The Station of 'Abdu'l-Baha
The unique station assigned to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by the Blessed Perfection is indicated in the following passage written by the latter:
“When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.” - Baha'u'llah
“ … refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock.” - Baha'u'llah
‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself wrote the following:
“In accordance with the explicit text of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas Bahá’u’lláh hath made the Center of the Covenant the Interpreter of His Word—a Covenant so firm and mighty that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like.” - 'Abdu'l-Baha
The very completeness of the servitude with which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá promulgated the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in East and West resulted at times in a confusion of belief concerning His station on the part of believers. Realizing the purity of the spirit animating His word and deed, surrounded by religious influences marking the breakdown of their traditional doctrines, a number of Bahá’ís felt that they honored ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by likening Him to a Manifestation, or hailing Him as the “return of Christ.” Nothing caused Him such intense grief as this failure to perceive that His capacity to serve Bahá’u’lláh proceeded from the purity of the mirror turned to the Sun of Truth, and not from the Sun itself.
Moreover, unlike previous Dispensations, the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh had within it the potency of a universal human society. During ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s mission covering the period 1892 to 1921, the Faith evolved through successive stages of development in the direction of a true world order. Its development required continuous direction and specific instruction from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who alone knew the fullness of that new potent inspiration brought to earth in this age. Until His own Will and Testament was revealed after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s departure from the flesh, and its significance was expounded by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, the Bahá’ís almost inevitably attributed their beloved Master’s guidance a degree of spiritual authority equaling that of the Manifestation.
The effects of such naive enthusiasm are no longer felt within the Bahá’í community, but with a sounder realization of the mystery of that incomparable devotion and servitude, the Bahá’ís can today all the more consciously appreciate the unique character of the mission which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá fulfilled. The Faith which in 1892 seemed so weak and helpless in the physical exile and imprisonment of its Exemplar and Interpreter, has since, with irresistible power, raised up communities in many countries, and challenges the weakness of a decaying civilization with a body of teachings that alone reveal the future of a despairing humanity.
The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá itself set forth with complete clarity the mystery of the stations of the Báb and of Bahá’u’lláh, and His own mission:—
This is the foundation of the belief of the people of Bahá (may my life be offered up for them): “His Holiness, the Exalted One (the Báb), is the Manifestation of the Unity and Oneness of God and the Forerunner of the Ancient Beauty. His Holiness the Abhá Beauty (may my life be a sacrifice for His steadfast friends) is the Supreme Manifestation of God and the Dayspring of His Most Divine Essence. All others are servants unto Him and do His bidding.”
By this statement, and by numerous others in which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emphasized the importance of basing one’s knowledge of the Faith upon His general Tablets, a foundation for unity of belief was established, with the result that the differences of understanding caused by reference to His Tablets to individuals, in which the Master answered personal questions, rapidly disappeared. Above all, the establishment of a definite administrative order, with the Guardian at its head, transferred to institutions all authority previously wielded in the form of prestige and influence by individual Bahá’ís in the various local groups.