Validation! It means to prove something to yourself. It's vital to a happy, safe, and productive life. It's a skill that combines knowledge, experience, and subtle sense of what rings true and false. Without the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, we are doomed to a life of failure and exploitation.
The most important things in life that has to be validated is the existence of God, followed by the validity of the Messengers God sends to us, to teach and guide us. These Manifestations of God's love and compassion sacrifice their all for our benefit. These Manifestations of God are human beings chosen to reveal the Word of God. Although human, the Manifestation is different than other human beings in that the nature and station of these Great Beings is fundamentally different.
So who is a Manifestation, and who is not? How can we separate the true Manifestations from the false prophets? And what does it mean to us if someone is a Manifestation?
Anyone can claim to be a Manifestation of God, but few there are whose claims can be verified and validated. Based upon a review of the Baha’i Writings, ten criteria have been identified, which when considered together provide a definitive method to judge the veracity of such claims.
Find the truth. Don’t believe simply because of the influence of some authority figure. Tradition and book learning are not replacements for using free-will (11). Given the nature of the claims made by the Manifestations, the first and most important issue facing ordinary people is to determine is that person who claims to represent God is telling the truth.
There are four types of people who might claim such a distinction:
- Independent Manifestation of God
- Manifestation of God
- Minor Prophet
- False Prophet
The Independent Manifestation reveals the Word of God (authors a new revelation) and authors a new religion though it may take time before that religion grows into a large, organized body. This was true of most of the great religions of the world.
There have only been a few Independent Manifestations in the history of humanity. There are Manifestations of God Who educate and guide humanity but do not author an independent revelation, nor do they start an independent religion. A minor prophet on the other hand is a normal human being, who by virtue of their selfless service and great devotion has risen to achieve spiritual awareness that other people do not. And finally, there are people who claim to speak for God but have no authority to do so. These are the false prophets.
“Universally, the Prophets are of two kinds. One are the independent Prophets Who are followed; the other kind are not independent and are themselves followers.
The independent Prophets are the lawgivers and the founders of a new cycle. Through Their appearance the world puts on a new garment, the foundations of religion are established, and a new book is revealed. Without an intermediary They receive bounty from the Reality of the Divinity, and Their illumination is an essential illumination. They are like the sun which is luminous in itself: the light is its essential necessity; it does not receive light from any other star. These Dawning-places of the morn of Unity are the sources of bounty and the mirrors of the Essence of Reality.
The other Prophets are followers and promoters, for they are branches and not independent; they receive the bounty of the independent Prophets, and they profit by the light of the Guidance of the universal Prophets. They are like the moon, which is not luminous and radiant in itself, but receives its light from the sun.
The Manifestations of universal Prophethood Who appeared independently are, for example, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. But the others who are followers and promoters are like Solomon, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. For the independent Prophets are founders; They establish a new religion and make new creatures of men; They change the general morals, promote new customs and rules, renew the cycle and the Law. Their appearance is like the season of spring, which arrays all earthly beings in a new garment, and gives them a new life.
With regard to the second sort of Prophets who are followers, these also promote the Law of God, make known the Religion of God, and proclaim His word. Of themselves they have no power and might, except what they receive from the independent Prophets.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990, pp. 164-5.
With so many competing claims on our time and attention it would be foolish to give ear to every street corner prophet or television evangelist. Yet, deep inside of us we long to connect with something greater than ourselves – our Creator, God. Luckily, God has delivered us from our perplexities by guiding us signs and it is up to us to find the truth for ourselves. That is the first principle of the Baha’i Faith.
“The first is the independent investigation of truth; for blind imitation of the past will stunt the mind. But once every soul inquireth into truth, society will be freed from the darkness of continually repeating the past.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Center, 1982, p. 248.
Once the Promised One is found and His Claims verified, it is incumbent upon the seeker to listen and obey the teachings of the Manifestation.
“Once the validity of a divinely appointed Prophet hath been established, to none is given the right to ask why or wherefore. Rather is it incumbent upon all to accept and obey whatsoever He saith.”
Bahá’u’lláh, Tabernacle of Unity, Bahá’í World Center, 2006, p. 46.
