Saturday, September 23, 2017
There are spiritual principles, or what some call human values, by which solutions can be found for every social problem. Any well-intentioned group can in a general sense devise practical solutions to its problems, but good intentions and practical knowledge are usually not enough. The essential merit of spiritual principle is that it not only presents a perspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent in human nature, it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures. Leaders of governments and all in authority would be well served in their efforts to solve problems if they would first seek to identify the principles involved and then be guided by them.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Oct, The Promise of World Peace)
The world is rapidly disintegrating at every level. Indeed, so pervasive is this movement that Baha’u’llah saw more than one hundred years ago: “No two men can be found who may be said to be outwardly and inwardly united. The evidences of discord and malice are apparent everywhere, though all were made for harmony and union.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 163-164) The great challenge of today is to reunite at every level. That is most difficult because most try to do this from an inadequate understanding of how to accomplish this. We operate from a separatist and divided consciousness, with no clear idea of how to unify. So all attempts to unite actually make the situation go from bad to worse.
We ended last section with the note from the House of Justice stating that “High aims and pure motives, however laudable in themselves, will surely not suffice if unsupported by measures that are practicable and methods that are sound. Wealth of sentiment, abundance of goodwill and effort, will prove of little avail if we should fail to exercise discrimination and restraint and neglect to direct their flow along the most profitable channels.” Yet, they go even further and state above that; “Any well-intentioned group can in a general sense devise practical solutions to its problems, but good intentions and practical knowledge are usually not enough.” The missing piece between "good intentions and practical knowledge” is spiritual principle or human values. It is also what must also be added to “high aims and pure motives” and measures that are practicable and sound methods.
Any examination of the how to universally unify humankind can start with language, which presents a world-view to the mind: how to see it and how to think about it. Recall that the primary intent of the kerygmatic mode of language is not to convey one’s own message to another, but to connect persons spiritually by proclaiming God and, in doing so, to bring forth from the mind and heart spiritual values and qualities. By proclaiming God most effectively is not meant to shout the word “God” at every opportunity, but to consistently speak from the divine aspect of the human reality. To do that, of course, the soul must consistently be in that state of being. Most of us are not there yet, including the writer.
Now a spiritual connection between souls is possible through language, not from an overflow of “spiritual” feeling, which quickly slides into incoherence and inarticulateness, but because spiritual principles present a “perspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent in human nature.” Individual souls connect and unite because spiritual principle brings forth from each what is fundamentally common to all. This connection is more than a sense of kinship, though it is that. Rather, spiritual principles evoke through our infinite outer diversity the inner unity state of being, what Christ called the Kingdom of God within you (King James Bible, Luke 17:20); that “place” and purpose where “all were made for harmony and union”.
Further, the harmony between principle and nature occurs because both are harmonized with God, the divine aspect of human nature being that which responds to the divine Word. Recall Baha’u’llah’s advice to “recite divine verses whenever the occasion demandeth it, inasmuch as these holy verses are the most potent elixir, the greatest and mightiest talisman. So potent is their influence that the hearer will have no cause for vacillation.” (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 200) To harmonize with “that which is immanent in human nature” is to enter the condition where “Thy hearing is My hearing, hear thou therewith. Thy sight is My sight, do thou see therewith.” (Baha'u'llah, The Hidden Words Arabic #44) We can see with greater fidelity, hear more acutely and know more profoundly in this higher mode of understanding that helps “to make known amongst all peoples the sign of the singleness of God, so that at last the primal oneness deposited at the heart of all created things would bear its destined fruit, and the splendour of 'No difference canst thou see in the creation of the God of Mercy,' would cast abroad its rays.” (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha: 263)
Again, we know that conditions, such as peace, are an existent inner state that can be induced and evoked into existence when supported by a moral attitude that is aroused by spiritual principle. The sooner we understand the role and power of spiritual principle in unifying humanity the better off we shall be. The House of Justice states: “The teaching that we should treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated, an ethic variously repeated in all the great religions…sums up the moral attitude, the peace-inducing aspect, extending through these religions irrespective of their place or time of origin; it also signifies an aspect of unity which is their essential virtue, a virtue mankind in its disjointed view of history has failed to appreciate.
“Had humanity seen the Educators of its collective childhood in their true character, as agents of one civilizing process, it would no doubt have reaped incalculably greater benefits from the cumulative effects of their successive missions. This, alas, it failed to do.” (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Oct, The Promise of World Peace, p. 1)
This is the age of the maturity of the human reality, so it requires a mature mode of language to bring the power of understanding, which discovers and receives the Word, to maturity. It is in its exclamation of spiritual attitudes through effective speech that the kerygmatic, built upon and expressing spiritual virtues that bring forth our innate unity, the essential state of the oneness of humankind, “induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures.”
The best way to practice this mode of speech is in the arena of consultation and the means to mature the power of understanding is through the practice of consultation. The Bahá’í writings aver: “Consultation bestoweth greater awareness and transmuteth conjecture into certitude. It is a shining light which, in a dark world, leadeth the way and guideth. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation.” (The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 93) And: “Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 168)
The purpose of consultation is the finding of truth guided by spiritual principles. It is a creative and shared means of creating knowledge, and a cooperative approach to problem solving that activates the creative powers of individuals to find good solutions to their problems. Consultation as an art is founded upon two complementary spiritual principles: the independent search for truth and the union of these searches within a common framework of understanding.
