Progressive revelation. So that was the term for my youthful guesses about the many prophets or teachers claiming to speak for God to His people -- that they, They, really did, but through time and interpreters, mis-interpreters, and outright bad actors, the real messages were often hard to recognize.
And furthermore, as promised, God's steadfast, true believers were ready for an update. Progressive revelation. My early many-sided notions had found their many-sided slots, one and all.
This new Teacher speaking with the authority of God is called Bahá'u'lláh, meaning "Glory of God." He is the first Manifestation to author His own sacred teachings, now gathered in more than a hundred volumes. He wrote, "All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.
The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity." (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 214.)
The tenets of this Bahá'í Faith that instantly resonated with me included the equality of men and women; the elimination of every kind of prejudice; establishment of a universal auxiliary language; the independent investigation of truth ... to name a few. "The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice;" Bahá'u'lláh wrote, "turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbour. ..." (Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 36).
A wonderful analogy of progressive revelation one of the Santa Fe Bahá'ís used is of a spring on a mountain top. When the water first appears, it's clean and pure and good for everybody. But as it passes down its mountain, or through its time, people change and divert it, throw in their garbage ... and by the time it reaches the bottom of its mountain -- the end of its time -- it's often unrecognizable. So it has ever been with the pure and good teachings of God's Manifestations. Men make them a "source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity."
Mankind messes things up, as I had noticed, and creates mountains of confusion and division. And bloodshed. Rivers and oceans of blood. Every war being waged on the planet today is a "religious" war, its instigators on both sides citing religion, that is.
Apathy is another face of our mess. Edmund Burke said it well: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Bahá'u'lláh wrote, "The vitality of men's belief in God is dying out in every land; nothing short of His wholesome medicine can ever restore it. The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society; what else but the Elixir of His potent Revelation can cleanse and revive it?" (ibid p. 214).
My old reliable cleverness gave way to prayer. Not immediately, I admit. The Bahá'ís gave me a prayer book. What's this? I asked. What about my creek-bank prayers? Say them, they said. And add these -- they have the power of the Manifestation of God Himself.
And so, one lap of the journey of this savage has ended and the longest one begun.