A Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá Explaining Three Verses in the Lawh-i-Hikmat
by Abdu'l-Bahátranslated by Keven Brown
originally written as "Lawh-i Jináb-i Shaykh ‘Alí Akbar Qúchání" in Persian.
“That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today.” From this blessed verse it is clear and evident that the universe (kawn) is evolving (tarraqí). In the opinion of the philosophers and the wise this fact of the development and evolution of the world of existence is also established. That is to say, it is progressively transferred from one state to another. Some of the philosophers of Europe think that evolution takes place from the genus to the species. For example, that the animal evolved until it became a human being. But the Prophets teach that this theory is in error, as we have explained already in the book Some Answered Questions (Mufávaḍát). Nay, rather progress and development take place within the species itself. For instance, the seed of man gradually develops, passing through the stages of embryo, fetus, infant, childhood, and adolescence until mental maturity is attained. All the while it has progressed within the same species. It has grown and developed from the stage of the seed, which is a wormlike existence, until it evolved to the stage of “the best of creations.”
“The world of existence came into being through the heat generated [from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different].” That is to say, the primary matter of contingent beings is the ethereal power, which is invisible and can only established through its effects, such as electricity, heat, and light, which are vibrations of that power. This is established and proven in natural philosophy, and it is called ethereal matter. This ethereal matter is itself both the active force and the recipient; in other words, in the world of corporeal existents it is the sign of the Primal Will. “God created man by the Will, and He created the Will by means of itself.” Therefore, this ethereal matter is, in a certain respect, the active force, since light, heat, and electricity appear from it. It is also the recipient, for as vibrations take place in it, it becomes visible. For instance, light is a vibration occurring in that ethereal matter. From these vibrations the power of sight is affected, and the result is seeing. Likewise, vibrations take place in the air and from them the eardrum is affected. That effect is sound, and the result is hearing.
As for the blessed verse: “Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator,” the philosophers of the past and the present maintain that universal nature cannot be sensed or perceived; both intellect and understanding fall short of grasping it, although all the creatures of the world of generation are the requisites of that nature, just as sleep, hunger, and thirst are requisites of the body of man and burning is one of the requisites of fire. In short, they attribute all the conditions and phenomena of the world, even the movement of the chain of beings, and their progress and development, to nature, and they consider nature to be the origin of the whole universe. He says that nature, which they regard as the source of all beings, is the manifestation of His Name, the Maker, the Creator. That is to say, the Holy Essence, which cannot be known or comprehended, transcends all human descriptions and conceptions, and is exempt from every attribute and praise, even from being known as the First Cause. It is the First Cause that is the source of all beings and which has been interpreted as nature, inasmuch as all of the realities and conditions which the philosophers attribute to nature are the same as have been attributed to the Primal Will in the Holy Scriptures. It is clear that the Primal Will is the manifestation of the Creative Name….