Thursday, March 8, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraph 31 - 35

Were the peoples of every nation to observe that which hath been mentioned, the matter would be made simple unto them, and such words and allusions would not withhold them from the Ocean of the names and attributes of God. And had the people known this truth, they would not have denied God’s favours, nor would they have risen against, contended with, and rejected His Prophets. Similar passages are also to be found in the Qur’├ín, should the matter be carefully examined. 31
"Simple" is such an amusing term to me. It doesn't mean easy. It means that there are few steps involved. A task with only twp steps is easy, but may require a lot of effort, such as lifting a sofa onto a truck. Another task may require little effort, but be phenomenally complex, such as hooking up all your electronic gadgets to work through the same speakers.

When I talk with people about their religious beliefs, it seems to me that they have come up with some exceedingly complex theories to explain what seems to me to be a relatively simple issue, such as the purpose of life. Another example would be the existence of evil. Honestly, the list could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

The point here seems to be that nothing we come up with in our own minds should become a barrier between us and God.

Another thing here is that little path in the middle of it. I try to always be on the lookout for these, for they tend to be most illuminating. I've been doing some studies of the Writings with a number of friends over the years, and they are all experts now at finding these little paths. They pop up in the most remarkable places, sometimes in the most remarkable ways.

What do I mean? Well, in this paragraph it's here: "they would not have denied God’s favours, nor would they have risen against, contended with, and rejected His Prophets". First, you deny God's favours. This could take many forms. The most obvious to me is to claim that your own successes are through the results of your own efforts, solely. Whenever anything really good, or even a little good, happens to me, I try to remember to thank God for it. (Thank you God for helping me remember to put that in here.) When you deny God's hand in these bounties, you are taking a fairly sold step on the path of the ego. But let's be clear, this is only a single step. It may have been an oversight, as it so often is in my own life. There are many times when I look back on my day or my week and realize that I haven't expressed my gratitude to God for far too long. The second step is when you actually rise up against God. This would be when something good happens and someone points out that you should express gratitude to God, or whatever, for that bounty. No, you might say, it was through my own efforts. And while this may be true, there is also a point at which God helped, or perhaps your parents, or some other outside agency. You should express your gratitude. There is, after all, a reason why there are the thank you speeches at the Oscars. Even so self-centred a culture as Hollywood recognizes that you can't do it all on your own. But then comes the Manifestation strongly reminding us of this point. This is when we may contend with Them. Over and over throughout history we can see this happening. People strongly argue against the Manifestation over just such an issue. And this is when we reject Them.

The reason I am so grateful for having these little pathways scattered throughout the Writings is that I feel I learn so much from them. This one, for example, powerfully reminds me of the importance of gratitude in my own life.
Know, moreover, that it is through such words that God proveth His servants and sifteth them, separating the believer from the infidel, the detached from the worldly, the pious from the profligate, the doer of good from the worker of iniquity, and so forth. Thus hath the Dove of holiness proclaimed: “Do men think when they say ‘We believe’ they shall be let alone and not be put to proof?” 32
Now, where were we? Which "words" is He referring to? Those words in the Writings that become a barrier between us and God. When we use a verse in the Gospel, such as "My words shall never pass away", then we are demonstrating our own infidelity to the spirit of the Law. In each and every Dispensation, the arguments that were used against the new Manifestation are the same arguments that were used against the One that they currently follow. The Christian leaders, for example, recognize the spiritual nature of the prophecies in the Tanakh, but say that theirs are literal. They use one argument while denying its use to another. This type of hypocrisy is one way in which we find ourselves "sifted".

And then, just in case anyone missed it, there is another little path. In fact, there are two.

On the one path, which we can see in the first half of each pairing, we find the believer leading to the detached to the pious to the doer of good. On the other side is the infidel to the worldly to the profligate to the worker of iniquity.

Oh, but wait, I hear you say. Isn't the goal to be a believer? Isn't that the end of the road?

I had just the same question, dear Reader. And this is why I looked at it again.

It seems to me that becoming a believer is just the beginning. It's like signing a declaration card or enrolling in the Faith. That, as we all know, is just the beginning. How many people claim to be a believer in some religion, yet prove themselves false by their very actions? It's like the man who claimed to be a Baha'i and asked Baha'u'llah to help him out of his poverty. Later, when asked about sending his payment of Huququ'llah, he refused, claiming that gold was now his god. He ended up losing everything, and realized how attached he had become to his wealth, and spent the rest of his life copying the Writings for people, detached at last. You see, once we believe, then we can really understand what detachment is all about. And yet, it is quite possible to be detached, and just not care about anything. We can just sit back and watch the world go past in a lazy stupor, with nobody knowing anything about what we believe. We have to show forth piety. We need to demonstrate this reverence we have for God. But it doesn't end there. The world is filled with pious people who talk and talk, but do nothing. We need to translate our words into tangible action. We need to actually strive to make this world a better place.

