"The defining feature for any religion is its teaching and leadership. These are the pillars that shape its growth." Vahid Ajepuh Oloro, in his article "Baha'i Administrative Institutions"
Sigh ... and the rest is just as bad. But I quote this so that I can keep in mind, and alert my readers to, why I write my blog - so that I might present another interpretation of the Faith, and perhaps play a part in rescuing Baha'u'llah's revelation from that moribund, worldly, formulaic dogma that passes as an understanding of the Faith these days.
All this is a perfect introduction to what I want to talk about. It's central to how I see the revelation and invite others to do so too. Last blog entry, I effectively did a rant about how we use our deeds as a means to manufacture desired outcomes. Baha'u'llah very nicely calls this using our deeds as snares. At the end of that entry, I refer to a small tablet in which Baha'u'llah outlines how we can best aid God. The tablet forms a small part of the larger tablet addressed to the Shah. Baha'u'llah quotes it in its entirety in order to demonstrate to the Shah that he is not interested in sedition. The tablet is found on pages 108-111 of Summons to the Lord of Hosts. The heart of what Baha'u'llah argues in this tablet is captured in this short passage:
"The one true God hath ever regarded the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession—and this too but as an expression of His all-surpassing mercy, that haply mortal souls may be purged and sanctified from all that pertaineth to the world of dust and gain admittance into the realms of eternity. For otherwise that ideal King is, in Himself and by Himself, sufficient unto Himself and independent of all things. Neither doth the love of His creatures profit Him, nor can their malice harm Him."
Baha'u'llah argues that rendering assistance to God means to aid in the process of purifying people's hearts of all save God; and, in order to do this, we must purify our own heart first, otherwise we will have no effect. The reason we render God assistance in this way is because God's purpose for us is to "be made worthy recipients of the effulgent splendours of Him Who is the King of all names and attributes". This is God's goal, and so we aid God by achieving this ourselves and then by helping others advance toward this goal too.
As part of his discussion, Baha'u'llah makes the logical point (as in the quote above) that God is independent of all we do. Therefore, our actions do not and cannot aid God. God has no need of us and our hard work, and it is vain to think that what we do is actually helping God, as such. Rather, anything that we do do that 'helps' God has this positive outcome only as a result of grace. Baha'u'llah alludes to this in the passage above, where he says that our service to God in purifying the hearts of people is a service that God has given us out of his mercy.
This tablet about rendering assistance to God had a profound influence on me. For several years, it gnawed away at me until finally it paralysed me. I couldn't get up in the morning and settle myself to a task because I kept thinking that it was pointless. However, I never let go of what Baha'u'llah did identify as important - purifying one's heart - but I never felt like I did a very good job at that either. The last couple of years have been difficult ones for me because of this theological issue.
But in the past wee while, I've starting making headway with this impasse and have begun to see a way through. I will outline this new understanding in the next entry.