The Bahá’í belief in one God means that the universe and all creatures and forces within it have been created by a single supernatural Being. This Being, Whom we call God, has absolute control over His creation (omnipotence) as well as perfect and complete knowledge of it (omniscience). Although we may have different concepts of God’s nature, although we may pray to Him in different languages and call Him by different names–Allah or Yahweh, God or Brahma–nevertheless, we are speaking about the same unique Being.
Bahá’u’lláh taught that God is too great and too subtle a Being for the finite human mind ever to understand Him adequately or to construct an accurate image of Him. He wrote:
How wondrous is the unity of the Living, the Ever-Abiding God–a unity which is exalted above all limitations, that transcendeth the comprehension of all created things…. How lofty hath been His incorruptible Essence, how completely independent of the knowledge of all created things, and how immensely exalted will it remain above the praise of all the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth!
According to Bahá’í teachings, God is so far beyond His creation that, throughout all eternity, human beings will never be able to formulate any clear image of Him or attain to anything but the most remote appreciation of His superior nature. Even if we say that God is the All-Powerful, the All-Loving, the Infinitely Just, such terms are derived from a very limited human experience of power, love, or justice. Indeed, our knowledge of anything is limited to our knowledge of those attributes or qualities perceptible to us.
Thus for human beings the knowledge of God means the knowledge of the attributes and qualities of God, not a direct knowledge of His essence. But how are we to attain the knowledge of the attributes of God? Bahá’u’lláh wrote that everything in creation is God’s handiwork and therefore reflects something of His attributes. For example, even in the intimate structure of a rock or a crystal can be seen the order of God’s creation. However, the more refined the object, the more completely is it capable of reflecting God’s attributes. Since the Messenger of God or Manifestation of God is the highest form of creation known to us, the Manifestation affords the most complete knowledge of God available to us:
Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that Most Great Light…. To a supreme degree is this true of man…. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpasssed…. And of all men, the most accomplished, the most distinguished, and the most excellent are the Manifestations of the Sun of Truth. Nay, all else besides these Manifestations, live by the operation of their Will, and move and have their being through the outpourings of their grace. -Bahá’u’lláh
Although a rock or a tree reveals something of the subtlety of its Creator, only a conscious being such as man can dramatize God’s attributes in his life and actions. Since the Manifestations are already in a perfected state, it is in their lives that the deeper meaning of God’s attributes can be most perfectly understood. God is not limited by a physical body, and so we cannot see Him directly or observe His personality. Hence our knowledge of the Manifestation is, in fact, the closest we can come to the knowledge of God.
The door of the knowledge of the Ancient Being [God] hath ever been, and will continue to be, closed in the face of men. No man’s understanding shall ever gain access unto His holy court. As a token of His mercy, however, and as a proof of His loving-kindness, He hath manifested unto men the Day Stars of His divine guidance, the Symbols of His divine unity, and hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. -Bahá’u’lláh