The independent search for truth implies the right of each person to her or his own opinion based on that search. I have said that the purpose of the kerygmatic is not to simply state or transfer one’s opinion to another. So true consultation is more than simply a happy blending or balancing of opinions. In full, frank, and open consultation, several lines of thought and opinion merge and combine to give a complete picture of any problem, because a comprehensive unit of thought, built up by the contributions of all participants, then surrounds the subject. Where unity of thought is not initially present, the process of consultation, when undertaken within the framework of spiritual principle, can build or create it by seeing how the varied faces of individually expressed thought can be the different facets of a collective diamond of thought. In this way, a common framework of thinking and a unity of purpose is created, for we think together when we speak together.
Two qualities I believe must be present for good consultation to occur. The first is truthfulness. Truthfulness is important not only for its intrinsic merit, but also it holds a special rank among all human virtues: “Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity. Without truthfulness, progress and success in all of the worlds of God are impossible for a soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also become realized.” (Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith: 384)
However, compassion works collectively to build the unity of a group. It is itself an unique form of knowing and generating knowledge. Baha’u’llah says compassion is of equal importance to consultation in the meaningful exchange of thought: “The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion...” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 126) Should we ask: How can this be?, let us recall that a kindly tongue “clotheth the words with meaning; it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding.” (Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf: 15)
Such assertions are consistent not only with my personal experience in consultation, but also aligned with other statements proclaiming that consultation generates perspectives unavailable to individual minds alone, and matures human thinking. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote in this regard: “Man must consult on all matters, whether major or minor, so that he may become cognizant of what is good. Consultation giveth him insight into things and enableth him to delve into questions which are unknown. The light of truth shineth from the faces of those who engage in consultation. Such consultation causeth the living waters to flow in the meadows of man's reality, the rays of ancient glory to shine upon him, and the tree of his being to be adorned with wondrous fruit. The members who are consulting, however, should behave in the utmost love, harmony and sincerity towards each other. The principle of consultation is one of the most fundamental elements of the divine edifice. Even in their ordinary affairs the individual members of society should consult.” (From a Tablet translated from the Persian. The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 97)
Consultation and compassion bring out the cooperative side of human nature, yet will not sacrifice individual expression in the process if individuals “behave in the utmost love, harmony and sincerity towards each other.” Indeed good consultation depends upon honest individual expression. In true consultation disagreement is never frowned upon. Indeed, the Bahá’í Writings see the value of divergent thinking coming to unity in such statements as "the shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions." (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: 87) Yet, the goal is never opposition and dissension, but, rather, personal and community spiritual transformation.
We started out this post calling attention to the disunity characterizing human relationships at every level of society. To unify means not to repair these crumbling relationships but, rather, to reconceptualize them within a consultative framework. The Prosperity of Humankind points out that “a fundamental redefinition of human relationships is called for... Central to the task of reconceptualizing the system of human relationships is the process that Bahá’u’lláh refers to as consultation. (The Prosperity of Humankind: Section III para: 3)
At every level of human interaction, consultation will grow in importance as its power to unify people into community and generate the knowledge and insights that will solve seemingly intractable problems, defuse explosive issues and harmonize contentious disputes is understood.
The Prosperity of Humankind states: “[C]onsultation is the operating expression of justice in human affairs. So vital is it to the success of collective endeavor that it must constitute a basic feature of a viable strategy of social and economic development. Indeed, the participation of those on whose commitment the success of such a strategy depends becomes effective only as consultation is made the organizing principle of every project. ‘No man can attain his true station,’ is Bahá’u’lláh's counsel, ‘except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.’" (The Prosperity of Humankind: Section III para: 6)
Saturday, September 16, 2017
It is clear and evident, therefore, that the first bestowal of God is the Word, and its discoverer and recipient is the power of understanding. This Word is the foremost instructor in the school of existence and the revealer of Him Who is the Almighty. All that is seen is visible only through the light of its wisdom. All that is manifest is but a token of its knowledge. All names are but its name, and the beginning and end of all matters must needs depend upon it.
(Baha'u'llah, The Pen of Glory: 94)
In this series of posts I have been exploring the appropriate mode of language for the new age in which we live. I have named the model of this new mode of language the kerygmatic, or proclamation mode of language. It proclaims God because it emanates from the divine aspect of the human reality.
The opening quote brings us full circle, though a higher turn of the spiral is the better image, because it again states the primal relation between human understanding and what it is meant to understand at its highest level of work.
The age of maturity is a new age. It is not nor will it ever be simply more of the same only better. Rather all the essential and fundamental relations, from atoms to galaxies, from families to the family of man, are undergoing transformation and reorganization. But, too, though the new age of spirituality and divinity is just dawning and the signs of its appearances are small, undeveloped and mostly undetected, dwarfed by the full panoply of powers characterizing the mature human level, the human level, however mature it may be, is not our true maturity, and is destined to pass away by being incorporated into and finding its real purpose in its consummation in the higher level of divinity. Thus, the powers manifest in the full maturity of the intermediate level are, even when combined, never as great as the smallest manifestation of the greater level above it. We are passing out from the human level into the divine level, from intellect to heart, not just progressing to a higher level within the human, so all, both within and without, is undergoing that ultimate transformation named transcendence. The Old Testament prophet Joel intimated this in his prophecy of the last days that God revealed to him: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
“And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.” (King James Bible, The Book of Joel 2: 28-30)
Any great transformation that is actually transcendence is preceded by a time of terrific destruction, as the old forms are engulfed in a fire of consummation, so that the highest consummation of the ages may occur. There are two fires—as there are two of everything in the Faith, i.e. the spiritual reality and its appearance in the mirror of creation, which is opposite to it. These two are the fires of love and of hate, of longing attraction and of angry rejection, of acceptance and denial. The consuming fire, meaning that it consumes the old, thereby cleansing the world of its corruptions and pollutions, is how the heat energy of the new is felt and interpreted by those who reject it and deny its Source. It is the fire of the love of God, both as what emanates from Him and how that emanation feels in the heart.
