Wednesday, April 4, 2018

That Blessed King

Baha'u'llah, in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, writes, "How great the blessedness that awaiteth the king who will arise to aid My Cause in My kingdom, who will detach himself from all else but Me! Such a king is numbered with the companions of the Crimson Ark—the Ark which God hath prepared for the people of Bahá. All must glorify his name, must reverence his station, and aid him to unlock the cities with the keys of My Name, the omnipotent Protector of all that inhabit the visible and invisible kingdoms. Such a king is the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountainhead of blessings unto the whole world. Offer up, O people of Bahá, your substance, nay your very lives, for his assistance."

I ran across this quote again last night, and it got me thinking. Why, I wondered, is there such an exalted and high station for such a king? I mean, I can think of lots of reasons, but most of them came down to me thinking, "Well, gee, that's nice of him." I figured there had to be more than just that. And so I find myself sitting at the keyboard, typing away, pondering on this issue.

To start, I note the difference between the "Cause" and the "Faith". It has long seemed to me that the "Cause" refers to something larger than the singular faith that we call the Baha'i Faith. The Cause of God, to me, and this really is just my own opinion, somehow seems to refer more to all the various Faiths constituting what we love to refer to as progressive revelation. When I read Shoghi Effendi's writings, this distinction somehow becomes clearer to me, but I would be at a loss as to explain why here. And so I note that this station of the king is more exalted when he arises to "aid My Cause".

The next part specifies that this king will aid His Cause "in My kingdom". So, where is this kingdom of God? Or perhaps the more accurate question is what is this kingdom of God? 'Abdu'l-Baha says, "O ye beloved of the Lord! The Kingdom of God is founded upon equity and justice, and also upon mercy, compassion, and kindness to every living soul. Strive ye then with all your heart to treat compassionately all humankind..."

In other words, what I think it means to me is whoever arises, as a ruler, to help promote the eternal Cause of God, and all the various forms that takes, and rules with equity, justice, mercy, compassion and kindness, will accrue these various benefits that Baha'u'llah mentions.

All right. That seems reasonable.

But let's look a little deeper into this.

Why would this be? Is it some sort of magical formula? If you do these things then the angels on high will bop down with their little magic wands, boop you over the head, and presto, you get these wonderful gifts? Somehow that just doesn't seem right to me. I mean, sure, Shoghi Effendi said, "The Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine Religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character." But is this what that means?
To better explain my thoughts on this, I want to share a bit of a story with you. Do you mind? Thanks.

A few years ago I was tutoring a Ruhi Book 1 study circle and we ran across that Hidden Word which says, "How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me." Half the group jumped at the word "accursed". They were really rattled by it. From their perspective, this was basically God saying, "If you do this, you're damned to Hell for all eternity." It was real hellfire and brimstone stuff to them. Naturally, I didn't want to tell them to "take a chill pill, folks", so instead I asked them to explore it.

"What", I asked them, "would it look like to be under a curse?" They came up with all sorts of things. "Your friends would leave you." "You would lose your job." "Your health would go downhill fast." "People wouldn't want to be around you." "You'd feel miserable." All sorts of good things there. I mean, all sorts of good answers.

Then we looked at the quote again.

He doesn't just say "If you happen to notice other people's faults", or "If you occasionally mention the faults of others". No. He says if you busy yourself with those things, then this curse will fall on you. Stress on the word "busy". In other words, if you constantly dwell on this.

All right. What would happen if you did this? What if you always talked about other people's faults, all the while ignoring your own? What do you think would happen? "Well, your friends wouldn't want to be around you." 'Your co-workers would complain to your boss about this." "You would probably feel horrible always seeing the bad in others, and probably worry about it." "Hey, that could literally make you ill." 'Yeah, you'd be really miserable."

In other words, all those things that were mentioned as the result of being under a curse would naturally occur as a result of this bad habit. Hmmm. You would be, in a sense, cursed by God as a natural result of your actions, sort of like having your hand burned by touching a hot stove. It's not an imposed punishment, but a natural effect.

This is how I see most of the effects mentioned in the Faith. "You do this, and you will suffer that." Why? Because that is how nature works. Similarly, "You do this other thing, and these wonderful benefits will happen." Hooray for us.

Now, looking at this quote in the Kitab-i-Aqdas again, what would be the results of defending the rights of a religious minority, for if we are honest with ourselves, the Baha'i Faith is still a minority pretty much everywhere? What if a king were to rule with equity, justice, mercy, compassion and kindness?

Can we not see how this king would be blessed? Wouldn't their kingdom prosper? Wouldn't all the people glorify such a king? Oh yes, a ruler such as this would be "the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountainhead of blessings unto the whole world."

And yes, I would be very willing to offer up my substance, my wealth, and my very life to aid such a ruler in so noble a task.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 71 - 80

Day 15, and I have a conference to attend this weekend, over the next three mornings, where I'll be selling my artwork. I wonder how I'm going to write this. Maybe in the evenings, instead? Before I go to sleep? Ah, we'll see.
Say: O people! The Tree of Life hath verily been planted in the heart of the heavenly paradise and bestoweth life in every direction. How can ye fail to perceive and recognize it? It will in truth aid thee to grasp all that this well-assured Soul hath disclosed unto thee of the essence of the divine mysteries. The Dove of holiness warbleth in the heaven of immortality and admonisheth thee to array thyself with a new vesture, wrought of steel to shield thee from the shafts of doubt concealed in the allusions of men, saying: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” 71
This paragraph intrigues me. "The Tree of Life hath verily been planted"? And it bestows "life in every direction"? Now we just read that life, in this context, means knowledge. Specifically that knowledge that leads us to recognition of the Manifestation.

Where else have we seen the Tree of Life, in a histori-religious context? That's right. Genesis 2. Verse 9, if you want to be specific. "The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." It shows up again later in the story of Adam and Eve.

We all know how Adam and Eve had to leave Eden because they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, but that's not quite true, is it? It wasn't the Tree of Knowledge. It was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's a very specific form of knowledge.

God does not condemn knowledge there, contrary to popular understanding of this story. He merely says that if they ate of that fruit, they would die. Or perhaps they would now understand death, and how they would face it. In this context, they would understand the difference between the life of faith and the death of unbelief.

But remember, the Tree of Life was barred from them. That's why God set a Cherubim at the gate of the garden, armed with a flaming sword. "After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[a] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." To me, this seems to speak of the tests and trials that we, as humanity, will need to face to reach this Tree of Life, this knowledge of which Baha'u'llah speaks.

It is as if He is saying that the way is now open, thanks to the sacrifice of the Bab, and His followers.
Wing then thy flight unto this divine Tree and partake of its fruits. Gather up that which hath fallen therefrom and guard it faithfully. Meditate then upon the utterance of one of the Prophets as He intimated to the souls of men, through veiled allusions and hidden symbols, the glad-tidings of the One Who was to come after Him, that thou mayest know of a certainty that their words are inscrutable to all save those who are endued with an understanding heart. He saith: “His eyes were as a flame of fire”, and “brass-like were His feet”, and “out of His mouth goeth a two-edged sword”. How could these words be literally interpreted? Were anyone to appear with all these signs, he would assuredly not be human. And how could any soul seek his company? Nay, should he appear in one city, even the inhabitants of the next would flee from him, nor would any soul dare approach him! Yet, shouldst thou reflect upon these statements, thou wouldst find them to be of such surpassing eloquence and clarity as to mark the loftiest heights of utterance and the epitome of wisdom. Methinks it is from them that the suns of eloquence have appeared and the stars of clarity have dawned forth and shone resplendent. 72
Come to this tree, He says. Take those ripened fruits that are ready and guard them. It is worth noting, of course, that fruits are the very purpose of a tree. They are refreshing to eat, nutritious and even contain the seeds of the next tree.

