Thursday, March 15, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 71 - 80

Day 15, and I have a conference to attend this weekend, over the next three mornings, where I'll be selling my artwork. I wonder how I'm going to write this. Maybe in the evenings, instead? Before I go to sleep? Ah, we'll see.
Say: O people! The Tree of Life hath verily been planted in the heart of the heavenly paradise and bestoweth life in every direction. How can ye fail to perceive and recognize it? It will in truth aid thee to grasp all that this well-assured Soul hath disclosed unto thee of the essence of the divine mysteries. The Dove of holiness warbleth in the heaven of immortality and admonisheth thee to array thyself with a new vesture, wrought of steel to shield thee from the shafts of doubt concealed in the allusions of men, saying: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” 71
This paragraph intrigues me. "The Tree of Life hath verily been planted"? And it bestows "life in every direction"? Now we just read that life, in this context, means knowledge. Specifically that knowledge that leads us to recognition of the Manifestation.

Where else have we seen the Tree of Life, in a histori-religious context? That's right. Genesis 2. Verse 9, if you want to be specific. "The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." It shows up again later in the story of Adam and Eve.

We all know how Adam and Eve had to leave Eden because they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, but that's not quite true, is it? It wasn't the Tree of Knowledge. It was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's a very specific form of knowledge.

God does not condemn knowledge there, contrary to popular understanding of this story. He merely says that if they ate of that fruit, they would die. Or perhaps they would now understand death, and how they would face it. In this context, they would understand the difference between the life of faith and the death of unbelief.

But remember, the Tree of Life was barred from them. That's why God set a Cherubim at the gate of the garden, armed with a flaming sword. "After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[a] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." To me, this seems to speak of the tests and trials that we, as humanity, will need to face to reach this Tree of Life, this knowledge of which Baha'u'llah speaks.

It is as if He is saying that the way is now open, thanks to the sacrifice of the Bab, and His followers.
Wing then thy flight unto this divine Tree and partake of its fruits. Gather up that which hath fallen therefrom and guard it faithfully. Meditate then upon the utterance of one of the Prophets as He intimated to the souls of men, through veiled allusions and hidden symbols, the glad-tidings of the One Who was to come after Him, that thou mayest know of a certainty that their words are inscrutable to all save those who are endued with an understanding heart. He saith: “His eyes were as a flame of fire”, and “brass-like were His feet”, and “out of His mouth goeth a two-edged sword”. How could these words be literally interpreted? Were anyone to appear with all these signs, he would assuredly not be human. And how could any soul seek his company? Nay, should he appear in one city, even the inhabitants of the next would flee from him, nor would any soul dare approach him! Yet, shouldst thou reflect upon these statements, thou wouldst find them to be of such surpassing eloquence and clarity as to mark the loftiest heights of utterance and the epitome of wisdom. Methinks it is from them that the suns of eloquence have appeared and the stars of clarity have dawned forth and shone resplendent. 72
Come to this tree, He says. Take those ripened fruits that are ready and guard them. It is worth noting, of course, that fruits are the very purpose of a tree. They are refreshing to eat, nutritious and even contain the seeds of the next tree.

Then comes one of those words that we see so often in His writings: "Meditate".

