1 Know that in general there are five kinds of spirit. First is the vegetable spirit,110 which is the power that results from the composition and combination of the elements according to the wisdom and decree of the Most High, and from their mutual arrangement as well as their influence upon, and their interconnection with, other created things. When these parts and elements are separated, the associated power of growth likewise ceases to exist. So, to give an analogy, electricity results from the composition of certain constituent parts, and as soon as these parts are separated, the electrical force is immediately dissipated and lost. Such is the vegetable spirit.
2 After this is the animal spirit, which also results from the combination of elements that are brought together in a single composition. But this composition is more complete, and when by the decree of the almighty Lord it reaches a fuller degree of combination, the animal spirit, which consists in the power of the senses, comes to exist. This power perceives sensible realities—that which can be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched. After the separation and dissolution of these composed elements, this spirit will also naturally cease to exist. It is like this lamp before you: When oil, wick, and flame are brought together, light is produced; but when the oil is exhausted, the wick consumed, and the constituent parts separated, the light will also be extinguished and lost.
3 As to the human spirit, its likeness is that of a glass and the bounty of the sun. That is, the body of man, which is composed of the elements, is the most perfect form of composition and combination, the soundest arrangement, the noblest composition, and the most perfect of all existing things. It grows and develops through the animal spirit. This perfect body can be compared to a mirror, and the human spirit to the sun: If the glass is shattered or the mirror destroyed, no harm befalls the outpouring grace of the sun, which continues unabated.
4 This spirit is the discovering power that encompasses all things. All the wondrous signs, all the crafts and discoveries, all the mighty undertakings and momentous historical events of which you are aware, have been discovered by this spirit and brought forth from the invisible realm into the visible plane through its spiritual power. Thus it abides upon the earth and yet makes discoveries in the heavens, and deduces that which is unknown from known and visible realities. For example, man is in this hemisphere, but through the power of reason he discovers, as Columbus did, another one—the Americas—which until then was unknown. His body is heavy, but he flies through the air by means of vehicles of his own devising. His movement is slow, but he journeys rapidly through East and West by the aid of the devices which he has fashioned. In short, this power encompasses all things.
5 But this human spirit has two aspects: one divine and one satanic—that is, it is capable of both the greatest perfection and the greatest deficiency. Should it acquire virtues, it is the noblest of all things; and should it acquire vices, it becomes the most vile.
6 As to the fourth degree of spirit, it is the heavenly spirit, which is the spirit of faith and the outpouring grace of the All-Merciful. This spirit proceeds from the breath of the Holy Spirit, and through a power born of God it becomes the cause of everlasting life. It is that power which makes the earthly soul heavenly and the imperfect man perfect. It cleanses the impure, unlooses the tongue of the silent, sanctifies the bondslaves of passion and desire, and confers knowledge upon the ignorant.
7 The fifth degree of spirit is the Holy Spirit, which is the mediator between God and His creation. It is like a mirror facing the sun: Just as a spotless mirror receives the rays of the sun and reflects its bounty to others, so too is the Holy Spirit the mediator of the light of holiness, which it conveys from the Sun of Truth to sanctified souls. This Spirit is adorned with all the divine perfections. Whensoever it appears, the world is revived, a new cycle is ushered in, and the body of humanity is clothed in a fresh attire. It is like the spring: When it arrives, it transports the world from one condition to another. For at the advent of springtide the black earth, the fields, and the meadows become green and verdant; flowers and sweet-scented herbs of every kind spring forth; trees are endowed with a new life; wondrous fruits are produced; and a new cycle is inaugurated.
8 It is the same with the manifestation of the Holy Spirit: Whensoever it appears, it invests the world of humanity with a new life and endows human realities with a new spirit. It clothes all existence with a glorious attire, disperses the darkness of ignorance, and causes the light of human perfections to shine resplendent. It is with such a power that Christ renewed this cycle—whereupon the divine springtide pitched its tent, with utmost vitality and grace, in the realm of humanity and perfumed the senses of the enlightened souls with its life-giving breezes.
9 In the same way, the manifestation of Bahá’u’lláh was a new springtide which appeared with the sweet savours of holiness, with the hosts of everlasting life, and with a power born of the celestial kingdom. He established the throne of God’s sovereignty in the midmost heart of the world and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, revived the souls and ushered in a new cycle.
1 Question: What is the reality of the Divinity and its connection to the Daysprings of Lordly splendour and the Dawning-Places of the light of the All-Merciful?
2 Answer: Know that the reality of the Divinity and the nature of the divine Essence is ineffable sanctity and absolute holiness; that is, it is exalted above and sanctified beyond every praise. All the attributes ascribed to the highest degrees of existence are, with regard to this station, mere imagination. The Invisible and Inaccessible can never be known; the absolute Essence can never be described. For the divine Essence is an all-encompassing reality, and all created things are encompassed. The all-encompassing must assuredly be greater than that which is encompassed, and thus the latter can in no wise discover the former or comprehend its reality. No matter how far human minds may advance, even attaining the highest degree of human comprehension, the uttermost limit of this comprehension is to behold the signs and attributes of God in the world of creation and not in the realm of Divinity. For the essence and the attributes of the all-glorious Lord are enshrined in the inaccessible heights of sanctity, and human minds and understandings will never find a path to that station. “The way is barred, and all seeking rejected.”111
3 It is evident that whatsoever man understands is a consequence of his existence, and that man is a sign of the All-Merciful: How then can the consequence of the sign encompass the Creator of the sign? That is, how can human understanding, which is a consequence of man’s existence, comprehend God? Thus the reality of the Divinity lies hidden from all understanding and is concealed from the minds of all men, and to ascend to that station is in no wise possible.
