The Eternal Quest for God: Chapter 11
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God: The Beginning and the End of all Things

The knowledge of God - `the beginning of all things' -- is, in the words of Bahá'u'lláh, `the purpose of God in creating man'.[1]

Therein the Bahá'í scholar's or would-be philosopher's journey may come to a close. From the rational proof of God's existence to the feelings ensuing from the awareness of His existence the circle is completed.

The knowledge of God

The knowledge of God, as a theoretical and intellectual knowledge, is little more then a trifle. Whenever it remains in the realm of thought it is utterly useless, as is any other thought. In this sense, `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `People speak of Divinity, but the ideas and beliefs they have of Divinity are, in reality, superstition... Divinity is not what is set forth in dogmas and sermons...'[2]

In fact, what else could our theoretical and intellectual knowledge of God be if not the fruit of our own imagination? `For example', says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `if we form a conception of Divinity as a living, almighty , self- subsisting, eternal Being, this is only a concept apprehended by a human intellectual reality. It would not be the outward, visible, Reality, which is beyond the power of human mind to conceive or encompass.' `Divinity is the effulgence of the Sun of reality, the Manifestation of spiritual virtues and ideal powers... it essentially means the wisdom and knowledge of God, the effulgence of the Sun of Truth, the revelation of reality and the divine philosophy.'[3]

In the light of what has been previously said, these words can now be understood more easily. The knowledge of God is rather in the awareness and consciousness of His qualities; in other words, it is in the effulgence of His active attributes from human hearts, from the universe and, above all, from the Manifestation of God. These three aspects of our knowledge of God have been briefly discussed already. They will now be studied once more, in the hope of outlining a more comprehensive description of their nature and of making a deeper analysis of their meaning in human life, i.e. in the feelings they evoke and in the attitudes they imply and qualify.

God within human hearts

From the `love of reality'[4] that God `has deposited' within man proceed two kinds of human needs: on the one hand is the need to know and comprehend reality. When this need is met, man becomes aware of and feels his own powerlessness in front of that extraordinary reality which he is trying to know and in which he is discovering an infinite dimension and a perfect order. On the other hand, this feeling generates a second need in man: the need to be comprehended, to feel a part of a greater Reality, which somehow may fulfill and satisfy him.[5]

To such great Reality, the name of God is given.

The knowledge of God is therefore founded firstly upon an awareness of human limitation and upon an obscure and confused feeling that there must be a `source' whence such `virtues' as will satisfy human needs may come forth.[6]

This awareness, this feeling, are indeed a way of being, an inner attitude, issuing from a complicated combination of cognitive data and beliefs, which in their turn find their origin in the personal knowledge and experience gained by each individual in different ways and under different circumstances. Therefore, that feeling is an act of faith, according to our previously mentioned concept of faith. Bahá'u'lláh even says that when this faith leads man `to submit to the Will of God', it is the `essence of understanding'.[7]

Whoever is aware that God is the `source' of all perfections and that anyone if he wants to may freely draw therefrom , has founded his life upon a bedrock and will live in certitude and joy, and will love life and action. In fact, he will trust that -- if he does his utmost and avails himself of his own powers with purity of motive -- all his deeds will have their prize, at least in their fruits. This feeling pervades many Bahá'í prayers, where God is implored as `Haven in distress... Shield... Shelter... Asylum and Refuge in time of need and in... loneliness... Companion! In... anguish... Solace, and in... solitude a loving Friend.'[8]

Such an attitude is viewed by most atheists as a sign of weakness, and such a faith in God is considered as a quality of an infant humanity, wholly unnecessary for an intellectually adult mankind, even prejudicial to its development. There might be some truth in these ideas: undoubtedly such a faith in God is founded upon an awareness of one's own weakness. However, it is suggested that there may be some presumption in a man who thinks he may dispense with the Divinity and the faith in it. In fact, the feeling of human omnipotence implied in this concept is undoubtedly less mature than a mature and proved feeling of inadequacy and dependence. Perhaps, a man who believes any problem can be solved through unaided human reason can be likened -- such is the idea that clearly transpires from the Bahá'í teachings[9] -- to an adolescent with his adolescent excesses, typical of someone who has recently gained the paramount use of reason and therefore ascribes to it greater powers than those it actually has -- and those powers are certainly not few. But very soon, life will show to him its limits and will persuade him to a more moderate view.

