An Address by Abdul-Baha at the Theosophical Society,
2228 Broadway, New York City, December 4, 1912
(Taken stenographically by Miss Esther Foster from the interpretation of Ish’te’a’l-Ebn-Kalanter.
It is my hope that you are all well. It is my hope that you are happy, that you are in perfect health, in the utmost degree of joy and gladness.
Those who are uninformed of the world of reality, who do not comprehend the existent beings, who do not perceive the realities of things, who do not discover the real mysteries of the existent objects, and who have but a superficial grasp of things such persons are but embodiments of pure ignorance. They believe only in that which they have heard from their fathers and ancestors. They of themselves have no hearing, no sight, no reason, no intellect; they rely upon tradition. They are after the thoughts of their fathers and forebears. Such persons imagine that the dominion of God is an accidental dominion or kingdom.
For instance, they imagine that this world of existence was created but six or seven thousand years ago as though God did not reign before this period of seven thousand years, had no creation before this, had no world before this. They think that Divinity is accidental, for to them Divinity is dependent upon existent things, while, as a matter of fact, as long as there has been a God, he has had a creation. As long as there has been light, there have been recipients of that light, for the light does not have a manifestation unless there are those who perceive and appreciate it. The world of divinity presupposes creation, presupposes recipients of bounty, presupposes the existence of worlds.
No Divinity can be conceived as separate from creation, for otherwise it would be like imagining an empire without a people. A king must needs have a kingdom, must needs have an army, must needs have subjects. Is it possible to be a king and have no country, no army, no subjects? This is an absurdity. Were we to say that there was a time when there was no country, no army, and no subjects, how then could there be a king, a ruler? For a king must needs have a country, an army and subjects.
Consequently, just as the reality of Divinity has no beginning that is, God has ever been the Creator, God has ever been the Provider, God has ever been a Quickener, God has been a Bestowers there never has been a time when the attributes of God have not had expression. The sun is the sun because of its rays, because of its heat. Were we to conceive of there ever having been a time when there was a sun and yet it had no heat, no light -- that would imply and prove that there had been no sun at all, and that it became the sun afterward. So, likewise, were we to say that there was a time when God had no creation, had no created beings, had no recipients of his bounties, that his names and attributes had not been manifest -- this would mean a thorough denial of the Divinity, for it would mean that Divinity is accidental. To put it still more clearly, if we think that fifty thousand years ago -- or one hundred thousand years ago -- there was no creation, that there were then no worlds, no human beings, no animals -- this thought of ours would mean that previous to fifty thousand years ago there was no Divinity. For were we to say that there was a time when there was a king but there were no subjects, no army, no country for him to rule over, it would be assuming that there was a time when there was no king, and that the king is accidental. So just as 'the reality of Divinity is without a beginning, so is creation without a beginning. This is as clear as the sun. When we contemplate this machinery of power and perceive this infinite space and its numerous worlds, then it will easily become clear to us that the lifetime of this great creation is more than six thousand years nay it is very ancient.
But we read in Genesis, in the Old Testament, that the lifetime of creation is but six thousand years. Now this has a meaning. This is not to be taken literally. For instance, it is said in the Old Testament, in the first day such and such a thing was created -- in the first day! Then the narrative shows that the sun was not yet created! How could we conceive of a day if there were no sun created? For the day depends upon the existence of the sun. While no creation of the sun was yet made, how then was the first day realized? Therefore, these things have significance other than literal.
To be brief: my purpose is to say that the kingdom of God, the divine sovereignty, is an ancient sovereignty. It is not an accidental sovereignty, and that sovereignty presupposes the presence of subjects, of an army, of a country; for otherwise, the state of dominion, authority and kingdom cannot be conceived of. So, were one to imagine that this creation is accidental, one would be forced to imagine that the Creator is accidental, while the divine bounty is ever flowing, and the rays of the Sun of Truth are continuously shining. No cessation is possible to the Divine Bounty, just as no cessation is possible to the rays of the sun. This is clear and obvious.
Thus there have been many Holy Manifestations of God. One thousand years ago, two hundred thousand years ago, one million years ago, the bounty of God was flowing, the radiance of God was shining, the dominion of God was reigning. Why do these Holy Manifestations of God become manifest? What is the wisdom of their coming? What is the result obtained through them? It is clear that human personality is endowed with two aspects. One is the aspect of its being the image of God, and the other is the satanic aspect; and the human reality stands between these two aspects -- the divine and the satanic. It is manifest that beyond this body man is endowed with another reality, which reality is the world of exemplars, and which is the heavenly body of man. At the time of speech man says: "I said," "I saw." Who is this "I?" It is obvious that this "I" is different from this body. It is clear than when man is thinking, it is as though he were consulting with some other person. Whom is he consulting with? It is evident that it is another reality or one aside from this body with whom he enters into consultation when he thinks to himself, saying, Shall I do this work or not?" "What shall be the fruit of my doing this? Or when he asks the other reality, “What is the harm of this work if I do it?" And then that reality in man communicates to him its opinion concerning the point at issue. Therefore, that reality in man is obviously and clearly other than this body, with which man enters into consultation and whose opinion man seeks.
