Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's Only My Own Opinion

I'm reading a new book right now, and the author brought to mind a couple of ideas that I wanted to share. (Actually, I want to share a few other ideas from the book, at least my own thoughts on them, but only after I share these two.)

In the very beginning, part 1, he does something that I regularly do here in this blog: He says that what we are about to read is only his own opinion and nothing official. As you know, dear Reader, this is something that I do regularly (very regularly) (in practically every article, it seems).

Well, this guy says it far better than I ever have, and with quote to back him up. He starts with this wonderful quote from the Universal House of Justice, found in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, way back in the notes:

The existence of authoritative interpretations does not preclude the individual from engaging in the study of the Teachings and thereby arriving at a personal interpretation or understanding. A clear distinction is, however, drawn in the Bahá'í Writings between authoritative interpretation and the understanding that each individual arrives at from a study of its Teachings. Individual interpretations based on a person's understanding of the Teachings constitute the fruit of man's rational power and may well contribute to a greater comprehension of the Faith. Such views, nevertheless, lack authority. In presenting their personal ideas, individuals are cautioned not to discard the authority of the revealed words, not to deny or contend with the authoritative interpretation, and not to engage in controversy; rather they should offer their thoughts as a contribution to knowledge, making it clear that their views are merely their own.

Ok. So, as I've said many times, and will continue to say over and over (and over and over) (and over and over) again, this blog is all just my own opinion. The views are merely my own. It is what works for me, and I make no claims on it working for anyone else (although I think it can't hurt). (Hey, maybe I can institute a money-back guarantee.)

Secondly, the author of this little book makes another point very clear, and that is his understanding of the importance of seeing the meaning beyond the mere literal when reading sacred texts.

In the Kitab-i-Iqan, Baha'u'llah says, "As they have literally interpreted the Word of God, and the sayings and traditions of the Letters of Unity (the Prophets of God)... they have therefore deprived themselves and all their people of the bountiful showers of the grace and mercies of God."

"The divine Words", 'Abdu'l-Baha further elucidates, "are not to be taken according to their outer sense... It is not the reading of the words that profits you; it is the understanding of their meanings... All the texts and teachings of the holy Testaments have intrinsic spiritual meanings. They are not to be taken literally."

"One of the veils", 'Abdu'l-Baha is reported to have said, "is literal interpretation. To penetrate the inner significances a mighty effort is needed."

Makes it kind of tough, doesn't it?

You see, there is also the reminder in the Writings that we need to look at the obvious meanings of the words, too. Is this a dichotomy? Of course not. It is a simple reminder that there is more to the sacred Word than we think.

When dealing with prophecy, it is probably better to look at the metaphorical meanings, for when looking at
the example of one of the prophecies from Isaiah, 'Abdu'l-Baha said, "There will never be a day when this prophecy will come to pass literally, for these animals by their natures cannot mingle and associate in kindness and love." To me, this is an indication of how to "read" prophecy.

Finally, I try to always remember the overarching theme of the Baha'i Faith, or any Faith for that matter. Christianity, for example, is all about love. If we see anything within Christianity that does not lead us to love, we can be sure that we have misunderstood it. For the Baha'i Faith, it is all about unity.

Aside - There is an interesting thing about this unity, this oneness of mankind (well, many, but this is just one). Shoghi Effendi talks about the importance of "the principle of the oneness of Mankind -- which is the main pivot round which all the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh revolves". He also says that "the pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant". Elsewhere he refers to 'Abdu'l-Baha as the "Pivot of Bahá'u'lláh's peerless and all-enfolding Covenant".  Neat little order, that.

Anyways, these are just a few little thoughts about where I'm coming from. Now my hands are extremely cold, and I'm finding it tough to keep typing, so I won't.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post. This is a positive way to approach God. While one may belong to a religion, they still have the freedom to understand God in a personal way.

    Can God be found in a book...I know one can be inspired and get a glimpse of Him in these scared writings. Myself, I believe God is written on the heart and everything you need to know is always with you. It's not like a text that needs translation or can be tainted. Religion does serve a purpose in that it can pave-the-way and give guidance to a seeker, I accept that. But one must make God a personal journey and a faith should only be authoritative when it is in line with mercy, peace, and love. My two cents.

    Anyway, it was a nice write up! I have respect for your religion, I can see the beauty.

    Take care Mead and good luck with your Blog :)