If you take a long walk through the history of humanity’s past, you’ll find it alive with spiritual teachers, divine prophets and heavenly messengers.
Every age and culture has a holy poet, a prophet of a more spiritual future, a light-bringer who calls people to a higher purpose, who shines in the heavens of human consciousness like a bright sun, who leads and guides human souls to peace, love, kindness and selfless service to humanity:
… men have always been taught and led by the Prophets of God. The Prophets of God are the Mediators of God. All the Prophets and Messengers have come from One Holy Spirit and bear the Message of God, fitted to the age in which they appear. The One Light is in them and they are One with each other. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 23.
More than any other message, this represents the central core principle of the Baha’i Faith—that all religions are one. Baha’is believe that the Creator has given humanity one continuous spiritual teaching over time, one interconnected system of belief and truth. Baha’is believe that single system, brought by prophets and messengers with different names from different places at different times in history, has one Source.
This view of human history, direct from the Baha’i writings, emphasizes the unity of the founders of the world’s Faiths, and their profound impact on humanity:
It is clear and evident to thee that all the Prophets are the Temples of the Cause of God, Who have appeared clothed in diverse attire. If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt behold Them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith. Such is the unity of those Essences of Being, those Luminaries of infinite and immeasurable splendor! – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 51.
What if, the Baha’i teachings ask, all of those prophets of God “are one with each other?” What if the messengers we’ve heard from through the centuries—Abraham, Krishna, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and now Baha’u’llah, the prophet of the Baha’i Faith and the most recent founder of a global religion—are one and the same?
Does that suggest some kind of reincarnation? No, the Baha’i teachings say. Instead, it suggests an essential, mystical connection between those divine messengers, a bond of unity that exists because they all reflect the same light from the same source:
If thou be of the inmates of this city within the ocean of divine unity, thou wilt view all the Prophets and Messengers of God as one soul and one body, as one light and one spirit, in such wise that the first among them would be last and the last would be first. For they have all arisen to proclaim His Cause and have established the laws of divine wisdom. They are, one and all, the Manifestations of His Self, the Repositories of His might, the Treasuries of His Revelation, the Dawning-Places of His splendour and the Daysprings of His light. Through them are manifested the signs of sanctity in the realities of all things and the tokens of oneness in the essences of all beings. Through them are revealed the elements of glorification in the heavenly realities and the exponents of praise in the eternal essences. From them hath all creation proceeded and unto them shall return all that hath been mentioned. And since in their inmost Beings they are the same Luminaries and the self-same Mysteries, thou shouldst view their outward conditions in the same light, that thou mayest recognize them all as one Being, nay, find them united in their words, speech, and utterance. – Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, pp. 32-34.
If the world could begin to comprehend the founders of all Faiths as one being, it would immediately stop the conflict, pain and misery religious disputes have caused. It would bring together beliefs, unite peoples and forge new bonds between nations. It would let us all see the commonality in our causes and the underlying shared truths in our most deeply-held hopes.
It would also allow us to see human history as a single great process of progressive revelation:
Among the bounties of God is revelation. Hence revelation is progressive and continuous. It never ceases. It is necessary that the reality of Divinity with all its perfections and attributes should become resplendent in the human world. The reality of Divinity is like an endless ocean. Revelation may be likened to the rain. Can you imagine the cessation of rain? Ever on the face of the earth somewhere rain is pouring down. Briefly, the world of existence is progressive. It is subject to development and growth ….
Therefore, Baha’u’llah appeared from the horizon of the Orient and reestablished the essential foundation of the religious teachings of the world. The worn-out traditional beliefs current among men were removed. He caused fellowship and agreement to exist between the representatives of varying denominations so that love became manifest among the contending religions. He created a condition of harmony among hostile sects and upheld the banner of the oneness of the world of humanity. He established the foundation for international peace, caused the hearts of nations to be cemented together and conferred new life upon the various peoples …. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 377-379.