Theosophical Society, San Francisco Lodge
Yosemite Hall, Native Son’s Building
Many investigators of truth hold the opinion that of the seven rays of the Sun of Reality six have emanated and have passed away, but that the seventh ray has not yet appeared. The Bahais, however, claim that the seventh ray, which includes the light of all the others, has appeared in the manifestation of Baha'u'llah. We should therefore investigate the merits of this claim, because it is through the seventh ray that humanity will become enabled to attain perfection.
God created the world in six days and on the seventh day he rested. These days symbolize seven stations, seven great manifestations of God. The number seven is oft repeated in the world of creation. The days of the week are seven, and according to ancient astronomy there were seven planets, seven polar circles, and so on.
All the divine manifestations are one reality, but they have appeared from various dawning points. As the phenomenal sun appears at various times from different dawning points, so the Sun of Reality, that reality of radiance which sheds light upon the world of existence, has dawned from various horizons.
The Sun of Reality has appeared heretofore from six dawning points, and religionists are anticipating the coming of the seventh dawning point, or dayspring. Some are looking for the Messiah, others for the Christ, or the Imam Mahdi, or the Buddha, but the Bahais believe that the Sun of Reality has dawned from the dayspring of Baha'u'llah.
The divine religions, by which are meant those based upon divine revelation and possessing a book, are seven in number. Consider the great world religions of today. They are Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Mohammedanism, Buddhism and Confucianism, each of which branches into many sects and denominations. According to the Baha’i belief all the truth of these six religions is embraced within a seventh -- the revelation of Baha'u'llah -- which completes and fulfils the promises and prophecies of the prophets of the past.
The main teaching to be found in the Baha’i pathway concerns the oneness of the world of humanity. All mankind are the servants of one God. All are submerged in the sea of his mercy. God is the shepherd of all humanity. He provides for all. He protects all, and he is kind toward all. Therefore we likewise should be kind and loving toward all humanity, regardless of race or religion. This is a fundamental teaching of all the religions of God, and the strife and sedition that exist in the world to-day have been the result of blind belief in ancestral superstitions.
One of the teachings of Baha'u'llah relates to the unification of religion. Religion should be a bond to connect the hearts of men. It should be a cause of the illumination of the human world. It should be a center of attraction to the hearts. It should be a channel for the mercy of God. If it prove to be a cause of discord, enmity and bloodshed, then irreligion would be preferable, because religion should be a door to the knowledge and love of God.
There is no doubt that the oneness of the world of humanity is a reality. Hence religion should be an instrument to promulgate love toward all mankind, because the fruit of religion is love. God did not send the prophets simply that man might acknowledge their greatness. God sent the prophets in order that they might educate man, that they might train him according to love, that they might imbue him with the knowledge of God, that the scales might be dropped from his eyes, and that he might glorify God, the All Glorious, even as your soloist has done this evening. The glorification of God does not consist in merely saying that God is great. That is only verbal and there is no virtue in it. To glorify God means that the reality deposited within the human temple, the reality which is the image and likeness of God, shall become revealed through man. That reality consists in the virtues and perfections of the human world. It consists in the knowledge of all truth. When such lights become manifest from him, then he has indeed glorified God. Otherwise, the glorification of God is only a verbal ceremony.
Among the teachings of Baha'u'llah is one relative to the abolition of fanaticism that is based upon ignorance. Such fanaticism is destructive of the basis of humanity; it is a veil obscuring man's vision and preventing him from seeing reality aright, hindering him from seeking the spiritual development to which he should aspire and thereby attaining to the sublime virtues characterizing perfect manhood. The veils of such prejudice must be rent asunder in order that the light of reality may shine forth gloriously. So long as the world of humanity continues to be controlled by baseless prejudice it day by day becomes more degraded, more steeped in ignorance, until at last the human eye becomes as blind, the human ear as deaf, the human spirit as dead, and man becomes bereft of all the favors. But if this veil of prejudice and fanaticism should be rent asunder, then the light of reality would become effulgent. The light of reality is one, and it is the foundation of all the divine religions.
Another teaching of Baha'u'llah is one concerning the correspondence of every religious belief with reality. When a belief is in conformity with truth, and in keeping with science and reason, then it is an established reality, well proved and tried. Otherwise it is a superstition.
In short, the teachings of Baha'u'llah are numerous, and were I to detail all of them they would not be finished by midnight. Therefore let us consider the quintessence of all the questions.
Man has three aspects. These have been interpreted according to former terminology as three molds.
One is the animal mold, which is also known as the reality of darkness, -- that is, a reality emanating from the world of nature, -- and in that reality man has faculties and powers in common with the animal.
The second mold is the human reality, sometimes termed the astral reality. It is the mold between darkness and light, in which the soul is able to choose whether it will acquire all the virtues or remain subject to all vices.
The third mold is the spiritual reality, which is light itself.
