Talisman messages of January to February 2003Date: Wed Jan 1, 2003 8:12 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] new race of men
Thank you for your kind response.
Your comments about having the golden rule become a spiritual reality in hearts reminded me of a paragraph from the Aqdas. It is an oft-cited passage, but to my mind a key part of it is overlooked. It is the law establishing the houses of justice and the duties of those who sit on them as trustees of the Merciful:
"The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Baha, and should it exceed this number it doth not matter. They should consider themselves as entering the Court of the presence of God, the Exalted, the Most High, and as beholding Him Who is the Unseen. It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly. Thus hath the Lord your God commanded you. Beware lest ye put away that which is clearly revealed in His Tablet. Fear God, O ye that perceive." K30
This paragraph sums up in a few sentences the essence of what is required of house/assembly members. They must be the trusted ones of the Merciful and regard themselves as guardians of humanity appointed by God. Interesting isn't it that they should be trustees of the *Merciful*. And they must take counsel together and to have regard for the believers "even as they regard their own interests". There it is, the golden rule at the heart of the duties of assembly/house members. Baha'u'llah is requiring that this principle be a spiritual reality in the hearts of those trustees.
"To me, though, the idea of accepting this teaching in our hearts also implies some effort in extending this teaching to everyone, especially to the very young. So I think there are two different ways of talking about this, in terms of the individual and in terms of world culture. If world culture has accepted the teaching of "treat others as yourself" intellectually then I have to believe that this can also be done "in the heart" and at that point the "new race of men" will make their appearance on the earth as a true "race" rather than as simply the "saints" of a culture. Only then will we have a true "one world" culture."
Yes, I see what you mean. I think what you say is true in a relative way. For example, I was watching a TV programme about the history of Britain a few months back. The guy was explaining that a few hundred years ago (roughly) people used to leave unwanted babies on the side of the road to die. At that time, it never occurred to people that this was breaking the golden rule. It simply wasn't part of the culture. Then someone had a bright idea and he happened to be rich and so he built a home for these babies and they were taken there and raised. This was a novel idea at the time. But now if you left your child lying around to die, you'd be committing a crime.
So I think the application of the golden rule in society is ever developing, but there is no such thing as it being absolutely applied and there is no such thing as an absolutely caring society. In any society, there will always be a need for more of the golden rule. And with that, there will always be those people who are at the cutting edge of change and who are prepared for the love of God to withstand persecution for the sake of further awakening the people.
"Doesn't Baha'u'llah suggest that someday the City of Man will disappear and only the City of God will remain?"
Perhaps he does. I'm not aware of any passage that says this.
This is an interesting thing to say. You may recall that Baha'u'llah says in the Valley of Love that "The steed of this valley is pain; if there be no pain this journey will never end." I hear him saying that if we want to grow spiritually, we can't fake our walk on the path, we have to walk it for real. It has to have meaning for us. We can't just sit around and theorise about it. The mystic al-Gazzali, who was a theologian in his early life but later became a mystic, argues that the only way to know what it means to be drunk is to get drunk. You can't know what it means to be drunk by watching a person who is drunk.
Another example of this principle at work is the movies. When we go to the movies, we see moving images on a screen, but when we watch a movie, we think the images are real. We are not wholly passive, we actively suspend disbelief and allow ourselves to be taken so that for a time we believe that we are seeing reality. Something that stuck with me in my book on semiotics (which is the study of how images deliver meaning and a sense of reality to us) was that the silent movies people used to watch in the old days appeared to audiences as reality, in exactly the same way that modern movies do to us. We think silent movies look silly today, but back then audiences were socialised to see them as reality. (see quote below)
Baha'u'llah also says: "Love me that I may love thee. If thou lovest me not, my love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O Servant". I hear him saying that in order to tap into the ocean of his reality, we must allow ourselves to be taken. It won't work to just see words on a page - just as we don't see images on a screen at the movies - we must actively work to see the reality of the person who wrote the scripture.
"In the cinema, 'the gestural codes and the bodily and facial expressions of actors in silent films belonged to conventions which connoted realism when they were made and watched', whereas now such codes stand out as 'unrealistic'. When the pioneering American film-maker D.W. Griffith initially proposed the use of close-ups, his producers warned him that the audience would be disconcerted since the rest of the actor was missing. What count as 'realistic' modes of representation are both culturally and historically variable. To most contemporary western audiences the conventions of modern American cinema seem more 'realistic' than the conventions of modern Indian cinema, for instance, because the latter are so much less familiar."
Daniel Chandler: "Semiotics: The Basics" p162
>And some people who pass through UB don't need ideas so much as they
I think the support you are providing people on UB is vital. My experience of being a Baha'i in recent years has been all about being alone. I've heard others talk about waking up at 3 in the morning and having a terrifying feeling right to their soul that they are completely alone - sort of faced with their own doom. I have experienced that many times. I think that experience demonstrates the reality of one side of our existence - that we are alone and that we are powerless. To my mind, and I get this from Baha'u'llah, any one who claims to have any power at all is a liar. We are all totally powerless. At any time, our lives could be ruined by circumstances beyond our control. This is the reality of the human condition.
For me, being religious and a mystic has been about coming to terms with that powerlessness. I don't have those feelings of doom like I used to. I have learned to fill my soul with Baha'u'llah's presence (using visualisation) and I have come to see that the dread is, from His perspective, an illusion. But it wasn't intellectual discussion that helped me find contentment. It was the struggle with those feelings inside me. I forced myself to deal with them. Unfortunately, intellectual discussion can be a veil that stops us looking at that stuff inside. A forum like UB, which supports people's feelings, can encourage people to look at those important things. My understanding is that unless intellectual knowledge is supported with a solid self-knowledge, then there is no knowledge at all.
>As far as the Baha'i Faith is concerned only the writings of Baha'u'llah
I think all of what Baha'u'llah says is a product of the human interacting with the divine. Did you see Sen's wonderful little comment that if Baha'u'llah asked someone for the tea, then that would be a little piece of the divine interacting with the human? Whether Baha'u'llah's attention was turned to worldly things or the houri, it is all his divine spirit moving in him.
