Monday, September 26, 2011

A Drop of Oil

As you know, I get a lot of my inspiration about what to write by what I read in the mornings. Well, also from talking with my wife about what I read, but you get the idea. I was going to write more about Gleanings CXXVIII, but I read this other passage from Shoghi Effendi the other day, and thought I would take a moment to write about this first.

I'll try to get back to that passage from Gleanings later, I promise.

My wife and I are planning a bit of a program for the celebration of the Birth of the Bab, on 20 October, and we were looking for ideas and inspiration in the Writings. Even though we may not use this particular quote, Marielle was so taken with the beauty of this one that I decided I should look at it.

"Lastly", says Shoghi Effendi in Citadel of Faith, "the Holy Seed of infinite preciousness, holding within itself incalculable potentialities representing the culmination of the centuries-old process of the evolution of humanity through the energies released by the series of progressive Revelations starting with Adam and concluded by the Revelation of the Seal of the Prophets, marked by the successive appearance of the branches, leaves, buds, blossoms and plucked, after six brief years by the hand of destiny, ground in the mill of martyrdom and oppression but yielding the oil whose first flickering light cast upon the somber, subterranean walls of the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, whose fire gathered brilliance in Baghdad and shone in full resplendency in its crystal globe in Adrianople, whose rays warmed and illuminated the fringes of the American, European, Australian continents through the tender ministerings of the Center of the Covenant, whose radiance is now overspreading the surface of the globe during the present Formative Age, whose full splendor is destined in the course of future milleniums to suffuse the entire planet."

What a sentence. Yes, it really is only one sentence. You know, I'm convinced that at some point in the future we will have a new adjective in the English language: Effendian. This will refer to any sentence or paragraph, or piece of writing, that is quite lengthy, but absolutely precise in its use of words. To remove any clause from an Effendian sentence, or to try and separate it into a few sentences, undermines the elegant structure of the whole piece and thereby causes it to either lose its meaning, or, at the very least, severely diminishes the emotional and intellectual impact of it. My own writing, as you well know dear Reader, is very far from Effendian.

Looking back at this sentence, again, we can see that there is a beautiful story contained or told within the poetry of it.

It begins with a seed. But not just any seed. It is a seed of "incalculable potentialities". It is a seed that will grow more than just a flower or a tree. It is a seed that will grow beyond anything we have ever seen.

Where does this seed come from? It is the seed that has grown from the tree whose tale is told in the full history of religion, beginning with Adam and concluding with Muhammad, including all the various Messengers and Manifestations in between. Shoghi Effendi is helping us visualize the entire religious history of humanity as a single body, a  tree, continually growing in strength and powers, maturing, and developing its branches, on which grow the leaves, amidst which is a bud, which in turn develops into a blossom which matures, until it finally gives forth its fairest fruit. And there, within that precious fruit, lies a seed.

That fruit, as we well know, and as he alludes to, was plucked off the tree after a very short time. It is an obvious reference to the Bab, Whose ministry was cut short when He was martyred. He was, as Shoghi Effendi says with such beauty, "ground in the mill of martyrdom and oppression".

This simple metaphor, that of grinding a seed in a mill, is one that is easy to relate to. It is an action that many throughout the world, and certainly all those in the Middle East, have seen many times. It is, after all, how we get the olive oil from the olives.

From there, once we have the oil, it is further refined and can then be used, for example, as the oil for a candle. Remember, the oil that the Jews have used for millennia in many of their rituals was a refined olive oil. This is something that is very familiar to those of us with even a cursory understanding of religious history.

Once we have this refined oil, it is then ignited by a single spark. The Guardian now shifts his reference to Baha'u'llah, and shows how this same Spirit which was found in the tree of faith throughout all history, which found its fruit in the Bab, has now been further refined in the Essence of Baha'u'llah.

Once it caught fire, it began to glow ever brighter, shining its light further and further afield, moving as Baha'u'llah Himself moved, always increasing in its intensity, until its rays were cast throughout the world. This light was then further nurtured by 'Abdu'l-Baha, and then by the Guardian himself. Now, of course, it is being cared for by the Universal House of Justice, and is being encouraged to burn ever more brightly.
While Shoghi Effendi does not say that everyone on the planet will either become Baha'i, or become members of the Baha'i Community, he does promise us that this light's "full splendor is destined in the course of future milleniums to suffuse the entire planet".

