Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 63 - 70

Day 14 of the Fast and I don't think I'm anywhere near where I want to be in this study, Maybe I should keep fasting every day until I'm done? Nah. That just doesn't seem right. Or maybe I can just go until the end of this Fast and then continue it next year? Ah, we'll see. in a few days.

For now, let's continue.
At this hour, when the sweet savours of attraction have wafted over Me from the everlasting city, when transports of yearning have seized Me from the land of splendours at the dawning of the Daystar of the worlds above the horizon of ‘Iráq, and the sweet melodies of Ḥijáz have brought to Mine ears the mysteries of separation, I have purposed to relate unto thine eminence a portion of that which the Mystic Dove hath warbled in the midmost heart of Paradise as to the true meaning of life and death, though the task be impossible. For were I to interpret these words for thee as it hath been inscribed in the Guarded Tablets, all the books and pages of the world could not contain it, nor could the souls of men bear its weight. I shall nonetheless mention that which beseemeth this day and age, that it might serve as a guidance unto whosoever desireth to gain admittance into the retreats of glory in the realms above, to hearken unto the melodies of the spirit intoned by this divine and mystic bird, and to be numbered with those who have severed themselves from all save God and who in this day rejoice in the presence of their Lord. 63
Wow. I must be getting tired. My first thought is that of commuting on the morning train in Chicago, back when I was a kid. The city, the transport, the dawn. Ok. Focus.

He's only giving us a portion of what He knows. Obviously he knows more, but as Jesus said, we cannot bear it. He's only going to tell us what we can handle.

Know then that “life” hath a twofold meaning. The first pertaineth to the appearance of man in an elemental body, and is as manifest to thine eminence and to others as the midday sun. This life cometh to an end with physical death, which is a God-ordained and inescapable reality. That life, however, which is mentioned in the Books of the Prophets and the Chosen Ones of God is the life of knowledge; that is to say, the servant’s recognition of the sign of the splendours wherewith He Who is the Source of all splendour hath Himself invested him, and his certitude of attaining unto the presence of God through the Manifestations of His Cause. This is that blessed and everlasting life that perisheth not: whosoever is quickened thereby shall never die, but will endure as long as His Lord and Creator will endure. 64
Now we're getting back to a style like the Kitab-i-Iqan. Life, here, has two meanings. The first meaning is the most common definition and pertains to the body. This is what we often think of as the literal meaning.

But this is not what He is concerned about. His second definition is life as knowledge, which, when you think about it, is really quite a remarkable definition. In a single word, it explains so much, with layer upon layer of meaning.

Then, of course, He qualifies it. This is not just the everyday knowledge we are talking about here, oh no. Nor is it the useless trivia so popular amongst the vast multitudes. This knowledge refers us to the Manifestation. It is the knowledge that allows us to recognize His signs, as well as the certainty that we will encounter Him. this absolute awareness of His Presence is what is meant by everlasting life.
The first life, which pertaineth to the elemental body, will come to an end, as hath been revealed by God: “Every soul shall taste of death.” But the second life, which ariseth from the knowledge of God, knoweth no death, as hath been revealed aforetime: “Him will We surely quicken to a blessed life.” And in another passage concerning the martyrs: “Nay, they are alive and sustained by their Lord.” And from the Traditions: “He who is a true believer liveth both in this world and in the world to come.” Numerous examples of similar words are to be found in the Books of God and of the Embodiments of His justice. For the sake of brevity, however, We have contented Ourself with the above passages. 65
This first definition of life leads only to death, for all that lives will surely perish. But this second definition pertains to the knowledge deep within our soul and leads us forward, upward, outward, to the eternal realms. It is this second definition, that definition of knowledge that leads us to eternal life. There are so many quotes from the sacred Books that He can use to defend this position, but those on their own would fill volumes. We know that, and so He doesn't have to.
O My brother! Forsake thine own desires, turn thy face unto thy Lord, and walk not in the footsteps of those who have taken their corrupt inclinations for their god, that perchance thou mayest find shelter in the heart of existence, beneath the redeeming shadow of Him Who traineth all names and attributes. For they who turn away from their Lord in this day are in truth accounted amongst the dead, though to outward seeming they may walk upon the earth, amongst the deaf, though they may hear, and amongst the blind, though they may see, as hath been clearly stated by Him Who is the Lord of the Day of Reckoning: “Hearts have they with which they understand not, and eyes have they with which they see not.…” They walk the edge of a treacherous bank and tread the brink of a fiery abyss. They partake not of the billows of this surging and treasure-laden Ocean, but disport themselves with their own idle words. 66
Now it gets personal. Moving away from the dictionary, we see how this will apply to our life.

Immediately, with the phrase, "O My brother", He draws us in. We are not just a friend, we are a brother. This is such a close relationship that we want to respond in kind. And what an honour, too, to be called "brother" by so eminent a Person.

