Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Paragraph 117

Consider, how great is the change today! Behold, how many are the Sovereigns who bow the knee before His name! How numerous the nations and kingdoms who have sought the shelter of His shadow, who bear allegiance to His Faith, and pride themselves therein! From the pulpit-top there ascendeth today the words of praise which, in utter lowliness, glorify His blessed name; and from the heights of minarets there resoundeth the call that summoneth the concourse of His people to adore Him. Even those Kings of the earth who have refused to embrace His Faith and to put off the garment of unbelief, none the less confess and acknowledge the greatness and overpowering majesty of that Day-star of loving kindness. Such is His earthly sovereignty, the evidences of which thou dost on every side behold. This sovereignty must needs be revealed and established either in the lifetime of every Manifestation of God or after His ascension unto His true habitation in the realms above. What thou dost witness today is but a confirmation of this truth. That spiritual ascendency, however, which is primarily intended, resideth within, and revolveth around Them from eternity even unto eternity. It can never for a moment be divorced from Them. Its dominion hath encompassed all that is in heaven and on earth.

"Consider". Ponder, reflect: how often has Baha'u'llah asked us to do this throughout the book? Previously He asked us to "Consider the past", but now He is asking us to consider today.

Although He is asking this of the uncle of the Bab, He is also asking it of us. Rather than look at the "today" of the 1860's, we have decided to look at the today of... well, today.

Right now, leading up to the year of 2020, there is a lot of discussion about religion. Many people are atheist, deriding religion at every turn, presuming that you have to be some sort of blithering idiot to even consider the possibility of a God. On the other hand there is a huge rise in religious fanaticism, where people presume that you must be some sort of evil incarnate if you dare to believe anything differently than they do. Triumphalism, no matter one's belief, has taken hold of our civilization like we haven't seen since the Protestant wars in Europe those many years ago.

Baha'u'llah, here, has asked us to consider the change today, the difference between how people regarded Muhammad during His life, and how they regard Him now. The change is quite remarkable. And He is alluding to the truth that the people of the world will regard the Bab quite differently in the future from how they do today.

When we consider today, we discover fanaticism and atheism, with very little in the middle. The Bab, however, called us to unity and a new understanding of God. This really comes into play when we look at those two extremes. But as the Universal House of Justice said, "The scriptures have not changed; the moral principles they contain have lost none of their validity." We can see that people truly do find solace in their sacred scriptures, but need a new definition of God to be able to move forward. This is, perhaps, the truth that the atheists are unconsciously recognizing.

This is something that every Manifestation of God does; They give us new definitions to work with. They raise our vision and give us a greater awareness of the world around us, and a more effective way to make a difference. They truly infuse in each word a new meaning, and through this, allow us to climb to undreamt of heights in the spiritual realms.

Their "spiritual ascendancy... resideth within" Them, and is eternal. It takes a while, though, for the world to catch up to that. It takes years, generations, and sometimes centuries, for us to recognize this. But recognize it we will.

For now, we have the advantage of knowing these new definitions that Baha'u'llah, as well as the Bab, has given us. We can work with them and see new truths in the scriptures, both our own and those of old, which allow us to conceive of ideas that had previously been unthinkable and unbelievable.

And this leads us back to the uncle of the Bab. Why didn't he recognize his Nephew? In short, it's because one of the things he was looking for was an earthly sovereignty. He had his own fixed ideas, based on the teachings of the culture at the time, of what the Promised One would look like, and the Bab didn't meet that criteria. Slowly, over the length of this Book, Baha'u'llah has helped him reassess his perspective, and re-examine his belief about the sovereignty of the Promised One. He has helped him come to a new understanding of what sovereignty truly is.

It's all about detachment. Remember detachment? That was a major theme in Part 1, and is now the necessary ingredient to begin to see the truths that Baha'u'llah is offering here.

When considering new definitions, you have to be able to move beyond the old ones. You have to be detached from the old in order to see the benefit of the new.

And here it is worth noting that Baha'u'llah is not trying to convince anyone of anything, but is, instead, sharing a perspective for consideration. He is systematically going through these ideas, moving from one concept to the next, and allowing the reader to try and keep up. And perhaps that is one of the reasons why the Guardian considered this a how-to book for teaching. Baha'u'llah is showing us how to recognize a Messenger of God, and, beyond that, how to share that realization with others.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Paragraph 116

We shall cite in this connection only one verse of that Book. Shouldst thou observe it with a discerning eye, thou wilt, all the remaining days of thy life, lament and bewail the injury of Muḥammad, that wronged and oppressed Messenger of God. That verse was revealed at a time when Muḥammad languished weary and sorrowful beneath the weight of the opposition of the people, and of their unceasing torture. In the midst of His agony, the Voice of Gabriel, calling from the Sadratu’l-Muntahá, was heard saying: “But if their opposition be grievous to Thee—if Thou canst, seek out an opening into the earth or a ladder into heaven.". The implication of this utterance is that His case had no remedy, that they would not withhold their hands from Him unless He should hide Himself beneath the depths of the earth, or take His flight unto heaven.

"This connection". Which connection? Well, in the previous paragraph Baha'u'llah mentioned the sufferings of Muhammad. And remember, this is in relation to the sovereignty of the Bab. How could the Bab have the sovereignty of the Qa'im when He suffered so much, and was even executed? This was, basically, the question of His uncle to Baha'u'llah. Here He is reminding us of the very same type of persecutions that Muhammad suffered. And just in case we forget, it is also a study of these sufferings that leads us to certitude of faith, so it's a good thing for us to look at them here.

And "one verse"? Do you remember the last time Baha'u'llah quoted a single verse in this book? It was way back in paragraph 24. Baha'u'llah quoted Jesus in Matthew 24, and that led to so much in Part 1.

But let's look here again. Baha'u'llah is quoting a single verse, “But if their opposition be grievous to Thee—if Thou canst, seek out an opening into the earth or a ladder into heaven.". And if we recall His example from Part 1, there are myriads of meanings contained within this single verse.

The first thing that comes to mind is a saying of Muhammad, Himself: "Prayer is a ladder by which everyone may ascend to Heaven." Following through on the metaphor of the ladder, Baha'u'llah says that music is "a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high." He also said, "Knowledge is as wings to man's life, and a ladder for his ascent." "Obligatory prayer", He said elsewhere, "is a ladder of ascent for the believer." So we have a few different ladders that could also be alluded to here. This ladder to heaven could be a retreat into prayer, the uplifting joy of music, or even knowledge, presumably of the divine.

As for an "opening into the earth", if we look in the Writings, we often see reference to "the earth of men's hearts", or some variation thereof. Perhaps this could also be a reference to His, Muhammad, finding His way into men's hearts, which is, as we know, the seat of God. "Thy heart is My home;", Baha'u'llah writes in the Hidden Words, "sanctify it for My descent."

The question, though, is what does this have to do with us? How can we apply this in our own life? To start, perhaps we can remember these "ladders" when we are faced with sufferings in our own life. We can recall the sufferings of the Manifestations of God, Whose sufferings are outlined so simply and beautifully in the very beginning paragraphs of this book. We can meditate on what it means to find "an opening into the earth", whether that means that there is no escape and we need to face this with radiant acquiescence, or whether we need to find that opening into their heart.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Paragraph 115

For this reason did Muḥammad cry out: “No Prophet of God hath suffered such harm as I have suffered.” And in the Qur’án are recorded all the calumnies and reproaches uttered against Him, as well as all the afflictions which He suffered. Refer ye thereunto, that haply ye may be informed of that which hath befallen His Revelation. So grievous was His plight, that for a time all ceased to hold intercourse with Him and His companions. Whoever associated with Him fell a victim to the relentless cruelty of His enemies.


This paragraph continues the discussion of sovereignty, a most fascinating discussion that covers a large section of the book, and was one of the pivotal questions asked by the uncle of the Bab.

Looking at the beginning, though, we are faced with the immediate question of "For what reason?" Well, this brings us back to the previous paragraph in which Baha'u'llah has described the fierce torment that was instigated by the divines of the age against Muhammad, and also, in His day, against the Bab.

Now something that we see here, which we haven't really commented on for a while, is the word "haply", as well as the phrase "Refer ye thereunto". This reminds us very strongly of Part 1, in which we are regularly encouraged to "reflect", "consider the past", "meditate profoundly", and other phrases used to help us remember to consider what we have already learned through religious history.

Do we think this request that we refer to the past Books is a coincidence? Of course not. Baha'u'llah seems to have carefully prepared us for this. He began this whole book by teaching us how to recognize a Manifestation of God, giving plenty of examples from the stories from history that we already knew.. He reminded us to continually look to the past and consider what we are seeing today. He then took a single verse from Jesus, found in Matthew 24, and dissected it phrase by phrase for many paragraphs, showing us just a little of the incredible depths that can be found in that one verse.

Are these not the very tools that we are being encouraged to use here, now?

Beyond that, we also want to remember that this book is supposed a template on how to teach. So if that's the case, then doesn't this mean that we need to help people, not to mention ourselves, become more familiar with the sufferings and trials suffered by both the Bab and Baha'u'llah, not to mention 'Abdu'l-Baha and the Guardian? have we actually done this? Do we know anyone who actually became a recognize Baha'i by studying these denials and tests? Honestly, we don't.

Many times we see this sort of appeal as just a means of playing on people's emotions. But we need to be clear that this is not the case here. Far from it. Instead, it seems to be a fundamental aspect of strengthening one's faith. Way back in paragraph 6, a couple of sentence we love to quote over and over again: "Should you acquaint yourself with the indignities heaped upon the Prophets of God, and apprehend the true causes of the objections voiced by their oppressors, you will surely appreciate the significance of their position. Moreover, the more closely you observe the denials of those who have opposed the Manifestations of the divine attributes, the firmer will be your faith in the Cause of God."

We are amazed, even flabbergasted (love that word), at just how important these first few paragraphs are so important to the rest of the text. We never dreamed that so far into this study we would still be constantly referring back to these same ideas. It just gives us a greater appreciation of this book, and just how tightly knit this entire book really is.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Paragraph 114

Furthermore, by sovereignty is meant the all-encompassing, all-pervading power which is inherently exercised by the Qá’im whether or not He appear to the world clothed in the majesty of earthly dominion. This is solely dependent upon the will and pleasure of the Qá’im Himself. You will readily recognize that the terms sovereignty, wealth, life, death, judgment and resurrection, spoken of by the scriptures of old, are not what this generation hath conceived and vainly imagined. Nay, by sovereignty is meant that sovereignty which in every dispensation resideth within, and is exercised by, the person of the Manifestation, the Day-star of Truth. That sovereignty is the spiritual ascendancy which He exerciseth to the fullest degree over all that is in heaven and on earth, and which in due time revealeth itself to the world in direct proportion to its capacity and spiritual receptiveness, even as the sovereignty of Muḥammad, the Messenger of God, is today apparent and manifest amongst the people. You are well aware of what befell His Faith in the early days of His dispensation. What woeful sufferings did the hand of the infidel and erring, the divines of that age and their associates, inflict upon that spiritual Essence, that most pure and holy Being! How abundant the thorns and briars which they have strewn over His path! It is evident that wretched generation, in their wicked and satanic fancy, regarded every injury to that immortal Being as a means to the attainment of an abiding felicity; inasmuch as the recognized divines of that age, such as ‘Abdu’lláh-i-Ubayy, Abú-‘Amír, the hermit, Ka’b-Ibn-i-Ashraf, and Nadr-Ibn-i-Hárith, all treated Him as an impostor, and pronounced Him a lunatic and a calumniator. Such sore accusations they brought against Him that in recounting them God forbiddeth the ink to flow, Our pen to move, or the page to bear them. These malicious imputations provoked the people to arise and torment Him. And how fierce that torment if the divines of the age be its chief instigators, if they denounce Him to their followers, cast Him out from their midst, and declare Him a miscreant! Hath not the same befallen this Servant, and been witnessed by all?


The uncle of the Bab has asked a very good question. Where, he wonders, is the sovereignty of the Bab seen? If He is the Promised One, why haven't we witnessed this sovereignty that is supposed to be His?

It's a great question, and one that Baha'u'llah spends considerable time answering.

To do this, He has us reflect on the past, once again. You may remember from Part One that He regularly has us "consider the past", "reflect", "ponder". This is now the foundation upon which He can answer this very important question.

Throughout this response, He will remind us of the sufferings of the Messengers of the Past, hearkening back to paragraph 6. Remember paragraph 6? That is where He said "the more closely you observe the denials of those who have opposed the Manifestations of the divine attributes, the firmer will be your faith in the Cause of God." As the whole point of this book, indeed, it's very name, is about enhancing our certitude, this is a very important point.

He will also demonstrate how Their sovereignty has always manifested itself over time.

Here, though, He is looking at Muhammad, and how some of the people of His day treated Him. It's a rare example of His use of actual names. Why? Why the names? Because they are remembered for having denied Muhammad. Perhaps He is reminding the uncle, and by extension us, that we don't want to be remembered for such lamentable behaviour.

It is also worth noting that at the beginning of this paragraph He says "that the terms sovereignty, wealth, life, death, judgment and resurrection, spoken of by the scriptures of old, are not what this generation hath conceived and vainly imagined". He spent a good deal of Part 1 of this book offering us many definitions of the terms used by Jesus in Matthew 24. It seems as if this was all in preparation for His response to this very question. His redefining of terms is exactly what He prepared us for.

When we consider the past, we can readily see that the Jewish people expected the Messiah to come riding on a horse and wielding a flaming sword, conquering the Romans as He went. Today, many Christians expect Jesus to come down on a cloud and take over the planet. This has always been the expectation, the literal conquering of the oppressors of the day, and the people have always failed to see Their true sovereignty until much time has passed.

Also, His use of the examples of what befell Muhammad would have been strikingly familiar to the uncle of the Bab. The mullahs and religious leaders of that day called the Bab an impostor. They had doctors sent in to interview Him to see if they could have pronounced a lunatic. They labelled Him a calumniator. Each and every one of these accusations which was thrown against Muhammad was similarly hurled against the Bab. And it was the divines of that day who did this. They were the ones who denounced Him and cast Him out from their midst. And then, to top it all off, they also had Baha'u'llah imprisoned and exiled.

The parallels must have been very obvious to the uncle, and this paragraph must have just driven it all home.

Finally, there is a final thing that catches our attention, and that is Baha'u'llah's mention of "the thorns and briars which they have strewn over His path". This reminds us of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. it is as if those very thorns that were thrown in His path, which must have caused Him untold sufferings, became that very crown that symbolized His sovereignty. And this just goes right back to paragraph 6, and helps us become even firmer in our faith.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Paragraph 113

And now, to resume Our argument concerning the question: Why is it that the sovereignty of the Qá’im, affirmed in the text of recorded traditions, and handed down by the shining stars of the Muḥammadan Dispensation, hath not in the least been made manifest? Nay, the contrary hath come to pass. Have not His disciples and companions been afflicted of men? Are they not still the victims of the fierce opposition of their enemies? Are they not today leading the life of abased and impotent mortals? Yea, the sovereignty attributed to the Qá’im and spoken of in the scriptures, is a reality, the truth of which none can doubt. This sovereignty, however, is not the sovereignty which the minds of men have falsely imagined. Moreover, the Prophets of old, each and every one, whenever announcing to the people of their day the advent of the coming Revelation, have invariably and specifically referred to that sovereignty with which the promised Manifestation must needs be invested. This is attested by the records of the scriptures of the past. This sovereignty hath not been solely and exclusively attributed to the Qá’im. Nay rather, the attribute of sovereignty and all other names and attributes of God have been and will ever be vouchsafed unto all the Manifestations of God, before and after Him, inasmuch as these Manifestations, as it hath already been explained, are the Embodiments of the attributes of God, the Invisible, and the Revealers of the divine mysteries.


