Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Paragraph 153

 Strive, therefore, O my brother, to grasp the meaning of “Resurrection,” and cleanse thine ears from the idle sayings of these rejected people. Shouldst thou step into the realm of complete detachment, thou wilt readily testify that no day is mightier than this Day, and that no resurrection more awful than this Resurrection can ever be conceived. One righteous work performed in this Day, equaleth all the virtuous acts which for myriads of centuries men have practiced—nay, We ask forgiveness of God for such a comparison! For verily the reward which such a deed deserveth is immensely beyond and above the estimate of men. Inasmuch as these undiscerning and wretched souls have failed to apprehend the true meaning of “Resurrection” and of the “attainment unto the divine Presence,” they therefore have remained utterly deprived of the grace thereof. Although the sole and fundamental purpose of all learning, and the toil and labor thereof, is attainment unto, and the recognition of, this station, yet they are all immersed in the pursuit of their material studies. They deny themselves every moment of leisure, and utterly ignore Him, Who is the Essence of all learning, and the one Object of their quest! Methinks, their lips have never touched the cup of divine Knowledge, nor do they seem to have attained even a dewdrop of the showers of heavenly grace.

Back in paragraph 151, Baha'u'llah said, in the last sentence, "...the Day of Resurrection... is the Day of the rise of God Himself through His all-embracing Revelation." That is it, His definition. When He tells us to "Strive... to grasp the meaning of 'Resurrection'", this is the meaning He is telling us to work hard to understand. And, of course, in paragraph 152 He elaborated on that definition. He reminded us that there is nothing more wonderful and marvelous than to be alive at the time of a Messenger of God.

Now, here in paragraph 153, He goes a bit further. First He reminds to not bother ourselves with the sayings and definitions of those who don't get it. If some bozo says that the Day of Resurrection is something wild, nonsensical and fantastical, who cares? Just ignore them. They're yahoos. Baha'u'llah has given us a good definition. Go with it. Use it. Strive to understand it better. And as we do, we will come to understand more of the world around us.

Later in this paragraph, He helps us make this connection. He says that the "sole and fundamental purpose of all learning... is attainment unto... this station..." Of course, most of the people are only concerned about the material aspect of their studies. They don't concern themselves with the spiritual, but that is only to their detriment.

Imagine a scenario in which some fool goes into a science classroom before the class begins and proceeds to give some silly idea of the nature of light or evolution. Can you imagine a question on the final exam about what they said? Of course not. When the class begins, though, you will ask the person to move aside so that the true teacher can now begin their class. And then you will quiz the students on what they said, not on the silly ideas that were presented earlier.

In this scenario, the good science teacher would not only explain the principles and laws involved, but would go on and talk about the application of those ideas. They would address the moral issues involved, and talk about the impact on society. It is not only useless to talk about, for example, nuclear energy in terms of how to start a nuclear reaction, it is actually dangerous if you do not address the impacts such a reaction can have on the health of the people. But when you talk about the importance of unity, health, safety, the need for clean energy, and so forth, then the beneficial effects of these laws becomes more apparent.

Now, let's go back to the word "strive". It means to work hard. It means to put great effort into something. Here, it seems to imply that overcoming the previous mis-understandings of what was meant by "resurrection" will require strength of character. We need to build up that inner strength in order to carry the weight of this new definition, which implies serious work on our part later.

And He ends all this with a reference to water, first referred to way back in paragraph 1 with the "ocean of true understanding". Here we are getting a "true understanding" of the meaning of "Resurrection", and it will have implications on our life and actions, which He will address in the rest of the book.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Paragraph 152

This is the meaning of the “Day of Resurrection,” spoken of in all the scriptures, and announced unto all people. Reflect, can a more precious, a mightier, and more glorious day than this be conceived, so that man should willingly forego its grace, and deprive himself of its bounties, which like unto vernal showers are raining from the heaven of mercy upon all mankind? Having thus conclusively demonstrated that no day is greater than this Day, and no revelation more glorious than this Revelation, and having set forth all these weighty and infallible proofs which no understanding mind can question, and no man of learning overlook, how can man possibly, through the idle contention of the people of doubt and fancy, deprive himself of such a bountiful grace? Have they not heard the well-known tradition: “When the Qá’im riseth, that day is the Day of Resurrection”? In like manner, the Imáms, those unquenchable lights of divine guidance, have interpreted the verse: “What can such expect but that God should come down to them overshadowed with clouds,”109—a sign which they have unquestionably regarded as one of the features of the Day of Resurrection—as referring to the Qá’im and His manifestation.

"This is the meaning..." What is the meaning to which He is referring? To get the answer, we need to look at the last couple of sentences in the previous paragraph.

To put this into context first, though, let us remember where He is in His argument. The uncle of Bab had asked about the sovereignty of the Bab, claiming that He was a merchant, a prisoner, and even executed. How, he wondered, did this demonstrate sovereignty?

Previously, we had understood these various statements about the promised Qa'im to refer to some Messenger who would appear in the future. Baha'u'llah turns this around on us and shows us that they refer to all the Messengers. If we claim that the Bab was a merchant and could not have been a divine Messenger, well, so was Muhammad. If we say He was executed and therefore could not be the Promised One, Jesus was also executed. Any claim we make against the Bab for not showing the sovereignty of God in the way we expect can be turned around to try and deny another Messenger we already recognize.

Conversely, any statements we read about the wonder and awe of the promised Day to come can also be applied to the Day of any Messenger we already recognize.

Over and over Baha'u'llah continually draws us back to this concept of singularity and unity. To recognize one of the Messengers is to recognize them all. To deny one is to deny them all.

These glorious statements about the "Presence of God" at the time of the Resurrection refer to the time of any and all of the other Messengers, too. "...(W)hosoever, and in whatever Dispensation, hath recognized and attained unto the presence of these glorious, these resplendent and most excellent Luminaries, hath verily attained unto the 'Presence of God'..."

"Reflect" He says, "can a more precious, a mightier, a more glorious day than this be conceived..?" Remember from way back at the beginning of Part 1? Whenever He tells us to consider, meditate or reflect, it is always because He has introduced a new concept that we may naturally resist. The same holds true here. He is giving us a new understanding of a concept we thought we understood. And now, in the middle of this paragraph, He is asking us to consider it before outright denying it.

"(N)o day is greater than this Day, and no revelation more glorious that this Revelation..." That Day which is so precious is not just the time of the Bab, nor only the time of Baha'u'llah, but rather that Day in which any Messenger of God is walking the earth.

Of course, this leads us to very important question, which is at the heart of all that Baha'u'llah is addressing here. Are we living at such a time?

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Paragraph 151

And were they to say that by “divine Presence” is meant the “Secondary Revelation of God,” interpreted as the “Holy Outpouring,” this is admittedly applicable to the world of creation, that is, in the realm of the primal and original manifestation of God. Such revelation is confined to His Prophets and chosen Ones, inasmuch as none mightier than they hath come to exist in the world of being. This truth all recognize, and bear witness thereto. These Prophets and chosen Ones of God are the recipients and revealers of all the unchangeable attributes and names of God. They are the mirrors that truly and faithfully reflect the light of God. Whatsoever is applicable to them is in reality applicable to God, Himself, Who is both the Visible and the Invisible. The knowledge of Him, Who is the Origin of all things, and attainment unto Him, are impossible save through knowledge of, and attainment unto, these luminous Beings who proceed from the Sun of Truth. By attaining, therefore, to the presence of these holy Luminaries, the “Presence of God” Himself is attained. From their knowledge, the knowledge of God is revealed, and from the light of their countenance, the splendour of the Face of God is made manifest. Through the manifold attributes of these Essences of Detachment, Who are both the first and the last, the seen and the hidden, it is made evident that He Who is the Sun of Truth is “the First and the Last, the Seen, and the Hidden.” Likewise the other lofty names and exalted attributes of God. Therefore, whosoever, and in whatever Dispensation, hath recognized and attained unto the presence of these glorious, these resplendent and most excellent Luminaries, hath verily attained unto the “Presence of God” Himself, and entered the city of eternal and immortal life. Attainment unto such presence is possible only in the Day of Resurrection, which is the Day of the rise of God Himself through His all-embracing Revelation.

