The Eternal Quest for God: Chapter 1
Introduction   Chapter 2
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The Ways of the Search: Towards a Philosophy of Reality

    A Bahá'í scholar ... will not make the mistake of regarding the sayings and beliefs of certain Bahá'ís at any one time as being the Bahá'í Faith. The Bahá'í Faith is the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh: His Own Words as interpreted by `Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian. It is a Revelation of such staggering magnitude that no Bahá'í at this early stage in Bahá'í history can rightly claim to have more than a partial and imperfect understanding of it.

    The Universal House of Justice

Whenever `Abdu'l-Bahá[1] set forth, whether in His Writings or in His talks, a concise exposition of the principles taught by Bahá'u'lláh,[2] consistently among the first to be mentioned was the exhortation to free and independent search after truth.[3] This search, according to the Bahá'í teachings, is the beginning of man's true life and the key to all his attainments. Bahá'u'lláh exhorts man to make an independent search after truth, so that he may fulfil his purpose of knowing truth, and He informs him of the criteria and methods he should follow in order that the results of his search may be reliable.

The criteria and methods recommended for the investigation of physical (or material) and metaphysical (or spiritual) reality are the same, for, as `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `reality is one and cannot admit of multiplicity'.[4] The process of investigation is knowledge; its fruit is science, which is defined by `Abdu'l-Bahá, in this context, as `the outcome of this intellectual endowment';[5] the process of investigation and its fruits can be together defined as philosophy, according to the following definition given by `Abdu'l-Bahá: `Philosophy consists in comprehending the reality of things as they exist, according to the capacity and power of man.'[6]

From this concise definition we can infer four fundamental elements:

  1. the purpose of philosophy: to understand reality;
  2. its subject: the reality of things;
  3. its risks: things as they exist, and not (it seems implicit) as they appear or are supposed to be;
  4. its limits: according to the capacity and power of man.

Nevertheless, this definition of philosophy could be misleading in the context of modern Western civilization; we could be brought to believe that a philosophy (and with it the search for truth), whose aim is `comprehending the reality of things', is, and should be, a merely theoretical activity; that as such it serves its own purposes and is therefore doomed to remain in the sphere of thoughts and words. Bahá'ís, therefore, who strive to achieve `all the perfections of man in activity'[7] and to emulate `Abdu'l-Bahá in treading `the mystical way with practical feet',[8] could be easily tempted to relegate philosophy to those useless sciences which, beginning and ending in words, have been peremptorily banished by Bahá'u'lláh.[9]

Bahá'u'lláh, on the contrary, praised great philosophers, stating that they `stand out as leaders of the people and are prominent among them';[10] whereas `Abdu'l-Bahá, referring to Bahá'u'lláh, writes: ` In His Tablets He has encouraged and rather urged [people] to study philosophy. Therefore, in the religion of Bahá'u'lláh philosophy is highly esteemed;11 moreover He says that `the philosophers have founded material civilization';[12] whereas Shoghi Effendi[13] wrote through his secretary: `Philosophy ... is certainly not one of the sciences that begins and ends in words. Fruitless excursions into metaphysical hair-splitting is meant, not a sound branch of learning like philosophy ... he would advise you not to devote too much of your time to the abstract side of philosophy, but rather to approach it from a more historical angle.'[14] All these statements encourage us, therefore, to search the Bahá'í texts for references to philosophy which will give us a clearer understanding of the reasons why it is so highly regarded, so that we may be guided along its path, strictly adhering to the advice with which the Bahá'í texts will certainly equip us.

The criteria of knowledge

When the aim of philosophy is understood as `comprehending the reality of things', it is of paramount importance to know which criteria of knowledge man has been endowed with.

`Abdu'l-Bahá specifies four criteria of human knowledge: sense perception, intellect, insight or inspiration and Holy Writings or tradition.[15] Examining these four criteria, He concludes that -- each one of them being limited -- any single one can lead to fallacious results. Thus any object of human investigation should be studied in the light of all these four criteria: only after such a thorough process, can one be assured that reliable knowledge is gained. The effort exerted in this process is man's task; the results depend on the way this effort is exerted, on the ardour with which it is made, and on the divine gift of knowledge.

Sense perception. The senses are the most immediate instrument through which man keeps in touch with physical reality. Shared by men and animals -- which in this respect are often more generously endowed than men -- the senses are the instruments of sense perception, which, in the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá, is `the lowest degree of perception'.[16] That senses can be deceived, producing a distorted perception of reality, is a well-known fact. (Think, for instance, of the phenomena of optical illusions.) Sense perception alone is not, therefore, totally reliable.[17]

Intellect. Intellect is the instrument through which man can know abstract reality. This distinctive human faculty differentiates men from animals. `Abdu'l-Bahá asserts that intellect is assumed by Eastern philosophy[18] as the only criterion for truth. It is an important agent of knowledge, because it allows man to transcend some of the limitations of sense perception which can, as we have seen, involve a fallacious perception of reality. Nevertheless, intellect has its own limits and can likewise be misleading. If this were not the case, why have so many hypotheses supported by eminent scientists been proven false by subsequent studies? Why is it that not even the greatest scholars agree among themselves on many of the most important issues?

Intellect is particularly limited when spiritual reality is ignored i.e. when intellect is confined to a mere analysis of those cognitive data which are produced through sense perception, however vital these may be. Intellect should, on the contrary, be used to analyze spiritual reality also,[19] which it can know through the guidance provided by the Holy Writings.

This is one of the most important limitations of the modern Western world: it does not avail itself of a methodical use of insight; it overlooks the data provided by the Holy Writings; it disregards transcendency; it claims that an unbridgeable gap exists between `natural science and the reflections of man on the meaning of life';[20] it suggests that within creation there are two spheres -- seen as opposed to each other -- requiring different means and methods for their analysis. What a cleft in human life and society! What dire consequences in human history!

