progress is here referred to it as an "inevitable law." This principle of progress is further related to yet another important characteristic of Bahá'í-cosmology, that of its structure or "kingdoms." For example, 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes that:
Creation is the expression of motion. Motion is life. A moving object is a living object, whereas that which is motionless and inert is as dead. All created forms are progressive in their planes, or kingdoms of existence, under the stimulus of the power or spirit of life. This universal energy is dynamic. Nothing is stationary in the material worlds of outer phenomena or in the inner world of intellect and consciousness.
In this passage the dynamic nature of creation is clearly portrayed, but the important point here is the description of "planes, or kingdoms of existence," and that "All created forms are progressive." In addition to discussing physical creation or cosmos, the Bahá'í-texts not only describe all of existence as having various levels, planes, or kingdoms, but that they are arranged in what could be classified as a "spiritual hierarchy." Bahá'u'lláh elaborates and comments upon this hierarchical structure of the worlds in his Haft-Vádí (The Seven Valleys):
Although the divine worlds be never ending, yet some refer to them as four: The world of time (zamán), which is the one that hath both a beginning and an end; the world of duration (dahr), which hath a beginning, but whose end is not revealed; the world of perpetuity (sarmad), whose beginning is not to be seen but which is known to have an end; and the world of eternity (azal), neither a beginning nor an end of which is visible. . . . . Thus, some have said that the world of perpetuity hath neither beginning nor end, and have named the world of eternity the invisible, impregnable Empyrean. Others have called these worlds of the Heavenly Court (Láhút), of the Empyrean Heaven (Jabarút), of the Kingdom of the Angels (Malakút), and of the mortal world (Násút).
One can summarize this cosmological hierarchy in the following structure:
This structure depicts cosmos as being hierarchically connected with the field of revelation in the sense that the higher levels are ontologically "nearer" God and where God's nature is more fully revealed and comprehended. Above all, this scheme suggests the vertical axis of Bahá'í-apocalypticism.
As discussed in the previous section, God's essence can in this structure be seen to belong to the realm of Háhút. God is also in the Bahá'í-texts referred to as the "Ruler of the universe," the "central Orb of the universe," and the "Lord of all worlds." Although the passage and structure above elaborates upon five worlds, this numerical value should not be seen as an absolute or fixed figure of Bahá'í-cosmology, since it is possible to allocate references to: two worlds (God and His Creation, or the Greater and the Lesser Worlds); three worlds (God, the Manifestation of God, and human beings; or the world of divinity, the world of command, and the world of creation); or four worlds (zamán, dahr, sarmad, and azal). Moreover, in the citation above, where the four and five worlds were mentioned, the passage started with the sentence "Although the divine worlds be never ending, yet some refer to them as four." This suggests that the worlds of God are infinite. In addition, a further support that the worlds of God are innumerable can be seen from another excerpt by Bahá'u'lláh:
[. . .] the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them, except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise [. . .] the creation of God embraceth worlds beside this world; and creatures apart from these creatures.
Even though the cosmos may be divided into various levels, the concern of this thesis is mainly the Násút realm, or the physical world. The reasons for focusing on this level are that it has been mostly elaborated upon by the Bahá'í-authors and that it clearly illustrates the theme of progress, both in each kingdom, and between the different kingdoms. As was seen above, the Násút level can be subdivided into four major grades or kingdoms: the mineral-, vegetable-, animal-, and human kingdoms. For example, 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes that:
[. . .] the men of divine knowledge have said that all existing phenomena may be resolved into grades or kingdoms, classified progressively as mineral, vegetable, animal and human, each of which possess its degree of function and intelligence.
It is unclear from the context who the "men of divine knowledge" exactly refer to, but the significant point here is that the "grades or kingdoms" are "classified progressively" where the first three kingdoms also are described as the "lower kingdoms" or "lower creatures." 'Abdu'l-Bahá explains these levels as additive in that each higher level incorporates all the characteristics of each level below, but displays additional and unique features and capacities which are absent in the levels below. For example, the human being is depicted as being endowed with consciousness, ideation, intellect, and spiritual faculties, which are deficient in the lower levels. Humans are thus, relatively speaking, regarded as superior beings. Furthermore, the human being, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, is equipped with volition, while the lower kingdoms are described as "captives of nature." Consequently, the human being "transcends nature, while the mineral, vegetable and animal are helplessly subject to it. This can be done only through the power of the spirit, because the spirit is the reality." Here one can readily see the emphasis of the spiritual nature of the human being in contrast to the lower kingdoms, and that this spirituality is further equated with "reality."
As has been shown earlier, cosmos is viewed as dynamic and progressive. However, this progressive theme also exists in the lower kingdoms. Yet, although progress is a general characteristic of both macro/microcosmos, 'Abdu'l-Bahá refers to two inherent limitations in the lower kingdoms:
[. . .] for every being there is a point which it cannot overpass . . . A mineral, however far it may progress in the mineral kingdom, cannot gain the vegetable power. Also in a flower, however far it may progress in the vegetable kingdom, no power of the senses will appear. . . it can only progress in its own condition.
A lower degree cannot comprehend a higher although all are in the same world of creation whether mineral, vegetable or animal. Degree is the barrier and limitation.
The two above stated limitations: 1) that one can only progress within one's kingdom and, 2) that one cannot comprehend a higher kingdom, are intimately related to the principle that "In every station there is a specialized capacity." Yet, these limitations are not confined the lower kingdoms but are also valid for the higher kingdoms (i.e., above Násút) mentioned previously. Human beings are therefore incapable, due to their limited capacity, to truly comprehend the higher kingdoms, and much less the essence, or totality, of God. Despite these inherent constraints upon the various kingdoms, this system is not a static but on the contrary perceived as highly dynamic and organic in its nature. Hence, the various kingdoms coexists in what could be called a semi-permeable state or transfer-system. 'Abdu'l-Bahá elaborates on this theme as follows:
[. . .] the atoms of the material elements are transferable from one from of existence to another, from one degree and kingdom to another, lower or higher. For example, an atom of the soil or dust of earth may traverse the kingdoms from mineral to man by successive incorporations into the bodies of the organisms of those kingdoms. At one time it enters into the formation of the mineral or rock; it is then absorbed by the vegetable kingdom and becomes a constituent of the body and fibre of a tree; again it is appropriated by the animal, and at a still later period is found in the body of a man. . . . The perfections of the mineral are translated into the vegetable and from thence into the animal, the virtue always attaining a superlative degree in the upward change. In each kingdom we find the same virtues manifesting themselves more fully, proving that the reality has been transferred from a lower to a higher form and kingdom of being.
In this passage one can notice that although each level is progressive in its own right and the boundaries of the Násút are penetrable, the general tendency of these kingdoms is in the direction of "always attaining a superlative degree in the upward change." This process of transference thereby suggests an overall evolutionary or progressive notion, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá actually refers to this process as a "progressive transference." Above it was also noticed that the universe was not created in an instant but that it was gradually unfolded in time. This general evolutionary process can also be seen from the perspective of the kingdoms in their successive and gradual unfoldment. In this context 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that:
[. . .] the terrestrial globe from the beginning was created with all its elements, substances, minerals, atoms and organisms; but these only appeared by degrees: first the mineral, then the plant, afterward the animal, and finally man. But from the first these kind and species existed, but were underdeveloped in the terrestrial globe, and then appeared only gradually.
In the world of existence man has traversed successive degrees until he has attained the human kingdom. In each degree of his progression he has developed capacity for advancement to the next station and condition. While in the kingdom of the mineral he was attaining the capacity for promotion into the degree of the vegetable. In the kingdom of the vegetable he underwent preparation for the world of the animal, and from thence he has come onward to the human degree, or kingdom. Throughout this journey of progression he has ever and always been potentially man.
The general inclination of the whole system is that of a successive and gradual progression towards the higher kingdoms or levels. Notice also the last sentences in each of the quotations which states that "from the first these kind and species existed," and "he has ever and always been potentially man." These ideas imply that all relatively higher kingdoms (i.e., vegetable, animal and human) at one time were potentially latent in the mineral kingdom. This further suggests that the process of creation is guided by an orderly law ("law of progression") rather than by fortuitous and random forces. Concomitantly, the human species is thus overall regarded as promulgated by a teleological principle rather than seen as a rare epiphenomenon. However, as was stated earlier, the human kingdom differs from the lower kingdoms on several points, the most important being that the human being is considered as primarily spiritual in that it is endowed with an immortal soul which is "sanctified above material existence." Hence, on the Nasút level, it is only human beings who can transfer and progress upwards to the higher kingdoms (Malakút etc). On this point Abdu'l-Bahá says that:
God has created all earthly things under a law of progression in material degrees, but He has created man and endowed him with powers of advancement toward spiritual and transcendental kingdoms.
When we look upon the kingdoms of creation below man, we find three forms or planes of existence which await education and development . . . As to the human world: It is more in need of guidance and education than the lower creatures.
