Thursday, December 16, 2010

Paragraph 9

And after Noah the light of the countenance of Hud shone forth above the horizon of creation. For well-nigh seven hundred years, according to the sayings of men, He exhorted the people to turn their faces and draw nearer unto the Ridvan of the divine presence. What showers of afflictions rained upon Him, until at last His adjurations bore the fruit of increased rebelliousness, and His assiduous endeavours resulted in the willful blindness of His people. "And their unbelief shall only increase for the unbelievers their own perdition." [Qur'án 35:39]

After Noah, Baha'u'llah turns our attention to Hud.

The first thing we noticed was the phrase "according to the sayings of men". It's an interesting insertion, that phrase, for it seems to say quite a bit. He is not confirming that Hud was alive for that long, nor is He denying it. In fact, He doesn't even say that this bit of information is from God. He just says that it is according to some people. We were reminded of the beginning of the Lord of the Rings, when the ring fades from history to legend. As there is no written history of Hud from that time, it feels as though there is a mythological element to it.

We feel that the fact He neither confirms nor denies this bit of information implies that it is not all that important. This may be a lesson for us, not to be overly concerned about these sorts of details, whether or not Hud really did live for more than seven hundred years, or whether Noah had seventy or forty-two followers. This is beside the point.

What is important is that after telling us that Hud suffered for trying to guide men back to God, Baha'u'llah says that His teachings "bore the fruit of increased rebelliousness", and His "endeavours resulted in the willful blindness of His people." The people were already rebellious, and became even more so. And their blindness, interestingly enough, was willful.

Here we find ourselves confused. Later on, Baha'u'llah says, "And yet, is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind...? For if the character of mankind be not changed, the futility of God's universal Manifestations would be apparent."

How does this relate to Hud? The people remained rebellious, and even became willingly blind.

Noah made a promise that didn't happen. This was a test. Now Hud appears, and nothing comes of His Revelation, except for rebelliousness and blindness. Is this, too, a test? For us?

In Noah's time, the people were wiped out in a flood. In Hud's time, He reminds them about Noah and the flood, but they still don't listen. This time, a great storm comes and wipes them out.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Paragraph 8

And now, consider and reflect a moment upon the waywardness of this people. What could have been the reason for such denial and avoidance on their part? What could have induced them to refuse to put off the garment of denial, and to adorn themselves with the robe of acceptance? Moreover, what could have caused the nonfulfilment of the divine promise which led the seekers to reject that which they had accepted? Meditate profoundly, that the secret of things unseen may be revealed unto you, that you may inhale the sweetness of a spiritual and imperishable fragrance, and that you may acknowledge the truth that from time immemorial even unto eternity the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns. Even as He hath revealed: "Do men think when they say 'We believe' they shall be let alone and not be put to proof?"[Qur'án 29:2]

Having just given us a short reflection upon Noah, Baha'u'llah then has us look for a moment at the people of that time. This is a very interesting thing that He is doing, for it will lead us to see a path of growth in this section of 11 paragraphs.

This passage, like some previous ones, asks us to "consider and reflect", but specifically asks to do so in relation to "the waywardness of this people." Which people? The ones that denied Noah.

He also asks us to consider the reason for their:
  • "denial and avoidance",
  • refusal to accept, and
  • rejection of that which they had accepted.
We noticed that the first one may be obvious. If you avoid hearing a Messenger, how can you accept what they say? Quite simply, you can't.

The second one is a bit more difficult. These are people who have to have heard the Message, but then refused it. After all, you can't refuse a Message unless you have first listened to it.

But then comes the third, denying what they had already accepted. This might be referring to those people who had already accepted Noah as a divine Messenger, but then turned around and later denied Him. Here we are asked to "meditate profoundly".

Why would Baha'u'llah ask us to do this?

Why would they reject what they had already accepted? To us, it seems a bit obvious. Noah had made some promises which, we are told, did not happen. Isn't this a reasonable cause for denial? Even so eminent a Baha'i as Mirza Abu'l-Fadl had initially made his acceptance conditional upon the fulfillment of Baha'u'llah's prophecies. Of course, later on, he realized that "God doeth whatsoever He willeth." But let's put ourselves in the position of those souls at the time of Noah. Here He is, making a promise that does not come true. And not just once, but time and again. Wouldn't we deny Him? Maybe it's just us, but we sure would question.

And there is the crux of this paragraph. This is why we need to "meditate profoundly". With the clarity of hindsight, we already know that Noah is a Messenger. So if that's the case, why did these prophcies not happen the way He said they would? Baha'u'llah, Himself, refers to it as the "nonfulfilment of the divine promise". This is something we wracked our brains over. After all, it doesn't seem reasonable, so even now, a few thousand years later, we are still questioning it.

In answer to this, Baha'u'llah offers us another path, namely that we will see the:
  • secret revealed,
  • inhale the sweetness,
  • and acknowledge the truth
There is a secret there, and only with a deep consideration will we be able to see it. Once we understand that secret, then we will be able to appreciate the sweetness of it. After we come to an appreciation of it, then we can acknowledge the truth.

Oh, but which truth, or more accurately, which part of the truth? The truth that God tests His servants, often in a strange and wacky way that doesn't seem reasonable to us. But then again, who are we to question? We're the ones being tested.

In this particular case, we only need to look at paragraph 7 to see how He tested the people in the time of Noah.

But then there is another question: Why does He test us? And here, Baha'u'llah gives us an answer. He does so in order that "light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns".

This made a lot of sense to us, until we reached the last example. In other words, we understood that darkness is the absence of light, falsehood is the absence of truth, wrong is the absence of right, error occurs  in the absence of guidance, misery is what we experience when there is no happiness, but "roses from thorns"? Putting genetic modification aside, roses have thorns. How does this fit in with the rest of the sentence?

And then we had a thought (this is where we leapt out of chairs). Roses do have thorns, below the beauty of the flower. They are part of the same plant, inseperable, and of one piece. Or different ends of a spectrum.

If we look at a rose as a line segment, beginning at the thorns (yes, we know it starts at the root, but bear with us), then you can move upwards from there to the beauty of the rose.

If we consider the scale of light, it begins at zero, the absence of photons, or what we call "darkness". From there, you can move up the scale into ever-brighter levels of light. You can always gain more truth, be more in accord with that which is right, follow the guidance more closely, and be happier. These are not opposites, but, like the rose, different parts of the same plant, so to speak. They are part of a continuum, united.

This is also another path we can walk. We first begin to see the light, and from there we begin to understand the truth, and act more rightly (is that a word?). Then we seek more guidance and follow it, becoming happier in the meanwhile. Then we become one of those roses in the garden of our Lord.

And finally, why does He end with this quote from the Qur'an? Because it is part of the eternal pattern. It is evident when someone runs away from hearing the truth, and even obvious when someone hears it and says, "No, I disagree." But when someone says, "Sure, I agree with that", how can we be certain of their conviction? How do we really know? Even though it is not for us to test others, we can appreciate and admire their response to tests such as these. And even our own.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Paragraph 7

Among the Prophets was Noah. For nine hundred and fifty years He prayerfully exhorted His people and summoned them to the haven of security and peace. None, however, heeded His call. Each day they inflicted on His blessed person such pain and suffering that no one believed He could survive. How frequently they denied Him, how malevolently they hinted their suspicion against Him! Thus it hath been revealed: "And as often as a company of His people passed by Him, they derided Him. To them He said: 'Though ye scoff at us now, we will scoff at you hereafter even as ye scoff at us. In the end ye shall know.'" (Qur'an 11:38) Long afterward, He several times promised victory to His companions and fixed the hour thereof. But when the hour struck, the divine promise was not fulfilled. This caused a few among the small number of His followers to turn away from Him, and to this testify the records of the best-known books. These you must certainly have perused; if not, undoubtedly you will. Finally, as stated in books and traditions, there remained with Him only forty or seventy-two of His followers. At last from the depth of His being He cried aloud: "Lord! Leave not upon the land a single dweller from among the unbelievers."

This paragraph begins a series of 11 paragraphs that deal with those Messengers of God we are already familiar with. You may recall from the outline that these Messengers are Noah, Hud, Salih, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Baha'u'llah encourages us to be very familiar with our own Sacred Books, saying, "These you must certainly have perused; if not, undoubtedly you will." It is as though He wants to ensure that our foundation for the discussion is up to par.

"Peruse" means to read through with thoroughness or care. It is only in very recent times that it has come to mean the opposite, and we should be sure to understand it in the way that the Guardian did when he used this word in his translation. Obviously, Baha'u'llah is not telling us to read the Holy Books in a casual way. No, He wants us to thoroughly study them and become very familiar with their contents.

This paragraph is the first of two that reflect upon Noah.

When we think of Noah, we often look at the story of the Ark, the flood, the dove, the olive branch and the rainbow. We tend to focus on what it is that makes Noah unique. Here, Baha'u'llah focuses our attention on what He has in common with the other Messengers of God.

It is mentioned here that He suffered so much that nobody thought He could survive. According to one tradition, He was regularly beaten so badly that He would lose consciousness. His followers then asked Him to pray to God to punish His enemies, but Noah, instead, would pray for their forgiveness. It is as if He was living the example of "apprehending the true causes" of the oppressors and asking God to forgive them, because He could "appreciate the significance of their position." Finally, at the end, He cries out and asks God to "Leave not upon the land a single dweller from among the unbelievers." Is this a cry of vengeance, or could we see it, instead, as a protection? Could He have asked this so that those people could no longer endanger their own souls by harming a Messenger of God? However we view it, the ensuing flood has become one of the greatest analogies of the purification accomplished by disaster.

Another aspect that is mentioned here is the fact that some promises were made, but not fulfilled. This is yet another test that His followers faced. It begs the question of why any of them followed Him. Were they doing it only for a spot on the Ark? Or were they following out of the love of God?

We could also ask ourselves if we have truly understood the promises that were made. When Baha'u'llah says that this is the day that will not be followed by night, do we say He was wrong when the sun sets today? Or do we recognize that we may have misunderstood? This is the kind of test that Noah's followers may have faced.

One other thing that stood out to us was the very name of Noah. According to some sources, the root of His name "signifies not only absence of movement but being settled in a particular place with overtones of finality, or victory, or salvation". Other words in Hebrew that come from this word are rest, quiet and soothing.

When we think of the Ark, and how it is a haven of salvation through the flood, allowing the people rest and quiet (with all those other animals squealing and squawking on board), we are reminded that this is one of the purposes of all the Messengers of God. They give us that place of rest, security and peace amidst the turmoil of the world.

One last point to address is how Baha'u'llah casually mentions that Noah had "forty or seventy-two... followers." These two numbers come from two different traditions, and Baha'u'llah is giving us a great example of how to not be concerned about insignificant details. If Baha'u'llah mentioned only one of those two numbers, He would have alienated an entire group of people. Instead, He validates both, implying that it is not overly important. What is important is that there were very few people who followed Noah.

We believe that we could all learn from this example of Baha'u'llah's concern for unity.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Paragraph 6

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. Accordingly, a brief mention will be made in this Tablet of divers accounts relative to the Prophets of God, that they may demonstrate the truth that throughout all ages and centuries the Manifestations of power and glory have been subjected to such heinous cruelties that no pen dare describe them. Perchance this may enable a few to cease to be perturbed by the clamour and protestations of the divines and the foolish of this age, and cause them to strengthen their confidence and certainty.

This is the fourth of those four paragraphs that ask us to consider the past when looking at the present day events.

In the first of these four paragraphs, we were reminded that all the divine Messengers were denied when They came. In the second, we were asked to "ponder... and reflect upon that which hath been the cause of such denial..." In the third paragraph, we were asked to "ponder... those holy words" and "examine the wondrous behaviour of the Prophets". In this final paragraph, we are shown both the significance of the position of the unbelievers, as well as how we can achieve the station of certitude.

To start, we are asked to "acquaint (ourselves) with the indignities heaped upon the Prophets of God". Acquaint means to make ourselves familiar with, to inform ourselves. We are being asked, once again, to learn for ourselves, to, as He says in The Hidden Words, "see with (our) own eyes". In fact, it is quite easy to do this, as we all can read the stories of the Messengers.

We are also asked to "apprehend the true causes of the objections", which is different from the stated objections. To apprehend means to understand on a deep level. So if we understand the real reasons that people object, then we will better "appreciate the significance of their position". It should be noted that the word "their" is not capitalized. It seems to refer to those people who are doing the objecting. Doing this, trying to understand the real reasons for their objection, is not as easy to do as reading the stories, because we are being asked to look at the root causes of peoples' actions.

What are the causes of these objections? Later in the Text, Baha'u'llah lists some of them. In paragraph 14, He says petty-mindedness, which leads to arrogance and pride, causes remoteness from God, promotes idle fancies, and encourages people to be blind followers.

