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Sometime back, perhaps a few billion years ago, the Creator set in motion our universe and inaugurated a divine unfolding plan, a progressive evolutionary design.
We now know much of the physical part of that plan through our discovery of the Big Bang, the cosmic event which began about 14 billion years ago, inaugurating a progressive unfolding evolution of the known universe, all guided by physical laws.
We know the metaphysical part of the plan, as well, primarily through our unfolding human consciousness, which has enabled us to see the universe and our ongoing experience within it as divine, purposeful, and glorious.
Our consciousness reveals to us a conscious creative force who wants to be known, and who leaves tools and traces by which we can discover that Creator. Evolution itself is one such trace: it has a creational vector and purpose — to authorize and sustain life — and it assembles everything, however random, to accomplish that end. Human consciousness is another trace; through it we can to some degree know God and experience God’s workings around us.
The process of creation, however, did not end at the beginning. It has always been with us and has periodically erupted by producing fantastic new creations, physical and metaphysical — for the two are joined. Matter has never been without guiding laws, and together both have purpose. Everything is alive, unfolding, and continually involved in the ongoing systems of creation.
The Baha’i teachings point out that at the social level, God has also periodically breathed new life into humanity through the agency of His chosen ones – the evolutionary prophets, messengers, and divine educators who have founded our great Faiths. In a speech he gave at Washington, DC’s Universalist Church in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha summarized this ancient truth:
All the Prophets of God, including Jesus Christ, appeared in the world for the education of humanity, to develop immature souls into maturity, to transform the ignorant of mankind into the knowing, thereby establishing love and unity through divine education and training. The Prophets have not come to cause discord and enmity. For God has wished all good for His servants … The Prophets have appeared in this world with the mission that human souls may become the expressions of the Merciful, that they may be educated and developed, attain to love and amity and establish peace and agreement. …
The Prophets of God have come to show man the way of righteousness in order that he may not follow his own natural impulse but govern his action by the light of Their precept and example.
The history of humanity is largely the story of our responses to these divine breaths.
Hindus have responded to their rishis and avatars. The Buddha has directed Buddhists. Abraham and his descendants have moved Hebrews. Christians have responded to Jesus and Muslims to Muhammad. There were many other divine teachers, of course. Every people, God tells us in the Qur’an, have received a divine messenger. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:
There is none other God but Him. He hath called into being His creatures, that they may know Him, Who is the Compassionate, the All-Merciful. Unto the cities of all nations He hath sent His Messengers, Whom He hath commissioned to announce unto men tidings of the Paradise of His good pleasure, and to draw them nigh unto the Haven of abiding security, the Seat of eternal holiness and transcendent glory.
God has acted among us many times, and while the prophets’ teachings necessarily vary in different regions depending on the circumstances, the essential moral values required to build a God-conscious and progressive society have been remarkably congruent in all Faiths, as this series of essays has shown.
But God’s plan has never been just regional in scope. The plan all along has had planetary dimensions. All of the divine messengers have moved their followers from their place of origin ever outward, until now a global mixing has occurred. A new wind that touches all people can be discerned, gathering us together, causing us to question our separation and begging the question: What is afoot in this new global age?
In the next essay in this series, we’ll explore that important question and examine what the Baha’i teachings have to tell us about the answers.