Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hidden Beginnings

So I've looked at the first paragraph of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and the first paragraph of the Kitab-i-Iqan. I've even looked at the first few lines of the Tablet of Ahmad, but what about the first paragraph of The Hidden Words? I have often wondered what mysteries there are in that wondrous paragraph.

Oh, and I call it "wondrous" because, at this moment, I kind of wonder why it is there. I mean, I've read it many times, and have even quoted or paraphrased (plagarized might be more accurate) it on numerous occassions. But studied it? Nope. Haven't done that yet.

And before you think to ask, I am not talking about the first Hidden Word. I am talking about that introductory paragraph before the first one. It is that paragraph that reads:
He is the Glory of Glories. This is that which hath descended from the realm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue.
OK, that first sentence is an invocation before the paragraph, but I wasn't sure how to include it, and didn't want to leave it out. Who knows? There might be something there, too. (You think?)

For myself, I remember that this work was revealed before Baha'u'llah declared His mission, at a time when He was known as Jinab-i-Baha. Perhaps there was a subtle allusion to His station in that reference to "the Glory of Glories", in addition to the obvious reference to that attribute of God.

Of course, in the very next sentence He reiterates this by His reference to "the realm of glory", but this time it seems to be a reference to where the the previous Revelations have come from. He says that this Book, the Hidden Words, is that which was "revealed unto the Prophets of old", assuming that I am reading this correctly, of course.

Personally, I find this intriguing, as this was originally called The Hidden Words of Fatimih, and was supposed to be that Book revealed by the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad's daughter to help console her when the Prophet passed away. Now we are told that this is also what was revealed to all the Prophets. Could this be another allusion to Baha'u'llah as "the Voice that was heard from the Burning Bush", to cite but one example? As usual, I really have no idea, but am only wondering aloud.

However we interpret it, it seems clear, at least to me, that this Book, The Hidden Words, is a very special Book. While the words themselves may not have been exactly what was given to the other Messengers, the spirit of the Words is certainly consistent. I only mention this because He then says that He has "taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity". This sure seems to speak to the spirit of the words, and not the words themselves.

It also speaks of a mercy, at least to one such as me who really likes brevity, not that you could necessarily tell from my writing, but you have to admit, a thousand words is not all that much. Oh, a thousand words is the average length of what I write here, and so I use it as an example.

But here, I believe that Baha'u'llah is saying that He has taken the underlying message in all religions and stated it simply here. In fact, I have often had fun going through teachings from religious history and trying to find a Hidden Word that sums them up. It never fails, there is always at least one. It is this that has led me to often refer to The Hidden Words as a table of contents for religious history.

We may now ask ourselves, "If all this has been stated before, why is He restating here?" His answer? It is "a token of grace unto the righteous". A proof of good will to those who act in a moral way? How is that?

Well, it may be that those who act morally are the ones who stand a chance of recognizing Baha'u'llah, and for them, this Book will be seen for what it is. For those who are not moral in their behaviour, they will miss its value.

Aside: I am reminded of the time some friends and I were helping open up a neighbourhood and were calling on people in their homes. As you can imagine, there were many times when we were turned away, politely or not. That evening, one of my friends was saying how hurt he was every time people didn't want to hear what he had to say. I suggested that he imagine himself offering these people a tray of gems. How would he feel if they turned them down? Angry? Hurt? No. He said that he would feel sad for them, and hope that might someday accept this great treasure.

Those who would turn down some priceless diamonds might do so because they cannot believe that someone would offer them something so valuable. They therefore think that those gems must be worthless glass, or something.

Perhaps this is the same thing. Those who cannot accept that Baha'u'llah might be a Messenger of God may not be open to seeing the wisdom in His teachings, even though they are there for them to read. Of course, even if they don't accept Him, they may still be open enough to draw inspiration from His teachings. This, of course, would be dependent upon their having an open heart and mind, which might be a sign of moral behaviour. Or I may be way off base. Who knows?

Presuming that we do accept and recognize this great gift, what are we to do with it?

I think we are to try and "stand faithful unto the Covenant of God... fulfill in (our) lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue."

So there it is: our job.

To be faithful to the Covenant means that we first need to understand what it is. How can you honour a contract if you don't know what your role in it is? In this instance, He seems to be talking about hte eternal Covenant, so obeying the Messenger we recognize, and searching for the next One, seem to be high on that list.

To fulfill His trust? Again, we have to understand what has been entrusted to us. That could be a full series of articles on its own. I could talk about "the poor in your midst" being the trust of the rich ones, or any other example, but I only want to touch on it here, and not go into great depth or detail.

Finally, to obtain the gem of Divine virtue. Is this made up of all the human virtues, or more? Singular as God is, as opposed to plural? After all, it is said that if we perfected a single virtue it would be as if we perfected them all. Maybe all the virtues are one in their essence. This is another point worthy of meditation.

And now, after just a few moments of thought, I think there is a bit more to this paragraph than I ever noticed before. But that doesn't really surprise me. I mean, it is one of the reasons I am a Baha'i.

Now I am only left wondering why I never looked at it before now.

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