Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Paragraph 111

Yea, inasmuch as the peoples of the world have failed to seek from the luminous and crystal Springs of divine knowledge the inner meaning of God's holy words, they therefore have languished, stricken and sore athirst, in the vale of idle fancy and waywardness. They have strayed far from the fresh and thirst-subduing waters, and gathered round the salt that burneth bitterly. Concerning them, the Dove of Eternity hath spoken: "And if they see the path of righteousness, they will not take it for their path; but if they see the path of error, for their path will they take it. This, because they treated Our signs as lies, and were heedless of them."

Paragraph 8 of 9 in this section regarding how we can only know God through His Messengers.

As we began to talk about this paragraph, we found ourselves talking a lot about interfaith, and looking at the sacred Writings and teachings of all faiths through the lens of Baha'u'llah's teachings. In other words, when we looked at the ideas that He teaches regarding unity, we found ourselves looking at the various teachings in other faiths through this lens of asking ourselves how such and such a teaching leads us towards unity. Of course, you can do this with any faith and their essential teachings. A Christian might well ask how Baha'u'llah's teachings regarding the harmony of science and religion lead us to a greater understanding of love. In the end, we found ourselves asking more and more why people would stray from such a path. Why would someone in the desert wander away from the fresh water?

But the more we talked about this, the less we saw what we could write here.

Then we noticed an interesting phrase that Baha'u'llah uses. He doesn't say that they have strayed from this path. He says, "They have strayed far from the fresh and thirst-subduing waters..." We, as some of the people of the world, have strayed from this life-giving water around which we were gathered. We were actually there, not merely on a path to it.

After all, if we look around today, how many speak of the love of Jesus, but attack their neighbour if they believe differently? How many preach the beauty and the wisdom of Muhammad, yet treat those who are different with no mercy. No matter where we look, we can see people admiring a religion that is truly worthy of admiration, yet acting quite contrary to its fundamental teachings.

Part 1 was about the inner meaning of God's holy words, but if we ignore these ideas, then those holy words are not satisfying. Here, Baha'u'llah speaks plain. He doesn't say we need hydration; He says that we are thirsty. We have been in the desert, wandering lost, searching for the promised land.

Why would someone in the desert wander away from the fresh water? While it may seem puzzling, it makes sense if they are led astray by a mirage. By going after this illusion, they have lost their way. When you are in the desert, this is easier than it seems. And here is Baha'u'llah trying to guide us back.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Paragraph 110

These attributes of God are not and have never been vouchsafed specially unto certain Prophets, and withheld from others. Nay, all the Prophets of God, His well-favoured, His holy, and chosen Messengers, are, without exception, the bearers of His names, and the embodiments of His attributes. They only differ in the intensity of their revelation, and the comparative potency of their light. Even as He hath revealed: “Some of the Apostles We have caused to excel the others.” It hath therefore become manifest and evident that within the tabernacles of these Prophets and chosen Ones of God the light of His infinite names and exalted attributes hath been reflected, even though the light of some of these attributes may or may not be outwardly revealed from these luminous Temples to the eyes of men. That a certain attribute of God hath not been outwardly manifested by these Essences of Detachment doth in no wise imply that they Who are the Daysprings of God’s attributes and the Treasuries of His holy names did not actually possess it. Therefore, these illuminated Souls, these beauteous Countenances have, each and every one of them, been endowed with all the attributes of God, such as sovereignty, dominion, and the like, even though to outward seeming they be shorn of all earthly majesty. To every discerning eye this is evident and manifest; it requireth neither proof nor evidence.

Ah, Seven-of-Nine. No, this is not about Star Trek: Voyager, but rather the seventh of nine paragraphs about how we can only know God through His Messengers.

So here, in this paragraph, in the context of this section of the book, there are three things that stand out to us, and one idea that really overshadows the rest.

The first point that hits us is the idea He mentions of how the light of the Messengers only differs in its intensity, and in relative potency. But what does this mean? Well, obviously we don't really know, but we have a few thoughts. Light is light, and it is all made up of photons, but a candle is not as powerful as a bonfire. An LED is different from an incandescent light, and both differ from other bulbs based on their comparative wattage. And yet, they all give light. The only thing that differs here is the intensity. Brighter and brighter, they all shine forth their photons.

As for its relative potency, we often think of this in relation to each other, comparing one Manifestation to another. But is this really what He means here? It could be, but it could also be relative to the surrounding circumstances. A candle in a dark room shines with far more potency than the same candle in a bright room. Baha'u'llah confirms this point in so many other areas, saying that this Revelation is far greater due to His coming at the darkest point in human history.

And this leads us to the second point that stands out for us, namely the fact that "tabernacles" is plural. He talks about the "tabernacles of these Prophets and chosen Ones of God". You may recall the importance of this word from way back in Paragraph 1, in which we are to enter the tabernacle that has been raised in the "firmament of the Bayan". Here, He reminds us that there are many tabernacles, each one raised under a different sky. Is one tabernacle better than another? Is there any inherent superiority in one over another? They are all the movable tent used for the worship of God. And while we may prefer one over another, for whatever reason, they all house the point of holiness.

Finally, the third thing that stands out for us is the idea that He does not have to prove a negative. Just because a Manifestation didn't need to demonstrate a particular attribute of God does no in any way mean that They did not possess it. Prove it, someone may say. And Baha'u'llah's response is "Why?" It doesn't require proof or evidence. It should be self-evident. After all, if we all have all the attributes of God latent within us, to a greater or lesser degree, why would the Manifestations be any different?

But the thing that overshadows all of this in importance is the idea of absolute unity among the Manifestations of God. We remember reading somewhere that an individual felt that the Kitab-i-Iqan and the Seven Valleys dealt with the same themes. After careful consideration, we agree. It seems that the Iqan begins with the Valley of Search, and leads into our love for the Messengers we recognize, it continues with Baha'u'llah imparting the knowledge that the Bab answers the same prophecies Muhammad does. By the penultimate paragraph of Part 1, we are firm in the knowledge that the Bab is a divine Manifestation, and in the next paragraph, He warns us to not turn aside from He Whom God shall make Manifest.

Here, He is leading us into the Valley of Unity, demonstrating the absolute unity of all the Messengers, before cautioning us not to be merely "content", and holding before our eyes the wonderment of the works of the early Babi heroes, and encouraging us to step forth into the Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness, by giving our entire lives to this faith of ours.

Now, this all leads us to another very important question: What do we do about it? It is very easy to sit back and say "Hurray! We recognized the new Manifestation", but here Baha'u'llah is reminding us that to do so requires that we recognize all the Manifestations as divine Messengers sent down by God.

"Well, of course", we can hear you say, but then we need to sit back and see what this looks like in action. Back at the beginning of Part 2, in paragraph 102, Baha'u'llah talks about soaring "on the wings of renunciation". Renunciation, of course, means not just detaching ourselves from our ego, or from the material things of the world, but actually overcoming the illusion of separateness from others. And here, Baha'u'llah seems to be reminding us that we cannot just sit on our laurels, content in having recognized Him, but taking that extra step of truly understanding that all the Messengers are One in Their very essence. When we do this, then we will do our utmost to help the Christian be the very best Christian they can, by helping them see the greater truths within their own faith, those truths that Baha'u'llah has laid out so plainly for us to see. We will do all we can to help the Hindu recognize the greater vision of Krishna, as expressed through the unity shown to us through the lens of Baha'u'llah's teachings. We will overcome our own possible cultural biases or prejudices towards those of other paths and strive to help all move closer and closer to their divine Creator by helping them recognize the validity of their own professed path.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Paragraph 109

From that which hath been said it becometh evident that all things, in their inmost reality, testify to the revelation of the names and attributes of God within them. Each according to its capacity, indicateth, and is expressive of, the knowledge of God. So potent and universal is this revelation, that it hath encompassed all things, visible and invisible. Thus hath He revealed: “Hath aught else save Thee a power of revelation which is not possessed by Thee, that it could have manifested Thee? Blind is the eye which doth not perceive Thee.” Likewise, hath the eternal King spoken: “No thing have I perceived, except that I perceived God within it, God before it, or God after it.” Also in the tradition of Kumayl it is written: “Behold, a light hath shone forth out of the Morn of eternity, and lo! its waves have penetrated the inmost reality of all men.” Man, the noblest and most perfect of all created things, excelleth them all in the intensity of this revelation, and is a fuller expression of its glory. And of all men, the most accomplished, the most distinguished and the most excellent are the Manifestations of the Sun of Truth. Nay, all else besides these Manifestations, live by the operation of their Will, and move and have their being through the outpourings of their grace. “But for Thee, I would have not created the heavens.” Nay, all in their holy presence fade into utter nothingness, and are a thing forgotten. Human tongue can never befittingly sing their praise, and human speech can never unfold their mystery. These Tabernacles of holiness, these primal Mirrors which reflect the light of unfading glory, are but expressions of Him Who is the Invisible of the Invisibles. By the revelation of these gems of divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty and grace, are made manifest.

In this sixth of nine paragraphs dealing with the theme of how we can only know God through His Manifestations, we see this pyramid of disclosure in its fullest. Everything shows some sign of God, as so aptly stated by the Imam Ali, "the eternal King": “No thing have I perceived, except that I perceived God within it, God before it, or God after it.” Everything shows a sign of God. Man, however, shows all the signs of God. And out of all humanity, it is the Manifestations of the divine spirit that show these signs to the highest degree.

Pretty straightforward.

Over and over again Baha'u'llah is helping raise our vision of the Messengers of God. Over and over again He is helping us see Them in Their highest glory.

But what else is He showing us here? What are some of the hidden paths in this paragraph?

It reminds us of a phrase one of us heard when a child. Someone said "Everything in physical creation can be seen as a metaphor for a spiritual truth." All right, we thought to ourselves, let's test that. And so for years we played this sort of mental game with ourselves. We would look at something, say a flower or a teacup, and ask "How is this a metaphor for a spiritual truth?" Every single time, without fail, we discovered that there was a spiritual truth contained within that object.

A flower? Too easy. There are countless spiritual metaphors about flowers.

A teacup? Well, we knew the Zen teaching, from Nan-in, of having to empty yourself before you can be filled with the spirit. We also learned that a teacup is also a metaphor for the soul after death. We knew that it was made of clay. Now the following is not exactly scientifically accurate, we know, but it works for all intents and purposes. We can say that clay is made up of the part that becomes the ceramic, and another part that burns away in the kiln. Let's call that other part "the organic binders", which is fairly close. It also has water, but we can treat that as one of the organic binders.

Anyways, we can take a piece of clay and form it into a teacup. Then we take this cup and place it in the kiln, for if we don't, it is not useful. It will melt away when we try to drink from it. Only by putting it in the fire, burning away the impurities, and allowing the ceramic to fuse into a glass-like material, will the teacup become useful to us.

Of course, as any potter knows, when you put an unfired piece of clay in the kiln, it shrinks. The amount of shrinkage is dependent upon the amount of impurities, or organic binders, in the clay.

This is like the soul.

As we are living our life, we are building the cup of our soul with the clay of our deeds. Our good deeds are like the pure ceramic, while our not-so-good deeds are like the organic binders (a term all too appropriate). When we go through the trauma of death, it is like having those organic binders burned away in the kiln. And if we lived our life in such a poor way that much of our self burns away, this can be seen as its own form of hell, for we then need to grow all that back in the next world.

And this is just one of many things we can learn from a teacup.

Another example is that of an atom. If we consider an electron, we find that we really know very little about it. We know that if we were to enlarge a hydrogen atom to be one kilometer across, the nucleus would be like a small pebble in the middle, and the electron would be like a grain of sand at the edge. This is all the actual matter contained within a single atom: a pebble and a grain of sand over the distance of a kilometer. But if this is so, why does matter appear solid? The simplistic answer is that it only appears solid due to the relationship that the electrons have with the other atoms surrounding it. When the atom looks at itself, it can truly say, "I am as nothing", for this is virtually nothing within it. But when it sees itself in relation to other atoms then it appears solid. And so, too, it is with humans. When we look at ourselves, on our own, we appear as nothing and can fall into deep depression. But when we see ourselves as part of a community, then we appear ever more solid.

If we can learn these truths from such simple objects, just imagine how much more we can learn from humanity.

And then move it up a notch: how much more can we learn from the example set to us by the Messengers of God.

