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.