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bullet.gif (837 bytes) The Bahá'ís
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Unity in Diversity
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Bahá'u'lláh
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Social and Moral
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Spiritual Beliefs of
the Bahá'í Faith
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A System for
Global Governance
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A Century of
Growth and
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) New Approaches
to Old Problems
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Towards the New
World Order

The Unknowable Essence

In elaborating how Bahá'ís view the relationship between God, religion and humanity, the best place to start is with the Bahá'í concept of God. And that concept begins with the realization that God is unknowable.

Bahá'u'lláh taught that God is the Creator of the universe and its absolute ruler. His nature is limitless, infinite and all-powerful. It is therefore impossible for mortal men and women, with limited intellect and finite capacities, to directly comprehend or understand the Divine reality, Its motives or the way It operates.

While unknowable in His essence, God has chosen to make Himself known to humanity through a series of divine Messengers.

These Messengers have been the only way to knowledge of God, and their number includes the Founders of the world's great religions: Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad--to name those Messengers who are best known.

Bahá'ís also include other prophets in this group, such as Noah and Abraham.

"A new life is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth..." -- Bahá'u'lláh

The Messengers, in Bahá'u'lláh's words, are "Manifestations of God." The Manifestations are perfect mirrors of God's attributes and perfection, providing a pure channel for the communication of God's will for humanity.

This idea--that God has sent a succession of Messengers to educate humanity--is called "progressive revelation." An analogy is the process of schooling. Just as children start with simple ideas in the primary grades, and are given increasingly complex knowledge as they move on through secondary school and college, so humanity has been "educated" by a series of Manifestations. In each age, the teachings of the Messens~ers of God have conformed not to Their knowledge but to the level of our collective maturity.

A Two-Fold Station

The Manifestations of God have a two-fold station. On the one hand, they are Divine beings, reflecting perfectly God's will. On the other hand, they are humans, subject to birth, disease, suffering and death. They have different physical identities and they address humanity at different stages in history. These differences give rise to cultural distinctions between religions that sometimes conceal their inherent unity.

"The Word of God hath set the heart of the world afire; how regrettable if ye fail to be enkindled with its flame!" --Bahá'u'lláh

"Every Prophet Whom the Almighty and Peerless Creator hath purposed to send to the peoples of the earth hath been entrusted with a Message, and charged to act in a manner that would best meet the requirements of the age in which He appeared," Bahá'u'lláh said.

Fundamentally, however, the spiritual message of God's Messengers has been universally the same. Each has stressed the importance of love for God, obedience to His will, and love for humanity. Although the words have varied, each has taught the "Golden Rule"--that individuals should treat others as they would like to be treated themselves.

"Know thou assuredly that the essence of all the Prophets of God is one and the same." Bahá'u'lláh wrote. "Their unity is absolute. God, the Creator, saith: There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message..."

The Manifestations of God communicate God's will to humanity through the process of divine revelation. This process of revelation has been recorded in the world's great holy books--books that range from the Torah to the Qur'an, and which include Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Zoroastrian scriptures. These writings represent humanity's record of God's revealed Word.

Bahá'u'lláh says that the Word of God is the "master key" for the whole world. Only it can unlock the spiritual potential latent within every individual; only it can help us develop to our fullest potential. Without the Word of God, humans would remain captives of instinct and cultural conditioning, dwelling only on qualities that are associated with physical survival. Greed, selfishness, dishonesty, corruption and the like inevitably flourish if there is no divine guidance.

"The door of the knowledge of the Ancient Being hath ever been, and will continue for ever to be, closed in the face of men. No man's understanding shall ever gain access unto His holy court. As a token of His mercy, however, and as a proof of His loving-kindness, He hath manifested unto men the Day Stars of His divine guidance, the Symbols of His divine unity, and hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self.... Every one of them is the Way of God that connecteth this world with the realms above..." --Bahá'u'lláh

For Bahá'ís, the books, tablets and letters penned by Bahá'u'lláh represent today the Word of God renewed. Although they are consistent with past religious revelations, and represent "the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future," the writings of Bahá'u'lláh also contain fresh truths about God's will for humanity today.

Next pages:

"Excerpted from The Bahá'ís, a publication of the Bahá'í International Community."

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Photo from page 34
Just as children start with simple ideas in the primary grades, and are given increasingly complex knowledge as they move on through secondary school and college, so humanity has been "educated" by a series of Messengers from God, whose number include Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad. The latest such "divine Educator" is Bahá'u'lláh. Shown is a kindergarten class at a Bahá'í school in Brazil.

Photo from page 36
Reading the Word of God.







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