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God leaves not His children comfortless, but, when the darkness of winter overshadows them, then again He sends His Messengers, the Prophets, with a renewal of the blessed spring. The Sun of Truth appears again on the horizon of the world shining into the eyes of those who sleep, awaking them to behold the glory of a new dawn. Then again will the tree of humanity blossom and bring forth the fruit of righteousness for the healing of the nations. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 33.
The natural seasonal cycles in the world, the Baha’i teachings suggest, symbolize the cycles of faith. Religion, like every other life force, constantly regenerates:
The resuscitation or rebirth of the spirit of man is through the science of the love of God. It is through the efficacy of the water of life. This life and quickening is the regeneration of the phenomenal world. After the coming of the spiritual springtime, the falling of the vernal showers, the shining of the Sun of Reality, the blowing of the breezes of perfection, all phenomena become imbued with the life of a new creation and are reformed in the process of a new genesis. Reflect upon the material springtime. When winter comes, the trees are leafless, the fields and meadows withered, the flowers die away into dustheaps; in prairie, mountain and garden no freshness lingers, no beauty is visible, no verdure can be seen. Everything is clad in the robe of death. Wherever you look around, you will find the expression of death and decay. But when the spring comes, the showers descend, the sun floods the meadows and plains with light; you will observe creation clad in a new robe of expression. The showers have made the meadows green and verdant. The warm breezes have caused the trees to put on their garments of leaves. They have blossomed and soon will produce new, fresh and delightful fruits. Everything appears endowed with a newness of life; a new animus and spirit is everywhere visible. The spring has resuscitated all phenomena and has adorned the earth with beauty as it willeth.
Even so is the spiritual springtime when it comes. When the holy, divine Manifestations or Prophets appear in the world, a cycle of radiance, an age of mercy dawns. Everything is renewed. Minds, hearts and all human forces are reformed, perfections are quickened, sciences, discoveries and investigations are stimulated afresh, and everything appertaining to the virtues of the human world is revitalized. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 277-278.
This revelatory cycle, repeated every millennium or so throughout history, has held true for each era of human development. Adam, Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Christ and Muhammad each revived civilization, created new cultures and gave new life to a dormant world. In indigenous cultures everywhere, divine messengers brought moral and spiritual guidance. They each brought a new teaching, manifesting a renewed message from the Creator and carrying it to humanity.
We have no idea when it all began, since our recorded history only started six thousand years ago, but since the origin story of all Abrahamic religions begins with Adam, or the First Man, we can think of the initial messenger of God that way:
From the days of Adam until today, the religions of God have been made manifest, one following the other, and each one of them fulfilled its due function, revived mankind, and provided education and enlightenment. They freed the people from the darkness of the world of nature and ushered them into the brightness of the Kingdom. As each succeeding Faith and Law became revealed it remained for some centuries a richly fruitful tree and to it was committed the happiness of humankind. However, as the centuries rolled by, it aged, it flourished no more and put forth no fruit, wherefore was it then made young again. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 51-52.
The word “Adam” comes from the Hebrew word āḏām that means “human,” and is the masculine form of adamah, which means “ground” or “earth.” The progenitor of humanity, Adam stands for all of us: “Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam …” – Genesis 5:2.
Many Faiths, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith, consider Adam a prophet, since he spoke directly with God and ushered in a new era of human growth and development.
Does the story of Adam and Eve, then, tell a true tale? According to the Baha’i writings, the creation story told in Genesis contains its truth in the allegory it presents:
The account of Adam and Eve, their eating from the tree, and their expulsion from Paradise are therefore symbols and divine mysteries. They have all-embracing meanings and marvellous interpretations…
…by “Adam” is meant the spirit of Adam and by “Eve” is meant His self. For in certain passages of the Sacred Scriptures where women are mentioned, the intended meaning is the human self… When once the self and spirit of Adam entered the material world, He departed from the paradise of freedom and descended into the realm of bondage. He had abided in the heights of sanctity and absolute goodness, and set foot thereafter in the world of good and evil. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised version, pp. 138-139.
These kinds of creation or origin myths tell symbolic stories describing how the universe and its inhabitants came to exist. All cultures have them. In many ancient African societies, for example, the first man and first woman encounter a tree of knowledge and a snake—and those traditional oral histories precede Genesis by thousands of years.
According to Baha’u’llah, this holy cycle, the progressive prophetic revelation of religion, represents the eternal spiritual springtime of human life:
…they Who are the Luminaries of truth and the Mirrors reflecting the light of divine Unity, in whatever age and cycle they are sent down from their invisible habitations of ancient glory unto this world, to educate the souls of men and endue with grace all created things, are invariably endowed with an all-compelling power, and invested with invincible sovereignty. – The Book of Certitude, p. 97.
Next: The Everlasting Fountain of Faith
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(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian ...to an individual believer, November 25, 1948: Bahá’í News, No. 232, p. 8, June 1950)