Sometimes you hear the Houri telling Baha'u'llah what she thinks about things that are going on in the world at the time. I have been noticing recently, just how much Baha'u'llah's writings float from one point of view to another. In one passage, Baha'u'llah spends a page or so answering this person's question about the nature of the soul and then God/Houri steps in and tells Baha'u'llah to write something else as well, which Baha'u'llah then begins with "Say:..." Here is the passage:
"...Thus have we expounded this subject for thee that thou mayest obtain a clear understanding.
O Pen of the Most High! Recount unto him who hath turned unto Thy Lord, the All-Glorious, that which shall enable him to dispense with the sayings of men. Say:..."
I particularly love this bit. Baha'u'llah is in full flight having a go at the idolators and then God/Houri tells him to calm down:
"...The winds of self and passion move them as they will, and We found them all bereft of constancy. They are, indeed, of those that are far astray. Rein in thy Pen, O Pen of the Ancient of Days, and leave them to themselves, for they are immersed in their idle fancies. Make thou mention of the Queen [Victoria], that she may turn with a pure heart unto the scene of transcendent glory..."
The writings are a dialogue. If you were to take out the "human" part, you'd shut down the whole revelation. Revelation is a dialogue, not a monologue - a dialogue between two lovers!
I think the best way to tackle this is to begin with a summary of Baha'u'llah's "system" of God. When Baha'u'llah uses the word "God" it is not so much a case of hyperbole as a case of knowing what level of divinity he is referring to in any one passage.
First up, as you rightly observe, God in his essence is wholly transcendent and Baha'u'llah states emphatically that there is no relationship between creation and God's essence. It makes no sense to speak of a "relationship" between God and creation. God's essence is wholly beyond description and so a description of a relationship would immediately assign a description to God, which can't be done.
This is the point at which many go wrong. They think: Baha'u'llah says God has no relationship with creation, therefore the Baha'is hold only to a transcendent God who is too far away to be any good to us. But this misunderstands the position, because Baha'u'llah then goes on to say that *because* of the fact that God has no relationship with creation, God therefore raises up manifestations of God. This is the key aspect: the role of the manifestation. The role of the manifestation is, in effect, to play the part of God in creation, to be "God" to creation, because God can't manifest his essence in creation, as we've seen.
The upshot of this is that when we speak of "God", as we do here on Talisman everyday, we are in fact speaking of the reality of the manifestation. Baha'u'llah says that all references to God ever made refer to the manifestation, not to God. And that's because no word could ever refer to something that can't be described. Now, once we realise that what we are talking about is the manifestation and not God, then we can say that God (ie the manifestation) *does* have a relationship with creation. Yes, indeed. If "God" refers to the manifestation, then it is right to say that there is a relationship and that the manifestation's reality is the essence of all things. The essence of God himself cannot be the essence of all things. Only the reality of the manifestation can be the essence of all things. Baha'u'llah likens the relationship between himself and creation to that of light reflected in a mirror: he (the manifestation) is the mirror that reflects the divine light to all things. Were it not for the manifestation, nothing would exist.
So when Baha'u'llah speaks of seeing God in everything, he is actually saying that you see the reality of the manifestation, who is in effect "God" to creation.
Next issue: seeing God in everything and multiplicity. OK, because of our finite nature as humans, it is impossible for us to see God in his totality. I don't just mean that it is impossible for us to see God's essence, but it is also impossible for us to see the divinity of the manifestation in toto. It is impossible, therefore, for us to see GOD in a total sense - in the way that we might say that we can see the cat. Abdu'l-Baha's way of saying this is to say that we cannot "surround" God in our minds. The point, then, is that the reality of the manifestation is inscrutable to us.
The upshot of this is that when we say we "see" God in things, what we actually see is only one aspect of God, we see only God attributes or qualities. If we see something of great beauty, we might say that we saw "God". Some see God in technology, some in the natural world, some in good novels, some in good scholarship, some in making love and so on. This is what is meant by the statement that we "see God" in everything. The multiplicity itself is not a barrier to seeing the oneness if we can see the divinity, or divine qualities, in each thing. Yes, we are looking at many things, but in each thing that we look at, we see God. For example, each day we can see the sun. Although the sun appears in a never-ending series of days, if we focus our attention on the sun and not the days, then we can say that we "see the sun in all days". This is exactly the same as "seeing God in all things". In order to achieve this, we do not obliterate multiplicity, instead we focus our eyes on the divine and see it in all things.
Finally, the issue of God being the inmost reality of all things. The "essence" of things is the same thing as the "sign" of God in all things. The essence of a thing is its reflection of God, and this reflection makes it a sign of God. (For example, you might look like your father. In this case, you reflect the face of your father, and in this way you are a sign of him.) If a thing does not reflect God, then it does not exist. A thing must reflect some quality or other, that's how we know things exist, but becoming aware of their qualities. If they have no qualities at all, then they don't exist.
You are right in your conclusion that God is both transcendent and immanent. God is transcendent in his essence, but immanent in his manifestation.
If you want to read more about this, you can read my Commentary on the Divine Unity.
I also recommend Baha'u'llah's Tablet of the Uncompounded Reality, which discusses this stuff too. Some of the arguments I put forward here come from that tablet. http://bahai-library.org/provisionals/basit.html
The following was a "Eureka" passage for me. It's in Gleanings, section XL. You wouldn't pick it as a houri passage, unless you knew what you were looking for. I have looked this passage up on Sen's Leiden List to see what tablet it is from, but it is from an unknown source. It is interesting that the Guardian included it in the collection. He must have loved it too, I think.
In the beginning, Baha'u'llah appears to be in great distress. The idolators have made him miserable beyond compare, even though only the merest hint of his beauty has been allowed to be revealed to the world, and he asks his Beloved to deliver him. She replies that she cannot ordain it so that only she gets to see his beauty. The rest of us must have that opportunity too. But, if she had her way, she would hide him even from her own eyes, such is the sweetness of her affection for him, let alone hide him from humankind! Then for some reason, transmission is cut off.