Previously, some aspects were enumerated which characterized human beings as different from the lower kingdoms, and the last citation above relates to another distinct feature. It basically implies that since humans are endowed with consciousness and volition, they are therefore capable of violating the laws of nature. Due to this circumstance they are also "more in need of guidance and education than the lower creatures." Further, since human beings are the only creatures who can transfer into the higher kingdoms, this terrestrial life is in the Bahá'í writings often portrayed as a preparation for the next world. In such contexts, organic metaphors which compares the terrestrial life to the prenatal embryo are prevalent. This view further points to the need for human beings to develop their latent spiritual capacities which, ultimately, are bestowed by God. Yet, reaching the next world, or higher kingdom, (the Abhá kingdom or most glorious kingdom; Malakút) does not mean that the progress of the individual soul, or the spiritual journey, has ended. On the contrary, the Bahá'í-texts are replete with sections which emphasize the souls progress ad infinitum into the higher kingdoms or planes of creation. For example, Bahá'u'lláh states:
Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolutions of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God and his attributes, and will reveal His loving-kindness and bounty.
By now it should be evident that the concept of progress is a recurrent and important concept of Bahá'í-cosmology. Some important key terms and concepts of Bahá'í-cosmology and theology in its relationship with revelation can be summarized as follows: 1) The essence of God is beyond human knowledge. However, the attributes of God can be seen as reflected in and through creation, including human beings, 2) Creation or cosmos as a whole is guided by a law of progress. It is highly dynamic, evolutionary, and teleological, and one of its generating impulses was the creation of humans, 3) The process of creation unfolds in a successive and gradual fashion, 4) Cosmos is hierarchically structured with innumerable levels or kingdoms, which suggests a vertical axis of apocalypticism, 5) Progress is above all possible within a level or kingdom, and the general tendency is to transfer towards the higher kingdoms, 6) Macrocosmos is potentially latent in the microcosmos which can reflect the former, 7) Human beings (microcosmos) are endowed with a unique capacity to reflect the macrocosmos, and cosmos was seen as created to manifest the different attributes of God, 8) human beings can progress indefinitely onto the higher kingdoms, 9) Although human beings have the capacities to progress they are in greater need than the lower kingdoms for guidance and education, and 10) The progressive or evolutionary character of the cosmos can also be summarized as being: successive, gradual, and organic.
These various aspects suggests that the cosmos is the instrument (I) for the revelation of God's attributes, a theme which will be further explored in the next section.
In the previous two sections the intricate relationship between Bahá'í-theology and cosmology was briefly surveyed and it was concluded that these two areas in turn are related to revelation. From a theological perspective it was shown that the essence of God was described in negative apocalyptic terms, i.e., this reality is described as being completely veiled, or concealed, to human knowledge. Yet, the attributes, names and kingdoms of God were seen, through the progressive process of creation, as part of the sphere of revelation (see Appendix I). This relationship can, for example, be seen in a prayer by Bahá'u'lláh where he depicts God as the "Author of all Manifestations, the Source of all Sources, the Fountainhead of all Revelations, and the Wellspring of all Lights!" The plural ending "revelations" suggest a diversity of revelation. In fact, Bahá'u'lláh does make a basic distinction with regard to the concept of revelation. One category of revelation is, as the terms conveys, defined as a "universal," or a "general" revelation. Similarly, the other category is entitled as a "specific" or "secondary" revelation. The term "secondary" also suggests that the "universal" category of revelation is "primary." In the following quotation Bahá'u'lláh distinguishes between these two kinds of revelation:
Consider, for instance, the revelation of the light of the Name of God, the Educator. Behold, how in all things the evidences of such a revelation are manifest, how the betterment of all beings dependeth upon it. This education is of two kinds. The one is universal. Its influence pervadeth all things and sustaineth them. It is for this reason that God hath assumed the title, "Lord of all worlds." The other is confined to them that have come under the shadow of this Name, and sought the shelter of this most mighty Revelation.
In the above quote revelation is seen as a process of education and God is referred to as "the Educator." This process of education is not only limited to human beings but includes "inanimate" objects as well. Further, the statement "the betterment of all things" implies a notion of progress. Not only is universal revelation seen as the primordial cause for the betterment of all beings, but is also described as the ultimate basis of their existence.
A. Universal Revelation
Above it was noticed that this kind of revelation "pervadeth all things" which suggests a notion of omnipresence, and hence it can be said to be universal. Both Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá elaborate on the theme of universal revelation in several sections of their writings. A few extracts from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh will further exemplify this category of revelation:
"Universal Revelation" . . . such revelation already existeth in all things . . . all things are the recipients and revealers of the splendours of that ideal King . . . the signs of the revelation of that Sun, the Source of all splendour, exists and are manifest in the mirrors of beings. Nay were man to gaze with the eye of divine and spiritual discernment, he will readily recognize that nothing whatsoever can exist without the revelation of the splendour of God, the ideal King. Consider how all created things eloquently testify to the revelation of that inner Light within them.
So potent and universal is this revelation, that it hath encompassed all things, visible and invisible. . . "No thing have I perceived, except that I perceived God within it, God before it, or God after it."
The whole universe reflecteth His glory, while He is independent of, and transcendeth His creatures. This is the true meaning of Divine unity. He Who is the Eternal Truth is the one Power Who exerciseth undisputed sovereignty over the world of being, Whose image is reflected in the mirror of the entire creation.
There are a few points to notice here. In the first two examples the technical term "universal revelation" is used whereas in the latter example this category is only indirectly inferred. Further, one can observe that the very existence of things are dependent upon this kind of revelation and in this sense it can be said to be an "ontological" basis. Also, it encompasses "all things, visible and invisible," which may be a reference to the higher, and therefore invisible, kingdoms. In the second excerpt, Bahá'u'lláh is referring to a saying which alludes to that God can be perceived in all things. This suggests that universal revelation is open to human experience. The third quote also conveys the macro/microcosmos scheme where God's image is "reflected in the mirror of the entire creation." In this context one can notice the solar-mirror model in the first passage where "the signs of the revelation of that Sun, the Source of all splendour, exists and are manifest in the mirrors of beings."
The theme of universal revelation is also expressed in a more mystical and poetic manner by Bahá'u'lláh:
How resplendent the luminaries of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that surge within a drop!
Within every blade of grass are enshrined the mysteries of an inscrutable wisdom, and upon every rose-bush a myriad nightingales pour out, in blissful rapture, their melody. . . In every leaf ineffable delights are treasured, and within every chamber unnumbered mysteries lie hidden.
The basic and recurrent theme here is that of the macro/microcosmos scheme. Although each being is sustained by revelation it may also reflect various attributes of God, but as could be noticed above, this is only in accordance to the inherent capacity. Moreover, all things are not only "recipients" of revelation but "revealers" as well, since they are "a revelation of His names." Further, as was mentioned formerly, human beings are viewed as unique in creation in their capacity of reflecting the names and attributes of God. In comparison to other created things (in the lower kingdoms of Násút), which may reflect at least one of the names or attributes of God, Bahá'u'lláh writes: "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." Earlier it was shown that the mirror-model was employed to "creation" and "beings," but here one can observe that the mirror-model is specifically addressed to the human kingdom. This metaphor and imagery is extremely frequent in the Bahá'í writings and is a theme which will be addressed when discussing the nature of the Manifestations of God.
B. Specific Revelation
When examining specific revelation in relation to universal revelation Bahá'u'lláh describes the former category as follows:
[. . .] "Specific Revelation of God" . . . interpreted as the "Holy Outpouring," this is admittedly applicable to the world of creation, that is, in the realm of primal and original manifestation of God. Such revelation is confined to His Prophets and chosen Ones, inasmuch as none mightier than they hath come to exist in the world of being.
In this passage the fundamental difference between universal and specific revelation is seen in that the latter is "confined to His Prophets and chosen Ones." This excerpt may now clarify the passage in the beginning of this section where Bahá'u'lláh distinguished between the two kinds of education (revelation) and stated: "The other is confined to them that have come under the shadow of this Name." "The other" thus indirectly refers to the Prophets mentioned above. Once again one can see that special revelation is described as "confined" and it could therefore be considered as a special category, or sub-category, of universal revelation. The significance of the term "confined" may also imply that it is only relevant, or applicable, for human beings since it was seen that the human world is more in need of guidance and education than the lower creatures. The lower creatures (or kingdoms) are already guided through the laws of nature which operates via universal revelation (education). This does not mean that human beings are excluded from universal revelation since, as was seen earlier, they are ontologically dependent upon this category of revelation. On the contrary, special revelation could instead be viewed as an additional and special category of revelation to human beings.
The following section, excerpted from one of Bahá'u'lláh's most mystical writings, Haft-Vádí (The Seven Valleys), is highly interesting since it not only uses a verse from the Qur'án and an Hadíth, but that it indirectly contrasts specific revelation with universal revelation:
For the heavenly wisdoms, like the clouds of spring, will not rain down on the earth of men's hearts forever; and though the grace of the All-Bounteous One is never stilled and never ceasing, yet to each time and era a portion is allotted and a bounty set apart, this in a given measure. "And no one thing is there, but with Us are its storehouses; and We send it not down but in settled measure." [Qur'án 15:21] The cloud of the loved One's mercy raineth only on the garden of the spirit, and bestoweth this bounty only in the season of spring. The other seasons have no share in this greatest grace, and barren land no portion of this favour . . . "His beauty hath no veiling save light, His face no covering save revelation." [Hadíth] How strange that while the Beloved is visible as the sun, yet the heedless still hunt after tinsel and base metal. Yea, the intensity of His revelation hath covered Him, and the fullness of His shining forth hath hidden Him.
