Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A selection of quotations from the Baha'i Writings on unity and diversity

"We stand for unity through diversity
and we hold in contempt
every attempt at uniformity. . ."

". . . a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units." (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 43)

"Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Bahá'u'lláh. . . It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world. It repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. Its watchword is unity in diversity such as Abdu'l-Baha Himself has explained:

'Consider the flowers of a garden. Though differing in kind, color, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruit, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of hues, form and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas and convictions of the children of men.'"

(The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 41)

"They must be neither provocative nor supine, neither fanatical nor excessively liberal, in their exposition of the fundamental and distinguishing features of their Faith." (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 25)

"There are two main principles which the Guardian wishes the friends to always bear in mind and to conscientiously and faithfully follow. First is the principle of unqualified and wholehearted loyalty to the revealed Word. The believers should be careful not to deviate, even a hair-breadth, from the Teachings. Their supreme consideration should be to safeguard the purity of the principles, tenets and laws of the Faith. It is only by this means that they can hope to maintain the organic unity of the Cause. There can and should be no liberals or conservatives, no moderates or extremes in the Cause. For they are all subject to the one and the same law which is the Law of God. This law transcends all differences, all personal or local tendencies, moods and aspirations. [...] Doctrinal unity and administrative unity, these are the two chief pillars that sustain the edifice of the Cause, and protect it from the storms of opposition which so severely rage against it."
(From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated September 5, 1936; Dawn of a New Day, p. 61)

"The Guardian is striving to build up uniformity in essentials all over the Bahá'í World, and this frequently involves a small measure of delay in achieving our various goals set locally."
(From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated Dec. 30, 1948, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 73) (the subject is the constitution of an Assembly)

"He does not object if there be any differences in these secondary matters, but he feels that he should insist on uniformity in essentials. Diversity in unity -- which is so vital and basic a principle of the Movement -- would thereby be maintained."
(Shoghi Effendi dated Dec. 27, 1934, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, p. 101) (the subject is the constitution of an Assembly)

"Shoghi Effendi believes that, although the friends may have different methods of teaching the Cause, yet they should not let such diversity lead to a consciousness of division among them. To safeguard the unity of the Faith is the sacred obligation of every loyal Baha'i. We should, therefore, avoid creating any misunderstandings which might develop into actual division. We stand for unity through diversity and we hold in contempt every attempt at uniformity or at complete separateness."
From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated 3 June 1933, Compilation "Cultural Diversity in the Age of Maturity," Compilation of Compilations, Volume III, p. 125 #204)

"The second principle is that of detachment in consultation.  The members of an Assembly must learn to express their views frankly, calmly, without passion or rancour.  They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without taking offence or belittling the views of another. Baha'i consultation is not an easy process.  It requires love, kindliness, moral courage and humility.  Thus no member should ever allow himself to be prevented from expressing frankly his view because it may offend a fellow member; and, realizing this, no member should take offence at another member's statements." (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Italy, August 26, 1965; Lights of Guidance pp. 179-180)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Day of God Himself

In the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an are promises that God Himself will come to the earth. Baha'u'llah both fulfills and explains the meaning of this.

In the Book of Revelation we read:

"And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:3)

In Isaiah we read (and many Christian study Bibles star this verse as a prophecy that God Himself will come to earth)

"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God." (Isaiah 35:1-2. Another example is in Isaiah 40:10)

Baha'u'llah quotes this verse and says of it and other verses from Isaiah,

"These passages stand in need of no commentary. They are shining and manifest as the sun, and glowing and luminous as light itself. Every fair-minded person is led, by the fragrance of these words, unto the garden of understanding, and attaineth unto that from which most men are veiled and debarred."
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 146)

This is one of the prophecies that foretells His name - "as shining and manifest as the sun."

Isaiah not only states that the "glory of the Lord" will come to Carmel - but even specifies the neighborhood. The original Hebrew says "the Hadar of Carmel" shall see "the Hadar of God". ("Hadar" can be translated as glory, excellence, splendor, or beauty). Baha'u'llah, the Splendor of God will come to the Hadar of Carmel - and the Baha'i Holy Places are in the Hadar neighborhood of Haifa.

There is a famous verse from the Qur'an in which Muhammad states that He is the Seal of the Prophets, and Muslims mistakenly believe that this means that no other Prophet will ever come to the earth. As Baha'u'llah points out, this verse in the Qur'an is followed by the promise that the people will "meet God." Here is the verse:
"Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Apostle of God, and the seal of the prophets: and God knoweth all things. O Believers! remember God with frequent remembrance, and praise Him morning and evening. He blesseth you, and His angels intercede for you, that He may bring you forth out of darkness into light: and Merciful is He to the Believers. Their greeting on the day when they shall meet Him shall be 'Peace!'" (Qur'an 33:40)
Baha'u'llah writes,
"Know then that the paradise that appeareth in the day of God surpasseth every other paradise and excelleth the realities of Heaven. For when God - blessed and glorified is He - sealed the station of prophethood in the person of Him Who was His Friend, His Chosen One, and His Treasure amongst His creatures, as hath been revealed from the Kingdom of glory: 'but He is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets', He promised all men that they shall attain unto His own presence in the Day of Resurrection. In this He meant to emphasize the greatness of the Revelation to come, as it hath indeed been manifested through the power of truth. And there is of a certainty no paradise greater than this, nor station higher, should ye reflect upon the verses of the Qur'án. Blessed be he who knoweth of a certainty that he shall attain unto the presence of God on that day when His Beauty shall be made manifest."
(Baha'u'llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 42)