The two fires, both named consummation, come from the complementary effects aroused by the coming of the new Revelation that births a new foundational principle of human existence and a new operational principle of social life and organization. The new foundational principle is the oneness of humankind, and the new social principle of unity is justice. Further, not only is a new order emerging but that new order is built upon the opposite principle to the one that built the passing order, and this opposition/attraction creates frustrations, anxieties, rages, confusion, hates, loves, compassion and understanding. This opposite principle, though, is really a part of a larger structure and it ascends from its state of latency to become the ruling or master principle in order for that larger structure to achieve completion and perfection. The Master explains: “According to an intrinsic law all phenomena of being attain to a summit and degree of consummation, after which a new order and condition is established. As the instruments and science of war have reached the degree of thoroughness and proficiency, it is hoped that the transformation of the human world is at hand and that in the coming centuries all the energies and inventions of man will be utilized in promoting the interests of peace and brotherhood.” (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 124)
Baha’u’llah wrote: “No sooner had that Revelation been unveiled to men's eyes than the signs of universal discord appeared among the peoples of the world, and commotion seized the dwellers of earth and heaven, and the foundations of all things were shaken. The forces of dissension were released, the meaning of the Word was unfolded, and every several atom in all created things acquired its own distinct and separate character. Hell was made to blaze, and the delights of Paradise were uncovered to men's eyes.” (Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah: 296)
Again, these fires are actually—again as is usually the case symbolically—the same fire, the second and destructive lit by the first and constructive. But they separate into different feelings of love and hate, acceptance and denial, in respective hearts. The fire both wounds and heals, destroys and cleanses, removes barriers and is a barrier itself. The barriers, often called veils in the Bahá’i Writings, to be burned away so that new perceptions may grow are in the mind and heart. They are the prejudices, false notions, and smaller ideas that are taken to be final. Thus the mind and heart are also where regeneration of the spirit begins, Baha’u’llah alludes to these barriers when He writes in His Tablet of Ahmad: “For the people are wandering in the paths of delusion, bereft of discernment to see God with their own eyes, or hear His Melody with their own ears. Thus have We found them, as thou also dost witness.
“Thus have their superstitions become veils between them and their own hearts and kept them from the path of God, the Exalted, the Great.”
The Master speaks of the reviving of spirit when He writes: “(T)he Sun of Reality, when it illumines the horizon of the inner world, animates, vivifies and quickens with a divine and wonderful power. The trees of human minds clothe themselves in new and verdant robes, putting on leaves and blossoms and bearing spiritual fruits of the heavenly glad tidings. Then fragrant flowers of inner significances appear from the soil of human souls, and the whole being of man awakens to a new and divine activity. This is the growth and development of the inner world through the effulgent light of divine guidance and the heat of the fire of the love of God.” (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 271)
This spiritual fire kindled with the human soul by the divine fire overcomes the barriers of false knowledges bred into our souls. The fire of the love of God burns away the veils of ignorance, doubt, uncertainty and confusion that block our power of understanding from knowing the reality of our true being. ‘Abdu’l-Baha again: “By the fire of the Love of God the veil is burnt which separates us from the Heavenly Realities, and with clear vision we are enabled to struggle onward and upward, ever progressing in the paths of virtue and holiness, and becoming the means of light to the world.” (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks: 82) It is the means of the birth of the divine being, the angelic aspect, latent within us: “And now, concerning His words: "And He shall send His angels...." By "angels" is meant those who, reinforced by the power of the spirit, have consumed, with the fire of the love of God, all human traits and limitations, and have clothed themselves with the attributes of the most exalted Beings and of the Cherubim.” (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan: 78-79)
Now this is an old story, yet ever new. “John the Baptist baptized the people with water, but he said that the one who was to come after him would baptize with fire. What is the meaning of this, for in the material world, these two elements are contrary the one to the other, and then, if Christians take the water literally, they ought also to take the fire literally. The meaning is this: as everything in the material world has its beginning of life in water, so water is a type of the beginning of the spiritual life—the new birth, which also John preached when he exhorted people to repent, and so their hearts were changed from material desires to a living faith in God. When the soul has begun this new life, then the fire of the love of God will purify them into a higher condition.” (Compilations, Baha'i Prayers 9:52)
What is different today is that humanity must not just raise up individuals of spiritual distinction but whole communities of spiritual distinction, distinct not only in the speech, but also in the behavior, of its members. Language knits reality together into patterns that can be recognized and understood by others. To infuse one’s speech with revelations of God is to weave that spiritual reality. It means that one loves God, and wants, as all lovers do, to talk of nothing but one’s beloved. This is part of the social and psychological sciences that reveal the great science of the love of God that shall renovate all the conditions of existence.