Then, with the very next phrase, He challenges us. The challenge, though, is an interesting one, and not quite as explicit as I would expect. He is asking us, in a way, to be aware of what our desires are, for how else would we be able to forsake them? What is it that we really want? The implication is strong that our desire is not to know God, but it should be, and we are being asked to correct this. The implication is also there that many have taken their own desires to be their highest value, their god, that which they would do anything for. Obviously this is not a good thing, and we are being cautioned not to fall into this same trap.

Then, as if this wasn't enough yet, He tosses out another fascinating phrase: "Him Who traineth all names and attributes". This really struck me as something new. Here, God is elevated from being seen as the All-Merciful to the One Who trains the All-Mericful how to show mercy. It's a fascinating progression, historically. Every Dispensation we seem to be given a higher understanding of the nature of God. We have gone from the old guy in the garden, to the Manifestation being God, to the God of the attributes such as the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Now we see Him as even beyond that. Every time we think we have as big a vision of God as we can get, the next Manifestation raises our sights once again.

If we think of life as knowledge, then turning away from this greater vision is turning away from knowledge itself. No wonder it is referred to as death. We have a mind to learn, but choose not to. It really is the same as having eyes but not seeing, or ears and not hearing. It is the having of a faculty and not using it for its intended purpose.

Following this, we are reminded that we are at a critical junction here. It will be very easy to fall back into habit, allow ourselves to continue thinking of the world as we have done before, and as most of society does. This will topple us into that abyss. We can either consider this new perspective and embrace it, or make play with idle words that do nothing to benefit either us or the world.
In this connection We will relate unto thee that which was revealed of old concerning “life”, that perchance it may turn thee away from the promptings of self, deliver thee from the narrow confines of thy prison in this gloomy plane, and aid thee to become of them that are guided aright in the darkness of this world. 67
Here, Baha'u'llah is looking back again, giving us that opportunity to keep up. It is as if He is looking over His shoulder and asking, "You still with Me?" And don't forget, if you follow the "promptings of self", you will find this world to be a gloomy place and the world will be dark before your eyes.
He saith, and He, verily, speaketh the truth: “Shall the dead whom We have quickened, and for whom We have ordained a light whereby he may walk amongst men, be like him whose likeness is in the darkness, whence he will not come forth?” This verse was revealed with respect to Ḥamzih and Abú-Jahl, the former of whom was a believer whilst the latter disbelieved. Most of the pagan leaders mocked and derided it, were agitated, and clamoured: “How did Ḥamzih die? And how was he restored to his former life?” Were ye to examine carefully the verses of God, ye would find many such statements recorded in the Book. 68
Here we, or more accurately he, are reminded of two people from Islamic history that we should know well. As a good Muslim, the recipient of this Tablet would regard Hamzih as a hero He would know this story as well as any Christian or Jew would know the story of Noah. We know, in this context, the metaphorical manner in which the term "life" was used. And we are being asked to consider ourselves in the same position. Do we wish to be like Hamzih, or more like Abu-Jahl?
Would that pure and stainless hearts could be found, that I might impart unto them a sprinkling from the oceans of knowledge which My Lord hath bestowed upon Me, so that they may soar in the heavens even as they walk upon the earth and speed over the waters even as they course the land, and that they may take up their souls in their hands and lay them down in the path of their Creator. Howbeit, leave hath not been granted to divulge this mighty secret. Indeed, it hath been from everlasting a mystery enshrined within the treasuries of His power and a secret concealed within the repositories of His might, lest His faithful servants forsake their own lives in the hope of attaining this most great station in the realms of eternity. Nor shall they who wander in this oppressive darkness ever attain unto it. 69
Here, oh here, we long to be a "pure and stainless" heart. We want to receive that sprinkling of the life-giving waters. We long to soar in that heavenly realm. And yes, we even feel that longing to be able to arise to be a hero of the Faith and lay down our life for this Cause.

But there is a secret that Baha'u'llah cannot yet reveal, and what potential this secret promises. He is still not ready to reveal His own Station.
O My brother! At every juncture We have restated Our theme, that all that hath been recorded in these verses may, by the leave of God, be made clear unto thee, and that thou mayest become independent of those who are plunged in the darkness of self and who tread the valley of arrogance and pride, and be of them that move within the paradise of everlasting life. 70
Over and over, Baha'u'llah keeps us close to His heart. Time and again He repeats His theme, giving us every opportunity to understand just what it is that He is saying. And with every step He reminds us not to be ensnared by the prevailing beliefs of the day.

This message is just as relevant today, with its rampant atheism and religious fanaticism, with its stifling materialism and superstitious mysticism, we need to continually find our way on that razor-thin middle way. We know that God is unknowable, but we still recognize the importance of religion. We know that material goods have a place in our lives, but need to ensure that they don't consume us. And we know that religion is, at its core, mystical, but should always remain practical, too.

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