Episode 1: Seeing Reality Clearly
Hi, I’m Caleb Gilleland and welcome to the Focused Baha’i podcast — a place where we sit back, soak in the Writings of the Baha’i Faith together, and then move back out into the world, charged up and ready to make a difference in the life of humanity. In this episode, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on seeing reality clearly.
Before we begin, I just want to say thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to tune in. Make sure you subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, YouTube, or SoundCloud so that you always get the newest content.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive straight in.
Today our reading is from the ‘Tabernacle of Unity’, which is a book by Baha’u’llah written to the Zoroastrian community of Iran. The book is divided into five different tablets. The first three are pretty long and the second two are pretty short; they’re a little over a page a piece.
Our reading today comes from the second paragraph of the first short tablet. It goes like this:
“ O servants! The fire that consumeth all veils hath been kindled by My hand; quench it not with the waters of ignorance. The heavens are the token of My greatness; look upon them with a pure eye. The stars bear witness to My truth; bear ye likewise witness thereto.”
Let’s break this down by sentences. There are three of them, so here’s the first :
“O servants! The fire that consumeth all veils hath been kindled by My hand; quench it not with the waters of ignorance.”
So first off, what are ‘veils’?
In the writings, we know veils are things that keep us away from God. They separate us from God in some way, and so something that’s on fire that’s consuming that, that’s a good thing for us, because that’s going to connect us more deeply with God.
So what is ‘ignorance’?
Well, for us, in our society, maybe racism, sexism, nationalism – things that divide us. Perhaps even Nihilism. Perhaps the most obvious form of ignorance is being anti-science. Which there are many varieties of that these days. In ‘The Promised Day Is Come’, a work by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of our faith, he does a good job of breaking down veils into three different categories, which he calls, “three false gods”. Some of them sound pretty normal for us — they seem kind of expected. Some of them don’t.
The first one is Nationalism. The belief that your country is the most important block of society. That your nation is more important than other nations.
The next is Racialism.
— I don’t think I have to go into too much there.
And the third, surprisingly, at least to some people, would be Communism. The idea that the state has all the answers for the problems that we have. That maybe all these problems that we were talking about earlier; racism, sexism, maybe inequality -these things can just be solved by the government coming in and making it all happen. And when when you look around the world -especially the places that have tried this philosophy before – they’ve all failed, and in really awful ways.
So those are ‘the false gods’ in which Shoghi Effendi talks about, and perhaps some of those ‘veils’ that we should be letting Gods fire burn through.
Next we have the middle sentence:
“The heavens are the token of My greatness; look upon them with a pure eye.”
So first of all, what are ‘heavens’?
Well, they mean a few different things, if you look in the dictionary they mean the sky, perhaps the universe, and by that we mean the universe that’s outside of earth.
What does ‘token’ mean?
It means a sign or a symbol. It’s evidence or proof – it’s something done in good faith.
And what is ‘pure’?
Pure means unsullied, such as by bias or attachment. And to BE pure, means to be detached.
What does this mean?
The universe was created by God. It is rational – though we’re still figuring out how it all works, of course. It’s is evidence that there is meaning in the cosmos and meaning in every action of your life. You matter and everything you do matters. It is sure ignorance to believe otherwise. When he says, “we should look at all with a ‘pure eye’, that means that we shouldn’t let our preconceived notion or emotions keep us from investigating the realities of things from doubting their true meaning.
The final sentence goes like this:
“The stars bear witness to My truth; bear ye likewise witness thereto.”
So what does that mean?
Well, there are basically an infinite number of unfathomably, gigantic balls of burning light that are visible and obvious to us, if we’ll only look. That’s what stars are.
Sometimes our lives, our emotions, and the way of thinking about the world that we’re attached to, can keep us from seeing what’s real. Just like the light pollution from the city blocks out the night sky. If we want to see what really matters in our lives -in the life of society – we have to ignore all of this light pollution. We have to let the cleansing fire that God started, burn through, and utterly consume what is ignorant, and false, and weak about us -and to stand up in our lives against things that are untrue and keep us divided.
Maybe the real take-away from all this is, the last bit of this sentence, “bear ye likewise witness thereto”.
What does that mean?
For me it means that we shouldn’t be silent about the good world that we live in -all the things that God has done for us. The greatness and majesty of this universe and the fact that everything matters in some way, big or small, everything that we do matters. Every person matters, and we need to stand up for that. It means that we have to fight ignorance. It means that we have to fight hate- and it means that we have to sometimes oppose groups, that while we think they have good motives at heart, when we look at their actions, they actually divide people and hurt people more. As we well know as Baha’i’s, words must be followed by deeds. Without deeds, without real concrete actions, what they’re doing is just making themselves look good in the eyes of society. And given how polarized our society is right now, we don’t need anymore of that.
Well that’s all we have time for today. Thank you so much for taking the time to explore the Baha’i writings along with me, and I really hope that this impacts your week in a positive way.
Until next time, Alláh-u-Abhá.