Language knits together the realties emanating from the Word that are received and discovered by the power of understanding into a new mental reality. Yet, speech, however beautiful and enthusiastic (a word meaning filled with God) is not enough to transform society. The House of Justice admonishes: “High aims and pure motives, however laudable in themselves, will surely not suffice if unsupported by measures that are practicable and methods that are sound. Wealth of sentiment, abundance of goodwill and effort, will prove of little avail if we should fail to exercise discrimination and restraint and neglect to direct their flow along the most profitable channels. The unfettered freedom of the individual should be tempered with mutual consultation and sacrifice, and the spirit of initiative and enterprise should be reinforced by a deeper realization of the supreme necessity for concerted action and a fuller devotion to the common weal.” (Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol II: 87-88) That is the next post.
Friday, September 8, 2017
The primary question to be resolved is how the present world, with its entrenched pattern of conflict, can change to a world in which harmony and co-operation will prevail.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Oct, The Promise of World Peace)
Part of any answer to the above question posed by the Universal House of Justice lies in the establishment and promulgation of “the different discourse” proclaimed by Baha’u’llah. We have been exploring the kerygmatic mode of language as a model of what that discourse may be, and have seen that it is more than a new vocabulary, or different syntactical relations. Neither is it just a new language, as, for example, Esperanto. It is language that proclaims God in all that it expresses, because it is conditioned by spiritual values and qualities, i.e. the kerygmatic is built upon a pure heart, kindliness of expression, and a humble posture of learning all of which generates a culture of encouragement. The intent of this mode of language is not just to convey one’s own message to the mind or heart of another, but to connect with that person spiritually by proclaiming God and, in doing so, also to bring forth from the mind and especially the heart new qualities. To proclaim God in all our speech does not mean to limit oneself to strictly religious or “spiritual” topics, nor to work the word God, however tortuously, into every sentence of one’s conversation, but that as much as possible speech proceeds from the divine aspect of the human reality.
The House of Justice's own answer to the “primary question” stated above is, perhaps, summed up in the following: “The other point is that the primary challenge in dealing with issues of peace is to raise the context to the level of principle, as distinct from pure pragmatism. For, in essence, peace stems from an inner state supported by a spiritual or moral attitude, and it is chiefly in evoking this attitude that the possibility of enduring solutions can be found.
“There are spiritual principles, or what some call human values, by which solutions can be found for every social problem. Any well-intentioned group can in a general sense devise practical solutions to its problems, but good intentions and practical knowledge are usually not enough. The essential merit of spiritual principle is that it not only presents a perspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent in human nature, it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures. Leaders of governments and all in authority would be well served in their efforts to solve problems if they would first seek to identify the principles involved and then be guided by them.” (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Oct, The Promise of World Peace)
Let’s us look more closely at what the text is saying, in this case regarding peace, but more broadly in regard to most of the outer collective social states we wish to see established, such as justice. That is, these are inner states “supported by a “spiritual or moral attitude.” It is chiefly in “evoking this attitude that the possibility of enduring solutions can be found.” These attitudes are evoked via spiritual principles, because these principles present “a perspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent in human nature.” They also induce “an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures.” In short, “primary questions” are resolved only by meeting “primary challenges”, and humanity’s primary challenges have always been spiritual. Clarity is the beginning of encouragement and encouragement generates empowerment.
This is difficult to see because everything is undergoing a fundamental reorganization and change and it is easier to see the outer changes and ascribe all other changes to them. But nothing works, because solutions are not built upon and guided by spiritual principles but, rather, by self-interest, the dark side of the human reality in the human stage of life. Now the epistemological break mentioned in the first post mirrors and is associated with the ontological one. But it mirrors and is associated with the ontological break just because it is brought about by that more fundamental and initially catastrophic ontological break, i.e. from humanity to divinity.
The epistemological break is not just in how knowledge is formulated, but, again, the reformulation of knowledge is built upon the more fundamental shift in the epistemological realm from the natural intellect to the sacred heart as the primary mode of knowing.
The epistemological break, which is the “different cause” and “different discourse” stems from the power of the Word to split creation, the world of existence or being, into before and after, the B and the E, and to reunite them into a new form. Baha’u’llah asserts: “Praise be unto Thee, O my God! Thou art He Who by a word of His mouth hath revolutionized the entire creation, and by a stroke of His pen hath divided Thy servants one from another. I bear witness, O my God, that through a word spoken by Thee in this Revelation all created things were made to expire, and through yet another word all such as Thou didst wish were, by Thy grace and bounty, endued with new life.” (Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah: 42)
The Word is the great creative/destructive power, as we know. Creatively: “Thou didst wish to make Thyself known unto men; therefore, Thou didst, through a word of Thy mouth, bring creation into being and fashion the universe.” (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah: 6)
For human development: “Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education hath, however, deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess. Through a word proceeding out of the mouth of God he was called into being; by one word more he was guided to recognize the Source of his education; by yet another word his station and destiny were safeguarded.” (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 259-260)
And for human speech when infused with divine qualities: “Whoso hath drunk of the cup which the hand of Thy mercy hath borne round will strip himself of all things except Thee, and will be able, through a word of his mouth, to enrapture the souls of such of Thy servants as have slumbered on the bed of forgetfulness and negligence, and to cause them to turn their faces toward Thy most Great Sign, and seek from Thee naught else except Thyself, and ask of Thee only what Thou hast determined for them by the pen of Thy judgment and hast prescribed in the Tablet of Thy decree.” (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah: 191)
The destructive aspect is the first phase of a universal mental advance, for the end and the beginning become one in the incorporation of all past eternal truths. The new Word reveals, then, more of the given, and linking past to present and on to the future, gives a universal understanding of progression. All is new, yet, all that is essential is renewed.