This is the third of three definitions looking at the meaning of "attainment unto the divine Presence".

To recap, the first definition was attaining to the Revelation. But, as He points out, this is always possible, not just in the time of the Manifestation. So, in a sense, it's too broad a definition. The second definition was attaining to the very essence of God Himself. But, as Baha'u'llah points out, this is impossible, even for the Manifestations. So, in a sense, it's too narrow a definition.

Now He offers the understanding that it means attaining the presence of the Manifestation Himself. This is the Goldilocks definition. It is just right. Whatever we see in the Manifestation can be regarded as being of God, too. In essence, He helps turn our vision away from the idea of God, Himself, and towards the concept of recognizing God through the Manifestation.

In this paragraph, Baha'u'llah offers us one of the most concise concepts of a Manifestation we have ever read. He likens them to "mirrors that truly and faithfully reflect the light of God". Now, to be fair, this idea has been there throughout history, but has been easily misunderstood. The mirror is so bright, and so beautiful, that it has been seen to be the sun it is reflecting. We have confused the Manifestation for God Himself. The mirror is not the sun, but a perfect representation of the sun, just as the Manifestation is not God, but the perfect representation of God.

There is an interesting thing about mirrors, though. One is the way in which they reflect the light, how faithfully and accurately you can see what is being reflected. The other is how much light they actually reflect. What we mean by this is, in the first instance, how clear the image is. If the mirror is warped, or has bubbles, then the image will not be accurate. It will be distorted.

On the other hand, the material which makes up the mirror will also determine its ability to reflect. One substance may only reflect 10% of the light, while another might reflect 50%, or more.

We were really made aware of this one day at the Grand Canyon. We were standing at the edge looking over these magnificent rock formations, all the strata and colours. It was truly incredible. But then we noticed a large slab of obsidian next to us. It was highly polished, like a mirror. And when you looked at the rocks reflected in the obsidian mirror, you could actually see more detail than if you looked at the rocks directly. By reflecting only a small percentage of the light, more details were made apparent.

Perhaps the Manifestation is like this. God is so awesome, as in awe-inspiring, and overwhelming, that we require the reflection of His light in the Manifestation to even be able to see a glimmer of the details.

We are also reminded of paragraph 1, once again. Way back at the beginning, we were told that nobody could ever "attain the shores of the Ocean of true understanding except he be detached" from everything. Here, Baha'u'llah refers to the Manifestations as those "Essences of Detachment".

It is also worth noting that the quote He cites, from Qur'an 57, is taken from a discourse on the order of creation. This is noteworthy because this little section about attaining the divine Presence is following His own explanation of the hierarchy of creation. He went from all things reflecting an attribute of God to humanity reflecting all the attributes. He then reminded us that of all people on the planet it is the Manifestations that reflect these attributes to the highest degree. At the same time, this quote also reminds us that all the Manifestations have an underlying essence of oneness about them. They are all "the First and the Last, the Seen and the Hidden". At every turn He draws our attention to the Manifestations and continually shows us how they are all, essentially, the same spirit. In essence, He is really addressing the idea of the Manifestations, their Names and attributes, and showing their relation to God, as intermediaries between God and the world of Creation.

For us today, we can see this as a reminder to look at how people define their terms and help them understand the implications of their definitions, just as He does in these paragraphs. Baha'u'llah showed us how different people understood the phrase "attaining the divine Presence" and then spoke briefly about the implications of each understanding. One was too broad. One was too narrow. One was just right.

Similar to this, we can look at the idea prayer as another example. Some people feel that prayer is only defined as one particular style, such as the Lord's Prayer, which is, of course, too narrow. Others feel that it has no effect, which is also not accurate, for many respond to prayer and are affected by it. But 'Abdu'l-Baha's definition of prayer as "conversation with God" is just right. It allows for the many styles, as well as the different effects it has on people.

