Questions on a variety of things

All research or scholarship questions
Sila
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Questions on a variety of things

Postby Sila » Sat Nov 29, 2008 5:22 pm

Hello everyone,

I’ve just recently begun reading about the Baha’i faith, although it is not my first encounter with such core beliefs as the oneness of humanity, the essential unity of religion, etc (ideas which I first encountered in Aldous Huxley’s magnificent “The Perennial Philosophy,” and in the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna as expounded by P.J. Saher in “Eastern Wisdom and Western Thought” – whose Religionsphilosophie bears a striking resemblance to Baha’i ideas* see: footnote to this post)

Just a bit of background... I consider myself spiritually-inclined, although my beliefs do not fall into any single religious category (i.e. Buddhist, Christian, etc) – instead I’ve inherited ideas from a diverse field of teachings, taking in what resonates with me most on an intuitive level. In this way I’ve absorbed ideas from Zen Buddhism, Taosim, Romantic philosophy, Neoplatonism, modern cosmology and physics, and teachings from select sages such as Sri Aurobindo and the aforementioned Sri Ramakrishna, amongst many others. I do a lot of reading over a diverse area of topics and over the past few years have formulated a lot of my own ideas about the nature of the world and about the promise of things to come, about education and spirituality/philosophy and how these might interlink, about social dynamics and the possibility of tightly-knit, diverse and interacting communities spread out over self-sustaining regions (as opposed to the modern-day centralized and anonymous social sphere of THE CITY), etc..

Basically, the Baha’i faith, to me, is extremely interesting and captivating, and its existence resonates well with what I see as a major phenomenon of modern 20th/21st century civilization – that is, the increasing global interconnection of mankind, the emergence of institutions designed to assist those in need (i.e. Amnesty International, etc, - institutions whose existence would have been unthinkable even 200 years ago!) and the creation of new global governmental orders like the United Nations and the European Union.

In an effort to better understand the Baha’i faith, I’ve found my way here! So, naturally, I have a couple of questions...

a) What is the ideal future envisioned in Baha’i religion? Is it a global order in which the world is composed of many diverse religions, each tolerant of one another, and the Baha’i just one amongst many? Or would the Baha’i be the organizing principle? What texts are mainly concerned with these ideas of future social organization, etc?

b) In particular and in relation to this first question, what about government? What would be the ideal governmental form be, and would it be governed by Baha’i institutions or would they merely be involved? Is it a belief that we do not need government, or that it is a necessary though misunderstood form of human organization? (I’m guessing there is a tendency towards the latter, based on the fairly rigorously organized ‘Administrative Order’)

c) A question of education, in situational form: Say there is a hypothetical child, perhaps 10 years of age, who has no religious or spiritual knowledge of any kind, and is something of a blank canvass. Would it be considered ideal to instruct him in the ways of the Baha’i, or to present him with the many diverse religions already existent (the Baha’i among them) and to let him take what he can from these, or to merely instruct him in essential principles that have no particular affiliation with Baha’i or with any other principle religions, i.e. to merely teach the inherency of human unity, etc. – and would the age of the child make a difference here?

d) Following on from C, are there specific Baha’i texts and teachings and ideas related to human education? What are the main ideas? Basically – is it assumed that, as with government, there is a better way of doing things?

I’ll leave it at that for now! I’m sure your answers will drum up many more questions from me and will hopefully refine my questions somewhat, making them less generalized (as they are bound to be at this stage in my inquiry!)

Thanks =)

Alex


* footnote. Excerpt from “Eastern Wisdom and Western Thought” ----
“Thus when Radhakrishnan advocates a return to religion he does not mean a specific one but sanātana dharma – the universality of an experience which forms the nucleus of all specific religions. Sanātana dharma is the other side of ista devata. Infinite variety is permitted in the latter (selection of a chosen deity and/or religion) because the former (the universal nature of the experience forming the nucleus of every religion) is invariable. One will always get the same answer to a sum, irrespective of whether one counts a column of figures from top to bottom or the other way round, provided one adds correctly. “

brettz9
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Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby brettz9 » Sun Nov 30, 2008 6:17 am

Hello Alex and welcome!

Some great questions... In case anyone doesn't respond, I'll try to get to them tomorrow if I can...

best wishes,
Brett

Fadl
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Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby Fadl » Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:11 am

Dear Alex,

Welcome to the forum!

It is wonderful that you have decided to investigate our faith. I hope the quest you are on leads you to the desire of your heart, and your spiritual home. The fact that you have had previous encounters with ideas such as the oneness of humanity, and the essential unity of religion, indicates that your eyes are open and that your spirit is sensitive to what we Baha’is believe are the great spiritual impulses which are defining and animating the very age in which we live! The teachings of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan which you have mentioned seem to be consistent with the Baha’i belief in the essential unity of all the world’s revealed religions. As ‘Abdu’l-Baha has said:

“…unity is the essential truth of religion and, when so understood, embraces all the virtues of the human world. Praise be to God! This knowledge has been spread, eyes have been opened, and ears have become attentive. Therefore, we must endeavor to promulgate and practice the religion of God which has been founded by all the Prophets. And the religion of God is absolute love and unity” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace,32).