This split and reunion in new form is also reflected in the change of primary modes of knowing and their respective faculties. As we have been saying, the change from intellect to heart as the primary organ of intelligence reflects the intellectual to spiritual advance that humanity is making. Now while the mind and intellect acquire much of their knowledge from learning, study and meditation, with meditation a kind of direct link between mind and heart, the heart as organ of spiritual intelligence and not just a chorus of emotions, seems to innately know a great deal. It seems a matter of releasing knowledge, not acquiring it. Thus Baha’u’llah writes: “Purge thou thy heart that We may cause fountains of wisdom and utterance to gush out therefrom, thus enabling thee to raise thy voice among all mankind.” (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 189-190)
In this light we perhaps can interpret Baha’u’llah’s statement that “Man's treasure is his utterance…” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 62) as something of inestimable value that he already has, ready to gush forth with the proper stimulation. It gives greater meaning to the somewhat sentimental and hackneyed phrase “to speak from the heart”, for in this context it is to speak with more than just a kind of overflow of feeling. There is a sincerity to it, a certain integrity brought forth from finding what poets call one’s real voice. It is not “self-expression”, but the self’s expression, for it is actually how one sees the world. And if justice is to see with thine own eyes and hear with thine own ears, then this is just, powerful and penetrating speech. Its purpose is not to get another to “see it my way” but to help him to see it his way. In one of His tablets Baha’u’llah refers to Himself as the “royal falcon” whose aim is to “unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 169)
I remarked above that encouragement generates empowerment. Power, in the Bahá’í Writings, while retaining in many situations its traditional meaning as the effective expression of will and purpose, might also be redefined as the empowerment of encouragement, both evocative and educative, bringing forth from oneself because one has been empowered to do so, but also evoking the power of another, thus reversing and thereby completing the context of will and purpose. This is especially true with speech, the most powerful force in creation. Hence Baha’u’llah says, for example, “Say: If it be Our pleasure We shall render the Cause victorious through the power of a single word from Our presence. He is in truth the Omnipotent, the All-Compelling. Should it be God's intention, there would appear out of the forests of celestial might the lion of indomitable strength whose roaring is like unto the peals of thunder reverberating in the mountains. However, since Our loving providence surpasseth all things, We have ordained that complete victory should be achieved through speech and utterance, that Our servants throughout the earth may thereby become the recipients of divine good.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 197-198)
Thus justice can be defined as that which ensures the empowerment of all. In the heat and ferment of today’s global unrest, The Prosperity of Humankind reminds us that an “age that sees the people of the world increasingly gaining access to information of every kind and to a diversity of ideas will find justice asserting itself as the ruling principle of successful social organization." (The Prosperity of Humankind: Section II para: 1) And true justice is articulated by just speech, as we have been describing it.
We have quoted Baha’u’llah statement that: “No man of wisdom can demonstrate his knowledge save by means of words.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 172) There is no way that we know of these spiritual things except through the words of Baha’u’llah which, perhaps, literally creates that awareness with us. There is also no way we can demonstrate any knowledge of them except, again, through the words of God that bring forth the divine aspect of the human reality. Thus is God proclaimed. Thus will conflict be turned into cooperation, war into peace, iniquity into justice.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men. It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding.
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf: 15)
The act of speaking, whether divine or human speech, is the most potent creative force in the universe. The divine Word “calls into being” the reality of all things, while human speech brings forth the essence of the human reality. Baha’u’llah reminds us that: “No man of wisdom can demonstrate his knowledge save by means of words. This showeth the significance of the Word as is affirmed in all the Scriptures, whether of former times or more recently. For it is through its potency and animating spirit that the people of the world have attained so eminent a position.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 172) But some speech is better than others. No speech is more potent and meaningful than kindly talk. But, in its greatest manifestation, it is not so much powerful as empowering.
The Master, for example, advises that a teacher: “should not see in himself any superiority; he should speak with the utmost kindliness, lowliness and humility, for such speech exerteth influence and educateth the souls.” (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha: 30) And the words of Baha’u’llah leading into the opening quote are: “Consort with all men, O people of Baha, in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship. If ye be aware of a certain truth, if ye possess a jewel, of which others are deprived, share it with them in a language of utmost kindliness and good-will. If it be accepted, if it fulfil its purpose, your object is attained. If anyone should refuse it, leave him unto himself, and beseech God to guide him. Beware lest ye deal unkindly with him.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 289) What is the power of kindly speech, remembering that the Bible describes the greatest manifestation of the power of God not as “a great and strong wind”, nor “an earthquake”, nor “a fire”, but “a still small voice”? (King James Bible, 3 Kings 19:11)
A kindly tongue, Baha’u’llah explains above, attracts hearts, feeds the spiritual hunger of the soul, clothes the words with meaning, is the fountain of light of wisdom and understanding,. Quite the opposite of the loud clamor and roar that many believe is necessary to “get their message across”. But the spiritual is often opposite, which is not to say in opposition, to the organic and material. It is yet another union of the B and the E.
Now, of course, the whole endeavor of communication is a seamless cloth, conveying the whole person, though, like the proverbial iceberg, most of that person is submerged beneath the surface. But that hidden part, as the captain of the Titanic discovered too late, can be the lethal part, as we read last post. That is why we must moderate not only our speech, but our being, for all excess whether of speech, of civilization, or of personal being, in the name of some sovereign right to self-expression or brutal honesty, exercises a pernicious influence.
Nonetheless, we have read that human utterance is an essence that seeks to exert its influence and needeth moderation. (This statement from The Tablet of Wisdom (Tablets of Baha’u’llah:143) is obviously an important one in Baha’u’llah’s mind as He requotes it twice again—See Tablets of Baha’u’llah: 172, 198) Baha’u’llah explains how to speak to have the best influence and how to moderate utterance: “As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets.” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah: 143)
Baha’u’llah here names four qualities: refinement, detachment, tact, and wisdom. But there are others.
He goes on in another place: “Moreover words and utterances should be both impressive and penetrating. However, no word will be infused with these two qualities unless it be uttered wholly for the sake of God and with due regard unto the exigencies of the occasion and the people.” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah: 172) When these divine qualities are conditioning the speech of the speaker the divine aspect of the human reality is called forth from the hearer. But there is a final condition.
Human language when infused with divine Revelation brings with it certitude of apprehension. “From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages bearing on various instances, so that in the course of their speech they may recite divine verses whenever the occasion demandeth it, inasmuch as these holy verses are the most potent elixir, the greatest and mightiest talisman. So potent is their influence that the hearer will have no cause for vacillation.” (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 200)
In light of these reflections, let us look at another statement from Baha’u’llah that weaves together utterance, its influence, its moderation, and the transformative power of effective speech. “Utterance must needs possess penetrating power. For if bereft of this quality it would fail to exert influence. And this penetrating influence dependeth on the spirit being pure and the heart stainless. Likewise it needeth moderation, without which the hearer would be unable to bear it, rather he would manifest opposition from the very outset. And moderation will be obtained by blending utterance with the tokens of divine wisdom which are recorded in the sacred Books and Tablets. Thus when the essence of one’s utterance is endowed with these two requisites it will prove highly effective and will be the prime factor in transforming the souls of men. This is the station of supreme victory and celestial dominion. Whoso attaineth thereto is invested with the power to teach the Cause of God and to prevail over the hearts and minds of men.” (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: 198-199)
Words spoken under these conditions are children of the Word—i.e. transforming powers that evoke structures in reality by calling them forth and naming them. The Word calls forth the essential existence and reality of every created thing when the divine command calls its name. The human word with the proper qualities can evoke latent existential realities. I have named this discourse the kerygmatic, or proclamation mode of language. I have called it revelatory, in the sense of a revelation of God in our speech, and have said that its revealing of God is also a call to God to assist in that work. Baha’u’llah affirms: “Should anyone perceive the sweetness of the following passage in the Tablet revealed in honour of Nabil of Qa'in, he would readily comprehend the significance of assistance.” (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 198) The passage He refers to is the one starting “Human utterance is an essence…”
In the following paragraphs I will make several distinctions, for part of the new mode of language is to use old words in new ways or redefine their relations and meanings.
The kerygmatic is language addressed to the interior, spiritual self. But this interior self is not the inner subjective self, named ego, which is an associate of, even a creation of, the conceptualizing movement of language. Rather, the spiritual self is the true self, the divine image, the human reality’s higher and spiritual aspect that is housed in the heart. Let's recall the admonition that if speech is to have influence and penetrate to and move the heart it should be "uttered wholly for the sake of God
Also, by spiritual I mean not just the highest form of consciousness, but also the greatest intensity of human consciousness, the most complete union of mind and heart. It is the condition where and when the relation of the Divine and human becomes truly reciprocal, which is not also to say between equals.
The interior, spiritual self alone can internalize the Word of God, build up the divine self, and liberate the human reality from the merely human condition. “O friends of God! Incline your inner ears to the voice of the peerless and self-subsisting Lord, that He may deliver you from the bonds of entanglement and the depths of darkness and enable you to attain the eternal light.” (Baha'u'llah, The Tabernacle of Unity: 71) He laments in another place: “Had their inner ears been attentive to the Divine counsels which have shone forth from the Day Spring of the Pen of the All-Merciful, and hearkened unto His Voice, most of the peoples of the earth would have by now been adorned with the ornament of His guidance.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 240-241)
Another sharp distinction: the internalized self is also distinguished from the mere subjective self by the fact that, as Northrop Frye states: “The subjective is still a chaos of moods and emotions; the internalized is a creation, and as such it is a part of the totality of human creative efforts.” (Words with Power: 120)
We started this discussion three posts ago with this statement from Baha’u’llah: “A different Cause, however, hath appeared in this day and a different discourse is required.” (Tabernacle of Unity: 113-114)
Kerygmatic language which is the language of utmost kindliness and empowerment, is the language of our divine aspect, as the poetic and conceptual were of the main stages of the human. It is addressed to what Saiedi calls, following the terminology of the Bab, the “sanctuary of the heart” (See The Gate of the Heart) wherein all is unified. A kindly tongue is “the lodestone of the hearts.” As the Word divides creation, both expiring and inspiring, kerygmatic language bridges the great divide between subject and object characteristic of the fixed relations of conceptual language, because it focuses not upon them but on the creative, relational tension between them, the union and unity of complementary opposites where “these two are the same, yet they are different.”
