Thursday, March 10, 2011

Paragraph 15

Leaders of religion, in every age, have hindered their people from attaining the shores of eternal salvation, inasmuch as they held the reins of authority in their mighty grasp. Some for the lust of leadership, others through want of knowledge and understanding, have been the cause of the deprivation of the people. By their sanction and authority, every Prophet of God hath drunk from the chalice of sacrifice, and winged His flight unto the heights of glory. What unspeakable cruelties they that have occupied the seats of authority and learning have inflicted upon the true Monarchs of the world, those Gems of divine virtue! Content with a transitory dominion, they have deprived themselves of an everlasting sovereignty. Thus, their eyes beheld not the light of the countenance of the Well-Beloved, nor did their ears hearken unto the sweet melodies of the Bird of Desire. For this reason, in all sacred books mention hath been made of the divines of every age. Thus He saith: "O people of the Book! Why disbelieve the signs of God to which ye yourselves have been witnesses?"[Qur'án 3:70] And also He saith: "O people of the Book! Why clothe ye the truth with falsehood? Why wittingly hide the truth?"[Qur'án 3:71] Again, He saith: "Say, O people of the Book! Why repel believers from the way of God?"[Qur'án 3:99] It is evident that by the "people of the Book," who have repelled their fellow-men from the straight path of God, is meant none other than the divines of that age, whose names and character have been revealed in the sacred books, and alluded to in the verses and traditions recorded therein, were you to observe with the eye of God.

As you can tell, this is the third of those four paragraphs that help us consider today's events in light of the past. He obviously draws our attention to that last part of paragraph 14, and gets us to focus on the leaders of religion. But we're not going to go there. Baha'u'llah did. And we don't need to repeat what He says so well.

By now, you know that we would normally point out the reference to the shores and draw your attention back to paragraph 1, or that we would identify the dual problems of lust of leadership and ignorance, or even the recurring theme of the bird. We would even look at the pattern of the three quotes from the Qu'ran, moving from disbelief to knowingly hiding the truth (probably due to lust for power) and therefore repelling people from the true Path.

Rather than looking at what is no more than a summary of this, we, instead, want to now look at why the Guardian says, "The friends, and particularly those who wish to become competent and useful teachers, should indeed consider it to be their first duty to acquaint themselves, as thoroughly as they can, with each and every detail contained in this Holy  Book..."

The more we study this Book, and the more we look at the minute details of how Baha'u'llah presents His case, the more we feel we can learn. It is truly an example of that humble truth, "The more we learn, the more we realize how little we know."

What have we learned here, in this Book, about how Baha'u'llah would guide someone to the Faith?

The first thing that we think we have picked up is the gentle and careful approach He seems to take. As we have noticed in the past, Baha'u'llah begins His whole approach here by first reminding the reader of what has always been required in one's search for truth. This is nothing new, and the follower of any faith tradition, or no faith, would already recognize the truth of it. If you go in with your own preconceptions, then you are not open to hearing what might actually be true.

Once this is established, after the first half dozen paragraphs, He then goes on to talk about what they both already agree upon. The above paragraph, number 15, is in the middle of all of this. His audience is Muslim, and so He speaks about those Prophets that they already recognize: Noah, Hud, Salih, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. He does so simply and systematically.

As we have tried to point out, He slowly unfolds a new understanding of each of these Messengers, showing the similarities between Their stories. He gradually moves the reader through religious history, leading them towards the unmistakable conclusion that God never withholds His bounty and will always send a new Messenger to guide us onwards.

By this point, after taking so much time to get to this early paragraph, we have already changed our own personal teaching styles. We now recognize more clearly then ever that while we need to proclaim the Most Great Name, proclamation is not the same as personal and individual teaching. This is far more intimate and requires a greater capacity to listen closely to the one we are hoping "to bring into the fold" of the Faith. This "readiness to listen, with heightened spiritual perception" is what allows us to decide the "suitability of either the direct or indirect method of teaching". It is what enables us to better gauge how long we need to take in unfolding these truths.

Of course, we also recognize that this does not take years, even with the indirect method. By this point in the book, Baha'u'llah is already beginning to allude to the station of the Bab, through inferences and subtle hints. By this point in the book, He is ready to launch His incontrovertible argument, and goes into it in just a few more paragraphs.

Everything up to this point has been, in a sense, history. It has been a reframing of the historical understanding, to be sure, but history, nonetheless.

Now, as we move towards paragraph 24, things begin to shift. This is the time when we need to start buckling our spiritual seat belt, for He is getting ready to put the car into overdrive.

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