[Found in a notebook that had belonged to Amelia Bowman]
COPY OF LETTER OF SECRETARY OF SHOGHI EF1ENDI TO
DR. J. W. FREUDENBERG, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Haifa, June 7th, 1946.
Dear Spiritual Friend:
Your interesting letter of May 16th has been received and Shoghi Effendi has instructed me to answer you on his behalf and assure you that he appreciates your warm friendship with the Baha'is and the co-operative spirit in which you assist them in their activities.
As regards the various points you have raised in your letter; We must not take many of 'Abdu'l-Baha's statements as dogmatic finalities, for there are other points which when added to them round out the picture. For instance, when He calls Aristotle and Plato Philosophers of the East, He is obviously placing them in that category because He believes they belong more correctly to Eastern culture than to Central European and the New World cultures of the West. When He calls the philosophers of the West materialistic this does not for a moment mean He includes all Western philosophers for, as you truly point out, many of them have been very spiritual in their concepts.
When studying at present, in English, the available Baha'i writings on the subject of body, soul and spirit, one is handicapped by a certain lack of clarity because not all were translated by the same person, and also there are, as you knew, still many Baha'i writing untranslated. But there is no doubt that spirit and soul seem to have been interchanged in meaning sometimes; soul and mind have, likewise, been interchanged in meaning, no doubt due to difficulties arising from different translations. What the Baha'is do believe though is that we have three aspects of our humanness, so to speak, a body, a mind and an immortal identity - soul or spirit. We believe the mind forms a link between the soul and the body, and the two interact on each other.
Historians cannot be sure Socrates did not visit the Holy Land. But believing as we do that 'Abdu’l-Baha had an intuitive knowledge quite different from our own, we accept His authority on the matter.
We cannot prove man was always man for this is a fundamental doctrine, but it is based on the assertion that nothing can exceed its own potentialities, that everything, a stone, a tree, an animal and a human being existed in plan, potentially, from the very "beginning" of creation. We-don't believe man has always had the form of man, but rather that from the outset he was going to evolve into the human form and species and not be a haphazard branch of the ape family.
You see our whole approach to each matter is based on the belief that God sends us divinely inspired Educators; what they tell us is fundamentally true. What science tells us to-day is true; to-morrow may be entirely changed to better explain a new set of facts.
When ’Abdu’l-Baha says man breaks the laws of nature, He means we shape nature to meet our own ends, as no animal does. Animals adapt themselves to better fit in with and benefit from their environment. But men both surmount and change environment. Likewise when He says nature is devoid of memory he means memory as we have it, not the strange memory of inherited habits which animals so strikingly possess.
These various statements must be taken in conjunction with all the Baha’i teachings; we cannot get a correct picture by concentrating on just one phrase.
The Guardian hopes this will better enable you to understand our wonderful Faith - for a living religion it is, and not merely a philosophy.
He wishes you every success in your labors to promote the unity and enlightenment of mankind, so sorely needed these days, and he will pray for your happiness and spiritual advancement.
With cordial greetings,
(signed) R. Rabbani.