Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One Gem

Strive then, O My brother, to apprehend this matter, that the veils may be lifted from the face of thy heart and that thou mayest be reckoned among them whom God hath graced with such penetrating vision as to behold the most subtle realities of His dominion, to fathom the mysteries of His kingdom, to perceive the signs of His transcendent Essence in this mortal world, and to attain a station wherein one seeth no distinction amongst His creatures and findeth no flaw in the creation of the heavens and the earth.

Marielle was looking through the Writings the other day and ran across this sentence (yes, it is a single sentence). Paragraph 5 from Gems of Divine Mysteries.

Quite the sentence that. But what else would you expect? It is a drop from the fathomless ocean.

Whenever she stops in her tracks and just stares at the Writings in open awe, I am moved to look over her shoulder and see what it is she is reading. Sometimes I am even prompted to go further and study in depth whatever it was that so moved her. And this is the case here. What is it about this singular sentence that is so intriguing? What is He trying to tell us? How does He use His words to convey the depth of spiritual truth He is trying to convey?

Here, the first thing that caught my attention was the word "strive". He does not merely tell the reader to try and understand. No. He tells us to make a great effort, a strenuous effort, put some serious energy into it.

He also refers to the reader as "Brother". Obviously Siyyid Yusuf-i-Sidihi Isfahani was not literally Baha'u'llah's brother, but the term is still endearing. It helps us draw closer to the Blessed Beauty, Who so obviously loved this man that He replied to his letter on the same day as receiving it. This letter, incidentally, was sent to Him while He was still in Baghdad, before His declaration, and was concerned with the question of how the Bab could have been the Promised One.

So when He tells us to "Strive... to apprehend this matter...", we need to ask ourselves which matter He is referring to. The answer to that question is found in paragraph 3:
Know then that it behoveth thine eminence to ponder from the outset these questions in thy heart: What hath prompted the divers peoples and kindreds of the earth to reject the Apostles whom God hath sent unto them in His might and power, whom He hath raised up to exalt His Cause and ordained to be the Lamps of eternity within the Niche of His oneness? For what reason have the people turned aside from them, disputed about them, risen against and contended with them? On what grounds have they refused to acknowledge their apostleship and authority, nay, denied their truth and reviled their persons, even slaying or banishing them?
While I will not divert from the point to look at this particular paragraph right now, it is worth noting that this is what He is directing our attention to. After all, this is also the main theme in the Kitab-i-Iqan. How could we deny the Manifestation of God when He is with us?

Without answering that question now, what will be the result of understanding the answer? Actually, understanding is not quite the word that is used here. Baha'u'llah tells us to "apprehend this matter". Apprehend is a bit more intense of a meaning than understand. It implies a deep grasp of the knowledge, especially on an intuitive level. The very word itself means to seize, which conveys a bit more of the force involved, sort of like when a police officer apprehends a criminal. There is usually a struggle involved. Here the struggle may be against our own selves as we seek to truly apprehend what Baha'u'llah is going to tell us about this matter. If it were easy, God would not have to send a Manifestation down to teach us.

To help me understand the rest of this sentence, I am going to take the liberty of re-formatting it so that I can visually see what is there in the structure of the sentence itself:
  1. ...the veils may be lifted from the face of thy heart (and)
  2. that thou mayest be reckoned among them whom God hath graced with such penetrating vision (as)
    1. to behold the most subtle realities of His dominion,
    2. to fathom the mysteries of His kingdom,
    3. to perceive the signs of His transcendent Essence in this mortal world, (and)
    4. to attain a station wherein one
      1. seeth no distinction amongst His creatures (and)
      2. findeth no flaw in the creation of the heavens and the earth
Pleaes note that it is hoped that above will occur. It is not guaranteed. There are no easy recipes in this faith, and it is only by God's grace that we achieve anything. But let's see what it is we are hoping for.

First, "that the veils may be lifted from the face of (our) heart". This is interesting, for it refers to the face of the heart, not a part of us we generally think of as having a face. But what kind of face is He referring to? Is it the face, as in the front of the head, or a face as in a surface? 'Abdu'l-Baha helps shed light on this in His statement, "When the heart hath become clear and pure then the face will become illuminated, because the face is the mirror of the heart", and again when He says, "a burnished heart will mirror forth the comely face of truth". So is the first step to possess a pure heart? Sounds kind of like the first Hidden Word, "Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart..." When the mirror of the heart is pure, it reflects the light of truth. But, as indicated in the quote, there are veils covering our heart that must first be lifted.

This is where the striving then comes in. We have to work hard to burn away those veils, for if we don't, the light will never reach us.

Then, and please remember that this is only my own understanding of this quote and nothing official, we can be "reckoned among them whom God hath graced with such penetrating vision".

But again the question must be asked, "What does this mean?" (I know I sure don't have it.)

Penetrating vision, as far as I understand, means to  look beyond the surface and into the heart of things. One example of this would be to see past the mere literal interpretation of scripture, which is a good and valid interpretation at times, and see the spiritual truths contained within. This, of course, would be necessary for recognizing a Manifestation of God, for They never appear as we expect.

When we take this major step, which usually gets many people arguing with us, and is generally against the "authorized" interpretations given by most religious leaders, then we begin to get a mere glimpse of the "subtle realities of His dominion". For me, the key word here is "subtle". God is not obvious about it, for if He were, there would  be no challenge. Everyone would be able to recognize the Manifestation, and there would be no challenge. (Fortunately for me, I had a lot of patient help during my search, so I kind of feel like I cheated. Don't tell anyone, though. It's our secret.)

As we begin to appreciate the subtleties involved, then we know to dig deeper, to try and "fathom the mysteries of His kingdom". To fathom means to penetrate to the truth of something. In this case, one of many layers of meaning, I think, is to again go past the surface literal interpretation of scripture and find a deeper meaning. Over and over we are reading the same thing in different forms: to go beyond what is obvious and seek something more meaningful.

This next aspect of this is "to perceive the signs of His transcendent Essence in this mortal world". This is a little different, for it recognizing those aspects of God that are revealed through His creation. It is an aspect of "seeing God in all things", raising our vision and finding that spiritual component in everyday objects. This, itself, will change our interaction with the world around us, if we didn't have it before.

When we reach this sublime station, and I, dear Reader, have a long way to go, we will naturally begin to see signs of God in everything. In regards to people, this reminds me of 'Abdu'l-Baha, Who "saw in every face the face of His Heavenly Father". He made no distinction between anyone, and truly saw all of us as noble creations of a noble Creator. Isn't this something we should all strive to attain?

Finally, when we are able to do this, and then move to the point where we can see the divine in everything, we will find "no flaw in the creation of the heavens and the earth", for we will see the signs of God in everything. It is like the Imam Ali, who said, "How can I worship a Lord Whom I have not seen?" and "Nothing have I perceived except that I perceived God before it, God after it, or God with it."

That is when we will appreciate the perfection of creation, and find no fault anywhere. (Wow, do I have a long way to go.)
And all that just from looking over my wife's shoulder. I should do it more often. I learn so much from her.

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