Spiritualism, Reincarnation and Related Subjectspublished in Bahá'í Institutions (A Compilation), pages 107-126
India: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1973
I. Spiritualism and Psychic Phenomena"That truth is often imparted through dreams no one who is familiar with history, especially religious history, can doubt. At the same time dreams and visions are always coloured and influenced more or less by the mind of the dreamer and we must beware of attaching too much importance to them. The purer and more free from prejudice and desire our hearts and minds become, the more likely is it that our dreams will convey reliable truth, but if we have strong prejudices, personal likings and aversions, bad feelings or evil motives, these will warp and distort any inspirational impression that comes to us ... In many cases dreams have been the means of bringing people to the truth or of confirming them in the Faith. We must strive to become pure in heart and 'free from all save God.' Then our dreams as well as our waking thoughts will become pure and true. We should test impressions we get through dreams, visions or inspirations, by comparing them with the revealed Word and seeing whether they are in harmony therewith."
"He is of the opinion that to pay much attention to persons who are imbued with spiritualistic ideas is rather useless, because what they have, though it has a germ of truth, has much of personal imagination added to it.
Moreover, when after much effort they become Bahá’ís, they are reluctant to turn a completely new sheet in their life and begin to conceive Bahá’í ideals in spiritualistic terms. There are thousands of other pure souls who are more ready for the teachings and who would accept it unreservedly. So we had better concentrate our attention upon them. The Cause everywhere has suffered from spiritualists with psychic pretended powers, and it is high time to take a step along that line."
"With reference to psychic phenomena referred to in your letter; these, in most cases, are an indication of a deep psychological disturbance. The friends should avoid as much as possible giving undue consideration to such matters."
"It is often exceedingly difficult, well-nigh impossible to distinguish between true guidance and psychic phenomena. Through the power of concentration, prayer and meditation and the effects produced one can, however, feel the direct spiritual guidance of God. Purity of heart is an indispensable condition."
"In connection with the article published in the October number of the 'Herald of the South' entitled 'Above the Mists'; the Guardian wishes the believers to disregard such subjects as psychic practices and phenomena, for these, besides not being authenticated by the Writings of the Founders of the Faith, pertain mostly to the domain of conjectures."
"With regard to your question as to the value of intuition as a source of guidance for the individual; implicit faith in our intuitive powers is unwise, but through daily prayer and sustained effort one can discover, though not always and fully, God's Will intuitively. Under no circumstances, however, can a person be absolutely certain that he is recognizing God's Will, through the exercise of his intuition. It often happens that the latter results in completely misrepresenting the truth, and thus becomes a source of error rather than of guidance."
"First concerning visions; it is very difficult to distinguish between true visions which are true spiritual experiences of the soul and imaginations which have no reality in spiritual truths. True visions, however, can be granted to those who are spiritually pure and receptive, and are not therefore confined to the Prophets alone."
"As regards ...'s claim to have direct revelations from God; such visions and communications as he may receive cannot, from the standpoint of the Cause, be well considered in the nature of a direct and authoritative revelation from God such as experienced by Divine Prophets and Messengers. There is a fundamental difference between Divine Revelation as vouchsafed by God to His Prophets, and the spiritual experiences and visions which individuals may have. The latter should, under no circumstances, be construed as constituting an infallible source of guidance, even for the person experiencing them.
"The Guardian wishes you to fully explain and clarify this point to ... that he may have no illusion regarding the true Bahá’í attitude on this and similar matters."
"Regarding your question in connection with ...'s desire to be informed about 'table-writing' and such things: Though there is no specific reference in the teachings to this particular thing, Shoghi Effendi feels very strongly that, in view of other statements about avoiding all psychic dabbling and exercise of psychic faculties, this should also be avoided by the Bahá’ís and such messages be disregarded."
