Although Baha'is believe that God is unknowable, paradoxically, the Baha'i scriptures are full of descriptions of God and Baha'is are instructed in their scriptures to come to know and love God. This paradox is explained in the Baha'i scriptures in two ways. First, since the Essence of God is unknowable and unchangeable, descriptions of God and references in the scriptures to God acting in the world in reality relate to the Manifestations of God, the founders of the world religions.
The inmost reality of these holy figures is the Holy Spirit, which is the highest reality in the created world, the first emanation from God; these figures act "as God" for this world. Thus, knowing God is in fact coming to know the Manifestation of God, especially the Manifestation of God for the age in which one lives.
The second explanation is the fact that human beings are themselves capable of manifesting all of the divine names and attributes. Thus the command to come to know God is also explained as individual human beings coming to know the divine attributes within themselves, and thus coming to know their own selves, their spiritual reality.
Other divine beings are frequently mentioned in the Baha'i writings. Some of these figures appear to be rhetorical devices used by Baha'u'llah. Thus he says that one day he saw one of the beauties of the highest paradise calling aloud and saying, "I am Trustworthiness and the revelation thereof . . . I will recompense whosoever will cleave unto Me . . . I am the supreme instrument for the prosperity of the world . . ." This would seem to be a personification to emphasize the importance of trustworthiness.
|We will now mention unto thee Trustworthiness and the station thereof in the estimation of God, thy Lord, the Lord of the Mighty Throne. One day of days We repaired unto Our Green Island. Upon Our arrival, We beheld its streams flowing, and its trees luxuriant, and the sunlight playing in their midst. Turning Our face to the right, We beheld what the pen is powerless to describe; nor can it set forth that which the eye of the Lord of Mankind witnessed in that most sanctified, that most sublime, that blest, and most exalted Spot. Turning, then, to the left We gazed on one of the Beauties of the Most Sublime Paradise, standing on a pillar of light, and calling aloud saying: "O inmates of earth and heaven! Behold ye My beauty, and My radiance, and My revelation, and My effulgence. By God, the True One! I am Trustworthiness and the revelation thereof, and the beauty thereof. I will recompense whosoever will cleave unto Me, and recognize My rank and station, and hold fast unto My hem. I am the most great ornament of the people of Baha, and the vesture of glory unto all who are in the kingdom of creation. I am the supreme instrument for the prosperity of the world, and the horizon of assurance unto all beings." Thus have We sent down for thee that which will draw men nigh unto the Lord of creation."|
This Wronged One hath, at all times, summoned the peoples of the world unto that which will exalt them, and draw them nigh unto God . . .
On the other hand, there are many references in the Baha'i scriptures to figures that are not so clearly metaphorical. One such example is the Maiden of Heaven who appeared to Baha'u'llah in the vision in the Siyah-Chal in Tehran that marked the start of his ministry in 1852. Passages in the Baha'i writings indicate that this figure can be regarded both as a heavenly figure and as representing the higher spiritual aspect of Baha'u'llah himself. Similarly, there are many references in the Baha'i scriptures to angels and the Concourse on high; some Baha'is believe that these represent actual entities, whereas other Baha'is consider them symbolic, as so much else in Baha'i scripture is. There are some passages in the Baha'i writings that indicate that angels are both symbols for celestial power and that they are human beings who have achieved a high spiritual station.
1. What is the Baha'i concept of God?
2. Do Baha’is believe that the founders of the world’s religions are divine or human?
3. How do Baha’is explain their claim that Baha’u’llah is the return of Christ?
4. If, according to the Baha'i teachings, God is unknowable, what is the meaning of the injunction in the Baha'i scriptures that we should strive to know God?