At this point, He could end His argument in this paragraph and move on, but Baha'u'llah always further elevates our vision. From all creation to the supremacy of humanity, and the supremacy of the Manifestations within humanity, He's shown us how great these Messengers are. But then He spends the second half of this paragraph further elevating our vision of Them. All else lives by Their will. Everything is create by Their grace. It was only for Them that the heavens were created. These are very lofty statements, far loftier than anything we have ever previously seen in religious writings. By Their revelation, all the names and attributes of God were revealed.

So, while we knew that They were special, Baha'u'llah uses this argument of hierarchy help us gain a greater appreciation of Their true station, a station that is far greater than we have ever dreamed.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Paragraph 108

I swear by God, O esteemed and honored friend! Shouldst thou ponder these words in thine heart, thou wilt of a certainty find the doors of divine wisdom and infinite knowledge flung open before thy face.

We can only know God through His Manifestations. We know this. Here, in the fifth of nine paragraphs on this theme, Baha'u'llah encourages us, once again, to "ponder".

But what is it that He is asking us to ponder? "These words"? Which words? We are thinking that it may be that last quote from the previous paragraph, "He hath known God who hath known himself.”

Ponder it? Alright. Let's do that.

If we examine the context of this quote, then perhaps we can begin to see a bit about what He means. We already know from the previous paragraphs that we can never have a direct connection to God. We do know, however, that "within every atom are enshrined the signs" of God. We also know that "To a supreme degree is this true of man". Within each and every one of us "are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God".

And then, after this train of thought, Baha'u'llah offers us these words to consider: "He hath known God who hath known himself."

Now, it is interesting to consider what He doesn't say. At no point does He imply that we will receive infinite knowledge, but merely that the door to this infinite knowledge will be opened before us. We won't necessarily receive this divine wisdom, but that the door to this wisdom will be accessible to us.

In order for this happen, though, we have to know our true self. Part of that is understanding our spiritual nature, but another part of it is understanding our position in the grand scheme of things. Remember way back at the beginning of the Book, we talked a lot about the humility that would be needed to begin to understand what Baha'u'llah is saying? This detachment from our own ideas, and being open to new ways of seeing? Well, isn't that true here, too? Isn't this humility part of taking the step through these open doors? We may have a bit of knowledge, but when we understand that this knowledge is as nothing compared to that divine Knowledge of which ours is but a shadow, then we step onto that path of wisdom. When we turn to the divine Messenger for better understanding of our role and purpose in the world, then we take the step towards an infinite knowledge, a knowledge that is just hinted at in the Writings.

But if we never understand our true self, then we can never know God. If we do not recognize our spiritual nature, and our position in the universe, then we will never begin to know God, for we will blind ourselves to His greatness by placing ourselves in His position.

Once again, we find ourselves referring back to the opening paragraph of Part 2, in which we are told of the remoteness of God, and how the Messenger is revealing to us "the gems of divine wisdom, that haply thou mayest soar on the wings of renunciation to those heights that are veiled from the eyes of men."

If Part 1 is all about this recognition of the Manifestation for today, then Part 2 seems to be, as we have said before, primarily about obedience. By helping us understand the supreme station of the Manifestation, a station that is so far beyond what we have previously imagined, then we will be a in a far greater position to be obedient to His counsels out of our love for Him. So much of Part 2 revolves around this obedience, and is just filled with stories of the great heights to which the heroes of the faith have found themselves through their obedience that we cannot help but be inspired to strive to follow in their footsteps.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Paragraph 107

The traditions and sayings that bear direct reference to Our theme are divers and manifold; We have refrained from quoting them for the sake of brevity. Nay, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that most great Light. Methinks, but for the potency of that revelation, no being could ever exist. How resplendent the luminaries of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that surge within a drop! To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and attributes are applicable to him. Even as He hath said: “Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.” Manifold are the verses that have been repeatedly revealed in all the heavenly Books and the holy Scriptures, expressive of this most subtle and lofty theme. Even as He hath revealed: “We will surely show them Our signs in the world and within themselves.” Again He saith: “And also in your own selves: will ye not then behold the signs of God?” And yet again He revealeth: “And be ye not like those who forget God, and whom He hath therefore caused to forget their own selves.” In this connection, He Who is the eternal King—may the souls of all that dwell within the mystic Tabernacle be a sacrifice unto Him—hath spoken: “He hath known God who hath known himself.”

