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Posted by Jonah on December 23, 2000 at 23:42:20:

In Reply to: Re: Bahai sexual ethics survey. posted by James Turpin on December 16, 2000 at 05:19:07:

Dear James,

Thanks for your comments! You've expressed this very well, and said basically just what I was wanting to but never had the time to reply.

Regarding your question, there is little if anything specifically about masturbation. The closest the Universal House of Justice was able to find (in a compilation called _Lights of Guidance_ section 1220, later reprinted in a book for Baha'i youth called _Unrestrained as the Wind_, pages 148-150) were some quotations from Shoghi Effendi saying that the only legitimate use of sexuality is in sex between married people. Here's the whole excerpt.

Jonah Winters

1220. Masturbation

"We have found in the Holy Writings no explicit references to
masturbation, but there are a number of principles and teachings which
can guide a Baha'i to the correct attitude towards it. In a letter to an
individual believer, written by the Guardian's secretary on his behalf,
it is pointed out that:

'The Baha'i Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns
its illegitimate and improper expressions such as free love,
companionate marriage and others, all of which it considers positively
harmful to man and to the society in which he lives. The proper use of
the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is
precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has
been established. The Baha'is do not believe in the suppression of the
sex impulse but in its regulation and control.'

"In response to another letter enquiring if there were any legitimate
way in which a person could express the sex instinct if, for some
reason, he were unable to marry or if outer circumstances such as
economic factors were to cause him to delay marriage, the Guardian's
secretary wrote on his behalf:

'Concerning your question whether there are any legitimate forms of
expression of the sex instinct outside of marriage: According to the
Baha'i Teachings no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed
between lawfully married persons. Outside of marital life there can be
no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse. The Baha'i youth should, on
the one hand, be taught the lesson of self-control which, when
exercised, undoubtedly has a salutary effect on the development of
character and of personality in general, and on the other should be
advised, nay even encouraged, to contract marriage while still young and
in full possession of their physical vigour. Economic factors, no doubt,
are often a serious hindrance to early marriage but in most cases are
only an excuse, and as such should not be over stressed.'

"In another letter on the Guardian's behalf, also to an individual
believer, the secretary writes:

'Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low
water mark in history is the question of immorality, and over-emphasis
of sex...'

Page 365
"This indicates how the whole matter of sex and the problems related to
it have assumed far too great an importance in the thinking of
present-day society.

"Masturbation is clearly not a proper use of the sex instinct, as this
is understood in the Faith. Moreover it involves, as you have pointed
out, mental fantasies, while Baha'u'llah, in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, has
exhorted us not to indulge our passions and in one of His well-known
Tablets Abdu'l-Baha encourages us to keep our 'secret thoughts pure'. Of
course many wayward thoughts come involuntarily to the mind and these
are merely a result of weakness and are not blameworthy unless they
become fixed or even worse, are expressed in improper acts. In 'The
Advent of Divine Justice', when describing the moral standards that
Baha'is must uphold both individually and in their community life, the
Guardian wrote:

'Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity,
temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the
exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language,
amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations. It demands daily
vigilance in the control of one's carnal desires and corrupt

"Your problem, therefore, is one against which you should continue to
struggle, with determination and with the aid of prayer. You should
remember, however, that it is only one of the many temptations and
faults that a human being must strive to overcome during his lifetime,
and you should not increase the difficulty you have by over-emphasising
its importance. We suggest you try to see it within the whole spectrum
of the qualities that a Baha'i must develop in his character. Be
vigilant against temptation, but do not allow it to claim too great a
share of your attention. You should concentrate, rather, on the virtues
that you should develop, the services you should strive to render, and,
above all, on God and His attributes, and devote your energies to living
a full Baha'i life in all its many aspects."

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual
believer, a copy of which was sent to the compiler with a letter dated
March 8, 1981)

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