We have seen how the seed takes root in the heart of the world; let us now see how it takes root in the heart of the soul—how the seeker moves from unbelief to belief, from doubt to certitude.
The seeker of truth begins his search by first studying the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, to see if they are true, timely, and relevant. After examining and testing the teachings, and finding them acceptable, he then tries to test the Teacher. Behind every Revelation stands a Revelator whose sincerity and validity must be put to the test.
But, paradoxical as it may seem, the ultimate evidence and the most reliable proof of a Messenger is His very Message, or “Thoughts.” “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7). The Message reflects the Messenger, even as the fruit reflects the tree, and the tree the seed. Accordingly, good fruits can come only from a good tree. Such a reasoning not only appeals to the mind, but also receives Scriptural support:
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. _Christ (Matt. 7:16-17)
Some Christians remember Jesus and revere Him more for His miracles than for His teachings, and consequently when they think about His return, they picture Him in the aura of the supernatural. Yet, such a mystical conception is contrary to the spirit of the Scriptures.
The story of the advents of the great Messengers and Redeemers reveals, on the one hand, the irrelevance of miracles to their Mission, and establishes, on the other, the distinct relevance of the Message and its high position in the hierarchy of proofs. How could a Noah, a Moses, or an Abraham distinguish Himself from the masses of humankind? By what standards did Jesus distinguish Himself from His contemporaries? And for what reason did the people ultimately believe in Him? Did they believe simply because of His miracles? Certainly not.
If miracles were the true mark of Jesus’ distinction and the reason behind His pervasive influence, then His contemporaries would be, or should have been, the first to accept and adore Him. For they stood face to face, not only with the miracles, but also with the Source of the miracles. Yet history indicates that Jesus’ contemporaries were not the first to accept Him, but the first to reject Him. Not only the records of history, but the testimony of the Scriptures as well, prove the ineffectiveness of miracles: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him” (John 12:37).
The recognition of a Redeemer requires receptivity. It begins and ends with the heart. Miracles simply serve to astound and to entertain the curious; they seldom reach or touch the non-receptive hearts, unless they grow in intensity to exert overwhelming pressure and to cast terror in the hearts of those who have no desire for heavenly bread.
The rejection of Messengers by their contemporaries, the very generation exposed to the miracles, has consistently occurred throughout human history. Only the succeeding generations discern the divine in the seemingly poor and lowly Saviors.
We should glorify everything that God’s Messengers do. We should not deny, but rather delight in their miraculous powers. We may use them to inspire, to awaken, or to ignite interest, but must refrain from counting them as proofs.
God’s Messengers and Redeemers have the power to perform the most astonishing miracles. We have, for instance, records of healing miracles performed by both Christ and Bahá’u’lláh. The believers who experienced or witnessed them were deeply touched and inspired. We too can be inspired by learning about them. But the most astonishing evidence of the Messengers’ divine distinction comes not from their miracles, but from their Word; not from saving sick bodies, but from saving lost souls; not from giving fleeting life to a few, but from bestowing eternal life to countless generations.
If miracles were to serve as the chief mark of a Messenger’s Mission, then those unable to see the miracles would be at a clear disadvantage. Instead of judging for themselves, they would have to trust someone else’s eyes, simply take his word for the truth and his wisdom and judgment for granted.
Unlike miracles, the Message reveals itself equally and impartially to all seekers of truth. It is a miracle as eternal as humanity itself, a wonder that endures, a testimony that can be tested by anyone at any time.
Using miracles as proofs poses another problem: if the reports of miracles by the believers were to be considered the touchstone of truth, then it would be almost impossible to tell the difference between a God-sent Savior and the myriads of self- proclaimed occultists who have also left records of mighty miracles, sometimes even mightier than those attributed to Jesus and the other great Messengers and Teachers. How would one know who is right and who is wrong? It is far from God’s Wisdom to send great magicians as His messengers or saviors to humanity.
Of course, God could increase the frequency and intensity of His miracles to the point that no one could deny Him. But that would be contrary to His Wisdom. He wants us to seek Him, to know Him, and to love Him with absolute freedom, without any coercion.
As the intensity and frequency of miracles increase, so will the degree of pressure to submit.
To understand religion, we must abide by the rules of reason. “Let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18). God has granted us rational powers with which to judge and guide the course of our destiny. If we disregard the dictates of reason, we reduce religion to mere superstition and fanaticism. We make blind faith, instead of knowledge and enlightenment, the basis of divine Faith. We disarm the seeker of truth, deactivate his or her mind, saying, “Don’t think, don’t reason, simply believe another believer’s testimony; be rational except in relation to religion; expect reasonableness from scientific truth, but not from divine Truth.” Such is the attitude that has caused the dignity of belief in the divine to decline, the view that has caused religion to stand against science, the assumption that has suppressed independent search and enlightenment.
Bahá’ís acknowledge miracles, but do not consider them a reliable touchstone of truth, or a reasonable standard by which to judge a divine Redeemer. Bahá’í history contains numerous examples of miracles performed by the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Those examples offer valuable insight into the history of the new Revelation, but not an evidence of its divine origin.
Dr. Houston Smith of Harvard in his classic work, The Religions of Man, presents a similar view on the irrelevance of miracles to the Mission and the ultimate triumph of God’s Messengers:
The Gospel accounts are filled with praise for his actions. Their pages, especially those of Mark, are crowded with miracles. There is no question but that these impressed the people tremendously. We err, however, if this is where we place our emphasis. For one thing, it was not where Jesus placed his. He never used miracles as a means to convince. Not once did he try to amaze, overrule, or bludgeon people into believing in him by waving a magic wand—part of the meaning of his Temptation in the Wilderness lies precisely in his rejection of such approaches as devices of the devil. Almost all his extraordinary deeds were performed quietly, apart from the crowds and as a demonstration of the power of faith. Moreover, other writings of the times contain accounts of miracles in profusion. The fact that we may not believe these other accounts does not affect the fact that the people of the time certainly believed them; but this did not cause them to consider those who worked these other miracles to be divine. They simply assumed that they possessed occult powers, which is not the same thing at all. [Emphasis added.]226
After refuting miracles as a distinguishing mark of a Messenger, Dr. Smith goes on to present three standards or proofs by which Jesus distinguished Himself from the occult. These standards are:
• What He did.
• What He said and how He said it. • What He was.
And how did Jesus meet the three standards? • He went about doing good.
• He taught nobility, love, mercy, forgiveness; and He spoke with authority in a unique and novel language.
•He not only taught and expressed love, He was love.
Though seemingly different, the three marks of the distinction of a divine Teacher are, in essence, but one: the first two (what He does, and says) grow out of the third (what He is). Doing and saying are simply the outward or visible expressions of being.
Choosing Your Destiny has sought to examine, though briefly, all three standards of divine distinction. To prove the point to yourself, you may wish to go through the book once again with the specific intention of applying the three standards to Bahá’u’lláh as the Source (what He was), and to His Fruits (what He did, and what He said). You may wish to compare Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, with respect to each standard, with any or all of the other great Revelations you already regard as divine. Such an examination is in perfect harmony with both the spirit of the Scriptures and the specific guidance provided by Jesus Himself: that a Messenger should be judged by His fruits (Matt. 7:16-18).
In addition to learning about what Bahá’u’lláh was, did, and said, you can apply a few other standards by which to test Him even further. One is to study the prophecies from the Scriptures and their fulfillment in His life. Upon entering this sphere, you will find it to be one of the richest sources of evidence. You will note that the chief events in the lives of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are predicted in the most clear words in hundreds of scriptural prophecies by not just one but several of the world’s great religions. For instance, you may be astonished to note that the exact year of the second advent of Jesus is predicted in biblical Scriptures at least sixteen times. You will also note that the same exact year is confirmed in the Scriptures of other religions as well. The predicted year was 1844 A.D., when thousands and thousands throughout the world expected the return of Christ. And that year (1844) of course marked the beginning of the Bahá’í Era, the year in which the Báb was called to His Mission, when He proclaimed the dawn of the great Day of the Lord. You can find a brief description of these prophecies in a paperback such as Thief in the Night, 304 pages, by William Sears, or a rather detailed description of these prophecies, covering some 1,300 pages in three volumes: I Shall Come Again, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings by the present author.
