Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Thought on the "Serried Lines" Quote

"O ye beloved of the Lord! This day is the day of union, the day of the ingathering of all mankind. 'Verily God loveth those who, as though they were a solid wall, do battle for His Cause in serried lines!' Note that He saith 'in serried lines' -- meaning crowded and pressed together, one locked to the next, each supporting his fellows. To do battle, as stated in the sacred verse, doth not, in this greatest of all dispensations, mean to go forth with sword and spear, with lance and piercing arrow -- but rather weaponed with pure intent, with righteous motives, with counsels helpful and effective, with godly attributes, with deeds pleasing to the Almighty, with the qualities of heaven. It signifieth education for all mankind, guidance for all men, the spreading far and wide of the sweet savours of the spirit, the promulgation of God's proofs, the setting forth of arguments conclusive and divine, the doing of charitable deeds."

This quote, found not only in Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, but also in Ruhi Book 4 (Unit 1, Section 7), has, once again, been placed squarely in my path. Not only have I been asked to tutor Book 4, but I've also been asked to help a small group of friends in an intensive institute campaign look at this quote.

Well, I can take a hint. Might as well look at it here, too.

We all know what "serried lines" means, from our time in Book 4, so I won't bother looking at it here (besides, He says it in the quote).

But, as you know, dear Reader, I'm of the opinion that there is nothing in sacred Text that is random. So what I want to look at here is the various "weapons" that the Master mentions. Now, I know what you're thinking, but I'm not going to look at the sword, spear, lance or arrow, cool as they may be. Instead I want to look at the "pure intent", "righteous motives", "counsels helpful and effective", "goodly attributes", "deeds pleasing to the Almighty", and the "qualities of heaven".

Why are they listed in that order? And how does this help us in our daily teaching work?

As you know, this is only my own opinion, and nothing official, but I think it is because everything we do begins with our intent. If that intent is not pure, if it is corrupted by own hidden agenda, then everything that we try will eventually come to nothing. Of course, this doesn't mean that we should be paralyzed by our concern over whether or not our intention is "pure enough" or not. We should just try and be as honest about our intentions as we can.

Once we have taken that step, then we can look at our motives. Now, motive is an interesting word. It can mean either that which motivates us, or our eventual goal, which would, hopefully, motivate us. So we begin by having a pure intention, and then examining our goal, to make sure that it is a good goal.

When we know what our goal is, then we can look in the Writings for what Baha'u'llah says about that goal. If we need courage, for example, then we can look in "Words of Wisdom" and find the source of courage and power. Whatever it is we are trying to accomplish, there is, no doubt, guidance in the Writings about how to achieve it. This guidance is our counsel, and this counsel is both helpful to us and effective.

Now we know where we are going, and how we are going to get there. What's next? "Goodly attributes".

No matter how much you may want to achieve something worthwhile, no matter how much you know about what the Writings say about that issue, you ain't gonna get nowhere if you're a jerk. You have to have the good attributes, those wonderful virtues, that allow people to want to be on your side and help you.

Then you've got to do it. All the good intentions in the world mean nothing if you don't act on them.

But then an interesting thing happens. When you do act on them, you begin to change. How often have we heard stories of people who took a few tentative steps in the teaching field only to find themselves becoming better and better people? As you act, then those spiritual forces mustered by the concourse on high can act upon you and your heart. You begin to take on those "qualities of heaven" and shine.

Now I could write a lot more on this quote, especially about the last sentence, but Shoghi says he's hungry, so I have to go make him some dinner.

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