4 We observe that every lower thing is incapable of comprehending the reality of that which is higher. Thus, no matter how far they may evolve, the stone, the earth, and the tree can never comprehend the reality of man or imagine the powers of sight, hearing, or the other senses, even though the former and the latter alike are created things. How then can man, a mere creature, comprehend the reality of the sanctified Essence of the Creator? No human understanding can approach this station, no utterance can unfold its truth, and no allusion can intimate its mystery. What has the speck of dust to do with the world of sanctity, and what relationship can ever hold between the limited mind and the expanse of the limitless realm? Minds are powerless to comprehend Him, and souls are bewildered as they attempt to describe His reality. “No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision, and He is the Subtile, the All-Informed!”112
5 Thus, in this connection, every statement and explanation is deficient, every description and characterization is unworthy, every conception is unfounded, and every attempt to contemplate its depths is futile. Yet for that Essence of essences, that Truth of truths, that Mystery of mysteries, there are splendours, effulgences, manifestations, and appearances in the world of existence. The Daysprings of those effulgences, the Dawning-places of those revelations, and the Sources of those manifestations are those Exponents of holiness, those universal Realities and divine Beings Who are the true mirrors of the sanctified Essence of the Divinity. All the perfections, bounties, and splendours of the one true God are plainly visible in the realities of His Holy Manifestations, even as the light of the sun is fully reflected with all its perfections and bounties in a clear and spotless mirror. And if it be said that the mirrors are the manifestations of the sun and the dawning-places of the daystar of the world, this is not meant to imply that the sun has descended from the heights of its sanctity or has become embodied in the mirror, or that that limitless Reality has been confined to this visible plane. God forbid! This is the belief of the anthropomorphists. No, all these descriptions, all these expressions of praise and glory, refer to these holy Manifestations; that is, every description, praise, name, or attribute of God that we mention applies to Them. But no soul has ever fathomed the reality of the Essence of the Divinity so as to be able to intimate, describe, praise, or glorify it. Thus all that the human reality knows, discovers, and understands of the names, attributes, and perfections of God refers to these holy Manifestations and leads nowhere else: “The way is cut off, and all seeking rejected.”
6 Yet we ascribe certain names and attributes to the reality of the Divinity and praise Him for His sight, His hearing, His power, His life and knowledge. We affirm these names and attributes not to affirm the perfections of God, but to deny that He has any imperfections.
7 When we observe the contingent world, we see that ignorance is imperfection and knowledge is perfection, and thus we say that the sanctified Essence of the Divinity is all-knowing. Weakness is imperfection and power is perfection, and thus we say that that sanctified and divine Essence is all-powerful. It is not that we can understand His knowledge, His sight, His hearing, His power, or His life as they are in themselves: This is assuredly beyond our comprehension, for the essential names and attributes of God are identical with His Essence, and His Essence is sanctified above all understanding. If the essential attributes were not identical with the Essence, then there would be a multiplicity of pre-existences and the distinction between the Essence and the attributes would therefore also be firmly established and pre-existent. But this would imply an infinite chain of pre-existences, which is an evident error.
8 It follows that all these names, attributes, laudations, and praises apply to the Manifestations of God Themselves, and that all that we may construe or conceive besides them is sheer delusion, for we can never find a path to the Invisible and Inaccessible. Thus it is said: “All that ye vainly believe to have discerned and expressed in your subtlest terms is but a creature like unto you and returneth unto your own selves.”113
9 It is evident that if we attempt to conceive the reality of the Divinity, that conception would be encompassed and our mind would be that which encompasses it—and assuredly that which encompasses is greater than that which is encompassed! Thus it follows that any reality that we might conceive for the Divinity besides that of the holy Manifestations would be mere delusion, as there is no means of approach to that divine Reality which is entirely beyond the reach of the mind. And all that we might conceive is pure imagination.
10 Consider then how the peoples of the world are circling round their own vain imaginings and worshipping the idols of their own thoughts and fancies, without the least awareness of doing so. They regard these vain imaginings as that Reality which is sanctified above all understanding and exalted beyond every allusion. They consider themselves to be the proponents of the Divine Unity and all others as worshippers of idols, even though idols at least enjoy a mineral existence, whereas the idols of human thoughts and imaginations are sheer illusion and have not even the existence of stones. “Take ye good heed, O people of insight!”114
11 Know that the attributes of perfection, the outpourings of divine grace, and the effulgences of divine revelation shine resplendent in all the Manifestations of God, but that the all-encompassing Word of God—Christ—and His Most Great Name—Bahá’u’lláh—have appeared with a revelation beyond all conception. For not only do They possess all the perfections of the former Manifestations, but They also evince beyond those such perfections as to make all others even as Their followers. Thus the Prophets of Israel were all recipients of divine revelation, and so too was Christ, but what a difference between the revelation of Him Who was the Word of God and the inspiration of an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, or an Elijah!
12 Consider that light consists in the vibrations of the ether, whereby the nerves of the eye are stimulated and vision is produced. Now, though the vibrations of the ether exist both in the lamp and in the sun, yet what a difference there is between the light of the sun and that of the stars or of the lamp!
13 The human spirit has certain signs and manifestations in the stage of the embryo, and yet other splendours and expressions in the stages of childhood, adolescence, and maturity. The spirit is one, and yet in the embryonic stage it lacks the powers of sight and hearing, whereas in the stages of adolescence and maturity it appears with the utmost splendour and radiance. In the same way, the seed at the beginning of its growth appears only as a leaf, which is the place of appearance of the vegetable spirit; and in the stage of fruition that same spirit, that is, the power of growth, becomes manifest in the plenitude of its perfection—yet how far is the station of the leaf from that of the fruit! For from the fruit a hundred thousand leaves will in time appear, even though they all grow and develop through the same vegetable spirit. Pause then to reflect upon the difference between the virtues and perfections of Christ and the splendours and effulgences of Bahá’u’lláh, on the one hand, and the virtues of the Prophets of the House of Israel, such as Ezekiel or Samuel, on the other. All were the recipients of divine revelation, but between them there is an immeasurable distance.
1 Know that, while the Manifestations of God possess infinite virtues and perfections, They occupy only three stations: The first is the material station; the second is the human station, which is that of the rational soul; and the third is that of divine manifestation and heavenly splendour.
2 As for the material station, it has an origin in time, for it is composed of the elements, and every composition must ultimately be decomposed. It is indeed impossible for composition not to be followed by disintegration.
3 The second station is that of the rational soul, which is the human reality. This also has a beginning, and the Manifestations of God share it in common with all humanity.
4 The third station is that of divine manifestation and heavenly splendour, which is the Word of God, the everlasting Grace, and the Holy Spirit. This station has neither beginning nor end; for firstness and lastness pertain to the contingent world and not to the world of God. For God the beginning and the end are one and the same. Similarly, the reckoning of days, weeks, months, and years—of yesterday and today—is made with respect to the earth; but in the sun such things are unknown: There is neither yesterday, nor today, nor tomorrow, neither months nor years—all are equal. Likewise, the Word of God is sanctified above all these conditions and exalted beyond every law, constraint, or limitation that may exist in the contingent world.
5 Know that, although human souls have existed upon the earth for a myriad ages and cycles, the human soul is nonetheless originated. And since it is a sign of God, once it has come into being it is everlasting. The human spirit has a beginning but no end: It endures forever. Likewise, the various species found upon the earth have an origin in time; for it is acknowledged by all that there was a time when these species existed nowhere on the face of the earth, and indeed a time when the earth itself did not exist. But the world of existence has always been, for it is not confined to this terrestrial globe.
6 Our meaning is that, although human souls are originated, they are nevertheless immortal, enduring, and everlasting. For the world of things is a world of imperfection in relation to that of man, and the world of man is a world of perfection in relation to that of things. When imperfect things reach the stage of perfection, they become everlasting. This is meant as an example: Seek to grasp the true intent.
7 Now, the reality of prophethood, which is the Word of God and the state of perfect divine manifestation, has neither beginning nor end, but its radiance varies like that of the sun. For example, it dawned above the sign of Christ with the utmost splendour and radiance, and this is eternal and everlasting. See how many world-conquering kings, how many wise ministers and rulers have come and gone, each and all fading into oblivion—whereas even now the breezes of Christ still waft, His light still shines, His call is still upraised, His banner is still unfurled, His armies still do battle, His voice still rings sweetly, His clouds still rain down life-giving showers, His lightning still streaks forth, His glory is still clear and indisputable, His splendour is still radiant and luminous; and the same holds true of every soul that abides beneath His shade and partakes of His light.
8 It is therefore evident that the Manifestations of God have three stations: the physical station, the station of the rational soul, and the station of divine manifestation and heavenly splendour. The corporeal station will inevitably perish. As to the station of the rational soul, despite having a beginning, it has no end and is endowed with everlasting life. But as to that holy Reality of which Christ says “the Father is in the Son”,115 it has neither beginning nor end: Its “beginning” refers merely to His revelation of His own station. Thus, by way of analogy, He likens His silence to sleep: A man who is silent is like one who is asleep, and when he speaks, it is as though he has awakened.116 And yet the sleeping and the wakeful man are one and the same person: No change has taken place in his station, his loftiness, sublimity, inner reality, or innate nature. It is merely that the condition of silence has been likened to sleep, and that of manifestation to wakefulness. A man, whether sleeping or awake, is the same man: Sleep is simply one possible state, and wakefulness another. And so it is that the period of silence is compared to sleep, and the period of manifestation and guidance to wakefulness.
9 In the Gospel it is said: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” It follows then that Christ did not attain His Messianic station and His perfections at the moment of His baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove. Rather, the Word of God has always been, and will ever remain, in the loftiest heights of sanctity.
1 We stated before that the Manifestations of God have three stations: first, the material reality, which pertains to the human body; second, the individual reality, that is, the rational soul; and third, the heavenly manifestation, which consists in the divine perfections and is the source of the life of the world, the education of the souls, the guidance of the people, and the enlightenment of all creation.
2 The corporeal station is human in nature and is subject to disintegration, for it is an elemental composition and that which is composed of elements must of necessity be decomposed and dispersed.
3 But the individual reality of the Manifestations of the All-Merciful is a sanctified reality, and it is so because it surpasses in essence and in attributes all created things. It is like the sun, which, by virtue of its inherent disposition, must inevitably produce light, and cannot be compared to any satellite. For instance, the constituent parts of the sun can in no wise be compared to those of the moon. The composition and arrangement of the former necessarily produce rays, whereas the constituent parts of the latter require the acquisition, rather than the production, of light. So the other human realities are souls, which, like the moon, acquire their light from the sun, but that sanctified Reality is luminous in and of itself.
4 The third station is that of divine grace, the revelation of the beauty of the Ancient of Days and the effulgence of the lights of the ever-living and omnipotent Lord. The individual realities of the holy Manifestations cannot be separated from divine grace and revelation any more than the corporeal mass of the sun can be separated from its light. Thus the ascension of the holy Manifestations is simply the abandonment of Their elemental bodies. For example, consider the lamp that lights this niche. Its rays may cease to fall upon the niche if the latter is destroyed, but there is no interruption in the bounty of the lamp itself. The pre-existent grace of the holy Manifestations is even as the light, Their individual realities as the glass globe, and Their human temples as the niche: If the niche is destroyed, the lamp continues to burn. The Manifestations of God are like so many different mirrors, as They each have Their own distinct individuality, but that which is reflected in these mirrors is one and the same sun. Thus, it is evident that the reality of Christ is different from that of Moses.
5 From the beginning, that sanctified Reality is undoubtedly aware of the secret of existence, and from childhood the signs of greatness are clearly manifested in Him. How then could He fail, in spite of such bounties and perfections, to be conscious of His own station?
6 We mentioned the three stations of the Manifestations of God: that of corporeal existence, of individual reality, and of perfect divine manifestation, which can be likened to the sun, its heat, and its light. Other individuals also share the corporeal station and the rational soul—the spirit and mind. Thus the passages that state, “I lay asleep when the breeze of God wafted over Me and roused Me from My slumber”117 are akin to Christ’s saying, “The flesh is full of sorrow but the spirit is rejoiced”, or again, “I am afflicted”, or “I am at ease”, or “I am troubled”: All these refer to the corporeal station and have no bearing on the individual reality or on the state of manifestation of the divine Reality. Consider, for example, that thousands of vicissitudes may occur to the body of man of which the spirit remains wholly unaware. It is even possible for certain members of the body to be completely impaired and for the essence of the mind to remain unaffected. A garment may sustain a myriad rents and tears and the wearer may yet remain unharmed. Thus, the words of Bahá’u’lláh, “I lay asleep when a breeze wafted over Me and roused Me from My slumber”, refer to the body.
7 In the world of God there is no past, present, or future: All of these are one. So when Christ said, “In the beginning was the Word,”118 He meant that it was, is, and shall be; for in the world of God there is no time. Time holds sway over the creatures but not over God. So in the prayer where Christ says, “Hallowed be Thy name”,119 the meaning is that Thy name was, is, and shall be hallowed. Again, morning, noon, and evening exist in relation to the earth, but in the sun there is neither morning, nor noon, nor evening.
1 Question: What are the limitations imposed upon the powers of the Manifestations of God and, in particular, upon Their knowledge?
2 Answer: Knowledge is of two kinds: existential knowledge and formal knowledge, that is, intuitive knowledge and conceptual knowledge.
3 The knowledge that people generally have of things consists in conceptualization and observation; that is, either the object is conceived through the rational faculty, or through its observation a form is produced in the mirror of the heart. The scope of this knowledge is quite limited, as it is conditioned upon acquisition and attainment.
4 The other kind of knowledge, however, which is existential or intuitive knowledge, is like man’s knowledge and awareness of his own self.
5 For example, the mind and the spirit of man are aware of all his states and conditions, of all the parts and members of his body, and of all his physical sensations, as well as of his spiritual powers, perceptions, and conditions. This is an existential knowledge through which man realizes his own condition. He both senses and comprehends it, for the spirit encompasses the body and is aware of its sensations and powers. This knowledge is not the result of effort and acquisition: It is an existential matter; it is pure bounty.
6 Since those sanctified realities, the universal Manifestations of God, encompass all created things both in their essence and in their attributes, since They transcend and discover all existing realities, and since They are cognizant of all things, it follows that Their knowledge is divine and not acquired—that is, it is a heavenly grace and a divine discovery.
7 Let us provide an example merely to illustrate the point. The noblest of all earthly beings is man. In him are realized the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral kingdoms; that is, all these degrees are contained in him in such wise that he is endowed with them all. And, being endowed with all these degrees and stations, he is informed of their mysteries and aware of the secrets of their existence. This is only an example and not an exact analogy.
8 Briefly, the universal Manifestations of God are aware of the truths underlying the mysteries of all created things, and thus They found a religion that is based upon, and consonant with, the prevailing condition of humanity. For religion consists in the necessary relationships deriving from the realities of things. If the Manifestation of God—the divine Lawgiver—were not informed of the realities of things, if He did not understand the necessary relationships deriving from these realities, He would assuredly be incapable of establishing a religion consonant with the needs and conditions of the time. The Prophets of God, the universal Manifestations, are even as skilled physicians; the world of being is as the body of man; and the divine religions are as the treatment and remedy. The physician must be fully aware and informed of all the parts and organs, the constitution and condition of the patient, in order to prescribe an effective remedy. Indeed, it is from the disease itself that the physician deduces the remedy, for he first diagnoses the ailment and then treats its underlying cause. Until the ailment is properly diagnosed, how can any treatment or remedy be prescribed? The physician must therefore have a thorough knowledge of the constitution, the parts, organs, and condition of the patient, and be likewise well acquainted with every disease and every remedy, in order to prescribe the appropriate cure.
9 Religion, then, consists in the necessary relationships deriving from the reality of things. The universal Manifestations of God, being aware of the mysteries of creation, are fully informed of these necessary relationships and establish them as the religion of God.
1 Question: Mention has been made of universal cycles which occur in the world of existence. Please explain the truth of this matter.
2 Answer: Each of the luminous bodies of this limitless firmament has its cycle of revolution, that period wherein it completes the full circuit of its orbit before beginning a new one. The earth, for example, completes a revolution every 365 days, five hours, forty-eight minutes and a fraction, and then begins anew along the same orbit. In the same way, the entire universe, whether with respect to the realm of nature or the realm of man, proceeds through cycles of major events and occurrences.
3 When a cycle comes to a close, a new one is inaugurated, and the previous cycle, on account of the momentous events which transpire, vanishes so entirely from memory as to leave behind no record or trace. Thus, as you are aware, we have no record of twenty thousand years ago, even though we established before through rational arguments that life on this earth is very ancient—not one or two hundred thousand, or even one or two million years old: It is ancient indeed, and the records and traces of ancient times have been entirely obliterated.
4 Each of the Manifestations of God has likewise a cycle wherein His religion and His law are in full force and effect. When His cycle is ended through the advent of a new Manifestation, a new cycle begins. Thus, cycles are inaugurated, concluded, and renewed, until a universal cycle is completed in the world of existence and momentous events transpire which efface every record and trace of the past; then a new universal cycle begins in the world, for the realm of existence has no beginning. We have previously presented proofs and arguments concerning this subject, and there is no need for repetition.120
5 Briefly, our claim is that a universal cycle in the world of existence comprises a vast span of time and countless ages and epochs. In such a cycle, the Manifestations of God shine forth in the visible realm until a universal and supreme Manifestation makes the world the focal centre of divine splendours and, through His revelation, brings it to the stage of maturity. The duration of His cycle is very long indeed. Other Manifestations will arise in the course of that cycle under His shadow and will renew, according to the needs of the time, certain laws pertaining to material affairs and transactions, but They will remain under His shadow. We are in the cycle which began with Adam and whose universal Manifestation is Bahá’u’lláh.
1 Question: How far do the powers and the perfections of those Thrones of truth, the Manifestations of God, extend, and what are the limits of Their influence?
2 Answer: Consider the world of existence, that is, the material creation. The solar system is wrapped in darkness. Within its circumference, the sun is the centre of all light, and all the associated planets revolve around it and are illumined by the outpourings of its bounty. The sun is the source of life and light, and is the cause of the growth and development of all things within the solar system. Were the bounty of the sun to cease, no living thing could continue to exist therein: All things would grow dark and be reduced to naught. It is therefore clear and evident that the sun is the centre of all light and the source of the life of all things in the solar system.
3 In like manner, the holy Manifestations of God are the focal Centres of the light of truth, the Wellsprings of the hidden mysteries, and the Source of the effusions of divine love. They cast Their effulgence upon the realm of hearts and minds and bestow grace everlasting upon the world of the spirits. They confer spiritual life and shine with the splendour of inner truths and meanings. The enlightenment of the realm of thought proceeds from those Centres of light and Exponents of mysteries. Were it not for the grace of the revelation and instruction of those sanctified Beings, the world of souls and the realm of thought would become darkness upon darkness. Were it not for the sound and true teachings of those Exponents of mysteries, the human world would become the arena of animal characteristics and qualities, all existence would become a vanishing illusion, and true life would be lost. That is why it is said in the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word”; that is, it was the source of all life.121
4 Now consider the pervasive influence of the sun upon all earthly beings, and behold what visible effects and outcomes result from its proximity or remoteness, its rising or setting. At one time it is autumn, at another it is spring. At one time it is summer, at another it is winter. When the sun crosses the equinox, the life-giving spring appears in all its splendour, and when it reaches the summer solstice, the fruits attain their full maturity, grains and plants yield their produce, and earthly things attain the plenitude of their growth and development.
