|Mythoi: Stories of the Origin, Fall, and Redemption of Man|
Presented by William Barnes
In Some Answered Questions (p. 122-126), 'Abdu'l-Bahá discusses the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and interprets some of the primary symbols of that story. He adds that the story contains divine mysteries and universal meanings, and it is capable of marvelous explanations."
I would like to propose another possible reading of both the symbolic events in Eden and those related to the story of Babel, a reading that highlights the universal aspects of these stories. The perspective I Will construct draws heavily on the Bahá'í writings, but with support from the Bible, the Qur'an, and myth. It is the story - and "myth" means story - of man's creation, fall and redemption, the story of the advance of human consciousness,
The process of redemption passes through four stages, or states of consciousness. It begins in Eden; that is, any unconscious state of psychic unity - where unconscious means people are not aware of the forces holding them together. There occurs a fall, or breaking of the unity into its component parts and their successive temporal appearance. The third stage is an apocalypse, the burning away of old and fragmented perceptions of reality to reveal the hidden and total form of Reality. Finally, redemption occurs, which means the regaining of Eden but with consciousness. Thus regained, Eden is a new, more psychologically complete unity of consciousness. The process occurs individually and collectively.
'Abdu'l-Bahá remarks that: 'The Circle of life is the same circle; it returns. The tree of life has ever borne the same heavenly fruit." In another place, He states that in all cycles "the origins and ends are the same.' I will argue, that by studying the Eden and Babel stories, paying particular attention to the universal meanings in such symbols as the garden, tree, tower, and the role of Satan in the redemption process, the mythical events in Eden and Babel foreshadow the historical events in what Bahá'ís call the Prophetic cycle. Thus the truth of the Master's words becomes apparent.
Reading With or Against the Book, or the Avoidance of Interpretive Chaos
Presented by Susan Brill
In the Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá'u'lláh quotes the following saying: "The most grievous of all veils is the veil of knowledge" (180). And yet one of the fundamental principles of the Bahá'í Faith is the independent investigation of truth. This seeming paradox is readily solved. That knowledge that enables the individual along his or her path to God is to be valued, and knowledge that impedes the way of the seeker is to be avoided. While this seems manifestly clear, the actual application proves more complex. This paper looks specifically at the case of Bahá'í scholarship as it relates to scripture (the Bahá'í Writings) differentiating between those cases which enable readers' passages into the Book and those other cases where reader entry is impeded.
The situation whereby Bahá'í theology and scholarship (referred herein as the book) enable a readers approach to the Book is described geometrically in terms of the triadic semiotic relationship between a sign, the object it represents, and that relationship defined by the point of interpretation (or interpretant). Relying primarily on the Writings of Baháíuílláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the interrelationships between the Book of God (Bahá'í Scripture), the book (Bahá'í theology and scholarship), and the individual are geometrically portrayed as a means of demonstrating the primacy of the relationship between the Book and the individual believer with the prescribed place of the Bahá'í scholar/theologian clearly depicted in its subsidiary, yet meaningful, role.
The problematic situation where the scholarship or theology obstructs the individual believer's access in/to the Book is described in terms of contemporary chaos theory. Chaos theory is "the qualitative study of unstable aperiodic behavior in deterministic nonlinear dynamic systems" (Kellert, 2). This theory, which originated in the domain of physics and currently finds applications in fields as diverse as mathematics, computer science, chemistry, astronomy, psychology, economics, and literary criticism, proves to be a useful heuristic for those cases that diverge away from order and into chaos. Baháíuílláh writes, 'it behooveth no man to interpret the holy words according to his own imperfect understanding" (KI, 182). Such interpretation is depicted in this paper as the initial condition that leads to problematically chaotic results for those readers who rely on such (mis)interpretations for their own (mis)understandings of the Book. In contrast to the case of true Baháíí scholarship, the geometric depiction of this "other' scholarship/theology clearly delineates the difficulties attendant upon those scholarly readings of the Book that read against the Book rather than with the Book.