Then comes one of those words that we see so often in His writings: "Meditate".

Now it begins to look like the Kitab-i-Iqan again. He is taking a single verse and analyzing it for us. He begins by pointing out that a literal interpretation is impossible.
Behold, then, the foolish ones of bygone times and those who, in this day, await the advent of such a being! Nor would they ever bear allegiance unto him except that he appear in the aforementioned form. And as such a being will never appear, so too will they never believe. Such indeed is the measure of the understanding of these perverse and ungodly souls! How could those who fail to understand the most evident of the evident and the most manifest of the manifest ever apprehend the abstruse realities of the divine precepts and the essence of the mysteries of His everlasting wisdom? 73
Look, though, at the people who await such a mythical being. They are being foolish. Of course, the natural question is are we awaiting such a mythical being? If so, then are we foolish, too? And if we can't see that this is a metaphor, then what chance do we have of actually understanding the real mysteries latent within the divine teachings?
I shall now briefly explain the true meaning of this utterance, that thou mayest discover its hidden mysteries and be of them that perceive. Examine then and judge aright that which We shall reveal unto thee, that haply thou mayest be accounted in the sight of God amongst those who are fair-minded in these matters. 74
Fortunately, Baha'u'llah comes to our rescue. Not only are we to ponder, meditate, reflect, and consider, we are also to examine.
Know then that He who uttered these words in the realms of glory meant to describe the attributes of the One Who is to come in such veiled and enigmatic terms as to elude the understanding of the people of error. Now, when He saith: “His eyes were as a flame of fire”, He alludeth but to the keenness of sight and acuteness of vision of the Promised One, Who with His eyes burneth away every veil and covering, maketh known the eternal mysteries in the contingent world, and distinguisheth the faces that are obscured with the dust of hell from those that shine with the light of paradise. Were His eyes not made of the blazing fire of God, how could He consume every veil and burn away all that the people possess? How could He behold the signs of God in the Kingdom of His names and in the world of creation? How could He see all things with the all-perceiving eye of God? Thus have we conferred upon Him a penetrating vision in this day. Would that ye believe in the verses of God! For, indeed, what fire is fiercer than this flame that shineth in the Sinai of His eyes, whereby He consumeth all that hath veiled the peoples of the world? Immeasurably exalted shall God remain above all that hath been revealed in His unerring Tablets concerning the mysteries of the beginning and the end until that day when the Crier will cry out, the day whereon we shall all return unto Him. 75
With His eyes He burns away the veils, allows us to see the truth He is teaching, and then separates the gold from the dross. After all, if we have been shown the truth and still deny, then what good are we?
As to the words “brass-like were His feet”, by this is meant His constancy upon hearing the call of God that commandeth Him: “Be thou steadfast as thou hast been bidden.” He shall so persevere in the Cause of God, and evince such firmness in the path of His might, that even if all the powers of earth and heaven were to deny Him, He would not waver in the proclamation of His Cause, nor flee from His command in the promulgation of His Laws. Nay rather, He will stand as firm as the highest mountains and the loftiest peaks. He will remain immovable in His obedience to God and steadfast in revealing His Cause and proclaiming His Word. No obstacle will hinder Him, nor will the censure of the froward deter Him or the repudiation of the infidels cause Him to waver. All the hatred, the rejection, the iniquity, and the unbelief that He witnesseth serve but to strengthen His love for God, to augment the yearning of His heart, to heighten the exultation of His soul, and to fill His breast with passionate devotion. Hast thou ever seen in this world brass stronger, or blade sharper, or mountain more unyielding than this? He shall verily stand upon His feet to confront all the inhabitants of the earth, and will fear no one, notwithstanding that which, as thou well knowest, the people are wont to commit. Glory be to God, Who hath established Him and called Him forth! Potent is God to do what He pleaseth. He, in truth, is the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. 76
What can I really add to this? He is so clear in His explanation that it doesn't need any further comment. I could, of course, make mention of the order in which He states these things, it doesn't seem to add much to what has been written before.
And further He saith: “Out of his mouth goeth a two-edged sword.” Know thou that since the sword is an instrument that divideth and cleaveth asunder, and since there proceedeth from the mouth of the Prophets and the Chosen Ones of God that which separateth the believer from the infidel and the lover from the beloved, this term hath been so employed, and apart from this dividing and separating no other meaning is intended. Thus, when He Who is the Primal Point and the eternal Sun desireth, by the leave of God, to gather together all creation, to raise them up from the graves of their own selves, and to divide them one from another, He shall pronounce but one verse from Him, and this verse will distinguish truth from error from this day unto the Day of Resurrection. What sword is sharper than this heavenly sword, what blade more trenchant than this incorruptible steel that severeth every tie and separateth thereby the believer from the infidel, father from son, brother from sister, and lover from beloved? For whoso believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him is a true believer and whoso turneth away is an infidel, and such an irrevocable separation occurreth between them that they will cease to consort and associate with each other in this world. And so it is between father and son, for should the son believe and the father deny, they will be severed and forever dissociated from each other. Nay rather, thou witnesseth how the son slayeth the father and the father the son. Consider in the same light all that We have explained and related unto thee. 77
Again, what can I add? He is not being ambiguous at all, but rather as clear as can be. Time and time again He is showing us how much more powerful and true these words are when we read them as metaphor, as opposed to taking them as literal. This is such a major part of His Writings at this time, helping us see past the literalism of His day and understanding the truth that is latent within these words.
Wert thou to behold all things with the eye of discernment, thou wouldst indeed see that this divine sword doth cleave asunder generations. Would that ye could understand it! All this is by virtue of the word of separation that is manifested on the Day of Judgement and Separation, were the people to take heed in the days of their Lord. Nay, couldst thou but sharpen thy sight and refine thy heart, thou wouldst witness that all the material swords which in every day and age have slain the infidels and waged war against the impious proceed from this divine and invisible sword. Open then thine eyes, that thou mayest behold all that We have revealed to thee and attain unto that which none other hath attained. We verily exclaim: “Praise be to God, He Who is the Lord of the Day of Reckoning!” 78
This is it, isn't it? If you take these prophecies literally, then you have missed the point and are likely in the same camp as the fanatics who have blindly followed the religious leaders of the past. You will likely make similar decisions as those of old did, hurting or killing someone believing that this is somehow virtuous. All the while, though, you are forgetting that basic principle of love. He is doing all He can to ensure that we don't all into that sad trap.
Yea, inasmuch as these people have failed to acquire true knowledge from its source and wellspring, and from the ocean of fresh and soft-flowing waters that stream, by the leave of God, through hearts that are pure and stainless, they have been veiled from that which God hath intended by those words and allusions and have remained confined within the prison of their own selves. 79
Why would He refer to this as "the prison of their own selves"? I'm not sure, but I suspect it might be because this attitude of literal belief, and defending it with such animosity arises from this "I'm right" attitude. For so many people the ego is so strong that if anything appears to go against it, it feels as if it is an attack on their very life. By taking so strong a defense, they are in fact imprisoning themselves within their own very limited belief structure. They point to others and say, "See? So many of us can't be wrong. We must be right." And this further prevents them from trying to see a different point of view.