Others, having observed the behaviour of self-styled or so-called ancient and modern mystics, are afraid that a faith in a God who is the Lord of all things, may be conducive to a paralysis of will, bringing man to forsake this world for the sake of the transcendent one, and to surrender himself to a fancied will of God requiring him to renounce any action and initiative. But all that has no place in a truly religious view of life. Spiritual growth, as inculcated and recommended by the Manifestations, depends upon active efforts aimed at promoting unity and peace in the world. Any deed, which is conducive to unity and peace, is a tangible expression of faith in God as well as of knowledge of God. Such deeds cannot be described as the actions of a man who has forsaken this world.

While a man performs such spiritual deeds, he will have the inner experience of those spiritual qualities which belong to the divine world and to which he has the capacity of giving a concrete expression in his daily life. This is a further aspect of the knowledge of God in human hearts: the knowledge of the divine attributes of the world of the Kingdom through a direct experience of their effulgence as feelings and deeds manifesting them. Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Could ye apprehend with what wonders of My munificence and bounty I have willed to entrust your souls, ye would, of a truth, rid yourselves of attachment to all created things, and would gain a true knowledge of your own selves -- a knowledge which is the same as the comprehension of Mine own Being'.[10]

Through these words two fundamental aspects of life can be understood: on the one hand, the inner struggle, which is required for self-purification; on the other, the knowledge of one's own true self. The former is simply the effort exerted to release oneself from attachment to the natal self with its natural emotions; however, the natal self is not an enemy, but an instrument which we must learn how to turn in the right direction so that it may be properly used. The latter is the result, the outcome of the struggle and it is the expression of the virtues realized through it. This is the key -- we repeat -- to the understanding of the famous Islamic tradition: `He hath known God who hath known himself' and of the ancient Greek saying: `Know thyself'. Knowing oneself means knowing one's divine nature; and this can be attained through the knowledge of that divine nature in its expressions through daily deeds. This is how we can know God. Such knowledge is no theory, no intellectual abstraction. It is a spiritual, mystical experience; it is a joy resulting from the harmonious growth of the powers of knowing, loving and willing which have been vouchsafed unto all human beings. Therefore, once more the Bahá'í texts dispel that esoteric aura which has up to now enveloped certain aspects of religion, making them disagreeable to rationalists. Nevertheless, the texts do not suggest that man can penetrate all the mysteries of the infinite universe God has created. This is `the mystic way' trodden `with practical feet'[11] which has been previously mentioned, because this mystical knowledge of the spiritual attributes of the world of the Kingdom is obtained through a daily practice of service.

This recognition of the image of God within man is a mighty spur to action, because it confirms the hope that there is always a chance for man to grow better, to amend past mistakes. In The Promise of World Peace,12 ignorance of true human nature and the consequent firm belief that man is inherently quarrelsome and warlike is viewed as the main reason for the `paralysis of will'[13] which has so long kept mankind from any practical measure for the realization of a lasting peace among the nations of the world. Whereas whoever recognizes the image of God in his fellow-beings will be a staunch advocate of human perfectibility, an attitude which will have far-reaching consequences upon human relations: no longer personality against personality, but an image of God beside another image of God. This recognition of a common identity -- without denying the individuality of each human being -- this consciousness of one God reflected in the different hearts, is the strongest tie which may bind together human beings. It could be metaphorically likened to those nuclear interactions (described in the Bahá'í texts as `affinity' among the `elemental atoms') which support the entire fabric of the universe. If such a power did not exist, nothing would be in existence. The same thing is true in the world of humanity; the tie of spiritual identity among human beings, the foundation of the consciousness of the unity of mankind, is the only guarantee of a peaceful and united society.[14] This is the most important awareness mankind is going to acquire in its new stage of development -- the stage of spiritual maturity -- towards which it is moving as a whole, according to the ancient plan of God.

God within the universe

In our quest we have sought the traces of God throughout the universe: we will now proceed to describe the feelings evoked within human hearts whenever those traces are discovered.

Whoever has recognized the traces of God in the universe feels himself no longer as a knowing, feeling and willing creature forsaken, a tiny meaningless atom, upon a grain of dust wandering about through unbounded space. The world around is no longer threatening and awesome, unknown and hostile to a man who has not yet understood his own place in its context. Whoever has found God in the universe feels the joy of being a part of a total harmony, which may sometimes be incomprehensible in some of its aspects, but is always fundamentally a friendly reality, because it is moving towards a known goal, which is the expression of virtues he knows, because they are enshrined, albeit potentially, in his innermost heart. In addition, he feels serene in his heart, as one who can rely upon the support of mighty powers which are at the disposal of anyone who wants to seize them, lavished by an all-loving Creator for the progress of His creatures. These powers emanate from the same Source which radiates those forces which bind together quarks and leptons, which make lichens grow in the most hostile environments, which enable animals to perceive sensible reality and to react to it, which bestow a knowledge upon man that ranges from the perception of an earthly reality to the inner perception of a reality which, though it cannot be known through the senses, nevertheless may be certainly perceived by anyone who makes an effort to discover it within his own self and in the universe.

This man does not feel that earthly life is vain; he feels the soundness and the joy of a creative commitment which is bound to yield its fruit of inner growth and which will therefore win its intended, longed-for prize. He understands how this never-ending postponement of the most cherished goals is difficult only in relation to a need for immediate satisfaction, which he will overcome as soon as he becomes able to see the end in the beginning; for each present condition is a seed which already contains in itself its fruit.[15]

Whoever discovers God in the universe discovers a perfect and marvelous order in sensible reality, a subtle, miraculous equilibrium whereby that apparently discordant world appears as an organic unit; thus he understands and feels the necessity both of creating such an ideal order in his own personal microcosm as well, and of attuning his own microcosm to all the microcosms which make up society. Willingly therefore will he shoulder the challenging responsibility of following the standards of inner personal and outer social order Revelation sets for him, showing to him as much of `the essential connection which proceeds from the realities of things'[16] as he can profit from -- because he can understand it. In this way he will achieve the development of his own potentialities and -- through the creation of a harmonious society -- contribute to those of other human being. This is the foundation and the mainspring of civilization.

Last but not least, a man who has discovered an order and a harmony in both macrocosm and microcosm will be able to harmonize the objective reality of creation with the subjective reality of his experience of his own self and of the cosmos, and thus he will `live in conscious at-one-ment with the eternal world'.[17]

This `at-one-ment' is the essence of joy: the aesthetic enjoyment of a common origin, of belonging to one and the same order, whose conscious experience is conducive to a deep love, to an attraction founded upon the same divine fatherhood. This joy is identical, whether it comes from the contemplation of the wonders of existence or from the observation and study of the fruits of man's efforts to express through his own means the beauty that has been plentifully lavished upon creation by the bountiful hand of a divine Creator. Thus Bahá'u'lláh pours out the ecstasy of His heart enraptured before the widespread traces of God in this world: `Every time I lift up mine eyes unto Thy heaven, I call to mind Thy highness and Thy loftiness, and Thine incomparable glory and greatness; and every time I turn my gaze to Thine earth, I am made to recognize the evidences of Thy power and the tokens of Thy bounty. And when I behold the sea, I find that it speaketh to me of Thy majesty, and of the potency of Thy might, and of Thy sovereignty and Thy grandeur. And at whatever time I contemplate the mountains, I am led to discover the ensigns of Thy victory and the standards of Thine omnipotence... I swear by Thy might, O Thou in whose grasp are the reins of all mankind, and the destinies of the nations! I am so inflamed by my love for Thee, and so inebriated with the wine of Thy oneness, that I can hear from the whisper of the winds the sound of Thy glorification and praise, and can recognize in the murmur of the waters the voice that proclaimeth Thy virtues and Thine attributes, and can apprehend from the rustling of the leaves the mysteries that have been irrevocably ordained by Thee in Thy realm.'[18]

God in His Manifestation

This is the apex of the knowledge of God within the reach of human creatures. The Manifestation of God reveals to human beings as much of their Creator as they are able to understand.

