Many questions about Baha'i...

All research or scholarship questions
Sam K
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2008 2:00 am

Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Sam K » Thu Nov 13, 2008 3:03 am

Yesterday I discovered Baha'i while stumbling around the internet.

Please understand that my questions and comments are not meant as a refutation or an intent to influence the beliefs of anyone here. I am curious, and I am questioning my understanding of Baha'i and my own faith. I believe it would be disrespectful for me to represent myself dishonestly.

This may not be a functional distinction, but from a secular perspective, I am very much in agreement with with the Baha'i beliefs I have read about so far. To clarify, I am referring to the views on race, equality of the sexes, the role of marriage, etc. I love the idea of the absence of politics or a priesthood. There are some elements of this (such as a world court system and government) that I am skeptical of, but only from a standpoint of functionality.

My questions are more of a religious or theological nature.

Growing up, religion was encouraged but not required of me. My parents, who were from differing faith, were divorced early in my life. I believe that they agreed not to extend the messiness of divorce into their child's religious upbringing. I am extremely thankful to them for this. However, as a result, while I had some exposure to both faiths, I do not have a traditional religious background or base of knowlege.

First - a quick tangent:

I have friends, otherwise sensible and rational people, who genuinely believe in ghosts. I do not. This is not to say that my perception is perfect - I have mistaken a scraping tree on the roof for a burglar, a pair of pants on the floor for a dead body, and even once convinced myself the the squirrel who feel on my tent was a bear. However, when I hear a noise in the night, supernatural possibilities simply do not occur to me. That being said, I have friends who state that they do not believe in ghosts, but when they hear that noise at night, they react very much as if they do.

For most of my life I have considered myself to be an atheist. It is something I decided when I was very young. However, like my friends who did not believe in ghosts, but reacted with horror to the sounds of woods at night, over the past year or so I have learned that I was mistaken. In a moment of crisis or joy, I do not behave or respond like an atheist.

The distinction is subtle, but I did not discover the existence of God. I discovered that I already knew about God, but believed that I did not. I was surprised to find myself being forced to choose between two important elements in my life. Either I am an atheist, or I am self honest. I realized that I could not be both. It was a humbling experience, but not one I could close my eyes to. So - I am not an atheist.

Much of what I have read about the different religions contains quite a bit of wisdom but also some elements that I either do not agree with or do not understand.

Jumping from atheism to a religion that I do not understand or agree with is, for me, no more self honest than atheism.

Enough with the biography - here are my questions:

(1) I have enjoyed reading some of the theological discussions and I more than anything else, I appreciate the tone and consideration. I love the attention to detail, and the care people have shown in working through differences. From my own (excessively analytical) perspective, it seems very much like an attempt to decode differing systems of belief and prove that they are in fact the same system. If this is so, it is is a enormous and daunting task. It is a noble task, and for someone whose thoughts are steeped in mathematics - the effort is also quite beautiful. Is it the intent of Baha'i to demonstrate that religion and cultures are actually not different? Is this seen as a method to achieve unity with a minimum of bloodshed and coercion?

Please let me know if I am close in my understanding on this.

(Note: Also, please understand that it is not my suggestion that religion is a purely intellectual or mathematical exercise. That simply my perspective on learning and the most analogous to what I believe I am seeing.)

(2) I have never studied religious text devotionally, so this is a somewhat alien experience for me. From my perspective, if Baha'i (the religion) did not exist, all human beings would still be worthy of respect, kindness, and compassion. Men and women would be equal, and finding ways to unify the world without violence or compulsion would be noble and worthy goal. At the risk of sounding naive - I am struggling to understand the importance of the religious text. These things were true before they were written down, they are true today, they will be true at least as long human beings exist. In other words, if these things were true before the prophet says them, why are the prophets themselves important? It is clear to me that I am missing something, but I am not sure what.

(3) The prophets. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha... I understand the idea that all of these prophets told essentially the same truth. I am confused about the distinction between a prophet and everyone else. I do not believe that the view of Baha'i is that every human being is a prophet. However, there are certainly people throughout history that founded or significantly influenced a religion that has either perished or been absorbed into another religion. If these people are not prophets, then I do not understand the distinction. If they are prophets, then I'm not sure where to draw the line. Kepler spent most of his life attempting to prove that the cosmos was ordered according to the ratios of specific solids within one another. He viewed this task as devotional and spiritual. He ended up disproving himself (much to his initial dismay) but ended up contributing significantly to our understanding of the universe. I am not arguing that Kepler was a prophet, just stating that I don't see the distinction. Can someone clarify what makes a person a prophet or what distinguishes a prophet from the rest of us?

[Warning: now my questions get quite random]

(4) Is the possibility (or impossibility) of life in on other planets addressed in Baha'i? Is Earth the only place that matters in the eyes of God?

(5) Politics. I had a Grandfather who would never swear in church, but was quite enthusiastic about the practice everywhere else. Along these lines, are members of Baha'i required to avoid political discussions entirely, or just with other members of the group?

(6) Are there any dietary restrictions?

(7) Within a marriage, is sexuality for the purposes of intimacy and enjoyment frowned upon?

(8) Within society, are there any activities that are considered unacceptable, such as reading fiction, playing video games, or watching movies with explosions?

(9) What is the expected attire for meetings?

(10) I read that 19% of a person's income, beyond the cost of living, should go toward Baha'i. Is "cost of living" standardized? Is it a purely personal decision? Something that is worked out - formally or informally - with a group or individuals within the religion?

(11) If a group that I meet with decides to participate in an activity that I do not feel is appropriate (either through my own misunderstanding or just an honest disagreement), will stating my concerns be accepted, encouraged, or frowned upon? Would I be able to "bow out" of that activity but remain a part of the group in other ways?

Sorry - I know it's a lot of questions, but please answer as you are able.

onepence~2
Posts: 221
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:17 am

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby onepence~2 » Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:28 am

Hi Sam

welcome to our little forum ...

We have enjoyed reading your post and hope that you find the friendship here
filled with both expected and unexpected expressions of love, devotion and faithfulness.

As time permits we hope to address all the questions and issues you have brought up here

*smile*

4) Is the possibility (or impossibility) of life in on other planets addressed in Baha'i? Is Earth the only place that matters in the eyes of God?

"Know thou that every fixed star hath its own planets, and every planet its own creatures, whose number no man can compute."

http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/GWB/g ... ight#pg163

there is a lot more to the study of planets,
but our basic understanding is
"every planet its own creatures"

Fadl
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2004 4:55 am
Location: somewhere "in this immensity"

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Fadl » Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:25 am

Dear Sam,

Welcome! It was nice to read your very thoughtful questions, and introspection. I also liked your “quick tangent.” Thanks for sharing that, it made me smile. I’m sure many of us have a friend or two like those! I also appreciated your kind words about our little community. It is indeed a daunting task with which we endeavor, but I think most of us are quick to admit that we aren’t really big enough for it, and actually rely on Baha’u’llah for the most difficult and important work. I’ll do my best to answer your questions one by one, and if I’ve left something out or missed the point entirely, I’m sure that the other Baha’is on the board can help. There are many deepened and educated Baha’is who frequent this board. I know they will be pleased to talk with you about anything you like.

(1) The intent of the Baha’i Faith is not really to “decode” the different systems as you suggested, but you are exactly right to say that we believe and seek to show others that the different religious systems are the “same system,” as you said. The distinction I would make is that decoding all the different systems, i.e. their specific customs, rituals, traditions, cultural and linguistic distinctions, vastly different historical and cultural factors, and so on, to put in mathematical terms, is something which has no solution. What we can say, is that the complex methods that man has devised to categorize himself along racial, national, or religious lines, are manmade and not divine. That religious differences exist is due to the fact that men have failed to understand that all the messengers are united, working for the same God, to accomplish one divine purpose. Baha’u’llah has called the prophets and messengers “divine physicians.” Therefore, we should not be surprised if at a particular time mankind was in need of a particular spiritual remedy that it was not in need of at a different time. If at a particular age certain adaptations or changes were made by a prophet or “manifestation of God” as we Baha’is call them, this is not indicative of a contradiction or conflict between the messengers, but rather, indicative of their divine wisdom, and capacities as divine physicians. For example, we wouldn’t consider a physician wise who sought to treat cancer with a cold remedy. As for cultures, we certainly want to do away with bloodshed and coercion, and seek to attain unity. But as Baha’is, we seek to achieve unity through diversity. This means that we recognize the fact that cultures are in fact varied and different, yet at the same time we are one. We see our differences as something to celebrate and rejoice in, rather than letting it lead to estrangement or hostility. Abdu’l-Baha has likened mankind as human garden containing many different colored flowers. It is our diversity, like that of a garden, which enhances and adds to our beauty as a whole. So Baha’is believe that our differences make us beautiful as a whole, and this is how we seek to attain unity and peace.

(2) Your point that, “if Baha'i (the religion) did not exist, all human beings would still be worthy of respect, kindness, and compassion” is a wonderful one, and this is certainly true. That being loving and compassionate would still be spiritual virtues without holy writings saying so, or prophets coming to tell us so, is also certainly true. Therefore, the role of sacred texts and messengers, is not to create virtue or truth at all, it is to educate us with what is true, and bring to our attention those eternal truths. This is true of any kind of science or learning. For example, before the first mathematician scrawled out the revolutionary symbols for ‘ 1+1’ and discovered that the answer was ‘2,’ actually only discovered a truth which was always existent. Putting it in writing makes it easier to preserve and pass the knowledge on to others. The purpose of the writings, and the teachings of God’s manifestations, is to bring to our attention certain knowledge and wisdom that will lead us to ever greater truth and perfection. Since no one would deny the need for educators, despite the fact that all ‘truth’ is pre-existent and latent in the very fabric of the universe itself, without educators, how would the doors to this knowledge and wisdom be opened? In this way, God’s messengers are like divine educators, they educate us with that knowledge which was given to them by our creator, and train and cultivate us to reach our best potential.

(3) Your comments about the distinction between prophets and other learned men of wisdom are insightful. The short answer to your question about how do they differ, is that they differ not only in quality, but in class. A manifestation of God has a human body, a mind, an intellect, and human imperfections, just as any man. They eat, drink, suffer, get ill, age, and eventually die. However, just as we would say that the true thing which distinguishes the human from the primates is not his physical or even mental characteristics, but his soul. We make a similar distinction between a Manifestation of God and man. A manifestation of God has a human body, but not a human soul. A Manifestation of God is of a higher order than man, as man is of a higher order than animal, and as God is of a higher order than his Manifestations. As you rightly suggested, man himself is endowed with spiritual capacities and intellect, and is able to make discoveries of great spiritual and material truths. But it is the unique qualification of God’s Manifestations, to be the spiritual suns, and the sources of warmth and life to the spiritual world of mankind, even as the material Sun is the source of warmth and life in our physical world.

(4) Onepence has already answered your question about life on other planets. I would also add that not only is there life on other planets, but that the creations and worlds of God are limitless, according to the teachings of Baha’u’llah.

(5) Concerning politics, Baha’is are free to participate in elections, governmental work, organizations, etc. We vote, we but we do not belong to political parties. We avoid politics in the sense that politics can be disharmonious and negative, and we shun this aspect of politics. However, Baha’u’llah told us to “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements…”(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, 213). So it is not that Baha’is must avoid all political activities, but instead we mitigate such involvement to ways that we see as more productive, and that are collaborative and build unity in their approach.

(6) There are no dietary restrictions per se, but we do not drink alcohol, which is a dietary restriction if wine and such are listed in the “food and drink” category. There are Baha’i teachings pertaining to moderation, health, and cleanliness, that can affect what we do or don’t eat, according to how the individual believer understands them and seeks to enact them. But we have no specific prohibitions such as not eating pork, or meat, etc. I know many Baha’is who eat meat, and I also know many who don’t. We have a lot of personal freedom and discretion in that regard.

(7) The Baha’i teachings do not seek to suppress human sexuality, but we strive to channel it in the way that it is healthy for or marriages, families, and societies. We believe that the primary basis for a marriage is naturally the creation of families, however, we also believe in the importance of intimacy and love between a man and woman. There is nothing in our teachings saying that it is wrong for a married man and woman to enjoy sexual intimacy—to the contrary!

(8) We don’t have specific prohibitions against normal, healthy human activities such as reading literature, playing games, dancing, etc. But things such as pornography, immodesty, or any art or entertainment that would go against these or our other core beliefs of cleanliness, lead to degradation of the body, mind, spirit, or lead to excess and violate moderation, are prohibited. Particular movies with explosions or excessive violence may be inappropriate, but the grey areas are left for us and our families to decide. Of course we try and make these decisions for ourselves in light of what we understand the Baha’i teachings and ideals to be.

(9) Baha’is do not have specific codes of dress. We have general guidelines for modesty, and what that means is affected by the country, and culture where the Baha’i resides, as well as the particular occasion. For example, it is my observation that Baha’is in the Middle East dress much more modest that those living in America, and Baha’is in America, seem to be very casual now, as is the rest of the country. I don’t think you have to worry about dress very much in the Baha’i community; they will welcome you as you are.

(10) The 19% that you are referring to is as you said, after the deduction of needful living expenses, goes the Universal House of Justice, the head of our faith. It is a law in our faith, but it is a personal decision too, because no Baha’i will ever ask you for it, and no Baha’i individual will know if you did or didn’t pay it. In fact, one of the beautiful aspects of it, is that if you don’t want to pay it, then you shouldn’t, because Baha’u’llah said that if it is not paid with radiance and joy then it is an unacceptable offering and it should not be taken. This way it is a duty and a blessing that is left between the believer and God, and it is the duty of the believer to calculate it for himself as he understands the law. I won’t go into the details of how it is calculated, but the 19% is only paid any an accumulated lump sum, and once paid, it is not due again unless that sum should be exceeded, so there is no double taxation, although I am reluctant to use the expression at all. It is a great spiritual law, and not just a financial offering or a tax.

(11) If you don’t want to participate in an activity, for whatever reason you may have, the Baha’is would of course accept your decision, and listen to your concerns. In fact, consultation is a very important part of our faith which necessitates that every Baha’i be allowed to contribute and share his opinions freely and through this process arrive at the truth of a matter, or at least a consensus on how to proceed as a community. There are always lots of activities and things to do in our faith, so if one activity doesn’t tickle your fancy, surely another one will! Everyone tries to find their little niche, and I really think there is something for everyone, even if everything isn’t for someone.
Thanks stopping by and getting to know us! I sincerely hope your investigation of our beautiful faith leads you to your heart’s desire.


Best wishes,


Loren

Sam K
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2008 2:00 am

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Sam K » Thu Nov 13, 2008 4:51 pm

Thank you for your quick and thoughtful responses.

I took a bit of time to mull over my own thoughts, but here goes:

(1)(plus several others) This answers many of my questions. However, there is still something that doesn't make sense to me. For the example, I'll use Noah's flood. There are Christians and Jews who take the flood story to be allegorical. There are others who believe it to be a historical representation of a single very large, but localized (or regional) natural disaster that did not cover the entire surface of the earth in a flood. Others would say that many cultures have suffered similar disasters, and the story resonates because it represents a shared experience. Finally, I know some Christians who take the story literally, and I assume the same would be true of some Jews.

I believe that all of these views are worthy of respect and that they all contain wisdom. From my perspective, they are all essentially the same. However, I'm not sure how someone who would view the story as a literal truth would agree that the others share their view. Again - I am not implying that one group is wrong or that the other is right, nor am I suggesting that persons of all views should not or do not respect each other. But - I'm having trouble understanding how the view that "the entire earth was covered by a flood" is logically consistent with "there was a catastrophic flood in the Aegean, and another one at another time in South America, so cultures in both regions share very similar stories for different events". Again - someone who takes a more allegorical approach could certainly see that they are the same story. This is a story within the same religion, and using the same words, but it has sparked multiple interpretations, and I'm not sure how to reconcile all of those views without saying that one or more of these views is flawed. It is not my intention to say that they are flawed - just to say I don't see any other way to bring these interpretations together.

(2) I think that answers my question directly (thank you!)

(3) My remaining question would be - are there prophets that toil in obscurity and fade from memory. Meaning - they were needed long ago by their people, but because we have no records (or limited records of their culture) then we have no idea who they are. To me, this makes sense, but I am not sure how to reconcile this with other religions.

(4) Thank you for both answers to this. To be honest, I have no idea if life exists elsewhere, but to me any truthful view of the universe would have to allow for the possibility.

(5) This very much matches my own viewpoint. Where I may disagree with people on politics, it is over the effectiveness of policy - rather than the idea that simply putting a member of one political party or another into a position of power over you will be helpful.

(6) I drink very seldom and would not consider it a sacrifice to drink none at all. To be blunt, I was primarily asking about bacon (embarassing , but true).

(7) That is what I was asking about.

(8) Makes sense.

(9) I was just hoping to avoid over dressing or under dressing - it sounds like it would not be a problem either way.

(10) As for the 19%, I was wondering how to break down the needful living expenses (medical would probably be in, whereas cable tv would probably be out). It is my preference that this not be arbitrarily determined, so that is good.

(11) Perfect.

I guess then my main issues revolving around literal interpretations of religious texts. Over the past few years I have come to believe that these text say essentially the same things, but I have also felt that it was somewhat disrespectful for me to say so to those who interpret the texts literally. Putting myself in their shoes, I do not think I would see Deucalion's or Gilgamesh's floods as the same. Unless "my view" was accurate, and the other two were distortions of the true story.

I suppose to clarify - to me, they are the same, regardless of historical occurrence. To someone who might have literally interpreted the Gilgamesh flood, they might say "those who believe Noah's flood to literal believe a distorted version of what I believe" and vice versa. I do not see how to bring these two views together, although maybe I am missing the point.

In any event, thanks again!

Harlan
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:42 pm

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Harlan » Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:54 pm

Hi Sam,

Welcome to the forum! You'll find many kindred souls in the Baha'i Faith, people who question and wonder. Baha'i is an ocean of knowledge of wisdom.

Baha'is believe that all of the great world religions are from the same Source. They may differ in their social teachings such as marriage laws, dietary laws, etc. because the social needs vary from age to age. The Prophets reveal the Teachings which are appropriate and needed in the Age in which They appear.

To your most important question (:, yes, Baha'is can eat bacon. The only food which is forbidden is road kill, or animals which are found already dead. It's not necessarily safe to eat if we don't know why the animal died.

Concerning Biblical stories such as Noah's flood, the important aspect of these stories are the metaphorical meanings. We should never argue with people about whether they literally happened or not. If people need to believe in the literal understanding because that's how they were raised, then it does no harm. Argueing and contending with people is harmful, not to mention a waste of time. The important thing is spiritual growth and the betterment of mankind. Baha'is also are told to accept and use scientific knowledge and truths to help us figure things out. There is onlyl one reality.

Baha'u'llah states that there have been many, many Prophets Who are lost to history. Catastrophic events have wiped out all traces of civilizations which previously existed. The appearance of Manifestations of God have been a fundamental aspect and motivating Force throughout the development of humanity, and will continue to be so. Each Manifestation of God has a particular Mission and the Mission of Baha'u'llah is to bring about the unity of the human race, to create the first planetary civilization. Baha'is see their Faith as the beginnings of this new civilization which is destined eventually to include all of humanity. We're bringing into being a brand new social system where cooperation and friendly consultation will replace the contention and animosity which now is part and parcel of democratic systems. That is why we don't get involved with partisan politics. We'd rather build a system to show the world that there is a better way.

Concerning the bringing together of those who have a literalistic understanding of scriptures with those who don't, there is no magic bullet. We can only be kind, respectful and understanding to those who think differently. We can share our understanding with those who care to listen. Everybody is evolving spiritually and only God can speed things up. The good news is that society as a whole is advancing in its receptivity to new understandings.

