Sunday, July 07, 2019

p24 Crosses, a 2002 essay about the Baha'i principles, in which I discovered Google

Crosses; 10 December 2002

Dear Friends,

I ran across the word "chiasma" (also, "chiasm," or "chiastic") lately in a review of a book called "The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture." This was a word I didn't remember seeing. My high priced reference CD ROM dictionaries didn't have it. So I googled it. Google is a free, amazing service that uses gazillions of supercomputers to search the entire Internet. It is frustrating to pay for something and find out that is not as good as something that is free. 

The meaning of this word impressed me. The definition Google came up with is in a list somewhere of rhetorical devices.

"A type of rhetoric in which the second part is syntactically balanced against the first. For example, "There's a bridge to cross the great divide," and, "There's a cross to bridge the great divide."

It cites another chiasma by Coleridge: "Flowers are lovely, love is flowerlike." The word comes from chi, apparently the Greek letter that is shaped like an X or a cross. Recall that the Master explained that the cross is not only a religious symbol of Christianity but it is also an aspect of nature, a universal symbol of crossing over and sacrifice.

"Meditate upon these words and pay attention to the tissue in all existing substances, either plant, animal or man, and thou wilt see that they all are formed of the cross figure or two crosswise lines. Consider this intently with true meditation. Then thou wilt be taught by the Holy Ghost that it is for this reason that God hath chosen this symbol to be displayed as the token of sacrifice in all periods of ages. I will explain to thee, in future time, the mystery of sacrifice." (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets, v3, 598)

But this use of interstices in a rhetorical device hints at another meaning. Is the cross also a symbol of chirality, or handedness, of the bilateral symmetry that exists deep down in reality? 

If so, the word can summarize how I organize the Baha'i principles.

Each principle, I found after long and bitter experience, is best approached as a sort of hologram. Cut off a piece of hologram and you don't have a piece of the picture cut off, you have the whole picture, only dimmer. The Badi calendar works like this, and I guess it was sufficient reason after researching the principles so long for me a couple of years ago to be distracted and go through the days of the month and month of the year virtues of the Badi calendar first, before I felt ready to take on the principles. I organized it all as a chiasm, though I knew it not at the time.

Principle is a set of chiasms, each principle recapitulating all the others within itself. So for example for the principle of search for truth, I go through all the other principles from the point of view of search for truth. My upcoming, planned series on proofs of deity will use this chiasmic approach, in which I will try to bridge the cross and cross the bridge over the great divide of belief in deity. The final title in book form of all these essays might well be chiastic too, something like, "The Principles of Peace and Pieces of the Principles." Or maybe not.

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