Bahá'í World Faith (`Abdu'l-Bahá's Section Only)
MAN'S KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
Know that there are two kinds of knowledge: the knowledge
of the essence of a thing, and the knowledge of its qualities. The
essence of a thing is known through its qualities, otherwise it is
unknown and hidden.
As our knowledge of things, even of created and limited things,
is knowledge of their qualities and not of their essence, how is it
possible to comprehend in its essence the Divine Reality, which
is unlimited? For the substance of the essence of anything is not
comprehended, but only its qualities. For example, the substance
of the sun is unknown, but is understood by its qualities, which
are heat and light. The substance of the essence of man is unknown
and not evident, but by its qualities it is characterized
and known. Thus everything is known by its qualities and not by
its essence. Although the mind encompasses all things, and the
outward beings are comprehended by it, nevertheless these beings
with regard to their essence are unknown; they are only known
with regard to their qualities.
Then how can the eternal everlasting Lord, who is held sanctified
from comprehension and conception, be known by His essence?
That is to say, as things can only be known by their qualities and
not by their essence, it is certain that the Divine Reality is unknown
with regard to its essence, and is known with regard to
its attributes. Besides, how can the phenomenal reality embrace
the Pre-existent Reality? For comprehension is the result of encompassing
--embracing must be, so that comprehension may be
--and the Essence of Unity surrounds all, and is not surrounded.
Also the difference of condition in the world of beings is an
obstacle to comprehension. For example: this mineral belongs to
the mineral kingdom; however far it may rise, it can never comprehend
the power of growth. The plants, the trees, whatever
progress they may make, cannot conceive of the power of sight
or the powers of the other senses; and the animal cannot imagine
the condition of man, that is to say, his spiritual powers. Difference
of condition is an obstacle to knowledge; the inferior degree
cannot comprehend the superior degree. How then can the phenomenal
reality comprehend the Pre-existent Reality? Knowing
God, therefore, means the comprehension and the knowledge of
His attributes, and not of His Reality. This knowledge of the
attributes is also proportioned to the capacity and power of man;
it is not absolute. Philosophy consists in comprehending the reality
of things as they exist, according to the capacity and the power
of man. For the phenomenal reality can comprehend the Pre-existent
attributes only to the extent of the human capacity.
The mystery of Divinity is sanctified and purified from the comprehension
of the beings, for all that comes to the imagination is
that which man understands, and the power of the understanding
of man does not embrace the Reality of the Divine Essence. All
that man is able to understand are the attributes of Divinity, the
radiance of which appears and is visible in worlds and souls.
When we look at the worlds and the 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 universal Manifestation of God. Other
beings receive only one ray, but the universal Manifestation is the
mirror for this Sun, which appears and becomes manifest in it,
with all its perfections, attributes, signs, and wonders.
The knowledge of the Reality of the Divinity is impossible and
unattainable, but the knowledge of the Manifestations of God is
the knowledge of God, for the bounties, splendors, and divine attributes
are apparent in them. Therefore if man attains to the
knowledge of the Manifestations of God, he will attain to the
knowledge of God; and if he be neglectful of the knowledge of
the Holy Manifestation, he will be bereft of the knowledge of
God. It is then ascertained and proved that the Holy Manifestations
are the center of the bounty, signs, and perfections of God.
Blessed are those who receive the light of the divine bounties from
the enlightened Dawning-points!
We hope that the friends of God, like an attractive force, will
draw these bounties from the source itself, and that they will
arise with such illumination and signs that they will be evident
proofs of the Sun of Reality.