Now it begins to look like the Kitab-i-Iqan again. He is taking a single verse and analyzing it for us. He begins by pointing out that a literal interpretation is impossible.
Behold, then, the foolish ones of bygone times and those who, in this day, await the advent of such a being! Nor would they ever bear allegiance unto him except that he appear in the aforementioned form. And as such a being will never appear, so too will they never believe. Such indeed is the measure of the understanding of these perverse and ungodly souls! How could those who fail to understand the most evident of the evident and the most manifest of the manifest ever apprehend the abstruse realities of the divine precepts and the essence of the mysteries of His everlasting wisdom? 73
Look, though, at the people who await such a mythical being. They are being foolish. Of course, the natural question is are we awaiting such a mythical being? If so, then are we foolish, too? And if we can't see that this is a metaphor, then what chance do we have of actually understanding the real mysteries latent within the divine teachings?
I shall now briefly explain the true meaning of this utterance, that thou mayest discover its hidden mysteries and be of them that perceive. Examine then and judge aright that which We shall reveal unto thee, that haply thou mayest be accounted in the sight of God amongst those who are fair-minded in these matters. 74
Fortunately, Baha'u'llah comes to our rescue. Not only are we to ponder, meditate, reflect, and consider, we are also to examine.
Know then that He who uttered these words in the realms of glory meant to describe the attributes of the One Who is to come in such veiled and enigmatic terms as to elude the understanding of the people of error. Now, when He saith: “His eyes were as a flame of fire”, He alludeth but to the keenness of sight and acuteness of vision of the Promised One, Who with His eyes burneth away every veil and covering, maketh known the eternal mysteries in the contingent world, and distinguisheth the faces that are obscured with the dust of hell from those that shine with the light of paradise. Were His eyes not made of the blazing fire of God, how could He consume every veil and burn away all that the people possess? How could He behold the signs of God in the Kingdom of His names and in the world of creation? How could He see all things with the all-perceiving eye of God? Thus have we conferred upon Him a penetrating vision in this day. Would that ye believe in the verses of God! For, indeed, what fire is fiercer than this flame that shineth in the Sinai of His eyes, whereby He consumeth all that hath veiled the peoples of the world? Immeasurably exalted shall God remain above all that hath been revealed in His unerring Tablets concerning the mysteries of the beginning and the end until that day when the Crier will cry out, the day whereon we shall all return unto Him. 75
With His eyes He burns away the veils, allows us to see the truth He is teaching, and then separates the gold from the dross. After all, if we have been shown the truth and still deny, then what good are we?
As to the words “brass-like were His feet”, by this is meant His constancy upon hearing the call of God that commandeth Him: “Be thou steadfast as thou hast been bidden.” He shall so persevere in the Cause of God, and evince such firmness in the path of His might, that even if all the powers of earth and heaven were to deny Him, He would not waver in the proclamation of His Cause, nor flee from His command in the promulgation of His Laws. Nay rather, He will stand as firm as the highest mountains and the loftiest peaks. He will remain immovable in His obedience to God and steadfast in revealing His Cause and proclaiming His Word. No obstacle will hinder Him, nor will the censure of the froward deter Him or the repudiation of the infidels cause Him to waver. All the hatred, the rejection, the iniquity, and the unbelief that He witnesseth serve but to strengthen His love for God, to augment the yearning of His heart, to heighten the exultation of His soul, and to fill His breast with passionate devotion. Hast thou ever seen in this world brass stronger, or blade sharper, or mountain more unyielding than this? He shall verily stand upon His feet to confront all the inhabitants of the earth, and will fear no one, notwithstanding that which, as thou well knowest, the people are wont to commit. Glory be to God, Who hath established Him and called Him forth! Potent is God to do what He pleaseth. He, in truth, is the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. 76
What can I really add to this? He is so clear in His explanation that it doesn't need any further comment. I could, of course, make mention of the order in which He states these things, it doesn't seem to add much to what has been written before.
And further He saith: “Out of his mouth goeth a two-edged sword.” Know thou that since the sword is an instrument that divideth and cleaveth asunder, and since there proceedeth from the mouth of the Prophets and the Chosen Ones of God that which separateth the believer from the infidel and the lover from the beloved, this term hath been so employed, and apart from this dividing and separating no other meaning is intended. Thus, when He Who is the Primal Point and the eternal Sun desireth, by the leave of God, to gather together all creation, to raise them up from the graves of their own selves, and to divide them one from another, He shall pronounce but one verse from Him, and this verse will distinguish truth from error from this day unto the Day of Resurrection. What sword is sharper than this heavenly sword, what blade more trenchant than this incorruptible steel that severeth every tie and separateth thereby the believer from the infidel, father from son, brother from sister, and lover from beloved? For whoso believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him is a true believer and whoso turneth away is an infidel, and such an irrevocable separation occurreth between them that they will cease to consort and associate with each other in this world. And so it is between father and son, for should the son believe and the father deny, they will be severed and forever dissociated from each other. Nay rather, thou witnesseth how the son slayeth the father and the father the son. Consider in the same light all that We have explained and related unto thee. 77
Again, what can I add? He is not being ambiguous at all, but rather as clear as can be. Time and time again He is showing us how much more powerful and true these words are when we read them as metaphor, as opposed to taking them as literal. This is such a major part of His Writings at this time, helping us see past the literalism of His day and understanding the truth that is latent within these words.
Wert thou to behold all things with the eye of discernment, thou wouldst indeed see that this divine sword doth cleave asunder generations. Would that ye could understand it! All this is by virtue of the word of separation that is manifested on the Day of Judgement and Separation, were the people to take heed in the days of their Lord. Nay, couldst thou but sharpen thy sight and refine thy heart, thou wouldst witness that all the material swords which in every day and age have slain the infidels and waged war against the impious proceed from this divine and invisible sword. Open then thine eyes, that thou mayest behold all that We have revealed to thee and attain unto that which none other hath attained. We verily exclaim: “Praise be to God, He Who is the Lord of the Day of Reckoning!” 78
This is it, isn't it? If you take these prophecies literally, then you have missed the point and are likely in the same camp as the fanatics who have blindly followed the religious leaders of the past. You will likely make similar decisions as those of old did, hurting or killing someone believing that this is somehow virtuous. All the while, though, you are forgetting that basic principle of love. He is doing all He can to ensure that we don't all into that sad trap.
Yea, inasmuch as these people have failed to acquire true knowledge from its source and wellspring, and from the ocean of fresh and soft-flowing waters that stream, by the leave of God, through hearts that are pure and stainless, they have been veiled from that which God hath intended by those words and allusions and have remained confined within the prison of their own selves. 79
Why would He refer to this as "the prison of their own selves"? I'm not sure, but I suspect it might be because this attitude of literal belief, and defending it with such animosity arises from this "I'm right" attitude. For so many people the ego is so strong that if anything appears to go against it, it feels as if it is an attack on their very life. By taking so strong a defense, they are in fact imprisoning themselves within their own very limited belief structure. They point to others and say, "See? So many of us can't be wrong. We must be right." And this further prevents them from trying to see a different point of view.

