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.

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