Thus Jesus, Son of Mary, whilst seated one day and speaking in the strain of the Holy Spirit, uttered words such as these: “O people! My food is the grass of the field, wherewith I satisfy my hunger. My bed is the dust, my lamp in the night the light of the moon, and my steed my own feet. Behold, who on earth is richer than I?” By the righteousness of God! Thousands of treasures circle round this poverty, and a myriad kingdoms of glory yearn for such abasement! Shouldst thou attain to a drop of the ocean of the inner meaning of these words, thou wouldst surely forsake the world and all that is therein, and, as the Phoenix, wouldst consume thyself in the flames of the undying Fire.
In like manner, it is related that on a certain day, one of the companions of Ṣádiq complained of his poverty before him. Whereupon, Ṣádiq, that immortal beauty, made reply: “Verily thou art rich, and hast drunk the draft of wealth.” That poverty-stricken soul was perplexed at the words uttered by that luminous countenance, and said: “Where are my riches, I who stand in need of a single coin?” Ṣádiq thereupon observed: “Dost thou not possess our love?” He replied: “Yea, I possess it, O thou scion of the Prophet of God!” And Ṣádiq asked him saying: “Exchangest thou this love for one thousand dinars?” He answered: “Nay, never will I exchange it, though the world and all that is therein be given me!” Then Ṣádiq remarked: “How can he who possesses such a treasure be called poor?”
This poverty and these riches, this abasement and glory, this dominion, power, and the like, upon which the eyes and hearts of these vain and foolish souls are set—all these things fade into utter nothingness in that Court! Even as He hath said: “O men! Ye are but paupers in need of God; but God is the Rich, the Self-Sufficing.”95 By “riches” therefore is meant independence of all else but God, and by “poverty” the lack of things that are of God.
Similarly, call thou to mind the day when the Jews, who had surrounded Jesus, Son of Mary, were pressing Him to confess His claim of being the Messiah and Prophet of God, so that they might declare Him an infidel and sentence Him to death. Then they led Him away, He Who was the Daystar of the heaven of divine Revelation, unto Pilate and Caiaphas, who was the leading divine of that age. The chief priests were all assembled in the palace, also a multitude of people who had gathered to witness His sufferings, to deride and injure Him. Though they repeatedly questioned Him, hoping that He would confess His claim, yet Jesus held His peace and spake not. Finally, an accursed of God arose and, approaching Jesus, adjured Him saying: “Didst thou not claim to be the Divine Messiah? Didst thou not say, ‘I am the King of Kings, My word is the Word of God, and I am the breaker of the Sabbath day’?” Thereupon Jesus lifted up His head and said: “Beholdest thou not the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and might?” These were His words, and yet consider how to outward seeming He was devoid of all power except that inner power which was of God and which had encompassed all that is in heaven and on earth. How can I relate all that befell Him after He spoke these words? How shall I describe their heinous behavior towards Him? They at last heaped on His blessed Person such woes that He took His flight unto the fourth Heaven.
It is also recorded in the Gospel according to St. Luke, that on a certain day Jesus passed by a Jew who was sick of the palsy, and lay upon a couch. When the Jew saw Him, he recognized Him, and cried out for His help. Jesus said unto him: “Arise from thy bed; thy sins are forgiven thee.” Certain of the Jews, standing by, protested saying: “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” And immediately He perceived their thoughts, Jesus answering said unto them: “Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, arise, and take up thy bed, and walk; or to say, thy sins are forgiven thee? that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.”96 This is the real sovereignty, and such is the power of God’s chosen Ones! All these things which We have repeatedly mentioned, and the details which We have cited from divers sources, have no other purpose but to enable thee to grasp the meaning of the allusions in the utterances of the chosen Ones of God, lest certain of these utterances cause thy feet to falter and thy heart to be dismayed.
Thus with steadfast steps we may tread the Path of certitude, that perchance the breeze that bloweth from the meads of the good-pleasure of God may waft upon us the sweet savors of divine acceptance, and cause us, vanishing mortals that we are, to attain unto the Kingdom of everlasting glory. Then wilt thou comprehend the inner meaning of sovereignty and the like, spoken of in the traditions and scriptures. Furthermore, it is already evident and known unto thee that those things to which the Jews and the Christians have clung, and the cavilings which they heaped upon the Beauty of Muḥammad, the same have in this day been upheld by the people of the Qur’án, and been witnessed in their denunciations of the “Point of the Bayán”—may the souls of all that dwell within the kingdom of divine Revelations be a sacrifice unto Him! Behold their folly: they utter the selfsame words, uttered by the Jews of old, and know it not! How well and true are His words concerning them: “Leave them to entertain themselves with their cavilings!”97 “As Thou livest, O Muḥammad! they are seized by the frenzy of their vain fancies.”98
When the Unseen, the Eternal, the divine Essence, caused the Daystar of Muḥammad to rise above the horizon of knowledge, among the cavils which the Jewish divines raised against Him was that after Moses no Prophet should be sent of God. Yea, mention hath been made in the scriptures of a Soul Who must needs be made manifest and Who will advance the Faith, and promote the interests of the people, of Moses, so that the Law of the Mosaic Dispensation may encompass the whole earth. Thus hath the King of eternal glory referred in His Book to the words uttered by those wanderers in the vale of remoteness and error: “‘The hand of God,’ say the Jews, ‘is chained up.’ Chained up be their own hands! And for that which they have said, they were accursed. Nay, outstretched are both His hands!”99 “The hand of God is above their hands.”100
Although the commentators of the Qur’án have related in divers manners the circumstances attending the revelation of this verse, yet thou shouldst endeavor to apprehend the purpose thereof. He saith: How false is that which the Jews have imagined! How can the hand of Him Who is the King in truth, Who caused the countenance of Moses to be made manifest, and conferred upon Him the robe of Prophethood—how can the hand of such a One be chained and fettered? How can He be conceived as powerless to raise up yet another Messenger after Moses? Behold the absurdity of their saying; how far it hath strayed from the path of knowledge and understanding! Observe how in this day also, all these people have occupied themselves with such foolish absurdities. For over a thousand years they have been reciting this verse, and unwittingly pronouncing their censure against the Jews, utterly unaware that they themselves, openly and privily, are voicing the sentiments and belief of the Jewish people! Thou art surely aware of their idle contention, that all Revelation is ended, that the portals of Divine mercy are closed, that from the daysprings of eternal holiness no sun shall rise again, that the Ocean of everlasting bounty is forever stilled, and that out of the Tabernacle of ancient glory the Messengers of God have ceased to be made manifest. Such is the measure of the understanding of these small-minded, contemptible people. These people have imagined that the flow of God’s all-encompassing grace and plenteous mercies, the cessation of which no mind can contemplate, has been halted. From every side they have risen and girded up the loins of tyranny, and exerted the utmost endeavor to quench with the bitter waters of their vain fancy the flame of God’s Burning Bush, oblivious that the globe of power shall within its own mighty stronghold protect the Lamp of God. The utter destitution into which this people have fallen doth surely suffice them, inasmuch as they have been deprived of the recognition of the essential Purpose and the knowledge of the Mystery and Substance of the Cause of God. For the highest and most excelling grace bestowed upon men is the grace of “attaining unto the Presence of God” and of His recognition, which has been promised unto all people. This is the utmost degree of grace vouchsafed unto man by the All-Bountiful, the Ancient of Days, and the fullness of His absolute bounty upon His creatures. Of this grace and bounty none of this people hath partaken, neither have they been honored with this most exalted distinction. How numerous are those revealed verses which explicitly bear witness unto this most weighty truth and exalted Theme! And yet they have rejected it, and, after their own desire, misconstrued its meaning. Even as He hath revealed: “As for those who believe not in the signs of God, or that they shall ever meet Him, these of My mercy shall despair, and for them doth a grievous chastisement await.”101 Also He saith: “They who bear in mind that they shall attain unto the Presence of their Lord, and that unto Him shall they return.”102 Also in another instance He saith: “They who held it as certain that they must meet God, said, ‘How oft, by God’s will, hath a small host vanquished a numerous host!’”103 In yet another instance He revealeth: “Let him then who hopeth to attain the presence of his Lord work a righteous work.”104 And also He saith: “He ordereth all things. He maketh His signs clear, that ye may have firm faith in attaining the presence of your Lord.”105
This people have repudiated all these verses, that unmistakably testify to the reality of “attainment unto the Divine Presence.” No theme hath been more emphatically asserted in the holy scriptures. Notwithstanding, they have deprived themselves of this lofty and most exalted rank, this supreme and glorious station. Some have contended that by “attainment unto the Divine Presence” is meant the “Revelation” of God in the Day of Resurrection. Should they assert that the “Revelation” of God signifieth a “Universal Revelation,” it is clear and evident that such revelation already existeth in all things. The truth of this We have already established, inasmuch as We have demonstrated that all things are the recipients and revealers of the splendors of that ideal King, and that the signs of the revelation of that Sun, the Source of all splendor, exist and are manifest in the mirrors of beings. Nay, were man to gaze with the eye of divine and spiritual discernment, he will readily recognize that nothing whatsoever can exist without the revelation of the splendor of God, the ideal King. Consider how all created things eloquently testify to the revelation of that inner Light within them. Behold how within all things the portals of the Riḍván of God are opened, that seekers may attain the cities of understanding and wisdom, and enter the gardens of knowledge and power. Within every garden they will behold the mystic bride of inner meaning enshrined within the chambers of utterance in the utmost grace and fullest adornment. Most of the verses of the Qur’án indicate, and bear witness to, this spiritual theme. The verse: “Neither is there aught which doth not celebrate His praise”106 is eloquent testimony thereto; and “We noted all things and wrote them down,”107 a faithful witness thereof. Now, if by “attainment unto the Presence of God” is meant attainment unto the knowledge of such revelation, it is evident that all men have already attained unto the presence of the unchangeable Countenance of that peerless King. Why, then, restrict such revelation to the Day of Resurrection?
