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Humanity's Progress to Happiness and Decline to Misery
Apr 1, 2000

[Humanity has been created on the most excellent pattern and given the most comprehensive abilities. As a result, all of us have been cast into an arena of trial and examination in which we may rise from the lowest of beings to the highest, from the Earth to the Divine Throne, from minute particles to the sun. We have been sent here as a miracle of Divine Power, the result of creation, and a wonder of Divine art. Each of us must choose a path leading either to infinite ascent or to infinite descent.]

First Remark

Our needs do not differ markedly from those of all other beings, to which we are connected. Our needs spread throughout the world, and our desires extend to eternity. Just as we want a flower, we want the spring. Just as we desire a garden, we desire everlasting Paradise. Just as we long to see a friend, we long to see the All-Beauteous One of Glory. Just as we travel to visit our beloved, we need our Beloved's door to be opened. Just as we seek to visit the 99 percent of our friends who have saved themselves from eternal separation by traveling to the intermediate realm, we need to seek refuge at the Absolutely Powerful One's court. This One will close this world's door and open that of the Hereafter, which is an exhibition of wonders. He will remove this world and establish the Hereafter in its place.

For those people in this position, the only True Object of Worship will be One Whose hand holds the reins and treasuries of all things; Who sees all things, is omnipresent, beyond space, All-Powerful, and without fault or defect; an All-Powerful One of Glory, an All-Compassionate One of Beauty, and an All-Wise One of Perfection.

O humanity, if you serve Him alone you will earn a place superior to all creatures. If you do not, however, you will become an abased servant to impotent creatures. If you rely on your own ego and power, thereby abandoning reliance on God and supplication, you will deviate into pride and boasting. In such a case, you will fall lower than an ant or bee in regard to goodness and creation, and become weaker than a spider or a fly.

O humanity, you have two aspects. The first one is that of creation, good, acts, and positivity; the other is that of destruction, non-existence, evil, negativity, and passivity. In regard to the first aspect, your capabilities cannot exceed those of a bee or a sparrow, and your talents are weaker than those of a spider or fly.

In regard to the second aspect, you surpass the mountains, Earth, and skies. You agreed to assume a burden after they said they could not do so and so shrank from it. You assumed a sphere that is more extensive and vaster than they are. When you do good, you can do so only to the extent of your own power and strength, and to the degree your hand can reach. When you commit evil and destruction, your evil is overwhelming, and your destruction spreads.

For example, unblief is an evil, a destruction, an absence of affirmation. A single sin as it may seem, it implies an insult to all creation, debasement of all the Divine Names and degradation of the whole of mankind. For the whole of creation has a sublime rank and important task, each being a massive of the Lord, a mirror of His Glory and an official of His Divinity. Unbelief denies them the rank bestowed by those functions, and reduces them to the state of play-things of chance, to the level of being insignificant, unless and worthless objects doomed to decay and decomposition.

Unbelief, through denial, also insults the Divine Names, even though their inscriptions, manifestations, and beauties are seen throughout the universe and in the mirrors of beings. It makes humanity more abased and weaker, more powerless and needy, than the lowliest transient animal. And this despite the fact that humanity is God's vicegerent on Earth.

Unbelief denies that humanity is a well-composed ode of wisdom proclaiming the Sacred Divine Names' manifestations; a seed-like self-evident miracle of Divine power containing within itself an entire eternal tree; and that part of creation that assumed the "Supreme Trust" and thus rose to a higher level than the Earth, sky, and mountains-and even gained superiority over the angels. Unbelief reduces this glorious creation a common sign-board without meaning, something confused and decaying swiftly.

In short: The evil-commanding soul may commit infinite harm through its destruction and evil, whereas its power for creativity and good is extremely small and partial. It may destroy in one day what it took 100 days to build.

However, if the soul gives up egoism and seeks good and existence from Divine assistance, foregoes evil and destruction and relying on itself, and seeks forgiveness so that it can become a true servant of God, it will manifest the meaning of the verse: God will change their evil into good (Qur'an 25:70). Its infinite capacity for evil will be transformed into an infinite capacity for good. It will acquire the value of the Most Excellent of Patterns and ascend to the highest of the high.

O heedless humanity, see the Almighty's munificence and generosity. Although it would be entirely just to regard an evil as 1,000 evils and a good deed as one or perhaps nothing at all, He records one evil as one and a good deed is multiplied by 10, and sometimes by 70 or 700 or even 7,000. You also will understand from this Remark that being sent to Hell, which is so dreadful, is a just retribution for the evil deed, while being sent to Paradise is pure generosity.