Koranic Roots of Some Legal and Theological Terms in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, The
Presented by Kamran Ekbal
Great similarities exist between the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Koran, not only in relation to matters of style and structure but also in using legal terms and theological termini technici of Koranic origin. Many passages of the Aqdas are formulated in an allegorical style containing "hidden pearls ... enshrined within them' (Aq. 136) and 'pearls of mysteries" on which we are called upon to ponder (Aq. 137, 182). Without a direct reference to the Koran, the connotations of many passages of the Aqdas will remain superficial. The permission lo attire yourselves in silk' (Aq. 159) and 'to make use of vessels of silver and gold" (Aq. 46) or to "seat yourselves on chairs and benches" (Aq. 154) has thus a much deeper sense of meaning which can be revealed only through checking their Koranic backgrounds. It is only then that a new magnificent scenario may be envisioned, entailing a completely different idea that the general and literal meaning of the passages
To understand the Aqdas properly and to enable research to be done even by non-Arabic-speaking scholars, a list of key words of its original Arabic legal and theological terms would be therefore indispensable. Whereas all those legal terms dominating divine laws and ordinances used in the Aqdas with an abundance and variety in their individual meanings (amr/awámír, hadd, hudúd, hukm/ahkám, and sunna/sunan as well as the two singular terms 'ahd and námús) were dealt with in the annual meeting of the German-speaking A.B.S. at Landegg Academy, 24-27 September 1993, many more terms will be dealt with in the Wilmette session. Some examples will be the terms `árifín and asfiyá, badí', bayt, burhán, darra, dhikr, hayd, and 'idda (concerning the waiting period for women), Haqq and Huqúqulláh, khalq, huja, 'isma (infallibility), etc.
Tree of Peace and the Coming of Bahá'u'llah, The
Presented by Aram Gomez
Deganawida, known by Many simply as the Great Peacemaker, was the 15th century prophet whose divine inspiration founded the Six Nations Confederacy. This Confederacy, hailed as one of history's greatest achievements, was the primogenitor of the government of the United States of America. This country founded its constitution upon the principles of government that were the genius of Deganawida. He was a supernal spring of virtue and statesmanship.
Many are the people who relate the genesis of the American democracy to the united nations of the Iroquois. They believe this by virtue of the close political associations of people such as Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, with the sachem (chiefs) of the Iroquois. But little consideration enters that picture of a God-sent bounty upon this land. A new light will shine on this picture as some of the spiritual points of the revelation of Deganawida are brought forth. Thus will we see that He did not merely establish a form of government, but rather did He establish a peace among nations that is pan of a divine purpose for mankind. The claim of Deganawida perhaps will find its greatest expression in the words of Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: "Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power .... "
Deganawida sought at all times, while civilizing the minds of His listeners, to call man back to God. He bestowed this Divine Wisdom In the form of a message which He called the Great Peace. Among the Iroquois, peace and law are the same, they are used interchangeably, thus the Great Peace of Deganawida was the Great Law, and this took the form of three words. These words constituted, in essence, the Word of God, a choice Wine brought from heaven by Deganawida.
These three words that Make up the revelation of Deganawida will be examined closely; their meanings will be related to the vast ocean of the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.
The three words that comprise the Great Peace are: Gáiwoh, Skénon, Gashasdenshaa Righteousness, Health, Power.
Deganawida made it very clear that His revelation was not intended to be a universal one. He gave clear promises to the Iroquois concerning the coming of Bahá'u'lláh. He said that only after the strife of time, when the second coming was upon us, would the Spirit of God unite not only the people of Turtle Island, but the whole world. This talk will examine a few of these prophecies of Deganawida.
The Religion of the Six Nations ruled supreme until the dark hours of the Revolutionary War, when division broke out as to who to support. Joseph Brant of the Mohawks journeyed to England and created alliances there; whereas others established strong political ties with the revolting American colonies. Some hoped that the American colonies would be kept at bay if they aided the British to put back the revolt; others wished to see the American colonies become strong, in the hopes that they would join with them in their Six Nations union. Both decisions proved fatal, as they were not made in unity. As a result, the might of the Iroquois began to fade.
