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Title: Tablet to August Forel
Author: `Abdu'l-Bahá, 1844-1921
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tablet to August Forel" ***

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Tablet to August Forel

by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Edition 1, (September 2006)

                           BAHA’I TERMS OF USE

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   [Pages 6–10]
   [Pages 11–20]
   [Pages 21–28]


[Pages 6–10]

O revered personage, lover of truth! Thy letter dated 28 July 1921(2) hath
been received. The contents thereof were most pleasing and indicated that,
praised be the Lord, thou art as yet young, and searchest after truth,
that thy power of thought is strong and the discoveries of thy mind

Numerous copies of the epistle I had written to Dr. F. are spread far and
wide and every one knoweth that it hath been revealed in the year 1910.
Apart from this, numerous epistles have been written before the war upon
the same theme, and reference, too, hath been made to these questions in
the Journal of the San Francisco University, the date whereof is known
beyond any doubt.(3) In like manner have the philosophers of broad vision
praised highly the discourse eloquently delivered in the above-named
University.(4) A copy of that paper is thus enclosed and forwarded. Thy
works are no doubt of great benefit, and if published, send us a copy of

By materialists, whose belief with regard to Divinity hath been explained,
is not meant philosophers in general, but rather that group of
materialists of narrow vision who worship that which is sensed, who depend
upon the five senses only, and whose criterion of knowledge is limited to
that which can be perceived by the senses. All that can be sensed is to
them real, whilst whatever falleth not under the power of the senses is
either unreal or doubtful. The existence of the Deity they regard as
wholly doubtful.

It is as thou hast written, not philosophers in general but narrow-minded
materialists that are meant. As to deistic philosophers, such as Socrates,
Plato and Aristotle, they are indeed worthy of esteem and of the highest
praise, for they have rendered distinguished services to mankind. In like
manner we regard the materialistic, accomplished, moderate philosophers,
who have been of service (to mankind).

We regard knowledge and wisdom as the foundation of the progress of
mankind, and extol philosophers who are endowed with broad vision. Peruse
carefully the San Francisco University Journal that the truth may be
revealed to thee.

Now concerning mental faculties, they are in truth of the inherent
properties of the soul, even as the radiation of light is the essential
property of the sun. The rays of the sun are renewed but the sun itself is
ever the same and unchanged. Consider how the human intellect develops and
weakens, and may at times come to naught, whereas the soul changeth not.
For the mind to manifest itself, the human body must be whole; and a sound
mind cannot be but in a sound body, whereas the soul dependeth not upon
the body. It is through the power of the soul that the mind comprehendeth,
imagineth and exerteth its influence, whilst the soul is a power that is
free. The mind comprehendeth the abstract by the aid of the concrete, but
the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own. The mind is
circumscribed, the soul limitless. It is by the aid of such senses as
those of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, that the mind
comprehendeth, whereas the soul is free from all agencies. The soul as
thou observest, whether it be in sleep or waking, is in motion and ever
active. Possibly it may, whilst in a dream, unravel an intricate problem,
incapable of solution in the waking state. The mind, moreover,
understandeth not whilst the senses have ceased to function, and in the
embryonic stage and in early infancy the reasoning power is totally
absent, whereas the soul is ever endowed with full strength. In short, the
proofs are many that go to show that despite the loss of reason, the power
of the soul would still continue to exist. The spirit however possesseth
various grades and stations.

As to the existence of spirit in the mineral: it is indubitable that
minerals are endowed with a spirit and life according to the requirements
of that stage. This unknown secret, too, hath become known unto the
materialists who now maintain that all beings are endowed with life, even
as He saith in the Qur’án, ‘All things are living’.

In the vegetable world, too, there is the power of growth, and that power
of growth is the spirit. In the animal world there is the sense of
feeling, but in the human world there is an all-embracing power. In all
the preceding stages the power of reason is absent, but the soul existeth
and revealeth itself. The sense of feeling understandeth not the soul,
whereas the reasoning power of the mind proveth the existence thereof.

