Thursday, April 8, 2010

How the balance of justice is being set: Part 3

Part 3 of this series, written in about 1970, applies the justice model, presented in parts 1 and 2, to religion.

JUSTICE FOR CLERGYMAN AND CONGREGATION

Although this may be contrary to the conventional belief of many, Baha'u'llah declares that one of the greatest injustices burdening mankind is a religious system which no longer promotes the growth of the individual and society toward its full destiny:
What "oppression" is greater than that which hath been recounted? What "oppression" is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it? ...by "oppression" is meant the want of capacity to acquire spiritual knowledge and apprehend the Word of God. By it is meant that when the Day-star of Truth hath set, and the mirrors that reflect His light have departed, mankind will become afflicted with "oppression" and hardship, knowing not whither to turn for guidance. (BC,31-2)

If the lamp of Religion remain concealed agitation and anarchy would prevail, and the orb of justice and equity and the sun of peace and tranquillity would be withheld from giving light. (BWF,198)
The clergy who uphold these out-worn old-established religions which not only no longer promote growth, but now actually inhibit it, are primarily responsible for this injustice: "The source and origin of tyranny have been the divines" (GPB,231) who have "spoken that which would put an animal to shame, how much more man himself!" (PDC,91)

This oppression by the clergy has even been directed to the Messengers of God, including Baha'u'llah, who declares:
By their (leaders of religion) sanction and authority, every Prophet of God hath drunk from the chalice of sacrifice... Woe unto them for the iniquities their hands have formerly wrought! Woe unto them for that which they are now doing. (BWF,63)

Where these men, therefore, to discover suddenly a Man...Who...had risen to abolish every established principle imposed by their Faith...they would of a certainty be veiled and hindered from acknowledging His truth. (G,26-7)

When We observed carefully, We discovered that Our enemies are, for the most part, the divines. (GPB,231)
As indicated above, the people themselves, the congregations, are also recipients of the oppression maintained by the clergy. "Leaders of religion in every age", according to Baha'u'llah, "have hindered their people from attaining the shores of eternal salvation" (BWF,63). "The reins of the heedless masses have been, and are, in the hands of the exponents of idle fancies and vain imaginings" (PDC,82).

Baha'u'llah describes in detail the causes of this oppression at the hands of the clergy:

1. The clergy judge truth in general, and Baha'u'llah's revelation as a path to it, in particular, by the wrong standard:
Say: O leaders of religion! Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring balance established amongst men. In this most perfect balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, did ye but know it. (BWF,58)

But having weighed the testimony of God by the standard of their own knowledge, gleaned from the teachings of the leaders of their faith, and found it at variance with their limited understanding, they arose to perpetrate such unseemly acts. (G,19)
2. Most of the outward form of the old-established religions is from man, not God:
Certain traditions of bygone ages rest on no foundations whatever, while the notions entertained by past generations, and which they have recorded in their books, have, for the most part, been influenced by the desires of a corrupt inclination. Thou dost witness how most of the commentaries and interpretations of the words of God, now current amongst men, are devoid of truth. (G,171)
3. Both clergy and congregation act largely on blind imitation:
Consider how men for generations have been blindly imitating their fathers, and have been trained according to such ways and manners as have been laid down by the dictates of their Faith. (G,26)
4. Because of their lust for leadership and ignorance, clergymen interpose themselves between their congregations and the Truth (see GPB,230), by holding "the reins of authority in their mighty grasp. Some for the lust of leadership, others through want of knowledge and understanding, have been the cause of the deprivation of the people ... No two are found to agree on one and the same law, for they seek no God but their own desire..." (BWF,63). They "occupy the seats of knowledge and learning" and "have named ignorance knowledge, and called oppression justice" (BC,182).