This is the beginning of a long section in the book, from this paragraph all the way until paragraph 132. In some ways, this section helps us see how Part 2 mirror Part 1. Both parts of the book began with an introduction. Then Baha'u'llah looked at the Manifestations of the past, first in a general historical sense showing how we could already see that They were all similar, and then in a more particular sense of showing the implications of that similarity, namely how They all demonstrated all the attributes of the divine. After this look at the Messengers of the past, He goes into the heart of His argument. In Part 1 it was to show us how the prophecies of Jesus are answered by all the Manifestations, and here it is to help us see how They all have these attributes, weather or not They exhibit during Their lifetime.

Remember, this is all in response to the questions that were asked of Baha'u'llah by the uncle of the Bab., and here the underlying question is why isn't the Bab showing sovereignty? The answer, of course, is that He doesn't have to. As Baha'u'llah just pointed out in the previous section, all the Messengers have all the attributes of God, even if They don't show them. Today we clearly recognize the inherent sovereign nature of Jesus or Muhammad, even though during Their lifetimes They seemed to be deprived of it.

Here, in this paragraph, though, it is worth noting that Baha'u'llah doesn't really talk about this at all. Instead He focuses on the question that has been asked by the uncle. He affirms that this is a good and important question. The launching point of his question is true. The sovereignty of the Qa'im is a reality, and we cannot doubt that. Over and over He re-affirms the validity of the question and the starting point of the uncle's reasoning.

But then He points out that this sovereignty is not what people have imagined. Moreover, it is not solely in the realm of the Qa'im; all the Messengers have this true sovereignty. Again, He shows the similarity of all the Manifestations and reminds the uncle of what He had just discussed in the previous number of paragraphs.

Now, if this is supposed to be a template about how we are to teach, we can learn a lot from this. Acknowledging the validity of a question is extremely important. He does this by re-stating the question, ensuring that the uncle knows that his question has been understood. The importance of this cannot be overstated. By reiterating the question back to the person, we let them know that they have been heard. We let them know that we are truly listening to them, and not just composing some sort of answer while they are talking. Perhaps this is one reason why the uncle had to write the questions down, but really, this is a very effective tool in any conversation. It allows the individual to correct us if, by chance, we have misunderstood the intent of the question.

Another aspect here is that Baha'u'llah doesn't immediately dismiss this question. Pointing out the common error inherent within the question does not make it a dumb question, but rather sets the stage for a more comprehensive answer. And as we can see, He will spend the next few dozen paragraphs giving that more comprehensive response.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Paragraph 112

To this testifieth that which hath been witnessed in this wondrous and exalted Dispensation. Myriads of holy verses have descended from the heaven of might and grace, yet no one hath turned thereunto, nor ceased to cling to those words of men, not one letter of which they that have spoken them comprehend. For this reason the people have doubted incontestable truths, such as these, and caused themselves to be deprived of the Riḍván of divine knowledge, and the eternal meads of celestial wisdom.

Paragraph 9 of 9, in which Baha'u'llah discusses how we can only know God through His Manifestations. To recap, He began this argument by pointing out that everything in creation shows a sign of God, but humanity shows all the signs of God. The Manifestations, however, show these signs to the highest degree. And just in case we were wondering, every Manifestation has all the attributes of God within Them, even if They haven't exhibited them to us. The kicker, though, is that humanity has strayed from Them and Their teachings, and this is the cause of so many of our troubles.

Baha'u'llah has established that all the Manifestations have all the various attributes of God, so now He will focus in on the attribute of Sovereignty. This, you may recall, was at the heart of the question asked of Him by the uncle, for whom this book was originally revealed.

Here, though, in this paragraph, Baha'u'llah starts by referring to the last quote from paragraph 111: "And if they see the path of righteousness, they will not take it for their path; but if they see the path of error, for their path will they take it. This, because they treated Our signs as lies, and were heedless of them." While on the one hand this refers clearly to the Bab, it can also refer to all the previous Messengers, and why the people denied Them. The uncle of the Bab would clearly understand that this was exactly what was happening around him. Verses descended, but the people denied them. Rather than following the Islamic teachings of patience and moderation, carefully listening to all that is put forth so that they can discern for themselves truth from falsehood, the people of that day suffered under prejudice and fanaticism. And it is for this reason, He says, that they have been deprived of both divine knowledge and celestial wisdom.

As we ponder on this paragraph, and this whole section, we find that we are reminded of paragraph 6, way back at the beginning of the book. It is there that we are told that the more you "acquaint yourself with the indignities heaped upon the Prophets of God, and apprehend the true causes of the objections voices by their oppressors, you will surely appreciate the significance of their position. Moreover, the more closely you observe the denials..., the firmer will be your faith in the Cause of God." The more we study, the greater will be our understanding of this divine cycle: a Manifestation comes, we have direct knowledge through Him, learn, grow, grow estranged, and then no longer know God. This is a cycle that has been going on for millennia. He even reminded us of this way back in Part 1, where He talks about what the various Messengers all have in common. "Conceive accordingly", He says, in paragraph 20, "the distinction, variation, and unity characteristic of the various Manifestations of holiness, that thou mayest comprehend the allusions made by the creator of all names and attributes to the mysteries of distinction and unity, and discover the answer to thy question as to why that everlasting Beauty should have, at sundry times, called Himself by different names and titles."

Baha'u'llah also points out that rather than focusing on the word of God, the people have focused their attention on the words of men regarding these sacred verses, "not one letter of which they that have spoken them comprehend". By doing so, they have come to a corrupted understanding of religion, resulting in strife and contention. Rather than seeing the underlying unity of all the religions, these people focus their hatred on the differences. Time and time again this has been the case.

It is also worth noting that Baha'u'llah is using quotes that the uncle would be familiar with to make His point. He is showing how those very texts that the uncle would regard as sacred clearly show what He is trying to say. This, incidentally, has always been the way of the Messengers of the past. And by showing the fundamental unity of all the Manifestations, Baha'u'llah is imparting to him one of those gems of divine knowledge that we take for granted, namely the oneness of all religions.

Now that Baha'u'llah has helped lead us to recognize the Bab, through Part 1, and shown us the underlying unity of all the Manifestations, He will continue on to show us the highest response we can give in this process. He will help us better understand our true priorities, and encourage us to live the best life that we can in relation to these wonderful teachings.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Paragraph 111

Yea, inasmuch as the peoples of the world have failed to seek from the luminous and crystal Springs of divine knowledge the inner meaning of God's holy words, they therefore have languished, stricken and sore athirst, in the vale of idle fancy and waywardness. They have strayed far from the fresh and thirst-subduing waters, and gathered round the salt that burneth bitterly. Concerning them, the Dove of Eternity hath spoken: "And if they see the path of righteousness, they will not take it for their path; but if they see the path of error, for their path will they take it. This, because they treated Our signs as lies, and were heedless of them."


Paragraph 8 of 9 in this section regarding how we can only know God through His Messengers.

As we began to talk about this paragraph, we found ourselves talking a lot about interfaith, and looking at the sacred Writings and teachings of all faiths through the lens of Baha'u'llah's teachings. In other words, when we looked at the ideas that He teaches regarding unity, we found ourselves looking at the various teachings in other faiths through this lens of asking ourselves how such and such a teaching leads us towards unity. Of course, you can do this with any faith and their essential teachings. A Christian might well ask how Baha'u'llah's teachings regarding the harmony of science and religion lead us to a greater understanding of love. In the end, we found ourselves asking more and more why people would stray from such a path. Why would someone in the desert wander away from the fresh water?

But the more we talked about this, the less we saw what we could write here.

Then we noticed an interesting phrase that Baha'u'llah uses. He doesn't say that they have strayed from this path. He says, "They have strayed far from the fresh and thirst-subduing waters..." We, as some of the people of the world, have strayed from this life-giving water around which we were gathered. We were actually there, not merely on a path to it.

After all, if we look around today, how many speak of the love of Jesus, but attack their neighbour if they believe differently? How many preach the beauty and the wisdom of Muhammad, yet treat those who are different with no mercy. No matter where we look, we can see people admiring a religion that is truly worthy of admiration, yet acting quite contrary to its fundamental teachings.

Part 1 was about the inner meaning of God's holy words, but if we ignore these ideas, then those holy words are not satisfying. Here, Baha'u'llah speaks plain. He doesn't say we need hydration; He says that we are thirsty. We have been in the desert, wandering lost, searching for the promised land.

Why would someone in the desert wander away from the fresh water? While it may seem puzzling, it makes sense if they are led astray by a mirage. By going after this illusion, they have lost their way. When you are in the desert, this is easier than it seems. And here is Baha'u'llah trying to guide us back.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Paragraph 110

These attributes of God are not and have never been vouchsafed specially unto certain Prophets, and withheld from others. Nay, all the Prophets of God, His well-favoured, His holy, and chosen Messengers, are, without exception, the bearers of His names, and the embodiments of His attributes. They only differ in the intensity of their revelation, and the comparative potency of their light. Even as He hath revealed: “Some of the Apostles We have caused to excel the others.” It hath therefore become manifest and evident that within the tabernacles of these Prophets and chosen Ones of God the light of His infinite names and exalted attributes hath been reflected, even though the light of some of these attributes may or may not be outwardly revealed from these luminous Temples to the eyes of men. That a certain attribute of God hath not been outwardly manifested by these Essences of Detachment doth in no wise imply that they Who are the Daysprings of God’s attributes and the Treasuries of His holy names did not actually possess it. Therefore, these illuminated Souls, these beauteous Countenances have, each and every one of them, been endowed with all the attributes of God, such as sovereignty, dominion, and the like, even though to outward seeming they be shorn of all earthly majesty. To every discerning eye this is evident and manifest; it requireth neither proof nor evidence.


Ah, Seven-of-Nine. No, this is not about Star Trek: Voyager, but rather the seventh of nine paragraphs about how we can only know God through His Messengers.

So here, in this paragraph, in the context of this section of the book, there are three things that stand out to us, and one idea that really overshadows the rest.

The first point that hits us is the idea He mentions of how the light of the Messengers only differs in its intensity, and in relative potency. But what does this mean? Well, obviously we don't really know, but we have a few thoughts. Light is light, and it is all made up of photons, but a candle is not as powerful as a bonfire. An LED is different from an incandescent light, and both differ from other bulbs based on their comparative wattage. And yet, they all give light. The only thing that differs here is the intensity. Brighter and brighter, they all shine forth their photons.

As for its relative potency, we often think of this in relation to each other, comparing one Manifestation to another. But is this really what He means here? It could be, but it could also be relative to the surrounding circumstances. A candle in a dark room shines with far more potency than the same candle in a bright room. Baha'u'llah confirms this point in so many other areas, saying that this Revelation is far greater due to His coming at the darkest point in human history.

And this leads us to the second point that stands out for us, namely the fact that "tabernacles" is plural. He talks about the "tabernacles of these Prophets and chosen Ones of God". You may recall the importance of this word from way back in Paragraph 1, in which we are to enter the tabernacle that has been raised in the "firmament of the Bayan". Here, He reminds us that there are many tabernacles, each one raised under a different sky. Is one tabernacle better than another? Is there any inherent superiority in one over another? They are all the movable tent used for the worship of God. And while we may prefer one over another, for whatever reason, they all house the point of holiness.

Finally, the third thing that stands out for us is the idea that He does not have to prove a negative. Just because a Manifestation didn't need to demonstrate a particular attribute of God does no in any way mean that They did not possess it. Prove it, someone may say. And Baha'u'llah's response is "Why?" It doesn't require proof or evidence. It should be self-evident. After all, if we all have all the attributes of God latent within us, to a greater or lesser degree, why would the Manifestations be any different?

But the thing that overshadows all of this in importance is the idea of absolute unity among the Manifestations of God. We remember reading somewhere that an individual felt that the Kitab-i-Iqan and the Seven Valleys dealt with the same themes. After careful consideration, we agree. It seems that the Iqan begins with the Valley of Search, and leads into our love for the Messengers we recognize, it continues with Baha'u'llah imparting the knowledge that the Bab answers the same prophecies Muhammad does. By the penultimate paragraph of Part 1, we are firm in the knowledge that the Bab is a divine Manifestation, and in the next paragraph, He warns us to not turn aside from He Whom God shall make Manifest.

Here, He is leading us into the Valley of Unity, demonstrating the absolute unity of all the Messengers, before cautioning us not to be merely "content", and holding before our eyes the wonderment of the works of the early Babi heroes, and encouraging us to step forth into the Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness, by giving our entire lives to this faith of ours.

Now, this all leads us to another very important question: What do we do about it? It is very easy to sit back and say "Hurray! We recognized the new Manifestation", but here Baha'u'llah is reminding us that to do so requires that we recognize all the Manifestations as divine Messengers sent down by God.

"Well, of course", we can hear you say, but then we need to sit back and see what this looks like in action. Back at the beginning of Part 2, in paragraph 102, Baha'u'llah talks about soaring "on the wings of renunciation". Renunciation, of course, means not just detaching ourselves from our ego, or from the material things of the world, but actually overcoming the illusion of separateness from others. And here, Baha'u'llah seems to be reminding us that we cannot just sit on our laurels, content in having recognized Him, but taking that extra step of truly understanding that all the Messengers are One in Their very essence. When we do this, then we will do our utmost to help the Christian be the very best Christian they can, by helping them see the greater truths within their own faith, those truths that Baha'u'llah has laid out so plainly for us to see. We will do all we can to help the Hindu recognize the greater vision of Krishna, as expressed through the unity shown to us through the lens of Baha'u'llah's teachings. We will overcome our own possible cultural biases or prejudices towards those of other paths and strive to help all move closer and closer to their divine Creator by helping them recognize the validity of their own professed path.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Paragraph 109

From that which hath been said it becometh evident that all things, in their inmost reality, testify to the revelation of the names and attributes of God within them. Each according to its capacity, indicateth, and is expressive of, the knowledge of God. So potent and universal is this revelation, that it hath encompassed all things, visible and invisible. Thus hath He revealed: “Hath aught else save Thee a power of revelation which is not possessed by Thee, that it could have manifested Thee? Blind is the eye which doth not perceive Thee.” Likewise, hath the eternal King spoken: “No thing have I perceived, except that I perceived God within it, God before it, or God after it.” Also in the tradition of Kumayl it is written: “Behold, a light hath shone forth out of the Morn of eternity, and lo! its waves have penetrated the inmost reality of all men.” Man, the noblest and most perfect of all created things, excelleth them all in the intensity of this revelation, and is a fuller expression of its glory. And of all men, the most accomplished, the most distinguished and the most excellent are the Manifestations of the Sun of Truth. Nay, all else besides these Manifestations, live by the operation of their Will, and move and have their being through the outpourings of their grace. “But for Thee, I would have not created the heavens.” Nay, all in their holy presence fade into utter nothingness, and are a thing forgotten. Human tongue can never befittingly sing their praise, and human speech can never unfold their mystery. These Tabernacles of holiness, these primal Mirrors which reflect the light of unfading glory, are but expressions of Him Who is the Invisible of the Invisibles. By the revelation of these gems of divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty and grace, are made manifest.

In this sixth of nine paragraphs dealing with the theme of how we can only know God through His Manifestations, we see this pyramid of disclosure in its fullest. Everything shows some sign of God, as so aptly stated by the Imam Ali, "the eternal King": “No thing have I perceived, except that I perceived God within it, God before it, or God after it.” Everything shows a sign of God. Man, however, shows all the signs of God. And out of all humanity, it is the Manifestations of the divine spirit that show these signs to the highest degree.

Pretty straightforward.

Over and over again Baha'u'llah is helping raise our vision of the Messengers of God. Over and over again He is helping us see Them in Their highest glory.

But what else is He showing us here? What are some of the hidden paths in this paragraph?

It reminds us of a phrase one of us heard when a child. Someone said "Everything in physical creation can be seen as a metaphor for a spiritual truth." All right, we thought to ourselves, let's test that. And so for years we played this sort of mental game with ourselves. We would look at something, say a flower or a teacup, and ask "How is this a metaphor for a spiritual truth?" Every single time, without fail, we discovered that there was a spiritual truth contained within that object.

