Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Paragraph 14

Reflect, what could have been the motive for such deeds? What could have prompted such behaviour towards the Revealers of the beauty of the All-Glorious? Whatever in days gone by hath been the cause of the denial and opposition of those people hath now led to the perversity of the people of this age. To maintain that the testimony of Providence was incomplete, that it hath therefore been the cause of the denial of the people, is but open blasphemy. How far from the grace of the All-Bountiful and from His loving providence and tender mercies it is to single out a soul from amongst all men for the guidance of His creatures, and, on one hand, to withhold from Him the full measure of His divine testimony, and, on the other, inflict severe retribution on His people for having turned away from His chosen One! Nay, the manifold bounties of the Lord of all beings have, at all times, through the Manifestations of His divine Essence, encompassed the earth and all that dwell therein. Not for a moment hath His grace been withheld, nor have the showers of His loving-kindness ceased to rain upon mankind. Consequently, such behaviour can be attributed to naught save the petty-mindedness of such souls as tread the valley of arrogance and pride, are lost in the wilds of remoteness, walk in the ways of their idle fancy, and follow the dictates of the leaders of their faith. Their chief concern is mere opposition; their sole desire is to ignore the truth. Unto every discerning observer it is evident and manifest that had these people in the days of each of the Manifestations of the Sun of Truth sanctified their eyes, their ears, and their hearts from whatever they had seen, heard, and felt, they surely would not have been deprived of beholding the beauty of God, nor strayed far from the habitations of glory. But having weighed the testimony of God by the standard of their own knowledge, gleaned from the teachings of the leaders of their faith, and found it at variance with their limited understanding, they arose to perpetrate such unseemly acts.

This is the second of four paragraphs that lead us to consider some of the reasons for the denials, contention, conflict and all of the other myriad problems that the Messengers of God faced. In the first paragraph, Baha'u'llah pointed out that all of Them suffered from the same pattern, and They also gave signs for the next Messenger's appearance. In this paragraph, He gives us some of the reasons for the people denying Them.

To start, He asks us to reflect on these motives. Reflecting is only a bit different from pondering. When you ponder, you consider something deeply within your heart. When you reflect on it, you turn your thoughts back to it. When you ponder, it may be the first time you are considering something. When you reflect, it has to be at least the second time.

Baha'u'llah is asking us to go back to what we already know and think about it again. We know these stories from the past. They are a part of our history, and we are very familiar with them. The questions, while rhetorical, do ask us to consider those circumstances in light of today's issues. He is asking us to discover the pattern, and make sure that we do not fall into the same one.

What were the motives in the past? What prompted such behaviour? Are they the same as the motives and promptings that we are seeing today?

But then, just as He asks these questions, He anticipates a response. He knows full well that many of the people at that time, in that culture, were told that the full teachings of Jesus were not available to the Christians. They were told that the "testimony of Providence was incomplete".

And what is Baha'u'llah's answer to that? Hogwash. Bull puckies. No way, no how. Ain't possible. Gimme a break. God is All-Bountiful, and if the testimony was incomplete, His bounty would be limited. In fact, He is saying that we cannot place the blame on God. If that were the case, how could the people be held responsible for their actions?

If this is not the reason, then the only other reason, He states, was the petty-mindedness of those who "tread the valley of arrogance and pride, are lost in the wilds of remoteness, walk in the ways of idle fancy, and follow the dictates of the leaders of their faith".

Let's take a look at the order of these. First is petty-mindedness. In other words, they spend a lot of their time thinking about insignificant things. When we concentrate on things that are insignificant, then we feel, by comparison, significant. This is in opposition to thinking about significant things, in which case, by comparison, our sense of humility is nurtured.

From this, comes arrogance and pride. This leads to being remote from God, for how can you be arrogant or proud when in the midst of the Almighty? From there, they have no choice but to follow their idle fancies, which allows them to be easily manipulated by the leaders of their faith.

He then goes on to say that these people only want to oppose whatever comes up. They want to ignore the truth. Why? Perhaps because it is a source of pride for some to be able to tear down whatever anyone else puts forth. It is sort of like debating, or those politicians who only oppose whatever the other party says, no matter what its merit. "See how smart I am? I can find the flaw in whatever you say." Of course they can, for nothing is perfect, save God. We should note that this is different from consultation, which is supremely concerned with the truth. There is no opposition, but there can be the clash of differing opinions, as both parties seek out the truth.

But how do we avoid falling into these traps? We sanctify our eyes, our ears and our heart, which is very similar to what was said in paragraph 2, and throughout this Book.

Finally, there is the reminder that these people judged the Messenger by their own deficient standard, and not the standard in the Book. Or, to put it in a way that is meaningful to us, we should not judge the Message by our own standards, but, instead, look to God's standard. This is very important today, when many of the values expressed in the media go against the standards set forth in the Writings.