And were they to maintain that by “divine Presence” is meant the “Specific Revelation of God,” expressed by certain Ṣúfís as the “Most Holy Outpouring,” if this be in the Essence Itself, it is evident that it hath been eternally in the divine Knowledge. Assuming the truth of this hypothesis, “attainment unto the divine Presence” is in this sense obviously possible to no one, inasmuch as this revelation is confined to the innermost Essence, unto which no man can attain. “The way is barred, and all seeking rejected.” The minds of the favorites of heaven, however high they soar, can never attain this station, how much less the understanding of obscured and limited minds.
And were they to say that by “divine Presence” is meant the “Secondary Revelation of God,” interpreted as the “Holy Outpouring,” this is admittedly applicable to the world of creation, that is, in the realm of the primal and original manifestation of God. Such revelation is confined to His Prophets and chosen Ones, inasmuch as none mightier than they hath come to exist in the world of being. This truth all recognize, and bear witness thereto. These Prophets and chosen Ones of God are the recipients and revealers of all the unchangeable attributes and names of God. They are the mirrors that truly and faithfully reflect the light of God. Whatsoever is applicable to them is in reality applicable to God, Himself, Who is both the Visible and the Invisible. The knowledge of Him, Who is the Origin of all things, and attainment unto Him, are impossible save through knowledge of, and attainment unto, these luminous Beings who proceed from the Sun of Truth. By attaining, therefore, to the presence of these holy Luminaries, the “Presence of God” Himself is attained. From their knowledge, the knowledge of God is revealed, and from the light of their countenance, the splendor of the Face of God is made manifest. Through the manifold attributes of these Essences of Detachment, Who are both the first and the last, the seen and the hidden, it is made evident that He Who is the Sun of Truth is “the First and the Last, the Seen, and the Hidden.”108 Likewise the other lofty names and exalted attributes of God. Therefore, whosoever, and in whatever Dispensation, hath recognized and attained unto the presence of these glorious, these resplendent and most excellent Luminaries, hath verily attained unto the “Presence of God” Himself, and entered the city of eternal and immortal life. Attainment unto such presence is possible only in the Day of Resurrection, which is the Day of the rise of God Himself through His all-embracing Revelation.
This is the meaning of the “Day of Resurrection,” spoken of in all the scriptures, and announced unto all people. Reflect, can a more precious, a mightier, and more glorious day than this be conceived, so that man should willingly forego its grace, and deprive himself of its bounties, which like unto vernal showers are raining from the heaven of mercy upon all mankind? Having thus conclusively demonstrated that no day is greater than this Day, and no revelation more glorious than this Revelation, and having set forth all these weighty and infallible proofs which no understanding mind can question, and no man of learning overlook, how can man possibly, through the idle contention of the people of doubt and fancy, deprive himself of such a bountiful grace? Have they not heard the well-known tradition: “When the Qá’im riseth, that day is the Day of Resurrection”? In like manner, the Imáms, those unquenchable lights of divine guidance, have interpreted the verse: “What can such expect but that God should come down to them overshadowed with clouds,”109—a sign which they have unquestionably regarded as one of the features of the Day of Resurrection—as referring to the Qá’im and His manifestation.
