Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Paragraph 46

In like manner, strive thou to comprehend from these lucid, these powerful, conclusive, and unequivocal statements the meaning of the "cleaving of the heaven" -- one of the signs that must needs herald the coming of the last Hour, the Day of Resurrection. As He hath said: "When the heaven shall be cloven asunder." (Qur'án 82:1) By "heaven" is meant the heaven of divine Revelation, which is elevated with every Manifestation, and rent asunder with every subsequent one. By "cloven asunder" is meant that the former Dispensation is superseded and annulled. I swear by God! That this heaven being cloven asunder is, to the discerning, an act mightier than the cleaving of the skies! Ponder a while. That a divine Revelation which for years hath been securely established; beneath whose shadow all who have embraced it have been reared and nurtured; by the light of whose law generations of men have been disciplined; the excellency of whose word men have heard recounted by their fathers; in such wise that human eye hath beheld naught but the pervading influence of its grace, and mortal ear hath heard naught but the resounding majesty of its command -- what act is mightier than that such a Revelation should, by the power of God, be "cloven asunder" and be abolished at the appearance of one soul? Reflect, is this a mightier act than that which these abject and foolish men have imagined the "cleaving of the heaven" to mean?

This is a paragraph laden with all sorts of juicy tidbits to glom onto.

It is good to remember that this paragraph still falls under the analysis of the prophecy, "of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven". Baha'u'llah is still helping us understand the fulfillment of this part of the prophecy from Matthew 24. He has just helped us understand one phrase from Islamic tradition, in the previous paragraph, and is now asking us to understand, "in like manner", the phrase "cleaving of the heaven". He also calls these phrases lucid, powerful, conclusive and unequivocal. What incredible words to choose. First, these phrases are lucid, or clear and easy to comprehend. Then, more than that, they are powerful. They have a great strength to them to effect change. Then, beyond that, they are conclusive. They prove the case. And finally, there are none that are equal to them. Others may try to prove the same thing, but they will never be able to demonstrate as clearly or as well as He has.

So, now He goes on to explain a little bit about this new phrase, "the cleaving of the heavens". He reminds us of what heaven, in this context, means, and then clarifies the phrase "cloven asunder". He says it so simply that there is no reason for us to repeat it here, after all, His phrasing is unequivocal.

Then He interjects a very interesting phrase here: "I swear by God!" When we use this often uttered phrase in our own lives, it is usually very little more than a mild exclamation, even though it shouldn't be. But when Baha'u'llah, a Manifestation of God, uses it, we can be sure that He means it with far more depth than we have ever considered. And it is a preface to the very next sentence, as opposed to an antecedent the previous one.

He is really drawing our attention to the fact that "this heaven", the heaven of divine Revelation, "being cloven asunder", being fully superseded and annulled, is a greater and more powerful act than ripping the entire sky in two. This is His main point here. This is what we really need to pay attention to. So important is this singular concept that we are exhorted, once again, to ponder it.

But of course, we have to ask ourselves why. Why is this so important? Why is it that Baha'u'llah spends over a full page framing this pinnacle of a concept? Why does He "swear by God", setting off all sorts of bells and whistles in our mind to further draw our attention to this singular idea? And more importantly, why is it true?

As usual, Baha'u'llah helps us discover the reason, for ourselves, with the rest of this paragraph. When we look at how He constructs the very next sentence, we can see a trace of the path that He expects us to find. Look at the progression of that sentence beginning "That a divine Revelation..." It begins with the faith being established, people then embrace it and are reared and nurtured in it, people are disciplined by it, it is recounted by people, and then everyone can see its greatness. Isn't this a description of how a Faith rises in the world?

On the other side of it, it begins with the Revelation, continues through the shadow to the light, then there is the word. It then moves on to the eye and ear, followed by action. In the end, Baha'u'llah asks us which is mightier, the literal or the symbolic cleaving, and leaves it to us to understand. Of course, there is another odd little bit right there, too. Note that the word "soul" is not capitalized. Does this mean that it refers to someone other than the Manifestation, Whose reference would presumably be capitalized? Later on He refers to Mulla Husayn in such glowing terms, saying that but for him "God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory." It seems that He is referring to the importance of a receptive soul. And, by this example, He could be referring to each and every one of us. We could be that soul. We could be the one by whom the "heavens" are "cleft asunder", if we but strive to arise to such a position.

And then He finishes with another reminder for us to "reflect". Twice in one paragraph. That's how important this whole concept is, this idea that the symbolic is more powerful than the literal, that the spiritual realm is greater than the physical one.