XL. O My Well-Beloved! Thou hast breathed Thy Breath into Me, and divorced Me from Mine own Self. Thou didst, subsequently, decree that no more than a faint reflection, a mere emblem of Thy Reality within Me be left among the perverse and envious. Behold, how, deluded by this emblem, they have risen against Me, and heaped upon Me their denials! Uncover Thy Self, therefore, O My Best-Beloved, and deliver Me from My plight.
Thereupon a Voice replied: "I love, I dearly cherish this emblem. How can I consent that Mine eyes, alone, gaze upon this emblem, and that no heart except Mine heart recognize it? By My Beauty, which is the same as Thy Beauty! My wish is to hide Thee from Mine own eyes: how much more from the eyes of men!"
I was preparing to make reply, when lo, the Tablet was suddenly ended, leaving My theme unfinished, and the pearl of Mine utterance unstrung. (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 90)
>Oh, How well I remember that day, the day the fire became clay.
As I have mentioned before, Baha'u'llah discusses this point of view in his Mathnavi. In there, he speaks of two mystics (or gnostics) and their understanding of the time in pre-existence when we were all brought together before God and the covenant established. One mystic says: oh yes, he remembers that time as if it was yesterday, and the other mystic says that that time has never ended "we are living in that Day".
The point is that the time in pre-existence when we were all together before God is not an event that happened 'in the past', like we generally understand events to have happened in the past. The event under the tree happened in pre-existence, and pre-existence isn't the past. It is outside time, which means it is ever-present, co-existent with us for eternity. That event in pre-existence is a memory that lives on, repeating every second, in our souls. We must renew our commitment to God at every second. We can't remember God and show exemplary service for a while, and then forget God, resting back thinking that we've made it because we were once so good. The requirement to always remember God never goes away.
My understanding is that remembering God all the time like this and never lapsing in one's steadfastness in doing so is what is meant by firmness in the covenant. The covenant is the relationship set up between us and God in pre-existence, and our firmness in it is our commitment to honouring it.
>> P19. O MY FRIENDS!
Well, I don't think there is anything to be gained by playing with words and so I am wary of doing that. But my response to what you say is that pre-existence, post-existence, it doesn't matter what you call it, it is the same thing.
The point I was making was more that eternity exists inside every moment. Every moment is both a beginning and an end. We choose life and then die and then chose life again, each moment. The 'future' of a post-existence is as much an illusion as the 'past' of a pre-existence. The important question is: what are you committed to right now? Each moment we are judged on the answer to that very question. Surely, God is swift to reckon.
Dear Tom, the one who loves eternity!
I've finally got around to typing out this quote for you. It bears on the topic of eternity/ pre-existence, which we have been discussing. The quote is from an essay by Toshikiko Izutsu and it had a profound effect on me in my attempts to understand Baha'u'llah's references to pre-existence. Izutsu was an academic who researched and wrote in the area of comparative religion. In this essay, he is discussing the concept of perpetual creation, which is the idea that creation happens every moment perpetually. It is different to the Christian idea that God made creation way back with Adam and then that was that creation-wise. Baha'u'llah confirms the idea of perpetual creation:
"Every thing must needs have an origin and every building a builder. Verily, the Word of God is the Cause which hath preceded the contingent world - a world which is adorned with the splendours of the Ancient of Days, yet is being renewed and regenerated at all times. Immeasurably exalted is the God of Wisdom Who hath raised this sublime structure." (Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p141)
In the passage I am quoting, Izutsu is discussing the idea of perpetual creation in the writings of the Buddhist, Dogen (1200-1253). This explanation is the best I have found.
"The argument here developed by Dogen is based on a very original idea of his concerning the relation between time and existence. Existence, for Dogen, is but a moment's flash. Everything, as we have seen above, goes on being renewed moment by moment, At every moment existence is absolutely new; it is "cut off from 'before' and 'after'".
For a right understanding of what Dogen says concerning this problem, it is of utmost importance that we never lose sight of the fact that for him time is completely identical with existence. In this view, time is not a sort of locus in which things exist and events occur; nor is it an innate form of human recognition. Rather, time *is* existence itself. And, we must remember, time is essentially an instant. Thus to say: "Such-and-such a thing exists at this instant" is exactly the same as saying: "this instant!" In other words, the former expression implies a tautology. For "this instant" by itself means the ontological moment, ie the momentary existence of this particular thing; the annihilation of "this-instant" is the annihilation of "this-thing", and vice versa. On the other hand, however, in each one of these ontological instants Dogen witnesses the actualization of what he calls "nikon", the closest translation of which will probably be the "timeless Now", meaning Timelessness or Eternity as it crystallizes itself in "this-instant". Time here is the actualization of Timelessness. And viewed from the vantage point of this position, all the separate instant-things disclose their fundamental unity in the sense that they are seen existing all simultaneously in a metaphysical dimension beyond time. This point is explained by Dogen himself in the following way.
Suppose I saw something (say, X) yesterday. And suppose I see something else (say, Y) today. Since "yesterday" and "today" are different and separated from one another in terms of time, X which I saw yesterday cannot be the same as Y which I see today. X is no longer here, while Y is still with me, within my ken. But from the point of view of the "timeless Now", the distinction between "yesterday" and "today" totally disappears, and consequently the distinction between X and Y. Says Dogen: I go deep into a mountainous region, reach the peak of the highest mountain, and, standing there, look over the thousands of peaks that lie under my feet. All the peaks are there, clearly visible, all together, simultaneously. An unlimited expanse of mountain ranges is within a sweep of the eye. The particular mountain (X) which I saw yesterday is there just as the mountain (Y) which I saw today. There is no distinction here between "yesterday" and "today". The mountain (X) which I saw yesterday is still with me in my "timeless Now". For nothing passes away in this distinction.
The pine-tree, Dogen goes on to argue, has the time (ie the series of instants) of its being-pine. But it is also my "timeless Now". The bamboo has the time of its being-bamboo, and it is different from the time of the pine. Yet, it is also my "timeless Now". And in being my "timeless Now", the time of the pine is identical with the time of the bamboo. That is to say, the pine and the bamboo - indeed all other things too - are simultaneously present in the eternal Now.
