Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Paragraph 37

And now, O seeker, it behooveth us firmly to cling unto the Urvatu'l-Vuthqa, that perchance we may leave behind the darksome night of error, and embrace the dawning light of divine guidance. Shall we not flee from the face of denial, and seek the sheltering shadow of certitude? Shall we not free ourselves from the horror of satanic gloom, and hasten towards the rising light of the heavenly Beauty? In such wise, we bestow upon you the fruit of the Tree of divine knowledge, that ye may gladly and joyously abide in the Ridvan of divine wisdom.

This is another point in the Text where Baha'u'llah allows us the opportunity to pause and catch our breath. In some ways the questions He asks here are rhetorical, and He is reminding us of what appears to be obvious.

Of course it behooves us to cling to the strong cord of God teachings. Of course we should seek the divine guidance, and the shelter of certitude. Who, in their right mind, would not run towards the rising light of heavenly Beauty?

But why is it here? Why now?

Perhaps He understands our inherent reluctance to hear something new. Perhaps He is allowing that initial reflex of pushing away something different to subside so that we can catch our breath and take a moment to think that, just maybe, He is right. Remember, we are still in the section of the Text in which He is talking about the sun, the moon and the stars. He has just given us multiple definitions of these terms which are quite contrary to what the common understanding of these terms is, at least in the context of this quote from Jesus.

Also, as just an aside, this paragraph is so rich with metaphor. On the one hand, He is moving us along that continuum from 0 to infinity, from darkness to light, from denial to certitude, from horror to beauty. He also brings together two different gardens: Eden, through the reference to the Tree of divine knowledge, and Ridvan. In terms of the garden, we can ask ourselves what else is growing there. If it is a garden, surely there is more than just a single tree. We can also note that it is the summer time, for the tree is giving its fruit. The last time we know that this tree bore fruit was in the time of Adam, for He ate of it in Genesis. This foreshadows the idea that we are at the beginning of yet another Cycle, moving from the Adamic Cycle to the Baha'i Cycle, from the time when this fruit was forbidden to a new age in which it is freely given to us. Originally we were cast out of this garden, but now we are being welcomed back.

Oh, and in case you cannot recall (we forgot, so we're mentioning it here), we talked about the Urvatu'l-Vuthqa way back in paragraph 28, when Baha'u'llah first mentioned it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Paragraph 36

That the term "sun" hath been applied to the leaders of religion is due to their lofty position, their fame, and renown. Such are the universally recognized divines of every age, who speak with authority, and whose fame is securely established. If they be in the likeness of the Sun of Truth, they will surely be accounted as the most exalted of all luminaries; otherwise, they are to be recognized as the focal centres of hellish fire. Even as He saith: "Verily, the sun and the moon are both condemned to the torment of infernal fire." You are no doubt familiar with the interpretation of the term "sun" and "moon" mentioned in this verse; no need therefore to refer unto it. And whosoever is of the element of this "sun" and "moon", that is, followeth the example of these leaders in setting his face towards falsehood and in turning away from the truth he undoubtedly cometh out of infernal gloom and returneth thereunto.

For much of our time we have done simple analyses of what Baha'u'llah has said. We have tried to offer a few insights, and talked a bit about how some of this applies in our life. Here, we are going to take a page from the great Jewish scholar, Rashi, and talk a bit more obliquely about this paragraph. You already know a bit about our style and can obviously see the variations on a theme that Baha'u'llah touches on here, with the "good cop/ bad cop" motif, so we don't need to go there. You already have.

In life, we are all ignited at some point. Something catches our attention and just seems to light us up, whether for good or bad. Some are inspired by helping the poor, such as Mother Teresa, while others are more inspired by greed. Some people find their motivation by the arts, while others dedicate their lives to a branch of science, and still others to the invention of gadgets and gizmos to help humanity.

Regardless of our the object of our inspiration, we are all ignited.

But, as Baha'u'llah says in the Hidden Words, "with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants." When testing gold in this manner, we are, in effect, burning away the impurities that may have contaminated it. If the gold is pure, you will have nearly the same amount at the end as what you started with. If it is not pure, and is filled with lots of junk, then all the junk will burn away, and you'll only have a small amount of pure gold left.

In this case, we are all ignited, lit up, on fire, if you will. Some of us, if our hearts and intentions are pure, will burn like the sun, giving a lasting and life-giving light for all to see. But if our hearts are corrupt, intent only on our own pleasures, then we will burn like a torch, feeble and easily extinguished, even though, to outward seeming, we are giving a light like the sun. In the end, though, no one is fooled.

This paragraph is a great reminder to look at ourselves. While we can see this as an indictment against others, seeing them for what they are, it can also serve as a reminder for ourselves. We may be giving light to others, but is it because we are shining with a reflection of the Sun of Truth, or is it through our own immolation?