So it seems we are in agreement with what Radhakrishnan taught. If you sum the religions, you will get the same sum regardless of how you proceed to do so. And how could it be otherwise? Baha’u’llah mentions in his mystical work The Seven Valleys an Islamic tradition which (pardon the pun) sums it up nicely:

“Knowledge is a single point, but the ignorant have multiplied it” (24),

and in the Kitab-i-Aqdas:

“This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future”(85, verse 182).

The fact that Radhakrishnan, as well as the many other great thinkers around the globe who, on the grand scale of history, almost simultaneously awakened to and began expressing these universal truths, and that these truths are becoming increasingly accepted as the self-evident facts which define the very basis of the new world paradigm with which humanity finds itself suddenly and inextricably immersed in, is no coincidence.

“Behold how the manifold grace of God, which is being showered from the clouds of Divine glory, hath, in this day, encompassed the world. For whereas in days past every lover besought and searched after his Beloved, it is the Beloved Himself Who now is calling His lovers and is inviting them to attain His presence” (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah,320).

“Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God is endowed with such potency as can instill new life into every human frame, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth. All the wondrous works ye behold in this world have been manifested through the operation of His supreme and most exalted Will, His wondrous and inflexible Purpose. Through the mere revelation of the word "Fashioner," issuing forth from His lips and proclaiming His attribute to mankind, such power is released as can generate, through successive ages, all the manifold arts which the hands of man can produce. This, verily, is a certain truth. No sooner is this resplendent word uttered, than its animating energies, stirring within all created things, give birth to the means and instruments whereby such arts can be produced and perfected. All the wondrous achievements ye now witness are the direct consequences of the Revelation of this Name. In the days to come, ye will, verily, behold things of which ye have never heard before. Thus hath it been decreed in the Tablets of God, and none can comprehend it except them whose sight is sharp. In like manner, the moment the word expressing My attribute "The Omniscient" issueth forth from My mouth, every created thing will, according to its capacity and limitations, be invested with the power to unfold the knowledge of the most marvelous sciences, and will be empowered to manifest them in the course of time at the bidding of Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Knowing. Know thou of a certainty that the Revelation of every other Name is accompanied by a similar manifestation of Divine power. Every single letter proceeding out of the mouth of God is indeed a mother letter, and every word uttered by Him Who is the Well Spring of Divine Revelation is a mother word, and His Tablet a Mother Tablet. Well is it with them that apprehend this truth” (ibid, 141).

So as you can see, the “major phenomenon…the increasing global interconnection of mankind, the emergence of institutions…the creation of new global governmental orders like the United Nations and the European Union” all of these many things which you have very insightfully mentioned, are for us among the many hallmarks of the great promised day of God in which we now live. For greater elucidation of these topics, I refer you to the writings of Shoghi Effendi, particularly those found in The World order of Baha’u’llah, and The Promised Day is Come.

Now I'll try and answer your specific questions:

a) What is the ideal future envisioned in Baha’i religion? Is it a global order in which the world is composed of many diverse religions, each tolerant of one another, and the Baha’i just one amongst many? Or would the Baha’i be the organizing principle? What texts are mainly concerned with these ideas of future social organization, etc?


This is a complex question, for which the Baha’is have two answers, which I’ll touch on briefly. One applies to our near future, and the other to our distant future, and golden age. In Baha’i terminology these are known as the Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace, respectively. The lesser peace is a political peace, and as such peace that will be accomplished by the nations through political means. During this time, we believe it will be quite like you said: “a global world order…composed of many diverse religions, each tolerant of one another, and the Baha’i just one amongst many.” However, we also believe that during the time of the Most Great Peace there will be a great spiritual unity, and a world common wealth according to a Baha’i system. The World Order of Baha’u’llah(hyperlinked above), by Shoghi Effendi, is probably the most detailed work concerning these ideas.


b) In particular and in relation to this first question, what about government? What would be the ideal governmental form be, and would it be governed by Baha’i institutions or would they merely be involved? Is it a belief that we do not need government, or that it is a necessary though misunderstood form of human organization? (I’m guessing there is a tendency towards the latter, based on the fairly rigorously organized ‘Administrative Order’)

This is another difficult question to answer, because the Baha’i writings have so much to say on the matter. In short, Baha’is believe in democratic forms of government, but at the same time, we do not endorse any particular democratic government or system. While we believe in being obedient to governments, and participate in voting, and generally support activities that are consistent with our beliefs, at the same time, we abstain from political disputes, campaigning, and other aspects of current democratic practices, believing that there are more unifying, more spiritual approaches to democracy than that presently enjoyed in the world. The best form of government would be the one which best serves the common good of all mankind and:

“…subordinates, without hesitation or equivocation, every particularistic interest, be it personal, regional, or national, to the paramount interests of humanity, firmly convinced that in a world of inter-dependent peoples and nations the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole, and that no abiding benefit can be conferred upon the component parts if the general interests of the entity itself are ignored or neglected (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, 198).

