Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tablet of Ahmad, Section 2, Part 2, Addendum

My wife is ill today. She has a bad cold. That's the downside.

The upside is that I was able to read some of the past few articles to her and get her feedback.

Normally I would take her comments and just sort of insert them in the article itself, hopefully unnoticed by anyone but me. But in this case, her point is too good, too profound, and too thought-provoking. Well, actually, it's that it's too long to put into a sentence or two.

Regarding yesterday's article about the Tablet of Ahmad, she pointed out that I seemed to have missed addressing:
"Produce it, O assemblage of false ones.
Nay, by the One in Whose hand is my soul, they are not, and never shall be able to do this, even should they combine to assist one another."

To be honest, I thought I had addressed it, but if she missed it, I guess I did, too.

My thought was that everybody has a proof that works for them regarding their own faith path. Those proofs tend to fall into two diferent categories: silly and profound. If the proof is silly, which it rarely is, people are often aware of it, and will actually admit it, when it is pointed out with love and humour. If the proof is profound, as it often is, the same proof can be applied to Baha'u'llah, or any of the Messengers of God.

I had read this passage with the understanding that it is impossible to come up with a good proof that cannot be applied to all the other Messengers.
Marielle, on the other hand, had a different understanding of this same piece. And that is something that I just love about this Faith of ours: we can all have our own understanding of the Writings, and, as long as it doesn't completely contradict a basic tenet of the Faith, nobody can say we're wrong.
So she linked these sentences a bit more closely to the ones just before them. She reads it more as "If you deny the verse above that says you have to let people choose their own path, then by what proof have you believed in God? Just try to produce it, and you won't be able to." He then goes on and calls the people who do that "False Ones".
She points out, very cogently I might add, that if you read it as I did, then it might appear insulting to people of other faiths. And that just doesn't seem right.
Whereas I read "these verses" as referring to the Bayan, she reads it as referring to the verses about the freedom of choice.
And you know, I think both are valid. We may have a preference one way or the other, but both make sense to me.
Now, let me expand a bit more on what I see within Marielle's interpretation.
If someone is, say, a Christian, and they don't believe in Baha'u'llah's verses, fine. We accept that. They are, after all, entitled to choose their own path. This is a given. But then, if we read this section the way I have, there appears to be a bit of defensiveness coming into it. Well, maybe defensiveness isn't the right term (in fact, I know it isn't). But it could read as if Baha'u'llah is saying, "Don't believe these verses? Just try and do better. You can't, you false one." And that would be an unnecessary insult. After all, we've just acknowledged that the freedom of choice is there, so why be insulting about choosing differently?
No. I don't think this is what Baha'u'llah is doing, and neither does Marielle.
In fact, upon re-reading this passage in the context of the Tablet, I now see a couple of questions that arise. First, who is Baha'u'llah referring to when He says "O people" in the passage that continues "if ye deny these verses"? Second, which verses are He referring to?
From my own reading of it, it seems that this whole section, the second part of the Tablet, is about Ahmad "calling the believers in the divine unity", and therefore the "people" may be referring to the Babis. On the other hand, it could also refer to all those who arise to teach like Ahmad, which also seems quite plausible. On the third hand, which gets into all sorts of genetic mutation scenarios which I will henceforth ignore, it could also refer to all the people of the world, but then we get into the insult scenario, and that seems unlikely to me. So, for myself, I will think of Him as primarily referring to the second set, as that would also include me in my own daily life.
Now, about "these verses". He could be referring to the recently mentioned Bayan, in which case if He is addressing the Babis, may be a reminder to look at His own Writings and then decide if He is "Him Whom God shall make manifest". If a Babi were to decide that they accept the Bab's Writings, and then turn around and deny Baha'u'llah's, claiming that any Babi could write them, He probably wouldn't look too kindly on that, and the accusation of "false ones" could sure apply.
On the other hand, He may be referring to the previously mentioned sentences that speak about freedom to choose. If this is the case, then He seems to be addressing all of us who arise to teach as Ahmad did. And if He is, then it is a reminder to allow those we teach the freedom to choose their own path. This makes a lot of sense to me, as if we do not allow others that freedom of choice, then our own faith is quite suspect, and seemingly filled with egotism. In this case, too, the accusation of "false one" would also be justifiable.
On the not-to-be-mentioned third hand, "these verses" could also refer to His own body of Writings. If that is the case, and it seems unlikely to me, than anybody who is not recognizing Baha'u'llah's Writing as coming from God would be deemed a "false one". And here I have to think it cannot be, for then we are denying people that freedom which was just mentioned a sentence earlier. It would be like saying, "You can choose any path you want, but if you choose the wrong one, you're an idiot." That just doesn't seem right to me.
So once again, I find by discussing the Writings with someone, especially to one as dear to my as my sick wife (physically ill, and not a reference to her state of mind for having said 'yes' when I proposed), I come to a new, and probably better, understanding of the Writings.
Now I can't wait to look at the third section. Perhaps after I get home from the dentist.

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