A new version of the Bahá’í Reference Library is now available. This ‘old version’ of the Bahá’í Reference Library will be replaced at a later date.

The new version of the Bahá’i Reference Library can be accessed here »

Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era

  • Author:
  • J. E. Esslemont

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 edition
  • Pages:
  • 286
Go to printed page GO
Pages 206-207

The Evolution of Man

Bahá’u’lláh also confirms the biologist who finds for the body of man a history reaching back in the development of the species through millions of years. Starting from a very simple, apparently insignificant form, the human body is pictured as developing stage by stage, in the course of untold generations, becoming more and more complex, and better and better organized until the man of the present day is reached. Each individual human body develops through such a series of stages, from a tiny round speck of jelly-like matter to the fully developed man. If this is true of the individual, as nobody denies, why should we consider it derogatory to human dignity to admit a similar development for the species? This is a very different thing from claiming that man is descended from a monkey. The human embryo may at one time resemble a fish with gill-slits and tail, but it is not a fish. It is a human embryo. So the human species 1 may at various stages of its long development have resembled to the outward eye various species of lower animals, but it was still the human species, possessing the mysterious latent power of developing into man as we know him today, nay more, of developing in the future, we trust, into something far higher still.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:—
… it is clear that this terrestrial globe in its present form did not come into existence all at once; but … gradually passed through different phases until it became adorned with its present perfection. …

… man, in the beginning of his existence and in the womb of the earth, like the embryo in the womb of the mother, gradually grew and developed, and passed from one form to another … until he appeared with this beauty and perfection, this force and this power. It is certain that in the beginning he had not this loveliness and 207 grace and elegance, and that he only by degrees attained this shape, this form, this beauty, and this grace. …
… man’s existence on this earth, from the beginning until it reaches this state, form, and condition, necessarily lasts a long time. … But from the beginning of man’s existence he is a distinct species. … admitting that the traces of organs which have disappeared actually exist [in the human body], this is not a proof of the impermanence and the non-originality of the species. At the most it proves that the form, and fashion, and the organs of man have progressed. Man was always a distinct species, a man, not an animal.—Some Answered Questions, pp. 211, 212, 213, 214.
Of the story of Adam and Eve He says:—
If we take this story in its apparent meaning, according to the interpretation of the masses, it is indeed extraordinary. The intelligence cannot accept it, affirm it, or imagine it; for such arrangements, such details, such speeches and reproaches are far from being those of an intelligent man, how must less of the Divinity—that Divinity who has organised this infinite universe in the most perfect form, and its innumerable inhabitants with absolute system, strength, and perfection. …

Therefore this story of Adam and Eve who ate from the tree, and their expulsion from Paradise, must be thought of simply as a symbol. It contains divine mysteries and universal meanings, and it is capable of marvellous explanations.—Some Answered Questions, p. 140
1. The word “species” is used here to explain the distinction which has always existed between men and animals, despite outward appearances. It should not be read with its current specialized biological meaning.   [ Back To Reference]