Insight.21 There is in man a power which directly `discerns the reality of things', independent of deductive or inductive mental processes: this is insight or, as `Abdu'l-Bahá sometimes calls it, inspiration or the `meditative faculty'. In explaining the nature of insight, `Abdu'l-Bahá mentions the school of `the Illuminati or followers of the inner light ... Meditating and turning their faces to the Source of Light, from that central Light the mysteries of the Kingdom were reflected in the hearts of those people'.[22] Most people think that such a power can only be used in the mystic field; yet it is well known that several great scientists have discovered physical laws through intuition rather than reasoning and deduction: Newton, with his famous apple; Galileo, with the well-known episode of the swinging chandelier in the Cathedral of Pisa; and more recently Einstein, with his dream in which he conceived the theory of relativity. The Bahá'í writings urge us to train ourselves in the intuitive process by daily practice of meditation and to use this faculty in our endeavours to understand both physical and spiritual reality, for insight -- like a mirror -- faithfully reflects whatever is placed in front of it.[23]

However, insight can be misleading too: how can we distinguish between idle fantasies or fanciful dreams and reality? Certainly, testing intuitive data through the senses and the intellect and checking them against facts will help us to distinguish tinsel from gold.[24]

The Holy Writings. Even though the Holy Scriptures are infallible, it is sometimes difficult to understand their meaning, since they are often written in metaphorical language: the limits of this criterion are therefore the limits of human intellect. Mistakes in the interpretation of the Holy Writings have been the cause of endless wars and conflicts. One finds even today, in certain circles, a desire to have the Holy Scriptures literally read, even against reason itself -- almost as if the measure of one's faith were the capacity to believe in the unbelievable. Tertullian's credo quia absurdum[25] is still a source of perplexity and grief. Some creationists for example will have us believe that God has purposely placed fossils in the bowels of the earth to test man's faith in the literal interpretation of the first book of Genesis. We could consider this attitude simply ridiculous, were it not for the personal and social tragedies which this mentality has caused and continues to cause in the world today.[26]

Bahá'í texts explain that the Holy Scriptures should not, generally speaking, be taken literally,[27] and that these literal interpretations have been the primary cause of conflicts and divisions in past centuries; even today, followers of the major revealed religions engage in strife despite the fact that their religions are all revelations from the same God. The Bahá'í Faith invites man to read the Holy Scriptures through his senses, intellect and insight, and especially to put them into practice: only then will the purity and ardour of the intellectual and practical efforts be rewarded by an ever deeper understanding of the truths the Scriptures offer.

The research method

Knowledge is a process which requires endeavour, at times a long and laborious endeavour. The reason why man is ready to make this effort is that God has endowed him with a `love of reality'[28] which urges him on in his research; the greater the effort, the better the results. However, the intensity and ardour of the effort are not enough to ensure the results, if the effort is expended in the wrong way. The Bahá'í texts are rich in counsels for anyone who wants to follow the path of search, counsels which are valuable no matter what the object of research may be. For evidently -- as has been already said -- it is always reality that man is investigating, whether his researches are carried out on the physical or on the spiritual level.

A long passage in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, the Book of Certitude, one of the most important of Bahá'u'lláh's Writings, is dedicated to the conduct which the `true seeker' must maintain if he wants to reap the longed-for harvest of knowledge.[29]

Above all, the greatest obstacle to overcome in the search for truth is prejudice; Bahá'u'lláh calls prejudice `the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge.'29 He defines it as `imitation, which is following the traces of ... forefathers and sires'.[30] `Abdu'l-Bahá affirms that prejudice's `rootcause ... is blind imitation of the past', and that it springs from `selfish motives';[31] in Bahá'u'lláh's words, from `shadowy and ephemeral attachments' or from attachment to people[32] and, more often, ideas -- a `remnant of either love or hate'.[33] `Abdu'l-Bahá writes moreover that `the imitator saith that such a man hath seen, such a man hath heard and such a conscience hath discovered; in other words he dependeth upon the sight, the hearing and the conscience of others and has no will of his own'.[34] And Bahá'u'lláh warns us in His Hidden Words: `The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbour.'35

Other powerful obstacles in the path of search are, on the one hand, the desire for human approval and, on the other, pride and vainglory; a true man of science does not descend to compromise, but acts in full freedom from inner and outer pressures; however, he should not imagine himself better than others, for, as `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `As soon as one feels a little better than, a little superior to, the rest, he is in a dangerous position.'[36]

Of great assistance to the searcher are, moreover, the following spiritual qualities: patience, eagerness, detachment, resignation, moderation, compassion towards man and animals, honesty and trustworthiness, the capacity to forgive, to avoid empty discourse and finally to choose good company.[37]

A more detailed analysis of this important theme is beyond the scope of this book. However, it seems that these texts -- written as they are in the metaphorical language of Revelation -- suggest a scientific research method: there is a deliberate, conscious, repeated, organized and systematic use of the cognitive powers; certain standards of inner integrity of thought and behaviour are observed. It is in this perspective that Shoghi Effendi describes the Bahá'í Faith as `scientific in its method'.[38]

When this method is followed and these standards are observed, then, `Abdu'l-Bahá says, `By the breaths and promptings of the Holy Spirit, which is light and knowledge itself ... the human mind is quickened and fortified into true conclusions and perfect knowledge':[39] in fact, man's cognitive powers are like eyes and the Holy Spirit like light, in whose absence eyes cannot see.[40]

This Bahá'í concept of `knowledge as enlightenment' will be further clarified in the light of the concepts of creation, spirit, evolution and human development enshrined in the Bahá'í texts, which we have attempted to study, recording in the following pages our preliminary, incomplete results.

Which truth?

Even if this method is followed and these standards are observed, will man's claim to know truth be justified? `Abdu'l-Bahá explains that `our knowledge of things ... is knowledge of their qualities and not of their essence' and He adds that `the essential reality underlying any given phenomenon is unknown'. In fact, `the realities of material phenomena are impenetrable and unknowable and are only apprehended through their properties and qualities'. Knowledge, He explains, whether an outcome `gained by reflection or by evidence',[41] or a fruit of insight gained through meditation and spiritual growth, depends mostly on our efforts. Therefore it is achieved by degrees, as the efforts proceed and bring results, and as experience -- by similarity or by contrast[42] (`the limited is known through the unlimited'43) -- enables us to bring it to the stage of judgment. Truth, therefore, is a goal toward which we strive: moreover it is only one, because -- as `Abdu'l-Bahá writes -- `reality is one and does not admit of multiplicity'.[44]

Man is guided, individually and collectively, however, in his efforts toward truth, by Revelation. In the various stages of his individual and collective growth he is thus directly or indirectly guided to an ever wider and deeper understanding of reality, and enabled to correct previous positions and adjust old and partial understandings. Though his yearning for truth spurs him on in his efforts towards this ultimate goal, his finite nature prevents him from ever grasping it in its essence or entirety. His truth is always relative and his science only `a mirror wherein the images of the mysteries of outer phenomena are reflected',[45] and not Reality or Truth itself.

It seems after all that knowledge is a kind of faith: what man knows is what he has understood through the instrumentality of his cognitive powers and criteria. The certitude of his knowledge is dependent on the harmonization of his newly acquired information with his previously acquired data, in which context new information acquires meaning and value. In this perspective, it is not difficult to understand how faith is described in a Bahá'í text as `conscious knowledge'. Having faith in something means accepting it as truth in the light of a series of considerations of which we are certain.[46]

However, the world of creation, being a dynamic reality, presents us with innumerable facets which defy man's often too strict schemes and definitions.[47] It is precisely because of the manifold facets and changeability of reality that a confrontation of understanding is useful. Different intellects identify different facets of the same reality, and thus, in the exchange of ideas which Bahá'í often call consultation they can help each other in a joint intellectual effort. In fact, the manifold facets of reality require us to be tolerant (i.e. to understand others' points of views) and to shun fanaticism, that stubborn assertion of personal truth as though it were absolute -- whereas, in fact, every human truth is always partial.

Thought and action

In the Bahá'í texts, truth is reality; thus the coincidence between what is (reality) and what man understands (knowledge) is the guarantee of every human truth. Such coincidence becomes evident when knowledge is put on trial in daily living. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `Many ideas spring out from the mind of man; some concern the truth and some falsehood. Of these ideas those which owe their origin to the Light of Truth are realized in the external world, while the others from different origins vanish, they come and they go like the waves of the sea of fantasy and do not find fulfillment in the world of existence.'[48] This concept reminds us of Karl Popper's principle of refutability or the method of falsification, proposing that only what can be refuted through experience is scientific.[49] In the Bahá'í view, for an idea to be accepted as true, it must produce results of unity and peace before the tribunal of life and history, whereas prejudices -- erroneous interpretations of reality[50] -- have always been `the foundation of distention, the cause of obstinacy, the means of war and struggle'.[51]

In the Bahá'í texts, `the thought which belongs only to the world of thought' is disapproved, because, as `Abdu'l-Bahá states, `if these thoughts never reach the plane of action they remain useless'.[52] Even more severely admonished is he who does not live up to his own words. Bahá'u'lláh sternly warns: `he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life'.[53] And `Abdu'l-Bahá has little esteem for those philosophers who `are unable or unwilling to show forth their grand ideas in their own lives'.[54]

Philosophy, therefore, is only meaningful if -- having brought man to an understanding of `the reality of things as they exist, according to the capacity and power of man',[55] it can be translated into beneficial actions in the world of existence. This translation into action is both the necessary prerequisite of every philosophy which is more than mere talk, and the proof and demonstration of its validity: `Whatever is conducive to the unity of the world of mankind is acceptable and praiseworthy; whatever is the cause of discord and disunion is saddening and deplorable.'[56] The tribunal of life and history is undoubtedly most just and implacable. Knowledge of reality, its practical application, and its consequences of co-operation and unity among men: these are the fundamental prerequisites of a philosophy worthy of man.

Natural philosophy and divine philosophy

Philosophy, aiming at `comprehending the reality of things', should not limit the sphere of its investigation. It is clear that it cannot and should not exclude the investigation of physical reality, which is also called material, objective, contingent, outer, visible, earthly, sensible, or phenomenal. The branch of philosophy that concerns itself with physical reality, `Abdu'l-Bahá calls `natural philosophy': this is `the investigation of natural phenomena' and `the discovery of the realities of things'; it `seeks knowledge of physical verities and explains material phenomena'; it examines and understands created objects and their laws: `it discovers the occult and mysterious secrets of the material universe':[57] this is what is today called science. `Abdu'l-Bahá says that science, being `the outcome of this intellectual endowment' which is characteristic of man, is his `most noble virtue' and `highest attainment' and is what distinguishes him from animals; He describes it as `a mirror wherein the images of the mysteries of outer phenomena are reflected' and `the one agency by which man explores the institutions of material creation'. Science is, at the same time, a gift from God -- in `Abdu'l-Bahá's words, `an effulgence of the Sun of reality' -- and `the most noble and praiseworthy accomplishment of man'.[58] It is a gift because all knowledge is a gift from God, and it is an accomplishment because only through his own efforts is man accorded this divine gift.

The power which man acquires through natural philosophy or science is great: `science is the discoverer of the past' and `from its premises of the past and present' man can `deduce conclusions as to the future'.[59] In fact, says `Abdu'l-Bahá, `he can frequently, through his scientific knowledge, reach out with prophetic vision'.[60] Science permits man to `penetrate the mysteries of the future and anticipate its happenings' and to `modify, change and control nature according to his own wishes and uses'. Through science, man `is informed of all that appertains to humanity, its status, conditions and happenings'. It is because of science that man is `the most noble product of creation, the governor of nature'.[61]

The fruit of progress in the sphere of natural science is a civilization which `Abdu'l-Bahá calls `material',[62] a civilization which is typical of the modern age. The Bahá'í teachings appreciate this material progress, which in its best aspects results in control over the environment and the production of things which are useful, often enhancing the quality of human life. `Abdu'l-Bahá therefore praises the scientist in these terms: `The man of science is perceiving and endowed with vision ... attentive, alive ... a true index and representative of humanity'. He considers science `the very foundation of all individual and national development', `the means by which man finds a pathway to God', an instrument in whose absence `development is impossible'.[63]

The Bahá'í teachings condemn, however, the abuse of this progress in the production of things which do not benefit humanity but on the contrary destroy it: directly, as in the case of armaments, or indirectly, as in the case of waste of the earth's resources and the devastation and pollution of the environment; or in its more subtle, though not less dangerous, perversion of pride and prejudice: pride in that tiny bit of knowledge man may have acquired; prejudice, in his pretension of being immune from mistakes.[64]

`Divine philosophy', also called `divine science' or `spiritual science',[65] is concerned with spiritual reality, which can also be called metaphysical, subjective, transcendent, inner, invisible, celestial or ideal. This is the study of what `Abdu'l-Bahá calls `ideal verities and phenomena of the spirit'. Its aims are: `the discovery and realization of spiritual verities', `the discoveries of the mysteries of God, the comprehension of spiritual realities, the wisdom of God, inner significance of the heavenly religion and foundation of law'. `Abdu'l-Bahá states that, since the teachings of all revealed religions `constitute the science of reality',[66] divine philosophy cannot ignore revealed religion, which -- in His words -- is `the truest philosophy'.[67]

However, `the philosophers ... are educators along the lines of intellectual training' and according to `Abdu'l-Bahá, `they have been incapable of universal education', because philosophy, as such, is limited to the development of the mind,[68] and has no effect on spiritual development. It is not, therefore, capable of exerting an influence equal to that of divine teachings. `What philosophy has ever elevated a whole nation and influenced humanity? Philosophy of necessity is restricted to a small school and cannot have an essentially moral influence.'[69] Moreover, whereas intellectual knowledge, becoming sometimes a cause of pride and prejudice, may, like a veil, shut men out from God, religion assists them in approaching `the highest and last end of all learning', that is `the recognition of Him Who is the Object of all knowledge'.[70]

`Abdu'l-Bahá enumerates some fundamental themes and principles of divine philosophy: `the unity of mankind ... the tie of love which blends human hearts' which He defines as `the most important principle of divine philosophy'; the concept of existence being `composition' and non-existence `decomposition'; `the intrinsic oneness of all phenomena', which is explained by the atomic concept of the universe; the assertion that `the world of nature is incomplete ... nature seems complete, it is, nevertheless, imperfect because it has need of intelligence and education'.[71] Other themes of divine philosophy which He cites are: `the problem of the reality of the spirit of man; of the birth of the spirit; of its birth from this world into the world of God; the question of the inner life of the spirit and of its fate after its ascension from the body ... the essential nature of Divinity, of the Divine revelation, of the manifestation of Deity in this world'.[72]

Divine philosophy sets high moral goals which `Abdu'l-Bahá thus enumerates: `the training of human realities so that they may become clear and pure as mirrors and reflect the light and love of the Sun of Reality ... the true evolution and progress of humanity'; and furthermore, `the sublimation of human nature, spiritual advancement, heavenly guidance for the development of the human race, attainment to the breaths of the Holy Spirit and knowledge of the verities of God'.[73]

Mankind's progress in this field leads to the flourishing -- thanks to the impulse of Revelation -- of a spiritual `divine civilization'.[74] This is the highest aim of the world order proclaimed by the Bahá'í Faith, and in general of all revealed religions.[75]

We should therefore not be surprised to find that in the Bahá'í texts the philosophers of ancient Greece are praised. Commenting on His `contemporary men of learning' Bahá'u'lláh wrote that `most of [their] learning hath been acquired from the sages of the past, for it is they who have laid the foundation of philosophy, reared its structure and reinforced its pillars'. He writes moreover that `the sages aforetime acquired their knowledge from the Prophets ... The essence and the fundamentals of philosophy have emanated from the Prophets'.[76] These are affirmations, accepted by Islamic culture, which can and should be verified through an attentive study of history and of the history of philosophy.[77] The philosophers of Greece, `Abdu'l-Bahá said, `were devoted to the investigation of both natural and spiritual phenomena. In their schools of teaching they discoursed upon the natural as well as the supernatural world. Today the philosophy and logic of Aristotle are known throughout the world. Because they were interested in both natural and divine philosophy, furthering the development of the physical world of mankind as well as the intellectual, they rendered praiseworthy service to humanity ... Man should continue both these lines of research and investigation so that all human virtues, outer and inner, may become possible.'[78] This is an exhortation which present every would-be Bahá'í philosopher with clear and specific indications for the goals of his or her study.

On the other hand, `Abdu'l-Bahá disapproves of `that group of materialists of narrow vision who worship that which is sensed, who depend upon the five senses only, and whose criterion of knowledge is limited to that which can be perceived by sense', for whom `all that can be sensed is real, whilst whatever falleth not under the power of the sense is either unreal or doubtful. The existence of the Deity they regard as wholly doubtful'.[79] In speaking of these philosophers, `Abdu'l-Bahá, known for His charitable indulgence, His deep love for every human being, and His great tolerance of others' ideas, expresses Himself with a subtle irony, witty and pungent, but at the same time also loving and good-natured: `Strange indeed that after twenty years training in colleges and universities man should reach such a station wherein he will deny the existence of the ideal or that which is not perceptible to the senses. Have you ever stopped to think that the animal has graduated from such a university? Have you ever realized that the cow is already a professor emeritus of that university? For the cow without hard labour and study is already a philosopher of the superlative degree in the school of nature. The cow denies everything that is not tangible, saying, "I can see! I can eat! Therefore I believe only in that which is tangible!" Then why should we go to the colleges? Let us go to the cow.'[80]

Naturally this praise of divine philosophy and ironic view of materialistic philosophy should be seen in the context of the Bahá'í Revelation, in which ancient concepts have been overturned and words have often assumed new meanings. Regarding this point, it is important to remember a corollary of the principle of the independent search after truth, i.e. the abandonment of all prejudices. This principle -- apparently obvious to the point of banality -- put into action with determination, will result in enormously important consequences. Above all, it requires that any would-be philosopher make an unbiased examination of reality, an examination which holds high neither the standards of current thought nor those of ancient traditions. Everything must thus be analyzed through a rigorous cognitive inquiry, retaining only what can hold up under this close examination and yield fruits of unity and progress. How many of the concepts modern philosophers and scientists condemn in those self-styled divine or religious philosophies would remain after such an upsetting revision?

Next, the researcher must disregard even his own self, so that he may be as objective as possible: what counts is reality and the knowledge of that reality; in its light every particularity or selfishness must melt like snow under the sun.[81] The Bahá'í principle of balance between science and religion and all statements similar to that of `Abdu'l-Bahá on materialistic philosophers should be read in such a context.

