¶37. Manifestations of God
The Bahá'í religion emphasizes that God vouchsafes a special revelation periodically to humanity through Manifestations of God. The Bahá'í Faith does not deny that ordinary people can experience God or that God can inspire anyone with truth; however, the Bahá'í writings see the revelation that is given to the Manifestations as being qualitatively different, as well as quantitatively greater. Manifestations are seen as special souls who are pre-existent, unlike ordinary humans; they are infallible and sinless; they are perfect exemplars of both God's attributes and God's teachings.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 407-23 (Gleanings, XXI-XXXV); 462-63 (Gleanings, LXXXVII). 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 55-60; Some Answered Questions, Part One (3-80), examines the influence of the various Manifestations on human development; part three (143-74) deals with the powers and conditions of the Manifestations of God. Lights of Guidance, 469-511, is an extended compilation of notes on Bahá'í teachings on the concept of Manifestation and some of the various Manifestations.
Esslemont, 202-4 Huddleston, 40-3 Faizi, 30-37 Momen, 94-6, 99-103 Ferraby, 37-38, 43-49 Smith 1987, 73-74 Hatcher and Martin, 81-83, 115-23 Smith 1996, 37-8, 64-7
Juan Cole, "The Concept of the Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings," Bahá'í Studies, no. 9, and Moojan Momen's "Bahá'u'lláh's Prophetology," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 5:1 (1995), examine the archetype of prophethood, Cole's to arrive at a theological understanding of the nature of revelation and Momen's to seek patterns in the lives and teachings of the prophets and thus arrive at a paradigmatic understanding of the nature of prophethood. Julio Savi writes extensively and incisively about the Bahá'í concept of the Manifestation in his book The Eternal Quest for God. Also useful is David M. Earl's "The Mystery of the Manifestation," in World Order, 23.3 (Spring/Summer 1989): 21-30. Juan Cole's "Problems of Chronology in Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Wisdom," in World Order, 13.3 (Spring 1979) considers the question of the accuracy of historical information in Bahá'u'lláh's revelation. John Hatcher examines the nature of the Manifestation in "The Doctrine of 'The Most Great Infallibility' in Relation to the 'Station of Distinction," in The Law of Love Enshrined. Enoch N. Tanyi presents a possible chronology of all Manifestations listed in the sacred texts of world religions in "The Syrian Prophet(s)," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 4.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1991). Christopher Buck's extended essay "Native Messengers of God in Canada? A test case for Bahá'í universalism," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 6 (1996), argues that Bahá'í manifestation theology allows for certain religious figures in other cultures and time periods to be considered Manifestations.
Bahá'ís, like other religious people, are concerned about developing a personal relationship with God and with coming to an ever-deeper knowledge of self. One way in which people pursue these goals is the mystical path, a subject on which Bahá'u'lláh has written extensively. He seems to have highly respected much of the Muslim mystical tradition. This is evidenced by his preserving much of Farídu'd-Dín-i-'Attár's Conference of the Birds in his Seven Valleys and emulating Ibn-i-F'arid in his Qasídiy-i-Tá'íyyih (on the latter, see God Passes By, 123). He and 'Abdu'l-Bahá had numerous interactions with Muslim mystics, or Sufis, some of whom are listed in Memoirs of the Faithful (5, 36, 38, 91, 142, 148). Shoghi Effendi even said that "the Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine religions," is "fundamentally mystic in character." (Compilation of Compilations, volume II, 238). However, he also cautioned that true mystical experiences are rare and should not be sought out (Lights of Guidance), and Bahá'u'lláh was known to admonish mystics whom he thought were pursuing wasteful goals of dubious import.
Though Bahá'u'lláh interpreted a great deal of previous religious symbolism, he said that he was reluctant to expound upon mystical works of earlier dispensations because such a vast amount of new mystical knowledge has come with his revelation (Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, volume 2, 285). However, very little of Bahá'u'lláh's mystical writings has been translated thus far. This is partly because these writings are so uniquely difficult to render into another language, and perhaps also partly because some of the symbolism and themes in Bahá'u'lláh's mystical works would seem very foreign and easily misunderstood to anyone not from a Muslim background.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 3-29 (Seven Valleys and Four Valleys in toto); 501-05 (Gleanings, CXXIV-CXXV). The Hidden Words (Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 33-59), though often considered primarily an "ethical" work, also has many mystical themes.
