Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Paragraph 100

O affectionate seeker! Shouldst thou soar in the holy realm of the spirit, thou wouldst recognize God manifest and exalted above all things, in such wise that thine eyes would behold none else but Him. “God was alone; there was none else besides Him.” So lofty is this station that no testimony can bear it witness, neither evidence do justice to its truth. Wert thou to explore the sacred domain of truth, thou wilt find that all things are known only by the light of His recognition, that He hath ever been, and will continue for ever to be, known through Himself. And if thou dwellest in the land of testimony, content thyself with that which He, Himself, hath revealed: “Is it not enough for them that We have sent down unto Thee the Book?” This is the testimony which He, Himself, hath ordained; greater proof than this there is none, nor ever will be: “This proof is His Word; His own Self, the testimony of His truth.”

To start our look at this paragraph, we would like to look again at the last sentence of paragraph 99. "It is incumbent upon thee, by the permission of God, to cleanse the eye of thine heart from the things of the world, that thou mayest realize the infinitude of divine knowledge, and mayest behold Truth so clearly that thou wilt need no proof to demonstrate His reality, nor any evidence to bear witness unto His testimony." Our goal is to be so certain that we need no proof. But really, we just ain't there. Here, in recognition of this truth of our own state, He addresses us as an "affectionate seeker". We are still seeking. We are still looking for proof. Perhaps it is proof of the claim of the Bab, or maybe even proof of our own faith. Time and again throughout this book, Baha'u'llah has talked about the various proofs that people are seeking.

Everyone asks for proofs, but really, is there any greater proof than His own life? The Messenger's own Words? What more can we offer? Nothing.

Isn't that what faith in Them has always been based on? Their life and their words?

As we pause and consider this, we notice that Baha'u'llah has given us, yet again, another path which we can walk. We notice that this paragraph describes three states in which we can find ourselves.

First, if we are to "soar in the holy realm of the spirit", then we would recognize that God is above all things.

Second, if we are to "explore the sacred domain of truth", then we will discover that everything is only recognizable in light of the recognition of God.

Third, if we are to dwell "in the land of testimony", then we should be content with what God has revealed.

As we have said, over and over, all of Part 1 seems to be about recognizing a Manifestation of God. The questions that the Uncle of the Bab, which led to the revelation of this incredible work, were all about various proofs that he was trying to understand. But Baha'u'llah doesn't seem to be content with this. It is as if He is saying, "Great. You've recognized. Now what? What are you going to do about it?"

How many countless people throughout history have recognized a Messenger but not done anything about it? In a very real sense, this reminds us of the beginning of Ruhi Book 1. "The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds..." "Let deeds, not words, be your adorning."

This paragraph, in one sense, is the ultimate point of Part 1. It is the culmination of recognition. We have recognized. Good for us. What are we going to do about it? And that, dear Reader, is Part 2.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Paragraph 99

Dear friend! Now when the light of God’s everlasting Morn is breaking; when the radiance of His holy words: “God is the light of the heavens and of the earth” is shedding illumination upon all mankind; when the inviolability of His tabernacle is being proclaimed by His sacred utterance: “God hath willed to perfect His light;” and the Hand of omnipotence, bearing His testimony: “In His grasp He holdeth the kingdom of all things,” is being outstretched unto all the peoples and kindreds of the earth; it behooveth us to gird up the loins of endeavour, that haply, by the grace and bounty of God, we may enter the celestial City: “Verily, we are God’s,” and abide within the exalted habitation: “And unto Him we do return.” It is incumbent upon thee, by the permission of God, to cleanse the eye of thine heart from the things of the world, that thou mayest realize the infinitude of divine knowledge, and mayest behold Truth so clearly that thou wilt need no proof to demonstrate His reality, nor any evidence to bear witness unto His testimony.

Wow. Here we are. After more than six dozen paragraphs devoted to looking at one passage from Matthew 24, we are at the tail-end of Part 1. This whole section, from the very beginning to this point, has all been about how we can begin to recognize a Manifestation of the Divine Spirit.

It all began with cleansing our heart, and looking again at some of the Messengers we already recognize. Once we see some of the things They have in common, Baha'u'llah turned our attention to that beautiful passage, that promise from Jesus Himself, and how it applied to Muhammad, and hence, how it applies to all Messengers. He showed us how much more there was in these lines than we ever imagined. There truly are more things in heaven and hell, Horatio, then we ever dreamed of.

Here, with this first paragraph of the conclusion of Part 1, He is suddenly very intimate with us again. "Dear Friend." This is someone who is close to us, We are close to Him. If we have made it this far, we must be an intimate of His, and He is helping us see how to become even closer.

There are two paths that we notice within this paragraph. Likely there are more, but we will concern ourselves with only two of them.

First, looking at the active parts within this paragraph, we can see that morning has arrived. "The light of God's everlasting Morn is breaking." We can easily see ourselves lost in the desert, like the Jewish peoples at the time of Moses, and the warm light of the sun is beginning to shed its splendor over the horizon.

Second, it is specifically the light of God's Word that is causing this light to appear, and it is appearing to everyone.

Third, we have that reference to the tabernacle again. We are reminded of its sacredness, and the fact that nothing can break or corrupt it. We were just reminded of the sacred nature of the holy Bible in the previous few paragraphs, and can apply this to all sacred Texts.

Fourth, while the Tabernacle is a specific reference to the Jewish peoples, Baha'u'llah is telling us that this time, God is reaching out to all the peoples and kindreds of the earth. He is talking to all. Nobody is excluded.

Finally, it is in our best interest to not sit back and merely look at or study the sacred Texts, important as study is, but to endeavour. We are to get up and work. We are to strive and labour, to do our utmost to reach this station. And if we are lucky, then we might be blessed enough to "enter the celestial City". Furthermore, not only are trying to get into that city, but our actual goal is "the exalted habitation". And with luck, we may be allowed to abide within it.