Ultimately, the Bahá'í philosopher resembles the ancient sage or man of learning, rather than any modern philosopher who is more interested in intellectual games than in the results of his research. `Abdu'l-Bahá has thus described the Bahá'í philosopher, in His political treatise, The Secret of Divine Civilization: `Again, there are those famed and accomplished men of learning, possessed of praiseworthy qualities and vast erudition, who lay hold on the strong handle of the fear of God and keep to the ways of salvation. In the mirror of their minds, the forms of transcendent realities are reflected, and the lamp of their inner vision derives its light from the sun of universal knowledge. They are busy by night and by day with meticulous research into such sciences as are profitable to mankind, and they devote themselves to the training of students of capacity. It is certain that to their discerning taste, the proffered treasures of kings would not compare with a single drop of the waters of knowledge, and mountains of gold and silver could not outweigh the successful solution of a difficult problem. To them, the delights that lie outside their work are only toys for children, and the cumbersome load of unnecessary possessions is only good for the ignorant and the base. Content, like birds, they give thanks for a handful of seeds, and the song of their wisdom dazzles the minds of the world's most wise.'82

The unity of religion and science

Science being, in the Bahá'í view, `the discovery of the reality of things', philosophy is science. Science and philosophy cannot ignore the teachings of religion, for -- as `Abdu'l-Bahá says -- `science and reason are realities, and religion itself is the Divine Reality unto which true science and reason must conform'. Furthermore, He says: `true science is reason and reality, and religion is essentially reality and pure reason; therefore the two must correspond. Religious teaching which is at variance with science and reason is human invention and imagination unworthy of acceptance, for the antithesis and opposite of knowledge is superstition born of the ignorance of man. If we say that religion is opposed to science, we lack knowledge of either true science or true religion, for both are founded on the premises and conclusions of reason, and both must bear its test.'[83]

It is here that we have the reconciliation of a painful division, which has afflicted our society for centuries: spirit-matter, religion-science, faith-reason. In fact `reality is one and cannot admit of multiplicity':[84] man is one, even though the instruments and criteria he uses for obtaining knowledge are many; the method for investigating that single reality is one, the scientific method; the result of his intellectual effort is one, science; the test of the validity of science is one, its outcome of unity and peace in human life.

This single `reality' which is the object of science, philosophy and religion, is also described by `Abdu'l-Bahá as `the love of God ... the knowledge of God ... justice ... the oneness or solidarity of mankind ... international peace ... the knowledge of verities. Reality unifies mankind.'[85] In another passage we find: `reality is the divine standard and the bestowal of God. Reality is reasonableness, and reasonableness is ever conducive to the honourable station of man. Reality is the guidance of God. Reality is the cause of illumination of mankind. Reality is love, ever working for the welfare of humanity. Reality is the bond which conjoins hearts. This ever uplifts man toward higher stages of progress and attainment. Reality is the unity of mankind, conferring everlasting life. Reality is perfect equality, the foundation of agreement between the nations, the first step towards international peace.'[86]

Such is the reality[87] which man is invited to investigate and such are the fruits of his investigation.

Towards a philosophy of reality

In philosophy, so it appears from this initial study of some Bahá'í texts, three fundamental aspects can be discerned:

  1. man's efforts, which consist in the use of cognitive criteria, following a set of norms and a method that is, after all, scientific;

  2. the divine gift of enlightenment/knowledge which God confers on those who exert the effort required and behave in the proper way;

  3. the results of human effort, not only in terms of theoretical knowledge, but also in terms of the material and spiritual progress of individuals and society -- in other words, civilization. Such civilization will be balanced, whenever man equally investigates physical reality, producing material philosophy or science, as we call it today, and spiritual reality, producing divine philosophy.

In all this effort, man should apply the data provided by Revelation, that God-given guidance enabling him to accomplish his difficult but fascinating allotted task -- a task which is both ethical and theoretical, practical and cognitive.

This global knowledge is indispensable for the creation of a true civilization worthy of man. For `the attainment of any object is conditioned upon knowledge, volition and action. Unless these three conditions are forthcoming, there is no execution or accomplishment.'[88] We could compare the search for material and spiritual knowledge to the process of assimilation through which an embryo in the womb acquires the substances necessary for its development. If that poor embryo did not take the necessary atoms and molecules from its mother's blood, it would never become a foetus, let alone an infant and much less an adult. What will happen, then, to that man who cannot or will not use his cognitive instruments and criteria to draw from daily living those ideas he needs in order to be able to understand the reality by which he is surrounded? or to him who assimilates them in an incomplete or distorted way?

This search is indispensable, for -- like the mythical Ulysses -- man can find no peace in his unending search for distant goals; his life is naught but a journey, a quest for the far-away Pillars of Hercules, the seemingly ever more distant and mysterious frontier of his possibilities of experience and knowledge.[89]

A conclusion and a preamble

The task of would-be Bahá'í philosophers today is thus an important one:

  1. first of all, to undertake the formidable task of studying and learning the Bahá'í texts. Bahá'u'lláh revealed texts that fill over a hundred volumes; there are innumerable Writings of His Herald and Forerunner, the Báb;[90] His authoritative Interpreter, `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote copiously and many of His talks are recorded; there is moreover an abundance of comments and explanations given by the Guardian of the Cause, Shoghi Effendi. All of these texts must be examined and studied in depth;

  2. secondly, philosophical and religious traditions ought to be given proper appreciation,[91] and modern scientific discoveries ought to be evaluated in the light of the Bahá'í texts;

  3. last, but not least, it is necessary to compile and present those texts which are relevant to the most urgent problems of modern man, in such a way that they can be understood and gradually put into practice throughout the world for the wellbeing of mankind.

These tasks seem quite similar to those which the Universal House of Justice[92] has indicated for the `Bahá'í scholar'.[93] Should we, in fact, prefer the word scholar to philosopher? -- philosophy today being considered a science of words and not of actions, what A.J. Ayer calls `a talk about talk'.[94] However, when we choose to use the word philosophy in this book, we do it from the Bahá'í standpoint, where philosophy belongs not only to the realm of thought but also to the realm of action.

In the following pages a presentation will be made of quotations from Bahá'í texts found on the themes which are fundamental to the understanding of `the reality of things as they exist'.[95]

It is offered with an awareness of its limitations, especially in this early stage of the development of the Bahá'í Faith, in the hope of not disturbing any heart and the desire to awaken in the reader's heart -- as others did in ours -- the urge of `this love of reality'[96] with which God has endowed every man.

