Thursday, March 27, 2008

Intone My Servant - Gems of the Mysteries

I've been meaning to do some looking at the Baha'i Writings here on Unenrolled Baha'i -- this is, after all, a religious blog, and a look at scripture now and then seems appropriate.

But I know myself well enough to know that if I have to pick a topic, and several quotes from different tablets, and put it all together in a logical essay, I'll never get around to it. Oh, I can do it alright -- it's just that my online writing tends to be spontaneous, and my disk drive is littered with would-be projects like that.

So, what I decided to do, in keeping with that spontaneous spirit, is about once a month or so, take whatever passage I read during my morning or evening devotions and talk about it a little bit. And, I'd call it "Intone My Servant", as kind of a column within the blog, because it comes straight from my devotional reading, rather than any intellectual point I'm trying to make.

I was planning on doing this around the first of the month, but as it happened, I was reading this today, from the Gems of the Mysteries, speaking on the Garden of Search:

In this journey, it is incumbent on the seeker to sever himself from all besides God, and to close his eyes to all who are in the heavens and upon the earth. His heart should contain neither hate towards any creature nor love for anyone, such as might prevent him from attaining the sanctuary of beauty.

That's from Juan Cole's translation, which I prefer. In case readers are using the official version:

In this journey, it behoveth the wayfarer to detach himself from all save God and to close his eyes to all that is in the heavens and on the earth. There must not linger in his heart either the hate or love of any soul, to the extent they would hinder him from attaining the habitation of the celestial beauty.[Gems of Divine Mysteries p.27]

This tablet sometimes reads like a combination of Seven Valleys and the Kitab-i-Iqan; it was written close to the same time, and covers the same themes. This instruction for travelling through the Valley of Search sounds much like what Baha'u'llah tells us in the Tablet of the True Seeker:

He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love nor hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth.

This particular passage is associated with a happy memory. When I was a brand-new believer, I did a deepening on this theme, trying to answer the question of what kind of love would "blindly incline" us to "error". Oh, it was a big deal, and I took the group through the Bible (some Baha'is had never read Corinthians 13!), and the Upanishads, among other things. I know these good folks were wondering just what kind of fish they'd caught. It was the unity of religion, more than anything else that had led me to the Faith, and I think I was rather more enthusiastic about the concept than my audience.

But, the funny thing is, I don't remember where that search-oriented deepening took us i.e. what the answer was. And, I think, as in so many spiritual matters, the Answer (with a capital A) is not static; I think we always need to be asking ourselves if our love for something or someone is distracting us from God.

For those who approach sainthood (which doesn't include your humble blogger here), the love of God should so permeate us that we love all for His sake. Once Rabi'a was asked if she hated Satan, and she said that she was too busy with the love of God to bother about hating Satan. That's an ideal, and like all ideals it is probably literally unattainable, but we keep trying anyhow.

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