Today this is as important as ever. With the way that the internet is structured, we tend to only see those perspectives that reinforce our own. this is the way the search engines are built. This is the way that the advertising is designed. We are not challenged in our views, but rather have our views bolstered by surrounding ourselves with those that agree with us. The internet has, in essence, become one of the greatest tools of the collective ego.

By deliberately seeking out other perspectives, though, and by challenging our beliefs to stand up in the face of testing, we not only encourage the attitude of independent investigation, we actually strengthen our own beliefs. How? Well, if there is a weak spot in our belief structure, then challenging it will expose it, and we can make it stronger. It's like testing the foundation of a building. If there is a weak spot, then the building is likely to collapse later on. If we test it, however, we can discover the weakness ahead of time and fix it.
We render thanks unto God for that which He hath bestowed upon us of His grace. He it is Who hath caused us to be assured of the truth of His Faith—a Faith which the combined forces of earth and heaven are powerless to resist. He it is Who hath enabled us to acknowledge Him in the day of His presence, to testify unto Him Whom God shall make manifest in the latter Resurrection, and to be among them that have believed in Him ere His appearance, that His favour may be made complete unto us and unto all mankind. 80
And don't take my word for it. Test it. Try it. This Cause is so strong that nothing can break it. Oh, sure, our understanding of it may have it weaknesses, and this is why we need to continually study. This is why we need to test this faith of ours in the field of action. Nothing short of this can prove its strength. The attacks on the Covenant had to be so brutal and fierce in order to prove its strength.

Today, we can truly thank God for this sheltering Faith, for nothing can resist it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 63 - 70

Day 14 of the Fast and I don't think I'm anywhere near where I want to be in this study, Maybe I should keep fasting every day until I'm done? Nah. That just doesn't seem right. Or maybe I can just go until the end of this Fast and then continue it next year? Ah, we'll see. in a few days.

For now, let's continue.
At this hour, when the sweet savours of attraction have wafted over Me from the everlasting city, when transports of yearning have seized Me from the land of splendours at the dawning of the Daystar of the worlds above the horizon of ‘Iráq, and the sweet melodies of Ḥijáz have brought to Mine ears the mysteries of separation, I have purposed to relate unto thine eminence a portion of that which the Mystic Dove hath warbled in the midmost heart of Paradise as to the true meaning of life and death, though the task be impossible. For were I to interpret these words for thee as it hath been inscribed in the Guarded Tablets, all the books and pages of the world could not contain it, nor could the souls of men bear its weight. I shall nonetheless mention that which beseemeth this day and age, that it might serve as a guidance unto whosoever desireth to gain admittance into the retreats of glory in the realms above, to hearken unto the melodies of the spirit intoned by this divine and mystic bird, and to be numbered with those who have severed themselves from all save God and who in this day rejoice in the presence of their Lord. 63
Wow. I must be getting tired. My first thought is that of commuting on the morning train in Chicago, back when I was a kid. The city, the transport, the dawn. Ok. Focus.

He's only giving us a portion of what He knows. Obviously he knows more, but as Jesus said, we cannot bear it. He's only going to tell us what we can handle.

Know then that “life” hath a twofold meaning. The first pertaineth to the appearance of man in an elemental body, and is as manifest to thine eminence and to others as the midday sun. This life cometh to an end with physical death, which is a God-ordained and inescapable reality. That life, however, which is mentioned in the Books of the Prophets and the Chosen Ones of God is the life of knowledge; that is to say, the servant’s recognition of the sign of the splendours wherewith He Who is the Source of all splendour hath Himself invested him, and his certitude of attaining unto the presence of God through the Manifestations of His Cause. This is that blessed and everlasting life that perisheth not: whosoever is quickened thereby shall never die, but will endure as long as His Lord and Creator will endure. 64
Now we're getting back to a style like the Kitab-i-Iqan. Life, here, has two meanings. The first meaning is the most common definition and pertains to the body. This is what we often think of as the literal meaning.

But this is not what He is concerned about. His second definition is life as knowledge, which, when you think about it, is really quite a remarkable definition. In a single word, it explains so much, with layer upon layer of meaning.

Then, of course, He qualifies it. This is not just the everyday knowledge we are talking about here, oh no. Nor is it the useless trivia so popular amongst the vast multitudes. This knowledge refers us to the Manifestation. It is the knowledge that allows us to recognize His signs, as well as the certainty that we will encounter Him. this absolute awareness of His Presence is what is meant by everlasting life.
The first life, which pertaineth to the elemental body, will come to an end, as hath been revealed by God: “Every soul shall taste of death.” But the second life, which ariseth from the knowledge of God, knoweth no death, as hath been revealed aforetime: “Him will We surely quicken to a blessed life.” And in another passage concerning the martyrs: “Nay, they are alive and sustained by their Lord.” And from the Traditions: “He who is a true believer liveth both in this world and in the world to come.” Numerous examples of similar words are to be found in the Books of God and of the Embodiments of His justice. For the sake of brevity, however, We have contented Ourself with the above passages. 65
This first definition of life leads only to death, for all that lives will surely perish. But this second definition pertains to the knowledge deep within our soul and leads us forward, upward, outward, to the eternal realms. It is this second definition, that definition of knowledge that leads us to eternal life. There are so many quotes from the sacred Books that He can use to defend this position, but those on their own would fill volumes. We know that, and so He doesn't have to.
O My brother! Forsake thine own desires, turn thy face unto thy Lord, and walk not in the footsteps of those who have taken their corrupt inclinations for their god, that perchance thou mayest find shelter in the heart of existence, beneath the redeeming shadow of Him Who traineth all names and attributes. For they who turn away from their Lord in this day are in truth accounted amongst the dead, though to outward seeming they may walk upon the earth, amongst the deaf, though they may hear, and amongst the blind, though they may see, as hath been clearly stated by Him Who is the Lord of the Day of Reckoning: “Hearts have they with which they understand not, and eyes have they with which they see not.…” They walk the edge of a treacherous bank and tread the brink of a fiery abyss. They partake not of the billows of this surging and treasure-laden Ocean, but disport themselves with their own idle words. 66
Now it gets personal. Moving away from the dictionary, we see how this will apply to our life.

Immediately, with the phrase, "O My brother", He draws us in. We are not just a friend, we are a brother. This is such a close relationship that we want to respond in kind. And what an honour, too, to be called "brother" by so eminent a Person.

