Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Pen of Glory

I went to a used bookstore the other day, which isn't really all that unusual.

Aside - There's a bookstore in town here called Russell's Books, and I just love them. It's huge, with really friendly staff, and lots of books. Their selection is excellent, and they have a lot of books. Now, to be fair, it's not as huge as Blackwell's in Oxford, which always reminds me Dante's description of Hell in the way that it's lower levels are laid out (seriously, descending concentric rings of shelves), nor is it as gigantic as that 3 or 4 story used bookstore I went to in... I think it was Milwaukee. But Russell's is awesome. That's the place I went to when I sold the cases of books I had no interest in reading again. Anyways I went there the other day to look around and use a bit of my credit there. (Did I mention they have a lot of books?)

Anyways I went to a used bookstore the other day and found 2 books of Baha'u'llah's Writings. They're of that new variety from Baha'i Publishing, the US imprint, that are designed for sale in regular bookstores. They're just beautiful little paperback editions.

Anyways, one of them is called Pen of Glory. I can't remember the name of the other one, but it's a reprint of Tablets of Baha'u'llah.

So there I was, grabbing a couple of these little treasures to bring back to my community and put in my little Baha'i bookstore (I sell used Baha'i books) (just in case you need any), and they ended up sitting in a pile waiting to go into stock.

And then my wife saw them.

She picked up Pen of Glory and said that it looked neat. It looked like it would be fun to read, as she thought she had never read it before.

Having seen to other one, I said, "Oh, it's just a reprint of some previously published stuff. I'm sure you've read it."

Wrong. (Well, I thought I was wrong, but I just double checked, and it turns out I was right.) (No matter. I'll just continue anyways.)

Pen of Glory is a selection of pieces by Baha'u'llah written in response to questions by people of other faiths. it includes Gems of Divine Mysteries, and parts of Tabernacle of Unity. Now I've read both of these, but it turns out that I need to read them again, for I had completely forgotten one little gem in there: Tablet of the Seven Questions. (It turns out that this is published in Tabernacle, and I had just forgotten.)

Anyways, enough of that. The Tablet of the Seven Questions. What a remarkable little piece.

I read a bit of it to Marielle last night and we talked for quite some time about it.

The first question the man asked Baha'u'llah was, "In what tongue and towards what direction doth it behoove us to worship the one true God?"

As you can imagine, this was a big question for many people. Jews say Hebrew and towards Jerusalem. Muslims say Arabic and towards Mecca. Others say other things. There are so many claiming that their way, their words, their language, their choice of direction is best.

And this man wants to know the truth. Which is best?

Baha'u'llah, as you would expect, cuts away all the extra stuff and gets right to the point. You may think at first that He is not answering the question, but in fact He is answering the real question.

So what does He say?

"The beginning of all utterance is the worship of God, and this followeth upon His recognition. Sanctified must be the eye if it is to truly recognize Him, and sanctified must be the tongue if it is to befittingly utter His praise. In this day the faces of the people of insight and understanding are turned in His direction; nay every direction inclineth itself towards Him. O lion-hearted one! We beseech God that thou mayest become a champion in this arena, arise with heavenly power and say: 'O high priests! Ears have been given you that they may hearken unto the mystery of Him Who is the Self-Dependent, and eyes that they may behold Him. Wherefore flee ye? The Incomparable Friend is manifest. He speaketh that wherein lieth salvation. Were ye, O high priests, to discover the perfume of the rose garden of understanding, ye would seek none other but Him, and would recognize, in His new vesture, the All-Wise and Peerless One, and would turn your eyes from the world and all who seek it, and would arise to help Him.'"

In one sense, He seems to be saying that the actual words and direction don't really matter. What counts is our heart. Whatever language we speak, whatever words we choose to utter, they are the best if our heart, our thoughts, our intention is sincere.

There is another thing, too. "The beginning of all utterance is the worship of God". It seems to me that He is reminding us that language itself is founded upon the worship of God. It is for this reason that we communicate. All aspects of our society find their root in a gift from a Manifestation, so why should language be any different. As with all gifts, though, we need to use it, practice with it, and raise to the highest level we can.

Aside: When someone tells me that my artistic talent is a gift from God, I agree. But then, I ask, what is their gift from God? I have worked very hard to develop this gift to the best of my ability. Getting this gift is meaningless if I don't practice and use it and develop it. Most people I meet also have a similar gift from God, but they never use it. They squander it, or don't believe in it. They let it go to waste, or use it frivolously.

Back to the Tablet.

It's a great little piece

There are seven questions, as I'm sure you've guessed. And He continually uses the questions to tell the reader to move their love, more their intention and devotion into the arena of service.

Just look at that first question again. He answers the true question, and then finishes with "arise to help Him". Like the artistic "gift from God", it does no good if the individual doesn't use it. Our faith, our belief, our love for God is useless if we don't use it.

That, to me, is much of the wisdom of the Pen of Glory.

1 comment:

  1. You're a great story-teller, Mead! I love to learn from your stories!