And what a beautiful promise that is. It is, full pun intended, heart warming.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gleanings CXXVIII, take 2

Well, that was unexpected. I didn't expect the feedback I got from the previous article, but then again, I guess it shouldn't be too much of a surprise. After all, I was writing about a drop of that fathomless Ocean. (Actually, what has surprised me is that of all the comments that came in, not a single one was in the comment section on the blog itself. Any reason for that, dear Reader? Anything I can do to make it easier to leave comments?)

Anyways, I heard your request and I do take it to heart.

Oh, I'm sorry. Which request? Well, as you so sagely pointed out, I only looked towards the end of that passage in Gleanings, the last 3 out of the 11 that are there. "Why", you asked, "don't you begin at the beginning?"

Okey dokey, artichokey.

Aside: Have I ever mentioned that I love my Mother? (And yes, I know that "Mother" should only be capitalized when used as a name. Tough.) I'm sure I have. Well, one of her most endearing traits is her sense of humour. There was a time when she was in Japan for a wedding, and was talking with the grandmother of the bride, a little old Japanese lady. (The grandmother, not the bride.) Anyways, during this conversation, my Mom used the phrase "okey dokey artichokey". And this little old lady who spoke very little English loved it. So, what did Mom do? She taught it to her. And boy, did this woman use it. She went around for the rest of the wedding and whenever she agreed with anything, she would pipe in, "okey dokey ahta chokee." It brings a smile to my face whenever I picture her saying it.

I'm sorry. Where was I? Oh, yes. Back to Gleanings. Might as well start at the beginning and go 1 paragraph at a time. Well, here it is. Paragraph 1 of Gleanings CXXVIII (128, for those of who don't read Roman):
Say: Doth it beseem a man while claiming to be a follower of his Lord, the All-Merciful, he should yet in his heart do the very deeds of the Evil One? Nay, it ill beseemeth him, and to this He Who is the Beauty of the All-Glorious will bear Me witness. Would that ye could comprehend it!
Now, please remember, I'm reading this passage as if it were all about teaching the Faith, but this is not the only way to read it. It's just the way I'm reading it today. In other words, I'm not an authority, and this is just my own thought on it.

Here, in the beginning of this passage, Baha'u'llah poses a very interesting question. Is it reasonable to say that you are a follower of God, but to do nasty things in your heart? Obviously, the answer is no.

But let's look again at what He actually says. He's not talking about committing the "deeds of the Evil One". He's talking about doing them in our heart.

This reminds me of Jesus, in Matthew 5:28, where He says, "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." It's a very interesting condemnation, for it is, in a sense, addressing thought-crime. It follows, in a very real sense, Exodus 20:17, the 10th Commandment, which says, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Note that this is not about adultery or stealing, but about coveting. Having the desire itself is breaking the Commandment. (Theft and adultery are covered in number 7 and 8.) (And lying about it to try and cover your tracks is addressed in number 9, so there just isn't any way around it.) In fact, if you don't even allow yourself to desire, then there is really no chance of breaking the other Commandments. As Paul says, in his letter to James, "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

Baha'u'llah seems to be reminding of this important Commandment right here at the beginning of this passage.


Well, obviously I don't know, but it seems to me that this all ties in to purifying ourselves in order to be the most effective teacher we can. People can spot a hypocrite a mile away, and we if are talking about things that we don't believe in, people can sense it. Later, in this very section, Baha'u'llah tells us, "Unless he teacheth his own self, the words of his mouth will not influence the heart of the seeker." So here, right at the start, He is guiding us towards this.

As Baha'u'llah is moving us further into the piece, let's go on to the second paragraph:
Cleanse from your hearts the love of worldly things, from your tongues every remembrance except His remembrance, from your entire being whatsoever may deter you from beholding His face, or may tempt you to follow the promptings of your evil and corrupt inclinations. Let God be your fear, O people, and be ye of them that tread the path of righteousness

You see, it all comes back to the heart. I wonder how many times I've used that phrase in this blog. Lots, I imagine. The prayer, "Unite the hearts of the Thy servants", begins and ends with the heart. The Arabic Hidden Words begins, in a sense with the heart: "...possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart..." In the beginning of the Kitab-i-Iqan, Baha'u'llah tells us to "sanctify your souls", and explains that one part of doing this is to cleanse our "hearts from worldly affections". Even at the very beginning in Gems of Divine Mysteries, He comments that "the sweet accents of thy soul were heard from the inmost chambers of thy heart".

