Mysticism

Entries about the mystical aspects of the Baha'i Faith, or religion in general

Inner and outer unity

I know of a couple of places where Baha'u'llah mentions the concept of a person being inwardly and outwardly united.

"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." Gleanings, CXII

"Perhaps they [the divine friends] will visit the illumined beauty of the pure, radiant and sanctified friend in the land of love, detachment, amiability and exaltation. Thus would they receive the lights dawning from the morn of his brow and the effulgence of the perspicuous day, to at least the extent that they would be enabled to unite their inner and outer selves... Now, they must put forth their utmost effort and give their unswerving attention, so that their inward secrets not be contrary to their overt behavior, nor their outward deeds at variance with their inner mysteries." Tablet of the Holy Mariner - Persian section

In Tablet of the Son, Baha'u'llah explains that what's unique to the Baha'i revelation is the appearance of 'virtue'. Yes, virtue has appeared before in previous dispensations, but in this dispensation, it has been given a new importance:

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The view around another corner

It's my birthday today; I'm 48. What has Baha'u'llah given me for my birthday? The view around another corner.

I've been grappling with the issue of appropriate speech for a few years now. But today I felt I had the issue reconciled within me. I've done a lot of changing over the past few years and this has caused me to look at the way I've spoken about issues concerning the Faith and the community. With my new view on things, I came to feel that I needed to moderate my speech when I spoke on these issues. In addition, I came to feel that the issues that used to consume me, such as infallibility and women on the House, didn't matter as much as I thought they did. And so I stopped talking about these issues for two to three years. But things have changed again - hence the new view.

One principle that is fundamental to speech is this one: to speak with words that are like milk. Baha'u'llah says this in a couple of places; for example:

"Among the helpers of God is discourse. In this greatest of dispensations, deeds and ethics are the armies of God and are busy aiding him. If discourse is delivered in a measured fashion, it is a divine mercy. If it goes to excess, it becomes destructive. In the tablets, we have advised all to employ a sort of discourse that has the characteristics of milk hidden within it, and to nurture the children of the world with it so that they might be brought to the age of maturity. In every station, discourse becomes apparent by virtue of some quality and shines because of some impact. The scent of good or bad wafts from it." Baha'u'llah, Tablet of Unity

After meditating on this principle over the last few years, I decided that I needed to pull my head in as regards my speech. As a result, I have toned myself right down and tried to avoid exchanges that I know will get me going and cause me to say something I'll regret. I've also stopped feeling compelled to engage with people who disagree with me. I just can't be bothered anymore. If a person has another view than me, then that's fine by me. I notice that others can't stop attacking or engaging those who disagree with them. Being able to leave people alone is a detachment state that takes some working on.

But Baha'u'llah also says in the quote above that discourse is a thing that aids God. So, it isn't necessary to fall completely silent about things. We each have a unique perspective and it's right for us to share that, so long as it is done appropriately. I often think about the way Baha'u'llah did things. In the Iqan, you hear the way he used to talk to those who'd come to visit and share their interpretations on the Qur'an. More often than not, their understandings were very sad indeed. But Baha'u'llah would patiently say something like: "Have you considered looking at it this way?" But in his writings, sometimes Baha'u'llah didn't speak with works like milk! In any case, I feel that so long as one's view is delivered in a measured and rational way and backed up with the writings, then there can be no harm in it, even if others disagree with it and think you have no right to say it.

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The Eden dream

"Myriads of mystic tongues find utterance in one speech, and myriads of hidden mysteries are revealed in a single melody" (PHW 16)

Warning, folks: I've got only one thing to say - same thing as last time - and I'm going to say it again.

Last year, I read closely for the first time Abdu'l-Baha's interpretation of the Adam and Eve story in Some Answered Questions (chapter 30). Adam was sent out of the garden of Eden because his soul, Eve, became attached to this world and lost touch with the spiritual realm. The snake is the symbol of attachment to this world. It's the same idea as the one I mentioned in my last post, about the bird whose wings get weighed down by the dust and clay of this world and can fly no more.

Yesterday, I saw all this in a new light. As I said in my last post, I've been getting a glimpse of a new groove lately. Perhaps the idea that best conveys it is that, increasingly, I experience life as if it is a dream. It's like living in a movie with great cinematography. You float through the swirling colours and images of the film and glide around like it's a dream. However, usually when you get out of the theatre with this lovely glow all around, you are struck by the harsh reality of the physical world. In the new groove, that doesn't happen because life is the movie and only attachment brings you down with a thump.

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Poem of the Mystic's Progress

I have begun writing an introduction to Baha'u'llah's Ode of the Dove. I am posting up one section of the introduction, which I have completed. It is the section that discusses Ibn al-Farid's Poem of the Mystic's Progress. Baha'u'llah's Ode of the Dove is modelled on that poem.

Ibn al-Farid’s Poem of the Mystic’s Progress

Baha’u’llah’s Ode of the Dove was modelled on Poem of the Mystic's Progress (Nazm al-suluk) by Sharaf al-din ‘Umar Ibn al-Farid (1182-1235 CE). Both poems are 'qasidahs'. A qasidah is a traditional form of Arabic poetry that dates back to pre-Islamic times. A qasidah is a long poem, which is why it is usually translated into English as 'ode'. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines 'ode' as "a lyric poem, usually rhymed and in the form of an address, in varied or irregular metre and of moderate length". That captures the basic idea of the qasidah, except that it has strict requirements about metre and rhyme. Each stanza of the qasidah has two parts, each with identical metre. Common forms are the 'Tawil', which has 14 syllables in each part, and the 'Kamil', which has 15 syllables. In addition, the rhyme within the stanzas must be consistent throughout the poem. The narrative of the classical qasidah had three parts: the first in which the Bedouin, who is reciting the poem, stumbles upon an empty campsite and laments his loneliness and describes his affection and desire for his beloved; the second in which he rides away from the camp, praising his camel and his people and recalling the dangers of the desert; and the third in which he praises himself or his tribe or tells the story of a battle. Although this three-part structure was typical of the classical qasidah, nowadays the term ‘qasidah’ can refer to almost any long poem. [1]

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Polishing the mirror

The process I have discussed in previous messages - of turning our attention to the spiritual world and away from this one in meditation and worship - is also the process by which we polish the mirror of our hearts. Here's an example of Abdu'l-Baha explaining that we should cleanse our hearts of the dross of this world:

"The most important thing is to polish the mirrors of hearts in order that they may become illumined and receptive of the divine light. One heart may possess the capacity of the polished mirror; another, be covered and obscured by the dust and dross of this world. Although the same Sun is shining upon both, in the mirror which is polished, pure and sanctified you may behold the Sun in all its fullness, glory and power, revealing its majesty and effulgence; but in the mirror which is rusted and obscured there is no capacity for reflection, although so far as the Sun itself is concerned it is shining thereon and is neither lessened nor deprived. Therefore, our duty lies in seeking to polish the mirrors of our hearts in order that we shall become reflectors of that light and recipients of the divine bounties which may be fully revealed through them." `Abdu'l-Baha: Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp 14-15

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