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Yes, the world has problems, but we humans continually work on them – casting aside slavery, getting women their rights, protecting children, preventing wars, and doing our best to address injustice.
We act, guided by some invisible directive woven, as it were, into our DNA. We want a better, more just and peaceful world, and we bend our efforts toward that vision of human goodness. Given enough perspective and wisdom, we can know what is right and work to bring it about. This drive comes from an inborn knowledge that provides evidence of a divine unfolding plan, and hence for the existence of One who put it there: the Creator.
This is not simply Darwinian evolution. No reasonable person can deny the importance and effect of random changes and natural selection in our world. Biological entities evolve, but the system as a whole determines if new creations remain stable.
Random change alone does not animate and drive us. Our human progress, though greatly influenced by random biological and evolutionary processes, occurs because of the meaning we find in it. We are actors in a cause seeking perfection. We are seekers looking for progress in what lies hidden – but can be found. This is not random. We try to bring into being corrections or improvements in the quality of life. Further, our discoveries resonate; they stir our being, and bring us happiness – as if we have found a trace of God and the divine plan. It is not just survival that motivates us; it’s the search for and discovery of meaning, purpose and hidden order.
Meaning is more than survival. It is communion with the Being we find in our selves, in others, and in the universe. It is finding that we are not just bodies and that we are connected in a holy, creative, and unfolding process. The Baha’i teachings say that this divine force drives all of us, consciously or not:
Reflect on the divine forces. What has assembled us together? It is not a material but a spiritual force which has created this bond between our hearts, this attraction and affection for one another – a power stronger than reason, a power which founds nations, creates human unity and makes us renounce the world to discover sciences and organize laws which work through all creatures. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 96.
Skeptics may argue that I am merely writing in meaning where none exists, or ascribing divine meaning to things that require no such attribution. But this denies the value of the experience of found meaning and living a life in harmony with the divine plan. Is this meaning illusion? It’s hard to prove it is not. But the experience of meaning in our lives is real enough – indeed it is transformative. So to me, the discovery of a progressive meaningful and harmonizing force in life is proof enough that there is a God and a divine plan.
That’s why my next rational proof is short – it concerns the joy we feel in the praise of God. This joyousness seems to me like the mark of a Creator who wants to be known and loved, and has thus engineered a system which rewards us with happiness and faith when we do:
Wherefore, O beloved of the Lord, strive ye with heart and soul to receive a share of His holy attributes and take your portion of the bounties of His sanctity – that ye may become the tokens of unity, the standards of singleness, and seek out the meaning of oneness; that ye may, in this garden of God, lift up your voices and sing the blissful anthems of the spirit. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 11.
How full and right it feels to recite beautiful prayers, to sing God’s praise, and recount evidence of God’s plan. Even a shy person like me is moved sometimes to sing about God. None of this is to say that people of religion can do no wrong. They certainly can and do. But the wrong they do doesn’t last, if it is not true to the plan – and the good they do builds the social structures that sustain us.
Finally, as you may know, I find prophecy a powerful proof of the Creator’s activity throughout human history. The Baha’i teachings make a very convincing case for the continuity and unity of all the prophets and founders of the world’s great Faiths. But as I’ve written about that elsewhere (Thy Kingdom Come, Kalimat Press), I won’t say more here, save that prophecy, and much of scripture, presents God’s plan as a vector carrying us forward in history. When I see the words of prophecy materialize in history, it strengthens my belief in a God who acts in historical time and who, through prophecy, tells us how:
It was the Divine Light which enabled the prophets to see two thousand years in advance what was going to take place and today we see the realization of their vision. Thus it is this Light which we must strive to seek, for it is greater than any other.
It was by this Light that Moses was enabled to see and comprehend the Divine Appearance, and to hear the Heavenly Voice which spoke to him from the Burning Bush.
It is of this Light Muhammad is speaking when he says, “Allah is the light of the Heavens, and of the Earth.”
Seek with all your hearts this Heavenly Light, so that you may be enabled to understand the realities, that you may know the secret things of God, that the hidden ways may be made plain before your eyes. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 69-70.
In the end, however, as I’ve said, all logical proofs of the existence of a Creator and a creative plan have their limits. Human logic and reason, after all, can’t possibly encompass everything, because, being human, logic has the same limitations people do. We require something else to find faith, some help, assistance and guidance from a higher power. In the next essay in this series, I’ll try to explain.