When man remains in the animal mold, or lingers in the world of nature, he becomes utterly bereft of the light, inasmuch as the world of nature is one of darkness. But when he progresses from the animal mold he enters the human reality, or the stage between darkness and light. From one aspect the human reality is connected with the world of darkness, and from the other aspect it is connected with the world of light, which is represented in man by the third, or spiritual, reality. This third mold comprises the spiritual virtues, and is symbolized by the world of angels.
The human spirit is a center of all virtues. The human spirit is a reflector of the bounties of God. The human spirit is destined to advance and to be enveloped with the effulgence of God, because the human spirit is immortal.
An evidence of the immortality of the human spirit is the fact that it is not affected by changes in the body. The body is subject to various conditions. At one time it may be healthy; at another time it may be susceptible to some pathology. At one time it may be weak or ill; at another time it may be well and strong; or a member may become lost. However, the reality within the body -- the human spirit or mind -- is the same. If the body should become lean the spirit would not become lean. If the body should become corpulent the spirit would not become corpulent. If the body should be dismembered the spirit would not be affected. In brief, the spirit is independent of the body, and the disintegrations that take place in the body do not affect the soul, for the human reality or spirit is ever the same.
Another indication that the spirit is distinct from the body is the fact that though the body be slumbering the spirit of man is awake. When man is asleep the body is as dead; the eye does not see, the ear does not hear, the tongue does not speak; all the physical forces are quiescent, are as dead. Notwithstanding this, the spirit sees, hears, converses, discovers realities and latent mysteries. Though the physical functions of the body be impaired the spirit is not affected. Though the body becomes incapacitated the spirit remains intact. Though the body be paralyzed the spirit is not paralyzed.
Among other evidences of the immortality of the spirit is the fact that there can be no effect without a cause. It is impossible for a non-existent cause to produce existent effects. For instance, if we suppose the sun to be non-existent, it would logically follow that its rays and heat would be non-existent. However, we know that the solar energy does exist, because its rays and heat are continuous. The sun being the cause, and the rays and heat the effects, how could the cause be non-existent when the effects are continuous? Likewise, the effects of the Sun of Reality are continuous in the world of reality, for, inasmuch as the influence of the manifestations of God who lived thousands of years ago continues to be felt in the world of to-day, surely the divine manifestations themselves must somewhere be still existent. For example, His Holiness Christ lived upon the earth nineteen hundred years ago, yet the effects of his presence at that time are evident in human minds and hearts to-day. Then how could he be non-existent when his lights are still shining, his praises still sung? He is existent and immortal. The Christ is everlasting, even as its traces are everlasting.
There is another indication that we might mention concerning the immortality of the spirit. When man is confronted with a difficulty he seems to consult himself, as though there were a something within him, a power, a voice. He says, shall I do this, or shall I not do it? What shall be the consequence? What harm will result? Then from that consultant emanates a certain opinion, and that still small voice says that the results will be either favorable or unfavorable, and advises that the matter should or should not be carried out. What is that something man consults when he thus deliberates? It is undoubtedly the spirit, which is changeless and therefore immortal.
In brief, there are three realities in man. One is the animal reality, which represents the world of nature, and which is subject to disintegration. The second is the human reality, which reality is everlasting. If it rescues itself from the baser nature, it will constantly progress and will become a radiant spirit, because the divine virtues possible of attainment in the human world are unlimited. Therefore there is no end to the development of humanity. Progress is interminable. Confirmation is everlasting.
If the bounties of God should cease existence itself would cease. The darkness of non-existence would then become universal, even as the phenomenal world would perish if the sun that shines upon all phenomena were for one moment to cease shining. If it were reasonable or possible as a hypothesis to suppose that there ever had been a time when the sun had existed without its rays and heat, we should be forced to the conclusion that the sun had never existed, for the essential requirement of the sun is continuous outpouring of light and heat. Likewise, if we assume that there ever had been a time when the bounties of God had had a beginning, we must perforce believe that at one time there had been no divinity; or, if we assume that a time may come when the bounties of God will cease, we must conclude that divinity will sometime cease to exist. But this is impossible, because the essential requirement of divinity is continuous outpouring of bounties, and for the bounties of God there is neither beginning nor ending. God is eternal and his bounties are everlasting.
Notwithstanding this, some imperfect minds imagine that there was a time when the bounty of God was not, when God was not the Creator because he had no creation, when God was not the Provider because he had none for whom to provide. And there are some who say that a time will come when God will no longer create, when provision will cease, and when the world will come to an end. Such suppositions are great errors, for they attribute imperfection to divinity. This would mean the cessation of divinity, the cessation of the bounty of God, which is everlasting. These are suppositions of immature or ignorant minds, for anyone who has the least perception knows that the sovereignty of God is eternal. Sovereignty requires subjects. Sovereignty requires a country. Sovereignty requires princes, officials, an army. Could there be a king without a country, without subjects, without a treasury, or without courtiers? Were a king to be without these requirements of sovereignty it would be obvious that his dominion did not exist.
