In the Baha'i Faith, God is unknowable, completely beyond the realm of human comprehension. However, God wants humanity to know of him and his expectations. To this end, he periodically sends manifestations of himself, whom Baha'is call Manifestations of God.
Nature of the ManifestationsThe Manifestations are not incarnations of God, as God himself cannot be limited by physical form and cannot be divided into pieces. This is in agreement with the other monotheistic faiths with the exception of Christianity, which believes that Jesus literally is God the Son, one third of the trinity formed with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, if the Manifestations were God, then they too would be incomprehensible by humanity. Instead, they act as a necessary intermediary, becoming perfect manifestations of his will and teachings. They possess infallible divine knowledge and understanding. Abdu'l-Baha likened the Manifestations to perfect mirrors, flawlessly reflecting the light of God.
Purpose of the ManifestationsThe Manifestations are humanity's sole link with God, and this relationship is represented in the ringstone symbol, which symbolically depicts the manifestations bridging the gap between God and man. They communicate the will of God and guide humanity toward a better future.
Humanity's Relationship With the ManifestationsBaha'u'llah stated that the Manifestations are "as God" to humanity because it is solely though the Manifestations that people can experience and know God. Specifically, he wrote:
Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth to their call, hath hearkened to the Voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of their Revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself. Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God.
Previous ManifestationsWhile there is no authoritative list of Manifestations, Baha'is commonly acknowledge Adam, Noah, Abraham, Zoroaster, Krishna, Moses, the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad and Baha'u'llah as Manifestations of God.
The essence of each of these Manifestations is essentially one and the same. Thus, while outward appearances might vary, Baha'u'llah, Jesus and Mohammad are all the same being, returning again and again as necessary to bring new revelation to humanity.
This is another reason why the Baha'i decry conflict over religious doctrine. Regardless whether you follow the revelations of Moses, Zoroaster, or Jesus, you are following the same essential being, the Manifestation of God. All that differs is the time and place of those revelations.