This article provides some basic information and a few of my thoughts on the Bahá’í Faith. In this article, I will try to speak simply from my heart and mind. These words are not an official statement about the Bahá’í Faith. Rather, they are just I speaking from my own personal understanding about the belief system I feel closest to.
My understanding of the Bahá’í viewpoint is that there is just one God who created not only our planet but all of creation. This one God has shaped our environment specifically so that we sentient creatures would evolve and mature, not only physically, but spiritually as well. This spiritual development takes place not only on an individual level, but at a collective level as well.
To fulfill our destiny as sentient beings, God has given us an inherent attraction to Divinity and the spiritual realm. Since we as God’s creatures are unable as finite beings to know the Ultimate in Its infinitude, God has sent us special beings, who appear in the human form. These Holy Beings have given humanity divine teachings suitable for the various cultures and eras They have appeared in.
These Prophets, called Manifestations of God in Baha’i terminology, have founded the great world religions. Their names are familiar to most of us: Krishna for Hinduism, Abraham and Moses for Judaism, Buddha for Buddhism, Zoroaster for Zoroastrianism, Jesus for Christianity, Muhammad for Islam, etc. In addition to those Personages just listed, the Bahá’í Writings state that there are other such Great Prophets who names are lost to us due the their appearance in the far past of our race. No doubt, there are also Prophets who appeared in the Western Hemisphere before the arrival of the white man, whose names are also unknown to us.
The Bahá’í perspective sees the great world religions not as independent, unconnected belief systems but rather as links in an historical chain: stages in God’s plan to slowly bring humanity to spiritual maturity. Thus, Bahá’ís believe that there is just one religion, the religion of God growing and changing along with the human race as it has socially evolved from small hunter-gatherer groups, to larger tribes, to city-states, to nation-states, and now on the cusp of becoming an integrated world-spanning society.
In this line of thinking, each later Prophet is seen as the return of the previous Prophet, and the Writings of the previous Prophet are seen as prophesying the advent of the later Prophet. A Bahá’í could even interpret the repetition of this Prophet cycle as the same Divine Spirit sent from God over and over again to guide humanity as it spiritually evolves over time. Thus for the Baha’i, God never leaves us alone but rather intervenes in a periodic manner to keep us on course along the path destined for us by our Creator. Human civilizations rise and fall, but Divinity is always exhorting us via the Prophets and their Teachings to achieve ever-higher levels of morality and unity as a sentient race.
Bahá’ís believe that humanity is currently in a very special stage of its growth. We believe that God has, with the Prophet Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), once again provided crucial guidance for humanity as we face the tremendous challenge to create a diverse yet highly moral worldwide civilization. While Bahá’ís revere and cherish all the previous Prophets, and see each of Them as absolutely vital to humanity’s growth over the ages, we believe that in this day the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh represent the latest in God’s guidance to humankind. Also, we see in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh the promise that Prophets will continue to be sent to us in the ages to come; Divine Messengers Who will help us meet the spiritual challenges of future eras of human history.
Now that I have tried to explain as best I could my understanding of basic Bahá’í belief, let me share just a few personal observations. For me as a Bahá’í, humanity is indeed in an end time in history. This end in my eyes is not an end of physical existence for our race but rather the end of one great spiritual era and the beginning of another.
The new era I as a Bahá’í believe humanity is making the transition into will not be perfect but it will see collective spiritual advances to equal the tremendous technological advance already underway. In fact, I see such collective spiritual evolution already taking place in that since the lifetime of Bahá’u’lláh, humanity has witnessed the virtual end of chattel slavery, the start of the gradual emancipation of women and people of color, growing interaction and tolerance among the followers of the world’s great religions, and experimentation with instruments of global government destined to be superseded by even more appropriate forms that will better integrate our God-given diversity as a species. In the modern era, humanity has flirted with the man-made gods of communism, racism, and arrogant nationalism only to see them slowly crumble over the decades of the tempestuous twentieth century.
In spite of the supposedly secular age in which we live, the great majority of humans believe in God in one form or another. Should we acknowledge as a race that the Voice of God speaks to us through not only the Prophet of the religion we personally ascribe to, but also through the Prophets of the other great religions as well, then we could really begin to feel the wholeness of God’s never-ending communication with us and see those who follow other religions as spiritual brethren rather than heathen for us to either convert or control.
Perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the Bahá’í viewpoint that I resonate with is its claim that God will guide and lead us, but we must do our part in creating a better world. God doesn’t expect us just to sit back and wait to be magically transformed by events, God-sent as well as man-made, that take place around us. Nor does God want us to waste our precious lives complaining about the degenerate state of the world or our neighbors. Rather, we must become active participants in the divine process by accepting responsibility not only for our own personal spiritual growth, but that of all humanity.
Only by rising to God’s challenge of hearing the Divine Teachings for this day and implementing them with full faith and vigor can we achieve that maturity destined for us. The Bahá’ís believe that God is calling all of us in this day to rise in service to all humanity. We wish to work with all people of goodwill, no matter what belief system they align themselves with, in our shared goal of bringing about that better world represented in all of our highest hopes.
Below are some of my favorite brief quotations from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh:
O people! Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.
Tablets of Baha’u’llah, Page 22
It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.
Tablets of Baha’u’llah, Page 167
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee.
Arabic Hidden Words, Page 2
Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come….
Peace, Page 157
Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.
Arabic Hidden Words, Page 22
Ye shall be hindered from loving Me and souls shall be perturbed as they make mention of Me. For minds cannot grasp Me nor hearts contain Me.
Arabic Hidden Words, Page 66
Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.
Tablets of Baha’u’llah, Page 87
Finally, here are two of my favorite quotations from the writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), son of Bahá’u’lláh and His appointed successor:
Put all your beliefs into harmony with science; there can be no opposition, for truth is one. When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles – and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God.
`Abdu’l-Baha: Paris Talks, Page 146
The virtues of humanity are many, but science is the most noble of them all . . . . Science is an effulgence of the Sun of Reality, the power of investigating and discovering the verities of the universe, the means by which man finds a pathway to God.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page 49