Then, with the very next phrase, He challenges us. The challenge, though, is an interesting one, and not quite as explicit as I would expect. He is asking us, in a way, to be aware of what our desires are, for how else would we be able to forsake them? What is it that we really want? The implication is strong that our desire is not to know God, but it should be, and we are being asked to correct this. The implication is also there that many have taken their own desires to be their highest value, their god, that which they would do anything for. Obviously this is not a good thing, and we are being cautioned not to fall into this same trap.

Then, as if this wasn't enough yet, He tosses out another fascinating phrase: "Him Who traineth all names and attributes". This really struck me as something new. Here, God is elevated from being seen as the All-Merciful to the One Who trains the All-Mericful how to show mercy. It's a fascinating progression, historically. Every Dispensation we seem to be given a higher understanding of the nature of God. We have gone from the old guy in the garden, to the Manifestation being God, to the God of the attributes such as the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Now we see Him as even beyond that. Every time we think we have as big a vision of God as we can get, the next Manifestation raises our sights once again.

If we think of life as knowledge, then turning away from this greater vision is turning away from knowledge itself. No wonder it is referred to as death. We have a mind to learn, but choose not to. It really is the same as having eyes but not seeing, or ears and not hearing. It is the having of a faculty and not using it for its intended purpose.

Following this, we are reminded that we are at a critical junction here. It will be very easy to fall back into habit, allow ourselves to continue thinking of the world as we have done before, and as most of society does. This will topple us into that abyss. We can either consider this new perspective and embrace it, or make play with idle words that do nothing to benefit either us or the world.
In this connection We will relate unto thee that which was revealed of old concerning “life”, that perchance it may turn thee away from the promptings of self, deliver thee from the narrow confines of thy prison in this gloomy plane, and aid thee to become of them that are guided aright in the darkness of this world. 67
Here, Baha'u'llah is looking back again, giving us that opportunity to keep up. It is as if He is looking over His shoulder and asking, "You still with Me?" And don't forget, if you follow the "promptings of self", you will find this world to be a gloomy place and the world will be dark before your eyes.
He saith, and He, verily, speaketh the truth: “Shall the dead whom We have quickened, and for whom We have ordained a light whereby he may walk amongst men, be like him whose likeness is in the darkness, whence he will not come forth?” This verse was revealed with respect to Ḥamzih and Abú-Jahl, the former of whom was a believer whilst the latter disbelieved. Most of the pagan leaders mocked and derided it, were agitated, and clamoured: “How did Ḥamzih die? And how was he restored to his former life?” Were ye to examine carefully the verses of God, ye would find many such statements recorded in the Book. 68
Here we, or more accurately he, are reminded of two people from Islamic history that we should know well. As a good Muslim, the recipient of this Tablet would regard Hamzih as a hero He would know this story as well as any Christian or Jew would know the story of Noah. We know, in this context, the metaphorical manner in which the term "life" was used. And we are being asked to consider ourselves in the same position. Do we wish to be like Hamzih, or more like Abu-Jahl?
Would that pure and stainless hearts could be found, that I might impart unto them a sprinkling from the oceans of knowledge which My Lord hath bestowed upon Me, so that they may soar in the heavens even as they walk upon the earth and speed over the waters even as they course the land, and that they may take up their souls in their hands and lay them down in the path of their Creator. Howbeit, leave hath not been granted to divulge this mighty secret. Indeed, it hath been from everlasting a mystery enshrined within the treasuries of His power and a secret concealed within the repositories of His might, lest His faithful servants forsake their own lives in the hope of attaining this most great station in the realms of eternity. Nor shall they who wander in this oppressive darkness ever attain unto it. 69
Here, oh here, we long to be a "pure and stainless" heart. We want to receive that sprinkling of the life-giving waters. We long to soar in that heavenly realm. And yes, we even feel that longing to be able to arise to be a hero of the Faith and lay down our life for this Cause.

But there is a secret that Baha'u'llah cannot yet reveal, and what potential this secret promises. He is still not ready to reveal His own Station.
O My brother! At every juncture We have restated Our theme, that all that hath been recorded in these verses may, by the leave of God, be made clear unto thee, and that thou mayest become independent of those who are plunged in the darkness of self and who tread the valley of arrogance and pride, and be of them that move within the paradise of everlasting life. 70
Over and over, Baha'u'llah keeps us close to His heart. Time and again He repeats His theme, giving us every opportunity to understand just what it is that He is saying. And with every step He reminds us not to be ensnared by the prevailing beliefs of the day.

This message is just as relevant today, with its rampant atheism and religious fanaticism, with its stifling materialism and superstitious mysticism, we need to continually find our way on that razor-thin middle way. We know that God is unknowable, but we still recognize the importance of religion. We know that material goods have a place in our lives, but need to ensure that they don't consume us. And we know that religion is, at its core, mystical, but should always remain practical, too.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraph 56 - 62

Day 13 and my shoulders hurt. I feel like a zombie this morning and am really looking forward to my massage this afternoon. You see, dear Reader, as a chainmail artist, my shoulders tend to get sore every now and then and a massage is part of my work regimen. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to do this work for over 30 years. Take care of the body, and it will take care of you. They say the body is the temple, and I guess I have the choice of letting it go and becoming one of those ancient temples that is crumbling and haunted, or I can be a good caretaker and strive to make my temple worthy. I prefer the latter, although the former can be more fun to explore.

I guess I better get on with this little study before I get too carried away with this metaphor.

So, where were we? Ah, yes. Paragraph 56. I wonder if this will be another 5 paragraph study.
Now that this evanescent One hath reached this exalted point in the exposition of the inner mysteries, the reason for the denial of these uncouth souls will be described briefly, that it may serve as a testimony unto them that are endued with understanding and insight, and be a token of My favour unto the concourse of the faithful. 56
"This point". Which point? I presume it's the point from the latter part of paragraph 55, in which He talks about those people who denied Muhammad, for He tells us that He is now going to explain to us why they missed Him.

Oh, and "briefly"? I bet it's only 5 paragraphs. Of course, knowing God's sense of humour, it'll likely be more. After all, I believe God is an iron.

What? I can hear your disbelief.

You see, if one who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and one who commits a felony is a felon, then I figure God must be an iron. Of course, as a Baha'i, I actually believe that He is the Most Great Iron.

Anyways, let's move on and see where He goes with this. I'm sure it's more profound than where I'm going.
Know then that when Muḥammad, the Point of the Qur’án and the Light of the All-Glorious, came with perspicuous verses and luminous proofs manifested in such signs as are beyond the power of all existence to produce, He bade all men follow this lofty and outstretched Path in accordance with the precepts that He had brought from God. Whoso acknowledged Him, recognized the signs of God in His inmost Being, and saw in His beauty the changeless beauty of God, the decree of “resurrection”, “ingathering”, “life”, and “paradise” was passed upon him. For he who had believed in God and in the Manifestation of His beauty was raised from the grave of heedlessness, gathered together in the sacred ground of the heart, quickened to the life of faith and certitude, and admitted into the paradise of the divine presence. What paradise can be loftier than this, what ingathering mightier, and what resurrection greater? Indeed, should a soul be acquainted with these mysteries, he would grasp that which none other hath fathomed. 57
Well, to start, it must be my fast brain, but I'm having trouble understanding this first sentence. Oh, and that's fast, as in not eating and getting by on little sleep, not quick. So what do I do when faced with a complex sentence that I'm having trouble following? I treat it as an Effendian sentence and work it down to its basics.

If you look at that first sentence in the paragraph above, know that I just copied it here. Now I'm going to go through and replace all the extra clarifying phrases with ellipses and if I can make sense of what is left. Shall we? Ok. Let's see what we get: "Know then that when Muḥammad... came with... verses and... proofs... He bade all men follow this... Path..." Ok. I can understand that.

Moving on, I notice a little path in the next sentence: acknowledge, recognize, and see. You begin by admitting His existence. Then you identify the signs of God within Him. Finally, you see within Him that changeless beauty of God.

Then there's the little path of resurrection, ingathering, life and paradise. Everything is made new, but only some are gathered together. Those that "pass the test" are given a new life, as opposed to a true death, and they move on to paradise.

Then there is that path of moving from heedlessness to the heart to faith and certitude and on to the divine presence.

Here, within this paragraph, He has shown us many paths for our consideration, and given us a better understanding of these terms that have confused so many for so long.
Know then that the paradise that appeareth in the day of God surpasseth every other paradise and excelleth the realities of Heaven. For when God—blessed and glorified is He—sealed the station of prophethood in the person of Him Who was His Friend, His Chosen One, and His Treasure amongst His creatures, as hath been revealed from the Kingdom of glory: “but He is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets”, He promised all men that they shall attain unto His own presence in the Day of Resurrection. In this He meant to emphasize the greatness of the Revelation to come, as it hath indeed been manifested through the power of truth. And there is of a certainty no paradise greater than this, nor station higher, should ye reflect upon the verses of the Qur’án. Blessed be he who knoweth of a certainty that he shall attain unto the presence of God on that day when His Beauty shall be made manifest. 58
Now He is turning our attention to today. Why was there so much mention of the Day of Resurrection? And why were there so many allusions made to His presence at this time? To help us begin to get an appreciation of today, and to recognize that the greatest form of paradise that we can really imagine is to be in His presence.

Another interesting aspect of this is that last sentence. How many people think of the promised Day as being some time in the distant future, not really applying to them or their lifetime? Most that I am aware of. They don't really believe that these things could possibly apply to them.

But for those who believe it, who, deep in their heart, know that it applies to them, who live their lives as if it is extremely personal? They are even more blessed. They are the ones who recognize that God is a very real presence in our daily life, no matter in what era we live. And if we happen to be of those few who have the astonishing blessing of living at the actual time of a Manifestation? Well, that's just light upon light.
Were I to recount all the verses that have been revealed in connection with this exalted theme, it would weary the reader and divert Us from Our purpose. The following verse shall therefore suffice Us; may thine eyes be solaced therewith, and mayest thou attain unto that which hath been treasured and concealed therein: “It is God who hath reared the heavens without pillars thou canst behold; then mounted His throne, and imposed laws on the sun and moon: each travelleth to its appointed goal. He ordereth all things. He maketh His signs clear, that ye may have firm faith in the presence of your Lord.” 59
Yeah, there's a lot of references to this theme. And it's interesting that He has chosen this particular verse to focus on.

I love how He ties together creation, His majesty and the importance of obedience to the laws. The reminder that this obedience helps us get to our goal is just amazing. And why does He do all this? So that we "may have firm faith". But let's move on and see where He goes with it.
Ponder then, O My friend, the words “firm faith” that have been mentioned in this verse. It saith that the heavens and the earth, the throne, the sun and the moon, all have been created to the end that His servants may have unswerving faith in His presence in His days. By the righteousness of God! Contemplate, O My brother, the greatness of this station, and behold the condition of the people in these days, fleeing from the Countenance of God and His Beauty “as though they were affrighted asses”. Wert thou to reflect upon that which We have revealed unto thee, thou wouldst undoubtedly grasp Our purpose in this utterance and discover that which We have desired to impart unto thee within this paradise. Perchance thine eyes may rejoice in beholding it, thine ears take delight in hearing that which is recited therein, thy soul be enthralled by recognizing it, thy heart illumined by comprehending it, and thy spirit gladdened by the fragrant breezes that waft therefrom. Haply thou mayest attain unto the pinnacle of divine grace and abide within the Riḍván of transcendent holiness. 60
"Ponder". There we go again. Another point to ponder, contemplate, consider, and meditate upon: Everything in creation was made to help lead us to the recognition of the Manifestation of God.

This is such an astonishing statement, and truly worthy of so much meditation. I can well understand why He begins this paragraph with the word "ponder". I have actually sat here for about ten minutes just meditating upon that singular point without typing a thing.

He then offers us a contrast. Consider the greatness of this station, and on the other hand, look at how the people of the world are behaving today. What a difference. They have absolutely no idea of the why of their very creation, of the reason behind creation itself. What an amazing loss.

But here, Baha'u'llah also alludes to His own station, when He talks about "this paradise", which, if you recall from just a couple paragraphs earlier, is "the paradise of the divine presence". If only we could recognize it then our eyes, our ears, our soul, our heart, our very spirit would rejoice, if we but recognized. And do you notice that little path there, too? I love where He has placed the heart in that path.
He, however, who denied God in His Truth, who turned his back upon Him and rebelled, who disbelieved and made mischief, the verdict of “impiety”, “blasphemy”, “death”, and “fire” was passed upon him. For, what blasphemy is greater than to turn unto the manifestations of Satan, to follow the doctors of oblivion and the people of rebellion? What impiety is more grievous than to deny the Lord on the day when faith itself is renewed and regenerated by God, the Almighty, the Beneficent? What death is more wretched than to flee from the Source of everlasting life? What fire is fiercer on the Day of Reckoning than that of remoteness from the divine Beauty and the celestial Glory? 61
What about those who deny? What about that path? Impiety, blasphemy, death and fire? It begins with a lack of reverence which can then slip into a reviling of God. Well, from there the rest is obvious.

After that, He does an interesting little switch. He talks about blasphemy first. While it may seem out of character, I think it's because He is using the same words for a more chrono-historical path. Instead of placing the previous Manifestation at the center of one's faith, some people look to the clergy instead. When the clergy say things that are clearly against the heart of what was taught, then it is time to tun away from them. the blasphemy He refers to here is a look towards the past. From there, He moves us to the present, with true impiety today. From there, the death and the fire are redefined in terms of recognition of the Manifestation of God for today. Fascinatingly done. Every single time He strives to turn us from looking at the past to looking to today and the future. He is, in essence, trying to turn us around, for we are facing the wrong direction.
These were the very words and utterances used by the pagan Arabs living in the days of Muḥammad to dispute with and pronounce judgement against Him. They said: “Those who believed in Muḥammad dwelt in our midst and associated with us day and night. When did they die and when were they raised again to life?” Hearken unto that which was revealed in reply: “If ever thou dost marvel, marvellous surely is their saying, ‘What! When we have become dust and mouldering bones, shall we be restored in a new creation?’” And in another passage: “And if thou shouldst say, ‘After death ye shall surely be raised again’, the infidels will certainly exclaim, ‘This is naught but palpable sorcery.’” Thus did they mock and deride Him, for they had read in their Books and heard from their divines the terms “life” and “death”, and understood them as this elemental life and physical death, and hence when they found not that which their vain imaginings and their false and wicked minds had conceived, they hoisted the banners of discord and the standards of sedition and kindled the flame of war. God, however, quenched it through the power of His might, as thou seest again in this day with these infidels and evil-doers. 62
Why did these people deny? Again, it comes back to a literal interpretation of metaphor.