Many a time man makes his mind up positively about a thing; for instance, he makes up his mind and determines to undertake a journey. Then he begins to think, that is, he consults his inner reality, and finally concludes that he will give up his journey. Why is it? How is it he gave up his original purpose? Thus it is evident that there is a reality in him and he consults that reality, and that reality expresses to him the harm which such a journey would cause. Therefore the man minds that reality and gives up the plan of the journey.
Furthermore, in the world of dreams man sees things. He travels in the east, he travels in the west, although his body is stationary. His body is here, yet it is that reality in him which makes the journey to the west while the body sleeps. There is no doubt that a reality is there other than the outward, physical reality. For instance, a person is dead, is buried in the ground. We see him in the world of dreams, we speak with him. While that person's body is interred in the ground, who then is the person whom you see in your dreams, talk to, and who also speaks to you? Therefore, this again proves that there is another reality, different from this physical one which dies and is buried. Thus it is evident that in man there is a reality other than this physical one which is not this body. For instance, the body becomes weak, but that reality is in its normal state of existence. This body becomes strengthened, but that reality in man is in its normal state, unchangeable. For instance, the body of man may lose one arm, but the reality of man, which is not visible, loses nothing and is in its own normal state. This body goes to sleep, becomes as one dead, but that reality in that body which is asleep is moving about, is comprehending things, is expressing them, is discovering the realities of things.
Consequently, it is known that in man there is a reality other than this material one which is called body, and that reality which is other than this physical one is called the heavenly body of man; and we call that body the ethereal form which corresponds to this body. It is that reality which discovers the inner meaning of things; otherwise, this body of man does not discover anything. That reality grasps the mysteries of existence. It discovers scientific facts. It discovers technical points. It discovers electricity, telegraphy, the telephone, and so on, discovering all the arts -- and yet the reality which makes all these discoveries is other than this body, for, were it this body, then the animal would likewise be able to make these scientific and wonderful discoveries, for the animal shares with man all physical limitations and physical powers. What then is that power which discovers the realities of things, which is not to be found in the animal? There is no doubt that it is the inner reality of things; and that reality comprehends all things, throws light upon the inner mysteries of existence, discovers the Kingdom, grasps the mysteries of God, and distinguishes man from the brute. That reality penetrates the inner core of beings; and it is evident that man is endowed with that reality and there is no doubt therein.
This human reality stands between two grades, between the world of the animal and the world of Divinity. Were the animal in man to become predominant, man would become even lower than the brute. Were the heavenly powers in man to become predominant, man would become the most superior being in the world of existence. For instance, consider in man there is rancor, in man there is struggle for existence; in the nature of man there is propensity for warfare; innate in man there is love of self; in him there is jealousy, and so on with all the other imperfections and thus, in a word, all the imperfections found in the animal are to be found in man. For instance, in the animal there is ferocity; there is also ferocity in man. In the animal there is what is called hypocrisy or slyness, like unto that in the fox; and in the animal there is greed -- and there is ignorance. So there are all these in man. In the animal there are injustice and tyranny; so likewise are they in man. The reality of man, therefore, is clad, you might say, in its outer form in the garment of the animal, in the garment of the world of nature, of the world of darkness; that is the world of imperfection, that is the world of infinite baseness.
On the other hand, we find that there is justice in man, there is sincerity in man, faithfulness, knowledge, wisdom, light, and that there is mercy and pity in man, that there is in him intellect, comprehension, the power to grasp the reality of things, the ability to discover the reality of existence. All these great perfections are to be found in man. Consequently, we say that man is a reality which stands between light and darkness, that he has three aspects, three phases; one is the human aspect, one is the divine, heavenly aspect, and one is the natural or animal aspect. The animal or natural aspect is darkness. The heavenly aspect is light in light.
Now to return to the point: The Holy Manifestations of God come into the world in order to effect the disappearance of the physical, the animal, dark aspect of man, so that the darkness in him may be dispelled, his imperfections be eradicated, his spiritual, heavenly phase may become manifest, his God like aspect may become paramount and his perfections might become visible, his innate great power may become known, and that all the virtues of the world of humanity potential within him may come to life. Thus these Holy Manifestations of God are the educators and trainers of the world of existence and they are the teachers of the world of humanity.
