A Scientist's Meditation on "The Beginning"
A Commentary on the Perceptions of Stephen Hawking
by Gregory D. Watson
Stephen Hawking was the theoretical physicist who, along with RogerPenrose in 1970, was the first to mathematically prove that the universe had a beginning in time. He holds the physics chair at Cambridge University that Sir Isaac Newton once held. His observations on "the beginning" in his book, "A Brief History of Time," remind one of the words (below) of Bahá'u'lláh (Prophet for this new era in which we are living) written over a century before, on the question of "the beginning." (Baha'u'llah's words also contain references to the initial forces present at the time of the "big bang" -- a subject of continuing inquiry for theoretical physicists.) Two different descriptions of the beginning of the Universe, presented more than 100 years apart, show the unity of the knowledge that comes from science and the knowledge which comes from Revelation. Both descriptions are of interest to the mystic as well as the scientist because they approach the limits of our understanding about the nature of our existence in this mysterious universe.
This confession of helplessness which mature contemplation must eventually impel every mind to make is in itself the acme of human understanding, and marketh the culmination of man's development. * (Baha'u'llah)
Selections and Commentary
How mysterious the forces of life! The scientist's description of our 20 billion years (or so) of cosmic evolution paints a picture not much different than that of the chronicler of Genesis in the Bible or the authors of the Upanishads.
The scientist says: In the beginning of the universe there was nothing... then intense heat and light unfolding a design according to laws, it seems, we CAN largely understand. At the same time, the apogee of knowledge attained by the most learned is their confession of their helplessness to fathom the incomprehensible nature of this design.
So it is that Stephen Hawking and other scientists ponder a number of questions which they confess are unanswerable, questions such as "why was the early universe was so hot?"
Hawking suggests:"God chose the initial configuration of the universe for reasons we cannot hope to understand. This would certainly have been within the power of an omnipotent being, but if he had started it off in such an incomprehensible way, why did he choose to let it evolve according to laws that we could understand? The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order. . ."He points out that this order and design of the universe had to be very precise and finely tuned:"The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron... The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life. For example, if the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size...."And again,". . . if the electric charge of the electron had been only slightly different, stars either would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would not have exploded. Of course, there might be other forms of intelligent life, not dreamed of even by the writers of science fiction, that did not require the light of a star like the sun or the heavier chemical elements that are made from stars and are flung back into space when stars explode.Unification of Forces
Nevertheless, it seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers that would allow the development of any form of intelligent life. Most sets of values would give rise to universes that, although they might be beautiful, would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty. One can take this... as evidence of a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of the laws of science...."
"In the big bang model described above, there was not enough time in the early universe for heat to have flowed from one region to another. This means that the initial state of the universe would have to have had exactly the same temperature everywhere in order to account for the fact that the microwave background has the same temperature in every direction we look. The initial rate of expansion also would have had to be chosen very precisely for the rate of expansion to still be so close to the critical rate needed to avoid recollapse. This means that the initial state of the universe must have been very carefully chosen indeed if the hot big bang model was correct right back to the beginning of time. It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us."Quoted from A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking)
During the late seventies, physicists and astronomers began to apply new theories about the behavior of elementary particles to the process that went on before the first microsecond. These new theories concerned themselves not so much with the constituents of matter, but with the ways that bits of matter interact with each other -- the phenomena we call "force."
Physicists recognize four distinct forces in nature. Two of these -- gravitation and electromagnetism are familiar in everyday experience. The other two were discovered in the twentieth century and concern elementary particles. They are called the strong and the weak forces. The strong force acts between particles to hold the nucleus together against the repulsive electrical forces trying to push individual protons away from each other. The most common manifestation of the weak force is in some of the slow radioactive decay we see in nuclei and elementary particles. (Materials which are radioactive are in the process of this "decay." The attribute of radioactivity is the result of this decay.) Scientists believe that everything that happens in the universe happens because of one or more of these four forces.
On the one hand, being able to reduce every observed change to a manifestation of one of only four forces may seem like a tremendous simplification. To a physicist this multiplicity is suspicious because the existence if four forces implies four separate and disjointed theories which, in turn, implies that the marvelous interconnectedness of nature is lost. Put another way, physicists believe--as did Einstein that when we find the correct theory of the universe we will see that it is beautiful and elegant. Elegance implies simplicity, not multiplicity. Having four separate forces is definitely not up to the standard of elegance that we find in the design of our universe.
We see a historical precedent for reducing the number of forces in nature. We saw how Newton managed to unify the seemingly different forces of heavenly and earthly gravity, showing that there was only one force responsible for both the fall of the apple and the orbit of the moon. Many great scientists, Albert Einstein among them, believed that the present multiplicity of forces could be resolved by the development of a so-called unified field theory, a theory in which all of the forces are seen as identical at some level. In this case, the apparent differences we see are due to our inability to look beyond the surface of things.
The first step toward a modern realization of this old dream of unity was, taken in by Steven Weinberg (then at MIT) and, independently, six months later by Abdus Salam in London. Their work was ignored for a period of about five years, and it wasn't until the early seventies that people began paying attention to it. In essence, they had produced a theory in which the electromagnetic and the weak forces were seen as basically identical. The differences between the forces was a result of observing them in a relatively frigid era. If the temperature were high enough, the underlying identity would be manifest. (Source: Smithsonian Book--SpaceTimeInfinity, by Trefil 1985)
The scientists have begun to echo what the Prophet of God, Baha'u'llah, revealed over 100 years before. Science and divine revelation are complementary forms of knowledge, since science proceeds from Revelation. The peoples of many faiths do not believe that the "big bang" theory contradicts the idea of God "creating" the universe. There exists a curious concept in Hindu mythology that seems to correspond to the oscillating universe theory of some modern physicists, and it is not inconsistent with the idea that the creation has always existed, even though it is also possible to say that there was a time at which God created the world--as revealed in the Holy Scriptures of the Judeo-Christian tradition. I know of no specific interpretation of the scientific theory of the oscillating universe found in the authoritative Baha'i writings that would reconcile the Christian / Jewish / Moslem concept of creation. However, one possible explanation I have is linked to the Hindu mythology.
The concept of a kalpa or an eon marks the beginning of time, so far as we can perceive it. The "big bang" is defined as an "event horizon" -- a point beyond which we cannot see or measure events, just as we cannot see over the earthly horizon. The present "eon" (period of time), or cycle of creation in which we are now living, is considered as only one of an endless number of possible cycles. However, we can measure only the events inside the cycle we are in -- thus the creation seems to have a beginning because from our physically limited point of view we cannot see past the beginning of our own cycle. Considering what we imagine to be the illimitable power of God to generate an endless number of creations (displaying His capacity as "Creator" to manifest the universe in any number of possible matrices or forms), we are inside only one. If, in the "beginning," the universe explodes from a single point into one of these grandiose designs and then recollapses back into a single point, only to explode again into another magnificent display of God's handiwork, then every possibility for these "creative" expressions resides within the "mind" of God from the beginning that has no beginning.... "when" all was with God alone (al-one).
The Hindu story of this creative act or display is followed by God folding up his wares (articles manufactured with specific materials according to a unique set of rules) into nothingness -- as if God takes a rest in between cycles of creativity. The creatures can experience billions of years existing within each cycle, yet in the mind of God an instant and an eternity are the same. In each cycle, consciousness evolves out of matter until the universe becomes cognizant of itself -- "star-stuff contemplating the stars," as Carl Sagan once said -- perhaps until matter realizes its nature as pure light. The board is erased and the whole thing starts over, again and again, endlessly. One can imagine that in every burst of creative display God could demonstrate different materials, according to an entirely different set of rules or physical laws. Of course this interpretation is speculation on my part, since the idea is completely incomprehensible. Only the human spirit can transcend this purely physical point of view and hope to have a glimpse of the truths beyond physical existence. The following passages from the Baha'i texts should shed more light upon the whole idea, from an authoritative point of view -- the vision within the Revelation from the Source.
A few Statements by Baha'u'llah on the "Beginning" of Creation
"Split the atom's heart, and lo!
Within it thou wilt find a sun."
"As regards thine assertions about the beginning of creation, this is a matter on which conceptions vary by reason of the divergences in men's thoughts and opinions. Wert thou to assert that it hath ever existed and shall continue to exist, it would be true; or wert thou to affirm the same concept as is mentioned in the sacred Scriptures, no doubt would there be about it, for it hath been revealed by God, the Lord of the worlds. Indeed He was a hidden treasure. This is a station that can never be described or alluded to. And in the station of 'I did wish to make Myself known', God was, and His creation had ever existed beneath His shelter from the beginning that hath no beginning, apart from its being preceded by a Firstness which cannot be regarded as firstness and originated by a Cause inscrutable even unto all men of learning.
That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different. Thus doth the Great Announcement inform thee about this glorious structure. Such as communicate the generating influence and such as receive its impact are indeed created through the irresistible Word of God which is the Cause of the entire creation, while all else besides His Word are but the creatures and effects thereof. Verily thy Lord is the Expounder, the All-Wise.
Know thou, moreover, that the Word of God--exalted be His glory--is higher and far superior to that which the senses can perceive, for it is sanctified from any property or substance. It transcendeth the limitations of known elements and is exalted above all the essential and recognized substances. It became manifest without any syllable or sound and is none but the Command of God which pervadeth all created things. It hath never been withheld from the world of being. It is God's all-pervasive grace, from which all grace doth emanate. It is an entity far removed from all that hath been and shall be. . ." (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 140-141)
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The Tablet continues:
". . . Every thing must needs have an origin and every building a builder. Verily, the Word of God is the Cause which hath preceded the contingent world -- a world which is adorned with the splendours of the Ancient of Days, yet is being renewed and regenerated at all times. Immeasurably exalted is the God of Wisdom Who hath raised this sublime structure.
Look at the world and ponder a while upon it. It unveileth the book of its own self before thine eyes and revealeth that which the Pen of thy Lord, the Fashioner, the All-Informed, hath inscribed therein. It will acquaint thee with that which is within it and upon it and will give thee such clear explanations as to make thee independent of every eloquent expounder.
Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion. It is endowed with a power whose reality men of learning fail to grasp. Indeed a man of insight can perceive naught therein save the effulgent splendour of Our Name, the Creator. Say: This is an existence which knoweth no decay, and Nature itself is lost in bewilderment before its revelations, its compelling evidences and its effulgent glory which have encompassed the universe.
It ill beseemeth thee to turn thy gaze unto former or more recent times. Make thou mention of this Day and magnify that which hath appeared therein. It will in truth suffice all mankind. Indeed expositions and discourses in explanation of such things cause the spirits to be chilled. It behoveth thee to speak forth in such wise as to set the hearts of true believers ablaze and cause their bodies to soar.
Whoso firmly believeth today in the rebirth of man and is fully conscious that God, the Most Exalted, wieldeth supreme ascendancy and absolute authority over this new creation, verily such a man is reckoned with them that are endued with insight in this most great Revelation. Unto this beareth witness every discerning believer.
Walk thou high above the world of being through the power of the Most Great Name, that thou mayest become aware of the immemorial mysteries and be acquainted with that wherewith no one is acquainted. Verily, thy Lord is the Helper, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. Be thou as a throbbing artery, pulsating in the body of the entire creation, that through the heat generated by this motion there may appear that which will quicken the hearts of those who hesitate.
At the time when We were hidden behind countless veils of light thou didst commune with Me and didst witness the luminaries of the heaven of My wisdom and the billows of the ocean of Mine utterance. Verily thy Lord is the Truthful, the Faithful. Great indeed is the blessedness of him who hath attained the liberal effusions of this ocean in the days of his Lord, the Most Bountiful, the All-Wise."(Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Pages: 141-143 -- taken from "The Tablet of Wisdom" )"As to thy question concerning the origin of creation. Know assuredly that God's creation hath existed from eternity, and will continue to exist forever. Its beginning hath had no beginning and its end knoweth no end. His name, the Creator, presupposeth a creation, even as His title, the Lord of Men, must involve the existence of a servant." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 151.)
