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Abdu’l-Baha: ‘The Celestial Fire’

Posted by Sen on April 25, 2010

This is a tablet of Abdu’l-Baha, one of several selected and translated by Shoghi Effendi and published in Star of the West volume 14, no 1, April 1923. This translation does not appear to be available elsewhere, although another translation can be found in Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha page 405.

… A celestial fire hath been kindled in the very heart of mankind, and burns brightly in the Sacred Tree. Ere long its glowing flame shall set ablaze the souls of men and its light illumine the regions of the world.

The signs of God have appeared, the mysteries of the Kingdom are revealed, and the secret of all that hath been recorded in the Holy Writ been made manifest. Wherefore doubt and hesitate? …

Now that that Ravisher of hearts has spurred on His charger into the arena of Truth, and all that hath been hidden is revealed, why be still and silent, heedless and forgetful? The Divine Candle hath thrown its beams upon the world, whilst the heedless, veiled and afflicted, languish, moth-like, in their darkness of error. Now is the hour to be stirred even as the surging billows of the sea, and seek to attain the heights of the stars … for time is fleeting, and the Divine Messenger will tarry no longer. Let us make haste, and let our lamps be burning.

(Signed) Abdu’l Baha Abbas.

If you know where the Persian text is published, or anything more about this tablet, please use the comments section below.

I have used the Reference library to search for the Persian original, without success. If you know where it is published, or more about this tablet, please use the comments section.

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5 Responses to “Abdu’l-Baha: ‘The Celestial Fire’”

  1. Gordon J Kerr said

    Thanks for sharing this Sen. I love the strong imagery of many of these early translations. I find some of the newer translations less appealing – they maybe more accurate in a technical sense but they often lack the power and beauty of the original. This particular passage reminds me of another published in page 369 of Baha’i World Faith “I now assure thee, O servant of God….the secrets of the Kingdom of God will shine before thee. Perhaps you know it – one of my favourites.

    Regards

    Gordon

  2. Sen said

    I do know that tablet. A partial translation (differing slightly) was published in Star of the West 7.10.p 98, in 1916, and the full text is in Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha p. 706, beginning “O thou that virtuous soul and individual who art ready for the confirmation of the Holy Spirit! I, with the utmost clemency, have read thy brilliant letter … ” I don’t know who the translator is.

    The ‘celestial fire’ tablet is translated by Shoghi Effendi, which perhaps explains its literary qualities. Not all the English translations used in the early Bahai community are that good! I think that Shoghi Effendi’s early translations are somewhat livelier, in that he was not concerned (or less concerned) with having a uniform style for his translations, giving more freedom to respond to the demands of a particular text. I don’t know whether the translation in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha is more technically accurate, because I haven’t located the Persian text. The problem is that the Persian words for ‘fire’ and ‘heart’ and ‘tree’ are used so often in Abdu’l-Baha’s writings, that the search engine at the Bahai Reference Library was not useful. Perhaps one of the Persian friends will help us to find it?

  3. gordon said

    Yes thanks, I know the newer translation in Selections you refer to and remember discussing it with one of the staff from the research department while on a visit to Haifa. I would be the first to agree that many of the early English translations were poor and inconsistent. As you know translation is a complex and difficult issue and I have no pretentions as a scholar in this field so my comments are purely personal.

    As a British Baha’i working in the field of Baha’i publishing I have on occasion struggled with some of the American usage and style issues in certain newer translations. My conclusion is that these changes seemed to be more an outcome of a change in personnel at the world centre than a conscious change in editorial policy. There are certainly more Arabic and Persian scholars around the translation table these days who I am sure are dedicated and able but from what I understand although they may have grown up in the West few if any are really native English speakers or are well versed in western poetic traditions or literary styles. This may now have changed but I think this could be a weakness. I ma sure it is very difficult but I do believe some of the newer translations are poorer and frankly wooden in style, which I am sure Baha’u’llah and Abdul-Baha were not.

    As a footnote I would comment that the Guardian as far as I am aware, despite being educated for a time at the American University in Beirut, always wrote in British English although RKhanum sometimes used North American terms when writing on his behalf. Shoghi Effendi did give permission to the American Baha’is to publish American editions of his translations but I believe his literary mentors were George Townsend and John Esslemont. I had the good fortune once to review the different early translations attempts of the Hidden Words by Shoghi Effendi when he was still a student of the language and saw the wholesale changes made to his drafts by John Esslemont in particular. Dare I say it some of the latest ‘more technically accurate ‘ translations which are now published do remind me of those early drafts by the Guardian, with dictionary by his side. From what I recall of those drafts, Esslemont and Townsend both had major inputs into the final version which so far has stood the test of time. It still tickles me that in the acknowledgements printed on the frontispiece this Scotsman and Irishman are today acknowledged as the ‘English Friends’ who helped with the translation.

  4. Sen said

    Ah, the ‘English Friends’! The Scots and the Irish are the cream on the tea, and the biscuit beside the cup. It would be dull fare without them.

    Translation itself is a learned art: merely knowing the languages, even as a native speaker, is only a good start, not sufficient in itself.

  5. Tanuki said

    Sen,

    I’m new to your blog and new to this passage. Many thanks for sharing, as it’s truly magical and inspiring.

    In peace,

    Tanuki

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