The universal category of revelation can be observed in the phrase "though the grace of the All-Bounteous One is never stilled and never ceasing," i.e., it is eternal and perpetual. The specific category of revelation can be seen as contrasted with the universal since it is viewed as periodical, "to each time and era," and "a portion is allotted," or that it is revealed in "a given" or "settled measure." Notice the metaphor with the "clouds of spring" which "will not rain down . . . forever." This is another way that the term "confined" could be interpreted in that special revelation is seen as "confined," or limited, to a certain time-period. The solar-cloud metaphor can also be observed here, and in other contexts, where Bahá'u'lláh is using this model in that the clouds hides, or veils, the true nature of the sun. In the passage above Bahá'ulláh (probably referring to himself) writes that "the Beloved is visible as the sun" but "the intensity of His revelation hath covered Him." This statement also conveys the hidden, or concealed, aspect of revelation.
Another highly important concept is introduced here in that specific revelation is not disclosed instantaneously in its entirety, but that it is revealed in "a given measure." This concept is related to another key term and concept, that of capacity, which has been mention earlier. This recurrent theme in the Bahá'í-texts states that revelation is given to humans: "in direct proportion to their spiritual capacity;" "to the extent of their station," "in proportion to their ability to sustain the burden of His message;" "to a degree corresponding to the capacity of the people of Our age;" "in strict conformity with such conditions as have been foreordained by Him Who is the All-Knowing," "that would best meet the requirements of the age," and "according to the language of the people of creation."
Concomitantly, in the following excerpt Bahá'ulláh, again using the solar-model, is demonstrating what would happen if the total quantity of revelation would be revealed immediately:
[. . .] if the Sun of Truth were suddenly to reveal, at the earliest stages of its manifestation, the full measure of the potencies which the providence of the Almighty hath bestowed upon it, the earth of human understanding would waste away and be consumed; for men's hearts would neither sustain the intensity of its revelation, nor be able to mirror forth the radiance of its light. Dismayed and overpowered, they would cease to exist.
Here one may notice that in the first excerpt the manifestation is described in "stages," a key term and concept which shall be discussed in other contexts. In addition, Bahá'u'lláh further states that if revelation would not be in accordance to capacity: "mortal eyes would be blinded by the dazzling intensity of His revelation;" or "all created things would be so dazzled and thunderstruck by the evidences of His light as to be reduced to utter nothingness."
There seems to be yet another reason why revelation is not given abruptly in its full measure:
Were the Eternal Essence to manifest all that is latent within Him, were He to shine in the plentitude of His glory, none would be found to question His power or repudiate His truth.
In this and other sections Bahá'u'lláh indicates that God's revelation to humanity also serves as a test or a judgment. Here the third category in the apocalyptic actors (R) the receivers is briefly touched upon, and it can be summarized that the revelation is given and received according to human; 1) capacity or station, and 2) circumstances, conditions, requirements and language, and 3) in order to test or judge mankind. Some of these themes shall further be develop when the concept of progressive revelation is to be examined.
Although the above indicates that revelation is in accordance to the three areas above, Bahá'u'lláh also states that "He Who is the Eternal Truth manifesteth Himself in conformity with that which He Himself hath purposed, and not according to the desires and expectations of men." In this paragraph revelation is seen as being in conformity with God's purpose which may, or may not, be in consonance with what humanity sees as its own purpose. Further, one can observe that although revelation may be in accordance with the above stated areas, it may not be in harmony with how humanity may desire or expect God to reveal himself.
To summarize: revelation can, according to Bahá'u'lláh, be divided into two main categories, one primary or universal revelation and one secondary or specific revelation. The latter seems to be a sub-category of the former since it appears to be confined to the human realm. Yet, all created things in the cosmos, including humans, are ontologically dependent upon universal revelation. As will be shown below, one of the central topics of this thesis, the concept of progressive revelation, falls under the category of specific revelation. Further, as was seen above, one central feature of specific revelation is the concept of a Prophet of God. It is therefore vital to briefly survey and analyze some of the most salient aspects of Bahá'í-prophetology before delving into the topic of progressive revelation.
In the introduction of this thesis the tripartite model of the actors of revelation was defined as: 1) sender, source (S), 2) messenger, mediator (M), and 3) receiver(s), recipient(s) (R). In the sections above, the first actor God (S) was discussed in Bahá'í-theology, and the third actor(s) humanity (R) was briefly touched upon in the former section on Universal and Specific Revelation. In order to more fully understand Bahá'í-apocalypticism and the concept of progressive revelation, it is in this section necessary to devote some analysis to the second actor of this structure the Bahá'í concept of mediation of revelation (M) which revolves around the prophet or messenger of God.
In the following examples, Bahá'u'lláh explains the need of a mediator between the Godly and the human realms, which further exemplifies the tripartite structure of revelation (S-M-R) :
[. . .] since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one true God with His creation, and no resemblance whatever can exist between the transient and the Eternal, the contingent and the Absolute, He [God] hath ordained that in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven.
[. . .] in the kingdoms of earth and heaven there must needs be manifested a Being, an Essence Who shall act as a Manifestation and Vehicle for the transmission of the grace of the Divinity Itself, the Sovereign Lord of all.
The sentence "a pure and stainless Soul" alludes to the prophet or messenger of God (M). This "Soul" is to be "made manifest" not only in the kingdom of earth but in heaven as well. Notice that this soul is to be made "manifest" which suggests some form of appearance. The reasoning that Bahá'u'lláh is applying here is similar to what was stated earlier in the section on universal and special revelation in that there can be no direct relationship between the essence of God (S) and his creation (creatures) (R). Hence, some indirect form of mediation (M) between these separate realms must be established. The statement that this "Being" is manifested "in the kingdoms of earth and heaven" can symbolize that the messenger either occupies a dual nature or station, or that the messenger has access to both realms, the terrestrial and the celestial.
A. The Prophets, Messengers, or Manifestations of God
The Prophet, or Messenger, of God is usually referred to as a "Manifestation of God." The Manifestation of God is, according to J. Cole (1982), at the center of the teachings of the Bahá'í-religion. This conclusion may be arrived at by inference from studying the various Bahá'í-texts, but Cole does not support this statement directly from the Bahá'í-writings themselves. It may be correct to state the concept of the Manifestation of God plays a central role in the Bahá'í-religion, but this concept, as will be shown, is part of a much larger and more central concept that of progressive revelation which ultimately is subordinate to the system of Bahá'í-apocalypticism.
The terms Prophet and Messenger are frequently employed by especially Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, but the term "Manifestation of God" appears to be the most common epithet used by all three Bahá'í-authors. The terms Prophet, and Messenger, of God are sometimes also used synonymously. For example, Bahá'u'lláh writes in the same sentence that "all the Prophets of God, His well-favored, His holy and chosen Messengers are, without exception, the bearers of His names, and the embodiments of His attributes." The terminology which is connected with the Manifestations of God is rather exhaustive. The following citation by Bahá'u'lláh may illustrate the abundant and complex variety of titles which are associated with this concept:
It hath, therefore, become manifest and evident that within the tabernacles of these Prophets and chosen Ones of God the light of His infinite names and exalted attributes hath been reflected, even though the light of some of these attributes may or may not be outwardly revealed from these luminous Temples to the eyes of men. That a certain attribute of God hath not been outwardly manifested by these Essences of Detachment doth in no wise imply that they who are the Day Springs of God's attributes and the Treasuries of His holy names did not actually possess it. Therefore, these illuminated Souls, these beauteous Countenances have, each and every one of them, been endowed with all the attributes of God.
In addition to the above stated designations, Bahá'u'lláh entitles the Manifestation of God as: "Tabernacles of holiness," "Primal Mirrors," "Essences of Being," "Day Stars of His divine guidance," "symbols of His divine unity," "sanctified Beings," "Manifestations of His wondrous Essence," "the Luminaries of truth," "Manifestations of the Sun of Truth," "Manifestations of Holiness," "Birds of the celestial Throne" etc. Notice the various metaphors of "mirror," "sun," and "bird." Further, the concept of "manifestation" occurs also in connection with other epithets. In the next passage Bahá'u'lláh enumerates various titles of the Manifestations of God and states that they are all essentially identical:
By virtue of this station they have claimed for themselves the Voice of Divinity and the like, whilst by virtue of their station of Messengership, they have declared themselves the Messengers of God. In every instance they have voiced an utterance that would conform to the requirements of the occasion, and have ascribed all these declarations to Themselves, declarations ranging from the realm of Divine Revelation to the realm of creation, and from the domain of Divinity even unto the domain of earthly existence. Thus it is that whatsoever be their utterance, whether it pertain to the realm of Divinity, Lordship, Prophethood, Messengership, Guardianship, Apostleship, or Servitude, all is true, beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Notice also that the Manifestations of God "have voiced an utterance that would conform to the requirements of the occasion," which connotes to the above stated concept of receptivity according to capacity. Although Bahá'u'lláh above seems to include a variety of titles under the epithet of Manifestation of God, in his Kitáb-i-Íqán, he elevates the "prophet endowed with constancy" who have revealed a "Book" and which suggests the advent of a new revelation and the establishment of a new religion. 'Abdu'l-Bahá is more explicit on this point since he clearly distinguishes between two kinds of prophets:
Universally, the prophets are of two kinds. One are the independent Prophets Who are followed; the other kind are not independent and are themselves followers. The independent Prophets are the lawgivers and the founders of a new cycle . . . The Manifestations of universal Prophethood Who appeared independently are, for example, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. But the others who are followers and promoters are like Solomon, David, Isiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. For the independent Prophets are founders; They establish a new religion and make new creatures of men; They change the general morals, promote new customs and rules, renew the cycle and the Law. Their appearance is like the season of spring, which arrays all earthly beings in a new garment, and give them a new life. With regard to the second sort of Prophets who are followers, these also promote the Law of God, make known the Religion of God, and proclaim His word. Of themselves they have no power and might, except what they receive from the independent Prophets.
