Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Word of God

What is "the Word of God"? This is something that has been going through my mind a lot over the past few weeks. You see, dear Reader, someone recently left a comment on an earlier article I had written about creation and Genesis 1:1. (When I looked for it, I noticed that I have two articles called "Creation". I guess I need to be a bit more creative about these things.) Well, this comment got me to re-read what I had written, and that reminded me of another article I have long intended to write, but somehow just never got around to doing.

While Genesis 1:1 may be one of the most famous creation stories in the history of history, there is another one that runs a close second: John 1:1. And this, naturally, leads me to consider the question, "What is the Word of God?"

Why? What's the connection? Well, in John 1:1, we read the following: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."

Just looking at the language of it, there is an initial comparison between the Word of God and God Himself. It as if John is saying that the first thing in existence was the Word of God. But then he goes on to say that this was side by side with God. Then he goes a step further and says that it actually was God. This Word, which seems to be God, he says, has made everything. After that, he says that in God there was a life, and that this life is the light of men.

When I read that part, I hear echoes of those quotes from The Hidden Words: "Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee." "...(W)ithin thee have I placed the essence of My light." This is a simple reminder that our true life is the life of the soul, not that of the body, and that this soul comes from, or is somehow likened to a part of God, perhaps in a similar way that the rays of the sun are likened to the sun itself.

Finally, he says that the darkness does not comprehend the light. This can either mean that it doesn't understand it, or that it doesn't encompass it. Or perhaps it means both. That's one of the wonderful things about sacred Texts: they can have truths on many different levels. I like to think of it as meaning that the darkness cannot comprehend the light, nor even be a part of it, for darkness is nothing more than the absence of the light. As soon as there is light, there is no darkness present. It is kind of like silence. As soon as there is a noise, the silence is no longer there.

But let's get back to the Word of God.

It shows up in so many different places. For example, in Hinduism, there is the recognition that God first created sound, the sound Om, and then that sound created the universe. In fact, that first sound consisted of three sounds, a-u-m, which is representative of so many triads. (You can insert your favorite triad here, and I'm sure it will work symbolically.) Even within this sound there is much symbolism. For example, the "a" sound comes from the far back of the mouth when it is fully open. The "u" sound comes from the middle of the mouth when the lips are partially closed. And the "m" sound comes from the front of the mouth with closed lips. It is like a physical and auditory symbol of a spiritual state. We begin with full openness, and then close ourselves off to the outside while we meditate on what we have learned.

Come to think of it, this is also very close to the sound that most of us make when we are contemplating something very deeply. "Uhmmm." But I don't think that is what is intended. Perhaps it is just a happy coincidence. (Or maybe our subconscious trying to be profound.)

Oh, and this idea of sound being first also seems to remind me of the Big Bang. You can't get a much louder sound than that (except that sound needs a medium to travel through, but never mind).

Speaking of profound, let's get back to the Word of God once again.

Baha'u'llah tells us to "ponder on the penetrative influence of the Word of God." And this is what I am trying to do.

So what do we know about the Word of God so far? Well, it is eternal. It is creative (and I should probably write that with a capital "C", but I get so sick of everything being capitalized). It is the source of life, and it is the light that shines within us.

Baha'u'llah goes on to say, "The Word of God may be likened unto a sapling, whose roots have been implanted in the hearts of men." Here we have the Word being compared to a small tree that grows with our heart. In many different places Baha'u'llah refers to the religion of God as being like a tree planted in the hearts of men, so we can now liken it to the religion. Oh, and not the dogmatic religion that some people unfortunately associate with that word, but that true faith that unites people together and helps inspire them to live their lives in a highly commendable manner. It is that true faith that motivates people to be better than what could normally be expected of them.

Here, in this analogy, the Word is like the tree of faith which requires the constant care and attention in order to grow strong and healthy. We give it food and water and light by studying the Writings, performing good deeds, and saying our prayers. It is through these various actions that we see our tree of faith grow stronger and healthier.

But there is an interesting thing here: the Word of God is like the faith within our heart which is fed by studying the Word of God, which is written in the sacred Texts.

Well, that just makes sense. It is almost like adding water to a barrel of water. Of course you will get more water when you add some. But here, the analogy breaks down, for it is not simply additive. It is multiplicative. As we study, our faith grows in greater and greater proportions. It truly is like a tree, in that it grows more than we would expect, multiplying further as it bears its fruit.

Another aspect of the Word of God is that it transforms us, like the caterpillar into the butterfly. Except here, Baha'u'llah compares it to base metals being transformed into gold. He says that the transformation enacted by the Word of God is even greater. "Perplexing and difficult as this may appear, the still greater task of converting satanic strength into heavenly power is one that We have been empowered to accomplish. The Force capable of such a transformation transcendeth the potency of the Elixir itself. The Word of God, alone, can claim the distinction of being endowed with the capacity required for so great and far-reaching a change."

He also says that it is "The Word of God (that) hath set the heart of the world afire"

Elsewhere, He writes that the "Word of God... is the Cause of the entire creation, while all else besides His Word are but the creatures and the effects thereof. Verily thy Lord is the Expounder, the All-Wise."

It "is higher and far superior to that which the senses can perceive, for it is sanctified from any property or substance. It transcendeth the limitations of known elements and is exalted above all the essential and recognized substances. It became manifest without any syllable or sound and is none but the Command of God which pervadeth all created things. It hath never been withheld from the world of being. It is God's all-pervasive grace, from which all grace doth emanate. It is an entity far removed above all that hath been and shall be." It "is the master key for the whole world, inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked." And it "can never be confounded with the words of His creatures. It is, in truth, the King of words..."

The Bab also says that He is "one of the sustaining pillars of the Primal Word of God", "none other than the mighty Word of God".

For me, one of the most important aspects of this Word is that it is the master key that unlocks the gate of the city of human hearts.

Maybe if I ponder it a bit more I'll come to some sort of an understanding of what it is. For now, however, all I can do is let these words, or Words, wash over me as I try to ge a bit of what they all say.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for bringing together all of these quotations and ideas!

    For me the word of God is primarily the Manifestation, secondly His Revelation and thirdly Holy scriptures ' as in;

    Say: The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self.
    Next to this testimony is His Revelation.
    For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed as proof of His reality and truth. - Gleanings LII / pp 104/107