End notes:

[1] `Abbás Effendi, known as `Abdu'l-Bahá (1844-1921); son of Bahá'u'lláh, (see below p.1, no. 2) Who appointed Him Centre of His Covenant and authorized Interpreter of His Words; after Bahá'u'lláh's passing He was the Head of the Bahá'í Community. For a study of His life, mission and writings see Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, chapters XIV-XXI; H.M. Balyuzi, `Abdu'l-Bahá.

[2] Mírzá Husayn-`Alí, known as Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. For His life, mission and writings, see Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, chapters V- VIII; H. M. Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh, the King of Glory; A. Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vols. I-IV.

[3] See `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, pp.107, 248, 298; Promulgation, pp.62, 105, 127, 169, 180, 314, 372, 433, 440, 454; Paris Talks, pp. 129, 135; Divine Philosophy, p.77; `Abdu'l-Bahá in London, p. 27.

[4] Selections, p. 298. See also Promulgation, pp. 63, 126, 287, 297, 313, 344, 364, 373; `Talks by Abdul-Baha in the Holy Land', in Star of the West, IX, p. 135.

[5] Promulgation, p. 29.

[6] Some Answered Questions, p. 221.

[7] Quoted in Esslemont, New Era, p. 71.

[8] This statement on `Abdu'l-Bahá was uttered by Dr. David Starr Jordan, President of the Leland Stanford Junior University of Palo Alto, California, while he was commenting upon a talk deliver by `Abdu'l-Bahá in that University, during His visit of 18 October 1912. Quoted in Bahá'í World, VI, p. 480.

[9] Bahá'u'lláh writes: `The knowledge of such sciences... should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words.' (Tablets, p.169) And moreover: `The learned of the day must direct the people to acquire those branches of knowledge which are of use, that both the learned themselves and the generality of mankind may derive benefits therefrom. Such academic pursuits as begin in words alone have never been and will never be of any worth'.(ibid. p. 169.)

[10] Tablets, p. 147.

11 `It is the time His Holiness Christ calls the "Days of Marriage"', in Star of the West, XIII, p. 194.

[12] Promulgation, p.375.

[13] Shoghi Rabbani, known as Shoghi Effendi (1898-1957), grand-grandson of Bahá'u'lláh, appointed by `Abdu'l-Bahá Guardian of the Cause of God and His successor, led the Bahá'í community from 1921 to 1957. For his life, mission and writings see R. Rabbani, The Priceless Pearl; and U. Giachery, Shoghi Effendi: Recollections.

[14] Unfolding Destiny, p. 445.

[15] See Some Answered Questions, pp.297-9; Promulgation, pp.20-2, 253-5; Divine Philosophy, pp.88-90.

[16] Some Answered Questions, p. 217.

[17] At the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá materialistic trends of opinion (for example positivism) were in great favour; they maintained sense perception as their main criterion of knowledge. `The basis of all their conclusions' -- says `Abdu'l-Bahá -- `is that the acquisition of knowledge of phenomena is according to a fixed, invariable law -- a law mathematically exact in its operation through the senses.' (Promulgation, p.20) He criticizes this kind of philosophy (see below pp.15-16) whose narrowness is today mostly recognized not only from a theoretical standpoint, but also for its nefarious consequences on human life.

[18] He includes among Eastern philosophers also the philosophers of Ancient Greece. See Promulgation, pp.356-7, and below, p.16, n.80.

[19] For the concept of spiritual reality see below pp.41-2.

[20] I. Prigogine and A. Danzin, `Quale scienza per domani' (Which Science for Tomorrow?) in Corriere Unesco, no.2, 1982. Ilya Prigogine writes: `Nothing must be left out of account, if we are to be successful in reconciling the natural sciences with man's reflections about why he is alive.'

21 For the concept of insight, see `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections p.44; Some Answered Questions, p.157; Paris Talks, pp.86-7, 173-6; Divine Philosophy, p.122 and below pp. 135-6, 139-40, 157-8, 172.

[22] Paris Talks, pp.175, 176, 173.

[23] Regarding the concept of meditation, see below pp.120, 158. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror: if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these.

`But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained.' (Paris Talks p.176.)

[24] Regarding this issue, Shoghi Effendi's secretary wrote on his behalf: `The inspiration received through meditation is of a nature that one cannot measure or determine ... We cannot clearly distinguish between personal desire and guidance, but if the way opens, when we have sought guidance, then we may presume God is helping us.' (quoted in Bahá'í Institutions (comp.), p.111.) See also ibid. pp. 109, 111-2.

[25] Tertullian, De Carne Christi, V.

[26] Regarding this concept F. Facchini writes: `Advocates of scientific creationism, keeping to literal interpretations of the first chapters of the Genesis, claim the scientific nature of its account of creation ... Though the scientific nature of the `creationistic theory' is upheld by its advocates, nevertheless they adopt an unscientific approach, in the strict meaning of the word, and in their eagerness to give at least a scientific semblance to their claims, they advance opinions on the theory of evolution, denouncing paleontological gaps and not yet explained issues of biological theory. Their statements are amazing, even ridiculous: for instance they maintain that fossils were created by God in order to test believers' faith.' (Il Cammino dell'Evoluzione Umana, p.224.)

[27] See Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Iqán, pp.53-69; `Abdu'l- Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp.83-6. Moreover Saint Paul says: `The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.' (II Corinthians 3:6.)

[28] Promulgation, p.49.

[29] The interested reader would do well to read this passage for himself. (Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp.192-8.) See ibid. pp.192. Another important quotation on this subject can be found in Bahá'u'lláh's Seven Valleys, The Valley of Search (Seven Valleys, pp.5-8.)

[30] Seven Valleys, p.5.

[31] Selections, pp.234, 300.

[32] Regarding this issue, Shoghi Effendi's secretary wrote on his behalf: `... we must reach a spiritual plane where God comes first and great human passions are unable to turn us away from him. All the time we see people who either through the force of hate or the passionate attachment they have to another person, sacrifice principle and bar themselves from the Path of God ...'.(quoted in Living the Life (comp.), p.10.) This idea of detachment, though it is here intended in the way of living, nevertheless can be referred also to the path of search, where Truth or Reality must come before any other thing.

[33] Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.192.

[34] Selections, p.29.

35 Hidden Words, Arabic, no. 2.

[36] quoted in Esslemont, New Era, p.84. See below pp.126-7.