The spectrum of prophecies fulfilled in the lives of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh is so vast and so clear as to seem utterly incredible. You can pursue these only with patience in the next stage of your search. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s words, quoted earlier, should stand as a guidepost throughout your whole journey of the search for truth: “Only have faith, patience and courage—this is but the beginning…surely you will succeed, for God is with you.”227
Still another alternative open to you for testing the fruits of Bahá’u’lláh’s Mission is to examine the pattern of Bahá’í life, to see how Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings are implemented, how the ideal meets the real. Bahá’í Summer Schools provide excellent opportunities for such an examination, an ideal place for seeing Bahá’u’lláh’s ideals put to work, for finding the Bahá’í life in full bloom. Bahá’í “firesides” held in many communities constitute another medium for studying and examining Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings in small and informal surroundings.
The paths of search are as diverse as the seekers. Each seeker must find and follow the way that suits his or her own needs best. The critical point in search is the recognition of the validity of Bahá’u’lláh’s claim. Once such an awareness is attained, the seeker may well consider himself or herself a Bahá’í.
Such is the way the believers in Bahá’u’lláh have found and followed Him. This is how every religion has evolved, how the Bahá’í Faith has moved from obscurity to recognition, has advanced from a humble beginning to become the second most widely spread religion in the world. This is how the teachings of a seemingly lone prisoner and exile have spread to the farthest reaches of the earth—to over two hundred countries and territories—transforming the hearts and minds of millions, including those who have never before heard nor seen in print the words Bahá’í and Bahá’u’lláh.
By studying Bahá’u’lláh’s life and teachings, you have taken the first step in your search for truth: you have planted the Seed of Knowledge and Awareness. To bring your search to fruition, you need to take the next essential step, namely to nourish and support the Seed by knowing the Sower, by enriching your knowledge about Him who claims to be the Lord of the Harvest, the Lord of the Vineyard, Bahá’u’lláh Himself. This can best be accomplished by further examination of His own Scriptures, by the testing of His own Words. Sources suitable for your search and available in English are: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, and The Book of Certitude. You may also wish to consult Selections from the Writings of the Báb.
Whether you accept Bahá’u’lláh as a divine Teacher and Messenger, reject Him altogether, or continue your search for further evidence is a decision between you and your conscience. No one can, or will, force you to change your mind. You are the master of your own destiny and accountable to yourself, to society, and to your Creator. But it is well to remember this: if you continue your search, but fail to recognize Bahá’u’lláh, you will at least have expanded your spiritual perspective. But if you fail to search, you have allowed chance to choose your destiny, to determine your everlasting future; you have rejected an opportunity with which nothing can ever compare, a bounty beyond your vision, a gift as immortal as God Himself.
To seek and to search is a divine commandment. To disobey the commandment is to be cut from its very Source, a Source of Guidance reachable only through seeking, searching, and striving (Matt. 7:7-9).
Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants is the liberty of appearing. The sun needs no inscription to distinguish it from darkness.
But the seeking must be pursued with unfailing sincerity and devotion. The Seed of Faith grows out of the Seed of Reason, the Seed of Reason out of the Seed of Knowledge, and the Seed of Knowledge out of a pure and fertile soul athirst for truth and abounding in virtues: purity from preconceived notions, freedom from conformity, detachment from worldly concerns, openness, justice, humility, courage, perseverance, and trust in God.
This is the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God…Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed
that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. _Christ (Luke 8:11-15)
O my brother! A divine Mine only can yield the gems of divine knowledge, and the fragrance of the mystic Flower can be inhaled only in the ideal Garden, and the lilies of ancient wisdom can blossom nowhere except in the city of a stainless heart.228 _Bahá’u’lláh
In a rich soil, its plants spring forth abundantly by permission of its Lord, and in that soil which is bad, they spring forth but scantily. _Qur’án 7:57
The difference between a Redeemer stirred by the Will of the All-Knowing, and an impostor pretending sincerity and seeking fame and honor by laying claim to the exalted and unreachable rank of divinity, is like the difference between the splendor of the sun with all its glory and grandeur and absolute darkness with its utter emptiness. Yet the difference cannot be discerned unless the heart of the seeker is cleansed from all earthly attachments and attuned to the divine melody.
