Pen Fingers Hand Will
The essence of that which has been quoted, and which has been placed into bold text below within the Prayer and Meditation of Bahá’u’lláh from which it is sourced, is adequately explained by the Text which surrounds it. The Paragraph supports the Text, the Text supports the Paragraph. The theme is unaltered throughout the Text till almost the very end when the purpose of the Text is revealed, the Paragraph delineating but one one aspect of this exalted and wondrous theme.
So, before all else, the Text from which the Paragraph is sourced, that in the reading, in the contemplation, in the perusal and in the actuality of worship, this theme may be fully imbibed. After that, my understanding in regards to your question.
Praise be to Thee, to Whom the tongues of all created things have, from eternity, called, and yet failed to attain the heaven of Thine eternal holiness and grandeur. The eyes of all beings have been opened to behold the beauty of Thy radiant countenance, yet none hath succeeded in gazing on the brightness of the light of Thy face. The hands of them that are nigh unto Thee have, ever since the foundation of Thy glorious sovereignty and the establishment of Thy holy dominion, been raised suppliantly towards Thee, yet no one hath been able to touch the hem of the robe that clotheth Thy Divine and sovereign Essence. And yet none can deny that Thou hast ever been, through the wonders of Thy generosity and bounty, supreme over all things, art powerful to do all things, and art nearer unto all things than they are unto themselves.
Far be it, then, from Thy glory that anyone should gaze on Thy wondrous beauty with any eye save Thine own eye, or hear the melodies proclaiming Thine almighty sovereignty with any ear except Thine own ear. Too high art Thou exalted for the eye of any creature to behold Thy beauty, or for the understanding of any heart to scale the heights of Thine immeasurable knowledge. For should the birds of the hearts of them that are nigh unto Thee be ever enabled to soar as long as Thine own overpowering sovereignty can endure, or to ascend as long as the empire of Thy Divine holiness can last, they shall, in no wise, be able to transcend the limitations which a contingent world hath imposed upon them, nor pass beyond its confines. How, then, can he whose very creation is restricted by such limitations, attain unto Him Who is the Lord of the Kingdom of all created things, or ascend into the heaven of Him Who ruleth the realms of loftiness and grandeur?
Glorified, immeasurably glorified art Thou, my Best-Beloved! Inasmuch as Thou hast ordained that the utmost limit to which they who lift their hearts to Thee can rise is the confession of their powerlessness to enter the realms of Thy holy and transcendent unity, and that the highest station which they who aspire to know Thee can reach is the acknowledgment of their impotence to attain the retreats of Thy sublime knowledge I, therefore, beseech Thee, by this very powerlessness which is beloved of Thee, and which Thou hast decreed as the goal of them that have reached and attained Thy court, and by the splendors of Thy countenance that have encompassed all things, and by the energies of Thy Will whereby the entire creation hath been generated, not to deprive them that have set their hopes in Thee of the wonders of Thy mercy, nor to withhold from such as have sought Thee the treasures of Thy grace. Ignite, then, within their hearts the torch of Thy love, that its flame may consume all else except their wondrous remembrance of Thee, and that no trace may be left in those hearts except the gem-like evidences of Thy most holy sovereignty, so that from the land wherein they dwell no voice may be heard except the voice that extolleth Thy mercifulness and might, that on the earth on which they walk no light may shine except the light of Thy beauty, and that within every soul naught may be discovered except the revelation of Thy countenance and the tokens of Thy glory, that haply Thy servants may show forth only that which shall please Thee and shall conform wholly unto Thy most potent will.
Glory be to Thee, O my God! The power of Thy might beareth me witness! I can have no doubt that should the holy breaths of Thy loving-kindness and the breeze of Thy bountiful favor cease, for less than the twinkling of an eye, to breathe over all created things, the entire creation would perish, and all that are in heaven and on earth would be reduced to utter nothingness. Magnified, therefore, be the marvelous evidences of Thy transcendent power! Magnified be the potency of Thine exalted might! Magnified be the majesty of Thine all-encompassing greatness, and the energizing influence of Thy will! Such is Thy greatness that wert Thou to concentrate the eyes of all men in the eye of one of Thy servants, and to compress all their hearts within his heart, and wert Thou to enable him to behold within himself all the things Thou hast created through Thy power and fashioned through Thy might, and were he to ponder, throughout eternity, over the realms of Thy creation and the range of Thy handiwork, he would unfailingly discover that there is no created thing but is overshadowed by Thine all-conquering power, and is vitalized through Thine all-embracing sovereignty.