Concerning your previous atheism, perhaps you couldn't believe in the God which was presented by the churches and by the people you knew. That was my experience.

You've been given a lot to digest in one day! Have fun.

Harlan

onepence~2
Posts: 221
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:17 am

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby onepence~2 » Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:25 pm

Sam K wrote: ... I do not see how to bring these two views together, although maybe I am missing the point.

In any event, thanks again!


Hi Sam,

It is great to see your questions being answered ...

*smile*

and ... wow ... seems as if Loren did a fine job of going over some of those answers with you ...
... perhaps much better than what we would be able to do ...

which sorta brings us to your next question ... that of interpretation ...

The question , we feel that you are asking is ...

Do we use literal or spiritual interpretation of the Sacred Text.

We would answer ... "yes" ...

*smile*

In certain cases ... literal interpretation of the Sacred Text ... is what is most commonly believed and practiced
In some cases ... a spiritual interpretation of the Sacred Text bonds our community together.

so ... our {personal} views of the flood is both literal and spiritual ...
We know Noah ... as a real Person ... as a real Prophet ...
We know the flood as a real event ...
as to whether it was a localized or global event ... as far as we know ... remains as a mystery ...

this much is known

“Noah’s flood is but the measure of the tears I have shed, and Abraham’s fire an ebullition of My soul. Jacob’s grief is but a reflection of My sorrows, and Job’s afflictions a fraction of My calamity.”

~From the Díván of Ibn-i-Fárid ... quoted by Baha'u'llah in Gems of Divine Mysteries ...

... hmmm ... the bigger question that one day you should ask ... is ...

Who has the Power and or Authority of interpretation within our community ...

perhaps that question will be asked and answered at a later date.

peace

1
dh

Fadl
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2004 4:55 am
Location: somewhere "in this immensity"

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Fadl » Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:42 pm

Dear Sam,

Nice to see you here again. I apologize for my long and error filled response! I was tired and my fingers and mind weren’t in sync. I’m glad you were able to make sense of it.

(1) Harmon has answered this question well. We really don’t like to get into debates like was the flood historical, or was it allegorical. If you look at it from the Baha’i perspective, settling this is not that important. Some have argued that it is scientifically impossible for a global deluge. Maybe that’s true, I’m not qualified to even speculate, someone here probably is. If a global deluge is impossible, then perhaps a Mesopotamian deluge, ala the flood of Gilgamesh or the flooding of the world of Noah is. I’m also not qualified to speculate on this point. What I can conclude absolutely is that whether or not there was a flood of the world or a flood of Noah’s region, there is a great spiritual message which is neither enhanced nor negated by the existence or non-existence of a physical flood. One example of why the spiritual meaning of the flood is paramount is in the Bible where Christ connects it with the day of his return (see Mathew 24:38-39). Now, how can the return of Christ be literally like the flood of Noah, when, according to the Bible, after the flood of Noah God promised to never flood the world again (See Genesis 9:11-12)? We can see that whether or not there was a historical flood of Noah, Christ is using it as a metaphor for his future manifestation. It is easy for me from as a Baha’i to see the coming of Baha’u’llah as exactly the flood of Noah. Baha’u’llah called out to all people and even the rulers of the world of his day, to turn towards God. None but only a very few heeded him, and those are like they who entered into the ark. The time of the Bab and Baha’u’llah have occurred precisely before and during the floods which are currently transforming and reshaping the very world we live on. I often marvel over how different the world is from even just a short 100 years ago. Which of us would even have the ability to survive in those days? Such a different world we live in! Consider how before the vast transformation of this modern age, the world for thousands and thousands of years progressed so slowly, and that it would be easy for a man of a thousand years ago to live in the age 2000 years before him. No, the flood has indeed come, and so has the Manifestation foretold by Christ and all of the other manifestations. This flood which is transforming every landscape of our existence should be of much more significance than the ancient flood, the existence of which must be proved or disproved by earth scientists and geologists. But as a religious community it is the transformation of humanity and the character of man that is of greater concern.


(3) The Baha’i writings teach us that man is very ancient (an idea which science now supports) and that as long as there has been man, there have been Manifestations. You’re statement about “prophets that toil in obscurity and fade from memory” is what we are taught in the Baha’i writings. God has always sent messengers, and since, as you suggested, our historical records are flawed and actually fairly recent technologies, we do not anything about them other than they surely did exist.





(10) The 19% and the needful expenses is something that is determined by you. There are only very general guidelines, and the particulars are left to the individual’s determination and conscience. Sounds like that agrees with you! That’s good. I know sometimes Baha’is press the Universal House of Justice to be more specific on what is needful or not and so far they have graciously and loving declined.

Thanks for reading!

Best Wishes,


Loren

Kate123
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:36 am

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Kate123 » Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:41 am

I am delighted to have found this discussion! I am in the process of learning about Bahai faith, and relate to Sam's experiences very closely. Loren and others have done an excellent job at answering many questions that I had, too. Thank you Sam, for organizing your thoughts so well!
I have not yet made the "Declaration" but am in the process of gathering information. In fact, I attended first study meeting 2 nights ago. So please bear with me as my understanding of Bahai faith is limited.
My husband and I come from a Catholic background, but neither of us really felt attached to our religion growing up. My family is very involved in the Catholic church but I left it as a teenager. It was disruptive and disappointing to my family at the time, but now 20 years later they have come to accept it. For my husband's part, he was born in a Communist country where practice of religion was discouraged. So he was used to the fact that his family never went to church or celebrated Catholic holidays.
So fast forward to today... I have found, I think, a faith community that resembles my own beliefs. This is after research and "seeking" for my last 20 years.
My question is to those who grew up in families of other faiths: did your family feel that you had "turned your back" on their traditions, or dismiss your search for truth as being without a moral compass? and if so how did you resolve this while still embracing them as family?
Thank you for your patience and honesty.

Fadl
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2004 4:55 am
Location: somewhere "in this immensity"

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Fadl » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:31 am

Dear Kate,
My wife grew up in a communist country (USSR) so it sounds like we have something in common! I grew up in the Mormon faith, and have many relatives who are active in the church. My mother and father eventually left the church, so when I became a Baha’i there wasn’t any conflict in the home over it. My father has relatively recently declared himself a born again Christian, and my mother is not professing any faith but is very close to most Baha’i teachings in her thinking. Other family members probably only get what my mom gives to them, but I’ve never experienced any unpleasantness with any of them when we are together. I think they see me as a decent enough man that they don’t have too much to worry over; although I’m sure they think I ought to belong to the church.
On a personal note, I have an interesting way of viewing my current beliefs and my family’s religious tradition. From the time I was a little boy, my grandfather had hoped that I would one day go on a church mission, and as a young boy, I very much wanted to do this for him. He was a very good and spiritual man, who had dedicated his life to the church. Right now, I am living in the Russian far east, pioneering, and teaching English. I even see Mormon missionaries here from time to time. But I’ll tell you, whenever I am busy teaching English or the faith, I often think about my dear grandfather. I remember his love, and his wish for me, and I know that in the spiritual realm where he is, my grandfather is proud of me serving the faith. I am sure that he understands clearly from his spiritual realm, that there is only one God, and that which men offer up in devotion to God, ascends to God; where else?