In the last days of the 18th century, a man of Seneca stock was awakened from his evil ways by the spirit of the fast-approaching Day of God. His name was Skanientafflo, known commonly as Handsome Lake. Though he was not a prophet, but rather a simple man, until his death in 1815 he preached his vision for sixteen years to the people and renewed some elements of the Faith of Deganawida. He reiterated some of the prophecies of Deganawida and established codes of conduct that would free the Iroquois from the fetters of white civilization that were threatening to destroy them.
Notable among these fetters were drinking, gambling, and Immoral acts such as 'love medicine" and abortion, all of these evils were contrary to the Laws of the Great Peace revealed by Deganawida. But all of this, In my estimation, was merely a part of a process of change, preparing the Hotinonshonni (People of the Longhouse) for the coming of Bahá'u'lláh. We will examine this process and become aware of the spiritual truths of the age.
Certainly the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, the Faith of the Most Great Peace, will prove to be the cause of the reawakening of the Indian spirit. Not only will the Indian receive life again, we will also have the opportunity, accorded by the Lord of the Age, to play an Important part In the process of the unification of the entire world.
We will find a new sense of sacredness for this country, the homeland of the Onkwehonwe (Original Beings), through the vision of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as seen in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, for America and its 'original inhabitants! Perhaps new light will then be shed on the significance of the spiritual traditions of Turtle Island (meaning, in part, a Place of Covenants).
Validity and Value of An Historical-Critical Approach to the Revealed Word of Bahá'u'llah, The
Presented by John Hatcher
From a Bahá'í perspective, the Manifestations Wield such influence that it would not be exaggerating to say that human history is organized around their appearances. Indeed, Bahá'u'lláh explains that in the station of unity the Manifestations possess for us the authority and power of God. “Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare: I am God!' He verily speaketh the truth, and no doubt attach thereto" (The Kitáb-Ígán, P. 178). At the same time, each of the Manifestations forthrightly attributes His Influence and authority, even the very words He utters, to the power of God working through Him. Thus God Instructed Moses what to do and assured Him God would provide the words: 'And you shall speak to him [Aaron] and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do" (Exod. 4:15). Likewise, in explaining the source and authority of His words, Christ stated, "For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak" (John 12:49). Muhammad states that He cannot adapt or change the Qur'an to accommodate the desires of His followers because He Is the channel through which God speaks and not the author of the words: "It is not for me to change it as mine own soul prompteth. I follow only what is revealed to me . . . " (10:16).
Integral to this relationship between the Prophets and the Divine Will operating through them is the creative process which links spiritual reality to its phenomenal counterpart through the medium of language, the process by which the eternal word alluded in John is tantamount in physical reality to the power and authority of God: 1n the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Of great interest, then, is the process by which revelation occurs, by which the word of God is given explicit form without hesitation, revision, or any of the other processes commonly associated with human artistry.
It is understandable, therefore, that we might consider whether the various modes and tools of literary criticism are relevant to a study of scripture, or whether the relationship of the believer to the revealed word is purely a matter of inspiration and intuition. In particular we might question the validity and value of an historical-critical approach. That is, do the Manifestations have any personal contribution to make and are they subject to the influences and circumstances that affect human artists, such as the external forces of environment and heredity, or internal conditions such as psychological makeup and physical health?
In one statement Bahá'u'lláh seems to imply that His only function in this process is to accede to the will of God: "Whenever I chose to hold My peace and be still, lo, the Voice of the Holy Spirit, standing on My right hand, aroused Me, and the Most Great Spirit appeared before My Face, and Gabriel overshadowed Me, and the Spirit of Glory stirred within My bosom, bidding Me arise and break My silence" (qtd. in God Passes By, pg 102).
But in praising Bahá'u'lláh's revelation of The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Shoghi Effendi states that it "may well be regarded as the brightest emanation of the mind of Bahá'u'lláh (p. 12). a statement which seems to Imply some creative contribution on the part of Bahá'u'lláh.
Since we are not privy to any exact understanding of ' that relationship, that interplay between the Will of God and the soul of the Prophet, we can only guess about the mechanics of this process. What we can presume Is that for our purposes there is such a precision of alignment that we can make no valid distinctions between the two. We must also conclude that revealed scripture transcends some of the historical-critical considerations that would be normally applicable to the human artist. Perhaps we also Infer that our best approach to studying the revealed works of Bahá'u'lláh Is to couple the tools of objectivist criticism (i.e., a close reading of the text common to the hermeneutical and exegetical study of scripture to discern the levels of meaning available to us), with whatever Insights we might gain from prayer, meditation, and intuition.
And yet, such a conclusion by no means Invalidates or devalues the application of certain considerations of an historical-critical approach to the revealed works of Bahá'u'lláh. Each Manifestation wittingly and purposefully operates within the context of what Bahá'u'lláh designates as the “station of distinction": 'In this respect, each Manifestation of God hath a distinct Individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined Revelation, and specially designated limitations. Each one of them Is known by a different name, is characterized by a special attribute, fulfills a definite Mission, and is entrusted with a particular Revelation' (The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 176).
In other words, an historical-critical approach to the revelation of the prophet is not only warranted, it is an essential aspect of their methodology as teachers in an ongoing, integral and organic educational process. A cursory examination of how we can apply the considerations of historical criticism to the revealed works of Baháíuílláh demonstrates at least four levels or strata of information, each successively more precise and revealing: the revealed work of Baháíuílláh (1) as consummating the progress of humankind on the planet, (2) as fulfilling the expectations of those Prophets immediately preceding Him, (3) as relating to the history and integralness of His ministry, and (4) as alluding to particular personages and situations.
Scripture as Literature: The Writings of Bahá'u'llah in their Literary Context
Presented by Frank Lewis [click here to read this paper online]
The writings of Mírzá Husayn-'All Núrí, Bahá'u'lláh (1817-92), are said to number about 15,000 books and letters, and constitute the primary scripture of the Baháíí religion. Because of Bahá'u'lláh's claim to be a Manifestation of God (mazhar-i-ilahí), His Writings have been studied, like most scripture, primarily for their theological and doctrinal content. The literary qualities of His writings, unlike the literary qualities of the Qur'án, have been largely taken for granted, perhaps because there is no formal parallel in Baháíí belief to the Islamic doctrine of i'jáz al-Qur'án. Many literary, cultural-historical and theological questions arise when we look at Bahá'u'lláhís scripture in terms, not solely of the religious canon (the Hebrew Bible, the Gospels, the Qur'án), but in terms of the Persian and Arabic literary tradition.
This paper examines several of Bahá'u'lláhís works, including Kalimát-i-Maknúnih (The Hidden Words), Haft Vadí (The Seven Valleys), and Qasídiy-yi-Varqá'íyyih, all of which are acknowledged as revealed texts, in the context of literary history, tracing a few of the prominent motifs or genres and indicating how they fit into and resonate with the prior literary tradition.
The paper concludes that the development of a deeper understanding of Bahá'u'lláh's works in the context of the Perso-Arabic literary tradition would be valuable for the following reasons:
1) By understanding the literary background of scriptural texts Concluding the history of words, motifs and genres that appear in them), obscure points or statements In Bahá'í scripture can often be elucidated, by providing an appropriate context for interpretation.
2) A proper appreciation of the literary achievement of Bahá'u'lláh's works will help win a place for them in the study of Persian and Arabic belles-letteres, calling them to the attention of individuals who might not be interested in them as religious texts.
3) Because more is known about the literary and cultural milieu that. shaped the forms and styles in which Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation was expressed, study of the ways in which the genres and motifs of Persian and Arabic literature are employed and reworked in Bahá'í scripture may provide models for understanding how the literary milieus into which the Qur'án, the Gospels and the Hebrew Bible contributed to the formation of those scriptures.
