Some forms of writing are particularly mysterious such as revelation. There is a fascinating description of how others experienced Bahá’u’lláh as He dictated the texts Bahá’ís regard as divinely revealed.
The spontaneity and rapidity with which Bahá’u’lláh revealed the Book of Certitude became a matter of some renown among early Bábís, the majority of whom would later accept Bahá’u’lláh’s ability to “reveal verses” from God as a sign of prophetic authenticity. Bahá’u’lláh did not fail to astonish Bábís on this account. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Book of Certitude constitutes an act of revelation, a few general remarks on the nature of Bahá’u’lláh’s acts of revelation would provide a wider context for understanding the work in question.
One account of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelatory experiences is given by Sayyid Asadu’lláh-i Qumi, who met Bahá’u’lláh in 1886. In those days it was customary to write Persian and Arabic with reed pens, which often produced a shrill sound, described as a shriek. The calligrapher could control the sound to a certain extent, arousing a rush of excitement in onlookers:
“I recall that as Mírzá Áqá Ján [Bahá’u’lláh’s scribe] was recording the words of Bahá’u’lláh at the time of revelation, the shrill sound of his pen could be heard from a distance of about twenty paces. In the history of the Faith not a great deal has been recorded about the manner in which the Tablets were revealed. For this reason … I shall describe it. . .
“Mírzá Áqá Ján had a large ink pot about the size of a small bowl. He also had available about ten to twelve pens and large sheets of paper in stacks. In those days all letters which arrived for Bahá’u’lláh were received by Mírzá Áqá Ján. He would bring these into the presence of Bahá’u’lláh and, having obtained permission, would read them. Afterwards the Blessed Beauty [Bahá’u’lláh] would direct him [Mírzá Áqá Ján] to take up his pen and record the Tablet which was revealed in reply.
” Such was the speed with which he used to write the revealed Word that the ink of the first word was scarcely yet dry when the whole page was finished. It seemed as if someone had dipped a lock of hair in the ink and applied it over the whole page. None of the words was written clearly and they were illegible to all except Mírzá Áqá Ján. There were occasions when even he could not decipher the words and had to seek the help of Bahá’u’lláh. When revelation had ceased, then in accordance with Bahá’u’lláh’s instruction Mírzá Áqá Ján would rewrite the Tablet in his best hand and dispatch it to its destination.”
Although this anecdote reflects as much upon Mírzá Áqá Ján as upon Bahá’u’lláh’s celerity, it does show how spontaneous Bahá’u’lláh’s dictations were, at least in the eyes of his followers.
(Christopher Buck Symbol and Secret (pages 1-2)
Some other forms of writing are tinged with hints of the divine:
Once ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was freed from His many daily engagements, He would call Aqa Mirza Nuru’d-Diin and begin dictating divine verses. At the same time, previously revealed Tablets were presented to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for His review, correction and signature. Here, He wrote in His own hand while simultaneously dictating verses, for He was the essential reality of the phrase ‘One task does not distract Him from another’; mental confusion had no meaning at that threshold.
(Nine Years In ‘Akka: page 196)
Also there is a description of Him dictating in three different languages to twelve amanuenses rather like a chess grand master plays a room full of hopefuls all at the same time. He moved down the room dictating to each secretary his next sentence, and when he returned to the first one He would pick up that letter where He had left it and so on down the room once more until all the letters were finished.
I won’t be dealing with either of those kinds of writing. The mystery is deep and far beyond my competence, as Bahá’u’lláh’s initial experience in His prison cell illustrates (see the Currency of Suffering link below).
I’ll be coming much closer to earth tomorrow.
- Walking in the Footsteps of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
- What price a compass and a map?
- The Currency of Suffering (2)