Therefore, to attain unto the knowledge of God's mysteries, man must know God as a real king, everlastingly possessed of subjects, hosts, dominion and power. Otherwise man will remain a captive of nature -- which is the station of the animal, not of man -- and will deprive himself of the great bestowals of God whereby the spirit of man is destined to become illumined.
Questions and Answers
Question: Do the Baha’is credit the doctrine of reincarnation?
Answer by ‘Abdu’l-Baha: The question of reincarnation is a very important question. It is in need of elucidation and amplification. It cannot be briefly answered.
When we study phenomena, with the investigation of truth as our object, we discover that the law of conservation of energy is a reality; that the elemental realities are ever existent, and that phenomena are the compositions thereof; that each phenomenon or existent being is composed of certain elements, this being a scientific fact that can be verified by natural philosophy; that every single molecule is composed of certain atoms; that the ion is indestructible and subject to coursing and journeyings throughout interminable space.
In the mineral kingdom, the single element traverses from one state to another until it completes all the stages of that kingdom. At one time it is dust. At another time it is stone, or crystal, or something else. This single element may then be transferred to the vegetable kingdom, wherein it traverses the various stages of that kingdom. Again, this single element may be transferred to the animal kingdom, and in that kingdom become part of various animal tissues, appearing in different forms of the animal type. At another time, this single element may be transferred to the human kingdom and traverse its various stages.
In short, the single element is subjected to coursings and journeyings throughout the interminable universe, and in every stage it has certain distinct virtues. For these virtues there is no end. Thus it is evident that the single element is absolutely indestructible and eternal. It appears in all phenomena, at most being subject simply to transferences, but not to destruction. It is everlasting.
Question: What becomes of the spirit of a murderer?
Answer by ‘Abdu’l-Baha: Human spirits are manifested in physical molds or bodies. One spirit may be imperfect; that is to say, it may be imbued with qualities and characteristics of a baser nature; it may be ignorant, inadvertent, immoral, evil, contaminating, tyrannical. These vices are the retribution of this spirit.
virtues and human perfections. These virtues are in themselves the reward of this spirit.
One spirit may be radiant, lordly, merciful. These qualities are its reward.
Another spirit may be dark, satanic, animalistic. These qualities in themselves are its retribution and punishment.
The reward and the retribution are the result of states of being. The perfections of man are really the rewards of man, and the vices of man are in themselves the retributions of man.
The murderer, therefore, is submerged in the abyss of vices, and surely he will be subjected to the proper retribution in the transferences mentioned in the lecture, which transferences are numerous, appearing in endless forms and images.
Question: Do you teach of the subconscious mind? Is it the spirit that answers your questions, or is it the subconscious mind?
Answer by ‘Abdu’l-Baha: In the human being there is conceived a perfect reality which according to various terminologies has received different names.
Man, in infancy, is called a babe. When he reaches maturity he is called a mature man. When he reaches old age he is called an old man.
The sublime reality latent in man is given different names. When it discovers realities it is called the mind or intellect. When it is the cause of life it is called the spirit. It is the same agency functioning in different degrees. When it answers analytical questions it is called the subconscious mind, because it discloses truths. When it is the cause of comfort and life it is called spirit. This is the consultant.
Question: What have you to remark regarding the physical purification as described by Yogis of India?
Answer by ‘Abdu’l-Baha: Before we begin the process of purification, we ought to know in what the impurity of man consists. We should know what defiles the spirit of man. Then we can investigate the process of purification. We must not be superstitious about these things. We must understand them clearly.
When a man has the vices of lying, dishonesty, tyranny, deceit, these are impurities that have attacked his human spirit, and he is dark, animal, satanic. Such evil qualities are characteristic of the world of nature.
In what does his purification consist? How can he be rescued from falsehood and become truthful? How can he be saved from ignorance and become knowing? How can he be saved from inadvertence and become attentive? How can he be saved from tyranny and become just? Through what process can he be saved from all these imperfections and vices and become enabled to acquire all the virtues?
Since he is ignorant of God, he must be put in touch with God. Since he is ignorant of the kingdom of God, he must be spiritually educated that he may be able to enter therein. This is the process for the purification of the human reality.
It is evident that a great power must rescue man from these impurities and cause him to attain higher degrees of development. This great power is that of the Holy Spirit. It is the divine power which transforms a stone into a diamond, which changes darkness into light, which saves man from the world of defects and enables him to attain the world of virtues. This is possible only through baptism by the Holy Spirit. All the manifestations of God have rescued man from the contamination of the world of darkness, and have caused him to gain the real purification through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Source: unpublished Manuscript of Ella Cooper)