Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Rising Seas: Kitab-i-Aqdas, paragraph 2

They whom God hath endued with insight will readily recognize that the precepts laid down by God constitute the highest means for the maintenance of order in the world and the security of its peoples. He that turneth away from them is accounted among the abject and foolish. We, verily, have commanded you to refuse the dictates of your evil passions and corrupt desires, and not to transgress the bounds which the Pen of the Most High hath fixed, for these are the breath of life unto all created things. The seas of Divine wisdom and Divine utterance have risen under the breath of the breeze of the All-Merciful. Hasten to drink your fill, O men of understanding! They that have violated the Covenant of God by breaking His commandments, and have turned back on their heels, these have erred grievously in the sight of God, the All-Possessing, the Most High.

As I'm sure you know, dear Reader, this is the second paragraph of the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

In the first paragraph, we noticed that our first duty is recognition, and that from this recognition comes the genuine desire to be obedient. After all, it says that it "behooveth everyone who reacheth this most sublime station... to observe every ordinance" of Him. So, presumably, if you haven't recognized, then this doesn't apply to you.

Here, though, in paragraph 2, He moves us forward a bit. In that first paragraph we seem to obey just because we recognize, and that's ok. After all, if we truly understand that Baha'u'llah has been sent by Almighty God, and is the "one Whose presence ‘He Who conversed with God’ (Moses) hath longed to attain, the beauty of Whose countenance ‘God’s Well-beloved’ (Muḥammad) had yearned to behold, through the potency of Whose love the ‘Spirit of God’ (Jesus) ascended to heaven, for Whose sake the ‘Primal Point’ (the Báb) offered up His life", then of course we will obey what He says.

But now He goes further. We don't just obey blindly. We obey because we understand that all of His laws and ordinances are the best, if not only, way for us to maintain order in the world and see to the security of all peoples. Of course, when we look at these laws it just makes sense. Mind you, He hasn't told us what these laws are yet. For many of us, at this point in the book, we are still thinking about the laws of the past, and that's ok. "Don't kill"? I can see how that would lead to greater security. "Don't lie"? Makes sense to me.

These precepts, or general rules, that Baha'u'llah has brought will also lead us forward as a human race. We are seeing this so much more clearly today than we ever have in the past. With all that is going on in the world, the very idea of the "oneness of humanity", and its implications on security, is becoming ever more crystal clear.

And anyone who thinks otherwise, of course we would think them "abject and foolish".

But, again, Baha'u'llah does not stop there. He reminds us that this will not be easy.

"Refuse... evil passions and corrupt desires..." Even if we recognize, we're still tempted by these desires. We're hardwired for them, genetically. Nobody denies this. The more we learn about our development as a species, the more we recognize this. Our sexual desires, our aggressive behaviours: these used to be needed for our very survival. Way back when, it was these habits that allowed us to survive and thrive in a very harsh world.

But they are not all that we were hardwired for. We are also hardwired to gather in groups. As we look back throughout known history, we can see this very clearly. We gathered in family clans, for example, back in the Tanakh, or the Old Testament. We moved forward and gathered in cities, in the Gospel. We continued to move forward and developed the concept of the nation in the Qur'an. Today we are moving even further and beginning to understand the concept of a global community. The more we learn about ourselves, the more we see that our hardwiring is not the simplistic set of base behaviours that the psycho-sociologists would have had us believe a hundred years ago. We are far more complex than that. We now know that we have a choice as to which of our genetic behaviours we wish to follow. For years, even millennia, we have followed our base desires. Now we can more consciously choose to follow our desire for community, instead.

Another thing that stands out in this paragraph for me is the use of the analogy of the wind and the sea: "The seas of Divine wisdom and Divine utterance have risen under the breath of the breeze of the All-Merciful."

It's a very interesting analogy.

When, I have to wonder, do the seas rise? Well, they usually rise and fall under the influence of the moon, But that's not what He says here. Today, He tells us, they are rising due to the breeze.

Ok. When do the seas rise due to a wind? During a storm. And not just during any storm, but due to a particularly violent storm.

And yet Baha'u'llah has referred to this wind as a "breeze", and it's not just any breeze, but the "breeze of the All-Merciful". Strange.

Why would this be?

For an answer, I had to turn to Shoghi Effendi in the very beginning of the World Order of Baha'u'llah letters. You see, Baha'u'llah also references those who have "violated the Covenant of God", and this reminded me of the Covenant-breakers. So naturally my thoughts turned to the World Order letters, in which Shoghi Effendi is offering his comments to explain why the ones who were violating the Covenant at that tie were mistaken. He is answering their complaints. And despite the consternation that the National Assembly must have felt at that time, he says to them, and to us, "We should feel truly thankful for such futile attempts to undermine our beloved Faith..."

These tests and trials, which seem like such a storm to us are, in fact, a blessing. It is these very attacks, these storms, that are designed to "fortify our faith, to clarify our vision, and to deepen our understanding of the essentials of His Divine Revelation."

This also reminds me of what Baha'u'llah said in the Kitab-i-Iqan. He said, "the more closely you observe the denials of those who have opposed the Manifestations of the divine attributes, the firmer will be your faith in the Cause of God." Without those tests and trials, without those denials, we would not have this ability to firm up our faith, so to speak.

It really is quite fascinating to dive deeply into this work with my wife. We have read this book so many times, and these paragraphs in particular even more, but still, studying it with her has opened up so many new vistas. We are only beginning to appreciate the richness of this Most Holy Book.

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