Thus concludes Dogen, the world, if considered from the point of view of time, will appear as an interminable succession of temporal units, whether long or short. But - and this is the important point - in each of these temporal units, whether taken as long (as an hour, day, month, year etc) or short (as a moment, an instant, a fraction of a second, etc), all the remaining units of time are actualized. In other words, each single unit of time is an actualization of the whole of time. And since, as we have pointed out earlier, a unit of time, for Dogen, is completely identical with a unit of existence, the above statement means nothing other than that each single thing at each of its successive ontological moments is an actualization of the All."
Toshikiko Izutsu: "The Concept of Perpetual Creation" in Toshikiko Izutsu: "Creation and the Timeless Order of Things. Essays in Islamic Philosophy", published by White Cloud Press ( http://www.whitecloudpress.com ) pp148-150
>For this cowardice there will surely be a lasting price to pay. The
Yes, I agree about the lasting price to pay. And as you say, people don't see any price to pay if the price is not paid by them. I feel sure that those proposing to attack Iraq would be much less willing to do so if they were as much on the receiving end of the bombs as the Iraqi people will be. But, unfortunately, people are generally unable to see the impact of their actions on others, like with criminals who have no idea how their attacks impact emotionally on their victims -- and one way to get them to stop offending is to teach them how to empathise.
Baha'u'llah asks us to treat others as we would like to be treated. In fact, I just came across another passage in Gems where he says this: "In this station, the wayfarer must not claim the seat of honour in any gathering or walk before others in the desire to vaunt and exalt himself. Rather must he regard himself as standing at all times in the presence of his Lord. He must not wish for anyone that which he doth not wish for himself, nor speak that which he would not bear to hear spoken by another, nor yet desire for any soul that which he would not have desired for himself. It befitteth him, rather, to walk upon the earth with undeviating steps in the kingdom of His new creation." (para 84)
But as you point out, people will not act unjustly if they think they can get away with it. That is where it gets interesting, from my point of view. For that really is the test of faith - that we do not act unjustly even if we can get away with it in this world. Baha'u'llah says we will be called to account for our actions.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately. This has been inspired by my reading the Tablet of Fu'ad, which is in the new Summons book. In there, one of the Sultan's ministers, who was responsible for sending Baha'u'llah to Akka, and for other shameful things, is dying and Baha'u'llah recounts his last days as he attempts to negotiate with God a way of avoiding being confronted with the hell of his own deeds. I think it is one of the most powerful and terrifying tablets Baha'u'llah wrote. Juan translated it a few years ago, but it hasn't been until now that I have been able to read it properly. I just used to put it aside. This minister, Fu'ad, thought he could get away with treating Baha'u'llah as he did, but eventually his death came and he discovered to his dismay that, dispute his denial of it, there really was One taking an account of what he'd done.
I believe that if we really believe that Baha'u'llah is watching what we do, we will not do mean things to others just because we ourselves do not have to suffer the hurt of it. For there is no such thing, in the end. As Baha'u'llah often says, the beginning is in the end.
PS: For those wanting to read the Tablet of Fu'ad, Juan's translation can be found at http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~bahai/trans/fuad.htm
I do not trust George Bush either. I see it on an archetypal level. I think, for example, that George Bush and Ariel Sharon are the same person. I think that history will show the legacies of each of them to be perpetual war. That is, as long as Bush is in power, the US will be at war. Just as Sharon will keep Israel at war until he is voted out. One proof of this with Bush is his axis of evil idea, which reveals his agenda. The North Koreans are onto it and are understandably not interested in waiting in line for their turn to be destroyed.
I heard Bush say in his state of the nation speech that he is a man of peace, but I don't believe he is capable of creating peace -- in the same way that Sharon cannot. This is because what they see as enemies (Iraq, the Palestinians, 'Muslims') are projections of the enemies they have created in their own souls. In their minds, in order to destroy their inner enemies, they have to destroy the projections of those enemies 'out there'. We see the same behaviour with the House of Justice. It perceived me to be its enemy and so it tried to destroy me, but the enemy it perceives has nothing to do with me; it is a projection of the souls who created it.
To get peace, therefore, we need to deal with our inner enemies. There is no *answer* in burying oneself in the illusions created by the projections. As I understand it, this is the work Baha'u'llah calls on us to do: detach from the world and live in him. In the Hidden Words, he asks us to throw out the foe in our hearts and allow the Lord to enter his house. It isn't easy. The teachings force us to make decisions about what we value most. At times like this, when the world is in turmoil, it seems trite to talk about renouncing the world and living in God. What about the enormous world shattering events taking place, how can you ignore them?! But I don't see it that way. Renouncing the world, turning one's heart to the Lord and inviting him to live in his house forever is, Baha'u'llah tells us, the best possible deed we can do:
"By Him Who abased Me so as to glorify the worlds, and Who cast Me into prison to liberate the people of the earth, were a soul to come with sincerity before the compassionate Countenance, it would be equivalent to all the good deeds performed by the ancients and the moderns. No, I beseech God for forgiveness, for this station cannot be limited by words and speech. No one is aware of the grace of this station save God, may His greatness be glorified. Should a soul arrive in the precincts of the throne of manifestation, he will be the recipient in all the infinite worlds of the grace and recompense of this action. What then would those receive, who attain to His presence? The intent of that which was revealed from the heaven of loving-kindness and was mentioned in the scriptures was meeting with God. Blessed is the one who attains it, and arrives in that region, from the horizon of which shone forth the sun of the beauty of his Lord's mercy, the Exalted, the Mighty, and touched its earth and inhaled its air. Verily, he has attained to the ultimate good, beyond any other grace or providence. By God, the inhabitants of paradise will visit him and perceive from him the fragrance of God, the Almighty, the Guardian, the August, the All-Powerful."
-- Baha'u'llah: Commentary on a verse of Sa`di
Baha'u'llah's requirement that we renounce the world really boils down to a choice of what we value. Baha'u'llah wants us to value him, the Lord, above all. He must be our Beloved, with the affairs of the world being secondary and based on that primary relationship. If we value the Lord above all, then things in the world will fall into balance.