Blind followers? We seem to come back to this one a lot, don't we?

We will see that later, in paragraph 15, He talks about lust for leadership and ignorance being two other causes, as well as being content with insignificant things. In paragraph 16, He reiterates ignorance as a root cause.

As we examine all these causes, we get a better understanding of the lamentable station of the people voicing these objections. How pitiable are they? By asking us to consider these points and contemplate the station of those souls, He not only gets us to prevent these objections within our own selves, but at the same time encourages compassion within us. It is very difficult to get angry with someone who is in the unenviable position they have put themselves in. You must, instead, feel very sorry for them.

Then He makes a second point right after that: "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". Now there is a promise worth noting. If you want to be firm in the Faith, and who doesn't, know that your firmness is directly related to how closely you observe those denials. Why this is, we have no idea, but, based on our own personal experiences, we have found this to be true. Whenever we hear people say bad things about any of the Messengers, we find that our love for Them increases. The more others deny Them, the more we seem to believe in Them. This is still a mystery to us, but is in line with our experience.

These two points mentioned above seem to be indicating another scale, or at least the beginning of one, starting with
  • strong objections
  • and moving toward what seems to be a comparatively mild denial.
If we follow this arrow, it seems to lead us toward complete certainty at the further end. Perhaps He is helping us move in this direction by showing us the starting point, and the direction.

After this, Baha'u'llah begins to tells us where He is going next: "a brief mention" of past Messengers. This, in fact, occupies most of the next hundred pages, or so, showing that "brief" is a relative term.

By pointing out that all these Messengers have suffered hatefully evil tortures, and yet still overcome them will allow those with insight to not be confused in the mind by the loud protests "of the divines and foolish" ones who will arise against Him. We find it very interesting that these two categories, "the divines and foolish", are referring to two different groups of people.

The last clause is also worth noting, as He particularly mentions "confidence and certainty". If we look at the scale mentioned above, it seems that those who are objecting or denying are lacking in those qualities. This seems to be similar to nearly any scientific scale, such as light or heat, starting at zero and moving toward infinity. As this is the Book of Certitude, it only makes sense that He would outline this scale for us and leads us onwards along it.

Paragraph 5

In like manner, those words that have streamed forth from the source of power and descended from the heaven of glory are innumerable and beyond the ordinary comprehension of man. To them that are possessed of true understanding and insight the Surah of Hud surely sufficeth. Ponder a while those holy words in your heart, and, with utter detachment, strive to grasp their meaning. Examine the wondrous behaviour of the Prophets, and recall the defamations and denials uttered by the children of negation and falsehood, perchance you may cause the bird of the human heart to wing its flight away from the abodes of heedlessness and doubt unto the nest of faith and certainty, and drink deep from the pure waters of ancient wisdom, and partake of the fruit of the tree of divine knowledge. Such is the share of the pure in heart of the bread that hath descended from the realms of eternity and holiness.

This is the third of those four paragraphs that ask us to consider the past when looking at the present day events.

In the first of these four paragraphs, we were reminded that all the divine Messengers were denied when They came. In the second, we were asked to "ponder... and reflect upon that which hath been the cause of such denial..." In this third paragraph, we are asked to "ponder... those holy words" and "examine the wondrous behaviour of the Prophets".

It is fascinating that He is likening the causes of denial and the Words of the Holy Prophets, saying that both are "innumerable and beyond the ordinary comprehension of man".

Baha'u'llah refers us to the first of many stories from Sacred scriptures, the Surah of Hud, the eleventh Surah of the Qur'an. The story of Hud is quite simple, in summary, while the Surah itself is filled with wonderful references and allusions. Hud was a Messenger sent by God some time after Noah. His people had forgotten the lessons learned from the Flood, and so Hud was sent to warn the people to stop worshipping idols. Despite His warnings, they continued to worship them, and so a drought was sent as a further warning. When this had no effect, a large storm was sent, from which only Hud and a few believers emerged.

Obviously, there is a lot more to the Surah than just this quick summary. Among other things, it cautions us to ensure that our inner beliefs are in harmony with our actions, and not to try and fool God. But don't take our word for it, go and read the Surah for yourself.

Here Baha'u'llah is reminding us to study the Words of God, to dive deep into them and really strive to understand their meaning. But, just in case we think this is an easy in to heaven or paradise, or whatever we want to call it, He reminds us that it is not a guarantee. Note the use of "perchance", similar to that of the word “haply” in the first paragraph. Continually He reminds us that we must make an effort, but that alone is no guarantee of success.

He also refers to the "children of negation and falsehood", and how they have uttered "defamations and denials". No matter what our path is, we can relate to this in the history of our own faith. There have always been those who have fit this appaling mantle, and we would never want to be identified with those people. Instead, we would rather be identified by those virtuous traits shown by "the wondrous behaviour of the Prophets".

There is also another scale hidden within this paragraph:
  • heedlessness and doubt,
  • faith and certainty,
  • wisdom,
  • and then divine knowledge.
This scale refers to the movement of the human heart. It begins, like most scales in nature, at the zero-point: heedlessness and doubt, where we are unsure why, or even if, we should follow the laws of the Messengers. From there, we can move into the realm of faith and certainty, but that is only the beginning. The question, as always, is what we do with that faith. As we grow in our faith and certainty, and move more into accord with the Holy Writings, we will enter into the realm of wisdom. As we continue to act with wisdom, continually reflecting upon the Writings, we will begin to move more into the realms of divine knowledge, for how can we begin to understand this knowledge if it is not being put into action?

Another scale that is hidden within this is found in the descriptions of the above attributes:
  • the abode of heedlessness and doubt
  • the  nest of faith and certainty
  • the  pure waters of ancient wisdom
  • and  the fruit of the tree of divine knowledge
It looks to us like Baha'u'llah is bringing us from our homes in the cities back to a more pure Eden. We move from one home, very man-made, to another home, created by nature. Then we cross the rivers and are back again in the Garden.

Finally, there are also a couple of more references that hint back at religious history. Of course there is the obvious reference of Hud, one of the Messengers referred to in the Qur'an, and the inherent reference to Noah within that Surah.

Beyond that, there is a reference to Eden with the Tree of Knowledge, and the bread descending can refer to both manna in the desert with Moses, and Jesus with the Last Supper.

It seems that Baha'u'llah is beginning to draw us through religious history, starting at the very beginning, hinting at the concept of the progressiveness of religion that He will expound so well later on.