Path upon path. The Writings are just filled with all these hints and clues, both oblique and obvious, about how we can better ourselves and the world around us.
It behoveth him who is a wayfarer in the path of God and a wanderer in His way to detach himself from all who are in the heavens and on the earth. He must renounce all save God, that perchance the portals of mercy may be unlocked before his face and the breezes of providence may waft over him. And when he hath inscribed upon his soul that which We have vouchsafed unto him of the quintessence of inner meaning and explanation, he will fathom all the secrets of these allusions, and God shall bestow upon his heart a divine tranquillity and cause him to be of them that are at peace with themselves. In like manner wilt thou comprehend the meaning of all the ambiguous verses that have been sent down concerning the question thou didst ask of this Servant Who abideth upon the seat of abasement, Who walketh upon the earth as an exile with none to befriend, comfort, aid, or assist Him, Who hath placed His whole trust in God, and Who proclaimeth at all times: “Verily we are God’s, and to Him shall we return.” 33
Ah, the "wayfarer". Now, all of a sudden Baha'u'llah is bringing us back to the Seven Valleys. But this time the path is leading us to detachment "from all who are in the heavens and on the earth." Remember detachment? It is the central theme of the first part of the Kitab-i-Iqan. It has come up in this little volume a number of times already.

Here the reminder is that we have to be detached not only from material things, but also those intangibles, such as people's opinions of both ourselves and the ideas that are being shared. We also need to be detached from the thought of heaven as some sort of reward, or hell as a punishment. These things can all get in the way of our unfettered search for truth.

Then, when we do find ourselves with some sort of understanding, the rewards here are not quite what we may have expected: a tranquil heart, and peace with ourselves.

This caused me to sit up and wonder. I had to ponder it for quite some time. Still do.

The implication is that without this knowledge of the divine texts, we are not at peace, neither with the world nor with ourselves. We are disturbed and off balance. Further to that, our heart is the seat of God within us. Imagine trying to sit on a throne that is rocking off balance, heaving to and fro. It is no wonder that God does not care to sit there.

Ok, I think the metaphor may break down there, but you get the idea. By learning these truths that Baha'u'llah has already shared with us herein this book, we will find ourselves at peace, and probably a greater peace than we ever dreamt possible. We will likely find ourselves aware of just how disturbed we may have been in the past, unaware all this time because we didn't know any different, didn't know any better.
Know thou that the passages that We have called “ambiguous” appear as such only in the eyes of them that have failed to soar above the horizon of guidance and to reach the heights of knowledge in the retreats of grace. For otherwise, unto them that have recognized the Repositories of divine Revelation and beheld through His inspiration the mysteries of divine authority, all the verses of God are perspicuous and all His allusions are clear. Such men discern the inner mysteries that have been clothed in the garment of words as clearly as ye perceive the heat of the sun or the wetness of water, nay even more distinctly. Immeasurably exalted is God above our praise of His loved ones, and beyond their praise of Him! 34
Here, Baha'u'llah is reminding us that He is speaking for us, in our terms. He recognizes our loss, our inability to see these things and acknowledges that we find these verse ambiguous. He, however, does not.
Now that We have reached this most excellent theme and attained such lofty heights by virtue of that which hath flowed from this Pen through the incomparable favours of God, the Exalted, the Most High, it is Our wish to disclose unto thee certain stations in the wayfarer’s journey towards his Creator. Perchance all that thine eminence hath desired may be revealed unto thee, that the proof may be made complete and the blessing abundant. 35
By this point, my brain is turning to mush.

Baha'u'llah has reached another "excellent theme" and will move onto another topic in the next few paragraphs. he is going to describe this journey upon which we are embarked.

He has already looked back at some of the texts from the past and helped us see past some of the ambiguities, giving us a clearer vision of our own prejudices that may have obscured them to our vision. He has already warned us of the shallowness of some of the arguments we will likely encounter as we continue our studies. And He has begun to help us figure out the best way to examine the claims of, in this case, the Bab.

He has looked back just long enough to allow the fetters of the past fall away from our ankles. Now He is going to describe the path upon which we are walking as we move forward.

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