Exalted, immeasurably exalted, art Thou above the strivings of mortal man to unravel Thy mystery, to describe Thy glory, or even to hint at the nature of Thine Essence. For whatever such strivings may accomplish, they never can hope to transcend the limitations imposed upon Thy creatures, inasmuch as these efforts are actuated by Thy decree, and are begotten of Thine invention.
|ESSENTIALLY||a. GOD||c. LOGOS, UNIVERSAL MATTER, COMPOSITE CREATURES|
|TEMPORALLY||b. GOD, LOGOS, UNIVERSAL MATTER||d. COMPOSITE CREATURES|
To every discerning and illuminated heart it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence [zuhur va buruz], ascent and descent, egress and regress.In denying that God manifests Himself as a corporeal being, Bahá'u'lláh makes an important distinction between the Bahá'í concept of manifestation and that of the extremist Shi'is. Some of these latter believed that God in his essence could become fully manifest in a human being. For Bahá'u'lláh, however, the essence of God is absolutely transcendent and is not manifested in the contingent world.
He hath entrusted every created thing with a sign of His knowledge, so that none of His creatures may be deprived of its share in expressing, each according to its capacity and rank, this knowledge. This sign is the mirror of His beauty in the world of creation.In another tablet on the same theme, Bahá'u'lláh explains:
Here, he explains the sign of God as a reflection of his attributes, a reflection which is latent and which is deposited (vadi'ih) within each created thing.
Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man bath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty.This theme, that each created thing is a sign of one of God's attributes, permeates the entire corpus of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation. This might be called the doctrine of "General Revelation," which teaches that God is revealed in his creation by virtue of his effulgence (tajalli) therein. This is not an effulgence of his essence, as some mystics taught, but rather an effulgence of his active qualities or perfections. Bahá'u'lláh stresses that the sign of God within each creature is only potentially manifest. In the case of human beings, they can choose to fulfill their potentialities by becoming more perfect and bringing to fruition the names and attributes deposited within them, or they can choose not to do so.
Far, far from Thy glory be what mortal man can affirm of Thee, or attribute unto Thee, or the praise with which he can glorify Thee! Whatever duty Thou hast prescribed unto Thy servants of extolling to the utmost Thy majesty and glory is but a token of Thy grace unto them, that they may be enabled to ascend unto the station conferred upon their own in-most being, the station of the knowledge of their own selves.When we speak of God in anthropomorphic terms, when we praise Him with merely human perfections, we are actually making a false analogy, since God and humankind have absolutely nothing in common.
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. Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth every man will advance and develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed. It is for this very purpose that in every age and dispensation the Prophets of God and His chosen Ones have appeared amongst men...The prophet or manifestation of God, therefore, performs a primarily didactic function. What distinguishes him from other human beings is his perfection. Just as mankind as a species is "the noblest and most perfect of all created things," and excels all other creatures in the intensity of the revelation of the names and attributes of God within it, so the prophet is "the most accomplished, the most distinguished, and the most excellent" of human beings. By demonstrating the full potentialities of human development for his age, the manifestation of God acts as an exemplar and as a teacher for the rest of humanity in its search for self-fulfillment.
There is no partner for Him Who is the Dayspring of Revelation in His Most Great Infallibility. He is, in truth, the exponent of 'God doeth whatsoever He willeth" in the kingdom of creation. Indeed, the Almighty hath exclusively reserved this station for Himself [or "His Self"] and to none is given a share in this sublime and highly exalted distinction.Bahá'u'lláh goes on to say in The Most Holy Book that this is a matter which had been hidden and which is being clearly manifested in this dispensation. He notes that there were those who were unaware of the judgment of scripture on this matter, referring very likely to those Muslims who did not accept the moral infallibility of the prophets. Since the Qur'an did not clearly state this teaching, Bahá'u'lláh was here clarifying a point that had caused much controversy in Islam.
Revelation was entrusted to the prophets, and its interpretation and elucidation have been delegated to the most great, illumined and bounteous Manifestation, the Counselor. This is as Christ warned, saying ... "But the Counselor... whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things."Suhrawardi was apparently expecting another major manifestation of God, for he was executed by the Ayyubid government for believing that God could create a prophet after Muhammad, contrary to the Muslim doctrine that Muhammad was the last prophet.
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead [literally: "His Self"] in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation.The "manifestation of the names and attributes of God" becomes so powerful a description of the prophet in the Bábí and Bahá'í writings that it eclipses such terms as "prophet" and "messenger." Bahá'u'lláh explains in the Jawahir al-asrar that God closed the cycle of prophecy with the Prophet Muhammad, as it says in the Qur'an, "Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets; God has knowledge of everything." (Qur'an 33:40). The implication is that the prophet, and the messenger, was a more primitive form of theophany which came to an end with Muhammad. With the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, in the Bahá'í view, humankind has entered a new religious cycle characterized by a fuller theophany. In this cycle, concepts like "prophet" and "messenger" have been transcended.
The Self of God therefore seems to refer to the totality of God's active attributes, of which the prophets and messengers are manifestations. Whether this concept of the Self of God is related to the Neoplatonic idea of the Universal Self or Soul is difficult to determine at this point.
