Just to go off on a brief tangent.......Sometime I need to write up a little thing on the spirituality of secrets. It's an interesting theme that weaves together humilty before others, abstinence from backbiting, and the privacy of prayer all in one fell swoop. It might even have some interesting implications for the role of language in spirituality, namely that if something is only between oneself and God it has no need of circulating as public knowledge. This could be a big deal because circulation is always an act that assimilates new and original thought into the status quo. Unspoken secrets could protect the disruptive possibility of the unconditioned will of God. Hmmm.......curious.
Where was I?
Anyway, Jalal has nudged me in the direction of recognizing the continuity between different passages. Up until now I've generally been looking at just the trees, focusing on the internal dynamics of individual passages. But it's always important to keep in mind that the Long Obligatory Prayer is a thickly wooded forest as well. How passages relate to and inform each other is important when considering the role of any one individual.
Following after the admission in passage ten of one's spiritual shortcomings comes an expression of praise and gratitude to God for leading the performer to a life of worship. All of this is shot through with a healthy dose of humility. For when God gives generously from Himself it is always entirely out of His beneficence. One of God's names is the Self-Sufficient. This means that He is in no need of His creatures. So even though we rely on Him for everything, he is in no need of us. Considering these circumstances there is no room for arrogance. Instead, there is only room for a heartfelt gratitude that God has given to us, even though He profits Himself in no way.
The theme of humility and gratitude continues on into passage twelve in which the performer confesses once again to his or her own shortcomings. Whereas the previous passage is said with one's upper half bent down and one's hands resting on one's knees, this passage is said with one's back straightened. Notice way that the change in posture and the opening sentence reflect each other. Here is the passage in full.
O God, my God! My back is bowed by the burden of my sins, and my heedlessness hath destroyed me. Whenever I ponder my evil doings and Thy benevolence, my heart melteth within me, and my blood boileth in my veins. By Thy Beauty, O Thou the Desire of the world! I blush to lift up my face to Thee, and my longing hands are ashamed to stretch forth toward the heaven of Thy bounty. Thou seest, O my God, how my tears prevent me from remembering Thee and from extolling Thy virtues, O Thou the Lord of the Throne on high and of earth below! I implore Thee by the signs of Thy Kingdom and the mysteries of Thy Dominion to do with Thy loved ones as becometh Thy bounty, O Lord of all being, and is worthy of Thy grace, O King of the seen and the unseen!
If it isn't already clear I think I'll state specifically what I think is one of the most important themes of the entire prayer: that the performer cultivates one's wealth-in-possession by recognizing that the divine attributes originate with the Creator, not the creation.
Many might be averse to the above passage because they think it promotes complacency, self-hatred, and bad conscience. If that were the case, then good riddance. These are not attributes that should be encouraged in the servants of God. But I don't think that that is the case with this passage. Instead, I see it as an elevation of standards for ourselves. The performer is less content with oneself, not out of a lack of self-esteem, but out of an appreciation for the depth of one's potential. Baha'u'llah speaks of this in Gleanings CLXII.
Furthermore there is the saying in the thirteenth Arabic Hidden word, Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? So any indication of shortcoming in this prayer is only a reflection of the glory to which the performer has been called by Almighty God. We saw the dawning of this glory in the seventh passage when the performer testifies that Thy forgiveness hath emboldened me, and Thy mercy hath strengthened me, and Thy call hath awakened me, and Thy grace has raised me up and led me unto Thee. In this light there is no room for shame, only a conscientious respect for the life-long process of trial and error.
Earlier, we saw the performer begging God not to withhold from me that which is with Thee. It was decided that this refers to the manifestation of divine attributes, even names such as sovereignty or lordship. In this way humanity becomes the manifestation of God's authority, especially when this involves establishing the dominion of His teachings in creation. Throughout His writings Baha'u'llah pushes the limits of the nobility of which humans are capable. After all, he regards humanity as capable of manifesting all the names of of God, even ones such as the Self-sufficient, the Sublimely Exalted, the Judge. One might even go so far as to think that Baha'u'llah regards humans as capable of divinity. His language is so strong in places that this accusation must surely get levelled against Baha'is by Islamic courts from time to time. Nonetheless, the more informed position is that Baha'u'llah has made it clear in his writings that divinity is reserved for Him who transcends His creation. The last line of passage twelve is an example of him reaffirming this point. Its power lies not in the logical development of its ideas, but rather in the spiritual state that it elicits out of its reciters. It reads,
I implore Thee by the signs of Thy Kingdom and the mysteries of Thy Dominion to do with Thy loved ones as becometh Thy bounty, O Lord of all being, and is worthy of Thy grace, O King of the seen and the unseen!
This is of course familiar terrain in the Long Obligatory Prayer. It invokes what I have called the unconditioned arrival of the will of God, in which our own expectations and desires are made fully secondary to His. The performer asks God specifically for that which cannot be specified. Such uncertainty and vulnerability that this introduces upsets any postures of self-mastery that the performer might try to take. Submission to the unknown then defers all sovereign mastery to the will of God, mysterious and untraceable as it can be. Inasmuch as the performer opens up to the will of God, he or she becomes a vast and noble power, born along by forces beyond control, while all the while still capable of exerting this powers rigorously in the path of an unconditioned God.
The performer's power is deployed at the discretion of God, with which He doeth whatsoever He willeth, and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth.