How to understand the inner (batin) and outer (zahir) meanings of the Resurrection of Christ in order to successfully prospect and teach Evangelical Christians and other Bible-believers the Baha'i Faith.
In order to effectively teach Bible-believers (Evangelical Christians,Mormons,Seventh-day Adventists,Traditional Catholics,etc.) the Faith you MUST understand what they believe. For them, the two MOST IMPORTANT Christian doctrines are:
1) Jesus died to pay for our sins, and thus is our Lord and Personal Savior.
2) Jesus arose bodily and from the dead and appeared to His disciples and then ascended into heaven.
There are two ABSOLUTES with Bible-believers. To try to convince an them that either of these aren't true would be like trying to convince staunch Baha'is that Racism and Nazism are true doctrines, or that Baha'u'llah died in the Black Pit and all Baha'i history after that is MERE metaphor!
Really! You can FORGET about teaching Bible-believers if you adhere to the "Metaphor-only" interpretation of Jesus' Resurrection!
Most Baha'is are NOT from Bible-believing backgrounds, and do NOT in any way, shape, or form understand how Bible-believers think! Baha'is who 'think' they are going to convert Bible-believers with a "Metaphor-only" explanation of Jesus' Resurrection will have about as much hope as converting the NAACP to the 'way of thinking' of the KKK! It...simply...will...NEVER....happen!
The Metaphor-only View of Jesus' Resurrection
Today, most Baha'is believe that when the Gospels say that Jesus was placed in the tomb it means His literal physical body was placed in a literal physical tomb. But when the very next verses say that the tomb was EMPTY, this is a MERE (only) metaphor; the literal tomb still being FULL of Jesus' slowly decaying corpse.
In other words, Jesus slowly rotted away like everybody else! His "resurrection" only meant that His disciples "all of a sudden realized" that while His physical body was dead, His spirit was eternal! Of course, this is true also of everybody else!
Most Baha'is today (2004 A.D.) believe in the "Metaphor-Only" Resurrection of Christ; meaning that He was never literally raised from the dead; only His disciples were raised metaphorically from the tomb of unbelief; only His teachings were raised metaphorically from being "dead" (not promulgated).
Most Baha'is believe that the Gospels are more or less historical narratives up until and including when Jesus was killed and His dead body placed into a literal tomb, but the Gospels become MERE metaphors after that: parables, and no longer historical narratives.
They based this belief mainly on what 'Abdu'l-Baha concerning the Resurrection of Christ in Some Answered Questions. 'Abdu'l-Baha said that the Resurrections of the Manifestation of God are "not of the body". He said Christ was NOT raised in a material body that ascended into a material heaven. He said that the "meaning" of Christs' Resurrection was this:
1) His disciples ("the Body of Christ") were revived after being three days in doubt. (Baha'is believe this took place because when the disciples were sitting around in a state of unbelief Mary Magdelene reminded them that Christ was "eternal". This gave them courage to promulgate His teachings once again, and thus they were "raised" from being "dead").
2) His teachings were "raised" after three days: meaning the disciples started to promulgate His doctrines which were "dead" for three days (i.e. not promulgated).
This is what 'Abdu'l-Baha replied when asked about the "meaning" of the Resurrection of Christ. Baha'is assume that since these two explanations are the true meanings of the Resurrection of Christ, it follows logically that Christ could NOT have been literally raised from the dead. Remember, 'Abdu'l-Baha taught that Christ was NOT raised in a material body that ascended into a material heaven! Therefore, Christ was NOT literally raised at all! His physical body slowly decomposed in the tomb (which was full but never "empty"), and the Resurrection is a MERE metaphor of His disciples and teachings being raised after three days (thanks to Mary Magdelene's comment).
But this is NOT what the Gospels say happened.
Baha'is therefore dismiss the Gospels. Where they not written LONG after the events transpired? Whose to say WHO wrote them? Surely, the Gospels must be myths or parables; intermingled with historical narrative.
Yet, Baha'is accept as historical fact that Jesus was crucified and placed in a literal tomb, but they reject as historical the Gospels after that point.
Bible Fundamentalits (50% of the U.S. population) will NEVER ever accept a 'Metaphor-Only' explanation of the Resurrection of Christ! The Gospels definately present the Resurrection of Christ as a LITERAL historical event--part of the ongoing narrative. The Gospels include parables by Jesus, but the Resurrection is NOT one of them! Fundamentalists will NEVER deviate from that belief! It simply WILL NOT HAPPEN!
'Abdu'l-Baha said that Christ was not raised in a material body that ascended into a material heaven!
The Gospels seem to contradict 'Abdu'l-Baha!
CAN THE TWO EVER BE RECONCILED?
The Gospels on the Resurrection of Christ
This is what the Gospels say happened:
1) Jesus' was crucified and died.
2) He was taken down from the Cross, and His dead body was placed into a rich man's tomb. This was done without the proper buriel ointments because Sabbath was approaching, and no work (even burials) could be performed on a Sabbath.
3) Three days later three women disciples of Jesus came to the tomb to annoint His body for burial. They saw that the stone in front of the door of the tomb was rolled away, and an angel told Mary that Jesus wasn't there. The women ran off.
4) The women told the disciples what happened, and two of them (Peter and John) went to the tomb, and found it was empty. All that remained was the burial shroud and the chin napkin (which kept the mouth closed).
5) Jesus appeared to Mary Magdelene. At first she thought He was the gardener, but she recognized Him and said "Rabboni" ("My Master"). He told her He had not yet ascended to the Father.
6) Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus to two lesser disciples. They did not recognize Him at first, but when they did He "vanished".
7) Jesus later appeared to the 10 disciples (Judas was dead and Thomas wasn't there) in a room where the door was shut. He showed them his wounds, and ate fish and honeycomb with them. They thought He was a ghost, but He said "a spirit hath not flesh and bone as ye see me have!" (Luke 24:3). Thomas wasn't there, but when he came back he said he wouldn't believe until he felt the nail-pints in his hands and feet.
8) Jesus appeared among them again, and showed Thomas His nail and spear wounds. Thomas believed.
9) Jesus later appeared on the shore of Galilee while Peter and others were fishing, and later to 500 lesser disciples at once.
10) In Acts chapter 1 it says that the disciples saw Jesus on the Mount of Olives (just outside of Jerusalem). A glory cloud then engulfed Him, and took Him out of their "sight" (Greek: "vision").
11) Jesus did not appear to the disciples again until Saul (a Pharisee who was persecuting Christians) had a "vision" of Jesus on the road to Damascus. He saw a bright light, and heard a voice which said "Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?" Saul said, "Who are you Lord that I should persecute?" The reply was: "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest." Saul is blinded by the vision, but is told by Jesus to see a prophet in Damascus named Agabus; who washes Saul's eyes and heals his sight. Saul is baptized, and becomes an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He changes his name to Paul.
12) John, one of Jesus' disciples, has a vision of Jesus in a cave on the Isle of Patmos. That vision is the Book of Revelations.
Are all these things MERE "metaphors"?
Was Jesus being "placed" in the tomb a MERE metaphor as well?
Is the Book of Acts mere parables too; along with the Gospels after Jesus' crucifixion?
If the Gospels and the Book of Acts are historical narratives from beginning to end, then HOW can this be reconciled with 'Abdu'l-Baha's explanations as to the meaning of the Resurrection of Christ?
Without such a reconciliation, then the Baha'is can FORGET about trying to teach Bible Fundamentalists the Faith. Now and ever. They will NOT accept the 'Metaphor-Only' view....EVER! It is more likely that Baha'is will accept Nazism, and it is MORE likely that African-Americans will vote (as a body) to become slaves again! Really! This is NO exaggeration.
It simply WILL _NOT_ HAPPEN!
Should it happen?
Bible Fundamentalists (also called "Bible-believers") make up 50% of the U.S. population. They make up 50% of the population of Brazil and many other countries. Can the Faith grow and prosper without them?
Of course, Baha'is should believe NOTHING that contradicts the Teachings of the Faith; not in order to appease others,gain popularity,assist in prospecting or teaching, or for ANY reason!
But DOES the teachings of 'Abdu'l-Baha contradict what the Gospels say happened?
One only needs to understand the Mystical Shi'ite (and Baha'i) principle of
Ta'wil: The Esoteric Exposition of Scripture
In Shi'a Islam, especially the Ishraqi School (which included the Shayki sect) there is something called "ta'wil" (Per: "ta'vil"). It means simply "take out". Technically, it means to "take out" from a literal Sign of God (a verse/story/event recorded in the Bible or Qu'ran) the batin (esoteric/metaphorical/allegorical/spiritual/symbolic) meanings. For every literal (zahir) Sign of God there are supposed to be "70" (i.e. "a great multitude") of BATIN meanings.
When was asked "What is the meaning of the Resurrection of Christ?" in Some Answered Questions He replied:
1) His disciples were resurrected from being 'dead' to His Cause.
2) His teachings were resurrected from being 'dead' (not promulgated) to becoming alive (again promulgated).
Both these meanings are METAPHORICAL meanings. Also called esoteric meanings. In Mystical Islam they are known as batin (Arabic: "inner") meanings. They are considered higher and more spiritual meanings than the zahir ("outer") or literal meaning of a Sign (verse/story/event) of God in the Scriptures.
But the batin meanings of a Sign (Ayat) of God can NEVER negate the literal (zahir) meaning!
What 'Abdu'l-Baha was doing when He gave two batin meanings of the Resurrection of Christ is known as ta'wil. It means to "take out" ("ta'wil") from a literal verse/event/story the inner ("batin") meanings of that verse/event/story.
What is ta'wil?
The term ta'wil as a technical word meaning to take out from a Sign of God the inner meanings was first used by the Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq; the 6th Imam (whom Baha'u'llah often quotes). Muhammd revealed the zahir ("outer") Verses of God, but the Imams were NOT "prophets" (they were Seers), and they could not add-on to the Verses of God. However, they could explain the inner meanings of the Verses of God (called "Signs of God" in Arabic).
The term "Ayat" means "sign", and this could refer to a verse, a word, a letter, a story, a chapter, or any other division of the Word of God. All these were different "Signs" of God. But each "Sign" (Ayat) had one literal (zahir) meaning, but a great multitude ("70") metaphorical (batin) meanings. The Imams were inspired of God to "take out" from each Sign the batin meanings. The literal meaning (zahir) of each Sign (Verse) was obvious to anyone who could read or who could be read to, but the batin (inner) meanings were the perogatives of the inspired Imams.
The famous Sufi mystic Ali b. Uthman al-Jullabi al-Hujwiri (d. 1077 A.D.) wrote a number of books. In one of them he quoted Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq in his saying that each Sign of God has seventy and one meanings: one LITERAL meaning, and seventy METAPHORICAL meanings.
"The exoteric aspect of Truth without the esoteric is hypocrisy, and the esoteric without the exoteric is heresy." (concise Encycopedia of Islam, p.10)In other words, "an allegorical interpretation may never contradict the apparent and exoteric sence, and may not replace it; for this, obviously, is the perogative of God." (Ibid. p.401).
In other words, each Sign of God has 1 ZAHIR (outward/literal/evident) meaning, but it also has 70 BATIN (inward/metaporical/allegorical) meanings, and they cannot negate nor contradict each other.
Baha'u'llah quoted the Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq saying:
"We speak one word, and by it we intend one and seventy meanings; each of these meanings we can explain." ( Iqan, p.255)It was the perogative of the Imams to explain the "inner" (batin) meanings of each of the Signs (verses/stories/events/etc.) of God in the Qur'an. The Prophet Muhammed revealed the outer (zahir) Verses of God, but the Imams would explain their inner (batin) meanings.
The outer meaning cannot be negated by the inner meanings, and vice versa!
"The signs (or verses) have exoteric meaning and esoteric meaning, and neither their outward preventeth their inward, nor doth their inward preventeth their outward meaning." ( Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha, p.608Baha'u'llah wrote (provisional translation):
"Blessed are they that cling both to the literal and to the esoteric, for those are His servants that have believed in the Universal Word. Know that whoso clingeth to the outward sense of the words, leaving aside their esoteric significance, is simply ignorant. And whoso concentrateth on the metaphorical sense to the exclusion of the prosaic meaning is heedless. Only the one who interpreteth the Verses esoterically while harmonizing this reading with the literal meaning can be said to be a complete scholar. This maxim hath dawned from the horzon of knowledge, so know thou its value and cherish its excellence." ( The Surah of the Sun, provisional translation by Juan Cole, Baha'i Studies Bulletin, Vol. 4, 3-4 April 1990: 4-22)The "common people" (uneducated class) among the Shi'ites held to the zahir meanings of the Qur'an only. The Ismailis (Sevens) were gnostics and held only to the batin meanings; they rejected the Shariah (Holy Law) and the outer ordinances in favour of what they considered to be the "inner" teachings.
Baha'u'llah condemned both of them! He condemned those who adhered to the zahir and negated the batin, and thos who adhered to the batin and negated the zahir. ONLY those who HARMONIZED both found the Truth!
Baha'u'llah also wrote:
"The purpose of figurative interpretation [ta'vil] is not that one be deprived of the outward sense [zahir] of the Verse, nor that is intent be veiled." (Lawh-i-Ta'vil 1:1, provisional translation by Juan R.I. Cole, p.1 online)In other words...
The batin (metaphorical) meanings of the Verses of God CANNOT negate or prevent the zahir (literal) meaning from being true and real!
The two both _MUST_ harmonize with each other like two wings of a bird in flight!
'Abdu'l-Baha, as the Legatee (interpreter) of Baha'u'llah was expected to give ta'wil; to explain esoteric meanings of the literal Verses (Signs) of God.
But the inner doth NOT prevent the outer, nor doth the outer preventeth the inner meaning!
When 'Abdu'l-Baha was asked "What is the meaning of the Resurrection of Christ?" He replied with the TWO batin ("inner") meanings.
The Gospels are true! They are historical narratives from beginning to end (as is the Book of Acts). When they say that the disciples SAW Jesus after His death, it means (literally) they SAW Him! 'Abdu'l-Baha said, "And they saw Christ living, helping, and protecting them." (SAQ p.106-7)
They really did literally SEE Christ "living"!
This was NO 'metaphor'!
But it is equally true, that the Resurrection of Christ has "70" (a multitude) of metaphorical meanings. 'Abdu'l- Baha gives us two such meanings in Some Answered Questions
But didn't 'Abdu'l-Baha say that Christ was NOT raised in a material body that ascended into a material heaven?
YES! Indeed He did!
Jesus was NOT raised in a material body into a material heaven. To understand what happened, we must first understand two things:
1) The World of Similitudes (Exemplars)
2) The Ethereal Body
The World of Similitudes (Alam-i-Mithal)
The Alam-i-Mithal is called:
"The World of Similitudes"Much of the terminology of the Central Figures are found only in the Babi Faith, the Baha'i Faith, the Shaykhi sect of Islam, and among the Ishraqis of the Illuminationist School of Shi'ite Islam.
"The World of Exemplars"
"The World of Visions"
Ishraqiyyah refers to the Illuminationist School of Shi'ite Islam. This school was founded by the mystic Suhrawardi in the late 1500s; in Persia. This school accepted ta'wil. The Ishraqis also believed that the study of Arabic, the memorization of the traditions and the Qu'ran were not enough, but that in order to properly understand the Signs of God (Scripture) one had to acquire mystical illumination. This mystical illumination was brought about by fasting, prayer, and meditation. While other Shi'ites went to religious colleges, and studied the Qu'ran via language, debate, opinion, and scholarship, the Ishraqis believed that one should instead seek the Holy Spirit via mystical illumination in order to understand the Mysteries of God. The Ishraqis (unlike the common people) did not believe that Heaven was above the stars, or Hell beneath the earth. They believed that one's "soul" was already in "heaven" or "hell", and death merely got rid of the outer shell (physical body). When a person died, they would be in "heaven" or "hell" because their soul already existed in those dimensions in this life, but the physical world was a veil or illusion that hid this secret from men and women.
The Ishraqis believed that between this World (sphere/dimension) and the World of Spirits there was another dimension called the Alam-i-Mithal ("World of Exemplars/World of Similitudes/World of Archtypal Images"). It was in that dimension that Paradise and Hell existed. There were 'Worlds' (dimension) above that World, and Worlds above that; until one came to the Divine Ipseity (the Essence of God) that was absolutely unapproachable save for God Himself.
'Abdu'l-Baha absolutely endorced the Ishraqi school (see Part 2).
One teacher in the Ishraqi school was Muhsin Fayz Kashani (d. 1680). This is what he taught about the World of Exemplars:
"Because the power to govern bodies has been entrusted to Spirits, and because it is impossible for a direct connection to be established between spirits and bodies on account of their heterogeneous essence, God created the World of the Archtypal Images as an intermediary (barzakh) linking the World of Spirits and the World of Bodies.He then goes on to say that Spirits are without body or form, and when they come from the World of Spirits to appear in visions ("epiphanies") in the World of Bodies (our dimension) they must therefore take upon themselves forms which appear physical, but are in fact non-material. When the Angel Gabriel (the Holy Spirit) appeared to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the Messiah, He appeared to her in the shape of a perfect man. In like manner, when we die our material body (jasad A) returns to the material elements from which it came,
"it is through this World, and through its characteristic property, that spiritual entities are corporealized, are embodied, when they are manifested in teh epiphanic form which are the images which they symbolize. This is what is referred to in the Verse below how Gabriel 'took on a body (was typified) before Maryam (Mary) in the form of a human being of perfect beauty.' (Qu'ran 19:16)." ( The Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, pp.176,77)
"But the body of spiritual flesh (jasad B) is the reality of the human being which, without increase or decrease, survives 'in the tomb' and retains its shape intact and perfect.Notice the phraise "spiritual flesh. Not material. Not physical. But still "flesh".
This body (jasad B) is the reality of the human being, wityhout increase or decrease, survives 'in the tomb' after the body of flesh made of terrestrial [earthly] elements, that is to say, the opaque density and accidentals, have been separated from it and dissoved." ( Spiritual Body and Celestial Flesh, p.184)
Jesus' physical body of flesh "vanished" in the tomb, but His ethereal body of "spiritual flesh" appeared unto many after His death, and this is what the Gospels accurately record.
The Ethereal Body is composed of ethereal flesh; flesh and bone that is not made of "matter" as we know it.
The physical body is NOT the "reality" of the human being. The spiritual flesh is!
The physical body is only "accidental" (temporary), but the spiritual body is eternal and thus the "reality" of a person.
When a Prophet or Seer or Mystic has a "vision" they are in fact seeing a portion of the World of Similitudes (World of Vision/World of Exemplars). Spirits have no shape or form, but they take upon forms they "appear" physical to the beholder, but they are not.
"When man desires help and communication from holy souls, he puts himself in a condition of self-unconsciousness and becomes submered in a sea of meditation; then a spiritual state [world], which is sanctified from matter and all material things, becomes visible and apparent to him. Then he think he beholds a form [physical body]. Its appearance is like unto a vision. Men behold in the World of Vision various images, communicates with them and receives benefits, and in that World of Vision he thinks they are physical temples and material bodies, while they are purely immaterial." ( Star of the West, Dec. 1911, p.6)Mary thought a physical man appeared to her, but it was the Holy Spirit. The Angel Gabriel had "flesh and bone", but NOT material "flesh and bone".
Remember that! The Subtle Body is NOT a "spirit", and is composed of "flesh and bone" made of heavenly elements and not physical/material elements. It resembles the physical body; down to the scars or injuries.
The Heavenly/Ethereal/Subtle/Spiritual Body
In Mystical Sh'ite Islam (Ishraqiyyah) there are three parts in a human being; each residing in its own dimension:
1) Ruh: The Spirit which is a pure 'spark of God' that came from Him and shall return to Him. The Spirit has no form or shape or substance. It exists in the World (Dimension) of Spirits. The Qur'an refers to it as an "angel". It always obeys God.
2) Nafs: The Self (or perhaps Soul) which is created at the time of conception. It is made of ethereal substance ('Abdu'l-Baha once said that light was a "vibration of ether"). What "ethereal" matter is we don't yet know. Some think it is perhaps Dark Matter, or Dark Energy. Some think it is simply "Light". We don't know. The Nafs is referred to in the Qur'an as "Jinn". It refers to our "lower" nature; just as our Spirit is our "higher" nature.
3) Jism A: The Physical Body; which is a rational animal. The body is an intelligent animal which obeys its instincts; like any other intelligent (or dumb) animal. Nothing more. The Body has no free will, but always obeys its instincts. At death, the physical body returns to dust, and the spirit returns to God from whence it came (Ecclesiates 12:7).
4) Jism B: The Subtle Body which is made of heavenly elements, but is a replica of the physical body. The Subtle Body exists only in the World of Similtudes (Exemplars) which is between the World of Spirits and the World of Bodies.
"Thus hath the grace of God encompassed thy soul, thy spirit, thy physical body, and thine ethereal body." (The Surah of Sorrows, p.8 online; provisional translation by Juan R.I. Cole)One of the most famous teachers of the Ishraqi ("Illuminationist") school of Shi'ite Islam was Shaykh Ahmad al-Asa'i (d. 1826). Along with his main disciples, Siyyid Kazim Rashti, they are seen as the "forerunners" of The Bab; Who was a disiciple once of Siyyid Kazim. They were not "prophets", but considered to be "Seers" (muhaddaths); because they both received Revelation and visions without being "Prophets" (in the Islamic sense of the word).
This is what Prof. Edward G. Browne wrote of Shaykh Ahmad and his belief about the subtle (ethereal) body:
"He believed that the body of man was compounded of parts derived from the nine heavens and the four elements; that the grosser elemental part perished irrevocably at death; and that only the more subtle celestial portion would appear at the resurrection. This subtle body he name the huwarkiya (a name supposed to be of Greek origin), which was believed to be similar in substance to the forms in the 'world of similitudes' (alam-i-mithal). Similarly, he denied that the Prophet's material body had, on the occassion of his night journey to heaven (mi'raj) moved from the spot where it lay in a trance or sleep." ( Episode of The Bab, pp.234-5)Browne wrote in his commentary on the Kitab-i-Nuqtata'ul-Kaf (an early Babi writing) the following regarding Shaykhi (and Babi) beliefs:
"(3) That there is no bodily Resurrection, but that only a sort of 'astral body' (jism-i-harqualya) survives the material form of man." (Kitab-i-Nuqtata'l-Kaf, p.14 online)Like other Ishraqis, Shaykh Ahmad believed that the human consisted of three different realities: Spirit (Angel), Soul/Self/Nafs (Jinn), and Body (Jism). Each of these existed in its own Alam (Dimension).
All Muslims believe that one night the Angel Gabriel took Muhammed on a Night-journey (mi'raj) to Jerusalem and to the Throne of God. Most believe Muhammad travelled to these places in his material body, but the Ishraqis believed that He journeyed in His subtle or ethereal body while His material body lay in His tent; in a trance.
Another British scholar wrote of the Shaykhis:
"They asserted that man possessed two bodies: the first formed of temporal elements and is like a robe that dissolves in the grave; whereas the second subsists as a subtle body that belongs to the invisible world; it is this second body which is resurrected on this Earth and then goes to Paradise or Hell." ( The Shi'ite Religion: A History of Islamp.241)'Abdu'l-Baha said:
"It is manfest that beyond this material body, man is endowed with another reality which is the World of Exemplars constituting the heavenly body of man." ( Foundation of World Unity, p.110)'Abdu'l-Baha wrote:
"Thus it is certain that in man there is a reality which is not the physical body. Sometimes the body beocmes weak but that other reality is in its own normal state. The body goes to sleep, becomes as one dead but the reality is moving about, comprehending things, expressing them and is even conscious of itself. This other and inner reality is called the heavenly body, the ethereal form which corresponds [in shape and looks] to this [physical] body." ( ibid.)Baha'u'llah mentions the "Ethereal body" in His tablet The Surah of the Sun (Baha'i Studies Bulletin 1990:4-22)
The Ethereal Body is the reality of each human being. The physical body is called "accidental"; because it is not permanent, and thus not truly "real". The physical body dissolves alway NEVER to be resurrected, but the ethereal body (the REALITY of each person) is resurrected. The Subtle Body is not a "spirit" nor a "soul". It is a body of flesh and bone, but is made of heavenly elements and not earlty/material elements.
Yogananda, the author of Autobiography of a Yogi, the founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship, once wrote of his vision of his beloved master, Sri Yukteswar, who appeared to Yogananda in vision after his death:
Yogananda: ""But is is you, Master, the same Lion of God? Are you wearing a body like the one I buired beneath the cruel Puri sands?"
Yukteswar: "Yes, my child, I am the same. This is a flesh and blood body. Though I see it as ethereal, to your sight it is physical." (Autobiography of a Yogi, p.476)
Yukteswar was telling Yogananda that although he appeared to have a physical body in the vision, in fact he was in his ethereal body; which is also a body of flesh and blood.
An ethereal body is NOT a "Spirit"!
An ethereal body is NOT a "spirit". It is NOT a "soul". It is NOT a physical/material body either. It is still a "body". It is an ethereal body of spiritual flesh and spiritual bone and spiritual blood.
This is what Baha'u'llah wrote regarding the Shaykis:
"The followers of Shaykh-i-Ahas'i have, by the aid of God, apprehended [understood] that which was veiled from the comprehension of others, and of what they [all others] remained deprived." (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 6:24)Shaykh Ahmad Al-Asa'i was a SEER (Arabic: Muhaddath); a non-prophet who had divine visions and could receive divine revelation. He had visions of Muhammad, Fatimah, and the 12 Imams; spoke to them and received communication in these visions. Other shaykhs and religious scholars could only read and debate on the meaning of the Signs (Verses) of God, but Shaykh Ahmad had the advantage of actually asking Muhammad, or 'Ali, or any of the Imams "what did you mean when you wrote this or that?" and Muhammad or the Imams would often reply to him in visions. You can't get better information than from the sources!
The Shaykhis believed that between the World of Bodies and the Worlds of Spirits there existed the Alam-i-Mithal (World of Exemplars). The World of Exemplars is also called the World of Visions, and the World of Similitudes. After the death of the physical body, there existed, in the Alam-i-Mithal, the "Subtle Body"; an exact replica of the physical body, but made of heavenly elements.
Shaykh Ahmad did not deny there was a LITERAL resurrection from the dead, but he denied it was "bodily" meaning of the "physical" body. The resurrection of the dead was of the "subtle" body; not the physical body. The Subtle Body could be seen in VISIONS; because the Suble Body belonged to the Unseen World (Ghayb).
Shaykh Ahmad wrote many books and letters which dealt with many different subjects. One he wrote "On Hell and Hellish Punishments". He wrote on the earthly and heavenly Paradises, the nature of the Afterlife, and the origin of creation, etc.
The works of Shaykh Ahmad al-Asa'i (also spelled "Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i" and "Sheikh Ahmad al-Ihsa'i") is still being sold in the Arabic language, and his books (in Arabic) can be found for sale on the Internet. Some scholars are trying to translate them into English, but this process is slow.
Evangelical Scholars and the Spiritual Body
Christian Bible scholars can be categorized thusly:
Most Baha'is probably believe that all or most Bible scholars are Liberal; meaning that they do not believe the Bible is literal history in many or most places, but contains some historical truth mixed with myth and legend. Most American Baha'is are from Liberal churches, or took "The Bible As Literature" in university from Liberal professors. So, it is natural for them to assume most or all Bible scholars would agree with the "Metaphor-only" interpretation of the resurrection.
But the truth is otherwise. Most Liberal Bible scholars would disagree with the "Metaphor-only" explanation. Very very few would agree with what most Baha'is beleive today.
Most Conservative and Moderate Bible scholars believe that Jesus arose literally from the dead in the very same physical body that He was buried in. However, there are some Conservative and Moderate Bible scholars who believe that Jesus' resurrection body was a soma pneumatica (Greek: "Body Spiritual"). In other words, they believe that either God "transformed" or "transmuted" Jesus' physical body into a "spiritual body", or that Jesus' physical body simply "vanished" and what took it's place was a "spiritual body" that only can be seen in visions.
In a recent survey of members of the Evangelical Theological Society (the largest association of Conservative Bible scholars in the world), the question was asked what percentage believed that Jesus was raised in His physical body, and what percentage believed Jesus was raised in a "spiritual body" which could only be "seen" in visions. Of those that responded, 88% said they believed Jesus arose in His physical body, and 12% said Jesus arose in His spiritual body; one that could only be seen in visions. (Geisler, The Battle for the Resurrection, p.190)
Here are quotes from some Evangelical Bible scholars who believe that Jesus did not arise in His "physical" body, but in a "spiritual body":
E. Glenn Hinson (Southern Baptist Seminary):
"The risen Christ has not a physical body, but a spiritual body." (ibid. p.111)Prof. George Eldon Ladd (Fuller Theological Seminary), from his book I Believe in the Resurrection:
"one body is buried and another body springs forth." (p.115)Prof. Murray Harris (professor of New Testament--Trinity Evangelical Seminary), from his book Raised Immortal (1985):
"Jesus was raised from the realm of mortal men into the unseen world of God." (p.100)
"They were momentary appearances of the invisible risen Lord to the physical sight and senses of the disciples." (p.100)
"obviously the body had not been stoken. It had simply disappeared." (p.94)
"the physical body may be said to be transformed into the spiritual body or to be replaced by the spiritual body." (p.55)The ancient Christian apologist Origen (185-254 C.E.), who was the student of Clement of Alexandria--who invented the word "ChristianITY", and who was also the Dean of the Christian School of Alexandria (founded by John Mark--author of the Gospel of Mark) also believed that Jesus did NOT arise in His physical body, but in a "spiritual body" that Origin also refers to as an "ethereal body" and a "celestial body". Origen wrote:
"God created two natures--a visible, corporeal nature, and an invisible nature, which is incorporeal...The wholse of bodily nature will, in the consummation of all things, consist of one species, the spiritual body." (Ante-Nicene Fathers, p.347)Charles Taze Russell (?????) was the founder of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society; now referred to commonly as the "Jehovah's Witnesses". Russell claimed to be a seer, and he predicted that Armegeddon would occur in 1914 ('Abdu'l-Baha later confirmed that the battle of Armegeddon began with World War I, which began in 1914).
Russell wrote that Jesus' physical body did NOT arise nor ascend into heaven. He wrote:
"The fleshly body is the body in which Jesus humbled himself, like a servant, and is not the body of His glorification, nor the body in which he was resurrected.Notice what Russell wrote:
So the King Christ Jesus was put to death in the flesh and was resurrected an invisible spirit creature. The human body, the one crucified, was removed from the tomb by the power of God...The Scriptures do not reveal what became of that body, except that it did not decay or corrupt.
Our Lord's human body did not decary nor corrupt. Whether iw as dissolved into gases or whether it is still preserved is somehow as the grand memorial of God's love, of Christ's obedience, and of our redemption, no one knows." (The Kingdom is at Hand, 1944, p.259
"Therefore, the bodies in which Jesus manifested himself to his disciples after his resurrection were not the body in which he was nailed to the tree. They were merely materialized for the ocassion, resembling on one or two ocassions the body in which he died.
He instantly created an assumed such a body of flesh and such clothing as he saw fit the for the purpose intended." (The Time is at hand, p.127)
*Jesus' physical body either "disappeared" or it is preserved somewhere as a memorial. It did not "decay" or decompose.
*Jesus arose as a Spirit, but the Spirit "materialized" bodies in order to appear (in visions) to His Disciples.
Angels (who are spirits) do the same thing; as Gabriel did when he appeared as "a perfect man" to Mary.
The Rev. Levi Dowling M.D. (1844-1911), was a minister with the Disciples of Christ denomination as well as a medical doctor. He was also a Christian mystic who wrote The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ, also confirmed that Jesus arose in a spiritual body. He wrote that the Roman guards who guarded the dead physical body of Jesus
"saw the body of the Nazarene transmute; they saw it change from mortal to a immortal form, and then it disappeared" (Aquarian Gospel XX.172.39)According to Dowling, the appearances of Jesus after His death were the "materialization of the spiritual body of Jesus" (XXI, title)
In the Aquarian Gospel (which purports to be written from the visions that Dowling had of Jesus speaking and acting while He was on earth) Jesus said to His disciples:
"Behold, for human flesh can be transmuted into higher form, and then that higher form is master of things manifest, and can at will, take any shape." (XXI.173.31)The Urantia book, which claims to have been received from higher intelligences via individuals in trances, also claims that Jesus arose not in His physical, but in His spiritual body.
The Rocicrucians (Max Heindal) also have a similar doctrine.
Certainly, what Christian mystics or seers say should be of no great concern to Baha'is. However, as long as Baha'is adhere and teach each other the "Metaphor-only" view of Jesus' resurrection, then they can simply "write off" (now and forever) trying to teach Bible-believers!
Most of you reading this cannot possibly comprehend how ABSOLUTELY IMPORTANT that Bible-believers (Traditional Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, etc.) see the Resurrection of Christ! It is, along with the Atonement of Christ on the Cross, the two most important doctrines in the Christian world! Such a world will NEVER accept a "Metaphor-only" view of Jesus' Resurrection. Never!
Baha'is may be successful in attracting a "few" Liberal Christians, and even a small handful of Evangelicals, while adhering to the "Metaphor-Only" view, but that is all. They can "forget" about attracting the vast great majority (99.99.99%) of Bible-believers to the Faith as long as Baha'is adhere to the "Metaphor-Only" interpretation.
The Bardo Body
In the Tibetan Book of the Dead ("Bardo Thodol"), it describes the death process, and what to expect at death. It describes a glorious "bright-light" and a life-review. It also describes the Sidpa Bardo ("Bardo Body"). Prof. Iraj Bashiri writes of the Sidpa Bardo:
"This is a bardo body, a seemingly fleshly body resembling the souls' earth-plane body [i.e. the physical body] but endowed with miraculous powers. It casts no reflection in a mirror or pond and it casts no shadow on a wall." (The Message of the Blind Owl, p.3)According to the Bardo Thodol:
*The Bardo Body lasts for exactly 49 days. It is not the Spirit (Soul), but an ethereal vehical for the spirit (soul).
*It can appear in any form it wishes.
*It can walk through walls and travel great instances in an instant.
*It can walk on water or travel in the air.
*It can manifest wounds upon will; especially those wounds it took in life.
According to The Book of Acts in the New Testament (written by Luke, a disciple of Paul), Jesus appeared in "different forms" to His disciples for "forty days" after His resurrection from the dead. According to the Gospels, Jesus was dead for three days and nights; during which time he "preached to the spirits in prison" (1 Peter 3:8). The Jews believed that at death all go either to Paradise or Gehenna (Hell) to await the Resurrection of the dead. Both existed in the Spirit-World called SHEOL in Hebrew and HADES in Greek.
During the 3 days and nights that Jesus' physical body laid in the tomb, His spirit went and preached to the spirits of the dead that existed in Hades. Peter wrote:
18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.Jesus was NOT crucified on a Friday as is commonly believed, but was crucified on "the eve of Passover"; the Yearly Sabbath (not the weekly sabbath).
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
(1 Peter 3:18-19)
On the Cross a thief who was crucified next to Jesus said, "Master, remember me when you come into your kingdom!" Jesus replied:
43 Verily I say unto you, To day shalt thou be with me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)Paradise was in Hades (Spirit-World); as was Gehenna, or what we call Hell. Spirits would await the Resurrection of the Dead, to be judged according to their works, in either Paradise (if they were Just) or in Gehenna (if they were Unjust). Jesus promised the thief on the Cross who recognized Jesus as Lord, that they would that day be in Paradise together.
Jesus preached the Gospel in the Spirit-World (Ghayb); the same as He had preached it in this world. The Qur'an says that the Jinn hear the Qur'an preached, and some believe, and some believe not.
On the third day (Sunday at dawn) Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, then to other disciples, then finally to the 11 disciples except Thomas, and then finally to Thomas. The door is locked, but Jesus appears among them. They are frightened and think they "see a spirit" (ghost), but Jesus tells them that a spirit "hath not flesh and bone" as they saw Jesus had. He shows them His wounds. He eats fish and honeycomb. He disappears out of their sight. He appears to others at various times. Luke writes:
1 THE former treatise [Gospel of Luke] I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.The Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Faith, claimed to have translated from ancient gold plates, says that Jesus appeared to the Nephites (a group of Jews living in Ancient America) for "3 days" after His ascension from Mount Olivet ("The Mount of Olives"). Jesus stays with the Nephites for 3 days, and preaches the Gospel, chooses 12 disciples, and then ascends back into a glory-cloud. But before leaving He says to the Nephites that He is going to visit the "Lost Tribes" of Israel (presumably also for 3 days). Jesus says to the Nephites (a colony of Jews in America that Mormons believe existed from about 600 B.C. to about 420 A.D.):
2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion [i.e. death] by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom.
4 And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
5 For John truly baptized with wather, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence [from now].
6 When they therefore came together, they asked of him saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel.
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey.
"4 But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them." (The Book of Mormon--3 Nephi 17:4)The "Lost Tribes" refers to the 10 northern tribes of Israel that were enslaved by the Assyrians, and became "lost" to history. Some today think they refer to the Pathans (Pashtuns) of Afghanistan and Pakistan and Kashmírís of Kashmír--who have many similiarties to the Israelites in names, customs, etc. Mormons believe that after Jesus' death He preached to dead humans in the Spirit-World for 3 days, then appeared to His disciples in Jerusalem for 40 days, then appeared to the Nephites in America for 3 days, and then finally to the "Lost Tribes" for (presumably) 3 days as well; a total of 49 days. Mormons believe that "one day" the record of Jesus' visit to the Lost Tribes will become known and published, but that record has yet to come to light.
[NOTE: Shoghi Effendi once said that Joseph Smith was a "Seer" who "had high standards". A Seer is a non-prophet who nevertheless receives visions and divine revelation. Shaykh Ahmad al-Asa'i was a Seer; not a Prophet minor or otherwise. He had real VISIONS of Muhammad, Fatimah, and the 12 Imams; who taught him things in these visions. If Shoghi Effendi was correct, then The Book of Mormon is factual; since a religious fraud--one who LIED about visions and translating gold tablets-- cannot be a "Seer" nor one who has "high standards" nor be "sensitive" to spiritual currents. The Book of Mormon does NOT say that the American Indians were the "Lost Tribes", but that a small remnant of Jews lived in Ancient America, and that Jesus visited them for 3 days out of a glory-cloud, and then told them that He was going to visit the Lost Tribes also and then vanishes back into a glory-cloud.]If one takes the 3 days in Hades (Ghayb), the 40 days teaching His disciples, 3 days with the Nephites, and 3 more days with the Lost Tribes (wherever they are), one comes to: 3+40+3+3=49.
[NOTE: There is an ancient tradition that Jesus appeared in Kashmir, and taught the tribes there. The Kashmiris--along with the Pashtuns-- believe they are the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel--the 10 Northern Tribes that were enslaved by the Assyrians and never returned to the Holy Land. The "Jews" are only 1 of two tribes--along with the Benjaminites--who were never enslaved by the Assyrians and never became "lost". The "Jews" are the descendants of the tribes of JUDAH and Benjamin--just two of the Tribes of Israel]According to the Bardo Thodol, the Bardo Body lasts exactly for 49 days after death.
On the fiftieth day after Jesus' death, the Holy Ghost is poured out upon the disciples of Jesus:
1 AND when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accordin one place.The Greek name "Pentecost" means simply "fiftieth" (50th), and refers to the 50th day after Passover.
2 and suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing wind, and it filled all the hous where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Why could not the Holy Ghost "baptize" the disciples until Pentecost?
The answer is probably because Jesus' spirit/soul was/is the Holy Spirit (also called "Holy Ghost"). While Jesus was in His bardo body He would not "fill" His disciples with His own spirit, but after the 49 days were over, He could fill them with His own Spirit!
Jesus told His disciples:
20 I am with you always, even unto the end of the world [age]. (Matthew 28:20)The Greek word translated "world" is not KOSMOS (Greek: world/universe), but AEON (age). Jesus was probably referring to His own Dispensation.
Baha'u'llah almost always refers to Jesus as "The Spirit of God"; another term for the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost. The body of Jesus was just the "pure sinless vehicle" for the Holy Spirit.
The Tibetan Buddhists believe that Bardo (the realm between lives) is not a "place" but a dimension. In Bardo (from BAR="Middle" and DO="Realm") our own thoughts create reality. If our thoughts in life have been evil, then evil beings and situations are created (i.e. we create our own Hell). If our thoughts have been good, then good beings and situations are created (i.e. we create our own Heaven). Then, at the end of Bardo, we are Judged by a Deity, and assigned to be reborn among the Gods, or the Asuras, or lower forms of nature.
Of course, Baha'is are not required to believe anything in any Tibetan or Mormon sacred book! I use the example of the Barbo Body merely to try to explain what Shaykh Ahmad meant by the "Subtle Body" which survives the death of the physical body.
The "Bardo" of Tibetan belief and the Alam-i-Mithal of Mystical Shi'ite Islamic belief has many similarities.
The Nashqbandi Sufis also have a doctrine of the "Subtle Body" (jism-i-latif) just like that of the Shaykhis. The Nashqbandi Sufis were a mystical sect of Sunni Muslims founded by Bahauddin-i-Naqshband (1318-1389 A.D.) a Turkish Sufi (mystical Muslim). Baha'u'llah lived among the Nashqbandi Kurds of northern Iraq for two years (1854-1856), and wrote a number of tablets to them (Four Valleys, Seven Valleys, Ode of the Dove, etc.). While in Akka, in prison, Baha'u'llah did not let His Station be known to non-Believers. He went by the names of Baha Effendi and Baha'u'Dín (probably in honor of and after the founder of the Nashqbandi Order--Baha'u'Dín). It was not until 1890 that Baha'u'llah openly proclaimed His Name and Station to all.
During His two years in Kurdistan, Baha'u'llah wore the Taj of a Dervish (Darwoosh). The term Dervish (Darwoosh) means "beggar", but it means basically an ascetic Muslim holy man who spends his time in meditation and prayer, and begs for his food.
The Nashqbandi Sufis believed that Baha'u'llah (whom they knew as Darwoosh Muhammad-i-Irani) as a Holy man, and they purported initiated Him into their Order. From that time until His Ascension, Baha'u'llah wore a Dervish (Darwoosh) Tajon His head surrounded by a small white turban of the Nashqbandi Order.
The Resurrection of Baha'ullah
Various individuals saw Baha'u'llah after His ascension (death). One was a Muslim cleric in Akka. One Baha'i reported:
"After the death of the Blessed Perfection, one day the chief of the Muhammadan priests of Acca came to our Lord ['Abdu'l-Baha] and said he had seen the door of his room open and the Blessed Perfection came into his room." (Dwight Barlow Collection, note 43-A, online)Did the physical remains of Baha'u'llah resurrection, and walk to Akka from Bahji? That could happen, but it didn't. This was a vision. The Muslim chief cleric saw the Ethereal Body of Baha'u'llah in a vision.
The Reality of Christ
'Abdu'l-Baha discusses the "Reality of Christ" in Some Answered Questions:
"Notice also that it is said that Christ came from heaven, though He came from the womb of Mary, and His body was born of Mary. It is clear, then, that when it is said that the Son of Man is come from Heaven, this is not an outward but an inward signification; it is a spiritual, not material, fact.Notice:
The meaning is that though, apparently, Christ was born from the womb of Mary, in REALITY He came from Heaven, from the center of the Sun of Reality, from the Divine World, and the Spiritual Kingdom. And it has become evident that Christ came from the spiritual heaven of the Divine Kingdom, therefore, His disappearance under the earth for three days has an inner signification and is not an ourward fact. In the same way, His resurrection from the interior of the earth is also symbolical; and likewise His ascension to Heaven is a spiritual and not a material fact." (SAQ p.104)
*Christ appeared to be born of Mary, but IN REALITY He came from Heaven.
*His descent under the earth for three days was LIKE His descent from Heaven into the womb of Mary.
*His resurrection after three days and ascension back into Heaven was LIKE His descent from Heaven.
In other words, the REALITY of Christ came from Heaven; not a material heaven beyond the stars, but from the Spiritual Kingdom (i.e. the World of Spirits). Manifestations of God have a pre-existing Soul (Jinn/Nafs) as well as a Spirit.
The REALITY of Christ that came from Heaven also descended into the Unseen World for three days, and then was raised from that world back to this one and then ascended into Heaven (from whence it came).
For the 'Metaphor-Only' view to be correct, then nothing came from Heaven into the womb of Mary except for a 'metaphor'.
Is the "Reality" of Christ merely a 'metaphor'? Did His 'teachings' or 'disciples' come from Heaven into the womb of Mary? If you ascribe to the 'Metaphor-Only' view, then you MUST believe this!
Q.What came from Heaven into the womb of Mary?
A. He says "the Reality of Christ"?
If the Reality of Christ meant ONLY His teachings, then ONLY His TEACHINGS came from Heaven into the womb of Mary.
Obviously, the REALITY of Christ refers to a LOT more than merely His 'teachings'!
What is the REALITY of Christ?
What had come from Heaven arose and returned to Heaven!
"For Christ had an elemental body and a celestial form. The elemental body was crucified, but the heavenly form is living and eternal, and the cause of everlasting life." (SAQ p.98)
Continued from Part 1....
Baha'u'llah and the Power of the Great Ether
The following is a pilgrim's note I use NOT to 'prove' a point, but to help Baha'is understand that the 1 zahir meaning of Christ's Resurrection cannot be negated by the 70 batin meanings.
Mirza Valiyyu'llah Khan Varqa (son of the Baha'i poet Varqa) wrote:
"My father was much with Baha'u'llah. One night Baha'u'llah, as He walked back and forth in His room, said to my father:The 'Power of the Great Ether' was the power to arise from the dead, and to appear on earth again. Many Baha'i pilgrims reported seeing 'Abdu'l-Baha after His death.
'At stated periods souls are sent to earch by the Mighty God with what we call the Power of the Great Ether. And they who possess this power can do anything: they have all Power....Jesus Christ had this Power. The people thought of Him as a poor young man, Whom they had crucified; but He possessed the Power of the Great Ether, tehrefore He could not remain underground. This ethereal Power arose and quickened the world. And now look to the Master, for this Power is His."
( The Chosen Highway 3:1)
In a recently translated tablet of Baha'u'llah we read Jesus speaking through Baha'u'llah about Baha'u'llah ("The Father"):
"The Kingdom of God circleth around Him and it is because of His Love that I adorned the Cross was adored with My body. Verily, I rose from the dead to complete my mention of His Name amongst men. O people of the Gospel! Do not make mention of Me (Jesus) when you have turned away from my Father, the All-Glorious."
Visions are literal but NOT 'physical'
The Gospels describe an event before Jesus was crucified. He takes His disciples Peter, James, and John to Mt. Tabor. On that mount they see Jesus "transfigured", and they see Moses and Elijah next toJesus. The disciples then build "booths" (palm-branch tents) for Moses and Elijah; whom they "see" and mistakenly believe have been physically resurrected from the dead. But Moses and Elijah disappear without using the booths.
"Men behold in the World of Vision various images, communicates with them and receives benefits, and in that World of Vision he thinks they are physical temples and material bodies while they are purely immaterial."Read that again! 'Abdu'l-Baha said:
( Star of the West 2:15, Dec. 1911, p.6)
1) In the World of Vision (alam-i-mithal)....
2) Men (and women) behold bodies, and they think they see physical bodies....
3) But the bodies they see are "immaterial" and not physical at all although they appear to be....
"In the Qur'an it is said: 'And We sent Our Spirit unto her, and He appeared unto her in the shape of a perfect man,' meaning that the Holy Spirit took the likeness of the human form, as an image is produced in the mirror...." (Some Answered Questions, p.87)When Gabriel appeared to Mary he "looked" like a physical man with a "perfect" physical body. But, in fact, this was a VISION. There was no "physical" body that appeared to Mary.
There are NO physical/material bodies or forms in the World of Vision, but they "appear" physical/material to those that see them in visions. But these forms are "made up of elements of the heavenly realm." (Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, p.194).
The Outer (literal) and Inner (metaphorical) tombs
The Gospels say that Jesus' body was placed in a sepulchre ("tomb"), but after three days the stone in front of the tomb was rolled away, and the tomb was EMPTY:
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.All the Gospels (and the Book of Acts) agree that when the women returned at dawn on Sunday morning to annoint Jesus' body with spices "they found not the body of the Lord Jesus." (Luke 24:3).
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdelene early, when it was yet dar, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciples, and came to the sepulchre.
4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
5 And he stooped down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie.
7 Adn the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
Is this merely a "parable"? What parts are narrative and which pure parable? Is the part about His body being placed in the tomb "mere" parable too? Or is that historical narrative, and everthing afterwards non-historical parable?
In truth, ALL the above is historical narrative. But it ALSO has 70 batin (inner) meanings.
Baha'is are familiar with the Story of Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery because of jealousy, and because of his VISION in which he ruled over them. Because he was able to interpret dreams correctly (prophetically) the Pharoah made him the Grand Vizier of Egypt! Because of that he save his entire family from famine!
The Story of Joseph was called "The Best of Stories" by the Babis, and The Bab explains many batin (inner) meanings in that story in His Chapter of the Bees in His Qayyumu'l-Asma.
Does this mean that the Story of Joseph is a mere metaphor or parable without any historical truth?
Absolutely NOT! It _means_ that the Story of Joseph has 1 literal/historical meaning, but 70 metaphorical/parabolical meanings.
What does He mean?
"This signs (or verses) have exoteric meaning and esoteric meaning, and neither their outward preventeth their inward, nor doth their inward preventeth their outward meaning."
( Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha, p.608)
He meant ta'wil.
Now, the question is: What does the EMPTY tomb mean?
There are 70 batin meanings of the empty tomb. Here are two:
1) The Cause of Christ was no longer as a dead body.
2) The Body of Christ (His disciples) were no longer in the tomb of unbelief.
What does the FULL tomb mean?
1) The Cause of Christ became as a dead body.
2) The Body of Christ (His disciples) entered the tomb of unbelief.
Remember, BOTH the "full" tomb and the "empty" tomb have 1 and 70 meanings; the zahir meaning cannot negate the batin meanings nor vice-versa.
What is the literal meaning of the EMPTY tomb?
*Jesus' physical body VANISHED.
What is the literal meaning of the FULL tomb?
*Jesus' physical body died and was entombed.
In inner doth not prevent the outward meaning, nor doth the outward meaning preventeth the inward meanings.
What happened to Jesus' PHYSICAL body?
If the tomb was literally empty, and if what the Gospels SAY happened really literally happened, then what happened to Jesus' PHYSICAL body?
Most Bible-believing Christians will say it was RESURRECTED! The same body that died and was buried arose from the dead! Praise the Lord!
But 'Abdu'l-Baha denies that there was a resurrection of the MATERIAL body or an ascension of that MATERIAL body into a MATERIAL heaven.
How can these things be harmonized?
Jesus' material/physical body was NOT raised! But it didn't slowly decompose either! It VANISHED! It DISappeared!
'Abdu'l-Baha wrote that after Jesus' death "they saw the reality of the Messiah as manifest. For the body of Christ was crucified and vanished,...." ( Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha 1:194).
Many Baha'is interpret this to mean His disciples saw "nothing", and His body did not "vanish" but slowly (over centuries) decomposed as any other body does. They interpret this to mean that after Jesus was placed in the tomb He began to slowly decompose, and never appeared to His disciples again in vision or any other way, and when the Gospels say He appeared to them this only means they began to undersand intellectually that He was eternal in nature. Nothing more.
Jesus' physical/material body VANISHED! It wasn't raised, but it wasn't stolen and reburied. It VANISHED! It three days or less!
A similar thing happened with Sant Guru Nanak; the founder of the Sihk Religion. Guru Nanak was not a Manifestation of God; nor even a Prophet (lesser or otherwise). He was however a "Sant" (holy person) and a Seer. At his death his Muslim disciples wanted to bury him according to Islamic law, but his Hindu disciples wanted to cremate him; according to Hindu law. While they debated this a large assortment of flowers were placed upon his body, and they put a sheet over him and the flowers. After several hours they finally came to a compromise; his Hindu disciples would cremate him, and then his Muslim disciples would bury the remains. But when they lifted up the sheet they saw that his body had VANISHED! All that remained were the flowers.
'Abdu'l-Baha taught that miracles surrounded not only Prophets, but also Saints (holy persons of any religion) as well!
Jesus' PHYSICAL body vanished! That is why the tomb was EMPTY; because it was. Of course, the empty (as well as the 'full') tomb also has 70 esoteric (batin) meanings.
Why did Jesus' body VANISH?
In the Book of Acts Peter quotes the Psalms of David and says that the Lord's Messiah (Christ) would not be allowed to "see corruption" (Greek: decompose) like our bodies do:
29 Men and brethren, let me speak freely unto you of the patriach David, that he is both dead adn buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.Peter was saying that David was dead and buried, and his tomb was full, but Christ was promised that He (Jesus) would not "see corruption" (Gk: decompose) but be raised from the dead.
30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath unto him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
31 he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
( Acts 2:29-32)
There was no decomposition of Jesus' body.
Nor did it remain visible while NOT decomposing; like the bodies of some Catholic saints or Hindu yogis.
The tomb was empty.
Jesus' Wounds and His ethereal body
The Gospels report that the disciples were gathered together after He died. Peter and a number of them had already visited His tomb, and found it empty. They head the report from Mary Magdalene that Jesus had appeared to her, but they were still very skeptical. They thought perhaps she had seen a "spirit" (ghost).
One of the Apostles named Thomas was not present when He first appeared to His apostles. The other apostles told Thomas that Jesus appeared among them, and even ate fish and honeycomb with them. Thomas said he would not believe it until he saw for himself, and felt the nail prints in His hands and the wound in His side. Shortly thereafter, Jesus appeared among them:
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stoold in their midst, and said, Peace by unto you.
27 Then he saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and saind unto him, My Lord and my God.
Deniers of the Resurrection (and some Baha'is) have ridiculed this part of the Gospels. If the resurrection was literal, and we too are raised literally, shall we bare the wounds of car accidents or war? Shall some be resurrected without their heads? Shall others without arms or legs? Shall some be burned beyond recognition in the Afterlife? How can this be LITERAL?
Again, we must go back to the concept of the Ethereal Body that is found around the world by various titles. According to these mytic teachings the Ethereal Body in fact does bear wounds for a short period after death.
The Israeli mystic Adrian Dvir writes:
"I was told about a memorial service in a military cemetary where incomplete ethereal bodies of the deceased were seen i.e. bodies with a missing limb or eye.This doctrine of the Ethereal Body is found in Mystical Christianity (Swedenborg/Jacob Boehme/etc.), Mystical Buddhism, Mystical Hinduism,Mystical Zoroastrianism,Mystical Judaism, and Mystical Islam (Sufi/Ishraqi).
I presume that injuries to the physical body also damage the ethereal body attached to it."
( Parting and Unfinished Business, p.2 online)
This is what Evangelical Christian scholar Dr. John Wesley Handson has to say about the Spiritual Body in his Pocket Cyclopedia, Brief Explanations of Religious Terms (1892):
"Body, Spiritual--The spiritual body is already in existence (1 Cor. XV) 'There is a natural (or animal-psuchikon) body, and there is a spiritual body.' The organizatin that will be the spirits' instrument in the immortal state, 'the spiritual body,' resides within the animal, and when the latter crumbles away, the former will act as the organization of the butterfly emerges from that of the caterpiler. The animal body is the clay vesture of the spiritual, and brears some relation to it as does the clothing of the body. The continuity of life is unbroken by death, but the soul is born at death into another condition of being. The spiritual body is every mortal being waiting its birth into the new life. Its organization is perfect." (Definitions of Some Biblical Terms, p.6 online)The Christian Mystic, Dr. Henry C. Kinley, wrote:
"Christendom believed the Messiah arose a physical body because they cannot explain how the Messiah showed his disciples the nail prints in his feet and hands (Luke 24:36-40). They don't realize taht this was a vision being shown to the disciples, although the disciples were not conscious that they were seeing a vision. What Christendom doesn't understand is that the resurrected spirit form of the Messiah has the power to appear in the form of a fleshly body to his disciples." (Institute of Divine Metaphysical Research, p.5 online)In Autobiography of a Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda has a vision of his resurrected master: Sri Yukteswar. Yogananda says, "But it is you, Master, the same Lion of God? Are you wearing a body like the one I buried beneath the cruel Puri sands?" Yuktewwar answered, "Yes, my child, I am the same. This is a flesh and blood body. Though I see it as ethereal, to your sight it is physical." (Autobiography of a Yogi, p.476) Shaykh Ahmad-i-Asa'i wrote that the ethereal body was "spiritual flesh" but it wasn't "material" flesh. When Jesus appeared to His disciples He said He was not a "spirit" and that He had "flesh and bone". An ethereal body is not a "spirit", but it isn't a physical/material body either.
