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>>   Letters from the Universal House of Justice
Abstract:
Three letters on the station of Baha'u'llah, the souls of the Manifestations, the varying intensities of their Revelations, the phrase "most precious Being," and on teaching the Faith to Christians.
Notes:
The first letter was published in Baha'i Journal, the second circulated online with no recipient's name attached, and the third was shared by the recipient, whose name has been removed.

Station of Baha'u'llah:
Three Letters

by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice

1991-1992

1. First letter

Published in Bahá'í Journal, May 15, 1991, pages 2-3

1a. Text

Letter to a European Auxiliary Board Member

The Universal House of Justice has received you letter … and has instructed us to convey to you the following reply:

The House of Justice is very sorry to learn in some parts of Europe the friends have been arguing about the station of Bahá'u'lláh. In the time of Bahá'u'lláh Himself such difference of opinion arose among the friends and there is a Tablet in which He referred to this. He explains that there are differences in the levels of understanding of individuals. Some see the reflection of the Essence of God Himself in the temple of His Manifestation; others see the Manifestation as the Revealer of God and regard His commands and prohibitions to be identical with the ordinances of God. Both views, Bahá'u'lláh says, are acceptable, but if believers in expounding their points of view engage in contention and disputation, they would be rejected by God, inasmuch as the purpose of the Manifestation of God and the aim of His Teaching are to attract souls, create fellowship among men and promulgate the Cause of God. Argument and conflict about such matters can lead to nothing but the ruin of the Cause and thus those who engage in it would fall into perdition even though they may claim to be expounding the highest level of true understanding.

As to drawing distinctions between the Manifestations of God, the believers can study the Kitáb-i-Íqán where Bahá'u'lláh explains the varying intensities of the Revelations sent by God and elucidates the apparently contradictory statements about the nature of the Manifestations contained in the Scriptures of past Dispensations. They are surely also familiar with the statement of Bahá'u'lláh that appears as section XXIV of "Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh":

"Beware, O believers in the Unity of God, lest ye be tempted to make any distinction between any of the Manifestations of His Cause, or to discriminate against the signs that have accompanied and proclaimed their Revelation. This indeed is the true meaning of Divine Unity, if ye be of them that apprehend and believe this truth. Be ye assured, moreover, that the works and acts of each and every one of these Manifestations of God, nay whatever pertaineth unto them, and whatsoever they may manifest in the future, are all ordained by God, and are a reflection of His Will and Purpose. Whoso maketh the slightest possible difference between their persons, their words, their messages, their acts and manners, hath indeed disbelieved in God, hath repudiated His signs, and betrayed the Cause of His Messengers."
How impossible it is for one human being to understand the reality of another human soul; how much more inconceivable is it that any man could comprehend the nature of a Manifestation of God or correctly appraise the manifold and mysterious relationships that exist between the Manifestations in Their work as the Bearers of the Word of God to mankind. One aspect, however, is made abundantly clear by Shoghi Effendi in "The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh":
"That Bahá'u'lláh should, notwithstanding the overwhelming intensity of His Revelation, be regarded as essentially one of these Manifestations of God, never to be identified with that invisible Reality, the Essence of Divinity itself, is one of the major beliefs of our Faith — a belief which should never be obscured and the integrity of which no one of its followers should allow to be compromised."
Indeed, for the elucidation of all these problems, the House of Justice feels that you could do no better than urge the friends to study the "The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh", the Guardian's exposition of the essential verities of the Faith — a document which, as he himself pointed out, is an invaluable supplement to Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-‘Ahd, and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament.

Above all, in the teaching work, in a continent where the traditional religion has been Christianity, the utmost wisdom must be used, so that hearts which have been filled with love for Jesus may also be filled with love for Bahá'u'lláh. Thus the followers of Christ may embrace the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and arise to serve His Cause. Any assertions which seem to downgrade Jesus, besides being contrary to Bahá'í Teachings, could constitute a serious obstacle in the path of Christians accepting the Faith.

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2. Second letter

Unpublished, recipient unknown, June 20, 1991

2a. Text

Dear Bahá'í Friend,

Further to our letter of 25 November 1990, we have been directed by the Universal House of Justice to convey the following response to your inquiry of 24 June 1990. The delay is sincerely regretted.