Strive, therefore, O my brother, to grasp the meaning of “Resurrection,” and cleanse thine ears from the idle sayings of these rejected people. Shouldst thou step into the realm of complete detachment, thou wilt readily testify that no day is mightier than this Day, and that no resurrection more awful than this Resurrection can ever be conceived. One righteous work performed in this Day, equaleth all the virtuous acts which for myriads of centuries men have practiced—nay, We ask forgiveness of God for such a comparison! For verily the reward which such a deed deserveth is immensely beyond and above the estimate of men. Inasmuch as these undiscerning and wretched souls have failed to apprehend the true meaning of “Resurrection” and of the “attainment unto the divine Presence,” they therefore have remained utterly deprived of the grace thereof. Although the sole and fundamental purpose of all learning, and the toil and labor thereof, is attainment unto, and the recognition of, this station, yet they are all immersed in the pursuit of their material studies. They deny themselves every moment of leisure, and utterly ignore Him, Who is the Essence of all learning, and the one Object of their quest! Methinks, their lips have never touched the cup of divine Knowledge, nor do they seem to have attained even a dewdrop of the showers of heavenly grace.
Consider, how can he that faileth in the day of God’s Revelation to attain unto the grace of the “Divine Presence” and to recognize His Manifestation, be justly called learned, though he may have spent aeons in the pursuit of knowledge, and acquired all the limited and material learning of men? It is surely evident that he can in no wise be regarded as possessed of true knowledge. Whereas, the most unlettered of all men, if he be honored with this supreme distinction, he verily is accounted as one of those divinely learned men whose knowledge is of God; for such a man hath attained the acme of knowledge, and hath reached the furthermost summit of learning.
This station is also one of the signs of the Day of Revelation; even as it is said: “The abased amongst you, He shall exalt; and they that are exalted, He shall abase.” And likewise, He hath revealed in the Qur’án: “And We desire to show favor to those who were brought low in the land, and to make them spiritual leaders among men, and to make of them Our heirs.”110 It hath been witnessed in this day how many of the divines, owing to their rejection of the Truth, have fallen into, and abide within, the uttermost depths of ignorance, and whose names have been effaced from the scroll of the glorious and learned. And how many of the ignorant who, by reason of their acceptance of the Faith, have soared aloft and attained the high summit of knowledge, and whose names have been inscribed by the Pen of Power upon the Tablet of divine Knowledge. Thus, “What He pleaseth will God abrogate or confirm: for with Him is the Source of Revelation.”111 Therefore, it hath been said: “To seek evidence, when the Proof hath been established is but an unseemly act, and to be busied with the pursuit of knowledge when the Object of all learning hath been attained is truly blameworthy.” Say O people of the earth! Behold this flamelike Youth that speedeth across the limitless profound of the Spirit, heralding unto you the tidings: “Lo: the Lamp of God is shining,” and summoning you to heed His Cause which, though hidden beneath the veils of ancient splendor, shineth in the land of ‘Iráq above the dayspring of eternal holiness.
O my friend, were the bird of thy mind to explore the heavens of the Revelation of the Qur’án, were it to contemplate the realm of divine knowledge unfolded therein, thou wouldst assuredly find unnumbered doors of knowledge set open before thee. Thou wouldst certainly recognize that all these things which have in this day hindered this people from attaining the shores of the ocean of eternal grace, the same things in the Muḥammadan Dispensation prevented the people of that age from recognizing that divine Luminary, and from testifying to His truth. Thou wilt also apprehend the mysteries of “return” and “revelation,” and wilt securely abide within the loftiest chambers of certitude and assurance.
And it came to pass that on a certain day a number of the opponents of that peerless Beauty, those that had strayed far from God’s imperishable Sanctuary, scornfully spoke these words unto Muḥammad: “Verily, God hath entered into a covenant with us that we are not to credit an apostle until he present us a sacrifice which fire out of heaven shall devour.”112 The purport of this verse is that God hath covenanted with them that they should not believe in any messenger unless he work the miracle of Abel and Cain, that is, offer a sacrifice, and the fire from heaven consume it; even as they had heard it recounted in the story of Abel, which story is recorded in the scriptures. To this, Muḥammad, answering, said: “Already have Apostles before me come to you with sure testimonies, and with that of which ye speak. Wherefore slew ye them? Tell me, if ye are men of truth.”113 And now, be fair; How could those people living in the days of Muḥammad have existed, thousands of years before, in the age of Adam or other Prophets? Why should Muḥammad, that Essence of truthfulness, have charged the people of His day with the murder of Abel or other Prophets? Thou hast none other alternative except to regard Muḥammad as an impostor or a fool—which God forbid!—or to maintain that those people of wickedness were the selfsame people who in every age opposed and caviled at the Prophets and Messengers of God, till they finally caused them all to suffer martyrdom.
Ponder this in thine heart, that the sweet gales of divine knowledge, blowing from the meads of mercy, may waft upon thee the fragrance of the Beloved’s utterance, and cause thy soul to attain the Riḍván of understanding. As the wayward of every age have failed to fathom the deeper import of these weighty and pregnant utterances, and imagined the answer of the Prophets of God to be irrelevant to the questions they asked them, they therefore have attributed ignorance and folly to those Essences of knowledge and understanding.
Likewise, Muḥammad, in another verse, uttereth His protest against the people of that age. He saith: “Although they had before prayed for victory over those who believed not, yet when there came unto them, He of Whom they had knowledge, they disbelieved in Him. The curse of God on the infidels!”114 Reflect how this verse also implieth that the people living in the days of Muḥammad were the same people who in the days of the Prophets of old contended and fought in order to promote the Faith, and teach the Cause, of God. And yet, how could the generations living at the time of Jesus and Moses, and those who lived in the days of Muḥammad, be regarded as being actually one and the same people? Moreover, those whom they had formerly known were Moses, the Revealer of the Pentateuch, and Jesus, the Author of the Gospel. Notwithstanding, why did Muḥammad say: “When He of Whom they had knowledge came unto them”—that is Jesus or Moses—“they disbelieved in Him”? Was not Muḥammad to outward seeming called by a different name? Did He not come forth out of a different city? Did He not speak a different language, and reveal a different Law? How then can the truth of this verse be established, and its meaning be made clear?
Strive therefore to comprehend the meaning of “return” which hath been so explicitly revealed in the Qur’án itself, and which none hath as yet understood. What sayest thou? If thou sayest that Muḥammad was the “return” of the Prophets of old, as is witnessed by this verse, His Companions must likewise be the “return” of the bygone Companions, even as the “return” of the former people is clearly attested by the text of the above-mentioned verses. And if thou deniest this, thou hast surely repudiated the truth of the Qur’án, the surest testimony of God unto men. In like manner, endeavor to grasp the significance of “return,” “revelation,” and “resurrection,” as witnessed in the days of the Manifestations of the divine Essence, that thou mayest behold with thine own eyes the “return” of the holy souls into sanctified and illumined bodies, and mayest wash away the dust of ignorance, and cleanse the darkened self with the waters of mercy flowing from the Source of divine Knowledge; that perchance thou mayest, through the power of God and the light of divine guidance, distinguish the Morn of everlasting splendor from the darksome night of error.
Furthermore, it is evident to thee that the Bearers of the trust of God are made manifest unto the peoples of the earth as the Exponents of a new Cause and the Bearers of a new Message. Inasmuch as these Birds of the Celestial Throne are all sent down from the heaven of the Will of God, and as they all arise to proclaim His irresistible Faith, they therefore are regarded as one soul and the same person. For they all drink from the one Cup of the love of God, and all partake of the fruit of the same Tree of Oneness. These Manifestations of God have each a twofold station. One is the station of pure abstraction and essential unity. In this respect, if thou callest them all by one name, and dost ascribe to them the same attribute, thou hast not erred from the truth. Even as He hath revealed: “No distinction do We make between any of His Messengers!”115 For they one and all summon the people of the earth to acknowledge the Unity of God, and herald unto them the Kawthar of an infinite grace and bounty. They are all invested with the robe of Prophethood, and honored with the mantle of glory. Thus hath Muḥammad, the Point of the Qur’án, revealed: “I am all the Prophets.” Likewise, He saith: “I am the first Adam, Noah, Moses, and Jesus.” Similar statements have been made by ‘Alí. Sayings such as this, which indicate the essential unity of those Exponents of Oneness, have also emanated from the Channels of God’s immortal utterance, and the Treasuries of the gems of divine knowledge, and have been recorded in the scriptures. These Countenances are the recipients of the Divine Command, and the daysprings of His Revelation. This Revelation is exalted above the veils of plurality and the exigencies of number. Thus He saith: “Our Cause is but one.”116 Inasmuch as the Cause is one and the same, the Exponents thereof also must needs be one and the same. Likewise, the Imáms of the Muḥammadan Faith, those lamps of certitude, have said: “Muḥammad is our first, Muḥammad our last, Muḥammad our all.”
It is clear and evident to thee that all the Prophets are the Temples of the Cause of God, Who have appeared clothed in divers attire. If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt behold them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith. Such is the unity of those Essences of being, those Luminaries of infinite and immeasurable splendor. Wherefore, should one of these Manifestations of Holiness proclaim saying: “I am the return of all the Prophets,” He verily speaketh the truth. In like manner, in every subsequent Revelation, the return of the former Revelation is a fact, the truth of which is firmly established. Inasmuch as the return of the Prophets of God, as attested by verses and traditions, hath been conclusively demonstrated, the return of their chosen ones also is therefore definitely proven. This return is too manifest in itself to require any evidence or proof. For instance, consider that among the Prophets was Noah. When He was invested with the robe of Prophethood, and was moved by the Spirit of God to arise and proclaim His Cause, whoever believed in Him and acknowledged His Faith was endowed with the grace of a new life. Of him it could be truly said that he was reborn and revived, inasmuch as previous to his belief in God and his acceptance of His Manifestation, he had set his affections on the things of the world, such as attachment to earthly goods, to wife, children, food, drink, and the like, so much so that in the daytime and in the night-season his one concern had been to amass riches and procure for himself the means of enjoyment and pleasure. Aside from these things, before his partaking of the reviving waters of faith, he had been so wedded to the traditions of his forefathers, and so passionately devoted to the observance of their customs and laws, that he would have preferred to suffer death rather than violate one letter of those superstitious forms and manners current amongst his people. Even as the people have cried: “Verily we found our fathers with a faith, and verily, in their footsteps we follow.”117
These same people, though wrapt in all these veils of limitation, and despite the restraint of such observances, as soon as they drank the immortal draft of faith, from the cup of certitude, at the hand of the Manifestation of the All-Glorious, were so transformed that they would renounce for His sake their kindred, their substance, their lives, their beliefs, yea, all else save God! So overpowering was their yearning for God, so uplifting their transports of ecstatic delight, that the world and all that is therein faded before their eyes into nothingness. Have not this people exemplified the mysteries of “rebirth” and “return”? Hath it not been witnessed that these same people, ere they were endued with the new and wondrous grace of God, sought through innumerable devices to ensure the protection of their lives against destruction? Would not a thorn fill them with terror, and the sight of a fox put them to flight? But once having been honored with God’s supreme distinction, and having been vouchsafed His bountiful grace, they would, if they were able, have freely offered up ten thousand lives in His path! Nay, their blessed souls, contemptuous of the cage of their bodies, would yearn for deliverance. A single warrior of that host would face and fight a multitude! And yet, how could they, but for the transformation wrought in their lives, be capable of manifesting such deeds which are contrary to the ways of men and incompatible with their worldly desires?
It is evident that nothing short of this mystic transformation could cause such spirit and behavior, so utterly unlike their previous habits and manners, to be made manifest in the world of being. For their agitation was turned into peace, their doubt into certitude, their timidity into courage. Such is the potency of the Divine Elixir, which, swift as the twinkling of an eye, transmuteth the souls of men!
For instance, consider the substance of copper. Were it to be protected in its own mine from becoming solidified, it would, within the space of seventy years, attain to the state of gold. There are some, however, who maintain that copper itself is gold, which by becoming solidified is in a diseased condition, and hath not therefore reached its own state.
Be that as it may, the real elixir will, in one instant, cause the substance of copper to attain the state of gold, and will traverse the seventy-year stages in a single moment. Could this gold be called copper? Could it be claimed that it hath not attained the state of gold, whilst the touchstone is at hand to assay it and distinguish it from copper?
Likewise, these souls, through the potency of the Divine Elixir, traverse, in the twinkling of an eye, the world of dust and advance into the realm of holiness; and with one step cover the earth of limitations and reach the domain of the Placeless. It behooveth thee to exert thine utmost to attain unto this Elixir which, in one fleeting breath, causeth the west of ignorance to reach the east of knowledge, illuminates the darkness of night with the resplendence of the morn, guideth the wanderer in the wilderness of doubt to the wellspring of the Divine Presence and Fount of certitude, and conferreth upon mortal souls the honor of acceptance into the Riḍván of immortality. Now, could this gold be thought to be copper, these people could likewise be thought to be the same as before they were endowed with faith.
O brother, behold how the inner mysteries of “rebirth,” of “return,” and of “resurrection” have each, through these all-sufficing, these unanswerable, and conclusive utterances, been unveiled and unraveled before thine eyes. God grant that through His gracious and invisible assistance, thou mayest divest thy body and soul of the old garment, and array thyself with the new and imperishable attire.
Therefore, those who in every subsequent Dispensation preceded the rest of mankind in embracing the Faith of God, who quaffed the clear waters of knowledge at the hand of the divine Beauty, and attained the loftiest summits of faith and certitude, these can be regarded, in name, in reality, in deeds, in words, and in rank, as the “return” of those who in a former Dispensation had achieved similar distinctions. For whatsoever the people of a former Dispensation have manifested, the same hath been shown by the people of this latter generation. Consider the rose: whether it blossometh in the East or in the West, it is nonetheless a rose. For what mattereth in this respect is not the outward shape and form of the rose, but rather the smell and fragrance which it doth impart.
Purge thy sight, therefore, from all earthly limitations, that thou mayest behold them all as the bearers of one Name, the exponents of one Cause, the manifestations of one Self, and the revealers of one Truth, and that thou mayest apprehend the mystic “return” of the Words of God as unfolded by these utterances. Reflect for a while upon the behavior of the companions of the Muḥammadan Dispensation. Consider how, through the reviving breath of Muḥammad, they were cleansed from the defilements of earthly vanities, were delivered from selfish desires, and were detached from all else but Him. Behold how they preceded all the peoples of the earth in attaining unto His holy Presence—the Presence of God Himself—how they renounced the world and all that is therein, and sacrificed freely and joyously their lives at the feet of that Manifestation of the All-Glorious. And now, observe the “return” of the selfsame determination, the selfsame constancy and renunciation, manifested by the companions of the Point of the Bayán.118 Thou hast witnessed how these companions have, through the wonders of the grace of the Lord of Lords, hoisted the standards of sublime renunciation upon the inaccessible heights of glory. These Lights have proceeded from but one Source, and these fruits are the fruits of one Tree. Thou canst discern neither difference nor distinction among them. All this is by the grace of God! On whom He will, He bestoweth His grace. Please God, that we avoid the land of denial, and advance into the ocean of acceptance, so that we may perceive, with an eye purged from all conflicting elements, the worlds of unity and diversity, of variation and oneness, of limitation and detachment, and wing our flight unto the highest and innermost sanctuary of the inner meaning of the Word of God.
From these statements therefore it hath been made evident and manifest that should a Soul in the “End that knoweth no end” be made manifest, and arise to proclaim and uphold a Cause which in “the Beginning that hath no beginning” another Soul had proclaimed and upheld, it can be truly declared of Him Who is the Last and of Him Who was the First that they are one and the same, inasmuch as both are the Exponents of one and the same Cause. For this reason, hath the Point of the Bayán—may the life of all else but Him be His sacrifice!—likened the Manifestations of God unto the sun which, though it rise from the “Beginning that hath no beginning” until the “End that knoweth no end,” is nonetheless the same sun. Now, wert thou to say that this sun is the former sun, thou speakest the truth; and if thou sayest that this sun is the “return” of that sun, thou also speakest the truth. Likewise, from this statement it is made evident that the term “last” is applicable to the “first,” and the term “first” applicable to the “last”; inasmuch as both the “first” and the “last” have risen to proclaim one and the same Faith.
Notwithstanding the obviousness of this theme, in the eyes of those that have quaffed the wine of knowledge and certitude, yet how many are those who, through failure to understand its meaning, have allowed the term “Seal of the Prophets” to obscure their understanding, and deprive them of the grace of all His manifold bounties! Hath not Muḥammad, Himself, declared: “I am all the Prophets”? Hath He not said as We have already mentioned: “I am Adam, Noah, Moses, and Jesus”? Why should Muḥammad, that immortal Beauty, Who hath said: “I am the first Adam” be incapable of saying also: “I am the last Adam”? For even as He regarded Himself to be the “First of the Prophets”—that is Adam—in like manner, the “Seal of the Prophets” is also applicable unto that Divine Beauty. It is admittedly obvious that being the “First of the Prophets,” He likewise is their “Seal.”
The mystery of this theme hath, in this Dispensation, been a sore test unto all mankind. Behold, how many are those who, clinging unto these words, have disbelieved Him Who is their true Revealer. What, We ask, could this people presume the terms “first” and “last”—when referring to God—glorified be His Name!—to mean? If they maintain that these terms bear reference to this material universe, how could it be possible, when the visible order of things is still manifestly existing? Nay, in this instance, by “first” is meant no other than the “last” and by “last” no other than the “first.”