A little veil, as small as the eyelid, can dim the most luminous lights of heaven; what then can ensue when the veils of apathy, tradition, conformity, distrust, and attachment to the world impose themselves upon the human heart?229 Without openness and sincere and dedicated efforts, no truth can ever be found. Only those with faith, trust, patience, and courage can hope to complete the journey of the search for truth.
The lesson which life repeats constantly is: You are always nearer the divine than you think. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour.
Now is the time to plant the Seed of your Destiny, a time that after your soul’s departure from this world, will never come again. Here is the place of preparation where every soul must rise from the self to the divine, from the earthly to the heavenly. The harvest shall be reaped later—in the next realm, when the season of separation from the physical form arrives. Bahá’u’lláh’s inspiring words are a fitting conclusion to this chapter:
O wayfarer in the path of God! Take thou thy portion of the ocean of His grace, and deprive not thyself of the things that lie hidden in its depths. Be thou of them that have partaken of its treasures. A dewdrop out of this ocean would, if shed upon all that are in the heavens and on the earth, suffice to enrich them with the bounty of God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. With the hands of renunciation draw forth from its life-giving waters, and sprinkle therewith all created things, that they may be cleansed from all man-made limitations and may approach the mighty seat of God, this hallowed and resplendent Spot.230
This is the Day in which the Ocean of knowledge hath lifted up its Voice and hath brought forth its pearls. Would that ye knew it!…I swear by God! The Essence of
knowledge exclaimeth and saith: Lo! He Who is the Object of all knowledge is come and through His advent the sacred Books of God, the Gracious, the Loving, have been embellished. Every revelation of grace, every evidence of goodly gifts emanateth from Him and unto Him doth it return.231
The Promised One hath appeared…all beings, both seen and unseen, have rejoiced…to meet Him is better for you than all that whereon the sun shineth, could ye but know it.232
O concourse of priests!…Prefer ye to be silent, whilst every stone and every tree shouteth aloud: “The Lord is come in His great glory!”233
This Wronged One [Bahá’u’lláh] calleth aloud for the sake of God. Whosoever wisheth, let him turn thereunto; whosoever wisheth, let him turn away. Verily God can well afford to dispense with all things, whether of the past or of the future.234
The generations that have gone on before you— whither are they fled? And those round whom in life circled the fairest and the loveliest of the land, where now are they? Profit by their example, O people, and be not of them that are gone astray.
Others ere long will lay hands on what ye possess, and enter into your habitations. Incline your ears to My words, and be not numbered among the foolish.
For every one of you his paramount duty is to choose for himself that on which no other may infringe and none usurp from him. Such a thing—and to this the Almighty is My witness—is the love of God, could ye but perceive it.
Build ye for yourselves such houses as the rain and floods can never destroy, which shall protect you from the changes and chances of this life. This is the instruction of Him Whom the world hath wronged and forsaken.235 _Bahá’u’lláh
The days of your life are far spent, O people, and your end is fast approaching. Put away, therefore, the things ye have devised and to which ye cleave, and take firm hold on the precepts of God, that haply ye may attain that which He hath purposed for you, and be of them that pursue a right course. Delight not yourselves in the things of the world and its vain ornaments, neither set your hopes on them. Let your
reliance be on the remembrance of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Great. He will, erelong, bring to naught all the things ye possess.236 _Bahá’u’lláh
I bear witness, O friends! that the favor is complete, the argument fulfilled, the proof manifest and the evidence established. Let it now be seen what your endeavors in the path of detachment will reveal. In this wise hath the divine favor been fully vouchsafed unto you and unto them that are in heaven and on earth. All praise to God, the Lord of all Worlds.237 _Bahá’u’lláh