Here one can see an important difference in that the "independent Prophets" (Abraham to Bahá'u'lláh) are "founders" of "a new religion." This kind of prophets are also referred to as "universal Prophets." The "second sort of Prophets" are dependent upon the former for whom they are "followers and promoters." In other words, the latter kind of prophets (Salomon to Ezekiel), do not establish a new religion since they do not reveal a "Book." They do, however, "promote the Law of God" and "make known the Religion of God." Consequently, only the "prophet endowed with constancy," or the "independent Prophets," are upheld as Manifestations of God.
In the example above 'Abdu'l-Bahá enumerates six universal Prophets, or Manifestations of God, but other sources mention additional religious figures, and therefore the following names can be added to the sequence: Adam, Noah, Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Húd, Sálih, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. Nevertheless, although the above mentioned, and more or less well-known, religious figures are regarded as Manifestations of God, the Bahá'í-authors do not specify a limited number of Prophets. On the contrary, the number of Manifestations of God appears to be unknown. On this theme Bahá'u'lláh states:
[. . .] the Manifestations of His Divine Glory . . . 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 records of their lives lost is to be attributed to the disturbances and changes that have overtaken the world.
[. . .] the manifold bounties of the Lord of all beings have, at all times, through the Manifestations of His divine Essence, encompassed the earth and all that dwell therein. Not for a moment hath his grace been withheld, nor have the showers of His loving-kindness ceased to rain upon mankind.
Similarly 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes that:
[. . .] there 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.
From these examples it should be clear that the forgoing mentioned number of six Manifestations of God is not an exclusive number, since Bahá'u'lláh states that they "have been sent down from time immemorial," "in every age," and even that "the names of some of them are forgotten." Similarly, the quote by 'Abdu'l-Bahá above supports this conclusion since he states that the Manifestations of God existed even as far back as "a million years ago." The appearance of a Manifestation of God, according to this view of prophetology, may be a rare event, but it is not a unique phenomenon in the history of mankind. Although the list of religious figures above seems to be limited to the Near- and Far East regions, it is possible to interpret the sentence "encompassed the earth" as an allusion to a global scheme of revelation. In addition, Bahá'u'lláh says: "Unto the cities of all nations He hath sent His Messengers." Consequently, the revelatory process does not seem to be restricted to any specific time period or geographic locality.
The examples above are predominantly oriented toward the past and hence it is relevant to turn the attention to the future perspective of the Manifestations of God. In his Súriy-i-Sabr, Bahá'u'lláh addresses this issue and states that:
God hath sent down His Messengers to succeed to Moses and Jesus, and He will continue to do so till 'the end that hath no end'; so that His grace may, from the heaven of Divine bounty, be continually vouchsafed to mankind.
Thus, one can conclude that the Manifestations of God are neither limited to the past nor to the future but that the process of specific revelation is seen as ongoing and perpetual. This temporal theme will be further discussed in the subsequent sections dealing with the "Succession and Continuity of Religions" and "The cyclical scheme."
B. The nature and stations of the Manifestation of God
In order to understand Bahá'í-prophetology more fully it is also necessary to examine the nature of the Manifestation of God and to compare him to the human being and to God. For example, in his Qasídih-yi 'izz-i varqá'iyyih, Bahá'u'lláh explains that the Manifestation of God has both an inward and outward aspect. In addition, Bahá'u'lláh has devoted a whole tablet, Tablet of the Manifestation (Lawh-i Zuhúr), where he elaborates upon the nature of the Manifestation of God. He opens his exposition by stating that:
[. . .] the "Manifestation" is not composed of the four elements (earth, water, fire and air), nay, rather, He is the Mystery of Oneness, of the Ancient Identity, the Eternal Essence and the Unknowable Reality, and that, verily, He can never be known by any other save Himself. Therefore, one can never realize that He hath appeared from any of the four elements, or from any of the substances mentioned by the tongues of philosophers, or from any of the four expressions of nature, such as heat, cold, dry and wet, inasmuch as all these are created by His Command and Will.
From this example it is clear that Bahá'u'lláh implies that the essence of the Manifestation of God cannot be reduced to the four elements but that he is comprised of a completely different substance than that of the ordinary human being. However, further in his Lawh-i Zuhúr he continues to describe the body of the Manifestation of God, and this time he states that:
As to the bodies, verily, they are as thrones for His Manifestation, of which no one is informed save Himself! These bodies although they have appeared in the world of creation, in the Temple in which ye have been informed of (Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, etc.), yet were ye to gaze upon them with the eye of reality and innate consciousness, ye would testify that although they are created from the elements, yet they are sanctified from them to such an extent that there is no similitude between them.
When depicting the bodies of the Manifestation of God as "thrones" or "temples" Bahá'u'lláh now seem to admit that they are "created from the elements" and that they have "appeared in the world of creation." This appears to be contradictory to the first example where Bahá'u'lláh described that the Manifestations of God as not being composed of the four elements. However, the second example continues to say that although the Manifestations of God are composed of the elements they are "sanctified from them to such an extent that there is no similitude between them." Subsequently, in the Lawh-i Zuhúr, Bahá'u'lláh makes an implicit comparison between a diamond and a stone. It is possible to infer from the context of this metaphor that the former is attributed to the Manifestation of God and the latter to the human being. Although both bodies share similar properties the metaphor conveys a sense of value in that the diamond possess qualities which are deficient in the stone.
Earlier it was shown that both Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá made distinctions between two types of revelation and Prophets, and to clarify the above stated dichotomy between the Manifestation of God and the human being, Bahá'u'lláh also assigns a dual nature, or station, to the Manifestation of God. In his Kitáb-i-Íqán (The Book of Certitude), Bahá'u'lláh delineates this distinctions as follows:
These Manifestations of God have each a twofold station. One is the station of pure abstraction and essential unity. In this respect, if thou callest them all by one name, and dost ascribe unto them the same attributes, thou hast not erred from the truth. Even as He hath revealed: "No distinction do We make between any of His Messengers." . . . This Revelation is exalted above the veils of plurality and the exigencies of number. Thus He saith: "Our Cause is but One." Inasmuch as the Cause is one and the same, the Exponents thereof also must needs be one and the same.
Know thou assuredly that the essence of all the Prophets of God is one and the same. Their unity is absolute. God, the Creator, saith: There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message. They all have but one purpose; their secret is the same secret.
In both examples above Bahá'u'lláh is clearly drawing upon the Qur'án and is agreeing that from one perspective no distinction should be made between the messengers of God. Hence, he refers to this station as "pure abstraction and essential unity" of the Manifestation of God. Notice that in the second quote, Bahá'u'lláh says that it is the "essence of all the Prophets of God" which is identical. Further, he states that they have the same "Cause," "purpose," and "attributes."
Subsequently in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá'u'lláh explains the second station of the Manifestation of God:
[. . .] the station of distinction . . . pertaineth to the world of creation and to the limitations thereof. In this respect, each Manifestation of God hath a distinct individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined Revelation, and specially designated limitations. Each one of them is known by a different name, is characterized by a special attribute, fulfils a definite Mission, and is entrusted with a particular Revelation.
Here it is possible to discern a clear difference between the station of essential unity and that of distinction, and what is particularly evident in the station of distinction is the emphasis on limitations. By combining the findings from the Qasídih-yi 'izz-i varqá'iyyih, the Lawh-i Zuhúr, and the Kitáb-i-Íqán, one can contrast and structure the two stations as follows:
station of essential unity (esoteric)
uncreated, sanctified from the elements
essentially identical (no distinctions)
the same name
the Revelation is exalted
above the veils of plurality
the same attributes
station of distinction (exoteric)
bodies created by the elements
a distinct individuality
a different name
a prescribed/definite Mission
a special attribute
specially designated limitations
It was mentioned earlier that the Manifestation of God was manifested "in the kingdoms of earth and heaven" and the above scheme probably refers to this dichotomy. Yet, in this context Bahá'u'lláh also states: "They [the Manifestations] were created before the creation of heaven and earth." Consequently, this is another feature which distinguishes the Manifestation of God from the human being in that the former is seen as preexistent whereas human life originates at the moment of conception.
In other contexts Bahá'u'lláh portrays the dual nature of the Manifestations of God in a more indirect and mystical manner:
Unto this subtle, this mysterious and ethereal Being He hath assigned a twofold nature; the physical, pertaining to the world of matter, and the spiritual, which is born of the substance of God Himself.
These ancient Beings, though delivered from the womb of their mother, have in reality descended from the heaven of the will of God. Though they be dwelling on this earth, yet their true habitations are the retreats of glory in the realms above. Whilst walking amongst mortals, they soar in the heaven of the divine presence. Without feet they tread the path of the spirit, and without wings they rise unto the exalted heights of divine unity. With every fleeting breath they cover the immensity of space, and at every moment traverse the kingdoms of the visible and the invisible.