It is also the language of divine philosophy, for it “clotheth the words with meaning”. The kerygmatic emphasizes the dynamic and changing relations between levels and contexts of being, of inner and outer, of eternal and temporal, the changeless and the mutable, of the individual and the race, as a unity composed of discontinuities working toward reunion. It presents the parallels, the complements and contradictions, and their resonant, vibratory connections and divisions. It speaks of dual responsibilities to recognize and obey, neither being acceptable without the other; of dual moral responsibilities for individual and social transformation, neither being complete without the other. It separates the essential unity of creation to reveal the complex relations between the lower and higher aspect of the human reality. Further, it declares the Manifestation of God’s two stations; hence all creation has two stations, one natural, one spiritual, one actual, one latent, and spirituality is to move from the natural to the spiritual, and proper speech is the most powerful transformative power.
When the true seeker truly hears the herald bearing the kerygma, the listener is reborn and given new life, is imbued with new knowledge, spiritual perception, and makes revolutionary discoveries. “At that hour will the mystic Herald, bearing the joyful tidings of the Spirit, shine forth from the City of God resplendent as the morn, and, through the trumpet-blast of knowledge, will awaken the heart, the soul, and the spirit from the slumber of negligence. Then will the manifold favours and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit confer such new life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind. He will contemplate the manifest signs of the universe, and will penetrate the hidden mysteries of the soul. Gazing with the eye of God, he will perceive within every atom a door that leadeth him to the stations of absolute certitude. He will discover in all things the mysteries of divine Revelation and the evidences of an everlasting manifestation.” (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan: 196)
These are spiritually objective states awakening within the heart of the human soul, wherein resides the divine image, the mirror of the Divine. For the long journey toward mature spirituality, whether individually or collectively, is inward toward the supreme or mid-most center, yet its stages are manifest outwardly and described poetically as the climb upward toward the highest or ultimate attainment of the human spirit: “For were they to reach the ultimate object of their quest for God and their attainment unto Him, they would have but reached that abode which hath been raised up within their own hearts. How then could they ever hope to ascend unto such realms as have not been ordained for them or created for their station? Nay, though they journey from everlasting to everlasting, they will never attain unto Him Who is the midmost Heart of existence and the Axis of the entire creation.’ (Baha'u'llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries: 85)
Saturday, August 26, 2017
The beginning of all utterance is the worship of God, and this followeth upon His recognition. Sanctified must be the eye if it is to truly recognize Him, and sanctified must be the tongue if it is to befittingly utter His praise.
(Baha'u'llah, The Pen of Glory: 154)
Kerygmatic language, the language which proclaims God, sees words as spiritually creative, because it sees words in their proper station as related to the Word. Kerygmatic language is the first language, born from the Word and learned from the gods, to lift humanity out from nature, to achieve their human nature, and now to bring forth their divine nature. That the first language is praise of God and His divine Word is brought out in the Scriptures, starting with the opening quote above. But there are others:
“It is clear and evident, therefore, that the first bestowal of God is the Word, and its discoverer and recipient is the power of understanding. This Word is the foremost instructor in the school of existence and the revealer of Him Who is the Almighty. All that is seen is visible only through the light of its wisdom. All that is manifest is but a token of its knowledge. All names are but its name, and the beginning and end of all matters must needs depend upon it.”(Baha'u'llah, The Pen of Glory: 94)
"The God of mercy hath taught the Qur'án, hath created man, hath taught him articulate speech." (Qur'án 55:1-3)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (King James Bible, John 1:1)
Yet it also the last language, not just the Alpha but also the Omega of speech, both the origin and highest expression, seed and fruit. And to say that it is the first language is, of course, not to assert anything as simpleminded as that the first word spoken is God, followed by Prophets, angels and saints. No, it is, as in all things human, a process of discovering an essence as that essence is coming forth into more complex manifestation. It is, then, the glue joining and knitting together the beginning when: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech", (King James Bible, Genesis 11:1) and the end when God promised: “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” (King James Bible, Zephaniah 3:9)
Thus the kerygmatic is, as stated before, and in regards to human utterance, also an example of: “in truth there is a return and resurrection for every created thing” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 186-187); “that which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 140); and: “The highest essence and most perfect expression of whatsoever the peoples of old have either said or written hath, through this most potent Revelation, been sent down from the heaven of the Will of the All-Possessing, the Ever-Abiding God.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 87)
This is not to say that other modes of language are no longer useful or meaningful. We don’t throw away arithmetic when we learn algebra, as if it was some sort of now useless scaffolding. Rather we learn more complex rules for the manipulation of number and quantity to bring forth what arithmetic cannot. But we still use arithmetic to balance the bank statement. But in mature kerygmatic speech an added religious dimension (religious in the etymological sense of reuniting all things) is reintroduced into language. The language of the Word is heard in the heart, and when truly heard faith is enkindled, as stated by Paul: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (The Book of Romans 10:17)
Faith perfects the natural reason by virtue of the supernatural light of Revelation being received into the heart, allowing the intellect to assent to Revelation’s supernatural truths. Faith is, as Saint Paul says in the Letter to the Hebrews, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). It is, in other words, a form of knowledge that extends beyond the natural limits of our intellect, to help us grasp the truths of divine revelation, truths that we cannot arrive at purely by the means of the human natural reason.
