Monday, September 27, 2010

Carmel, part 2

So I'm still trying to understand why the Tablet of Carmel is called "the Charter of the World Spiritual and Administrative Centers of the Faith on that mountain." I took a quick glance at the first sentence yesterday, and am now interested in looking at the next part.

Oh, and if you're not interested in this, sorry. You can just skip this post. That's ok. I won't mind.

Now, where were we, dear Reader? Oh yes. Thanks.
Thereupon the voices of all created things, and beyond them those of the Concourse on High, were heard calling aloud: 'Haste thee, O Carmel, for lo, the light of the countenance of God, the Ruler of the Kingdom of Names and Fashioner of the heavens, hath been lifted upon thee.'
I find this quite interesting. You see, what is beginning to happen here, as in many other Tablets, is that Baha'u'llah is speaking to the spirit of a place. Before talking about the quote itself, I'd like to address this idea of the spirit of a place.

There are many instances in the Writings where Baha'u'llah addresses a city or a mountain, or some other inanimate place. Many of us, myself included, have long thought that is mere metaphor, or hyperbole (I forget which is which). But now, the more I study, the more I have to wonder.

You see, there are many things in nature that we just cannot perceive, yet we have been able to devise machines that can perceive these things for us. A hundred years ago, who would have ever dreamed that we could see such things as we now see in cat scans (yes, I know it is CT, but who ever referes to them as such), or from the Hubble space telescope? These are truly miracles that allow us to see things that are beyond our normal ability.

Could it be that there are forces at work, beyond our ordinary comprehension, in these places, like Mount Carmel? Or any other place on the planet?

Many cultures believe that every place has a spirit, and that every rock has its life. Could it be that Baha'u'llah, with the voice and ear of the Creator, speaks to and listens to the spirit of these various places? When He refers to the drops of the ocean, the rocks and the trees all being exhilirated by His presence, could He actually be literal?

We already know of our limited ability at perceiving reality around us, so could this be another example? Just a thought that I can not answer.

And now back to our regularly scheduled quote.
Thereupon the voices of all created things, and beyond them those of the Concourse on High...
My first question here was what does 'thereupon' mean? As I had guessed, it means "immediately following, or in consequence of". I wasn't entirely certain, and so I looked it up. This is something I have learned to do quite often, as it seems that I'm usually wrong about what I think a word means.

Here, it implies that everything in the previous sentence has already come to pass. "The fragrances of mercy have been wafted over all created things", "past ages" cannot rival today, and God has turned His face "towards His holy seat". This is all past tense. It has already been done, and we are just beginning to witness the effects of it all.

But then I had to wonder about "all created things". I had always read this as "everyone". Obviously this is not correct. No. What He says is" all created things, and beyond them those of the Concourse on High". Does that mean that the Concourse on High is not created? Or is it merely differentiating levels of existence? As "things" tends to be a word that refers to physical objects, it may be implying that the Concourse is spiritual in nature, and not physical. However we end up interpreting it, it sure seems to include quite a bit.

And what is it that all they all did? They "were heard calling aloud: 'Haste thee, O Carmel, for lo, the light of the countenance of God, the Ruler of the Kingdom of Names and Fashioner of the heavens, hath been lifted upon thee.'"

Here I have to share a vision, or an insight, I had this afternoon. I was sitting in a coffee shop waiting for my friend so that we could continue Ruhi Book 1. While waiting, and sipping my coffee, I was making some chain-mail and looking at my notes for this article (oh, and that includes re-re-re-re-reading the Text itself). As my mind began to wander, trying to make sense of this Tablet, I imagined a prince walking into a ballroom and going up to a group of young women. He has his eye on one in particular, but none of them knows on whom. When he walks up to her and chooses her as his bride, she is stunned into silence and immobility. All the others are so happy for her and they push her forward with laughing words of encouragement.

"Go on," I could hear them all say, "Haste thee, O Carmel."

And as sudden as that, my perspective of this Tablet snapped into clarity. Of course, I may read this again tomorrow and think I'm way off base, for this is only my perspective, and nothing official, but this is what makes sense to me today.

I just picture Mount Carmel as one of the "created things", and she is with her equals watching the Glory of God, Baha'u'llah, moving upon the face of the earth. He is like that prince, only He is looking for a place to establish His Administrative Order. He scans the earth, and His eyes fall upon the Mountain. He has made His choice. In stunned disbelief, she is motionless, unable to believe her fortune, and afraid it may be a dream.

All those around her, her equals up until this moment, know better. With joy at her bounty, they laughingly encourage her forward to meet her Lord.

Until this moment, I could never understand what it was that "they" were telling her to hasten towards. How can a mountain go quickly? I mean, besides an avalanche. It made no sense to me. But now, I think I begin to get a glimmer of what is being said.

Without quoting here, the rest of the Tablet suddenly made a new kind of sense to me. That second paragraph now read like an eager bride, who feels unworthy of her turn of fortune, giving herself over to one whom she knows is of a different class than herself, sort of like a commoner being chosen to marry a king. That third paragraph is Baha'u'llah's loving assurance to her.

But now, unbidden, other questions popped into my mind, as I continued to read. "What is Mount Carmel? Is it merely a pile of rock? Or does it include the grasses, the shrubs, the flowers and the trees that grow upon that rocky mass? Does it include the animals that live there? How about the people? What about the community that has developed in its environs?"

How about all of the above?

I believe that it also includes those dear souls that toil at the World Centre, amidst such untold hardships and trials. It is to them that I think the fourth paragraph is addressed. Whereas in paragraph 3, there is much to remind us of why we give thanks, I think this is especially true for those whose bounty it is to work at the World Centre. I have heard too often of some dear youth who have worked for a year, serving in the Holy Land, who suffered so much, either from not being able to teach the Faith to the people who live there, or from homesickness, or from any other number of troubles. This third paragraph can offer a bit of consolation, but it is the fourth one that tells them what to do.

In the fourth paragraph, He tells them to "circumambulate the City of God that hath descended from heaven, the celestial Kaaba". I may be wrong, but I think of this as a reminder to turn to the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and remember the blessings of being in the vicinity of the Shrines. Here I see the administration and the spirit coming together. There are many other points worth mentioning, many other pieces of guidance, but this is the main point, as far as I can tell, of their mandate.

I finally see how this can be regarded as a "charter".

For now, though, it is enough. Perhaps tomorrow I will look at the second paragraph and see what else I can find in it.

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