Sunday, September 26, 2010

Carmel, part 1

I just don't get it.

It's not that I disgaree, oh no, just that I don't understand.

I must have read the Tablet of Carmel dozens (I was about to type 'hundreds', but I'm sure it hasn't been that many) of times, and I just don't understand why the Guardian called it "the Charter of the World Spiritual and Administrative Centers of the Faith on that mountain." A charter, and I had to look it up to be sure, is "a document, issued by a sovereign or state, outlining the conditions under which a corporation, colony, city, or other corporate body is organized, and defining its rights and privileges" (I am so indebted to

So how does this Tablet outline the conditions by which the World Centre is organized? Some have said that it is this document that implies "that Mount Carmel would be the physical location of the Bahá'í World Centre", but surely this is not the same as being a charter, is it

I have to tell you, this question has puzzled me for years, and I am only now getting around to trying to unravel it.

I truly believe that when Shoghi Effendi called it the "Charter of the World Spiritual and Administrative Centers of the Faith", this was the word he intended to use. So, once again, why?

It seems to me that one way to try and answer this question is look at the structure of the Tablet itself and do a brief analysis of it. I am certain that this will take more than one article, so I'll just do the first sentence for now.

Oh, another way to try and answer this question would be to look at the history of and prophecies regarding Mount Carmel, but there is so much on the internet about it, that I would just suggest you click here. I'm sure there are other sites, but wikipedia is the best I have found. Appendix 6 in Ugo Giachery's book, Shoghi Effendi - Recollections, also contains some great material.

Briefly, the Tablet of Carmel was revealed in 1891 when Baha'u'llah visited the mountain for the fourth and last time, only a year before His ascension. Prior to this, there was nothing in His Writings stating where the World Centre of His Faith would be. It is this Tablet that ties together the spiritual and administrative cetnres of the Faith.

The Tablet itself is written in 5 paragraphs, and is something of a dialogue (perhaps trialogue would be more accurate). In paragraph 1, the entire creation is heard speaking, followed by Mount Carmel talking in paragraph 2. In paragraphs 3 and 4, we have Baha'u'llah's response to the mountain. Paragraph 5 is something of a conclusion.

For now, let's look at that first sentence:
All glory be to this Day, the Day in which the fragrances of mercy have been wafted over all created things, a Day so blest that past ages and centuries can never hope to rival it, a Day in which the countenance of the Ancient of Days hath turned towards His holy seat.
Where to begin? Probably the beginning.

"All glory be to this Day..." As you know, Baha means glory, and is considered as part of the Greatest Name of God, so it only seems appropriate to invoke the word "glory" here. Without going into a whole dissertation on the implications of the word "glory", there isn't a whole lot more to say, so I won't.

Instead, what I want to really look at is the development of the next part of that first sentence. It seems to be three praises of this Day in which we live, and I have to wonder why they are in that particular order. You see, I have this belief that there is nothing in the Sacred Writings that is accidental or random. I believe that every sentence, phrase and word is there for a precise purpose. Actually, I believe that they are there for many reasons, but I'm satisfied with being able to find even a single one.

I am also of the opinion that lists, for dramatic purposes, should generally be in an order that builds to a crescendo. In other words, if I were to write a list of praises, like we see here, I would put the least significant one first, and build from there. But let's face it, I don't write Sacred Text. So who is to say that this is what Baha'u'llah does? I sure don't. I only explore from this perspective and see what turns up.

In this passage, He begins with "the fragrances of mercy" being lightly dispersed throughout the world. From there, He goes on to say that today is so awesomely incredible that "past ages and centuries can never hope to rival it" (just a paraphrase, you know). Finally, He points out that this is when God has "turned towards His holy seat."

Why are they in that order?

Oh, and we have to note that the word "Day" is capitalized. It is obviously not referring to a mere 24-hour cycle, but instead to an epoch of time.

But back to that quote. I would have presumed that mercy being spread throughout the whole planet would have been an amazing enough thing that it would have been the climax of that crescendo, but as I thought about it again, I realized that it truly is the beginning. Imagine, for a moment, if every child on the planet was shown mercy as they were being raised. Think about the effect if all people encountered mercy throughout their lives. If we didn't have to spend so much of our life trying to overcome past abuses, or current injustices, just try and imagine how much more each of us could accomplish in our life. Now imagine the concurrent rise that would occur in the various arts and sciences.

It would be truly awesome.

We would advance so much beyond where we already are. "Past ages and centuries" could never even come close.

You see, I think that the second part comes as a result of the first part, not the other way around, as I had first thought.

But most important of all is that God has turned His attention to "His holy seat". This is a clear reference to the infallible guidance coming from the World Centre. It is from this guidance that we, as a human race, will best be able to move forward. Free from the limitations of political or business interests, guided by the Holy Writings, the Universal House of Justice is in a position to turn their attention to the needs of the entire planet, and not just a small section of it. You only need to look at what they have been doing to know that this is true.

Already I feel like I have learned a little bit more. Here, in that openeing line, I can see the glimmerings of the ligth that shines from the Universal House of Justice. It is no wonder that it is saved as the crescendo, the highest point of the whole series of praises for this Day. In fact, I think we are only beginning to get a mere glimpse of the wonder of this institution, and that our awe of it will only increase as the years go by.

But I still don't see why this Tablet is called a "charter".


  1. For a log time I also questioned why this small tablet is called a charter of the Bahá'í Administration.

    I now see it is because Bahá'u'lláh Himself called Mount Carmel the throne upon which God has established His throne. He tells the mountain, Carmel, to tell Zion (a hill near Jerusalem) that God has chosen Carmel as His seat. Not a simple matter ;-)

  2. Me again,
    What is surprising is that 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi took that small Tablet so seriously that transformed a hill of rocks amounting to almost nothing into a majestic garden, into a new Jerusalem.