Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Ahd Couple

It's the last day of the Fast and I think this will be my last post on this Tablet for a while. Not that there isn't more to say, of course not, just that I want to write about other things, too. And I can't believe how fast the Fast went by this year. Usually I wonder why it is called the Fast when the days go by so slowly. Seems kind of silly to me. But once again, this year, with my handy-dandy juicer and blender the Fast was fairly easy (except for a couple of tough days, but don't we all have those?) and even last night I wasn't all that hungry until well after sunset.

Today, though, Marielle and Shoghi are off to a petting zoo with some friends and I'm sitting here writing, staring outside at the pouring rain, and sort of glad that I'm not there with them. I'm fairly sure that they'll head off to the museum instead and perhaps see the Cirque du Soleil Imax film, The Journey of Man. Amazing film, that one.

But today I want to look at something in this Tablet that I have found very interesting, as well as useful.

In this part of the Kitab-i-Ahd, Baha'u'llah shares with us two quotes. Obviously he feels that these two quotes are significant enough to warrant bringing them to our attention in this last document He will share with us. The first is that weighty passage from the Kitab-i-Aqdas in which He tells us to turn to the Master. You know, that one that begins, "When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed..."

But what about the second? "All things are of God." Why has He chosen this other seemingly innocuous quote to share with us? Even though I know you already know this passage by heart, dear Reader, let's look at it again:

Say: O servants! Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord. We fain would hope that the people of Baha may be guided by the blessed words: 'Say: all things are of God.' This exalted utterance is like unto water for quenching the fire of hate and enmity which smouldereth within the hearts and breasts of men. By this single utterance contending peoples and kindreds will attain the light of true unity. Verily He speaketh the truth and leadeth the way. He is the All-Powerful, the Exalted, the Gracious.

This is where He tells us not to allow the means for order to be made the means for confusion, not to allow a tool for unity to be made a tool for discord. And we are to use this quote, "All things are of God" to aid us in this endeavour.

Why? Or perhaps more to the point, how?

As usual, I'm not too sure, but I can give you my own personal thoughts on this. Take them or leave them. It doesn't really matter to me. And if you want to leave your own thoughts, I'd love to read them.

"All thing are of God."

He doesn't say only some things. And certainly not only the things that I agree with. No. He says all things. And you know what? I think He means it.

To begin to appreciate this statement, I had to admit to a couple of things. First, I had to see the humility needed to even begin to accept this. I also had to recognize the discernment needed to make it useful.

How many times have I been either disappointed or upset because something in consultation didn't go my way? Far too many to count. I remember years ago someone in a consultation told me to stop doing my deepenings because "study circles are what we are to do now". Well, I was a bit upset about that, but I had to understand that he was right in one sense. The deepenings were not really helping those friends get off their bums and get out there and do something. But nevertheless, they were still useful. They helped those friends turn their eyes towards the Writings. They were of God.

And there was a time when I told someone that I didn't feel comfortable using Ruhi Book 4 to teach a group of children about the history of the Faith. That person yelled at me for about 20 minutes, telling me I had no right to deny these children a useful tool. Well, she was right, too. Although I would have preferred to not use the book, it was still a good tool. It was of God. Discernment told me that the book was too advanced for them, and that we should use the stories, but the not the book itself, but humility would have helped me defuse the situation, as well as use the tool in an appropriate way.

In terms of teaching, we need both humility and discernment to approach those we would teach. This is only self-evident (I think). Without humility, why would anyone want to listen to us? Without discernment, we're just throwing ideas around without actually knowing what it is they are interested in hearing about.

In terms of clusters, we need to look at what we are actually doing as opposed to what we would hope to be doing. For example, when looking at our activities, if they don't fit within the framework of the "core activities", that's ok. We don't need to try and force them to fit just to be counted on some table or another. My meditation workshop does not fit the definition of a devotional gathering, but is what is needed in the community at this time. I don't want it to be forced into the spreadsheet under a false pretense. Humility allows me to keep doing it without being concerned that it is not counted on the spreadsheet. Discernment is what allows me to meet the needs of these friends.

To me, this is the idea behind "All things are of God."

Cluster agencies, for example, can also benefit from these ideas of humility and discernment. If something doesn't fit into the spreadsheet, that's ok. It is still of God, and should be encouraged. I have, unfortunately, seen people in the past being told not to do activities that don't fit on these spreadsheets, and I find that very sad. Look at the letters of the Universal House of Justice. Not everything needs to be counted, but all should be encouraged. As they said in a recent message, it doesn't really matter where we begin in our teaching work, but all the clusters need to end up looking similar in terms of what is happening.

You see, those activities that are not core (simply names as children's classes, junior youth groups, study circles and devotional gatherings) should eventually help move people towards those core activities. Why? Because this is how we know that we are not merely teaching individuals, but building communities.

One other thing about this, and that is the idea of how we react when we read the messages from the World Centre. In some of the recent messages from the House of Justice we see them saying "if you are at this level, then this is the next step". The corollary of this that if you do not fit the definition, then you need to get there before taking that next step. Otherwise you're putting that ubiquitous cart before that famous horse. And it's not that it is useless, this information in these messages, if you're not at the step they describe. Not at all. It gives you a greater vision of what it is we are doing in the big picture.

In my neighbourhood there are not a lot of core activities happening. Why? Because we're not really there yet. The neighbours haven't expressed much interest. So what do I do? Well, for one thing, I'm hosting a study circle for some people who don't live in my neighbourhood. They have expressed the interest. (Interestingly enough, I have been told not to waste my time. Someone recently told me that if they are not in my neighbourhood, I shouldn't teach them, for that doesn't lead to the growth of my neighbourhood. Fortunately, I'm ignoring their sound advice, for I know that while the ideal may be to do it all in my neighbourhood, I still have to work with what I have.)

Anyways, do you see how "All things are of God" could go a long way to making a community more loving? We are always free to give loving and considerate advice, but we need to remember that whatever step someone is taking, it is of God. And that means it is good.

Even this blog. ;)


  1. It's really cool that you pulled that quote out of the Baha'i Canon and shared it - definitely a good thought. On the other hand I think the word 'God' needs to be mentioned with certain distinctions in that the Preexistent Godhead Essence that is alive in the worlds of Being - is not necessarily the same God that powers and free-will were delegated to and their creations. Remember Arthur Brown and his performances - "I Am the God of Hell Fire" - several times he had fire ablaze on stage. But, yeah, the God Essence of Love is something to recognize in All, regardless of mis-shapen concepts, beliefs, and behaviours (The Lie).

  2. Hi, Mead. As the Qur'an says, "whithersoever ye turn, there is the face of God." There's an old tradition of looking at monotheism in a non-preferential, inclusive way that counters the common idolatry of leader worship. This tradition, which sees monotheism as worship of a universal existence that transcends names, is generally lost to Baha'is, but as you have pointed out, it is upheld in the Baha'i "Covenant".

  3. Hello Mead. Can't thank you enough for your precious insights into the quote "Say, O My servants....". It is one which I have returned to almost daily for the past number of years. It permeated my meditations in the Holy Shrines during my second pilgrimage just a year ago. Your practical and level-headed way at approaching the Writings are a joy to read and reflect upon.