Sunday, March 4, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 13 - 16

Day 3 of the Fast. Paragraphs 13 through 16. Now you may be wondering about this, for in the introduction I said 6 or 7 paragraphs a day. Well, in retrospect I realized that some of these paragraphs are quite long, at least for me during the Fast, and so 6 or 7 paragraphs at a time was a bit much. Besides, sometimes a "section" just sort of ends after the fourth or fifth paragraph. So I'm modifying my plan. Instead of going by paragraphs, I noticed that there are 76 pages to this little volume. 76 / 19 = 4, so I am aiming for four pages a day instead. On average. We're already beginning on page 11, so we're way ahead of the game here. You see, this is the problem with not having read it ahead of time. Except that I have read it before. It's just been a long time, so I've forgotten almost everything.

For now, my computer is facing the large eastern window in my house, breakfast is almost ready, so we may as well begin.

Oh, and please, I would love to read any other thoughts on this text in the comments. Really. I would. It's just not the same studying a text on your own, which is why I am so glad you've decided to join me. Thanks.

Be fair in thy judgement and reflect upon these exalted utterances. Inquire, then, of those who lay claim to knowledge without a proof or testimony from God, and who remain heedless of these days wherein the Orb of knowledge and wisdom hath dawned above the horizon of Divinity, rendering unto each his due and assigning unto all their rank and measure, as to what they can say concerning these allusions. Verily, their meaning hath bewildered the minds of men, and that which they conceal of the consummate wisdom and latent knowledge of God even the most sanctified souls have been powerless to uncover. 13
"Reflect". This is something that always stands out to me, especially in Baha'u'llah's early writings. How often does He tell us to ponder, meditate, reflect? And when does He tell us to do this? It is always after He has made a point that may go against what is commonly believed. In the previous few paragraphs He quoted some well-known phrases from the Gospels referring to the return of Christ. These are phrases that are often taken literally, and have become the cause of many people missing the advent of Muhammad. But wait! Isn't the guy to whom He is writing a Muslim? Of course he is. And that seems to be the point here. He seems to be asking this man to reflect on how the literal interpretation of these phrases became the cause of people missing Muhammad, and is planting the seed that the same reasoning may be why people have missed the Bab. "Be fair in thy judgement", He says. If this reason for denial is not valid for the Christians to Muhammad, then it is not valid for the Muslims to the Bab.

But don't take Baha'u'llah's word for it. Ask, He says, those whom you regard as the leaders of your faith. Note, however, that they are not offering any proof of their claim to authority, for only the Manifestation can do that. The criteria are right there in the Qur'an. They offer no proof of their authority, aside from a piece of paper, perhaps, that says they have earned as degree. They are the very ones who are denying that this is the Day of Judgment. But go ahead, ask them. See what they say about these verses that Baha'u'llah just quoted.

Should they say: “These words are indeed from God, and have no interpretation other than their outward meaning”, then what objection can they raise against the unbelievers among the people of the Book? For when the latter saw the aforementioned passages in their Scriptures and heard the literal interpretations of their divines, they refused to recognize God in those who are the Manifestations of His unity, the Exponents of His singleness, and the Embodiments of His sanctity, and failed to believe in them and submit to their authority. The reason was that they did not see the sun darken, or the stars of heaven fall to the ground, or the angels visibly descend upon the earth, and hence they contended with the Prophets and Messengers of God. Nay, inasmuch as they found them at variance with their own faith and creed, they hurled against them such accusations of imposture, folly, waywardness, and misbelief as I am ashamed to recount. Refer to the Qur’án, that thou mayest find mention of all this and be of them that understand its meaning. Even to this day do these people await the appearance of that which they have learned from their doctors and imbibed from their divines. Thus do they say: “When shall these signs be made manifest, that we may believe?” But if this be the case, how could ye refute their arguments, invalidate their proofs, and challenge them concerning their faith and their understanding of their Books and the sayings of their leaders? 14
One possible response they could give is that these verses are meant to be taken literally. If that's the case, then how can they censure the Jews and Christians who offered that same rationale for why they disbelieved?

Nope. Literal interpretation of spiritual prophecies is not an excuse that they can offer, for it was denied those that came before them.