There's a lot in this paragraph, too, but I feel like this has gone on quite a long time this morning and I don't have anything new to add. I think I'll end it here and wish you a happy fasting today, and hopefully see you tomorrow.

All right, so it was seven paragraphs today instead of five. Maybe I'll actually finish this before the Fast is over. Who knows?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 51 - 55

Last night my wife asked me how this little blog project was going. "It's a little frustrating," I replied.


"Well, I have 19 days to the whole book, and I was hoping to do 6 paragraphs a day. That would about cover it. But Baha'u'llah switches to a different topic every 5 paragraphs. I'm falling behind."

"Why", she asked, "do you think He does that?"

"Perhaps He was writing this book and said to Himself, 'Oh, I better switch topics again, just so that Mead has difficulty writing his blog later in the future.' I don't know."

I then proceeded to read aloud to her what I was going to write about today. I started at paragraph 51, because that was where I left off. And lo and behold, 5 paragraphs later, "Now that this evanescent One hath reached this exalted point..." Another new topic. I give up. This will likely take me beyond the Fast. Sorry about that.

For now, though, let get into it.
It is Our wish at this to digress from Our theme to recount that which befell the Point of the Qur’án, and to extol His remembrance, that perchance thou mayest gain into all things an insight born of Him Who is the Almighty, the Incomparable. 51
I have to admit, I was caught a bit off-guard here. At first I thought the "Point of the Qur'an" was referring to the Bab. I mean, how often do we see Him referred to as the Point? The Primal Point? And wasn't the whole point of the Qur'an to prepare us for His coming? Well, I was mistaken. This phrase evidently refers to Muhammad. It didn't really come as much of a surprise, but I thought that should be mentioned.

Oh, and when I continued to read on, it seemed more and more like the Bab. But still, it wasn't. It is Muhammad. Then again, considering the relationship between the two, it does make sense that I would be confused.

Either way, at this point, Baha'u'llah is switching topics here. he's now going to talk a bit more particularly about Muhammad and His life.
Consider and reflect upon His days, when God raised Him up to promote His Cause and to stand as the representative of His own Self. Witness how He was assailed, denied, and denounced by all; how, when He set foot in the streets and marketplaces, the people derided Him, wagged their heads at Him, and laughed Him to scorn; how at every moment they sought to slay Him. Such were their doings that the earth in all its vastness was straitened for Him, the Concourse on High bewailed His plight, the foundations of existence were reduced to nothingness, and the eyes of the well-favoured denizens of His Kingdom wept sore over Him. Indeed, so grievous were the afflictions which the infidels and the wicked showered upon Him that no faithful soul can bear to hear them. 52
"Consider". "Reflect". Remember those terms? Those, and all their synonyms, come up regularly in His early writings. And they are not just flippant words tossed in for fun. He is serious, as one would expect. He really is advising to consider and reflect upon the life of Muhammad, that divine Being Who is known so well to the recipient of this book.

It really is not a coincidence that I should be confused as to Whom Baha'u'llah is referring here. That, I believe, is the point He is trying to make. Well, one of them, at least.

If we were told to read this as a Christian, we could easily imagine the scenario where Jesus is walking towards His trial with Pilate, and the streets are lined with people vilifying Him. Siyyid Yusuf-i-Sihdihi Isfahani, to whom this was written, was no doubt just as easily able to picture Muhammad in a similar circumstance. Having been raised Jewish, I can easily see Moses being cursed by the Jews after Pharaoh double their workload. We can all see the Bab being vilified, or Baha'u'llah having the stones thrown at Him by the old women on His way to the Siyah-Chal. This is a common thread to all their stories.

There is also, as I love to point out, a little path here. He was assailed. He was denied. He was denounced. To be assailed means to be strongly criticized. To be denied means to have Their claim flat out refused. It is a stronger term, as far as this path goes, than assailed. Finally, They were denounced, which means that They were publicly declared evil. You can easily imagine this escalation.

Everything else in this paragraph follows. We can see the continual escalation of effect, and how it must have pained Him. I could go into detail on how each step leads further and further, but the point has been amply made by Baha'u'llah, Himself, here.
If these wayward souls had indeed paused to reflect upon their conduct, recognized the sweet melodies of that Mystic Dove singing upon the twigs of this snow-white Tree, embraced that which God had revealed unto and bestowed upon them, and discovered the fruits of the Tree of God upon its branches, wherefore then did they reject and denounce Him? Had they not lifted their heads to the heavens to implore His appearance? Had they not besought God at every moment to honour them with His Beauty and sustain them through His presence? 53
Now Baha'u'llah switches perspective, moving from the trials faced by the Messenger to the plight of those who committed these evil deeds. If only they had paused and reflected, as we are pausing and reflecting right here in this very paragraph, they might have recognized. They may have embraced, which you can see is a deeper position of understanding than just recognizing. They might have actually been able to understand, which goes further still.

Baha'u'llah is placing us in the same position that those souls were in at the time of Muhammad. We are left wondering how they failed to recognize Him, Whom we see so clearly. Will the future wonder the same about us?

And what is He asking of us? It seems to me that this all begins with that reflection and meditation. Recognition comes from that. Once we recognize the Bab, or Baha'u'llah, then we can embrace Their Cause. It is only upon truly embracing the Cause that we will begin to discover some of the fruits on that divine Tree.
But as they failed to recognize the accents of God and the divine mysteries and holy allusions enshrined in that which flowed from the tongue of Muḥammad, and as they neglected to examine the matter in their own hearts, and followed instead those priests of error who have hindered the progress of the people in past dispensations and who will continue to do so in future cycles, they were thus veiled from the divine purpose, failed to quaff from the celestial streams, and deprived themselves of the presence of God, the Manifestation of His Essence, and the Dayspring of His eternity. Thus did they wander in the paths of delusion and the ways of heedlessness, and return to their abode in that fire which feedeth on their own souls. These, verily, are numbered with the infidels whose names have been inscribed by the Pen of God in His holy Book. Nor have they ever found, or will ever find, a friend or helper. 54
But, alas, as we well know, the people of that time failed to recognize Muhammad. Why? Because they didn't examine His message themselves. Instead, they made the error of listening to the priests. And look at what they missed? Look at how they suffered? Do we want the same?

Of course not.

The solution, then, is clear. Examine this Message for ourselves. See for ourselves if it makes sense. Don't just listen to the clergy, but study for ourselves.
Had these souls but clung steadfastly to the Handle of God manifested in the Person of Muḥammad, had they turned wholly unto God and cast aside all that they had learned from their divines, He would assuredly have guided them through His grace and acquainted them with the sacred truths that are enshrined within His imperishable utterances. For far be it from His greatness and His glory that He should turn away a seeker at His door, cast aside from His Threshold one who hath set his hopes on Him, reject one who hath sought the shelter of His shade, deprive one who hath held fast to the hem of His mercy, or condemn to remoteness the poor one who hath found the river of His riches. But as these people failed to turn wholly unto God, and to hold fast to the hem of His all-pervading mercy at the appearance of the Daystar of Truth, they passed out from under the shadow of guidance and entered the city of error. Thus did they become corrupt and corrupt the people. Thus did they err and lead the people into error. And thus were they recorded among the oppressors in the books of heaven. 55
And if we do accept it, then just look at what wonders come our way.

