And now, concerning His words -- "The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give light, and the stars shall fall from heaven." By the terms "sun" and "moon," mentioned in the writings of the Prophets of God, is not meant solely the sun and moon of the visible universe. Nay rather, manifold are the meanings they have intended for these terms. In every instance they have attached to them a particular significance. Thus, by the "sun" in one sense is meant those Suns of Truth Who rise from the dayspring of ancient glory, and fill the world with a liberal effusion of grace from on high. These Suns of Truth are the universal Manifestations of God in the worlds of His attributes and names. Even as the visible sun that assisteth, as decreed by God, the true One, the Adored, in the development of all earthly things, such as the trees, the fruits, and colours thereof, the minerals of the earth, and all that may be witnessed in the world of creation, so do the divine Luminaries, by their loving care and educative influence, cause the trees of divine unity, the fruits of His oneness, the leaves of detachment, the blossoms of knowledge and certitude, and the myrtles of wisdom and utterance, to exist and be made manifest. Thus it is that through the rise of these Luminaries of God the world is made new, the waters of everlasting life stream forth, the billows of loving-kindness surge, the clouds of grace are gathered, and the breeze of bounty bloweth upon all created things. It is the warmth that these Luminaries of God generate, and the undying fires they kindle, which cause the light of the love of God to burn fiercely in the heart of humanity. It is through the abundant grace of these Symbols of Detachment that the Spirit of life everlasting is breathed into the bodies of the dead. Assuredly the visible sun is but a sign of the splendour of that Day-star of Truth, that Sun Which can never have a peer, a likeness, or rival. Through Him all things live, move, and have their being. Through His grace they are made manifest, and unto Him they all return. From Him all things have sprung, and unto the treasuries of His revelation they all have repaired. From Him all created things did proceed, and to the depositories of His law they did revert.
This paragraph begins a 17 paragraph sequence all referring to the quote, "The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give light, and the stars shall fall from heaven".
There is so much in this paragraph that it would be impossible to try and capture everything that it calls to our minds. One thing that stands out for us, though, is the fact that He tells us that there are many meanings to each of these phrases from that prophecy in the Book of Matthew. Time and again He reminds us that there are so many levels of meanings to every aspect of the Sacred Writings, and He is only giving us a few of them.
We feel this is so important in our work as teachers of the Faith for it is a clear reminder that our own understanding is not the only one. Whatever we understand by the verses we read, they are correct, so are the understandings of others. This serves to remind us to be both humble and aware of the truths that others have found. Of course, this is not to say that things contrary to the obvious meanings are correct, such as someone trying to say that it's okay for a Baha'i to drink alcohol as long as they don't get drunk. That just isn't true.
It seems that one of the things that Baha'u'llah is doing here is saying to the uncle of the Bab, "You are correct. Your understanding of the sacred Writings is correct, and there is more." Once again He is taking the Uncle where he is and leading him ever forward, and this, to us, is the very essence of effective teaching. It is also a sign of a depth of understanding.
Imagine if we all shared the Faith in this manner. It would raise the station of our own teaching from the usual debate-like style to a form in which we truly share with and learn from others. Instead of denying what we already know, we would, instead, build upon it, recognizing that knowledge is infinite, we can always learn more and more.
On another note, Baha'u'llah brings in some very beautiful metaphors, and we wanted to make sure to touch on these, for they are there for a reason. We're just not sure we know why, so we want to explore it a bit.
There seem to be four groups of metaphors in this passage:
- the trees, the fruits, and colours thereof, the minerals of the earth, and all that may be witnessed in the world of creation
- the trees of divine unity, the fruits of His oneness, the leaves of detachment, the blossoms of knowledge and certitude, and the myrtles of wisdom and utterance
- the waters of everlasting life stream forth, the billows of loving-kindness surge, the clouds of grace are gathered, and the breeze of bounty bloweth
- the warmth that these Luminaries of God generate, and the undying fires they kindle, which cause the light of the love of God to burn fiercely in the heart of humanity
There was an aspect of third metaphor that reminded us of the story of the wind - There was a group of scientists that built a giant biosphere and within it they planted a group of trees. Everything grew well, but after some time, the tall trees began to fall over for no reason that they could understand. Afterwards, they were talking with an elder, who heard all they had done to make the trees strong. They had given them water and fertilizer, pruned them and took care of them. The elder nodded and said that they had forgotten the wind. This is what gives the trees their strength: their resistance to the wind. It is like what 'Abdu'l-Baha said: "It is clear, then, that tests and trials are, for sanctified souls, but God's bounty and grace, while to the weak, they are a calamity, unexpected and sudden."
Are these re-phrasings of passages from previous revelations? We're not sure. He may be carrying us through religious history, but we haven't really explored that. That first sentence reminds us of Moses, while the second, for some reason, reminds us of Jesus. That third reminds us of Muhammad, while the last reminds us of the Bab. But again, we're really not sure.
We did, however, notice that it is like a heartbeat. We are made manifest, and then return. We spring out, and then repair back. We proceed, and then revert. Why He put that in here, we don't know, but we sure found it interesting. And we'll also keep an eye out in the next few paragraphs and see if anything helps explain it.