In like manner the mind proveth the existence of an unseen Reality that
embraceth all beings, and that existeth and revealeth itself in all
stages, the essence whereof is beyond the grasp of the mind. Thus the
mineral world understandeth neither the nature nor the perfections of the
vegetable world; the vegetable world understandeth not the nature of the
animal world, neither the animal world the nature of the reality of man
that discovereth and embraceth all things.

The animal is the captive of nature and cannot transgress the rules and
laws thereof. In man, however, there is a discovering power that
transcendeth the world of nature and controlleth and interfereth with the
laws thereof. For instance, all minerals, plants and animals are captives
of nature. The sun itself with all its majesty is so subservient to nature
that it hath no will of its own and cannot deviate a hair’s-breadth from
the laws thereof. In like manner all other beings, whether of the mineral,
the vegetable or the animal world, cannot deviate from the laws of nature,
nay, all are the slaves thereof. Man, however, though in body the captive
of nature is yet free in his mind and soul, and hath the mastery over

Consider: according to the law of nature man liveth, moveth and hath his
being on earth, yet his soul and mind interfere with the laws thereof, and

[Pages 11–20]

even as the bird he flieth in the air, saileth speedily upon the seas and
as the fish soundeth the deep and discovereth the things therein. Verily
this is a grievous defeat inflicted upon the laws of nature.

So is the power of electrical energy: this unruly violent force that
cleaveth mountains is yet imprisoned by man within a globe! This is
manifestly interfering with the laws of nature. Likewise man discovereth
those hidden secrets of nature that in conformity with the laws thereof
must remain concealed, and transfereth them from the invisible plane to
the visible. This, too, is interfering with the law of nature. In the same
manner he discovereth the inherent properties of things that are the
secrets of nature. Also he bringeth to light the past events that have
been lost to memory, and foreseeth by his power of induction future
happenings that are as yet unknown. Furthermore, communication and
discovery are limited by the laws of nature to short distances, whereas
man, through that inner power of his that discovereth the reality of all
things, connecteth the East with the West. This, too, is interfering with
the laws of nature. Similarly, according to the law of nature all shadows
are fleeting, whereas man fixeth them upon the plate, and this, too, is
interference with a law of nature. Ponder and reflect: all sciences, arts,
crafts, inventions and discoveries, have been once the secrets of nature
and in conformity with the laws thereof must remain hidden; yet man
through his discovering power interfereth with the laws of nature and
transfereth these hidden secrets from the invisible to the visible plane.
This again is interfering with the laws of nature.

In fine, that inner faculty in man, unseen of the eye, wresteth the sword
from the hands of nature, and giveth it a grievous blow. All other beings,
however great, are bereft of such perfections. Man hath the powers of will
and understanding, but nature hath them not. Nature is constrained, man is
free. Nature is bereft of understanding, man understandeth. Nature is
unaware of past events, but man is aware of them. Nature forecasteth not
the future; man by his discerning power seeth that which is to come.
Nature hath no consciousness of itself, man knoweth about all things.

Should any one suppose that man is but a part of the world of nature, and
he being endowed with these perfections, these being but manifestations of
the world of nature, and thus nature is the originator of these
perfections and is not deprived therefrom, to him we make reply and say:
the part dependeth upon the whole; the part cannot possess perfections
whereof the whole is deprived.

By nature is meant those inherent properties and necessary relations
derived from the realities of things. And these realities of things,
though in the utmost diversity, are yet intimately connected one with the
other. For these diverse realities an all-unifying agency is needed that
shall link them all one to the other. For instance, the various organs and
members, the parts and elements, that constitute the body of man, though
at variance, are yet all connected one with the other by that all-unifying
agency known as the human soul, that causeth them to function in perfect
harmony and with absolute regularity, thus making the continuation of life
possible. The human body, however, is utterly unconscious of that
all-unifying agency, and yet acteth with regularity and dischargeth its
functions according to its will.

Now concerning philosophers, they are of two schools. Thus Socrates the
wise believed in the unity of God and the existence of the soul after
death; as his opinion was contrary to that of the narrow-minded people of
his time, that divine sage was poisoned by them. All divine philosophers
and men of wisdom and understanding, when observing these endless beings,
have considered that in this great and infinite universe all things end in
the mineral kingdom, that the outcome of the mineral kingdom is the
vegetable kingdom, the outcome of the vegetable kingdom is the animal
kingdom and the outcome of the animal kingdom the world of man. The
consummation of this limitless universe with all its grandeur and glory
hath been man himself, who in this world of being toileth and suffereth
for a time, with divers ills and pains, and ultimately disintegrates,
leaving no trace and no fruit after him. Were it so, there is no doubt
that this infinite universe with all its perfections has ended in sham and
delusion with no result, no fruit, no permanence and no effect. It would
be utterly without meaning. They were thus convinced that such is not the
case, that this Great Workshop with all its power, its bewildering
magnificence and endless perfections, cannot eventually come to naught.
That still another life should exist is thus certain, and, just as the
vegetable kingdom is unaware of the world of man, so we, too, know not of
the Great Life hereafter that followeth the life of man here below. Our
non-comprehension of that life, however, is no proof of its non-existence.
The mineral world, for instance, is utterly unaware of the world of man
and cannot comprehend it, but the ignorance of a thing is no proof of its
non-existence. Numerous and conclusive proofs exist that go to show that
this infinite world cannot end with this human life.

Now concerning the Essence of Divinity: in truth it is on no account
determined by anything apart from its own nature, and can in no wise be
comprehended. For whatsoever can be conceived by man is a reality that
hath limitations and is not unlimited; it is circumscribed, not
all-embracing. It can be comprehended by man, and is controlled by him.
Similarly it is certain that all human conceptions are contingent, not
absolute; that they have a mental existence, not a material one. Moreover,
differentiation of stages in the contingent world is an obstacle to
understanding. How then can the contingent conceive the Reality of the
absolute? As previously mentioned, differentiation of stages in the
contingent plane is an obstacle to understanding. Minerals, plants and
animals are bereft of the mental faculties of man that discover the
realities of all things, but man himself comprehendeth all the stages
beneath him. Every superior stage comprehendeth that which is inferior and
discovereth the reality thereof, but the inferior one is unaware of that
which is superior and cannot comprehend it. Thus man cannot grasp the
Essence of Divinity, but can, by his reasoning power, by observation, by
his intuitive faculties and the revealing power of his faith, believe in
God, discover the bounties of His Grace. He becometh certain that though
the Divine Essence is unseen of the eye, and the existence of the Deity is
intangible, yet conclusive spiritual proofs assert the existence of that
unseen Reality. The Divine Essence as it is in itself is however beyond
all description. For instance, the nature of ether is unknown, but that it
existeth is certain by the effects it produceth, heat, light and
electricity being the waves thereof. By these waves the existence of ether
is thus proven. And as we consider the outpourings of Divine Grace we are
assured of the existence of God. For instance, we observe that the
existence of beings is conditioned upon the coming together of various
elements and their non-existence upon the decomposition of their
constituent elements. For decomposition causeth the dissociation of the
various elements. Thus, as we observe the coming together of elements
giveth rise to the existence of beings, and knowing that beings are
infinite, they being the effect, how can the Cause be finite?

Now, formation is of three kinds and of three kinds only: accidental,
necessary and voluntary. The coming together of the various constituent
elements of beings cannot be accidental, for unto every effect there must
be a cause. It cannot be compulsory, for then the formation must be an
inherent property of the constituent parts and the inherent property of a
thing can in no wise be dissociated from it, such as light that is the
revealer of things, heat that causeth the expansion of elements and the
solar rays which are the essential property of the sun. Thus under such
circumstances the decomposition of any formation is impossible, for the
inherent properties of a thing cannot be separated from it. The third
formation remaineth and that is the voluntary one, that is, an unseen
force described as the Ancient Power, causeth these elements to come
together, every formation giving rise to a distinct being.

As to the attributes and perfections such as will, knowledge, power and
other ancient attributes that we ascribe to that Divine Reality, these are
the signs that reflect the existence of beings in the visible plane and
not the absolute perfections of the Divine Essence that cannot be
comprehended. For instance, as we consider created things we observe
infinite perfections, and the created things being in the utmost
regularity and perfection we infer that the Ancient Power on whom
dependeth the existence of these beings, cannot be ignorant; thus we say
He is All-Knowing. It is certain that it is not impotent, it must be then
All-Powerful; it is not poor, it must be All-Possessing; it is not
non-existent, it must be Ever-Living. The purpose is to show that these
attributes and perfections that we recount for that Universal Reality are
only in order to deny imperfections, rather than to assert the perfections
that the human mind can conceive. Thus we say His attributes are

In fine, that Universal Reality with all its qualities and attributes that
we recount is holy and exalted above all minds and understandings. As we,
however, reflect with broad minds upon this infinite universe, we observe
that motion without a motive force, and an effect without a cause are both
impossible; that every being hath come to exist under numerous influences
and continually undergoeth reaction. These influences, too, are formed
under the action of still other influences. For instance, plants grow and
flourish through the outpourings of vernal showers, whilst the cloud
itself is formed under various other agencies and these agencies in their
turn are reacted upon by still other agencies. For example, plants and
animals grow and develop under the influence of what the philosophers of
our day designate as hydrogen and oxygen and are reacted upon by the
effects of these two elements; and these in turn are formed under still
other influences. The same can be said of other beings whether they affect
other things or be affected. Such process of causation goes on, and to
maintain that this process goes on indefinitely is manifestly absurd. Thus
such a chain of causation must of necessity lead eventually to Him who is
the Ever-Living, the All-Powerful, who is Self-Dependent and the Ultimate
Cause. This Universal Reality cannot be sensed, it cannot be seen. It must
be so of necessity, for it is All-Embracing, not circumscribed, and such
attributes qualify the effect and not the cause.

And as we reflect, we observe that man is like unto a tiny organism
contained within a fruit; this fruit hath developed out of the blossom,
the blossom hath grown out of the tree, the tree is sustained by the sap,
and the sap formed out of earth and water. How then can this tiny organism
comprehend the nature of the garden, conceive of the gardener and
comprehend his being? That is manifestly impossible. Should that organism
understand and reflect, it would observe that this garden, this tree, this
blossom, this fruit would in no wise have come to exist by themselves in
such order and perfection. Similarly the wise and reflecting soul will
know of a certainty that this infinite universe with all its grandeur and
perfect order could not have come to exist by itself.

Similarly in the world of being there exist forces unseen of the eye, such
as the force of ether previously mentioned, that cannot be sensed, that
cannot be seen. However, from the effects it produceth, that is from its
waves and vibrations, light, heat, electricity appear and are made
evident. In like manner is the power of growth, of feeling, of
understanding, of thought, of memory, of imagination and of discernment;
all these inner faculties are unseen of the eye and cannot be sensed, yet
all are evident by the effects they produce.

Now as to the infinite Power that knoweth no limitations; limitation
itself proveth the existence of the unlimited, for the limited is known
through the unlimited, just as weakness itself proveth the existence of
power, ignorance the existence of knowledge, poverty the existence of
wealth. Without wealth there would be no poverty, without knowledge no
ignorance, without light no darkness. Darkness itself is a proof of the
existence of light for darkness is the absence of light.

Now concerning nature, it is but the essential properties and the
necessary relations inherent in the realities of things. And though these
infinite realities are diverse in their character yet they are in the
utmost harmony and closely connected together. As one’s vision is
broadened and the matter observed carefully, it will be made certain that
every reality is but an essential requisite of other

[Pages 21–28]

realities. Thus to connect and harmonize these diverse and infinite
realities an all-unifying Power is necessary, that every part of existent
being may in perfect order discharge its own function. Consider the body
of man, and let the part be an indication of the whole. Consider how these
diverse parts and members of the human body are closely connected and
harmoniously united one with the other. Every part is the essential
requisite of all other parts and has a function by itself. It is the mind
that is the all-unifying agency that so uniteth all the component parts
one with the other that each dischargeth its specific function in perfect
order, and thereby co-operation and reaction are made possible. All parts
function under certain laws that are essential to existence. Should that
all-unifying agency that directeth all these parts be harmed in any way
there is no doubt that the constituent parts and members will cease
functioning properly; and though that all-unifying agency in the temple of
man be not sensed or seen and the reality thereof be unknown, yet by its
effects it manifesteth itself with the greatest power.

Thus it hath been proven and made evident that these infinite beings in
this wondrous universe will discharge their functions properly only when
directed and controlled by that Universal Reality, so that order may be
established in the world. For example, interaction and co-operation
between the constituent parts of the human body are evident and
indisputable, yet this does not suffice; an all-unifying agency is
necessary that shall direct and control the component parts, so that these
through interaction and co-operation may discharge in perfect order their
necessary and respective functions.

You are well aware, praised be the Lord, that both interaction and
co-operation are evident and proven amongst all beings, whether large or
small. In the case of large bodies interaction is as manifest as the sun,
whilst in the case of small bodies, though interaction be unknown, yet the
part is an indication of the whole. All these interactions therefore are
connected with that all-embracing power which is their pivot, their
centre, their source and their motive power.

For instance, as we have observed, co-operation among the constituent
parts of the human body is clearly established, and these parts and
members render services unto all the component parts of the body. For
instance, the hand, the foot, the eye, the ear, the mind, the imagination
all help the various parts and members of the human body, but all these
interactions are linked by an unseen, all-embracing power, that causeth
these interactions to be produced with perfect regularity. This is the
inner faculty of man, that is his spirit and his mind, both of which are

In like manner consider machinery and workshops and the interaction
existing among the various component parts and sections, and how connected
they are one with the other. All these relations and interactions,
however, are connected with a central power which is their motive force,
their pivot and their source. This central power is either the power of
steam or the skill of the mastermind.

It hath therefore been made evident and proved that interaction,
co-operation and interrelation amongst beings are under the direction and
will of a motive Power which is the origin, the motive force and the pivot
of all interactions in the universe.

Likewise every arrangement and formation that is not perfect in its order
we designate as accidental, and that which is orderly, regular, perfect in
its relations and every part of which is in its proper place and is the
essential requisite of the other constituent parts, this we call a
composition formed through will and knowledge. There is no doubt that
these infinite beings and the association of these diverse elements
arranged in countless forms must have proceeded from a Reality that could
in no wise be bereft of will or understanding. This is clear and proven to
the mind and no one can deny it. It is not meant, however, that that
Universal Reality or the attributes thereof have been comprehended.
Neither its Essence nor its true attributes hath any one comprehended. We
maintain, however, that these infinite beings, these necessary relations,
this perfect arrangement must of necessity have proceeded from a source
that is not bereft of will and understanding, and this infinite
composition cast into infinite forms must have been caused by an
all-embracing Wisdom. This none can dispute save he that is obstinate and
stubborn, and denieth the clear and unmistakable evidence, and becometh
the object of the blessed Verse: ‘They are deaf, they are dumb, they are
blind and shall return no more’.

Now regarding the question whether the faculties of the mind and the human
soul are one and the same. These faculties are but the inherent properties
of the soul, such as the power of imagination, of thought, of
understanding; powers that are the essential requisites of the reality of
man, even as the solar ray is the inherent property of the sun. The temple
of man is like unto a mirror, his soul is as the sun, and his mental
faculties even as the rays that emanate from that source of light. The ray
may cease to fall upon the mirror, but it can in no wise be dissociated
from the sun.

In short, the point is this, that the world of man is supernatural in its
relation to the vegetable kingdom, though in reality it is not so.
Relatively to the plant, the reality of man, his power of hearing and
sight, are all supernatural, and for the plant to comprehend that reality
and the nature of the powers of man’s mind is impossible. In like manner
for man to comprehend the Divine Essence and the nature of the great
Hereafter is in no wise possible. The merciful outpourings of that Divine
Essence, however, are vouchsafed unto all beings and it is incumbent upon
man to ponder in his heart upon the effusions of the Divine Grace, the
soul being counted as one, rather than upon the Divine Essence itself.
This is the utmost limit for human understanding. As it hath previously
been mentioned, these attributes and perfections that we recount of the
Divine Essence, these we have derived from the existence and observation
of beings, and it is not that we have comprehended the essence and
perfection of God. When we say that the Divine Essence understandeth and
is free, we do not mean that we have discovered the Divine Will and
Purpose, but rather that we have acquired knowledge of them through the
Divine Grace revealed and manifested in the realities of things.

Now concerning our social principles, namely the teachings of His Holiness
Bahá’u’lláh spread far and wide fifty years ago, they verily comprehend
all other teachings. It is clear and evident that without these teachings
progress and advancement for mankind are in no wise possible. Every
community in the world findeth in these Divine Teachings the realization
of its highest aspirations. These teachings are even as the tree that
beareth the best fruits of all trees. Philosophers, for instance, find in
these heavenly teachings the most perfect solution of their social
problems, and similarly a true and noble exposition of matters that
pertain to philosophical questions. In like manner men of faith behold the
reality of religion manifestly revealed in these heavenly teachings, and
clearly and conclusively prove them to be the real and true remedy for the
ills and infirmities of all mankind. Should these sublime teachings be
diffused, mankind shall be freed from all perils, from all chronic ills
and sicknesses. In like manner are the Bahá’í economic principles the
embodiment of the highest aspirations of all wage-earning classes and of
economists of various schools.

In short, all sections and parties have their aspirations realized in the
teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. As these teachings are declared in churches, in
mosques and in other places of worship, whether those of the followers of
Buddha or of Confucius, in political circles or amongst materialists, all
shall bear witness that these teachings bestow a fresh life upon mankind
and constitute the immediate remedy for all the ills of social life. None
can find fault with any of these teachings, nay rather, once declared they
will all be acclaimed, and all will confess their vital necessity,
exclaiming, ‘Verily this is the truth and naught is there beside the truth
but manifest error.’

In conclusion, these few words are written, and unto everyone they will be
a clear and conclusive evidence of the truth. Ponder them in thine heart.
The will of every sovereign prevaileth during his reign, the will of every
philosopher findeth expression in a handful of disciples during his
lifetime, but the Power of the Holy Spirit shineth radiantly in the
realities of the Messengers of God, and strengtheneth Their will in such
wise as to influence a great nation for thousands of years and to
regenerate the human soul and revive mankind. Consider how great is this
power! It is an extraordinary Power, an all-sufficient proof of the truth
of the mission of the Prophets of God, and a conclusive evidence of the
power of Divine Inspiration.

The Glory of Glories rest upon thee.
Haifa, 21 September 1921.


    1 Original Persian text first published Cairo 1922. This translation
      taken from The Bahá’í World, Vol. XV, pp. 37–43.

    2 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is obviously referring to the letter from Forel
      translated above and dated 28 December 1920.

    3 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to His talk at Stanford University, Palo Alto,
      California, in 1912, which was published in the local newspaper and
      is also included in the collection of His talks in America, entitled
      The Promulgation of Universal Peace.

    4 There ‘Abdu’l-Bahá distinguishes the materialistic and empirical
      philosophy of the modern West from the standard rationalistic
      philosophy of the Greeks and Persians, and highlights the difference
      between theories of the essence of nature and of the origin of man.

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