I hope your investigation will be rewarding for you Kate. It would be wonderful to have you a part of our cozy little global community.

Take care,

Loren



Kate123 wrote:I am delighted to have found this discussion! I am in the process of learning about Bahai faith, and relate to Sam's experiences very closely. Loren and others have done an excellent job at answering many questions that I had, too. Thank you Sam, for organizing your thoughts so well!
I have not yet made the "Declaration" but am in the process of gathering information. In fact, I attended first study meeting 2 nights ago. So please bear with me as my understanding of Bahai faith is limited.
My husband and I come from a Catholic background, but neither of us really felt attached to our religion growing up. My family is very involved in the Catholic church but I left it as a teenager. It was disruptive and disappointing to my family at the time, but now 20 years later they have come to accept it. For my husband's part, he was born in a Communist country where practice of religion was discouraged. So he was used to the fact that his family never went to church or celebrated Catholic holidays.
So fast forward to today... I have found, I think, a faith community that resembles my own beliefs. This is after research and "seeking" for my last 20 years.
My question is to those who grew up in families of other faiths: did your family feel that you had "turned your back" on their traditions, or dismiss your search for truth as being without a moral compass? and if so how did you resolve this while still embracing them as family?
Thank you for your patience and honesty.

onepence~2
Posts: 221
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:17 am

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby onepence~2 » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:32 am

Kate123 wrote: ...

My question is to those who grew up in families of other faiths: did your family feel that you had "turned your back" on their traditions, or dismiss your search for truth as being without a moral compass? and if so how did you resolve this while still embracing them as family?
Thank you for your patience and honesty.



My family is a little divided ...

My mom ... methodist/christian ...
My dad ... agnostic/atheist ...

hmmm ...

My mom feels like as like as I am learning about God that it is ok
My Dad is more skeptical ... would rather believe in science/government than a personal God.
I have been a follower of Baha'u'llah for about 20 yrs
My parents have been to Baha'i meetings and both agree that there are nice people there.

My mom feels like i often make choices/decisions that make my life harder or more difficult that it needs to me.
Such as being a member of the Baha'i community she feels makes my life difficult
*smile* ... in a way that is the point ... but we have yet to expound upon that with her ...
*smile*

... the most difficult part of our relationship is ... keeping to the tried and true path ... of ...
honoring our parents ... for what is honor .. what is obedience ...
we can not give you any exact examples of our dilemmas ... yet ...
it is often in the small little tasks that our love for our parents shine the brightest ...

currently ... our relationship is great ...
my parents live about 5 miles from me and my family
{wife,3 yr old son, 12 yr old daughter living 42 miles away}

we tend not to talk directly about the Baha'i Faith
for ... in the span of 20 years they now know the basics ...

we tend to talk more about the big picture ...
last topic was "can science go to far" ...
Both parents say no ... science can do whatever it likes ...
personal decession as to how to use it ...
Daughter agreed with me ... science can and has gone to far ...
some sort of community agreements/arrangements need to be made
so as to find out what is harmful and what is helpful to our society

{the topic came about because some one had mentioned how scientist can grow human ears on rats ...
... then transplant these ears on to humans that need them ... but ... when taking these grown ears it kills the rat }

so ... does killing the lab rats for human cosmetic or human health taken science to far ....

???

the Baha'i faith does have some animal cruelty laws ... nothing that we are aware of that is in effect ...
but the idea is certainly there ...

hmm ... lol ....

excuse the small tangent ,,, *embarrassed* ,,,

the idea is that over the years we have become comfortable talking about big ideas ...
that ... if need be ... can be supported by scripture ...
yet seldom do we use exact scriptural refrences ... because my parents are not that scripturally based ...

the biggest thing that has helped me with child/parent relationship ...
is to know Scripture ...

*smile*

"Therefore children, in return for this care and trouble, must show forth charity and beneficence, and must implore pardon and forgiveness for their parents."

pardon and forgiveness for their parents ...
i never have just bluntly said ... i forgive you Mom and Dad for ... whatever ...
but ... in the past ... when i have become angry or bitter or have felt disappointed by my parents ...
i remember to forgive ... and move on ... working with the good ...
and really that is what has kept my relationship alive ... our constant attention towards forgiveness ...
*smile* ... God knows i need all the forgiveness that i can get ... lol ...
so it is only just/right to also give forgiveness ...

in brief ... our delicate moral compass allows us to use a subtle unspoken form of forgiveness
to resolve misunderstandings while still embracing family

such is our thoughts

such is our oneness

love,
dh

Kate123
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:36 am

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Kate123 » Fri Nov 14, 2008 3:52 pm

Thank you for your candor, DH and Loren. And DH: no need to be embarrassed about going off on a tangent, as you said. Actually your story about discussing world issues in terms of your own beliefs was really helpful.
I'm wondering in your 20 years, how have you gained knowledge... did you take Ruhi classes or do most reading/research on your own? I can't judge what my classes will bring me, of course. But it seems at least now in the beginning ones, we are not encouraged to discuss world events in great detail or to share our personal opinions about issues very much.
Is this just a phase of learning... assuming later on Bahais are encouraged to discuss topics like you described (of course in a civil manner, with the intent of sharing ideas and finding truth)?
I ask because my limited research about Bahai faith had led me to believe it was very open to ideas. So I was just a little "hmmmm...?" during my first introductory study meeting, which seemed to focus a lot on memorizing parts of Bahai writing and not delving into it at length.
For the record, this has not dampened my enthusiasm to learn more. It was just an observation. I'm willing to see where the classes take me.

MasterKey
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2008 1:32 pm

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby MasterKey » Fri Nov 14, 2008 4:20 pm

I just wished to respond to Sam K and to Loren with a few notes about the significance of the Flood story, with Noah as the central figure, in the Book of Genesis. Sam K asked about the literal vs. nonliteral (e.g., allegorical) significance of it and how Baha'is would approach such a story. Sam K has presented some good questions which indicate an inquisitive mind and a sincere heart.