The House of Justice appreciates your frankness concerning your puzzlement over the statement in its Ridván 1990 message referring to Bahá'u'lláh as "the most precious Being ever to have drawn breath on this planet". You are entirely correct in drawing upon Bahá'u'lláh's statement, cited on pages 78-79 of "Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh", to point out the oneness and sameness of the "essence of all the Prophets of God". The statement of the House of Justice should not be taken to imply anything to the contrary, but rather should be seen in the historical context of His Revelation and in its nature and character relative to the Revelations that preceded it. As Bahá'u'lláh has said in the same passage in the "Gleanings" from which you quoted:

The measure of the revelation of the Prophets of God in this world, however, must differ. Each and every one of them hath been the Bearer of a distinct Message, and hath been commissioned to reveal Himself through specific acts….
Concerning His own Revelation, Bahá'u'lláh has testified to "the inconceivable greatness of this Revelation" and said:
That which hath been made manifest in this preeminent, this most exalted Revelation, stands unparalleled in the annals of the past, nor will future ages witness its like….
In the following statement written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi offers important clarification on the question of the sameness of the essence of the Prophets and the comparative qualities of their Revelations in this world:
Bahá'u'lláh is not the intermediary between other Manifestations and God. Each has His own relation to the Primal Source. But in the sense that Bahá'u'lláh is the greatest Manifestation to yet appear, the One Who consummates the Revelation of Moses, He was the One Moses conversed with in the Burning Bush. In other words Bahá'u'lláh identifies the Glory of the Godhead on that occasion with Himself. No distinction can be made amongst the Prophets in the sense that They all proceed from one source, and are of one essence. But Their stations and functions in this world are different.
This statement calls to mind several passages from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh which Shoghi Effendi quotes in "God Passes By", page 99:
"In this most mighty Revelation," He moreover states, "all the Dispensations of the past have attained their highest, their final consummation." And again: "None among the Manifestations of old, except to a prescribed degree, hath ever completely apprehended the nature of this Revelation." Referring to His [Bahá'u'lláh's] own station He declares: "But for Him no Divine Messenger would have been invested with the Robe of Prophethood, nor would any of the sacred Scriptures have been revealed."
Also of relevance to the difference in stations between Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation and those which have preceded or will come after it is the beloved Guardian's response to an inquiry which, as conveyed, said: "There is no record in history, or in the teachings, of a Prophet similar in station to Bahá'u'lláh having lived 500,000 years ago. There will, however, be one similar to Him in greatness after the lapse of 500,000 years…."

The House of Justice trusts that these points will resolve your puzzlement and assures you and your family of its prayers at the Holy Threshold that the Blessed Beauty may surround you with His unfailing confirmations.

    With loving Bahá'í greetings,
    For Department of the Secretariat

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3. Third letter

Unpublished, posted with permission of recipient, December 21, 1992

3a. Text

Mr.

Dear Bahá'í Friend,

The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 24 November 1992 and has asked us to send you the following reply.

That the House of Justice's reference to Bahá'u'lláh as "the most precious Being ever to have drawn breath on this planet" has caused, as you say, such misconceptions among the believers is a sign of the degree to which the friends need to study the Writings and deepen their understanding of the Teachings of the Faith. Had they done so sufficiently they would surely have been able to comprehend the context in which the statement was made, as you did, and would have been untroubled by it.

In answer to a recent letter on the subject, the following comments were conveyed on behalf of the House of Justice, and we repeat them here as an assistance to you in explaining the matter to any friends who raise it with you.