And should they reply: “The Books that are in the hands of this people, which they call the Gospel and attribute to Jesus, the Son of Mary, have not been revealed by God and proceed not from the Manifestations of His Self”, then this would imply a cessation in the abounding grace of Him Who is the Source of all grace. If so, God’s testimony to His servants would have remained incomplete and His favour proven imperfect. His mercy would not have shone resplendent, nor would His grace have overshadowed all. For if at the ascension of Jesus His Book had likewise ascended unto heaven, then how could God reprove and chastise the people on the Day of Resurrection, as hath been written by the Imáms of the Faith and affirmed by its illustrious divines? 15
A second possible answer that they can give is that the true Bible was taken away when Jesus ascended to heaven. Now, silly as this may seem, there is this belief amongst a significant number of Muslims, I've been surprised to discover. I have had, in personal conversations with Muslim friends, this very reason given to me. And you know what? I have offered the same response that Baha'u'llah does here: "That doesn't make sense."

How could a just and loving God send His only begotten Son with divine wisdom and knowledge only to take it away from us after He returns to heaven? If He did this, then by what reason would He be able to condemn the people for failing to recognize the Prophet? They would have had no possible way of recognizing Him.

So these are the two main objections that tend to be offered, even today. And Baha'u'llah us reasonable ways to offer argument to both.

Ponder then in thine heart: Matters being such as thou dost witness, and as We also witness, where canst thou flee, and with whom shalt thou take refuge? Unto whom wilt thou turn thy gaze? In what land shalt thou dwell and upon what seat shalt thou abide? In what path shalt thou tread and at what hour wilt thou find repose? What shall become of thee in the end? Where shalt thou secure the cord of thy faith and fasten the tie of thine obedience? By Him Who revealeth Himself in His oneness and Whose own Self beareth witness to His unity! Should there be ignited in thy heart the burning brand of the love of God, thou wouldst seek neither rest nor composure, neither laughter nor repose, but wouldst hasten to scale the highest summits in the realms of divine nearness, sanctity, and beauty. Thou wouldst lament as a soul bereaved and weep as a heart filled with longing. Nor wouldst thou repair to thy home and abode unless God would lay bare before thee His Cause.
Remember what I just said about "reflect", "ponder", and "meditate"? This man has just read his own very condemnation of the peoples of the past who denied Muhammad, and now been shown that these same arguments against them apply to his own religious leaders. He will very naturally have a reflexive reaction pushing away this idea, much like the leg kicking when the knee is tapped with a hammer. And here, in His manifest compassion, He is giving the reader the chance to allow this reflex to subside. "Take a moment", He says, "and think about this. Am I correct in My observations? I think I am, and I think you'll agree, too. I'll wait."

But here Baha'u'llah is not just asking this man to ponder on what was just said. He is specifically asking him to ponder on the results of his reaction to what He just said. The questions He poses here are, again, a bit of a path.

Many people, when asked about the Day of Judgment, claim that they were only following what the leader of their faith said. But now, seeing that they are offering the same reasons for denial that were turned down in the past, doesn't this make you question their leadership? And if you choose to follow bad leadership, some of the onus is on you.

The questions lead us on a journey. If you turn down your own leader, then you will undoubtedly seek a new one. Where will you go? You must go to a new land, go on a journey, but even then, where will you go? It will take you your whole life, and you will never find a better leader than those you left behind, even unto your dying day, your hour of repose. Then what will become of you? "What shall become of thee in the end?" Who will you obey?

But don't despair. If you truly seek, with all your heart and soul, giving up everything in your search for true leadership, true guidance, you will never think of taking a moment's rest. You would cast aside everything until, at last, God showed you the True Path, which, He implies, does exist.

And now, like the Promised guidance in this small volume, the sun hath risen and I shall continue with my day, as you will, no doubt, continue with yours. See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite part of paragraph 13 was the line "Verily, their meaning hath bewildered the minds of men, and that which they conceal of the consummate wisdom and latent knowledge of God even the most sanctified souls have been powerless to uncover." It made me feel loads better about being confused at times reading the Writings because even if the 'most sanctified souls' are powerless then what should a mere average soul like myself expect? :)