The meeting with the Manifestation of God is a deep and touching mystical experience within the reach of any human being, if he only is willing to have it. This century has been particularly generous to us: for crowning the ancient religious models God sent Bahá'u'lláh, the latest of His Messengers, no more then a hundred years ago.

The traces of His physical presence in the world are still all accessible; the memory of His life is still alive. It is not difficult to trace the places where He lived and passed away, objects which belonged to Him.[19]

Apart from all that, He left a hundred volumes of His writings, written in His own handwritings or authenticated by His seal. It is through the reading of these writings that we can really meet Him; it is through this experience that anyone can find the way leading him unto His Lord and, through Him, unto his own inner being.[20]

The experience of the meeting with the Manifestation of God through the reading of His Words -- which Bahá'u'lláh recommends as a daily practice[21] -- may be, in the writer's view, better understood and conveyed in the light of the following passages of Bahá'u'lláh writings, describing the impact of His Revelation upon the entire creation.

Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Consider the hour at which the supreme Manifestation of God revealeth Himself unto men. Ere that hour cometh, the Ancient Being, Who is still unknown of men and hath not as yet given utterance to the Word of God, is Himself, the All-Knower, in a world devoid of any man that hath known Him. He is indeed the Creator without a creation. For at the very moment preceding His Revelation, each and every created thing shall be made to yield up its soul to God...'22

This is the condition of mankind immediately before the beginning of any Revelation of God. At that time the former religion is wholly submerged in its desolate winter, and mankind is as dead. Likewise, any man whose heart has not yet been directly touched by the quickening influence of the Word of the Manifestation of God is himself as though dead. Bahá'u'lláh refers to this particular human condition as the `plane of heedlessness', a stage in which a man has not yet hearkened to the Word of God.

But as soon as the Manifestation of God utters His Word, a great upheaval is stirred up, an upheaval which He describes with several metaphors: `Verily, We have caused every soul to expire by virtue of Our irresistible and all- subduing sovereignty. We have, then, called into being a new creation, as a token of Our grace unto men.' And yet: `In every age and cycle He hath, through the splendorous light shed by the Manifestations of His wondrous Essence, recreated all things, so that whatsoever reflecteth in the heavens and on the earth the signs of His glory may not be deprived of the outpourings of His mercy, nor despair of the showers of His favours.'24

And moreover: `Immeasurably exalted is the breeze that wafteth from the garment of thy Lord, the Glorified. For lo, it hath breathed its fragrance and made all things new.'[25]

And in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, He writes: `... when We manifested Ourselves to all in the world with Our most Comely Names and Our Exalted Attributes, all things have been submerged in the Sea of Pureness.'[26]

These Words describe the effect of the revelation of the Word of God as a universal regeneration of all things which are divested of their former characteristics and then appear again purified, renewed, recreated. This is one of the meanings of the metaphors of the succession of seasons, viewed as the succession of the Manifestations of God. This is why Bahá'u'lláh refers to His Own Advent as `the Divine Springtime'. This `Divine Springtime', this recreation, this purification, this renewal are for the individual, as soon as he meets His Lord through the reading of His Words. Such `reading' is obviously not a mere verbal or mental reading. It is rather the inner perception of the deep quickening power of the Divine Word. Through this perception, a man undergoes an inner transformation whereby he will no longer be the same. And yet, human souls do not all respond to the Word of God in the same way. `Some', writes Bahá'u'lláh, `have made haste to attain the court of the God of Mercy, others have fallen down on their faces in the fire of Hell, while still others are lost in bewilderment.'27

Bahá'u'lláh likens the outpourings of His Word to the breaths of `fertilizing winds'. In the same vein He writes: `The whole earth is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings.'[28]

The Word of God fertilizes mankind, setting a process in motion which yields its fruit in the flourishing of a new civilization. Likewise, that Word fertilizes any individual who has understood its quickening power, inasmuch as it sets in motion an inner process within him which is the essence of his spiritual growth.[29]

The time of the meeting with the Word of God is therefore of vital importance in the life of every man, who -- since God has bestowed upon him the gift of freedom in his own choices -- runs the risk of missing this wonderful opportunity.[30]