Now while all this may still seem a bit dry, we do need to keep in mind that Baha'u'llah is helping us get rid of unneccessary baggage in our religious thought. He is helping us clarify what we know, and how we know it.

And, for our part, it was very exciting to discover some of these themes developing in the Text. We hadn't noticed them on our first read through (or even by the seventh), but now, every time we see a new one, we practically jump out of seats for excitement. What you are seeing here is the end product of our consultation, and you are, unfortunately, missing out on the development aspect of all this. Hopefully, when you begin to study this Text with your friends, you will find other gems that we have missed, and see new shores of that Ocean that we have not yet walked.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Paragraph 4

Ponder for a moment, and reflect upon that which hath been the cause of such denial on the part of those who have searched with such earnestness and longing. Their attack hath been more fierce than tongue or pen can describe. Not one single Manifestation of Holiness hath appeared but He was afflicted by the denials, the repudiation, and the vehement opposition of the people around Him. Thus it hath been revealed: "O the misery of men! No Messenger cometh unto them but they laugh Him to scorn."[Qur'án 36:30] Again He saith: "Each nation hath plotted darkly against their Messenger to lay violent hold on Him, and disputed with vain words to invalidate the truth."[Qur'án 40:5]

This is the second of four paragraphs that ask us to consider the past when looking at the present day events.

In the first of these four paragraphs, we were reminded that all the divine Messengers were denied when They came. In this second paragraph, we are asked to "ponder... and reflect upon that which hath been the cause of such denial..."

Although we are asked to consider this question, no answer is given at this time. Instead, we are reminded of Their sufferings, and a scale of opposition is hinted at. He reminds us that each of these Manifestations "was afflicted by the denial, the repudiations, and the vehement opposition of the people around Him." It also does not matter what our religious tradition is, whether or not we have one, for we will immediately recognize the historical truth of this statement. Once again, Baha'u'llah is giving us a solid foundation upon which to build the argument.

Looking at the three degrees of opposition that Baha'u'llah mentions, we noticed what appears to be another pattern:
  • "Denial" is defined as "an assertion that something said, believed, alleged, etc., is false".
  • "Repudiation" is a bit stronger: to reject with disapproval or condemnation.
  • "Vehement opposition" is the strongest of the three.
This type of crescendo, negative in this instance, is found often within the Writings of Baha'u'llah, and frequently in this Text. We have found it useful to identify these patterns when we see them, and ask ourselves what we can learn from the scale in question.

Here we seem to be shown the negative example from history, a negative example we are all familiar with. These stories are not new to us, and they are ones we already have sympathy for. By using these examples later in the Text, Baha'u'llah is calling us to act differently. He is cautioning us, so that we won't follow the same pattern of behaviour. Instead, this is a call for us to arise to the station of recognition and be regarded not as the enemies of a new Faith, but as one of its heroes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Paragraph 3

Consider the past. How many, both high and low, have, at all times, yearningly awaited the advent of the Manifestations of God in the sanctified persons of His chosen Ones. How often have they expected His coming, how frequently have they prayed that the breeze of divine mercy might blow, and the promised Beauty step forth from behind the veil of concealment, and be made manifest to all the world. And whensoever the portals of grace did open, and the clouds of divine bounty did rain upon mankind, and the light of the Unseen did shine above the horizon of celestial might, they all denied Him, and turned away from His face -- the face of God Himself. Refer ye, to verify this truth, to that which hath been recorded in every sacred Book.

Paragraphs 3 to 6 are all tied together in that they ask us to look at the past and reflect on what we already know to be true. Even though we are studying them one at a time here, we should keep in mind how intertwined they are.

In this particular paragraph, Baha'u'llah asks us to consider how, in the past, many people have eagerly "awaited the advent of the Manifestations of God". While there are many other points that we could consider, this is the one that is most relevant to His argument here. The main point of the entire Book is to respond to the questions of the uncle of the Bab regarding how his Nephew could be the Promised One.

He begins by stating that one's station in life is irrelevant in recognizing the Messenger of God. Many people, "both high and low", were awaiting the fulfillment of these divine promises. They were all expecting, and even praying, for that moment.

Yet, He reminds us, when that "promised Beauty" did appear, "they all denied Him, and turned away from His face..."

Just in case we are not certain about this, Baha'u'llah refers us to the sacred Books of the past.

This is His starting point. It is presumed that we are already convinced of the truth of these sacred Books, for if we were not, why would we be waiting for the promise within them to be fulfilled? By referring us back to those Texts that we already consider sacred, He is giving us a common starting point from which He can begin to show us the truth.

Looking at the structure of this paragraph, it is also noteworthy that Baha'u'llah lists four different hopes and five different actions, three of which can be seen as causes and two as effects. On the side of hope is:
  • they expected His coming”,
  • they prayed that the breeze of divine mercy might blow”,
  • that “the promised Beauty step forth from behind the veil of concealment
  • and that He would “be made manifest to all the world.”

On the other side, there were the results of His appearance. The bounties of this appearance are that: 
  • the portals of grace did open,
  • and the clouds of divine bounty did rain upon mankind,
  • and the light of the Unseen did shine above the horizon of celestial might”.
But then it is disappointing that the immediate result of this is that:
  • they all denied Him,
  • and turned away from His face”.
Of course, this is part of the process, for it is how God tests the people.

First is the expectation, and then the prayers for its fulfillment. In response to those ardent prayers, He steps forth and is seen by those sincere souls. Then those people, those sincere ones, spread His teachings, and He is revealed to everyone. When this occurs, it is evident to all that the portals are open and that the clouds are raining. The clouds clear away and the light can shine upon the seeds that have been watered in the hearts of men. Now, with the addition of sunlight, they can grow. But then there is the pulling of the weeds, the tests and the trials.

This is a natural progression, and Baha'u'llah will expand upon this idea later in the Book.

It is also worth noting, at this point, that the next dozen paragraphs, or so, are something of a review of religious history and tradition. For many of us, this can seem a bit dry, but we need to remember that what He is doing is solidifying our foundation.

Monday, November 29, 2010


"In the name of our Lord, the Exalted, the Most High."

This simple sentence is called an "invocation". It is not considered a paragraph, and therefore does not need to be numbered. It is, however, part of the text and, we feel, needs to be studied.

An invocation, according to the dictionary, is an act of humble prayer, a supplication to God for assistance of a petition. Here, it is, in some ways, reminiscent of the Lord's Prayer, and the opening sentence in the many Surahs of the Qur'an. It also appears in a few of the writings of The Bab.

We could easily ask why this invocation is here, and readily admit that it is because all that we are about to study, comes from God. But here, Baha'u'llah does not use the word God, and instead calls upon Him by three of His attributes. It is our intention to try and come to a better understanding of why He chooses to use these three. As we have mentioned earlier, we believe that every time Baha'u'llah calls upon one of the attributes of God, it is to draw our attention to that particular attribute within ourselves. We are, after all, created in His image, and we understand that to mean, that whatever attributes God may show in the capital sense, we show in the lower case sense.

To start, however, we noticed the use of the preposition "in".

Prepositions are used in many ways and don't always take on their literal meaning. For example, we often say, "I'm on the computer". What we mean to say is that we're typing on the computer keyboard, or looking at various websites on the internet, and not literally perched like a bird on top of our computer.

Here it is not being used as a substitute for "within" or "into", but is rather used in the sense of conveying purpose. It is like a messenger delivering a message from a King. Baha'u'llah is quite specific in Whose name He is writing. Like a King's messenger, Baha'u'llah does not need to be any more specific than he already is. When the messenger says, "In the name of the King", nobody asks, "Which King?" But then, if he wants, the messenger can add more specifics, such as "defender of the realm". They can also add the name of the particular sovereign, but it is often not necessary.

In this Invocation Baha'u'llah includes three attributes of God, as if to clarify Who He means, or in what capacity.

The first of these is "Lord". A Lord, by definition is "a person who has authority, control, or power over others". By etymology, it comes from the earlier word "hlafweard", literally "one who guards the loaves," from hlaf "bread, loaf" and weard "keeper, guardian, ward". When we make this connection or analogy to the "Bread of Life", it adds another dimension to this simple invocation. We already know that the only way we can get access to this sacred Bread is through the Manifestations of God. They are, One and All, servants of God, the Guardian of that precious Loaf.

The second attribute is the "Exalted", which means "raised or elevated, as in rank or character; of high station". The dictionary is such a wonderful tool when studying the Writings.

Can anything be of a higher station than God? This is a good reminder of where this Book is coming from. While some may see this attribute as "putting us in our place", we see it as a reminder of the place of this Text. It is not just any text, produced for our amusement or entertainment, but instead it is a very special and sacred Text. It comes down to us from somewhere in the heavenly realm. We should approach it with humility, eagerness and anticipation. It is from a loving Creator given to His creation at their own level, so that they can begin to understand it and further advance in their spiritual development. Overall, it truly is a precious gift, given by a King to His lowly servant.

The third attribute is "the Most High".

How is this different from the "Exalted"? If we look at all three attributes, we can see a continuous upward progression. A lord can be anyone who is above the commoner. One who is exalted, is above the general "run-of-the-mill" lord, if we can phrase it that way. But God is not only exalted, He is "the Most High". There is none higher. It is almost as if we are reading, "God is high. No, wait a minute. I mean really high. I mean like even higher than the highest." Like everything else within the Sacred Writings, our vision is slowly and patiently elevated, progressively and systematically, one step at a time. This assists us to advance our own spiritual development and move closer to the presence of "the Most High".

And that seems like the proper introduction for a Book of this magnitude.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Introductory Quote

This is the Day in which the testimony of the Lord hath been fulfilled, the Day in which the Word of God hath been made manifest, and His evidence firmly established. His voice is calling you unto that which shall profit you, and enjoineth you to observe that which shall draw you nigh unto God, the Lord of Revelation.

We are not sure where this quote comes from, but we do know that the Guardian chose to place it here as an introductory quote to this Book. We, therefore, feel impelled to look at it and see what gems we can find within it while looking at the Kitab-i-Iqan.

Why did the Guardian put it there? What is Baha'u'llah telling us? Or perhaps more accurately, what is God telling us?

In the first sentence, we notice that there are four key aspects that describe the nature of God's revelation to mankind.

First, it is noteworthy that Baha'u'llah is referring to this Day, and none other. Baha'u'llah stresses this twice in one sentence with the phrases “This is the Day” and again a few words later repeating "the Day". He reveals the nature and aspect of the revelation for this Day, telling us that the "testimony of the Lord hath been fulfilled", the "Word of God hath been made manifest", and "His evidence (is) firmly established". “This is the Day”, Baha'u'llah says, when these events occur.

If we wished, we could speculate on the reason for this, for the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise of such a Day. We could try to guess at some of the reasons for the appearance of this Day, a Day announced by all His chosen Messengers, but regardless of what we may consider valid reasons, this dispensation clearly demonstrates its qualities and attributes as being the long awaited and promised Day of God. Here, at the beginning of this quote, Baha'u'llah is giving us assurance of what it is we will find for ourselves when we investigate His claims and teachings.

Second, we see that “the testimony of the Lord hath been fulfilled” in this Day.

A “testimony” is a declaration of faith, sometimes referring to divine Laws. In this case, it can either refer to Baha'u'llah's open proclamation of His station, or an acknowledgement that He has revealed all the precepts of God. Whichever definition we choose to use, He is saying that the testimony has been completed. This is, of course, the most important aspect of His Mission: making His declaration, and bringing it to completion.

In addition to this, he also says that His testimony is “fulfilled”. When something is fulfilled, it means that it has been carried out or brought into realization. It can either be as a promise or a prophesy, but it must satisfy all necessary requirements upon completion. This fulfillment can refer to Baha'u'llah's testimony, the testimony of God, or the testimony of a previous Messenger of God. Whichever definition we choose to use, we have to recognize that it has been done.

Third, Baha'u'llah tells us that "the Word of God hath been made manifest".

What exactly is “the Word of God”? Well, let's review and acquaint ourselves with the Word of God with which we are already familiar. The Psalmist says, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path". In the Gospel of John he says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God". In the Qur'an, Muhammad describes the magnitude of the Word of God: "If the waters of the sea were ink with which to write the words of my Lord, the sea would surely run dry before the words of my Lord were spent, though we found another sea to replenish it". In the Bayan, the Bab describes His position as a Messenger of God, saying,"I am one of the sustaining pillars of the Primal Word of God". Baha'u'llah says, "The Word of God may be likened unto a sapling, whose roots have been implanted in the hearts of men".

So, one aspect of the Word of God is God speaking to humanity through His appointed Messenger, for humanity's guidance and betterment. That was easy!

