Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Paragraph 22

This wronged One will cite but one of these instances, thus conferring upon mankind, for the sake of God, such bounties as are yet concealed within the treasury of the hidden and sacred Tree, that haply mortal men may not remain deprived of their share of the immortal fruit, and attain to a dewdrop of the waters of everlasting life which, from Baghdad, the "Abode of Peace," are being vouchsafed unto all mankind. We ask for neither meed nor reward. "We nourish your souls for the sake of God; we seek from you neither recompense nor thanks." This is the food that conferreth everlasting life upon the pure in heart and the illumined in spirit. This is the bread of which it is said: "Lord, send down upon us Thy bread from heaven." This bread shall never be withheld from them that deserve it, nor can it ever be exhausted. It groweth everlastingly from the tree of grace; it descendeth at all seasons from the heavens of justice and mercy. Even as He saith: "Seest thou not to what God likeneth a good word? To a good tree; its root firmly fixed, and its branches reaching unto heaven: yielding its fruit in all seasons."

Baha'u'llah is still leading us to paragraph 24, in which He will begin to discuss that prophecy from Jesus, in Matthew 24. That is the one instance that He cites, as He mentions in the first sentence.

To continue the theme from paragraph 21, there are conditions upon us when we try and help the seeker, and Baha'u'llah outlines some of them here. However, even if we are in full obedience to all of these conditions, that is still no guarantee that our aim will be fulfilled. This is why we find the word "haply" here.

There is also a rich tapestry of poetry being woven within this paragraph. There are multiple references to both Eden (the sacred Tree) and the Exodus (the bread that descendeth from the heavens), and even the ministry of Jesus (the bread that can never be exhausted). Once again, Baha'u'llah is carrying us through religious history. Interestingly enough, He is also using three references to bread in order to do this.

For us, coming from a Judeo-Christian Western background, we often think of the Tree as having an apple on it. But in one legend from Islam, the "bread tree" is the tree that Adam and Eve ate from, which was why they were exiled from Paradise. It seems to be a reference to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In one book we found on the internet it says, "In those days wheat still grew on the bread tree. Every one of its branches sprouted seven golden ears and in each ear there grew five snowwhite grains of wheat. Having been tempted, Eve ate one of the grains and liked it more than anything she had ever tasted." Once Adam had also tasted of it, the book goes on to say "At once, his golden crown left his head and rose up to heaven."

This led us to a reconsideration of Adam, as a Manifestation of God.

Let's go back for a moment. Here, Baha'u'llah is actually using three metaphors of bread, linking Adam to Moses to Jesus. Adam ate from the Bread Tree, but we're still not sure what that means.

Moses, as we know, fed His people with the Bread from Heaven when they were wandering in the desert. Jesus fed the masses with this bread that never ran out. But how does this relate back to Adam?

What does the Tree symbolize? What does the Bread symbolize? Is the Tree the Manifestation, and the Bread His Word? If this is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, then this makes perfect sense.

There is a fascinating poem by Tahirih in which she talks about this, called Adam's Wish. She recognizes Adam as a Messenger of God, and wonders why it is that we seem to think of Him as "fallen from Grace". She suggests that, perhaps, this is the test of Adam. Remember, earlier Baha'u'llah pointed out that every Messenger has had their test for their followers. Moses, for example, was seen as a murderer, and was also a stammerer. Jesus was seen as being fatherless at a time when the stigma of this was quite harsh. This could be our test regarding Adam.

Baha'u'llah also says, elsewhere in His Writings, that if we look at the Messengers with a discerning eye, we will see Them all "uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith." How does this work for Adam?

Tahirih suggests that it was Adam who saw "the end in the beginning", and ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, setting humanity on this path of spiritual growth in order that we would be ready to receive the Revelations of the Bab and Baha'u'llah. And that He did so knowing that He would be vilified throughout history as the One who condemned humanity to sin.

Now we can see more clearly. We can begin to see the pattern that Baha'u'llah has spent so many pages unveiling before our eyes. We can see how Adam, too, fits within this pattern.

This reconsideration of Adam is also allowing us to be more open to reconsidering our understanding of the prophecies of Jesus, which will come in paragraph 24.

It also bring into clearer light this last quote that Baha'u'llah offers us here in this paragraph: "Seest thou not to what God likeneth a good word? To a good tree; its root firmly fixed, and its branches reaching unto heaven: yielding its fruit in all seasons."

In terms of Adam, the fruit gave us the knowledge of good and evil. Is this not a good thing? Is it not praiseworthy to be aware of the difference between the two? And is it not for this reason that God has always sent down His Messengers?

It seems that the more we consider it, the more we recognize that all of the Messengers really are "abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith".

And if we look closely, we'll see Adam right up there with the rest of Them.

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