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The Manifestation of God
God
is a concept in the Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í Faith
that refers to what are commonly called prophets. The Manifestations of God are appearances of the Divine Spirit or Holy Spirit in a series of personages, and as such, they perfectly reflect the attributes of the divine into the human world for the progress and advancement of human morals and civilization through the agency of that same Spirit.[1] In the Baha'i Faith, it is believed that the Manifestations of God
God
are the only channel for humanity to know about God
God
because contact with the Spirit is what transforms the heart and mind, creating a living relationship between the soul and God. They act as perfect mirrors reflecting the attributes of God
God
into the physical world.[2] Bahá'í teachings hold that the motive force in all human development is due to the coming of the Manifestations of God.[3] The Manifestations of God
God
are directly linked with the Bahá'í concept of progressive revelation.

Contents

1 Station 2 Purpose 3 Equality 4 Religious perennialism 5 Minor prophets 6 Other possible divine teachers 7 See also 8 Notes 9 References

Station[edit]

The Ringstone symbol represents humanity's connection to God
God
through the Manifestation of God

The Bahá'í concept of the intermediary between God
God
and humanity is expressed in the term Manifestation of God.[1] Bahá'ís believe in a single, imperishable God, the creator of all things, including all the creatures and forces in the universe.[4] Though inaccessible directly, God
God
is nevertheless seen as conscious of his creation, with a mind, will and purpose. Bahá'ís believe that God
God
expresses this will at all times and in many ways, including through a series of divine messengers referred to as Manifestations of God.[5] In expressing God's intent, these Manifestations are seen to establish religion in the world.[1] The Manifestations of God
God
are not seen as incarnations of God
God
as God cannot be divided and does not descend to the condition of his creatures, but they are also not seen as ordinary mortals. Instead, the Bahá'í concept of a Manifestation of God
God
emphasizes the simultaneously existing qualities of humanity and divinity. In the station of divinity, they show forth the will, knowledge and attributes of God; in the station of humanity, they show the physical qualities of common man.[1] A common Bahá'í analogy used to explain the relationship between the Manifestation of God
God
and God
God
is that of a perfect mirror. In the analogy, God
God
is likened to the Sun
Sun
– the source of physical life on earth. The spirit and attributes of God
God
are likened to the rays of the Sun, and the Manifestations of God
God
are likened to perfect mirrors reflecting the rays of the Sun.[2] Thus, the Manifestations of God
God
act as pure mirrors that reflect the attributes of God
God
onto this material world.[1] The Manifestations of God
God
are seen to represent a level of existence which is an intermediary between God
God
and humans. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, explained that at one extreme the Manifestations of God
God
are humble servants of God
God
and at the other extreme they claim to speak with the voice of God, and manifest his attributes to humanity. They may at times emphasize their humanity, and at other times proclaim their divinity. These stations are complementary rather than mutually exclusive.[1] The Manifestations of God
God
are believed to possess capacities that do not exist in humans, and this difference is not a difference in degree but a difference in kind. The Manifestations of God
God
are not seen to be simply great thinkers or philosophers who have a better understanding than others, but that, by their nature, they are inherently superior to the average human.[6] Thus, the Manifestations of God
God
are special beings, having a unique relationship to God
God
as they have been sent by God
God
from the spiritual world as an instrument of divine revelation. They are understood to have existed in the spiritual world prior to their physical birth in this life. They are also seen to have innate, divinely revealed knowledge and absolute knowledge of the physical world.[6] According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son and successor of the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, the Manifestations of God
God
must be distinguished above any other person in every aspect and qualification, in order that they can effectively train and educate people.[7] Purpose[edit] The purpose of the Manifestation of God, according to Bahá'í belief, is to educate humanity. The Manifestations of God
God
are seen as divine educators, who are raised up by God
God
with the purpose of uplifting mankind and expressing his will. In expressing God's intent, the Manifestations of God
God
are seen to establish religion in the world. Each brings a book and reveals teachings and laws according to the time and place which they appear.[1] Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
used the term revelation to describe the phenomena that occurs each time a Manifestation of God
God
appears; he stated that the writings of the Manifestation of God
God
represent the infallible word of God, and because the writings remain after the earthly life of the Manifestation they are a very important part of revelation.[8] The laws and precepts revealed by the Manifestation of God
God
lie in different spheres and levels and include elements intended to help individuals develop a sound character and acquire divine attributes, as well as laws and principles designed to help improve the welfare of society and advance civilization. `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
has stated that from time to time an educator will come to teach humanity, and without these teachings humanity would be overcome by such emotions and attitudes as anger, jealousy and hatred.[1] The Bahá'í belief that the primary role of the Manifestation of God is that of an educator is stated by Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
and `Abdu'l-Bahá:

"The Prophets and Messengers of God
God
have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. Through them the clouds rain their bounty upon men, and the earth bringeth forth its fruits. All things must needs have a cause, a motive power, an animating principle. These souls and symbols of detachment have provided, and will continue to provide, the supreme moving impulse in the world of being."[9]

" God
God
sent all His Prophets into the world with one aim, to sow in the hearts of men love and goodwill, and for this great purpose, they were willing to suffer and to die. All the sacred Books were written to lead and direct man into the ways of love and unity; and yet, in spite of all this, we have the sad spectacle of war and bloodshed in our midst."[10]

Equality[edit] See also: Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í Faith
and the unity of religion In Bahá'í belief, all of the Manifestations of God
God
are from the same God
God
and have the same spiritual and metaphysical nature, and that there is absolute equality among them. The differences between the various Manifestations of God
God
and their teachings, Bahá'u'lláh explained, are due to the varying needs and capacities of the civilization in which they appeared, and not due to any differences in their level of importance or nature.[11] The Manifestations of God
God
are taught to be "one and the same", and in their relationship to one another have both the station of unity and the station of distinction.[1] Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
wrote in the Book of Certitude that in respect to their station of unity "if thou callest them all by one name and dost ascribe to them the same attribute, thou hast not erred from the truth."[12] In this sense, the Manifestations of God
God
all fulfill the same purpose and perform the same function by mediating between God
God
and creation. In this way each Manifestation of God
God
manifested the Word of God
God
and taught the same religion, with modifications for the particular audience's needs and culture. Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
wrote that since each Manifestation of God
God
has the same divine attributes they can be seen as the spiritual "return" of all the previous Manifestations of God.[1] Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
then states the diversity of the teachings of the Manifestations of God
God
does not come about because of their differences, since they are one and the same, but because they each have a different mission. Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
writes regarding this station of distinction, "each Manifestation of God
God
hath a distinct individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined Revelation, and specially designated limitations."[12] Bahá'u'lláh wrote in the Gems of Divine Mysteries
Gems of Divine Mysteries
that those who perceive distinctions and differences between the Manifestations of God, will notice the underlying unity of the Manifestations once they continue on their spiritual path.[13] Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
in several passages goes so far as to say that denial of one Manifestation is equivalent to denial of all of them. `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
said that a Bahá'í will choose death over denial of any of the great Prophets, whether Moses, Muhammad
Muhammad
or Christ.[14] The Bahá'í belief in the oneness of the Manifestations of God
God
does not mean, however, that the same individual soul is born again at different times and in different physical bodies. In the Bahá'í view, the various Manifestations of God
God
were all different personalities and had separate individual realities. Instead, their equality is due to that Manifestation of God
God
manifested and revealed the qualities of God
God
to the same degree.[11] Religious perennialism[edit] See also: Progressive revelation Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
taught that Manifestations have always been sent by God, and always will, as part of the single progressive religion from God bringing more teachings through time to help humanity progress.[15] In the Bahá'í view the succession of Manifestations of God
God
had no beginning and will have no end.[16] Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í Faith
in the first half of the 20th century, stated that Manifestations will continue to come about every thousand years, extending "over many ages into the unborn reaches of time."[17][18] While Manifestations of God