"Regarding your question: In this chapter on 'Visions and Communications with Spirits' in 'Some Answered Questions', the Master evidently desires to point out that there can be, under certain rare circumstances, such as those experienced by the Prophets, communion with some soul gone before into the invisible world, but that most of this type of experience which people often claim to have with departed souls is nothing but the product of their own imaginations — however real it may seem to them to be.
"We have no way of knowing historically, at present, whether the experience Saul had of Samuel was an actual spiritual intercourse. It is not the product of imagination, however, as the Bible unmistakably affirms it.
"Truly mystical experiences based on reality are very rare, and we can readily see how dangerous it is for people to go groping about in the darkness of their imagination after the true thing. That is why, as you point out, we are warned against all psychical practices by the Master.
"If we are going to have some deeply spiritual experience we can rest assured God will vouchsafe it to us without our having to look for it..."
"The questions you asked in your letter about individual guidance have two aspects, one might say. It is good that people should turn to God and beseech His aid in solving their problems and guiding their acts, indeed every day of their lives, if they feel the desire to do so. But they cannot possibly impose what they feel to be their guidance on anyone else, let alone on assemblies and committees, as Bahá’u’lláh has expressly laid down the law of consultation and never indicated that anything else superseded it...
"The same thing is true of teaching methods; no system, for teachers to practice, exists. But obviously the more people know about the teachings and the Cause, the better they will be able to present the subject. If some people find that prayer and placing all their trust in God releases in them a flood of inspiration, they should be left free to pursue this method if it is productive of results.
"The inspiration received through meditation is of a nature that one cannot measure or determine. God can inspire into our minds things that we had no previous knowledge of, if He desires to do so.
"We cannot clearly distinguish between personal desire and guidance, but if the way opens, when we have sought guidance, then we may presume God is helping us."
"The question of guidance is a very subtle one. We cannot be positive that an impulse or a dream are guidance. We can seek, through earnest prayer and longing sincerely to do God's Will, His guidance. We can try, as you say, to emulate the Master and at all times live up to the teachings, but we cannot be sure that doing these things we are still making no mistakes and are perfectly guided. These things help us not to make so many mistakes and to receive more directly the guidance God seeks to give us."
"There is no ambiguity about the Master's attitude towards psychic forces, He very strongly warned the believers against using them."
"The Guardian, having spent over twenty-five years in assisting the believers in erecting the administrative order of the Faith, certainly never worked against it. He never secretly, or inwardly, communicates his instructions to any believer in America about the affairs of the Cause; his instrument in these matters is the N.S.A. He, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have constantly warned the believers against any psychic practices, and any one who thinks that he is being directed by him in the inner plane is just deluding himself and others. The friends are free to write to him — as you have — and he answers them in writing, not psychically, whenever he wishes to do so. He urges you to work against such insidious misapprehensions, and to encourage the friends to be constructive, loving and co-operative in their attitude toward each other; otherwise they hold back the progress of the Cause of God."
"The Guardian thinks that it is best to assume that generally speaking when people claim they are receiving messages or communications from the Master or Bahá’u’lláh, etc., it is a psychic experience or their imagination, and that they are not in real contact with them. These Holy Beings have the channels of the Cause through which to guide us. They do not need to go outside these and send individual revelations."
"Very little is as yet known about the mind and its workings. But one thing is certain: Bahá’ís can and do receive a very remarkable help and protection in this world, one, which often surprises their doctors very much!
"In the second place he would advise you to consider the voice you heard a phenomenon which might be your subconscious mind, might be some psychic influence, but whatever it was you should not let it disturb you and certainly not place much importance on it. No one knows what the future holds for him, or to what degree he is spoiling it or creating it; therefore the thing to do is one's daily best and let the future take care of itself. It would be very unwise for you to let this experience of a voice — the origin and purpose of which you have no way of knowing — influence you in any way or to set any store on its observations."
"He is very pleased to hear you are better, and assures you he will continue to pray for you.
"You should not be afraid anyone can affect your mind. Even when we want to catch the thoughts of those we love most we cannot do so, how much less other people succeed in penetrating our minds."
"Nor should your dream of the Master discourage you, as not all our dreams, even of Him, have a significance."
"...The Guardian would suggest that you study very carefully the statements of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in connection with the question of visions, dreams, etc., as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has very fully explained this delicate subject. You will find references to this in “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era,” 'Some Answered Questions' and the Books of Tablets. The Guardian likewise has commented on this matter.
"Briefly, there is no question that visions occasionally do come to individuals, which are true and have significance. On the other hand, this comes to an individual through the grace of God, and not through the exercise of any of the human faculties. It is not a thing which a person should try to develop. When a person endeavours to develop faculties so that they might enjoy visions, dreams etc., actually what they are doing is weakening certain of their spiritual capacities; and thus under such circumstances, dreams and visions have no reality, and ultimately lead to the destruction of the character of the person.”
"As regards the question about Spiritualism, the Guardian does not feel that this is the time for him to make any special statement on this subject. Visiting teachers and the National Body must make every effort to wean the friends away from these practices, but we must not make too much of an issue of it at the moment. There are more important things for the friends to concentrate their attention upon, namely, the establishment of new Assemblies and groups."
II. Reincarnation"The Bahá’í view of 'reincarnation' is essentially different from the Hindu conception. The Baha’is believe in the return of the attributes and qualities, but maintain that the essence or the reality of things cannot be made to return. Every being keeps its own individuality, but some of his qualities can be transmitted, The doctrine of metempsychosis upheld by the Hindus is fallacious."
"Now, concerning your question as to whether man can recall experiences prior to the present state of his evolution in this world; he certainly can not have any such recollection, and the experiences he can remember are confined solely to those through which he has passed in the post-embryonic or earthly stage of his existence."
"Evolution in the life of the individual starts with the formation of the human embryo and passes through various stages, and even continues after death in another form. The human spirit is capable of infinite development.
"Man's identity or rather his individuality is never lost. His reality as a person remains intact throughout the various stages of his development. He does not pre-exist in any form before coming into this world.
"The term 'singled out' on p. 172 of the 'Gleanings' means chosen one or favoured one.
"The passage on p. 156 of 'Gleanings' regarding the evolution of soul after death clearly proves that the soul after its separation from the body keeps its individuality and its consciousness both in relation to other souls and to the human beings in this world.
"The word 'perish' on p. 190 of 'Gleanings' does not mean that the human soul will cease to exist, but will be deprived of all spiritual capacity and understanding.
"Also on p. 183, the passage; 'No man can obtain everlasting life...' should not lie taken literally; by 'everlasting life' is meant spiritual felicity, communion with the Divine Spirit.”
"We cannot take the teaching that if a believer remains steadfast till the end of his life he will be the means of the spiritual awakening of all his ancestors too literally, especially as it is reported, and not in an authenticated form. However, we can be assured that the true and faithful believer is in a much better position to intercede for his ancestors and aid in their development than if he were not spiritually enlightened."
"No Revelation from God has ever taught re-incarnation; this is a man-made conception. The soul of man comes into being at conception. We do not believe it goes on to another planet."
"Regarding your question concerning the passage in 'Seven Valleys' referring to pre-existence. This in no way presupposes the existence of the individual soul before conception. The term has not been absolutely accurately translated, and what is meant is that man's soul is the repository of the ancient, divine mysteries of God."
"You speak of the categorical affirmations of Rudolphe Steiner in his book regarding certain things commencing with Christ, and that he was the reincarnation of Zoroaster.
"We as Bahá’ís are not influenced by the categorical assertions of scholars. We believe that what Bahá’u’lláh has revealed and 'Abdu’l-Baha has written is from God, and divinely inspired; that Bahá’u’lláh is a Manifestation of God, and has access to a knowledge denied to ordinary human beings.
"Therefore, he does not see why, in reading these modern philosophical treatises, you should be perturbed in spirit.
"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. If they do not set it forth with conviction, they are failing in their duty to expose their ideas sincerely and graphically; but because they believe something firmly themselves, does not in any way imply that what they believe is the truth. Between the truth which comes from God through His Prophets, and the glimmerings, often misunderstood and misinterpreted, of truth, which come from the philosophers and thinkers, there is an immense difference. We must never, under any circumstances, confuse the two.
"Bahá’u’lláh has said that learning can be the veil between the soul of man and the eternal truth; in other words, between man and the knowledge of God. We have seen that many people who become very advanced in the study of modern physical sciences are led to deny God, and to deny His Prophets. That does not mean that God and the Prophets have not and do not exist. It only means that knowledge has become a veil between their hearts and the light of God.
"You ask why the Manifestation of God for this day, in other words, Bahá’u’lláh, has not given all the detailed answers to the theories advanced by occultists, spiritualists and many of the more abstruse philosophers of the present day.
"It would be absolutely impossible for anyone to answer all the questions that might be asked by the curious, whether scholars or ordinary people, on any subject. If the Prophet of God only came to this world in order to answer people's questions, and elucidate all the 'nonsense', for the most part, that people have gotten together and formed into cults and philosophies, they would have no time to instruct man by their example and through their teachings in a new way of life.'
"We must turn aside from these vain imaginings and suppositions and philosophizing of the world, and fix our eyes upon the clear stream of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Out of these teachings, and the society which they will create on this planet, will come a solution to all of the problems of men. Gradually, greater scholars, more deeply spiritual thinkers, will be able to answer from a Bahá’í standpoint many of these questions. It is not necessary that they should be in the divine text; they can be studied and learned in the future; but at present we have not had time to evolve the Bahá’í scholars who can deal with these subjects in detail, and take upon themselves to answer the abstruse points and the many unfounded doctrines which are advanced by modern philosophers.
"The Guardian urges you to turn your mind away from these abstrusities, and devote yourself, not only to studying the books at hand in the French language, of our Faith, but also to teaching other people.
"It is very unlikely that you will be able either to successfully argue with, or to convert, any of the people who study these topics you have mentioned in your letter. They are more interested in mystical things, and in mystery itself, than in this present world in which we live, and how to solve its problems. They enjoy abstractions and complications. Minds such as these are not going to be able to accept the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, which is for here and now, and which involves the purification of the mind, and an application of His teachings to daily life.
"He therefore urges you to set aside all of these thoughts from your mind, to turn with a loving and prayerful heart to Bahá’u’lláh, and ask Him to guide you daily to souls that are receptive to, and ready to receive, His Message, and not harass yourself anymore with these idle questions, which in the first place, cannot be answered, and in the second place, for the most part do not require an answer, because they are not sufficiently important in themselves.
"What Bahá’u’lláh means by the faculty of sight and hearing is the physical faculty, not a spiritual abstraction, He means that we have been given eyes and ears to appreciate what goes on in this world, by Almighty God; in other words, we can read the Teachings and listen to the Message of the Prophet. This is to be taken literally.
"We know from His Teachings that Reincarnation does not exist. We come on to this planet once only. Our life here is like the baby in the womb of its mother, which develops in that state what is necessary for its entire life after it is born. The same is true of us. Spiritually we must develop here what we will require for the life after death. In that future life, God, through His mercy, can help us to evolve characteristics which we neglected to develop while we were on this earthly plane. It is not necessary for us to come back and be born into another body in order to advance spiritually and grow closer to God.
"This is the Bahá’í Teaching, and this is what the followers of Bahá’u’lláh must accept, regardless of what experiences other people may feel they have. You yourself must surely know that modern psychology has taught that the capacity of the human mind for believing what it imagines, is almost infinite. Because people think they have a certain type of experience, think they remember something of a previous life, does not mean they actually had the experience, or existed previously. The power of their mind would be quite sufficient to make them believe firmly such a thing had happened.
"We must use the Writings of the Prophets as our measurement, if Bahá’u’lláh had attached the slightest importance to occult experiences, to the seeing of auras, to the hearing of mystic voices; if He had believed that reincarnation was a fact, He, Himself, would have mentioned all of these things in His Teachings. The fact that He passed over them in silence shows that to Him, they had either no importance or no reality, and were consequently not worthy to take up His time as the Divine Educator of the human race.
"We must turn our faces away from these things, and toward the actual practice of His Teachings in our everyday life through our Bahá’í Administration, and in our contact with other people and the examples we give."
III. Spiritual Healing"As you know Bahá’u’lláh has ordained that in case of illness we should always consult the most competent physicians. And this is exactly what the Guardian strongly advises you to do. For prayer alone is not sufficient. To render it more effective we have to make use of all the physical and material advantages which God has given us. Healing through purely spiritual forces is undoubtedly as inadequate as that which materialist physicians and thinkers vainly seek to obtain by resorting entirely to mechanical devices and methods. The best result can be obtained by combining the two processes: spiritual and physical."
"With regard to your question concerning spiritual healing. Such a healing constitutes, indeed, one of the most effective methods of relieving a person from either the mental or physical pains and sufferings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has in His 'Paris Talks' emphasized its importance by stating that it should be used as an essential means for effecting a complete physical cure. Spiritual healing, however, is not and cannot be a substitute for material healing, but it is a most valuable adjunct to it. Both are indeed essential and complementary."
"With reference to your question concerning spiritual healing. Its importance, as you surely know, has been greatly emphasized by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Who considered it, indeed, as an essential part of physical processes of healing. Physical healing cannot be complete and lasting unless it is reinforced by spiritual healing. And this last one can be best obtained through obedience to the laws and commandments of God as revealed to us through His Manifestations. Individual believers, however, can also help by imparting healing to others. But the success of their efforts depends entirely on their strict adherence to the Teachings, and also on the manner in which they impart them to others. According to Bahá’u’lláh man cannot obtain full guidance directly from God. He must rather seek it through His Prophets. Provided this principle is clearly understood and explained, the Guardian sees no harm that the friends should try to effect spiritual healing on others. Any such cure effected, however, should be done in the name of Bahá’u’lláh and in accordance with His teachings. For God, and God alone is the Supreme and Almighty Physician and all else are but instruments in His hands."
"The Guardian knows nothing about your kind of healing, nor would he care to go into the question in detail, as he has no time for such matters. But he can lay down for your guidance certain broad principles: there is no such thing as Bahá’í healers or a Bahá’í type of healing. In His Most Holy Book (the Aqdas) Bahá’u’lláh says to consult the best physicians, in other words, doctors who have studied a scientific system of medicine; He never gave us to believe He Himself would heal us through 'healers', but rather through prayer and the assistance of medicine and approved treatments.
"Now, as long as your healing is in no opposition to these principles, as long as you do not try and take the place of a regular doctor in trying to heal others, but only give them your kind of help through constructive suggestion or whatever it may be — and do not associate this help with being a channel of the direct grace of Bahá’u’lláh, the Guardian sees no harm in your continuing your assistance to others. But you must conscientiously decide whether in view of the above you are really justified in continuing. He will pray for your guidance and happiness...
"I might add that he does not believe any radiations of thought or healing, from any group, is going to bring peace. Prayer, no doubt, will help the world, but what it needs is to accept Bahá’u’lláh's system so as to build up the World Order on a new foundation, a divine foundation."
"He feels the attitude taken by you and the Assembly of Caracas towards the remarkable healing powers exhibited by ... has been the right one. To associate such things with the Cause directly would be only to ultimately injure its reputation and misrepresent it, as her powers — which are certainly very hard to find any logical explanation for — are not common to Bahá’ís, but rather a phenomenon seen among individuals, (rarely), of religious backgrounds.
"As to its being direct inspiration from Bahá’u’lláh, we certainly cannot say this. We can only be grateful that she has actually been able to help people who direly needed it. She herself being a devoted Bahá’í, there is no reason why she should not be known as one. But certainly it should in no way be connected with her healing powers."
"The Guardian has already heard about ...'s seemingly remarkable powers of healing and he wrote the friends who communicated with him that he feels that she is naturally free to use this power, so far beyond our understanding, but not a unique phenomenon in history by any means, for the good of others, but that it is better not to directly associate it with the Faith.
"In other words this clear soul is a Bahá’í, and we are all proud that she is one. But she should not give the impression she is a Baha’i healer, for we have no such thing, but rather that she is a Bahá’í by faith, whom God seems to have blessed with this precious bounty individually of being able to often heal others."
"He does not feel that you should try to do anything special about the capacity you feel to help people when they are ill- This does not mean you should not use it when the occasion arises, such as it did recently. But he means you should not become a 'healer' such as the Christian Scientists have, and we Bahá’ís do not have."
"We have no reason to believe that the healing of the Holy Spirit cannot be attracted by ordinary human beings. But this is rare, a mystery, and a gift of God."
"The Guardian sees no reason why you should not continue to help sick people. As he wrote some of the believers regarding this matter previously, as long as you do not say you are healing them as a Bahá’í, or because you are a Bahá’í (because we have no 'healers' in the Cause as such) there can be certainly no objection to your doing it. On the contrary to be able to help another soul who is in suffering is a great bounty from God."
"He thinks your Assembly's decision regarding spiritual healing being demonstrated at a Bahá’í meeting was quite sound. We should try not to have the Faith identified with such things in the eyes of the public officially. What the believers do privately, which in no way contravenes the Teachings, is their own affair."
IV. Miscellaneous Subjects"I feel we must gently and determinedly remind the friends that it is absolutely essential that the teachings should not be confused with the obscure ideas related to numerology and astrology and the like. Individuals interested in them are free to believe in and credit such ideas, and to make any inferences and deductions they desire from them, but under no circumstances are they expected to identify them with the principles and teachings of the Cause. We must at this stage preserve the purity and sanctity of the Bahá’í teachings. I will pray that you may be guided in your efforts, and may succeed in safeguarding and promoting the interests of our beloved Faith."
"Concerning your question as to the influence of the stars and planets on the life of a believer; such ideas should be entirely dissociated from the Teachings. The passage on p. 133 of the 'Gleanings' bears no reference whatsoever to this matter.
"As to illness or poverty; such calamities may be either irrevocable or, and it is often the case, they may be avoided. There is no reference in the Teachings as to whether the stars have any influence on healing such diseases. These astrological ideas are for the most part sheer superstitions."
"The Teachings bear no reference to the question of telepathy. It is a matter that concerns psychology."
"Yes, the Guardian considers 'astrology', which is a pseudo-science, as for the most part 'non-sensical', as it is mostly made up of superstitious beliefs and practices."
"Also no reference is to be found in the Bahá’í Teachings regarding the pyramid of Cheops, and as to its being considered a monument of prophecy."
"Astronomy is a science, astrology does not come under the same category, but we should be patient with people who believe in it, and gradually wean them away from reliance on such things."
"In regard to ... He advises you to make every effort to avoid any open breach with him, but, at the same time, to try and disassociate the Cause from his ideas about the pyramids, numerology, etc. Often great tact and patience is required with some people until their roots strike really deep into the Faith, and he deserves to be treated with care, love and consideration in order to enable him to mature as a believer."
"We have nothing in our writings about the so-called Prophecies of the Pyramids; so he does not think you need attach any importance to them."
"We should attach no importance to astrology or horoscopes. No exact science is involved, though sometimes some truth seems involved, but the percentage is small."
"Fruitless sciences is what Bahá’u’lláh refers to, like metaphysical hair splittings, and other abstract things carried to the extreme.
"The friends should be encouraged not to waste time on such things as astrology, etc. which you mention. They cannot be forbidden to do so. The exercise of our free will to choose to do the right thing is much more important."