A flower? Too easy. There are countless spiritual metaphors about flowers.

A teacup? Well, we knew the Zen teaching, from Nan-in, of having to empty yourself before you can be filled with the spirit. We also learned that a teacup is also a metaphor for the soul after death. We knew that it was made of clay. Now the following is not exactly scientifically accurate, we know, but it works for all intents and purposes. We can say that clay is made up of the part that becomes the ceramic, and another part that burns away in the kiln. Let's call that other part "the organic binders", which is fairly close. It also has water, but we can treat that as one of the organic binders.

Anyways, we can take a piece of clay and form it into a teacup. Then we take this cup and place it in the kiln, for if we don't, it is not useful. It will melt away when we try to drink from it. Only by putting it in the fire, burning away the impurities, and allowing the ceramic to fuse into a glass-like material, will the teacup become useful to us.

Of course, as any potter knows, when you put an unfired piece of clay in the kiln, it shrinks. The amount of shrinkage is dependent upon the amount of impurities, or organic binders, in the clay.

This is like the soul.

As we are living our life, we are building the cup of our soul with the clay of our deeds. Our good deeds are like the pure ceramic, while our not-so-good deeds are like the organic binders (a term all too appropriate). When we go through the trauma of death, it is like having those organic binders burned away in the kiln. And if we lived our life in such a poor way that much of our self burns away, this can be seen as its own form of hell, for we then need to grow all that back in the next world.

And this is just one of many things we can learn from a teacup.

Another example is that of an atom. If we consider an electron, we find that we really know very little about it. We know that if we were to enlarge a hydrogen atom to be one kilometer across, the nucleus would be like a small pebble in the middle, and the electron would be like a grain of sand at the edge. This is all the actual matter contained within a single atom: a pebble and a grain of sand over the distance of a kilometer. But if this is so, why does matter appear solid? The simplistic answer is that it only appears solid due to the relationship that the electrons have with the other atoms surrounding it. When the atom looks at itself, it can truly say, "I am as nothing", for this is virtually nothing within it. But when it sees itself in relation to other atoms then it appears solid. And so, too, it is with humans. When we look at ourselves, on our own, we appear as nothing and can fall into deep depression. But when we see ourselves as part of a community, then we appear ever more solid.

If we can learn these truths from such simple objects, just imagine how much more we can learn from humanity.

And then move it up a notch: how much more can we learn from the example set to us by the Messengers of God.

At this point, He could end His argument in this paragraph and move on, but Baha'u'llah always further elevates our vision. From all creation to the supremacy of humanity, and the supremacy of the Manifestations within humanity, He's shown us how great these Messengers are. But then He spends the second half of this paragraph further elevating our vision of Them. All else lives by Their will. Everything is create by Their grace. It was only for Them that the heavens were created. These are very lofty statements, far loftier than anything we have ever previously seen in religious writings. By Their revelation, all the names and attributes of God were revealed.

So, while we knew that They were special, Baha'u'llah uses this argument of hierarchy help us gain a greater appreciation of Their true station, a station that is far greater than we have ever dreamed.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Paragraph 108

I swear by God, O esteemed and honored friend! Shouldst thou ponder these words in thine heart, thou wilt of a certainty find the doors of divine wisdom and infinite knowledge flung open before thy face.

We can only know God through His Manifestations. We know this. Here, in the fifth of nine paragraphs on this theme, Baha'u'llah encourages us, once again, to "ponder".

But what is it that He is asking us to ponder? "These words"? Which words? We are thinking that it may be that last quote from the previous paragraph, "He hath known God who hath known himself.”

Ponder it? Alright. Let's do that.

If we examine the context of this quote, then perhaps we can begin to see a bit about what He means. We already know from the previous paragraphs that we can never have a direct connection to God. We do know, however, that "within every atom are enshrined the signs" of God. We also know that "To a supreme degree is this true of man". Within each and every one of us "are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God".

And then, after this train of thought, Baha'u'llah offers us these words to consider: "He hath known God who hath known himself."

Now, it is interesting to consider what He doesn't say. At no point does He imply that we will receive infinite knowledge, but merely that the door to this infinite knowledge will be opened before us. We won't necessarily receive this divine wisdom, but that the door to this wisdom will be accessible to us.

In order for this happen, though, we have to know our true self. Part of that is understanding our spiritual nature, but another part of it is understanding our position in the grand scheme of things. Remember way back at the beginning of the Book, we talked a lot about the humility that would be needed to begin to understand what Baha'u'llah is saying? This detachment from our own ideas, and being open to new ways of seeing? Well, isn't that true here, too? Isn't this humility part of taking the step through these open doors? We may have a bit of knowledge, but when we understand that this knowledge is as nothing compared to that divine Knowledge of which ours is but a shadow, then we step onto that path of wisdom. When we turn to the divine Messenger for better understanding of our role and purpose in the world, then we take the step towards an infinite knowledge, a knowledge that is just hinted at in the Writings.

But if we never understand our true self, then we can never know God. If we do not recognize our spiritual nature, and our position in the universe, then we will never begin to know God, for we will blind ourselves to His greatness by placing ourselves in His position.

Once again, we find ourselves referring back to the opening paragraph of Part 2, in which we are told of the remoteness of God, and how the Messenger is revealing to us "the gems of divine wisdom, that haply thou mayest soar on the wings of renunciation to those heights that are veiled from the eyes of men."

If Part 1 is all about this recognition of the Manifestation for today, then Part 2 seems to be, as we have said before, primarily about obedience. By helping us understand the supreme station of the Manifestation, a station that is so far beyond what we have previously imagined, then we will be a in a far greater position to be obedient to His counsels out of our love for Him. So much of Part 2 revolves around this obedience, and is just filled with stories of the great heights to which the heroes of the faith have found themselves through their obedience that we cannot help but be inspired to strive to follow in their footsteps.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Paragraph 107

The traditions and sayings that bear direct reference to Our theme are divers and manifold; We have refrained from quoting them for the sake of brevity. Nay, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that most great Light. Methinks, but for the potency of that revelation, no being could ever exist. How resplendent the luminaries of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that surge within a drop! To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and attributes are applicable to him. Even as He hath said: “Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.” Manifold are the verses that have been repeatedly revealed in all the heavenly Books and the holy Scriptures, expressive of this most subtle and lofty theme. Even as He hath revealed: “We will surely show them Our signs in the world and within themselves.” Again He saith: “And also in your own selves: will ye not then behold the signs of God?” And yet again He revealeth: “And be ye not like those who forget God, and whom He hath therefore caused to forget their own selves.” In this connection, He Who is the eternal King—may the souls of all that dwell within the mystic Tabernacle be a sacrifice unto Him—hath spoken: “He hath known God who hath known himself.”

Maybe it's just us, but we find this study so much easier by breaking the book up into these various sections. It almost makes each section sort of... bite size. We can wrap our minds around it, and then look at the overall structure of the book as a whole. Hopefully this makes it easier for you, too, dear Reader.

Anyways, here we are at paragraph four of nine that deals with the theme of how we can only know God through His Manifestations.

Here we see that everything in creation shows a sign of God, but humanity, at the pinnacle of this creation, shows all the signs of God within. Soon, like in just a couple of paragraphs, Baha'u'llah will explain that just as humanity is at the apex of creation in this regard, the Manifestations are at the apex of humanity. But for now, let's look at what He says here.

Everything in creation shows an attribute of God, has concealed within it some aspect of our divine Creator from which we can learn. A tree, to use a very basic example, demonstrates bounty through the fruits it gives us. God is the Most Bounteous, and an apple tree shows bounty.

In terms of people, we show all the various attributes of God, but of course, we don't show them in the capital. If God is the All-Bountiful, we, like the tree, can show some bounty. If God is the All-Knowing, we have some knowledge. Whatever God shows in the capital, we are in the lower case. We talked about this a little bit way back when we started this whole study, back when we looked at the Invocation before paragraph 1.

Here, though, Baha'u'llah makes an interesting point. He says that "within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that most great Light." Let's look at that for a moment. We are immediately reminded of nuclear- and astro-physics. We know that one of the attributes of God is that of unity and absolute one-ness. What better example do we have than the sun, where hydrogen atoms fuse together to produce helium, and a whole lot of light and energy. And in fact, this process continues up the periodic table producing all the heavier elements in existence. In a very literal sense, "but for the potency of that revelation, no being could ever exist." Without the nuclear furnaces contained within the stars, none of the heavier elements would have been created. Carbon, oxygen, calcium: they all come from the heart of the stars, or sometimes from their fiery death. It is through this process that most of the elements that make up the more complex molecules of life found their beginning.

Looking even deeper, there are still more questions to examine. Why, for example, is knowledge contained within an atom? Why is wisdom found within that tiny drop of water? To best answer those questions, we would need to explore the Writings even more, seeking out other references to both knowledge and wisdom. And really, we could write volumes on just those two terms alone, but we won't, at least not here. This is just to remind us of how far we can go into the Writings, if we wish. And besides, these are actually fairly facile questions. The real questions begin when we start to ask about how we apply them in our daily lives.

After all, another word that is used here is "potential". All these things lie in potential within each and every one of us. It is up to us to refine and develop these potential attributes and help them become actual.

Now, it is worth remembering that the whole purpose of this book is to help us recognize the Manifestation of God for today. And here, Baha'u'llah is placing this purpose within the context of all of creation. Everything shows a single attribute of God, but humanity has the potential to show all the attributes of God. Now we need to strive to show forth all those attributes to the best of ability, to be worthy of so great a favor.

Remember, Baha'u'llah, in the Hidden Words, says, "Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Paragraph 106

The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace, according to His saying: “His grace hath transcended all things; My grace hath encompassed them all” hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence. These sanctified Mirrors, these Day-springs of ancient glory are one and all the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the light that can never fade. Even as He hath said: “There is no distinction whatsoever between Thee and them; except that they are Thy servants, and are created of Thee.” This is the significance of the tradition: “I am He, Himself, and He is I, myself.”

This is the the third of the nine paragraphs here that are dealing with the theme of how we can only know God through the graces of the Manifestations of His divine Spirit.

Here, in this paragraph, we have a beautiful definition of a Manifestation of God.

And this comes just after we have been told that we cannot know God directly. By the grace of God, as a token of His love, and knowing that we cannot have any direct access to any possible knowledge of Him, He has given us these Messengers by which we can begin to know Him.

Here, through this, we begin to see what Their job description is, if you will.

Now, this is interesting, if you think about it in terms of science or mathematics. Take Euclid, for example. There are the postulates, those things that we just take for granted. This has already been done by the very first few dozen paragraphs, when He reaffirms what the Uncle of the Bab already believes. Now, He is giving us our working definitions.

In Part 1, just to further explain this, in case it is a completely baffling tangent, Baha'u'llah begins by reminding us of what we already know. He says, in a sense, "You already recognize Noah, Abraham, Salih, Hud, Moses, and so on. You already believe this prophetic statement of Jesus. These are things you already agree with." And through His restating of it all, He gives a far higher understanding of the implications of what we have believed than we ever dreamed. All of Part 1 can, in some way, be seen in this light. Now, here, He is giving us a working definition that will be necessary for His arguments later in Part 2. This, He says, is what it means to be a Manifestation of God. From this, once we understand what it is that He means, the rest of the Book follows.

There is so much in this paragraph that we have underlined. It is one of the few paragraphs in this book that is almost completely underlined. But, when re-reading it, we realize that everything we want to say would merely be re-stating what He has already said.

"The door is closed." Yup. He said it.

"They are mirrors." Got it.

"Everything They show and do comes from God." Baha'ullah beat us to it.

"We are unable to distinguish between Them and God, except to recognize that They come from God." Wow. We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

We could try to sit here and analyze why Baha'u'llah puts these various attributes of the Manifestations in the order He does, but it just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel necessary. Instead, we feel that we need to keep these characteristics in the forefront of our mind as we read on. In fact, whenever we read anything by any of the Divine Manifestations, we need to keep this in both mind and heart. When we re-read what Baha'u'llah has said about their lofty station as representations of God on earth, our hearts just soar ever higher when contemplating Them.

After all, back in paragraph 102, after He says that the Messengers have sovereignty, and that He will reveal to us "the mysteries of the Cause of God", He says that, with luck, we will "soar on the wings of renunciation to those heights that are veiled from the eyes of men."

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Paragraph 105

Gracious God! How could there be conceived any existing relationship or possible connection between His Word and they that are created of it? The verse: “God would have you beware of Himself" unmistakably beareth witness to the reality of Our argument, and the words: “God was alone; there was none else besides Him” are a sure testimony of its truth. All the Prophets of God and their chosen Ones, all the divines, the sages, and the wise of every generation, unanimously recognize their inability to attain unto the comprehension of that Quintessence of all truth, and confess their incapacity to grasp Him, Who is the inmost Reality of all things.

This is the second of nine paragraphs dealing with the theme of knowing God, and the unique role of the Manifestation of the Divine Spirit.

Baha'u'llah, in the previous paragraph, recognizes the absolute remoteness of God, and our utter inability for any direct connection to Him. Here, in this paragraph, He continues on this same theme, but adds in that all the wise ones throughout the ages fully admit that God is beyond them, too.

In the context of this paragraph, though, one thing that stands out for us is the very first quote that Baha'u'llah cites, from Qur'an 3:28. What does it mean to "beware of " God? Is it in the sense of being cautious of God, or in the meaning of "be aware of"? It didn't really make a lot of sense to us, so we looked it up in the Qur'an itself.

And what did we find?

A story.

Reading through a number of translations, from verse 21 through 28, we see that Muhammad is cautioning the friends regarding those who persecute the Prophets. In this particular Surih, it is in relation to Moses' father, but it strikes a chord in relation to Part 1 of this very book. Baha'u'llah seems to be cautioning the uncle of the Bab to recognize that the Muslims of that day are walking in the very path that Muhammad cautions here. In this Surih, the believers are warned to not befriend those who "slay unjustly the Prophets", or to prefer them over the believers.

But why this story here, in this context? Isn't Baha'u'llah talking about how God is unknowable?

Yes, He is. And in this paragraph He points out the posture of humility that all the Manifestations, and all the wise ones throughout the generations, have taken. Perhaps this can be seen in contrast to the proud stance taken by the Mullas of the day, as opposed to the humble posture taken by the Babis. It is possible, though we don't know for sure, that Baha'u'llah is helping establish another difference between the Bab and His followers and the Muslims of the day.

Either way, the main theme here is that we cannot know God. God is fully aware of us, but we have no direct tie to Him. So great is this gap that anyone with a shred of wisdom must acknowledge it. "How could there be conceived any existing relationship or possible connection between His Word and they that are created of it?" Quite simply, there can't be. And it is worth being aware of that fact.

Later on, in the next few paragraphs, Baha'u'llah will remind us that even though there is no direct connection between us and God, through God's supreme mercy, He has sent down the Messengers, and through Them we can begin to know something about our Creator.

And it is this posture of humility that is so necessary for us to move forward in this book.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Paragraph 104


To every discerning and illumined heart it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress. Far be it from His glory that human tongue should adequately recount His praise, or that human heart comprehend His fathomless mystery. He is and hath ever been veiled in the ancient eternity of His Essence, and will remain in His Reality everlastingly hidden from the sight of men. “No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision; He is the Subtile, the All-Perceiving.” No tie of direct intercourse can possibly bind Him to His creatures. He standeth exalted beyond and above all separation and union, all proximity and remoteness. No sign can indicate His presence or His absence; inasmuch as by a word of His command all that are in heaven and on earth have come to exist, and by His wish, which is the Primal Will itself, all have stepped out of utter nothingness into the realm of being, the world of the visible.

Thus begins our incredible journey into Part 2 of this remarkable Book. For nine paragraphs Baha'u'llah will talk about the concept of how we are unable to know God directly, and can only begin to know Him through His Manifestations. Two paragraphs earlier, the introductory paragraph to Part 2 begins, as you recall, "Verily He Who is the Day-star of Truth and Revealer of the Supreme Being...", and here He begins showing us that aspect of His station as the "Revealer of the Supreme Being".

But what is He saying, exactly?

He begins by recognizing that if our heart is able to distinguish subtle and hard-to-recognize differences, which is the definition of "discerning", as well as illumined, which we like to think of as radiant through various attributes such as humility and detachment, then we understand that God is so much more than ourselves. Remember, detachment was such an important quality in Part 1, and here it seems to play an equally strong part, too. Many people like to think of God as just a big person. Somehow this seems to make them think that we, as a species, are somehow bigger or more important, but all it really does is shrink their perception of God. Here Baha'u'llah is really telling us that any human attributes that we want to try to place upon our understanding of God are bound to fall far, far short. Not only do these attributes fall short, God is "immensely exalted beyond" all of them. In Prayers and Meditations LXXV, He goes on to explain this further, saying, "I know not how to sing Thy praise, how to describe Thy glory, how to call upon Thy Name. If I call upon Thee by Thy Name, the All-Possessing, I am compelled to recognize that He Who holdeth in His hand the immediate destinies of all created things is but a vassal dependent upon Thee, and is the creation of but a word proceeding from Thy mouth. And if I proclaim Thee by the name of Him Who is the All-Compelling, I readily discover that He is but a suppliant fallen upon the dust, awe-stricken by Thy dreadful might, Thy sovereignty and power." However we attempt to describe God, our description must fall short.

We should not think, however, that this means we cannot praise God, for as anyone who has prayed knows, we can. But rather we should be aware of His caveat: we cannot "adequately recount His praise". Any praise we attempt to use to try to praise God will, also, fall short.

This whole paragraph seems to drive this point home: God is so much more than we think.

Although we can have indirect contact with God, through His Manifestations, we cannot know God directly.

To be clear, though, this does not mean that we, as a species, are any less worthy or smaller than we thought, but rather that God is so much greater than we had previously believed.

Saying it, though, doesn't really do it justice. Let's use an example instead.

Imagine yourself, for a moment, sitting in your room, where you are right now. Picture yourself, from above, looking down on yourself, sitting there. It's easy, right? Now try to imagine yourself sitting there, in that room, inside the building in which you are, whether it is a house, or an apartment block, or even a local coffee shop. Imagine yourself sitting there, in that building. Picture the building around you, with you sitting there comfortably reading these words.

Again, not too difficult.

Now try to see yourself, from further above, still sitting there in the room in the building in your city or town. Visualize the whole town, and try to see yourself sitting there in your room.

Not as easy, is it?

Now move further away. Try to visualize yourself, where you are, in your whole country. Look down at the entire country. Can you still see yourself?

How about from the perspective of the entire planet? Or solar system? Or galaxy? Or galactic cluster? And remember, this is just one of many millions of galactic clusters in the universe.

None of this, however, means that you are any smaller or less than when you first imagined yourself sitting in your room. You are still the same. Unchanged. It's just that now we have a far grander vision of the reality of the universe than we did, say, a hundred years ago.

Remember, in almost every sacred Book there is a line somewhere that says that the "fear of God is the beginning of wisdom". "Fear", you may recall, is actually "a mild discomfort", not the terror that we often associate with the term. "Terror" is a "paralyzing fear", but fear itself is just a mild discomfort. And this exercise of seeing where we actually are in the immensity of the universe often makes us a little bit uncomfortable as we begin to contemplate just how minuscule we are in the immensity of the universe around us.

We have not gotten any smaller. We have just allowed ourselves to begin to understand how incredibly big this universe actually is.

Here, in this paragraph, Baha'u'llah is beginning to do the same thing with our understanding of God.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Paragraph 103

The significance and essential purpose underlying these words is to reveal and demonstrate unto the pure in heart and the sanctified in spirit that they Who are the Luminaries of truth and the Mirrors reflecting the light of divine Unity, in whatever age and cycle they are sent down from their invisible habitations of ancient glory unto this world, to educate the souls of men and endue with grace all created things, are invariably endowed with an all-compelling power, and invested with invincible sovereignty. For these hidden Gems, these concealed and invisible Treasures, in themselves manifest and vindicate the reality of these holy words: “Verily God doeth whatsoever He willeth, and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth.”

Once again, we can be very grateful to Baha'u'llah for explaining to us what it is that He has just said. This paragraph, like paragraph 2, offers us His own explanation of the paragraph just before it. Like paragraph 2, since it is already a summary, it is difficult for us to further sum it up. And so, as before, we will just do a bit of analysis of it.

To start, "significance" means "important quality" and the "essential purpose" is "the necessary intention and objective". So, the most important thing we can get out of the previous paragraph is that these Messengers have "an all-compelling power" and "invincible sovereignty". However, we should also remember that "no man be found on earth to obey Him".

Why would this be? And why is it so important that He state it here, at the very beginning of Part 2? Well, of course, we're not really sure, but we think that it may be because by this point in the book the uncle of the Bab has already recognized his Nephew. And yet, he still has some very important questions. For example, if the Bab is a divine Messenger, of which there is no doubt, then why aren't people obeying His commands? Well, "God doeth whatsoever He willeth". People will obey, but not just yet.

Most of the time, they do not obey because they can't. Take, for example, the idea that women and men are equal. The early Babis, and the early Baha'is for that matter, likely accepted this as true, but given their cultural milieu, they were not able to act upon it. And many of the laws in the Kitab-i-Aqdas are also reliant upon a whole social structure being put into place for them to work. That social network just isn't there yet. Most of the time, we want to obey, but are unable to. Pilgrimage, as another example, is supposed to include the House of the Bab in Shiraz, as well as the House of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad, but given the current circumstances, we cannot do this.

In short, He is correct: nobody can be found to obey Him.

Everything Baha'u'llah says here is basically just fact: "they are sent down... to educate the souls of men". They are endowed with this power, and invested with this sovereignty, even though we, at this time, may not see it.

At this point, though, we are left wondering about all of this, and what we can do to further look at this paragraph. Is it just a simple statement of fact? That hardly seems worthy.

If we look back at part 1, after Baha'u'llah talks about the importance of detachment, He goes right into the idea of "consider the past". What if we apply that here?

Well, the first thing we notice is that we can readily see the manifest sovereignty of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha, and all the other great Teachers that have been sent down throughout history. Perhaps Baha'u'llah is reminding us not to look at the current state of His religion, or that of the Bab, but remember that all Religions started off without any seeming power or authority.

From here, as we can see from our outline, Baha'u'llah will begin this part of the book by looking at how the Manifestations reveal what we understand about God, and then move into explaining more about this concept of sovereignty.

Here, He uses the phrase "in whatever age and cycle they are sent down", reminding us of what He told us way back in Part 1, when He went through the story of a number of different Manifestations. This has always been the way of God, He seems to be saying remember the other stories, and see how similar it is to what we are witnessing today.

In fact, if we keep our eyes open and really look at what was happening at that time, then we can readily see how much more potency there was in the Bab's Revelation by the very stories that this uncle would undoubtedly know. Those stories that we read in the Dawn-Breakers were stories of people he actually knew. When he would look at it through the lens of what Baha'u'llah is saying here, then he would get a better idea of the incredible station of his Nephew.

And this touches upon us today.

When we look at how far the Faith has come in such a short time, and compare it to where the other Faiths were less than two centuries after their founding, then we get a far better appreciation of the potency of this Faith of ours.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Paragraph 102

Verily He Who is the Day-star of Truth and Revealer of the Supreme Being holdeth, for all time, undisputed sovereignty over all that is in heaven and on earth, though no man be found on earth to obey Him. He verily is independent of all earthly dominion, though He be utterly destitute. Thus We reveal unto thee the mysteries of the Cause of God, and bestow upon thee the gems of divine wisdom, that haply thou mayest soar on the wings of renunciation to those heights that are veiled from the eyes of men.

Thus begins Part 2 of this remarkable book.

Evidently this paragraph, like paragraph 1, is written in pure Arabic. The rest of the Book, as we're sure you are aware, is written mostly in Persian. (Not that it makes a difference to us. We can't read either one. We just thought it was interesting.)