The hard part is valuing the Lord above all else, when he is invisible and the world is upon our senses at every moment. Being immersed in the world and having our hearts overcome with the world's concerns is always only a sensory perception away. Baha'u'llah tells us in the Hidden Words that the Lord has deliberately created creation like that in order to filter the pure in heart:
"O SON OF MY HANDMAID! Didst thou behold immortal sovereignty, thou wouldst strive to pass from this fleeting world. But to conceal the one from thee and to reveal the other is a mystery which none but the pure in heart can comprehend." (Persian Hidden Words, no 41)
Over on BeliefNet, someone was asking about the saying of Jesus that no one comes to the Father except through him.
This got me thinking about the oneness of the manifestations. When I thought hard about it, I realised that the basic idea behind the oneness of the manifestations is everywhere in the world. It is everywhere you have a general concept and lots of instances of it; for example, it could be "tree", "circle", "house", "cat", you name it. All trees, circles, houses and cats are the "same" in that they are all examples of the general category. And it also works with modern concepts like "company", which I refer to at the end of the message quoted below. And it works with the idea of prejudice.
As I recall, Baha'u'llah uses the examples of the days of the week, the daily cycle of the sun, and the phases of the moon.
One analogy that Baha'u'llah gives is the days of the week. The days of the week can be viewed from two perspectives: first, as individual days with different names, such as Monday and Tuesday; and second, from the perspective of the 'concept' of a day - ie, a period of time between sunrise and sunrise. From the second perspective, each day is the "same" as every other day because it is the required 24-hour period.
From the first perspective, however, a person might argue: today is a "day" because it is called Monday and it is sunny. But Sunday was not a "day" because it is not called Monday and it was cloudy. This person is making a mistake because he is associating the individual characteristics of Monday (its name and weather) with being a "day". He doesn't realise that the individual characteristics of each day are irrelevant to whether a day is a "day". This is determined by the 'concept' of a day, being a certain 24-hour period.
The mistake such a person makes is the same mistake a person makes out of prejudice. A prejudiced person might say: "no, Sarah is not a human being because she is a woman and has black skin; human beings are male and have white skin." Again, the prejudiced person is defining being human in terms of the individual charateristics of a certain group of people. However, "human being" is a concept, albeit a complex one. But the important thing is that from the point of view of the concept, all people are "human beings" and are, in that sense, the "same".
Baha'u'llah argues that we should treat the idea of "manifestation of God" in the same way as we treat the concepts of "day" and "human being". In other words, there are a number of manifestations of God, each with individual characteristics, but they are all manifestations of God and, in this sense, the "same". Just because one was called Jesus and lived in Roman times and another called Muhammad and lived 600 years later is irrelevant. They were all messengers of God.
And as for the idea that 'no one comes to the Father except through me', I thought a good analogy here was the post office. If we want to post a letter, we don't think about what post office we go to. We don't think: well, I must go to the Gardens Post Shop because that is the one and only post office. We know that all post offices provide the same service and work for the same boss. They all get our letter to its recipient.
Similarly, all the manifestations are branches providing the same service - it's not that Jesus is the sole branch providing it. The idea that 'no one comes to the Father except through me', means, therefore, that if you want to make the journey to God, you have to use the accredited Divine Messenger Service, registered with Head Office in heaven. No one else provides that service.
>I guess this letter originally from xoxo is being passed on to us so
I think you've got it in one here, Wombat. Here's Baha'u'llah on the topic:
"O concourse of divines! It is not yours to boast if ye abstain from drinking wine and from similar transgressions which have been forbidden you in the Book, for should ye commit such deeds, the dignity of your station would then be tainted in the eyes of the people, your affairs would be disrupted, and your name disgraced and dishonoured. Nay, your true and abiding glory resideth in submission to the Word of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, and in your inward and outward detachment from aught else besides God, the All-Compelling, the Almighty. Great is the blessedness of the divine that hath not allowed knowledge to become a veil between him and the One Who is the Object of all knowledge, and who, when the Self-Subsisting appeared, hath turned with a beaming face towards Him. He, in truth, is numbered with the learned."
Baha'u'llah: Suriy-i-Haykal para 88
Actually, being able to put this quote into the context you have provided means that we can get an idea of what Baha'u'llah means when he refers to knowledge being a veil. He often says in the writings that knowledge is a veil, but what does he mean by that? Here, Baha'u'llah says in the quote that a divine is blessed if s/he does not let knowledge become a veil between one's self and God. It suggests to me that one can be so absorbed in doing the right thing according to one's knowledge, that one never gets around to the important thing, which is transforming one's heart in love. It is possible to spend your whole life acting exactly in the way Baha'u'llah prescribed, and yet never do what he asked.
Everyone asks for firmness in faith, but few for firmness in love.
They ask for faith and are ashamed of love, such arrogant hearts!
Faith has no idea of the place where love transports you.
I swear by my faith, Bahu, keep my love firm!
> " Freedom and fear , justice and cruelty , have always been at war , and
Yes, indeed, this is the problem. I was listening to a Christian program on the radio the other day. They quoted a theologian as saying: it took me ages to realise that God is not the enemy of my enemies.
Bush said in his state of the nation address that America is blessed. But I can't figure out why you are blessed just because you have everything and just because God will not stop you from killing hundreds of thousands of people. Is it a blessing for the House that it has all the power in the Baha'i community and has not been stopped from throwing me out of it? I don't believe these things are blessings. I see them as God's justice: by letting us do as we please, God is allowing us to write our own judgement on the Preserved Tablet.
Baha'u'llah says that God sides with the oppressed, not with the powerful. "By My life, a subject is better than a thousand rulers, a subordinate is more exalted than a myriad of superiors, and one oppressed is more excellent than a city full of tyrants. Emulate thy Beloved therein and sever thyself from all things." Surah of God,http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/bhallah.htm
If a subject is better than a ruler, then how can it be justified that we kill hundreds of thousands of subjects in order to get at one ruler? It doesn't make sense that we should destroy the ones who matter most, to get to the one that doesn't.
I'll be off for the weekend in a couple of hours, but didn't want to go without responding to your message, which I thought had lots of great ideas in it. Thanks for typing out the quote from Ibn Arabi. I loved it. Where is it from? There are so many ideas in it that I can see Baha'u'llah making use of in various places in the writings.
> I would argue that
I think you are right. This is my favourite topic. I could write a book on this (Baha'u'llah wrote many!), but just briefly, the Hidden Words over and over again ask us to look inside ourselves to find God in our hearts.
10. O SON OF UTTERANCE! Thou art My stronghold; enter therein that thou mayest abide in safety. My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find Me near unto thee.
11. O SON OF BEING! ***Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee.*** Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed My favor upon thee.
12. O SON OF BEING! With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of strength I created thee; and ***within thee have I placed the essence of My light.*** Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is perfect and My command is binding. Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof.
13. O SON OF SPIRIT! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? ***Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.***
> " If that God who is One and All-Conquering , reveals Himself to one of His
I love this idea of dying before death. I think this phrase captures the essence of our task here on earth. Baha'u'llah addresses it in this Hidden Word: "7. O SON OF MAN! If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee." But, as Ibn Arabi says, it takes work to detach oneself from all save God.
I have a book of poems by the mystic poet Sultan Bahu, who I quoted in an earlier message. The book is called "Death before dying". The first poem goes like this:
"Where one gram of love is sold, there one should give tons of faith.
I like the way he describes the things that must be given up. He captures the enormity of this sacrifice as "tons of faith". It takes tons of faith to let go all the things in the world that we believe to be reliable: love, study, religious practices and so on. All are empty.
Also, another important issue is referred to in the third line of the poem: that nothing is gained without a guide. Perhaps Bahu is referring to his spiritual master, but I interpret this to refer to Baha'u'llah. Study and knowledge appear to provide us with a guide, but in fact, until we renounce the world we do not have a real guide. Once we have renounced the world, as ibn Arabi says further on, then we see with the eyes of God and hear with his ears and so on. But until that station is attained, there is in a sense no guidance. And I've learned from my humble translations of passages from the Qur'an that one thing about straying from God is that, not only do you not have a guide, but you don't know you don't have a guide. You think you do! And unfortunately, this is one of the things that keeps us in our spiritual prisons, the fact that we genuinely believe ourselves to be guided and in the right when we are not.
> To be painted by the Divine Color is to see that all existence , without
Have you read Baha'u'llah's commentary on a verse of Rumi? He discusses at length this idea about taking on God's colour.
>And yet as , Arabi notes , we are gifted with existence
Larry, thanks for raising my favourite topic!
At 03:56 14/02/03 +0000, you wrote:
I think you have asked a very important question. Confusion over what is meant in the writings by 'eliminating self' has enabled fundamentalists to argue that believers should turn their inner workings (mind and heart) off completely and become obedient automatons. But that can't possibly be what Baha'u'llah means because, for example, he orders us in the 2nd Arabic Hidden Word to know with our own knowledge. It is simply impossible to know something with your own knowledge if you have taken other people's word for it.
Obviously, the self can be the spoilt child who throws tantrums and goes around being mean to people. But I don't think people get confused over that aspect of self. The confusion comes more at the level of conscience or when we are asked to make decisions that run counter to the opinions of those in authority or those close to us, such as a spouse or friend. In those cases, we must listen to ourselves, to the voice of our conscience and heart, even if it does mean that we will become unpopular. I think this is the modern idea of having a strong sense of self.
But when Baha'u'llah talks about eliminating the self, I don't think he is referring to the self that stands up for itself in the face of opposition. I think he means the self that becomes attached to the world instead of to Baha'u'llah. It is the voice in us that says, for example, "I don't have time for my religious practices (prayer, reading the writings, bringing myself to account, meditation, teaching) because of XXX. I am too busy concerning myself with (fill in the activity or concern) for me to value and nurture my relationship with God and place it first, before all else."
I've just been re-reading the Arabic Hidden Words and I think it is beyond doubt that the first thing Baha'u'llah wants is for us to dedicate ourselves to him. He demands to be first in our lives. "Busy not thyself with this world"; "Sorrow not save that thou art far from Us. Rejoice not save that thou art drawing near and returning unto Us"; "Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit. This is of the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it"; "Turn thy face unto Mine and renounce all save Me".
Renouncing the self, then, is renouncing the world, and turning our attention to Baha'u'llah in our hearts. That place is our real home, not any thing, location or person in the physical world. Baha'u'llah is at pains to point out that every thing in the world is contingent and that one day the things we rely on will be taken from us. The only thing that will abide forever is God. Baha'u'llah doesn't ask us to abandon the things we are attached to because he is a kill joy, but because he wants us to grow up and live in the eternal reality inside us, so that we will have eternal life when we die.
Here are more poems of Sultan Bahu - just for fun and because I love them. -- Alison
"They study nothing themselves but make students of others.
"If religion lay in learning, why would they stick their heads on lances?
"This body of yours is the True Lord's dwelling, so mystic, look inside!
Dear Tony and all,
Thanks very much for pointing me to the book "Waging Peace". After reading your message, I raced to my bookshelf and took a look. The book has many very interesting quotes from Abdu'l-Baha, just as you say.
In fact, it has so many excellent quotes that I am inspired to suggest a slow read. Given the timeliness of the issue and its importance and the fact that Baha'is are searching for a meaningful response to it, I thought it might be productive to study some of these passages from Abdu'l-Baha. It might help individuals to find their own response, free from the constraints the AO tries to place on Baha'is.
For those who don't know what a slow read is, it is basically an on-line deepening. Someone posts a passage and then we discuss it. When that discussion is over, the next passage is posted and we then discuss that.
Is anyone else interested in participating in a slow read? I plan to post some of the passages from Abdu'l-Baha quoted in Waging Peace. The passages are not long. We could stop when the momentum runs out.
If there is no interest, then I'll post up a few interesting quotes anyway.
To give an example of what's there, here's one of the quotes. I think it's interesting how cutting and to-the-point Abdu'l-Baha is. He hates hypocrisy and, I think, is saying that friendliness based on hypocritical expressions of affection are not the basis for peace. In reality, the product of such hypocrisy is an arms race and war:
"The peoples of Europe have not advanced to the higher planes of moral civilisation, as their opinions and behaviour clearly demonstrate. Notice, for example, how the supreme desire of European governments and peoples today is to conquer and crush one another, and how, while harbouring the greatest secret repulsion, they spend their time exchanging expressions of neighbourly affection, friendship and harmony...