Baha'u'llah emphasizes the importance of proclaiming to both clergy and congregations these facts about the oppression of unresponsive leaders of religion:
To pierce such veils is the mightiest of all acts, and to rend them asunder the more meritorious of all deeds! (BWF,64)
These veils are so grievous that Baha'u'llah felt it necessary to provide an unyielding religious leader with a potent prayer for him to use for forgiveness, in which we find:
O Lord, my Lord! I bear witness that by reason of mine iniquity the fruits of the tree of Thy justice have fallen, and through the fire of my rebelliousness the hearts of such of Thy creatures as enjoy near access to Thee were consumed... My turning away from Thee hath burnt up the veil of mine integrity, and my denial of Thee hath rent asunder the covering cast over mine honor. (ESW,4-5)
Gods alternatives for the above errors of the clergy are for the clergy (1) to use the Book of His current Messenger, Baha'u'llah, as the standard by which all things are weighed, and to "peruse with fairness and justice that which hath been sent down" by God (PDC,87), (2) to sever themselves from unfounded traditions and outmoded creeds, (3) to see with their own eyes rather than imitate their predecessors and (4) to sacrifice their unfairly exalted position, their pomp and pageantry, and to promote as a humble servant His Cause.

Just as there is no question in the Baha'i revelation as to the current alternatives for the clergy in the scheme of divine justice, the consequences of pursuing either of these alternatives are similarly specific. The consequences of rejection of God's latest revelation are as follows:

1. Old religious systems and archaic beliefs decline:
This is the Cause that hath caused all your superstitions and idols to tremble. (PDC,85)

This is the Day whereon the All-Merciful hath come down in the clouds of knowledge, clothed with manifest sovereignty... The heaven of every religion hath been rent, and the earth of human understanding been cleft asunder, and the angels of God are seen descending. (G,45)

They (Muslim ecclesiastics) rose up against Us with such cruelty as hath sapped the strength of Islam... (GPB,231)
2. Clergymen loose their power:
From two ranks amongst men power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics. (PDC, 19)

O concourse of divines! Ye shall not henceforth behold yourselves possessed of any power, inasmuch as We have seized it from you, and destine it for such as have believed in God, the One, the All-Powerful, the Almighty, the Unconstrained. (PDC,83-4)
3. Clergymen fall into despair:
Erelong will all that ye possess perish, and your glory be turned into the most wretched abasement, and ye shall behold the punishment for what ye have wrought... (GPB,231)

Were they to become aware of one of their acts, and perceive the mischief it hath wrought, they would, with their own hands, dispatch themselves to their final abode. (PDC,91)
Among the consequences of acceptance of Baha'u'llah's summons to the clergy are His blessings and the eradication of religious strife:
Well is it with that divine whose head is attired with the crown of justice, and whose temple is adorned with the ornament of equity. (PDC,115)

The distinguishing feature that marketh the preeminent character of this Supreme Revelation consisteth in that We have, on the one hand, blotted out from the pages of God's holy Book whatsoever hath been the cause of strife, of malice and mischief amongst the children of men, and have, on the other, laid down the essential prerequisites of concord, of understanding, of complete and enduring unity. Well is it with them that keep My statues. (G,97)
Having left no doubt for the clergy as to their alternatives in terms of God's standard and the consequences of these, Baha'u'llah, the "Lord of the Vineyard", emphasizes the power of divine justice on the clergy:
Say: O concourse of bishops! ... My mercy desireth not that ye should fall upon the earth. My justice, however, declareth: "This is that which the Son (Jesus) hath declared"... O concourse of priests! The Day of Reckoning hath appeared, the Day whereon He Who was in heaven hath come. (BWF,60)

If this Cause be of God, no man can prevail against it; and if it be not of God, the divines amongst you, and they that follow their corrupt desires and such as have rebelled against Him will surely suffice to overpower it. (G,220)
References (page numbers from pre-1970 editions)
BC, Book of Certitude, by Baha'u'llah
BWF, Baha'i World Faith (quotes from Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha)
ESW, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, by Baha'u'llah
G, Gleanings from the writings of Baha'u'llah
GPB, God Passes By, by Shoghi Effendi
PDC, Promised Day is Come, by Shoghi Effendi
© 2010 James J Keene