Here Bahá'u'lláh contrasts the physical and material nature of the Manifestation of God with the spiritual, "which is born of the substance of God Himself," and although they are born a physical birth, they have nevertheless "descended from heaven," and are capable of traversing the various kingdoms both the visible (material) and the invisible (spiritual).
In like manner, 'Abdu'l-Bahá also makes a similar differentiation of the Manifestation of God, but instead of making a dual distinction he enumerates three different stations; 1) the physical, 2) the human, and 3) the divine:
Know that the Holy Manifestations . . . speaking generally, have only three stations. The first station is the physical; the second station is the human, which is that of the rational soul; the third is that of the divine appearance and the heavenly splendor. The physical station is phenomenal; it is composed of elements, and necessarily everything that is composed is subject to decomposition. It is not possible that a composition should not be disintegrated. The second is the station of the rational soul, which is the human reality. This also is phenomenal, and the Holy Manifestations share it with all mankind. . . The third station is that of the divine appearance and heavenly splendor: it is the Word of God, the Eternal Bounty, the Holy Spirit.
Although 'Abdu'l-Bahá makes this additional distinction, it only appears to be a further division within the station of distinction, i.e., the first (physical) and second (human) stations can, by comparing them to Bahá'u'lláh's passage above, be viewed as subdivisions. Consequently, the first two stations both pertain to the realm of "creation" and could therefore be included within the station of distinction. The third station (the divine) could, in turn, be seen as identical with the station of essential unity where the Manifestation of God is equated with the "Word of God" and the "Holy Spirit" which emanates from God, or is "born of the substance of God Himself." 'Abdu'l-Bahá also agrees with Bahá'u'lláh that the Manifestation of God is preexistent. In addition, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá further states that the Manifestation of God is essentially infallible and that he is endowed with innate knowledge. Hence, one can complement Table 3 above with the following additions by Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá:
divine station human and physical stations (essential unity, esoteric) (distinction, exoteric) spiritual physical, material born of the substance delivered by the wombs of their mothers of God Himself; descended from heaven immortal, preexistent phenomenal, composed of elements, mortal, subject to decomposition Holy Spirit, Word of God human soul, rational soul essential infallibility can acquire infallibility (Most Great Infallibility) possesses innate, divine can acquire knowledge knowledge soars in heaven and dwells on earth, walks among mortals can traverse between all the kingdoms
The two tables summarize the nature and stations of the Manifestation of God. From this structural analysis one can observe that, with regard to the right columns, the Manifestation of God shares the same qualities, abilities, and limitations, with the rest of humanity. However, the left columns depicts the Manifestation of God as belonging to a completely different dimension or reality. Since the right columns are associated with limitations, distinctions, and plurality, this station has in this thesis equated with the exoteric dimension. Similarly, since the left columns portray the manifestation of God as existing beyond the time/space continuum, this station has been equated with the esoteric dimension. As will be shown in this thesis, the former station is intimately related to the horizontal axis whereas the latter station is primarily connected with the vertical axis of Bahá'í-apocalypticism (See Appendix I and II).
Previously it was concluded that special revelation is a sub-category of universal revelation and that the former is especially "confined" to the human realm since the lower kingdoms (in Násút) where seen as guided by the laws of nature (universal revelation). However, in the Lawh-i Zuhúr, Bahá'u'lláh does make a few surprising references that the Manifestation of God is not confined solely to the human realm:
In every world, He [the Manifestation of God] appears according to the capacity of that world. For example, in the world of spirits He manifests Himself to them and appears unto them with the signs of the Spirit. So, likewise, in bodies in the world of names and attributes; and in the worlds which are not known to any save God. All of these worlds have their position from this Manifestation. He appears unto them in His Form, so that He, their Lord, may direct them, and draw them nearer to the seat of His Command, and cause them to attain to that which was ordained for them. As His Reality is not known, so likewise all that is related to Him is not known, except to a certain degree.
[. . .] all in heaven and earth are created from Their Outward Temples, and that all the worlds of the Lord seek help from the Manifestation of God, the Protector, the Self-Subsistent!
Here the Manifestation of God appears in "every world," albeit according to capacity, and "all the worlds" seek his help." Consequently, the Manifestation of God seem to reveal himself, in the appropriate form and manner, even in the higher kingdoms, or "in the world of spirits" (Malakút etc). It is therefore possible to draw the conclusion that if one would interpret the meaning of the Manifestation of God with its essential nature, i.e., as the Holy Spirit, it is plausible to evaluate these examples in the context of both universal and specific revelation. The sentence: "all in heaven and earth are created from Their Outward Temples," could then be interpreted that all beings are created by the Holy Spirit, or by universal revelation. It would then follow that each world would also have its own "specific" revelation and that God, via the Holy Spirit, could manifest himself as, e.g., an animal in the animal kingdom and as a spirit in the spiritual world etc. Notice also that in the first section that although "His Reality is not known," "likewise all that is related to Him is not known." These two sentences could be explicated as referring the essence of God, and the totality of God's attributes, which may be known only to a "certain degree," i.e., according to capacity. That God reveals himself according to each station, or capacity, can be seen in the next examples of Bahá'u'lláh's writings:
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.
His Manifestation for His creatures has ever been through His creatures.
Previously it was concluded that God can be known in three ways; through creation, the human being, and via the Manifestation of God. Yet, the first paragraph seems to suggest that the third way would be the only alternative. Another way to interpret this is that the first two ways belong to the universal category of revelation and are therefore indirect. The third way would therefore belong to the specific category of revelation which is direct. Consequently, for God to communicate directly with his human creatures, he must, via the Holy Spirit (station of essential unity), manifest himself as, or via, a human being (station of distinction). However, Bahá'u'lláh states that although this is the only way God can directly communicate with human beings, they become "deluded by the appearance of the peerless and everlasting Beauty in the garb of mortal men," and thus they may even fail to recognize him.
As was stated formerly, each created thing can only comprehend God according to its capacity, and if the amount or process of revelation would be too great or too sudden, this would be unbearable or even devastating to the creatures. Hence, Bahá'u'lláh continues in his Lawh-i Zuhúr to explain: "Verily, were God the Exalted to appear in His (proper) grade and form, and in a manner befitting His Station, no one could ever approach Him or endure to be near Him." Similarly, 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes that the "unseen Reality that embraceth all beings, and that existeth and revealeth itself in all stages, the essence whereof is beyond the grasp of the mind."
Although this manifestation and revelation at first appears to be pantheistic, it was earlier stated that God "can in no wise incarnate His Essence." As will be shown below, the essence of God is instead viewed as a "reflection," or "emanation," while the essence never manifests itself in creation. In order to clarify this obscure point it is necessary to examine the Manifestation of God by comparing him to both God and man.
C. The Manifestation of God between God and man
It was previously stated in the section on Bahá'í-theology that the essence of God is considered to be concealed to all created things, and yet the Manifestation of God is preexistent and referred to as a manifestation of God. Consequently, it is appropriately to examine whether the Manifestation of God in anyway is identical to God or not. Bahá'u'lláh is addressing this issue in the Kitáb-i-Íqán where he paradoxically states that:
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. . . . And were any of them to voice the utterance: "I am the Messenger of God," He also speaketh the truth, the indubitable truth.
In contrast to this statement, Bahá'u'lláh also emphatically states that:
Ten thousand Prophets, each a Moses, are thunderstruck upon the Sinai of their search at His forbidding voice, "Thou shalt never behold Me!"; whilst a myriad Messengers, each as great as Jesus, stand dismayed upon their heavenly thrones by the indiction, "Mine Essence thou shalt never apprehend!" From time immemorial He hath been veiled in the ineffable sanctity of His exalted Self, and will everlastingly continue to be wrapt in the impenetrable mystery of His unknowable Essence.
In the first passage Bahá'u'lláh clearly states that it would be equally valid to state that the Manifestation of God is identical with God as to denote him as a Messenger of God. Yet, in the second section Bahá'u'lláh vividly portrays the utter impossibility of the Manifestation of God of comprehending the essence of God. Notice that the Self of God is not only "veiled" since time immemorial, but that it is moreover an "ineffable" and "impenetrable mystery." Close analysis of the two sections, and by reading in them in the context of other Bahá'í-texts, reveals that this enigma only is apparent. Notice in the first section that the above stated identity between the Manifestation of God and God only is "through their Revelation, their attributes and names, the Revelation of God, His name and His attributes," and that these "are made manifest in the world." In other words, although the Manifestation of God is completely unable to comprehend the essence of God he can, albeit, in that he is a mediator of God, reflect and manifest God's attributes and names. In a previous section it was also seen that the "true meaning of Divine unity" was seen in that the "whole universe reflecteth His glory, while He is independent of, and transcendeth His creatures."
In the Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá'u'lláh discusses the first passage above in parallel with the two stations of the Manifestation of God. In this immediate context it is possible to infer that the station of essential unity points to a unity, or identity, with God, whereas the second station refers to the notion of duality, or distinction, between God and the Manifestation of God. These levels are also found when Bahá'u'lláh contrasts the two stations within himself:
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!
Notice here that although Bahá'u'lláh is referring to an identity (station of unity, esoteric) he is still speaking of a "relationship" with God in dualistic terms. Further, when considering his own "self," he is comparing it to "clay," a metaphor which is highly suggestive in portraying his human and/or physical nature (station of distinction, exoteric). In another contexts of his writings, Bahá'u'lláh discusses the issue of "Divine unity" as follows:
The essence of belief in Divine unity consisteth in regarding Him Who is the Manifestation of God and Him Who is the invisible, the inaccessible, the unknowable Essence as one and the same. By this is meant that whatever pertaineth to the former, all His acts and doings, whatever He ordaineth or forbiddeth, should be considered, in all their aspects, and under all circumstances, and without any reservation, as identical with the Will of God Himself. This is the loftiest station to which a true believer in the unity of God can ever hope to attain. Blessed is the man that reacheth this station, and is of them that are steadfast in their belief.
In this passage it is possible to observe that the emphasis of the identity with God does not lie on an ontological level but exists rather on a performative and ethical plane. Bahá'u'lláh is stressing God's "acts and doings" (performative), and "whatever He ordaineth or forbiddeth" (ethical), and not that their beings are identical (ontological). The performative and ethical dimension can also be seen as integral to the term the "Will of God."
In his final work, The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Bahá'u'lláh is also referring to the theme of Divine unity, but this time in more personal terms:
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.
Once again, the emphasis of identity with God does not have an ontological status but lies rather on a level of surrender, or "annihilation," of the ego (lower self). Above it was concluded that the Manifestation of God's identity with God was on a performative and ethical plane. However, it is also possible to further distinguish between the performative/ethical dimension and the epistemological dimension, i.e., the Manifestation of God may be completely incapable of comprehending the essence of God, but due to his role as a mediator, he is still able to reflect the attributes or names of God through his obedience and actions. Earlier it was seen that the Manifestations of God embody all the human attributes (station of distinction). It was also noted that one characteristic which was unique to the human beings is the attribute of volition. In the last section above it was also observed that Bahá'u'lláh expressed his lack of control over his own "weal . . woe . . . life . . . resurrection." This brings us to the question of free will with the regard to the Manifestation of God. On this issue Bahá'u'lláh says:
[. . . ] of all men, the most accomplished, the most distinguished and the most excellent are the Manifestations of the Sun of Truth. Nay, all else besides these Manifestations, live by the operation of their Will, and move and have their being through the outpourings of their grace. . . . Human tongue can never befittingly sing their praise, and human speech can never unfold their mystery. These Tabernacles of holiness, these primal Mirrors which reflect the light of unfading glory, are but expressions of Him Who is the Invisible of the Invisibles. By the revelation of these gems of divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty and grace, are made manifest.
There are a couple of points that should be mentioned here. First, the Manifestations of God are viewed as superior to the ordinary human beings, and this was also seen when the station of essential unity was examined. Secondly, the Manifestations of God, although they share the free volition on the human level, do not "live by the operation of their Will," but rather according to the "Will of God." From this perspective the Manifestations of God are, in a limited sense, "identical" to God in that they are mediators of the Will of God. Third, human beings can not fully understand, nor properly describe, the Manifestations of God. Finally, the Manifestations of God are considered as "primal Mirrors" in that they are expressions of God, and by their "revelation . . . all the names and attributes of God. . . are made manifest." However, in Bahá'í-cosmology the macro/microcosm scheme was discussed and it was concluded that every man also had the unique ability to reflect and manifest "all of His [God's] names and attributes." Consequently, the question that emerges here is as follows: if human beings and the Manifestation of God both are able to reflect and manifest all the names and attributes of God, where lies the significant difference?
According to Cole (1982), the Manifestation of God does not manifest, or reflect, the essence of God, but rather the attributes of God. For example, Cole writes:
In spite of the clear statements in Bahá'u'lláh's writings attributing the station of divinity to the manifestation of God, we should underscore that such a station derives from being a manifestation of the divine attributes rather than the essence of God.
[. . .] Bahá'u'lláh does sometimes talk of the manifestation of the essence of God. But in light of his frequent disclaimers that the divine essence can be manifested, we must take this as an abbreviated way of speaking of the attributes of the essence of God.
It is interesting that Cole is both indirectly and directly admitting that Bahá'u'lláh is referring to the Manifestation of God as the "manifestation of the essence of God." Yet, he does not support this conclusion that it is only the names and attributes of God that are revealed and manifested with any direct evidence from the Bahá'í-texts. However, what could speak in favor of Cole's conclusion is a statement like the following by Bahá'u'lláh:
Know thou of a certainty that the Unseen can in no wise incarnate His Essence and reveal it unto men. He is, and hath ever been, immensely exalted beyond all that can either be recounted or perceived.
If one interprets the first line: "the Unseen can in no wise incarnate His Essence and reveal it unto men" as one indivisible whole, then it is certainly possible to conclude that God does not reveal "His Essence" unto men. Still, it is in fact possible to find lines by Bahá'u'lláh which states the very opposite:
[. . .] in every age and Dispensation, whenever the invisible Essence was revealed in the person of His Manifestation . . .
It is also conceivable to interpret the first section above as following: "the Unseen" [the essence of God] can not reveal itself by incarnating its essence, but it does reveal its essence through the process of emanation and reflection. On this theme 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes the following:
The Real Speaker, the Essence of Unity, has always been in one condition, which neither changes nor alters, has neither transformation nor vicissitude. He is the Eternal, the Immortal. Therefore, the proceeding of the human spirits from God is through emanation.
Here 'Abdu'l-Bahá clearly indicates that although the "Essence of Unity" (the essence of God) is immutable, yet, human spirits proceed from God through the process of emanation.
During his visit to Paris 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave a few public speeches which subsequently have been recorded and collected as his Paris Talks. During one of these talks he comments upon the Gospel statement "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" -and explains this as "God manifested in man." In this speech, and in another talk entitled, The Holy Spirit, The Intermediary Power Between God and man, 'Abdu'l-Bahá uses the solar-mirror model to elucidate these mystical relationships. In this model the sun symbolizes the essence, or totality, of God, the rays of the sun the emanation of the holy spirit, and the Manifestations of God "a perfectly polished Mirror." The significance of this solar-mirror model is that the sun does not descend into the mirror, i.e., God does not incarnate into the Manifestation of God. Yet, the sun's rays emanate into the mirror, i.e., God's attributes are perfectly reflected and manifested in the Manifestation of God via the emanations of the holy spirit. Consequently, the sentence "God manifested in man" is not perceived as a manifestation of God in the sense that it would be an "incarnation," but rather as a process of emanation via the holy spirit.
'Abdu'l-Bahá continues to develop this theme by using the same model as above, but where he also explains the "extreme need" for a mediator between God and human beings:
The Infinite Reality cannot be said to ascend or descend. It is beyond the understanding of man, and cannot be described in terms which apply to the phenomenal sphere of the created world. Man, then, is in extreme need of the only Power by which he is able to receive help from the Divine Reality, that Power alone bringing him into contact with the Source of all life. An intermediary is needed to bring two extremes into relation with each other. Riches and poverty, plenty and need: without an intermediary power there could be no relation between these pairs of opposites. So we can say there must be a Mediator between God and Man, and this is none other than the Holy Spirit, which brings the created earth into relation with the 'Unthinkable One', the Divine Reality. The Divine Reality may be likened to the sun and the Holy Spirit to the rays of the sun. As the rays of the sun bring the light and warmth of the sun to the earth, giving life to all created beings, so do the 'Manifestations' bring the power of the Holy Spirit from the Divine Sun of Reality to give light and life to the souls of men. Behold, there is an intermediary necessary between the sun and the earth; the sun does not descend to the earth, neither does the earth ascend to the sun. . . . The Holy Spirit it is which, through the mediation of the Prophets of God, teaches spiritual virtues to man and enables him to attain Eternal Life. All these blessings are brought to man by the Holy Spirit; therefore we can understand that the Holy Spirit is the Intermediary between the Creator and the created. The light and heat of the sun cause the earth to be fruitful, and create life in all things that grow; and the Holy Spirit quickens the souls of men.
From this talk it is clear that 'Abdu'l-Bahá equates the "Mediator," or "Intermediary," with the Holy Spirit, and that it operates via the "mediation of the Prophets of God" (the Manifestations of God). Similarly, Bahá'u'lláh also states that the role of the Manifestation of God is in connecting "this world with the realms above," and in other contexts he portrays the Manifestation of God as a channel, or vessel, of God. Thus, the Manifestation of God is partaking in both God's and the human realm, and yet, he cannot be reduced to either one. As has been repeatedly shown, the essence of God is beyond the human knowledge, but is in a sense indirectly accessible via the Manifestations of God. Consequently, the role of the Manifestation of God is primarily that of being a mediator (M) between the heavenly and earthly realms. Furthermore, in the last sentence the organic theme is recognized in that the sun causes the "earth to be fruitful, and create life in all things that grow." This organic theme is then immediately paralleled with that the Holy Spirit "quickens the souls of men."
The above noted tripartite structured model of revelation (S-R-M) is clearly illustrated in what is known as the "ringstone symbol," which is a symbol of the "Greatest Name" (i.e., Bahá).