Presented by Craig Loehle
Parables are a traditional vehicle of communication in revelatory writing, exemplified most clearly in the parables of Jesus. The advantage of a parable is that one draws out its meaning as a consequence of a concrete story which the reader can identify with, rather than by trying to grasp an abstraction. On the surface, the Bahá'í revelation does not seem to be dominated by parables. While the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys is metaphorical and much mystic language is used in the Bahá'í revelation, much of the language is straightforward. It is suggested that parables may be found to actually occupy a central role In the form of the history of the Faith. A parable is a story told as if it were true in order to convey a particular truth. In the Bahá'í revelation, the stories told are actually and in fact true, but convey spiritual meanings in exactly the same way as traditional parables. In this sense they may be compared directly with the stories in the Old Testament, such as those of Noah and Jonah, except that these old stories are not demonstrably true, whereas those in Bahá'í history are.
One of the dominant parables running throughout Bahá'í history is the parable of the prison. Never before in religious history have prisons played such a central role. It was in the Black Pit that the Maid of Heaven appeared to Bahá'u'lláh. The gaolers of the Báb became His followers. Bahá'u'lláh entered the prison city of Akka in chains and ignomy, but ended His life in evident victory at Bahji. In every case, imprisonment was turned into victory, demonstrating the quality of God's Dominion. We can see clearly that even the great empires who conspired to stop His cause were powerless to do so, From this we may draw the inference that He will also assist His cause today. These stories are also a metaphor for our own imprisonment within our society, within our limitations, within our lack of willpower, and reveal to us the power that alone can free us.
Other parables include the parable of the journey, the parable of the search, and others. Journeys play a central role in Baháíí history, including the pilgrims who walked to Akka and those such as Salman who undertook journeys for Bahá'u'lláh. These journeys play out in real circumstances the metaphorical journey that Bahá'u'lláh describes in the Seven Valleys.
Overall, this essay describes the nature of parables and relates those in Bahá'í history and their meanings.
Haj Mehdi Arjmand
Presented by Nikoo Mahboubian
A talk about Haj Mehdi Arjmand (1860-1940) by one of his great granddaughters, Ms. Nikoo Mahboubian
Entombed in a Dead Language: The Saints Raising out of their Graves
Presented by Thomas May
Baháíuílláh tells us of the two-fold language of scripture: the clear and the obtuse, the literal and the symbolic: "... this symbolic language, more eloquent than any speech, however direct . . . " A small, but increasing, number of Christian scholars also expound this understanding; but for the vast majority, ecclesiastics, academia and lay alike, this is the age of empiricism. Conrad Hyers states that the empirical thought is so pervasive that almost no one appreciates, understands or even recognizes symbolic language. Thus Nietzsche could pronounce that 'God is dead.' Northup Frye sees the language and thought of Biblical times as symbolic and therefore, so is the language of the Bible - both Hebrew and Christian. As he illuminates this language, Frye is moved to say, "God ... may not be so much dead as entombed in a dead language.'
This paper looks at four Gospel "episodes," each chosen to fit three criteria: illustrating a particular aspect of symbolic language, presenting a certain "difficulty," and extraordinarily bringing forth the beauty and meaning gained with a symbolic understanding. The first of these episodes is a phrase that occurs six times in the Gospels: "(on) (the) first day of the week," in the common English rendering; "(day) one of (the) week," in a literal translation of the Greek. Illustrated is both the power of the symbol and also their, perhaps, unexpected frequency. The difficulty is often in recognizing them, especially when obscured time, language and culture. The beauty is the image of a new "Genesis," a new day of creation, called forth by each of the Gospel writers as the women (or singular) set forth to visit the tomb of the martyred Jesus.
Our second example is the birth narratives of Jesus, examined both in Matthew and Luke and also in the Qur'an. The choice here shows the nature of sacred narrative - Commonly referred to as myth. The difficulty is the almost universal empirical understanding of sacred narrative as history and the beauty is seeing the 'truths' - the life leading truths - embedded in them. Additionally is the certitude in seeing the difference between 'facts" and "truths."
Jesus' "walking on water" is most often presented as the touchstone of faith, the definitive miracle story for which there is no plausible physical explanation. Are we then forced to choose, in this empirical age, between faith and reason? Upon looking at this third archetype, it is immediately apparent that "water" is actually sea - both in the original Greek and almost all English translations - which opens up the symbolic aspect. Sea is seen as the symbolic expression of Yamm, the God of Chaos, and chaos. With this and connected symbolic understanding, there is no longer only a choice between faith and reason but instead a richer acceptance of the divinity and power of Jesus. This episode Illustrates the physical, concrete, face most commonly put forth by symbol and sacred narrative, when In fact, cast within them, are fuller, richer spiritual meanings.
The last episode, a periscope found only in Matthew, presents the difficulty of theology. There is a vast collection of theology concerning the resurrection: the first and second resurrection, which one is bodily or not, time of, and so on. This periscope is found immediately after Jesus dies: the "renting of the veil" and the "raising of the saints." Many Bible commentaries and even a AAR/SBL session label these verses as obtuse, difficult, beyond comprehension and best to be forgotten. They are so labeled apparently because any literal understanding conflicts with the prevalent theology, A truly symbolic rendering does not encounter those difficulties but shows a deeper, fuller faith of the saints (believers) both then and now. God is not dead.
Resurrection of Divine Wisdom: A Study of the Ontology of Greek Philosophical Theology and Jewish Theology in the Context of Wisdom Revelation and its Realization in the Bahá'i Religion
Presented by Michael McCarron
in the Lawh-i-Hikmat Bahá'u'lláh posits that the sages (philosophers) of Greece gained their wisdom from the teachers of the east, such as the prophets, both minor and major, of Israel. In addition, the claim is made that all knowledge comes from God, including natural laws in a purposive theological manner. In the following paper I shall be examining the development of philosophy from the first philosopher as named by Bahá'u'lláh - Hermes through the Hellenistic, Early Christian and Islamic Middle Ages up to the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh in terms of wisdom revelation; that is, the revealing of a divinely ordained ordering system, a book of laws for humanity regarding spiritual matters, as well, a system of governance and a natural ordinance system In the physical universe.
To start, the cosmogonies of ancient Israel, Egypt and Mesopotamia all include the concept of the word as the progenitor and prime mover in the creative act. Bahá'u'lláh also comments to this effect. It is the word of God, or gods, depending upon the mythos one is referring to, that acts as a system of order. What is order in the Hebraic sense, this is Wisdom, in Hebrew "chokma," divinely revealed and prophesied and relied on in the salvation and eschatological expectations of the Israeli peoples, wisdom has as its correlation in Greece with what is known as order or way (Dike). The discussion includes a discourse on the Christian syncretism of Jewish theology and Greek philosophy where Jesus Christ becomes the logos and his kerygma is brought forth as wisdom flowing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, an examination of wisdom and order in other cultures besides the civilizations of Greece and Israel is presented whereas order is known in the Chinese, Indian, Persian and Egyptian lands with their different applications and minor derivations in function; however, in essence they remain the same as our concept of order. The revelation, if we may call it as such, of order in Greece is brought forth through the Logos (reason, word). Likewise, in the metaphysical paradigm of Israel, wisdom is revealed through a type of intermediary, sometimes an angel, a manifestation of God, or in our focus that of the Kabhod YHWH or Glory of God. And in eschatological terminology, according to the Jewish sect of the Hellenistic Age--the Essenes--it is the Kabhod YHWH who will bring the new Divine Wisdom in the station of the Messiah.
In the Lawh-i-Hikmat Bahá'u'lláh posits that it is the Divine Messenger of God that brings this wisdom and knowledge to humankind. I correlate this concept with the logos of Greek philosophy and Israeli theology, as well, Islamic (Sufí) teaching on the Primal Man who reappears to relate new teachings to mankind in a successive manner.
My conclusions in the study are that Bahá'u'lláh is speaking In the station of the Primal Man and Glory of God and, in fact, in eschatological terms He brings forth the new Wisdom and establishes a new Order for the maintenance of the created cosmos. Also, that the assertions of Bahá'u'lláh as recorded in the Lawh-i-Hikmat. that Greek philosophy owes its origination in the religious traditions of the east and that these teachings of wisdom are brought to us through the intercession of divine prophets has historical validity and doctrinal agreement in the cosmologies of eastern religions.
