Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Baha'u'llah's images

For years, I've been grappling with the concept of detachment and how to explain it. Baha'u'llah does define it in a few places; here's one such definition:

"The essence of detachment is for man to turn his face towards the courts of the Lord, to enter His Presence, behold His Countenance, and stand as witness before Him." (Words of Wisdom, Tablets p155)"

But these are just words until the meaning dawns in the heart, and that is the understanding I am trying to fathom. I saw another vista of it the other night, when I couldn't sleep and got up to pray.

I've found over the last, say, three years that the images Baha'u'llah creates in his writings have stayed with me and have begun to paint a metaphorical picture in my mind's eye of creation through Baha'u'llah's eyes. That creation is the mind-boggling vastness of this physical world and the infinite spiritual worlds. My overall sense of the universe that I occupy has expanded. For much of my life, my sense was of living in this physical world. My world was bounded by the physical features that surrounded me. But through the images that Baha'u'llah uses in his writings, and his persistent instruction to look at him and not the world, it's as if I've 'lifted' my eyes up and looked beyond and begun to see the infinite creation around me. The world I occupy now isn't bounded by its physical features, but by the vistas Baha'u'llah has implanted in my heart.

Here are some examples of those images. A couple of early ones to get a hold on me are from the first Persian Hidden Word. Baha'u'llah tells us to live on the mount of faithfulness and in the garden of the spirit, and points out that these are my "habitation". Gee, my habitation, I thought. You mean that's where he has decreed I should be living. I knew I wasn't living there. It sounded too good, and certainly better than where I was. He ends the Hidden Word with another key point "if on the wings of thy soul thou soarest to the realm of the infinite and seekest to attain thy goal." So I realised that if I was to grab hold of what Baha'u'llah held out to me in his chalice, I had better up sticks and move myself to the designated habitation.

More recently, I have been impressed by the frequent use Baha'u'llah makes of the image of the horizon. I just did a search in MARS and there are 244 uses of the word 'horizon'. Most commonly, the horizon is the Supreme Horizon, and the other references are to images of the same thing; for example, the horizon of God's will. But when I awoke to the many references to the horizon in the writings, I began looking at the horizon in my physical world and gradually came to see it as the Supreme Horizon - not literally, but metaphorically.

And now, you see, 'canopy'. I have horizon, now what about a canopy to join the horizons all around me up? There are canopies too - the canopy of majesty, the canopy of grace and the canopy of mercy.

So maybe you are getting the idea: my habitation is in the rose garden of the spirit, on the mount of faithfulness, surrounded by the Supreme Horizon and a sky of grace. You can fill out your picture as you please, because there is no shortage of images in the writings. I like "the Orb of Thy Power" (gives me a sun), "the Day-Spring of Glory" (gives me a water source) and "the Ocean of Thy Grace"(gives me a view to die for). (Blue prayer book, pp148-9)

When I realised that I was unconsciously creating a metaphorical world around me, I had a new way of understanding detachment. For the times when I cannot see this metaphorical universe are the times when I have become caught up worrying about the details of my life. I create little dramas in my heart and mind over life's difficulties. Then I become attached to the world, and forget that the only answer to any problem is God, not me. I forget the import of the images: the Orb of Thy Power - what does that tell me? That if I need anything in my life, then having that Orb in my universe is a really smart way to go!

This, then, gives you an idea of my spiritual journey and the place I'm headed on it. I'll finish with these wonderful images: "Therefore, cast away what is in your right hand, then follow God's paradise so that you might find an august station at the center of the Garden near the sea of immortality." (Countenance of Love) I really like the image of a vast garden stretching right down to the edge of a beach and on to the sea.

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