This symbol can be likened to an "ideogram" since it possible to interpret it on many different levels. One way of interpreting it is that it consists of the Arabic letters "b" and "h" where the former letter stands for "Bahá" (Bahá'u'lláh) and the latter represents the "Báb." These letters, in their mutual configuration, can also be seen to be associated with what in this thesis is referred to as the three actors in the simplified model of revelation. Thus, the top horizontal line is described as "the world of God" or "the Creator," which agrees to (S). The middle horizontal line is depicted as "the world of Revelation," "the Manifestations of God," which correlates to (M). The bottom horizontal line symbolizes "the world of Creation" or the world of "man," which corresponds to (R). Finally, the vertical line is a repeat of the middle horizontal line and connects the three worlds and represents "the Holy Spirit," or "the Manifestation of God." Consequently, one can in this symbol clearly see that the Manifestation of God exists as a mediator between God and man, and in this intermediary role, he serves as a channel in order to connect the two worlds.
Another way of interpreting this symbol is that the two stars represents the two Manifestations of God (Báb and Bahá'u'lláh) and the lines the body of the human being. It is also interesting to observe that the upper half of the symbol can be said to be symmetrically reflected in the lower half, which conveys the idea that the world of God, via the Manifestations of God, is be mirrored in the world of Creation. These two latter interpretations are thus expressive of the macro/microcosmos scheme.
Yet, the question still remains if it is the essence of God which is reflected via the Manifestation of God, or if it is simply the very same attributes and names of God which humans can manifest. As Cole rightly observes, there are quite a few statements by Bahá'u'lláh which clearly indicate that the Manifestations of God are described as revealing God's essence. The following sections by Bahá'u'lláh may shed some light on this topic:
These Prophets and chosen Ones of God are the recipients and revealers of all the unchangeable attributes and names of God. They are the mirrors that truly and faithfully reflect the light of God.
The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace, according to His saying: "His grace hath transcended all things; My grace hath encompassed them all" hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence.
In the first section it can be observed that the Manifestations of God are both "recipients and revealers." They are thus not only messengers of revelation (M) but receivers (R) as well. This division is thus also in agreement with the specific model of apocalypticism. Again one can see that the Manifestations of God are described as "mirrors" who truly and faithfully can reflect God's light. But the important point here is that the Manifestations of God are described as the revealers of "all the unchangeable attributes and names of God." The distinction of unchangeable attributes is perhaps a subtle nuance, but is indicative of the essential (unchangeable) nature of God. The second citation reiterates the unknowability of God, and that the Manifestations of God come from the spiritual world and appears "in the noble form of the human temple." The significance of this quote, however, is the very last sentence where Bahá'u'lláh says that the Manifestations of God "tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence." In other words, they make the essence of God known to humanity. Moreover, the last section even identifies the Manifestation of God with the "Eternal Essence."
As a final support for the above stated reasoning, 'Abdu'l-Bahá also describes the Manifestations of God as reflecting the essence of God:
[. . . ] these manifestations are the Holy Dawning-places, the Universal Realities and the Divine Beings, Who are the true mirrors of the sanctified Essence of God. All the perfections, the bounties, the splendors which come from God are visible and evident in the Reality of the Holy Manifestations, like the sun which is resplendent in a clear polished mirror with all its perfections and bounties. If it be said that the mirrors are the manifestations of the sun and the dawning-places of the rising star, this does not mean that the sun has descended from the height of its sanctity and become incorporated in the mirror, nor that the Unlimited Reality is limited to this place of appearance.
Here the solar-mirror model is employed again, but notice that 'Abdu'l-Bahá in this context of the Manifestation of God clearly refutes that the sun would descend and be incarnated (incorporated) in the mirror (the Manifestation of God). The Manifestation of God is rather seen as being able to perfectly reflect the sun's (God's) attributes.
The simplified tripartite structure of revelation was described earlier where God (S) was symbolized as the sun, the Spirit/Manifestation of God as the emanating ray as the mediator or intermediary (M), and humanity as the earth as the recipients (R). However, the special model of revelation is also discussed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá where he is elaborating upon the Christian concept of the "Trinity":
But as to the question of the Trinity. . . there are necessarily three things: The Giver of the Grace, and the Grace, and the Recipient of the Grace; the Source of the Effulgence, and the Effulgence, and the Recipient of the Effulgence; the Illuminator, and the Illumination, and the Illuminated. Look at the Mosaic cycle: The Lord, and Moses, and the Fire (i. e., the burning bush), the Intermediary; and in the Mohammedan cycle: The Lord, the Apostle (or Messenger, Mohammed), and Gabriel . . . Look at the sun and its rays and the heat which results from its rays; the rays and the heat are but two effects of the sun, but inseparable from it; yet the sun is one in its essence, unique in its real identity, single in its attributes, neither is it possible that anything should resemble it. Such is the essence of the Truth concerning the Unity, the real doctrine of the Singularity, the undiluted reality as to the (Divine) Sanctity.
There are a few salient points here, but suffice it to say that in the examples of Moses and Muhammed the special model of apocalypticism can be recognized in that God is seen as "the Source," or "the Illuminator" (S), and "the Fire," or "Gabriel" are viewed as mediators (M). Finally, Moses and the Apostle (Muhammed) are regarded as the recipients of revelation (R). Immediately after this tripartite structure, the solar-model is applied and according to the "real doctrine of the Singularity," the emanations are seen as inseparable from the sun.
In conclusion, when distinguishing between the Manifestation of God and the human beings 'Abdu'l-Bahá also applies a solar-lunar-model where he equates the Manifestation of God with the sun, which is self-luminous, and the human beings with the moon, which receives its light from the sun. Thus, the Manifestations of God are referred to as "Primal Mirrors," or "Primary Mirrors," and human beings are perceived as "secondary mirrors," which in turn, reflect the light from the Manifestations of God. In this solar-lunar-model, human beings are seen as dependent upon the Manifestations of God as the harbingers of light, guidance, education and healing. The next and final section of this chapter will further elaborate on this theme where the Manifestations of God are seen as the true educators and physicians of humanity.
D. The Manifestations of God as Educators and Physicians
In a previous section it was shown that revelation is seen as a process of education, one universal, pertaining to universal revelation, and one specific, pertaining to specific revelation. In that context it was also noticed that God was referred to as "the Educator." In this sense, God is regarded as the source of both processes of education (revelation), the universal and the specific. It was also observed that the human kingdom was in more need of guidance and education than the lower kingdoms, and it is in this context that the Manifestations of God a referred to as the "educators" of mankind. This educational role of the Manifestations of God is emphasized especially in the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and to a lesser degree in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh. A few quotes by these Bahá'í-authors will exemplify this theme in its connection with the concept of progress:
The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto the leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. Through them the clouds rain their bounty upon men, and the earth bringeth forth its fruits.
In this passage Bahá'u'lláh states the purpose of the Manifestations of God in that they are guiding and educating mankind. However this education is not solely for the terrestrial life, but for the next world as well so that humans may, "at the hour of death, ascend . . . to the throne of the Most High." Yet, one can also discern the progressive concept in that the terrestrial purpose of "these souls" (the Manifestations of God), are likened to a leaven which is responsible for, not only "progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples," but also for the "arts and wonders of the world." Moreover, organic metaphors of the "leaven and bread," "the rain, earth, and fruits," are also clearly recognizable.
Similarly, 'Abdu'l-Bahá frequently uses the solar-model and organic metaphors in conjunction with the education of Manifestations of God, and in this first section one can see that he is alternating between universal and specific education (revelation) since he is incorporating the lower kingdoms as well:
All earthly creation whether mineral, vegetable, animal or human is dependent upon the heat, light and splendor of the great central solar body for training and development. Were it not for the solar heat or sunlight, no minerals would have been formed, no vegetable, animal and human organisms would or could have become existent. . . . In the inner world of the Kingdom, the Sun of Reality is the trainer and Educator of minds, souls and spirits. Were it not for the effulgent rays of the Sun of Reality, they would be deprived of growth and development; nay, rather, they would be non-existent. For just as the physical sun is the trainer of all outer and phenomenal forms of being through the radiation of its light and heat, so the radiation of the light and heat of the Sun of Reality gives growth, education and evolution to minds, souls and spirits toward the station of perfection.
In this solar-model the Manifestation of God is referred to as the "Sun of Reality" which is responsible for the training and development of "minds, souls and spirits" in the same manner as the physical sun is for the growth of the vegetable, animal and human kingdoms. Thus, one can here clearly discern the emphasis on the concept of progress in statements like "growth and development" and "growth, education and evolution," which ultimately strives towards the "station of perfection."
This next passage by 'Abdu'l-Bahá will be used to further exemplify the emphasis on progress in connection with education:
The wisdom and purpose of Their [the Manifestations of God] training is that man must pass from degree to degree of progressive unfoldment until perfection is attained. . . . without progressive and universal education perfection will not be attained. Man must walk in many paths and be subjected to various processes in his evolution upward. Physically he is not born in full stature but passes through consecutive stages of fetus, infant, childhood, youth, maturity and old age. . . . the journey of the soul is necessary. . . Without training and guidance the soul could never progress beyond the conditions of its lower nature, which is ignorant and defective.
In the context of this quote 'Abdu'l-Bahá is also referring to the Manifestations of God as "divine Gardeners" who cultivate the "earth of human hearts and minds" where the educational process is likened to an organic cultivating process. Further, the repeated notion of progress is clearly stated in that the human being progressively unfolds until he has attained perfection. This process is an "evolution upward" and is compared to the various developmental stages which a human being passes through: fetus, infant, childhood, youth, maturity and old age. This is a frequent metaphor in the Bahá'í-texts and which shall be explored below. Moreover, 'Abdu'l-Bahá also mentions that humans, without this education, would not progress, but would remain on the animal stage of development.