The Bab adds: “Man’s highest station, however, is attained through faith in God in every Dispensation and by acceptance of what hath been revealed by Him, and not through learning; inasmuch as in every nation there are learned men who are versed in divers sciences.” (Selections From the Writings of the Báb: 88)
Because of its spiritual power and religious origin, the kerygmatic, or what I am calling the proclamation mode of language, and not just the more or less isolated proclamation (kerygma) of and about the Word itself, carries a moral authority that separates it from the purely metaphorical that is poetry and myth, making its metaphors more existential than literary, an ethical dimension that distinguishes it from the merely aesthetic and beautiful, a polysemous meaning that expands and resonates out from the more literal prosaic, and a transformative power that elevates it above the descriptive and discursive. Yet it is, too, permeated with joy and punctuated with laughter.
It is, as I said before, revelatory. But by revelatory here I mean not a revelation from God, but a revelation of God, insofar as human speech can do that, a bringing forth of what God has deposited of His Being in His creation. It describes God in His attributes, evokes His Presence, understands and explicates His purpose, and calls on His aid to accomplish these. With this mode of language we may see that, in truth: “This is the Day whereon naught can be seen except the splendors of the Light that shineth from the face of Thy Lord, the Gracious, the Most Bountiful. Verily, We have caused every soul to expire by virtue of Our irresistible and all-subduing sovereignty. We have, then, called into being a new creation, as a token of Our grace unto men.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 29)
Let’s examine in greater depth the relation of the kerygmatic to the Word itself and to the expression of the divine nature latent within the human reality in order to bring forth that nature.
“The Word of God is the king of words and its pervasive influence is incalculable. It hath ever dominated and will continue to dominate the realm of being. The Great Being saith: The Word is the master key for the whole world, inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 173)
What is human utterance? “Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation.” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah: 143) So we have these two powers and influences in relation. First is the pervasive influence of the Word, the dominant force in creation, the master key for the whole world BECAUSE its potency can unlock the doors of hearts of human beings. These doors of the heart lead not outwardly to earth or sky or society, but inwardly to heaven, the eternal realm of spirit. And, secondly, we have human utterance which is “an essence” that aspires to exert its influence outwardly and needs moderating, else it will exert a pernicious influence.
The idea of moderation as a balancing, harmonizing power, leads of course to the image of the balance as the leitmotif of justice, the builder of civilization, the discerner of truth, the expression of courtesy, and the “best-beloved of all things” in His sight. As Baha’u’llah says about moderation in a social context: “Whoso cleaveth to justice, can, under no circumstances, transgress the limits of moderation. He discerneth the truth in all things, through the guidance of Him Who is the All-Seeing. The civilization, so often vaunted by the learned exponents of arts and sciences, will, if allowed to overleap the bounds of moderation, bring great evil upon men. Thus warneth you He Who is the All-Knowing. If carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 342)
Balanced or moderated speech, then, is just speech; what we call in the public arena, “civil discourse.” To be clear, just speech is, I believe, more than polite, mannered, cultivated speech. Rather, it is the result of a harmonizing into a creative tension of two of the most powerful forces in the universe, the all-pervasive Word of God, the king of Words, and that essence which is human speech that at all times seeks to exert its influence. The question is: How does one both tap the universal power of the Word of God to unlock the hearts of people to turn them toward the vastness of the spiritual realm, and also harness the powerful urge of human utterance so as to exert its influence in a non-egoistic and beneficent way, so that one does not cross over moderation into bombast, derogatory speech, or self-righteousness, or worse? How, in short, to achieve that state He mentions: sanctified must be the tongue if it is to befittingly utter His praise?
Baha’u’llah outlines some conditions and issues a warning in a celebrated passage often called the Tablet of the True Seeker. We’ll get to that in a minute. But let’s first pause and reflect that this essence called human utterance is a powerful drug, one that can miraculously heal or calamitously damage the heart and soul. To assist those reflections let us see what is the purpose of the organs of speech communication? For example, Baha’u’llah speaks about the purpose of our sense of hearing, saying: “This lowly one entreateth the people of the world to observe fairness, that their tender, their delicate and precious hearing which hath been created to hearken unto the words of wisdom may be freed from impediments and from such allusions, idle fancies or vain imaginings as 'cannot fatten nor appease the hunger', so that the true Counsellor may be graciously inclined to set forth that which is the source of blessing for mankind and of the highest good for all nations.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 170) That is, not until we have prepared the soil of the heart to receive the divine speech will He speak forth, else the Message will be drowned in the noise and clamor of ordinary egoistic chatter. On the other side, He stated the spiritual purpose of the tongue: “Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men.” (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 219-220)
To both prepare the heart and to reinforce His warnings about the creative/destructive power of words, He states that the seeker: “must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence, and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech (like the excess of civilization quoted above) a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endure a century.
“That seeker should also regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.” (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan: 193)
More conditions in next post.