Each day they invent a new bomb or explosive and then the governments must abandon their obsolete arms and begin producing the new, since the old weapons cannot hold their own against the new. For example at this time of writing , they have invented a new rifle in Germany and a bronze cannon in Austria, which have greater firepower than the Martini-Henry rifle and the Krupp cannon, are more rapid in their effects and more efficient in annihilating humankind. The staggering cost of it all must be borne by the hapless masses...
[and then Abdu'l-Baha spends two paragraphs describing recent conflicts in Europe and their carnage, and then he ends by saying...] Only too many such instances are available to demonstrate the fact that Europe is morally uncivilized." Waging Peace pp41-42
It seems to me that Abdu'l-Baha's comments about Europeans being morally uncivilized are very political. Just as they would be now.
This is my position on the political realm. I see it as being exactly the same as the realm of the Baha'i administration - that too, in my view, is part of the political realm. One relates to the politics and administration of a religion, the other to nations and world affairs. But they are all, in my view, of the political realm.
My take on the realm of the Baha'i administration is that, although it is important for organising the affairs of the community in this earthly life, the spiritual challenge is not to allow ourselves to get caught up in it. It has an important job to do, but it should not be thought of as at the core of spiritual life or as essential to the spiritual goal, which is to detach from this world and all that is in it.
Baha'is have a range of views about the Baha'i administration. Some view it as central to spiritual life. They believe what the House does and says is right by fiat. I see the administration as peripheral to my spiritual life. Although what it does has consequences for the community, I believe the challenge God has set us is to sanctify ourselves from everything in the world, and that includes the administration and its activities. Baha'u'llah tells us to blind our eyes and stop our ears from all save him.
If we look at the Baha'i community, we can see that it has become sidetracked and has forgotten its central spiritual purpose. It has become all about administration for its own sake; the dramas associated with its functioning dominate people's lives and their hearts are filled with the dross of its babble and ephemeral concerns. Some, like myself, have broken free of this and can now set Baha'u'llah and His remembrance at center stage. "The healer of all thine ills is remembrance of Me, forget it not".
I think the issue of world politics is no different. Baha'is will have different views on it. They will place different value on its affairs, just as they do with the administration. Some will think its dramas are important; and yes, like the Baha'i administration, it has its part to play. But the test is to detach from its concerns and not get caught up in it. Not one of the players in the political realm is real. It is folly to place one's trust in them. None of them is right by fiat; they have only a speck of truth, if any at all. None of them is sanctified from the world, not one of them has borne witness to Baha'u'llah, who is the Eternal Truth. They are all driven by self-interest. They are all just actors in the drama of worldly affairs. This drama we concern ourselves with now will be forgotten one day.
I think the only path to peace is to teach ourselves and others to see the ephemeral nature of the drama we find themselves caught up in. This worldly conflict is happening only because those involved in it believe that their best interests are determined by its outcome. They are attached to the part they play in it and therefore seek advantage over each other as if there was real gain in what happens. But there is no gain in any of it. Those who lose and those who win are the same. Those who win say to themselves, "God has blessed me", but we can see from the House's actions against the liberals that this logic does not follow. They have "won" by forcing their perceived enemies out of the community, but in reality they have won nothing. True winning comes from detaching from the whole blessed business entirely, sanctifying ourselves from all save God, as Baha'u'llah asks us to do over and over again. Our best advantage is to be rid of the weight of this nightmare and to sanctify ourselves from its dominion. So long as people believe that they have something to gain from these worldy conflicts, so long we will have no peace.
>Progressive German sociologist Jürgen Habermas made this point when he
As I see it, this is one of the essential differences between the Baha'i fundamentalists and the liberals. The fundamentalists argue that it doesn't matter whether what the House decides and does is right or wrong, what matters is that the House is the community's top authority and that we must therefore obey and support whatever it does. Therefore, it doesn't matter that disenrolling Alison Marshall appeared to have no basis in law or morality, the only thing that matters is that the House of Justice decided to do it. We must back it; that is the basis of world order.
I don't see any difference between that argument and the argument that we must back the UNSC no matter what it decides and for whatever reason, because that is the basis of world order.
The UNSC acts out of self-interest just as much as House of Justice members do. We know that it is politics behind all that is decided, otherwise Israel would be brought to justice for material breaches of UN resolutions too. I think it is inconsistent to, on the one hand, denounce the House of Justice for self-interest when it disregards principle for a worldly advantage and on the other hand argue that the UNSC brings a just world order and must be backed no matter what it does.
OK, here's one of the quotes from Abdu'l-Baha from the book Waging Peace, pp15-17:
"Today in the world of humanity the most important matter is the question of universal peace. The realisation of this principle is the crying need of the time. People have become restive and discontented. The political world of every civilised nation has become a vast arena for the exhibition of militarism and the display of martial spirit. The minds of the statesmen and Cabinet Ministers of every government are chiefly occupied with the question of war, and the council chambers are resounding with the call to war. Self-interest is at the bottom of every war. Greed, commerce, exploitation, the pushing further of the boundaries of the kingdom, colonisation, the preservation of treaty rights, the safe guarding of the lives and interests of the citizens, are a few of the pretexts of going into war. And it has been proven by experience that the results of war are ruinous, both to the conquerors and the conquered. Countries are laid waste, public property trampled under foot, commerce is paralysed, fields crimsoned with innocent blood, and the progress of the world retarded. How can a person rectify a wrong by committing a greater wrong - shedding the blood of his brothers? The major part of the revenue of every country is expended over military preparations, infernal engines, the filling of arsenals with powder and shot, the construction of rapid-firing guns, the building of fortifications and soldiers' barracks and the annual maintenance of the army and navy. From the peasants upward every class of society is heavily taxed to feed this insatiable monster of war. The poor people have wrested from them all that they make with the sweat of their brows and the labour of their hands. In reality war is continuous. The moral effect of the expenditures of these colossal sums of money for military purposes is just as deteriorating as the actual war and its train of dreadful carnage and horrors. The ideal and moral forces of the contending parties become barbaric and bestial, the spiritual powers are stunted and the laws of the divine civilisation are disregarded. Such a financial drain ossifies the veins and muscles of the body-politic, and congeals the delicate sensibilities of the spirit.