Baha'u'llah provides a description and guide which may help further the discussion that Sam K and Loren have started here. For example, we can examine a text from Baha'u'llah's book The Seven Valleys, which He wrote in response to some queries from a friend He had made in Kurdistan, about mystical poetry and related matters. In the section called The Valley of Unity, Baha’u’llah wrote:

"Thus, for that they move on these three differing planes, the understanding and the words of the wayfarers have differed; and hence the sign of conflict doth continually appear on earth. For some there are who dwell upon the plane of oneness and speak of that world, and some inhabit the realms of limitation, and some the grades of self, while others are completely veiled. Thus do the ignorant people of the day, who have no portion of the radiance of Divine Beauty, make certain claims, and in every age and cycle inflict on the people of the sea of oneness what they themselves deserve."

Here we can see that Baha'u'llah indicates that different people may have three different levels of understanding spiritual matters (what He calls "planes") and that differences in understanding lead to conflict. We might imagine that those who He refers to as in the "grades of self" and "completely veiled" have but a superficial and literal understanding (let's call it Plane 1); those who inhabit the "realms of limitation" have a somewhat better but still limited understanding, perhaps mostly intellectualized or rationalized (Plane 2); and finally there are those who dwell upon the plane of oneness (let's designate it, for purposes of illustration only, as Plane 3) and have a higher understanding that we might think of as spiritual or decidedly nonliteral nor rationalized (that is, they understand with the discerning capacity of the pure heart).

Baha'u'llah notes that the "sign of conflict" appears on the earth because of these different levels of understanding, which we might see to be the conflict which emerges within and amongst religions when people literalize and concretize symbolically portrayed teachings, thus creating exclusivity and self-righteousness, leading to religious wars and to bigotry. This is actually an historical pattern, as Baha’u’llah clearly recognized by noting that it happens in “every age and cycle.” But the main thing here is that there are indeed different levels of understanding, and that they can be classified generally into a hierarchy of three's, as He indicates by the “planes” symbolism.

Now, back to the story of Noah and the flood. From a literal or scientific point of view (let's fit these to Planes 1 and 2 as above, again for purposes of illustration only) we can see that the account from Exodus is nonsensical. A literal interpretation requires that everything happened historically as described, but there is no evidence for it and it defies reason. It is not possible for all living things to be paired up and fitted onto a wooden ship, for example. Yet people still look for evidence of an ark on Mount Ararat. There are other elements of the account that cannot be accepted reasonably. The second way or “plane” to approach the text is to rationalize it in some way, usually by reducing it to a reasonable account. For example, a scientific study might reveal that indeed at one time a flood occurred in the region of the middle east, or some other event might be postulated that could fit the scenario, and that the remainder of the story is simply embellishment and mythology. This satisfies many scientists as well as some believers. Finally, there is the third way (Plane 3) in which the account is found to be an extended allegory, with layers of symbolism. Let’s have a look at how it might be understood in this “Plane 3” way from one Baha’i's perspective.

We can discern that Noah is an archetypal representation of the Universal Manifestation of God, the Word, Who visits mankind from age to age in differing garb (human temple) but is the return as Baha’is understand, i.e., from age to age the Manifestation of God appears in the form of the human temple, so obviously the name of the person who receives the theophany is different or new each time. So to Sam K, this is an opportunity for you to consider that the concept of Manifestation of God is not merely a Baha’i teaching but a central and unifying theme of all revealed religions. Other archetypal representations of the Manifestation of God include Joseph and Adam. They are presented as models or “types” for us to understand symbolically. So, broadly, we can approach the account of Noah, the ark, the flood, and His family as symbolic of the appearance of the Manifestation of God on earth in a given age or time frame. A careful study of it will reveal the account’s dimensions along these lines.

In sacred scripture, seas and oceans are often used to describe spiritual uncertainty, fear, and spiritual darkness, i.e., ignorance of spiritual verities of life and the vital necessity of their application. Thus we have the flood waters in the Noah account, the story of Jonah swallowed by a sea monster, Moses dividing the Red Sea (but the Egyptians drowning in it), Jesus walking on top of water and rescuing his sinking disciples, and so on. The Qur’an has a wonderful similitude to guide us in our understanding of how “sea” or “ocean” should be understood in this manner (Surah 24, translation from Yusuf Ali):

“Or (the Unbelievers' state) is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with billow topped by billow, topped by (dark) clouds: depths of darkness, one above another: if a man stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it! for any to whom Allah giveth not light, there is no light!”

Spiritual ignorance (lack of light) seems to the referent to the symbol of “vast deep ocean” in this text. The meaning is clear: it is the depraved spiritual condition of the individual, symbolized by the ocean (or sea), that should be the focus of attention.

We can now discern that the story of the flood is not about physical water, but rather about a spiritual flood of darkness (ignorance; turning away from the laws and teachings of God as revealed by the Manifestation of God; humanity becoming immersed in selfish and materialist pursuits). Noah comes as the “return” to “renew” and to “resurrect” the spiritually-darkened humanity. His ark is a representation of His teachings and of the security they provide from the sea of ignorance and materialism. A last comment is that the rains of “40 days and 40 nights” is also quite symbolic and aligns with the 40 years in the wilderness in the Exodus account, the 40 days of Jesus’ in the wilderness, and to several other accounts where the number 40 with a time measure are joined. The flood story has nothing to do with a literal time period of 40 days of continuous rainfall, which again scientifically is unlikely.

The animals that pair up as male and female and enter the ark are particularly problematic to a literal or rational interpretation. How might they be understood in this Plane 3 level of understanding, a spiritual way? Here is one possibility and I do not claim to have certain knowledge of it, by any means. Each pair of animals represents a single human being. We learn in the Baha’i Writings, as well as from other sacred and mystical texts, that “male” and “female” are terms that refer to different elements of the human condition such as “spirit” and “soul” or “higher” and “lower.” The Adam and Eve story can be understood in this way. Some ancient so-called Gnostic texts refer to a woman becoming a man, which is nonsensical unless understood as a spiritual change from a lower state to a higher state. The Apostle Paul used the categories of women and men in this way as well, although he is often mistaken literally in this regard. Abdu’l-Baha in some of His Writings noted that the female gender is sometimes used in ancient scripture to represent symbolically the “soul” of man and also as the participant in a marriage as a bride to the Holy Spirit in a kind of spiritual marriage. One illustration of this is in the New Testamant story of the marriage at Cana. This somewhat sexual imagery is not retained in the Baha’i Dispensation, and it is rather misogynistic, but it does occur in the sacred texts of religions in previous ages and cycles and in some ways betrays a certain prejudice against women given those ancient times and the relative inequality of women with men. In the flood story, the pairs come together on the ark, as if uniting spiritually. This process is what is in mystical terminology called the “syzygy” or blending of the lower and higher elements of human spirituality into a union or whole, making a new person entirely; like a rebirth or resurrection. So, the Manifestation of God makes a safe haven (His Teachings and Laws) which function like an ark in protecting mankind from drowning in a sea of a-spirituality; and it provides a context for their spiritual fulfillment.

Then there is the matter of Noah’s sons. There were three: Japheth, Ham, and Shem. Their descendents are said to populate the earth after the flood, but in different regions. These three are really a direct reflection of the three sons of Adam and Eve, namely, Cain, Abel, and Seth. The reader will discern a pattern of three here just as in a pattern of the three planes of understanding that Baha’u’llah described in the text from The Seven Valleys cited above. These three sons are best thought of as “spiritual children” or spiritual offspring of the archetypical Noah, representing the three planes Baha’u’llah refers to: (1) the materialist or animal/sensory self (Cain); (2) the wayfaring and searching human soul (Abel); and (3) the higher spiritual self (Seth). This tri-partition of human reality is a ubiquitous theme in mystical and sacred scripture and practice, and aligns with the 3 days of the resurrection and the 3 regions of the Exodus account (Egypt > Wilderness > Promised Land). The notion of spiritual offspring also aligns with the idea of the syzygy of lower and higher spiritual natures described above. In other words, our own individual lives may take the course of a Cain, an Abel, or a Seth, all depending upon whether and how we activate our willpower to respond to God’s call. Baha’is might discern that these “offspring” or “sons” align with Abdu’l-Baha’s description of the tri-fold nature of “man:” animal, human, divine. We can even find it symbolized in the three horizontal lines of the Baha’i ring symbol. All of these descriptions are attempts to bound the human condition and describe it in its various states; they edify by showing that we can be “raised up” on the “third day” to the spiritual reality latent in us as a trust from God.

The final element of the Noah story which is relevant to Sam K’s query has to do with the final resting site of the ark on a mountain. In the Genesis account, it is Mount Ararat, but in sacred context a mountain is a symbol of a high spiritual place (not geographic, but rather spiritual condition). Mount Zion, Mount of Olives, and Mount Carmel are used in this way. It is therefore highly significant that Baha’u’llah visited Mount Carmel with a few of his followers and family after His release from imprisonment in Akka, and while there He stood up and addressed the mountain, telling it that soon He would sail His arc upon it. He also instructed His eldest son, Abdu’l-Baha, to inter the remains of the Bab on the mountain side. Now, some 116 years later, we can visit Mount Carmel and physically see the Baha'u'llah's arc (He being like a new Noah) take shape as the Baha’i spiritual centre with its buildings and gardens is established on the side of the mountain, literally in the shape of an ark; and where the Shrine of the Bab sits in the midst of a terrace of indescribably beautiful gardens. Baha’is often become quite emotional when considering Baha’u’llah’s visit to the holy mountain; and His Tablet of Carmel and Tablet of the Holy Mariner, where these expressions can be found. The final resting place of Noah’s ark and the rainbow that appeared near the end of the account are symbolic expressions of the eternal covenant of God with man, the teachings and laws that provide the spiritual security than mankind needs; and these are things that the Manifestation of God provides and renews each time He appears.

BritishBahai
Posts: 250
Joined: Sat May 17, 2008 1:21 pm
Location: UK

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby BritishBahai » Fri Nov 14, 2008 4:28 pm

Kate123 wrote:Thank you for your candor, DH and Loren. And DH: no need to be embarrassed about going off on a tangent, as you said. Actually your story about discussing world issues in terms of your own beliefs was really helpful.
I'm wondering in your 20 years, how have you gained knowledge... did you take Ruhi classes or do most reading/research on your own? I can't judge what my classes will bring me, of course. But it seems at least now in the beginning ones, we are not encouraged to discuss world events in great detail or to share our personal opinions about issues very much.
Is this just a phase of learning... assuming later on Bahais are encouraged to discuss topics like you described (of course in a civil manner, with the intent of sharing ideas and finding truth)?
I ask because my limited research about Bahai faith had led me to believe it was very open to ideas. So I was just a little "hmmmm...?" during my first introductory study meeting, which seemed to focus a lot on memorizing parts of Bahai writing and not delving into it at length.
For the record, this has not dampened my enthusiasm to learn more. It was just an observation. I'm willing to see where the classes take me.

lol...
the reason is because they want to keep on topic in a study session. People always chit-chat afterwards and believe me it can go on for hours sometimes! but its interesting listening to people's debates etc.
"I have desired only what Thou didst desire, and love only what Thou dost love"

Fadl
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2004 4:55 am
Location: somewhere "in this immensity"

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Fadl » Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:28 pm

Dear Kate,

I am so glad that you mentioned your study circle experience. Am I right to assume it is a Ruhi study circle?

Don't worry about Baha'is being able to discuss events and opinions, because we do-a lot! But Ruhi courses are designed to establish a firm foundation in the basics, and key aspects of the Baha'i life. It's true that in a Ruhi study circle there isn't much room for a wide variety of topics and opinions. It really tried to stay simple and on target. But once you start to know more and more Baha'is and attend different kinds of activities, study and deepening groups, you'll see there is plenty of room for self expression and exploration. But Ruhi is a good thing to though, because we all should no the first things.


Loren




Kate123 wrote:Thank you for your candor, DH and Loren. And DH: no need to be embarrassed about going off on a tangent, as you said. Actually your story about discussing world issues in terms of your own beliefs was really helpful.
I'm wondering in your 20 years, how have you gained knowledge... did you take Ruhi classes or do most reading/research on your own? I can't judge what my classes will bring me, of course. But it seems at least now in the beginning ones, we are not encouraged to discuss world events in great detail or to share our personal opinions about issues very much.
Is this just a phase of learning... assuming later on Bahais are encouraged to discuss topics like you described (of course in a civil manner, with the intent of sharing ideas and finding truth)?
I ask because my limited research about Bahai faith had led me to believe it was very open to ideas. So I was just a little "hmmmm...?" during my first introductory study meeting, which seemed to focus a lot on memorizing parts of Bahai writing and not delving into it at length.
For the record, this has not dampened my enthusiasm to learn more. It was just an observation. I'm willing to see where the classes take me.

onepence~2
Posts: 221
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:17 am

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby onepence~2 » Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:58 pm

MasterKey wrote: ...

Baha’is often become quite emotional when considering ....



*humble smile* ... Wow ...

thanks MasterKey ... very well written ... much to think about ...

onepence~2
Posts: 221
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:17 am

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby onepence~2 » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:00 pm

BritishBahai wrote:

... keep on topic in a study session. People always chit-chat afterwards and believe me it can go on for hours sometimes! but its interesting listening to people's debates etc.


yes ... keep on topic in a study session.

onepence~2
Posts: 221
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:17 am

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby onepence~2 » Sat Nov 15, 2008 12:17 am

Kate123 wrote:
Thank you for your candor, ....



your honesty makes our honesty even more honest ...

