Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Paragraph 30

Were this "oppression" (which literally meaneth pressure) to be interpreted that the earth is to become contracted, or were men's idle fancy to conceive similar calamities to befall mankind, it is clear and manifest that no such happenings can ever come to pass. They will assuredly protest that this pre-requisite of divine revelation hath not been made manifest. Such hath been and still is their contention. Whereas, by "oppression" is meant the want of capacity to acquire spiritual knowledge and apprehend the Word of God. By it is meant that when the Day-star of Truth hath set, and the mirrors that reflect His light have departed, mankind will become afflicted with "oppression" and hardship, knowing not whither to turn for guidance. Thus We instruct thee in the interpretation of the traditions, and reveal unto thee the mysteries of divine wisdom, that haply thou mayest comprehend the meaning thereof, and be of them that have quaffed the cup of divine knowledge and understanding.

Here it is: the third of three paragraphs looking at this oppression.

To start, He denies the literal interpretation that some had made regarding this prophecy. With that out of the way, He then tells us in very simple terms that this term means that real oppression caused by difficulties in life, and the suffering that results from not knowing where to turn at such times.

We have written a little bit about the previous two paragraphs, mostly recapping what Baha'u'llah says, but the real question before us is "How does this apply in our life?" It would be very easy to say that we don't feel oppressed because we know to turn to the Writings of Baha'u'llah for guidance, or that we are not in a position of spiritual authority and therefore can't oppress others in this way. We could say these things and, in a sense, we might even be correct.

But is that so?

In regards to the first thought, that of knowing where to turn, sure. But let's be clear. We know to turn to Baha'u'llah, but that doesn't mean that we do, nor that we know where in His many Writings to look. Throughout history we have had divine guidance, and there have been countless scores of people who have known to turn to the Writings of their faith, but they have often, and with great consistency, misunderstood that guidance. It is for this reason that Baha'u'llah is letting us know what Jesus meant when He gave us this incredible promise in Matthew 24. We need to be very careful and not let our ego get in the way. If we think that we, ourselves, have the "answers", then we are forgetting humility, as well as reliance on God. That is when we are in the greatest danger, and when those divine bounties are withheld from us.

But if we turn to the guidance, look at the Master, study the words of the Guardian and follow the guidance of the Universal House of Justice, in other words, if we wholeheartedly turn to the Administration, which is inseparable from the spiritual guidance in the Writings, then we have a better chance of beginning to discover some of those priceless gems that are contained within the Faith.

In regards to that second thought, that we are not in a position of authority, and that we can't oppress someone else in their search for truth, that also is open for discussion. While it is true that we do not have authority in the traditional sense of the word, we are in a position of greater understanding in regards to the Writings compared to someone who has never seen them. For those who want to learn about the Baha'i Faith, the chances are fairly good that they will ask us first, before searching through the Writings for themselves. We have the responsibility to offer the Writings in such a way that they are the most accessible to the person. How we do this can have a tremendous impact on their life, and their view of the Writings of Baha'u'llah.

Here an example is probably in order. Suppose we meet someone who loves Jesus, and is eagerly striving to better understand what Jesus has taught us. If we were to tell them, "Well, Baha'u'llah is the return of Christ, and you should turn to Him from now on", how do you think they will react? Our direct bluntness will most likely have them thinking that we are nuts, offend them, and leave a very poor impression on them regarding the Faith. But if, instead, we speak of our own love for Jesus, and praise His teachings, as well as offer some of the beautiful insights regarding those teachings given to us by either Baha'u'llah or 'Abdu'l-Baha, then they will be more likely to want to hear more. Whether or not they ever embrace the Faith is secondary. Regardless of what they call their own path to God, offering these teachings from the Baha'i Faith can still have a tremendous impact on their life. There are countless stories of people who were impacted by the teachings, who went on to use them in their own lives, even though they never became members of the Baha'i community. In fact, it would probably not be an exaggeration to say that for everyone who has become Baha'i, there are probably dozens who have been impacted by the teachings they have heard.

In both of these instances, there is oppression. The first is the oppression that is induced by our own ego, or idle fancies, which results in much suffering, while the second is the oppression caused by placing a veil between someone else and the Writings.

Baha'u'llah also talks of the "want of capacity" as a part of this oppression. Some may think that this means an inability to acquire this spiritual knowledge, but that may not be the case. After all, it would be unjust for God to condemn us for failing to do something that we are incapable of. Instead, we think of this "want" as a current weakness, or a falling short. For example, I have the "want of capacity" to bench press 200 pounds, but I can work up to it. I have the "want of capacity" to run a marathon, but I can, if I practice, train, and strive to do so.

Today, we can look around society and see many examples of people who are denying religion and spirituality any place in the world. They, rightly so, see contradictions in some traditions, for example the separation of religion and science, and, unfortunately, deny all spirituality because of this inconsistency. They're throwing out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak. Here we have two parties, the religious and the scientific, and they have separated from each other, and both are unwilling to hear any alternative interpretations of the traditions that could unite them once again. They are lacking the capacity to listen.

Oh, and there's our favorite little word again: "haply". Can't forget that.