The Splendour of God, by Eric Hammond, , at sacred-texts.com
Christians were first so called at Antioch.
Bahaism received its earliest momentous impulse at Adrianople. Mention of "over twenty thousand" leads to the supposition that the followers of The Bab had attained to a notable number as well as finality of decision. His views had been disseminated throughout Persia, and, to an appreciable extent, beyond its boundaries.
Preachers of the new form of the old faith travelled far afield, undeterred by suspicion or surveillance, and, in their journeying, sowed the seeds of belief in many comforted hearts.
One or other of these preachers had been heard with avidity by a youth of high lineage—Mirza Hussein Ali—who, drawn by the grace and perfection of the message, became not only a willing adherent, but a zealous and powerful advocate. All the energy he possessed bodily, mental, spiritual—he threw into the service of God and of The Bab.
Persian by birth and breeding, a native of Teheran, he came, there, into this world in 1817, his father, we learn, being a Vizier, his grandfather Grand Vizier. An aristocrat among aristocrats,
he knew little or nothing of the education of Scribes or the philosophies of Pharisees. Born in the rank of those who ruled, he had neither opportunity to seek the learning of the schools nor desire to cope on equal terms with the Mullahs, with Mohammedan specialists. To pose as a priest-in-ordinary was out of his power. The lore of the sacerdotalist was outside the scope of his station. Unable to rely on knowledge acquired by man, he had, perforce, to trust implicitly to inspiration, and inspiration supported him to a marvel.
He was something short of thirty when he attached himself to the Babis and became their unfaltering teacher and leader.
Like Francis of Assisi, he chose poverty and vilification with the followers of the faith above the state and luxury of his peers in high places. Like Paul of Tarsus, he "preferred affliction with the people of God." Like Gautama the Buddha, he, quietly yet gloriously, shared in the Great Renunciation. Like the Hebrew Psalmodist, he might have sung, "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the House of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness."
He speedily acquired a position of admiration and reverence. His kindly, straightforward character, his profound devotion to The Bab and his principles, were appreciated long before he declared himself to be The One whom, according to his predecessor, "God would make manifest,"
The persecution and martyrdom of The Bab, and the persistent maltreatment of the Babis, resulted in an even closer clinging to the Prophet's revelations. This, again, seems strictly in accordance with the history of religion. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
It must be recorded that his message and his mission were alike peaceful.
No element of antagonism to rule or ruler found place in his scheme of things; for that scheme, being based on spirituality, and working entirely on the spiritual plane, had no space in it for the upsetting of recognised authority. It aimed at persuasion; it condemned coercion.
The central design of Baha‘u‘llah was peace: peace internal, external, universal; and such peace, he knew, could not in any wise become an accomplished fact unless it were the flower of the soul resulting in the fruition of Divine Love.
We must note, too, in this connection, that The Bab had specifically prophesied the advent of One whose words and wisdom would substantiate his position as Godhead made manifest. His character would be akin to The Light of the world; radiating, penetrating, informing; spreading near and far the beams of a Sun of Righteousness.
As we have seen, no seeds of discord were cast, on the political field; but, in this drama of the incoming of a novel representation of eternal faith, insinuation and denunciation had play and
place. No violent outcry against the powers that be had any part in Baha’u’llah's project of peace. We are forced to record the fact that these powers could not, or would not, bear the advent of The Light. In agreement with historic precedent, persecution followed—fierce, fanatic, almost inhumanly cruel.
Imprisonment, confiscation, and torture served to impart firmer faith. Within a year of The Bab's unrighteous execution, a number of his people were confined, Baha‘u‘llah among them.
Teheran, which bore him in a palace, put her noblest born in prison. He was kept in chains and his wealth appropriated. Family estates, vast and remunerative (there were, we learn, no fewer than five of these), were annexed "by authority." Finally he, with his friends, became exiled to Baghdad.
Still he taught; still his influence increased; still greater affection and devotion centred around him.
Retreat into the wilderness; passing apart to pray; retirement from men, in order that the Vision of God may be apprehended has any Prophet or Seer prophesied or seen without this?
Baha‘u‘llah spent two years alone among the mountains hard by Baghdad, praying, meditating, dwelling there with God.
After this came the time of the proclamation.
His declaration of Himself as the fulfilment of the Foreteller's prophecy, the "Manifestation of
[paragraph continues] God," was apparently, at first, made at a period of anxiety and distress, to a few of the elect.
The public proclamation did not occur for four or five years, when, being uttered, it was forthwith accepted by the great majority of the Babis, The Bab's adherents, as of divine origin. Baha‘u‘llah was now the generally recognised chief of the movement. Disciples formerly calling themselves "Babis," adopted the title "Bahais."
The main motive of Baha‘u‘llah's mission was that of "establishing peace and religious unity 1 in the world."
Baha‘u‘llah "declared Himself" in 1863. Having journeyed with them to Baghdad, we must accompany him and his people farther still. Fear took hold upon the Mohammedan Mullahs; unfeigned fear of the Prophet's predominance. Were all in the land living in love and peace and unity, what might become of the priestly power and purse? The Mullahs sent to Constantinople for official interference and assistance, and their petition was answered. The Bahais were summoned to the capital.
Banishment to Adrianople—so ran the unalterable decree. To Adrianople our persecuted religionists were bidden.
During his residence there, Baha‘u‘llah found time to address the Pope and the monarchs of Europe in epistles urging the establishment of unity, the abandonment of injustice, and the abolition of warlike practices. Adrianople was not permitted to contain him long. He and his friends were finally sentenced to exile at Acca (Acre) in Syria, actually a penal colony north of Mount Carmel, 1 a place dreaded for its pestilential atmosphere and its inaccessibility. The thought that fever might speedily attack and slay the Prophet bred a hopeful joy in his persecutors’ minds. They arranged, with considerable cruelty, that "the faithful few" should exist as best they could in a couple of rooms in the barracks of the town. There were some seventy confined so for two years.
The indictment leading to this severity comprised many misdemeanours. These God-fearing, God-seeking souls were accused as murderers and thieves. They were branded as Nihilists. 2 Liberty, freedom of any sort, was forbidden them. Of a truth they "endured hardships, as good soldiers" of the Cause that was, for them, far
more captivating than bodily captivity; they still rejoiced in the Light that led.
Among the seventy suffered Baha‘u‘llah's brother, to whom death brought release. Such was the insecurity of the roof of the place that, while he sought purer air than that of the room below, and greater quiet for reflection on "the things of God," it gave way. He who prayed fell through the roof, and so died. Despite the close confinement, the absence of any comfort, the unhealthiness of their condition, the prisoners conducted themselves with unfailing courtesy and gentleness. They found grace in the eyes of the governor of their gaol, who, probably touched by the death of his brother, gave Baha‘u‘llah leave to hire a house within the town. Even here he was obliged "to live and move and have his being" in one apartment only, and this for seven years. One governor left, another came. Each, before his term expired, or, for some end, he was withdrawn, learned that respect and reverence were due to these kindly, uncomplaining folk. A most welcome extension of privileges came with later years, and the Prophet, at length, found himself allowed to wander "within a radius of eighteen miles."
So, "persecuted but not forsaken," Baha‘u‘llah dwelt on sacred soil, working on, teaching on, never dreaming of despair. Captivity lasting forty years had, surely, weakened if not destroyed
both hope and faith in an ordinary mind. Equally surely, the strengthening and growth of hope and faith with each year as it came and went, furnishes emphatic testimony to Baha‘u‘llah's claim that his spiritual support and sustenance were divine. He remained mentally vigorous until, in 1892, when seventy-five years old, he was called to the nearer Light.
It is at least an interesting coincidence, that from the very quarter of the East from which "A Great Light" shone twenty centuries ago, Baha‘u‘llah should have been compelled to dwell; "Baha‘u‘llah"—"The Glory of God"—and that thence his Light should have also shone, illuminating Jew and Gentile, Moslem and infidel. Here, at Acca, he who at Teheran was for his goodness and benevolence called "The Father of the Poor," possessed his soul in patience, in poverty and degradation; yet lived to dispense the Light. Imprisonment and ignominy failed to darken the rays that penetrated far beyond the walls of Acca. That obscure town, by sheltering the Prophet, became the Lantern of the Light.
By word and pen he had prepared men for the reception of illumination. He wrote "tablets" to friends and enquirers at home and abroad, abundantly explaining the why and the wherefore of his mission on earth.
