Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Lover of God is Dry in the Sea

The Scriptural symbols of dryness and drowning

"A lover feareth nothing and no harm can come nigh him; thou seest him chill in the fire and dry in the sea".
(Baha'u'llah, Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, "The Valley of Love"; also Gems of Divine Mysteries, page 29).

There are many examples in the Scripture of the believers remaining “dry” when the unbelievers drown. What does this mean?

In the days of Noah, those who entered the Ark of His faith were protected from the flood that “drowned” everyone else on the earth. (Genesis 7:19-23)  The Baha'i Teachings state that the Ark and the flood were not actual physical events. Rather, the Ark is a symbol of the divine Covenant in every Age, and “drowning” means being occupied with the things of this world instead of the things of God.

    The Ark and the Flood we believe are symbolical." (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 28, 1949: Baha'i News, No. 228, February 1950, p. 4; Lights of Guidance, 2nd edition, p. 508, #1716)

In Moses' Day, He led the believers through the sea:

So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
(Exodus 14:22; see also Qur'an 20:79-80)

I understand this “dryness” to be a symbol of the guidance God gave through the revelation of Moses to His loved ones.  They walked in firmness, on ground that was not slippery, and were protected by their obedience from that which would have spiritually killed them.

Elijah also cleft the waters, with his “garment,” and provided dry ground for the holy ones in His time:

    And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
(II Kings 2:7-8)

The Prophet Jonah was kept in the belly of a fish, protected from the boiling sea around Him; and eventually, when the Lord spoke to the fish, "it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land."  (Jonah 2:6-10)

What is this "dryness?"  In the course of His Commentary on the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation, `Abdu'l-Baha states:

    "... [I]n chapter 21, verses 1, 2 and 3 of the Revelation of St. John, it is said: 'And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea....' Consider how unmistakably 'the first heaven' and 'the first earth' refer to the outward aspects of the former religion. For it is said that 'the first heaven and earth were passed away; and there was no more sea'. That is, the earth is the arena of the last judgement, and in this arena there will be no more sea, meaning that the law and teachings of God will have spread throughout the earth, all mankind will have embraced His Cause, and the earth will have been entirely peopled by the faithful. Thus there will be no more sea, for man dwells upon solid land and not in the sea -- that is, in that Dispensation the sphere of influence of that religion will encompass every land that man has trodden, and it will be established upon solid ground whereon the feet do not falter."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, Chapter 13)

In this Day, the Bab has given a remarkable description of the divine Ark:

    Indeed God hath created everywhere around this Gate oceans of divine elixir, tinged crimson with the essence of existence and vitalized through the animating power of the desired fruit, and for them God hath provided Arks of ruby, tender, crimson-coloured, wherein none shall sail but the people of Baha, by the leave of God, the Most Exalted; and verily He is the All-Glorious, the All-Wise.
(The Bab, The Qayyumu'l-Asma, Chapter LVII; Selections from the Writings of the Bab, pp. 57-58)

In the following passage Baha'u'llah explains that dwelling in the Ark symbolizes spiritual salvation:

    Seek thou the shore of the Most Great Ocean, and enter, then, the Crimson Ark which God hath ordained in the Qayyum-i-Asma for the people of Baha. Verily, it passeth over land and sea. He that entereth therein is saved, and he that turneth aside perisheth. Shouldst thou enter therein and attain unto it, set thy face towards the Kaaba of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, and say: "O my God! I beseech Thee by Thy most glorious light, and all Thy lights are verily glorious." Thereupon, will the doors of the Kingdom be flung wide before thy face, and thou wilt behold what eyes have never beheld, and hear what ears have never heard. 
(Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 139-140)

The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith has pointed out (Citadel of Faith, p. 95) that this following reference refers to the members of the Universal House of Justice:

Ere long will God sail His Ark upon thee, and will manifest the people of Baha who have been mentioned in the Book of Names.
(The Tablet of Carmel, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 5)

This last quote shows that in its essence, it is the Covenant that is the Ark.  As `Abdu'l-Baha said:

    The Covenant of God ... is a lifeboat and ark of salvation.  All true followers of the Blessed Perfection are sheltered and protected in this ark.  Whoever leaves it, trusting in his own will and strength, will drown and be destroyed.
(`Abdu'l-Baha, quoted in "The Covenant, Daily Readings from the Baha'i Teachings," {George Ronald: Oxford, 1989} p. 128)

And the Guardian wrote through his secretary:

He feels you . . .  should devote particular attention to deepening the friends in the Covenant, which is the ark of safety for every believer.
    (Letter dated October 6, 1950; Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p. 54)

This same image was used in the Old Testament for the Ark of the Covenant:

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.    (Joshua 3:17)

This act of the Israelites walking on dry land as they followed the Ark of the Covenant, is the same symbol as the Israelites following Moses across the dry land through the Red Sea.  It is, again, a symbol of obedience to the divine Covenant.  Conversely, those who do not trust in the Covenant, are drowned:

    It is for this reason that at the beginning of every Dispensation a vast multitude, who fondly imagine that their deeds are for God, become drowned and ungodly, and perceive this not, except such as He guideth at His behest.  It is better for a man to guide a soul than to possess all that lies between East and West. (Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 95)

    Approach not those who are drowned in the sea of this world, but rather be enkindled by the fire of the love of God.
(Tablets of `Abdu'l-Baha Abbas, Volume I, p. 74)

As the Guardian wrote of these days:

    ... [T]he process of integration, as demonstrated by the increasing cohesion, the multiplication, and the reinforcement of the foundations, of the institutions of the embryonic Baha'i World Order, which, now, under the impact of the forces released by a World Spiritual Crusade, deriving its authority from the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Baha, and launched for the express purpose of executing the Divine Plan bequeathed by Him to His followers in the evening of His life, is contributing, unnoticed by a generation forgetful of its God, and already in the shadow of His Visitation, to the building up, slowly but irresistibly, of that Ark of human salvation, ordained as the ultimate haven of a society destined, for the most part, to be submerged by the tidal wave of the abuses and evils which its own perversity has engendered.
(Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baha'i World, p. 104)

Another meaning of being "dry in the sea" is to be the recipient of divine protection.  As Baha'u'llah wrote:

The friends of God shall win and profit under all conditions, and shall attain true wealth. In fire they remain cold, and from water they emerge dry. Their affairs are at variance with the affairs of men. Gain is their lot, whatever the deal. To this testifieth every wise one with a discerning eye, and every fair-minded one with a hearing ear.
(Baha'u'llah, quoted in the Compilation on Crisis and Victory; Compilation of Compilations, Vol. I, p. 154)

In this vein, `Abdu'l-Baha wrote of one of the believers who had been appointed a Hand of the Cause of God by Baha'u'llah:

Things came to such a pass that in the end whenever there was an uproar Mulla 'Ali would put on his turban, wrap himself in his 'aba and sit waiting, for his enemies to rouse and the farrashes to break in and the guards to carry him off to prison.  But observe the power of God!  In spite of all this, he was kept safe.  "The sign of a knower and lover is this, that you will find him dry in the sea."  That is how he was.  His life hung by a thread from one moment to the next; the malevolent lay in wait for him; he was known everywhere as a Baha'i - and still he was protected from all harm. He stayed dry in the depths of the sea, cool and safe in the heart of the fire, until the day he died.    After the ascension of Baha'u'llah, Mulla 'Ali continued on, loyal to the Testament of the Light of the World, staunch in the Covenant which he served and heralded.
(`Abdu'l-Baha, "Memorials of the Faithful," p. 11)

Here is a portrait of Mulla 'Ali:

Hají Mullá `Alí-Akbar (known as Hají Ákhúnd) 1842-1910)
Copyright © 2007, Baha'i International Community
Used with permission

. . . [T]he Ark of Baha'u'llah's Covenant has, ever since those days, been steadily pursuing its course contemptuous of the storms of bitter misfortune that have raged, and which must continue to assail it, as it forges ahead towards the promised haven of undisturbed security and peace.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 84)

Blessed art thou, O My name, inasmuch as thou hast entered Mine Ark, and art speeding, through the power of My sovereign and most exalted might, on the ocean of grandeur, and art numbered with My favored ones whose names the Finger of God hath inscribed.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 302)


  1. Thank you, Brent. This is wonderful material.
    Sue B.

  2. beautiful connected inspiring quotes. thanks. john

  3. Beautiful cogent connected inspiring quotes. thank you, john

  4. Ark of the Covenant
    (Judaism) sacred chest where the ancient Hebrews kept the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments