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The Tablet of Emanuel, retranslated

Posted by Sen on July 31, 2018

In a previous posting, I discussed the background of Abdu’l-Baha’s tablet to an American Bahai, Mr. E. E. Wrestling Brewster, concerning the 18th century polymath and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.

Wrestling Brewster, who was attached to the New Jerusalem Church in New York, wrote to Abdu’l-Baha regarding Swedenborg. He later described the contents of his letter as:

… a query as to what is the relation between the Revelation of Emanuel Swedenborg and that of Baha ‘o ‘llah? The statement was given that the writer [Wrestling Brewster] was a deep student and disciple of the Swedish Seer and a communicant in the New-Church founded upon His doctrines; and further, that a resolve had been made to assist in spreading this spiritual philosophy before the masses.

I have translated Abdu’l-Baha’s response below. It has already been translated and published in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha (selection 29), but because the translators were under the impression that it was about the Bab, they have missed the points that Abdu’l-Baha was making in minor ways. There is a much older translation by Abdu’l-Baha’s secretary, Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, who did know that the subject was Emanuel Swedenborg. His 1907 translation, later revised and published in volume 3 of Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas, is accurate, but I felt it could benefit from some polishing and alignment with Shoghi Effendi’s translation vocabulary.

I have indicated the sources, and the reason for the mistaken impression that it was about the Bab, in my previous posting. Here, by way of completing that project, is my updated translation.

O thou who art enamoured of Truth and attracted to the Kingdom of God! The detailed letter arrived, and its recitation brought great joy, as it was conclusive evidence of lofty endeavours and sublime intentions. Praised be God, you are one who desires the good of the human world and is attracted to the Baha’i Kingdom, enamoured of the progress of the world of humanity.

It is my hope that these high ideals, that heart-felt spiritual attraction, and these tidings of heaven will make you so luminous that you may be inscribed in splendour on the ages by the light of the love of God.

It seems you are a student in the school of spiritual progress. How blessed you are! If these schools of progress lead to the all-embracing school of the Kingdom, the result will be learning and scholarship through which a man (or woman) may see that the open book of the universe is unending, and perceive all created things as letters and words, and read the lesson of spiritual stations. He or she may see the signs of Oneness in the atoms of existing things and hear the summons of the Lord of the Kingdom, and experience the confirmations of the Holy Spirit. Then he or she will feel such bliss, such ecstasy, that the wide world with its vastness will no longer contain him, and he will set out for the Kingdom of God, and hasten to the realm of the spirit.

Any bird that is fully fledged does not remain fixed to the ground: it takes flight in lofty skies. But not any bird whose legs are bound, or those whose wings and feathers are broken, or mired with water and clay.

O thou seeker after truth! The realm of the Kingdom of God is all one. The only difference is that the springtime is renewed, and a new movement and a great commotion is quickened all existing things. The mountain and the plains come alive, trees become fresh and green, and leaves, blossoms and fruits are adorned with the utmost health and vigour. Similarly, previous dispensations are intimately connected to the subsequent dispensations: indeed, each one is the soul of the other, but as the world moves on, the rays of light become stronger, and the outpouring of heavenly grace is greater, and the sun shines in noonday splendour.

O you who seek the Kingdom of God! Every Manifestation of God is the very life of the world, and the skilled physician of each ailing soul. The world of men is sick. That Skilled Physician has the remedy, and comes with teachings, exhortations and admonitions that are the medicine for every pain, the healing balm for every wound. Naturally, in each season that wise physician diagnoses the patient’s needs, and initiates the treatment. Therefore, relate the teachings of the Abha Beauty to the needs of the time. You will observe that they are a speedy remedy for the ailing body of the world. Indeed, they are the antidote that brings unfailing health.

The treatments of skilled physicians of ancient and more recent times are not of the same type: it is in accordance with the patient’s illness. Although there is alteration and substitution as regards the remedy, the aim is always to bring the patient back to health.

In previous dispensations, the afflicted body of the world could not withstand a powerful remedy. For this reason Christ said: “There are many things that must be explained, but you cannot bear to hear them now. Yet when that Comforting Spirit, whom the Father will send, comes, he will expound the truth for you.”

Therefore, in this age of lights, teachings once limited to the few are made available to all, that the mercy of the Lord may embrace both east and west, that the beauty of the oneness of the world of humanity may appear and the light of reality may illuminate the world of the mind.

The descent of the New Jerusalem is a law or path that is heavenly, that is sure to bring happiness to the world of humanity, a law that is the light of the world of God.

Emanuel did indeed bring the glad tidings of the second coming of his Holiness Christ, he was a crier on the road to the Kingdom.

It is evident that a letter is one of the members of a word. ‘Membership’ here is used in the sense of ‘extension,’ that is, this letter is an extension from the word; it has a spiritual kinship with the word, and is considered as part of it.

The Apostles were like letters, while His Holiness Christ was the essence of the Word, he was the meaning of the Word, which is grace everlasting. He cast a splendour on those letters. Since the letter is one of the members of the word, in its inner meaning it is consonant with the word.

I hope that you, in this day, will arise to promote those things of which the honourable Emanuel gave the glad tidings. Know for a certainty that you will succeed, for the confirmations of the Holy Spirit are continually descending, and the power of the Word will exert such an influence that the letter will become a polished mirror to the Sun of the Word. Then the grace and glory of the Word will illumine the earth.

As for the heavenly Jerusalem that has been established at the axis of creation, and God’s Holy of Holies, whose banner has been raised, it embraces all the perfections and teachings of the past.

In addition, it is a herald of the oneness of the world of humanity and the banner of universal peace. It is the spirit of eternal life, the light of divine perfections and the grace that encompasses the world of creation, the ornament adorning all created things, the source of inner quietude for the world of humanity.

Turn to the holy Tablets: to the Ishraqat, Tajalliyyat, the Words of Paradise, the Glad Tidings, the Tarazat and the Most Holy Book. You will see that today these heavenly teachings are the remedy for the pains of humanity and a salve for the wounds on the earthly body. They are the spirit of life, the ark of salvation, the magnet of eternal glory, the power that is active in human reality.

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Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablet of Emanuel

6 Responses to “The Tablet of Emanuel, retranslated”

  1. athertontablelandbahai said

    Wonderful – Thank you for this. Regards Tony

  2. Hasan said

    Thanks, Sen.

  3. Pim said

    Individual translations are useful but by no means authoritative as we have seen from the many misunderstandings caused by translations by scholars such as Juan Cole, Dennis MacEoin, Abbas Abanat, et al in Nader Saiedi’s discussion of their problematic nature in his books (Logos and Civilization & Gate of the Heart).. There are some excellent translators (e.g. Adib Masumian) but these are usually careful to emphasize the provisional and unauthorized nature of their work. Needless to say, a translation of this Tablet by a academic who has been pushing his own agenda re the meaning of this Tablet as one that is in open defiance of the meaning given to it by Shoghi Effendi is very dubious indeed considering the heavy axe to grind. The comments section has amply demonstrated how flawed Sen’s analysis is as compared with Shoghi Effendi’s and this translation is just another attempt to flog a dead horse..

  4. Sen said

    If Adib Masumian or Nader Saiedi or anyone else familiar with Abdu’l-Baha’s language were to offer suggestions for change, I would certainly note the suggestions here and would probably change the translation accordingly.

  5. Hasan said

    The late and great scholar Ahang Rabbani apparently had a Tablet or an authentic pilgrim note of the Master about Emanuel Swedenborg. In one PPT “Messianic Expectations in Christianity and Islam”, Ahang wrote: “Abdu’l-Baha has compared him to Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa’i”, (PPT slide # 67 here:

  6. Pim said

    Thanks Hasan. Here are some other statements about Swedenburg written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi:

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