A Postscript to The Mystery of the Manifestation
by Kenneth Lux
In the responses to my booklet The Mystery of the Manifestation: Suddenism, Gradualism, and Nihilism, I often hear Baba-lovers saying that they are both a Suddenist and a Gradualist — a little of each — to which I respond that to take such a position is contradictory. Gradualism means that there will be no sudden event of Manifestation. Furthermore, Suddenism does not imply that the Avatar is not active before the event. God never walks away from the universe. But I have not been very happy with such a reply. It seems to be too much dependent upon my particular definition of what each of these positions are, so that it becomes a contradiction by definition. Maybe that is logical, but that is not a very powerful or convincing rebuttal of the “a little of each” position.
In reflecting on this, I realized what I should have offered as the most significant rebuttal to the “mixed Gradualism and Suddenism” stance. It lies in the Eastern idea of historical time as a cycle. Our Western concept of time, whether explicit or not, is pretty much that time moves in a line. Although there may be ups and downs in that time line, the movement is still linear. Some of this conception is based on the biblical view of Creation as having a beginning and an end (a view shared by Islam), and some of it comes from the Western discipline of history, which assumes that time generally represents “progress” and an improvement in the human condition. This theory is well presented in the historian J. B. Bury’s book The Idea of Progress (1920). While the idea that history was ultimately a line of progress lost some conviction with the devastation and irrationality of the First Word War, and then the subsequent horrific events in the 20th century, the idea has never been entirely abandoned or replaced, and got a renewed boost in America in the 1950s through the early 1970s.
With this idea being implicitly held by most of us in the West, a very different idea — that history moves in cycles — is essential to Indian, Chinese, and other Eastern philosophies. The Hindu cosmological conception of vast time periods in repeating cycles of creation and dissolution is confirmed by Baba’s references to ages and cycles in his books. In God Speaks, a yuga is defined as a “cycle of time of 700 to 1400 years, which begins whenever the Avatar appears.” And in the familiar discourse “The Avatar,” Baba paints a picture of world events moving in a downward cycle of destruction and suffering typical of the Kali Yuga, or Dark Age, until the Avatar appears, bringing deliverance.
What this then presents us with is not at all compatible with the mixed point of view (or we might call it the “mixed-up” point of view). If time moves in cycles and we are in the Kali Yuga phase of that cycle, then the overall dominant direction of events in this cycle is downward. And, although there certainly are various “ups” that happen even in such a cycle of degeneration, they do not overcome the nature of the cycle, otherwise it would not be the Kali.
Therefore, the Gradualist vision, in which the world gradually progresses after the Avatar comes, and thus reaches an improved condition of peace and unity, is at odds with Baba’s picture of a world in which suffering rises ever higher, culminating in the sudden appearance of the Savior (“Humanity grows desperate. There seems to be no possibility of stemming the tide of destruction. At this moment the Avatar appears . . .”).
Baba explicitly tells us that it is only his Manifestation that overcomes and changes the Dark Age and turns it into a “Golden Age” (a term he uses in Listen, Humanity, p. 131). One of the best places to get a compact and yet incisive account of this is in Baba’s 1944 “Message of Cheer and Hope to Suffering Humanity.” In it Baba refers to alternating destructive and constructive aspects of Divinity at play in world events:
. . . Whatever may be the political and economic explanation of the worldly wise, in this respect, this sanguine phenomenon [the war], from the spiritual point of view, is a cyclic Divine visitation over which no earthly power has any control. . . .
There are always two aspects of Divinity, perpetually and eternally active in the affairs of the world. The destructive aspect of Divinity as expressed in Persian means “Self-Glorification” and the constructive aspect of Divinity is called in Persian “Self-Beatitude.” The aspect of Self-Glorification by God, when it gets palpably active, entails suffering and destruction on a colossal scale. . . . The aspect of Divine Self-Beatitude, when it asserts itself, brings in its wake peace and plenty.
In the aspect of Self-Glorification, Divinity repels itself through its own creation, and in the aspect of Self-Beatitude, Divinity attracts or loves itself through its own creation. The former is a negative method and the latter is a positive method, and both these methods ultimately are instruments of Divine Wisdom, to rouse humanity to their Divine Heritage, which is “Self-Realization.”
Further, both the aspects of God referred to just now not only affect humanity individually and collectively, but their intensity and force is directly in proportion to each other and they assert themselves in cyclic waves. Now that the Destructive phase is about to weaken, the aspect of Divine Beatitude is nearly due to come to the fore; and to invite humanity to avail themselves of this Blessedness to come is my Divine Mission in life. . . . [I]n the Self-Beatitude aspect of God that is to be manifest in the near future, not only the deserving but the non-deserving as well have as good a chance of being the recipients of Divine Grace, provided they are wide awake to the situation, which will be a cyclic dispensation rare and unique.
From this we may take comfort that, although the sufferings of our time may appear to be rising, as is consistent with the Kali Age, they are bound by cyclic Divine Law to weaken and reverse, and we will find ourselves in the constructive phase of “Blessedness” that Avatar Meher Baba has lovingly promised us will accompany his Manifestation.