Yes sir. The heart is extremely important. It is, after all, His home, "the habitation of My beauty and glory".

A few paragraphs later, He goes on to explain what is meant by "the world", but for now it is enough to see what He says here. We need to cleanse our hearts, our tongues and our entire being from anything that could lead us to temptation. Quite the tall order, that, but one that has been suggested in virtually all the sacred Books of the past.

Finally, He offers the guidance that will aid us in this: "Let God be your fear..." I wrote a bit about the idea of the "fear of God" in a previous post, so I won't go into it too much more here. But since it was so obviously misunderstood in one of the comments, I'll just re-iterate a bit here. We, mostly in the West, have mis-understood the word "fear". It is not the same as terror. It means a mild discomfort, a cautionary awareness of the immense power at play. When you fear the fire, it doesn't mean that you are mortally terrified of it, but that you exercise due caution when utilising it.

In one of His Tablets, He writes, "The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined to but a few; all have not possessed and do not possess it."

In other words,shame will protect us from committing bad acts, but not everyone has this sense. It is like the sense of sight: there are a few who are blind. If we are devoid of this sense of shame, then the fear of God will be a good substitute. We can be concerned about disappointing our Creator, seeming unworthy of His creation of us. This, too, will help keep us on the right track, that "path of righteousness."

But this probably enough for today. I could easily go on and on about this topic, but I have to conduct a workshop on meditation in an hour, so I better go get ready. Hopefully I'll be able to look more at this section again tomorrow.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Gleanings CXXVIII

"Teach ye the Cause of God", I read this morning, "...for God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His Message..." Obviously this was nothing new, for I had read this passage many times, had it read to me many times. "Teach. Teach! TEACH!" That was the message I had heard over and over.

But this morning, as the hot coffee scalded away the scratchiness in my throat, it suddenly took on a different tone.

There was no longer the angst-laden insistence that was in the background of those few who had subjected me to their intonation when reading it. There was no longer the pressure of conversion that I had felt from that minority who saw it as a defense for their interpretation of the rightness of their triumphalistic attitude.

This morning, as I sat there in the quiet coffee shop, with the steam swirling upward in its Brownian dance, it became a simple observation of a task that was both routine, and demanding of the utmost attention. It was no different than telling the gardener to water the plants, or the barristas to grind the beans.

That passage, as with most of the familiar quotes we use in our daily life, was not revealed in isolation. It was part of a much longer passage, which can be found in Gleanings (number CXXVIII, if you're interested).

I began by looking at the part that was marked in my book. Oh, it was one of those mornings where I kind of opened the book at random to just see what would pop out. As you can imagine, the book fell open to a page that I often read. (The downside of opening a book at random like that is that you never randomly read the first few or last few pages. You always end up somewhere in the middle.)

I noticed, as I usually do, that Baha'u'llah says that this is "prescribed unto every one", not just a few. But then, in the very next sentence, He says that it "is acceptable only when he that teacheth the Cause is already a firm believer in God". So teaching is a rule that is to be followed. It is, in a literal sense, a duty that is ordained. We don't seem to really have a choice. But, and here's the kicker, it is only acceptable if we are a believer in God. Note that He doesn't specify being a Baha'i, but that we have to be a believer in God. Interesting.

As you can imagine, that got me thinking.

"What", I wondered, "is the context of this quote?" As I said, it doesn't appear in isolation, but is toward the end of a much larger quote. So I went back a paragraph and checked it out.
Be fair to yourselves and to others, that the evidences of justice may be revealed, through your deeds, among Our faithful servants. Beware lest ye encroach upon the substance of your neighbor. Prove yourselves worthy of his trust and confidence in you, and withhold not from the poor the gifts which the grace of God hath bestowed upon you. He, verily, shall recompense the charitable, and doubly repay them for what they have bestowed. No God is there but Him. All creation and its empire are His. He bestoweth His gifts on whom He will, and from whom He will He withholdeth them. He is the Great Giver, the Most Generous, the Benevolent.
Interesting, I thought. While I had also read this passage many times, I had always seen it in terms of material substance, such as the trustworthiness the Bab showed when He gave the owner of some goods far more money than he had asked for regarding their sale. The man wanted to return some of the money, but the Bab refused, saying that the goods had achieved that value while in His custody, and it was only just and fair the He give the man that amount.