Your question about whether or not Governments are best “governed by Baha’i institutions” or “merely involved” is a complex one which I’m sure you will not find complete agreement on among the Baha’i community. Personally, I find it impossible to even guess about such things from where we stand today. Part of the problem is that, as mentioned above, we have the concept of two qualitatively different periods of peace. During the lesser peace, at least, it seems clear that Baha’i Institutions will be “merely involved” and this isn’t really speculating at all since that is the pattern of Baha’i Institutions now. As for the days of the Most Great Peace, my crystal ball gets a bit foggier! However, regardless of whether at some future time Baha’i Institutions have a direct role in governing or not, it seems clear that during this time we can reasonably suppose that whomever is running things, that it will be according to the universal spiritual principles governing that age.

c) A question of education, in situational form: Say there is a hypothetical child, perhaps 10 years of age, who has no religious or spiritual knowledge of any kind, and is something of a blank canvass. Would it be considered ideal to instruct him in the ways of the Baha’i, or to present him with the many diverse religions already existent (the Baha’i among them) and to let him take what he can from these, or to merely instruct him in essential principles that have no particular affiliation with Baha’i or with any other principle religions, i.e. to merely teach the inherency of human unity, etc. – and would the age of the child make a difference here?

There are three primary principles governing the actions of Baha’is that speak specifically to this question. First, we believe that parents are responsible for the education of their children. This applies to both the material and spiritual aspects of learning:

“As to thy question regarding the education of children: it behoveth thee to nurture them at the breast of the love of God, and urge them onward to the things of the spirit, that they may turn their faces unto God; that their ways may conform to the rules of good conduct and their character be second to none; that they make their own all the graces and praiseworthy qualities of humankind; acquire a sound knowledge of the various branches of learning, so that from the very beginning of life they may become spiritual beings, dwellers in the Kingdom, enamoured of the sweet breaths of holiness, and may receive an education religious, spiritual, and of the Heavenly Realm” (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha,142).

Second, we believe in the independent investigation of truth, and that every person must decide the truth for his or herself, free from compulsion. While certainly every Baha’i parent fosters the hope that their children will believe in Baha’u’llah, the best we can do is instill in them the teachings (including independent investigation of truth) and hope that in so doing, at least they will cherish in their hearts the Baha’i principles, and hopefully they may also discover the truth of Baha’u’llah.

Finally, while you may hear things like Baha’i children (referring to the children whose parents are Baha’i) no one is allowed to become a Baha’i before the age of fifteen—which is concerned the age of maturity in our faith.

In short, there are many ways that parents may go about accomplishing these goals, but we do try to educate our children to become Baha’is, but part and parcel to doing so, means that children also learn about other religions and other religious view points, since the oneness of all the world’s revealed religions is an inseparable part of Baha’is belief.

d) Following on from C, are there specific Baha’i texts and teachings and ideas related to human education? What are the main ideas? Basically – is it assumed that, as with government, there is a better way of doing things?

In general, the Baha’i texts regarding human education speak towards our need for continuing to progress and perfect ourselves in all material and spiritual perfections:

“Out of the wastes of nothingness, with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things”(Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words).

“All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization” (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, 214).

“Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom” (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, 259).

“Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education hath, however, deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess” (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah,161).

“This is the Day of which it hath been said: 'O my son! verily God will bring everything to light though it were but the weight of a grain of mustard seed, and hidden in a rock, or in the heavens or in the earth; for God is subtile, informed of all…If one speck of a jewel be lost and buried beneath a mountain of stones, and lie hidden beyond the seven seas, the Hand of Omnipotence will assuredly reveal it in this day, pure and cleansed from dross" (Baha’u’llah, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, 107).


I hope I have succeeded in answering some of your questions, or at least pointed you in the right direction! I sincerely hope that you will find that which you seek.

Best wishes,


Loren
"Thus doth the Nightingale utter His call unto you from this prison. He hath but to deliver this clear message. Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel and whosoever desireth let him choose the path to his Lord." - Baha'u'llah

Sila
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Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby Sila » Sun Nov 30, 2008 4:38 pm

Thanks so much for you prompt and considered reply! You’ve answered my questions quite flawlessly. I agree with you very much about “The fact that Radhakrishnan, as well as the many other great thinkers around the globe who, on the grand scale of history, almost simultaneously awakened to and began expressing these universal truths, and that these truths are becoming increasingly accepted as the self-evident...” The new paradigm emerging is something so very amazing and beautiful and hopeful – and yet, it is something which many people fail to truly see – even with it right beneath their noses. They see with their eyes , and they are immersed in it, yet they do not recognize with their heart or mind just how noble a change is really occurring all around them – and I think that if and when they do recognize it, they would surely wish to be a part of it. That is certainly how I feel.

Thank you for the links to Shoghi Effendi’s writings – ‘The World order of Baha’u’llah’ looks very interesting and I will read through it over the next week – I think it’ll answer some of the supplementary questions that are still in my head. I’m also currently reading a book I obtained from my University’s library about Baha’i – one of the very few books actually available on the subject (surprisingly) – it’s called “Bahá'i Faith : Dawn Of A New Day,” written by Jessyca Russell Gaver – currently I’ve read through the basic introduction to Baha’i beliefs and the history of the Bab and Baha’u’llah and the founding of the faith. Is this book well-known, considered a decent introduction? I don’t have the Internet at home, so I need a book to hold (reading off a screen is just not the same!) – so I just hope it’s a decent introduction. I’ve also picked up another book called “The Bah¯a'¯i World, 1992-93 : An International Record.” Which seems to be an official Baha’i text (the author is the ‘Baha’i World Center’) so I take it this is worth reading? Any other recommendations would be welcomed – though like I said, I will certainly start with those links you provided.

The idea of teaching the children of Baha’i parents about Baha’i principles as well as an independent investigation of truth and lessons on other religions is great – and I’m glad that’s the educational model! I’ve never liked the idea of indoctrinating one’s children into one’s religion without a provision of alternatives and more basic ideas. I myself was fairly-well brainwashed when I was young and attended a Catholic private school (which my parents, despite being atheist, sent me to because they believed the education would be better, notwithstanding the religious education) – I basically was forced into this belief since I was never given any alternatives. I read the entire Old Testament by the end of 6th grade! Anyway – I then went to a public school afterwards and slowly I started to question things – my beliefs slowly unravelled into an agnostic/atheist line of thought, and I related well to existentialism and the like (truly an appealing philosophy for the confusion of youth). It has only been within the last few years of self-investigation and auto-didacticism that I’ve started reclaiming spiritual ideas (and I certainly believe in God – and after reading the hopefully non-too-inaccurate Wikipedia descriptor of the Baha’i conception of God, I feel my view is essentially the same)

Anyway – I’ve taken in your answers and will endeavour to read through these texts you’ve provided me, and anymore anyone can recommend, and I hope to have some more questions for you as time goes on =)

Thanks very much,
Alex

Sen McGlinn
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Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby Sen McGlinn » Sun Nov 30, 2008 5:32 pm

Sila wrote:a) What is the ideal future envisioned in Baha’i religion? Is it a global order in which the world is composed of many diverse religions, each tolerant of one another, and the Baha’i just one amongst many? Or would the Baha’i be the organizing principle? What texts are mainly concerned with these ideas of future social organization, etc?


I think it is both: a pluralist world of diverse religions tolerant of one another and working together, and a new world religious order. Tolerance and cooperation between religions is new, and it is ‘Bahai’ but it is not a monopoly of the Bahais.

Religious diversity is here to stay. This would not have been obvious to the early American Bahais. America's domination by Christianity, and its history of revivalism, made it plausible for them to think of everyone converting to the Bahai Faith in a world religious revival. We cannot imagine that today - geographic mobility and the increasing trend for people to leave and join religions of choice mean that every society on earth will, in the near future, become religiously diverse, and they will stay that way. So long as there is freedom of religion, and free investigation of truth, religious uniformity is simply impossible. Since both of these are Bahai teachings, a religiously uniform world could not be Bahai, and a Bahai world could not be religiously uniform.

The Bahai Faith does have a fuller measure of revelation, but that does not mean other religions are simply switched off from the 'voltage' of the Holy Spirit. God's way has been to work through successive revelations at long intervals, but also to keep inspiring previous religions for thousands of years. Baha’u’llah for instance lived in a world in which Jews and Zoroastrians were part of the religious scene, so he must have known that the life of a religion does not end quickly when a new religion comes. Shoghi Effendi writes:

Such institutions as have strayed far from the spirit and teachings
of Jesus Christ must of necessity, as the embryonic World Order of
Baha'u'llah takes shape and unfolds, recede into the background, and
make way for the progress of the divinely-ordained institutions that
stand inextricably interwoven with His teachings. The indwelling
Spirit of God which, in the Apostolic Age of the Church, animated
its members, the pristine purity of its teachings, the primitive
brilliancy of its light, will, no doubt, be reborn and revived as
the inevitable consequences of this redefinition of its fundamental
verities, and the clarification of its original purpose.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 185)


In Secret of Divine Civilization, Abdu'l-Baha proposes not just ways to revive the fortunes of Iran and bringing peace, but also ways to revive the Faith of God there (Shi'ah Islam) and he argues that religions (plural) are the basis of human progress. There and in Traveller's Narrative he argues for religious tolerance, so that people of all religions can live side by side.

I think they look forward to a revival of Christianity, Islam and other religions, which, because they rediscover the universal in their own teachings, will learn to work together. I do not know anywhere where they look forward to the extinction of other religions.

What the world needs is not simply a new religion, that Bahai and only Bahai can provide. I think the need is for a new kind of religious order, and that the new religion of Bahai will help the older religions to create it together. What is needed is a religious order which will foster global unity, rather than creating a lot of separate religious identities that compete with one another or fight.

I think it is important to acknowledge that we leave childhood behind, but we take the things of childhood with us. Much of the past comes with us into postmodernity, but transformed or placed in a wider context. National and cultural identities for example. And Christianity "reborn and revived" as in the quote from Shoghi Effendi above, comes with us into the new world.

This opens the possibility for an explanation of progressive revelation that is not supercessionist. There are revelations throughout history, and their communities and positive effects continue for some thousands of years (but not indefinitely). Humanity passes through climactic changes, such as the end of the classical age, and the current transition to the postmodern, and in such a new age, all of the religious communities have to reinvent themselves in a new world, which is painful and difficult. The religion that is born at the time of such a change also has to transform, but it has an easier task, less baggage, so their example of transformation can show the way.