He did not profess the creation of a new creed
or to plant the roots of a new religion. On the contrary, he taught that all religions sprang from the Divine Root. He desired rather to revoice the utterance of those divinely appointed ones on whose words and authority the religions of the world were based. This new utterance was indispensable to the welfare of the world; for people had become careless and given over to laxity of thought and life. Every man was bidden to remain in affiance with that form of faith in which he found himself, but to break through the encrustations that had hidden its power and beauty. The true spirit of the founder of the faith would then again become recognised, and the believer was urged to follow and obey that spirit in sincerity. The truth had, so Baha‘u‘llah taught, been revealed by those Inspired Ones after whom the great religious bodies were named. These had appeared at different historic stages, in diverse places, during various eras in the progress of humanity, but the essence of their message had been one and the same. Its expression only had differed, in order to accommodate it to the requirements of time and place.
Baha‘u‘llah's gracious persistence in this inner truth, the life-giving element in every religion worthy of the name, had a notably unifying effect upon those who heard, and, hearing, saw. Their attitude towards one another, when they were of differing outward belief, underwent a holy trans-
formation. Men of one creed grasped the hands of those of another creed. Religious fraternity, experienced in the heart, became visibly manifest in the life. The head followed where the heart led. 1
Under the holy influence of Baha‘u‘llah, his followers rejoiced in putting the Brotherhood of the race into everyday practice. In all circumstances, whether of kindness or cruelty, of courtesy or of disfavour, the Bahai employed the soft answer that turneth away wrath. Through each chapter of the volume of life the theme of Baha‘u‘llah's message passes, leaving in its wake the power of his personality, the sweetness of his soul. Swayed by his gospel, Bahais believe in and employ perfect amity towards all men; unswerving toleration towards the perceptions and principles of others than themselves.
Manifold "tablets" and treatises of instruction fell from Baha‘u‘llah's pen. One treatise, entitled The Book of Laws, contains text upon text of commandments invaluable not to Bahais alone but to "all the men of all the world." In it he orders the sword to be set aside for ever, to be
replaced by the Word. He inculcates the settlement of national differences by arbitration. He enjoins the acquirement of One Universal Language to be taught to all children in all schools so that "the whole world may become one homeland." Boys and girls are to be educated alike, and the education must be the best possible, participated in by the children of the poor as well as those of the wealthy. Progress is impossible while ignorance spreads its roots. So eager was he in this connection that he wrote: "He who educates his own son or the son of another, it is as though he educated the Son of God." That "work is prayer" he taught decisively. The highest act of prayer and worship consists in the acquirement of some profession or handicraft and using it thoroughly and conscientiously. By the advancement of art and science he set great store. Disapproving of celibacy, he advocated marriage. Objecting to asceticism, he advised his followers to mix freely with all people, and on all occasions to exhibit signs of a glad and joyous but practically righteous life. Naturally, therefore, intemperance and gambling are forbidden, together with the use of opium. Naturally, also, questions of hygienic and sanitary sort receive all possible attention and use.
Practical charity, practical goodwill and kindness to all and sundry, including the lower animal world, Baha‘u‘llah insisted upon.
History has a perhaps unwholesome habit of repeating itself. Religions in the past were instituted, religious reformations realised, by devout men divinely inspired, who, certain of the source of their inspiration, refused worship themselves in any form. More; they definitely, in remarkable instances, forbade such worship while they dwelt on earth or after their departure in body from the world. Announcements to the effect that "I am of Paul" or "I am of Apollos" were interdicted. Temple-building and altar-raising in adoring memory of prophets and preachers set in, usually, nevertheless. Within measurable distance of the prophet's ascension, temples have arisen, worship made compulsory to adhesion.
Baha‘u‘llah declared himself utterly opposed to priesthood. He built no church "made with hands." Teachers of his Gospel of The Light may not take fees or stipends for their teaching. The necessities of living must be earned by them, even as St. Paul wrought at sail-making for food.
This lofty impression of spiritual practice presents an ideal worthy of profound consideration, of cordial imitation. That it passes beyond the ideal by having been, and being, the rule of life among the Bahais, is an accredited fact.
That this Religion of The Light is the need of the world throughout; that his mission, and that of his successor, was to illumine the dark places
of the earth, Baha‘u‘llah knew. The world awaited him and he had come. The Light, enkindled, must regenerate man. In far-seeing faith, he wrote:
Remind them, also, of that which is for the benefit of all; but beware lest ye make the Word of God the cause of opposition and stumbling, or the source of hatred among you.
If ye have a word or an essence among you which another has not, say it to him with the tongue of love and kindness; if it be accepted and impressed, the end is attained; if not, leave him to himself and pray for him, but do not molest him.
The tongue of kindness is attractive to the heart and it is the sword of the spirit; it furnishes the true relation of thought to utterance; it is as the horizon for the arising of the sun of wisdom and knowledge.
Creatures were created through love; let them live in peace and amity."
The Light of Love is the living lamp of Bahaism. No man's religion may be ridiculed or opposed, but all men must be urged to be that which his religion, at its best and fullest—at the instant of
its initiation—bade him to be. Baha‘u‘llah saw that God is to every human being as great as the individual mental capacity permits one to see Him." Is there, then, any wonder that he prayed, "Open Thou their eyes that all men may see the Light?" Is there any wonder that his faith in the Light was supreme?
Its rays flashed from the torches upheld by the great Prophets of the great creeds. Obscured by veiling accumulations, The Light still shines, and its shining must become visible when veiling curtains are drawn aside.
Distrust of fellow-men; intemperance of speech or action; love of wealth; above all, disunion: these are strenuously disapproved of by Bahaism.
A tablet, revealed by The Blessed Perfection, as his disciples delight to call him, contains these texts:
There is no continuance in the riches of this world; that which is subject to mortality and undergoeth a change, hath never been and is not worth regarding.
As is well known, the purpose of this Oppressed One in enduring these adversities and calamities . . . has been to quench the fire of hatred and animosity, so that, perchance? the horizons of the minds of the
O people of the world! I enjoin ye to that which is the means of the elevation of your station. Hold to the virtue of God and grasp the hem of that which is just.
Verily, I say, the tongue is for mentioning that which is good; pollute it not with evil speech. God hath forgiven ye that which is past; hereafter ye must all speak that which is befitting.
Avoid execration, reviling, and that which is aggravating to man.
The station of man is high.
The station of man is great, if he holds to reality and truth and if he be firm and steadfast in the commands.
The true man appeareth before the Merciful One like unto the heavens; his sight and hearing are the sun and moon; his bright and shining qualities are the stars; his station is the highest one. . . .
O people of the world! The Creed of God is for love and union; make it not to be a cause of discord and disunion. . . .
He hath forbidden strife and dispute with an absolute prohibition in the Book (Kitba-el-Akdas).
This is the command of God in His greatest
Verily, He is the All-knowing and the All- wise. . . .
My Branches! In this Existent Being the greatest strength and the most perfect power is hidden and concealed.
Look towards It and gaze in the direction of Its union, and not at Its seeming differences.
This is the Testament of God, that the Branches, Twigs, and Relations must each and every one look to the Greatest Branch."
To disarm prejudice by pure piety; to bid men believe in the One Source of the religious idea rather than struggle for a sacerdotal or prohibitive form; to affirm himself as the unveiler of the truth in all creeds, the Bond of Union between all good men who differ because of external ritual; to proclaim the coming of Another through whom the peoples of the world should exist together in harmonious relationship under the banner of perpetual peace; this was the mission of Baha‘u‘llah.
His mission terminated in 1892.
It remained for his appointed successor to inaugurate another and larger presentation of the principle of Universal Peace and of the Divine Unity which The Bab and Baha `u lah had preached and prayed for.
29:1 "He called to men of every creed and race to come under the standard of Unity which he had upraised, and assist him in establishing the Kingdom of God and the Brotherhood of Man upon the earth."—S. Sprague.
30:1 "Here in the land of Zion and Carmel, where 'the coming' in this latter day has been told of all the prophets, Baha‘u‘llah lived and taught, many travelling from great distances to hear him, while others received teaching from his writings."—C. M. Rémey.
30:2 "The charge to the Governor stated that they were . . . Nihilists."—Ethel J. Rosenberg.
34:1 "I found that this faith" (Bahaism) "does not expend itself in beautiful and unfruitful theories, but has a vital and effective power to mould life towards the very highest ideal of human character."—Professor G. Granville Browne, M.A.
"This spirit of love and service to fellow-men was exemplified in an Indian Bahai actually giving his life to save mine, and 'Greater love hath no man than this,'"—Sydney Sprague.