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Abstract:
On the background and themes of Baha'u'llah's tablet about the inception of his revelation and the assumption of his prophetic mission. Essay published in online art magazine e*lix*ir.
Notes:
Mirrored with permission from www.elixir-journal.org.

The authorized translation of the Súriy-i-Qalam (also below) has been published in Days of Remembrance.


O Pen!
Reflections on Surih al-Qalam (Surih of the Pen)

by Sandra Lynn Hutchison

published in elixir-journal.org, vol. 6
2017 Autumn
1. Introduction

Bahá’u’lláh’s pen — one of the most enigmatic and mysterious of objects in the world of creation. A simple reed pen — qalam, in Arabic — held between the fingers of the Manifestation of God or by His amanuensis, served as the instrument through which a new revelation of the divine Word flowed and was delivered to the world. A pen that bears witness, calls out, weeps, and groans. A pen that raises its voice between earth and heaven. A pen that swoons away at the power of the words it renders. A pen so closely identified with the process of revelation, the creative function of the Manifestation of God, that it comes to symbolize the Manifestation Himself: the Manifestation becomes His Pen and His Pen becomes that marvelously-gifted instrument through which He reveals the Word of God to humanity.

In His Suriy-i-Qalam, or Surih of the Pen, Bahá’u’lláh has revealed a work that is both a probing meditation on and a powerful dramatization of His assumption of His mission as the Pen of Revelation. Throughout the surih, the reader is privy to a series of interchanges between Bahá’u’lláh as the Pen of Revelation and the Divine Voice as it commands the Pen to write, and also, as the surih progresses, between Bahá’u’lláh and His muse, the Maid of Heaven. The intensity of the utterance, the tone of immediacy sustained throughout, together with the frequent shifts in mood and voice as the Divine Voice speaks to the Pen, may give readers the sense that they are present at the very moment of the revelation of this surih. The extraordinary self-consciousness with which Bahá’u’lláh reflects on the revelation He is receiving, and the immediacy with which He re-enacts His encounter with the holy spirit, as symbolized by the Maid of Heaven, serve to generate one of the most ecstatic outpourings of revelation currently available to readers of English language translations of Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings.

Little is known about the date or circumstances of the revelation of the Surih of the Pen, but the various references made in it to the Festival of Ridvan, together with its largely celebratory tone and theme, suggest that the surih was written in commemoration of this occasion. Moreover, the exuberance with which Bahá’u’lláh celebrates His Pen in the surih, suggests that it might be located in the Edirne period, the five years of remarkable productivity that immediately followed His declaration in the Garden of Ridvan. His preoccupation with the “unbelievers” further links this surih to the Edirne years, during which Bahá’u’lláh was subject to growing opposition from members of His family as He began to assert His divine authority in a more public way. It was in Edirne that the break with His half-brother, Mirza Yahya, became known to the community; and it was in Edirne, that, as the machinations of His enemies escalated to an unprecedented level, attempts were made on His life, one by a poisoning from which His health never fully recovered.

The flight of Bahá’u’lláh’s mind and soul as He moves between earth and heaven, human being and Manifestation, the Pen and the Divine Voice which, until the end of the surih, communicates the revelation the Pen is receiving, generates a complex web of perspectives that can make this surih challenging for the reader. Bahá’u’lláh speaks as the Pen of Revelation and also sets down the words revealed by the Divine Voice to the Pen. In other words, we read the words of the revelation Bahá’u’lláh is receiving, words of assurance and confirmation regarding His mission, and we also read Bahá’u’lláh’s words of guidance to humanity as He takes up that mission. To add to the complexity of the surih, the metaphor of the pen is given further richness of meaning by the other metaphors employed to describe Bahá’u’lláh and His revelation, in particular, the metaphors of light and unveiling.

As in the modern novel or a poem for voices, points of view shift as different voices take up the theme of the surih. However, the structure that emerges from the interplay of voices can best be likened to the five-act play. But the unfolding dramatic action of this surih does not follow the conventional pattern of the five-act play, with its prologue, conflict, rising action and climax, falling action, and denouement. Rather, the Surih of the Pen enacts a divine drama in which the Pen moves from doubt to certainty, from grief to exultation until, in the final act, He achieves union with His muse: the holy spirit as symbolized by the Maid of Heaven.

2. Invitation (Act One: Verse 1)

In the name of God, the Most Wondrous, the Most Glorious!” — the invocation with which the surih opens sets the tone for what is to be communicated: the wondrous message of the Pen, the Pen of the Most Glorious itself, regarding this day, the day on which the “Most Exalted Word” has appeared in the form of a new Manifestation who brings a fresh revelation from God. The invocation is followed by a command as the Divine Voice calls Bahá’u’lláh’s Pen to testify in His “own self,” and by His “own essence” and His “inmost being” that there is “none other God but Me, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting” and that “this is the Beauty of God..., a Beauty that hath ever been, and shall ever remain, unknown to all save Himself.”

The complex truths implicit in this invocation regarding the nature of the relationship of the Manifestation to the Godhead will generate, no doubt, a rich body of theology in future. But for our purposes here, all we as readers need to understand is that God is calling Bahá’u’lláh to assume His station as the Manifestation of God. As the revealer of God’s Word, the Pen is high above both heaven and earth but also the link between them. The imagery employed at the end of this passage suggests that Bahá’u’lláh, as the revealer of God’s Word, has come to bring light to the world and to disclose, by means of His Pen, secrets hitherto unknown:

Through but one of His effulgences the Day-Stars of majesty and grandeur have shone forth, the hearts of the denizens of the everlasting realm and the sanctified realities that lay hid beneath the mystic veil have been called into being, and the secrets of all that was and shall be have been laid bare.

3. Consolation (Act Two: Verses 2-5)

The opening verses of the second act of the drama are reminiscent of the Quranic Surih of the Pen, for in that surih, as in this one, God consoles the Manifestation in the face of the assaults of the unbelievers. In Bahá’u’lláh’s Surih of the Pen, however, the Divine Voice also assures the Pen of protection and divine assistance:

O Pen! Let nothing dismay thee, for unto thee have We vouchsafed the inviolable protection of Our sovereign might and power, and into thee have We breathed a spirit, one breath of which would, if wafted upon the bodies of all existence, cause them to arise from their couches, unloose their tongues, speak forth, and bear witness in their inmost being that there is none other God but Me, the Powerful, the Glorious, the Exalted, the Mighty, the Peerless, the All-Subduing, the Self-Subsisting.

In the next verse of the surih, the Divine Voice commands the Pen to take up His divine mission, addressing Him as follows: “O Pen of Command! Be assured in thyself and reveal then unto all beings a measure of that which God bestowed upon thee ere the creation of words and letters and the fashioning of all things. . . .” Here and later on in the same verse, the Pen is identified with the Word of God, the Logos, which precedes and also brings into being the entire creation: “Say: A single letter of Mine utterance hath, verily, brought forth the entire universe, the realities of all things, and worlds which none can fathom save God, the Almighty, the Most Manifest.”

What, then, is the Pen to reveal? As the Divine Voice makes clear in the next verse of the surih, the first task of the Pen is to make Himself known — to speak of His power and His beauty, and of the loftiness of His station:

Say: This is a Power unsurpassed from all eternity to all eternity, could ye but know it, O concourse of the Spirit, and this is a Beauty unrivalled from the beginning that hath no beginning, could ye but perceive it. Say: Whoso conceiveth the least design to confront this Pen, to presume partnership with it, to gain intimate access unto it, or to fully grasp that which emanateth from it, be assured that the Evil One doth whisper within his breast.

In the verse that follows, the Divine Voice consoles the Pen by condemning the “unbelievers,” disputing their false claims, and extolling the Pen:

O Pen! Give ear unto that which the unbelievers have imputed to thee. Say: O assemblage of malice! Perish in your hatred, in your envy and your unbelief! By Him Who is the Eternal Truth! This is that Pen through a mere intimation of whose will the souls of the Concourse on high, and the realities of the denizens of the everlasting realm, and the essences of human hearts and minds, were all fashioned. This is that Pen through but a movement of which the sun of might and grandeur, and the moon of loftiness and sanctity, and the stars of grace and favour, were called into existence. This is that Pen through which were created the all-highest Paradise and all that abide therein, and the celestial garden and all that pertaineth thereto, could ye but comprehend.

The unbelievers are consumed with envy and the people as a whole lack the capacity to recognize the Pen. Therefore, the Divine Voice urges the Pen to patience as well as to restraint, even suggesting that He continue to veil Himself, since the potency of His words is such that, on hearing them, even the holy ones might be overcome, and the earth and heaven compelled to give voice to that which was revealed to Moses in the burning bush:

O Pen! Content thyself with that which thou hast so far intimated to the world of thy sovereignty and power, for the hearts of the envious are well-nigh bursting. Veil, then, thy Cause, and reveal no more than this, for thy words would rend asunder the heavens of ancient glory, and cleave in twain the earth of holiness itself, and cause the inmates of the realm of grandeur to swoon away. Be patient in thy heart, for the people of the world are incapable of beholding thy sovereignty or perceiving thy manifold signs, how much less of recognizing Him who hath created thee through but a single word of Hs Utterance! . . . Should all that are in the heavens and on earth and whatsoever lieth between them — whether trees, fruits, leaves, twigs, branches, rivers, oceans, or mountains — encounter a single word of thy pronouncement, they would assuredly speak forth that which the Burning Bush, springing from the soil of divine revelation, spoke unto Moses in that holy and blessed Vale.

4. Confirmation (Act Three: Verses 6-9)

Consoled now, assured of divine assistance, and cognizant of His power, the Pen is commanded to listen to the “wondrous account” of that which God has given Him; namely, awareness of His station as the revealer of God’s Word in this day. The Divine Voice then commands the Pen to sever Himself from the world and make known the joyous news: “Detach thyself, then, from all thou dost possess, and announce unto the people the joyful tidings of the appearance of the Most Exalted Word in this mighty Revelation, that haply they may recognize their Creator and renounce all else but Him.” The Pen is next commanded to call the “Concourse on high” (an appellation that might be considered roughly equivalent to angels in some other traditions) to celebrate “this Most Great Festival,” the Festival of Ridvan:

Call then upon the Concourse on high to rejoice, saying: O ye exponents of grandeur sheltered beneath the tabernacle of majesty! O ye denizens of the dominion of power abiding beneath the canopy of glory! O ye dwellers of the kingdom of the seen and the unseen situate in the furthermost precincts beyond the ocean of eternity! O ye manifestations of the divine names in the highest heaven! Let your hearts rejoice in this Most Great Festival wherein God Himself proffereth this most pure chalice unto such as stand before Him with beseeming lowliness and humility.

The commemoration of the Festival of Ridvan lies at the heart of this surih because it is on this occasion, that of His declaration, that Bahá’u’lláh becomes, at least in the eyes of the world, identified with His Pen. Although fully empowered before His declaration, His Pen might be said to be inactive, in a condition of potentiality. Only with Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration is His Pen activated and is He launched on His mission to reveal God’s Word. The Festival of Ridvan, therefore, represents what might be viewed, in the context of our drama metaphor, as the climactic scene in which the Manifestation, by taking up His Pen, becomes fully identified with His revelation, and, therefore, the embodiment of the Logos, or Word of God.

In the subsequent verses of the third act of the surih, the Divine Voice speaks to the Pen, affirming His uniqueness: “Say: I swear by the one true God that there hath never appeared in all creation another like unto Him.” Elaborating on the light imagery introduced in the opening section of the surih, the powerfully rhythmic prose in this passage lifts the utterance to progressively more elevated rhetorical heights as the Divine Voice proclaims the advent of the Manifestation of God:

Say: This is the Light through which the inhabitants of the celestial world and their inner realities have been brought forth, and through which the embodiments of the heavenly realm and their inmost essences have been raised up. This is the Light through which God hath created worlds that have neither beginning nor end, worlds whereof none hath the slightest intimation save those whom their Lord hath willed. Thus do we disclose unto you the hidden mysteries, that haply ye may ponder the signs of God. Say: This, verily, is the Light before whose effulgence every head hath bowed down in lowliness, and before whose manifestation the hearts of the well-favoured of God, and the souls of His holy ones, and the inmost realities of His true worshippers, and beyond them His honoured servants, have prostrated themselves in adoration.

The Divine Voice itself takes up the announcement in the final two passages of the third act of the surih, informing the “inmates of the holy Sanctuary” that the Pen, Bahá’u’lláh, has shifted the spiritual center of the world to a new Qiblih, a new Point of Adoration. Bahá’u’lláh is, the Divine Voice affirms, the “Sanctuary of God amongst you and His sacred precinct in His midst, the holy site of the Spirit before your eyes and the Station of both inner and outer peace and security.” All people, therefore, should undertake a pilgrimage to Him; and if such a pilgrimage is not possible, they should strive to approach Him by means of the purification of their hearts and souls.

5. Proclamation (Act Four, Verses 10-13)

The command of the Divine Voice for the Pen to announce the appearance of the “Most Exalted Word” is followed in the fourth act by another command: to proclaim the greatness of the day on which the new Manifestation, Bahá’u’lláh, has appeared. He remains unrivalled in the entire creation, and the day on which He makes Himself known to the world has no likeness:

O Pen! Proclaim unto the concourse of eternity, saying: O ye that rove in the arenas of immortality! O ye that abide beneath the tabernacle of grandeur! O ye gem-like realities that lie hid from the eyes of creation! Descend from your lofty retreats to celebrate and rejoice, and to quaff from the cup of everlasting life that the hand of the All-Glorious is proffering on this Day. This, in truth, is a Day the like of which hath never been witnessed in all creation. . . .

The day is, the Divine Voice affirms, a day on which God has revealed Himself in the person of the Manifestation and on which He has asserted His omnipotence over all things: “Say: This is the Day whereon God hath made His Own Self known and revealed it unto all who are in the heavens and on earth, a day whereon He hath established His sovereign ascendancy over the kingdoms of revelation and creation.” It is a day on which the “unseen Beauty” and “the Hidden Secret” have been revealed in the person of the Ancient Beauty, who has “appeared with such an adorning as to cause the veils to be rent asunder, and the mysteries to be revealed. . . .”

Indeed, the day on which the Pen appears is of such significance that the prophets of the past ‘call out’ to celebrate it:

This is a day whereon the idols of misbelief and worldly desire have been shattered and the Ancient Beauty hath ascended His mighty throne. The Spirit of glory hath called out from the precincts of eternity, and the Most Holy Spirit from the Divine Lote-Tree, and the Spirit of command from the Tree beyond which there is no passing, and the Spirit of might from the exalted dominion, and the faithful Spirit from the right hand of the Burning Bush, saying: “Hallowed be the Lord of mercy, Who hath appeared in the world of existence invested with that which mortal eyes had never beheld!”