Of course, this adds another dimension of struggle. Abide, as you know, means to remain with in times of great trouble.

So here we are, in the wilderness of the desert, watching the sun come up. We are aware of the importance of the sacred tent behind us, and we are moving towards the Promised Land, that great city. We enter it, and with great difficulty, seek out the holy household. At the same time, we are also learning about the importance of remaining in this house even when it is difficult.

By the way, we don't feel that this is all merely in relation to Muhammad, even though it has all been about how the uncle of the Bab has come to recognize the Prophet of God. We don't feel that this is even solely about the Bab, Whom Baha'u'llah is helping this uncle to recognize. Nor do we feel that this is directly or indirectly about Baha'u'llah, Himself. We feel that all of this, from the very beginning up to this point of the book, has been about how we can recognize any Manifestation of the Divine Spirit. We feel that this has been about all of Them.

Anyways, on to that second path.

We get the feeling that there is another path hidden within these beautiful Words, namely through the quotes that He uses. In order, they read:

  • God is the light of the heavens and of the earth
  • God hath willed to perfect His light
  • In His grasp He holdeth the kingdom of all things
  • Verily, we are God’s
  • And unto Him we do return

The light is breaking, and that light is God. He is the true light of both the heavens and the earth. But let's face it, that light is blinding. It is difficult for us to see. In order for the light to be more effective, to be more "perfect", He is helping us acclimatize to it. He is giving us the means by which we can better see it. After all, if the light is out there, but we cannot bear it, what good is it to us?

No. God wants us to be able to see it, and this is one of the reasons He has sent us the Messengers.

But let's not forget, everything is within His grasp, and that includes us. It includes both the heavens and the earth. It even includes the Messengers Themselves.

Everything is God's. And to Him do we all, eventually, return.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Paragraph 98

We have also heard a number of the foolish of the earth assert that the genuine text of the heavenly Gospel doth not exist amongst the Christians, that it hath ascended unto heaven. How grievously they have erred! How oblivious of the fact that such a statement imputeth the gravest injustice and tyranny to a gracious and loving Providence! How could God, when once the Day-star of the beauty of Jesus had disappeared from the sight of His people, and ascended unto the fourth heaven, cause His holy Book, His most great testimony amongst His creatures, to disappear also? What would be left to that people to cling to from the setting of the day-star of Jesus until the rise of the sun of the Muḥammadan Dispensation? What law could be their stay and guide? How could such people be made the victims of the avenging wrath of God, the omnipotent Avenger? How could they be afflicted with the scourge of chastisement by the heavenly King? Above all, how could the flow of the grace of the All-Bountiful be stayed? How could the ocean of His tender mercies be stilled? We take refuge with God, from that which His creatures have fancied about Him! Exalted is He above their comprehension!

This basically ends His analysis of Matthew 24. And it's interesting, isn't it, that He has spent all this time referring to this text, deriving such insights and wisdom from it, and only now, at the very end, refutes the silly idea that the true Gospel may not exist? After all this, there really isn't any doubt, but still, He has to address it anyways.

Then there is the way in which He addresses this, with this list of rhetorical questions. As we could expect, it seems that there is a path of guidance within these very questions. They begin with the Book of God, one of the very proofs of the Messenger, His teachings. Once He mentions the Book, He points out that we should cling to it. From there, He introduces the Law, the very heart and essence of the book itself. Then He points out that without giving us the Law, the wrath, which is the punishment for the violation of said law, would be unjust, as would His chastisement. And since God is the very essence of justice, this notion itself is ridiculous. All grace and bounty flow from God, and the very thought that it could be stopped, even for a moment, is beyond absurd.

Again, it is very interesting. Baha'u'llah is seen here not only defending the validity of the Christian texts, but is also using them to show these profound truths. He is demonstrating not only a familiarity with them, but the incredible depth of wisdom contained within them. He is validating their authenticity and their accuracy, and by doing so is reminding us of the importance of our own study of them.

While it is, of course, important for us to know the teachings of the Baha'i Faith, it is also crucial for us to have a very good understanding and familiarity of the sacred texts of all faiths. 'Abdu'l-Baha, Himself, is reported to have said, "It is the religious duty of every Bahá'í to read and comprehend the meanings of the Old and New Testaments." Baha'u'llah has just spent over 70 paragraphs helping us comprehend the meaning of just this one singular passage from the New Testament. Imagine how much more there is to understand.

To us, this is a call to action. It is a very stark reminder of our duty to strive to understand better and better the holy texts of all faiths in light of the teachings of Baha'u'llah. It is also a reminder to us to stand up and defend not only their authenticity, but also their accuracy and relevance. As we encounter religious prejudice in our society, we are called upon to not only overcome it, but to show the profound beauty and depth of truth within every faith.

While we could go on for a long time on this extremely important theme., we will just point out one more thing that has caught our attention in this paragraph. No doubt we will be expanding on this theme in our study of Part 2 of this book, but for now, we will just point out a tidbit of it here.

Almost of all of Part 1 has been about how to recognize a Messenger of God. The first two questions in this paragraph also deal with this very important theme. We need to recognize the Messenger, and after They have ascended, it is through Their teachings that we can do this. Then, with the third question, He talks about the importance of the Law, and our obedience to it.

Recognition and Obedience.

This brings to mind, of course, the very first paragraph of the Kitab-i-Aqdas: The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof, hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed. It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Source of Divine inspiration.

And our obedience is something that we give to our sovereign, our king and ruler.

All of Part 2, as we shall soon see, is about that station of sovereignty held by the Manifestation of God.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves.