Tuesday, July 31, 2012
In another sense, by these terms is intended the divines of the former Dispensation, who live in the days of the subsequent Revelations, and who hold the reins of religion in their grasp. If these divines be illumined by the light of the latter Revelation they will be acceptable unto God, and will shine with a light everlasting. Otherwise, they will be declared as darkened, even though to outward seeming they be leaders of men, inasmuch as belief and unbelief, guidance and error, felicity and misery, light and darkness, are all dependent upon the sanction of Him Who is the Day-star of Truth. Whosoever among the divines of every age receiveth, in the Day of Reckoning, the testimony of faith from the Source of true knowledge, he verily becometh the recipient of learning, of divine favour, and of the light of true understanding. Otherwise, he is branded as guilty of folly, denial, blasphemy, and oppression.
Once again, He is reminding us that there are many interpretations that are valid regarding Sacred Text. When He says, "In another sense", this tells us that there multiple ways to read these words.
Another thing He is doing is eliminating the concept of triumphalism. He doesn't say that they have to be a member of that Faith, just that they be illumined by its guiding principles. If the leaders of religion, He says, are "illumined by the light" of the next Revelation, then they are acceptable before God.
Gandhi, John Paul II, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama: These illumined figures come to mind. They all were, or are, obviously motivated by the principle of unity, and yet none of them are members of the Baha'i community. These divines, because they are illumined by the light of unity, the light of Baha'u'llah, they are shining "with a light everlasting". They are shining light upon light, as it says in the Qur'an. And there is never any pressure for them to convert to the Baha'i Faith, for we recognize that all paths lead to the same Creator.
If they don't shine this light, however, then all their pomp and glory in this world is quite meaningless.
The list of contrasting attributes is also quite interesting. By placing light and darkness in there, He is showing us that all of these opposites are actually positive attributes and their absences. Darkness, as we know, has no existence of its own. It is the absence of light. We can now see that unbelief has no existence of its own, either. It is merely the lack of belief. The same can be said of all the other attributes here.
Finally, that last list, "folly, denial, blasphemy, and oppression", is a crescendo. Folly is just a lack of understanding, leading to foolishness. Denial is a bit stronger. It is not just being foolish, but a refusal to believe something true. Blasphemy is even stronger, cursing or reviling God Himself. Oppression is the worst, for it using your authority in a cruel and unjust manner.