Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraph 56 - 62

Day 13 and my shoulders hurt. I feel like a zombie this morning and am really looking forward to my massage this afternoon. You see, dear Reader, as a chainmail artist, my shoulders tend to get sore every now and then and a massage is part of my work regimen. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to do this work for over 30 years. Take care of the body, and it will take care of you. They say the body is the temple, and I guess I have the choice of letting it go and becoming one of those ancient temples that is crumbling and haunted, or I can be a good caretaker and strive to make my temple worthy. I prefer the latter, although the former can be more fun to explore.

I guess I better get on with this little study before I get too carried away with this metaphor.

So, where were we? Ah, yes. Paragraph 56. I wonder if this will be another 5 paragraph study.
Now that this evanescent One hath reached this exalted point in the exposition of the inner mysteries, the reason for the denial of these uncouth souls will be described briefly, that it may serve as a testimony unto them that are endued with understanding and insight, and be a token of My favour unto the concourse of the faithful. 56
"This point". Which point? I presume it's the point from the latter part of paragraph 55, in which He talks about those people who denied Muhammad, for He tells us that He is now going to explain to us why they missed Him.

Oh, and "briefly"? I bet it's only 5 paragraphs. Of course, knowing God's sense of humour, it'll likely be more. After all, I believe God is an iron.

What? I can hear your disbelief.

You see, if one who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and one who commits a felony is a felon, then I figure God must be an iron. Of course, as a Baha'i, I actually believe that He is the Most Great Iron.

Anyways, let's move on and see where He goes with this. I'm sure it's more profound than where I'm going.
Know then that when Muḥammad, the Point of the Qur’án and the Light of the All-Glorious, came with perspicuous verses and luminous proofs manifested in such signs as are beyond the power of all existence to produce, He bade all men follow this lofty and outstretched Path in accordance with the precepts that He had brought from God. Whoso acknowledged Him, recognized the signs of God in His inmost Being, and saw in His beauty the changeless beauty of God, the decree of “resurrection”, “ingathering”, “life”, and “paradise” was passed upon him. For he who had believed in God and in the Manifestation of His beauty was raised from the grave of heedlessness, gathered together in the sacred ground of the heart, quickened to the life of faith and certitude, and admitted into the paradise of the divine presence. What paradise can be loftier than this, what ingathering mightier, and what resurrection greater? Indeed, should a soul be acquainted with these mysteries, he would grasp that which none other hath fathomed. 57
Well, to start, it must be my fast brain, but I'm having trouble understanding this first sentence. Oh, and that's fast, as in not eating and getting by on little sleep, not quick. So what do I do when faced with a complex sentence that I'm having trouble following? I treat it as an Effendian sentence and work it down to its basics.

If you look at that first sentence in the paragraph above, know that I just copied it here. Now I'm going to go through and replace all the extra clarifying phrases with ellipses and if I can make sense of what is left. Shall we? Ok. Let's see what we get: "Know then that when Muḥammad... came with... verses and... proofs... He bade all men follow this... Path..." Ok. I can understand that.

Moving on, I notice a little path in the next sentence: acknowledge, recognize, and see. You begin by admitting His existence. Then you identify the signs of God within Him. Finally, you see within Him that changeless beauty of God.

Then there's the little path of resurrection, ingathering, life and paradise. Everything is made new, but only some are gathered together. Those that "pass the test" are given a new life, as opposed to a true death, and they move on to paradise.

Then there is that path of moving from heedlessness to the heart to faith and certitude and on to the divine presence.

Here, within this paragraph, He has shown us many paths for our consideration, and given us a better understanding of these terms that have confused so many for so long.
Know then that the paradise that appeareth in the day of God surpasseth every other paradise and excelleth the realities of Heaven. For when God—blessed and glorified is He—sealed the station of prophethood in the person of Him Who was His Friend, His Chosen One, and His Treasure amongst His creatures, as hath been revealed from the Kingdom of glory: “but He is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets”, He promised all men that they shall attain unto His own presence in the Day of Resurrection. In this He meant to emphasize the greatness of the Revelation to come, as it hath indeed been manifested through the power of truth. And there is of a certainty no paradise greater than this, nor station higher, should ye reflect upon the verses of the Qur’án. Blessed be he who knoweth of a certainty that he shall attain unto the presence of God on that day when His Beauty shall be made manifest. 58
Now He is turning our attention to today. Why was there so much mention of the Day of Resurrection? And why were there so many allusions made to His presence at this time? To help us begin to get an appreciation of today, and to recognize that the greatest form of paradise that we can really imagine is to be in His presence.

Another interesting aspect of this is that last sentence. How many people think of the promised Day as being some time in the distant future, not really applying to them or their lifetime? Most that I am aware of. They don't really believe that these things could possibly apply to them.

But for those who believe it, who, deep in their heart, know that it applies to them, who live their lives as if it is extremely personal? They are even more blessed. They are the ones who recognize that God is a very real presence in our daily life, no matter in what era we live. And if we happen to be of those few who have the astonishing blessing of living at the actual time of a Manifestation? Well, that's just light upon light.
Were I to recount all the verses that have been revealed in connection with this exalted theme, it would weary the reader and divert Us from Our purpose. The following verse shall therefore suffice Us; may thine eyes be solaced therewith, and mayest thou attain unto that which hath been treasured and concealed therein: “It is God who hath reared the heavens without pillars thou canst behold; then mounted His throne, and imposed laws on the sun and moon: each travelleth to its appointed goal. He ordereth all things. He maketh His signs clear, that ye may have firm faith in the presence of your Lord.” 59
Yeah, there's a lot of references to this theme. And it's interesting that He has chosen this particular verse to focus on.