This reading preserves the special role of the new revelation in shaping the new age, but does not treat all previous revelations and the wisdom in their traditions as simply superseded.

In the Bahai writings, especially those of Shoghi Effendi, the World Order is more than religion alone, and is not created by religion alone. In the postmodern world order (as it will be, with global justice, pluralism, protection of human rights, rule of law etc), there is no place for the old religious order of religions claiming exclusive truth, or exclusive validity for one people. Given the shape of the World Order, the required religious order has to be tolerant, it cannot give priority to one religion over others, it has to work together for common goals (the well-being of humanity), and so on. For most religions, this will involve quite a large re- think, but for Bahais this is basic scripture. So in some sense Bahai is "best suited" -- it has a relative advantage on the ideas front, but is at a really big disadvantage so far as numbers and depth of culture go.

Sila wrote:b) In particular and in relation to this first question, what about government? What would be the ideal governmental form be, and would it be governed by Baha’i institutions or would they merely be involved?


Baha’u’llah favoured constitutional monarchy, ideally, but also spoke well of the republican form of government. He and Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi absolutely forbade the Bahai institutions becoming governments, (there’s another thread on this on Baha'i Library today, about ‘politics’ with heaps of quotes) but the Bahai elected institutions are good models for government at all levels.

How closely the Bahai elected institutions can be involved with a particular government depends on that government. There are many spheres of life, such as education, social development, social welfare and culture, in which government bodies and religious institutions can beneficially work together. To achieve the ideal of partnership, both sides have to respect one another and understand what the functions of the political and the religious orders are in society. That understanding will prevent them treading on one another’s toes, or feeling threatened by the other. As Robert Frost said, ‘good fences make good neighbours.’

Sila wrote:c) A question of education, in situational form: Say there is a hypothetical child, perhaps 10 years of age, who has no religious or spiritual knowledge of any kind, and is something of a blank canvass. Would it be considered ideal to instruct him in the ways of the Baha’i, or to present him with the many diverse religions already existent (the Baha’i among them) and to let him take what he can from these, or to merely instruct him in essential principles that have no particular affiliation with Baha’i or with any other principle religions, i.e. to merely teach the inherency of human unity, etc. – and would the age of the child make a difference here?


Baha’u’llah writes:

The word of God which the Supreme Pen hath recorded on the eighth leaf of the Most Exalted Paradise is the following: Schools must first train the children in the principles of religion, so that the Promise and the Threat recorded in the Books of God may prevent them from the things forbidden and adorn them with the mantle of the commandments; but this in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry.
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 68)


So a child should not reach the age of 10 without having learned both the principles of religion and the ‘Promise and the Threat’ as recorded in the various Books (religions).

There are some postings on my blog
http://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/
which may help with some of these questions.
Look on the left hand side, or use the search function, to find

The practicalities of monarchy,
Pray for good government
The secret of Divine civilization
For the betterment of the world
‘Matters of State’ or ‘Administrative Matters’
Bahais and military service
Two by two

~ Sen McGlinn

Sila
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Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby Sila » Sun Nov 30, 2008 5:49 pm

Thanks Sen for the reply! Seems you must have been writing it out whilst I replied to you in that other thread you just mentioned, which did in fact contribute some answers to my questions. I think it all sounds very sensible so far. I really like how well-ordered and crystalline the Baha'i teachings are - there seems to be very little room for misinterpretation, as seems to have been Baha'u'llah's goal when he wrote those teachings down.

I like the idea of a new religious order which will find a way to organize and maintain tolerance between diverse religions.

Two quick questions:

a) What is the 'Promise and the Threat' you referred to?
b) Is it correct that a Christian or a Buddhist (etc) can become a Baha'i whilst still practising his first religion and in concurrence with the Baha'i faith? If so - are there certain religion's which cannot be practised at the same time as Baha'i? (also, what is the plural for Baha'i? Baha'ism?)
c) On a somewhat unrelated note: Could anyone recommend me some Baha'i music? I make music myself and love all forms of music through and through, and would be interested to hear some Baha'i music (preferably religious/culturally-related to the Baha'i as opposed to, for example, a rock song that is Baha'i only insomuch as the performer is of the faith)

Fadl
Posts: 102
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Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby Fadl » Sun Nov 30, 2008 6:46 pm

Sila wrote:Thanks so much for you prompt and considered reply! You’ve answered my questions quite flawlessly. I agree with you very much about “The fact that Radhakrishnan, as well as the many other great thinkers around the globe who, on the grand scale of history, almost simultaneously awakened to and began expressing these universal truths, and that these truths are becoming increasingly accepted as the self-evident...” The new paradigm emerging is something so very amazing and beautiful and hopeful – and yet, it is something which many people fail to truly see – even with it right beneath their noses. They see with their eyes , and they are immersed in it, yet they do not recognize with their heart or mind just how noble a change is really occurring all around them – and I think that if and when they do recognize it, they would surely wish to be a part of it. That is certainly how I feel.


Alex, welcome to the club, we are all just as astonished by it as you are! The Lord of this Age was similarly surprised by the blindness you have observed:

“How strange that while the Beloved is visible as the sun, yet the heedless still hunt after tinsel and base metal. Yea, the intensity of His revelation hath covered Him, and the fullness of His shining forth hath hidden Him” (Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, 39).