This final quote by 'Abdu'l-Bahá further brings up some different aspects with regard to "universal education" and its evolutionary perspective:
The Prophets of God are the first Educators. They bestow universal education upon man and cause him to rise from the lowest levels of savagery to the highest pinnacles of spiritual development. . . They are universal Educators, and the fundamental principles they have laid down are the causes and factors of the advancement of nations. Forms and imitations which creep in afterwards are not conducive to that progress. On the contrary, these are destroyers of human foundations established by the heavenly Educators. These are clouds which obscure the Sun of Reality.
Here it can be noticed that the Manifestations of God are referred to as the "first Educators" and "universal Educators." The evolutionary, or progressive, theme is seen in that these educators make human beings rise from "the lowest of savagery" to the attainment of spiritual development. 'Abdu'l-Bahá also mentions that the Manifestations of God are "the causes and factors of the advancement of nations," but one can also recognize that "forms and imitations" are not only counterproductive of such "progress," but that they even are considered the "destroyers of human foundations." Here it is also possible to observe the opposite theme of progress that of regression or decline.
Another theme which can be found in the Bahá'í writings is that this terrestrial life is seen as a school and that humanity is viewed as its children or pupils. Hence, there are certain things humans (as individuals) and humanity (as a collective), shall learn and develop in this world or kingdom. The Bahá'í-authors lists the following areas: to free ourselves from the bonds and chains of the world of nature; to be freed from the thralldom of natural instincts and physical tendencies; to acquire divine perfections; to train the souls of humanity; to prepare for the life in the next world; to make the whole of humanity and human civilization develop; and to create the Kingdom of God on earth.
Just as God in the Bahá'í writings is referred to as the "Educator" he is also referred to as "The All-Knowing Physician" who has his "finger on the pulse of mankind." Apart from being referred to as Educators, the Manifestations of God are also known in the Bahá'í-texts as "Divine and infallible Physicians," or "true Physicians," and the concept of progress can similarly also be found in these contexts. The following section by Bahá'u'lláh expresses some aspects of this concept:
The Prophets of God should be regarded as physicians whose task is to foster the well-being of the world and its peoples, that, through the spirit of oneness, they may heal the sickness of a divided humanity. To none is given the right to question their words or disparage their conduct, for they are the only ones who can claim to have understood the patient and to have correctly diagnosed its ailments. No man, however acute his perception, can ever hope to reach the heights which the wisdom and understanding of the Divine Physician have attained. Little wonder, then, if the treatment prescribed by the physician in this day should not be found to be identical with that which he prescribed before. How could it be otherwise when the ills affecting the sufferer necessitate at every state of his sickness a special remedy? In like manner, every time the Prophets of God have illumined the world with the resplendent radiance of the Day Star of Divine knowledge, they have invariably summoned its peoples to embrace the light of God through such means as best befitted the exigencies of the age in which they appeared.
Here humanity is described as being suffering from a sickness which only the Manifestations of God correctly can diagnose. However, they not only perform the diagnosis but also prescribe the proper treatment. The latter half of this section reveals an important theme which will be relevant for the subsequent discussion on the concept of progressive revelation. For example, one can notice the sentence which states that "the treatment prescribed by the physician in this day should not be found to be identical with that which he prescribed before," and this is due to that "every state of his sickness a special remedy." The sentence that follows this metaphor is that the Manifestations of God have "invariably summoned its people . . . through such means as best befitted the exigencies of the age in which they appeared." This theme is further developed in a another statement by Bahá'u'lláh where he says that "Every age hath its own problem . . . The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require." This line of reasoning suggests that the Manifestations of God must prescribe different treatments at different times since the ailments vary. Bahá'u'lláh also argues that the reasons for that mankind is still "encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions" and is seen "languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned," is due to that "they that are intoxicated by self-conceit have interposed themselves between it and the Divine and infallible Physician." It is not exactly clear who "they" are, whom Bahá'u'lláh is alluding to, but in another context he is referring to himself as the "true Physician" who is "debarred from administering the remedy, whilst unskilled practitioners are regarded with favor, and are accorded full freedom to act." In this context he also exemplifies what he means with the malaise of humanity:
Witness how the world is being afflicted with a fresh calamity every day. Its tribulation is continually deepening. . . . At one time it hath been agitated by contentions and disputes, at another it hath been convulsed by wars, and fallen a victim to inveterate diseases. Its sickness is approaching the stage of utter hopelessness.
The contentions, disputes and wars, seem to be a few examples of "its sickness" which also seem accelerating. 'Abdu'l-Bahá gives some additional examples of these ailments as the "lack of love and absence of altruism," and concludes that if these are absent "no progress or prosperity" can be attained. In another place he identifies the ailments as "selfish disorders, intellectual maladies, spiritual sicknesses, imperfections and vices." 'Abdu'l-Bahá continues to say that neither science, patriotism, nor racial allegiance, can be the remedy for such disease, only the "spiritual teachings of the religion of God."
On this theme 'Abdu'l-Bahá is also briefly touching upon the concept of progressive revelation since he is stating that:
[ . . .] in the day of Jesus Christ the world of humanity was afflicted with various ailments. Jesus Christ was the real Physician. He appeared, recognized the symptoms and prescribed the real remedy. What was that remedy? It was His revealed teaching especially applicable to that age. Later on many new ailments and disorders appeared in the body politic. The world became sick; other severe maladies appeared, especially in the peninsula of Arabia. God manifested Muhammad there. He came and prescribed for the conditions so that the Arabs became healthy, strong and virile in that time. In this present age the world of humanity is afflicted with severe sicknesses and grave disorders which threaten death. Therefore, Bahá'u'lláh has appeared. He is the real Physician, bringing divine remedy and healing to the world of man.
In this context 'Abdu'l-Bahá is successively mentioning three Manifestations of God; Jesus Christ, Muhammed and Bahá'u'lláh, and that they have appeared in different ages to diagnose the disease and to prescribe the necessary treatment. Thus, there appears to be a certain periodicity, or cyclical pattern, in the appearance of the Manifestations of God. In the same context 'Abdu'l-Bahá also defines what the treatments for this age are:
The essential principles of His healing remedies are the knowledge and love of God, severance from all else save God, turning our faces in sincerity toward the Kingdom of God, implicit faith, firmness and fidelity, loving-kindness toward all creatures and the acquisition of the divine virtues indicated for the human world. These are the fundamental principles of progress, civilization, international peace and the unity of mankind. These are the essentials of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings, the secret of everlasting health, the remedy and healing for man. It is my hope that you may assist in healing the sick body of the world through these teachings so that eternal radiance may illumine all the nations of mankind.
Here one may discern a series of more or less abstract religious principles that are recognized as remedies. However, the interesting point for this thesis is that 'Abdu'l-Bahá is identifying these treatments with the "fundamental principles of progress, civilization, international peace and the unity of mankind," and he later states that these are "the essentials of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings." Hence, one can observe that the concept of progress is one of these fundamental principles.
Now, to in order to summarize this section of Bahá'í-apocalypticism it was concluded in Bahá'í-theology that the essence of God is completely inaccessible and unknowable to human beings, but that God, according to capacity, can either indirectly be known through; a) his creation or within the human being (universal revelation), and directly b) through his Manifestations of God (specific revelation). In the Bahá'í-cosmology it was also concluded that the cosmos was highly dynamic and evolutionary in its character. Further, it could be shown that cosmos also was structured in a spiritual hierarchy and that each form of existence could evolve and progress within its plane or kingdom. Thus, even the lower kingdoms were seen as being under the influence of "education." However, human beings, although essentially spiritual, have evolved through the lower kingdoms and they differ from these in that they can traverse onto the higher and more spiritual kingdoms. Specific revelation, although present in all kingdoms, is primarily confined to human beings, where the Holy Spirit, manifests itself in the form of, or via, a human being called a Manifestation of God. The Manifestations of God have visited humanity at different times in history and this is a process which will continue in the future. Further, the Manifestations of God occupy a dual station, one spiritual or divine (esoteric) and one human and physical (exoteric), and in this respect they partake both in the heavenly and earthly realms. The Manifestations of God was further seen as mediators between God and man (M), especially in their role as divine educators and physicians, and were finally regarded as the primary instruments for the progress of the individual, society, civilization, and ultimately, for the unification of the world. In the next chapter additional aspects of the Manifestation of God will be examined, but within the framework of the concept of progressive revelation.
The structure of this chapter on Bahá'í-apocalypticism can be seen as generally oriented along a vertical axis. It is designated as vertical in that the field of theology represents the most esoteric dimension since one aspect of God remained completely transcendental or hidden. Thus, it could be seen that the subsequent areas of cosmology, universal and specific revelation, and prophetology, gradually disclosed a more horizontal axis since the more immanent or manifest levels of cosmos were elaborated upon. This latter area can therefore be seen as increasingly exoteric.
This chapter has supported the first hypothesis of this thesis that is Bahá'í-apocalypticism in general has a multidimensional structure, e.g., hierarchical, horizontal, vertical, exoterical, and esoterical.
As will be shown in the next chapter, the esoteric/exoteric dimensions are intricately correlated, but the overall orientation is still in the horizontal direction in that the concept of progressive revelation mainly concerns the temporal, spatial, and causal, nature of revelation and religion (See Appendix I and II).
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