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

  • 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
  • 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