That is, the Qur'an does not expressly state that another Prophet will come after Muhammad -it says that the earth will receive the Presence of God or will "meet" God, a promise made throughout the Qur'an - these verses are compiled by Baha'u'llah here:

All the Holy Books promise that God Himself will come to the earth. This is also related to the promise that the Messiah will say one word, and that word will cause the religious leaders to flee. That word is explained here:

As Baha'u'llah repeatedly states He is not claiming to be God. These promises are solely to emphasize the greatness of His Revelation. When Muslims object, He explains that He wants "Divinity" to be understood in the same way it is used in the Qur'an and Islamic Traditions .

It seems that God ran out of superlatives, and saying it this way was the best way of communicating the greatness of this Revelation.
This is the “Day of God” promised in the Holy Books, Revelation 16:14, II Peter 3:10-11, Qur'an 14:5.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Who Do Baha'is Believe Jesus Christ Is?

 Who do Baha'is believe Jesus Christ is?

In the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament, God makes this Covenant:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."  [Malachi 4:5]

The people asked John the Baptist if he was the return of Elijah, and he said that he was not:

"Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' ... And they asked him, 'What then?  Are you Elijah?'  He said, 'I am not.'  'Are you the Prophet?'  And he answered, 'No.'"  [John 1:19-21]

But Jesus stated that John the Baptist was Elijah:

[Jesus said to them]  "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist ... And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"  [Matthew 11:11-15]

Abdul-Baha states in Chapter 33 of "Some Answered Questions":

"Then if John was Elias, why did he say, 'I am not?' And if he was not Elias, why did Christ say that he was? The explanation is this:  Not the personality, but the reality of the perfections, is meant -- that is to say, the same perfections that were in Elias existed in John the Baptist and were exactly realized in him....  Therefore when Christ said, 'This is Elias,' He meant:  This person is a manifestation of the bounty, the perfections, the character, the qualities and the virtues of Elias...."

Though there appears at first glance to be a discrepancy in the Scripture, we can approach the Scripture with confidence to find the unity of its meaning, as:

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..."   [II Timothy 3:16]
" ... for God is not the author of confusion but of peace ..."  [I Corinthians 14:33]

The Baha'i interpretation that the "return" means the return of the "bounty, ... perfections, ... character, ... qualities, and ... virtues" is supported by this verse from the Gospel:

[But the angel said] "He [John the Baptist] will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah..."  [Luke 1:17]

Sometimes Christians say that Elijah is a "type" of John the Baptist, meaning an archetype, and this means the same thing. The point is, that John fulfilled the promise of the return of Elijah.  This fact, that John the Baptist fulfills the prophecy of the Return of Elijah, illumines the relationship between Christ and Baha'u'llah.  And just as God promised that Elijah would return, Jesus promised One who would come after Him:

"However, when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  He will glorify Me ..."  [John 16:13]

This is often understood to be a prophecy of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  However, if read carefully, it can be seen that it is a prophecy of the appearance of the One to succeed Jesus.  In the following words, spoken by God to Moses, we see the terminology God uses to foreshadow the appearance of a Manifestation of God:

"I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him."  [Deuteronomy 18:18]

This is universally understood by Christians to be a prophecy of Jesus Christ from the Jewish Scriptures, and accepted as such by Baha'i's.  Look carefully at how the "Prophet" is foretold in the previous verse, and compare it to these words of Jesus, describing the source of His own Revelation:

"For I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  And I know that His command is everlasting life.  Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak."  [John 12:49-50]

So Jesus claimed that prophecy in Deuteronomy as foretelling His appearance.  Now we can see that this prophecy by Jesus of the One to follow Him is in the same spirit, and again, refers to a Person:

"However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  He will glorify Me..."   [John 16:13]

'Abdu'l-Baha, interpreting these words of Jesus, states:

"Now consider carefully that from these words, 'for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak,' it is clear that the Spirit of truth is embodied in a Man Who has individuality, Who has ears to hear and a tongue to speak." [Some Answered Questions p. 109]

In confirmation of His being the fulfillment of this verse, Baha'u'llah writes in His Most Holy Tablet, His Tablet to the Christians:

"Verily, He Who is the Spirit of Truth is come to guide you unto all truth.  He speaketh not as prompted by His own self, but as bidden by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  Say, this is the One Who hath glorified the Son and hath exalted His Cause."  ["Tablet to the Christians," Tablets of Baha'u'llah p. 12]

Jesus promised that He would return bearing a New Name

Jesus promised that He would return with a new name, and He associated this name with the name of the "city of God," the "new Jerusalem."  The Bible associates this city with the name of Baha'u'llah, whose Name means "The Glory of God." Jesus said:

"He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.  And I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God.  And I will write on him My new name." (Revelation 3:12)
These are the words of Jesus Christ. In a red-letter Bible, this verse is in red.

There is only one other reference in the Bible to the "New Jerusalem," this "City of God." John saw this City, and said:

"And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God." (Revelation 21:10)
That is, "Having the Glory of God" is the fulfillment of the divine promise that Jesus would return with a new name. In the Arabic translation of the Bible, it says that this holy Jerusalem has "Baha'u'llah."

Baha'is believe that Baha'u'llah is the promised return of Christ, and that His very Name is prophesied in the Revelation of John, as well as in Isaiah 35:2, where Isaiah promises that Mount Carmel -- the location of the World Centre of the Baha'i Faith -- would see the Splendor of God.  "Baha'u'llah" means "The Glory of God" and "Splendor of God."


Exactly who the Bible says He is.  And the Bible presents Jesus Christ in a range of stations.

Baha'u'llah wrote:

"Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare, 'I am God!' He verily speaketh the truth, and no doubt attacheth thereto.  For it hath been repeatedly demonstrated that through their Revelation, their attributes and names, the Revelation of God, His name and His attributes, are made manifest in the world..."  (Book of Certitude, p. 178)
"In every instance, they have voiced an utterance that would conform to the requirements of the occasion, and have ascribed all these declarations to Themselves, declarations ranging from the realm of divine Revelation to the realm of creation, and from the domain of Divinity even unto the domain of earthly existence.  Thus it is that whatsoever be their utterance, whether it pertain to the realm of Divinity, Lordship, Prophethood, Messengership, Guardianship, Apostleship or Servitude, all is true, beyond the shadow of a doubt."  (Book of Certitude, p. 181)
Let's now see how Jesus Christ is presented in almost all of these stations mentioned by Baha'u'llah, in the Bible.


The divinity of Christ is affirmed in the following verses of the Bible:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1
"I and My Father are one." John 10:30

The divinity of Christ is upheld in the Bahá'í teachings.  As Shoghi Effendi wrote:

"As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended. ... Such are the central, the solid, the incontrovertible principles that constitute the bedrock of Baha'i belief, which the Faith of Baha'u'llah is proud to acknowledge, which its teachers proclaim, which its apologists defend, which its literature disseminates, which its summer schools expound, and which the rank and file of its followers attest by both word and deed."  (The Promised Day is Come, pp. 109-110)


The "Lordship" of Jesus Christ is stated in these Bible verses:

"For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Matthew 12:8
"You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am." John 13:13
"Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:42

Jesus Christ is referred to as a "Prophet" in these verses of the Bible:

"I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him."  Deuteronomy 18:18
"But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.'" Matthew 13:57
"Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem."  Luke 13:33
"So the multitudes said, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.'"  Matthew 21:11


Jesus Christ is referred to as a "Messenger" in this verse of the last Book of the Old Testament:

"Behold, I send My messenger [John the Baptist] and he will prepare the way before Me.  And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant [Jesus], in whom you delight."  Malachi 3:1

That the "Messenger" is John the Baptist is confirmed in Matthew 11:10.


In this verse from the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as an Apostle:
"Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus ... "     Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews 3:1

The servitude of Jesus is referred to in these verses:

"Behold!  My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!" Isaiah 42:1 [Matthew 12:17-18 confirms that this verse refers to Jesus]
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men."  Paul's Epistle to the Phillipians 2:5-7

So, as Baha'u'llah explains in the Book of Certitude, Baha'is believe that Jesus contains all of these stations within Himself. When speaking of Him, we are speaking of a Being greater than a human being, so we must be careful to not attempt to contain Him within human concepts, or presume that our limited minds are capable of grasping His station, just as an animal can never grasp human nature. Only by using His own Words, and the Writings of Baha'u'llah, can we begin to understand His station.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What is the Meaning of the 70 Virgins in Paradise?

What is the meaning of the 70 virgins in Paradise?

In chapter 55 of the Qur'an (Surah 55 "The Merciful") there is a passage about beautiful virgins in Paradise known as "huris":
"Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? Therein are those of modest gaze, whom neither man nor spirits will have touched before them. Which is it, of the favors of your Lord, that ye deny?"
The number of these virgins is not provided in the Qur'an, but Islamic holy Traditions - Hadith - state that there will be 70 or 72 of them, or that every man will have 70 wives.

In the Book of Certitude, Baha'u'llah explains that the Holy Books are written in two modes: One is clear and unveiled, and the other is "veiled and concealed" and according to Islamic tradition has 70 concealed meanings:
"It is evident unto thee that the Birds of Heaven and Doves of Eternity speak a twofold language. One language, the outward language, is devoid of allusions, is unconcealed and unveiled; that it may be a guiding lamp and a beaconing light whereby wayfarers may attain the heights of holiness, and seekers may advance into the realm of eternal reunion. Such are the unveiled traditions and the evident verses already mentioned. The other language is veiled and concealed. . . None apprehendeth the meaning of these utterances except them whose hearts are assured, whose souls have found favour with God, and whose minds are detached from all else but Him. In such utterances, the literal meaning, as generally understood by the people, is not what hath been intended. Thus it is recorded:  'Every knowledge hath seventy meanings, of which one only is known amongst the people. And when the Qá'im shall arise, He shall reveal unto men all that which remaineth.'"
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 254; compare Luke 8:9-10)
So here Baha'u'llah quotes a Muslim Tradition stating that the Word of God has 70 meanings. Earlier in this same Book, Baha'u'llah linked His explanations of the inner meanings enfolded within the Word of God, with the huris mentioned in the Qur'an:

"By God! however great Our desire to be brief, yet We feel We cannot restrain Our pen. Notwithstanding all that We have mentioned, how innumerable are the pearls which have remained unpierced in the shell of Our heart! How many the huris of inner meaning that are as yet concealed within the chambers of divine wisdom! None hath yet approached them; -- huris, 'whom no man nor spirit hath touched before.'"
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 70)
Similarly, in the Surih of the Temple, Baha'u'llah identifies the "huris" with the inner meanings of the Word of God, when He writes,
O Maid of inner meanings! Step out of the chamber of utterance by the leave of God, the Lord of the heavens and the earth.
(The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 13, paragraph 22)
The original word translated as "Maid" is "huriyya" which is synonymous with "huri." Therefore, it is my understanding that the 70 "virgins in Paradise" that are untouched by any man, are the 70 meanings in the Paradise of the Word of God not previously understood by any mind. Perhaps this is an example of Shoghi Effendi's statement that in the Book of Certitude, that Baha'u'llah unfolds the meaning of the "cryptic Muhammadan traditions" that have been misunderstood in the past.

Here are extracts from two more of Baha'u'llah's tablets which link the "Maids of Heaven" with the significances of the Word of God:

"O My servants! Through the might of God and His power, and out of the treasury of His knowledge and wisdom, I have brought forth and revealed unto you the pearls that lay concealed in the depths of His everlasting ocean. I have summoned the Maids of  Heaven to emerge from behind the veil of concealment, and have clothed them with these words of Mine -- words of consummate power and wisdom."
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CLIII, p. 327)

"He is the All-Glorious. This is the garden of Paradise, wherein arise the anthems of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting; wherein ascend the soul-entrancing melodies warbled by the Nightingale of Eternity upon the twigs of the Divine Lote-Tree; wherein abide the Maids of Heaven whom none hath touched save God, the All-Glorious, the Most Holy; and wherein lieth enshrined that which draweth the needy to the shores of the ocean of true wealth and guideth the people to the Word of God."
(Baha'u'llah, Tablet of the Bell, Days of Remembrance, Tablet #26

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Compilation From the Writings of Baha'u'llah and His Universal House of Justice on the Power of the Word of God

“Give ear unto the verses of God which He Who is the sacred Lote-Tree reciteth unto you. They are assuredly the infallible balance, established by God, the Lord of this world and the next. Through them the soul of man is caused to wing its flight towards the Dayspring of Revelation, and the heart of every true believer is suffused with light.” 
(Baha'u'llah, The Most Holy Book, paragraph 148, p. 73)

“It behoveth the friends in whatever land they be, to gather together in meetings, and therein to speak wisely and with eloquence, and to read the verses of God; for it is God's Words that kindle love's fire and set it ablaze.”
(Baha'u'llah, Compilation on Baha’i Meetings)

“The sanctified souls should ponder and meditate in their hearts regarding the methods of teaching. From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages bearing on various instances, so that in the course of their speech they may recite divine verses whenever the occasion demandeth it, inasmuch as these holy verses are the most potent elixir, the greatest and mightiest talisman. So potent is their influence that the hearer will have no cause for vacillation. I swear by My life! This Revelation is endowed with such a power that it will act as the lodestone for all nations and kindreds of the earth.” 
(Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 200)

“Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men. Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul. Thus have the mysteries of the Revelation of God been decreed by virtue of the Will of Him Who is the Source of power and wisdom.”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CXXXVI, p. 295)

“And likewise, He [the Bab] saith: ‘Better is it for thee to recite but one of the verses of Him Whom God shall make manifest than to set down the whole of the Bayan, for on that Day that one verse can save thee, whereas the entire Bayan cannot save thee.’" (Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 153)

