Knowledge, Certitude, and the Mystical Heart:
The Hidden Essence of God's Word
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #34
Bosch Bahá'í School: California, USA
May 18–20, 2001
(see list of papers from #34)
In the first lines of the Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá'u'lláh writes of attaining "true understanding." He notes that those who thirst for certitude must "cleanse themselves of all that is earthly," and "Then will they be made worthy of the effulgent glories of the sun of divine knowledge and understanding." Repeatedly in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, as well as many other Bahá'í scriptures, the Blessed Beauty incites us to seek divine knowledge or true understanding.
Bahá'u'lláh continues with this theme by instructing us "to cleanse the eye of thine heart from the things of the world, that thou mayest realize the infinitude of divine knowledge, and mayest behold Truth so clearly that thou wilt need no proof to demonstrate His reality, nor any evidence to bear witness unto His testimony" (Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 91). He equates Truth with divine knowledge and once again requires that we must first be cleansed of worldly things. In addition, He clarifies that it is the "heart" that must be purified. Later in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, when once again charging us with cleansing the heart, Bahá'u'lláh says that the heart is "the seat of the revelation of the inner mysteries of God," and that after it is in the proper state we will be awakened by the "mystic Herald" and His "trumpet-blast of knowledge" (Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 196). This panoply of terms raises many questions. What is divine knowledge or true understanding? Why is the Kitáb-i-Íqán the Book of Certitude and not the Book of Certainty? What is the distinction between divine knowledge and other kinds of knowledge? What is meant by the heart as the "seat of the revelation of inner mysteries?" What condition of the heart leads to this trumpet blast of knowledge? If we need no proof or evidence how is it that we can see "Truth" so clearly? What is "His testimony?" These verses suggest the elusive and transcendent nature of divine knowledge.
The following scripture further indicates the difficulty of formulating a concrete, literal definition of these terms.
The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed as proof of His reality and truth. This is, verily, an evidence of His tender mercy unto men. He hath endowed every soul with the capacity to recognize the signs of God. How could He, otherwise, have fulfilled His testimony unto men, if ye be of them that ponder His Cause in their hearts. (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 105-106).Assuming a connection between the testimony mentioned here and the divine knowledge that leads one to "His testimony" indicated in the verse above, we see a possible hierarchy of knowledge. Apparently the highest level is understanding the testimony of "His own Self." After that is apprehending the Revelation. If we cannot access these two then we can seek the revealed word.
The verse that proclaims the mystic Herald as the source of knowledge suggests the mystical nature of divine knowledge. The first two types of testimony above, that of His own Self and His Revelation, would appear also to be of a mystical nature. This presentation will examine many scriptures related to these themes in search of a deeper understanding of the Bahá'í perspective of knowledge and certitude, awareness of God and His Revelation in relation to the revealed word, as well as the mystical nature of the spiritual heart and its relationship to these subjects.
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