"O SON OF BEING! With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of strength I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is perfect and My command is binding. Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof."(Baha'u'llah: Hidden Words, Page: 12)
The Generating Impulse and the Primary Purpose
Underlying the Whole of Creation
"All praise to the unity of God, and all honor to Him, the sovereign Lord, the incomparable and all-glorious Ruler of the universe, Who, out of utter nothingness, hath created the reality of all things, Who, from naught, hath brought into being the most refined and subtle elements of His creation, and Who, rescuing His creatures from the abasement of remoteness and the perils of ultimate extinction, hath received them into His kingdom of incorruptible glory. Nothing short of His all-encompassing grace, His all-pervading mercy, could have possibly achieved it. How could it, otherwise, have been possible for sheer nothingness to have acquired by itself the worthiness and capacity to emerge from its state of non-existence into the realm of being?
Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him -- a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation.... 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.
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."(Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Pages: 64-66)
As to those sayings, attributed to the Prophets of old, such as, "In the beginning was God; there was no creature to know Him," and "The Lord was alone; with no one to adore Him," the meaning of these and similar sayings is clear and evident, and should at no time be misapprehended. To this same truth bear witness these words which He hath revealed: "God was alone; there was none else besides Him. He will always remain what He hath ever been." Every discerning eye will readily perceive that the Lord is now manifest, yet there is none to recognize His glory. By this is meant that the habitation wherein the Divine Being dwelleth is far above the reach and ken of any one besides Him. Whatsoever in the contingent world can either be expressed or apprehended, can never transgress the limits which, by its inherent nature, have been imposed upon it. God, alone, transcendeth such limitations. He, verily, is from everlasting. No peer or partner has been, or can ever be, joined with Him. No name can be compared with His Name. No pen can portray His nature, neither can any tongue depict His glory. He will, for ever, remain immeasurably exalted above any one except Himself.
The Creator without a Creation
Consider the hour at which the supreme Manifestation of God revealeth Himself unto men. Ere that hour cometh, the Ancient Being, Who is still unknown of men and hath not as yet given utterance to the Word of God, is Himself the All-Knower in a world devoid of any man that hath known Him. He is indeed the Creator without a creation. For at the very moment preceding His Revelation, each and every created thing shall be made to yield up its soul to God. This is indeed the Day of which it hath been written: "Whose shall be the Kingdom this Day?" And none can be found ready to answer!
As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Consider thy state when asleep. Verily, I say, this phenomenon is the most mysterious of the signs of God amongst men, were they to ponder it in their hearts. Behold how the thing which thou hast seen in thy dream is, after a considerable lapse of time, fully realized. Had the world in which thou didst find thyself in thy dream been identical with the world in which thou livest, it would have been necessary for the event occurring in that dream to have transpired in this world at the very moment of its occurrence. Were it so, you yourself would have borne witness unto it. This being not the case, however, it must necessarily follow that the world in which thou livest is different and apart from that which thou hast experienced in thy dream. This latter world hath neither beginning nor end. It would be true if thou wert to contend that this same world is, as decreed by the All-Glorious and Almighty God, within thy proper self and is wrapped up within thee. It would equally be true to maintain that thy spirit, having transcended the limitations of sleep and having stripped itself of all earthly attachment, hath, by the act of God, been made to traverse a realm which lieth hidden in the innermost reality of this world. Verily I say, the creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world, and creatures apart from these creatures. In each of these worlds He hath ordained things which none can search except Himself, the All-Searching, the All-Wise. Do thou meditate on that which We have revealed unto thee, that thou mayest discover the purpose of God, thy Lord, and the Lord of all worlds. In these words the mysteries of Divine Wisdom have been treasured. . . . (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Pages: 150-153)
The Countless Worlds of God
Every Created Thing is a SignKnow thou that every created thing is a sign of the revelation of God. Each, according to its capacity, is, and will ever remain, a token of the Almighty. Inasmuch as He, the sovereign Lord of all, hath willed to reveal His sovereignty in the kingdom of names and attributes, each and every created thing hath, through the act of the Divine Will, been made a sign of His glory. So pervasive and general is this revelation that nothing whatsoever in the whole universe can be discovered that doth not reflect His splendor. Under such conditions every consideration of proximity and remoteness is obliterated.... Were the Hand of Divine power to divest of this high endowment all created things, the entire universe would become desolate and void.
