God’s Unknowable Essence
The difference in station between man and the Divine Reality is thousands upon thousands of times greater than the difference between vegetable and animal. And that which a human being would conjure up in his mind is but the fanciful image of his human condition, it doth not encompass God’s reality but rather is encompassed by it. That is, man graspeth his own illusory conceptions, but the Reality of Divinity can never be grasped: It, Itself, encompasseth all created things, and all created things are in Its grasp. That Divinity which man doth imagine for himself existeth only in his mind, not in truth. Man, however, existeth both in his mind and in truth; thus man is greater than that fanciful reality which he is able to imagine. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 21.4)
The difference between conditions in the world of being is an obstacle to comprehension. The spirit of the lower beings in nature, such as minerals and plants, can’t understand the spirit of the higher beings such as animals and humans. How can humans, who are a phenomenal reality created by God, know their Creator, Who is a Preexistent Reality? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us we can only know God by His qualities and attributes. “We know Him by His attributes. We know Him by His signs. We know Him by His names. We know not what the reality of the sun is, but we know the sun by the rays, by the heat, by its efficacy and penetration. We recognize the sun by its bounty and effulgence, but as to what constitutes the reality of the solar energy, that is unknowable to us. The attributes characterizing the sun, however, are knowable. If we wish to come in touch with the reality of Divinity, we do so by recognizing its phenomena, its attributes and traces, which are widespread in the universe. ” (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 422)
Lauded and glorified art Thou, O Lord, my God! How can I make mention of Thee, assured as I am that no tongue, however deep its wisdom, can befittingly magnify Thy name, nor can the bird of the human heart, however great its longing, ever hope to ascend into the heaven of Thy majesty and knowledge.
If I describe Thee, O my God, as Him Who is the All-Perceiving, I find myself compelled to admit that They Who are the highest Embodiments of perception have been created by virtue of Thy behest. And if I extol Thee as Him Who is the All-Wise, I, likewise, am forced to recognize that the Well Springs of wisdom have themselves been generated through the operation of Thy Will. And if I proclaim Thee as the Incomparable One, I soon discover that they Who are the inmost essence of oneness have been sent down by Thee and are but the evidences of Thine handiwork. And if I acclaim Thee as the Knower of all things, I must confess that they Who are the Quintessence of knowledge are but the creation and instruments of Thy Purpose.
Far, far from Thy glory be what mortal man can affirm of Thee, or attribute unto Thee, or the praise with which he can glorify Thee! Whatever duty Thou hast prescribed unto Thy servants of extolling to the utmost Thy majesty and glory is but a token of Thy grace unto them, that they may be enabled to ascend unto the station conferred upon their own inmost being, the station of the knowledge of their own selves.
No one else besides Thee hath, at any time, been able to fathom Thy mystery, or befittingly to extol Thy greatness. Unsearchable and high above the praise of men wilt Thou remain for ever. There is none other God but Thee, the Inaccessible, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Holy of Holies. (Bahá’u’lláh , Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 1)
How Shall We Know God?
There are several ways we can learn about God. (1)We can learn about God by learning about the Prophets and Manifestations, because the Reality of Manifestations of God is that of clear mirrors which reflect the Sun of Reality—the Essence of Oneness, with its infinite perfections and attributes. (2)Also, we can learn about God from the creatures, including ourselves, because in every created things we can see the radiance of God, signs and attributes of God. (3)Furthermore, we can learn about God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit while we have strong faith. This will depend on the depth of the relationship we have with God. Here let’s look at them separately.
1. Through Prophets, Manifestations of God
The Holy Writings tell us that when we see the Sun of Reality, the perfect mirror, when we come to know the infinite perfections and attributes of the Prophets and Manifestations, we will learn about God. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John14:8~10)
When we read the Bible, what we must try to understand is its spiritual meaning. By understanding the spiritual meaning which Jesus trys to show us we can learn about God. Everything Jesus did has a spiritual meaning behind it. When we see His beauty, that is the Father’s beauty; whatever He spoke, that is what the Father spoke; His will is Father’s will. The Father spoke and did His will through Jesus and showed Himself to us. That is to say, if we are not attached to the figure of Jesus, we can see spirit of Father like we see Father Himself. It is similar, the profits and manifestations of God come in different time to show mankind the spirit of Father and spoke to us through the perfect spiritual human been. Holy books and Writings tell us that there is no direct cord to connect between mankind and God, that is why we have to know God through profits and. They look no different from normal person, but the spiritual level are beyond human can understand.
The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace, according to His saying, “His grace hath transcended all things; My grace hath encompassed them all,” 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. (Bahá’u’lláh , Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 19)
And since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one true God with His creation, and no resemblance whatever can exist between the transient and the Eternal, the contingent and the Absolute, He hath ordained that in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven. Unto this subtle, this mysterious and ethereal Being He hath assigned a twofold nature; the physical, pertaining to the world of matter, and the spiritual, which is born of the substance of God Himself. He hath, moreover, conferred upon Him a double station. The first station, which is related to His innermost reality, representeth Him as One Whose voice is the voice of God Himself. To this testifieth the tradition: “Manifold and mysterious is My relationship with God. I am He, Himself, and He is I, Myself, except that I am that I am, and He is that He is.” And in like manner, the words: “Arise, O Muhammad, for lo, the Lover and the Beloved are joined together and made one in Thee.” He similarly saith: “There is no distinction whatsoever between Thee and Them, except that They are Thy Servants.” The second station is the human station, exemplified by the following verses: “I am but a man like you.” “Say, praise be to my Lord! Am I more than a man, an apostle?” These Essences of Detachment, these resplendent Realities are the channels of God’s all-pervasive grace. Led by the light of unfailing guidance, and invested with supreme sovereignty, They are commissioned to use the inspiration of Their words, the effusions of Their infallible grace and the sanctifying breeze of Their Revelation for the cleansing of every longing heart and receptive spirit from the dross and dust of earthly cares and limitations. Then, and only then, will the Trust of God, latent in the reality of man, emerge, as resplendent as the rising Orb of Divine Revelation, from behind the veil of concealment, and implant the ensign of its revealed glory upon the summits of men’s hearts. (Bahá’u’lláh , Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 27)
2. Through Creation and Ourselves
When we look at the world and within men’s souls, we see wonderful signs of the divine perfections, which are clear and apparent; for the reality of things proves the Universal Reality. The Reality of Divinity may be compared to the sun, which from the height of its magnificence shines upon all the horizons; and each horizon, and each soul, receives a share of its radiance. If this light and these rays did not exist, beings would not exist; all beings express something and partake of some ray and portion of this light. The splendors of the perfections, bounties and attributes of God shine forth and radiate from the reality of the Perfect Man—that is to say, the Unique One, the supreme Manifestation of God. Other beings receive only one ray, but the supreme Manifestation is the mirror for this Sun, which appears and becomes manifest in it, with all its perfections, attributes, signs and wonders. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions 59)
There is sign of God in every created things, the Glory of God can be seen in every creature can. When we see rocks, we think about solid; mountains, we think about firmly; water, we think about soft and flexible to adjust in condition; oceans, we thinks about inclusive heart; flower, beauty and fragrance; grass and tree in gale, flexible and easy to fold; sun, worm and vitality; ants, serve others…… These are all God’s Glory!
Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty. (Bahá’u’lláh , Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 27)
Bahá’u’lláh has delivered God’s message, “Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.” He also said “in your own selves: will ye not, then, behold the signs of God? …And be ye not like those who forget God, and whom He hath therefore caused to forget their own selves. …He hath known God who hath known himself.” (Bahá’u’lláh , Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 90) How shall we lean about God through our inner self? Here what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has told us, “But on the other hand, when man does not open his mind and heart to the blessing of the spirit, but turns his soul towards the material side, towards the bodily part of his nature, then is he fallen from his high place and he becomes inferior to the inhabitants of the lower animal kingdom. …on the contrary, the spiritual nature of the soul has been so strengthened that it holds the material side in subjection, then does the man approach the Divine; his humanity becomes so glorified that the virtues of the Celestial Assembly are manifested in him; he radiates the Mercy of God, he stimulates the spiritual progress of mankind, for he becomes a lamp to show light on their path.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks 31)
When we continually receive the influence from the higher spirit, we will detach ourselves form the material world gradually. When our soul away from the lower nature characters, we will develop noble and perfection. Detached from the material world and discover the quality of our higher nature and act through our soul, this is the way to show God’s Glory and see God’s Glory. This is another way to learn about God. Through practice of pure our soul and act it our through action is the way to verify of the truth. And this is true understanding of the truth. The more we follow the commandment firmly, the more our mind will be purify and the more shining our inner mirror to reflect the attribute of God, the Glory of God. This also is the way to discover the hidden treasure inside us, the wonder and mystery of God.
O Son of Spirit! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenmnet from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words 13)
3. Through the Holy Spirit’s Guidance
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John14:26~27)
Having relationship with God, feeling His love, this love relationship in the faith need to be developed through the guidance of Holy Spirit. When we love and been loved, there is very important element “thanksgiving”. In the love relationship with God, this is key element too. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told us, “In this day, to thank God for His bounties consisteth in possessing a radiant heart, and a soul open to the promptings of the spirit. This is the essence of thanksgiving. (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 153.1)”
When we are willing to possessing a radiant heart, we are opening our heart for the guidance and receive influence. We love Him, we will follow His teaching and obedient to His commend and will.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:23~24)
Learning to heard the inner voice from our heart (a thought from our heart), and follow the inspiration to do things, also put down (be obedient) the inner voice don’t want us to do. Through the guidance of Holy spirit, we learn how God doing things, what He like and what He don’t like, we experience the wonder and miracle, we receive grace and comfort with joy and peace. We observe everything everyday and discover what He is doing, through the cause and effect we learn His will. This type of love relationship is similar to the love relationship we have toward our parents. To be able to feel this love, we need to learn through practice. It just like we learn about someone through reading his/her books, observing a person or living with that person, the depth of learning a person is different in this three cases. We will know more about God definitely, when we be able to feel the spiritual connection with Him. This is why we need to practice to have deeper relationship with God.
The way to practice need daily work. We pray (conversation with God), waiting for God (quietly seat with Him and waiting for the guidance or let Him influence in spirit), and Holy books reading (eat spirit food and wait for His spiritual influence or review something to us). Feel with all our heart, we will “see” His guidance. The relationship with God and the love of God is the stronghold of our soul. When we love someone we will try to know his/her heart. We learn about love of God in the same way. How that feel everyone is different, it is wonder can’t be describe in words. This kind of “knowing” is unit. It is not the knowledge can put in the words. It is the hidden treasure.
But the human spirit, unless assisted by the spirit of faith, does not become acquainted with the divine secrets and the heavenly realities. It is like a mirror which, although clear, polished and brilliant, is still in need of light. Until a ray of the sun reflects upon it, it cannot discover the heavenly secrets. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, 55)
Why Many People Don’t Know God
When we turn our soul toward material world and busy at pursuiting of honor and wealth, we turn away from God. Our mirror reflect only material world when we turn toward it. This is the attachment of the material world, and this prevents us to “see” God, to know Him. The obstruction between us and God is like layers veil, like thick clouds and like dense dust. Unless we remove these obstructions, He will remain hidden from our eyes.
These energies with which the Day Star of Divine bounty and Source of heavenly guidance hath endowed the reality of man lie, however, latent within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp. The radiance of these energies may be obscured by worldly desires even as the light of the sun can be concealed beneath the dust and dross which cover the mirror. Neither the candle nor the lamp can be lighted through their own unaided efforts, nor can it ever be possible for the mirror to free itself from its dross. It is clear and evident that until a fire is kindled the lamp will never be ignited, and unless the dross is blotted out from the face of the mirror it can never represent the image of the sun nor reflect its light and glory. (Bahá’u’lláh , Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 27)
Every one of us all with ability to know Him, the ability is hidden in our essence of our soul. It is the gift which God has give to mankind. But this ability need to unfold from receiving influence of higher spirit. This is why we need turn toward the source of influence. The source of influence in this revelation is Baha’u’llha. When we open our heart to him, the mystery power will influence us and gradually we will be able to receive the guidance of Holy Spirit. We will learn about ourselves more, as well as God. This is the meaning of “God is in us” or “knowing ourselves is knowing God”.
That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16)
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
…the spirit of man is not illumined and quickened through material sources. It is not resuscitated by investigating phenomena of the world of matter. The spirit of man is in need of the protection of the Holy Spirit Just as he advances by progressive stages from the mere physical world of being into the intellectual realm, so must he develop upward in moral attributes and spiritual graces. In the process of this attainment he is ever in need of the bestowals of the Holy Spirit. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Foundation of world Unit, P.58)
There are many way to know God ~ Learning about the spirit which profits and manifestation of God try to show us, learning about our higher spirit nature, learning from the guidance of Holy spirit, learning about love through building the relationship with God. Only rely on Holy Writing to know God is not enough. The love of God is the feeling of heart , it is not the knowledge can be describe in words. Living inside the guidance of Holy Spirit is living inside the love of God. It is secure, reliable and warm. It is the power, the forth to serve, to be able to scarify. This only can be developed with all our heart. This is the wonder and most sweet fountain in the spiritual journey. This is the treasure of treasure, mystery of mystery. This is hidden behind the material world.
Praise to God! Thanks to God!
O Salmán! The door of the knowledge of the Ancient Being hath ever been, and will continue for ever to be, closed in the face of men. No man’s understanding shall ever gain access unto His holy court. As a token of His mercy, however, and as a proof of His loving-kindness, He hath manifested unto men the Day Stars of His divine guidance, the Symbols of His divine unity, and hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth to their call, hath hearkened to the Voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of their Revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself. Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God. Every one of them is the Way of God that connecteth this world with the realms above, and the Standard of His Truth unto every one in the kingdoms of earth and heaven. They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory. (Bahá’u’lláh , Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 21)