*smile*

It would seem to be an almost impossible task to describe 20 years of acquired knowledge,
however to sum up our experience we would hold to tradition of what One is reported as saying

before enlightenment chop wood haul water
after enlightenment chop wood haul water

*smile*

at the onset of hearing of Baha'u'llah,
i was blessed to be within a large Baha'i community,
Dallas Tx ... *smile* ...
so was surrounded by a large and diverse spiritual family ...
however ... was unable to fully appreciate this blessing and drifted into some rather roguish ways ...

after a rather lengthy stench of drifting ...
in which i always stayed in close contact with the community ...
eventually landed in Central Fl and again was blessed with a large and diverse spiritual family
to the extent that even my mom and dad would eventually move and relocate into this region
been over 14 yrs now

within all this drifting and closeness through community ... we have found that the best form of acquired knowledge
is that which we have done on our own ... through study and memorizing parts of the Baha'i writings ...

we are far from perfect at this ... we tend to only remember only the important concept ... like ...

"for every situation an apt remark."

while the full Text/phrase is ...

"For every land We have prescribed a portion, for every occasion an allotted share, for every pronouncement an appointed time and for every situation an apt remark."

then ... the study of apt remark ... kinda difficult for so many situations one finds oneself in ...
we have basically decided upon bringing our remarks towards happiness/joy/...
yet .. we can also see how individuals may chose a more clinical/physicianal approach ... {ie Ruhi}

*smile*

hmm ...

just the Name ... Baha'u'llah ... The Glory of God ... is immense
absolutely awe inspiring ... The Greatest Name ...

beyond description ... whether past/present/future resounding through out Creation ...
guiding men , whether knowingly or not, to their own individual fates and destiny ...

hmm ... *soft chuckle* ... acquired knowledge ...

"The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him. Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle. The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man’s hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure."

hmmm ... 20 years of acquired knowledge ... is rather a lot to think about ...

As a young Baha'i i remember being encouraged to memorize The Hidden Words ...
no classes were given ... just general Baha'i community encouragement ...
eventually was able to memorize the first ten ...
it instilled within me to remember brevity ... and key concepts ...
"... like seeketh like ..."

As a more devout believer was encouraged to read 7, or was it twenty, non Baha'i books
for every Baha'i book i read ... so .. developed a wide range of interest ...

As a whole we have found the Baha'i community very devoted to Baha'u'llah
and making elegant strides into path of service ...

At the same time ... one can consider our present community as being no more than
the tiniest dew drop upon the most delicate of flowers ... eventually the flood of new believers ...
will help to blossom the desert

hmmm ...

20 years of acquired knowledge ...

Baha'u'llah fills the heart
Abdu'l Baha the eye

more to be written
but we have forgotten the rhyme

*sad smile*

eventually one finds that all , including oneself, is own their own unique path of service ...
eventually one finds their own best path ...

it is believed that eventually all will agree that the best path {toward worship/service} is
to have an LSA that can be relied upon by the NSA and The Universal House of Justice
thus we find all individuals wanting the best LSA possible and this is accomplished by the individuals
yearning to do His bidding ... which in turn is accomplished by individuals consulting with the established LSA

*smile*

before enlightenment chop wood haul water
after enlightenment chop wood haul water

"for every situation an apt remark"
which sometimes can be silence
though we tend to enjoy laugther better

hmmm ...

oneness,
dh

Harlan
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:42 pm

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Harlan » Sat Nov 15, 2008 3:34 am

Kate,

There are other Baha'i gatherings we call "firesides" which are more free-wheeling. Ask your Baha'i friends if there are firesides you could attend and suggest any particular topic you'd like to discuss. There doesn't really need to be a topic other than the questions you might have. These are just informal discussions where people feel free to express themselves in a friendly atmosphere and ask any questions.

Harlan

Fadl
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2004 4:55 am
Location: somewhere "in this immensity"

Re: Many questions about Baha'i...

Postby Fadl » Mon Nov 24, 2008 1:18 am

Dear MasterKey,

An excellent, well thoughtout and analytical post! I thought I'd respond to a couple of points, and not necessarily to you, but to any reader in general, since it isn't necessarily true that you have intended any of the points I would criticize.
First, I very much liked your approach using levels of understanding modeled on quotations from the Seven Valleys. One thing I would like to suggest is that to those who consider the life of the spirit, the only true life, the literal or “Level 1” understanding (I think you would call it) are of no significance. What I mean by this is that is possible (at least in theory) that the event had both a historical and metaphorical reality. In this case, it is still the metaphorical reality which contains the spiritual value and truth; therefore the historical event of the flood is still of little or no import. Since the real substance of the story is contained in its metaphor and not in its historicity, the spiritual truth is neither strengthened nor weakened by its degree of historical accuracy (or lack thereof). They are not mutually exclusive.

The second point I would make, is that it is not really possible, in my opinion, to take a word such as "ocean," for example, which may arguably and rightly have a meaning such as "spiritual ignorance," and then extrapolate it to other scriptural metaphors containing the word. As Baha'u'llah has said: "...just as thou firmly believest that the Word of God, exalted be His glory, endureth for ever, thou must, likewise, believe with undoubting faith that its meaning can never be exhausted" (Gleanings, p. 175). So the meaning of God's words cannot be unraveled by simple formulae, or as easily as referencing a book of dream interpretation, to interpret a dream. It's meanings can only be unraveled by those who are spiritually initiated, somewhat like those you indicated using your level 2 through 3 categories. In the same passage of Gleanings Baha'u'llah continues: "They who are its appointed interpreters, they whose hearts are the repositories of its secrets, are, however, the only ones who can comprehend its manifold wisdom." So, as can be seen, we can't simply say "Ocean in the Qur'an = X,” therefore "Ocean in the Bible"= X,” because “Ocean” itself is actually one of the variables in the metaphor and not a constant. We have to use spiritual insight in each reading to uncover the many meanings contained in a verse, and there are no short cuts around it, save through the interpretations give by its “appointed interpreters.” If it wasn’t so, we Baha'is would have some serious explaining to do! If in the Bible and the Qur'an “Ocean” means "spiritual ignorance" (or something similar) yet Baha'u'llah says in his Most Holy Book: "Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words...." (85, verse 182) or "This is a Revelation, under which, if a man shed for its sake one drop of blood, myriads of oceans will be his recompense" (Gleanings, 5). Clearly in these quotations, and a great many others in the Baha'i writings, “Ocean” has a positive meaning, quite other than “spiritual ignorance.”

I'm sure that by no means have you intentionally implied any of these things I have mentioned, but since I was able to infer them at all, I thought it might be beneficial to point them out.

All the Best,


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


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