Re-telling the tale (3 of 3)

This entry repeats the ideas of the previous three, but using a different analogy for the sake of clarity. Perhaps others have understood this idea easily, but I found it subtle enough in its implications that I had to recast it to comprehend it further.

The ideal form, which every manifestation of form derives from, is the Hidden. Until becoming manifest, it is inaccessible to the material world, despite being always potential in that world. That is, from the moment iron and carbon appeared in the universe, steel bolts could have been made. However, there was a time when no bolts had ever yet appeared. In this time there was only the hidden reality of boltness.

Then man made the first bolt, and brought forth the Manifest, or Seen, aspect of boltness. Potential became actual, and revealed its qualities from the timeless realm into the world of time. This initial bolt may be called “the First”, because it was the first manifestation of boltness to appear.

Bolts continued to be made afterwards until the present day. In each age, one of these bolts was always “the Last”, in that it was the last instance of boltness to be created thus far.

However, despite the first bolt being the First, and the last bolt being the Last, their relationship to boltness is identical. That is, were I to reach my hand into a box of bolts to build something, I would not care if that bolt was the first of the batch or the last. Each bolt may be unique in itself, but it is the same with respect to its use as a bolt. In their manifest being, the first bolt and the last occupy different stations; but in relation to the hidden being of boltness, the first and the last are one.

These same qualities pertain to each individual bolt within its lifetime. If I designate a lump of metal to become a bolt, that lump immediately enters the realm of the beginning, and with respect to the stages of bolt-becoming, stands in the position of the First. When it has become worthy to use as a bolt, it arrives at the realm of the end, and stands in the position of the Last. In its lump form, its relationship to boltness is that of the Hidden; in its final form, it reveals the conditions of the Seen.

However, these varying stages of bolt-becoming do not mean that multiple bolts existed. They were all aspects of a single bolt, such that any one of them could have claimed firstness with respect to the remaining stages, and lastness with respect to the preceding stages. To the blacksmith who cast the bolt, who has knowledge of bolt-making, and who sees the end in the beginning, all these stages are aspects of a single creation. Likewise, the set of all bolts that have ever been are manifestations of a single, hidden ideal.

Yet these attributes of firstness and lastness, seenness and hiddenness, pertain to the contingent world, the being of each individual bolt. What a builder is more interested in is boltness itself. Each bolt is only interesting to the degree it fulfills boltness. In this way, the builder’s vision passes beyond the phenomenal world of the bolt, and enters the noetic world of boltness. It is similar to the mystic wayfarer who turns his attention from the limited instances of God’s qualities, the Seen, and seeks out the absolute Author of those qualities, the Hidden:

Such is the state of the wayfarers in this Valley [of Knowledge]; but the people of the Valleys above this see the end and the beginning as one; nay, they see neither beginning nor end, and witness neither “first” nor “last.” Nay rather, the denizens of the undying city, who dwell in the green garden land, see not even “neither first nor last”; they fly from all that is first, and repulse all that is last. For these have passed over the worlds of names, and fled beyond the worlds of attributes as swift as lightning. Thus is it said: “Absolute Unity excludeth all attributes.” And they have made their dwelling-place in the shadow of the Essence.1

To “see the end and the beginning as one” is how a blacksmith might look at a lump of metal and see the bolt it will become. To “see neither beginning nor end” is how a builder makes use of each bolt without caring how it became such. And to “see not even ‘neither first nor last’” is like an architect, who thinks only in terms of how bolts may be used, but never considers each particular bolt itself; his thoughts center only on how to apply boltness to a problem.

Thus we can say that every individual bolt is at once unique in itself, of varying degrees of perfection with respect to boltness, and possessed of common identity with respect to serving, to some extent, the concept of boltness. The blacksmith observes the uniqueness of each; the builder tests the fitness of each; and the architect gives no thought at all, but reckons them all as one and the same with respect to their purpose.

This is similar to the mystic wayfarer, who at first perceives the manifestations of the Light in the world of being; who then beholds the effulgence of the Light in terms of seeing things in relation to their Origin; and who then sees only the Light itself, and to whom all things are a door and a pathway to the Unseen.

In sum, the differences in objects have now been made plain. Thus when the wayfarer gazeth only upon the place of appearance – that is, when he seeth only the many-colored globes [or the individual steel bolts] – he beholdeth yellow and red and white; hence it is that conflict hath prevailed among the creatures, and a darksome dust from limited souls hath hid the world. And some do gaze upon the effulgence of the light; and some have drunk of the wine of oneness and these see nothing but the sun itself.2

  1. Bahá’u’lláh, The Valley of Knowledge

  2. Bahá’u’lláh, The Valley of Unity