Behold, how immeasurably exalted is the Lord your God above all created things! Witness the majesty of His sovereignty, His ascendancy, and supreme power. If the things which have been created by Him -- magnified be His glory -- and ordained to be the manifestations of His names and attributes, stand, by virtue of the grace with which they have been endowed, exalted beyond all proximity and remoteness, how much loftier must be that Divine Essence that hath called them into being?...
Meditate on what the poet hath written: "Wonder not, if my Best-Beloved be closer to me than mine own self; wonder at this, that I, despite such nearness, should still be so far from Him."... Considering what God hath revealed, that "We are closer to man than his life-vein," the poet hath, in allusion to this verse, stated that, though the revelation of my Best-Beloved hath so permeated my being that He is closer to me than my life-vein, yet, notwithstanding my certitude of its reality and my recognition of my station, I am still so far removed from Him. By this he meaneth that his heart, which is the seat of the All-Merciful and the throne wherein abideth the splendor of His revelation, is forgetful of its Creator. . .
Consider, moreover, how frequently doth man become forgetful of his own self, whilst God remaineth, through His all-encompassing knowledge, aware of His creature, and continueth to shed upon him the manifest radiance of His glory. It is evident, therefore, that, in such circumstances, He is closer to him than his own self. He will, indeed, so remain for ever, for, whereas the one true God knoweth all things, perceiveth all things, and comprehendeth all things, mortal man is prone to err, and is ignorant of the mysteries that lie enfolded within him.... (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Pages: 184-189)
However, let none construe these utterances to be anthropomorphism, nor see in them the descent of the worlds of God into the grades of the creatures; nor should they lead thine Eminence to such assumptions. For God is, in His Essence, holy above ascent and descent, entrance and exit; He hath through all eternity been free of the attributes of human creatures, and ever will remain so. No man hath ever known Him; no soul hath ever found the pathway to His Being. Every mystic knower hath wandered far astray in the valley of the knowledge of Him; every saint hath lost his way in seeking to comprehend His Essence. Sanctified is He above the understanding of the wise; exalted is He above the knowledge of the knowing! The way is barred and to seek it is impiety; His proof is His signs; His being is His evidence.
Wherefore, the lovers of the face of the Beloved have said: "O Thou, the One Whose Essence alone showeth the way to His Essence, and Who is sanctified above any likeness to His creatures." How can utter nothingness gallop its steed in the field of preexistence, or a fleeting shadow reach to the everlasting sun? The Friend hath said, "But for Thee, we had not known Thee," and the Beloved hath said, "nor attained Thy presence."(Baha'u'llah: Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, Pages: 22-23)
The Rational Faculty
* Consider the rational faculty with which God hath endowed the essence of man. . . . Wert thou to ponder in thine heart, from now until the end that hath no end, and with all the concentrated intelligence and understanding which the greatest minds have attained in the past or will attain in the future, this divinely ordained and subtle Reality, this sign of the revelation of the All-Abiding, All-Glorious God, thou wilt fail to comprehend its mystery or to appraise its virtue. Having recognized thy powerlessness to attain to an adequate understanding of that Reality which abideth within thee, thou wilt readily admit the futility of such efforts as may be attempted by thee, or by any of the created things, to fathom the mystery of the Living God, the Day Star of unfading glory, the Ancient of everlasting days. This confession of helplessness which mature contemplation must eventually impel every mind to make is in itself the acme of human understanding, and marketh the culmination of man's development. (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Pages: 164-166)
Secrets and Mysteries Lie Hidden
. . . He, in this station, is content with the decree of God, and seeth war as peace, and findeth in death the secrets of everlasting life. With inward and outward eyes he witnesseth the mysteries of resurrection in the realms of creation and the souls of men, and with a pure heart apprehendeth the divine wisdom in the endless Manifestations of God. In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.
Split the atom's heart, and lo!
Within it thou wilt find a sun.