In the light of these concepts the following exhortation uttered by Bahá'u'lláh will be more easily understood: `O Brother! Not every sea hath pearls; not every branch will flower, nor will the nightingale of the mystic paradise repair to the garden of God, and the rays of the heavenly morning return to the Sun of Truth -- make thou an effort, that haply in this dust-heap of the mortal world thou mayest catch a fragrance from the everlasting garden and live forever in the shadow of the peoples of this city. And when thou hast attained this highest station and come to this mightiest plane, then shalt thou gaze on the Beloved,[31] and forget all else... Now hast thou abandoned the drop of life and come to the sea of the Life-Bestower[32] This is the goal thou didst ask for; if it be God's will, thou wilt gain it.' [33] He adds: `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.
Even as the sun, bright hath He shined,
But alas, He hath come to the town of the blind!'

Experiences of such a meeting have been described in words. There is so much privacy in this event, that its experience can hardly be conveyed to others. And yet, one of its manifold aspects seem to be shared by all those who describe it: the reading of that Word becomes a real meeting as soon as the ideas and feelings which those Words convey evoke such an echo from the heart, produce such vibrations in its inmost chords, that it seems as though they are coming forth from the heart's innermost essence. In those Words the seeker meets his own self, he rediscovers truths that he had always vaguely felt in his innermost heart and that now he finds clearly explained.[34]

This is one of the deepest experiences of mystical union a man may go through, if he only is willing to. It is as the ancient tradition says: `A servant is drawn unto Me in prayer until I answer him; and when I have answered him, I become the ear wherewith he heareth...'35

It is the time of the `second birth':[36] that time the inner being of man is regenerated. All of a sudden he catches a glimpse, according to his capacities, of that personal and individual reality which the Manifestation of God lays bare in front of him. Through that vision, a force is generated that, if he will only make an effort, will guide him during all his life, nourished by all the means and methods recommended for his spiritual progress, along the thorny path of self-purification, of sacrifice, of love, up to self-effacement, perfect service, and finally to the stage of unconditional love.[37]

Through that meeting, the heart is transformed; the feelings are re-created; the urge to act is stirred up. And if man will conquer every fear, and overcome any other attraction, and will give up himself to that love, and persistently act according to that Word -- then in each of his actions and of their fruits he will again and again meet the Manifestation of God, and in the Manifestation he will meet with God. He will live for ever in Paradise.[38]


Upon a thread of words, we have tried to cover a long way, in our efforts aimed at `comprehending the reality of things as they exist, according to the capacity and the power of man'.[39]

Whoever treads this path, will undoubtedly run the risk of exceeding in knowledge, of lacking in love, of forgoing action. These are the pitfalls he will have to avoid as he treads that path, all the more so in a modern Western world where philosophy has become `a speech about speech'.[40]

We are reminded of the following stern admonition uttered by Bahá'u'lláh: `... he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life.'41

Should the Bahá'í would-be philosopher or scholar refrain today from his search? Should he give up his efforts to understand the world and himself? When `Abdu'l-Bahá was asked: `Shall we devote much time to the study of philosophy?' He answered: `Everything must be done moderately. Excess is not desirable. Do not go to extremes. Even in thinking do not go to excess, but be moderate. If there is too much thinking, you will be unable to control your thoughts.'[42]

Therefore, once again the answer lies in moderation, balance, harmonious growth, wisdom. Knowledge, volition and action -- active expressions of the three fundamental capacities of the soul, to know, to love and to will -- are the three indispensable factors for any realization in human life.[43]

They must be harmoniously developed, so that none of them will overcome the others. This is one of the most important practical conclusions of our search.

Our words are therefore intended as an invitation to a study of reality; as a provision for the execution of those practical, preliminary exercises that life assigns to each of us so that our capacities of knowing, loving and willing may be trained; an encouragement and an incentive in the performance of such deeds as will enable us to test -- before the tribunal of life -- any achieved knowledge, any perceived attraction. But we will always be ready to renounce any of those thoughts and attachments which -- though they have been already weighed and meditated upon -- prove themselves in the light of facts to be remote from reality, inasmuch as they will not be able to contribute to that world of love and unity, peace and justice God is teaching us how to build.

End notes:

[1] Gleanings, pp.5, 70.

[2] Promulgation, p.326.

[3] ibid. pp.192, 326.

[4] ibid. p.49.

[5] For a discussion of these concepts, se W.S. Hatcher, `The Unity of Religion and Science', in World Order, IX, no.3, p.22.

[6] Promulgation, p.83. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... demand and supply is the law, and undoubtedly all virtues have a centre and a source. That source is God, from Whom all these bounties emanate.' (`Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation, p.83.) See above, pp.86-7.

[7] Tablets, p.155. The entire aphorism says: `The essence of understanding is to testify to one's poverty, and submit to the Will of the Lord, the Sovereign, the Gracious, the All Powerful.' (pp.155-6.)

[8] `Abdu'l-Bahá, in Bahá'í Prayers, p.108.

[9] Shoghi Effendi writes: `The long ages of infancy and childhood, through which the human race had to pass, have receded into the background. Humanity is now experiencing the commotions invariably associated with the most turbulent stage of its evolution, the stage of adolescence, when the impetuosity of youth and its vehemence reach their climax, and must gradually be superseded by the calmness, the wisdom, and the maturity that characterize the stage of manhood.' (World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p.202.)

[10] Gleanings, pp.326-7.

[11] D. S. Jordan, quoted in Bahá'í World, VI, p.480.

12 The Universal House of Justice writes: `... so much have aggression and conflict come to characterize our social, economic and religious systems, that many have succumbed to the view that such behaviour is intrinsic to human nature and therefore ineradicable.' (Promise, p.3.)

[13] Promise, pp.4, 350.

[14] `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `And when through the breaths of the Holy Spirit this perfect fraternity and agreement are established amongst men -- this brotherhood and love being spiritual in character, this loving-kindness being heavenly, these constraining bonds being divine -- a unity appears which is indissoluble, unchanging and never subject to transformation. It is ever the same and will forever remain the same.' (Promulgation, p.391.)

[15] Bahá'u'lláh writes: `... those who journey in the garden land of knowledge, because they see the end in the beginning, see peace in war and friendliness in anger.' (Seven Valleys, p.28.)

[16] Some Answered Questions, p.158.

[17] Promulgation, p.328.

[18] Prayers and Meditations, pp.207-8.

[19] Bahá'u'lláh was born in Tehran on 12 November 1817, and passed away in Bahjí (`Akká) on 28 May 1892. Many of the houses He occupied, the house where He was born and the Mansion where He passed away are still in existence. Objects which belonged to Him are preserved in Haifa in the International Bahá'í Archives as historic pieces of exceptional interest. Most of His writings are preserved in the Archives of the World Bahá'í Centre.

[20] As to the meeting with God, Bahá'u'lláh devotes a few passages of His Kitáb-i-Íqán to the explanation of the meaning of the locution `Divine presence', used to indicate the same concept. (pp.141-6.)

[21] In His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Recite ye the verses of God every morning and evening. Whoso reciteth them not hath truly failed to fulfill his pledge to the Covenant of God and His Testament and whoso in this day turneth away therefrom, hath indeed turned away from God since time immemorial.' And He adds: `Recite ye the verses of God in such measure that ye be not overtaken with fatigue or boredom.' (quoted in The Importance of Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude (comp.), p.3.)

22 Gleanings, p.151.

23 Seven Valleys, p.5.

24 Gleanings, pp.29-30, 62.

[25] Quoted in Shoghi Effendi, Promised Day, p.47.

[26] Quoted in Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, Bahá'í Proofs, p.86.

27 Gleanings, pp.27, 41-2. As to the concepts of paradise and hell, see above, p.213, n.43.

[28] Quoted in Shoghi Effendi, Promised Day, p.47.

[29] See above p.115 etc. For a deeper discussion of the concept of spiritual growth, see A. Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. I, pp.73-4.

[30] That is why this time is described in the Holy Writings as the `Day of Judgement'. At that time, souls are judged by their capacity and willingness to respond to the Word of God.

