New Insight in an age-old debate
Not a New Question
That controversy centered around two issues: St. John's Gospel, in which he wrote "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD." (Emphasis added). The other statement was the well-known Catholic liturgical tradition "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us..." Literalists claimed that God incarnated and came down in the person of Jesus. Symbolists argued for "three separate entities," in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
"Cons" argue that Muhammad said "Worship God, not His Prophet" in the Quran, and quote the well-known "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet." They argue that it is a "dire sin" to consider Muhammad the same as Allah.
Baha'u'llah uses the term "Manifestation of God" to describe the station of all the Prophets. He also states that interpretation of any reality "is dependent upon the station and viewpoint of the observer" (an incredibly astute observation given quantum theory today). To begin with, Baha'u'llah states that the "Essence" of God is permanently unknowable to human beings. That should give us some deep hints about the source of the controversy right off the bat!
In astonishing language, Baha'u'llah describes a luminous World beyond this reality wherein dwell the "Living Names of God." Much like the Platonic metaphor of "the cave" where the dwellers interpret shadows to be reality (a modern version would be living in a spinning DVD, or work of art, and thinking we are "real"), Baha'u'llah speaks of this world as reflecting the Names and Attributes of God. The Manifestation (or Prophet) is thus a "Perfect Being," "The Ancient of Days," "The Blessed Perfection," Who reflects/manifests all these infinite Names and Attributes of God in perfect fashion.
From our human standpoint, The Prophet/Manifestation, being the perfect reflection of all God's qualities, is the closest we can ever come to attaining the Presence of God Himself. There's really not even any point trying to discuss the "Essence" of God, inasmuch as beyond Truth is nothing but error, and it's a place we can never go in infinite worlds of our evolution through eternity.
Baha'u'llah further states that even the Living Names and Attributes of God cry out to attain the "Father's Presence," and realize they will never understand Him. He also states that "nearness to God" is irrelevant when talking about that Unknowble Essence, to which all created beings are permanently (and reverently/appropriately) remote. Baha'u'llah states that all past references of the Prophets to being "near or far" from God actually refer to "The Prophets Themselves."
Baha'u'llah states that He is both human and Divine (speaking from the viewpoint of the Manifestation of God's Names and Attributes). He also states that "there is no way God (referring to the Unknowable Essence) could incarnate His Essence and reveal it to men." In fact, He states that the whole purpose of The Prophets coming to us in an infinite succession of progressive revelations is because God is permanently beyond our comprehension, except through the Revelations of these incredibly kind, gentle and astonishing Beings.
If you read on the web or elsewhere that "the Baha'is aren't sure if Baha'u'llah is God or not" or "Baha'u'llah changed what He said about being God" etc. etc., it is nothing more than the ignorant attacks that have plagued the Prophets from time immemorial. None of these statements are close to true! Baha'u'llah, in fact, was clearer than any other Manifestation in the history of the planet, on the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and in fact solved much of the controversy our ancestors couldn't figure out.
Our uni-dimensional mind wants "or" when the truth is usually "and."
Is Baha'u'llah God? We want "yes or no," and the answer is: "yes and no."Is that a cop out? No way. It's found throughout another field that we hold in deep respect these days: science. Is this a wave or a particle? Yes and no. Is Schrodinger's cat dead just before the observer opens the box? Yes and no. Is the universe expanding or contracting? Both at the same time (yes and no). The reason that the "and" syllogism comes closer to paradox than "or" is that we live in a multi-dimensional reality and have to learn to think on multiple levels of logic. This can mean contemplating the question from God's, the Prophet's and human viewpoints, or it can mean "getting it" at a much higher level-- the level of heart, not head. At this level, it's about the love of the Prophet, the love of God, the love of our fellow humans, not about creating controversy and division. Baha'u'llah is very clear on the concept of a "dual nature" in this particular Revelation!
