I believe that God created us out of love, since love is an attribute of His perfection. He created each thing, and a paradise for that thing, so the creature might enjoy the bounties of its Creator. This is not done out of any need, but as a token of His grace, so we might know the abundant joy of drawing near to Him.
Paradise for human beings is the knowledge of God, but knowledge is not identical with awareness and appreciation. A wealthy man can know money in every detail, but fail to appreciate the meaning of his wealth, unless and until he has hungered and suffered deprivation.
Even with us Bahá’ís: we know prayer; but it’s another thing to fully appreciate the reality of prayer. Consider what the Báb wrote about prayer:
[T]he river of milk “whose taste changeth not” … floweth through the depths of prayers and supplications. It is the fresh milk and the manifest mystery, whose inner essence revealeth the crystal, incorruptible water, the outward form of which is pure milk. It is the water of the spirit of prayer, through which man reacheth the summit of sanctity and reposeth within the heaven of eternal reunion….
By thy life! Were the people to taste the delight of that milk, they would assuredly be willing to rend, with their own hands, their own bodies, that they might be permitted to recite a single prayer. For verily, within each prayer vibrateth the spirit of divine Sovereignty, radiateth the mystery of Eternity, and shineth forth the uttermost word of Servitude before the Divine Justice.
All this ignorance, darkness and evil, are in fact aspects of knowledge, since without it, we would not be driven to realize the full extent of our powerlessness before God, and our reliance upon Him. In contemplating the beauty of this ugliness, or the peace in this war, consider this prayer from Bahá’u’lláh:
Glorified, immeasurably glorified art Thou, my Best-Beloved! Inasmuch as Thou hast ordained that the utmost limit to which they who lift their hearts to Thee can rise is the confession of their powerlessness to enter the realms of Thy holy and transcendent unity, and that the highest station which they who aspire to know Thee can reach is the acknowledgment of their impotence to attain the retreats of Thy sublime knowledge I, therefore, beseech Thee, by this very powerlessness which is beloved of Thee, and which Thou hast decreed as the goal of them that have reached and attained Thy court, and by the splendors of Thy countenance that have encompassed all things, and by the energies of Thy Will whereby the entire creation hath been generated, not to deprive them that have set their hopes in Thee of the wonders of Thy mercy, nor to withhold from such as have sought Thee the treasures of Thy grace.
And again, the message of the Fire Tablet. Finally, there are these words on coming to know God from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
Is the king free as the bird is free to fly upward? The king’s head is often heavy with anxiety and the things of this world which hold him down. The true pleasure and happiness depend upon the spiritual perception and enjoyment. The powers of mind are the bounties of God given to man to lead him toward spiritual happiness. The highest grace in man is to love God. Love of God, knowledge of God is the greatest, the only real happiness, because it is nearness to God. This is the kingdom of God. To love God is to know Him. To know him is to enter his kingdom, and to be near him.
If the meaning of life is predicated on knowing God, we must ask what it means to know, and what role this dark existence plays in gaining that knowledge.