Monday, September 23, 2013

Everything Between

As I said in the previous article, there is so much more to talk about regarding "heaven and earth and all that lies between" them.

I already mentioned how it can relate to the image of the ringstone symbol, but there is another one that comes to mind: the human being.

For example, there is the head, which contemplates heaven, and there are the feet that walk the earth. Between them is "That which He hath reserved for Himself... the cities of men's hearts". And where the centre line in the ringstone symbol represents the Message that connects the three levels of creation, it is also the same Message that connects these three levels within us.

Like the ringstone symbol, we can see ourselves simplistically in terms of three levels all contained within a single unity which is the symbol itself. We can be seen as the micro version of the ringstone symbol. In fact, Baha'u'llah Himself says "Man is the supreme Talisman." And a talisman, as you know, is a symbol, an object thought to have magical powers and producing miraculous effects. Doesn't that describe the miracle of the human being quite well?

When speaking of the hearts of men, He says "Open, O people, the city of the human heart with the key of your utterance." And again, "The Word is the master key for the whole world,", He says, "inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked."

The doors of the hearts are in reality the doors of heaven. Wow. I had never really thought of my heart in that way before, but it does add a greater significance to that aspect of the human being when teaching.

In many other posts I have referred to the importance of the heart, such as how the unity prayer, the one that begins "Unite the hearts of Thy servants...", both begins and ends with the heart.

But again, looking at this quote about heaven and earth and all that lies between, and comparing it to the human, we can start at the beginning and see what happens. Now I'm not saying that this an authoritative way of understanding this. It is, after all, only my personal opinion, and you can take it or leave it, but I find it useful to try looking at the Writings in this way.

So, let's start with the mind. "God's greatest gift to man", said 'Abdu'l-Baha, "is that of intellect, or understanding." He points out that the intellect is not for "the purpose of making instruments of destruction; but that we might become diffusers of light; create love between the hearts; establish communion between the spirits and bring together the people of the east and the west."He describes the intellect as "supernatural", the one power of humanity that is neither "hereditary in origin" nor the outcome "of nature's processes". It is through this power of the intellect that we are "able to receive a larger share of the light Divine". In the human being, He says, "the intellect occupies the supreme station", for through it we can distinguish truth from superstition. Through it, "sciences and arts, all inventions, crafts, trades and their products" have been discovered and produced.

And yet, this power has its limits. "(B)y means of intellect alone he cannot accomplish the progress effected by religion." It is not perfect, nor eternal. "Human intellects themselves must change and be subject to the universal reformation". This is a point where the analogy breaks down, but I think it is still useful. It does highlight the importance of the intellect in recognizing the divine.

From there, let's go to "the earth", or the feet. Now again, it may just be me, but when I think of the "feet", I think of movement, action. I think of deeds. And, naturally, when I think of deeds, I think of that line from the Hidden Word, "Let deeds, not words, be your adorning." But I also think of another line from the Hidden Words, "Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds." You see, we won't be called to give an account for our thoughts, or our intentions. Instead we shall be asked about our deeds. What did we actually do in our life? So many of the greatest ideas in the world remain there, in the realm of ideas. They are never put into action, for whatever reason. They stay there, in the head, so to speak.

The question, of course, is how to remedy that. How can we move our ideas, our intentions, from the head down to the feet? That image of the ringstone symbol, the concept of ""heaven and earth and all that lies between" them, gives to me the answer: through the heart.

There is so much in the Writings about putting our noble ideas into action, and the effect this can have upon the world. In The Advent of Divine Justice, Shoghi Effendi dedicates a very lengthy paragraph to this theme, beginning on page 23 and going for more than entire page. It is in this paragraph that we find such gems as "The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct." Here he quotes the passage in which it says that Baha'u'llah's "object is to array every man with the mantle of a saintly character, and to adorn him with the ornament of holy and goodly deeds." On and on he goes about this extremely important theme, far too long for me to quote here.

Another passage that comes to mind is that celebrated quote from Epistle to the son of the Wolf in which Baha'u'llah describes His receiving of the Revelation. He says that He "felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast", or that which is in between. Note how it moves from the head and over the breast, the seat of the heart. It seems to trace the passage of that central line from the ringstone symbol, and we find that same passage within ourselves, too. As we study the Writings, as we dive deeper and deeper into their meaning, our hearts become ever more touched. And as we become more inspired by what they contain, we find ourselves motivated to do more out of our love for this Faith of ours.

No matter where we enter this vast ocean of Baha'u'llah's revelation, we will find pearls of priceless value. And they will always lead us on to greater action. We begin with the ideals of heaven, as espoused in the Writings, and find our own clumsy way of striving to put them into action, here on earth. And somewhere in between, we find our hearts are touched, inspired, and that is where we will find the King of Kings sitting, smiling in appreciation of our efforts.

Of course, in my case, that smile of His is probably hiding a snicker.

1 comment:

  1. I've been meaning to write about the heart, because Baha'u'llah tells us the heart is the place where God resides, and He wants us to sanctify it for His descent.

    In the Hidden Words, there are 37 references to the heart and God’s desire to live there. There are 11,764 references to “heart” in Ocean, and I don’t have the time to do a thorough search on this topic. I leave it to other researchers!