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Bahá'í Apocalypticism:
The Concept of Progressive Revelation

by Zaid Lundberg

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Chapter 7

VII. Summary and Conclusions

Bahá'í-apocalypticism was operationalized as a system of dimensions of revelations (apocalyptic ideas) where the concept of progressive revelation is seen as a central concept. Bahá'í-apocalypticism included various intimately related areas or dimensions such as, theology, cosmology, and prophetology. In reviewing the area of Bahá'í-theology it was found that God was the source of revelation (S). However, this source was partially concealed to human knowledge (the essence of God), and yet God had created human beings in order to be known and worshipped. This paradox was solved in the area of Bahá'í-cosmology where a dynamic cosmos was seen as a reflection of the attributes of God. The cosmos was in this sense regarded as the instrument of revelation (I). However, the cosmos was also conceived as structured in a spiritual hierarchy with various levels where each kingdom could receive and manifest, according to capacity, the attributes of God. More importantly for the concept of progressive revelation, it was evident in the area of Bahá'í-cosmology that progress was a recurrent and important key term and concept. The evolutionary character of the cosmos was further summarized as: successive, sequential, gradual, teleological, and organic.

Subsequently, it was seen that Bahá'í-cosmology could be divided into two main categories, or means of revelation (M), universal revelation, and specific revelation. It was the latter which was of special interest since the concept of progressive revelation could be classified under this category. One special feature of specific revelation was the concept of the Manifestation of God. This concept was discussed in the area of Bahá'í-prophetology where the nature of the Manifestation of God was investigated, and it was found to be a mediator (M) between God and human beings. Two major stations, or dimensions, where contrasted: the esoteric dimension (the station of essential unity) and the exoteric dimension (the station of distinction). Bahá'í-apocalypticism could be seen as being primarily structured in a vertical axis where the higher levels of this axis are increasingly more esoteric and the lower gradually more exoteric and horizontal (see Appendix I). These dimensions where in turn used as the underlying framework for the next research-question: the concept of progressive revelation.

The concept of progressive revelation was first directly confirmed as a central concept of the Bahá'í-religion. It was later indirectly studied from two major levels: 1) texts of identification, and 2) texts of elaboration. The former studied the esoteric dimensions of the Manifestations of God whereas the latter focused on the exoteric dimensions, e.g.: the rise and fall of a religion; the succession and continuity of religions; differences between the Manifestations of God and the Concept of Progress; and the Cyclical scheme. It was found that religions in general are viewed in a cyclical, evolutionary, and progressive fashion, both on the level of the individual religion as well as between religions. This cyclical scheme was seen in even greater periods such as the Prophetic and Bahá'í Cycles. It was in these contexts were the issues of finality in revelation and the "Seal of the Prophets" were discussed. It was found that these issues were approached from various perspectives, both esoterically and exoterically, and were the latter perspective was dominating. The two major cycles, the Prophetic Cycle and the Bahá'í Cycle, were later compared and it was found that the concept of progress was applicable here as well. The study of the concept of progressive revelation was seen to be oriented in the more horizontal and exoteric dimension, since it was predominately found within the spatial, temporal, and causal realms. Moreover, the various religions were seen as intimately and fundamentally correlated, both in the vertical and esoterical dimensions as well as in the horizontal and exoterical dimensions (See Appendix I and II). The most important point, however, was that the concept of progress could be found on all levels (except theology), from cosmology to prophetology, but especially in the various areas of texts of elaboration (exoteric dimension).

From the systematic and structural analysis made above and the stated summary, it can be concluded that this study has shown that:

  1. Bahá'í-apocalypticism in general has a multidimensional structure, e.g., hierarchical, horizontal, vertical, exoterical, and esoterical. (this hypothesis was supported on p. 67)
  2. Issues like the "Seal of the Prophets" and finality of revelation are, according to the Bahá'í-authors, ultimately a matter of viewpoint and interpretation (esoteric/exoteric). Thus, the Bahá'í-authors upholds the that the "Seal of the Prophets" and the finality of revelation are valid from one specific point of view, but they prefer to interpret these issues within the concept of progressive revelation, especially within the cyclical scheme. (this hypothesis was supported on p. 125)
  3. Progressive revelation is a central concept, principle, and theme, in the Bahá'í religion. It consists both of an esoteric (texts of identification) and an exoteric dimension (texts of elaboration). (this hypothesis was supported on p. 133)
  4. Progressive revelation is an evolutionary concept of Bahá'í-apocalypticism and which interprets various revelations (religions) as essentially interconnected, cyclical, and progressive. (this hypothesis was supported on p. 133)

Consequently, all four hypotheses have been supported in this thesis.

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