It would seem that the agitation shown by certain of the friends to the description of Bahá'u'lláh as "the most precious Being ever to have drawn breath on this planet", and their impression that this indicates some new doctrine, arises from their lack of familiarity with the range of expressions used in the Sacred Writings and by the beloved Guardian, and their inability to grasp that such expressions are used in the context of the illumination of the stations of the Manifestations of God as conveyed by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Íqán and elucidated by the Guardian in "The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh".
This description, in fact, is not so different from the Guardian's words in his cablegram of 3 June 1957, which appears on page 122 of "Messages to the Bahá'í World". He refers to:
… the adoption and execution of preliminary measures designed to herald the construction in future decades of the stately, befitting Mausoleum to enshrine the holiest dust the earth ever received into its bosom.
In the letter written on behalf of the Guardian on 19 October 1947, which was quoted in our letter of 15 October 1992, the crucial point is made:
No distinction can be made amongst the Prophets in the sense that They all proceed from one source, and are of one essence. But Their stations and functions in this world are different.
In the phrase "the most precious Being ever to have drawn breath on this planet" the Universal House of Justice was obviously referring to the Person of Bahá'u'lláh as he appeared in this world — that Soul who was the channel of the Most Great Revelation of God. The Guardian's reference to "the holiest dust the earth ever received into its bosom" likewise refers to the physical remains of that Person. The preciousness and sanctity of both aspects being the consequence of their being the vehicle of a Revelation the splendour and magnitude of which eclipses all previous Revelations. There is nothing new or strange in such a concept, nor does it in any way contradict the essential unity of all the Manifestations of God. The parallels between the various Dispensations, and the varying terminology used to describe the same spiritual event in successive ages, are illustrated by the following quotation from a letter written by Shoghi Effendi which was published in "Messages to America 1932-1946" on page 100:
It was in such dramatic circumstances, recalling the experience of Moses when face to face with the Burning Bush in the wilderness of Sinai, the successive visions of Zoroaster, the opening of the heavens and the descent of the Dove upon Christ in the Jordan, the cry of Gabriel heard by Muhammad in the Cave of Hira, and the dream of the Báb, in which the blood of the Imam Husayn touched and sanctified His lips, that Bahá'u'lláh, He "around Whom the Point of the Bayán hath revolved," and the Vehicle of the greatest Revelation the world has yet seen, received the first intimation of His sublime Mission, and that a ministry which, alike in its duration and fecundity, is unsurpassed in the religious history of mankind, was inaugurated. It was on that occasion that the "Most Great Spirit," as designated by Bahá'u'lláh Himself, revealed itself to Him, in the form of a "Maiden," and bade Him "lift up" His "voice between earth and heaven" — that same Spirit which, in the Zoroastrian, the Mosaic, the Christian, and Muhammadan Dispensations, had been respectively symbolized by the "Sacred Fire," the "Burning Bush," the "Dove," and the "Angel Gabriel."
To clarify their own understanding of the station of Bahá'u'lláh and His relationship to the other Manifestations of God, the Bahá'ís should unhesitatingly turn to "The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh".

As to teaching the Cause to Christians, it seems to be important for the Bahá'ís to recognize that the concepts of Christian theology and the Teachings of the Bahá'í Faith constitute two different universes of discourse. They perceive the same truths, but their terminologies are not uniformly interchangeable. When a Christian reads Bahá'u'lláh's words "There hath not been in My soul but the Truth, and in Myself naught could be seen but God" or His statement in the Tablet of Tarázát,1 "He Who heralded this Revelation hath declared: ‘He shall proclaim under all conditions: "Verily, verily, I am God, no God is there but Me, the Help in Peril, The Self-Subsisting."'" he naturally reads this in the context of a doctrine of incarnation, and could take as dissimulation Bahá'u'lláh's statement,2 "Certain ones among you have said: ‘He it is Who hath laid claim to be God.' By God! This is a gross calumny. I am but a servant of God Who hath believed in Him and in His signs, and in His Prophets and in His angels. My tongue, and My heart, and My inner and My outer being testify that there is no God but Him, that all others have been created by His behest, and been fashioned through the operation of His Will. There is none other God but Him, the Creator, the Raiser from the dead, the Quickener, the Slayer. I am He that telleth abroad the favors with which God hath, through His bounty, favored Me. If this be My transgression, then I am truly the first of the transgressors."

It is only in the light of the Bahá'í doctrine of the nature of the Manifestations of God and their relationships to God, to one another and to mankind that such statements can be clearly understood. So also the Guardian's unequivocal statement that "the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted".3

As ‘Abdu'l-Bahá repeatedly demonstrated, for example in His elucidation of the Doctrine of the Trinity,4 and as you yourself have illustrated in your books, the way to teach Christians is to build a bridge from their universe of discourse to ours, to widen their vision, to challenge them with the implications of their own teaching, to help them to see Jesus through the greater measure of understanding that Bahá'u'lláh has brought, and thus to accept Bahá'u'lláh as the fulfilment of their own aspirations.

To hold Bahá'u'lláh up in competition to Jesus is not only a fruitless way to teach Christians but is a violation of Bahá'u'lláh's own Teachings. But this does not mean that, within our own understanding, Bahá'ís should not appreciate the significance of Bahá'u'lláh's being the Universal Manifestation of this Universal Cycle, or strive to comprehend the unprecedented magnitude of the Revelation of which He is the chosen Vehicle.

    With loving Bahá'í greetings,
    For Department of the Secretariat

    cc: International Teaching Centre
    Board of Counsellors in Europe
    National Assembly of the United Kingdom

  1. "Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh" p. 43
  2. "Gleanings" CXIII p. 228
  3. "The Promised Day is Come" p. 113
  4. "Some Answered Questions" Chapter XXVII

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