Even as in the “Beginning that hath no beginnings” the term “last” is truly applicable unto Him who is the Educator of the visible and of the invisible, in like manner, are the terms “first” and “last” applicable unto His Manifestations. They are at the same time the Exponents of both the “first” and the “last.” Whilst established upon the seat of the “first,” they occupy the throne of the “last.” Were a discerning eye to be found, it will readily perceive that the exponents of the “first” and the “last,” of the “manifest” and the “hidden,” of the “beginning” and the “seal” are none other than these holy Beings, these Essences of Detachment, these divine Souls. And wert thou to soar in the holy realm of “God was alone, there was none else besides Him,” thou wilt find in that Court all these names utterly non-existent and completely forgotten. Then will thine eyes no longer be obscured by these veils, these terms, and allusions. How ethereal and lofty is this station, unto which even Gabriel, unshepherded, can never attain, and the Bird of Heaven, unassisted, can never reach!
And, now, strive thou to comprehend the meaning of this saying of ‘Alí, the Commander of the Faithful: “Piercing the veils of glory, unaided.” Among these “veils of glory” are the divines and doctors living in the days of the Manifestation of God, who, because of their want of discernment and their love and eagerness for leadership, have failed to submit to the Cause of God, nay, have even refused to incline their ears unto the divine Melody. “They have thrust their fingers into their ears.”119 And the people also, utterly ignoring God and taking them for their masters, have placed themselves unreservedly under the authority of these pompous and hypocritical leaders, for they have no sight, no hearing, no heart, of their own to distinguish truth from falsehood.
Notwithstanding the divinely inspired admonitions of all the Prophets, the Saints, and Chosen ones of God, enjoining the people to see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears, they have disdainfully rejected their counsels and have blindly followed, and will continue to follow, the leaders of their Faith. Should a poor and obscure person, destitute of the attire of men of learning, address them saying: “Follow ye, O people! the Messengers of God,”120 they would, greatly surprised at such a statement, reply: “What! Meanest thou that all these divines, all these exponents of learning, with all their authority, their pomp and pageantry, have erred, and failed to distinguish truth from falsehood? Dost thou, and people like thyself, pretend to have comprehended that which they have not understood?” If numbers and excellence of apparel be regarded as the criterions of learning and truth, the peoples of a bygone age, whom those of today have never surpassed in numbers, magnificence and power, should certainly be accounted a superior and worthier people.
It is clear and evident that whenever the Manifestations of Holiness were revealed, the divines of their day have hindered the people from attaining unto the way of truth. To this testify the records of all the scriptures and heavenly books. Not one Prophet of God was made manifest Who did not fall a victim to the relentless hate, to the denunciation, denial, and execration of the clerics of His day! Woe unto them for the iniquities their hands have formerly wrought! Woe unto them for that which they are now doing! What veils of glory more grievous than these embodiments of error! By the righteousness of God! to pierce such veils is the mightiest of all acts, and to rend them asunder the most meritorious of all deeds! May God assist us and assist you, O concourse of the Spirit! that perchance ye may in the time of His Manifestation be graciously aided to perform such deeds, and may in His days attain unto the Presence of God.
Furthermore, among the “veils of glory” are such terms as the “Seal of the Prophets” and the like, the removal of which is a supreme achievement in the sight of these baseborn and erring souls. All, by reason of these mysterious sayings, these grievous “veils of glory,” have been hindered from beholding the light of truth. Have they not heard the melody of that bird of Heaven,121 uttering this mystery: “A thousand Fáṭimihs I have espoused, all of whom were the daughters of Muḥammad, Son of ‘Abdu’lláh, the ‘Seal of the Prophets’”? Behold, how many are the mysteries that lie as yet unraveled within the tabernacle of the knowledge of God, and how numerous the gems of His wisdom that are still concealed in His inviolable treasuries! Shouldest thou ponder this in thine heart, thou wouldst realize that His handiwork knoweth neither beginning nor end. The domain of His decree is too vast for the tongue of mortals to describe, or for the bird of the human mind to traverse; and the dispensations of His providence are too mysterious for the mind of man to comprehend. His creation no end hath overtaken, and it hath ever existed from the “Beginning that hath no beginning”; and the Manifestations of His Beauty no beginning hath beheld, and they will continue to the “End that knoweth no end.” Ponder this utterance in thine heart, and reflect how it is applicable unto all these holy Souls.
Likewise, strive thou to comprehend the meaning of the melody of that eternal beauty, Ḥusayn, son of ‘Alí, who, addressing Salmán, spoke words such as these: “I was with a thousand Adams, the interval between each and the next Adam was fifty thousand years, and to each one of these I declared the Successorship conferred upon my father.” He then recounteth certain details, until he saith: “I have fought one thousand battles in the path of God, the least and most insignificant of which was like the battle of Khaybar, in which battle my father fought and contended against the infidels.” Endeavor now to apprehend from these two traditions the mysteries of “end,” “return,” and “creation without beginning or end.”