The doctrine of the Ethereal Body is also found among the Illuminationists of Persia.
'Abdu'l-Baha once gave a talk regarding the Ishraqis. In it He said that instead of relying solely on the powers of reason and scholarship, they prayed, fasted, and meditated, and received Divine Illumination, and with this illumination they had the ability to not only solve all the Divine Mysteries (obscurities in the Qu'ran and other Scriptures) but also solve the mysteries of science as well! He said:
"Many abstruse divine questions are solved by this illumination.I shall now quote from the eminent Ishraqi scholar Shaykh Abbas b. Mohammed Rez ai-Qumi(born 1294 A.H.) from his book Manazile Askherah ("Last Journey"):
Some of the great questions unfolding from teh rays of the Sun of Reality upon the mind of man are solved: the problem of the reality of the spirit of man; of its birth from this world into the World of God,; the question of the inner life of the spirit and its fate after its ascension from the body.
They also medidate upon the scientific questions of the day, and these are likewise solved.
Tehse people, who are called 'Followers of the Inner Light', attain to the superlative degree of power, and are entirely free from blind dogmas and imitations. Men rely on the statements of these people: by themselves--within themselves--they solve all mysteriess." ( Paris Talks pp.173-4)
"They (Arabs) said they oberved that after death a man's body become motionless and turns into dust, how could then he be rewarded or chastised for his actions. *** The Prophet replied that as in the dreams they met people, conversed with them, and visited far off places, after death even if their bodies would be reduced to dust, they would still taste chastisement or reward (as the case may be) in Paradise or hell." (p.15)The Shaykh also tells a story in which several very spiritual Sh'ias went to a cemetary to recite "fatcha" for the Believers, but they head somebody say "Welcome" and then they had a vision of a great and beautiful Garden with many trees and fruits. The Shaykhs writes of the fruit "the likeness of which cannot be imagined nor described." [p.70]
"Barzahk is also call an incorpreal or a non-material world (Alame Misali) because somewhat of it seems like this world. But is nature and matter is totally different. After we die the other world seems quite vast when compared to this world, and this would can be compared to the womb of the mother. In the same manner the body of the human in Barzakh will be the same as in this world, but will be independent of matter. In fact it will be more pleasant and lighter than air, and will be transparent. Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (A.S.) says, 'If you look at the incorpreal/imaginal body (Badane Misali, in Barzakh), you will say that it [is] the same one (as in this world).'
If one looks at one's dead father in a dream, he will surely say that his appearance and bodily components were teh same as when he was alive. But the reality is that his body and matter lie buried in the grave." [p.67]
"Philosphers and thinkers compare this body (in Barzakh) to the image in the mirror, but with two differences: (1) The Incorpreal Body (Badane Misali) is firm and free, and independent of the mirror, and (2) It is intelligent, wise, and understanding as against the image in the mirror. It can also be compared to a dream in which we travel from one place to another in the twinkling of an eye. In Barzakh the body comsumes a variety of good and drinks, and hears teh music, the likeness of which can not be found in this world. In fact that food and drinks of that world are more tasty and free from material dirt and uncleanliness as it states in the Traditions [of the Imams]." [p.68]
"In the state of Barzakh the intellect of the incorporeal body is very strong. The pleasures which we derive in this world are nothing as compared to those in that stage. Because th reality lies there whereas here is the likeness of it." [pp.68-9]
The phrase "that which cannot be imagined nor described" is a common Ishraqi phrase to say that words don't do justice to the description. It does NOT mean that something is TOTALLY indescribable or beyond description.
When Baha'u'llah wrote that the Afterlife cannot be imagined nor described He was NOT saying the Qur'anic descriptions were wrong or "mere metaphors" of something TOTALLY beyond description. He was simply using common Ishraqi/Shaykhi/Babi terminology to say "words can't do it justice". It is like an American saying of the beauty of Hawaii, "Oh, it was beyond description!" And then he or she attempts to describe it. This does NOT mean that the descriptions are mere metaphors!
According to Ishraqi (Illuminist) teachings, which 'Abdu'l-Baha recommends as "solving" all the mysteries of religion and science, in the Interval (Barzakh) between this world (Nasut) and the next world (Malakut) there is a non-material/incorpreal world of which this world is just a reflection of. The "reality" is not this dimension, but that dimension. In that world/sphere/dimension (alam) the incorporeal body is not made of "matter", and it can go from place to place at the speed of the twinkling of an eye. It can eat and drink food!
Notice also that the Shaykh compares this life to that of a "child in the womb"; the very term both Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha use many times. IT DOES NOT MEAN that the Afterlife is TOTALLY BEYOND all description or imagination! This is NOT what it means. It means that the Qur'anic descriptions are true, are accurate, but that human words cannot fully impart its nature.
'Abdu'l-Baha was not lying or speaking "off the cuff" when He said that the Illuminists (Ishraqis) "solve all mysteries" whether religions or scientific. Baha'is should take His word for it, and begin to investigate what the Ishraqis had to say about the Afterlife as well as scientific questions.
What the disciples "saw" after Jesus' death was not His physical body, which "vanished" (disappeared) from the tomb, but His ethereal/spiritual/subtle/astral/heavenly body.
Some Ishraqi books in English are:
*The Book of Radiance (Mazda Publishers)
*The Path of God's Bondmen from Origin to Return
*Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam (whos how the visions of the Christian mystic Swedenborg and those of the Ishraqis agree to a startling measure)
*Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination (Curzon Press, 1997)
*The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism
*The Leaven of the Ancient (John Walbridge)
*The Science of Mystic Lights (John Walbridge)
To discover more about the Ethereal Body (and if you have the Internet) just go to the Google search engine (www.google.com) and type in "ethereal body" and/or "astral body" and/or "subtle body".
There is a mystic thread of Truth that permiates all the Revealed Religions!
The 3 days and 3 nights
Atheists and other deniers of the literal resurrection of Christ (including some Baha'is) point to the fact taht if Jesus was crucified on a Friday just before sunset and raised on a Sunday morning just before dawn that makes only 1 day (Saturday) and 2 nights (Friday and Saturday) in the tomb! 1 day and 2 nights does NOT equal 3 days and 3 nights in the tomb!
Of course, this was answered long ago!
Every year the Jews celebrated the Passover; which was their holy day which commemorated the Angel of Death "passing over" Israelite homes in Egypt at the time of Moses; when the LORD killed all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians as punishment for Pharoah refusing to let the Israelites go free.
All scholars agree that Jesus was crucified in 33 A.D. The Gospels record that Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover Meal like other Jews in Jerusalem. That night, Jesus was arrested by Temple Guards. He was taken the next day and tried before the Sanhedrin, and found guilty of blasphemy; of claiming to be "God". The punishment was death. He was taken to Pontius Pilate, whom the Jewish authorities asked to have Jesus crucified. Pilate finally agrees to their request. Jesus was scorged, led through the streets to a stone-quory called "Golgatha" ("The Skull"), and crucified. The Gospels say that Jesus died about the "9th hour" (which would be the 9th hour after sunrise---which would be about 3 p.m.). The disciples saw that "the Sabbath was approaching" so they quickly took Jesus down from the cross and took Him to the sepulchre (Greek for "tomb") of Joseph of Aritmethea; a Pharisee and Sanhedrin member who had secretly been Jesus' disciple. He was rich, and could afford a nice tomb.
The Gospels say that Jesus was placed in the tomb. It was against the Law of the Jews to bury the dead on the Sabbath; so they had to take Him from the Cross and take Him to a nearby tomb before nightfall. The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday night and ends on Saturday night. The Jewish Sabbath includes Friday night and Saturday day only.
Jesus had told the Sanhedrin:
"Distroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19)Jesus was referring to Himself.
In 33 A.D., the Passover fell on a Friday. The Passover was called the "High Sabbath"; meaning the yearly Sabbath day. Friday night and Saturday day was the "weekly" Sabbath.
According to the Babylonian Talmud, "On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged." (Sanhedrin 43a)
The eve of Passover, 33 A.D., was on a Thursday; since Passover was on a Friday. Jesus died on Thursday at about 3pm (the 11th hour). The Gospels say that He was raised from the dead at dawn on "the first day of the week" which for Jews was Saturday night/Sunday day.
Jesus was dead....
*Thursday day (from 3pm to sunset or about 7pm)
If Jesus arose at dawn on Sunday, then Jesus had been dead for "three days and three nights" as the Gospels say.The Babylonian Talmud, a book which is very anti-Jesus (calling Him a "sorcerer" and "son of an adulteress" etc.), confirms the Gospels! Jesus was hung on the eve of the High Sabbath; the Passover.
The Aramaic name for Jesus ("Jesus" is Greek) is "Yeshu". His Hebrew name is Yeh'o'shuah; which means "Yeh Has Saved".
The Holy Spirit appears to Mary as a Perfect Man
Muslims believe that the Holy Spirit is the Angel Gabriel; who came to Mary in the form of 'a perfect man':
17 She covered herself up and I sent to her My Spirit. The Holy Spirit appeared to her in the form of a perfect man." (Qur'an 19:17)'Abdu'l-Baha quoted this Verse and said that "the Holy Spirit took the likeness of the human form, as an image is produced in a mirror." (SAQ p.87) When we look in to a mirror we see what "appears" to be a physical/material form, but it is just a reflection. It is not physical; nor material.
Mary had a VISION of the angel Gabriel. The disciples had VISIONS of Christ after His death.
The Lord appears to Abraham and eats material food
In Genesis chater 18 we read that the Lord (Jehovah) appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre:
2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground.
3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass ot away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on...
8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which had had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
This was the incident where one of the angels told Sarah (Abraham's wife) that she would have a son, and "Sarah laughed" because she was well beyond child-bearing years. Yet, Sarah later had Isaac.
It says that the LORD (and apparently two angels with Him who later went to meet Lot and then destroyed Sodom and Gommorah) ATE literal material food with Abraham under a tree!
How can the LORD eat? How could God get hungry? How could God appear as a man who eats material food?
This is what the First Book of Moses (Genesis) says happened, and Baha'u'llah confirmed that this book was written by the hand of Moses; a Manifestation of God.
Is anything too hard for God?
Jesus Eats Fish and Honeycomb
In the book of Luke we read that Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, but "vanishes" out of their sight ("vision" in Greek). The two unnamed disciples go to Jerusalem and find the 11 disciples (Jesus' apostles except for Judas who hanged himself) gathered together:
33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them.Did this happen, or is it a "mere parable"? If only a "mere parable", then what is is a "parable" of?
34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon [Peter].
35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit [ghost].
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see, for a spirit [ghost] hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41 And they have him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
42 And he took it, and did eat before [in front of] them. (Luke 24)
Remember, every Ayat (Arabic: "sign"--a Verse, an Event, a Story in Scripture) has 1 and 70 meanings; lone literal and "a great multitude" of metaphorical meanings. The literal meaning is that Jesus appeared in the midst of them, and ate material food. He said He was NOT a "spirit".
But how can a spirit eat?
Jesus said that "a spirit hath not flesh and bone, AS YE SEE ME HAVE". He said "handle me".
In Mystical Islam (Ishraqiyyah/Shaykhiyyah), a "spirit" is not form, no shape, no mass. In Mystical Islam (and Mystical Judaism--the Kabballah) humans are composed of:
The Ethereal Body is sometimes called the "Subtle Body" or the "Spiritual Body" or the "Astral Body" or the "Bardo Body" or the "Incorporeal Body". It is a "body", but made of "heavenly elements" and not earthly elements like the physical/material body which returns to dust.
The Ethereal Body can eat and drink! Indeed, the Ethereal Body can do anything the Physical Body can do, but it can do much more than the Physical Body. The Ethereal Body can:
*Walk through walls or closed doors.
*Appear and disappear at will.
*Change appearance at will.
*Appear at different locations at the same time (bi-location).
There is in the Book of Tobit, a book which is considered to be "Scripture" by Roman Catholics, and was included in Martin Luther's Bible, but was later taken out of Protestant Bibles because it was considered "apocryphal"; meaning historical but not "Scripture". Jesus certainly consider Tobit to be Scripture, even calling it "Scripture". When the Sadduccees asked Jesus about a woman with seven husbands, whose wife would she be in the Resurrection (which the Sadducees did not believe in), Jesus replied:
"Ye do err, not know the Scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29)The story of the Woman with 7 Husbands is the story of Sarah in the Book of Tobit. Sarah was betrothed to a man who was unrighteous. He died on choking on the wedding night; before consummation. According to Jewish law, his nearest male relative had to marry her and raise children as heirs of the man who died. This was done, and each man died until all 7 brothers (near male relatives) were dead. According to the Book of Tobit, the rightful husband of Sarah was Tobias; the son of Tobit. So, the LORD allowed Asthma Daeva (Old Farsi: "The Choking Demon") to kill the 7 unrighteous brothers before they "had" her so she could marry her rightful husband; her first cousin Tobias, the son of Tobit. But Tobit is blind, and Sarah can't have children. But a servant of Tobit heals both of them, then later reveals that he (the servant) is really Raphael; one of the 7 archangels.
Jesus called the Book of Tobit "Scripture" (Matthew 22:29). It is still recognized as divinely-inspired Scripture in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants took it out of their Bibles in the late 15th century because it contained a few things which Protestants no longer believed were true; like praying for the dead (which Baha'is along with Catholics believe can be benefitial to the dead). Protestants believe that once you are dead you can't be helped by prayer, so they removed the Book of Tobit and numerous other books which are now collectively called the "Apocrypha" (Greek: "Hidden" books). The Apocrypha is in all Catholic Bibles, but not in Protestant Bibles. Evangelical Christians are conservative Protestants.
In the Book of Tobit, the angel Raphael appears to Tobit; in response to Tobit's prayers to God. Raphael heals Tobit and his daughter Sarah. Tobit thinks Raphael is just a wise man, and both of them eat and drink together. Then, in chapter 12, Raphel reveals his true identity to Tobit and another man who is with him:
15 "I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord."The archangel Raphael, one of the 7 archangels, appeared to Tobit and his son Tobias (the husband of Sarah) and ate and drank with them. He healed Tobit of his physical blindness. He appeared to them as a "man" who ate and drank, and then he "ascended" into heaven. Raphael did not have a physical/material body. He did not ascend into material space. Tobit and the man with him were seeing a VISION. The VISIONS was literal, but not material/physical. Remember the words of 'Abdu'l-Baha:
16. Stricken with fear, the two men fell to the ground.
17. But Raphael said to them: "No need to fear; you are safe. Thank God now and forever.
18. As for me, when I came to you it was not out of any favor on my part, but because it was God's will. So continue to thank him every day; praise him with song.
19. Even though you watched me eat and drink. I did not really do so; what you were seeing was a vision.
20. So now get up from the ground and praise God. Behold, I am about to ascend to him who sent me; write down the things that have happened to you."
21. When Raphael ascended they rose to their feet and could no longer see him.
22. They kept thanking God and singing his praised; and they continued to acknowledge these marvelous deeds which had had done when the angel of God appeared to them. (Tobit 12:15-22 New American Bible)
"Men behold in the World of Vision various images, communicates with them and receives benefits, and in that World of Vision he thinks they are physical temples and material bodies while they are purely immaterial." (Star of the West 2:15, Dec. 1911, p.6)Tobit and his son Tobias "think" they see a man eating and drinking with them, but they are actually having a "vision". The man is Raphael; not a "man" at all, but he "appears" as an eating/drinking physical man, with a physical body, in the VISION.
There are a number of accounts of Baha'i pilgrims who say that the wife would speak to 'Abdu'l-Baha in the parylor while the husband spoke to Him elsewhere at the same time. This was while 'Abdu'l-Baha was still alive.
There "are" batin (esoteric) interpretations of Jesus eating broiled fish and honeycomb, but the batin meanings DO NOT (indeed---CANNOT) negate the zahir (literal) meaning.
If the Holy Spirit can appear as 'a perfect man' then could the Lord as well? Is the Lord separate from His Holy Spirit?
When Jesus first appeared to His disciples after His death He ate fish and honeycomb with them. He denied He was a "spirit" but said He had "flesh and bone". (Luke chap. 24).
*The Ethereal Body is NOT a "spirit", but is an exact replica of the physical body, but made of ethereal instead of material elements.
*The Ethereal Body can do EVERYTHING a physical body can do (include eat material food), and much more; including changing shape, walking through closed doors, etc.
*The Ethereal Body is seen ONLY in VISIONS.
*Visions are literal, but NOT 'physical' events.
Jesus ascends into heaven
On the Book of Acts ch.1 it says that Jesus appeared again to His disciples after His death; this time on the Mount of Olives. This is the last time that His disciples would see Him on earth (except for Paul years later when he had a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus). A "cloud" is seen engulfing Jesus on the Mount of Olives, and he then disappears. Two angels appear to the disciples:
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.Was all this just a mere 'metaphor'? Is this another NON-historical parable?
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you unto heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
It was a VISION. Verse 9 says in the Greek that He was taken up out of their "vision" (supernatural sight). This was a VISION just like when Peter, James, and John had a vision of Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor ("The Mount of Transfiguration").
In the vision they saw Jesus being engulfed by a CLOUD. Christian artists protray this as Jesus flying up into the clouds of the sky...
But this isn't what the Greek original says. It says that he was "snatched away" by a "cloud" and he vanished from their sight (Greek: "vision"). He did not ascend up into the sky, but a CLOUD.
This CLOUD was NOT an oridinary white puffy cloud we see almost everyday in the sky. This was a GLORY CLOUD! These were the clouds which hid "The Glory of God".
Throughout the Old Testament whenever the Glory of God appears He is shrouded in a glory cloud; which appears as a pillar of smoke by day or a pillar of fire by night. These glory clouds were called Kebod Yehweh ("The Glory of God"). In Arabic Bibles they are called Baha'u'llah.
The CLOUD was the Shekinah: the Glory Cloud of God, the Glory of God!
The Kabod Yehweh represented the Presence of GOD, or Jehovah, on earth.
Jehovah (Yehweh) is GOD THE FATHER.
Baha'u'llah is the Manifestation of God the Father on earth!
The meaning of the vision that Jesus' disciples had on the Mount of Olives was this:
*When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, a "cloud" appeared *Jesus took Peter, James, and John, His three most beloved disciples, to Mount Tabor (called "The Mount of Transfiguration"):
1 AND after six days Jesus taketeth Peter, James, and John his brother, and brigeth them up into an high mountain apart.Peter, James, and John had a VISION of Moses and Elijah (two long-dead Prophets) with Jesus. They saw a CLOUD which spoke as GOD THE FATHER. Jesus told them to tell of this VISION to nobody until He had risen from the dead.
2 And was tansfigured before them: and his face did shane as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses, and Elias [Elijah] talking with him.
4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles [tents of palm leaves]; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were sore afraid.
7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead. (Matthew 17)
Jesus Himself was "transfigured" from a physical body into a spiritual body, and back again, in the vision. This is why Mount Tabor is called "The Mount of Transfiguration". Peter had thought that Moses and Elijah had been bodily resurrected, and therefore he offered to make palm-booths for them to sleep and rest in. But Moses and Elijah soon disappeared. Peter did not yet know he was seeing a "vision".
*While on earth Jesus said, "The Father is IN me, and I am IN the Father". This is not a metaphor, but a divine truth. The Father (Jehovah) was actually "in" Jesus!
*Jesus tells His disciples:
"Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled....And they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Luke 21:24,27)This is why Christians believe Jesus shall return in a cloud of the sky, or the clouds of the sky, with thousands of angels with Him.
*At the Cross the Father leaves Jesus, and Jesus cries out "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?"
*Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene on Sunday morning outside of the tomb He was buried in. Mary at first thinks He is the gardener, but then recognizes Him and says "Rabonni" (which means "My Master") and goes to embrace Him. But He forbids her saying, "I have not yet ascended unto my Father and unto your Father, unto my God and unto your God".
*Jesus appears to various disciples at various times; not always recognized at first.
*Jesus appears to His 11 disciples (and others that were with them) at "the 11th hour" (3 pm) on Sunday in Jerusalem; probably at the "upper room" they had rented and ate the Passover meal at. They at first think they have seen a ghost, but He assures them He has "flesh and bones". He eats broiled fish and honeycomb in front of them.
*He spends 40 days "teaching them things pertaining to the Kingdom of God". On the last day He is with them He is on the Mount of Olives. It does not say He is on top of the Mount of Olives. He gives them final admonitions, and the disciples SEE a Glory Cloud "engulf" Him, and He vanishes out of their sight. Nowhere does it say He "ascended" into the sky or into a cloud sky. He "ascended" into a Glory Cloud; which was the Presence ofGod the Father on earth.
*Two men appear suddenly on the Mount of Olives while Jesus is being engulfed by the Glory Cloud:
"And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up ; and a cloud receive him out of their sight . And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:8-9)Evangelicals (born-again Christians) interpret this to mean that Jesus will descend from a cloud of the sky onto the Mount of Olives; which will be His "Second Coming".
Muslims believe that Jesus was descend from the sky near a white Mineret either in east Damascus or "east of Damascus".
What is the Baha'i interpretation of this? Remember the angels said "this SAME JESUS shall come". Is Baha'u'llah Jesus? The angels told His disciples that "this SAME Jesus whom you saw ascend into heaven shall come again in like manner as ye have seen him go up into Heaven."
Shall Jesus return "while going up into a cloud of the sky"?
Remember what Jesus' disciples SAW. They saw Jesus being overshadowed by a cloud. This cloud was the same Cloud that spake saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-leased. Here ye him!"
The Cloud was the Father. By "the Father" I mean "God the Father".
Jesus would return "in" God the Father. He would return "in" the Glory of the LORD.
*JESUS (the Manifestation of God named Christ) shall come again (return) as He ascended into Heaven (i.e. _____in_____ THE GLORY OF GOD).
In other words, JESUS shall return "IN" The Glory of God.
The Glory of God (Arabic: "Baha'u'llah") means the Presence of GOD THE FATHER on earth.
The VISION that the disciples had of Jesus being engulfed by a Glory Cloud was literal (but NOT physical/material). It was a LITERAL vision. They LITERALLY "saw" Jesus being engulfed by a Glory Cloud. The literal vision was symbolic of Jesus returning IN "The Glory of God".
"O Jews! If ye be intent on crucifying once again Jesus, the Spirit of God, put Me to death, for He hath once more, in My Person, been made manifest unto you." (Gleanings, p.101)To learn more about this go to the Google search engine (www.google.com) and type in "glory cloud" and/or "shekinah" and/or "The glory of God".
