Meditations

Talisman messages of January to March 2002

Date: Wed Jan 2, 2002 5:49 pm
Subject: Re: Baha'i Humanism

Dear Giangiacomo,

Yes, it is possible for Baha'is to believe in al-haqq or Absolute Truth or Absolute Reality. Baha'u'llah uses this word to refer to God many times in the writings. I have sent another message to Talisman titled "haqq", which is an old Talisman message in which Frank Lewis discusses the fact that the word "haqq" has many meanings, which should be determined by context.

For me, God is Reality and Truth, and not a man-in-the-sky. The thing about God being Reality and Truth is that these things are so near to us that they penetrate us. We are made up of Reality. In a sense, I am made up of God. Ibn Arabi says that God 'lends his being' to us for the purposes of our existence. A crucial thing about thinking of God as Reality as opposed to a man-in-the-sky is the intimate relationship we have with reality. With the man-in-the-sky image, God is very far from us. With the man image, you get people doing ridiculous things like making sacrifices in order to convince a reluctant being to bestow blessings on them. But if God is reality, which we are made up of, then you have the scenario where we and God share as co-partners in a medium of reality. The academic Henry Corbin called it a "bi-unity"; it is where you get two "I"s in the one form, just as you get two eyes on the human face. Both - the human and the divine - look out on reality and contribute to the form registered as the final image. Baha'u'llah says that God sees through our eyes and hears through our ears. The relationship also involves listening and acting on *both* sides. It is not a question of us always being passive and God active, but both partners share both roles. From this perspective, the statement "there is no God" is the same as the statement "there is no me."

Of course, I sound like I am saying that God is the same as creation. But for Baha'u'llah, Reality should be viewed on two levels at once: the transcendent and the immanent. The transcendent Reality is wholly beyond creation, and the immanent reality is the one I have been speaking of. The transcendent reality is beyond us, so we can't discuss its nature.

I know that people go around saying that they do not believe in God, but I think that these statements come back to haunt us when we are in situations that overwhelm us. Facing death is the obvious example. But it is not only death that can bring us to the coal face of reality. In times of great grief, such as divorce or redundancy - in short any situation in which we lose what we thought was an immoveable support or identity - causes inner upheaval and confusion. I think anyone who claims that they have not cried out in despair and turned in prayer to the vast unknown is a liar. At times like this, we don't sit around asking ourselves whether we believe in God. We act instinctively and begin to negotiate with reality for our lives and sanity. We talk to our co-partner in reality.

It is all very well while we are feeling comfortable and our relationships are hunky-dory to look on times of crisis and think that we were not in our right minds. But I think this is us intellectualising away an important experience with reality. And I think this intellectualising is a trap - which most fall into. Baha'u'llah refers to it in his Seven Valleys, in the parable of the mystic and the grammarian:

"The story is told of a mystic knower, who went on a journey with a learned grammarian as his companion. They came to the shore of the Sea of Grandeur. The knower straightway flung himself into the waves, but the grammarian stood lost in his reasonings, which were as words that are written on water. The knower called out to him, 'Why dost thou not follow?' The grammarian answered, 'O Brother, I dare not advance. I must needs go back again.' Then the knower cried, 'Forget what thou didst read in the books of Sibavayh and Qawlavayh, of Ibn-i-Hajib and Ibn-i-Malik,(15) and cross the water.'
The death of self is needed here, not rhetoric:
Be nothing, then, and walk upon the waves.(16)"
(Baha'u'llah: Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, Pages: 51-52)

Alison


Date: Sat Jan 5, 2002 7:52 pm
Subject: taking sides [was Proofs]

At 05:20 5/01/02 -0000, Claude wrote:
>I do believe, however, that when one
>is certain of his god(s), he believes that God is on his side.
>This is a great mistake. God, in my view, does not pick sides.

I think God does pick sides; he picks the side of the oppressed, wronged, powerless and humble.