[37] How will these qualities assist a man in his search? The concept will be more fully examined further on. It is here enough to say that these qualities are an outcome of spiritual progress and that this spiritual progress quickens intuitive faculties which are a powerful means and criterion of knowledge. See below pp.172-3.

[38] World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p.ix. W.S. Hatcher writes: `... scientific method is the systematic, organized, directed and conscious use of our various mental faculties in an effort to arrive at a coherent model of whatever phenomenon is being investigated.' (W.S. Hatcher, `Science and the Bahá'í Faith', in Bahá'í Studies II, 32.)

[39] Promulgation, p.22.

[40] In the 4th century AD St Augustine set forth a very similar concept in his well-known doctrine of enlightenment: God is Light that enables man to know.

[41] Some Answered Questions, pp.220, 157.

[42] See Promulgation, pp.295, 82-3.

43 `Abdu'l-Bahá, `Tablet to Dr. A. Forel', in Bahá'í World XV, p.37.

[44] Selections, p.298.

[45] Promulgation, p.29.

[46] W.S. Hatcher writes: `We can define an individual's faith to be his total emotional and psychological orientation resulting from the body of assumptions about reality which he has made (consciously or unconsciously) ... However, the quality of men's faiths differs considerably depending on the degree to which the basic assumptions on which a given faith is based are justified.' (W.S. Hatcher, `Science and Religion', in World Order, III, no.3, p.14.)

Regarding the definitions of faith recorded in the Bahá'í texts three aspects are considered: knowledge, love and will or action. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and, second, the practice of good deeds.' (Tablets, p.549.) Elsewhere He writes: `Know that faith is of two kinds. The first is objective faith that is expressed by the outer man, obedience of the limbs and senses. The other faith is subjective, and unconscious obedience to the will of God ... This condition of unconscious obedience constitutes subjective faith. But the discerning faith ... consists of true knowledge of God and the comprehension of divine words ...' (quoted in Bahá'í World Faith, p.364.) Moreover `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `... the love that flows from man to God ... is faith, attraction to the Divine, enkindlement, progress, entrance into the Kingdom of God, receiving the Bounties of God, illumination with the lights of the Kingdom. This love is the origin of all philanthropy; this love causes the hearts of men to reflect the rays of the Sun of Reality.'(Paris Talks, p.180.)

[47] Regarding the concept of dynamism of the world of existence see below p.59.

[48] Tablets, p.301.

[49] See Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

[50] In one of His writings, `Abdu'l-Bahá mentions five main types of prejudices: `religious, racial, political, economic and patriotic'. (Selections, p.299.) In the same passage He writes that these prejudices `result from human ignorance and selfish motives'. (ibid. p.300.)

[51] `Abdu'l-Bahá, `Talks by Abdul-Baha in the Holy Land', in Star of the West IX, p.135. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `Wars -- religious, racial or political -- have arisen from human ignorance, misunderstanding and luck of education.' (Promulgation, p.116.)

[52] Paris Talks, p.18.

[53] Tablets, p.156. See below pp.126-30.

[54] Paris Talks, p.18. `Abdu'l-Bahá however says also that `A philosophers' thought may ... in the world of progress and evolution, translate itself into the actions of other people ...' (ibid. p.18.)

[55] Some Answered Questions, p.221.

[56] Promulgation, p. 56.

[57] Promulgation, pp. 326, 138, 348, 326, 29.

[58] Promulgation, pp. 29, 49, 138, 49, 29, 49, 29.

[59] ibid. p.29.

[60] Paris Talks, p.41.

[61] Promulgation, pp. 49, 30, 50, 30.

[62] Selections, p.132. See ibid. pp.132-3, 303-4; Promulgation, pp.2, 101, 130, 375; Paris Talks, pp.72-3.

[63] Promulgation, pp.50, 49, 50.

[64] Bahá'u'lláh writes: `Know verily that knowledge is of two kinds: Divine and Satanic. The one welleth out from the fountain of divine inspiration; the other is but a reflection of vain and obscure thoughts. The source of the former is God Himself; the motive-force of the latter the whisperings of selfish desire ... The former bringeth forth the fruit of patience, of longing desire, of true understanding, and love; whilst the latter can yield naught but arrogance, vainglory and conceit ...' (Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.87.)

`Abdu'l-Bahá writes: `If a person be unlettered, and yet clothed with Divine excellence, and alive in the breaths of the Spirit, that individual will contribute to the welfare of society, and his inability to read and write will do him no harm. And if a person be versed in the arts and every branch of knowledge, and not live a religious life, and not take on the characteristics of God, and be directed by a pure intent, and be engrossed in the life of the flesh -- then he is harm personified, and nothing will come of all his learning and intellectual, accomplishments but scandal and torment.'(quoted in Bahá'í Education (comp.), p.42.)

These concepts are commented upon by J. McLean in his `The Knowledge of God: An Essay on Bahá'í Epistemology' (in World Order XII, no.3, p.38.) He writes: `Bahá'u'lláh, however, is not suggesting that one stop learning, reading, or working because it involves being caught up in acquired knowledge. Such antiwordliness would constitute obvious contradictions to other explicit teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. [Universal compulsory education, higher learning, and the sacred character of work are all to be found in Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings.] It simply means that one does not apply these forms of knowledge in the search after the knowledge of the Manifestation.' (J. McLean, ibid. p.49.)

In the writer's opinion, this means also recognizing the paramount importance of deeds productive of peace, unity and co-operation among men and the importance of making any human activity, even knowledge, conditional upon this fundamental practical outcome.

[65] Promulgation, pp.326, 138. See also Promulgation, pp.31, 87, 253, 284, 329, 349.

[66] Promulgation, pp.326, 138, 297. See also below p.104.

[67] Paris Talks, p.31.

[68] Promulgation, pp.85, 213.

[69] Divine Philosophy, pp.84-5.

[70] . Bahá'u'lláh, in Synopsis, p.23.

[71] Promulgation, pp.31, 87, 329.

[72] Paris Talks, p.174.

[73] Promulgation, pp.59, 326-7.

[74] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, p.132.

[75] Shoghi Effendi wrote through his secretary: `In the Bayán, the Báb says that every religion of the past was fit to become universal. The only reason why they failed to attain that mark was the incompetence of their followers.' (quoted in Living the Life (comp.), p.4.)

[76] Tablets, p.144.