“To read but one of the verses of My Revelation is better than to peruse the Scriptures of both the former and latter generations. This is the Utterance of the All-Merciful, would that ye had ears to hear! Say: This is the essence of knowledge, did ye but understand.” 
(Baha'u'llah, The Most Holy Book, paragraph 138, p. 68)

“Behold, how lofty is the station, and how consummate the virtue, of these verses which He hath declared to be His surest testimony, His infallible proof, the evidence of His all-subduing power, and a revelation of the potency of His will. He, the divine King, hath proclaimed the undisputed supremacy of the verses of His Book over all things that testify to His truth. For compared with all other proofs and tokens, the divinely-revealed verses shine as the sun, whilst all others are as stars. To the peoples of the world they are the abiding testimony, the incontrovertible proof, the shining light of the ideal King. Their excellence is unrivalled, their virtue nothing can surpass. They are the treasury of the divine pearls and the depository of the divine mysteries. They constitute the indissoluble Bond, the firm Cord, the Urvatu'l-Vuthqá, the inextinguishable Light. Through them floweth the river of divine knowledge, and gloweth the fire of His ancient and consummate wisdom. This is the fire which, in one and the same moment, kindleth the flame of love in the breasts of the faithful, and induceth the chill of heedlessness in the heart of the enemy.” (Baha'u'llah, The Book of Certitude, paragraph 226, page 205)

“The vitality of men's belief in God is dying out in every land; nothing short of His wholesome medicine can ever restore it. The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society; what else but the Elixir of His potent Revelation can cleanse and revive it? Is it within human power, O Hakim, to effect in the constituent elements of any of the minute and indivisible particles of matter so complete a transformation as to transmute it into purest gold? Perplexing and difficult as this may appear, the still greater task of converting satanic strength into heavenly power is one that We have been empowered to accomplish. The Force capable of such a transformation transcendeth the potency of the Elixir itself. The Word of God, alone, can claim the distinction of being endowed with the capacity required for so great and far-reaching a change.”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah XCIX, p. 199)

“The Word of God is the king of words and its pervasive influence is incalculable. It hath ever dominated and will continue to dominate the realm of being. The Great Being saith: The Word is the master key for the whole world, inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked.” 
(Baha'u'llah, The Tablet of Maqsud, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 173)

“On the other hand, consider the welding power of His Word. Observe, how those in whose midst the Satan of self had for years sown the seeds of malice and hate became so fused and blended through their allegiance to this wondrous and transcendent Revelation that it seemed as if they had sprung from the same loins. Such is the binding force of the Word of God, which uniteth the hearts of them that have renounced all else but Him, who have believed in His signs, and quaffed from the Hand of glory the Kawthar of God's holy grace. Furthermore, how numerous are those peoples of divers beliefs, of conflicting creeds, and opposing temperaments, who, through the reviving fragrance of the Divine springtime, breathing from the Ridvan of God, have been arrayed with the new robe of divine Unity, and have drunk from the cup of His singleness! This is the significance of the well-known words: ‘The wolf and the lamb shall feed together.’ [Isaiah 65:25]"
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, paragraph 118, p. 111)

“Where is the man of insight who will behold the Words of God with his own eyes and rid himself of the opinions and notions of the peoples of the earth? O servant! Warn thou the servants of God not to reject that which they do not comprehend. Say, implore God to open to your hearts the portals of true understanding that ye may be apprised of that of which no one is apprised. Verily, He is the Giver, the Forgiving, the Compassionate.”
(Baha’u’llah, Suriy-i-Vafa, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 188)

“. . . it is Our purpose, through the loving providence of God -- exalted be His glory -- and His surpassing mercy, to abolish, through the force of Our utterance, all disputes, war, and bloodshed, from the face of the earth.” 
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 33)

“Through the power of the words He hath uttered the whole of the human race can be illumined with the light of unity . . .” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CXXXI, p. 286)

“Thus biddeth you the Lord of creation, the movement of Whose Pen hath revolutionized the soul of mankind.”
(Baha'u'llah, The Most Holy Book, paragraph 54, p. 39)

“Man is like unto a tree. . . The Water for these trees is the living water of the sacred Words uttered by the Beloved of the world.”
(Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 257)

“Should such a man ever succeed in influencing any one, this success should be attributed not to him, but rather to the influence of the words of God, as decreed by Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Wise. In the sight of God he is regarded as a lamp that imparteth its light, and yet is all the while being consumed within itself.” 
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CXXVIII, p. 277)

“Meditate on this, that thou mayest drink in the waters of everlasting life which flow through the words of the Lord of all mankind . . .”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CLX, p. 337)

“These Essences of Detachment, these resplendent Realities are the channels of God's all-pervasive grace. Led by the light of unfailing guidance, and invested with supreme sovereignty, They are commissioned to use the inspiration of Their words, the effusions of Their infallible grace and the sanctifying breeze of Their Revelation for the cleansing of every longing heart and receptive spirit from the dross and dust of earthly cares and limitations. Then, and only then, will the Trust of God, latent in the reality of man, emerge, as resplendent as the rising Orb of Divine Revelation, from behind the veil of concealment, and implant the ensign of its revealed glory upon the summits of men's hearts.”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah XXVII, p. 67)

“He Who is both the Beginning and the End, He Who is both Stillness and Motion, is now manifest before your eyes. Behold how, in this Day, the Beginning is reflected in the End, how out of Stillness Motion hath been engendered. This motion hath been generated by the potent energies which the words of the Almighty have released throughout the entire creation.” 
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah LXXXV, p. 168)

“Were any man to ponder in his heart that which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed and to taste of its sweetness, he would, of a certainty, find himself emptied and delivered from his own desires, and utterly subservient to the Will of the Almighty. Happy is the man that hath attained so high a station, and hath not deprived himself of so bountiful a grace.” 
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CLXIV, p. 343)

“Happy is the man that pondereth in his heart that which hath been revealed in the Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Meditate upon this, O ye beloved of God, and let your ears be attentive unto His Word, so that ye may, by His grace and mercy, drink your fill from the crystal waters of constancy, and become as steadfast and immovable as the mountain in His Cause.”  (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah Section X, p. 12)

“Say: O friends! Drink your fill from this crystal stream that floweth through the heavenly grace of Him Who is the Lord of Names. Let others partake of its waters in My name, that the leaders of men in every land may fully recognize the purpose for which the Eternal Truth hath been revealed, and the reason for which they themselves have been created.” 
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CIX, p. 215)

“The Pen of the Ancient King hath never ceased to remember the loved ones of God. At one time, rivers of mercy have streamed from His Pen, at another, through its movement, God's perspicuous Book hath been revealed. He is the One to Whom none can compare, Whose utterance mortal man can never rival. He it is Who from everlasting hath been established upon the seat of ascendancy and might, He from Whose lips have gone out counsels that can satisfy the needs of the whole of mankind, and admonitions that can profit them.” 
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CXXXI, p. 286)

“My object is none other than the betterment of the world and the tranquillity of its peoples. The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. This unity can never be achieved so long as the counsels which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed are suffered to pass unheeded.”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CXXXI, p. 286)

“This showeth the significance of the Word as is affirmed in all the Scriptures, whether of former times or more recently. For it is through its potency and animating spirit that the people of the world have attained so eminent a position.”
(Baha'u'llah, Tablet of Maqsud, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 172)

“Every man of insight will, in this day, readily admit that the counsels which the Pen of this wronged One hath revealed constitute the supreme animating power for the advancement of the world and the exaltation of its peoples.”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah XLIII, p. 93)

“. . . were men to abide by and observe the divine teachings, every trace of evil would be banished from the face of the earth.” 
(Baha'u'llah, Tablet of Maqsud, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 176)

“Inspire then my soul, O my God, with Thy wondrous remembrance, that I may glorify Thy name. Number me not with them who read Thy words and fail to find Thy hidden gift which, as decreed by Thee, is contained therein, and which quickeneth the souls of Thy creatures and the hearts of Thy servants.”
(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah LVI, p. 83)

“Blessed is the man who hath detached himself from all else but Me, hath soared in the atmosphere of My love, hath gained admittance into My Kingdom, gazed upon My realms of glory, quaffed the living waters of My bounty, hath drunk his fill from the heavenly river of My loving providence, acquainted himself with My Cause, apprehended that which I concealed within the treasury of My Words, and hath shone forth from the horizon of divine knowledge engaged in My praise and glorification. Verily, he is of Me. Upon him rest My mercy, My loving-kindness, My bounty and My glory.”
(Baha'u'llah, “The Most Holy Tablet: Tablet to the Christians,” Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 17)

"Purify, O my God, the hearts of Thy creatures with the power of Thy sovereignty and might, that Thy words may sink deep into them."(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah CXVI, p. 197)

“Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God is endowed with such potency as can instill new life into every human frame, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth. . . Every single letter proceeding out of the mouth of God is indeed a mother letter, and every word uttered by Him Who is the Well Spring of Divine Revelation is a mother word, and His Tablet a Mother Tablet. Well is it with them that apprehend this truth.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah LXXIV, pp. 141-142)

“Were any man to taste the sweetness of the words which the lips of the All-Merciful have willed to utter, he would, though the treasures of the earth be in his possession, renounce them one and all, that he might vindicate the truth of even one of His commandments, shining above the Dayspring of His bountiful care and loving-kindness.” 
(Baha'u'llah, The Most Holy Book, Paragraph 3, p. 20)


“Let the friends immerse themselves in this ocean, let them organize regular study classes for its constant consideration, and as reinforcement to their effort, let them remember conscientiously the requirements of daily prayer and reading of the Word of God enjoined upon all Bahá'ís by Bahá'u'lláh.” (Messages from The Universal House of Justice 1963 - 1986 paragraph 42.24, p. 107)