The wayfarer in this Valley seeth in the fashionings of the True One nothing save clear providence, and at every moment saith: "No defect canst thou see in the creation of the God of Mercy: Repeat the gaze: Seest thou a single flaw?" He beholdeth justice in injustice, and in justice, grace. In ignorance he findeth many a knowledge hidden, and in knowledge a myriad wisdoms manifest. He breaketh the cage of the body and the passions, and consorteth with the people of the immortal realm. He mounteth on the ladders of inner truth and hasteneth to the heaven of inner significance. He rideth in the ark of "we shall show them our signs in the regions and in themselves," and journeyeth over the sea of "until it become plain to them that (this Book) is the truth." And if he meeteth with injustice he shall have patience, and if he cometh upon wrath he shall manifest love.(Baha'u'llah: Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, Pages: 12-13)
The Microcosm and the Macrocosm
When we ponder over the reality of the microcosm, we discover that in the microcosm there are deposited three realities. Man is endowed with an outer or physical reality. It belongs to the material realm, the animal kingdom, because it has sprung from the material world. This animalistic reality of man he shares in common with the animals.
The human body is like animals subject to nature's laws. But man is endowed with a second reality, the rational or intellectual reality; and the intellectual reality of man predominates over nature.
All these sciences which we enjoy were the hidden and recondite secrets of nature, unknowable to nature, but man was enabled to discover these mysteries, and out of the plane of the unseen he brought them into the plane of the seen.
Yet there is a third reality in man, the spiritual reality. Through its medium one discovers spiritual revelations, a celestial faculty which is infinite as regards the intellectual as well as physical realms. That power is conferred upon man through the breath of the Holy Spirit. It is an eternal reality, an indestructible reality, a reality belonging to the divine, supernatural kingdom; a reality whereby the world is illumined, a reality which grants unto man eternal life. This third, spiritual reality it is which discovers past events and looks along the vistas of the future. It is the ray of the Sun of Reality. The spiritual world is enlightened through it, the whole of the Kingdom is being illumined by it. It enjoys the world of beatitude, a world which had not beginning and which shall have no end.
That celestial reality, the third reality of the microcosm, delivers man from the material world. Its power causes man to escape from nature's world. Escaping, he will find an illuminating reality, transcending the limited reality of man and causing him to attain to the infinitude of God, abstracting him from the world of superstitions and imaginations, and submerging him in the sea of the rays of the Sun of Reality.
This fact is proved from scientific as well as spiritual evidence.
When we ponder over the conditions of phenomena, we observe that all phenomena are composed of single elements. This singular cell-element travels and has its coursings through all the grades of existence. I wish you to ponder carefully over this. This cellular element has at some time been in the mineral kingdom. While staying in the mineral kingdom it has had its coursings and transformations through myriads of images and forms. Having perfected its journey in the mineral kingdom, it has ascended to the vegetable kingdom; and in the vegetable kingdom it has again had journeys and transformations through myriads of conditions. Having accomplished its functions in the vegetable kingdom, the cellular element ascends to the animal kingdom.
In the animal kingdom again it goes through the composition of myriads of images, and then we have it in the human kingdom. In the human kingdom likewise it has its transformations and coursings through multitudes of forms. In short, this single primordial atom has had its great journeys through every stage of life, and in every stage it was endowed with a special and particular virtue or characteristic.
Consequently, the great divine philosophers have had the following epigram: All things are involved in all things. For every single phenomenon has enjoyed the postulates of God, and in every form of these infinite electrons it has had its characteristics of perfection.
Thus this flower once upon a time was of the soil. The animal eats the flower or its fruit, and it thereby ascends to the animal kingdom. Man eats the meat of the animal, and there you have its ascent into the human kingdom, because all phenomena are divided into that which eats and that which is eaten. Therefore, every primordial atom of these atoms, singly and indivisible, has had its coursings throughout all the sentient creation, going constantly into the aggregation of the various elements. Hence do you have the conservation of energy and the infinity of phenomena, the indestructibility of phenomena, changeless and immutable, because life cannot suffer annihilation but only change.
The apparent annihilation is this: that the form, the outward image, goes through all these changes and transformations. Let us again take the example of this flower. The flower is indestructible. The only thing that we can see, this outer form, is indeed destroyed, but the elements, the indivisible elements which have gone into the composition of this flower are eternal and changeless. Therefore the realities of all phenomena are immutable. Extinction or mortality is nothing but the transformation of pictures and images, so to speak - the reality back of these images is eternal. And every reality of the realities is one of the bounties of God.
Some people believe that the divinity of God had a beginning. They say that before this particular beginning man had no knowledge of the divinity of God. With this principle they have limited the operation of the influences of God.
For example, they think there was a time when man did not exist, and that there will be a time in the future when man will not exist. Such a theory circumscribes the power of God, because how can we understand the divinity of God except through scientifically understanding the manifestations of the attributes of God?
How can we understand the nature of fire except from its heat, its light? Were not heat and light in this fire, naturally we could not say that the fire existed.
Thus, if there was a time when God did not manifest His qualities, then there was no God, because the attributes of God presuppose the creation of phenomena. For example, by present consideration we say that God is the creator. Then there must always have been a creation -- since the quality of creator cannot be limited to the moment when some man or men realize this attribute. The attributes that we discover one by one -- these attributes themselves necessarily anticipated our discovery of them. Therefore, God has no beginning and no ending; nor is His creation limited ever as to degree. Limitations of time and degree pertain to things created, never to the creation as a whole. They pertain to the forms of things, not to their realities. The effulgence of God cannot be suspended. The sovereignty of God cannot be interrupted.
As long as the sovereignty of God is immemorial, therefore the creation of our world throughout infinity is presupposed. When we look at the reality of this subject, we see that the bounties of God are infinite, without beginning and without end.
The greatest bounties of God in this phenomenal world are His Manifestations. This is the greatest postulate. These Manifestations are the Suns of Reality. For it is through the Manifestation that the reality becomes known and established for man. History proves to us that apart from the influence of the Manifestations, man sinks back into his animal condition, using even his intellectual power to subserve an animal purpose. Therefore there is no cessation whatsoever in the future for the appearance of the Manifestation of God, because God is infinite and His purpose cannot be limited in any way. If we ever dare to limit and circumscribe God's purpose within any bounds, then of necessity we have dared to set limitations to the omnipotence of God. The created has dared to define his Creator!
Consequently, the perfect man ever beholds the rays of the Sun of Truth. The perfect man ever awaits and expects the coming of the effulgence of God, he ever ponders over the methods and purposes of God, knowing that of certainty the realities of the Divine are not finite, the Divine names and attributes are not finite. God's graces and bounties are without limit, and the coming of the Manifestations of God are not circumscribed by time.(`Abdu'l-Baha: Foundations of World Unity, Pages: 51-53)
"A Creator Without a Creature is Impossible . . ."
Know that it is one of the most abstruse spiritual truths that the world of existence, that is to say this endless universe, has no beginning. ...Know that ... a creator without a creature is impossible, a provider without those provided for cannot be conceived; for all the divine names and attributes demand the existence of beings. If we could imagine a time when no beings existed, this imagination would be the denial of the Divinity of God. Moreover, absolute non-existence cannot become existence. If the beings were absolutely non-existent, existence would not have come into being. Therefore, as the Essence of Unity, that is the existence of God, is everlasting and eternal -- that is to say, it has neither beginning nor end -- it is certain that this world of existence ... has neither beginning nor end. ... it may be that one of the parts of the universe, one of the globes, for example, may come into existence, or may be disintegrated, but the other endless globes are still existing. ... As each globe has a beginning, necessarily it has an end, because every composition, collective or particular, must of necessity be decomposed; the only difference is that some are quickly decomposed, and others more slowly, but it is impossible that a composed thing should not eventually be decomposed.-- Some Answered Questions, pp. 209-210.
Knowledge is a Single Point
Secrets are many, but strangers are myriad. Volumes will not suffice to hold the mystery of the Beloved One, nor can it be exhausted in these pages, although it be no more than a word, no more than a sign. "Knowledge is a single point, but the ignorant have multiplied it." (Baha'u'llah: Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, Pages: 24-25)
For futher reading:
See Some Answered Questions, by Abdu'l-Baha, specifically, Nature is Governed by One Universal Law.
Also, like Baha'u'llah's tablet on "The Beginning" above, Abdu'l-Baha's "Tablet of the Universe" reveals specific aspects of the nature of the universe and its creation.
A Baha'is perspective -- Kim Bower's talk at the Irfan Colloquium, 1996:
Analytical Foundations for a Rational Synthesis Between Traditional Religious and Scientific Cosmologies
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