Now the passage took on a different tone to me, as I read it in terms of preparing me for the next paragraph, which was about teaching the Cause.

To start, He brings our attention to the importance of justice, and how we should be fair to both ourselves and others. Naturally, this brought to mind the second Hidden Word, in which we  are told that through the aid of justice we will see through our own eyes, and not those of others. We will also know through our own knowledge, and not through the knowledge of our neighbours. To me, this is a strong reminder of how we should teach. We should allow others to come to their own realizations and epiphanies and not insist that they understand things as we do, for then they are not knowing things through their own knowledge, but through ours.

Then the very next word is "Beware". Immediately He is cautioning us, raising our keen awareness that we may be in danger of something. What is it? We are in danger that we might "encroach upon the substance of your neighbour." What does that mean? Well, as I said, I had often read it in terms of physical stuff, like trespassing on someone's property, or borrowing something without asking, but now I have to wonder if there is more to it. Isn't our greatest substance our spirit? Our perspective? Our point of view? It is this that I think we are in most danger of encroaching upon.

When we are discussing matters of the spirit with others, that is when we are most open, and most vulnerable. It is during these discussions that we need to be most careful, recognizing that we are walking on sacred ground. It is at these times, especially when talking with people who believe differently from us, that we most need to prove ourselves "worthy of his trust and confidence". We need to be extra careful to respect their ideas and opinions while, at the same time, sharing with them the perspective and thoughts we find in the Writings. Remember, Baha'u'llah has also told us in this same sentence "withhold not from the poor the gifts which the grace of God hath bestowed upon you."

While I had often thought of this in terms of charity, and such like, it now occurs to me that the Writings themselves are a source of wealth. In fact, we are told to offer the teachings as if we were offering a gift to a king. So, to one who is not aware of the Writings of Baha'u'llah, it is as if we are offering great wealth to one who is poor, and that is the spirit which we are asked to adopt when teaching.

What happens then? Knowledge, unlike diamonds and gold, does not leave us when we share it with others. It is multiplied, for we still have it, and now so do they. But something else interesting occurs: we learn, too. As anyone knows who has shared the Writings with others, it is the teacher who learns the most. God recompenses the charitable, as Baha'u'llah says. We are doubly repaid, if not more, for what we have given.

Rereading this paragraph in terms of the next one, where it tells us to teach the Cause, has really given me a new perspective of it.

This morning, as my now cool coffee sat there practically untouched, I read, once again, to the end of that passage, and was struck by how often Baha'u'llah seems to warn us about our attitude when teaching. Don't resort to violence.  Beware not to contend with anyone. Make sure we are teaching with a kindly manner. If someone denies what we offer, we should turn to God. Don't dispute with anyone. On and on He goes, continually reminding us that our attitude is so important.

But then, just before I got up to go, I looked back at the very beginning of this passage, a few pages earlier and realized that this whole section is all about teaching.

And so, dear Reader, my encouragement to you today: go back to that passage one more time, Gleanings CXXVIII, and try reading it again, remembering that the reaction we elicit when we teach is but one aspect of this worldly realm, and see what you find in it that pertains to our teaching work. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wrestling with the Divine

You may recall an article I wrote a while ago, Creation, in which I looked at Genesis 1. I did so with an eye towards finding some of the "spiritual meanings hidden in the heart of the words", as 'Abdul-Baha put it. Needless to say, I haven't finished. I'm still looking for more of the "spiritual meanings".

Just the other day I was reminded of the story of Jacob, and decided to revisit Genesis, and the story of Jacob, in particular. I was reminded of how he wrestled with an angel, and I was left wondering why this would have been the case. I mean, it sure seems like an odd pastime, if you ask me. I could think of many better things to do with my time. And if I met an angel, wrestling it is not one of the first things that would cross my mind.

Aside - A number of years ago I was visiting a friend's church, and had the pleasure of sitting next to the Reverend over lunch. He looked a bit embarrassed, because they were using paper plates and party napkins with the WWF logo on them. And no, it wasn't the World Wildlife Fund. It was the World Wrestling Federation. I smiled at him, hoping to dispel his discomfort, and said that this was appropriate. After all, I reasoned, wrestling is a sport found in the Bible.

But back to Jacob. To recount, Jacob had already received the blessing from his father, Isaac, and he had been married for some time. He was successful in his life, with a lot of sheep, and a very healthy family. It was at this time that he chose to return home and see his brother again. But, since he had tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing instead of his brother, he was a bit fearful that his brother might want to kill him.

"Should I? Shouldn't I?" He was obviously torn as to whether or not he should go back. He, in fact, wrestled with this question.

It was at this point that he was visited by a "man", wrestled with him throughout the night, and when the "man" realized that he could not overpower Jacob, dislocated his hip. Yowch. That had to have hurt. And Jacob, instead of letting go, asked for a blessing. (Again, not the first thing that would have crossed my mind to do.) This is when he was called "Israel", "he who has striven with the divine".

There are many interesting aspects to this story, not the least of which is how Jacob asked for a blessing, instead of any other gifts he may have requested. No. It was a blessing that was most important to him.

My question, though, is what else can we learn from this, besides the importance of a blessing?

Well, to start, I think it there is a lesson about the divine, or sacred Text. When reading Genesis, it is sometimes very difficult to figure out the history as it does not always appear to be what we would call "historically accurate". There seem to be a few areas which are unclear.

In our culture, speaking as a North American, we tend to try and read everything as if it is a scientific treatise, clear and concise from start to finish, hence the propensity of many to try to read a literal interpretation of it. But this is not always the case, nor should it be. Poetry, for example, is often non-linear and laden with multiple meanings.

When trying to describe the indescribable, I believe that the sacred Books of the world also speak in a way that would lead us to contemplate, not to merely cognate.

There are many problems that tend to creep up when you try to take sacred text too literally. The main one, of course, is that you lose the overall sense of spirit. As I often say, the underlying message of Jesus is that of love. If there is anything in His message that leads us to anything other than love of another, we can be fairly sure that we have misunderstood it. Similarly, the underlying message of Baha'u'llah is that of unity. If there is anything in His teachings that leads us anywhere other than unity, then we can be sure that we need to meditate on it more, for we have missed the point.

But let me be clear: this is not easy. It is a long and difficult process for most of us.

It is, to me, like Jacob wrestling the angel. It is arduous, and we can even get hurt in the process. But ultimately, it is well worth it.

When we wrestle with the divine, grapple with difficult issues, put aside our own pains and passions, then we can, at last, arrive at a point where we can receive that blessing.

But the struggle is never with anyone else. It is always within ourselves. And this, perhaps, is why it was an angel that wrestled with Jacob, and not another human being.

In fact, when we look at the story, don't we see ourselves in his position? Aren't we scared of what others may think, or do? Aren't we overly conscious of the wrongs we have committed, and fearful that those we wronged will want some sort of revenge? But then, when we grapple with the spiritual issues within us and face those of whom we are scared, we find a loving brother ready to embrace us.

Yeah. I just love the story of Jacob.

Perhaps I'll look at the story of Joseph another time.

Whatever. I can guarantee, though, that I'll continue to look at Genesis and see what other little spiritual gems are hidden within it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Simple Fable

One day, not so very long ago, the good King was riding his horse in the countryside, enjoying the warm summer sun and the pleasant breeze. He greeted everyone he passed, praised the gardens of those he saw, and showered them all with his love.

As the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, the King realized that he was beginning to get a bit hungry. He saw a pleasant little inn just over the ridge and decided to stop in for lunch.

After a very nice meal, the waitress asked him his name. He told her, and she then asked him what he did for a living.

"Well," he said, "I'm your King."

She looked at him as if he were joking and said, "Good sir, everyone knows that the King is always surrounded by his bodyguards and his court. Where are all these people, if you are the King?"

He smiled at her, pleased that she was so aware, and said, "I left them all back at the castle, for I wanted a day on my own to be able to enjoy a pleasant ride in the kingdom."

But the waitress was not convinced.

"Good sir," she persisted, "everyone knows that the King wears the finest of clothes, and that on his head is a crown. If you are the King, why, then, are you wearing such plain clothes?"

Again, the King smiled at her perception. "My good lady," he replied, "when you go out in the fields, do you wear your finest clothes, or do you, instead, dress in clothes that are more practical?"

But the waitress would still not be convinced.

"All right then," she insisted. "If you are the King, where is your heart-shaped birthmark?"

This took the King by surprise, for he had no birthmarks, and told her so.

"See", she said, as if proving that she was right. "Everyone knows of the old prophecy that the good King would be marked with love. And this obviously means that he has a birthmark in the shape of a heart. So if you don't have one, you obviously can't be the King."

At that, the King smiled patiently, but was a bit saddened by this. "My love", he told her, "is in my heart, and can be seen through my actions. Whether or not I meet your expectations, this doesn't change my reality. A good day to you, my kind woman."

He paid for his meal, leaving her a generous tip, and headed back to the castle, refreshed by his joyous ride in the country.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It's Obvious

When I first began writing this blog, I thought that I had very little to say. In fact, I thought that all I would be able to do would be provide a bit of entertainment for a few friends, and hopefully draw a bit of attention to a few quotes from the Writings.

You, dear Reader, have shown me that I was wrong.

While I still don't believe that I have anything profound or incredible to say, I do believe that my perspective is worth sharing.

And while I'm at it, I should add that I believe your opinion is just as worth sharing.

While none of us may have an authoritative understanding of the Writings, we all have something worth sharing.

There is a saying attributed to Baha'u'llah, in Stories from the Delight of Hearts, in which He says that the Master listens to everything someone else says. Baha'u'llah is reported to have said, "He listens very carefully to the most hollow and senseless talk." So I guess it's ok if I share. :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why I Believe

"Why are you a Baha'i?" That question has been asked of me so often recently that I thought I would just write it down. I've written my declaration story. I've written a bit about how I practice my faith. But I don't think I've ever really talked about why I am a Baha'i.

Well, it all starts a long time ago when I realized that my beliefs were just a bit different than those around me. Without going into much detail, I started church hopping, going from church to church to see what I could learn. It was a wonderful time, but the churches I happened to choose to visit all had the same tendency to say "We're right and everyone else is going to hell." Later this became tempered to "We're right and everyone else is wrong." Better, but still not good. It leaves no room for learning from others, and is still fairly condemnatory. (Is that a word?) (If not, it should be.)

Anyways, during this time, I began checking out other religions besides Christianity and that was when I first ran across the Baha'i Faith. When I started reading the Writings, I found there were many things I questioned, or even disagreed with. As time went on, however, I found that I came to agree with Baha'u'llah's vision.

I began to see Him as an authority, and was eventually convinced that His view of reality was far more accurate than my own. It got to the point where I realized that He was right so many times that on those few occasions when I disagreed with what He said, I went with what He said over what I believed. Eventually, by taking what He said for granted, I came to realize that He was actually correct.

And really, is this any different than a student who trusts what their teacher says? Once the teacher has proven themselves as an authority, the student accepts what they say. They may not always know why, or how, but they trust their teacher. They accept the fact that they will probably understand later.

But let me be clear: I, for one, do not advocate blind faith. As 'Abdu'l-Baha said, "By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds."  I believe that everyone should strive to find their own authority that they accept in their life, being conscious of it and understanding why they accept that authority. If they truly believe that they, themselves, are their highest authority, then I would wonder about their ego, but I would not suggest that they blindly follow someone else. Oh, and after this authority is acknowledged, then it is time to act on it. After all, what good is it to believe in something and then not act on it? As Baha'u'llah said in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, once we have recognized, then it is our duty "to observe every ordinance of Him" that we accept.

That sort of reminds me of Mark Twain when he said, "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." If you can read, but don't, what good does your ability do for you?

I believe the way I do because I searched. I took what Baha'u'llah said and I tested it, to the best of my ability. This is not to say that if I was not convinced according to my own deficient standards, Baha'u'llah would be any less. No. It just means that I would not have become a Baha'i.

Anyways, I tested what He said, and every single time His Writings just made more and more sense.

Eventually, I was convinced that He was a greater authority on reality than I am, and I began to take what He said as truth. When He said that He was a Messenger of God, well, I just had to accept that, too. It was not fathomable to me that He could have been wrong, or lied about it. He had convinced me.

Still does.