Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Paragraph 66

And now, concerning His words: "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven." By these words it is meant that when the sun of the heavenly teachings hath been eclipsed, the stars of the divinely-established laws have fallen, and the moon of true knowledge -- the educator of mankind -- hath been obscured; when the standards of guidance and felicity have been reversed, and the morn of truth and righteousness hath sunk in night, then shall the sign of the Son of man appear in heaven. By "heaven" is meant the visible heaven, inasmuch as when the hour draweth nigh on which the Day-star of the heaven of justice shall be made manifest, and the Ark of divine guidance shall sail upon the sea of glory, a star will appear in the heaven, heralding unto its people the advent of that most great light. In like manner, in the invisible heaven a star shall be made manifest who, unto the peoples of the earth, shall act as a harbinger of the break of that true and exalted Morn. These twofold signs, in the visible and the invisible heaven, have announced the Revelation of each of the Prophets of God, as is commonly believed.

With this paragraph, Baha'u'llah seems to be taking us to a new level of discourse. He begins with the next verse from Matthew 24 and goes straight into two explanations of it. As you can see, the first is the literal meaning of a new star in the nighttime sky, and the second is that of a herald or harbinger for the upcoming Manifestation. Previously, He had taken a verse and given us a single meaning at a time, allowing us to come to terms with it before going on to another explanation of the same verse. Here He gives us both at once. It is as if He trusts in our ability to comprehend more of the meanings of the sacred Text.

If this book is to be a blueprint for how we are to teach, then this could be a very interesting lesson: do not underestimate the one whom you are teaching. Baha'u'llah seems to trust that we are now at a level of understanding where we don't need such long and drawn out explanations. We can make the leap towards truth more easily.

Over the next few paragraphs, up to 73, Baha'u'llah describes some of the previous Messengers again. You may recall that He did this earlier in the Book, way back in paragraphs 7 through 17. He began to show a number of similarities between Them, affirming not only Their station, but also establishing a common starting point between Himself and the reader. Here He adds an additional point of similarity. When He gets to paragraph 73, He summarizes everything up to that point. The reasons for this will become more obvious when we get there.

In looking at His previous explanations of the various phrases from Matthew 24, it becomes obvious that He is using something of a scattering effect. He is giving us many explanations of the various phrases, scattering them to the wind, in a sense, but none of them are explained in any great depth. It is as if He is carefully disabusing us of the idea that there is a single "correct" explanation for any of these verses, and helping us see that there are many layers of meaning, all of which shine the light of truth. But now, here, He begins to go into greater depth, leaving us to wonder what else we can fathom in this mighty Ocean of God's Revelation.

He also continually reviews for us. He places the current phrase in the context of the whole, ensuring that we don't get lost. He does this by going back to the earlier Messengers, as well as letting us know where He is in that verse from Jesus. It should also be mentioned, of course, that all of this is in the context of that very first sentence in paragraph 1, "No man shall attain the shores of the ocean of true understanding except he be detached from all that is heaven and on earth." True understanding and detachment are the central themes throughout part 1 of this Book.

In this paragraph, He begins by telling the quote that He is now going to examine, and immediately reminds us where it is in the context of that whole quote in Matthew 24. He basically recaps the sentence up to that point. Then He gives us the literal meaning of it, namely that a star will actually appear in the nighttime sky, as well as a metaphorical meaning, that a harbinger will appear on the earth.

One thing in this paragraph that really stood out as unusual for us, was the phrase, "the standards of guidance and felicity have been reversed". They haven't been torn down, or fallen, or obscured. He says they have been reversed. What does that mean? Actually, we can also ask what those two standards are. Guidance is advice that is given by someone, usually an authority, to help solve a problem. Felicity is that which causes happiness. Here He says that they have been reversed, or swapped. That which causes happiness has been taken as a standard of guidance. Just take, for example, the number of Hollywood performers who give advice on diet. Those standards of guidance are now being seen as some form of entertainment. We only need to look at the number of doctors with their own tv shows, to recognize this.

Baha'u'llah is also reminding us of the promise that accompanies all of this. A new star appears in heaven and a harbinger appears on earth: both of these signify that "the Day-star of the heaven of justice shall be made manifest, and the Ark of divine guidance shall sail upon the sea of glory".