There is not the least doubt that the nation or the government which puts forward an extraordinary effort in the promotion of universal peace, will be encircled with divine confirmations, and will be the object of honour and respect among all the inhabitants of the earth.
>I also deeply regret that Israel has chosen to ignore loads of UN Security
But on the other hand: "They who exhort others to justice, while themselves committing iniquity, stand accused of falsehood by the inmates of the Kingdom and by those who circle round the throne of their Lord, the Almighty, the Beneficent, for that which their tongues have uttered." -- Baha'u'llah: Suriy-i-Haykal. Summons of the Lord of Hosts, para 149
I just can't see how hypocrites can manifest Baha'u'llah's principles. Baha'u'llah is sanctified from all that they do and does not stand in need of them.
Their hypocrisy is also demonstrated in the fact that Bush and Blair have indicated their willingness to take unilateral action. If they are prepared to do this, then how can they be true supporters of international law? If they manage to manipulate a reluctant world to give them a UN resolution, this will simply be a convenience for them, not a demonstration of their morality.
>I am very worried that the French will indeed veto a decision,
I don't understand what you mean by letting "international affairs run their own course". Don't they do that anyway, no matter what happens? You seem to believe that if a given set of circumstances occurs - ie, that the UNSC makes a resolution to go into Iraq and carries this out, then that means world order and world affairs won't be 'running themselves'. Whereas if that event does not occur then world order, or even God, is somehow not directing things. But what if France does veto a resolution, how do you know that isn't the path to world order? Perhaps the way you have interpreted events is relative to you and not God's path at all. I guess I am surprised at your willingness to read these world events in an absolute way and actually believe that this is a matter of life and death for world order.
In my view, if any current world event can be interpreted as reflecting Baha'i principle, then this is entirely accidental. In the same way that the actions of nature, for example, are sometimes interpreted to manifest divine order.
I just wanted to say that I have appreciated the three statements you put up on Talisman testifying to your belief in Baha'u'llah. I believe in him too and love it when I see others standing up to be counted.
I am intrigued to know more about your experience of faith. If you are inclined to, I'd like to learn more about your spiritual activities and experiences. For example, what inspired you to begin writing your statements and putting them up on a web site?
You say in your statement that there just isn't enough joy. I can really relate to this! I run on joy and when I am sorrowful, I find it a struggle to function. I like to recall to myself the Hidden Word that says: "Rejoice in the gladness of thine heart, that thou mayest be worthy to meet Me and to mirror forth My beauty." By God, joy must be important! But I find it a struggle to stay joyful. Things get me down and then I have to work through my attachments before my heart feels free again.
You know the Hidden Word that says that the company of the ungodly increaseth sorrow? This is one reason I keep away from stuff written by the Baha'i administration. I find when I read it that my heart fills with sorrow. And so I've learned that one way to stay joyful is to keep away from that.
In the quote below, the following phrase from Abdu'l-Baha gets at the heart of the matter in my view: "this great cause of universal peace cannot be established and maintained except through the power of God, which is supernatural". For me, that is what's missing - the need for us to turn to the Lord for answers. In my view, much of the discussion we have had so far, while it has benefit on the 'rational' level, as Sen puts it, does not address the fact that answers *only* come from the Lord. "The healer of all thine ills is remembrance of Me" (and no one else). While it is useful to discuss the pros and cons of the attack against Iraq and so on, it's a mistake to think that this issue is exactly the same issue as how to bring about universal peace. The rational realm alone cannot provide us with lasting solutions; as Abdu'l-Baha says, this can only be had through the power of God.
Many times in my life, I have been in situations where troubles have come at me from every side, just as the world is experiencing now. I now label that situation "hell". It is a place where there is no light and understanding, only darkness and coldheartedness. But as the years wore on, I began to *listen* to, and take to heart, what Baha'u'llah says: "I desire communion with thee, but thou wouldst put no trust in Me. The sword of thy rebellion hath felled the tree of thy hope". And finally I realised that I was in "hell" because I'd written Baha'u'llah out of the picture. I hadn't put any trust in him and therefore had got to the piteous point of no hope.
This is the situation the world faces, in my view. The hell the world is in has come about because the world has turned aside from Baha'u'llah instead of turning toward him. The current situation is an example of an unforseen calamity that comes as result of turning away. Baha'u'llah says: "My claim on thee is great, it cannot be forgotten". This hell will continue until Baha'u'llah's claim is acknowledged by the world.
I think this is the point Abdu'l-Baha is making here. He says he wants the Baha'is to join peace societies because people need to find Baha'u'llah to find peace. Otherwise, as he puts it, they are just discussing explanations and theories. Because, as he explains, we need the assistance of a powerful force that is beyond the world of nature to attain universal peace.
"Truly I say many societies are organised in America for the promotion of the thought of peace and universal brotherhood. That country has preceded all the rest in this respect. But all these societies of the West, whose aim is the oneness of the realm of humanity, consist of explanations and theories on this subject; but the Baha'is have engraved this matter on the page of this world with their own blood. Through the power of the Word of God they have unfurled the banner of the oneness of the kingdom of humanity upon the apex of the world with deeds and actions; and through the bounty of Baha'u'llah they have spread the proclamation of the brotherhood of man and the universal equality among the people of the East and West. Herein consists the difference.
Consider thou the Hague Conference was instituted and established by the kings and rulers of the world, but when it came to the station of action, the Czar of Russia, who was the founder of the Conference, declared war with Japan. Nearly one million of souls were torn to pieces on the battlefield and kneaded the earth with their blood. Notwithstanding this, the Baha'is must associate and become members of these peace societies, so that they may awaken them to the realisation that this great cause of universal peace cannot be established and maintained except through the power of God, which is supernatural.
Human nature in this phenomenal world is fashioned with the poison of war and strife. We need a powerful force beyond and above this world of nature, so that this condition may be effaced from the surface of the world."
Abdu'l-Baha Waging Peace pp32-35