Behold me, then, O my God, fallen prostrate upon the dust before Thee, confessing my powerlessness and Thine omnipotence, my poverty and Thy wealth, mine evanescence and Thine eternity, mine utter abasement and Thine infinite glory. I recognize that there is none other God but Thee, that Thou hast no peer nor partner, none to equal or rival Thee. In Thine unapproachable loftiness Thou hast, from eternity, been exalted above the praise of any one but Thee, and shalt continue for ever, in Thy transcendent singleness and glory, to be sanctified from the glorification of any one except Thine own Self.
I swear by Thy might, O my Beloved! To make mention of any created thing beseemeth not Thy most exalted Self, and to bestow any praise upon any one of Thy creatures would be wholly unworthy of Thy great glory. Nay, such a mention would be but blasphemy uttered within the court of Thy holiness, and such praise would amount to no less than a transgression in the face of the evidences of Thy Divine sovereignty. For the mere mention of any one of Thy creatures would in itself imply an assertion of their existence before the court of Thy singleness and unity. Such an assertion would be naught but open blasphemy, an act of impiety, the essence of profanity and a wanton crime.
Wherefore, I bear witness with my soul, my spirit, my entire being, that should They Who are the Day-Springs of Thy most holy unity and the Manifestations of Thy transcendent oneness be able to soar so long as Thine own sovereignty endureth and Thine all-compelling authority can last, they will fail in the end to attain unto even the precincts of the court wherein Thou didst reveal the effulgence of but one of Thy most mighty Names. Glorified, glorified be, therefore, Thy wondrous majesty. Glorified, glorified be Thine unattainable loftiness. Glorified, glorified be the preeminence of Thy kingship and the sublimity of Thine authority and power.
The highest faculties which the learned have possessed, and whatsoever truths they, in their search after the gems of Thy knowledge, have discovered; the brightest realities with which the wise have been endowed, and whatever secrets they, in their attempts to fathom the mysteries of Thy wisdom, have unraveled, have all been created through the generative power of the Spirit that was breathed into the Pen which Thy hands have fashioned. How, then, can the thing which Thy Pen hath created be capable of comprehending those treasures of Thy Faith with which, as decreed by Thee, that Pen hath been invested? How can it ever know of the Fingers that grasp Thy Pen, and of Thy merciful favors with which it hath been endowed? How can it, already unable to reach this station, be made aware of the existence of Thy Hand that controlleth the Fingers of Thy might? How can it attain unto the comprehension of the nature of Thy Will that animateth the movement of Thy Hand?
Glorified, glorified be Thou, O my God! How can I ever hope to ascend into the heaven of Thy most holy will, or gain admittance into the tabernacle of Thy Divine knowledge, knowing as I do that the minds of the wise and learned are impotent to fathom the secrets of Thy handiwork—a handiwork which is itself but a creation of Thy will?
Praise be to Thee, O Lord, my God, my Master, my Possessor, my King. Now that I have confessed unto Thee my powerlessness and the powerlessness of all created things, and have acknowledged my poverty and the poverty of the entire creation, I call unto Thee with my tongue and the tongues of all that are in heaven and on earth, and beseech Thee with my heart and the hearts of all that have entered beneath the shadow of Thy names and Thine attributes, not to shut us from the doors of Thy loving-kindness and grace, nor to suffer the breeze of Thy bountiful care and favor to cease from being wafted over our souls, nor to permit that our hearts be occupied with any one except Thee, or our minds to be busied with any remembrance save remembrance of Thy Self.
By the glory of Thy might, O my God! Wert Thou to set me king over Thy realms, and to establish me upon the throne of Thy sovereignty, and to deliver, through Thy power, the reins of the entire creation into my hands, and wert Thou to cause me, though it be for less than a moment, to be occupied with these things and be oblivious of the wondrous memories associated with Thy most mighty, most perfect, and most exalted Name, my soul would still remain unsatisfied, and the pangs of my heart unstilled. Nay, I would, in that very state, recognize myself as the poorest of the poor, and the most wretched of the wretched.
