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.