The Divine Voice tells the Pen to call the monks to leave their churches and seize their portion of grace in this day, a day on which “the bells are pealing out in My remembrance, the Trumpet soundeth My praise, and the Bugle proclaimeth My Name, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.” The Pen is also told to call out to the “inhabitants of the realms of the seen and unseen” and tell them to “sing the most joyous melodies on this Festival of God,” this Ridvan, when all humanity has attained the paradise of nearness to God by virtue of the Pen’s declaration of His mission. It is this very Pen, Who, in this day, “hath absolved all who are in the heavens and on earth.” As if to underline the connection between God and His Manifestation, the revealer of His Word, the Divine Voice concludes by affirming that it is the Pen who communicates God’s command: “Thus hath His eternal command shone forth from the dayspring of His Pen, that ye may rejoice in your souls and be of those whose hearts are gladdened.”

6. Union (Act Five: Verses 14-20)

In the final section of the surih, the divine drama reaches its climactic conclusion as the Pen engages in a dialogue with the Maid of Heaven. In a re-enactment of the moment of His declaration, Bahá’u’lláh merges with His muse, takes up His Pen, and sets down the words of His revelation. As He does, the Divine Voice speaks one last time, commanding the Pen to inform the Maid of Paradise that she it is time for her to unveil herself and “shine forth” as “the black-eyed Damsel”:

O Pen! Announce unto the Maid of Paradise: “By God! This day is thy day. Come forth as thou willest, and array thyself as thou pleasest with the broidered robe of names and the silken vesture of immortality. Emerge then from thine eternal habitation even as the sun that dawneth from the countenance of Bahá. Descend from thy lofty heights and, standing betwixt earth and heaven, lift the veil of concealment from thy luminous face and shine forth above the horizon of creation as the black-eyed Damsel, that haply the most great veil may be torn away from the eyes of these people and they may behold the Scene of transcendent glory, the Beauty of God, the Most Holy, the Most Powerful, the Best-Beloved.”

In the subsequent verse, the Maid of Paradise addresses Bahá’u’lláh directly, lamenting that the ignorance of the unbelievers has kept them from recognizing Him and acknowledging that it is He who has ‘veiled’ her in order to protect her from the scrutiny of His enemies:

“O Ancient Beauty! The unbelievers, verily, are lost in the stupor of idle fancy and are powerless to turn their eyes towards the most hallowed Court. Through the sovereign potency of Thine inviolable protection, Thou hast shielded me beneath the veils of light and guarded my beauty from the gaze of Thine enemies.”

The Pen responds to the Maid, addressing her as the “Maid of Bahá” and calling her to “shine forth” with a divine revelation so that she may “manifest the beauteous image of God”:

“O Maid of Bahá! Step forth from the court of eternity, but let not thy most pure gaze linger upon the faces of mortal men. I swear by the one true God! None save them that are possessed of true insight can ever hope to behold thee in this most sublime vision. Leave the kingdom of names on thy right and the dominion of attributes on thy left, and shine forth by My leave above the horizon of Mine inviolable protection, divested of all that hath been created in the realm of Revelation and shorn of all that hath appeared in the kingdom of creation, that thou mayest manifest the beauteous image of God in all regions.”

The Maid of Heaven becomes the — “Maid of Bahá,” and the Manifestation merges with His muse and claims her as His source of inspiration. In the Pen’s invitation to the Maid to come forth in all her luminous beauty, the connection between the unveiling of the Maid of Heaven and the Festival of Ridvan as well as the metaphorical Ridvan of attaining the Paradise of nearness to the God, is made clear. Employing imagery that is sensuous and, at the same time, suggestive of an otherworldly presence, the Ancient Beauty celebrates the beauty of the Maid, the now unveiled spirit of divine inspiration that informs and guides His Pen, in what might be described as a divine love song:

“. . . . Intone, then, the sweetest of melodies betwixt earth and heaven, that all existence may be detached from aught save the face of thy Lord, the Most Holy, the Most Gracious, the Well-Beloved. Beam forth above the horizon of the Riḍván with the beauty of the All-Merciful, and let thy fragrant locks flow upon thy bosom, that the perfume of the garment of thy most gracious Lord may be diffused throughout the world. Hide not thy luminous form from the eyes of the concourse of Revelation, and withhold not thine ethereal veil of holiness from the gaze of the people. Present thyself, then, before the Throne with thy locks flowing, thine arms bejewelled, thy countenance blushing, thy cheeks aglow, and thine eyes adorned, and take hold of the snow-white chalice in My most exalted Name. Proffer then to the denizens of the realm of eternity the crimson wine of Mine all-glorious Beauty, that haply the concourse of Revelation may sanctify their souls in this most august Festival by virtue of this pure draught, and that they may emerge from behind the veil of concealment through the power of Mine almighty and all-powerful, Mine all-subduing and self-subsisting sovereignty.”