This paragraph, though, we find intriguing in that it is filled with these seeming contradictions. He has sovereignty, "though no man be found... to obey Him"; He is independent of all things, but appears destitute. These seem like they would be incompatible, but they state a basic reality of the Manifestations of God.

In some ways this reminds us of the apparent contradictions between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, in which there are some notable differences in the stories of creation. While some might try to cite this as somehow being a flaw, we think of it, instead, as reminding us of the fundamentally mystical nature of religion. He is, after all, revealing to us "the mysteries of the Cause of God". In other words, there is far more here than meets the eye.

In other ways, it reminds us of paragraph 1 of this very book. While paragraph 1 begins with the importance of detachment, this one begins with the sovereignty that is the Manifestation's, contrasting His utter independence with His "utterly destitute" state.

In yet another way, it also reminds us of the very beginning of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. We can easily see Part 1 of this book as being about recognition, and Part 2 being about obedience. The very first paragraph of the Kitab-i-Aqdas reads:
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.

In many ways it seems as if He is foreshadowing the entirety of His Most Holy Book with this one, which the Guardian referred to as being of "unsurpassed pre-eminence", which you may recall from way back in the very first article of this blog. In fact, this passage from the Aqdas also reminds us that it does us no good to recognize Baha'u'llah if we don't act on it. It is like Mark Twain said: "The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read." Here, the man who is not changed by recognition of the Manifestation has no advantage over the man who does not recognize. "These twin duties", as Baha'u'llah says, "are inseparable." And Part 2 of this book is inseparable from Part 1.

It is also worth noting that both paragraphs 1 and 102 have that pivotal word "haply". In paragraph 1, as you recall, you have to sanctify your soul that "haply" you might attain that station God wants for you, and go into that divine Tabernacle that was "raised in the firmament of the Bayan". By the end of Part 1, if you have been able to maintain that level of detachment He recommends, then you have likely recognized the new Manifestation. Now, in Part 2, He is offering us His writings and teachings. After all, the first proof of the Manifestation is His own Self. His second proof is His teachings. Here He has offered us this second proof that, with luck, or haply, we might "soar on the wings of renunciation" and accomplish that which He desires us to do.

This seems to be one of the overarching themes of Part 2: Now that we have recognized, what are we going to do about it? He gives us incredible examples of the great heroes of the Babi Dispensation, whom the Uncle of the Bab would have likely known, or at least heard of. (Remember the Uncle of the Bab? He's the one to whom this whole Book was written.) These are the exemplars of what we can do when we demonstrate that renunciation which they exemplified. If Part 1 is about recognizing, then we feel that Part 2 is about what to do after we have recognized.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Outline of the Paragraphs, Part 2

This is our preliminary outline for Part 2 of the Kitab-i-Iqan. We are fairly certain that it will change a bit as we go through this part paragraph by paragraph. But for now, this is our working outline. Any comments are most welcome.

Samuel and Mead


Part 2


Introduction
  • 102-3 Manifestations reveal God and have sovereignty
Revealer of the Supreme Being
  • 104-5 No direct knowledge of God
    • 106 We know God through His Manifestations
  • 107-8 Everything shows a sign of God, but humanity shows all the signs
    • 109 Manifestations show these signs to the highest degree
    • 110 All the Manifestations embody all the attributes of God
    • 111 - 112  People have strayed from the Manifestations
Sovereignty
  • 113 - 132 True Sovereignty
    • 113 Sovereignty of the Qa'im real, but not as we imagine
    • 114 Sovereignty is Their spiritual influence
    • 115 Remember Muhammad's sufferings
    • 116 No escaping these attacks
    • 117 Time proves Their sovereignty
    • 118-120 Passing judgement
      • 121 Resurrection and judgement, life and death
      • 122-9 All the Manifestations demonstrate this
    • 130 Ponder (difficult concept just shared)
    • 131 Spiritual sovereignty superior to earthly sovereignty
    • 132 This is just one meaning
  • 133 - 145 Spiritual versus Earthly
    • 133 Spiritual Sovereignty vs earthly sovereignty
    • 134 Qur'anic verification
    • 135 Husayn, as an example
      • 136 Manifestations as another example
      • 137 Dust associated with Husayn as an example
      • 138 - 139 Husayn - From martyrdom to majesty
    • 140 Summary
    • 141 Jesus - True riches
    • 142 Sadiq's example
    • 143 Poverty and Riches
    • 144 - 145 Jesus' examples of spiritual versus earthly
  • 146 - The Presence of God
    • 146 Repeated history of cavilings
    • 147 "No more Messengers"
    • 148 God can always raise another Messenger
    • 149 - 152   Attainment to the Divine Presence
      • 149 A universal revelation? No. Already happened
      • 150 Attaining the inner-most reality of God? Impossible
      • 151 - 152 Attaining the presence of the Manifestation? Yes.
    • 153 Strive to understand this
    • 154 - 155 True learning - Recognizing the Manifestation in His day
  • 156 - 174 Return of phenotypes
    • 156 History repeated
    • 157 - 158 Manifestation answers ? but people think it's irrelevant
    • 159 - 160 "Return" explicated
    • 161 - Oneness of Messenger
    • 162 - 163 Oneness of Their chosen ones
    • 164 - 167 Transmutation
    • 168 - 169 "Return" continued - attributes
    • 170 - Return of Companions - Muhammad to the Bab
    • 171 - 174 - The "First" and the "Last"
  • 175 - 210 - Some "Veils of Glory"
    • 175 - 177 - Hypocritical leaders
    • 178 - 184 - Traditional terms, such as "Seal of the Prophets"
    • 185 - 187 - Examples of some veiled people
    • 187 - 197 -  Describing the Station of Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest
      • 187 - 190 - References to His own Station
      • 191 - 195 - Their Two-fold Station
      • 196 - Many aspects of Their Spiritual Station
      • 197 Reference to Himself
    • 198 - More aspects of Their Spiritual Station
    • 199 - 202 - Seek knowledge from the knowing
    • 203 -206 - Knowledge as a veil
    • 207 - 210 - People flock to the ignorant
  • 211 - 219 The True Seeker
    • 211 - 212 - Seek guidance from the pure in heart
    • 213 - 214 Criteria for a true seeker
    • 215 - 217 The results of truly seeking
    • 218 - 219 Renewal of religion
  • 220 - 225 Truth of Muhammad and the Qur'an
    • 226 - 227 Supreme station of the Qur'an
    • 228 - 231 The ignorant reject the Qur'an
    • 232 - 233 The Qur'an is for everyone, not dependent on human learning
    • 234 - 235 Denied that Muhammad brought something new
    • 236 - 237 The deniers said "No Prophet shall come after..."
  • 238 - 245 Paralleling Muhammad and the Bab
    • 238 - 241 Some declared the Messenger a calumniator
      • 238 - 239 Muhammad
      • 240 - 241 The Bab
    • 242 - 243 Persecution of followers who honour the old Messenger
      • 242 Muhammad
      • 243 The Bab
    • 244 - 245 They deny newly revealed verses
      • 244 Muhammad
      • 245 The Bab
  • 246 - 255 The Followers
    • 246 Some always seek Him out, usually unknown and unlearned
    • 247 Today, they are the learned who follow
      • 248 Names of some of them
      • 249 - 250 The proof of what they endured
      • 251 Comparison to the Imam Husayn
    • 252 - 255 The Divine Touchstone, separating the true from the false
  • 256 - 285 Proofs of the Bab's Mission
    • 256 - The Bab outlines the denials He faced
    • 257 - 261 Proof - The Bab's steadfastness
    • 262 - The Bab's life
    • 263 - 264 - His followers suffer persecution similar to previous Messengers
    • 265 Consider their sufferings and become firmer in the Faith (cf paragraph 6)
    • 266 - 275 Traditions
    • 276 - Caution to the Babi leaders
    • 277 - 279 Baha'u'llah's recent experiences
    • 280 The pure will understand, the covetous will not
    • 281 - 283 More traditions
    • 284 - 285 Interpreting traditions
  • 286 - 290 Conclusion
    • 286 Caution
    • 287-290 References to Baha'u'llah's Station