Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mulberries and Miracles

As you may have noticed, I've taken a short break from writing about the 28 December 2010 message. The reason for this is that some friends and I are studying it once a week, and I'm so overwhelmed with it in that study that I don't think I can write coherently about it just yet. (And yes, dear Reader, I'm sure I can hear you thinking "Yet?" Well, I have delusions that I was a bit coherent about it before. Leave me to my delusions, thank you very much.)

So, if I'm not writing about that letter, what am I going to write about? I don't know. I think it's something of a miracle that I can actually write as often as I do. (Actually, I think of it more as a challenge. When I first set out to do this, someone said that I had set myself "a mighty task", and I saw that as a challenge.)

Hey! Miracles. I can write about those.

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day (sorry if I haven't called back, but I'm awful with phones) and we got to talking about miracles. She was saying how there was something about miracles that sort of bothered her, but she wasn't sure why.

As we were talking, a quote came to mind: "We entreat Our loved ones not to besmirch the hem of Our raiment with the dust of falsehood, neither to allow references to what they have regarded as miracles and prodigies to debase Our rank and station, or to mar the purity and sanctity of Our name."

If this quote wasn't odd enough, its placement in The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf is even more unusual. It comes right after He says that He wants to suppress of the causes of contention and seperation so that people can be free to seek "their own interests".

Given where it occurs, it seems that these "miracles and prodigies" may be one of those causes. Now that I think about it in those terms, it does make sense. I mean, how much arguing has there been about the nature of the various miracles that Jesus performed? Whole churches have been split because of this. And as I said in an earlier post, "What does it matter my belief in the Virgin Birth, or any other numerous miracles attributed to Manifestations? These views have no impact upon my actions in the world, nor my love for my Creator and fellow creatures."

That aside, I want to look at another aspect of this quote that has long intrigued me. He says that references to what we have regarded as miracles and prodigies debase His rank and station, and mars the purity and sanctity of His name.

Say what?

You mean, when I talk about the Book of Certitude, and how it was revealed in only a few days, which certainly qualifies as a prodigy, this debases His rank? Mars the purity of His name? I guess so. (Time to change how I talk about that Book.)

Why would that be?

Well, I'm not really sure, as you know by now. This is, after all, only my own opinion and nothing official, but hey, that's what I do. I offer my own opinion and hope I'm not too far off base.

So, why would this be a bad thing to talk about? It might be because it distracts us from what is really important: the message itself. In some ways it would be like studying the cover photograph of the book, instead of the contents.

Another aspect of it might be that the true wonder is not, for example, that the Book of Certitude was written so quickly, but that it was written at all. How often did Baha'u'llah challenge others to write even a single verse? "...(P)roduce a single verse, if thou dost possess divinely-inspired knowledge," was His challenge to Mirza Yahya when he claimed to have his own revelation from God. But really, "they are not, and never shall be able to do this, even should they combine to assist one another."

And so I ask about the practicality of all this. We have so many stories that seem to be either miracles or prodigies. Why? What is the point of them? If, as I firmly believe, there is nothing coincidental or accidental within the Faith, then these stories and accounts must have a purpose we can learn from.

But perhaps they are not what we think. Maybe these miraculous events happened for another reason, aside from being immensly entertaining. (And really, we know that the Manifestations were not sent down for our mere entertainment.)

One of my favorite stories is about Baha'u'llah in the Garden of Ridvan. Not the first one in Baghdad, but the one in the Holy Land.

I'm sure you've seen other photos of this garden, or perhaps even been there yourself. It's incredibly beautiful and was much loved by Baha'u'llah and the friends. Baha'u'llah used to sit on the blue benches that you can see in the photo and many of the friends would gather there to meet with Him.

It seems that there was also a mublerry tree in the garden, and as anyone who has ever lived around mulberry trees, they leave a bit of a mess on the ground under them. Their berries fall and stain whatever they touch.

There was a gardener who had the task of keeping the garden clean, and it seemed he took exception to this particular tree. It was, I'm sure he thought, more work than it was worth. One day he approached Baha'u'llah and asked Him if He could make the mulberry stop making such a mess. After initially saying "No", He finally relented. The gardener was granted his wish, and the tree never made any berries ever again.

Now this is a neat story and all, truly a miracle. But is it? Really? Well, I mean, yes, of course, it is a miracle that the tree never gave its fruit again. But this, it seems, is not uncommon. The fruit only grows on the female trees, and not on the males. And what is unusual about mulberry trees is that they are known to occasionally change their gender, specifically from female to male. (But the timing of his particular instance is still miraculous.)

And yet, I can't help but wonder about the lesson contained within this.

Jesus famously said that a tree that bears no fruit is only fit for the fire. By insisting on his request, did the gardener inadvertantly "condemn" this tree to the fire? Was Baha'u'llah hesitating, hoping that the gardener would see the implication of his request? Who knows. But it does seem to me that there is a very powerful lesson contained within that story, a lesson more practical than "He doeth whatsoever He pleaseth."

Now this fits for me. Instead of looking at the miracles as miracles, or wondering at the prodigies, we should focus more on the lessons and see what we can learn. Isn't this true for everything in Their lives? So why not here, too.

(But I've got to admit, I'm still blown away by the prodigies, and the miracles.)


  1. Hi, what's your source for this story?

    1. I don't recall where I first heard this story of the mulberry trees, but it is also referenced here: http://haifalife.blogspot.ca/2006/07/wonderful-stories-about-ridvn-gardens.html

    2. Thank you!

      I heard a different version of the story, with Bahá'u'lláh (laughingly?) "talking to the tree" and ordering it not to bear fruit any more .

      The story from the link you indicated is also different than the story you recount in this article and the one I heard (there Bahá'u'lláh performs the "miracle" of His own initiative).

      I'd love to find a reliable source!