Magnified be Thy name, O my God! Now that Thou hast caused me to apprehend this truth, I beseech Thee by Thy Name which no scroll can bear, which no heart can imagine and no tongue can utter—a Name which will remain concealed so long as Thine own Essence is hidden, and will be glorified so long as Thine own Being is extolled—to unfurl, ere the present year draw to a close, the ensigns of Thine undisputed ascendancy and triumph, that the whole creation may be enriched by Thy wealth, and may be exalted through the ennobling influence of Thy transcendent sovereignty, and that all may arise and promote Thy Cause.
Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the All-Highest, the All-Glorious, the All-Subduing, the All-Possessing.
(Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 87)
Your question asked for my personal understanding of certain specific terms within the Paragraph. I repeat the question here:
“As a starting point, how do you regard the stations of the Pen, the Fingers, the Hand, and the Will?”
Before even beginning, and regardless that you already know and understand this, my statement that, in the fallibility of my mortality, bounded by the limits imposed upon not just His Creation but most especially by my even smaller personal and individual limitations, whatever is said should under no circumstances be seen as aught but a personal understanding. If it aids in your own ever-growing understanding, fine and good, but if it does not, that is equally fine and good. Neither of us gains or loses in either circumstance.
What is a pen but an instrument of an author. A pen has no volition of its own. It is faithful to the hand that guides it. That which it writes is absolutely free of any self-input. A pen is a faithful servant of the hand that wields it. That which it writes are not its own words, but the words of the author.
And what are the words of the author but the delivery of ideas. Of concepts. Of pictures. And the adding together of these concepts, these ideas, these pictures to paint, as an artist does with a brush (which is merely another form of pen) dab by dab (i.e. detail by detail) the outlines and the body of a grander image, a grander idea, a grander concept.
When one picks up a book to read, one sees only the result of the movement of the pen. One sees not the fingers which guided the pen, nor the hand to which the fingers are attached. And even in the reading, each individual will form in their mind different images to represent the words in the book. Even more abstract is the will that drove the hand that has the fingers which held the pen which followed the will in recording the words in the book. For fingers and hands have no will of their own, but follow the will of the author in directing the pen in the exercise of its function. In one sense, the pen, the fingers and the hand are tools through which the will operates, with the most loose definition of ‘tool’ that one may consider useful.
The concepts are quite symbolic. In that context, let us look again at the pen, the fingers, the hand and the will.
In such a material realm as we momentarily live in, truths are portrayed in terms which are familiar. Thus, a pen, fingers and hands are readily seen to be material things, while the will is readily seen to be immaterial. The former can be sensed by one or more of the five senses, while the latter can be seen only by its results. A will can exist without a hand, without fingers, without an object for these to hold, yet hands, fingers and pens are valueless without a will to direct them. Thus, the pen, the fingers, the hand can be easily perceived by extension as the created, while the will itself can be seen as the creator. The terms ‘author’ and ‘creator’ are, in this terminology, symbiotically alike. And so, the will creates the words, which it directs to the hand and the fingers, which grasp the pen and express these words outwardly. The words become, then, the expression of the will. Without a will, there would be no words, while a will can exist without words.
The words, however, are generated through the connection of letters. A letter, as so well described by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, has no meaning of its own. Its meaning is derived from the word of which it is a part. And as a word cannot know except for that tiny point with which the pen is in contact with the paper, the pen itself, the pen is, to the word, a mystery, unsolvable, beyond understanding and comprehension. How much more so the fingers which hold the pen, and the hand to which the fingers are attached, and, far more bewildering, the will, which is immaterial, which drives the movement of the pen through the hand and the fingers which grasp the pen. If a word which is written cannot have any comprehension of that which created it, which can be perceived mystically as ‘created’, then what possibility is there for it to grasp the will, which can be perceived mystically as ‘creator’.
In this connection, this statement from Bahá’u’lláh (Kitáb-i-Íqán, page 94-5) begins to become clear:
Nay, all else beside these Manifestations live by the operation of their Will, and move and have their being through the outpourings of their grace.
This same concept as is expressed here by Bahá’u’lláh is also reiterated in the Paragraph from the Text on which we are focussed.
There is still one more point which may be made. As a word cannot know more of the pen which writes it than the tiny portion in contact with the paper, the pen itself remaining forever a mystery, an unknown and unknowable, with the will which directs the pen being even further beyond comprehension, so too, as we see in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is this same will beyond approach by the pen. The intermediary is the fingers and some of the hand. I hear your memory bringing to recall many of the times when the Beloved spoke of this.