God will never turn us away. If we approach His door, He will open it for us. There are no gatekeepers, except for the Manifestations, at Whose door we really wait. The clergy do not have some privileged access to God that we are denied. It is as He says in the Hidden Words "Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other."

But so many people do not cling to "the hem of His mercy", clinging instead to the robes of their leaders. They have placed their religious leaders in the position of God, which is not a good thing to do at all. And as they encourage others to do this, too, condemning those who don't, they lead others into the same error, thinking all the while that they are somehow doing good.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 46 - 50

I shall restate here My theme, that perchance this may assist thee in recognizing thy Creator. Know thou that God—exalted and glorified be He—doth in no wise manifest His inmost Essence and Reality. From time immemorial He hath been veiled in the eternity of His Essence and concealed in the infinitude of His own Being. And when He purposed to manifest His beauty in the kingdom of names and to reveal His glory in the realm of attributes, He brought forth His Prophets from the invisible plane to the visible, that His name “the Manifest” might be distinguished from “the Hidden” and His name “the Last” might be discerned from “the First”, and that there may be fulfilled the words: “He is the First and the Last; the Seen and the Hidden; and He knoweth all things!” Thus hath He revealed these most excellent names and most exalted words in the Manifestations of His Self and the Mirrors of His Being. 46
I am so grateful to Baha'u'llah. Oh, and I don't mean my general sense of overwhelming gratitude for all that He has done, but more particularly here. I am so thankful that He is restating His theme, for without doing that, I am sure that I would have even less of a clue as to what is going on than I do.

What is this theme that He is continually restating? I mean, He began by talking about "this exalted and intractable theme" in paragraph 6, which I presume was the theme of why the people denied the Messengers of the past. Then, in paragraph 35, He talked about reaching "this most excellent theme", which seemed to refer to the importance of detachment, as well as the facing of tests. I can see how those two tie together as they seem to be the same point, just seen from two different sides. But what about here?

The theme here seems to be that God is quintessentially unknowable, and that anything we do know of Him is actually what we know of the Manifestations. In other words, if we want to know God, we need to recognize the Manifestations. But this isn't enough. We need to recognize the latest, the most recent Manifestation, for to deny Them, we are in effect denying that we have recognized any Manifestation in the past. They are so synonymous with each Other that to recognize one, in His essence, is to recognize Them all. To deny one is to deny all.

This is the great test. How we can we so love the Manifestation we follow, and yet still be detached enough to recognize the next one? How can we love the stories of one of Them, and still be open to the next chapter of Their divine story? This also comes to that wonderful question of how we can be passionate about something and strive towards it, while remaining detached from it.
It is therefore established that all names and attributes return unto these sublime and sanctified Luminaries. Indeed, all names are to be found in their names, and all attributes can be seen in their attributes. Viewed in this light, if thou wert to call them by all the names of God, this would be true, as all these names are one and the same as their own Being. Comprehend then the intent of these words, and guard it within the tabernacle of thy heart, that thou mayest recognize the implications of thine inquiry, fulfil them according to that which God hath ordained for thee, and thus be numbered with those who have attained unto His purpose. 47
Here is one of the most profound themes in all of Baha'u'llah's Writings stated so simply. Whatever refers to one of Them refers to Them all. And because They are the closest we can get to knowing our divine Creator, if we refer to Them by the various names of God, we are, in a sense, correct. They are the perfect Mirrors mirroring forth all the attributes of God so that we can begin to see them.

When we think of God, the All-Merciful, there is a bit of a conundrum there. God is sanctified above and beyond all creation, so, really, how can He show mercy? This would imply a direct connection with creation that we know is impossible. If God is the All-Powerful, then this implies another direct connection, for power is the amount of energy expended to perform a task over a stated unit of time. Without the task being accomplished, energy is latent, not actual. Power implies a transformation. And so if God is beyond all reality, then how can that connection be there? The answer is, in a sense, through His Manifestations.
All that thou hast heard regarding Muḥammad the son of Ḥasan — may the souls of all that are immersed in the oceans of the spirit be offered up for His sake—is true beyond the shadow of a doubt, and we all verily bear allegiance unto Him. But the imáms of the Faith have fixed His abode in the city of Jábulqá, which they have depicted in strange and marvellous signs. To interpret this city according to the literal meaning of the tradition would indeed prove impossible, nor can such a city ever be found. Wert thou to search the uttermost corners of the earth, nay probe its length and breadth for as long as God’s eternity hath lasted and His sovereignty will endure, thou wouldst never find a city such as they have described, for the entirety of the earth could neither contain nor encompass it. If thou wouldst lead Me unto this city, I could assuredly lead thee unto this holy Being, Whom the people have conceived according to what they possess and not to that which pertaineth unto Him! Since this is not in thy power, thou hast no recourse but to interpret symbolically the accounts and traditions that have been reported from these luminous souls. And, as such an interpretation is needed for the traditions pertaining to the aforementioned city, so too is it required for this holy Being. When thou hast understood this interpretation, thou shalt no longer stand in need of “transformation” or aught else. 48
Ok. Now this may seem like a tangent, and perhaps it is, but I'm not sure. I suspect not. Every time I think Baha'u'llah has gone on a tangent, it later proves to be the most logical and direct connection to make His point.

So, Muhammad. Son of Hasan. He was the Twelfth Imam, the one who disappeared as a kid and was in hiding. He was the one who had the Gates to intercede for him, after which the Bab is named. Or maybe vice versa, but since we're dealing with Manifestations and time, it's kind of hard to tell. He was the one of Whom the Bab was supposed to be the return.

But why bring him up?

Well, there were a lot of myths surrounding him, and it was just these sort of stories that became a great barrier between the people and the Bab. Here, after pointing out why the people missed the previous Manifestations due to their attachment to myths, He is pointing out the same absurd stories that people want to see today. Do we really expect Jesus to come down from the clouds, falling through those vaporous bodies of fluff in the sky? Or can we finally see that this was a metaphor for the clouds that block the light of the sun?