Now, when something is made “manifest”, it usually means that it's readily perceived by our senses and easily understandable. When the Word of God is made manifest, it is made clear and plain, and openly declared for all to hear. All the Messengers and Prophets of God have fulfilled the calling of bringing the Word of God to humanity, but it has not always made it clear and easily understood. It has been delivered as parable, allegory, sometimes in veiled language, and, at times, simply straightforward. The difficulty has been deciding which is which. We have been left trying to piece it together like a puzzle.

Baha'u'llah, in His Writings, speaks plainly, although in an exalted style. In His Message, in His declaration, and throughout His life, He is very clear about the Truth He speaks. Perhaps this is why the Bab refers to Him as "Him Whom God shall make manifest".

The fourth phrase we wish to look at in this first sentence is “His evidence (is) firmly established”.

Evidence” means that there is permanent proof, or grounds for belief; that there is a sign, and that facts are formed. We know that the best proof or evidence offered by a Prophet of God is Himself, but after His passing, it is the effectiveness of His Word.

He also stresses that this evidence is "firmly established". This means it has fulfilled a function in an unalterable manner, established a fixed order and founded a strong institution.

We could ask how this is done, but Baha'u'llah has answered it in His own Writings. The subject of how "His evidence is firmly established" is, in fact, one of the main points of this blog.

Now we can move on to the second of two sentences in this quote: “His voice is calling you unto that which shall profit you, and enjoineth you to observe that which shall draw you nigh unto God, the Lord of Revelation.”

To start, we noticed the phrase, “His voice is calling you”. When God speaks, we don't always listen, to put it mildly. When we speak, God always listens and answers, but not necessarily in the manner we wish for Him to do so. For us to hear Him, we have to use our spiritual ears, which is not how we usually listen. Also, if His voice is calling us, then we must be distant, for you don't call someone who is standing right next to you.

But He is not just calling us. Baha'u'llah specifies that He “is calling (us) unto that which shall profit (us)”. Like any loving Father, He is helping us to learn, grow and mature.

If something is to profit us, it must have some benefit or be of some advantage to us. It will help us progress, and advance. Not only that, but it has to be of service to others.

He is not only calling us, but even going so far as to “enjoineth (us) to observe that which shall draw (us) nigh unto God”.

To “enjoin” means to direct or order to do something, as given by an authority. God is prescribing a path of faith for us, a course of action, but not just any course of action. He specifically wants us to “observe”, or obey, those things that will bring us closer to Him. He wants us to pay attention and watch, to understand what He says, and actually learn something from Him. This, we feel, is what is meant when He speaks through His messenger and says He is calling and "enjoineth (us) to observe".

Through our continued study of His Word, and our obedience to His Laws, we can move "nigh unto God". This is our goal. This is our objective. We want to be close to God.

Finally, He refers to Himself as “the Lord of Revelation”.

So who, or what, does this refer to? Baha'u'llah, or perhaps God? We feel it refers to both.

We can read it with Baha'u'llah in mind. He might be calling Himself the Lord of Revelation. After all, He is the Promised One of all ages. With this title, He may be hinting that all the other Revelations are under His domain. The Bab, we recall, referred to Himself as a ring upon Baha'u'llah's finger, and “He turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He pleaseth, and through whatsoever He pleaseth.”

But we can also read it as referring to God. Baha'u'llah may be drawing our attention back to our Creator, and reminding us that all Revelation comes from God, the Lord of Revelation.

To better understand this, let's look at what a Lord is, not to mention a revelation. If you play fantasy role-laying games, or watch a lot of science fiction movies, you might have a pretty good idea already, but we are speaking in religious terms here and want to make sure we get the right definition so as to better understand the sacred writings. We don't want to get overly concerned with semantics or interpretations that lead us on a wild goose chase, but are more concerned with that which will profit us and bring us closer to our God.

A Lord is someone in authority and control. They are a high-ranking Nobleman, often a Leader, a Master, or a Chief. They have great influence over people in their profession or calling.

A revelation, on the other hand, is a sudden disclosure of a message, or information, that was previously concealed. In theological terms, it is God revealing Himself and His Will to humanity through His appointed Messenger or Prophet.

So, what practical lesson can be learned from this introductory quote? How does it apply to our life?

Well, to put it simply, we are living in spiritually exciting times. We can see the testimony of God fulfilled, the Word of God manifested, His evidence organized and His proofs established in this Day. If we listen attentively to His voice, the voice of God, and try to learn from Him, we may be able to get front row tickets to His Presence. By taking the time to really try and understand what it is He is asking of us, and striving to live according to His teachings, we are drawn nearer to our Creator, "the Lord of Revelation".

By now we're quite sure your coffee (or tea) has gotten cold and the tea biscuit (or cake) you were munching on has dried up a little, but that's okay. Hopefully your heart has been touched by the Word of God and you've discovered a little bit of what you're in for with this blog. Our methodology is really not our own. No, this claim we cannot make. Much of how we glean what we've learned is from Baha'u'llah himself. They are His instructions. We are just doing our best to discover the gems in His writings. We are following His writings, word by word, phrase by phrase, like a diver plumbing the depths of the ocean in search of those pearls of great price.

We hold the presence of God as our objective and ultimate goal. But in the meantime we walk the path of faith, step by step, learning how to recognize a Messenger of God. We hope you will join us on this journey.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Outline of the Paragraphs, Part 1

This Book is fairly easily divided into sections, for ease of study. The following outline is not authoritative, nor the only possible way to outline this Text. It is merely the outline that works best for the way in which we are studying.

You will note that we seem to regard paragraphs 1 - 23 as something of an introduction, with the majority of the Text focused on an analysis of the quote in paragraph 24.

1 - 2 An introduction to the goal of our search.
3 - 6 Consider the past, and reflect
7 - 17 Messengers of the past
  • 7 - 8 Noah
  • 9 Hud
  • 10 Salih
  • 11 Abraham
  • 12 Moses
  • 13 - 16 Reasons for the denials
    • 13 "What could have caused such contention and conflict?"
    • 14 The motives of the people
    • 15 The motives of the clergy
    • 16 Ignorance - the main reason for denial
  • 17 Jesus
18 - 23 The Eternal Covenant
  • 18 Introduction
  • 19 "I will return"
  • 20 Unity of the Messengers
  • 21 - 23 "When will You return?"
24 Matthew 24:29 - 31 Immediately after the oppression of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the earth shall be shaken: and then shall appear the signs of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet.

