I wrote this next section at the same time as Part IV. It was a struggle trying to determine how to set up the sequence of the arguments as much of what I’ll say below could easily be weaved into the previous post. Alas, this is the approach I’ve decided to go with. Also, I feel it is necessary to emphasize again that I do not regard the arguments presented in this series as definitive or final. I do, however, believe that since Revelation makes ontological claims about the existence of a Necessary Being, stages of creative action, and Divine realities we must presuppose that these “Truths” have both a relative character (e.g. relative to our minds, relative to history, relative to place and culture), and an absolute character. Just as we presuppose that Nature has a relative and absolute character when we go about studying it. If we believed that Nature was only relative, then there would be no need to mind the differences between scientific theories – all opinions would be equally true. In the same spirit, I’m presupposing that if Revelation has any epistemic validity then it should be possible to discern an unifying structure underlying the Holy Word.
Likewise he is constantly urging them [the Bahá’ís] to really study the Bahá’í teachings more deeply. One may liken Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings to a sphere; there are points poles apart, and in between the thoughts and doctrines that unite them. We believe in balance in all things; we believe in moderation in all things […]Shoghi Effendi, 5 July 1949 letter to an individual believer.
If the Word reveals the Truth of some Divine reality, then our interpretations of the Word can’t be equally true. Some should be more precise than others (though none would ever be perfect). Therefore, the reason I have committed to the arguments presented thus far is not only because regard them as the most compelling, but also because I find them to be well-supported by Revelation.
Now let us begin Part V:
In the context of revelation, it seems we are being asked to “recognize” the Godhead, i.e., the Manifestation, not God Itself.
Inasmuch as the recognition of the Eternal and Unseen Essence hath been impossible […], He, therefore, hath enjoined all, from the beginning that hath no beginning to the end that hath no end, to recognize the Sun of Truth, Who is the Mirror of His Essence and the Primal Will, Who is the Throne of His Manifestation. He hath accepted the recognition of that Sun of Truth as the recognition of His own Reality […]The Bab, Panj Sha’n as cited in Saiedi, Gate of the Heart, p. 184-185.
Furthermore, this “recognition” seems to be the root principle, the primary verity from which is born the spirit of faith:
Religious principles have various degrees and stations. The root of all principles and the cornerstone of all foundations hath ever been, and shall remain, the recognition of God. And these days are indeed the vernal season of the recognition of the All-Merciful. Whatsoever proceedeth in this day from the Repository of His Cause and the Manifestation of His Self is, in truth, the fundamental principle unto which all must bear allegiance.Baha’u’llah, Tabernacle of Unity.
In the above passage, Baha’u’llah establishes the the recognition of God as the “root of all principles and the cornerstone of all foundations.” In the same text He goes on to provide an example, “attending the mosque is secondary with respect to the recognition of God, for the former is dependent upon and conditioned by the latter.”
Indeed, the relationship between our primary duty to recognize and our secondary duty to observe laws is made explicit in the opening lines of the Kitab-i-Aqdas:
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation… It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Source of Divine inspiration.
The meaning that is typically gathered from this passage is that recognition and obedience are inseparable; however, there is a complimentary meaning that seems to be more precise: the duty to “observe every ordinance” of the Manifestation is conditional upon reaching the “most sublime station,” which is the “recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation.” That is, the first duty precedes the second AND the two are inseparable. Once we accept the testimony of the Manifestation and recognize the truth of His being, we are bound by an inseparable duty to observe every ordinance revealed by the Manifestation:
The most important thing is to establish the validity of God’s universal Manifestation; once His claim proveth true, then whatsoever He may choose to say is right and correct.‘Abdu’l-Baha
In a sense, the secondary verities (the laws and ordinances) can be regarded as expressions of this primary verity (i.e., recognition of the Manifestation). Although a simplistic comparison, this is akin to a child doing housework as an expression of love for his/her parents. Any parent will understand that although housework is expected, when love is absent, that housework is little more than an unwelcome chore.
