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Exploring the Multiple Ways the Prophets Speak to Us

Christopher Buck | Oct 10, 2022

PART 73 IN SERIES Figuring Out Prophecy

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Christopher Buck | Oct 10, 2022

PART 73 IN SERIES Figuring Out Prophecy

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Do the divine prophets and messengers speak to humanity in different ways, modes, or manners? If they do, how can we think about and categorize those different kinds of communication?

In previous essays in this series, I proposed a typology, or classification system, of Baha’u’llah’s writings, based on Baha’u’llah’s own statement: “We have revealed Our verses in nine different modes.” 

Baha’u’llah, when asked as to what these “nine modes” of revelation really are, told the questioner: “Let Jinab-i-Zayn, upon him be My glory, meditate thereon, that he may attain his goal” (provisional translation by Adib Masumian). So Baha’u’llah himself encouraged reflection on this question, and invited investigation and meditation on what these nine modes might be. 

In the previous essay (Part 71), I promised to provide some concrete examples from Baha’u’llah’s last book, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Here are the first four proofs of concept for your consideration: 

1. Mystical Compositions: The Seven Valleys, which Baha’u’llah revealed in Baghdad sometime around 1856, has been represented as Baha’u’llah’s foremost mystical work. In Baha’u’llah’s last major book, the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, an example of a “mystical” passage is difficult to find, whereas exemplars of the other eight of Baha’u’llah’s “nine modes” of revelation are fairly easy to identify. That said, the following passage from Epistle may provide an instance where Baha’u’llah refers back to his past discourses on the mystical quest:

The utterance of God is a lamp, whose light is these words: Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He Who is the Daystar of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. The One true God, He Who knoweth all things, Himself testifieth to the truth of these words.

Exert yourselves that ye may attain this transcendent and most sublime station, the station that can insure the protection and security of all mankind. This goal excelleth every other goal, and this aspiration is the monarch of all aspirations. So long, however, as the thick clouds of oppression, which obscure the daystar of justice, remain undispelled, it would be difficult for the glory of this station to be unveiled to men’s eyes. These thick clouds are the exponents of idle fancies and vain imaginings, who are none other but the divines of Persia. At one time We spoke in the language of the lawgiver; at another in that of the truth-seeker and the mystic, and yet Our supreme purpose and highest wish hath always been to disclose the glory and sublimity of this station. God, verily, is a sufficient witness!

2. Doctrinal Writings: Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, referred to Baha’u’llah’s Book of Certitude as the preeminent Baha’i doctrinal text. Here is another “doctrinal” passage from Baha’u’llah’s Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, which, by the way, refers back to The Book of Certitude:

In all the Divine Books the promise of the Divine Presence hath been explicitly recorded. By this Presence is meant the Presence of Him Who is the Dayspring of the signs, and the Dawning-Place of the clear tokens, and the Manifestation of the Excellent Names, and the Source of the attributes, of the true God, exalted be His glory. God in His Essence and in His own Self hath ever been unseen, inaccessible, and unknowable. By Presence, therefore, is meant the Presence of the One Who is His Vicegerent amongst men. He, moreover, hath never had, nor hath He, any peer or likeness. For were He to have any peer or likeness, how could it then be demonstrated that His being is exalted above, and His essence sanctified from, all comparison and likeness? Briefly, there hath been revealed in the Kitab-i-Iqan (Book of Certitude) concerning the Presence and Revelation of God that which will suffice the fair-minded. We beseech Him—exalted be He—to aid every one to become the essence of truthfulness, and to draw nigh unto Him. He, verily, is the Lord of strength and power. No God is there but Him, the All-Hearing, the Lord of Utterance, the Almighty, the All-Praised.

3. Ethical Writings: In Part 71, The Hidden Words was cited as Baha’u’llah’s foremost ethical work. That said, there are other outstanding examples as well, such as Baha’u’llah’s advice to one of his sons, revealed in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf:

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer to the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.

See also: “A Prophet’s Advice to His Sons,” https://bahaiteachings.org/prophets-advice-to-his-sons/.

4. Proclamation: In Part 71, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, revealed in Adrianople/Edirne and Akka/Acre, September 1867 to 1873, was cited as the best collection of Baha’u’llah’s proclamations to the leaders of the world in his day and age. Here’s a proclamation that Baha’u’llah includes in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, addressed to Napoleon III, the emperor of France at that time:

Give ear, O King, unto the Voice that calleth from the Fire which burneth in this verdant Tree, on this Sinai which hath been raised above the hallowed and snow-white Spot, beyond the Everlasting City; ‘Verily, there is none other God but Me, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful!’ We, in truth, have sent Him Whom We aided with the Holy Spirit (Jesus Christ) that He may announce unto you this Light that hath shone forth from the horizon of the will of your Lord, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, and Whose signs have been revealed in the West. Set your faces towards Him (Baha’u’llah), on this Day which God hath exalted above all other days, and whereon the All-Merciful hath shed the splendor of His effulgent glory upon all who are in heaven and all who are on earth. Arise thou to serve God and help His Cause. He, verily, will assist thee with the hosts of the seen and unseen, and will set thee king over all that whereon the sun riseth. Thy Lord, in truth, is the All-Powerful, the Almighty.

See also: “The Eschatology of Globalization: The Multiple Messiahship of Baha’u’llah Revisited,” https://bahai-library.com/buck_eschatology_globalization.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll examine and offer examples for the other five of Baha’u’llah’s modes of revelation.

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