25 - 98 An analysis of Matthew 24:29 - 31

  • 25 - 26 We missed the promise.
  • 27 "I'll explain"
  • 28 - 30 Explanation of "Immediately after the oppression of those days"
  • 31 - 47 Explanation of "shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven"
  • 48 - 66 Explanation of "and the powers of the earth shall be shaken"
  • 66 - 73 Explanation of "and then shall appear the signs of the Son of man in heaven"
  • 74 - 85 Explanation of "and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory"
  • 86 - 98  Explanation of "And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet"

99 - 100 "You've probably recognized the Bab by now"

101 "Now what?"

On to Part 2.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Paragraph 2

The essence of these words is this: they that tread the path of faith, they that thirst for the wine of certitude, must cleanse themselves of all that is earthly -- their ears from idle talk, their minds from vain imaginings, their hearts from worldly affections, their eyes from that which perisheth. They should put their trust in God, and, holding fast unto Him, follow in His way. Then will they be made worthy of the effulgent glories of the sun of divine knowledge and understanding, and become the recipients of a grace that is infinite and unseen, inasmuch as man can never hope to attain unto the knowledge of the All-Glorious, can never quaff from the stream of divine knowledge and wisdom, can never enter the abode of immortality, nor partake of the cup of divine nearness and favour, unless and until he ceases to regard the words and deeds of mortal men as a standard for the true understanding and recognition of God and His Prophets.

This paragraph very much follows the first paragraph, as it is an explanation of it.  Baha'u'llah, with grace and mercy, gives us the "essence of these words".  It is difficult to sum up this paragraph, as it is already a summary.  The best we can hope to do is analyze it a bit.

The word "tread" means "to form by the action of walking". It implies that we are already walking, that there is already movement. We are not beginning our journey with this Book, for we must have some spiritual background to follow the line of argument in this Text. We are continuing our journey. Beyond this, we are further forming the path that others will follow.
Next, we are given a definition of what would qualify as "earthly", but surely there is more to it.  Why are those four attributes, the ears, minds, hearts and eyes, in that order?  Is He reminding us that first we hear something, and then we believe it?  Once we believe it, our heart becomes attached to it?  When our heart is attached to it, we then focus all our attention on it?  If this path is correct, then we really need to pay attention to what we subject our ears to.

Regarding how you cleanse your "ears from idle talk", we learned, with the help of a dictionary, that 'idle' means purposeless or worthless.  This gives us criteria by which we can judge the value of what we hear.  Does it have purpose?  Is it worth listening to?  Or is it merely the cause of "vain imaginings"?

These questions can be applied in so many areas of life.  They can affect what we read, what movies we watch, the music we listen to.  The list is endless. For a more comprehensive list, look at the Guardian's description of "absolute chastity" as a spiritual weapon, found in The Advent of Divine Justice.

All of this can then lead us to questions of the ego.  Do we say we believe something because it is what everyone else says they believe?  Are we listening to a particular type of music because our peers are?  Are we attaching ourselves to something out of fear that we may be ridiculed or ostracized if we do not?  Are we setting our eyes on "that which perisheth"?

Simply put, why are we doing what we are doing?  This paragraph is a bold reminder to be aware and conscious of our actions: to think for ourselves, to act for ourselves, and to base our actions upon our understanding of the Sacred Texts.

We should put our trust in God, and in no other.

That, of course, only looks at the first half of the paragraph.

If we follow the advice in that first half, then we may be worthy of the light that shines upon us. If we approach everything looking for its purpose, then we will approach the Sacred Writings in that way, too. We will read a Book such as the Kitab-i-Iqan with the question of how we can apply it in our life. If we choose not to do that, but merely see it as entertainment, or a nice diversion without seeing how to apply it, then are we really worthy of reading it? If we are not planning on living by these Writings, then what is our motive in reading Them?

When we approach the Writings with the eye of action, apply what we learn in our life, then the Concourse on High will descend upon us and bless our actions. We will become the "recipients of a grace that is infinite and unseen". But if we choose not to act, then those unseen forces can not help us.

This approach, however, is not commonly seen within society. Many people will deride us for acting upon our faith. How often have we seen people chastised in the media for practicing their religious beliefs? Surely this is not the standard we should value. We need to value the standard set forth in the Writings.

We need to study the Writings, immerse ourselves in the ocean of His Words, look for those pearls of wisdom and apply them in our life. We need to make them the basis for our every step and our every breath. It is through this dedication that we will come to a better understanding of the importance of these Teachings and the role of the Manifestations of God.

Baha'u'llah, in addition to all this, seems to allude to a path that we may follow. We begin by hoping "to attain unto (this) knowlege", and to do that, we must "quaff from the stream". Once we have refreshed ourselves with this water we can then enter "the abode". Inside this house, this dwelling-place, we can then "partake of the cup of divine nearness". Of course, this is a different type of beverage than drinking from the stream, yet both are refreshing and carry manifold benefits. What type of beverage is in this cup? Could it be the "wine of certitude" mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph?

Finally, as we walk this journey toward the shores of the ocean, we pause in the abode of immortality, and Baha'u'llah shows us hospitality by giving us a drink. What greater bounty can you imagine?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Paragraph 1


No man shall attain the shores of the ocean of true understanding except he be detached from all that is in heaven and on earth. Sanctify your souls, O ye peoples of the world, that haply ye may attain that station which God hath destined for you and enter thus the tabernacle which, according to the dispensations of Providence, hath been raised in the firmament of the Bayan.

The numbering system of the paragraphs does not include the invocation (the first line) in paragraph one, but we felt it important to include it here. It is, after all, part of the Text written by Baha'u'llah Himself. As to why an invocation would not be included in the numbering, we don't know, but there is guidance that it is not to be, so we completely accept that.  We don't need to know why, for we are certain that there is a good reason. Besides, we are, after all, just two guys sitting in a coffee shop studying the Writings.

But why is it there? Is it merely an acknowledgement of our Creator? Or is there more?

We are of the belief that there is nothing random in Sacred Text, and that every word is there for an exact purpose. This underlying belief of ours will regularly come up in our study of this Work.

Here, the Blessed Beauty refers to God as our "Lord", with the qualities of being "Exalted" and "Most High". We believe that our being created in God's image means that we have all the attributes of God within us, just to a lesser degree. If God is the Most Generous, we can show some generosity. If God is the All-Wise, we can show some wisdom.

Here, God is referred to as our "Lord", and we feel that this is a reminder of our own nobility. The following attributes, Exalted (meaning lofty or noble) and Most High, are a stark reminder of our station within the realms of creation. Baha'u'llah is continually reminding us of our noble station within creation, and the need to arise to fulfill that station. It is the very study of this Book that helps us develop these much-needed attributes.

