Abdu'i-Baha on Darwinism
However, none of these statements relate to biological Darwinism. They are rather rational, philosophical, mystical, and spiritual discussions. ‘Abdu’l -Baha is arguing that the purpose and meaning of creation is the realization of spiritual perfections, while the truth of all beings is a reflection of God. In fact, both statements above clearly show that his discussion has nothing to do with the empirical theory of biological Darwinism. At first impression ‘Abdu’l - Baha’s statements may appear to contradict each other. The first statement indicates that human beings are temporally eternal and that there has been no time in which human beings have not existed. This means that the human species has existed prior to the creation of the planet earth and the appearance of minerals, plants, and animals. However, in the same discussion , ‘Abdu’l -Baha emphasizes that the human species emerged after the emergence of animals, arguing that the emergence of human beings was dependent on the appearance of a special form of relations and compositions on the planet earth. Therefore, we may mistakenly assume that ‘Abdu’l - Baha is contradicting himself. In fact, in the second quotation, ‘Abdu’l -Baha himself is intentionally pre senting the same problem. He states that “ We cannot say, then, that there was a time when man was not. At most we can say that there was a time when this earth did n ot exist.” What he is saying is that the planet earth is a new emergent creation but human beings are eternal and therefore, human beings existed prior to the creation of the earth! Yet, in his other writings he clearly states that the appearance of human beings is contingent on the emergence of specific forms of combinations and conditions on planet earth: [T]he antecedence of animals to man is not a proof that the essence of the human species was altered or transformed or that man came from the animal kingdom. For so long as it is acknowledged that these different beings have appeared in time, it is possible that man simply came into existence after the animal. 16 Similarly, the terrestrial globe was created, from the beginning, with all its elements, substances, minerals, parts, and components, but these appeared only gradually: first the minerals, then the plants, then the animals, and finally man. 17 The main question for understanding ‘Abdu’l - Baha’s position is this: Why does ‘Abdu’ l-Baha speak of the existence of human beings prior to the existence of the planet earth? The answer to this question can easily be found in the same discussions of ‘Abdu’l -Baha. When he speaks of the eternal existence of human beings, he is not speaking of the earthly and biological human beings. Rather, he is speaking of the truth of human beings, or the “perfect (complete) human being” which refers to the truth of the prophets of God. His discussion is of a mystical, and not biological, nature. In spiritual discourse and in the writings of ‘Abdu’l -Baha, the perfect (complete) human being refers to the word and will of God (truth of the Manifestations of God) that has created everything. The purpose of creation is the realization of this same spiritual truth in the world. Therefore, even when there existed no planet earth, human beings and the human species, namely, the truth of the prophets and the holy ghost as the will and word of God, which is the creator of all things, existed. In order to understand this point, we return to the same two quotations from ‘Abdu’l -Baha to see that he explicitly mentions that by the “ eternal human being ” he means the perfect human and not the earthly and biological human being:
16 Ibid, Chapter 49:4. 17 Ibid, Chapter 51: 5.
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