Monday, September 16, 2013

An Interesting Phrase

Have you ever noticed that there are some things in life that become so commonplace that we no longer notice them? Like the noise from the buses going outside my window, or the persistent buzzing of the lights in the other room. These things are always there, and after a while I just become immune to their presence; my brain just filters them out.

When reading the Writings I often fall prey to the same filtering process. There are some things in the Writings that tend to get lost when I'm reading, such as the regularly occurring "this of one that"s. You know what I mean, all the times that Baha'u'llah says, "the leaves of one tree", "the waves of one ocean", "the flowers of one garden", "the fruits of one branch", "the fries of one happy meal". (Just kidding. I made up that last one to see if you're paying attention.)

It's not that these phrases aren't important, just that my deficient brain filters what sometimes appears to my dim sight to be common. Fortunately I have a wife who keeps me on my toes and has been training me to recognize when I'm skipping over things like that. You can see a good example of her pointing this out to me here.

Anyways, I was reading a prayer the other day, by the Bab, when I realized that I was doing that filtering thing again. What, you may wonder, was I filtering? Great question.

You know that prayer for protection written by the Bab, the one that begins, "In the Name of God, the Lord of overpowering majesty, and All-Compelling"? The one that was written in the shape of a pentacle? Well, towards the end of it, and all throughout the middle, He regularly uses the phrase, "heaven and earth and of everything between them", or some variation thereof. In fact, if you go through that prayer and only look at that (or those) particular phrase (phrases), this is what you will see:

  • the kingdoms of Revelation and Creation and whatever lieth between them.
  • the kingdoms of heaven and earth and whatever is between them
  • the treasures of earth and heaven and everything between them
  • the Creator of the heavens and the earth and whatever lieth between them
  • all that dwell in the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them.
  • the keys of heaven and earth and of everything between them.
  • the power of His hosts of heaven and earth and whatever lieth between them

And then it finishes with this interesting sentence: "Protect us from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on our right, on our left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed."

Heaven and earth and everything between them? What does that mean? And why is the first line so different? Why is the third line reversed? Why are the fourth and fifth referring to heavens as a plural when the rest are singular? What does it all mean?

At first glance I just sort of presumed that it meant all of creation. But you know what happens when we presume. We make a pre out of Sue and me. (Or something like that.) (Apologies to Abbott and Costello.)

Now I wonder.

It seems as if He is telling us a story, relating something important to us in that unusual varying of it. The "kingdoms of Revelation and Creation" seem somehow more majestic than "heaven and earth". They seem like a capital version, as opposed to a lower case version, and, in fact, they are. It is as if He is going from macro to micro, somehow, in those first two instances. And, of course, He seems to be giving preference to the heavenly by placing it first.

Also, there seem to be a series of couplets there, after the first oddity. The kingdoms, heavenly first, followed by their treasures, which appear to move from the earth up towards heaven. For some reason this reminds me of that Hidden Word that begins, "Holy words and pure and goodly deeds ascend unto the heaven of celestial glory."

The next couplet refers to the Creator and the creatures. Then come the keys, and the power they unlock. "Unlock, O people,", says Baha'u'llah, "the gates of the hearts of men with the keys of the remembrance of Him Who is the Remembrance of God and the Source of wisdom amongst you." When you unlock the the heart, then the innate power of the individual can come to life.

Overall, when I read this prayer it is as if my vision goes up and down, up and down, up and down, and then hits that last sentence. In front, behind, above, to the right, the left, below, "and every other side to which" I am exposed. What a path! I always seem to trace it mentally as I read it. It's almost like a three-dimensional labyrinth that explodes outward into a sphere, with little old me in the middle.

But back to that phrase: heaven and earth and of everything between them. Above, below, and in the middle.

Reminds me of the Ringstone symbol.

The heavens are the top line, while the earth would be the bottom line. And then there is "everything between them". So what would that be? Well, in the ringstone symbol, that middle horizontal line would be the world of the Manifestations.

In the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Baha'u'llah says that God "bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven". In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, He refers to Himself as He "Who lifteth up His voice between the heavens and the earth." To the Bishops of the world He proclaims, "He Who is the Everlasting Father calleth aloud between earth and heaven." He opens the Suriy-i-Haykal with, "This is the Surih of the Temple which God hath ordained to be the Mirror of His Names between the heavens and the earth".

Time and again He refers to His proclamation, His Station as being between heaven and earth.

In another place, the Suriy-i-Vafa, He quite interestingly refers to His Revelation as that "which God hath ordained to be the Sword of His Revelation between heaven and earth, and through which truth is separated from error". Looking again at the ringstone symbol above, I can so easily see this cleaving between that which is above from that which is below., which also reminds me of Genesis 1:18, in which the Two Great Lights separate light from darkness, a job which was previously God's, back in Genesis 1:4.

Yes, it is an interesting phrase, "the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them".

I'm sure I could go on and on with this, but I have to go a conduct a meditation session now.

Perhaps I'll meditate more on this phrase while I'm there.


  1. Awesome! Saved your post for future references. Thank you.

  2. I enjoyed your reflection, Mead! It's a prayer I often use with my clients, Baha'i and non-Baha'i. Everyone likes the ending:

    O Lord! Protect us from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on our right, on our left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed. Verily, Thy protection over all things is unfailing. (The Bab, Baha'i Prayers, p. 134)

    Just yesterday, someone was having night terrors and we imagined her saying this part of the prayer before she went to bed. She visualized a wall of kryptonite coming down on all sides, to protect her so she could sleep peacefully.

    As much as I love this prayer, I often wondered how to use it to protect me from my own thoughts, which is where I really needed protection!

  3. That is a truly inspiring post! Thanks for sharing it!