As to the reasons why some understand these Words, and others do not, Bahá'u'lláh said the following enlightening words to Nabíl, the great historian of the Bahá'í Faith: `Be thankful to God for having enabled you to recognize His Cause. Whoever has received this blessing must, prior to his acceptance, have performed some deed which, though he himself was unaware of its character, was ordained by God as a means whereby he has been guided to find and embrace the Truth. As to those who have remained deprived of such a blessing, their acts alone have hindered them from recognizing the truth of His Revelation. We cherish the hope that you, who have attained to this light, will exert your utmost to banish the darkness of superstition and unbelief from the midst of people. May your deeds proclaim your faith and enable you to lead the erring into the paths of eternal salvation.' (Words uttered by Bahá'u'lláh, recorded in Nabíl, The Dawn-Breakers, p.586.)

[31] The `Beloved' is the Manifestation of God.

[32] It is a reference to the famous Apologue of the Pearl, from Sa'di's Golestan, thus epitomized by A. Bausani: `A drop of water fell down from a cloud and, as it saw the great ocean, it was dumbfounded. If the ocean exists, I am nothing, it said. But the ocean welcomed the drop in its wide bosom and the shell trained and nourished it by its vital power, as a prize for its humility, until the humble drop turned into a famous, kingly pearl.' (Persia Religiosa, p.316.)

[33] Seven Valleys, pp.38-9.

[34] A famous testimony of this meeting has been handed down by Mullá Husayn, the first person who believed in the B b, the Herald of the Bahá'í Dispensation. In his detailed account of the experience of his first meeting with the Báb, in Shiraz, on the evening of 22 May 1844, he said: `This Revelation, so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendour and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanized my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its people and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp...' (Nabíl, The Dawn-Breakers, p.65.)

Another very interesting testimony has been handed down by Queen Marie of Romania. She was not privileged to attain the presence of the Manifestation of God, but she accepted the Bahá'í Faith after she read Bahá'í texts. Thus she describes the feelings which were stirred up in her heart through that reading: `If ever the name of Bahá'u'lláh or `Abdu'l-Bahá comes to your attention, do not put their writings from you. Search out their Books, and let their glorious, peace-bringing, love-creating words and lessons sink into your hearts as they have into mine... Seek them, and be the happier.' `... these Books have strengthened me beyond belief and I am now ready to die any day full of hope...' `The Bahá'í teaching brings peace and understanding. It is like a wide embrace gathering together all those who have long searched for words of hope...To those in search of assurance the words of the Father are as a fountain in the desert after long wandering'. (Quoted in Bahá'í World, V, pp.323-4.)

35 Seven Valleys, p.22.

[36] Promulgation, p.305.

[37] Referring to the meeting between the soul and the Word of the Manifestation of God, `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `The blessings of Bahá'u'lláh are a shoreless sea, and even life everlasting is only a dewdrop therefrom. The waves of that sea are continually lapping against the hearts of the friends, and from those waves there come intimations of the spirit and ardent pulsings of the soul, until the heart giveth way, and willing or not, turneth humbly in prayer unto the Kingdom of the Lord.' (Selections, pp.192-3).

[38] `Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful... Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbour, nothing can induce him to walk uprightly.' (Gleanings, pp.232-3.)

This is R. Rabbani's comment upon this stern words: `How unbelievably stern are these words -- so stern, indeed, that we are tempted to discount them. But when we pass on to His dire warnings regarding the state of human society and what its general delinquency may well lead to, we begin to grasp the subtle depths of this statement and we enter a field that merits profound contemplation, for it analyses and explains, warns and prophesies about the period we ourselves are living in. "This is the Day whereon every man will fly from himself, how much more from his kindred, could ye but perceive it...". Split personalities? Broken homes, divorce, shattered societies? "This is the Day on which all eyes shall stare up with terror, the Day in which the hearts of them that dwell on earth shall tremble...". A giant mushroom in the sky? The sound of gunfire and bombs?' (The Desire of the World, pp.69-70.)

These stern words by Bahá'u'lláh on atheism, and the brief, but touching comment by R. Rabbani, may appear more clear in the light of the concepts of religion, religiousness and knowledge of God which have been previously mentioned.

[39] Some Answered Questions, p.221.

[40] A.J. Ayer, The Concept of a Person, p.3.

41 Tablets, p.156.

[42] Quoted in A. Kunz, `Some Questions about Science and Religion', in Star of the West, XIII, p.143.

[43] See Promulgation, p.157.

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