Seven Sweets from Gleanings, Part II
By John Taylor; 2008 June 05, 01 Nur, 165 BE
Yesterday we looked at four of seven mentions of "tasting sweetness" that turned up in Gleanings, the Guardian's selection of the "best parts" of the Writings of Baha'u'llah. Only three remain in our box of chocolates. The fifth mention of sweet taste is in reference to ownership.
The whole idea of property has always been a problem to philosophers; thinkers on both sides of the political spectrum have rejected it completely, holding that owning something for yourself and excluding everybody else from it is just another form of theft. "Property is theft" is their self-contradictory motto. Others contend that one can just as easily say that theft is property, since every good has been taken from somebody else, and all originally was owned by God. The Baha'i teachings, following the Ten Commandments, are surprisingly strong on the "for" side of ownership, as this shows,
"Some have regarded it as lawful to infringe on the integrity of the substance of their neighbor, and have made light of the injunction of God as prescribed in His Book. Evil fall upon them, and the chastisement of God, the All-Powerful, the Almighty, afflict them!" (Gl 298)
Pretty strong. It is interesting that Baha'u'llah is blaming here not petty thieves themselves but those who rationalize systemic theft in their thinking, those who "regard it as lawful." That seems to include the situation in the world right now. We are living through the most massive resource theft in history. Rich nations and corporations go into poor countries, bribe a few officials, and walk away with billions of dollars worth of mineral and other rights and concessions, while the people there continue to languish in dirt poverty. Last week the New York Times had an Op Ed piece finally admitting that maybe Americans should stop thinking of poor countries as dependent on them, since foreign aid is a pittance compared with the staggering quantities of undervalued resources flowing in from countries whose land is rich but the people are living hand to mouth. The real parasites are the wealthy.
I heard on the radio the testimony of an activist who is traveling around explaining to officials in undeveloped countries the idea of the auction. That is my kind of activist, not a protester but an educator! He points out that the English government in '05 wanted to sell a band of airwaves for two million but at the last minute decided to auction it off. It sold for twenty million. If the best informed governments can underestimate the value of their property by a factor of ten, imagine what it is like in poor, remote places! A fair and open auction allows a government to sell assets at their true market value; they do not need to find out what it is worth, since competition among buyers determines it. This is why the last thing the "liberators" of
Covetousness is the bitter taste of property. Avarice is the mark of failing this spiritual test. We are still not at the sweet part. Baha'u'llah continues,
"By Him Who shineth above the Day Spring of sanctity! If the whole earth were to be converted into silver and gold, no man who can be said to have truly ascended into the heaven of faith and certitude would deign to regard it, much less to seize and keep it." (297-298)
The price of resources has shot through the roof over the past year, what with the industrialization of
There no end to greed.
So gross is it that surely more and more people will start looking for leaders who can show detachment from the money grab. Of course in order get leaders who are detached large numbers of ordinary people must become impervious to the many subtle bribes that illegitimate prosperity offers them. Baha'u'llah offers sweet divine rewards to those who do detach,
"... God is Our witness! Whoever hath tasted the sweetness of those words will never consent to transgress the bounds which God hath fixed, neither will he turn his gaze towards any one except his Well-Beloved. Such a man will, with his inner eye, readily recognize how altogether vain and fleeting are the things of this world, and will set his affections on things above. (Gl 298)
Mixed in with this sweetness is a profound message about owning God in our own heart. We are all greedy and ambitious; we all want to live and grow. Our only choice is how to grow, where to expand. Will it be in this world, or the
The French Revolution marked the first victory of atheists over a world power; even the leaders of
Our next "sweet taste" quote is about liberty, that most misunderstood of the basic drives, since it is basic to plants and animals as well as men and saints. Baha'u'llah makes it clear that the latter is the liberty we should be striving after,
"Say: True liberty consisteth in man's submission unto My commandments, little as ye know it. Were men to observe that which We have sent down unto them from the Heaven of Revelation, they would, of a certainty, attain unto perfect liberty. Happy is the man that hath apprehended the Purpose of God in whatever He hath revealed from the Heaven of His Will, that pervadeth all created things. Say: The liberty that profiteth you is to be found nowhere except in complete servitude unto God, the Eternal Truth. Whoso hath tasted of its sweetness will refuse to barter it for all the dominion of earth and heaven." (Gl 336)
Exhilarating as lower levels of freedom may be for a time, the taste of servitude to God is far sweeter for much longer. This only is real freedom. If people in 18th Century France had tasted of true liberty, service to the Kingdom, they would never have allowed the nobility to steal from the poor, or the Jacobin to steal from the robber, or for such revolutionaries to pretend that it was all done in the name of liberty. A servant of God can detect hypocrisy.
It is not well known that the original statue of liberty was erected during this revolution in
"Pronounced guilty of a `horrible conspiracy against the unity and indivisibility of the Republic, and the liberty and safety of the French people,' she was ordered to be executed that very afternoon. On a bleak, wintry November day, Madame Roland traveled in a cart to the foot of the guillotine in the Place de la Revolution. Mounting the platform, she looked calmly around at the vast concourse; before placing her head on the block, her eyes fastened on the artist David's statue of
The only way to attain to liberty that is sincere and not criminal, that does not impinge upon the rights and property of others, is to cleave to the Law of God. The sweetness of law is the concern of our last selection from Gleanings,
"O ye peoples of the world! Know assuredly that My commandments are the lamps of My loving providence among My servants, and the keys of My mercy for My creatures. Thus hath it been sent down from the heaven of the Will of your Lord, the Lord of Revelation. Were any man to taste the sweetness of the words which the lips of the All-Merciful have willed to utter, he would, though the treasures of the earth be in his possession, renounce them one and all, that he might vindicate the truth of even one of His commandments, shining above the day spring of His bountiful care and loving-kindness." (Gl 332)
The law is a lamp of providence and a key of mercy. We prove that we have tasted of the divine command when we feel willing give our all to vindicate its truth, and when we relieve ourselves of the burden of "one and all" of our possessions to this end.
This taste of divine law takes us full circle back to the question of property. Property puzzled so many great minds and sincere reformers because we need it, yet we need to be free of it. Ownership is obscure because we have not perambulated full circle around what Baha'u'llah sets before us here. Worldlings have not tasted the sweetness of detachment from gain, of true freedom in servitude, and of upholding the Great Lawgiver. I feel in my heart that our band of sisters and brothers in