134. One School, Many Teachers.
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
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My first and most important teacher was my mother to whom I will be forever grateful, although she struggled to convince me to eat vegetables, or keep my room tidy. Her guiding voice lives on, quietly influencing my life in the most important ways, years after her passing. As I guide my own children, her voice still whispers to me.
Five years after my birth I met a second teacher at our local school, from where I gained the impression that all teachers were middle-aged women. Mrs. Melrose taught us the the ABC's, where the toilet was, the importance of hand washing, and our class rules. These were the basics of early numeracy, sanitation and civil law that are still essential in our lives today.
Later that same week, at our nearby church, I was introduced to yet more teachers, this time specializing in the complementary field of spiritual education, and confirming my original impression that all teachers are women.
It wasn't until 4 years later that I learned teachers could also be men. I met smart young Mr. Tibbits who taught me the excitement of drama. A year or two later I met Mr. Elliot who introduced me to 'times tables', a knowledge which I found to have a very short shelf life. Then rather plump Mr. Whitmore taught me to love gymnastics, whilst later the slim and precisely correct Miss Smith revealed the charms of Shakespeare.
Despite my varying capacity in each of these areas, I knew to treat all these teachers with equal respect and courtesy, and to value what they taught as stepping stones to my further education. Whether man or woman, young or elderly, all had my education at heart. All were experts in the field of education, although each approached it in different ways that reflected the growing needs and capacity of their pupils.
Religion shares many features in common with schooling. Since reality - as for all existence - is just one, it follows that spiritual education must be compatible with material education. Just as material teachers possess knowledge essential to advancing the present knowledge of their students, spiritual teachers also advance our knowledge beyond present levels. But each individual can only be receptive to the unique level of maturity and development they have reached. Otherwise, knowledge is like rich food given to infants; their bodies are unable to digest it.
There was no competition between any of my childhood teachers. Irrespective of their gender or age, they were all teaching the same curriculum at different levels, to pupils of different ages and stages. Similarly there should be no competition between our spiritual teachers. Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Mohammed, The Bab and Baha'u'llah all came to different places on the planet at different times, before human knowledge had advanced to the present level of mass communication and global awareness.
This is the function of a Divine School, to offer a series of progressive classes, each building upon the knowledge received in previous grades. Each of humanity's Divine Teachers has taught the same ongoing Divine Curriculum, at different levels that reflected the needs of the people of that particular time and place.
So, for example, the Buddhist Four Noble Truths and Eight-fold Path teach themes that are complementary with all the other religions, although they differ in relationship to the time and place of their teaching.
Similarly, Baha'is believe that just as the Torah tells the story of the early Hebrew prophets and teachers, so the Bible and Quran continue these stories and reinforce them with yet more advanced concepts.
The teachings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah mirror and build upon the earlier teachings of Moses, Christ, and Mohammed; One Divine Curriculum taught to humanity at different stages of our collective development.
It is this continuing revelation of knowledge, both material and divine, which has enabled humanity to develop an ever-advancing civilization. Baha'is call this principle 'Progressive Revelation'.
The proof of the validity of a Manifestation of God is the penetration and potency of His Word, the cultivation of heavenly attributes in the hearts and lives of His followers and the bestowal of divine education upon the world of humanity. This is absolute proof. The world is a school in which there must be Teachers of the Word of God. The evidence of the ability of these Teachers is efficient education of the graduating classes. ---Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, 81.