Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Methodology to My Madness

Some of you, dear Readers, have commented that I do not go very deep into the analysis of any single prayer, and you know what?  That's true.

You see, from what I can tell there are many ways to study the Writings and each of them have their advantages.  Some people like to look at them word by word, others paragraph by paragraph.  Sometimes you can pick a single word in a work, like "heart" in the Hidden Words, and see the path that is traced throughout.  Other times you can pick a single theme within the Writings and delve deeply into it, such as peace or unity or even agriculture.  There are many other methods of studying, but no matter which way you choose, they all give rich rewards and wonderful insights.

But in general, when studying various prayers with people, I have noticed that few of us ever look at the internal continuity within a single prayer.  We tend to look at themes without actually seeing why the prayer is constructed the way it is.  That's just my own observation.

A second reason that I don't go into too much depth here is that the medium in which I am writing, a blog, is quite limited in its word count.  Oh, the blog will take more words (as many as I care to type), but the average reader (not that I think of you as average, dear Reader) will only read up to 1500 words per article.  It is sort of like writing for a newspaper, in that I have to be careful of length.

Another point that has been raised a few times is in relation to the idea that I use of macro / micro, or "as above, so below".  I will often comment that if it works on the big scale, it works on the small scale.  A few of you have said that the faith is more than just two-tiered.  In other words, yes, if it works on one level, it works on many levels, and that there are more than just the two levels I state.  Of course.  I completely agree with you.  But in the interest of simplicity and word space, I just refer to the two levels and leave the rest up to you.  You do, after all, have to earn your keep.

A single quote will also work on many different levels, in the same sense as fractals.  Look at the simple analysis I did of the Tablet of Ahmad, in which it is shown that the overall structure of the Tablet is the same as the overall structure of the first paragraph.  The more you look at a single detail within a piece of the Writings, the more you get out of the entire piece.

The simplest way of seeing this is found in the famous quote used in both Ruhi Books 1 and 4:  A dewdrop out of this ocean would, if shed upon all that are in the heavens and on the earth, suffice to enrich them with the bounty of God

Even a single drop is enough to transform the entire planet, how much more the entire body of Writings.

Now I am sure that you are already aware of all of this, and do not need any convincing, but for the sake of argument, and the need to write something today, let me show a singular example using the first line from the prayer we looked at just the other day:  Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose.

Where shall I begin?  There are so many options.

I can begin with the first word, "unite", which is verb form of the word "unity".  Unity, as many have pointed out, is the foundation stone of the entire Baha'i Faith.  If you could sum up all of Jesus' teachings in a single word, it would be "love".  If you had to sum up all of Baha'u'llah's teachings in a single word, that word would undoubtedly be "unity".

Many of us have read that wonderful little volume, written so early in Baha'u'llah's ministry, called "The Seven Valleys", but have we noticed that valley number 4, the central valley in the whole work, is Unity?  It is so important that nearly one-third of the Text is contained in that single valley.

About the importance of this concept, unity, Baha'u'llah writes the following:  So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.

He also adds, "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."

The unity of which He speaks, which implies a diversity for otherwise it would merely be uniformity, is the foundation of justice, world peace, true security, well-being and so on and so forth.  And here, in this simple prayer, he begins with it.

Now let us note that it is a particular type of unity of which He speaks here.  He asks that God unite our hearts.  He doesn't specify our minds, or our governments, or any other aspect of our lives, but rather our hearts.
Why?  What is it about the heart that is so important?

We can make a note here about how many aspects of the Writings begin with the heart.  The first Hidden Word tells us to "possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart".  The Kitab-i-Iqan, that book of "unsurpassed pre-eminence amongst the Writings of the Author of the Baha'i Revelation" also begins by telling us to sanctify our hearts. The heart, we are told, is "the throne, in which the Revelation of God the All-Merciful is centered" and "reserved for Himself".  He says, "Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent."

'Abdu'l-Baha likens the heart to a mirror, and tells us to cleanse it so that the light of God may reflect within it.  This further emphasizes the fact that "minds cannot grasp Me nor hearts contain Me", as Baha'u'llah says.  This precious organ reflects the light of our Creator, but does not contain it, much like the mirror that can reflect the full radiance of the sun, but doesn't contain the sun itself.

Another very interesting aspect of the heart is alluded to in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, in which Baha'u'llah describes His receipt of God's revelation: in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain.

I have often pondered this description, trying to make some sense of it in light of the many stories of Baha'u'llah admitting His station as a Manifestation of God to others before He received His revelation.  Many people recognized Him as the One promised by the Bab long before His imprisonment in the Black Pit, in which He received His reveleation.

How can that be?

It seems to me that He knew of His station, as He Himself attests, before He received His revelation, and that here, He is describing this knowledge as moving from His head down to His heart.  It flowed from His head down to his breast.

Why do I mention all this?  Because it seems to me that we often make a false dichotomy between the head and the heart, when what we are supposed to do is unify them and draw on the strengths of each.

Many of us are already united in our heads, or in our ideas, but not in our hearts.  In fact, Baha'u'llah even tells us that, "No two men can be found who may be said to be outwardly and inwardly united."

So in the first half of this first sentence, Baha'u'llah is bringing together two very important aspects of the Faith: unity and the heart.

And then, in the second half of this sentence, draws this unity up to our head: "reveal to them Thy great purpose".
But this already comes up to more than 700 words in just beginning to describe the first part of that first sentence.  And all I've done is merely scratch the surface.

Now imagine if I tried to do an in-depth study of the entire prayer.

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