Prerequisites of search; independent investigation and the role of the heart, culture and tradition; dealing with distractions; exclusivity of search and sacrificing; seeking truth in every soul; and the standard of Majnún — seek her everywhere.
published in Lights of Irfan, 15, pages 41-92 Wilmette: Haj Mehdi Armand Colloquium, 2014
Abstract: In this presentation the attempt is made to shed some light at Bahá'í Scholarship from the First Valley of the Seven Valleys of Bahá'u'lláh, the Valley of Search. The combination of finding a "trace" of a "traceless friend" indicates the mysteriousness and complexity of this task, and introduces us into the mystical realm. The introductory section of the Seven Valleys closes with the following words, indicating that the purpose of this Book is "that every man may thereby win his way to the summit of realities, until none shall contemplate anything whatsoever but that he shall see God therein." (SVFV 1) The summit of reality indicates that it is a different and new reality that is presented in the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, which must be the basis of all Bahá'í scholarship.
In a letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice it was stated that "The combination of absolute loyalty to the Manifestation of God and His Teachings, with the searching and intelligent study of the Teachings and history of the Faith which those Teachings themselves enjoin, is a particular strength of this Dispensation." This issue cannot be solved other than by grounding all research and study on this new understanding of reality.
These topics will be discussed in following the Valley of Search:
Prerequisites of search
Independent Investigation and the role of the heart, culture and tradition
How to deal with distractions
The standard of Majnún, seek her everywhere
The exclusivity of search and sacrificing everything for it
Seeking the truth in every country, in every mind and in every soul
These points and some excursion into closely related topics will be presented and the whole paper is carried by the conviction that scholarship in the Bahá'í Faith, and its assumptions about the reality of this world, is much easier than following the assumptions of modern science about reality from the point of view of any previous religion. Modern science often is based on a reductionistic and mostly materialistic world view. The followers of previous religions are not able to combine their religious understanding of reality with modern science at all.
Bahá'í scholars need to discriminate and be selective when comparing the Bahá'í writings with what is taught today in academia. The reality of the new scientific findings, obviously not all of them, but of the most progressive and forward looking scholars and philosophers of today need to be studied and coordinated with the Writings of the Faith. It is the Bahá'í scholar who has not only the ability but the task to sort this out and look forward in his thinking.
As a Christian theologian I had to live in two worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of Einstein, the world of the Gospels and the world of modern science. As a Bahá'í scholar the world has been opened up and the most modern thinkers and scientists can be found to be inspired by the new Revelation, even if they had never heard of Bahá'u'lláh. I have presented this understanding in all my previous presentations at the `Irfán Colloquia for many years.
As a Bahá'í scholar and seeker we must live in this new World Order (GWB 136) of Bahá'u'lláh. Then Bahá'u'lláh will
... draw thee from the earthly homeland to the first, heavenly abode in the Center of Realities, and lift thee to a plane wherein thou wouldst soar in the air even as thou walkest upon the earth, and move over the water as thou runnest on the land (SVFV 3)
Only when the center of reality, as presented in the Bahá'í Revelation is fully accepted by the scholar can he/she devote absolute loyalty to the Manifestation of God and combine it with an unfettered search after truth. Any attempt to make compromises in theory or practice will escalate the conflict and bring grief and disunity into the life of the scholar.
This situation is not new, it was present in every Revelation in the past, and the words of Jesus (Matthew 10:16) come to mind when considering the Bahá'í scholar in a modern academic setting.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.