"The Prophet arrives
Veiled in the cloak of future thought,
Mid people hid in ancient garb,
Who could not see the gift he brought.
He is a stranger to this life,
Stranger to those who praise or blame,
For he upholds the Torch of Truth,
Although devoured by the flame."
The Divine Presence in humanity has been mentioned since the very beginning in all the sacred literature of the world. This means that God periodically speaks to man through His Messengers whose actions and behaviour appear human. It is natural for most people to expect that these divine beings would possess some extraordinary powers. The life studies of divine Messengers seem to indicate that people were not too wrong in their beliefs.
These divine personages are variously known as Prophets, Messengers, Avatars, etc. The Baháí Writings, describe Them as the Manifestations of God. It would be interesting to seek guidance from Baháulláh, Who, Himself, falls in this category, regarding the true station and powers of the Manifestations of God.
Baháulláh explains that God " Who is everlastingly hidden from the eyes of men can never be known except through His Manifestation, and His Manifestation can adduce no greater proof of the truth of His Mission than the proof of His own Person." 1
In many of His Writings, Baháulláh elucidates the nature of the Manifestation and His relationship to God. He 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." 2
The Divine Manifestation is "the Dayspring" of the signs of the true God, "the Dawning-Place" of His clear tokens, "the Manifestation" of His Excellent Names, and "the Source" of His attributes.
This "mysterious and ethereal Being", the Manifestation of God, has two naturesa human nature that pertains to "the world of matter" and a spiritual nature "born of the substance of God Himself". He is endowed with a "double station". The first station is related to His innermost reality that represents 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?"3
Baháulláh affirms that, in the spiritual realm, there is an "essential unity" among 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 " 4
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. However, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baháí Faith, states that the Manifestations should "never be identified with that invisible Reality, the Essence of Divinity itself". About Baháulláh, 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.5
Baháulláh describes the station of "Divinity" which He shares with all the Manifestations of God as " the station in which one dieth to himself and liveth in God. Divinity, whenever I mention it, indicateth My complete and absolute self-effacement. This is the station in which I have no control over mine own weal or woe nor over my life nor over my resurrection." 6 And, regarding His own relationship to God, He testifies: "When I contemplate, O my God, the relationship that bindeth me to Thee, I am moved to proclaim to all created things "verily I am God"; and when I consider my own self, lo, I find it coarser than clay!" 7
In His Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Baháulláh enunciates the doctrine of the "Most Great Infallibility" of the Manifestation of God. He asserts this infallibility to be the inherent and exclusive right of the Prophet.8 He writes, "He Who is the Dawning-place of Gods 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."9
Elsewhere, Baháulláh explains, "The essence of belief in Divine unity consisteth in regarding Him Who is the Manifestation of God and Him Who is the invisible, the inaccessible, the unknowable Essence as one and the same. By this is meant that whatever pertaineth to the former, all His acts and doings, whatever He ordaineth or forbiddeth, should be considered, in all their aspects, and under all circumstances, and without any reservation, as identical with the Will of God Himself. This is the loftiest station to which a true believer in the unity of God can ever hope to attain. Blessed is the man that reacheth this station, and is of them that are steadfast in their belief." 10
The Manifestations have thus been called the Living Book of God. They reveal infallible guidance to overcome the ills of the age in which They appear. Their teachings and laws, based on equity and justice, eventually become the foundations of glorious civilizations. Baháulláh has written, "Know verily that the essence of justice and the source thereof are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him Who is the Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize this truth. He doth verily incarnate the highest, the infallible standard of justice unto all creation." 11
Supreme, indeed, is the power of the Manifestation of God, and great His spiritual creative force. His Holiness, the Báb, the Forerunner of Baháulláh, eloquently writes of the spiritual station of the divine Manifestations: "If in the Day of His manifestation a king were to make mention of his own sovereignty, this would be like unto a mirror challenging the sun, saying: The light is in me. It would be likewise, if a man of learning in His Day were to claim to be an exponent of knowledge, or if he who is possessed of riches were to display his affluence, or if a man wielding power were to assert his own authority, or if one invested with grandeur were to show forth his glory. Nay, such men would become the object of the derision of their peers, and how would they be judged by Him Who is the Sun of Truth!" 12
The supremacy of the Manifestations of God in all created things seems to be the basis of the stories of many wonderful miracles performed by Prophets of all religions in Their life time. There are stories of miraculous events connected with the births of both Lord Krishna and Jesus Christ. The lives of Abraham, Buddha, Moses, Zoroaster, Muhammad, the Báb and Baháulláh are also replete with the accounts of miracles performed by them. Even saints, sages and apostles have fables built around the miraculous powers they possessed. Rightly or wrongly, miracles hold the center stage in most religions. Current situation is that those who can perform the most stunning miracles are believed to be the most spiritual. It is generally believed that a spiritual or religious person will have some miraculous power that could be concerned as a proof of his spirituality.
The Baháí Writings, however, clarify the meaning of spiritual sovereignty of the Manifestations of God. Baháulláh explains, "Nay, by sovereignty is meant that sovereignty which in every dispensation resideth within, and is exercised by, the person of the Manifestation, the Day-star of Truth. That sovereignty is the spiritual ascendancy which He exerciseth to the fullest degree over all that is in heaven and on earth, and which in due time revealeth itself to the world in direct proportion to its capacity and spiritual receptiveness ." 13
The purpose of the Manifestations of God is, thus, not to impress people with miracles that happen through Them, but to educate them in divine virtues. However, most people forget the essentials and concentrate on that which is an outward sign of a deeper spiritual reality.
The essence of religion is the mystic feeling that unites man with God, his Creator. The Manifestations of God teach us how this union can be achieved. Considering this supreme truth, man can never adequately thank God for His Mercy. In the Baháí Writings, we read, "Say: O people, praise ye God, for its Manifestation, for verily it is the most great favour upon you and the most perfect blessing upon you; and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whosoever turns to Him hath surely turned unto God Verily, He is the remembrance of God amongst you and His trust within you, and His manifestation unto you and His appearance among the servants who are nigh. Whereupon, thereunto testifieth God, then His angels, then His messengers, and then His holy servants." 14
NOTES AND REFERNCES
1. Baháulláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 49.
2. Baháulláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: Notes 160, p. 233.
5. ibid., pp. 233-234.
6. ibid., p. 234.
8. ibid: Other Sections, p. 14.
9. ibid., p. 36.
10. Baháulláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 167.
11. ibid., p. 175.
12. Báb, Selections from the Writings of The Báb, compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice and translated by Habib Taherzadeh with the assistance of a committee at the Baha'i World Centre, Baha'i World Centre, Haifa, 1978, p. 100.
13. Baháulláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, pp. 107-108.
14. Baháí World Faith, Selected Writings of Baháulláh and Abdul-Bahá, Baháí Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, 1976, p. 205.