Baha'u'llah Himself states:
"Know verily that whenever this Youth turneth His eyes towards His own self, he findeth it the most insignificant of all creation. When He contemplates, however, the bright effulgences He hath been empowered to manifest, lo, that self is transfigured before Him into a sovereign Potency permeating the essence of all things visible and invisible. Glory be to Him Who, through the power of truth, hath sent down the Manifestation of His own Self and entrusted Him with His message unto all mankind." (pw=renunciation)
In attacking the Baha�i�s, The Shaykh accused them of believing in His Baha�u�llah�s Divinity. Baha�u�llah quoted him, and responded:
AND GOD HIMSELF WILL BE WITH THEM
The Jewish Scriptures, as a sign of the greatness of this Day, make the most emphatic promise that God Himself will come to the earth:
"The wilderness and the wasteland 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 to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the excellency of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God, He will come and save you." (Isaiah 35:1‑4 NKJ)
Baha'u'llah quotes this verse, and emphasizes both its importance as a sign of the greatness of His Day, and its being an explicit reference to Himself. Please note how the Guardian's translation makes more clear Isaiah's reference to Baha'u'llah:
"Isaiah saith: ... '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 splendor of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the splendor of our God.' These passages stand in need of no commentary. They are shining and manifest as the sun, and glowing and luminous as light itself."
(Bah��u�ll�h, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 146)
By stating that this needs "no commentary," Baha'u'llah appears to be saying that the intent of the verses as referring to Himself is obvious.
Isaiah provides another promise that God Himself will come to the earth, and "feed His flock":
"Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand. And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd ..." (Isaiah 40:10)
Micah, too, promises that God shall "come from Assyria," modern-day Iran, and the people, like a flock of sheep, shall be fed "in the midst of Carmel" for the period of the Israelites wanderings in Egypt -- 40 years:
"Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, 'Where is the LORD thy God?' mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets. In the day that thy walls are to be built, in that day shall the decree be far removed. In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain. Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings. Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old. According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvelous things."
In the New Testament, there is another definite promise that God Himself will come to the earth:
"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."
This theme, the advent of God on the earth, was frequently elaborated upon by Baha'u'llah:
"This people have repudiated all these verses, that unmistakably testify to the reality of 'attainment unto the divine Presence.' No theme hath been more emphatically asserted in the holy scriptures."
(Bah��u�ll�h, The Book of Certitude, p. 139)
One of the Notes to the Kitab-i-Aqdas prepared under the supervision of the Universal House of Justice addresses this important subject as follows, under the heading quoted from Baha'u'llah, "Verily, there is none other God besides Me":
The Baha'i Writings contain many passages that elucidate the nature of the Manifestation and His relationship to God. Baha'u'llah underlines the unique and transcendent nature of the Godhead. He explains that "since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one True God with His creation" God ordains that "in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven". This "mysterious and ethereal Being", the Manifestation of God, has a human nature which pertains to "the world of matter" and a spiritual nature "born of the substance of God Himself". He is also endowed with a "double station":
The first station, which is related to His innermost reality representeth Him as One Whose voice is the voice of God Himself... The second station is the human station, exemplified by the following verses. "I am but a man like you." "Say, praise be to my Lord! Am I more than a man, an apostle."
Baha'u'llah also affirms that, in the spiritual realm, there is an "essential unity" between all the Manifestations of God. They all reveal the "Beauty of God", manifest His names and attributes, and give utterance to His Revelation. In this regard, He states:
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 names and His attributes, are made manifest in the world...
While the Manifestations reveal the names and attributes of God and are the means by which humanity has access to the knowledge of God and His Revelation, Shoghi Effendi states that the Manifestations should "never ... be identified with that invisible Reality, the Essence of Divinity itself". In relation to Baha'u'llah, the Guardian wrote that the "human temple that has been the vehicle of so overpowering a Revelation" is not to be identified with the "Reality" of God.
Concerning the uniqueness of Baha'u'llah's station and the greatness of His Revelation, Shoghi Effendi affirms that the prophetic statements concerning the "Day of God", found in the Sacred Scriptures of past Dispensations, are fulfilled by the advent of Baha'u'llah . . . .
