Monday, September 26, 2011

A Drop of Oil

As you know, I get a lot of my inspiration about what to write by what I read in the mornings. Well, also from talking with my wife about what I read, but you get the idea. I was going to write more about Gleanings CXXVIII, but I read this other passage from Shoghi Effendi the other day, and thought I would take a moment to write about this first.

I'll try to get back to that passage from Gleanings later, I promise.

My wife and I are planning a bit of a program for the celebration of the Birth of the Bab, on 20 October, and we were looking for ideas and inspiration in the Writings. Even though we may not use this particular quote, Marielle was so taken with the beauty of this one that I decided I should look at it.

"Lastly", says Shoghi Effendi in Citadel of Faith, "the Holy Seed of infinite preciousness, holding within itself incalculable potentialities representing the culmination of the centuries-old process of the evolution of humanity through the energies released by the series of progressive Revelations starting with Adam and concluded by the Revelation of the Seal of the Prophets, marked by the successive appearance of the branches, leaves, buds, blossoms and plucked, after six brief years by the hand of destiny, ground in the mill of martyrdom and oppression but yielding the oil whose first flickering light cast upon the somber, subterranean walls of the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, whose fire gathered brilliance in Baghdad and shone in full resplendency in its crystal globe in Adrianople, whose rays warmed and illuminated the fringes of the American, European, Australian continents through the tender ministerings of the Center of the Covenant, whose radiance is now overspreading the surface of the globe during the present Formative Age, whose full splendor is destined in the course of future milleniums to suffuse the entire planet."

What a sentence. Yes, it really is only one sentence. You know, I'm convinced that at some point in the future we will have a new adjective in the English language: Effendian. This will refer to any sentence or paragraph, or piece of writing, that is quite lengthy, but absolutely precise in its use of words. To remove any clause from an Effendian sentence, or to try and separate it into a few sentences, undermines the elegant structure of the whole piece and thereby causes it to either lose its meaning, or, at the very least, severely diminishes the emotional and intellectual impact of it. My own writing, as you well know dear Reader, is very far from Effendian.

Looking back at this sentence, again, we can see that there is a beautiful story contained or told within the poetry of it.

It begins with a seed. But not just any seed. It is a seed of "incalculable potentialities". It is a seed that will grow more than just a flower or a tree. It is a seed that will grow beyond anything we have ever seen.

Where does this seed come from? It is the seed that has grown from the tree whose tale is told in the full history of religion, beginning with Adam and concluding with Muhammad, including all the various Messengers and Manifestations in between. Shoghi Effendi is helping us visualize the entire religious history of humanity as a single body, a  tree, continually growing in strength and powers, maturing, and developing its branches, on which grow the leaves, amidst which is a bud, which in turn develops into a blossom which matures, until it finally gives forth its fairest fruit. And there, within that precious fruit, lies a seed.

That fruit, as we well know, and as he alludes to, was plucked off the tree after a very short time. It is an obvious reference to the Bab, Whose ministry was cut short when He was martyred. He was, as Shoghi Effendi says with such beauty, "ground in the mill of martyrdom and oppression".

This simple metaphor, that of grinding a seed in a mill, is one that is easy to relate to. It is an action that many throughout the world, and certainly all those in the Middle East, have seen many times. It is, after all, how we get the olive oil from the olives.

From there, once we have the oil, it is further refined and can then be used, for example, as the oil for a candle. Remember, the oil that the Jews have used for millennia in many of their rituals was a refined olive oil. This is something that is very familiar to those of us with even a cursory understanding of religious history.

Once we have this refined oil, it is then ignited by a single spark. The Guardian now shifts his reference to Baha'u'llah, and shows how this same Spirit which was found in the tree of faith throughout all history, which found its fruit in the Bab, has now been further refined in the Essence of Baha'u'llah.

Once it caught fire, it began to glow ever brighter, shining its light further and further afield, moving as Baha'u'llah Himself moved, always increasing in its intensity, until its rays were cast throughout the world. This light was then further nurtured by 'Abdu'l-Baha, and then by the Guardian himself. Now, of course, it is being cared for by the Universal House of Justice, and is being encouraged to burn ever more brightly.
While Shoghi Effendi does not say that everyone on the planet will either become Baha'i, or become members of the Baha'i Community, he does promise us that this light's "full splendor is destined in the course of future milleniums to suffuse the entire planet".

And what a beautiful promise that is. It is, full pun intended, heart warming.

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