Ferraby, 114, 129-141 Smith 1987, 35-8, 64, 111-2, 154-5 Momen, 105-7 Smith 1996, 156-7
Ruhi Afnan compared Christian and Islamic mysticism with the Bahá'í approach to the subject in Mysticism and the Bahá'í Revelation: A Contrast. The only full study of mysticism, though a basic one, is Glenn A. Shook's Mysticism, Science, and Revelation. These are both rather old works. More recently, Farnaz Ma'súmián wrote a short introduction to Bahá'í mysticism, "Mysticism and the Bahá'í Faith," in Deepen, 6.3 (1995). Moojan Momen presents some findings of medicine and psychology on the mystic state and their relation to Bahá'u'lláh's mysticism in his "The Psychology of Mysticism and its Relationship to the Bahá'í Faith," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 2.4 (1984). Jack McLean discusses the mystical aspects of spirituality in Dimensions of Spirituality, especially 82-88. A work of fiction which may be of interest is Bruce Wells' From Discontent: the Biography of a Mystic. William Hatcher discussed the Bahá'í concept of the spiritual life in "The Concept of Spirituality" (Bahá'í Studies, 11, reprinted in The Bahá'í World: An International Record, Volume XVIII, and The Law of Love Enshrined) which, though not directly related to mysticism, may be useful. John Walbridge devotes a chapter to some of the textual bases of Bahá'í mysticism in Sacred Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time. William S. Hatcher presents some philosophical aspects of mysticism in "Myths, Models, and Mysticism," in Logic and Logos: Essays on Science, Religion, and Philosophy.
¶39. New World Order
The Bahá'í scriptures speak frequently about the need for a New World Order, that is, a reform of human society, culture, and civilization based on the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. The first stage of the New World Order is the Lesser Peace, the unity of nations; the far future human state is the Bahá'í equivalent of the millennium or the Kingdom of God on earth and is called The Most Great Peace.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 233 (second Ishráq, in Tablets 126); 478-79 (Gleanings, CIV); 480-81 (Gleanings, CVI-CVIII); 482-83 (Gleanings, CXI-CXII); there are also many statements about the new world order in Bahá'u'lláh's tablets to the kings (see The Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh; much of it is found in Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 479-99). Many of Bahá'u'lláh's laws and principles for the new world order are found in the tablets of Bishárát, Tarázát, and Ishráqát (Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 181-92 and 220-38, also in Tablets 21-29, 33-44, and 101-134). Shoghi Effendi, Call to the Nations, 45-66; "The Goal of a New World Order," in World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, 29-48. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 32 (the Seven Candles of Unity).
Esslemont, 137, 273-82 Momen, 59-62 Ferraby, 80-93, 297-305 Smith 1987, 196-99 Hatcher and Martin, 136-42 Smith 1996, 107 Huddleston, 110-12, 153-72
Relatively few articles have been written on the Bahá'í concept of the new world order and how it will be established; one is Douglas Martin's "The Spiritual Revolution," in World Order, 8.2 (Winter 1973-74). Closely related is Alessandro Bausani's "The Religious Crisis of the Modern World," in World Order, 2.3 (Spring 1968). A lengthy elaboration of the current world situation and the resources offered by the Bahá'í teachings for revolutionizing world society may be found in Udo Schaefer's The Imperishable Dominion: The Bahá'í Faith and the Future of Mankind. A new compilation of essays edited by Charles Lerche has been published under the title Emergence: Dimensions of a New World Order. These essays focus on the Bahá'í world order model; the international political changes that have been moving the world toward a new world order; human nature and the problem of establishing world peace; social and economic development; and environmental problems. Particularly relevant is Loni Bramson-Lerche's essay "An Analysis of the Bahá'í World Order Model" (1-70). A useful and somewhat critical book review of Emergence was published by Sen McGlinn in The Bahá'í Studies Review, 3.1 (1993): 87-92. Toward the Most Great Justice: Elements of Justice in the New World Order, and Emergence: Dimensions of a New World Order, both edited by Charles O. Lerche, contains many pieces tangential to the topic.
¶40. Peace and War
Bahá'ís believe that the cessation of war and the establishment of world peace are inevitable steps in human social evolution. The Bahá'í writings describe the next step in social development as the establishment of the lesser peace, in which the nations of the world will establish international mechanisms to prevent future wars. 'Abdu'l-Bahá predicts that the foundation for the lesser peace will be laid before the end of the twentieth century. However, the Bahá'í notions of peace transcend a simple abolition of war. The end of war will constitute the lesser peace, but Bahá'ís believe that a higher, most great peace, will one day be realized. This stage represents the true maturity of humankind, when the world will fully live by spiritual principles and become the "kingdom of God on Earth."
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 496-99 (Gleanings, CXVII-CXX). 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 295-312, and Esslemont, 170 (a statement written by 'Abdu'l-Bahá specifically for Esslemont's book). 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes on the importance of founding political peace in Secret of Divine Civilization 64-6, which is partially excerpted in Shoghi Effendi's World Order of Bahá'u'lláh 37-8. The statement by the Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, is the best summary yet written on the meaning and broad significance of peace. Lights of Guidance also contains a section of quotations on peace, 430-437. A lengthy compilation on peace is included in Compilation of Compilations, volume II. Another systematic compilation of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice about war and peace and related subjects was published in 1986 under the title Peace: More than an End to War.
Esslemont, 156-74 Momen, 46, 50 Ferraby, 92-93 Smith 1987, 74-7, 108, 140-3, 148 Hatcher and Martin, 140-41 Smith 1996, 71, 82-3, 86, 126, 156 Huddleston, 1-27, 149-52, 230-33
Philip Hainsworth's Bahá'í Focus on Peace is a useful discussion of the issues of war and peace from a Bahá'í perspective. Hossain B. Danesh's Unity: The Creative Foundation of Peace highlights the dynamic nature of the Bahá'í concept of unity and its application to problems preventing world peace. Ronald Roesch briefly examines the relevance of individual psychology to the establishment of world peace in "Psychology and Peace," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 1.2 (1988-1989). John Huddleston's Achieving Peace By the Year 2000: A Twelve Part Proposal offers a series of concrete steps, based on a Bahá'í perspective, for establishing world peace. Huddleston's Search for a Just Society, chapters 20-25, discusses the political history of peace and war in the last two centuries, and concludes by proposing Bahá'í solutions in chapter 29, "A Vision of World Peace." Anthony Lee edited a volume of useful essays on peace issues by different Bahá'ís titled Circle of Peace: Reflections on the Bahá'í Teachings. This volume includes essays on peace groups, human rights, women, youth, and the Soviet Union, as well as a harrowing account of one Bahá'í's experiences fighting in the Vietnam war. Huschmand Sabet's The Way Out of the Dead End: A Plea for Peace examines the current world situation and the resources offered by Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith for solving world problems. Cooperative Peace Strategies, a collection of papers related to the subject of world peace, has been edited by John Davidson and Marjorie Tidman for the Association for Bahá'í Studies of Australia. It includes articles on peace and the media, parenting, agriculture, the environment, the arms race, and gender equality. Kathy Lee examines the forces, both destructive and creative, which are leading to the lesser peace in Prelude to the Lesser Peace. Nader Saiedi proposes Bahá'í solutions to the prolonged conflicts in the Middle East in "The Middle East and World Peace," in World Order, 26.1 (Fall 1994). The compilation of essays in Emergence: Dimensions of a New World Order, edited by Charles Lerche, is also useful. These essays include discussions of the Bahá'í world order model, the international political changes that have been moving the world toward a new world order, human nature and the problem of establishing world peace, social and economic development, and environmental problems.
John N. Danesh's "Four Peace Messages, 1983-85: A Comparison," in World Order, 24.1 (Fall 1989/Winter 1989-90): 7-19, compares the Universal House of Justice's peace statement with similar statements issued by the World Council of Churches, the World Methodist Council, and the Vatican. Charles Lerche's "Human Nature and the Problem of Peace," in Charles Lerche, ed., Emergence, 101-30, considers negative attitudes about humanity's nature that have existed since Augustine and the Bahá'í response to them.
Bahá'u'lláh has explicitly outlawed the concept of holy war, jihád. Indeed, this was his first legislative act following his declaration (Smith 1987, 78).
The sacred writings discuss the unacceptably destructive nature of war in numerous places, including 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Secret of Divine Civilization, 61-67 and Shoghi Effendi in The Promised Day is Come. However, the Bahá'í Faith is not pacifist. Bahá'u'lláh wrote to Queen Victoria that, should any nation attack another, the other nations of the world should suppress the aggressor. Shoghi Effendi quoted this statement in many places, including World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, 192, and God Passes By, 206-207. Shahrokh Monjazeb provided a complete translation of this tablet in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 4-21. In Secret of Divine Civilization, 70, 'Abdu'l-Bahá even says that "a conquest can be a praiseworthy thing." See also Lights of Guidance, 437.
Esslemont, 171-173 Smith 1987, 21-2, 27, 43-5, 78-9, 147 Hatcher and Martin, 13, 14, 20, 47 Smith 1996, 40, 42-6, 58, 66, 90, 157
Denis MacEoin has studied the theme of war in the writings of the Báb in "The Babi Concept of Holy War," in Religion, 12 (1982), "From Babism to Baha'ism: problems of militancy, quietism and conflation in the construction of a religion," in Religion, 13 (1983), and "Bahá'í Fundamentalism and the Academic Study of the Bábí Movement," in Religion, 16 (Jan. 1986), especially 68-71 and 75-8. Ruhullah Mehrabkhani has challenged MacEoin's allegations of Bábí militancy in "Some Notes on Fundamental Principles: Western Scholarship and the Religion of the Báb" in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 2:4 (1984), especially pages 29-35, where he presents material that supports a much more eirenic picture of the Báb. Muhammad Afnán and William S. Hatcher have also rejected MacEoin's reading of Bábí history in their "Western Islamic Scholarship and Bahá'í Origins," in Religion, 15 (1985), 31-50 passim.