One of the greatest gifts we have in the Baha'i Faith is the gift of being able to translate these various ideas through the understanding that Baha'u'llah has shared with us.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Paragraph 150

And were they to maintain that by “divine Presence” is meant the “Specific Revelation of God,” expressed by certain Ṣúfís as the “Most Holy Outpouring,” if this be in the Essence Itself, it is evident that it hath been eternally in the divine Knowledge. Assuming the truth of this hypothesis, “attainment unto the divine Presence” is in this sense obviously possible to no one, inasmuch as this revelation is confined to the innermost Essence, unto which no man can attain. “The way is barred, and all seeking rejected.” The minds of the favorites of heaven, however high they soar, can never attain this station, how much less the understanding of obscured and limited minds.
This is the second of three definitions He offers around the phrase, "attaining unto the divine Presence" in the Day of Resurrection. The first definition, offered in paragraph 149, was attaining to the Revelation of God. He says that it cannot refer to this as this has happened in every Dispensation. All the Messengers have brought their message, their Revelation. So, in a sense, it is too broad a definition.

Here, in this paragraph, He says that some think of it as referring to seeing "the innermost Essence" of God. This, He says, is impossible. Nobody can ever do that, not even the Manifestations.

In Prayers and Meditations, number LXXV, He says, "Whoso claimeth to have known Thee hath, by virtue of such a claim, testified to his own ignorance; and whoso believeth himself to have attained unto Thee all the atoms of the earth would attest his powerlessness and proclaim his failure."

He seems to say that if we believe that we can attain the actual presence of God, and approach His innermost essence, we are sorely mistaken. It's not that we, or the Manifestations, are any lesser or lower for this inability, but rather that God is just that much greater than we ever imagined. Here, as elsewhere, Baha'u'llah is raising our vision, giving us a grander view of reality.

It all hearkens back to paragraph 104, and His explanation of God. He explained to us that God is "immensely exalted beyond" anything we can conceive, and this, our inability to attain His innermost Essence, is a natural implication of this new understanding of God's station.

 Two questions, though, stand out for us. First, why is it "the minds" at the end of this paragraph, and not the hearts or the souls? Second, who are the "favorites of heaven"?

In regards to the first, we can find the beginning of an answer in the Arabic Hidden Words, number 66:

"O Children of the Divine and Invisible Essence! Ye shall be hindered from loving Me and souls shall be perturbed as they make mention of Me. For minds cannot grasp Me nor hearts contain Me."

As we get closer to God, we come to understand God more and more. Here, He points out that we can never get so close to God as to understand His inner Essence. And in fact, we can never get close enough to another individual to understand their inner essence either. Why would we presume to be able to get close enough to God to do the same? To presume we can is the pinnacle of egotism, which merely leads us further away.

As for who is a "favorite of heaven", the only other time we see this phrase in the Writings is earlier in this book, in paragraph 89. It is used in relation to showing the fallacy of those who use "specious discourses" to try and disprove the Manifestation. He points to a quote in which it is said, "Our Cause is sorely trying, highly perplexing; none can bear it except he be a favorite of heaven, or an inspired Prophet, or he whose faith god hath tested."

So, who would be a favorite of heaven? That's a great question. We'll leave it as one of the mysteries of the faith. Besides, our minds are quite limited and obscured, so who are we to say.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Paragraph 149