Today this is as important as ever. With the way that the internet is structured, we tend to only see those perspectives that reinforce our own. this is the way the search engines are built. This is the way that the advertising is designed. We are not challenged in our views, but rather have our views bolstered by surrounding ourselves with those that agree with us. The internet has, in essence, become one of the greatest tools of the collective ego.

By deliberately seeking out other perspectives, though, and by challenging our beliefs to stand up in the face of testing, we not only encourage the attitude of independent investigation, we actually strengthen our own beliefs. How? Well, if there is a weak spot in our belief structure, then challenging it will expose it, and we can make it stronger. It's like testing the foundation of a building. If there is a weak spot, then the building is likely to collapse later on. If we test it, however, we can discover the weakness ahead of time and fix it.
We render thanks unto God for that which He hath bestowed upon us of His grace. He it is Who hath caused us to be assured of the truth of His Faith—a Faith which the combined forces of earth and heaven are powerless to resist. He it is Who hath enabled us to acknowledge Him in the day of His presence, to testify unto Him Whom God shall make manifest in the latter Resurrection, and to be among them that have believed in Him ere His appearance, that His favour may be made complete unto us and unto all mankind. 80
And don't take my word for it. Test it. Try it. This Cause is so strong that nothing can break it. Oh, sure, our understanding of it may have it weaknesses, and this is why we need to continually study. This is why we need to test this faith of ours in the field of action. Nothing short of this can prove its strength. The attacks on the Covenant had to be so brutal and fierce in order to prove its strength.

Today, we can truly thank God for this sheltering Faith, for nothing can resist it.

1 comment:

  1. I am sending strength your way so that you can complete your goal! I have been thoroughly enjoying this study and your persistence. I hope it isn't too taxing for you to complete it. Also I hope the fair goes well!