Therefore, whosoever, and in whatever Dispensation, hath recognized and attained unto the presence of these glorious, these resplendent and most excellent Luminaries, hath verily attained unto the "Presence of God" Himself, and entered the city of eternal and immortal life. Attainment unto such presence is possible only in the Day of Resurrection, which is the Day of the rise of God Himself through His all-embracing Revelation [arising of the Self of God through his Universal Manifestation].Therefore, the Resurrection Day symbolizes the appearance of a new Manifestation of God, and the attainment to a knowledge of and belief in this figure equates with the attainment to the "Presence of God" promised in the Qur'an.
These Tabernacles of holiness, these primal Minors 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.He goes on to imply, however, that even the attributes of the manifestation remain inaccessible to human beings, except insofar as the human souls of the believers reflect or replicate them on the level of the world of creation. The "sovereignty" or "wisdom" of the manifestation of God is therefore identical neither to God's wisdom and sovereignty, nor to human wisdom and sovereignty. On each of the three levels of the world of divinity, the world of command, and the world of creation, essence and attribute exist in a self-contained fashion. Each lower world reflects in its own way, however, the attributes of the higher world, though not the essence of that world. This could be diagrammed as follows:
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 hath ordained that in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven. Unto this subtle, this mysterious and ethereal Being He hath assigned a twofold nature [du 'unsur], the physical, pertaining to the world of matter; and the spiritual. which is born of the substance of God Himself [is divine (ilahi]). He hath, moreover, conferred upon Him a double station. The first station, which is related to His innermost reality. Representeth Him as One Whose voice is the voice of God Himself. . . . The second station is the human station.In Bahá'u'lláh's view. the manifestation of God has, during his earthly sojourn, many human limitations. He must eat and drink, is subject to being plunged into poverty or becoming wealthy, can attain glory or be reduced to abject abasement, and in general has the same needs and material constraints as other human beings. On the other hand, Bahá'u'lláh says that "viewed from the standpoint of their oneness and sublime detachment, the attributes of Godhead, Divinity, Supreme Singleness, and Inmost Essence, have been and are applicable to those Essences of being..."
This station is the station in which one dieth to himself and liveth to 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.In Bahá'u'lláh's view, then, the manifestations of the names and attributes of God do not have a single station, nor are they limited to a single function. They are, at one extreme, humble and abject servants of God. At the other, they claim to speak with the voice of God Himself, and to manifest his divine perfections to a wayward mankind. When it serves their purposes to do so, they emphasize their humanity. At other times they might proclaim their divinity. In Bahá'u'lláh's theophanology, divinity and humanity in the manifestation are not mutually exclusive, but are, rather, complementary.
"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."In Islamic physics, contingent things were said to subsist by virtue of something. All things ultimately subsisted by virtue of God (qa'im bi'lláh). That is, they owed their origin and continued existence to Him. But if contingent creatures subsist by virtue of God, the question arises of how they are brought into being and how they are sustained. 'Abdu'l-Bahá replies that they subsist through God's emanation (sudur, fayd).
But the proceeding through manifestation (if by this is meant the divine appearance, and not division into parts), we have said, is the proceeding and the appearance of the Holy Spirit and the Word, which is from God.He indicates that the word 'manifestation" can denote simply "effulgence" (tajalli), implying an effulgence of attributes rather than the sort of essential manifestation which would have incarnational and pantheistic implications. He adds that the Holy Spirit subsists by virtue of God through this sort of nonessential manifestation.
The first thing which emanated from God is that universal reality, which the ancient philosophers termed the "First Mind," and which the people of Bahá call the "First Will." This emanation, in that which concerns its action in the world of God, is not limited by time or place; it is without beginning or end—beginning and end in relation to God are one.In Bábí theology, the Primal Will was the Logos, the metaphysical principle below that station of pure abstraction which is divinity. It is the station of particularization which is the Primal Will. In this passage, however, 'Abdu'l-Bahá explicitly identifies it as a Bábí-Bahá'í term for what the Neoplatonists called the Universal Intellect (Gk. nous).
One Holy Soul gives life to the world of humanity, changes the aspect of the terrestrial globe, causes intelligence to progress, vivifies souls, lays the foundation of a new existence, establishes the basis of a marvelous creation, organises the world, brings nations and religions under the shadow of one standard, delivers man from the world of imperfections and vices, and inspires him with the desire and need of natural and acquired perfections.This educator is the Manifestation, whom we have previously discussed.
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 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. All things must needs have a cause, a motive power, an animating principle. These souls and symbols of detachment have provided, and will continue to provide, the supreme moving impulse in the world of being.
Note: for more information on this topic, cf. some of the newer work of Stephen Lambden, Christopher Buck, Jack McLean, and others (see, for example, lists of citations at Bahái-library.org/books/rg/rg.biblio11.html#37 and Bahái-library.org/books/rg/rg.biblio17.html#66). Quotes from Bahá'í scriptures in this article can easily be found through a keyword search at True Seeker. The scanning process may also have introduced some typographical errors of a sort that the spell check did not catch.
WebMaster: Juan R.I. Cole