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What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. – Ecclesiastes 1:9.
By law of periodical repetition, everything which has happened once must happen again and again—and not capriciously, but at regular periods, and each thing in its own period, not another’s and each obeying its own law. – Mark Twain
That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The great poet Longfellow’s description of a fountain as a metaphor of life resonates deeply with the Baha’i concept of an everlasting fountain of faith:
Just as in the physical world there are four seasons, in the world of religion there is also a divine spring season and spiritual springtime. When the divine outpourings cease, the trees of existence lose their freshness, and lack of life prevails on the farms, then it is like winter. The souls become depressed and low; the country of the hearts becomes choked with weeds and thorns; not a rose and not a flower; no beauty, no charm, and no pleasure. Therefore, the divine springtime starts again. This is the divine law and the requirement of the creative world; this is the cause of the continuous appearance of the Holy Manifestations and the renewal of religious laws and ordinances. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 9, p. 381.
This never-ending cycle of death and renewal—the basis of all natural ecology—repeats itself in every pattern of existence. From the cellular level to the creation and death of the stars, all life forms a complete circle; and in that circle we find our own spiritual destiny:
Whatever there is in the world of contingency is a symbol of the spiritual world; whatever there is on the earth is a symbol of heavenly things. For example: In the spiritual world there is the light of guidance, in the outer world there is the lamp, its symbol. In the divine world there is love, symbolized in the material world by magnetism. So there are four seasons in the perishable outer world—spring, which brings the vegetables, refreshes the animals, and promises fruits; summer, which charges the trees with fruits; then follows the autumn, after which comes the winter when the trees are bare and empty. Such is the condition of the spiritual world which has its four seasons—spring, summer, autumn and winter.
When Jesus Christ appeared, it was the last days of the winter time when the people, who are the trees of the divine garden, were deprived of their fruits; that is, of their divine characteristics and divine moralities. As nature needs a springtime to revive the trees, so the spiritual nature needs a springtime to fill the garden with flowers and fruits. It was through the manifestation of Jesus Christ that this spiritual springtime began. Summer followed with its fruits and later autumn came. Winter followed and the trees were naked; that is, the people were without their divine qualities. So again, it became necessary that a new springtime should come. …
Christ himself said that whatever happened in the cycle of Moses would occur again in his time. Therefore these occurrences were repeated… The last spring gave out its benefits, and summer, autumn, and winter followed. If a new spring did not come to the world everything would die. In every springtime there will be repeated what has happened in previous spring times. – Table talks with Abdu’l-Baha, from the notes of Mrs. Winterburn, Star of the West, Volume 9, p. 104.
Baha’is believe that natural repetition—the eternal and everlasting fountain of faith—gives humanity a new prophet of God, a manifestation of grace and power, when we most need the guidance:
Each one of the luminous bodies in this limitless firmament has a cycle of revolution which is of a different duration, and every one revolves in its own orbit, and again begins a new cycle. So the earth, every three hundred and sixty-five days, five hours, forty-eight minutes and a fraction, completes a revolution; and then it begins a new cycle, that is to say, the first cycle is again renewed. In the same way, for the whole universe, whether for the heavens or for men, there are cycles of great events, of important facts and occurrences. When a cycle is ended, a new cycle begins, and the old one, on account of the great events which take place, is completely forgotten, and not a trace or record of it will remain. As you see, we have no records of twenty thousand years ago, although we have before proved by argument that life on this earth is very ancient. It is not one hundred thousand, or two hundred thousand, or one million or two million years old; it is very ancient, and the ancient records and traces are entirely obliterated.
Each of the Divine Manifestations has likewise a cycle, and during the cycle his laws and commandments prevail and are performed. When his cycle is completed by the appearance of a new Manifestation, a new cycle begins. In this way cycles begin, end, and are renewed, until a universal cycle is completed in the world, when important events and great occurrences will take place which entirely efface every trace and every record of the past; then a new universal cycle begins in the world, for this universe has no beginning. We have before stated proofs and evidences concerning this subject; there is no need of repetition.
Briefly, we say a universal cycle in the world of existence signifies a long duration of time, and innumerable and incalculable periods and epochs. In such a cycle the Manifestations appear with splendor in the realm of the visible, until a great and universal Manifestation makes the world the center of his radiance. His appearance causes the world to attain to maturity, and the extension of his cycle is very great. Afterwards other Manifestations will arise under his shadow, who according to the needs of the time will renew certain commandments relating to material questions and affairs, while remaining under his shadow.
Next: Living in a New Cycle of Human Power