The Revelation which, from time immemorial, hath been acclaimed as the Purpose and Promise of all the Prophets of God, and the most cherished Desire of His Messengers, hath now, by virtue of the pervasive Will of the Almighty and at His irresistible bidding, been revealed unto men. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 4.
This claim—completely shocking to some, rejected by others and recognized as true by the world’s Baha’is—announced the arrival in 1863 of a new messenger of God, Baha’u’llah.
This vital claim forms the central message of the Baha’i Faith: that a new spiritual springtime has dawned. Once again, Baha’is believe, the world has witnessed the galvanizing advent of a messenger of God, who brings a new set of teachings to humanity. Like Moses or Buddha or Christ, this new prophet raises the call of God and asks us to look toward its mystical light.
However, Baha’u’llah leaves it up to each individual to decide whether or not his claim is real:
Furthermore, know ye that God has created in man the power of reason whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to blindly imitate his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind or the faculty of reasoning by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth; and that which he finds real and true, he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, pp. 73-74.
The Baha’i Faith has no clergy—instead, Baha’u’llah urged everyone to independently investigate his teachings, his station and his claims, and decide for themselves whether or not to accept them. Baha’is don’t force their faith on others, proselytize the Baha’i teachings or insist that anyone else believe them. Instead, the call of Baha’u’llah resounds gently, quietly and peacefully, asking humanity to consider, ponder and meditate on its claims:
The time foreordained unto the peoples and kindreds of the earth is now come. The promises of God, as recorded in the holy Scriptures, have all been fulfilled. Out of Zion hath gone forth the Law of God, and Jerusalem, and the hills and land thereof, are filled with the glory of His Revelation. Happy is the man that pondereth in his heart that which hath been revealed in the Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Meditate upon this, O ye beloved of God, and let your ears be attentive unto His Word, so that ye may, by His grace and mercy, drink your fill from the crystal waters of constancy, and become as steadfast and immovable as the mountain in His Cause. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 12-13.
So now that you’ve heard about this new revelation, you’re faced with an important question: is it true?
Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah and the leader of the Baha’i Faith after Baha’u’llah’s passing, gave this advice: “Search for truth. Seek the realities in all religions. Put aside all superstitions.” – Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 62.
Baha’is firmly believe that every person should undertake their own independent search for the truth, and make their decisions based not on tradition or inheritance or culture, but based on what rings true in the mind, heart and soul:
The word of truth no matter which tongue utters it must be sanctioned. Absolute verities no matter in what book they be recorded must be accepted. If we harbor prejudice it will be the cause of deprivation and ignorance. The strife between religions, nations and races arises from misunderstanding. If we investigate the religions to discover the principles underlying their foundations we will find they agree, for the fundamental reality of them is one and not multiple. By this means the religionists of the world will reach their point of unity and reconciliation. They will ascertain the truth that the purpose of religion is the acquisition of praiseworthy virtues, betterment of morals, spiritual development of mankind, the real life and divine bestowals. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 15.
Regardless of where the truth comes from, it is still the truth. But how do you determine what’s true and what’s false? The Baha’i teachings say the first step involves abandoning the prejudices of tradition:
If a man would succeed in his search after truth, he must, in the first place, shut his eyes to all the traditional superstitions of the past.
The Jews have traditional superstitions, the Buddhists and the Zoroastrians are not free from them, neither are the Christians! All religions have gradually become bound by tradition and dogma.
All consider themselves, respectively, the only guardians of the truth, and that every other religion is composed of errors. They themselves are right, all others are wrong! The Jews believe that they are the only possessors of the truth and condemn all other religions. The Christians affirm that their religion is the only true one, that all others are false. Likewise the Buddhists and Muhammadans; all limit themselves. If all condemn one another, where shall we search for truth? All contradicting one another, all cannot be true. If each believe his particular religion to be the only true one, he blinds his eyes to the truth in the others. If, for instance, a Jew is bound by the external practice of the religion of Israel, he does not permit himself to perceive that truth can exist in any other religion; it must be all contained in his own!
We should, therefore, detach ourselves from the external forms and practices of religion. We must realize that these forms and practices, however beautiful, are but garments clothing the warm heart and the living limbs of Divine truth. We must abandon the prejudices of tradition if we would succeed in finding the truth at the core of all religions. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 135-136.
In the next essay in this series, we’ll examine ten central teachings Baha’u’llah gave to the world.