Driving through some country roads this week my reverie began to dwell on one of the succinct teachings of Baha’u’llah, that are collected in a book called the Hidden Words.
O SON OF BEING!
Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)
On a first reading it is quite obvious that Baha’u’llah is referring to our tendency to accumulate material possessions. However I began to mull over other interpretations of the ‘gold’, and ‘tests. If tests are methods of realising the true structure and function of a thing, such as a student in an exam that tests her knowledge or skills, then gold is a reference to that structure and function. Gold is also a valuable material. And so we test for value in our skills. Gold is also the reward for achieving a valuable outcome. Even for young children we have gold stars for their achievements in social behaviour or lessons in school. Gold stars and gold coin are useful for locking us into a relationship with our family, friends and community, as a recognition of our status with them. We enjoy this recognition a great deal and we become proud of who we have become.
Well so far, so good. Why not. Our western civilisation is built of such a concept and seems to be progressing from strength to strength. Yet Baha’u’llah warns us that the gold is also a test of true spirituality. Sure, it is easy enough to see that the material girl is not taking the time to reflect upon the purpose of life, her life, the ultimate value of her actions because she is always thinking of the new thing to possess. Yet, if material girl isn’t so material, but well rewarded to take an attitude of the middle class revolution – service, volunteering, fighting for the underdog – is this reward also a test of spirituality?
I’d like your comments.