I love how He ties together creation, His majesty and the importance of obedience to the laws. The reminder that this obedience helps us get to our goal is just amazing. And why does He do all this? So that we "may have firm faith". But let's move on and see where He goes with it.
Ponder then, O My friend, the words “firm faith” that have been mentioned in this verse. It saith that the heavens and the earth, the throne, the sun and the moon, all have been created to the end that His servants may have unswerving faith in His presence in His days. By the righteousness of God! Contemplate, O My brother, the greatness of this station, and behold the condition of the people in these days, fleeing from the Countenance of God and His Beauty “as though they were affrighted asses”. Wert thou to reflect upon that which We have revealed unto thee, thou wouldst undoubtedly grasp Our purpose in this utterance and discover that which We have desired to impart unto thee within this paradise. Perchance thine eyes may rejoice in beholding it, thine ears take delight in hearing that which is recited therein, thy soul be enthralled by recognizing it, thy heart illumined by comprehending it, and thy spirit gladdened by the fragrant breezes that waft therefrom. Haply thou mayest attain unto the pinnacle of divine grace and abide within the Riḍván of transcendent holiness. 60
"Ponder". There we go again. Another point to ponder, contemplate, consider, and meditate upon: Everything in creation was made to help lead us to the recognition of the Manifestation of God.

This is such an astonishing statement, and truly worthy of so much meditation. I can well understand why He begins this paragraph with the word "ponder". I have actually sat here for about ten minutes just meditating upon that singular point without typing a thing.

He then offers us a contrast. Consider the greatness of this station, and on the other hand, look at how the people of the world are behaving today. What a difference. They have absolutely no idea of the why of their very creation, of the reason behind creation itself. What an amazing loss.

But here, Baha'u'llah also alludes to His own station, when He talks about "this paradise", which, if you recall from just a couple paragraphs earlier, is "the paradise of the divine presence". If only we could recognize it then our eyes, our ears, our soul, our heart, our very spirit would rejoice, if we but recognized. And do you notice that little path there, too? I love where He has placed the heart in that path.
He, however, who denied God in His Truth, who turned his back upon Him and rebelled, who disbelieved and made mischief, the verdict of “impiety”, “blasphemy”, “death”, and “fire” was passed upon him. For, what blasphemy is greater than to turn unto the manifestations of Satan, to follow the doctors of oblivion and the people of rebellion? What impiety is more grievous than to deny the Lord on the day when faith itself is renewed and regenerated by God, the Almighty, the Beneficent? What death is more wretched than to flee from the Source of everlasting life? What fire is fiercer on the Day of Reckoning than that of remoteness from the divine Beauty and the celestial Glory? 61
What about those who deny? What about that path? Impiety, blasphemy, death and fire? It begins with a lack of reverence which can then slip into a reviling of God. Well, from there the rest is obvious.

After that, He does an interesting little switch. He talks about blasphemy first. While it may seem out of character, I think it's because He is using the same words for a more chrono-historical path. Instead of placing the previous Manifestation at the center of one's faith, some people look to the clergy instead. When the clergy say things that are clearly against the heart of what was taught, then it is time to tun away from them. the blasphemy He refers to here is a look towards the past. From there, He moves us to the present, with true impiety today. From there, the death and the fire are redefined in terms of recognition of the Manifestation of God for today. Fascinatingly done. Every single time He strives to turn us from looking at the past to looking to today and the future. He is, in essence, trying to turn us around, for we are facing the wrong direction.
These were the very words and utterances used by the pagan Arabs living in the days of Muḥammad to dispute with and pronounce judgement against Him. They said: “Those who believed in Muḥammad dwelt in our midst and associated with us day and night. When did they die and when were they raised again to life?” Hearken unto that which was revealed in reply: “If ever thou dost marvel, marvellous surely is their saying, ‘What! When we have become dust and mouldering bones, shall we be restored in a new creation?’” And in another passage: “And if thou shouldst say, ‘After death ye shall surely be raised again’, the infidels will certainly exclaim, ‘This is naught but palpable sorcery.’” Thus did they mock and deride Him, for they had read in their Books and heard from their divines the terms “life” and “death”, and understood them as this elemental life and physical death, and hence when they found not that which their vain imaginings and their false and wicked minds had conceived, they hoisted the banners of discord and the standards of sedition and kindled the flame of war. God, however, quenched it through the power of His might, as thou seest again in this day with these infidels and evil-doers. 62
Why did these people deny? Again, it comes back to a literal interpretation of metaphor.

There's a lot in this paragraph, too, but I feel like this has gone on quite a long time this morning and I don't have anything new to add. I think I'll end it here and wish you a happy fasting today, and hopefully see you tomorrow.

All right, so it was seven paragraphs today instead of five. Maybe I'll actually finish this before the Fast is over. Who knows?

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