Now unveiled, the maid identifies herself as the “Maid of Heaven,” she who will serve as the muse for the Pen:

“By God! I am the Maid of Heaven, abiding in the midmost heart of Paradise, hidden behind the veil of the All-Merciful and concealed from the eyes of men. From time immemorial I remained shrouded in the veil of sanctity beneath the Tabernacle of Grandeur. I heard a most sweet call from the right hand of the throne of my Lord, the Most Exalted, and I saw Paradise itself set in motion and all its inhabitants stirred up in their longing to attain the presence of God, the All-Glorious. Whereupon another call was raised: ‘By God! The Beloved of the worlds is come! Blessed be the one who attaineth His presence, and beholdeth His face, and giveth ear to His most holy, His most glorious and beloved utterance. The Voice of God hath enraptured the souls of the Concourse on high and the hearts of the dwellers of the everlasting realm, and the all-consuming ecstasies of love have caused them to tremble with yearning and to fix their gaze upon the court of sanctity, the station of unapproachable glory.’ Were I to speak in every tongue, I would nonetheless be powerless to describe that which I beheld in that state. . . .”

Employing as it does a language that reaches the limits of all language in its attempts to convey the ineffable nature of mystical experience, the maid’s response to the love song of the Pen might be ranked with the most ecstatic utterances we have the privilege of reading in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.

The maid concludes her response to the Pen with a lamentation: though the advent of the Beloved has encompassed all creation with a kind of “rapture,” the unbelievers, specifically, the “people of the Bayan,” remain “veiled and heedless.” The Pen responds by urging the Maid to turn her thoughts away from the unbelievers and towards her service as the “voice” of divine revelation:

“O Maid of holiness! Forsake the mention of such people, for their hearts are as immovable as stones and impervious to all but the promptings of idle fancy. For they remain immature in the Cause of God and suckle the milk of ignorance at the breast of waywardness. Leave them to dwell upon the dust, and warble thou My melodies in the realm of eternity. Apprise, then, the inhabitants of Paradise of that which hath been manifested in the kingdom of creation. Thus may they become attracted by Thy sweet accents, hasten towards this hallowed and promised Beauty, and become fully apprised of this Day — a Day whereon all things have been adorned with the ornament of names, a Day whereon every poor one hath found the source of true wealth and every deprived and sinful soul hath attained forgiveness.”

With these words, the dialogue ends, and the dramatic action reaches its conclusion. Bahá’u’lláh, as Manifestation for this day, addresses the people of the world and urges them to embrace the His revelation: “O people! Seek ye in these days the grace of God and His all-embracing mercy, and beware lest ye follow in the footsteps of every veiled and heedless soul.” This surih, Bahá’u’lláh asserts in the concluding verse, is intended to serve as a “summons” to all people to ponder “this blessed and fated account”; namely, the story embedded in the drama enacted in the surih, of the unveiling of the Maid of Heaven and her union with Bahá’u’lláh, the Pen of Revelation.

7. Conclusion

After perusing the Surih of the Pen, readers may feel they have gained a deeper understanding of the challenges Bahá’u’lláh faced as He gradually lifted the veil covering His station and revealed Himself in the fullness of His glory. Moreover, on witnessing the drama the surih enacts, readers may feel called to reflect on the mysterious process by which a Manifestation of God becomes aware of His calling. Without doubt, those who give themselves fully to the reading of this surih, will find their souls lifted to the heights of ecstasy as they contemplate the majesty and grandeur of Bahá’u’lláh’s Pen.

* The authoritative translation of Surih of the Pen (Days of Remembrance, Bahá’í World Centre, 2017) is reproduced in full below.


Suriy-i-Qalam
(Surih of the Pen)

This is the Surih of the Pen, which hath been sent down from the heaven of eternity unto them that have fixed their gaze upon His Throne.

In the name of God, the Most Wondrous, the Most Glorious!

1.

      O Pen of the Most High! Bear thou witness, in thine own self, that verily He is God and there is none other God but Me, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Bear thou witness, then, by thine own essence, that verily I am God and that there is none other God but Him, that all have been created at My behest and that all abide by My command. Bear thou witness, moreover, by thine inmost being, that this is the Beauty of God which hath dawned above the horizon of the Unseen, a Beauty that hath ever been, and shall ever remain, unknown to all save Himself. He, verily, is the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Best-Beloved. Through but one of His effulgences the Day-Stars of majesty and grandeur have shone forth, the hearts of the denizens of the everlasting realm and the sanctified realities that lay hid beneath the mystic veil have been called into being, and the secrets of all that was and shall be have been laid bare.

2.

      O Pen! Let nothing dismay thee, for unto thee have We vouchsafed the inviolable protection of Our sovereign might and power, and into thee have We breathed a spirit, one breath of which would, if wafted upon the bodies of all existence, cause them to arise from their couches, unloose their tongues, speak forth, and bear witness in their inmost being that there is none other God but Me, the Powerful, the Glorious, the Exalted, the Mighty, the Peerless, the All-Subduing, the Self-Subsisting.

3.

      O Pen of Command! Be assured in thyself, and reveal then unto all beings a measure of that which God bestowed upon thee ere the creation of words and letters and the fashioning of all things, and ere the establishment of the kingdom of names and attributes and the revelation of His mighty and guarded Tablet. Say: This is a Power unsurpassed from all eternity to all eternity, could ye but know it, O concourse of the Spirit, and this is a Beauty unrivalled from the beginning that hath no beginning, could ye but perceive it. Say: Whoso conceiveth the least design to confront this Pen, to presume partnership with it, to gain intimate access unto it, or to fully grasp that which emanateth from it, be assured that the Evil One doth whisper within his breast. Thus hath the Divine Command been issued, could ye but understand. Say: By God! None hath ever been, nor shall ever be, able to rival Me amidst all creation. Thus hath it been inscribed by the Pen of divine revelation, could ye but comprehend it. Say: A single letter of Mine utterance hath, verily, brought forth the entire universe, the realities of all things, and worlds which none can fathom save God, the Almighty, the Most Manifest.

4.

      O Pen! Give ear unto that which the unbelievers have imputed to thee. Say: O assemblage of malice! Perish in your hatred, in your envy and your unbelief! By Him Who is the Eternal Truth! This is that Pen through a mere intimation of whose will the souls of the Concourse on high, and the realities of the denizens of the everlasting realm, and the essences of human hearts and minds, were all fashioned. This is that Pen through but a movement of which the sun of might and grandeur, and the moon of loftiness and sanctity, and the stars of grace and favour, were called into existence. This is that Pen through which were created the all-highest Paradise and all that abide therein, and the celestial garden and all that pertaineth thereto, could ye but comprehend. Say: Through but a single stroke have been manifested the knowledge of all that was and shall be, and the creation of all things past and future. Open then your eyes that ye may bear witness to this truth.

5.

      O Pen! Content thyself with that which thou hast so far intimated to the world of thy sovereignty and power, for the hearts of the envious are well-nigh bursting. Veil, then, thy Cause, and reveal no more than this, for thy words would rend asunder the heavens of ancient glory, and cleave in twain the earth of holiness itself, and cause the inmates of the realm of grandeur to swoon away. Be patient in thy heart, for the people of the world are incapable of beholding thy sovereignty or perceiving thy manifold signs, how much less of recognizing Him Who hath created and fashioned thee through but a single word of His utterance! Exalted is thy Lord above all that thou hast revealed in the past or wilt manifest in the future. Exalted is He above all that His sincere and well-favoured servants have comprehended or will ever comprehend. Content thyself, then, with that which thou hast thus far revealed. I swear by the One True God! Should all that are in the heavens and on earth and whatsoever lieth between them — whether trees, fruits, leaves, twigs, branches, rivers, oceans, or mountains — encounter a single word of thy pronouncement, they would assuredly speak forth that which the Burning Bush, springing from the soil of divine revelation, spoke unto Moses in that holy and blessed Vale.

6.

      O Pen! Give ear unto the wondrous account of that which God hath graciously bestowed upon thee. Detach thyself, then, from all thou dost possess, and announce unto the people the joyful tidings of the appearance of the Most Exalted Word in this mighty Revelation, that haply they may recognize their Creator and renounce all else but Him. Call then upon the Concourse on high to rejoice, saying: O ye exponents of grandeur sheltered beneath the tabernacle of majesty! O ye denizens of the dominion of power abiding beneath the canopy of glory! O ye dwellers of the kingdom of the seen and the unseen situate in the furthermost precincts beyond the ocean of eternity! O ye manifestations of the divine names in the highest heaven! Let your hearts rejoice in this Most Great Festival wherein God Himself proffereth this most pure chalice unto such as stand before Him with beseeming lowliness and humility. Adorn, then, your souls with the silken vesture of certitude and your bodies with the broidered robe of the All-Merciful, for lo, a light hath dawned forth and shone resplendent from the horizon of My brow, before whose revelation all that are in the heavens and on earth have bowed down in adoration, could ye but perceive it.

7.

      Say: I swear by the one true God that there hath never appeared in all creation another like unto Him. Whoso asserteth otherwise hath gainsaid the testimony of God and is accounted among the faithless in His mighty and well-guarded Tablet. Say: This is the Light through which the inhabitants of the celestial world and their inner realities have been brought forth, and through which the embodiments of the heavenly realm and their inmost essences have been raised up. This is the Light through which God hath created worlds that have neither beginning nor end, worlds whereof none hath the slightest intimation save those whom their Lord hath willed. Thus do We disclose unto you the hidden mysteries, that haply ye may ponder the signs of God. Say: This, verily, is the Light before whose effulgence every head hath bowed down in lowliness, and before whose manifestation the hearts of the well-favoured of God, and the souls of His holy ones, and the inmost realities of His true worshippers, and beyond them His honoured servants, have prostrated themselves in adoration.

8.

      O inmates of the holy sanctuary! I swear by God! He in very truth is the Sanctuary of God amongst you and His sacred Precinct in your midst, the holy Site of the Spirit before your eyes and the Station of both inner and outer peace and security. Take heed lest ye deprive yourselves of the Sanctuary of His knowledge. Hasten unto Him and tarry not. This is that Sanctuary round which circle the Manifestations of the Divine Being and the Embodiments of His eternal Reality, and whose court God hath hallowed beyond the reach of the outcast and the ungodly. This, verily, is that Sanctuary the blessing of whose service is sought by the Maids of Heaven, and them that dwell in the depths of the Most Great Ocean, and them that abide in the habitation of holiness and the realm of reunion — and yet the people, for the most part, comprehend not.

9.

      O denizens of earth and heaven! Abandon your couches and undertake the Most Great Pilgrimage for the sake of this pure and refulgent Beauty. Should God witness your inability to do so, He will exempt you therefrom and command you instead to approach Him with heart and soul. And they alone shall attain this who behold all that is in the heavens and on the earth as a day wherein none was deemed worthy of mention.[9] These are they to whom their Lord will give to drink, from His own hands, of the sealed wine of holiness. Verily, whoso turneth his face towards this most blessed and luminous Spot, round him shall circle resplendent suns whose effulgence knoweth neither beginning nor end, and above the horizon of his heart there shall dawn that Sun of suns before Whose light the orbs of worldly names are wrapped in darkness, if ye be of them that understand.

10.

      O Pen! Proclaim unto the concourse of eternity, saying: O ye that rove in the arenas of immortality! O ye that abide beneath the tabernacle of grandeur! O ye gem-like realities that lie hid from the eyes of creation! Descend from your lofty retreats to celebrate and rejoice, and to quaff from the cup of everlasting life that the hand of the All-Glorious is proffering on this Day. This, in truth, is a Day the like of which hath never been witnessed in all creation, a Day whereon the Eye of Grandeur hath been cheered in the Seat of transcendent glory. O ye bearers of the throne of God! Adorn the most great throne on this Day, for the unseen Beauty hath appeared — He Whose presence the inmates of the all-highest Paradise and the dwellers of the garden of repose have thus far been powerless to attain. Say: By God! The Hidden Secret hath appeared in the plenitude of His glory and hath solaced by His beauty the eyes of all things seen and unseen, and beyond them the eyes of them that have cleansed their souls with the holy waters streaming from the ocean of the Name of their Lord, the Most Manifest.

11.

      Say: This is a Day whereon God hath made His own Self known and revealed it unto all who are in the heavens and on earth, a day whereon He hath established His sovereign ascendancy over the kingdoms of revelation and creation. How exalted, then, is this holy, this most blessed and best-beloved grace! This is a Day, moreover, whereon the Ancient Beauty hath appeared with such an adorning as to cause the veils to be rent asunder, and the mysteries to be revealed, and the fruits to spring forth, and all things to utter the praise of their Lord, the Unconstrained — a Day whereon the earth and all that it holdeth, and the heavens and all that they contain, and the mountains and all that they conceal, and the oceans and all that they treasure in their depths, have laid bare their secrets, though the people remain veiled therefrom. This is a day whereon the idols of misbelief and worldly desire have been shattered and the Ancient Beauty hath ascended His mighty throne. The Spirit of glory hath called out from the precincts of eternity, and the Most Holy Spirit from the Divine Lote-Tree, and the Spirit of command from the Tree beyond which there is no passing, and the Spirit of might from the exalted dominion, and the faithful Spirit from the right hand of the Burning Bush, saying: “Hallowed be the Lord of mercy, Who hath appeared in the world of existence invested with that which mortal eyes had never beheld!” Say: He it is Who through a movement of His finger causeth the creatures of earth and heaven to perish, Who through a word of His mouth bringeth them to life again, and Who through a mere intimation of His glance turneth all creation unto the presence of God, the Help in Peril, the Almighty, the Best-Beloved.

12.

      Say: O concourse of monks! Abandon the churches wherein ye have glorified your Lord, for He Who ascended unto heaven hath in very truth come down again and circleth round the Throne of God. I swear by the one true God! In this Day the bells are pealing out in My remembrance, the Trumpet soundeth My praise, and the Bugle proclaimeth My Name, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Deprive not yourselves of the grace of this day; hasten rather to the seat of the Throne, forsake that which ye possess, and take fast hold of the Cord of God, Who hath arisen and manifested Himself and spoken forth for all to hear.

13.       O inhabitants of the realms of the seen and the unseen! Sing, O sing the most joyous melodies on this Festival of God which hath appeared with the power of truth and to which the former and latter generations had never attained, could ye but know it. This is the Day whereon the Pen of God hath absolved all who are in the heavens and on earth. Thus hath His eternal command shone forth from the dayspring of His Pen, that ye may rejoice in your souls and be of those whose hearts are gladdened.

14.

      O Pen! Announce unto the Maid of Paradise:[10] “By God! This day is thy day. Come forth as thou willest, and array thyself as thou pleasest with the broidered robe of names and the silken vesture of immortality. Emerge then from thine eternal habitation even as the sun that dawneth from the countenance of Bahá. Descend from thy lofty heights and, standing betwixt earth and heaven, lift the veil of concealment from thy luminous face and shine forth above the horizon of creation as the black-eyed Damsel, that haply the most great veil may be torn away from the eyes of these people and they may behold the Scene of transcendent glory, the Beauty of God, the Most Holy, the Most Powerful, the Best-Beloved.”

15.

