Monday, December 6, 2010

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment