I am not sure Abdul Baha had the same understanding of the Trinity that Bahaullah, Jesus and Krishna had. But that would be a topic for another discussion. God descending in to us is not meant in a physical sense but it is meant spiritually. The truth is that the quality of love is the most important quality for God since God created human beings to experience their love. The heart is the seat of love but unfortunately due to human nature it is occupied by negative qualities like anger, ego, greed, fear, pride, lust, selfishness etc. As a person cleanses his heart of these negative qualities, spiritual qualities like kindness, compassion, fearlessness, charity, service will start manifesting and eventually love will be perfected as human love is transformed in to divine love. At this point a human being would manifest attributes of God and that is what is meant by God descending in to us.
“Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that Most Great Light. Methinks, but for the potency of that revelation, no being could ever exist. How resplendent the luminaries of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that surge within a drop! To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed.All these names and attributes are applicable to him. Even as He hath said: “Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.” Manifold are the verses that have been repeatedly revealed in all the Heavenly Books and the Holy Scriptures, expressive of this most subtle and lofty theme. Even as He hath revealed: “We will surely show them Our signs in the world and within themselves.” Again He saith: “And also in your own selves: will ye not, then, behold the signs of God?” And yet again He revealeth: “And be ye not like those who forget God, and whom He hath therefore caused to forget their own selves.” In this connection, He Who is the eternal King—may the souls of all that dwell within the mystic Tabernacle be a sacrifice unto Him—hath spoken: “He hath known God who hath known himself.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 177-178
However, that is not the same as saying that God (or even the Holy Spirit as Christians believe) is literally Living Inside of our body. That is what Abdu’l-Baha meant and what he was clarifying in the following passage:
Question.—What is the Holy Spirit?
Answer.—The Holy Spirit is the Bounty of God and the luminous rays which emanate from the Manifestations; for the focus of the rays of the Sun of Reality was Christ, and from this glorious focus, which is the Reality of Christ, the Bounty of God reflected upon the other mirrors which were the reality of the Apostles. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles signifies that the glorious divine bounties reflected and appeared in their reality. Moreover, entrance and exit, descent and ascent, are characteristics of bodies and not of spirits—that is to say, sensible realities enter and come forth, but intellectual subtleties and mental realities, such as intelligence, love, knowledge, imagination and thought, do not enter, nor come forth, nor descend, but rather they have direct connection.
For example, knowledge, which is a state attained to by the intelligence, is an intellectual condition; and entering and coming out of the mind are imaginary conditions; but the mind is connected with the acquisition of knowledge, like images reflected in a mirror.
Therefore, as it is evident and clear that the intellectual realities do not enter and descend, and it is absolutely impossible that the Holy Spirit should ascend and descend, enter, come out or penetrate, it can only be that the Holy Spirit appears in splendor, as the sun appears in the mirror. Some Answered Questions, p. 108
Regarding the translation of the Tablet of the Maiden by Juan Cole, I am open to the possibility that there may be some errors but I am not completely certain there are. Generally speaking, when mystical truths expressed by a mystic in rich language like Arabic are translated by an ordinary person from another culture in to another language there could be some errors due to misunderstanding. It takes a mystic to understand a mystic. Often times, there are multiple meanings to a word some of which are very esoteric. A well developed intuitive ability is required to glean the correct meaning intended by the author. I am not sure Juan Cole has that ability.
Having said that, even if we assume there were no errors in Juan Cole's translation, I would not rush to the conclusion that there was something wrong with Bahaullah for authoring Tablet of the Maiden given that the highest wisdom permeates his teachings. His words have a spiritual potency that can only come from a true manifestation of God.
There is no one way to God. One person's way might be very strange to another. Of the several ways that Hindus discovered to God, the Tantric way that involves sexual intercourse as a spiritual practice is a valid one but a very difficult one. The 19th century Hindu avatar Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa was once asked by one of his disciples about the Trantic way to God. He said that it was a legitimate way but an extremely difficult one. He added that he preferred to approach God as his Mother for he found that easier. His was a relationship of child and Mother but God can also be treated as a Father, Spouse (Divine Lover), Child or a Friend. I believe Bahaullah in some of his Tablets considered God as a Divine Lover and gave the form of a beautiful Houri to God. It is not unusual for Sufis to do so and we should not be surprised if Bahaullah did something similar in the company of Sufis.
“Say: Deliver your souls, O people, from the bondage of self, and purify them from all attachment to anything besides Me. Remembrance of Me cleanseth all things from defilement, could ye but perceive it. Say: Were all created things to be entirely divested of the veil of worldly vanity and desire, the Hand of God would in this Day clothe them, one and all, with the robe “He doeth whatsoever He willeth in the kingdom of creation,” that thereby the sign of His sovereignty might be manifested in all things. Exalted then be He, the Sovereign Lord of all, the Almighty, the Supreme Protector, the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful.”
I don’t like to sound like a fundamentalist, but I believe that Baha’is need to be following what Baha’u’llah and His appointed interpreters revealed; if we follow the traditions of religions of the past which have been corrupted by man, we have the potential to be led astray, because in many ways they contradict what Baha’u’llah revealed.
It seems odd to me that anyone would relate to God as a person, be it a mother, father, spouse, child or friend. God is not a human being. I do not understand why people would try to relate to Him that way. I like the way Muslims relate to God directly, as it is depicted in this video.
Top Ten Reasons Why Jesus is Not God
I love this video and I think every Christian should watch it. It is good for Baha’is to watch too because it explains how similar our beliefs are to Islam on many things.
The problem I have with giving the form of “a beautiful Houri” to God is that it is incongruent with other Writings of Baha’u’llah...
“Say: He is not to be numbered with the people of Bahá who followeth his mundane desires, or fixeth his heart on things of the earth. He is My true follower who, if he come to a valley of pure gold, will pass straight through it aloof as a cloud, and will neither turn back, nor pause. Such a man is, assuredly, of Me. From his garment the Concourse on high can inhale the fragrance of sanctity…. And if he met the fairest and most comely of women, he would not feel his heart seduced by the least shadow of desire for her beauty. Such an one, indeed, is the creation of spotless chastity. Thus instructeth you the Pen of the Ancient of Days, as bidden by your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 117-118
The average man wishes to enjoy the material objects of the world. Tantra bids him enjoy these, but at the same time discover in them the presence of God. Mystical rites are prescribed by which, slowly, the sense-objects become spiritualized and sense attraction is transformed into a love of God. So the very "bonds" of man are turned into "releasers". The very poison that kills is transmuted into the elixir of life. Outward renunciation is not necessary. Thus the aim of Tantra is to sublimate bhoga, or enjoyment into yoga, or union with Consciousness.
“Our spiritual nature cannot be developed except by “dying to self” and “living in God.” God has given us a dual nature: one material and one spiritual. Sex is part of the material nature, however much it may be able to play a role in a truly loving relationship. It is not what we are, even though people insist that it is.... God is calling us to struggle against our lower nature and to become who we truly are: not material beings, not sexual beings, but spiritual beings who are in control of the physical side of our nature and who can thus find true happiness living in conformity with His will. Although not scriptural, there is a possible explanation of why He has made it so hard that I ran across long ago in a Baha'i children's book: Because if it were too easy, it wouldn't be worth anything. Or put another way, because only by being challenged can we really prove our love for God.”
Sure, people enjoy sex so I can understand why sense attraction and sexual pleasure might be transformed into a love of God, for these bounties come from God. The conundrum is why God would create an instinct this powerful and then enjoin us to be detached from it. I think my Baha’i friend had it right -- because only by being challenged can we really prove our love for God.”
Baha’u’llah is asking us to transcend what the average man wishes. Baha’u’llah does not bid us enjoy the material objects of the world. That is the opposite of what Baha’u’llah has enjoined us to do, and according to Baha’u’llah, renunciation is necessary.
“I sorrow not for the burden of My imprisonment. Neither do I grieve over My abasement, or the tribulation I suffer at the hands of Mine enemies. By My life! They are My glory, a glory wherewith God hath adorned His own Self. Would that ye know it!
The shame I was made to bear hath uncovered the glory with which the whole of creation had been invested, and through the cruelties I have endured, the Day Star of Justice hath manifested itself, and shed its splendor upon men.
My sorrows are for those who have involved themselves in their corrupt passions, and claim to be associated with the Faith of God, the Gracious, the All-Praised.
It behoveth the people of Bahá to die to the world and all that is therein, to be so detached from all earthly things that the inmates of Paradise may inhale from their garment the sweet smelling savor of sanctity, that all the peoples of the earth may recognize in their faces the brightness of the All-Merciful, and that through them may be spread abroad the signs and tokens of God, the Almighty, the All-Wise. They that have tarnished the fair name of the Cause of God, by following the things of the flesh—these are in palpable error!” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 100-101
“Suffer not the habitation wherein dwelleth My undying love for thee to be destroyed through the tyranny of covetous desires, and overcloud not the beauty of the heavenly Youth with the dust of self and passion.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 323
It is for our own benefit that Baha’u’llah revealed what He did about self and passion, which is no different from what is in the New Testament. As Baha’is we know that there is no physical body in the spiritual world, so it makes sense to detach from things of the flesh before we die.
“Thou hast asked Me concerning the nature of the soul. Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. It is the first among all created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to recognize His glory, to cleave to His truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him. If it be faithful to God, it will reflect His light, and will, eventually, return unto Him. If it fail, however, in its allegiance to its Creator, it will become a victim to self and passion, and will, in the end, sink in their depths.”