The following passage from the Kitab-i-Aqdas beautifully illustrates how one should approach the secondary verities. In it, we see that a lover who “hath inhaled the divine fragrance” and who “hath drunk the choice wine of fairness from the hands of My bountiful favor” will come to “circle around My commandments,” not for fear of punishment or wrath, but “for the love of My beauty:
Say: From My laws the sweet-smelling savor of My garment can be smelled, and by their aid the standards of Victory will be planted upon the highest peaks. The Tongue of My power hath, from the heaven of My omnipotent glory, addressed to My creation these words: “Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty.” Happy is the lover that hath inhaled the divine fragrance of his Best-Beloved from these words, laden with the perfume of a grace which no tongue can describe. By My life! He who hath drunk the choice wine of fairness from the hands of My bountiful favor will circle around My commandments that shine above the Dayspring of My creation.
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. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight!
Though essential, recognition also seems to be paradoxical. Although the Writings state that true recognition can only be achieved through the “gaze of the heart, and not that of intellect” (The Bab, Tablet to Mirza Sa’id as cited in Saiedi, Gate of the Heart, p. 65), and that only through the Revelation can such recognition be achieved, i.e., “verily there is no path to recognition save through recognition of these counsels,” this approach is predicated upon the condition of the seekers heart:
“First, thou must, before all else, purify thy heart from any rule that thou hast acquired from thy divines and learned ones […].”The Bab, Tafsir-i-Hadith-i-Man ‘Arafa Nafsah faqad ‘Arafa Rabba
as cited in Saiedi, Gate of the Heart, p. 62-63
The paradox lies in the near futility of attempting to purify the heart from the rule of acquired knowledge, and that the intensity of the Revelation effectively conceals the Manifestation from being recognized, “Yea, the intensity of His revelation hath covered Him, and the fullness of His shining forth hath hidden Him” [source]. Yet, Baha’u’llah emphatically states that:
[…] the highest and most excelling grace bestowed upon men is the grace of “attaining unto the Presence of God” and of His recognition, which has been promised unto all people. […] No theme hath been more emphatically asserted in the holy scriptures [than “attainment unto the Divine Presence”].
The apparent resolution to this paradox is that recognition is to be regarded as a process rather than an end state. The soul is, in a sense, on a continuum towards recognition and the journey is beset with ebbs and flows. What is being asked of us by the Manifestation is that we set out on the journey, to yearn for and toil after God, and then to obey the ordinances set out in revelation pertaining to the purification of the heart:
[…] they that tread the path of faith, they that thirst for the wine of certitude, must cleanse themselves of all that is earthly—their ears from idle talk, their minds from vain imaginings, their hearts from worldly affections, their eyes from that which perisheth. They should put their trust in God, and, holding fast unto Him, follow in His way. Then will they be made worthy of the effulgent glories of the sun of divine knowledge and understanding, and become the recipients of a grace that is infinite and unseen […]Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan.
This purification, when performed by one yearning after Him, calibrates or “dilates” the heart in such a way that it becomes readied and unhindered, so that the spirit of faith can descend and establish itself. Again, what is expected seems not to be a pure-heart achieved, but a pure-heart desired:
Say: by reason of your remembering Him Whom God shall make manifest and by extolling His name, God will cause your hearts to be dilated with joy, and do ye not wish your hearts to be in such a blissful state? Indeed the hearts of them that truly believe in Him Whom God shall make manifest are vaster than the expanse of heaven and earth and whatever is between them. God hath left no hindrance in their hearts, were it but the size of a mustard seed. He will cheer their hearts, their spirits, their souls and their bodies and their days of prosperity or adversity, through the exaltation of the name of Him Who is the supreme Testimony of God and the promotion of the Word of Him Who is the Dayspring of the glory of their Creator.
Verily, these are souls who take delight in the remembrance of God, Who dilates their hearts through the effulgence of the light of knowledge and wisdom. They seek naught but God and are oft engaged in giving praise unto Him. They desire naught except whatever He desireth and stand ready to do His bidding. Their hearts are mirrors reflecting whatsoever He Whom God shall make manifest willeth.The Bab, Source
To be continued…