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Does God speak to us—and if so, how? Sooner or later, everyone has to address that big question in this life.
Every major religion answers yes to that question, with their holy books and scriptures as evidence that God definitely does speak to humanity.
But atheists and some agnostics answer no, saying that only human beings can speak, and that an invisible God is only a product of the human imagination.
Have you ever heard the voice of the Creator? Not in a Hollywood movie way, where a booming command issues forth from above—but instead, as that still, inner voice that guides your spiritual life?
Most people have experienced that inner voice. We variously call it our conscience, our intuition, our morality, or our higher self. We may think of it as something entirely internal, as an integral part of us, as the best expression of who we are.
But what if that still small voice inside each one of us isn’t just our higher self? What if it represents our connection to a higher power, our attraction to the beauty of the Great Mystery?
From a Baha’i perspective, our Creator speaks to people in several different ways. First and foremost, Baha’is believe, God speaks to humanity through the messengers, prophets and founders of Faith—the manifestations of God—who bring the sacred Word to us all:
… the holy Manifestations of God are the focal Centres of the light of truth, the Wellsprings of the hidden mysteries, and the Source of the effusions of divine love. They cast Their effulgence upon the realm of hearts and minds and bestow grace everlasting upon the world of the spirits. They confer spiritual life and shine with the splendour of inner truths and meanings. The enlightenment of the realm of thought proceeds from these Centres of light and Exponents of mysteries. Were it not for the grace of the revelation and instruction of those sanctified Beings, the world of souls and the realm of thought would become darkness upon darkness. Were it not for the sound and true teachings of those Exponents of mysteries, the human world would become the arena of animal characteristics and qualities, all existence would become a vanishing illusion, and true life would be lost. That is why it is said in the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word”; that is, it was the source of all life. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 184-185.
When you read the scriptures of the great Faiths, you hear the voices of God’s messengers. That’s one of the reasons Baha’is believe in progressive revelation:
Contemplate with thine inward eye the chain of successive Revelations … I testify before God that each one of these Manifestations hath been sent down through the operation of the Divine Will and Purpose, that each hath been the bearer of a specific Message, that each hath been entrusted with a divinely-revealed Book and been commissioned to unravel the mysteries of a mighty Tablet. The measure of the Revelation with which every one of them hath been identified had been definitely fore-ordained. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 74.
The fundamental principle enunciated by Baha’u’llah … is that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society…. – Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. v.
This essential concept, called progressive revelation, forms the central core of the Baha’i teachings. With it, Baha’is understand that all religions have a consistent through-line, a set of common spiritual principles, a single underlying reality. Rather than a one-time issuance of rules and commandments, progressive revelation implies that God conducts a continuing conversation with His creation, sending us a chain of divine guidance down through the centuries.
This unique view of religion offers us a new way to understand how God speaks to humanity. Instead of individual, siloed Faiths claiming exclusive access to spiritual truth, the Baha’i ideal of progressive revelation regards all of the world’s Faiths as chapters in one great Book. Instead of competition and conflict between belief systems, Baha’is see commonality and unity. Instead of focusing on the differences between Faiths, Baha’is focus on the truth they share.
Many people hear the cacophony of voices in religion, and dismiss it because those voices all seem to disagree, making it hard to hear any harmony. But the Baha’i teachings ask us to seek the song with the sweetest strains, understanding that God speaks to us through a spiritual symphony and not just one instrument:
Today there are many melodies; from every studio diverse strains are floated to our ears, but these tunes have become antiquated and covered with the rust of time. For thousands of years the same notes have been heard. They lack their original charm and purity, for the singers have grown old and decrepit and lost their voices. The song of life has lost its virility. From every direction melodies are sounded and we must needs have discriminating ears.
Let us seek the song with the sweetest strains, so that it may be taken up by the angels and carried to the supreme concourse. Let us hearken to the melody which will stir the world of humanity, so that the people may be transformed with joy.
Let us listen to a symphony which will confer life on man; then we can obtain universal results; then we shall receive a new spirit; then we shall become illumined. Let us investigate a song which is above all songs; one which will develop the spirit and produce harmony and exhilaration, unfolding the inner potentialities of life. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 77-78.