And:

“They are in this day like unto a blind man who, while moving in the sunshine, demandeth: Where is the sun? Is it shining? He would deny and dispute the truth, and would not be of them that perceive” (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, 186)

But this is the also a precious benefit for those like you, because in this day to recognize Baha’u’llah takes special effort and insight. It is difficult to step out from the crowd and see for one’s self. It is a unique individual extraordinary courage and insight to do this. In the future, belief in Baha’u’llah will certainly be a common thing. I really believe it. But I think there is a big difference between those who recognize the coming of God’s light and the spiritual spring time at is earliest hours, and those who see it only after is declared by everyone else first. Nevertheless, this is how it has been at the dawn of every new religion sent down by God. Eventually, they do come to know:

"'Soon will all that dwell on earth be enlisted under these banners.'" (Shoghi Effendi quoting Baha’u’llah, God Passes By, 184)


Sila wrote: I’m also currently reading a book I obtained from my University’s library about Baha’i – one of the very few books actually available on the subject (surprisingly) – it’s called “Bahá'i Faith : Dawn Of A New Day,” written by Jessyca Russell Gaver – currently I’ve read through the basic introduction to Baha’i beliefs and the history of the Bab and Baha’u’llah and the founding of the faith. Is this book well-known, considered a decent introduction? I don’t have the Internet at home, so I need a book to hold (reading off a screen is just not the same!) – so I just hope it’s a decent introduction. I’ve also picked up another book called “The Bah¯a'¯i World, 1992-93 : An International Record.” Which seems to be an official Baha’i text (the author is the ‘Baha’i World Center’) so I take it this is worth reading? Any other recommendations would be welcomed – though like I said, I will certainly start with those links you provided. Alex


I have not read Gaver’s book, so I can’t comment on it. Will you please let us know what you think of it? I’d appreciate it! All of the other books are fine books, although not typical fare for a beginner! I think you can handle it though, it is clear you have a very inquisitive and intellectual mind.

A more common introductory work is J.E. Esslemont’s Baha’u’llah and the New Era, which is an excellent introduction. A book I have read recently which is not introductory book, but may be of keen interest to you is Gregory Dahl’s One World One People. In light of some of your very good questions about the future, and in light of the current economic crisis, I think you will find this book very interesting.Here is a good place to buy Baha’i books of course you can also find Baha’i books at amazon, and half.com too.

Have you been in touch with any Baha’is in your area, or looked to see if there is a Baha’i club at your school? Being a student, one of the best ways to save some money and get your hands on lots of books, is to borrow some from Baha’is near you. Every Baha’i I’ve ever met is a serious book hound, and they’d be happy to lend you a book.

You can find Baha’is near you by contacting the U.S. Baha’is from their official website or calling 1-800-22-UNITE.

I’m currently living in Russia, and I have a big box of Baha’i books at my mother’s place. If you can’t get set up, send me a PM and I’ll ask her to mail you some books. I agree, with you, it’s much better to have a book in your hand than spend hours reading a backlit computer screen—too hard on the eyes!

Take Care,


Loren
"Thus doth the Nightingale utter His call unto you from this prison. He hath but to deliver this clear message. Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel and whosoever desireth let him choose the path to his Lord." - Baha'u'llah

Sila
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 4:17 pm

Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby Sila » Sun Nov 30, 2008 7:14 pm

Loren wrote:“How strange that while the Beloved is visible as the sun, yet the heedless still hunt after tinsel and base metal. Yea, the intensity of His revelation hath covered Him, and the fullness of His shining forth hath hidden Him” (Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, 39).

And:

“They are in this day like unto a blind man who, while moving in the sunshine, demandeth: Where is the sun? Is it shining? He would deny and dispute the truth, and would not be of them that perceive” (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, 186)


Interesting passages. What is being expressed here reminds me of a description given by Michel Foucault in his analysis of a certain historical perception of madness (taken from his book "Madness & Civilization"):

"Dazzled reason opens its eyes upon the sun and sees nothing, that is, does not see… To say that madness is dazzlement is to say that the madman sees the daylight, the same daylight as the man of reason (both live in the same brightness); but seeing this same daylight, and nothing but this daylight and nothing in it, he sees it as a void, as night, as nothing; for him the shadows are the way to perceive daylight. "

Replace madman with anyone not yet fully aware, the man of reason as someone spiritually-aware, and to take daylight as divine revelation, well, it fits quite nicely, I think.

Loren wrote:I have not read Gaver’s book, so I can’t comment on it. Will you please let us know what you think of it? I’d appreciate it! All of the other books are fine books, although not typical fare for a beginner! I think you can handle it though, it is clear you have a very inquisitive and intellectual mind.

A more common introductory work is J.E. Esslemont’s Baha’u’llah and the New Era, which is an excellent introduction. A book I have read recently which is not introductory book, but may be of keen interest to you is Gregory Dahl’s One World One People. In light of some of your very good questions about the future, and in light of the current economic crisis, I think you will find this book very interesting.Here is a good place to buy Baha’i books of course you can also find Baha’i books at amazon, and half.com too.


Yeah I'll let you know what I think. I will try to find a copy of Esslemont's book, and that Gregory Dahl book looks very interesting - reading some blurbs about it now, it reminds me of "One World" by Peter Singer - which is about establishing a global ethics, amongst other things. You may find that interesting too.

Loren wrote:Have you been in touch with any Baha’is in your area, or looked to see if there is a Baha’i club at your school? Being a student, one of the best ways to save some money and get your hands on lots of books, is to borrow some from Baha’is near you. Every Baha’i I’ve ever met is a serious book hound, and they’d be happy to lend you a book.

You can find Baha’is near you by contacting the U.S. Baha’is from their official website or calling 1-800-22-UNITE.

I’m currently living in Russia, and I have a big box of Baha’i books at my mother’s place. If you can’t get set up, send me a PM and I’ll ask her to mail you some books. I agree, with you, it’s much better to have a book in your hand than spend hours reading a backlit computer screen—too hard on the eyes!


Not yet contacted any local Baha'i's, no. I've only very recently started investigating it. I'm an Australian currently on a year-long student exchange in Toronto - I know there's a temple and community here, I remember walking past it a month or so ago, actually. Not sure about any clubs at my University, though - I just did a brief search and couldn't find anything. I suppose I'll send an email to the Toronto community soon.

It's very kind of you to offer me some books! I will try to find some on my own accord but will let you know if I need help, thanks very much =)

Alex

Fadl
Posts: 102
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2004 4:55 am
Location: somewhere "in this immensity"

Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby Fadl » Sun Nov 30, 2008 7:36 pm

Sila wrote: Is it correct that a Christian or a Buddhist (etc) can become a Baha'i whilst still practising his first religion and in concurrence with the Baha'i faith? If so - are there certain religion's which cannot be practised at the same time as Baha'i? (also, what is the plural for Baha'i? Baha'ism?)

That’s a great question Alex. The answer is yes and no. As Baha’is, we may individually still practice certain aspects of our older faith, if they don’t contradict the teachings of our new faith. For example, when I’m with my family who are Mormon, I like to go to Church with them, but I don’t partake of the sacrament or do those things which would indicate that I’m a member of that church. So being baptized at a church or something along those lines would be a no-no for us. However, we read the scriptures of the world’s religions, sing some of their songs, and very freely associate and congregate with people of any faith. I myself, occasionally sing a Mormon song or hymn when I’m sure nobody can hear! :-) Anyway, we don’t have dual membership as members of this faith and another, but most of us don’t consider that we have left our old faith, but that we have made it more complete, even fulfilled it.

Plural for Baha’i is Baha’is.

Sila wrote: On a somewhat unrelated note: Could anyone recommend me some Baha'i music? I make music myself and love all forms of music through and through, and would be interested to hear some Baha'i music (preferably religious/culturally-related to the Baha'i as opposed to, for example, a rock song that is Baha'i only insomuch as the performer is of the faith)


There is some great music! If you want to buy and sample some, there is a good site: Divine Notes there you can find a very eclectic mix—Everything from chants in Persian and Arabic to Choral music and Baha’i pop. Baha’is have some very nice choirs, both traditional and gospel. I highly recommend the music of the Baha’i World Congress, if you want some spiritual choral music.

One of my favorite groups is Smith and Dragoman (My Space site) which has a very unique style. They have kind of a world music sound, using all manner of percussion and instruments, with very stirring musical motifs. They sing about the lives of the heroic figures of our faith, their families, and followers. It may not be for everyone, but they are one of my favorites.

I hope you enjoy!

Loren
"Thus doth the Nightingale utter His call unto you from this prison. He hath but to deliver this clear message. Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel and whosoever desireth let him choose the path to his Lord." - Baha'u'llah

Sen McGlinn
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue May 03, 2005 7:11 am
Location: Leiden, the Netherlands
Contact:

Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby Sen McGlinn » Sun Nov 30, 2008 11:54 pm

Sila wrote:a) What is the 'Promise and the Threat' you referred to?


Promise and Threat, or reward and punishment, is one of those basic dynamics that acts out at several levels. The first is the level of society: where reward and punishment is the pillar of social order:

The Great Being saith: The structure of world stability and order hath been reared upon, and will continue to be sustained by, the twin pillars of reward and punishment....
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 218)
http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/GWB/gwb-112.html#pg219


It is incumbent upon everyone to observe God's holy commandments, inasmuch as they are the wellspring of life unto the world. The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion and the canopy of world order is upraised upon the two pillars of reward and punishment.
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 126)
http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/TB/tb-9.html#pg129


Reward and punishment of this type is in the hands of ‘kings.’

Reward and punishment also plays out in spiritual progress of the soul: in Islam and Christianity this is referred to as heaven and hell. It is the belief that what we do has consequences, and it is a core teaching of the world’s ethical religions. In the Bahai teachings this does not happen only at some future judgement: spiritual reward and punishment play out in this life and the next. Abdu’l-Baha said:

... the paradise and hell of existence are found in all the worlds of God, whether in this world or in the spiritual heavenly worlds. Gaining these rewards is the gaining of eternal life. That is why Christ said, "Act in such a way that you may find eternal life, and that you may be born of water and the spirit, so that you may enter into the Kingdom." [Cf. John 3:5.]
The rewards of this life are the virtues and perfections which adorn the reality of man. For example, he was dark and becomes luminous; he was ignorant and becomes wise; he was neglectful and becomes vigilant; ... Through these rewards he gains spiritual birth and becomes a new creature. ... For such people there is no greater torture than being veiled from God, and no more severe punishment than sensual vices, dark qualities, lowness of nature, engrossment in carnal desires. When they are delivered through the light of faith from the darkness of these vices, and become illuminated with the radiance of the sun of reality, and ennobled with all the virtues, they esteem this the greatest reward, and they know it to be the true paradise. ...

Likewise, the rewards of the other world are the eternal life which is clearly mentioned in all the Holy Books, the divine perfections, the eternal bounties and everlasting felicity. The rewards of the other world are the perfections and the peace obtained in the spiritual worlds after leaving this world, while the rewards of this life are the real luminous perfections which are realized in this world, and which are the cause of eternal life, for they are the very progress of existence.
http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAQ/saq-60.html#pg223
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 223)


The reward and punishment of society, which is in the hands of governments, is closely related to the people’s awareness of spiritual reward and punishment. Social order can only function if most of the people, most of the time, obey the laws and, more than that, treat one another decently. Government coercion is there as a threat, but it can only be actually applied to exceptions, or the police and prison system will be overwhelmed. And people’s awareness of spiritual reward and punishment is taught: at least for most people, it does not happen spontaneously. Abdu’l-Baha writes:

There are some who imagine that an innate sense of human dignity will prevent man from committing evil actions and insure his spiritual and material perfection. That is, that an individual who is characterized with natural intelligence, high resolve, and a driving zeal, will, without any consideration for the severe punishments consequent on evil acts, or for the great rewards of righteousness, instinctively refrain from inflicting harm on his fellow men and will hunger and thirst to do good. And yet, if we ponder the lessons of history it will become evident that this very sense of honor and dignity is itself one of the bounties deriving from the instructions of the Prophets of God. We also observe in infants the signs of aggression and lawlessness, and that if a child is deprived of a teacher's instructions his undesirable qualities increase from one moment to the next. It is therefore clear that the emergence of this natural sense of human dignity and honor is the result of education. Secondly, even if we grant for the sake of the argument that instinctive intelligence and an innate moral quality would prevent wrongdoing, it is obvious that individuals so characterized are as rare as the philosopher's stone. ... Aside from this, if that rare individual who does exemplify such a faculty should also become an embodiment of the fear of God, it is certain that his strivings toward righteousness would be strongly reinforced.

Universal benefits derive from the grace of the Divine religions, for they lead their true followers to sincerity of intent, to high purpose, to purity and spotless honor, to surpassing kindness and compassion, ... It is religion, to sum up, which produces all human virtues, and it is these virtues which are the bright candles of civilization. ... The purpose of these statements is to make it abundantly clear that the Divine religions, the holy precepts, the heavenly teachings, are the unassailable basis of human happiness, and that the peoples of the world can hope for no real relief or deliverance without this one great remedy. (Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 97)
http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SDC/sdc-5.html#pg97


That ties in nicely with your interest in education.

The URLs to the Bahai Reference Library I've included will introduce you to some great books, all free to download. If you download the Word versions you can start adding your own highlights, footnotes, and mouse-over comments, and you are on your way to your own Bahai library, and to the habit of studying the scriptures, which is one of the daily disciplines of the Bahai life (along with prayer, and reciting the Greatest Name).

The English index page for Baha'u'llah is here:
http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/
Don't miss the Hidden Words in that list. That will be your hold-fast when there seems to be too much in all the other books for one poor soul to grasp.

~ Sen McGlinn

Susan
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:49 pm

Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby Susan » Tue Dec 02, 2008 9:18 am

Dear Alex,

The fullest discussion of the questions you raise regarding a future Baha'i polity can be found in a letter written to Sen McGlinn by the Universal House of Justice more than a decade ago. You can find it here:

http://bahai-library.com/uhj/theocracy.html

Keep in mind, however, that this is something Baha'is expect in the *distant* future, not the near future.

While Baha'is embrace the oneness of religion it is important to keep in mind that we are not perennialists. We believe in Progressive Revelation. Religions are one in the sense that they are all intended to move in the same direction, not that they all started out the same. As Baha'u'llah says:

"The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements."

(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 212)

warmest, Susan

pilgrimbrent
Posts: 45
Joined: Sat Dec 27, 2008 4:16 pm

Re: Questions on a variety of things

Postby pilgrimbrent » Sat Dec 27, 2008 10:22 pm

It would be a good idea for you to download the Ocean program at www.bahai-education.org and since you don't have the Net at home, burn a CD and bring Ocean to your home computer. It has all of the Baha'i Writings, as well as the scriptures of the earlier Revelations.

Among these in the work "Compilation of Compilations" is a compilation on "Baha'i Education" comprised of excerpts from the Baha'i Writings on Child Education. If you are in a university town, you may also find a Baha'i who works in the field of education to work with. Contact the local Baha'i community or the campus Baha'i club.

You might also enjoy reading the statement papers from the Baha'i representatives to the UN:
http://www.bic-un.bahai.org/index.cfm
Brent


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