Thursday, June 28, 2012

Know Yourself

"The first Taraz (Ornament) and the first effulgence which hath dawned from the horizon of the Mother Book is that man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty. Having attained the stage of fulfilment and reached his maturity, man standeth in need of wealth, and such wealth as he acquireth through crafts or professions is commendable and praiseworthy in the estimation of men of wisdom, and especially in the eyes of servants who dedicate themselves to the education of the world and to the edification of its peoples. They are, in truth, cup-bearers of the life-giving water of knowledge and guides unto the ideal way. They direct the peoples of the world to the straight path and acquaint them with that which is conducive to human upliftment and exaltation. The straight path is the one which guideth man to the dayspring of perception and to the dawning-place of true understanding and leadeth him to that which will redound to glory, honour and greatness.

We cherish the hope that through the loving-kindness of the All-Wise, the All-Knowing, obscuring dust may be dispelled and the power of perception enhanced, that the people may discover the purpose for which they have been called into being. In this Day whatsoever serveth to reduce blindness and to increase vision is worthy of consideration. This vision acteth as the agent and guide for true knowledge. Indeed in the estimation of men of wisdom keenness of understanding is due to keenness of vision. The people of Baha must under all circumstances observe that which is meet and seemly and exhort the people accordingly."

It's been a while since I've written anything here, and I was really stuck with trying to decide what to write. No clue. None. Total blank. A clean slate. An absolute absence of anything.

So I figured I'd just grab the first thing that popped up in the Writings.

I've been re-reading Tablets of Baha'u'llah for the past few nights, before going to bed, and one passage stuck out for me. The one that is above.

Why? No idea.

But it occurred to me that with this idea I have of everything in the Writings being there for a reason, and nothing being random, it might be interesting to look at the order of those lists Baha'u'llah places in that book. You know what I mean: the lists of Ornaments, Effulgences, Glad Tidings, and so on. And for some reason, I decided to start on Ornaments, even though it is the second Tablet with a list in the book.

Anyways. Where to start? Well, what is an ornament? It's an accessory used to beautify something. In this case, I think it would beautify the soul, the spirit, or the character of the person. But it is not an essential part of whatever it beautifies. It's kind of like a necklace on a person. They have to choose to put it on in order to benefit from its beauty.

Here, the first ornament we should put on is that of knowing our self. Of course, it's not just enough to know our self, but we should also know what affects us, what raises us up and what tears us down, what leads to our betterment and what leads to our abasement. (Yes, I know, it's the abasement astairs that aleads me adown there. Thanks, Chico.) (That last was a reference to Marxism.)

You see, it's not enough to just know our self, if we don't know how different things affect us. Otherwise we are nothing more than a leaf that is tossed around by the world around us.

We have to make a conscious effort to better ourselves, and that requires both knowledge and will.

Now it is interesting that Baha'u'llah ties this in to our need for a career. I think there is a profound wisdom in this, for it not only prevents us from being dependent upon others, and encourages us to contribute to the betterment of society, but it also adds to our sense of self-worth. I was never so miserable as when I was looking for work and couldn't find it. I felt lost, and, in a sense, worthless.

He seems to recognize that most of us begin to work out of a need for money, to pay the rent and get food, but then elevates this basic need to a spiritual level for us. We shouldn't merely work any job for money. We should be discriminating. We should strive to earn our keep through a craft or a profession, for that is how we will best be able to contribute to the world. This is not to say that those jobs like collecting the garbage are not worthy, but that they are good in a different way. They are a necessary service and are worthy in that field. And some of my friends who are in service industries like that use the money they earn in order to have the time to pursue their hobbies, which generally include a craft or art. Interesting, that.

The other thing that really stands out for me is the importance here on "perception", or that faculty of apprehending things by the senses or the mind. I can only presume that Baha'u'llah is, once again, speaking of the importance of seeing the world for our self, or as He says in the Hidden Words, "see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor".

I could go on and on here, but really, it just seems so obvious and important.

I do wonder, though, about this obscuring dust. It seems to me that the media to which we subject ourselves is often like that dust. When we watch those news shows, or read those newspapers, that are so obviously biased, then the information we take in, by which we can try to make sense of the world and understand it, is also biased. With faulty input our reasoning will end up being faulty, too. (Unless we're really lucky.) (Faulty reasoning can find truth from faulty information.) (Wow. That seems profound to me, but I'm sure I'm mistaken.)

But really, as He says towards the end there, "keenness of understanding is due to keenness of vision". In order to have clear vision, we must be able to see clearly, which may sound circular, but is still important to say. We also have to be looking at something worthy of looking at. Being able to see a pile of garbage clearly is not as rewarding as seeing a beautiful painting clearly, unless you're into trying to recycle the garbage, but you know what I mean.

And finally, it is interesting to me to remember that this is all an ornament that we must put on and wear. But you know, not all ornaments go with all things. I'm a jeweler / artist, and there are many times when I see someone wearing a necklace that just doesn't go with their outfit. The outfit may be nice, and the necklace beautiful, but together, they just don't work. This ornament that Baha'u'llah describes seems to me to have to go well with the actions we do. I'm reminded, for some reason, of those people who know the Bible or the Qu'ran, for example, so well, and yet preach hatred of those who believe or live differently. To me, that action seems to invalidate anything else they may do or say. Yes, it's good to study either of those great sacred Texts, and they are conducive to the betterment of the individual and the world, but our actions must also be in accord with the loving standard set forth in the guidance within them.

Anyways, that's just a few quick thoughts on that one passage. Hopefully I'll be able to write a bit more regularly than I have been.


  1. Ya Baha'u'l Abha1 That's very good. BHopwe i can add my views later if i have anything that differs.

  2. Ya Baha'u'l Abha! Very good. Thank you.

  3. Thank you, Thurai. And yes, you can add any comments, even if they differ from my opinion. Or perhaps I should say especially if they differ. I do not edit or delete comments, unless they are spam, or just spouting hate (I had one of those recently).

    One of my favorite things with this blog is to read other people's opinions. I learn so much that way.

  4. Mead,
    What a surprise to find your site! Do you remember the lady with the invisible dog at the Bristol Rennaisance Faire? I dtill go for the peolpe watching and music.

    1. Of course I remember you, Winnie! Allah'u'Abha! I still make chain-mail, and miss all my friends at Bristol.