“Now is the time when every follower of Bahá'u'lláh must cling fast to the Covenant of God, resist every temptation to become embroiled in the conflicts of the world, and remember that he is the holder of a precious trust, the Message of God which, alone, can banish injustice from the world and cure the ills afflicting the body and spirit of man. We are the bearers of the Word of God in this day and, however dark the immediate horizons, we must go forward rejoicing in the knowledge that the work we are privileged to perform is God's work and will bring to birth a world whose splendour will outshine our brightest visions and surpass our highest hopes.”
(Messages from The Universal House of Justice 1963 - 1986 paragraph 221.15, p. 406)

“It is the conviction of the House of Justice that the powers of heaven and earth will, as repeatedly asserted in the attached extracts, [Compilation on the Power of Divine Assistance, found HERE and HERE] mysteriously and unfailingly assist all those who will arise with love, dedication, and trust in their hearts to teach the Cause, to promote the Word of God, to deliver its healing message to receptive souls, and to serve its vital interests.”
(Messages from The Universal House of Justice 1963 - 1986 paragraph 294.2, p. 504)

"Central to the pattern of action evolving in a cluster is the individual and collective transformation effected through the agency of the Word of God. From the beginning of the sequence of courses, a participant encounters Baha'u'llah's Revelation in considering such weighty themes as worship, service to humanity, the life of the soul, and the education of children and youth.  As a person cultivates the habit of study and deep reflection upon the Creative Word, this process of transformation reveals itself in an ability to express one's understanding of profound concepts and to explore spiritual reality in conversations of significance.  These capacities are visible not only in the elevated discussions that increasingly characterize interactions within the community, but in the ongoing conversations that reach well beyond--not least between the Baha'i youth and their peers--extending to include parents whose daughters and sons are benefiting from the community's programmes of education. Through exchanges of this kind, consciousness of spiritual forces is raised, apparent dichotomies yield to unexpected insights, a sense of unity and common calling is fortified, confidence that a better world can be created is strengthened, and a commitment to action becomes manifest.  Such distinctive conversations gradually attract ever-larger numbers to take part in a range of community activities.  Themes of faith and certitude surface naturally, prompted by the receptivity and experiences of those involved.  What is clear, then, is that as the institute process in a cluster gains momentum, the act of teaching comes to assume greater prominence in the lives of the friends."

(The Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015 Message to the Conference of Continental Boards of Counsellors, page 4)

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Relativity of Religious Truth

From time to time people say that the Baha'i Faith teaches that "all truth is relative."  I would like to address this, and see what the Baha'i Writings actually say on the subject. Let's begin here, with Shoghi Effendi's enunciation in 1947 of the basic teachings of the Baha'i Faith, to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine:

"The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh, the followers of His Faith firmly believe, is that Religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the non-essential aspects of their doctrines and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society."
(Shoghi Effendi, Summary Statement - 1947, Special UN Committee on Palestine)

We will return to this passage, but first please observe that he writes that *religious* truth is relative. What religious truth? We can determine what Shoghi Effendi means, by looking at two of the passages where he uses this term. 

First, while writing of the Baha'i House of Worship, Shoghi Effendi writes:

"To them will the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar symbolize the fundamental verity underlying the Bahá'í Faith, that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is not final but progressive."  (Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 185)

In what sense does the Baha'i House of worship symbolize that religious truth is relative? Can it mean that the House of Worship symbolizes that truth is relative to each person, to each person's education, each person's perspective? How does the Baha'i House of Worship symbolize so ambiguous a principle?  Please call to mind that we are looking for a principle that is "the fundamental verity underlying the Baha'i Faith."

It will help us to find Shoghi Effendi's meaning of the term if we continue to read his sentence:

"To them will the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar symbolize the fundamental verity underlying the Bahá'í Faith, that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is not final but progressive."

Is not the second phrase a restatement of the first? Is it not clear that when he writes that the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar symbolizes that truth is relative, that Divine Revelation is progressive, he is speaking of this? Is it not clear from looking at the symbols of Progressive Revelation on this edifice - seen here the Star of David, the Cross of Jesus Christ, the Crescent of Islam -  that this is what he means?

We see his intent again in Shoghi Effendi's statement that this principle is found in Baha'u'llah's greatest doctrinal work, the book of Certitude:

"Within a compass of two hundred pages it [the Book of Certitude] proclaims unequivocally the existence and oneness of a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty; asserts the relativity of religious truth and the continuity of Divine Revelation..." (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 139)

If we search the two hundred pages of the Book of Certitude do we find anywhere that truth is relative to the individual person, to his or her understanding or opinion, or that "all truth is relative"?  Or rather, do we find the unfoldment of Progressive Revelation, the fundamental principle of the greater revelation of divine truth by each successive Manifestation of God?

