Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paragraph 32

That these divine Luminaries seem to be confined at times to specific designations and attributes, as you have observed and are now observing, is due solely to the imperfect and limited comprehension of certain minds. Otherwise, they have been at all times, and will through eternity continue to be, exalted above every praising name, and sanctified from every descriptive attribute. The quintessence of every name can hope for no access unto their court of holiness, and the highest and purest of all attributes can never approach their kingdom of glory. Immeasurably high are the Prophets of God exalted above the comprehension of men, who can never know them except by their own Selves. Far be it from His glory that His chosen Ones should be magnified by any other than their own persons. Glorified are they above the praise of men; exalted are they above human understanding!

It feels to us like this paragraph is something of an interlude. It appears to be a break from the main theme, but not quite. He is obviously answering a question from the Uncle of the Bab, who has noticed that the various Messengers appear to be different. It is almost as if He is addressing a concern of the Uncle in passing, on His way from one point to another in His argument.

In terms of where this occurs in His main argument, He is still talking about the Suns, and our understanding of them in terms of Matthew 24. This begs the question "How can we know the sun?" The answer is that we can't, not directly. We can know certain things about the sun, through our understanding of the rays and the impact they have on the world, and we can suppose certain things about the nature of the sun, but that's not quite the same as knowing the sun itself.

Throughout religious history the sun has been seen as a metaphor for God. 'Abdu'l-Baha further explains that we can understand the Christian concept of the Trinity through seeing God as the sun, the Holy Ghost as the rays of the sun, and the Messenger as the perfect mirror reflecting the light of the sun. We can look at the reflection in the mirror and say "That's the sun", and we're correct, in a sense. Someone else can look at that same reflection and say, "That's not the sun. It's just a reflection." They, too, are correct. However we choose to view it, the truth is still the same. And the fact remains that we cannot know the sun itself, directly. If we were to even begin to approach the sun, we would completely vaporize long before we got there. And if we were to try and look at the sun directly, its very intensity would cause us to go blind.

Another question is, "If the Manifestations are so high, how much higher and more exalted is God?" This is, of course, a question that can not really be answered, but is well worth pondering in our heart.

In this paragraph, Baha'u'llah says that the Manifestations are "exalted above the comprehension of men". If we cannot know Them through our mind, how can we know Them? Through our heart, or our soul. Way back in paragraph 1, He says, "Sanctify your souls..." This concept of the heart is so important and constantly bears repeating. It is the beginning of this Book, as well as the center of the first Hidden Word: "Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart..."

But it's not a given. There's no guarantee. Remember that word "haply"? Good luck.

Finally, He says that They can only be known "except by their own Selves". What does it mean to know Them through Their own Selves? We are told that the first proof of a Messenger is Their Self. The next proof is Their message. For those who were alive at the time of the Messenger, this is all well and good, but for us, who are living in a day bereft of Their presence, we have to content ourselves with knowing Them through Their Word.

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