5 In like manner, when the holy Manifestation of God, Who is the Sun of the world of creation, casts His splendour upon the world of hearts, minds, and spirits, a spiritual springtime is ushered in and a new life is unveiled. The power of the matchless springtide appears and its marvellous gifts are beheld. Thus you observe that, with the advent of each of the Manifestations of God, astonishing progress was attained in the realm of human minds, thoughts, and spirits. Consider, for example, the progress that has been achieved in this divine age in the world of minds and thoughts—and this is only the beginning of the dawn! Erelong you will witness how these renewed bounties and heavenly teachings have flooded this darksome world with their light and transformed this sorrow-laden realm into the all-highest Paradise.
6 Were we to fully explain the influence and bounties of each of the Manifestations of God, it would take a very long time. Ponder and reflect upon it yourself in order to grasp the truth of the matter.
1 Question: How many kinds of Prophets are there in general?
2 Answer: Prophets are in general of two kinds. Some are independent Prophets Who are followed, while others are not independent and are themselves followers.
3 The independent Prophets are each the Author of a divine religion and the Founder of a new Dispensation. At Their advent the world is clothed in a new attire, a new religion is established, and a new Book revealed. These Prophets acquire the outpouring grace of the divine Reality without an intermediary. Their radiance is an essential radiance like that of the sun, which is luminous in and of itself and whose luminosity is an essential requirement rather than being acquired from another star: They are like the sun and not the moon. These Daysprings of the morn of Divine Unity are the fountainheads of divine grace and the mirrors of the Essence of Reality.
4 The other kind of Prophets are followers and promulgators, for their station is contingent rather than independent. They acquire divine grace from the independent Prophets and seek the light of guidance from the reality of universal prophethood. They are like the moon, which is not luminous and radiant in and of itself but which receives its light from the sun.
5 The universal Prophets Who have appeared independently include Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muḥammad, the Báb, and Bahá’u’lláh. The second kind, which consists of followers and promulgators, includes Solomon, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. For the independent Prophets are founders; that is, They establish a new religion, recreate the souls, regenerate the morals of society, and promulgate a new way of life and a new standard of conduct. Through Them a new Dispensation appears and a new religion is inaugurated. Their advent is even as the springtime, when all earthly things don a new garment and find a new life.
6 As to the second kind of Prophets, who are followers, they promulgate the religion of God, spread His Faith, and proclaim His Word. They have no power or authority of their own, but derive theirs from the independent Prophets.
7 Question: To which category do Buddha and Confucius belong?
8 Answer: Buddha also established a new religion and Confucius renewed the ancient conduct and morals, but the original precepts have been entirely changed and their followers no longer adhere to the original pattern of belief and worship. The founder of Buddhism was a precious Being Who established the oneness of God, but later His original precepts were gradually forgotten and displaced by primitive customs and rituals, until in the end it led to the worship of statues and images.
9 Consider, for example, that Christ admonished the people time and again to heed the Ten Commandments of the Torah and insisted upon their strict observance. Now, one of the Ten Commandments forbids the worship of images and statues.122 Yet today there are a myriad images and statues in the churches of certain Christian denominations. It is clear and evident, then, that the religion of God does not preserve its original precepts among the people, but that it is gradually changed and altered to the point of being entirely effaced, and thus a new Manifestation appears and a new religion is established. For if the former religion had not been changed and altered, there would be no need for renewal.
10 In the beginning, this tree was full of vitality and laden with blossoms and fruit, but gradually it grew old, spent, and barren, until it entirely withered and decayed. That is why the True Gardener will again plant a tender sapling of the same stock, that it may grow and develop day by day, extend its sheltering shade in this heavenly garden, and yield its prized fruit. So it is with the divine religions: With the passage of time, their original precepts are altered, their underlying truth entirely vanishes, their spirit departs, heresies spring up, and they become a body without a soul. That is why they are renewed.
11 Our meaning is that the followers of Buddha and Confucius now worship images and statues and have become entirely unaware of the oneness of God, believing instead in imaginary gods, as did the ancient Greeks. But such were not their original precepts; indeed, their original precepts and conduct were entirely different.
12 Again, consider to what an extent the original precepts of the Christian religion have been forgotten and how many heresies have sprung up. For example, Christ forbade violence and revenge and enjoined instead that evil and injury be met with benevolence and loving-kindness. But observe how many bloody wars have taken place among the Christian nations themselves and how much oppression, cruelty, rapacity, and bloodthirstiness have resulted therefrom! Indeed, many of these wars were carried out at the behest of the popes. It is therefore abundantly clear that, with the passage of time, religions are entirely changed and altered, and hence they are renewed.
1 Question: Certain words of rebuke have been addressed to the Prophets of God in the Sacred Scriptures. To whom are they addressed and to whom do they ultimately refer?