By examining the details of the life and times of a candidate who claims to be an Independent Manifestation a profile can be developed. When the truth of such assertions is verified a truly compelling case can be seen. No longer is it necessary to believe blindly. No longer is blind faith. Validating criteria include:
- Life and Conduct
- Revelation and Words (Teachings)
- Innate knowledge
- Progressive Nature of Teachings
- Historical Timing
- Fulfillment of Prophesy
- Transformation of Followers
Anyone can claim to speak for God, but now those claims can be put to the test. No longer do people have to follow blindly the false prophet and fall prey to lies and deceit. If someone claims a special dispensation from God, to speak for God, put that person to the test.
Life and Conduct
The best proof of the existence of the sun is to walk under its bright light and bask in its warming rays. The best the proof of the Manifestation of God is His own Self, His life and conduct. The life of the Manifestation is unique and there are distinguishing characteristics that can be studied.
“The holy Manifestations of God come into the world to dispel the darkness of the animal, or physical, nature of man, to purify him from his imperfections in order that his heavenly and spiritual nature may become quickened, his divine qualities awakened, his perfections visible, his potential powers revealed and all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within him may come to life. These holy Manifestations of God are the Educators and Trainers of the world of existence, the Teachers of the world of humanity. They liberate man from the darkness of the world of nature, deliver him from despair, error, ignorance, imperfections and all evil qualities. They clothe him in the garment of perfections and exalted virtues.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, pp. 465-6.
Revelation and Teachings
Next to the Person of the Manifestation, the best proof is His Revelation. The Manifestation of God is commissioned to reveal teachings that will educate and guide humanity. These teachings are of two types: spiritual and social. The spiritual teachings of the Manifestations are one and the same though each successive Manifestation reveals more as humanity grows and is able to learn more. The social teachings, however, are designed to address the specific needs and times of the peoples to whom they are addressed. As such, the social teachings of the Manifestation change over time.
“What, then, is the mission of the divine Prophets? Their mission is the education and advancement of the world of humanity. They are the real Teachers and Educators, the universal Instructors of mankind. If we wish to discover whether any one of these great Souls or Messengers was in reality a Prophet of God, we must investigate the facts surrounding His life and history, and the first point of our investigation will be the education He bestowed upon mankind.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, p. 364.
“That which is preeminent above all other gifts, is incorruptible in nature, and pertaineth to God Himself, is the gift of Divine Revelation... It is, in its essence, and will ever so remain, the Bread which cometh down from Heaven. It is God’s supreme testimony, the clearest evidence of His truth…”
Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990, p. 195.
“The essence of all religions is the love of God, and it is the foundation of all the sacred teachings.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, U.K. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1972, p. 82.
“The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed as proof of His reality and truth.”
Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990, p. 105.
Each and every Manifestation enters into a covenant with His followers. The covenant is between God and His believers.
“His Holiness Abraham, on Him be peace, made a covenant concerning His Holiness Moses and gave the glad-tidings of His coming. His Holiness Moses made a covenant concerning the Promised One, i.e. His Holiness Christ, and announced the good news of His Manifestation to the world. His Holiness Christ made a covenant concerning the Paraclete and gave the tidings of His coming. His Holiness the Prophet Muḥammad made a covenant concerning His Holiness the Báb and the Báb was the One promised by Muhammad, for Muḥammad gave the tidings of His coming. The Báb made a Covenant concerning the Blessed Beauty of Bahá’u’lláh and gave the glad-tidings of His coming for the Blessed Beauty was the One promised by His Holiness the Báb. Bahá’u’lláh made a covenant concerning a promised One who will become manifest after one thousand or thousands of years. He likewise, with His Supreme Pen, entered into a great Covenant and Testament with all the Bahá’ís whereby they were all commanded to follow the Center of the Covenant after His departure, and turn not away even to a hair’s breadth from obeying Him.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith—Selected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1976, p. 358.
The Manifestation of God demonstrates innate or inborn knowledge without the benefit of formal education.
“When, some years later, Baha'u'llah declared himself to be the "glory of God," the Báb's followers with few exceptions believed in him. His brilliancy shone forth like a sun. His power had already been recognized before his proclamation and on the day of his declaration all became aware and were amazed at his wisdom.
Behold how in a few years, although exiled and imprisoned, he enunciated his purpose. Two kings were planning his death and still his power grew stronger day unto day! In the darkness of the dungeons he shone like a star! The more his followers were killed, the more the number grew; for each man killed, a hundred men arose. No one entered his presence without becoming awe-stricken by his might. The learned men who approached him were astounded at his knowledge, yet he never attended school nor learned of men. His friends and his family all testify to this, yet his teachings are the soul of this age.
The sun emanates from itself and does not draw its light from other sources. The divine teachers have the innate light; they have knowledge and understanding of all things in the universe; the rest of the world receives its light from them and through them the arts and sciences are revived in each age.
Abraham and Moses went to no school; Jesus had neither school nor master; Mohammed never had a lesson; the Báb and Baha'u'llah had no professors. Read the books written by Baha'u'llah - the philosophers and savants in the Orient will bear witness to his eloquence and learning. In the Orient this is considered a proof of his divinity. There they say, "If someone can write a letter like Baha'u'llah, Baha'u'llah's divinity can be denied." No one has yet competed.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, Tutor Press, 1918, pp. 53-4.
“All the wondrous works ye behold in this world have been manifested through the operation of His supreme and most exalted Will, His wondrous and inflexible Purpose.”
Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990, p. 141.
“The essential ordinances established by a Manifestation of God are spiritual; they concern moralities, the ethical development of man and faith in God. They are ideal and necessarily permanent -- expressions of the one foundation and not amenable to change or transformation. Therefore, the fundamental basis of the revealed religion of God is immutable, unchanging throughout the centuries, not subject to the varying conditions of the human world.
Christ ratified and proclaimed the foundation of the law of Moses. Muhammad and all the Prophets have revoiced that same foundation of reality. Therefore, the purposes and accomplishments of the divine Messengers have been one and the same. They were the source of advancement to the body politic and the cause of the honor and divine civilization of humanity, the foundation of which is one and the same in every dispensation. It is evident, then, that the proofs of the validity and inspiration of a Prophet of God are the deeds of beneficent accomplishment and greatness emanating from Him. If He proves to be instrumental in the elevation and betterment of mankind, He is undoubtedly a valid and heavenly Messenger.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, p. 365.
“If He has been an Educator, if He has really trained a nation or people, causing it to rise from the lowest depths of ignorance to the highest station of knowledge, then we are sure that He was a Prophet.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, p. 363.
“In the beginning the tree was in all its beauty, and full of blossoms and fruits, but at last it became old and entirely fruitless, and it withered and decayed. This is why the True Gardener plants again an incomparable young tree of the same kind and species, which grows and develops day by day, and spreads a wide shadow in the divine garden, and yields admirable fruit. So it is with religions; through the passing of time they change from their original foundation, the truth of the Religion of God entirely departs, and the spirit of it does not stay; heresies appear, and it becomes a body without a soul. That is why it is renewed.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990, pp. 164-5.
Fulfillment of Prophesy
“The holy Manifestations Who have been the Sources or Founders of the various religious systems were united and agreed in purpose and teaching. Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh are one in spirit and reality. Moreover, each Prophet fulfilled the promise of the One Who came before Him and, likewise, Each announced the One Who would follow. Consider how Abraham foretold the coming of Moses, and Moses embodied the Abrahamic statement. Moses prophesied the Messianic cycle, and Christ fulfilled the law of Moses.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, pp. 197-8.
“Among the great Prophets was Abraham, Who, being an iconoclast and a Herald of the oneness of God, was banished from His native land. He founded a family upon which the blessing of God descended, and it was owing to this religious basis and ordination that the Abrahamic house progressed and advanced. Through the divine benediction noteworthy and luminous prophets issued from His lineage. There appeared Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon. The Holy Land was conquered by the power of the Covenant of God with Abraham, and the glory of the Solomonic wisdom and sovereignty dawned. All this was due to the religion of God which this blessed lineage established and upheld. It is evident that throughout the history of Abraham and His posterity this was the source of their honor, advancement and civilization. Even today the descendants of His household and lineage are found throughout the world.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, p. 361.
Transformation of Followers
The Manifestation is the light of the world. His influence touches everyone even if they are not aware of it.
“These holy Manifestations liberate the world of humanity from the imperfections which beset it and cause men to appear in the beauty of heavenly perfections. Were it not for the coming of these holy Manifestations of God all mankind would be found on the plane of the animal. They would remain darkened and ignorant like those who have been denied schooling and who never had a teacher or trainer. Undoubtedly such unfortunates will continue in their condition of need and deprivation.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, p. 111.
“The proof of the validity of a Manifestation of God is the penetration and potency of His Word, the cultivation of heavenly attributes in the hearts and lives of His followers and the bestowal of divine education upon the world of humanity. This is absolute proof. The world is a school in which there must be Teachers of the Word of God. The evidence of the ability of these Teachers is efficient education of the graduating classes.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, p. 340.
“Praise be to God, today the splendor of the Word of God hath illumined every horizon, and from all sects, races, tribes, nations, and communities souls have come together in the light of the Word, assembled, united and agreed in perfect harmony. Oh! What a great number of meetings are held adorned with souls from various races and diverse sects! Anyone attending these will be struck with amazement, and might suppose that these souls are all of one land, one nationality, one community, one thought, one belief and one opinion; whereas, in fact, one is an American, the other an African, one cometh from Asia and another from Europe, one is a native of India, another is from Turkestan, one is an Arab, another a Tajik, another a Persian and yet another a Greek. Notwithstanding such diversity they associate in perfect harmony and unity, love and freedom; they have one voice, one thought and one purpose. Verily, this is from the penetrative power of the Word of God! If all the forces of the universe were to combine they would not be able thus to gather a single assemblage so imbued with the sentiments of love, affection, attraction and enkindlement as to unite the members of different races and to raise up from the heart of the world a voice that shall dispel war and strife, uproot dissension and disputation, usher in the era of universal peace and establish unity and concord amongst men.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith—Selected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1976, p. 292.
When the Light of the world appears opposition inevitably follows. The Manifestation is a direct challenge to the privileges and prerogatives of those in power – religious and political. Though totally oblivious to personal gain the Manifestations are magnets for the heats and targets for His enemies.
“Not one single Manifestation of Holiness hath appeared but He was afflicted by the denials, the repudiation, and the vehement opposition of the people around Him. Thus it hath been revealed: “O the misery of men! No Messenger cometh unto them but they laugh Him to scorn (12).” Again He saith: “Each nation hath plotted darkly against their Messenger to lay violent hold on Him, and disputed with vain words to invalidate the truth (13).”
Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqdas, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1992, p. 5.
“Should you acquaint yourself with the indignities heaped upon the Prophets of God, and apprehend the true causes of the objections voiced by their oppressors, you will surely appreciate the significance of their position. Moreover, the more closely you observe the denials of those who have opposed the Manifestations of the divine attributes, the firmer will be your faith in the Cause of God.”
Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqdas, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1992, p. 6.
“Consequently, such behavior can be attributed to naught save the petty-mindedness of such souls as tread the valley of arrogance and pride, are lost in the wilds of remoteness, walk in the ways of their idle fancy, and follow the dictates of the leaders of their faith. Their chief concern is mere opposition; their sole desire is to ignore the truth. Unto every discerning observer it is evident and manifest that had these people in the days of each of the Manifestations of the Sun of Truth sanctified their eyes, their ears, and their hearts from whatever they had seen, heard, and felt, they surely would not have been deprived of beholding the beauty of God, nor strayed far from the habitations of glory. But having weighed the testimony of God by the standard of their own knowledge, gleaned from the teachings of the leaders of their faith, and found it at variance with their limited understanding, they arose to perpetrate such unseemly acts.
Leaders of religion, in every age, have hindered their people from attaining the shores of eternal salvation, inasmuch as they held the reins of authority in their mighty grasp. Some for the lust of leadership, others through want of knowledge and understanding, have been the cause of the deprivation of the people. By their sanction and authority, every Prophet of God hath drunk from the chalice of sacrifice, and winged His flight unto the heights of glory. What unspeakable cruelties they that have occupied the seats of authority and learning have inflicted upon the true Monarchs of the world, those Gems of divine virtue! Content with a transitory dominion, they have deprived themselves of an everlasting sovereignty. Thus, their eyes beheld not the light of the countenance of the Well-Beloved, nor did their ears hearken unto the sweet melodies of the Bird of Desire.”
Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqdas, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1992, pp. 14-6.
“Consider how powerful are the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh. At a time when His Holiness was in the prison of ‘Akká and was under the restrictions and threats of two bloodthirsty kings, notwithstanding this fact, His teachings spread with all power in Írán and other countries. Should any teaching, or any principle, or any community fall under the threat of a powerful and bloodthirsty monarch it will be annihilated within a short space of time.” … “Thousands of souls have given their lives in the arena of sacrifice and have fallen as victims under the swords of oppression and cruelty. Thousands of esteemed families have been uprooted and destroyed. Thousands of children have been made fatherless. Thousands of fathers have been bereft of their sons. Thousands of mothers have wept and lamented for their boys who have been beheaded. All this oppression and cruelty, rapacity and blood-thirstiness did not hinder or prevent the spread of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. They spread more and more every day, and their power and might became more evident.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith—Selected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1976, pp. 292-3.