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Do we human beings completely control our own destinies? Does our fate ultimately rest in our hands?
Whether we consider the story of Adam and his choice to eat the forbidden fruit, or the ancient story of Gilgamesh, it seems that man has always thought he held his destiny in his own hands—which many people also think today.
But if we believe in a Supreme Being—which most of us do, in some form or fashion—we might understand, as the Baha’i teachings say, that our Creator has a crucial role in the fate of every living creature:
Fate and predestination consist in the necessary and indispensable relationships which exist in the realities of things. These relationships have been placed in the realities of existent beings through the power of creation and every incident is a consequence of the necessary relationship. For example, God hath created a relation between the sun and the terrestrial globe that the rays of the sun should shine and the soil should yield. These relationships constitute predestination, and the manifestation thereof in the plane of existence is fate. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 198.
Typically, most people believe in a Creator because they accept the teachings of one of the prophets in the line of holy messengers and teachers stretching all the way from Adam to the present day. These divine interlocutors—such as Buddha, Moses, Christ, Muhammad and in our time, Baha’u’llah—bring the teachings of God, and His will, to humanity from age to age. When we follow the teachings of one of those prophets, we call ourselves by that name.
The Baha’i teachings say the social teachings and traditions of each messenger may differ, but their light is the same, all emanating from one source:
The individual realities of the holy Manifestations [messengers of God] cannot be separated from divine grace and revelation any more than the corporeal mass of the sun can be separated from its light. Thus the ascension [or death] of the holy Manifestations is simply the abandonment of Their elemental bodies. For example, consider the lamp that lights this niche. Its rays may cease to fall upon the niche if the latter is destroyed, but there is no interruption in the bounty of the lamp itself. The pre-existent grace of the holy Manifestations is even as the light, Their individual realities as the glass globe, and Their human temples as the niche: If the niche is destroyed, the lamp continues to burn. The Manifestations of God are like so many different mirrors, as They each have Their own distinct individuality, but that which is reflected in these mirrors is one and the same sun. Thus, it is evident that the reality of Christ is different from that of Moses. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 225-226.
Using this metaphor, humanity has become attached to the mirrors and not to the sun, failing to separate spiritual reality from physical reality. Calling ourselves a Christian or a Buddhist or a Muslim, then, can separate us from the rest of humankind, if we allow our beliefs to do so.
But from a Baha’i perspective, God in His wisdom has always—and will always—have a divine strategic plan for humanity. He has fulfilled and will continue to fulfill a major part of it: sending a progressive, linked succession of divine messengers to reveal His will for the time and age in which they appear.
Once we accept the fact that all of these prophets and messengers speak with the same voice and utter the same essential words, we will educate ourselves as to their unity rather than fight over what we see as their differences.
Humanity shares the same source of being. In the words of Baha’u’llah, we were all created “from the same dust” so that “no one should exalt himself over the other.” – The Hidden Words, p. 20. The Baha’i teachings assure us that we were all created in the spiritual likeness of God, and we all have a part to play in humanity’s life and well-being—both in this world and in the worlds to come after this life. In other words, each one of us plays a significant part in our Creator’s strategic plan.
Why do Baha’is believe this? Because history has shown us that ultimately the prophets and messengers of God are the true leaders of humanity, whose teachings form the basis for massive, long-lasting civilizations centuries after their passing.