THE MANIFESTATIONS OF GOD
The Prophets and Founders of the world's great religions have assured Their followers of the existence of God and have led them to love and worship Him. Thus, for thousands of years, throughout the various ages until the present day man's efforts to understand his Creator have been illumined by the lives and teachings of these great Beings.
Never before in the history of religion, however, has so much light been thrown on this subject as in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. Here it is asserted that God as Creator stands above His creation, and that man, by virtue of having been created, can never ascend to such heights as to understand the essence of his own Creator. Any description, image or likeness which may be attributed to the essence and nature of God can only be described as man's imagination. For how can the infinite be comprehended by, and remain within, a finite mind?
'To every discerning and illumined heart', Bahá'u'lláh solemnly affirms, 'it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress...He standeth exalted beyond and above all separation and union, all proximity and remoteness.'1
But God, Whose essence is unknowable, clearly manifests His attributes in His vast creation, both physical and spiritual. The mineral--the lowest form of life and yet the pivot around which all other forms of life on this earth revolve--manifests some of the attributes of God: but this is the lowest form of their manifestation. For instance, cohesion, a characteristic of the
1. Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp. 63-4 (Brit.), p. 98 (U.S.).
mineral, is indeed the manifestation of God's attribute of love in this kingdom.
The vegetable, driving its roots forcefully into the soil and taking away the mineral for its own life and growth, stands above and dominates the mineral kingdom by its power of growth. The attributes of God manifested within the vegetable kingdom are fuller and more potent than those appearing in the mineral. The seed, the flower, and the fruit are all earthly manifestations of divine power.
The next degree of manifestation appears in the animal kingdom which rules over the vegetable and the mineral. In this kingdom some of the attributes of God find their expression on a higher level. To cohesion and growth is added the power of the senses, which are the manifestations of divine attributes within this kingdom. For instance, sight and hearing are inadequate reflections on this earthly plane of the attributes of the 'All-seeing', 'All-hearing' God.
Man, physically an animal, is endowed with all the attributes of God, manifesting them on a much higher level than the animal. He is the apex and purpose of creation and rules over the entire range of life in this world. Yet, although created in the image and likeness of God--meaning that all the attributes of God are manifested within him--man can never transcend the bounds of limitation which are imposed upon him by the Creator.
The manifestation of the attributes of God does not end here. The next degree of manifestation appears within the realm of the Prophets and Messengers of God. Though physically human, and possessing human souls like the rest of mankind, the Messengers of God are endowed, in addition, with the Divine Spirit and, consequently, manifest the attributes of God to the highest degree of perfection. In His Writings, Bahá'u'lláh has given Them the appellation of 'Manifestations of God'.
Throughout this vast creation a lower kingdom always remains blind to a higher one. The vegetable world cannot com-
prehend the existence or qualities of the animal, nor can the animal appreciate the manifold attributes of the human mind. In like manner, no man, however capable, can ever hope to attain through his own efforts the exalted station of the Manifestations of God, nor can any human mind, however brilliant, ever ascend to such heights as to comprehend Their essence and attributes.
The Manifestations of God, by virtue of the Holy Spirit which animates Them, dwell in a kingdom of Their own far above the world of humanity and dominate the destiny of mankind. Though basically human, They abide in the realms of the Spirit beyond the reach of man. Bahá'u'lláh has described this station as that of the Sadratu'l-Muntahá, which can be translated as 'the tree beyond which there is no passing'.
In the recorded history of mankind there have been only a few such Manifestations of God. They have appeared at intervals of about a thousand years. Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh--Each has founded a religion for the people of His own age and, like a perfect mirror, has reflected the light of God to them. His words are spoken with the authority of God. Each is the Lord of His age and His teachings, which become the spirit of the age, are promulgated in accordance with the capacity of the people among whom He appears. He releases to the world of humanity spiritual energies designed to advance the human soul in its journey to God.
All created things, whether tangible or intangible, come into being as a result of the intercourse between two elements which assume the functions of male and female. This pattern is followed throughout the whole of creation and the birth of a religion is no exception.
Consider a table which comes into being when a carpenter chooses a piece of wood to work on. In this operation, the piece of wood assumes a female role and is shaped to the carpenter's design. The table--the child born of the intercourse
between the mind of the carpenter and the piece of wood--combines within itself the characteristics of both its parents. Its style, its beauty and proportions, its shape and construction all represent the art and craft of its father, the carpenter; whereas its colour, quality and consistency are inherited from its mother, namely, the piece of wood.
A similar principle governs the birth of a civilization whose founder, by imparting his ideas and principles to a society, plays the part of the male. The society, the recipient of his teachings, acts on the other hand as a female agent. The child of this mystical intercourse is a new civilization which reflects the characteristics of the founder as well as those of the society within whose womb it was conceived.
Religions are born as a result of the spiritual intercourse between God, on the one hand, and the person of the Manifestation of God, on the other. In His inscrutable wisdom, God chooses one of His servants from among humanity and makes Him the recipient of His Revelation. He releases within the soul of His chosen One the spiritual forces of His Revelation, while the person of the Manifestation, emptying Himself of self and human qualities and submitting Himself entirely to the will of His Creator, becomes a worthy recipient of these spiritual energies.
Once this relationship is established, as a result of the interaction between God and His chosen Mouthpiece, the child of a new religion is conceived and the Manifestation of God, in the fullness of time, by declaring His mission gives birth to this child and presents it to humanity. The Báb, the Forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh, declared His station about a year after the intimation of His sacred mission, but Bahá'u'lláh waited for ten years to make His mission known.
Every religion embodies within itself, on the one hand, the characteristics of God in the form of spiritual teachings which are eternal and, on the other, the characteristics of the Prophet in the form of human and social teachings which vary from age to age. The advent of the Manifestation of God is accompanied
by the release of spiritual energies into human society. Like the rays of the sun in springtime which give new life to this physical world, these energies bestow a new capacity upon mankind and enable it to attain a higher state of spiritual and material development.
Through His Revelation, Bahá'u'lláh, the Manifestation of God for this day, has released in the world of man the forces of universality and of the oneness of mankind. These forces are exerting pressure upon humanity and their intensity increases day by day. Those who have recognized Bahá'u'lláh and followed Him are, in a mysterious fashion, propelled forward in the direction taken by these forces and are assisted, through His divine power, in their task of erecting the framework of His new World Order for mankind. Those who, whether consciously or unconsciously, oppose these forces--and they constitute the majority of mankind, its rulers and wise men--have set up, within their various societies, forces of reaction which by their very nature are destructive and are responsible for the breaking up of the old order.
Today the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh has vouchsafed to humanity tremendous potentialities--potentialities which will, in the fullness of time, transform the human soul into a noble being and will establish, upon this earth, the Kingdom of God promised by the Messengers and Prophets of old.