      “O Ancient Beauty! The unbelievers, verily, are lost in the stupor of idle fancy and are powerless to turn their eyes towards the most hallowed Court. Through the sovereign potency of Thine inviolable protection, Thou hast shielded me beneath the veils of light and guarded my beauty from the gaze of Thine enemies. Thine is the power to command; Thou ordainest as Thou pleasest through Thy word ‘Be’, and it is.”

16.

      “O Maid of Bahá! Step forth from the court of eternity, but let not thy most pure gaze linger upon the faces of mortal men. I swear by the one true God! None save them that are possessed of true insight can ever hope to behold thee in this most sublime vision. Leave the kingdom of names on thy right and the dominion of attributes on thy left, and shine forth by My leave above the horizon of Mine inviolable protection, divested of all that hath been created in the realm of Revelation and shorn of all that hath appeared in the kingdom of creation, that thou mayest manifest the beauteous image of God in all regions. Intone, then, the sweetest of melodies betwixt earth and heaven, that all existence may be detached from aught save the face of thy Lord, the Most Holy, the Most Gracious, the Well-Beloved. Beam forth above the horizon of the Ridvan with the beauty of the All-Merciful, and let thy fragrant locks flow upon thy bosom, that the perfume of the garment of thy most gracious Lord may be diffused throughout the world. Hide not thy luminous form from the eyes of the concourse of Revelation, and withhold not thine ethereal veil of holiness from the gaze of the people. Present thyself, then, before the Throne with thy locks flowing, thine arms bejewelled, thy countenance blushing, thy cheeks aglow, and thine eyes adorned, and take hold of the snow-white chalice in My most exalted Name. Proffer then to the denizens of the realm of eternity the crimson wine of Mine all-glorious Beauty, that haply the concourse of Revelation may sanctify their souls in this most august Festival by virtue of this pure draught, and that they may emerge from behind the veil of concealment through the power of Mine almighty and all-powerful, Mine all-subduing and self-subsisting sovereignty.”

17.

      “By God! I am the Maid of Heaven, abiding in the midmost heart of Paradise, hidden behind the veil of the All-Merciful and concealed from the eyes of men. From time immemorial I remained shrouded in the veil of sanctity beneath the Tabernacle of Grandeur. I heard a most sweet call from the right hand of the throne of my Lord, the Most Exalted, and I saw Paradise itself set in motion and all its inhabitants stirred up in their longing to attain the presence of God, the All-Glorious. Whereupon another call was raised: ‘By God! The Beloved of the worlds is come! Blessed be the one who attaineth His presence, and beholdeth His face, and giveth ear to His most holy, His most glorious and beloved utterance. The Voice of God hath enraptured the souls of the Concourse on high and the hearts of the dwellers of the everlasting realm, and the all-consuming ecstasies of love have caused them to tremble with yearning and to fix their gaze upon the court of sanctity, the station of unapproachable glory.’ Were I to speak in every tongue, I would nonetheless be powerless to describe that which I beheld in that state. And yet, in spite of this grace that hath encompassed all things, and this rapture that hath overtaken all that are immersed beneath the ocean of names, behold, I found the people of the Bayan veiled and heedless, and lying as dead in the graves of oblivion. O people of the Bayan! Reckon ye to be treading the path of the spirit even as ye have rejected this Revelation? Nay, by my Beauty, which God hath ordained as the manifestation of His own Beauty amongst all the former and latter generations!”

18.

      “O Maid of holiness! Forsake the mention of such people, for their hearts are as immovable as stones and impervious to all but the promptings of idle fancy. For they remain immature in the Cause of God and suckle the milk of ignorance at the breast of waywardness. Leave them to dwell upon the dust, and warble thou My melodies in the realm of eternity. Apprise, then, the inhabitants of Paradise of that which hath been manifested in the kingdom of creation. Thus may they become attracted by Thy sweet accents, hasten towards this hallowed and promised Beauty, and become fully apprised of this Day — a Day whereon all things have been adorned with the ornament of names, a Day whereon every poor one hath found the source of true wealth and every deprived and sinful soul hath attained forgiveness.”

19.

      O people! Seek ye in these days the grace of God and His all-embracing mercy, and beware lest ye follow in the footsteps of every veiled and heedless soul.

20.

      Thus the summons of the Pen regarding this blessed and fated account endeth, in this Tablet.



Sandra Lynn Hutchison
Bio: Sandra Lynn Hutchison is the author of two books: Chinese Brushstrokes (Turnstone Press, 1996), a collection of stories about China in the prelude to and aftermath of the Tiananmen Uprising, and The Art of Nesting (GR Books, 2008), a book of poetry. Her stories have been anthologized in a variety of publications, including Chinese Ink, Western Pen: The Oxford Anthology of Stories About China (Oxford U. Press, 2000). She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in English literature and has been the recipient of various academic and literary awards, including a Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship, an Emily Dickinson Poetry Prize from Universities West Press and a Jane Kenyon Poetry Scholarship from Bennington College, where she did work towards an MFA in Poetry. She lives and teaches in Orono, Maine, where she is working on a memoir and a novel.
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