(The Kit�b-i-Aqdas, pp. 233-234, Note 160)
In His last great work Baha'u'llah further elaborates this theme of the Divinity of the Manifestation, and the promises in the Scriptures that God Himself will come to the earth:
Gracious God! Such references as have been made to Divinity and Godhead by the holy ones and chosen ones of God have been made a cause for denial and repudiation. . . .
The Imam Sadiq hath said: "When our Qa'im will arise, the earth will shine with the light of her Lord." Likewise, a lengthy tradition is attributed to Abi-'Abdi'llah - peace be upon him - in which these sublime words are found: "Thereupon will He Who is the All-Compelling - exalted and glorified be He - descend from the clouds with the angels." And in the mighty Qur'an: "What can such expect but that God should come down to them overshadowed with clouds?" And in the tradition of Mufaddal it is said: "The Qa'im will lean His back against the Sanctuary, and will stretch forth His hand, and lo, it shall be snow-white but unhurt. And He shall say: 'This is the hand of God, the right hand of God, that cometh from God, at the command of God!'" In whichever manner these traditions are interpreted, in that same manner let them also interpret that which the Most Sublime Pen hath set down. (Baha'u'llah, "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf," pp. 111-112)
Likewise, in the Tablet of Ishraqat, Baha'u'llah explains that He fulfills the promises that God Himself will come to the earth:
Thou art the One Who hath unlocked the door of knowledge before the faces of Thy servants that they may recognize Him Who is the Day-Star of Thy Revelation, the Dawning- Place of Thy signs, the Heaven of Thy manifestation and the Sun of Thy divine beauty. In Thy holy Books, in Thy Scriptures and Thy Scrolls Thou hast promised all the peoples of the world that Thou Thyself shalt appear and shalt remove the veils of glory from Thy face, even as Thou didst announce in Thy words unto Thy Friend through Whom the Day-Star of Revelation shone brightly above the horizon of Hijaz, and the dawning light of divine Truth shed its radiance among all men, proclaiming: 'The Day when mankind shall stand before the Lord of the worlds.' [Qur'an 83:6] And before Muhammad Thou didst impart this glad-tiding unto Him Who conversed with Thee, [Moses] saying: 'Bring forth thy people from the darkness into the light and remind them of the days of God.' [Qur'an 14:5] Moreover Thou didst proclaim this truth unto the Spirit [Jesus] and unto Thy Prophets and Thy Messengers, whether of the remote or more recent past. If all that which Thou hast sent down in glorification of this Most Great Remembrance, this Great Announcement, were to stream forth from the wellspring of Thy most august Pen, the inmates of the cities of knowledge and understanding would be dumbfounded, except such as Thou wouldst deliver through the potency of Thy might and wouldst protect as a token of Thy bountiful favour and Thy grace. I bear witness that Thou hast in truth fulfilled Thy pledge and hast made manifest the One Whose advent was foretold by Thy Prophets, Thy chosen ones and by them that serve Thee. He hath come from the heaven of glory and power, bearing the banners of Thy signs and the standards of Thy testimonies. Through the potency of Thine indomitable power and strength, He stood up before the faces of all men and summoned all mankind to the summit of transcendent glory and unto the all-highest Horizon, in such wise that neither the oppression of the ecclesiastics nor the onslaught of the rulers was able to deter Him. He arose with inflexible resolve and, unloosing His tongue, proclaimed in ringing tones: 'He Who is the All-Bountiful is come, riding aloft on the clouds. Advance, O people of the earth, with shining faces and radiant hearts!'
("Tablets of Baha'u'llah," pp. 114-116)
There is a Tradition in Islam that the Promised One will speak a Word that will put to flight the chieftains of the earth. This is referred to in Nabil's Narrative:
One of his disciples, one day, questioned Shaykh Ahmad concerning the Word which the promised One is expected to utter in the fulness of time, a Word so appallingly tremendous that the three hundred and thirteen chiefs and nobles of the earth would each and all flee in consternation as if overwhelmed by its stupendous weight. To him Shaykh Ahmad replied: "How can you presume to sustain the weight of the Word which the chieftains of the earth are incapable of bearing? Seek not to gratify an impossible desire. Cease asking me this question, and beseech forgiveness from God."
