Friday, May 9, 2014

The Oddities

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science," said Isaac Asimov, "the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'" And it's true. Time and again in the various sciences, we have been complacent in our understanding of the universe, confident that "little anomaly" we see in the data will simply work itself out. Of course it was those "little anomalies" that led us to things like the Theory of Relativity, and the awareness of dark matter and dark energy in the universe. We still don't know what the latter two are, but we have consistently seen anomalies in the expected data that it requires us to re-think what we know.

I find the same to be true with the Writings. And not just the Writings of the Baha'i Faith, but all sacred Writings.

For example, in the book of Malachi, there is a reference to the Promised One purifying us like the silver. Why silver, I wondered. Why not gold? And then when I began to purify the gold and silver for my wife's wedding ring, I began to understand. Gold, when you melt it, has a black sludge on the outside. As you purify it, the sludge goes away, for those were the impurities. Silver, on the other hand, always has the sludge on the outside, for the sludge is the silver. With the gold, you watch the surface, and when it's clear, your gold is pure. With the silver, you have to watch the centre. As you begin the melting process, the very middle of the sphere of the molten silver is all wibbly-wobbly. At some point, though, it sort of clicks into place and it becomes a perfect mirror. That is when you have to take off the heat. Not only is the silver then pure, but if you keep heating it, you run the risk of it becoming crystalline, kind of, and fracturing as you work with it. The Promised One, when He purifies us, will do so like the silver. He will keep the heat of tests on us until He sees His reflection within our heart.

In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha'u'llah has that unusual mention of the Universal House of Justice in regards to the funds of the Faith. He says that after the Aghsan, the funds go to the Universal House of Justice "should it be established by then". If not, then it goes to them "who speak not except by His leave", or the Hands of the Cause. That was a strange little thing to put in there. And yet, it was exactly what was needed to secure the funds during the ministry of the Hands.

In a well-known prayer, as well as a number of other places, Baha'u'llah says, "Thy might, in truth, is equal to all things." My wife thought this was an odd phrase, for isn't God's might greater than all things? But no, Baha'u'llah says that it is equal to everything. That's a very exact relationship. It is neither less than, nor greater than, but exactly equal to all of it. God's energy, His might, is equal to all matter, all things. In other words, energy equals matter, which Einstein, just a few decades later, proved.

Oh, and that prayer, as I'm sure you know, begins, "Many a chilled heart, O my God, hath been set ablaze with the fire of Thy Cause, and many a slumberer hath been wakened by the sweetness of Thy voice." Both of these metaphors are about energy, and raising the level thereof.

When talking about the Spiritual Assembly, 'Abdu'l-Baha says that the members "are the waves of one sea, the drops of one river, the stars of one heaven, the rays of one sun, the trees of one orchard, the flowers of one garden." When Marielle and I were reading this, we kind of skipped over it a bit. Well, I was reading it aloud to her, and I kind of skipped it, thinking it was another of those "this of one that" sections. That was when she lovingly chastised me and said that this was sacred Text I was skipping. It was this that got us to look at it a bit more closely, for it was something odd, kind of stuck in the middle there. That was when we saw they were pairs, going from macro to micro, covering water, light and life. It was because of this we really began to understand that it was implied that the writings on consultation worked not only on the macro level of a full Assembly, but also on the micro level of a couple of people. And it was this study that really led to us getting married.

It never fails, every time we see something in the Writings that makes us say, "That's strange", it always leads on this marvelous adventure ending in some incredible discovery for us.

In his introduction to the Kitab-i-Iqan, the Guardian describes the book as being "of unsurpassed pre-eminence among the writings of" Baha'u'llah. I thought that was odd, for surely the Kitab-i-Aqdas must surpass it. But no, for this book is about how to recognize a Messenger of God. The Aqdas is about being obedient. Recognition and obedience, those twin, inseparable duties.

Then, in the very first paragraph of the Kitab-i-Iqan, Baha'u'llah tells us to sanctify our souls so that "haply ye may attain that station which God hath destined for you". "Haply?" What a strange word. Shouldn't that be "happily", with joy? But no, it is "haply", with luck, as in haphazardly. In other words, we can do all we can, but it is still up to God. There is no magic formula, like the Universal House of Justice says in the 2014 Ridvan Message, "Awareness of this reality frees one from the fruitless search for a rigid formula for action..." It works on the level of the individual, and it works on the level of community. Oh, and I mention this because in some religions people believe that if you a particular prayer in a particular way, with all the correct rituals in place, then whatever you are praying for will magically occur.

Now one oddity I've never quite figured out is why Baha'u'llah put paragraph 152 in the Kitab-i-Aqdas. I mean, I know why it's there, but why there? Why in that particular place in the Book? He has just told us, in paragraph 150 to teach our children the verses of God, and in paragraph 151, to renew the furnishings in our home on a regular basis, every 19 years. In paragraph 153 He tells us to be gentle to those who show us anger. I mean, these are all fairly significant things, from the education of children to responding with kindness to anger. But there, in paragraph 152, He tells us to wash our feet. That sure seems random to me. Odd, for sure. I've never quite seen why that one is placed right there, unless he's calling importance to it because, after all, a vast number of people suffer from a simple infection they get by walking through parasite infested water. It is, in fact, one of the most wide-spread diseases on the planet. So maybe it is a huge issue after all. It will likely take a physician to explain this one to me.

Either way, I have to admit that every time I have investigated an oddity within the Writings, presuming it is within my ability, then I feel like I have made a major discovery. (Well, it was, for me.)

So next time you say that prayer about chilled hearts, remember, e = mc2, harmony of science and religion, and all that other stuff.


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, He did. What is even more amazing is that He washed other people's feet, and not just His own. (And then I compare that to the kissing of a ring or a hand. Now that's just odd.)