God
are explained to have always come to humanity and will continue to do so, `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
explained that there are distinct cycles within this process. The cycles consist of hundreds of thousands of years and are characterized by three periods. The first period involves the coming of a series of Manifestations of God
God
who prepare humanity for a universal theophany; the second period involves the appearance of the Manifestation of God
God
that brings the universal theophany and his dispensation; finally the third period includes the Manifestations of God
God
that come after. `Abdu'l-Bahá stated that in the current cycle, the first period was started by Adam and extended to the time of the Báb. Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
is seen as the universal Manifestation of God, and the current cycle will continue for another 500,000 years.[1] There is no definitive list of Manifestations of God, but Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
and `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
referred to several personages as Manifestations; they include Adam, Noah, Krishna, Moses, Abraham, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus
Jesus
and Muhammad.[19] The Báb, as well as Bahá'u'lláh, were included in this definition.[19] Thus religious history is interpreted as a series of periods or "dispensations", where each Manifestation brings a somewhat broader and more advanced revelation, suited for the time and place in which it was expressed. Bahá'ís do not claim that the Bahá'í revelation is the final stage in God's direction in the course of human spiritual evolution. The Bahá'í writings contain assurances that after 1000 years of Bahá'u'lláh's coming, another Manifestation of God
God
will appear to advance human civilization.[16][20][21] 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes in the Tablet of the Universe ("Lawh-i-Aflákiyyih") that there are infinite Manifestations of God in the infinite worlds of God.[22] Minor prophets[edit] In the Bahá'í definition, there is a distinction between minor prophets and the Manifestations of God, the major prophets. This distinction is also referred to as lesser/greater, dependent/independent, follower/universal, and other similar phrases. The Manifestations of God
God
or the major prophets are compared to the sun, which produces its own heat and light, and the minor prophets are likened to the moon, which receives its light from the sun. The Manifestations of God
God
are described as prophets endowed with constancy. The term endowed with constancy refers to prophets to whom a book was revealed (in which the book contained legislation) and with whom lasting covenants with God
God
were made, abrogating past covenants. For example, Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
describes Moses
Moses
as a Manifestation of God and his brother Aaron
Aaron
a minor prophet; Moses
Moses
spoke on behalf of God, and Aaron
Aaron
spoke on behalf of Moses
Moses
(Exodus 4:14-17). Furthermore, the other prophets of the Old Testament
Old Testament
such as Jeremiah, David, Solomon, Ezekiel, and Isaiah
Isaiah
are described as minor prophets as they came in the shadow of the dispensation of Moses
Moses
to develop and consolidate the process he set in motion.[1] There is, however, no definite list of who is or isn't a minor prophet in the Bahá'í understanding. The distinction can also be described as the difference between inspiration and revelation. Revelation
Revelation
is seen to be the direct and infallible perception of God's word and is only accessible to the Manifestations of God
God
who transmit it to humanity. On the other hand, inspiration is seen to be the indirect and relative perception of spiritual truths that each person may have access to. Bahá'u'lláh stated that at times, God
God
chooses ordinary people to act as prophets and thus inspires them to play certain roles in human affairs; these people however remain ordinary people whose powers of inspiration have been further developed by God.[23] Other possible divine teachers[edit] See also: Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í Faith
and Native Americans It is implied, though not specifically named, that the American continents have had their share of divine revelations, which somewhat have been lost to time except in oral traditions. A quote exists by 'Abdu'l-Bahá:

"In ancient times the people of America were, through their northern regions, close to Asia, that is, separated from Asia by a strait. For this reason, it hath been said that crossing had occurred. There are other signs which indicate communication. As to places whose people were not informed of the appearance of Prophets, such people are excused. In the Qur'án it hath been revealed: "We will not chastise them if they had not been sent a Messenger" (Q. 17:15). Undoubtedly in those regions, the Call of God
God
must have been raised in ancient times, but it hath been forgotten now."[24]

Academics are researching Native Messengers and some have connected the signs of a Prophet
Prophet
with the Great Peacemaker
Great Peacemaker
of the Haudenosaunee. As such, some Bahá'í's revere the Peacemaker as a Manifestation of God.[25] However, as the Great Peacemaker
Great Peacemaker
was never named specifically in the Writings, he cannot be officially listed as a Manifestation of God
God
within the Faith. In regards to the Asiatic prophets, Shoghi Effendi
Shoghi Effendi
wrote:

"The only reason there is not more mention of the Asiatic Prophets is because Their names seem to be lost in the mists of ancient history. Buddha is mentioned, and Zoroaster, in our Scriptures — both non-Jewish Prophets or non Semitic Prophets. We are taught there always have been Manifestations of God, but we do not have any record of Their names."[26]

See also[edit]

Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í Faith
and the unity of religion Progressive revelation Prophet Table of prophets of Abrahamic religions Buddhahood Culture hero Dashavatara Messiah Saoshyant

Notes[edit]

^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Cole, Juan (1982). "The Concept of Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings". Bahá'í Studies. monograph 9: 1–38.  ^ a b Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row. p. 118. ISBN 0-87743-264-3.  ^ Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row. p. 115. ISBN 0-87743-264-3.  ^ "The Bahá'í Faith". Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica. 1988. ISBN 0-85229-486-7.  ^ Hutter, Manfred (2005). "Bahā'īs". In Ed. Lindsay Jones. Encyclopedia of Religion. 2 (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 737–740. ISBN 0-02-865733-0.  ^ a b Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row. p. 120. ISBN 0-87743-264-3.  ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
(1972). Foundations of World Unity. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 111. ISBN 0-87743-018-7.  ^ Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row. p. 82. ISBN 0-87743-264-3.  ^ Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
(1976). Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 156–157. ISBN 0-87743-187-6.  ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
(1995) [1912]. Paris Talks (Hardcover ed.). Bahá'í Distribution Service. p. 106. ISBN 1-870989-57-0.  ^ a b Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row. pp. 116–117. ISBN 0-87743-264-3.  ^ a b Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
(2003) [1862]. Kitáb-i-Íqán: The Book of Certitude. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 152–177. ISBN 1-931847-08-8.  ^ Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
(2002). Gems of Divine Mysteries. Haifa, Israel: Bahá'í World Centre. pp. 33–37. ISBN 0-85398-975-3.  ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
(1982) [1911]. `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
in London. London, UK: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 56–57. ISBN 0-900125-50-0.  ^ bahai.org (2006). "The Changeless Faith of God". bahai.org. Retrieved 2006-11-12.  ^ a b Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row. pp. 128–129. ISBN 0-87743-264-3.  ^ Effendi, Shoghi (1970). Dawn of a New Day. India: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 202.  ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
(1978). Selections From the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá (Hardcover ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0-85398-081-0.  ^ a b Smith, Peter (2000). "Manifestations of God". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. p. 231. ISBN 1-85168-184-1.  ^ McMullen, Michael D. (2000). The Baha'i: The Religious Construction of a Global Identity. Atlanta, Georgia: Rutgers University Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-8135-2836-4.  ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
(1978). Selections From the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá (Hardcover ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 67. ISBN 0-85398-081-0.  ^ Hatcher, John S. (2005). Close Connections: The Bridge Between Spiritual and Physical Reality. Wilmette, Illinois. pp. 150–151. ISBN 1-931847-15-0.  ^ Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row. p. 122. ISBN 0-87743-264-3.  ^ Research Department Memorandum, dated 16 May 1996, published in "Native Messengers of God
God
in Canada? A test case for Baha'i universalism", by Christopher Buck, published in Bahá'í Studies Review 6 pages 97-133, London: Association for Bahá'í Studies English-Speaking Europe, 1996. ^ Buck, Christopher (1996). "Native Messengers of God
God
in Canada? A test case for Baha'i universalism". The Bahá'í Studies Review. London: Association for Bahá'í Studies English-Speaking Europe: 97–132. Retrieved 2015-04-24.  ^ Shoghi Effendi
Shoghi Effendi
(1983). Hornby, Helen (Ed.), ed. Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. p. 503. ISBN 81-85091-46-3. CS1 maint: Extra text: editors list (link)

References[edit]

`Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
(1981) [1904-06]. Some Answered Questions. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-190-6. 

Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
(1976). Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-187-6. 

Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
(2003) [1862]. Kitáb-i-Íqán: The Book of Certitude. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 1-931847-08-8. 

Effendi, Shoghi (1981). The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-900125-46-2. 

Esslemont, J.E. (1980). Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
and the New Era (5th ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-160-4. 

Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-264-3. 

Momen, Wendi (1989). A Basic Bahá'í Dictionary. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-231-7. 

Smith, Peter (1988). The Bahá'í Religion, A Short Introduction to its History and Teachings. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-277-5. 

Smith, Peter (1999). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1-

.