Overmetaphoricalization is a term that refers to an innate danger that occurs when Ta'wil is abused. Some of the early Babis deneied there was a literal (zahir) Afterlife; preaching that the "Afterlife" refers MERELY to one's earthly life "after" they have accepted the Manifestataion of God. In other words, one is "dead" until "resurrected" by accepting the Manifestation. There is no literal Afterlife since the Afterlife is "merely a metaphor" of one's earthly life AFTER accepting the Manifestation of God.
The uncle of The Bab was told this by numerous Babis, and asked Baha'u'llah what point it was for the Babis to suffer, and their persecutors to live well, if in fact there was no Afterlife where the murdered Babis would be rewarded and their murderers punished. Where was the Justice of God if there was no reward and punishment after this life?
Baha'u'llah replied with The Kitab-i-Iqan.
Baha'u'llah later warned Baha'is about denying the zahir meaning of the Verses of God:
"Whoso interpreteth what hath been sent down from the Heaven of Revelation, and altereth its evident [zahir=literal] meaning, he, verily, is of them that have perverted the Sublime Word of God." (Aqdas p.57)The zahir (evident/outward) meaning and the batin (hidden/inward) meanings must act like two wings of a bird in flight; in perfect harmony!
The principle of Ta'wil applies also to Heaven and Hell, Paradise, Jinn, Angels,Satan,Miracles, etc.
A Baha'i called Vafa' once wrote to Baha'u'llah asking if Paradise and Hell existed in reality or were MERELY metaphors. Baha'u'llah replied:
"As to Paradise: it is a reality and there can be no doubt about it, and now in this world it is realized through the love of Me and My good-pleasure. Whosoever attaneth unto it God will aid him in this world below, and after death He will enable him to gain admittance into Paradise whose vastness is as that of heaven and earth. Therein the Maids of glory and holiness will wait upon him in the daytime and in the night season,.....Likewise, apprehend thou the nature of hell-fire and be of them that truly believe. For every act performed there shall be a recompense according to the estimate of God, and unto this the very ordinances and prohibitions prescribed by the Almighty Amply bear witness. For surely if deeds were not rewarded and yielded no fruit, then the Cause of God--exalted is He--would prove futile. Immeasurably high is He exalted above such blasphemies!" (Tablets of Baha'u'llah revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas 12:24)In other words, Paradise and Hell-fire are MERE metaphors ONLY in this life (and refers to closeness or aloftness from God), but in the Afterlife they were "realities" and should be accepted as such. Those who call them "MERE metaphors"--with no reality in the Afterlife--BLASPHEME against God. To 'blaspheme' is to tell LIES about God or His Word.
Paradise and Hell are not geographic locations, but DIMENSIONS in the World of Exemplars.
Are the Gospels Part-History and Part-Parable?
In an effort to try to explain the seeming contradiction between the Gospel accounts and 'Abdu'l-Baha's explanation of Jesus' resurrection in Some Answered Questions many Baha'is have invented what I call the "part history/part parable" doctrine; that the Gospels are a "historical" in parts and non-historical "parables" in parts. In other words, when the Gospels say that Jesus was crucified, died, and was placed into a tomb THAT IS HISTORICAL, but when the very next verses say....
*Angels scared the guards away.
*An angel came down and rolled the stone in front of the tomb away and sat on it.
*Mary and two other women came to the tomb to annoint the body with buriel spices, but found it empty; with a "young man" dressed in white telling them, "He is not here! He is risen".
*Jesus appeared to Mary Magdelene and telling her He is not yet ascended.
*Peter and John coming to to the tomb and finding it "empty" except for a buriel shroud and a face-napkin (used to cover the dead person's face).
*Jesus appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus
*Jesus appearing to the 11 disciples and others in the "upper room" where He eats broiled fish and honeycomb.
*Jesus teaching His disciples for 40 days.
*Jesus teaching on the Mount of Olives then ascending into a Glory Cloud.
*Two angels appearing and telling the disciples "this same Jesus" would come again "in like manner" as they saw Him ascend into Heaven....
....all is "mere parable" and NEVER HAPPENED!
Still other Baha'is try other explanation, saying that the "empty tomb" happened, but that some of Jesus' disciples "stole" His body!
The Gospels say otherwise!
The Friends need not "invent" excuses and explain-aways to try to "explain-away" the apparent contradiction between the Gospel narratives and the explanation of 'Abdu'l-Baha in Some Answered Questions. There is no contradiction when one understands that 'Abdu'l-Baha was NOT denying the literal resurrection of Christ! He was denying it was physical/material!
Jesus did NOT arise in a physical body and ascend into a material Heaven. But He did "arise".
HE IS RISEN! It is time for Baha'is to recognize that, and to trust the Gospel narratives just like they trust A Traveler's Narrative. The Gospels are historical narratives from beginning to end. They include Jesus telling parables, but they are NOT parables! There is NO indication that the Gospels were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Three of these men (except Luke) were eyewitnesses to the events they described.
'Abdu'l-Baha was giving TA'WIL; two batin (esoteric) meanings of Christ's Resurrection. But the inner doth not prevent the outer, and the outer doth not prevent the inner!
As long as Baha'is cling to the "Metaphor-ONLY" view of Jesus' Resurrection, they can FORGET about teaching Bible-believers like Evangelical Christians (40 million U.S.), Traditional Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, and the list goes on.
Speaking to Christians
Baha'is need to being to realize that they will have NO HOPE of attracting Bible-believers to the Faith while they continue to believe that Jesus slowly rotted away in the tomb, and never appeared to anyone after His death! You can FORGET about converting 99.99.99% of Evangelicals, Mormons, Traditional Catholics, Eastern Ortodox. Forget it! Now and forever! IT is more likely Baha'is will join the Nazi Party!!! Far more likely!
The Friends need to abandon their beliefs that:
1) The Gospels are historical when they say that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, but "non-historical parables" after that.
2) Jesus slowly rotted away and appeared to nobody.
When Christians ask: "Do Baha'is accept Jesus' resurrection and ascension into Heaven?" your answer should be:
"YES! But we do not believe that Jesus arose in His physical body. If Jesus was raised in His physical body, then He would have later died; as did Lazarus. We believe that Jesus arose in His ETHEREAL body. We believe that He ascended into the Spiritual Realm; not into the sky or space. But the TOMB WAS EMPTY; because Jesus' physical body vanished. He appeared to His disciples in visions for 40 days after His death."That should be your answer. All Christians believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but they also believe that Lazarus got old and died later. If Jesus was raised in a physical body then He too got old and died later. Jesus was raised in His ETHEREAL body. We all have an ethereal body. When we die we exist in our ethereal body for 49 days; then we too ascend. Many people reported seeing the ethereal forms of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha after Their deaths.
Paul, Christ's most faithful servant, saw a VISION of Jesus on the road to Damascus three years after Jesus died. Did Paul see Jesus' physical body? No! This was a VISION.
The Gospels and 'Abdu'l-Baha do NOT contradict each other! The Gospels are simple historical narratives. 'Abdu'l-Baha was NOT giving historical narrative in Some Answered Questions. He was giving TA'WIL; He was giving two batin meanings for Christ's resurrection. But the inner cannot prevent the outer, and the outer cannot prevent the inner.
'Abdu'l-Baha knew of an followed the rules of TA'WIL; that the BATIN (esoteric) meanings cannot deny nor negate the literal meaning; nor vice versa.
Baha'is have told me, "Well, whether Jesus was raised literally or not isn't important!"
OH.....MY.....GOD! They could not have said anymore more IGNORANT in all the eternities!
For Christians, the Resurrection is the MORE IMPORTANT doctrine, the most cherished and sacred belief!!!
Wake up! And wise up! Or...FORGET about converting all save a few Liberal Christians and New Agers, and not most of them either.
This article is NOT copyrighted. You are encouraged to make as many copies of it as you can, and give them to other Baha'is. Each one reach one with at least one extra copy!
If you don't have a printer, then just write down the URLs and take them to your nearest public library, and the librarian will print them out for you: at 5 to 10 cents per page (if that). Here are the URLs:
You are encouraged to hold a Deepening in your Community on "The Inner and Outer Meanings of the Resurrection of Christ." Have copies for Baha'is who will attend.
A few Baha'is will hold strongly to the 'Metaphor-Only' view; because this is what they were taught, and they don't understand the principle of Ta'wil (and some won't want to). For them, please read the following:
"Believers are free, indeed encouraged to study the Writings for themselves and to express their understanding of them. Such personal interpretations can be most illuminating, but all Baha'is, including the one expressing the view, however learned he may be, should realize that it is only a personal view and can never be upheld as a standard for others to accept, nor should they dispute, nor should disputes ever be permitted to arise over differences in such opinions." (Messages of the Universal House of Justice: 1963-1986, p.518)A few Baha'is will say, "But this is going against the AUTHORIZED interpretation!"
This is simply NOT true!
Before Thief in the Night Baha'is believed there was NO literal "falling of the stars from Heaven". Yet, Hand of the Cause William Sears showed us in that book how a 'literal' falling of the stars happened in 1833, and how other literal signs happened; none of which negate or prevent the seventy esoteric meanings of these 'signs'.
Most Baha'is will welcome this new insight, but there may be one of two who will actually try to "create" contention in hopes of forcing you to cease sharing this insight with other Baha'is. In that case, you should go to your LSA.
But, again, you will find most of the Friends open and receptive!
The outer cannot negate the inner meanings, nor can the inner negate the outer meaning.
Why is this important for Baha'is to know? Why isn't just emphasizing World Peace and Race Unity sufficient?
The Baha'is will NEVER convert the religious masses by offering only "the 12 Principles"! There are hundreds of New Age sects which offer these same Principles! And at FAR less personal cost and commitment! Why should people rush to the Faith for these things?
Few do (the Faith in the U.S. grows at about 0.8% a year--a dismal rate-of-growth!).
Certainly for Evangelical Christians, Mormons,Seventh-day Adventists, Traditional Catholics, and other Bible-Fundamentalists, entry-by-troops to the Faith will NOT come from 'World Peace' and 'Race Unity' campaigns, but when and if they are told that Baha'u'llah is Christ returned, and that the Baha'i Faith seeks to establish the Millennial Kingdom of God on earth. Only then will they be attracted. But if the Baha'is still hold to a 'Metaphor-Only' view the Resurrection of Christ, those same masses will take a quick 180 and head back out the door!
We have seen that there is NO CONTRADICTION between what 'Abdu'l-Baha said about the Resurrection of Christ and what the Gospels say actually happened; once you understand the principle of Ta'wil.
Those Baha'is who tell themselves... "Well, the Resurrection of Christ isn't important! What IS important is Race Unity and World Peace! Christians will eventually come around to see that Jesus was never literally raised from the dead!"....are only FOOLING THEMSELVES! The Bible-believing churches are growing by leaps and bounds! It is the Liberal churches that are shrinking and dying! There will never come a day that Bible-believers will adhere to the 'Metaphor-only' view. When they hear it they laugh, and say, "Oh my, you Baha'is are SO DECEIVED!" That opinion won't change...as long as the Friends adhere to the "Metaphor-Only" NON-SENSE.
With this new insight into the Resurrection of Christ, you will find it much easier to talk to Christians and other Bible-fundamentalists about the Faith! That which was once an INsurmountable mountain has now become a lush green and flat path!
Thank you for your patience, and...
May Peace be with you!
This article is NOT copyrighted. The Friends are encouraged to make copies and share them with other Baha'is; especially those who want to effectively teach bible-believing Christians the Faith.