The Curious Case of the Twin Mysteries: Humanity, and Our Creator

Isn’t it curious that one ‘unknown’ or ‘unknowable’ may help in finding the key to another mystery?

After all, that’s the way we usually gain knowledge – by starting with something known, and then examining an unknown mystery with the help of what we already know. 

Let’s use this approach to grapple with the case of the twin mysteries: humanity, and our Creator.

We’ll start with the knowledge of reality, seen and unseen, using the language and terminology of the Baha’i teachings – which acknowledge the mystical concepts of “God,” “spirit,” “soul,” and “mind,” while upholding science as the “most noble and praiseworthy accomplishment” of human beings.

Here, we must accept that these are realities that cannot be defined in a rigorous manner, as one would attempt to define the terms of mathematics or even philosophy. This more mystical plane of knowledge utilizes poetry, analogy, metaphor, and paradox; in what the Baha’i Universal House of Justice calleda realm in which the Manifestations Themselves speak with many voices.” 

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This passage from a 1912 speech given by Abdu’l-Baha at New York’s Columbia University clearly explains the Baha’i teachings on the existing known reality:

If we look with a perceiving eye upon the world of creation, we find that all existing things may be classified as follows:  First – Mineral – that is to say matter or substance appearing in various forms of composition.  Second – Vegetable-possessing the virtues of the mineral plus the power of augmentation or growth, indicating a degree higher and more specialized than the mineral.  Third – Animal – possessing the attributes of the mineral and vegetable plus the power of sense perception.  Fourth – Human – the highest specialized organism of visible creation, embodying the qualities of the mineral, vegetable and animal plus an ideal endowment absolutely minus and absent in the lower kingdoms – the power of intellectual investigation into the mysteries of outer phenomena. The outcome of this intellectual endowment is science which is especially characteristic of man. This scientific power investigates and apprehends created objects and the laws surrounding them. It is the discoverer of the hidden and mysterious secrets of the material universe and is peculiar to man alone. The most noble and praiseworthy accomplishment of man therefore is scientific knowledge and attainment. 

In another talk he gave in New York, Abdu’l-Baha elaborated on what creates that intellectual investigation:

God has conferred upon and added to man a distinctive power, the faculty of intellectual investigation into the secrets of creation, the acquisition of higher knowledge, the greatest virtue of which is scientific enlightenment. This endowment is the most praiseworthy power of man, for through its employment and exercise, the betterment of the human race is accomplished, the development of the virtues of mankind is made possible and the spirit and mysteries of God become manifest.

There is nothing else in the entire natural creation like the human soul, with its intellectual capacities and inventive abilities, to assist in the betterment of humanity. The Baha’i teachings conclude that the factual reality of the occurrence of the human soul points out the presence of supernatural kingdoms, in addition to the five natural kingdoms listed above.

As we know, every effect must have a cause – and the cause of the human soul, the Baha’i teachings say, is a supernatural one, an unknowable Creator.

Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, said that the human soul is “a heavenly gem … whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel,” andone of the signs of God, a mystery among His mysteries.” Thus we find the twin mysteries of the human soul and its Creator, God, mutually reflected in each other. Both are mysterious, meaning unknown and unknowable in their essences, but knowable in their manifestations.

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Abdu’l-Baha, in a talk on November 10, 1912 in Washington D.C., directly addressed the sources of such mysteries when he posed and then answered this question: “What is the reality of Divinity, or what do we understand by God?”  

When we consider the world of existence, we find that the essential reality underlying any given phenomenon is unknown. Phenomenal, or created, things are known to us only by their attributes. Man discerns only manifestations, or attributes, of objects, while the identity, or reality, of them remains hidden. … That which comes within human grasp is finite, and in relation to it we are infinite because we can grasp it. Assuredly, the finite is lesser than the infinite; the infinite is ever greater. If the reality of Divinity could be contained within the grasp of human mind, it would after all be possessed of an intellectual existence only—a mere intellectual concept without extraneous existence, an image or likeness which had come within the comprehension of finite intellect. The mind of man would be transcendental thereto. How could it be possible that an image which has only intellectual existence is the reality of Divinity, which is infinite? Therefore, the reality of Divinity in its identity is beyond the range of human intellection because the human mind, the human intellect, the human thought are limited, whereas the reality of Divinity is unlimited. How can the limited grasp the unlimited and transcend it? Impossible. The unlimited always comprehends the limited. The limited can never comprehend, surround nor take in the unlimited. Therefore, every concept of Divinity which has come within the intellection of a human being is finite, or limited, and is a pure product of imagination, whereas the reality of Divinity is holy and sacred above and beyond all such concepts.

What a remarkable realization – that only the mystery of the human soul can contemplate the mystery of the Creator.

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