Monday, October 24, 2011

Tablet of Ahmad, section 3, part 2

This one makes me nervous. Oh, not the Tablet itself, just the thought of trying to figure out what I get out of this particular line:
"Be thou as a flame of fire to My enemies and a river of life eternal to My loved ones, and be not of those who doubt."
Well, the last part is fairly straightforward, I think. Be certain in your faith. Not too hard to figure that out. (Although, I'm sure I'm missing many layers of meaning.)

But what about the first part? "Be thou as a flame of fire"? What does that mean? There have been many thoughts written on this, most notably in Richard Gurinsky's book, Learn Well This Tablet, and I'm not going to share them all here, for this would just become too cumbersome to read. Instead, I will offer some meditations on what it means to me.

Why am I focusing on this? Because it is the one line in this whole Tablet that confuses me the most, and I suspect that the rest of the sentence will unfold once I get a grip on it. (Of course, the part about the "reward of a hundred martyrs" comes a close second, as far as confusing me goes.)

First of all, Baha'u'llah was very specific in this line. Of course, the Guardian was, too, in his translation, and as I can't read the original in Arabic, I'm going to presume that it was Baha'u'llah. He is not telling Ahmad to be a fire to His enemies. He is precisely pointing him to be a "flame of fire". What's the difference?

To try and figure this out, I'm going back to the Bible. Why? I don't know. It just feels right. Please bear with me while I do a quick search.

(Feel free to get a cup of tea or something. I'm sure this will take a while. There are over 60 references that I've just found.) (I'm scanning through them and will pull out the ones that catch my attention.)

Okay. You back? I'm ready, if you are.

Well, there is a reference to a "flame of fire" way back in Exodus (3:2, to be precise), when Moses encounters the Burning Bush. Here, the Spirit appears in the flame, and it doesn't consume the bush. In Psalms 104:4 and Hebrews 1:7, it says that God makes His servants "flames of fire". In Revelation 1:14, 2:18, and again in 19:12, the eyes of the Son of God are said to be like the flame of fire, but that seems to be a bit different.

In Job 18:5, there is an interesting reference: "For the light of the sinner is put out, and the flame of his fire is not shining." To me, this reads as if the flame is the light of our soul, or spirit, and that when we don't live according to the Divine Will, this flame diminishes.

Isaiah 43:2 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, and flame will not scorch you." A reference that it is the flame that does the scorching, but other than that, it doesn't see particularly relevant.

Ezekiel 21:15 "In order that hearts may become soft, and the number of those who are falling may be increased, I have sent death by the sword against all their doors: you are made like a flame, you are polished for death." This, when seen in the context of the entire passage, seems to be a reference to the sword of God exacting justice against those who are not doing God's Will. It is the sword that is made like a flame, similar to the one held by the angel outside Eden, and it is polished, as in just before a battle.

Aside from these, there are also many other references to the flames burning things, both good and bad. Too many to list here. Let's just say that flame burns.

So this imagery of a flame of fire is not new.

But what is it? I'm still not sure. One source says this refers to “the intense, all-consuming operation of his holiness in relation to sin.”

Well, that gets me thinking. It would be like the fire that consumes the veils, of which there are countless references in the Writings. It is also like the barrier that stands between the "wicked" and the good things in life. A filter, if you will. In fact, it seems to act as both at once: a veil burner and a filter. Hmm. Kind of neat, that.

It seems to me that being "a flame of fire to my enemies" could be, as many others have said before, an indication of how we are to act around those who would oppose Baha'u'llah's message. We are to share the Words and teachings with love and courtesy, dignity and steadfastness. By doing so, we may be able to assist them in burning away the veils of separation.

If they choose to still oppose, then our confidence and trust in God will be as a barrier between them and our own faith. They will not be able to touch it.

This stance, however, will give greater confidence and encouragement to those who do believe that watch us.

It reminds me of the many stories of the early martyrs and how their steadfastness in the face of awesome trials became the means by which many others either became Baha'i, or found the strength to arise and face their own tests. And this particular understanding of this line also seems very relevant to one like Ahmad, who was to go back to Iran and face tremendous trials of his own.

"Be thou as a flame of fire to My enemies": Use assertiveness, in conjunction with courtesy, to promote the teachings, with the hopes of helping burn away the veils of separation. At the same time, this will also act as a barrier to prevent  those who would try and cast doubt in your heart from being able to achieve their aims.

"And a river of life eternal to My loved ones": Your stance, your steadfastness in the face of tremendous tests and trials, can be the cause of encouragement to others, helping them see the strength of character that the Faith engenders.

"And be not of those who doubt": This is the source of that strength, isn't it? Baha'u'llah often refers to His enemies as "the agents of doubt". Just as darkness is the absence of light, doubt is the absence of certainty. This certainty of faith, which is so inspiring to others, is predicated upon there being no doubt, just as light is predicated upon there being no darkness.

Yeah, I think I like this. While I'm certain that there is so much more in there, I feel like I've gotten a bit more of a handle on this passage. I guess I'll look at the rest later, after I'd had a bit of time to digest this. After all, I don't want to get spiritual indigestion.

No comments:

Post a Comment