Sunday, December 20, 2009


Just the other day, a friend and I were looking at the Book of Genesis, and we noticed something we had never noticed before.  In fact, we noticed a few new things and thought that was kind of cool.

Now, when we began looking over this Text, we recalled the caution "that many passages in Sacred Scriptures are intended to be taken metaphorically, not literally".  We also remembered that our study of the Bible, or any sacred Texts, brought 'Abdu'l-Baha "great happiness".  He goes on, in the same text, to say:
It is my hope... that you may investigate and study the Holy Scriptures word by word so that you may attain knowledge of the mysteries hidden therein. Be not satisfied with words, but seek to understand the spiritual meanings hidden in the heart of the words.
So, with this wisdom in mind, we set off to look at the very beginning, Genesis 1:1, and to do so, we used the Stone translation of the Tanakh, as this has been very highly regarded for its accuracy, according to many Jewish scholars.

Disclaimer time:  Once again, I must caution you, dear Reader, that this is only my own perspective and not an official representation of Baha'i thought.  I may be way off base, or there may be a grain of wisdom in what I offer.  It is for you to decide.  These are just my own thoughts, and you can take them or leave them as you please.  Of course, comments and insights are always welcome.  And now back to your regularly scheduled blog.

As we all know, Genesis begins with creation.  But in the original Hebrew, from what I can tell, the verb for "create" is in the present tense, not the past tense.  In the Stone translation, it reads, "In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and the earth..."  This seems to imply that creation is an on-going act, not something that occurred in the distant past.

For me, in the context of my life as a Baha'i, this implies that my work, the purpose of my creation being to "carry forward an ever-advancing civilization", is to help in the work of Creation (note the clever use of a capital letter).  I should see my work and my life, and the work and life of all of us, as a sacred act.  This brings an entirely new dimension to the line from the Kitab-i-Aqdas, "We have exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship of the one true God."  Why is work so exalted?  Because it is aiding in the very creation, or creating, of the universe itself.

From here, we noticed something quite interesting.  We both knew the order of creation, and how some say it differed from Genesis 2, but we had never really looked at the order itself.  Nor had we ever really looked for "spiritual meanings hidden in the heart of the words."

We decided to read this chapter as if it were speaking about the creation of spiritual truth, instead of just physical creation.  This is not to say that it isn't speaking of a physical creation, just that we chose to read it in this other manner.  The wonderful thing about Sacred Texts is that they can be read on so many levels without denying any other levels.

All that being said, here is our simple understanding of Genesis 1.  If you want to follow along on-line, you can click here for the King James version.  The Stone translation is, unfortunately, not available on-line.

On Day 1, when the earth of men's hearts was astonishingly empty, and the darkness of ignorance was everywhere, God said "Let there be light", and the light of truth shone.  He saw that it was good, and His job, at that time, was to divide the light of truth from the darkness of error.

It is worth noting that He does not "create" darkness, but only light.  This makes sense when we realize that darkness is merely the absence of light, just as ignorance is the absence of knowledge. And so we decided to see this opening verse as a "creation" (or "creating") of the spiritual truths that abound.

It is also worth noting that the Jewish calendar, like the Baha'i calendar, begins at sunset.  So this verse ends with a mention of evening, followed by morning, constituting a day.  This becomes more important as we move to Day 4, but we are not there yet, so be patient.

On Day 2, He made a firmament seperating the waters above from the waters below. The firmament, as you know, is that over-arching vault of the sky.  This we see as the seperating of those spiritual truths from the physical truths, which could, in a sense, be seen as the seperation of religion and science.  But, as 'Abdu'l-Baha says, "Religion and Science are inter-twined with each other and cannot be separated. These are the two wings with which humanity must fly.  One wing is not enough."  They are, of course, in harmony with each other, but still can be seen as each in their own realm, just as two wings can be seen as seperate.

On Day 3, now that we have the light of truth shining, and are aware of the difference between those spirtual truths and those truths of the physical world (like chemistry and physics), He creates the earth of men's hearts and the ocean of wisdom.  And within the earth of men's hearts, He plants the tree of faith.

Now comes Day 4, that pivotal day, central to the 7 days of Creation (3 before and 3 after make up 7, get it?).

On this Day, He creates the "lumninaries in the firmament of heaven to seperate between the day and the night; and they shall serve as signs, and for festivals, and for days and years."  Then, to top it all off, He creates "two great luminaries, the greater luminary to dominate the day and the lesser luminary to dominate the night", and it is now their job to seperate between the light and the darkness.  Remember, this was previously God's job, on Day 1, but it is now being delegated to these two luminaries.

It is also interesting to note that on all the previous Days, He names His creation.  On Day 1, He called the light "day" and the darkness "night".  On Day 2, He called the firmament "heaven".  Day 3, He called the dry land "earth" and the waters "seas".  But here, on Day 4, He does not name them.  We only presume that they are the Sun and the Moon.

But to my friend and I, those descriptions sounded like the Manifestations of God, and in particular, the Bab and Baha'u'llah.

After all, how have we traditionally had festivals, except through our understanding of the lives of the Holy Ones?  Christmas and Easter are only two simple examples.  Our calendars are based upon the lives of the Messengers of God (Anno Domini?  Year of our Lord?), and so are the holy days, or holidays.

But here, there are two special luminaries, the Greater Luminary and the Lesser Luminary.  The Lesser One rules over the night, just as the Bab is said to "rule" over all the previous Messengers, and the Greater One rules over the day, just as Baha'u'llah is said to cast His shadow over all subsequent Messengers for the next five hundred thousand years.  This is the day that shall not be followed by night, for, remember, the night comes before the day in this calendar system.

And Their job, as stated so beautifully in this verse from Genesis, is to seperate the light from the darkness, or truth from error.  In this Day, They are the Ones that take over that most important job from God, and They are the source of guidance for all of us.

From here, it seems that we are at Days 5 and 6, in which God has created the "living creatures" in the water, the "fowl that fly", and so on and so forth, creating all living animals.  And isn't that where we are today?  Aren't we, as humanity in general, acting in the manner of animals, each showing some virtues, but not yet all?

Only at the very end of Day 6 is Man created.  Of course, by Man is meant humanity. 

And perhaps after we learn what it means to be true spiritual human beings, then maybe God can rest for a Day.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe I paid so little attention to this part of your blog! Thank you!