This people have repudiated all these verses, that unmistakably testify to the reality of “attainment unto the Divine Presence.” No theme hath been more emphatically asserted in the holy scriptures. Notwithstanding, they have deprived themselves of this lofty and most exalted rank, this supreme and glorious station. Some have contended that by “attainment unto the Divine Presence” is meant the “Revelation” of God in the Day of Resurrection. Should they assert that the “Revelation” of God signifieth a “Universal Revelation,” it is clear and evident that such revelation already existeth in all things. The truth of this We have already established, inasmuch as We have demonstrated that all things are the recipients and revealers of the splendors of that ideal King, and that the signs of the revelation of that Sun, the Source of all splendor, exist and are manifest in the mirrors of beings. Nay, were man to gaze with the eye of divine and spiritual discernment, he will readily recognize that nothing whatsoever can exist without the revelation of the splendor of God, the ideal King. Consider how all created things eloquently testify to the revelation of that inner Light within them. Behold how within all things the portals of the Riḍván of God are opened, that seekers may attain the cities of understanding and wisdom, and enter the gardens of knowledge and power. Within every garden they will behold the mystic bride of inner meaning enshrined within the chambers of utterance in the utmost grace and fullest adornment. Most of the verses of the Qur’án indicate, and bear witness to, this spiritual theme. The verse: “Neither is there aught which doth not celebrate His praise” is eloquent testimony thereto; and “We noted all things and wrote them down,” a faithful witness thereof. Now, if by “attainment unto the Presence of God” is meant attainment unto the knowledge of such revelation, it is evident that all men have already attained unto the presence of the unchangeable Countenance of that peerless King. Why, then, restrict such revelation to the Day of Resurrection?

This paragraph is, in a way, a great summary of all we have already read in Part 2. Everything in creation shows an attribute of God, while humanity shows all the attributes, and the Messengers show them to the highest degree. The question, though, is why? Here, He gives us an answer: so that we may achieve understanding and wisdom. This, in a sense, can be seen as a purpose of creation.

He then points out, continuing the theme from the previous few paragraphs, that revelation is never final. 

He goes on to explain that many people think these great things will only happen at the time of the Return. They believe it is only in the time of the Messenger to come that we will "attain the divine Presence". Here, Baha'u'llah is pointing out that this has happened during the time of every Manifestation. It is not an either / or, but an and.

The way in which He puts forth all these ideas is a great model for us to examine. He re-iterates what He has already said, allowing the reader to follow His train of thought. Then, after this quick summation, He adds another single, small step: Why restrict these ideas and concepts to only the "Day of Resurrection"? They have occurred during every Revelation.

He demonstrates for us, by His very argument, how to gently lead a seeker one step at a time, never overwhelming, never pushing. Instead, He reminds us of the path on which we have just walked and then gets us to consider the next logical step. By asking that last question in the paragraph, He allows us the freedom to consider and explore these ideas for ourselves.

This question of what is meant by "divine Presence" is one that He will help us explore over the next few paragraphs. To get us started, He begins with some basic observations, and gives us a lot of beautiful imagery to attract us to this glorious vision.

Here we want to look a little bit at this vision He has given us, and explore the imagery He puts before us.

He says that "within all things", within all of creation, there are the doors to this beautiful garden, the Garden of Ridvan, where He will later declare His Mission. Then, within this garden, there are cities, which conveys just how vast and beautiful this first garden is. And within these cities there are yet more gardens, almost like the essence of gardens distilled. Now we enter this smaller garden, nestled within the "cities of understanding and wisdom". But even within this smaller garden, there is still more. There is a building with a room, an inner chamber, and enshrined therein is "the mystic bride of inner meaning".

Our goal, He seems to say, is not this first, larger garden, nor is it the cities within. Our goal isn't even the smaller garden within these cities. Nor is our goal this inner chamber. No. Our real goal is "the mystic bride of inner meaning enshrined within".

Similarly, our goal is not to receive the Word of God, nor is it to understand the literal surface meaning of these Words. Our true goal is to strive to better understand their "inner meaning".

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Thought on Part 2

As you are aware, over the past few months we have been going back over Part 2 of this book. We had noticed that we were feeling fairly lost, and couldn't figure out why. Then we realized that we had gone over Part 1 about 3 times before we began writing about it, so why, we wondered, did we think we could write about Part 2, never having studied it together.

The way that we did this was to just read it, paragraph by paragraph, and see if we could figure out what Baha'u'llah's outline was. How did He organize His argument? How did He present it? How did He lead the uncle of the Bab, step by step, to this glorious revelation?