Love Relationship Between God and Humanity, The: A Commentary on Bahá'u'llah's Hidden Words
Presented by Julio Savi [click here to read this paper online]
The poetical-spiritual atmosphere of The Hidden Words and their theological-philosophical content are briefly examined. Through those aphorisms the human adventure upon the earth is described. Man's material and spiritual creation is explained. The story of God's love for His creature, of the gifts He bestowed upon man, of the Covenant He entered with him, and of the ambiguous response of man to the precious Covenant his Creator offered to him is narrated. Man's travel through the paths of life is followed in its most important steps. Man is shown as a creature hovering between the allurement of a material life, which is viewed as empty and vain in itself, and the ecstasy of a spiritual world, which is recognized as man's real homeland. How man will be enabled to make his choice between his attachment to this world and his sometimes unconscious love for his spiritual homeland; how the blessings and challenges of material life may be fully enjoyed and met; how the precious potential divine qualities of the soul may be expressed during this life in the form of thoughts, feelings, words, deeds, and behaviors: how the purpose of human life may be realized: all this is explained in this most important among the ethical Works by the Pen of Bahá'u'lláh.
Inner Dimensions of Revelation, The
Presented by Ross Woodman
"For they [the Prophets] have been made manifest In the uttermost state of servitude, a servitude the like of which no man can possibly attain' (Gleanings, 54), declares Bahá'u'lláh. This paper will explore the process by which the human station of the Prophet is raised to "the uttermost state of servitude' impossible to others so that what is 'made manifest" In Him Is 'the Voice of Divinity" (Gleanings, 54). This "uttermost state of servitude," Bahá'u'lláh explains, is achieved only "in moments" of deep Immersion "beneath the oceans of ancient and everlasting holiness' or of 'soar[ing] to the loftiest summits of Divine mysteries" (Gleanings, 54).
One image of deep immersion is to be found in the prophetic dream of Baháíuílláhís father In which Baháíuílláh appeared to him "swimming in a vast, limitless ocean.... His long, jet-black locks, floating in great profusion above the waves" with fishes cringing to His hair (Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, 119). An image of soaring to the loftiest summit Is to be found in the Exodus account of Moses ascending beyond the cloud bank on Mount Sinai Into a realm that no human being could enter and still survive ("And thou shaft set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death' [Exodus 19:12]). "Methinks they have regarded themselves as utter nothingness, and deemed their mention in that Court an act of blasphemy," writes Baháíuílláh of the Prophet's "moments" of ascent above the human station. "For the slightest whisperings of self within such a Court," He goes on to explain, "is an evidence of self-assertion and independent existence" (Gleanings, 55).
The human fear of, and resistance to, these self-annihilating ornaments" are evident in Moses's resistance to the Voice of the Burning Bush, Muhammad's resistance to the Voice of the archangel Gabriel, and Bahá'u'lláhís resistance to the Voice of the Ancient of Days. *Methinks that thou hast hafted and movest not upon My Tablet" (Gleanings, 27), declares the Ancient of Days to Baháíuílláh. After Bahá'u'lláh partially explains the reasons for his hesitation, reasons that show him to be still partially turned toward humanity rather than to God alone, the Ancient of Days, as if acknowledging his condition, excuses him: 'We have heard the voice of thy pleading, 0 Pen, and excuse thy silence' (Gleanings, 30).
Determined, however, to release Bahá'u'lláh from his agonizing suspension between his divine and human stations, the Ancient of Days invites him to sink deeper into the self-annihilating reality of God's presence. "What is it that hath so sorely bewildered thee" (Gleanings, 30). He asks. To which Bahá'u'lláh, now fully Immersed in the divine Presence, replies: 'The inebriation of Thy presence, 0 Well-Beloved of all worlds, hath seized and possessed me' (Gleanings, 30-31).
This paper will explore revelation as the divine seizing and possessing of a chosen individual, a seizing and possessing during which his human station is momentarily annihilated. In the case of Bahá'u'lláh, who is 'the supreme Manifestation," the one but for whom no Prophet would have appeared in the world nor any of the sacred scriptures been revealed, this self-annihilation is the passing away of the 'entire creation" ("Lo, the entire creation hath passed away! Nothing remaineth except My Face, the Ever-Abiding, the Resplendent, the All-Glorious" [Gleanings, 29)). 'This Day a different Sun hath risen, and a different Heaven hath been adorned with its stars and its planets,' Bahá'u'lláh Is careful to explain. 'The world is another world, and the Cause another Cause" Advent of Divine Justice, 66).
For an instant - the 'moment' before Bahá'u'lláh submits to the *nothingness' to which he is being at once humanly reduced and divinely raised - God is alone, 'the Creator without a creation.' "Consider the hour at which the supreme Manifestation of God revealeth Himself unto men," writes Bahá'u'lláh. "Ere that hour cometh, the Ancient Being, Who is still unknown of men and hath not yet given utterance to the Word of God, is Himself the All-Knower in a world devoid of any man that hath known Him. He is Indeed the Creator without a creation. For at the very moment preceding His Revelation, each and every created thing shall be made to yield up its soul to God" (Gleanings, 150-51).
The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, then, is at once the passing away of the entire creation, the expiration of every soul, and the calling into being of a new one. 'Verily, We have caused every soul to expire by virtue of Our irresistible and all-subduing sovereignty,* writes Bahá'u'lláh. "We have, then, called into being a new creation, as a token of Our grace unto men" (Gleanings, 29).
The 'moment" between the expiration of "every soul" and the calling into being of a 'new creation," the 'moment' in which the Creator is 'without a creation," is an encounter with nothingness that is at the same time an encounter with God alone. In that "moment" the Manifestation becomes the divine instrument of creation itself. Thus in some primary sense, revelation unveils not only a 'new creation' but its Creator.
Particularly is this true of the revelation of Baháíuílláh. "Verily, I say, " He writes, "this is the Day in which mankind can behold the Face, and bear the Voice, of the Promised One" (Gleanings, 10). 'This is the Day," He writes again, 'whereon human ears have been privileged to hear what He Who conversed With God (Moses) heard upon Sinai, what He Who is the Friend of God (Muhammad) heard when lifted up towards Him, what He Who is the Spirit of God (Jesus) heard as He ascended towards Him . . ." (Advent of Divine Justice 66). 'Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare: 'I am God,' He, verily, speaketh the truth, and no doubt attacheth thereto (Gleanings, 53), writes Bahá'u'lláh. While the conditional "were" suggests a veiling of this ultimate declaration during the 'Prophetic Cycle," no such conditional veiling informs Baháíuílláh's declaration of His station as the 'Eternal Truth" which has now "come" (Gleanings, 60). "No God is there but Me, the Most Exalted, the Most powerful, the Most Excellent, the All-Knowing" (Gleanings, 34), the "Divine Springtime" Tablet concludes.
Not surprisingly, every Manifestation who has appeared in the world has been accused of delusion. The 136b was interrogated to decide whether he was insane. Terrified by the presence of Gabriel, Muhammad questioned his own sanity, wondering aloud if an evil spirit had taken possession of him. Rushing from the cave, he resolved to fling himself from the summit to his death. Crawling on his hands and knees, he reached the presence of his wife, flung himself into her lap, and cried “Cover me! Cover me!"
The mystery of the relationship between the Manifestation and the otherwise unknowable God cannot be penetrated even by the Manifestation ('Thou knowest what is in me, but I know not what is in Thee' Meanings, 2829], writes Baháíuílláh). Nevertheless, Baháíuílláh, like Moses and Muhammad before him, has left us intimate glimpses of the inner process of the awakening to the station of the Manifestation of God ("l was asleep upon My couch, when to, the Breeze of God wafting over Me roused Me from My slumber' [Gleanings, 90]). These glimpses perhaps bring us as close to an understanding of the inner process of revelation as we are permitted to come. With direct reference to Moses, Muhammad, and particularly Bahá'u'lláh, this paper will explore what They unveiled of the otherwise hidden, divinely Inward process of revelation, the Source or First Mover of which Is unknowable.