Thursday, April 19, 2012

"A True Mean Appeareth Even as a Firmament"

I just love coincidences. (Of course, if you think about it, it only makes sense that a coincidence would be a coincidence. I mean, it just means that two events coincide, or occupy the same place in space, the same point or period in time, or the same relative position. Only later has it come to mean two events occurring merely by chance.)

But here I speak of having recently studied (a little bit) the Kitab-i-'Ahd, and written a (little bit) about it, and now taking Ruhi Book 8, in which we read and study (a bit) of said same Text. As you can imagine, I had a bit to say about it as we began going through it paragraph by paragraph (and sentence by sentence).

Now I get to share (or inflict) some of those thoughts with you, dear Reader.

What caught my attention when we went over it last night was a single line from paragraph 2:

In the eyes of the All-Merciful a true man appeareth even as a firmament; its sun and moon are his sight and hearing, and his shining and resplendent character its stars. His is the loftiest station, and his influence educateth the world of being.

My first thought on reading this was the idea of the sun and the moon being fasting and prayer, as Baha'u'llah references in the Kitab-i-Iqan. "In another sense, by the terms 'sun', 'moon', and 'stars' are meant such laws and teachings as have been established and proclaimed in every Dispensation, such as the laws of prayer and fasting." And again, "Moreover, in the traditions the terms "sun" and "moon" have been applied to prayer and fasting..."

But then I read it again, and realized that this didn't make too much sense. It does on one level, of course, but I thought I was missing something obvious.

Then I remembered something I had read in "Gate of the Heart", that book about the Writings of the Bab. In that book, the author points out that "the words that are uttered by the Manifestation are not the same words when uttered by anyone else, even if they appear to consist of exactly the same letters and signs. The words as spoken by the Manifestation inherently contain all the multitude of His intention, while those same words as spoken, and as understood, by a human being are representations limited to that individual speaker's level of understanding..."

In other words, two people can say exactly the same thing, but the impact of those words is enhanced by the understanding of the one speaking them, and their vision of what they convey, as opposed to the vision of the one hearing them. As the Bab says, "...utterance is a manifestation of the reality of the one who uttereth, and a mirror that reflecteth that which is in his heart."

So what does that thought have to do with this quote from the Kitab-i-Ahd? I'm glad you asked.

It seemed to me that one thing that Baha'u'llah was saying was that a "true man" is like the firmament, or dome of the sky, in that he seems to cover the earth like the firmament itself, embracing the planet with its dome and holding up the vault of the sky. The "true man" seems as if he is holding up the very sky of the religion itself.

And there, within that sky, are the sun and the moon and the stars. The sun, in this quote, is his very sight, his vision, his perspective of what is happening in the world, and how the world itself actually works. This man's vision casts a light on all things, illuminates them, and even brings life to what may seem a lifeless area.

The moon, in this incredible imagery, is like his hearing. It is illumined by the sun, by his perspective or vision, and casts its influence not only upon the waters, helping to keep them moving as the tides, but also through casting its own light in the dark of the night.

His hearing is an interesting thing, for it is not quite the same as his ability to listen to mere sound waves. It can include the interpretation he spins upon what it is that he listens to. The Master, for example, would often listen to rants or insults or even downright abuse, but He would hear the germ of truth within it, and expose that. He would listen to the most awful of things, and take no insult from it, choosing instead to honour the soul behind the words. Through His very reaction He would shine a light where there was, before, only darkness.

This man's character is likened to the stars, those points of light that used to guide the wayfarer at night. Today it seems to me that we often forget the power of the Pole Star, and the profound influence it had upon those who were travelling in days gone by, especially upon the sea. But here, as elsewhere in the Writings, remembering this can help us understand some of the metaphors that Baha'u'llah employs in His Writings.

As I re-read the Kitab-i-Ahd, yet again, this concept of doing all we can to ensure that there is no conflict or contention is arising in more and more places within this Text. In that second paragraph, He gives us some guidance about how to be that "true man", and gives us a glimpse of the effect we can have on the planet if we strive to attain that lofty station.

And coincidence of all coincidences is that I am reading this: I, who have such a long way to go on this journey. But at least He gives me a bit of hope by showing me some of the simple things I can to inch my way along that path. (Read paragraph 2 of the Kitab-i-Ahd if you want to see some of those steps for yourself.)


  1. Thanks Mead, for shining light on this quote! I've got a great story illustrating how 'Abdul-Baha shined a light when the Covenant-Breakers were attacking:

    "The Arch–breaker of the Covenant, Mirza Mohammad Ali, had written a letter to the Kenosha evening news. Published on the front page, the letter attacked Abdul-Bahá, accusing him of trying to substitute his own writings for Baha'u'llah's. Abdul-Bahá ignored the attack. In July, Ibrahim Kairella wrote to the same paper supporting the claims of Mirza Muhammed-'Ali. These activities worried the Baha'is in Kenosha, but Abdul-Bahá had told them that nothing would come of them: "The bats fly away from the rays of the sun and in hiding themselves in dark and narrow niches they blame the Sun saying "Why do not the rays of the sun reach our dark corners and crannies? And why does it not associate and affiliate with us?" What relationship is there between the all glorious sun and the weak-eyed bats! What friendship exists between the nightingale of the rose garden of significances and the gloomy crows! The Sun travels in its own sphere and is entirely above the fluttering blindness of the bats." (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 194)

  2. Thanks, Susan.

    Also, I received an e-mail asking for the source of the quote, and this was the reply I sent in response:


    Yeah, that's one of the problems with this book, Gate of the Heart. Many of the quotes are not previously translated, although many of them are translated by the World Centre.

    The full paragraph for that quote is as follows:

    "Second, thou shouldst never compare the words of thy Imams with the words of the people, for verily utterance is a manifestation of the reality of the one who uttereth, and a mirror that reflecteth that which is in his heart. Thus, just as their own being is a sure testimony for all the worlds and an indisputable sign from God, glorified be He, so are their words... which do not resemble the words of any other creatures. Their utterance, which is at once all-encompassing and all-perfect, is the proof of God unto the people... All existence is the outcome of one letter of their utterance... Thus the word of the Imam, peace be upon him, embraceth all things and streameth forth in all the worlds acording to the conditions of their inhabitants."

    The reference is the Bab, "Tafsir-i-Hadith-i-Man 'Arafa Nafsah faqad 'Arafa Rabba", the Commentary on the Tradition 'He Hath Known God Who Hath Known Himself', Iran National Baha'i Archives, 14:474 - 82.

    I hope that helps.