Yet one more consideration. Fingers and hands are animate objects, the pen is an inanimate object, while the will lives beyond both animate and inanimate. All things occur in threes – such has been the pattern in the past, and such will remain the pattern in the future. We see thus the will, which directs the hand, which commands the fingers to grasp the pen, which then abides by the will operating through the hand and the fingers and serves the purpose for which it has been created. Consider this likewise in the symbol of the Greatest Name, with the three realms – the will, the hands and fingers, and the pen so graphically demonstrated. The fingers and the hands can then be seen also as the twin Manifestations, symbolised by the two stars upon this symbol. Noting that:
..., all else beside these Manifestations live by the operation of their Will, and move and have their being through the outpourings of their grace.
we see symbolically represented in the pen, the fingers and the hand, and the will, the world of God, the world of the Manifestations and the world of this creation, with this creation symbolically represented by a pen (inanimate matter), the world of the Manifestations (animate being), the Tree beyond which there is no passing, by the fingers and the hand, and the hidden and forever beyond reach the world of God, by the will (neither animate nor inanimate).
Now, nothing has any value unless and except it can be put into practice. If it has no practical value, then it is of no value. So what is the point behind this Paragraph and this Text? What is the practical outcome, that essence within the true heart which must manifest in action? How can knowing how utterly powerless we are to grasp even in the slightest the pen, the fingers, the hand and the will, prove of practical benefit?
We find the answer to this in the second-last paragraph of the Text:
... to unfurl, ere the present year draw to a close, the ensigns of Thine undisputed ascendancy and triumph, that the whole creation may be enriched by Thy wealth, and may be exalted through the ennobling influence of Thy transcendent sovereignty, and that all may arise and promote Thy Cause.
Particular attention should be given, as individuals, the last eight words of the above quote. How often are we exhorted to teach, to spread His Word, to bring all these disconnected letters into the embrace of the Word, to draw their individual meaning from the inheritance of being part of the Word? And how does this new-found understanding of our powerlessness accomplish this?
By becoming a part of the word which has been written (‘created’) by the pen, the letters find, in their collectivism, the capacity and power of the word. By sacrificing their apartness, they become a partner, and gain their strength, power and capacity through the word. And by becoming a part of the word, they express the intent of the will which wrote the word. By expressing this intent, they are obedient to the will, and place their own interests after that of the interests of the will. The letter becomes a servant to the word, and not a slave to itself. Or, as Adib Taherzadeh so ably expressed it:
“To appreciate the true meaning of detachment, let us examine the nature of a human being. We note that the animal nature in man makes him selfish. The instinct for survival drives him to find food, clothing and shelter for himself. He pursues comfort, wealth and well-being, and has an insatiable appetite for collecting any beautiful and pleasurable object that comes his way. All these, as well as his emotional, spiritual and intellectual pursuits are aimed at benefiting his own self. He is the master of his own life, a pivot around which circle all his material possessions as well as his intellectual pursuits. One day he finds the Cause of God, recognizes its truth, falls in love with it, and then he adds it, like his other possessions, to his collection. He remains the master figure in the centre and all his possessions, including the Faith, revolve around him and serve his interests. Such a person is attached to the things of this world, for he allows his own interests to take precedence over the interests of the Cause, and his own ego to rule over his spiritual side. He puts his religion on a par with his other pursuits and selfishly expects to benefit from it just as he benefits from his other possessions.
“On the other hand, genuine detachment from earthly things is achieved when the individual makes the Cause of God the pivot of his life, so that all his personal and material interests may revolve around his Faith. In this case, he can benefit from his material possessions without being attached to them. And since the Cause of God is the prime motivating influence in his life, he will never act against the teachings of his Faith. Every step he takes in his daily activities will be in harmony with the commandments of God. When a person reaches this exalted position, the interests of the Faith take precedence over his personal interests. And when he arises to serve the Cause of God, he will be ready to meet the challenge whatever the cost. Such a person has reached the summit of detachment.”
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22)
O my God, aid Thou Thy servant to raise up the Word, and to refute what is vain and false, to establish the truth, to spread the sacred verses abroad, reveal the splendors, and make the morning’s light to dawn in the hearts of the righteous.
Thou art, verily, the Generous, the Forgiving.