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The Biblical gospel according to John opens with a mysterious and often misunderstood passage: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In chapter fourteen of this same gospel we find, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth”.
What beginning is this passage referring to? How can the Word be both with God and also God? And how can the Word be made flesh?
The Baha’i teachings say that existence itself has no beginning. Scientists estimate that “the Big Bang” occurred some 14 billion years ago, but a probing question remains: what existed before that moment?
With a little deductive reasoning, we soon realize that life itself cannot possibly have a beginning, because if existence has a beginning, then we must contemplate the possibility of existence emerging from non-existence. This is not possible; indeed, non-existence is inconceivable.
With this understanding, we can approach the opening passage of the gospel of John from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. In that way we might be able to perceive its subtle meaning, to unravel its mystery and grasp its eternal truth.
Think about it this way: “In the beginning” refers to that eternal reality beyond time, a reality that transcends all creation, is changeless and placeless, and yet is the very essence and source of all that exists or can ever exists. Beyond time and space, beyond here or there, beyond up or down, hot or cold–beyond any duality or form there exists the “I am,” the single, indivisible, omnipresent, unfathomable “Word.” Within the absolute realm of the eternal “I am”, the Word exists without any need of expression or vocalization. It just is.
In order for the Word to be fully expressed or revealed within the material realm–the realm of form and matter–the Word must manifest through a human form. When the Word expresses itself through a human form, it also remains eternally in its absolute condition beyond time, form and space. The Word, when it manifests through a human form, is, relatively speaking, both God in an absolute state beyond time; and also with “God” in its relative and time-bound conditional human form.
Christians believe this phenomena happened only once in history, in the human form of Jesus Christ. Baha’is understand the phenomena of the Word becoming flesh (i.e. manifesting through a human form) to be, like the rising and setting of the sun, an ongoing process that began before recorded history and will continue so long as human beings inhabit the earth.
Baha’u’llah–who Baha’is believe manifests the Word of God for this day–wrote:
The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace… hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence.
These sanctified Mirrors, these Day Springs of ancient glory, are, one and all, the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of Divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the Light that can never fade…. These Tabernacles of Holiness, these Primal Mirrors which reflect the light of unfading glory, are but expressions of Him Who is the Invisible of the Invisibles. By the revelation of these Gems of Divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty, and grace, are made manifest. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 47.
Baha’i historian and author Hasan M. Balyuzi sheds light on the phenomena of the “Word becoming flesh:”
The Manifestations of God are the ‘Word (of God) made flesh.’ They reveal God to man. Through Them and by Them man comes to know God, and learns the purpose of God. It is only through His Manifestations that God can be known. In Them nothing can be seen but the glory and the power, the majesty and the will of the Godhead. Jesus said that whoever had seen Him had seen the Father, he who had known Him had known God. Every road to the Creator of the universe is barred, save that through His Manifestations, through those divine Figures, those exalted Beings Whom we know as the Founders of the religions of mankind. Therefore Jesus said: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. – The Word Made Flesh, chapter 2.
The opening passages of the book of John, in language at once illustrious and poetic, reveal to us an eternal and universal truth: God, the eternal Essence and the Source of all that is, manifests the light of truth to humankind through the agency of a chosen human temple from age to age in order to “dwell among us” and to guide humankind to the truth that sets our hearts and minds free.
Nothing then need divide us; not geography, history, race, class, culture or beliefs. In reality we are one, because our essence, who we are beneath the mental form of “me” or “I,” comes from a single, timeless and placeless eternal source—the Word. If we reflect with open hearts and minds upon the nature of our common existence, unencumbered by conditioning that leads us to perceive others as fundamentally different from us, we would collectively embrace the Word of God as spiritual sisters and brothers.