2 Answer: Every divine utterance that takes the form of a rebuke, though it be outwardly addressed to the Prophets of God, is in reality directed to Their followers. The wisdom of this is naught but unalloyed mercy, that the people might not be dismayed, disheartened, or burdened by such reproaches and rebukes. These words are therefore outwardly addressed to the Prophets, but, even so, they are inwardly intended for the followers and not for the Messenger.
3 Moreover, the mighty and sovereign monarch of a land represents all who inhabit that land; that is, whatsoever he may utter is the word of all, and whatsoever covenant he may conclude is the covenant of all, for the will and purpose of all his subjects is subsumed in his own. Likewise, every Prophet is the representative of the entire body of His followers. Therefore, the covenant that God makes with Him and the words that He addresses to Him apply to all His people.
4 Now, the divine reproach and rebuke tends to burden and afflict the hearts of the people, and the consummate wisdom of God demands, therefore, such a form of address. For example, it appears from the Torah itself that the Israelites rebelled against Moses, saying: “We cannot fight the Amalekites, for they are mighty, fierce, and courageous.” God then spoke with rebuke to Moses and Aaron, although Moses was in complete obedience and not in rebellion.123 Surely such a glorious Being, Who is the channel of God’s grace and the champion of His law, must be obedient to the divine command.
5 These holy Souls are like the leaves of a tree which are stirred into motion by the breeze and not of Their own accord, for They are attracted by the breaths of the love of God and have forsaken Their own will. Their word is the word of God; Their commandment is the commandment of God; Their prohibition is the prohibition of God. They are even as this glass globe whose light comes from the flame of the lamp. Although the light appears to emanate from the glass, in reality it proceeds from the flame. Similarly, the movement and repose of the Prophets of God, Who are His Manifestations, proceed from revelation and not from mere human whim. Were it not so, how could the Prophet act as a faithful representative and chosen envoy of God? How could He promulgate God’s commandments and prohibitions? All the shortcomings ascribed to the Manifestations of God in the Sacred Scriptures must therefore be understood in this light.
6 Praise be to God that you have come here and met the servants of God! Have you inhaled from them aught save the fragrance of the good-pleasure of the Lord? Indeed, no! You have seen with your own eyes how they strive night and day to no other end but to exalt the Word of God, to foster the education of the souls, to rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind, to ensure spiritual progress, to promote universal peace, to show forth kindliness and goodwill to all peoples and nations, to sacrifice themselves for the common good, to forsake their own material advantage, and to promote the virtues of the world of humanity.
7 Let us return to our subject. In the Torah it is said in Isaiah 48:12: “Hearken unto Me, O Jacob and Israel, My called; I am He; I am the first, I also am the last.” It is evident that the intended meaning is not Jacob who was called Israel, but the Israelites. Also in Isaiah 43:1 it is said: “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.”
8 Furthermore, in Numbers 20:23–4 it is said: “And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying, Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah”; and in 20:13: “This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and He was sanctified in them.”
9 Observe that it was the people of Israel who had rebelled, but the reproach was outwardly addressed to Aaron and Moses, as it is said in Deuteronomy 3:26: “But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this matter.”
10 Now, this reproach and rebuke was in reality addressed to the children of Israel, who, on account of their rebellion against the commandments of God, were made to dwell for a long period in the barren desert beyond the Jordan, until the time of Joshua. This reproach and rebuke appeared to be addressed to Moses and Aaron, but in reality it was directed to the people of Israel.
11 Similarly, in the Qur’án it is said to Muḥammad: “We have granted thee a manifest victory, that God may forgive thee thy past and future sins.”124 Now, these words, though apparently addressed to Muḥammad, were in reality meant for all His people; and this proceeds from the consummate wisdom of God, as we said previously, so that hearts might not be troubled, perplexed, or dismayed.
12 How often have the Prophets of God and His universal Manifestations confessed in Their prayers to Their sins and shortcomings! This is only to instruct other souls, to inspire and encourage them to be humble and submissive before God, and to acknowledge their own sins and shortcomings. For these holy Souls are sanctified above every sin and freed from every fault. For example, it is said in the Gospel that a man came to Christ and called Him “Good Master”. Christ answered, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”125 Now, this did not mean—God forbid!—that Christ was a sinner, but rather His intention was to teach humility, lowliness, meekness, and modesty to the man He was addressing. These blessed Souls are light, and light cannot be united with darkness. They are life everlasting, and life cannot be gathered in with death. They are guidance, and guidance cannot be brought together with waywardness. They are the very essence of obedience, and obedience cannot join hands with rebellion.
13 In brief, our meaning is that the rebukes recorded in the Sacred Scriptures, though outwardly addressed to the Prophets—the Manifestations of God—are in reality intended for the people. Were you to peruse the Bible, this matter would become clear and evident.
1 It is said in the blessed verse: “He Who is the Dawning-place of God’s Cause hath no partner in the Most Great Infallibility. He it is Who, in the kingdom of creation, is the Manifestation of ‘He doeth whatsoever He willeth’. God hath reserved this distinction unto His own Self, and ordained for none a share in so sublime and transcendent a station.”126
2 Know that infallibility is of two kinds: infallibility in essence and infallibility as an attribute. The same holds true of all other names and attributes: For example, there is the knowledge of the essence of a thing and the knowledge of its attributes. Infallibility in essence is confined to the universal Manifestations of God; for infallibility is an essential requirement of Their reality, and the essential requirement of a thing is inseparable from the thing itself. The rays are an essential requirement of the sun and are inseparable from it; knowledge is an essential requirement of God and is inseparable from Him; power is an essential requirement of God and is likewise inseparable from Him. If it were possible to separate these from Him, He would not be God. If the rays could be separated from the sun, it would not be the sun. Therefore, were one to imagine the Most Great Infallibility being separated from the universal Manifestation of God, He would not be a universal Manifestation and would lack essential perfection.
3 But infallibility as an attribute is not an essential requirement; rather, it is a ray of the gift of infallibility which shines from the Sun of Truth upon certain hearts and grants them a share and portion thereof. Although these souls are not essentially infallible, yet they are under the care, protection, and unerring guidance of God—which is to say, God guards them from error. Thus there have been many sanctified souls who were not themselves the Daysprings of the Most Great Infallibility, but who have nevertheless been guarded and preserved from error under the shadow of divine care and protection. For they were the channels of divine grace between God and man, and if God did not preserve them from error they would have led all the faithful to fall likewise into error, which would have wholly undermined the foundations of the religion of God and which would be unbefitting and unworthy of His exalted Reality.
4 To summarize, infallibility in essence is confined to the universal Manifestations of God, and infallibility as an attribute is conferred upon sanctified souls. For instance, the Universal House of Justice, if it be established under the necessary conditions—that is, if it be elected by the entire community—that House of Justice will be under the protection and unerring guidance of God. Should that House of Justice decide, either unanimously or by a majority, upon a matter that is not explicitly recorded in the Book, that decision and command will be guarded from error. Now, the members of the House of Justice are not essentially infallible as individuals, but the body of the House of Justice is under the protection and unerring guidance of God: This is called conferred infallibility.
5 Briefly, Bahá’u’lláh says that “He Who is the Dawning-place of God’s Cause” is the manifestation of “He doeth whatsoever He willeth”, that this station is reserved to that sanctified Being, and that others receive no share of this essential perfection. That is, since the essential infallibility of the universal Manifestations of God has been established, whatsoever proceeds from Them is identical with the truth and conformable to reality. They are not under the shadow of the former religion. Whatsoever They say is the utterance of God, and whatsoever They do is a righteous deed, and to no believer is given the right to object; rather must he show forth absolute submission in this regard, for the Manifestation of God acts with consummate wisdom, and human minds may be incapable of grasping the hidden wisdom of certain matters. Therefore, whatsoever the universal Manifestation of God says and does is the very essence of wisdom and conformable to reality.
6 Now, if certain souls fail to grasp the mysteries concealed within a given commandment or action of the True One, they should raise no objection, for the universal Manifestation of God “doeth whatsoever He willeth”. How often has it happened that a wise, accomplished, and sagacious person took a course of action, and those who were incapable of grasping its wisdom objected and questioned why he said or did thus. This objection is prompted by ignorance, and the wisdom of that wise man is free and sanctified from error.
7 In like manner, a skilled physician “doeth whatsoever he willeth” in treating the patient, and the latter has no right to object. Whatsoever the physician may say or do, the same is sound and true, and he must be regarded by all as the embodiment of “He doeth whatsoever He willeth, and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth.” The physician will doubtless prescribe remedies that are at variance with popular notions, but is it permissible for those who have no knowledge of science and medicine to object? No, by God! On the contrary, they must all acquiesce and follow whatsoever the skilled physician prescribes. Thus, the skilled physician “doeth whatsoever he willeth”, and the patients have no share in this station. First, the skill of the physician must be ascertained, and once this has been done, he “doeth whatsoever he willeth”.
8 Likewise, a general who is unrivalled in the art of war “doeth whatsoever he willeth” in all that he says or commands, and the same holds true of the ship’s captain who masters the art of seafaring, and of the True Educator Who possesses all human perfections: They do whatsoever they will in all that they say and command.
9 In sum, the meaning of “He doeth whatsoever He willeth” is that if the Manifestation of God issues a command, enforces a law, or performs an action whose wisdom His followers cannot grasp, they should not think for a moment of questioning His words or actions. All souls are under the shadow of the universal Manifestation, must submit to the authority of the religion of God, and are not to deviate so much as a hairsbreadth. Rather, they must conform their every act and deed to the religion of God, and should they deviate from it they will be reproved and held accountable before God. It is certain that they have no share of the station “He doeth whatsoever He willeth”, for it is confined to the universal Manifestation of God.
10 Thus Christ—may my soul be a sacrifice for His sake!—was the embodiment of the words “He doeth whatsoever He willeth”, but His disciples had no share of this station, for they abided under His shadow and were not granted leave to deviate from His will and command.