Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Paragraph 48

In like manner, endeavour to comprehend the meaning of the "changing of the earth." Know thou, that upon whatever hearts the bountiful showers of mercy, raining from the "heaven" of divine Revelation, have fallen, the earth of those hearts hath verily been changed into the earth of divine knowledge and wisdom. What myrtles of unity hath the soil of their hearts produced! What blossoms of true knowledge and wisdom hath their illumined bosoms yielded! Were the earth of their hearts to remain unchanged, how could such souls who have not been taught one letter, have seen no teacher, and entered no school, utter such words and display such knowledge as none can apprehend? Methinks they have been moulded from the clay of infinite knowledge, and kneaded with the water of divine wisdom. Therefore, hath it been said: "Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth." It is this kind of knowledge which is and hath ever been praiseworthy, and not the limited knowledge that hath sprung forth from veiled and obscured minds. This limited knowledge they even stealthily borrow one from the other, and vainly pride themselves therein!

Again, Baha'u'llah is offering another quote for us to look at in this section which falls under the overall examination of the phrase from the prophecy in Matthew, "the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the earth shall be shaken". When He says, "In like manner", He seems to be referring to us seeing all of these prophecies as a metaphor instead of literally. This seems to be a major theme of this part of the book.

In the previous few paragraphs we looked at the "cleaving of the heavens", and now we're looking at the "changing of the earth". The first is like a thunderstorm, which is followed by the rain, which results in the rejuvenation and freshening of the planet.

He begins by talking about the heart upon which the rains fall, offering the heart as a metaphor for the earth. The showers are God's mercy which come down from the Revelation, transforming the heart into a receptacle for divine knowledge and wisdom. We can look at the various Apostles of Christ for examples of this. Peter, as we know from history, was so ignorant of scholarly matters that he was unable to even keep track of the days of the week. And yet he is still the rock upon which Christ founded His church, for he was receptive to the divine knowledge, which is what really mattered.

Now Baha'u'llah introduces the myrtle, a single flower that grows from these rains. The myrtle, He says, is the myrtle of unity. But why a myrtle? Why not, for example, a rose?

This is where Google and Wikipedia come in handy. With a little bit of research, we learned that the myrtle was considered sacred to Aphrodite in Greek mythology, and she was the goddess of love. What better goddess to relate to unity? It was also sacred to Demeter, the goddess of farming and of grain. Do you notice a theme here? Throughout the whole region, the myrtle was considered a symbol of both love and immortality.

In the Jewish tradition, myrtle is a very important plant. It is regarded as the symbol and scent of Eden. It is considered one of the four sacred plants of the Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles. It is symbolic of one of the personality types in the community. Because it has a beautiful aroma, but an unpleasant taste, it represented those people who do good deeds, but are not scholared in the Torah, the divine teachings.

This last point is interesting because the very next line from Baha'u'llah moves us beyond this single flower and out to all blossoms. We can see a growth and development from these two simple words, moving from good deeds without the knowledge of the sacred to a "true knowledge and wisdom". This is further expounded at the end of this paragraph, and later in the book.

The next metaphor He introduces in this paragraph is that of the clay. Clay, as you know, is composed of decaying plant matter. However, for it to be useful, it needs to mixed with water, so that it can be shaped. Baha'u'llah, here, talks about the clay of infinite knowledge, and likens the water to divine wisdom. Clay without water is hard and brittle. It breaks when you try to shape it. It is fairly useless. Knowledge without wisdom is also fairly useless, as we would not know how to apply the knowledge in a constructive and useful manner.

On a side note, once the clay has been molded into the desired shape, say a cup, it then needs to be put in the fire. Without this, it is not all that useful. It will melt away when it is used. After the fires of tests and tribulations, however, it is firm and solid, and very useful. This theme, too, is further developed as Baha'u'llah continues.

Finally, He refers to the difference between divine knowledge, and the knowledge that is prevalent amongst the people. Here He makes just a little poke at the silliness of those who plagiarize such tidbits of information, but later on He really goes into condemning this sort of foolishness.

With all the praise He gives for knowledge and scholarship, the caveat is always there that it must be good knowledge, heavenly knowledge. This brings us all the way back to the very first paragraph again, with the "ocean of true understanding".