09 September 2009

Recognition of the Manifestation of God: Event or Process?

Some are inclined to think of recognizing the Manifestation of God (aka becoming a Baha’i) as an event. One might hear people talking about, “the day I became a Baha’i,” “the moment she caught the spark of faith,” “the point at which I realized Baha’u’llah was from God,” etc. Others are inclined to think of it as a process, that it is the journey of a soul over a span of time. For example, one might hear that when we first commit ourselves to Baha’u’llah we can rarely have much more than a dim vision of what that might mean, inasmuch as in the course of life in this world we can only catch a glimmer of the import of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation.

I’d like to see what are some of y’all’s thoughts on this topic.

I, for one, tend to think of recognition as a momentary act that happens whenever a soul is touched by the Manifestation of God. The Writings use a number of images to describe this: gazing on the Beloved, catching the fragrance of His garment, hearing the call of God, etc. It can happen when praying, when reading the Writings, when receiving Anna’s Presentation, and in many other ways. We might say that there is a first time that this happens. But qualitatively there isn’t a great deal of difference between that and the fruits of routine practices like obligatory prayer. Every time we recognize the Manifestation of God we are influenced to some degree. The process of one’s spiritual development is the aggregate effect of a multiplicity of such moments. In order to sustain one’s spiritual progress, a person must constantly renew her recognition of the Manifestation of God.


  1. Shoghi Effendi describes attraction, conversion, and consecration as the steps to becoming a Baha'i, in that order. That indicates a moment of conversion, but much more to go.

    Baha'u'llah says that our goal is to recognize the Manifestation of God, and follow His laws and teachings. Recognition and obedience go together. Since nobody can perfectly adhere to the teachings, then nobody fully recognizes the Manifestation of God. It is a phenomena that comes in degrees.

  2. I don't have anything new to say here. Ryan pointed me to 'Abdu'l Baha's writings on the difference between objective and subjective faith. I think the kind of recognition you are talking about Greg is objective recognition, according to his definition. Subjectively then, we have all recognized the manifestation to some degree because we are alive in this time. A lot of people I have met seem to sense that there is something special going on right now, even if they haven't recognized the person of Baha'u'llah

    "Thou hast written of a verse in the Gospels, asking if at the time of Christ all souls did hear His call. Know that faith is of two kinds. The first is objective faith that is expressed by the outer man, obedience of the limbs and senses. The other faith is subjective, and unconscious obedience to the will of God. There is no doubt that, in the day of a Manifestation such as Christ, all contingent beings possessed subjective faith and had unconscious obedience to His Holiness Christ.
    For all parts of the creational world are of one whole. Christ the Manifestor reflecting the divine Sun represented the whole. All the parts are subordinate and obedient to the whole. The contingent beings are the branches of the tree of life while the Messenger of God is the root of that tree. The branches, leaves and fruit are dependent for their existence upon the root of the tree of life. This condition of unconscious obedience constitutes subjective faith. But the discerning faith that consists of true knowledge of God and the comprehension of divine words, of such faith there is very little in any age. That is why His Holiness Christ said to His followers, “Many are called but few are chosen.”"

  3. Sorry, I forgot to reference the quote:

    Bahá’í World Faith—Selected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Section Only)
    Author: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Source: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1976 edition Pages: 449

  4. Bryan,

    I've heard Mr. Nakhjavani talk about those three things you mention but never read it in any of the Guardian's writings. Can you provide a reference?

  5. I had to look it up. It was from pilgrim's notes by Ramona Brown, referring to a talk by Shoghi Effendi...

    "There are three processes in teaching: the first is to attract the people; the second is to convert the people; and the third is to be consecrated. There must be attraction, conversion, and consecration."

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  7. Shoghi Effendi describes teaching and embracing the Faith in term of both a process and event as well, in Advent of Divine Justice, that many of us know very well from it being quoted in Ruhi Book 6. I quote most of it here (Note: the numbering system is my own interpretation; I've seen others):

    Having on his own initiative, and undaunted by any hindrances with which either friend or foe may, unwittingly or deliberately, obstruct his path, resolved to arise and respond to the call of teaching, let him carefully consider every avenue of approach which he might utilize in his personal attempts to 1) capture the attention, 2) maintain the interest, 3) and deepen the faith, of those whom he seeks to bring into the fold of his Faith. Let him survey the possibilities which the particular circumstances in which he lives offer him... means whereby he can 4) enlist successively the sympathy, 5) the support, and 6) ultimately the allegiance of those with whom he comes in contact. ...Let him consider the degree of his hearer's receptivity, and decide for himself the suitability of either the direct or indirect method of teaching, whereby he can 5) impress upon the seeker the vital importance of the Divine Message, and 6) persuade him to throw in his lot with those who have already embraced it. Let him remember the example set by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and His constant admonition to shower such kindness upon the seeker, and exemplify to such a degree the spirit of the teachings he hopes to instill into him, that the recipient will be spontaneously impelled to identify himself with the Cause embodying such teachings. Let him refrain, at the outset, from insisting on such laws and observances as might impose too severe a strain on the 6) seeker's newly awakened faith, and 7) endeavor to nurse him, patiently, tactfully, and yet determinedly, into full maturity, and aid him to 8) proclaim his unqualified acceptance of whatever has been ordained by Bahá'u'lláh. 9) Let him, as soon as that stage has been attained, introduce him to the body of his fellow-believers, and seek, through constant fellowship and active participation in the local activities of his community, to 10) enable him to contribute his share to the enrichment of its life, the furtherance of its tasks, the consolidations of its interests, and the coordination of its activities with those of its sister communities. 12) Let him not be content until he has infused into his spiritual child so deep a longing as to impel him to arise independently, in his turn, and devote his energies to the quickening of other souls, and the upholding of the laws and principles laid down by his newly adopted Faith.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 51-52)