Friday, March 9, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 36 - 41


I woke up yesterday with a stiff neck and sore shoulders, and it's even worse this morning. I'm going to try and type this up before I go in search of a massage, but if I don't finish, I apologize ahead of time. Of course, if I don't finish, you won't see this, so you won't know why. Oh well, the joys of trying to be rational during the Fast.

Know thou of a truth that the seeker must, at the beginning of his quest for God, enter the Garden of Search. In this journey it behoveth the wayfarer to detach himself from all save God and to close his eyes to all that is in the heavens and on the earth. There must not linger in his heart either the hate or the love of any soul, to the extent that they would hinder him from attaining the habitation of the celestial Beauty. He must sanctify his soul from the veils of glory and refrain from boasting of such worldly vanities, outward knowledge, or other gifts as God may have bestowed upon him. He must search after the truth to the utmost of his ability and exertion, that God may guide him in the paths of His favour and the ways of His mercy. For He, verily, is the best of helpers unto His servants. He saith, and He verily speaketh the truth: “Whoso maketh efforts for Us, in Our ways shall We assuredly guide him.” And furthermore: “Fear God and God will give you knowledge.” 36
Ahhh. The "Garden of Search". This is the starting point, just like the Valley of Search in the Seven Valleys. To begin, you have to actually step into it. This requires conscious will and effort. And like all the other places where Baha'u'llah describes this beginning, He also describes what we must do to progress.

Aside from the detachment mentioned earlier, He also talks about not allowing either love or hate to get in the way. Here He puts in a very helpful clarifier: "to the extent that they would hinder him". He is not saying that we shouldn't love, or hate, I guess, but that we shouldn't love to such an extent that it becomes a barrier. While it's easy to put this in the perspective of loving someone so much that you forget to spend time with anyone else, or even on your spiritual search, I think there is a more applicable example.

I have a large number of friends who so love Jesus, for example, that this love becomes a barrier to them even considering any religious teacher who is not-Jesus. Or there is the friend who is so in love with the fact that Jesus came from a virgin birth and rose from the dead that without those two points as part of the story, he has no interest.

On the flip-side, there are the people who are so prejudiced against anyone from the Middle East that when they find out that Baha'u'llah was born in Iran, that itself becomes a barrier."Where do you think Jesus was born," I ask them, "Peoria?" Sheesh. That's the mid-West, not the mid-East.

The next point is that we should recognize that the various gifts we have come from God. It is only up to us to develop them. This is part of what the beginning of that prayer means to me; "All praise, o my God, be to Thee..." We should approach with humility, giving due reverence, and not boasting of our own meager accomplishments. This puts us in the position of being lower, able to receive the divine waters that flow from on high. If we place ourselves above, then the water flows away from us. Not good, that.

But in addition to this, we also need to make an effort. And not just any effort, but our best effort. For only then can God guide us. Here it is like the car. Only when the car is moving can we steer it.

The last point I want to address here is "Fear God and God will give you knowledge." Fear is such an interesting word. We often think of it in terms of terror, but that is the extreme end of the fear spectrum. And that doesn't make sense to me. If I'm totally paralyzed with terror, what can I learn? "Aaaaahhhhh!!!!!!" Doesn't do me much good. Nope.

The near end of the fear spectrum is a mild discomfort. When I am uncomfortable, then I am in a better position to recognize something new. This is, in a sense, what is meant by "moving out of your comfort zone". And when I contemplate God, I get a little uncomfortable. For example, I'm sitting here typing this blog, and perhaps someone may read it. Maybe in a week or two, someone else might read it. I may be writing something that someone will read in a year or so. But what about in 50 years? What will I do today that will be remembered in 50 years? Honestly, I can't think of anything. But even if I could, so what? What about 1000 years from now? Or a million? Or ten billion years from now? You see, all this is but a blink in the eye of God. When we take a moment to contemplate eternity, it should make us a little uncomfortable with our own feeble mortality.

And when I do this, then I get the sense inside that I am more ready to contemplate this message that Baha'u'llah has brought.
In this journey the seeker becometh witness to a myriad changes and transformations, confluences and divergences. He beholdeth the wonders of Divinity in the mysteries of creation and discovereth the paths of guidance and the ways of His Lord. Such is the station reached by them that search after God, and such are the heights attained by those who hasten unto Him. 37
Ok. I'm not really going to write about this above paragraph because it feels more like a coda to what I just wrote about fear and eternity, and the prelude to the next paragraph. Let's move on.
When once the seeker hath ascended unto this station, he will enter the City of Love and Rapture, whereupon the winds of love will blow and the breezes of the spirit will waft. In this station the seeker is so overcome by the ecstasies of yearning and the fragrances of longing that he discerneth not his left from his right, nor doth he distinguish land from sea or desert from mountain. At every moment he burneth with the fire of longing and is consumed by the onslaught of separation in this world. He speedeth through the Paran of love and traverseth the Horeb of rapture. Now he laugheth, now he weepeth sore; now he reposeth in peace, now he trembleth in fear. Nothing can alarm him, naught can thwart his purpose, and no law can restrain him. He standeth ready to obey whatsoever His Lord should please to decree as to his beginning and his end. With every breath he layeth down his life and offereth up his soul. He bareth his breast to meet the darts of the enemy and raiseth his head to greet the sword of destiny; nay rather, he kisseth the hand of his would-be murderer and surrendereth his all. He yieldeth up spirit, soul, and body in the path of his Lord, and yet he doeth so by the leave of his Beloved and not of his own whim and desire. Thou findest him chill in the fire and dry in the sea, abiding in every land and treading every path. Whosoever toucheth him in this state will perceive the heat of his love. He walketh the heights of detachment and traverseth the vale of renunciation. His eyes are ever expectant to witness the wonders of God’s mercy and eager to behold the splendours of His beauty. Blessed indeed are they that have attained unto such a station, for this is the station of the ardent lovers and the enraptured souls. 38
Now that our search has resulted in the incredible fruits of witnessing these changes and beholding these wonders, we enter the City of Love and Rapture. Once we have found what we are looking for, that great treasure we have worked so hard to find, we are in love. We are overjoyed. We are practically in a state of delirium, so overcome are we with this feeling. It is like the night that Mulla Husayn first met the Bab. The Bab would not let him go for concern that people would see him and think that he was mad. This whole paragraph, while speaking of the intensity of this love, also points to its apparent madness. We go from one extreme to another, back and forth, in a manic rush as we try to encompass these new feelings. And none of it matters. All that is anything is but a token of this love.

But, eventually, our heart does grow. We are able to encompass these feelings. We do settle down. And this is when we go from the overpowering rush of the new to the more calm recognition that our love is everywhere.
And when this stage of the journey is completed and the wayfarer hath soared beyond this lofty station, he entereth the City of Divine Unity, and the garden of oneness, and the court of detachment. In this plane the seeker casteth away all signs, allusions, veils, and words, and beholdeth all things with an eye illumined by the effulgent lights which God Himself hath shed upon him. In his journey he seeth all differences return to a single word and all allusions culminate in a single point. Unto this beareth witness he who sailed upon the ark of fire and followed the inmost path to the pinnacle of glory in the realm of immortality: “Knowledge is one point, which the foolish have multiplied.” This is the station that hath been alluded to in the tradition: “I am He, Himself, and He is I, Myself, except that I am that I am, and He is that He is.” 39
This is that point at which we begin to more calmly see the overpowering truth of the past. Previously, when Baha'u'llah talked about signs, allusions and veils, He was referring to the prophecies and sacred Texts of the past. I get the sense that He is here, too. When I re-read the Bible, for example, and look at those passages that confused me when I was younger, they now so clearly point to Baha'u'llah that I am stunned that I didn't see it then. Even way back in Genesis 1:16, there was an unusual piece, "God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars." In all the previous days He named what was created, but not here. The sun had been made previously, so the greater light shouldn't be the sun. So what was it? And now it seems to me that all of Genesis 1 is a metaphor for spiritual creation, and here, on Day 4, is what I now see as such a clear reference to the Twin Manifestations.

Everything, and I mean everything, in the Bible "culminate(s) in a single point."

This is the City of Divine Unity, for now I read all the various sacred Books of the past and I see the synonymity of them all. They are all pointing to that same Primal Point, and on to Baha'u'llah.
In this station, were He Who is the Embodiment of the End to say: “Verily, I am the Point of the Beginning”, He would indeed be speaking the truth. And were He to say: “I am other than Him”, this would be equally true. Likewise, were He to proclaim: “Verily, I am the Lord of heaven and earth”, or “the King of kings”, or “the Lord of the realm above”, or Muḥammad, or ‘Alí, or their descendants, or aught else, He would indeed be proclaiming the truth of God. He, verily, ruleth over all created things and standeth supreme above all besides Him. Hast thou not heard what hath been said aforetime: “Muḥammad is our first, Muḥammad our last, Muḥammad our all”? And elsewhere: “They all proceed from the same Light”? 40
Now, when I read this paragraph, I am overwhelmed by the many layers of meaning. "I am the Point of the Beginning"? There He is in Day 4 of Creation. I could even say that He is the light on Day 1. This is actually true.

But is He something else? Of course.

Is He the Lord of heaven and earth? Of course. Is He the King of Kings? There is no doubt. Is He the Lord of the realm above? Yes. Is He that divine light that shone through Muhammad or any of the Imams? Definitely.

You see, when we recognize this absolute unity of all the Manifestations, these questions almost, but not quite, seem absurd. To me, they seem so obvious now. But at the same time I well remember my own confusion about it, and so I can totally understand the importance of these questions.
In this station the truth of the unity of God and of the signs of His sanctity is established. Thou shalt indeed see them all rising above the bosom of God’s might and embraced in the arms of His mercy; nor can any distinction be made between His bosom and His arms. To speak of change or transformation in this plane would be sheer blasphemy and utter impiety, for this is the station wherein the light of divine unity shineth forth, and the truth of His oneness is expressed, and the splendours of the everlasting Morn are reflected in lofty and faithful mirrors. By God! Were I to reveal the full measure of that which He hath ordained for this station, the souls of men would depart from their bodies, the inner realities of all things would be shaken in their foundations, they that dwell within the realms of creation would be dumbfounded, and those who move in the lands of allusion would fade into utter nothingness. 41
Well, I'm reading and re-reading this paragraph and struggling to find anything to say about it. I mean, it is so true, as with everything else. But I guess I am just so overwhelmed by the beauty of these past few passages that I cannot think of anything more to add.

Except for one thing.

I'm curious. Why is it that search is a garden, while love and rapture, and unity are both cities? This will be my point of meditation for the rest of the day, whether working on my jewelry, walking in the woods, or hopefully lying on the massage table.

Addendum - My wife just pointed out that gardens are about the relationship of nature to itself, while cities are about the relationships between people.

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