[77] Shoghi Effendi wrote through his secretary: `We have no historical proof of the truth of the Master's statement regarding the Greek philosophers visiting the Holy Land, etc. but such proof may come to light through research in the future.' (Unfolding Destiny, p.445.) And elsewhere: `Historians cannot be sure Socrates did not visit the Holy Land. But believing as we do that `Abdu'l-Bahá had an intuitive knowledge quite different from our own, we accept His authority on this matter ...' (on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, in Arohanui, p.88.)

For a comment on relations between Israel and Greece in the ancient times see J.R. Cole, `Problems of Chronology in Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Wisdom', in World Order, XIII, no. 3, p.14.

[78] Promulgation, p.327.

[79] `Tablet to Dr. A. Forel', in Bahá'í World, XV, p.37.

[80] Promulgation, p.361. See also ibid. pp.263, 311-12. The words with which He describes in another of His recorded talks the materialistic philosophers, defining them as `bats' (Promulgation, p.179), should be viewed in the same perspective. See. below p. 110.

As to the idea advanced by some Westerners that all Western philosophers are considered materialistic by `Abdu'l-Bahá, He Himself wrote the following words to Dr. Auguste Forel: `It is as thou hast written, not philosophers in general but narrow-minded materialists that are meant. As to deistic philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, they are indeed worthy of esteem and of the highest praise, for they have rendered distinguished service to mankind. In like manner we regard the materialistic, accomplished, moderate philosophers, who have been of service (to mankind.)' (in Bahá'í World XV, p.37.)

Shoghi Effendi wrote the following words, through his secretary, on the same topic: `We must not take many of `Abdu'l-Bahá's statements as dogmatic finalities, for there are other points which when added to them round out the picture. For instance, when He calls Aristotle and Plato Philosophers of the East., He is obviously placing them in that category because He believes they belong more correctly to Eastern culture than to Central European and the New World cultures of the West. When He calls the philosophers of the West materialistic [See Promulgation, pp.355-6] this does not for a moment mean He includes all Western philosophers for, as you truly point out, many of them have been very spiritual in their concepts ...' (quoted in Arohanui, p.88.)

[81] `Abdu'l-Bahá writes:'... universality is of God and all limitations earthly.' (Will and Testament, p.13.)

82 Secret of Divine Civilization, pp.21-2.

[83] Promulgation, pp.348, 373-4, 107. It could be interesting to examine some of the definitions of religion given by `Abdu'l-Bahá. `By the word religion I do not mean the present dogmatic and theological superstitions which are in the hands of people. By religion I mean the world of celestial attributes.' (Divine Philosophy, p.171.) `Religion is the outer expression of divine reality.' (Promulgation, p.140.) `Religion is the essential connection which proceeds from the realities of things.' (Some Answered Questions, p.158.) `... by religion is meant that which is ascertained by investigation and not that which is based on mere imitation, the foundations of Divine Religions and not human imitations.' (Selections, p.303.) `Religion ... is not a series of beliefs, a set of customs; religion is the teachings of the Lord God, teachings which constitute the very life of humankind which urge high thoughts upon the mind, refine the character, and lay the groundwork for man's everlasting honour.' (ibid. pp.52-3.) `By religion is meant those necessary connections which unite the world of mankind. This has always been the essence of the Divine Religions. This is the object of the Divine laws and doctrines. This is the light of Eternal Life.' (quoted in A. Bausani, Unità delle Religioni.) (Cf. Divine Philosophy, pp.157-8.)

Harmony between science and religion is one of the principles brought by Bahá'u'lláh. See Selections, pp.107, 280; Promulgation, pp.62, 105, 127, 169, 180, 314, 372, 433, 440, 454; Paris Talks, pp.130-1, 141; Divine Philosophy, p.77; `Abdu'l-Bahá in London, p.27.

[84] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, p.298.

[85] Promulgation, p.372.

[86] Promulgation, p.376.

[87] `Abdu'l-Bahá says: `truth or reality'. (Promulgation, p.62.) In the Bahá'í texts the word `reality' is used also in its meaning of substance, called also essence or identity.

N. Abbagnano gives the following definitions of the word `reality':

`1. The way of being of things, as they exists outside of, and independently from, human mind. 2. Being, in anyone of its existential meanings. 3. That which ... is de facto in existence.' (Dizionario di Filosofia, pp.733-5.)

[88] Promulgation, p.157.

[89] We are reminded of Ulysses' words as imagined in Dante's Commedia: `for brutish ignorance your mettle was not made; you were made men, to follow after knowledge and excellence.' (Hell, XXVI, 119-120. Translated by Dorothy L. Sayers.)

[90] Siyyid `Alí-Muhammad, known as the Báb (1819-1851), founder of the Bábí Faith and Forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh. For a study of His life, mission and Writings see `Abdu'l-Bahá, A Traveller's Narrative, Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, chapters I-V, Nabíl-i-A`zam, The Dawn Breakers; H.M. Balyuzi, The Báb.

[91] Shoghi Effendi wrote through his secretary: `As to correlating philosophy with the Bahá'í teachings; this is a tremendous work which scholars in the future can undertake. We must remember that not only are all the teachings not yet translated into English, but they are not even all collected yet. Many important Tablets may still come to light which are at present owned privately.' (quoted in Unfolding Destiny, p.455.)

The Universal House of Justice (see below, n.92) has since 1964 encouraged the collection and collation of all the Writings of the Central Figures of the Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. By 1983, 60.000 documents had already been collated. At the same time the Supreme Bahá'í body guides and encourages the Bahá'í world community in its studies of these vital documents.

[92] `The Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing body of the Bahá'í Faith, was created by Bahá'u'lláh, the Founder of that Faith in his written text.

`There are no clergy in the Bahá'í Faith. The Community is administered by institutions which function at local, national and international levels. These councils have each nine members elected by the free choice of the voters ...

`The chief duty of the Universal House of Justice is to promote the transformation of human society from its present chaos and conflict into a world order of peace and justice ...' (from a statement issued by the Universal House of Justice, 9 October 1985.)

[93] `The Challenge and promise of Bahá'í Scholarship', Bahá'í World, XVII, pp. 195-6.

[94] The Concept of Person and Other Essays, p.3.

[95] Some Answered Questions, p.221.

[96] Promulgation, p.49.

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