And we were still lost.

We read some, and stumbled, and read a bit more, and stumbled a bit more. But we noticed that each week we would try to recall what Baha'u'llah had talked about leading up to where we were. And by trying to recapture what we had read, we discovered that an outline was unveiling itself before our eyes.

In essence, this is what we would say each week as began to get ready to move on to the next few paragraphs.

Beginning with paragraph 102, the first one in Part 2, He reminds us of these wonderful contradictions: the Manifestation is the Sovereign, although nobody obeys Him; He is utterly independent of all save God, but is destitute, too. He reminds us, in the next paragraph, that the Manifestations are sent down to educate us about God, and about ourselves. That is Their job, if you will. Then He goes on, in paragraph 104, to tell us that God is unknowable, and exalted beyond all attributes. There is no direct connection between God and us. Since we can't know God directly, He sends us His Messengers (paragraph 106).

After this, in paragraph 107, He tells us that everything in creation shows forth an attribute of God, but within every human all the attributes are shown to some degree. In other words, everything shows one aspect of God, but humanity shows all these attributes. And out of all of humanity, the Messengers show this to the highest degree (109). All the Manifestations have all these attributes, whether or not they are visible to others (110), whether it is sovereignty, dominion, or any other attribute of God. But even then the people have failed to seek divine knowledge from Them (111).

So what about Sovereignty, the root of the question that the uncle asked Baha'u'llah (113)?

This sovereignty is not what we expect (114). It is not the pomp and glory of the gilded kings that we think of when we traditionally think of sovereignty. It is a spiritual sovereignty that They show either during Their life, or afterwards (117).

He then goes on to give a few examples, reminding us of how They showed the attribute of the Judge by dividing the good from the wicked (120). Then He reminds us that these various terms, "resurrection", "judgement", "paradise", "hell": these are all symbolic terms (123). Every Messenger has reaffirmed this. It is, in essence, their "purpose" (128).

Today, in the 1860s, we can see the same pattern playing out with the Bab (130).

Then He asks a great question. Which type of sovereignty is more important: the physical sovereignty of a monarch on earth, or the spiritual sovereignty of the Messenger (131)? Obviously the latter.

Baha'u'llah then offers a few paragraphs in which He demonstrates the symbolic meaning of many traditions, showing how they cannot possibly be literal, especially in the light of history. Through this, we get a glimpse of the real sovereignty held by the Manifestations.

He then looks at the concept of being in the "Divine presence", and the various interpretations of what this can mean. His conclusion is that it refers to being in the presence of the Manifestation during His time on earth. And that is why this time, while He was still walking on earth, was so important.

From there He continues by asking us to ponder the state of the world today (133). Look at the people around you, and see if they are really being obedient to the law of God, or not. For many centuries, people have long felt that when the next Messenger appears, They will conquer their enemies, and establish a wonderful kingdom on earth. Baha'u'llah shows that this was not the case with any of the past religions, so why would it be true today? Their sovereignty was not of this earth, and any earthly rule came much later.

He then spends a number of paragraphs outlining the true sovereignty held by the Manifestations, and their followers.

After all that, He then goes on to talk about the idea that God would never send another Messenger. He points out the foolishness of this idea, and talks about many prophecies alluding to another Manifestation. By paragraph 152, He has already clearly demonstrated the true meaning of the phrase "the Day of Resurrection".

And this, dear Reader, is as far as we have gotten over the summer.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Dearly loved Readers,

This short note is to let you know that we are going to take a break for a few months. We have realized that we read and studied part 1 of this great book 3 times before we began writing this blog, but have not yet really studied the entirety of part 2 before writing about it.

We feel that this needs to be done before we continue.

Come this autumn we will continue writing again, and hopefully be able to share our thoughts about what we have learned during this time: how to apply it to our lives, to our service to the Faith, and to the current needs of the Plan.

We hope that you will continue to join us in our journey, and truly look forward to any thoughts or insights you may have.

With love and prayers,

Samuel and Mead