John Taylor's Column

John Taylor lives in Dunnville, Ontario, Canada and is an essayist

Enlightenment, Part II

What is Enlightenment? Part II

By John Taylor; 2006 June 09

The Guardian called our time the "age of responsibility," not the age of enlightenment, though you could say that one implies the other. Let us talk about that today.

A babe receives everything, including life, free and unasked for. Only much later does it learn that none of it was really free; nothing ever is. There are limits to freedom, and reasons that it is free. Parents and society nurtured us at a price, for a purpose. The latest estimate I heard was some sixty thousand dollars out of pocket for parents to raise a child, while the state invests much more, perhaps half a million dollars in health care, education and other supports. Not even the sun shining on our heads providing our whole planet with the energy for life is entirely free. An immense fusion reaction is literally burning up our closest star, albeit slowly and stably.

Enlightenment then is a loan, it comes at a price. For unity to be, diversity must stand aside, and in order for diversity to exist unity has to accept multiplicity. Each renounces an infinity of possibilities for itself in order to embrace the other. Such is love in love.

The reciprocal duty of enlightenment was initiated in the parables of the Lamp and of the talents. A lamp is made for a reason, Jesus taught; its purpose is to shine out into the darkness. Do not hide it under a bushel. By implication, we are servants created to serve God, hence it is our duty do all we can to make our as universal and enlightening as can be.

Read more: Enlightenment, Part II

Enlightenment Part I

What is Enlightenment? Part I

By John Taylor; 2006 June 08

The Bab, at the end of the paragraph following the passage we looked at yesterday, says: "Through the radiance of His light God imparteth illumination to your hearts and maketh firm your steps, that perchance ye may yield praise unto Him." (The Bab, Selections, 155) The Bab's slant on enlightenment, then, is that it has a purpose, to help us on our path, ultimately so that we will be in a position to worship God. As a slogan: "knowledge is for love."

His answer was to a question that had came to prominence in the previous century, an age when Europeans began to cast off superstition and seek truth independently of revealed, traditional religion. It was an age flattered themselves with the title, "The Enlightenment." It was almost over when Immanuel Kant in 1784 wrote a short essay, his most important popular work, called "What is Enlightenment?" This essay with its pregnant question has mesmerized me for over a week, since I returned from the Inter-institutional conference in Toronto last week. Our determination to initiate entry by troops will, I began to think, constitute a kind of recognition of the Bab's answer to that question, "What does it mean to be enlightened?" Like Tahirih at Badasht, we need only tear away our veil and light will shine in and away, of itself. The Master said,

"Today the call of the Kingdom is the magnetic power which draweth to itself the world of mankind, for capacity in men is great. Divine teachings constitute the spirit of this age, nay rather the sun of this age. Every soul must endeavour that the veils that cover men's eyes may be torn asunder and that instantly the sun may be seen and that heart and sight may be illumined thereby. (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, 310)

Read more: Enlightenment Part I

More on Prayer

Faith, Prayer and Oneness

By John Taylor; 2006 June 06

I had drifted far into the garden of repose but this morning was jerked back to the principle of One God. My morning reading was a cordial wake-up call from the Bab. In the opening to this passage He succinctly sums up in four sentences four qualities that Oneness entails, omnience, possession, inscrutability and peerlessness:

"God testifieth that there is none other God but Him. His are the kingdoms in the heavens and on the earth and all that is between them. He is exalted above the comprehension of all things, and is inscrutable to the mind of every created being; none shall be able to fathom the oneness of His Being or to unravel the nature of His Existence. No peer or likeness, no similitude or equal can ever be joined with Him." (Selections, 154)

The center of our knowledge, then, is from the point of view of the human mind eclipsed (omnience, material cause), made a vassal (possession, efficient cause), mentally outgunned (inscrutability, formal cause) and outshined (peerlessness, final cause). At heart every cause for every effect is a void, an unknown about which we can be certain of only one thing, that we will never be, own, grasp or attain to it. How do we know even that? As it says above, God Himself testifies to this. If you cannot trust God, who can you trust?

Read more: More on Prayer

Power of Prayer

The True Power of Prayer

By John Taylor; 2006 June 05

"One who performeth neither good deeds nor acts of worship is like unto a tree which beareth no fruit, and an action which leaveth no trace. Whosoever experienceth the holy ecstasy of worship will refuse to barter such an act or any praise of God for all that existeth in the world. Fasting and obligatory prayer are as two wings to man's life. Blessed be the one who soareth with their aid in the heaven of the love of God, the Lord of all worlds." (Baha'u'llah, cited in UHJ memorandum dated 15 September 2003)

The world's wealthy fiddle about while solar heat, magnified in the lens of industrial waste gasses, literally burns up our beautiful planet. Any and all who are touched by the power to change things are corrupted by power, changed beyond all recognition; decent reformers become obscene exploiters, self-absorbed, petty and contentious. The wealthy clients of our leaders refuse to be guided by wisdom. Meanwhile a rabid, envious fanaticism spreads throughout poorer regions. It is obvious that global climate change will choke us sooner rather than later, but all discussion is halted by one unavoidable fact. Somebody is going to have to give something up. Changes and sacrifices must be made, not by me of course, by the other guy. Plans will have to be made up, not only macro-economically but also on the micro-economic scale. Every career of each and every worker must change.

Read more: Power of Prayer

Mortality

The Smell of Mortality

By John Taylor; 2006 May 31/p>

"Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. The imperfect eye beholds imperfections. The eye that covers faults looks toward the Creator of souls." (Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation, 93)

Yesterday I wrote my daily contribution at the last minute, while I was online, something I rarely do. To my chagrin I hit the "send" button instead of the "save" button. The send button is an executioner that knows no reprieve. I had intended not only to revise more, but also to include the following further bit of feedback from another Badi' list reader to Monday's controversial review of the conference and the new counselor:

"Thank you so much for your reflections on the Inter-institutional conference. Your observations and conclusions are very accurate and I am going to forward your message to all the members of the St. Catharines Assembly as not everyone was able to attend. Your reflections will provide them with a very good sense of what now needs to happen to accomplish the goals of the Five Year Plan and make Entry By Troops a reality. Thank You So Much John."

Read more: Mortality