INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE ON THE HIDDEN WORDS – by Dianne Bradford
Syllabus available for viewing HERE
(We will modify for our group)
One may ask why it is important to study the Hidden Words. One obvious reason is that it is the revealed Word of God. Let us study Bahá’u’lláh’s own introduction to the Hidden Words. I think it will become clear why it is so important for us to study them.
“HE IS THE GLORY OF GLORIES
This is that which hath descended from the realm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá also tells us plainly why the study of the Hidden Words is so important in the following two passages taken from His discourses and writings. In the first passage presented below, He also graces us with an interpretation of the above-quoted Introduction to the Hidden Words.
“Bahá’u’lláh has revoiced and reestablished the quintessence of the teachings of all the Prophets, setting aside the accessories and purifying religion from human interpretation. He has written a book entitled the Hidden Words. The preface announces that it contains the essences of the words of the Prophets of the past, clothed in the garment of brevity, for the teaching and spiritual guidance of the people of the world. Read it that you may understand the true foundations of religion and reflect upon the inspiration of the Messengers of God. It is light upon light.” [‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. 1, p. 86.]
“From amongst all mankind hath He chosen you, and your eyes have been opened to the light of guidance and your ears attuned to the music of the Company above; and blessed by abounding grace, your hearts and souls have been born into new life. Thank ye and praise ye God that the hand of infinite bestowals hath set upon your heads this gem-studded crown, this crown whose lustrous jewels will forever flash and sparkle down all the reaches of time.
To thank Him for this, make ye a mighty effort, and choose for yourselves a noble goal. Through the power of faith, obey ye the teachings of God, and let all your actions conform to His laws. Read ye The Hidden Words, ponder the inner meanings thereof, act in accord therewith. … and rise up as ye are bidden in the heavenly teachings. Thus may each one of you be even as a candle casting its light, the centre of attraction wherever people come together …” [‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 35.]
This particular course on the Hidden Words is designed so as to be able to be used in several ways: 1) as a course to be taught and led by a teacher (preferably someone who is him/herself very familiar with the Hidden Words; (2) for individual study; and (3) as deepenings on the various subjects presented, using the Hidden Words as the primary source of quotations from the Writings. The only other thing needed is a copy of The Hidden Words themselves. At the end of each topic, some suggestions for discussion on the topic are presented. The topics for discussion are, by no means, exhaustive. They are presented as possible topics or questions in order to encourage discussion in the group. A prayer which is relevant to the topic is also presented.
Before beginning this course on the Hidden Words I think it is important to provide some historical background on their revelation by Bahá’u’lláh. The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, Shoghi Effendi has the following to say about the Hidden Words:
‘Next to this unique repository of inestimable treasures must rank that marvellous collection of gemlike utterances, the “Hidden Words” with which Bahá’u’lláh was inspired, as He paced, wrapped in His meditations, the banks of the Tigris. Revealed in the year 1274 AH, partly in Persian, partly in Arabic, it was originally designated the “Hidden Book of Fátimih,” and was identified by its Author with the Book of that same name, believed by Shí’ah Islam to be in the possession of the promised Qá’im, and to consist of words of consolation addressed by the angel Gabriel, at God’s command, to Fátimih, and dictated to the Imam ‘Alí, for the sole purpose of comforting her in her hour of bitter anguish after the death of her illustrious Father. The significance of this dynamic spiritual leaven cast into the life of the world for the reorientation of the minds of men, the edification of their souls and the rectification of their conduct can best be judged by the description of its character given in the opening passage by its Author: “This is that which hath descended from the Realm of Glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue.” (Shoghi Effendi, “God Passes By” (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1987), pp. 139-40)
References of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi to the Hidden Words Compiled by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.
- The Hidden Words is a treasury of divine mysteries. When thou ponderest its contents, the doors of the mysteries will open. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet to an individual – translated from the Persian)
- It behoveth us one and all to recite day and night both the Persian and Arabic Hidden Words, to pray fervently and supplicate tearfully that we may be enabled to conduct ourselves in accordance with these divine counsels. These holy Words have not been revealed to be heard but to be practised. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet to an individual – translated from the Persian)
- Be thou assured in thyself that if thou dost conduct thyself in accordance with the Hidden Words revealed in Persian and in Arabic, thou shalt become a torch of the fire of the love of God, an embodiment of humility, of lowliness, of evanescence and of selflessness. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet to an individual – translated from the Persian)
- We should memorize the Hidden Words, follow the exhortations of the Incomparable Lord, and conduct ourselves in a manner which befitteth our servitude at the threshold of the one true God. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet – translated from the Persian)
- With regard to your question concerning the meaning of the name “Hidden Words”: It is, indeed, one of the most suggestive titles of the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. These words are called “hidden” due to the fact that men have had neither the knowledge nor a true sense of appreciation of them before they were revealed by Bahá’u’lláh. It is through Him, Who is the sole Mouthpiece of God in this age, that spiritual realities and truths have been once more reinterpreted and revealed afresh to mankind. Bahá’u’lláh’s message is thus the only key to a true understanding of the mysteries that envelop man’s spiritual life. (From a letter dated 1 September 1935 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
- …concerning those passages in “The Hidden Words” in which Bahá’u’lláh refers to man as “Son of Spirit”, “Son of existence”, “Son of humanity”, etc., the word “son” used in this connection is a kind of collective noun meaning mankind and has, therefore, no connotation of any sex differentiation between man and woman whatever. (From a letter dated 19 January 1935 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)