Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
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Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Astonishing Meaning of the 'Hidden Treasure' Tradition

One of the most beautiful and mysterious of all religious traditions is the “Hidden Treasure” Tradition:

“I was a Hidden Treasure. I wished to be made known, and thus I called creation into being in order that I might be known.”

Baha’u’llah refers to this Tradition in Paragraph 15 of the Most Holy Book:

“Say: God hath made My hidden love the key to the Treasure; would that ye might perceive it! But for the key, the Treasure would to all eternity have remained concealed; would that ye might believe it!”
(The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 24
In the Note for this paragraph of the Most Holy Book there are fascinating and revealing commentaries. At first reading, this Tradition appears to be God saying that He was a Hidden Treasure and He wanted to be known, so He created human beings.  But in a beautiful Tablet, Abdu'l-Baha has explained that it represents four stages of humanity’s recognition of the Manifestation of God in each Dispensation:
“O wayfarer in the path of the Beloved! Know thou that the main purpose of this holy tradition is to make mention of the stages of God's concealment and manifestation within the Embodiments of Truth, They who are the Dawning-places of His All-Glorious Being. For example, before the flame of the undying Fire is lit and manifest, it existeth by itself within itself in the hidden identity of the universal Manifestations, and this is the stage of the 'Hidden Treasure'. And when the blessed Tree is kindled by itself within itself, and that Divine Fire burneth by its essence within its essence, this is the stage of 'I wished to be made known.' And when it shineth forth from the Horizon of the universe with infinite Divine Names and Attributes upon the contingent and placeless worlds, this constituteth the emergence of a new and wondrous creation which correspondeth to the stage of 'Thus I called creation into being.' And when the sanctified souls rend asunder the veils of all earthly attachments and worldly conditions, and hasten to the stage of gazing on the beauty of the Divine Presence and are honoured by recognizing the Manifestation and are able to witness the splendour of God's Most Great Sign in their hearts, then will the purpose of creation, which is the knowledge of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, become manifest.”
(Abdu'l-Baha, quoted in the Most Holy Book, p. 175

So we learn from this Tablet of peerless beauty written by Abdu'l-Baha that in the first stage, the Manifestation of God is still “hidden”, and in the second stage He “wishes to be made known.”  In the third stage He brings a “new creation” into being. We know from the Writings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah that the “new creation” means the believers in that new DispensationAnd it seems to me that there is a relationship between this great Tradition, and another, even more mysterious Tradition that also comes from the Imams of Islam.  This second Tradition ("Hadith") is known as the Tradition of Kumayl. Bahá’u’lláh makes reference to this Tradition in the Book of Certitude and places it in a new context:

Also in the tradition of Kumayl it is written: "Behold, a light hath shone forth out of the morn of eternity, and lo, its waves have penetrated the inmost reality of all men."
(The Book of Certitude, p. 102; Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 178)

This is an example of what Shoghi Effendi wrote, that the Book of Certitude
“. . . cites and elucidates . . . the cryptic Muhammadan traditions which have bred those age-long misunderstandings, doubts and animosities that have sundered and kept apart the followers of the world's leading religious systems.”
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 139)

We do not possess an authorized translation of the full text of the Tradition of Kumayl in the Baha'i Sacred Writings.  Here is the Tradition of Kumayl as translated by Edward Granville Browne, the British Orientalist associated with Cambridge University who wrote extensively about the Bahai Faith. Kumayl, one of the Imam Ali's chosen disciples, was seated behind the Imam on a camel, and asked him five times to elaborate on the question “What is Truth?” The Imam gave five answers, and these comprise the Tradition of Kumayl.  As shown further down in this posting, in the Book of Certitude Baha'u'llah quotes two of the Imam Ali’s responses. 

[Kumayl asked] "What is Truth?"  "What has thou to do with the Truth?" answered `Alí, "for verily it is one of God's mysteries, and a jewel out of His treasure-house."  Then said Kumayl, "O my Master, am I not worthy to share thy secret?" "Yes," answered `Alí, "but the matter is a great one."  "O my Master," said Kumayl, "dost thou desire those who beg at the door of thy bounty to be turned away?"  "Nay, verily," answered `Alí, "I will answer the call of such as are troubled, and will sprinkle upon thee somewhat of the overflowing fullness of the Station of the Truth; receive it from me according to thy capacity, and conceal it from such as are unworthy to share it.  "O Kumayl, the Truth is the revelation of the splendours of Divine Majesty without a sign."  "O my Master," said Kumayl, "I understand not thy meaning; explain it to me further."  "The effacement of the conjectured, and the clearing of the known." continued `Alí.  "Explain more fully," demanded Kumayl.  "The rending of the veil by the triumph of the mystery," (1)  said `Alí.   "O my beloved Master," rejoined Kumayl, "tell me more."  "The attraction of the Divine Unity through the nature of the apprehension of its Oneness," added `Alí.  "Tell me more clearly," repeated Kumayl.  Then said `Alí, "A light shining forth from the Morning of Eternity and irradiating the temples of the unity."(2)
(Translated by Edward Granville Browne; quoted in Christopher Buck, "Symbol & Secret: Qur'án Commentary in Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Íqán" (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1995), pp. 200-201.) [P.S. this is an excellent book – B.P.]

(1) Shoghi Effendi's translation: "Piercing the veils of glory, unaided."
(The Book of Certitude, paragraph 175

(2) Shoghi Effendi's translation:  "Behold, a light hath shone forth out of the Morn of eternity, and lo! its waves have penetrated the inmost reality of all men."
(The Book of Certitude, paragraph 109)

Stephen Lambden has made a provisional translation of a Commentary by the Báb on the Tradition of Kumayl in which the Báb correlates each of the five responses by `Alí to the first five years of His Dispensation. That is, the Bab states that each response of `Alí represents a gradual unfoldment of Prophetic mission, from concealment to open manifestation. This is similar to Abdu’l-Baha’s explanation above that the Hidden Treasure Tradition also describes the gradual unfoldment of every Manifestation’s mission. 

Together we see that the Hidden Treasure Tradition and the Tradition of Kumayl have the same theme: The gradual process of humanity’s recognition of each new Manifestation of God. This is one more example of the greatness of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, which for the first time in religious history breaks the seals placed millennia ago by God on the Holy Books. 

Baha'u'llah's peerless interpretations of the Word of God show that the Hidden Treasure Tradition is also related to another tradition, the meaning of which has forever eluded humanity - that God was alone with no one to adore Him, so He brought creation into being. Baha'u'llah explains that it was not God who was alone - it was the Manifestation of God:

As to those sayings, attributed to the Prophets of old, such as, "In the beginning was God; there was no creature to know Him," and "The Lord was alone; with no one to adore Him," the meaning of these and similar sayings is clear and evident, and should at no time be misapprehended. To this same truth bear witness these words which He hath revealed: "God was alone; there was none else besides Him. He will always remain what He hath ever been." Every discerning eye will readily perceive that the Lord is now manifest, yet there is none to recognize His glory. By this is meant that the habitation wherein the Divine Being dwelleth is far above the reach and ken of any one besides Him. . . . Consider the hour at which the supreme Manifestation of God revealeth Himself unto men. Ere that hour cometh, the Ancient Being, Who is still unknown of men and hath not as yet given utterance to the Word of God, is Himself the All-Knower in a world devoid of any man that hath known Him. He is indeed the Creator without a creation. For at the very moment preceding His Revelation, each and every created thing shall be made to yield up its soul to God. This is indeed the Day of which it hath been written: "Whose shall be the Kingdom this Day?" And none can be found ready to answer!
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah LXXVIII, p. 150

This has the same meaning as the Hidden Treasure Tradition - that the Manifestation of God was a Hidden Treasure, and He called a new creation into being - the new believers in every Age - that He might be made known. Between the time that the Manifestation of God begins His ministry and the recognition of Him by the First Believer - this period is the meaning of "God was alone" as He explains in the passage from the Gleanings above. This is one of the most remarkable of Baha'u'llah's interpretations.

“…the reading of the scriptures and holy books is for no other purpose except to enable the reader to apprehend their meaning and unravel their innermost mysteries.” 
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 172)  

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