Reality, Soul and
the Worlds of God
IV. The Workshop of Interacting Souls
[Compiler: “The Workshop of Interacting Souls” is a continuation of the “Life Path of the Soul
” in Section III. E., but emphasizing the macrocosmic repercussions and macrocosmic environment of souls’ lives interacting with each other.]
D. The Religion and the Revelator
5. Eternal and Contingent Teachings
[from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh:]
Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require.
(Bahá’u’lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Selection CVI, p. 213)
….by the terms “sun”, “moon”, and “stars” are meant such laws and teachings as have been established and proclaimed in every Dispensation, such as the laws of prayer and fasting.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Íqán, paragraph 38, p. 36)
[from the talks of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (no authority):]
Each of the divine religions embodies two kinds of ordinances. The first is those which concern spiritual susceptibilities, the development of moral principles and the quickening of the conscience of man. These are essential or fundamental, one and the same in all religions, changeless and eternal—reality not subject to transformation….
The second kind of ordinances in the divine religions is those which relate to the material affairs of humankind. These are the material or accidental laws which are subject to change in each day of manifestation, according to exigencies of the time, conditions and differing capacities of humanity.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “7 May 1912, Talk at Hotel Schenley, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Notes by Suzanne Beatty”, p. 106)
Each one of the divine religions has established two kinds of ordinances: the essential and the accidental. The essential ordinances rest upon the firm, unchanging, eternal foundations of the Word itself. They concern spiritualities, seek to stabilize morals, awaken intuitive susceptibilities, reveal the knowledge of God and inculcate the love of all mankind. The accidental laws concern the administration of outer human actions and relations, establishing rules and regulations requisite for the world of bodies and their control. These are ever subject to change and supersedure according to exigencies of time, place and condition.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “25 September 1912, Talk at Second Divine Science Church, 3929 West Thirty-eighth Avenue, Denver, Colorado, From Stenographic Notes”, pp. 338-339)
The divine religions embody two kinds of ordinances. First, there are those which constitute essential, or spiritual, teachings of the Word of God. These are faith in God, the acquirement of the virtues which characterize perfect manhood, praiseworthy moralities, the acquisition of the bestowals and bounties emanating from the divine effulgences—in brief, the ordinances which concern the realm of morals and ethics. This is the fundamental aspect of the religion of God, and this is of the highest importance because knowledge of God is the fundamental requirement of man. Man must comprehend the oneness of Divinity. He must come to know and acknowledge the precepts of God and realize for a certainty that the ethical development of humanity is dependent upon religion. He must get rid of all defects and seek the attainment of heavenly virtues in order that he may prove to be the image and likeness of God. It is recorded in the Holy Bible that God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” It is self-evident that the image and likeness mentioned do not apply to the form and semblance of a human being because the reality of Divinity is not limited to any form or figure. Nay, rather, the attributes and characteristics of God are intended. Even as God is pronounced to be just, man must likewise be just. As God is loving and kind to all men, man must likewise manifest loving-kindness to all humanity. As God is loyal and truthful, man must show forth the same attributes in the human world. Even as God exercises mercy toward all, man must prove himself to be the manifestation of mercy. In a word, the image and likeness of God constitute the virtues of God, and man is intended to become the recipient of the effulgences of divine attributes. This is the essential foundation of all the divine religions, the reality itself, common to all. Abraham promulgated this; Moses proclaimed it. Christ and all the Prophets upheld this standard and aspect of divine religion.
Second, there are laws and ordinances which are temporary and nonessential. These concern human transactions and relations. They are accidental and subject to change according to the exigencies of time and place. These ordinances are neither permanent nor fundamental. For instance, during the time of Noah it was expedient that seafood be considered as lawful; therefore, God commanded Noah to partake of all marine animal life. During the time of Moses this was not in accordance with the exigencies of Israel’s existence; therefore, a second command was revealed partly abrogating the law concerning marine foods. During the time of Abraham—upon Him be peace!—camel’s milk was considered a lawful and acceptable food; likewise, the flesh of the camel; but during Jacob’s time, because of a certain vow He made, this became unlawful. These are nonessential, temporary laws.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, “8 November 1912, Talk at Eighth Street Temple, Synagogue, Washington, D. C., Notes by Joseph H. Hannen”, pp. 403-404)