Second Remark

Humanity has two faces. One is the human ego, which looks to the life of this world. The other is that which worships and serves God and looks to eternal life. In the first case, we are beings with a partial freedom of choice, a very weak power, a fast-dying flame of life, a very brief and fleeting lifespan, and a swiftly decaying physical body. Thus we are delicate, weak individuals among innumerable other individuals of the various beings inhabiting the universe. In the second case, especially with regard to our impotence and poverty that are turned toward worship, we have a truly great breadth and vast importance. The All-Wise Creator has included in human nature an infinitely vast impotence and boundlessly large poverty. He has done so that we can be extensive mirrors containing the innumerable manifestations of an All-Powerful and Compassionate One with infinite power, an All-Generous and All-Rich One with boundless wealth. Humanity resembles a seed. This seed has been given a great potential by Divine Power, and a subtle, valuable program by Divine Destiny. Using these, it may work underground and, emerging from that narrow world, enter the broad world of the air. At this point, it asks its Creator in its own way to be a tree so that it can find a perfection worthy of it. If, due to bad temperament, the seed uses its potentialities to attract harmful underground substances, soon it will rot and decay in that narrow place without benefit. But if the seed conforms to the creational command of: God is the Splitter of the seed-grain and date-stone (Qur'an 6:95) and uses its potentialities correctly, it will emerge from that narrow world and, by becoming a large fruit-bearing tree, its tiny particular reality and its spirit will assume the form of an extensive, universal reality. Similarly, great potentialities and valuable programs have been deposited in our human nature by Divine Power and Destiny. If we use them to pursue our soul's desires and on minor pleasures under the soil of this life in the world's narrow confines, we will decay and decompose amidst difficulties during our brief life in a constricted place, just like the rotten seed. Then we will load the responsibility on our unfortunate spirit and depart from this world. If, however, we nurture the seed of our abilities with the water of the right path and light of belief, and under the soil of worship and servitude to God, and in conformity with His commands and turn our faculties toward their true aims, we will produce branches and buds in the World of Similitudes and the Intermediate Realm. We will be seeds of great value, shining machines containing the members of an everlasting tree and permanent truth that will lead us to innumerable perfections and bounties in Paradise. And, we will be blessed and luminous fruits of the Tree of the Universe. True progress is to turn the faces of the heart, spirit, intellect, and even of the imagination and other subtle human faculties toward eternal life. Each item should be occupied with the particular duty of worship worthy of it. Progress does not consist, as the misguided imagine, of plunging into this material life as deeply as possible to taste every pleasure, even the basest; to allow our evil-commanding soul to command all our subtle faculties, and the heart and intellect, to assist it. This is not progress; it is decline.

Consider the following analogy. I entered a large town that was full of palaces. At the doors of some palaces was merry-making that resembled a brilliant theater. It captured and held everyone's attention. I looked carefully and saw that the palace owner was at the door playing with a dog. Ladies were flirting with ill-mannered youths, women were organizing children's games, and the doorkeeper was directing the others. I then realized that the palace's interior was completely empty, for its refined duties were not being done. The morals of its inhabitants had declined so much that they had taken on these roles at the door. I passed on until I came to another palace. I saw that a faithful dog was stretched out at the door to serve as a stern and taciturn doorkeeper. Its appearance was undistinguished. I wondered what was going on, so I went inside. I saw that the inside was very merry. Its inhabitants were busy with their particular refined duties. The men in the first apartment were overseeing the administration and running of the palace. In the apartment over it, girls were teaching children. Above that, ladies were occupied with fine arts and beautiful embroideries. On the top floor, the owner was exchanging news with the king. In addition, he was busy with his own elevated duties connected with maintaining the peoples' tranquillity and his own attainments and progress. They did not stop me, since they could not see me, and so I wandered around. Then I came out and looked around.

Everywhere in the town resembled the inhabitants of one or the other palace. I asked about this, and was told: "The palaces that appear happy but are empty inside belong to those foremost in unbelief and misguidance. The others belong to honorable believers." Then in one corner I came across a palace bearing my name. I was curious. I looked more closely, and it was as if I saw my image on it. Calling out in utter bewilderment, I came to my senses.

And now I shall interpret this for you. The town was humanity's social life, and civilization. Each palace was a human being with its various inhabitants: such subtle human faculties as eyes, ears, heart, inner heart, spirit, intellect, and things like the carnal soul and passions, desires, and anger. Each human faculty has a different duty of worship, and different pleasures and pains. The carnal soul and passions, desires and anger, are like the doorkeeper and the dog. If you make the elevated subtle faculties subject to the carnal, thereby causing them to forget their fundamental duties, this must be considered decline, not progress. You can interpret the rest for yourself. Adapted from Bediuzzaman"s Twentythird Word, Second Chapter