These Holy Manifestations of God liberate men from the world of darkness and nature. They deliver him from gloom, from error, from hideousness, from ignorance, from imperfections, and likewise from all the evil qualities. Then they cause him to be clad in the garment of perfection and high virtues. Men are ignorant; the Manifestations of God make them wise. They are animalistic; the Manifestations make them human. They are ferocious; the Manifestations cause them to become kingdoms of light. They are unjust; the Manifestations cause them to be just. Man is selfish; they cause him to be severed from self and desire. Men are haughty; the Manifestations cause them to become meek and amiable. They are earthly; the Manifestations cause them to be heavenly. They are material; They cause them to become divine. They are immature children; the Manifestations cause them to become mature. Men are poor; They cause them to become wealthy. They are base; they cause them to become noble. Men are mean, and They cause them to become lofty.
To be brief; these Holy Manifestations liberate the world of humanity from the imperfections which beset it and cause men to appear in the garment of heavenly perfections. Were it not for the coming of these Holy Manifestations of God, all men would be found on the plane of the animal. They would be similar to ignorant individuals who have never seen a school, who have never had a trainer. For such individuals will undoubtedly remain ignorant.
Leave these mountains, these hills, to the world of nature and they will remain a jungle, and you will not find any fruitful tree among them. But a trm gardener changes this forest and jungle into a garden, training its trees into fruitful ones, and causing numerous kinds of flowers and myrtles to grow therein. In the same way these Holy Manifestations of God are the ideal gardeners. The world of existence is but a jungle of confusion. The state of nature is confusion such as that of a jungle, producing fruitless, useless trees. As the Holy Manifestations of God are the ideal gardeners, they, therefore, train these human trees and cause them to become fruitful and bestow upon them freshness and verdancy in order that they may grow day by day and produce every kind of pure fruit, and thus become the cause of adorning the world of being and continue flourishing and in the utmost purity.
Consequently, we cannot say that the divine bounty has ceased, that the glory of the Divinity is exhausted, or the Sun of Truth has sunk down into eternal sunset -- into that sunset which is not followed by a dawn, into that darkness which is not followed by light, into that death which is not followed by life, into that error which is not followed by truth! Is it conceivable that the Sun of Truth should sink into an eternal sunset? No, the sun was created in order that it may shed light upon the world, and train all existing things. How then can the Sun set forever? For this would mean the cessation of the divine bounty, and the divine bounty is ceaseless; it is continuous. Its Sun is ever shining; its cloud is ever producing rain; its breezes are ever blowing; its bounties are all comprehending; its gift is ever perfect. Consequently, we must always anticipate and always be hopeful and pray to God to send unto us his Holy Manifestations in the most perfect might, with divine, penetrative power, with the Divine Word, so that these divine Manifestations may be distinguished above all other beings in every respect in every phase; in the same way as the sun is distinguished above all stars.
Although the stars are scintillating, yet the sun is superior to them in luminosity. Likewise these Holy, divine Manifestations are and must always be distinguished above all other beings in every attribute of glory and perfection, in order that it may be proven that the Manifestation is the true teacher, that he is the real trainer, that he is the Sun of Truth, that he is endowed with a great light, and in order that it may be proven that he is endowed with a heavenly aspect. For, otherwise, it is not possible for us to train any one human individual, and after training him to believe that he is the Holy, divine Manifestation. The Holy, divine Manifestation must be endowed with divine knowledge and not be one instructed in school learning. He must be the educator and not the educated. The Holy Manifestations of God must be perfect and not imperfect. They must be great and not weak and impotent. They must be wealthy and not indigent. In a word, the Holy Manifestation of God must be in every great aspect distinguished above all else in order that He may be able to train the human body politic, in order that He may have power to eliminate the darkness, cause the advancing of the world of humanity from one plane to a higher one, be able through the penetrative power of His word to promote and spread broadcast the Universal Peace among men, bring about the unification of men and religions through a divine power, harmonize all sects and branches, and convert all nativities and regions into one nativity and fatherland.
Thus it is our hope that the bounties of God will encompass us all and the gifts of the divine will become manifest, the lights of the Sun of Truth will illumine our eyes and inspire our hearts and convey to our souls cheerful glad tidings of God and cause our thoughts to become lofty, and our efforts to be productive of glorious results. In a word, it is my hope that we may attain to that which is the summit of human aspirations and wishes.
I have been in America nine months and have traveled in all the large cities, and have spoken before all kinds of assemblies, and have proclaimed to them all the oneness of the world of humanity; have called them all unto union, harmony and oneness. Indeed I have received the utmost kindness from the American nation, and indeed I look upon them as a noble people, and consider them a nation capable of every perfection.
Tomorrow I am going away to Europe, and thus I bid farewell to you all, and seek for you all the divine mercy, the eternal glory, everlasting life and I pray that you may attain unto the highest station of humanity.
I am greatly pleased with you. My joy is great over you. I shall never forget you. You shall always be in my thought, and I shall always pray and supplicate before the Kingdom of God and seek heavenly blessings for you all. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, from an address given at the Theosophical Society, 2228 Broadway, New York City, December 4, 1912; Star of the West, vol. VII, no. 8, August 1, 1916)