Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Paragraph 76

Know verily that Knowledge is of two kinds: Divine and Satanic. The one welleth out from the fountain of divine inspiration; the other is but a reflection of vain and obscure thoughts. The source of the former is God Himself; the motive-force of the latter the whisperings of selfish desire. The one is guided by the principle: "Fear ye God; God will teach you;" (Qur'an 2:282) the other is but a confirmation of the truth: "Knowledge is the most grievous veil between man and his Creator." The former bringeth forth the fruit of patience, of longing desire, of true understanding, and love; whilst the latter can yield naught but arrogance, vainglory and conceit. From the sayings of those Masters of holy utterance, Who have expounded the meaning of true knowledge, the odour of these dark teachings, which have obscured the world, can in no wise be detected. The tree of such teachings can yield no result except iniquity and rebellion, and beareth no fruit but hatred and envy. Its fruit is deadly poison; its shadow a consuming fire. How well hath it been said: "Cling unto the robe of the Desire of thy heart, and put thou away all shame; bid the worldlywise be gone, however great their name."

This is the third of those twelve paragraphs that look at the phrase "And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."

As you recall, in the previous paragraph Baha'u'llah ended with the phrase "true knowledge". But what is true knowledge? Here He answers that very question.

Without repeating what He says, we wanted to draw attention to the differences between these two types of knowledge, namely what results each produce. The Divine Knowledge produces patience, longing desire, true understanding and love. Satanic Knowledge produces arrogance, vainglory and conceit.

Both of these are, as we love to find, a path.

When we are talking with someone, striving to both teach them and learn from them, patience is an important starting point. When we have patience, and listen attentively, we will find a desire to learn more building within us. As this desire grows, we will listen even more closely and begin to come to a true understanding of them as an individual creation of God. This, of course, leads to true love.

The second path, which results from the Satanic Knowledge, Begins with arrogance, an overbearing and presumptuous manner. This leads to vainglory, an excessive pride in our own achievements, no matter how insignificant they may be. The final result is conceit, or an excessive appraising of our own worth.

In the end, if we look at the result of any teaching, whether it is from Baha'u'llah, or a teacher in school, or what we learn from the the media, we only need to see the results of it to determine whether it is Divine or Satanic. Does it bring us closer to God and lead us to love to other people? Or does it become a veil, preventing us from even considering the ideas and opinions of others?

There is another interesting aspect about this paragraph, in that Baha'u'llah quotes from the Qur'an, a traditional Sufi saying and an Arabic poem. He draws from all sorts of sources to help bring out His point. And this is something we can learn from. Throughout the Writings we are encouraged to study "such sciences as are useful and would redound to the progress and advancement of the people". The Guardian encourages us to read all sorts of things, from newspapers to fiction to non-fiction, and draw upon all of it in our understanding of the Faith. After all, how can we expect to talk intelligently about the harmony of science and religion if we have never read anything from the various sciences? How can we expect to talk about how the Faith can help solve the problems facing humanity today if we do not read about what is happening in the world?

There are so many instances of people only looking to their own writings, the teachings of their own Faith, and never taking the time to learn about others. Baha'u'llah seems to show us that we can immerse ourselves in the Writings, as well as study other branches of knowledge, just so long as they do not become that veil between us and God.

Baha'u'llah also, in a sense, seems to allude to the story of Adam, with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He refers to the two kinds of knowledge, which can certainly be seen in those terms. He mentions a fountain, which is indicative of a garden. The whisperings remind us of the snake in the Garden whispering to Eve. He talks of fruit and trees. Could He be moving us towards the idea that the divine Messenger bringing us the fruit of the Tree of Ever-lasting Life?

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