Maybe it's just us, but we find this study so much easier by breaking the book up into these various sections. It almost makes each section sort of... bite size. We can wrap our minds around it, and then look at the overall structure of the book as a whole. Hopefully this makes it easier for you, too, dear Reader.

Anyways, here we are at paragraph four of nine that deals with the theme of how we can only know God through His Manifestations.

Here we see that everything in creation shows a sign of God, but humanity, at the pinnacle of this creation, shows all the signs of God within. Soon, like in just a couple of paragraphs, Baha'u'llah will explain that just as humanity is at the apex of creation in this regard, the Manifestations are at the apex of humanity. But for now, let's look at what He says here.

Everything in creation shows an attribute of God, has concealed within it some aspect of our divine Creator from which we can learn. A tree, to use a very basic example, demonstrates bounty through the fruits it gives us. God is the Most Bounteous, and an apple tree shows bounty.

In terms of people, we show all the various attributes of God, but of course, we don't show them in the capital. If God is the All-Bountiful, we, like the tree, can show some bounty. If God is the All-Knowing, we have some knowledge. Whatever God shows in the capital, we are in the lower case. We talked about this a little bit way back when we started this whole study, back when we looked at the Invocation before paragraph 1.

Here, though, Baha'u'llah makes an interesting point. He says that "within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that most great Light." Let's look at that for a moment. We are immediately reminded of nuclear- and astro-physics. We know that one of the attributes of God is that of unity and absolute one-ness. What better example do we have than the sun, where hydrogen atoms fuse together to produce helium, and a whole lot of light and energy. And in fact, this process continues up the periodic table producing all the heavier elements in existence. In a very literal sense, "but for the potency of that revelation, no being could ever exist." Without the nuclear furnaces contained within the stars, none of the heavier elements would have been created. Carbon, oxygen, calcium: they all come from the heart of the stars, or sometimes from their fiery death. It is through this process that most of the elements that make up the more complex molecules of life found their beginning.

Looking even deeper, there are still more questions to examine. Why, for example, is knowledge contained within an atom? Why is wisdom found within that tiny drop of water? To best answer those questions, we would need to explore the Writings even more, seeking out other references to both knowledge and wisdom. And really, we could write volumes on just those two terms alone, but we won't, at least not here. This is just to remind us of how far we can go into the Writings, if we wish. And besides, these are actually fairly facile questions. The real questions begin when we start to ask about how we apply them in our daily lives.

After all, another word that is used here is "potential". All these things lie in potential within each and every one of us. It is up to us to refine and develop these potential attributes and help them become actual.

Now, it is worth remembering that the whole purpose of this book is to help us recognize the Manifestation of God for today. And here, Baha'u'llah is placing this purpose within the context of all of creation. Everything shows a single attribute of God, but humanity has the potential to show all the attributes of God. Now we need to strive to show forth all those attributes to the best of ability, to be worthy of so great a favor.

Remember, Baha'u'llah, in the Hidden Words, says, "Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Paragraph 106

The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace, according to His saying: “His grace hath transcended all things; My grace hath encompassed them all” hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence. These sanctified Mirrors, these Day-springs of ancient glory are one and all the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the light that can never fade. Even as He hath said: “There is no distinction whatsoever between Thee and them; except that they are Thy servants, and are created of Thee.” This is the significance of the tradition: “I am He, Himself, and He is I, myself.”

This is the the third of the nine paragraphs here that are dealing with the theme of how we can only know God through the graces of the Manifestations of His divine Spirit.

Here, in this paragraph, we have a beautiful definition of a Manifestation of God.

And this comes just after we have been told that we cannot know God directly. By the grace of God, as a token of His love, and knowing that we cannot have any direct access to any possible knowledge of Him, He has given us these Messengers by which we can begin to know Him.

Here, through this, we begin to see what Their job description is, if you will.

Now, this is interesting, if you think about it in terms of science or mathematics. Take Euclid, for example. There are the postulates, those things that we just take for granted. This has already been done by the very first few dozen paragraphs, when He reaffirms what the Uncle of the Bab already believes. Now, He is giving us our working definitions.

In Part 1, just to further explain this, in case it is a completely baffling tangent, Baha'u'llah begins by reminding us of what we already know. He says, in a sense, "You already recognize Noah, Abraham, Salih, Hud, Moses, and so on. You already believe this prophetic statement of Jesus. These are things you already agree with." And through His restating of it all, He gives a far higher understanding of the implications of what we have believed than we ever dreamed. All of Part 1 can, in some way, be seen in this light. Now, here, He is giving us a working definition that will be necessary for His arguments later in Part 2. This, He says, is what it means to be a Manifestation of God. From this, once we understand what it is that He means, the rest of the Book follows.

There is so much in this paragraph that we have underlined. It is one of the few paragraphs in this book that is almost completely underlined. But, when re-reading it, we realize that everything we want to say would merely be re-stating what He has already said.

"The door is closed." Yup. He said it.

"They are mirrors." Got it.

"Everything They show and do comes from God." Baha'ullah beat us to it.

"We are unable to distinguish between Them and God, except to recognize that They come from God." Wow. We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

We could try to sit here and analyze why Baha'u'llah puts these various attributes of the Manifestations in the order He does, but it just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel necessary. Instead, we feel that we need to keep these characteristics in the forefront of our mind as we read on. In fact, whenever we read anything by any of the Divine Manifestations, we need to keep this in both mind and heart. When we re-read what Baha'u'llah has said about their lofty station as representations of God on earth, our hearts just soar ever higher when contemplating Them.

After all, back in paragraph 102, after He says that the Messengers have sovereignty, and that He will reveal to us "the mysteries of the Cause of God", He says that, with luck, we will "soar on the wings of renunciation to those heights that are veiled from the eyes of men."

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Paragraph 105

Gracious God! How could there be conceived any existing relationship or possible connection between His Word and they that are created of it? The verse: “God would have you beware of Himself" unmistakably beareth witness to the reality of Our argument, and the words: “God was alone; there was none else besides Him” are a sure testimony of its truth. All the Prophets of God and their chosen Ones, all the divines, the sages, and the wise of every generation, unanimously recognize their inability to attain unto the comprehension of that Quintessence of all truth, and confess their incapacity to grasp Him, Who is the inmost Reality of all things.

This is the second of nine paragraphs dealing with the theme of knowing God, and the unique role of the Manifestation of the Divine Spirit.

Baha'u'llah, in the previous paragraph, recognizes the absolute remoteness of God, and our utter inability for any direct connection to Him. Here, in this paragraph, He continues on this same theme, but adds in that all the wise ones throughout the ages fully admit that God is beyond them, too.

In the context of this paragraph, though, one thing that stands out for us is the very first quote that Baha'u'llah cites, from Qur'an 3:28. What does it mean to "beware of " God? Is it in the sense of being cautious of God, or in the meaning of "be aware of"? It didn't really make a lot of sense to us, so we looked it up in the Qur'an itself.

And what did we find?

A story.

Reading through a number of translations, from verse 21 through 28, we see that Muhammad is cautioning the friends regarding those who persecute the Prophets. In this particular Surih, it is in relation to Moses' father, but it strikes a chord in relation to Part 1 of this very book. Baha'u'llah seems to be cautioning the uncle of the Bab to recognize that the Muslims of that day are walking in the very path that Muhammad cautions here. In this Surih, the believers are warned to not befriend those who "slay unjustly the Prophets", or to prefer them over the believers.

But why this story here, in this context? Isn't Baha'u'llah talking about how God is unknowable?

Yes, He is. And in this paragraph He points out the posture of humility that all the Manifestations, and all the wise ones throughout the generations, have taken. Perhaps this can be seen in contrast to the proud stance taken by the Mullas of the day, as opposed to the humble posture taken by the Babis. It is possible, though we don't know for sure, that Baha'u'llah is helping establish another difference between the Bab and His followers and the Muslims of the day.

Either way, the main theme here is that we cannot know God. God is fully aware of us, but we have no direct tie to Him. So great is this gap that anyone with a shred of wisdom must acknowledge it. "How could there be conceived any existing relationship or possible connection between His Word and they that are created of it?" Quite simply, there can't be. And it is worth being aware of that fact.

Later on, in the next few paragraphs, Baha'u'llah will remind us that even though there is no direct connection between us and God, through God's supreme mercy, He has sent down the Messengers, and through Them we can begin to know something about our Creator.

And it is this posture of humility that is so necessary for us to move forward in this book.