(The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 14-15)
Baha'u'llah unveiled that Word, "I":
In the past the divines were perplexed over this question, a question which He Who is the Sovereign Truth hath, during the early years of His life, Himself heard them ask repeatedly: 'What is that Word which the Qa'im will pronounce whereby the leaders of religion are put to flight?' Say, that Word is now made manifest and ye have fled ere ye heard it uttered, although ye perceive it not. And that blessed, that hidden, that concealed and treasured Word is this: '"HE" hath now appeared in the raiment of "I". He Who was hidden from mortal eyes exclaimeth: Lo! I am the All-Manifest.' This is the Word which hath caused the limbs of disbelievers to quake. Glorified be God! All the heavenly Scriptures of the past attest to the greatness of this Day, the greatness of this Manifestation, the greatness of His signs, the greatness of His Word, the greatness of His constancy, the greatness of His pre-eminent station. Yet despite all this the people have remained heedless and are shut out as by a veil. Indeed all the Prophets have yearned to attain this Day. David saith: 'Who will bring me into the Strong City?' [Psalms 60:9 and 108:10]* By Strong City is meant 'Akka. Its fortifications are very strong and this Wronged One is imprisoned within its walls. Likewise it is revealed in the Qur'an: 'Bring forth thy people from the darkness into the light and announce to them the days of God.' [Qur'an 14:5]
The glory with which this Day is invested hath been explicitly mentioned and clearly set forth in most heavenly Books and Scriptures. However, the divines of the age have debarred men from this transcendent station, and have kept them back from this Pinnacle of Glory, this Supreme Goal.
(Tablets of Baha'u'llah, pp. 258-259)
* This reference is not given in "Tablets of Baha'u'llah."
And yet again, in one of His Tablets, Baha'u'llah writes:
In the Book of Isaiah it is written: "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty." [Isaiah 2:10] No man that meditateth upon this verse can fail to recognize the greatness of this Cause, or doubt the exalted character of this Day - the Day of God Himself. This same verse is followed by these words: "And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that Day." [Isaiah 2:11] This is the Day which the Pen of the Most High hath glorified in all the holy Scriptures. There is no verse in them that doth not declare the glory of His holy Name, and no Book that doth not testify unto the loftiness of this most exalted theme.
("Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah," p. 13)
And, yet again, in the Most Holy Book itself, in the course of His address to the Rulers of America, Baha'u'llah asserts His Divinity:
Hearken ye, O Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics therein, unto that which the Dove is warbling on the Branch of Eternity: "There is none other God but Me, the Ever-Abiding, the Forgiving, the All-Bountiful." Adorn ye the temple of dominion with the ornament of justice and of the fear of God, and its head with the crown of the remembrance of your Lord, the Creator of the heavens. Thus counselleth you He Who is the Dayspring of Names, as bidden by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. The Promised One hath appeared in this glorified Station, whereat all beings, both seen and unseen, have rejoiced. Take ye advantage of the Day of God. Verily, to meet Him is better for you than all that whereon the sun shineth, could ye but know it. O concourse of rulers! Give ear unto that which hath been raised from the Dayspring of Grandeur: "Verily, there is none other God but Me, the Lord of Utterance, the All-Knowing." Bind ye the broken with the hands of justice, and crush the oppressor who flourisheth with the rod of the commandments of your Lord, the Ordainer, the All-Wise.
(The Kit�b-i-Aqdas, p. 52, Paragraph 88; see also page 80, paragraph 167)
In the Most Holy Book, Baha'u'llah states that the Manifestation's claim to Divinity is "assigned exclusively to this sublime, this unique and wondrous Revelation." (The Kit�b-i-Aqdas, p. 72, Paragraph 143)
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