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The mystery of sacrifice

Posted by Sen on October 16, 2009

sealscrofts3One of the friends said:

Long ago I picked up a supposed quote from the Bab, “The mystery of sacrifice is there is no sacrifice.” Now I can’t find a source. Does anybody know if it is authentic or has another documented origin?

I am afraid this another of those kitab-e hearsay sources. It enters Bahai lore in 1916, in the words of one of the delegates to the National Convention, Mrs Elizabeth Greenleaf (1863-1941). An account of the proceedings says:SoW-7-66

Mrs. Greenleaf: As I have listened, my thoughts have crystallized themselves into three sentences. The first is, “Lift up thy heart with delight that thou mayest be fitted to meet me and to mirror forth my beauty” (the voice of God speaking in the Hidden Words. The second is what Abdul Baha said to Isabel Fraser: Attainment is not through renunciation but through radiant acquiescence. The third is the word “‘sacrifice.”‘ We use the great word and have heard much about the “mystery of sacrifice.” Now what is the mystery of sacrifice? The mystery of sacrifice is that there is no sacrifice.

Reported in Star of the West, Vol. 7, p. 66, published in July 13 1916, reporting on the closing session of the Convention in Chicago, April 29-May 2 1916.

This bit of wisdom may not be from Bahai scripture, but it is no less true for that. The paradox of sacrifice is already expressed in the Gospel of Luke: ”whoever would save his life will lose it; and whosever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

In 1927 the hymn-writer Louise ‘Shahnaz’ Waite uses the phrase in an article called ‘Meditation, Supplication and Service’ published in Star of the West Vol. 17, p. 345. It is not presented as a quotation, but as her own words.

“A story which illustrates in a homely way the principle underlying our subject is told of two brothers, whose father divided a fortune between them and told them to go forth … he built up this progressive city, and far and wide did his influence reach and he was known as one of the greatest benefactors to humanity and loved and honored by all. He learned ‘the joy of giving’ and the mystery of ‘sacrifice that, in reality, there is no sacrifice, for nothing can be given away. The Law of Love is to return in full measure, pressed down and running over, all that is sent forth; that to lose one’s life is to find it, and that over the Shining Pathway of service to God through service to humanity, doth the soul gain the high station of conscious oneness with God. (Star of the West, Vol. 17, 348-9)

Sealscrofts2 Then the phrase is included in a Seals and Crofts lyric (lyrics and music by Dash Crofts and Wayne Newitt, 1984):

She’s a mystery, she can shine her light on me.
She can soar like a dove — She’s the mystery of love.
She’s got mastery, perfect human qualities.
Can you hear her call, benevolent to all.
Look at the majesty in her eyes, the window of her soul.
Oh how you sacrifice for all — mystery of love.
Humility, tenderness so sweet.
Wish that I could be the dust beneath her feet.
Do you realize the compassion in her eyes?
It’s the essence of good that her whole life glorifies.
Look at the loftiness of the dove, the joyfulness she brings.
I would do anything for you — mystery of love.
The mystery of sacrifice is that there is no sacrifice.
Oblivious to fire and ice, make the world a paradise.
Light of unity, brings the joy of harmony.
Let it come to me — oh mystery of love.
You’re a priceless gem of mysterious force.
You’re irreplaceable — mystery of love.

~~Sen McGlinn
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3 Responses to “The mystery of sacrifice”

  1. Helen Harrison said

    Dear Sen – ex Chatham Island pioneer! Looking for the tune you quote of the Seals and Crofts lyric… Does it have a name? Cant find it under ‘mystery of love’ on iTunes.

    Cheers Helen

  2. Sen said

    It’s called “mystery of love” and is even available as a ringtone (shudder).

    Indeed, I am ex Chatham Islands, having served there as a pioneer and worked for the council in various capacities for a couple of years. What’s your connection?

  3. Sen said

    USBN [=US Bahai Newsletter] for No. 59 – February 1932 – page 8
    [re: not spreading pilgrim’s notes ]

    Letter received by the Publishing Committee

    Persian Colony
    Haifa, Palestine

    Dear Mrs. Little:

    Shoghi Effendi wishes me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, written on behalf of the Publishing Committee, regarding the Publication of the “Divine Art of Living .

    Shoghi Effendi has laid down a principal that the Bahá’ís should not attribute much importance to talks, reported to have been given by the Master, if there have not in one form or another obtained His sanction.

    Bahá’u’lláh has made it clear enough that only those things that have been revealed in the form of Tablets have a binding power over the friends. Hearsays may be matters of interest but can in no way claim authority. This basic teaching of Bahá’u’lláh was to preserve the Faith from being corrupted like Islam which attributes binding authority to all the reported sayings of Muhammad.

    This being a basic principle of the Faith we should not confuse Tablets that were actually revealed and mere talks attributed to the founders of the Cause. The first have absolute binding authority while the latter can in no way claim our obedience. The highest thing this can achieve is to influence the activities of the one who has heard the saying in person.

    Those talks of the Master that were later reviewed by Him and corrected or in some other form considered authentic by Himself, such as the “Some Answered “Questions , these could be considered as Tablets and therefore be given the necessary binding power. All the other talks such as are included in Ahmad’s diary or the other diaries of pilgrims, do not fall under this category and could be considered only as interesting material to be taken for what they are worth.

    For this reason Shoghi Effendi has not been encouraging the publication of reported sayings that were not authenticated by the Master Himself. Shoghi Effendi is trying to prevent the friends from considering as actual words of the Master things that were not authenticated by Him.

    Now in so far as the “Divine Art of Living is concerned, some of the friends wrote Shoghi Effendi and stated that the book is very much liked, so he did permit its publication in its old form. The question, however, totally changes when the plates no more exist. He would surely not advise you to undertake that expense at this time and bring out a book where authentic and non-authentic material is hopelessly confused. It greatly detracts from the worth of a book to have in it quotations from Tablets which are absolutely binding and reported sayings that have no authority.

    In closing may I assure you of Shoghi Effendi’s prayers and best wishes and assure you of his loving greetings.

    Yours ever sincerely

    (Signed) Ruhi Afnan.

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