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Many spiritual paths teach that God is everything and everywhere, and that therefore we are a part of God. This concept, sometimes known as pantheism, suggests that every force in the universe represents an aspect of God.
Throughout his writings, Baha’u’llah refers to Divine Unity – the unity between God and His creation. However, he characterizes this unity differently from the pantheism in most other religious thought. As Baha’u’llah mentions, some people
…have interpreted Divine Unity to mean that all created things are the signs of God, and that, consequently, there is no distinction whatsoever between them…that these signs are peers and partners with God Himself. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 187.
Baha’u’llah goes on to say that this can’t be true.
To start with, the Baha’i teachings describe God both as an Unknowable Essence and as the Creator of the universe. Baha’u’llah made an enormous distinction between God and His creation—saying that God is perfect and limitless and the material world is imperfect and has limitations. Baha’u’llah asks
… how can the Creator be likened unto His creatures, who are but as the script of His Pen? …how much loftier must be that Divine Essence that hath called them into being? – ibid, p. 187.
God exists. The world exists. But the Baha’i teachings clearly affirm that God’s reality is superior to the material reality which He created.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the material world God created is completely separate from Him. God is very much connected to His creation. As Baha’u’llah says, “…nothing whatsoever in the whole universe can be discovered that doth not reflect His splendor.” For Baha’is, believing in the Unity of God means recognizing “in each and every created thing the sign of the revelation of Him Who is the Eternal Truth.” This means everything that exists in the universe is a reflection of God. The mountains manifest His majesty, the sun portrays His power, the rain reflects His mercy.
But while everything is a sign of God, not everything is of equal value. “Can the sun,” Baha’u’llah questions, “be regarded as equal in rank to darkness?” In the Baha’i understanding of the world it cannot. The view that “all is one” seems to suggest that everything is of equal importance. But for Baha’is some things have a higher station than others. The plant exists in a higher plain in relation to the rock, the animal has a greater level of awareness than the plant, and the human–gifted with consciousness, rationality and free will–stands above them all.
Baha’is believe that among all the creations of God, the one that most manifests His spirit is the human heart. Baha’u’llah explains to us that “the heart is the throne, in which the Revelation of God the All-Merciful is centered.” This means that we can connect to God through our hearts, for this is where He abides. We do this when we pray, when we meditate, when we try to live a spiritually-motivated life, and when we engage in loving service to others.
Living life with this understanding of the world means that you try to see God in everything and everyone. With that vision of reality, the material world doesn’t just seem like a mass of lifeless matter–it becomes a landscape of divine splendor and beauty. The people you meet, no longer strangers or competitors or enemies, become your spiritual brothers and sisters on the same quest for spiritual growth and development.
On that quest, God’s spirit reveals itself to you in both the majesty of the outer world, and the hidden chambers of your own heart.
But while God’s spirit manifests itself in everything, His essence remains concealed. And while we may experience God’s love, we will never gain access to His core. God’s spirit is infused into His creation, but His essence is not. So while He remains connected to the universe, He also remains ever mysteriously transcendent from it. We, as inhabitants of this material plain, can never bridge that chasm. But why do we need to anyway? His light shines everywhere.
Baha’u’llah beckons us to open our inner eye and truly see creation:
God grant that, with a penetrating vision, thou mayest perceive, in all things, the sign of the revelation of Him Who is the Ancient King, and recognize how exalted and sanctified from the whole creation is that most holy and sacred Being. This, in truth, is the very root and essence of belief in the unity and singleness of God. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 191.