Do we really expect to see this mythological city that was built up around the myth of the Twelfth Imam? Baha'u'llah Himself says, "All right, if you can show Me this city, then I'll show you your Twelfth Imam." But we know it's impossible. And yet, we also know that the Twelfth Imam is a reality. So what do we do? The only reasonable thing is to understand that the story is a metaphor surrounding the reality, just as the stories of the past, previously mentioned here, are also metaphors. If we accept the metaphors of the Bible as referring to Muhammad, or the metaphors of the Tanakh as referring to Jesus, then we can use the same logic to recognize the metaphors of Islam to refer to the Bab.
Know then that, inasmuch as all the Prophets are but one and the same soul, spirit, name, and attribute, thou must likewise see them all as bearing the name Muḥammad and as being the son of Ḥasan, as having appeared from the Jábulqá of God’s power and from the Jábulṣá of His mercy. For by Jábulqá is meant none other than the treasure-houses of eternity in the all-highest heaven and the cities of the unseen in the supernal realm. We bear witness that Muḥammad, the son of Ḥasan, was indeed in Jábulqá and appeared therefrom. Likewise, He Whom God shall make manifest abideth in that city until such time as God will have established Him upon the seat of His sovereignty. We, verily, acknowledge this truth and bear allegiance unto each and every one of them. We have chosen here to be brief in our elucidation of the meanings of Jábulqá, but if thou be of them that truly believe, thou shalt indeed comprehend all the true meanings of the mysteries enshrined within these Tablets. 49
And there He goes, breaking down the metaphor for us so that we can clearly see it. The two cities in which the Twelfth Imam are said to be hiding are, in fact, the attributes of power and mercy. Again, if power is the amount of energy needed to effect change, then the Twelfth Imam is hidden, if you will, if all the change that has occurred in the world since that time. His power is evident in all that world has undergone. These holy Beings are the source of all movement in the world, whether or not we see it. They are the ultimate Source of inspiration for the arts, the sciences and all other learning.

But there is also the mercy of God. If we ever truly got what we deserved, if true justice was ever meted out, then all would cease to exist. It is only by God's mercy that the world continues.

Then we also have an allusion to Baha'u'llah, Himself. He, too, lives in this hidden city, until such time as He is allowed to declare His Mission. He is still, at this point, hidden.
But as to Him Who appeared in the year sixty, He standeth in need of neither transformation nor interpretation, for His name was Muḥammad, and He was a descendent of the Imáms of the Faith. Thus it can be truly said of Him that He was the son of Ḥasan, as is undoubtedly clear and evident unto thine eminence. Nay, He it is Who fashioned that name and created it for Himself, were ye to observe with the eye of God. 50
As regards the Bab, "Him Who appeared in the year sixty", He is not hidden. You want to know where this hidden Muhammad is, Baha'u'llah seems to ask. He's standing right there. Muhammad. Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, the Bab. Even His name points to this truth.

Once again, I was hoping to continue forward, and do a few more paragraphs, but the next begins "It is Our wish at this juncture to digress from Our theme", and so it seems like a good stopping point here. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 42 - 45

Wow. Paragraph 42 out of 117, or age 32 out of 78. Depends on how I want to count it. And another beautiful sunrise happening this morning.

In case you don't know, and I'm not sure how you would, I'm actually doing this while I'm eating my breakfast in the morning before sunrise. It slows down my eating, which is a good thing, and it gets me to consider what I'm going to type before putting pen to paper.... uhm..... fingers to keys.

Anyways, let's get to it.

Hast thou not heard: “No change is there in God’s creation”? Hast thou not read: “No change canst thou find in God’s mode of dealing”? Hast thou not borne witness to the truth: “No difference wilt thou see in the creation of the God of Mercy”? Yea, by My Lord! They that dwell within this Ocean, they that ride upon this Ark, witness no change in the creation of God and behold no differences upon His earth. And if God’s creation be not prone to change and alteration, how then could they who are the Manifestations of His own Being be subject to it? Immeasurably exalted is God above all that we may conceive of the Revealers of His Cause, and immensely glorified is He beyond all that they may mention in His regard! 42
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

External appearances may seem different, but the inner realities are always the same. This is part of the reality that is meant by the "Return". The phenotypes are always there. The drama is always the played out in a similar manner. The choice of whether to cling to the past or work towards the future is an eternal question.

We, as puny individuals, are always caught up in the differences, the surface things, but the Manifestations are far more concerned with the heart of things.

And I love the reference to Noah here, that reminder of the importance of being within the Ark of safety when the storms disturb the surface of the ocean. Just remember what happened to those who decided not to join Him.

Great God! This sea had laid up lustrous pearls in store;
The wind hath raised a wave that casteth them ashore.
So put away thy robe and drown thyself therein,
And cease to boast of skill: it serveth thee no more!
It is only after the tempestuous storms that you can find these great pearls on the shore. Otherwise you have to dive deep in the ocean to even have a chance at finding one of the oysters that may carry one in its heart.

But here, He is also telling us to drown ourselves in this ocean, completely lose ourselves to God, for nothing else is worth mentioning.

If thou be of the inmates of this city within the ocean of divine unity, thou wilt view all the Prophets and Messengers of God as one soul and one body, as one light and one spirit, in such wise that the first among them would be last and the last would be first. For they have all arisen to proclaim His Cause and have established the laws of divine wisdom. They are, one and all, the Manifestations of His Self, the Repositories of His might, the Treasuries of His Revelation, the Dawning-Places of His splendour, and the Daysprings of His light. Through them are manifested the signs of sanctity in the realities of all things and the tokens of oneness in the essences of all beings. Through them are revealed the elements of glorification in the heavenly realities and the exponents of praise in the eternal essences. From them hath all creation proceeded and unto them shall return all that hath been mentioned. And since in their inmost Beings they are the same Luminaries and the self-same Mysteries, thou shouldst view their outward conditions in the same light, that thou mayest recognize them all as one Being, nay, find them united in their words, speech, and utterance. 44
"This city within the ocean"? This just brings to mind all the myths of Atlantis, that wonderous city beneath the waves. Perhaps He is alluding to spiritual reality here, reminding us that it is not a physical city that we can visit with our little travel guide. No, this city is spiritual in nature and it is through the rich language of metaphor that we can arrive at its gates.

And here, in this paragraph, we have such a beautiful stating of one of the most fundamental principles of Baha'u'llah's teachings: the unity of the Messengers. First, He describes what They have done, Their deeds. Then He describes Their Station. Next He describes Their effect on creation. Then He describes the effect of Their teachings on us, how They guide us. And then He finishes with how They are both the beginning and the end, how all-encompassing They are. Oh, and then, just in case we hadn't thought of it, He explains how we should react to what He just said. If you love one, you should love them all. If you follow one, you should follow them all.

Wert thou to consider in this station the last of them to be the first, or conversely, thou wouldst indeed be speaking the truth, as hath been ordained by Him Who is the Wellspring of Divinity and the Source of Lordship: “Say: Call upon God or call upon the All-Merciful: by whichsoever name ye will, invoke him, for He hath most excellent names.” For they are all the Manifestations of the name of God, the Dawning-Places of His attributes, the Repositories of His might, and the Focal Points of His sovereignty, whilst God—magnified be His might and glory—is in His Essence sanctified above all names and exalted beyond even the loftiest attributes. Consider likewise the evidences of divine omnipotence both in their Souls and in their human Temples, that thine heart may be assured and that thou mayest be of them that speed through the realms of His nearness. 45
But don't confuse Them with God, Himself. Everything we thought we knew about God is actually what we know about His Manifestations. If we revere Jesus, this is good, but God is exalted even above Him. If we love the names and attributes of God, we should remember that these are but a creation of His, and He is exalted above those. Everything we know and love about God we actually know and love about His Messengers. God is so much more.

Now, I was planning on doing a couple more paragraphs this morning, but the next one begins "I shall restate here My theme", so it is probably better to begin with that tomorrow.