Saturday, 17 March 2007

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.

I know that, partly, this new dream world came out of my repetiton of the Greatest Name 95 times everyday. When you begin, "God is All-Glorious" is only a phrase you struggle to focus on. After a few years, it gradually turns into a reality that blossoms out of the "syllables and sounds" as they unfold each day. You have a sense of "God is All-Glorious" ruling heaven and earth and generating the reality in which you are steeped. As you become increasingly linked to the Power that generates the substratum of your total experience, you see the world less and less as a solid reality. You see it more as a provisional reality, much like the words on the computer screen, which depict a reality but which are just written in light and have no actual substance. That's where the dream state comes from, the knowledge that "the world of limitations" is provisional in nature - it's contingent and being created moment by moment by the All-Glorious.

And so it was that I was drifting around my dream yesterday, when suddenly I thought: surely, this is the experience that the garden of Eden sybolism alludes to.

I've grown to love some fast prayers. Now, I interpret most of what Baha'u'llah says in terms of my new dream state. For example, I hear him say for me: "cast me not away from the gate of city of Thy presence". I interpret "the city of Thy presence" to be my dream state of beauty. "Cast me not away" because I only experience it with his permission. Just as with any dream, it can disappear in a split second. "To disappoint not the hopes I have set on the manifestations of thy grace amidst thy creatures." Again, Baha'u'llah has me beseeching him to open and keep open the rain of his grace, which lifts me up to his city. Then comes the gorgeous names in which Baha'u'llah generates his golden-weather reality: "the Most Holy, the Most Luminous, the Most Mighty, the Most Great, the Most Exalted, the Most Glorious" and I imagine the robe to which all cling to be like the white clouds in the sky that stretch across the horizon of creation.

And Baha'u'llah has me beseech him: "by Thy hair, which moveth across Thy face, even as Thy most exalted Pen moveth across the pages of Thy tablets, shedding the musk of hidden meanings over the kingdom of creaton." I can see Baha'u'llah moving some hair off his face - like the Houri does - and as he does, an invisible fragrance of meaning sweeps over the land and catches me in its breeze, and a new image in my dream is generated.

I could go on forever like this. The prayers are full of this stuff. Why? Because that's all they're about and all they're for. They're designed to sweep us off our feet and take us away.

"Windflowers, my father told me not to go near them, he feared them always,
Said they carried him away.
Windflowers, I couldn't wait to touch them, to smell them, I held them closely.
Now I cannot break away."
("Windflowers" by Seals and Crofts)

My father feared them; and he was wrong. Steve and I watched a documentary last night about the war for land in Australia. The hour-long programme amounted to a retelling of the appalling violent and mind-numbing injustices done to the Australian Aboriginal people by many (not all) settlers. Once the Aborginal people had been crushed and almost wiped out, those that remained alive became a problem for the Australian government. Their society had been destroyed and they lived in slavery, poverty and depravity. At this point, the focus of the documentary changed: it was no longer about how to crush the "blacks" but about how to 'fix' them. The Australian government went through many fads, inspired by Darwin, eugenics and the like, trying to find the solution that would 'fix' the "blacks". The problem is still with the government today. What stayed with me was this 'fixing' attitude. You see it today with governments trying to 'fix' the Middle East (after exploiting and destroying it for its own good).

My experience is that things can't be 'fixed' (especially not by those who act from prejudice and greed); they can only be dreamt into health through love. In finding Baha'u'llah and learning how to dream his dream, I have learned to overcome my depression and have lost a lot of my impatience and anger. When Baha'u'llah says that He is the only answer, I think what he's saying is that the world can't be 'fixed' so much as only be 'dreamt' to health through participation in His Reality. In it, each of us finds wholeness and oneness. Nothing can be 'fixed' without it.