But how do we do that?

In this first paragraph, Baha'u'llah gives us the answer: We should be detached from all that is in the world, and sanctify our souls.

He points out that our goal is to "attain the shores of the ocean of true understanding". Our goal, in this Text, is only the shore, not even the ocean itself. Of course, once we attain this wonderful goal, then we can begin our exploration of the ocean, diving into its depths and searching for those divine pearls of wisdom. You see, getting to the beach is not the final goal, only the first one. Achieving certitude of faith is not the goal, but only a necessary step. The question that follows is, "What do you do with that faith?"

We also note here that the "shores" referred to here are plural, not singular. While we all acknowledge that the ocean is vast, we often forget to mention that the shores of that ocean are vast, too. We will not all arrive at the ocean at the same point, from the same direction, or even on the same side of the ocean. This ocean is large enough to accomodate all of us, from wherever we may be. It is also continually drawing down to its sea-level those rivers and streams that are willing to flow into it. It is the ultimate expression of strength through humility, an expression we are encouraged to emulate, like the Master.

It is also well worth noting that the ocean is almost fractal in its ability to impart information. If you look at a single drop, you will find a world of micro-organisms within it. If you look at a cup of a water from the ocean, you may discover some beautiful fish. However, it is only by diving into its depths that you will begin to discover the whales and the myriad life forms that live within it.

So potent is every single drop of this life-giving water, that "a dewdrop out of this ocean would, if shed upon all that are in the heavens and on the earth, suffice to enrich them with the bounty of God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise."

The next sentence in this paragraph begins, "Sanctify your souls". What an interesting choice of word: sanctify. It is a verb that means "to observe as holy and make sacred".

Does that mean that your soul is not holy if you do not observe it as such? And treat it as such?

Perhaps.  We do not know.

We do, however, know the soul is created perfect, but requires certain things to flourish. If we ignore our soul, neglect our spiritual nature, we descend into the world of dust. It is similar to when we don't exercise our body; it becomes weak and is more prone to illness. It is also like a seed that is not planted and nurtured. Instead of growing into a lovely plant, it decays and becomes fertilizer, further enriching the soil for the next seed.

Baha'u'llah counsels us, time and time again, to rise to that noble station alluded to above, and recognize the sacred nature of our soul.  How we actually do that requires an exploration of the body of Baha'u'llah's Writings, and a study of the life of the Master.

Here, in this paragraph, He goes a step further and says that "haply", with luck or by chance, we might attain that station which God has destined for us. It is not a guarantee, but we must take that first step.

It's sort of like buying a lottery ticket. You cannot hope to win the jackpot if you don't buy the ticket.

Here, you cannot attain that station if you do not first acknowledge your own sacredness and work on the development of your own soul. You must recognize that your reality is spiritual, not physical. As C S Lewis famously said, when asked if he thought he had a soul, "I do not have a soul. I am a soul, and I have a body."

Once we attain that station destined for us, we can then enter the sacred tent containing the Holy of Holies, the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle, for clarification, was the sacred tent carried by the Jews during their wanderings in the desert. It was raised each night to house the Ark of the Covenant.

Baha'u'llah is, of course, not referring to the tent of the Jewish people. He is, instead, using it as a metaphor, for He says that it is "raised in the firmament of the Bayan".

The firmament is the arching vault of the sky, and the Bayan is the Mother Book of the Bab, to Whose uncle this Book is addressed.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Forward

This is one more attempt to introduce to the West, in language however inadequate, this book of unsurpassed pre-eminence among the writings of the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation. The hope is that it may assist others in their efforts to approach what must always be regarded as the unattainable goal -- a befitting rendering of Bahá'u'lláh's matchless utterance.

We wondered about this paragraph by the Guardian and decided to look at it while studying the Text. Why was it there? Was there something "hidden" within it that the Guardian wished to draw to our attention?

First, it seems that he is reminding us of the numerous other translations that were out there at the time, translations that are now only of interest to scholars or book collectors. These translations, while invaluable at the time, generally fell short, as is obvious when reading them in light of the Guardian's translation. Yet even here, he is reminding us that his own translation is "inadequate". This is but one of many examples of his utter humility in the face of his work.

Secondly, there is the phrase "unsurpassed pre-eminence". What does this mean? It means that nothing is more notable. He does not say it is the most holy, or the most exciting, or the most humourous, but rather that it is the most notable. Nothing exceeds it in that field, although he does not say that nothing else may equal it. In case you are wondering, as we did, about the status of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, in light of such a powerful statement, we figure that it is "the most holy", for that is its name. This is not the same as "the most eminent", and it seems to hold a very different place within the Writings of the Faith, a place that is extremely high, possibly equal to that of the Kitab-i-Iqan.  In fact, we think we're looking at linear terms to describe the station of the Iqan. The Aqdas is in it's own category: the blueprint for a new world order. The Iqan is more like a "how-to" book for recognizing a Messenger of God.

We don't want to go off on a tangent or get ahead of ourselves, but we thought it would be appropriate to mention the opening statement in the Kitab-i-Aqdas: "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."
The Kitab-i-Aqdas is the Mother Book of Baha'u'llah's Revelation. A Book which sets forth the Laws of God for this Dispensation. It is a charter for a divine and future civilization. It's purpose is, as Baha'u'llah tells us, "to build anew the whole world". We want to recognize the Messenger of God when he appears to mankind so that we can partake of His Grace, His Mercy, and the laws He reveals for all humanity. By studying the Kitab-i-Iqan we will be strictly concentrating on, "the recognition of Him who is the Dayspring of His Revelation", and how we accomplish this. It is the "first duty prescribed by God" for us. If we want to recognize "the Fountain of His laws", and obey those laws, then we study the Kitab-i-Aqdas.
This Holy Book, the Kitab-i-Iqan, as we see it, is like a prescription for the recognition of a Manifestation of God. As mentioned earlier, it's kind of like, and we say this without meaning to be irreverent, a "How-to Book". This is a Holy Book specifcally designed to assist us in the recognition of the Messengers of God, all of Them. It gives us all the clues, all the details, unravels the mysteries of the Revelations of God, exercises the soul, and attracts the heart of man to his Beloved. It is also an introduction to the truth that Divine Revelation is progressive, not final, and this Book recalls the past errors and victories. It makes us consider, ponder and reflect humanity's religious history.

The Iqan assists us that, haply, or per chance, we may begin to recognize and understand that Spirit that descends in every age to bring divine guidance to the world.