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As we ascend the Chain of Being, from mineral to plant to animal to human, we find ever more complex creations—yet nothing in material creation is more complex than a human being.
Indeed, because of this complexity, which allows for the associative relationship of the human body and mind with the human soul—the ability to have self consciousness and abstract thought—the human being alone is capable of manifesting all spiritual attributes, and of fulfilling the tradition of what the Baha’i teachings call “the hidden Treasure:”
Lauded be Thy name, O Lord my God! I testify that Thou wast a hidden Treasure wrapped within Thine immemorial Being and an impenetrable Mystery enshrined in Thine own Essence. Wishing to reveal Thyself, Thou didst call into being the Greater and the Lesser Worlds, and didst choose Man above all Thy creatures, and didst make Him a sign of both of these worlds, O Thou Who art our Lord, the Most Compassionate!
Thou didst raise Him up to occupy Thy throne before all the people of Thy creation. Thou didst enable Him to unravel Thy mysteries, and to shine with the lights of Thine inspiration and Thy Revelation, and to manifest Thy names and Thine attributes. – Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations, pp. 48-49.
But we human beings do not exist in a state of autonomy, independent of the rest of creation—rather, as Baha’is understand it, the human being is the fruit of creation. We humans evolve by degrees, both individually and collectively as a species, so we can acquire the attributes of all levels of creation. Indeed, the Earth as a part of the solar system is, effectively, a divinely-ordained and organic enterprise created for the explicit purpose of bringing forth and training human souls in preparation for an eternal existence.
In this sense, physical creation is not an event, but a systematic, ongoing process without beginning or end, except in relative terms—relative to particular compositions within the overall system of particular planets, galaxies, etc.
Stated simply, if the creation of a system capable of producing human beings is the goal of an eternal Creator, then such a system must always have existed, since the idea for such a process is pre-existent and since the idea itself emanating from the Divine Will is causative.
Furthermore, since there is no point at which this “idea” or “wish” or “will” is finally or completely satisfied, then we can also deduce that an infinite number of planetary systems capable of sustaining human life exist—“human” meaning life forms capable of “knowing and worshiping” the Creator—as well as an infinite number of prophets and divine messengers to nurture and guide these ever-advancing civilizations.
This realization leads us inexorably to a conclusion, also corroborated in the Baha’i texts, that even as matter is infinitely reducible in composition, so must additive structures of matter be capable of being infinitely more inclusive in composition—as occurs in solar systems, galaxies, etc. For while no created thing is more complex than the human being, it is still possible to compose units of human beings together in ever more complete patterns of organization or structures.
For example, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, noted that human social and spiritual evolution on this planet are indicated in part by our evolutionary progress in social forms. In fact, Baha’u’llah also explained that when humankind attempts to remain in a less advanced structure—once the complexity of human society requires a more advanced form, and once that form has been revealed by God’s most recent messenger—the result is regression and strife, because what was once an advanced form of social organization will in time become inadequate and even unjust and oppressive.
Understood in terms of a simple analogy, we can appreciate the wisdom in there being many exacting rules for a five-year-old child—because the child does not understand the rationale, the principle behind the rules, the concepts of safety, of nourishment, or of physical, mental and spiritual health. But once the child has attained maturity and understands the underlying wisdom behind a particular law, then it would be unwise and even unjust to retain the same multitude of laws and constraints. So it is that Shoghi Effendi observed how humankind as an organic entity has evolved through ever more complex social systems to befit the ever more inclusive or expansive expressions of our social identity:
Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 202.
Shoghi Effendi observed that the essential structure of a global commonwealth as devised by Baha’u’llah constitutes “the furthermost limits in the organization of human society” at least “as far as far as this planetary life is concerned.” – Ibid., p. 163.
But creation does not start with the inception of this particular planet, our Earth. Furthermore, we can hardly assume that planetary unity is the largest possible social unity that could ever be devised. In science fiction we commonly accept fictive social structures consisting of inter-planetary or galactic and even inter-galactic federations—all more encompassing forms of social unity. It is perhaps for this reason that we may have trouble accepting the much heralded contemporary theory of the “big bang”—a point of origin in time and space for the universe and, implicitly, for a finite universe at that.