We see this yet again, how Shoghi Effendi uses "the relativity of religious truth" as a synonym for Progressive Revelation in another of his great letters:

"Repudiating the claim of any religion to be the final revelation of God to man, disclaiming finality for His own Revelation, Bahá'u'lláh inculcates the basic principle of the relativity of religious truth, the continuity of Divine Revelation, the progressiveness of religious experience."  (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 108)

Each of those - the relativity of religious truth, the continuity of Divine Revelation, the progressiveness of religious experience - is restating the same principle: Progressive Revelation.

Rather than inferring our own particular view of the term "relativity of religious truth" into the Guardian's phrase, and call it a Baha'i teaching, it is rather for us to see how he uses the term, to be faithful to his intent, and to neither narrow nor broaden his meaning - but to squarely address it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

All Things Made New

In the Book of Revelation in the Holy Bible it says:
"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new."

This is in many of the Holy Books - that the creation will pass away, that the world will end, that there will be a new creation, and a new heaven and a new earth, that God was alone with none to worship Him, and that God will come to the earth. What do these things mean?

These are explained in the Sacred Texts of the Baha'i Faith.  The references to God being alone and God coming to the earth, refer to the Manifestation of God, not to the Deity; and the references to the creation ending and a new creation refer to human beings, to human souls, not to dirt and to the planets and the stars. One of the signs of the Prophethood of Baha'u'llah, is that He can convincingly explain the meaning of passages in the Scriptures that have remained mysterious for millennia. One of these mysterious expressions is that God was alone, and that He brought the creation into being so that He might be made known.  I remember as a child in Catholic school, one of the priests explained that God was lonely, and so He created man so that He wouldn't be lonely. Even though I was a child, this didn't make sense.  Baha'u'llah's explanation does.  He has explained that this concept of God being “alone” refers not to the Deity, but to the Manifestation of God in the world:

As to those sayings, attributed to the Prophets of old, such as, "In the beginning was God; there was no creature to know Him," and "The Lord was alone; with no one to adore Him," the meaning of these and similar sayings is clear and evident...Every discerning eye will readily perceive that the Lord is now manifest, yet there is none to recognize His glory.… 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. This is indeed the Day of which it hath been written: "Whose shall be the Kingdom this Day?" And none can be found ready to answer!
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 150)

That is, before the Manifestation of God is recognized, He is "alone" with no one to know Him.  And another aspect of this is the "death" of everyone - that everyone "yields up his soul" when the new Manifestation speaks.

As is explained in the Bible, a person being “dead” means that he is not a believer.  So great is the difference between life lived as a believer and life lived without the divine revelation, that the comparison to “life” and “death” is most apropos.  And when the new Manifestation of God comes to the world and begins His mission, from that point there are no believers.  All of the believers in the past Manifestations of God are deemed to be “dead,” to have "expired" and "yielded up their souls."  And during this time period, after all the believers in the former Dispensations have yielded up their souls and there are as yet no new believers, as no one has yet recognized the new Manifestation of God – during that time, the Manifestation of God is alone; and in this sense, “God was alone with none to know Him.”

This time of great spiritual tumult, when the new creation is brought into being, is symbolically presented in this marvelous passage depicting the divine tumult that accompanies every new Manifestation of God, every new utterance of the new Word of God in every age:

"I testify that no sooner had the First Word proceeded, through the potency of Thy will and purpose, out of His mouth, and the First Call gone forth from His lips than the whole creation was revolutionized, and all that are in the heavens and all that are on earth were stirred to the depths. Through that Word the realities of all created things were shaken, were divided, separated, scattered, combined and reunited, disclosing, in both the contingent world and the heavenly kingdom, entities of a new creation, and revealing, in the unseen realms, the signs and tokens of Thy unity and oneness. Through that Call Thou didst announce unto all Thy servants the advent of Thy most great Revelation and the appearance of Thy most perfect Cause." 
(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 295)

In this Tablet, in which Baha'u'llah describes His own public declaration in 1863, Baha'u'llah writes:

“Canst thou discover any one but Me, O Pen, in this Day? What hath become of the creation and the manifestations thereof? What of the names and their kingdom? Whither are gone all created things, whether seen or unseen? What of the hidden secrets of the universe and its revelations? Lo, the entire creation hath passed away! Nothing remaineth except My Face, the Ever-Abiding, the Resplendent, the All-Glorious. This is the Day whereon naught can be seen except the splendors of the Light that shineth from the face of Thy Lord, the Gracious, the Most Bountiful. 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. I am, verily, the All-Bountiful, the Ancient of Days.”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, XIV p. 29)

Likewise the Bab wrote of the "new creation" on p. 172 of Selections from the Writings of the Bab.

And the "new creation" is the new community of believers.  The former things have passed away, and each of the Manifestations of God "makes all things new" - until the appearance of the next Manifestation of God, about every thousand years.