One is astonished at contemplating Baha’u’llah’s station as the Supreme Manifestation of God, for an overarching cycle of divine revelation due to last no less than half a million years. The human mind struggles to comprehend the scale of such a distinction, such a vast reach of time, such deeply-penetrating implications. This essay offers a mere glimpse at some relevant passages and observations concerning the significance of this Revelation to us, in this present time, in our lives and the human world we inhabit.
To do no more than to unravel some of the meanings of Shoghi Effendi’s assertion of the duration of this divine cycle would itself require far more than a few pages of discussion. The Guardian himself made clear that the full duration of the Bahá’í cycle, in contrast to that of the cycles preceding it, “should not be reckoned numerically, but should be considered as symbolizing the incomparable greatness of the Bahá’í Revelation which, though not final is none-the-less thus far the fullest revelation of God to man.”
There is no reason, however, to think that this bold assertion lacks the force of connection with the cycles and principles that govern the physical world. Reckonings of such human matters have their roots in the material world via the calendars, astronomical cycles, and historical events that mark the passages of time, but they also reflect the far-more-significant blooming and fruiting of human matters in the greater worlds of God.
Until the coming of the Báb, no Manifestation of God appearing in history produced in His own hand any record of His Revelation. Until the coming of Bahá’u’lláh, no Manifestation of God in history produced in His own hand any explicit document creating His Covenant, thereby conferring supreme authority upon an individual or institution upon His passing. This distinction alone is sufficient to set apart the Bahá’í Revelation from all of its predecessors.
Far more evidence demonstrates the truth of the term “The Supreme Manifestation” as it applies to Bahá’u’lláh. The Revelations of the past, dating from earliest recorded history to the 19th century, appear to us as cyclic processes, punctuated by brief transitions at their beginnings leading to their rapid ascendancy and stable continuation. Their cycles were of the order of 1,000 years, and the transitions from their predecessors shared similar patterns: revelation, obscurity, persecution, promulgation, acceptance, advancement, decay, and eventual replacement. This pattern has now undergone a transition of far greater power than ever before, one that has replaced not only the most-recent cycle of that pattern but the entire pattern itself. The energies required for such a transition are staggeringly greater than those of the past transitions in the cyclic process of the past.
Given this demand for energy of change, the outpouring of information from the Revelation driving that change is commensurate. More detail on the third observation made above clarifies the situation. The Holy Qur’an was one single volume of 6300 verses. Then in one lightning stroke came the Báb, of whose revealed flood of divine knowledge Bahá’u’lláh Himself writes:
“… the verses which have rained from this Cloud of divine mercy have been so abundant that none hath yet been able to estimate their number. A score of volumes are now available. How many still remain beyond our reach! How many have been plundered and have fallen into the hands of the enemy, the fate of which none knoweth.”
The Báb Himself clarified the scale of His own work, referring to Himself in the third person:
“Now, following His manifestation, although He hath, up to the present, revealed no less than five hundred thousand verses on different subjects, behold what calumnies are uttered, so unseemly that the pen is stricken with shame at the mention of them. But if all men were to observe the ordinances of God no sadness would befall that heavenly Tree.”
The rampant destruction of the works of the Báb by the forces of opposition spent its force before the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh entered our world. A paramount consequence of this process was that even from its earliest gleams in the darkness of the Síyáh-Chál, the vast outpouring of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation found its way from its Author into the entire planetary human world, in written form, within the span of little more than a century. In reviewing the content of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, Shoghi Effendi writes:
“With this book [Epistle to the Son of the Wolf], revealed about one year prior to His ascension, the prodigious achievement as author of a hundred volumes, repositories of the priceless pearls of His Revelation, may be said to have practically terminated—volumes replete with unnumbered exhortations, revolutionizing principles, world-shaping laws and ordinances, dire warnings and portentous prophecies, with soul-uplifting prayers and meditations, illuminating commentaries and interpretations, impassioned discourses and homilies, all interspersed with either addresses or references to kings, to emperors and to ministers, of both the East and the West, to ecclesiastics of divers denominations, and to leaders in the intellectual, political, literary, mystical, commercial and humanitarian spheres of human activity.”
The unleashing of the forces of this supreme Revelation has already revolutionized our existence many times over, accelerating our world into a period of transformation so rapid and profound that none of us can embrace the span of its meaning at such an early stage. Stabilizing, enforcing, and facilitating this transformation is the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh.
At the direct, immediate level we have the Lesser Covenant, addressing the conferring of authority upon Bahá’u’lláh’s passing. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), Bahá’u’lláh writes:
“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.”
More specifically, Bahá’u’lláh wrote His Will and Testament, the Kitáb-i-Ahd (Book of the Covenant), which vests authority in the Most Great Branch, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
“The Will of the divine Testator is this: It is incumbent upon the Aghsán, the Afnán and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: ‘When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.’ The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [‘Abdu’l‑Bahá].”
These key documents and their clear provisions are unprecedented in religious history. A rich historical, academic, and descriptive account of the Lesser Covenant is to be recommended:
“The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh”, by Adib Taherzadeh, which includes copies of both the Kitáb-i-Ahd and the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and addresses the entire progression of the Covenant from the coming of the Báb through the establishment of today’s Bahá’í Institutions.
At the broadest level is the Greater Covenant between God and humanity, of which the Báb writes:
“The Lord of the universe hath never raised up a prophet nor hath He sent down a Book unless He hath established His covenant with all men, calling for their acceptance of the next Revelation and of the next Book; inasmuch as the outpourings of His bounty are ceaseless and without limit.”
To conclude this inadequate glimpse of the splendor of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, the reader is invited to explore the sources listed here, many of which lead to others of equal or greater value. One inspiring, illuminating, and insightful starting-point is the opening series of passages in “Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh”, translated by Shoghi Effendi.
 No. 1558 Lights of Guidance: A Bahá’í Reference File
-Compiled by Helen Bassett Hornby
 The “Kitab-i-Iqan,” pp. 182-3
 “Selections From the Writings of the Báb,”
 Shoghi Effendi, “God Passes By,” pp. 216-220
 “The Kitáb-i-Aqdas,” Bahá’u’lláh
 “KITÁB-I-‘AHD (Book of the Covenant),” Bahá’u’lláh
 “Selections from the Writings of the Báb,” p. 87