Site Map Header

Ottawa Citizen Atricles Tab

Ottawa Citizen Logo

June 24, 2012

Question:  Is one ever really capable of knowing God?

 This is one of those paradoxical yes and no answers. The Bahá’í Faith, like its sister, older Abrahamic religions, is strictly monotheistic. Monotheism means not only the traditional, uncompromising belief in one God only, but it stresses, to a greater degree perhaps than does Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the absolute oneness, transcendence and unknowability of the Creator-God. In this absolute sense, God is known only by Himself. All attempts to understand the essence of God fail, and must fail. We cannot understand the essence of God, any more than the plants that we care for understand human consciousness, or the painting understands the painter, or the music the composer.

Even the Prophets, called “Divine Manifestations” in Bahá’í parlance, have an incomplete understanding of the Divinity: “Ten thousand Prophets, each a Moses, are thunderstruck upon the Sinai of their search at His forbidding voice, ‘Thou shalt never behold Me!’; whilst a myriad Messengers, each as great as Jesus, stand dismayed upon their heavenly thrones by the interdiction, ‘Mine Essence thou shalt never apprehend!’(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 62).

Yet, as a token of loving-kindness, grace and salvation, scripture tells us that Providence desires to make His love, will and divine plan known to humanity. His purpose is both the spiritual perfection of the individual and the nations, and also the creation of “an ever-advancing civilization.” The intermediaries who bring the two opposite poles of God (Creator) and humanity (created) into relationship are the Prophets, who appear sequentially in history. The Prophets are empowered to make known to us the Will of God because they have a dual divine-human nature.

While in the strictest sense they are not God, they make known unto us the “names and attributes” of God, rather than His divine essence. In other words, the Prophets reveal as much of God as we can know. To know them is to know God. This does not preclude mystical experience, but the Prophets are the great highways to the knowledge of God. The great Divine Manifestations appear about once every 500 or 1000 years. Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) is the latest but not the last of these Divine Messengers. His mission is the unity of humanity. 
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen June 24, 2012
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Home     Contact   Site Map    Web Support

© The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Ottawa, Canada