Here's a couple of proof-texts from Baha'u'llah:

"Adorn thyself with My character... Be at all times a wronged one, for this is one of my attributes, though none but the sincere are aware of it. Verily, the sighs of patience uttered by one wronged are more precious to God than any other deed." Surah of Blood

"By My life, a subject is better than a thousand rulers, a subordinate is more exalted than a myriad of superiors, and one oppressed is more excellent than a city full of tyrants. Emulate thy Beloved therein and sever thyself from all things." Surah of God

If we look at the lives of the manifestations, prophets and saints, they were all wronged. God was on their side. The Iqan is full of stories from religious history of this person and that who had God on their side.

I don't think God stands back and refuses to get involved. He is very much involved in human affairs. Baha'u'llah tells us that God weeps for his lovers. Time and time again the whole concourse wept over what happened to Baha'u'llah. I think a God that doesn't take sides and stands back saying he doesn't give a damn or doesn't want to get his hands dirty is an unjust, uncaring being.

As the saying goes, the only thing needed for evil to flourish is for the good to do nothing. God is on the side of those who act and make a stand for what is right. These people end up being the oppressed -- people don't take sides because they don't want to shoulder the unpleasant consequences of taking a stand. But for those who do act with courage, God is on their side.

Alison

--------------------------------------------------------------
The people of that time will possess no commodity
more difficult to sell than the Book when it is
correctly recited, or one more in demand when
its passages are misinterpreted.

Imam `Ali
--------------------------------------------------------------


Date: Mon Jan 7, 2002 7:02 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] taking sides [was Proofs]

>We will know world peace when people overlook
>their differences, their varying perceptions of reality, their
>ways of thinking about God enough to realize that we are just
>not *capable* of uniformity of belief. And that, in the end,
>God does not really care about the specifics of belief. And
>that is why I believe an atheist humanitarian does more of God's
>work than the most devout proselytizer.

Claude,

I hear what you say about your Baha'i underpinnigs. I nevertheless quote the Baha'i writings because I relate to the world through them and because this is a list dedicated to the discussion of the Baha'i Faith. Therefore, please do not think that I am necessarily addressing you personally with my comments, but also the other 210 members.

I think you are right about people not being capable of uniformity of belief. I don't think creation works that way - after all, there is the principle of unity in diversity, which stresses the importance of diversity for unity.

This is a matter Baha'u'llah himself commented on. In the quote below, he forbids the believers from being like the generations of the past, who attacked each other for holding different theological views. He cites a passage from the Qur'an, which explains that people have different states, meaning that they will therefore have different views. Baha'u'llah is responding to a quarrel among the believers about the nature of the manifestation. He says that both positions are acceptable before God, but that if they quarrel and contend with each other, then they are both rejected. He goes on to say that the purpose of theology is to attract the hearts and create fellowship.

Baha'u'llah also states in the seventh of the Seven Valleys that that valley is beyond personal opinion: "Wherefore, if those who have come to the sea of His presence are found to possess none of the limited things of this perishable world, whether it be outer wealth or personal opinions, it mattereth not."

Alison

--------

"O Jamal! On this Day it is befitting that you should exhibit such love, compassion, humility, detachment and sanctity that none of the servants (of God) may inhale from your words and deeds, the unsavoury odour of the words and deeds of past communities who, on hearing merely one word, would immediately anathematize and curse one another, for "We have created souls to be in diverse states (Qur'an 71:13[14])."(2) There are those who have attained to the highest levels of spiritual comprehension while others are different therefrom. For example, one person envisages the Unseen, the Transcendent, the Inaccessible One in the Person of the Manifestation without making any distinction or connection between them. Others there are who recognise the Person of the Manifestation as the Appearance of God ([Himself]) and consider the commands and prohibitions of the Manifestation to be identical with such as originate with the one True God. These two positions are both acceptable before the throne of God. If however, the supporters of these two positions should contend and quarrel with one another in their exposition of the two perspectives, both groups are, and hath ever been, rejected. This inasmuch as the purpose of the spiritual understanding and the exposition of the highest levels of the elucidation of the teachings is to attract the hearts, cause fellowship between souls, and further the propagation of the Cause of God. As a result of contention and disputation amongst those who hold to these two positions, there hath been and will ever result the dissipation of the Cause of God and both groups shall return to the hellfire despite the fact that they, in their own estimation, soar in the highest horizon of spiritual understanding."

Baha'u'llah: Tablet to Jamal-i Burujirdi


Date: Sat Jan 12, 2002 4:17 am
Subject: Re: friendship etc

>Well, if one uses "dogma" to mean: "doctrine asserted on authority
>without proof" (as opposed to using it merely as a derogatory, sneer
>word intended to make it difficult to disagree with the argument),
>then, why bother with the whole idea of God and the Messengers? Why not
>just make do with some kind of humanism or whatever; particularly if
>one's only going to follow the teachings that one agrees with anyway?

Dear Dave,

I think you make a good point. This issue is a very complex one and I haven't come to any conclusions about it. The nature of our beliefs, character, salvation and personal relationship with God is a mystery. I have decided that the thing is so multifaceted the best I can do is go on a few basic principles -- and they produce contradictions when used in real life situations. I think Juan has set out a few of the relevant principles, but I believe there are others that need considering also.

An important principle I take from the second-to-last section in Gleanings is that our state in the next world is not a black-and-white affair. We tend to look at life in the next world as an either/or of salvation. But if we look at the way things are in this world, it isn't like that at all. There are as many spiritual states as there are people! The Bab says there are as many paths to God as breaths of the creatures. I don't see any reason why this same principle shouldn't apply in the next world too. Just as we determine our own spiritual state in this world, so do we also in the next world.

And this determination is an inner thing that isn't, as Abdu'l-Baha' says, produced by beliefs alone. For example, a person can claim to believe in love, but in reality be internally riddled with hatred. They have determined their spiritual state in this world, and it isn't as they profess it to be. The thing about the next world though, as I understand it, is that our inner self - that is, the real one and not the one we say it is - is revealed to ourselves. The covering is taken off, and we have nothing to hide behind. We take on the form of our inner reality, having shed the physical human form.

I think beliefs are important in that they should be a true representation of the inner reality of the person. Beliefs are an intellectual construct in that they are made up of ideas and concepts, and they need to be backed up with reality or substance. Take for example, the concept of "humanity". That is a concept, but if we meet lots of people, together they give that concept a reality. Similarly, a person can believe in the concept of love, but abuse their spouse. Their concept of love is an intellectual construct, and it isn't backed up with a true reality. Such a person doesn't want to be told that they do not know love. But when confronted with this truth, at that point, it is as if the person has gone to the next world - they have died to the illusion they constructed about themselves and are forced to face their real self, which is in fact a form of hatred, not love.

Baha'u'llah speaks of the inner and outer unity of the person being an important spiritual goal. And here's where I think Baha'u'llah's position cuts ice. I think his position is that if a person's inner reality is a true manifestation of Reality (or what he often calls Absolute Truth), that person will inevitably recognise that Baha'u'llah is God. Baha'u'llah says time and time again that we all return to God, and so I guess some people will not recognise who Baha'u'llah is in this life but will do so in the next or at some point on their journey.

Alison


Date: Sun Jan 20, 2002 8:11 am
Subject: history

The other day, my friend was reading out some of the funny things that had been asked of librarians. One of them was: "Why is it that so many battles have been fought on national parks?"

I thought it was a good illustration of how Baha'is see Baha'i history.

Alison


Date: Sun Jan 20, 2002 8:11 am
Subject: bad speech

I had an insight the other day, which I thought I'd share. It is about the power of speech, negative speech in particular. A while ago, Ulla told us that a Baha'i she knows had behaved badly but she was silenced about this because speaking up was considered backbiting. I had a similar experience several years ago, when a Baha'i borrowed our car and decided to drive it 200km north of here and abandon it. It had a small amount of damage. Shortly after Steve rescued the car, we discovered that the guy had ended up at the house of the region's ABM, who'd taken to him and appointed him an assistant! I wrote the ABM protesting and when the ABM figured out that his ABM-hood wasn't going to shut me up about insisting on compensation, he pulled the backbiting one on me.

But the other day, I read a couple of Baha'u'llah's passages together and saw something new about this issue. In the Iqan, Baha'u'llah says:

"For the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endure a century. That seeker should also regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul." Kitab-i-Iqan, Page: 193

And in the Aqdas, Baha'u'llah says:

"Promote ye the development of the cities of God and His countries, and glorify Him therein in the joyous accents of His well-favoured ones. In truth, the hearts of men are edified through the power of the tongue, even as houses and cities are built up by the hand and other means. We have assigned to every end a means for its accomplishment; avail yourselves thereof, and place your trust and confidence in God, the Omniscient, the All-Wise." K160

Reading the two together, I understand Baha'u'llah to be saying that "there is a means for every accomplishment" and speech and all pertaining to it like words and writing are the means for building community - building spiritual connections by edifying hearts - in the same way that buildings and so forth make up cities. This fits in with the statement in the Iqan that bad speech can kill the light of the heart and soul - in other words, it does the opposite to edifying hearts. Bad speech like backbiting, calumny and saying hateful things, therefore, has the effect on a community similar to burning down buildings in cities. The only difference being that you can rebuild a building but it takes a century to rebuild the spiritual connections that are ruined by bad speech.

Now, apply this to the situation in the Baha'i community where a person commits a bad act and everyone is forbidden to speak about it. This assumes that backbiting is simply a matter of saying negative things about people. But the principles above indicate that backbiting is about destroying a person's reputation for personal gain, destroying good relations between people and instilling suspicion into hearts. But a person who speaks out about a Baha'i who is ripping others off is not destroying community for personal gain but acting to protect it. To my mind, it is clearly not an example of backbiting.

Alison


Date: Tue Jan 22, 2002 9:23 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Cosmological design

>> God is the Ground of being, not a cosmic bricklayer.
>
>Maybe God is both. And I believe the Writings tell us this. If not,
>to what/whom does the phrase "creator of the heavens " refer?

Dear John,

"Creator of the heavens" refers to Baha'u'llah.

As you know, God is the unknowable essence. Baha'u'llah says in a number of places that God has *no relationship* with creation. This is hard to get a handle on, but Baha'u'llah really does say that there is no relationship whatsoever between the essence of God and creation. I remember when it first hit me that this was the case, I cried. I felt abandoned by God; how could it be that God could have no relationship with me, I thought to myself. This flew in the face of my believing that God loved me and had created me because of that. Here are a couple of passages on it:

"No tie of direct intercourse can possibly bind Him to His creatures. He standeth exalted beyond and above all separation and union, all proximity and remoteness. No sign can indicate His presence or His absence; inasmuch as by a word of His command all that are in heaven and on earth have come to exist, and by His wish, which is the Primal Will itself, all have stepped out of utter nothingness into the realm of being, the world of the visible. Gracious God! How could there be conceived any existing relationship or possible connection between His Word and they that are created of it?" Kitab-i-Iqan, 98-99

"Exalted be God above anyone's ability to know him by virtue of mystical insight, and above having the likeness of any soul refer to him. Between him and his creation there is no relationship, no link, no direction, no allusion, and no indication. He created contingent beings by means of a will that encompassed the worlds. The Absolute Truth remains in the heights of the sovereignty of exaltation, and his unity is sanctified above the knowledge of contingent beings. He shall ever be purified, in the sublimity of his own unattainable and sovereign nobility, from the perception of all beings. All who are in the heavens and on earth were created by a word from him, and thereby emerged from unadulterated nothingness into the realm of being. How could a creature that was fashioned by a word ascend to the essence of preexistence?" Commentary on a verse by Rumi

Because God wholly transcends creation, it means that we can't accurately describe him or say anything about him or make reference to him. All the descriptions we use to refer to him, like "Creator" do not properly apply to the essence of God. Therefore, Baha'u'llah says that all that we say about God is in actual fact a reference to the Manifestation:

"In one respect, all that has been said or will be said refers back to the first assertion, that the glorified and exalted Absolute Reality is unknowable, unattainable, and invisible, and this station has been and will continue to be sanctified from all references and names, and freed from whatever the people of creation may understand of it. The path is barred and the quest denied. For whatever wondrous references and powerful descriptions have appeared from the tongue and pen refer to the sublime Word, the most exalted Pen, the primal Summit, the true Homeland, and the Dawning-place of the manifestation of mercy. This is the source of Divine Unity and the Manifestation of singleness and abstraction. In this station, all of the most beautiful Names and the most lofty Attributes refer to Him [the manifestation] and not to anything beyond Him, for, as has been stated, the Unseen Reality is sanctified from all reference." Tablet of the Uncompounded Reality

I think that if a person did want to have an image of God as a human-form-creator-god, then that image would correctly be of Baha'u'llah.

Alison


Date: Thu Jan 24, 2002 10:25 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Cosmo design & covenant in the heart

Dear Frank,

Yes, I accept that there is a realm beyond the manifestation and that is the realm of the essence of God. But the reason the manifestation is called the "Tree beyond which there is no passing" is because that realm is beyond us humans. You seemed to be saying that you could access that realm in your inner being. That I dispute and Baha'u'llah categorically denies it. Even the great mystics cannot reach God:

"Salman, all that which the mystics have mentioned refers to the plane of creation. For however high exalted souls and purified hearts soar into the heaven of knowledge and mystical insight, they can never escape the plane of contingent being or go beyond what was created in their own souls by their own souls. All the mystical insights of every mystic, all the mentions made by everyone who praises God, all the depictions of everyone who describes him, refer to the effulgence of his Lord that was created in his soul. All, in short, who meditate upon this matter will agree that creation cannot exceed the bounds of its own contingent being. All likenesses and all mystical insight refer, from the beginning that has no beginning, to his creation, which was created from nothing by the contingent will, by itself and for itself. Exalted be God above anyone's ability to know him by virtue of mystical insight, and above having the likeness of any soul refer to him."

-- Baha'u'llah: Commentary on a Verse by Rumi

The point is that we might think we are terribly spiritual, but the fact is that whatever we experience and conceive is a product of our own soul. We never break free of the limitations inherent in our creation and know the realm beyond the manifestation.

This isn't a matter of reading the writings literally or figuratively. The fact is that we are all limited spiritually to what has been created in our soul and no amount of metaphorical interpretation is going to change that.

This issue is important because when people think that they can access God for themselves, then they have visions of grandeur and it's all downhill from there.

Alison

----------

Giangiacomo,

>In other words, how can an impersonal essence think and behave like a
>personal supreme being?

The impersonal essence doesn't think and behave like a personal supreme being. Descriptions do not apply to God. God is unknowable.

It is because of this that God raises up manifestations and clothes them in the characteristics that God chooses to appear in. The manifestation is the form that God chooses for himself. And, because this is what humans relate to, he chooses to appear as a human and has characteristics like mercy and compassion that make him personal to us. He does that in order to be near to us, Baha'u'llah explains. So it's not that the impersonal God is personal, it's that the impersonal God chooses to appear in creation as a personal God so that humans can relate to him and get to know him. The personal attributes of Baha'u'llah are a means God uses to enable us to know God; they have nothing to do with God in himself.

It is true that all humans are manifestations of God with a small "m" in that we all manifest all the attributes of God. But a Manifestation with a big "M" is different. You can see the difference if you look at the soul. If you read the quote I posted to Frank, you can see Baha'u'llah talking about the limited nature of our souls. Yes, we can get very spiritual, but in the end, our existence is confined to the limits of our soul. Abdul-Baha has a useful image to explain this. He says that we are like a compass, no matter which way it points and how much it jiggles around it is always revolving around a central point and it never breaks free of that limitation. Well, our soul acts in the same way. We are always revolving around the centre of our soul. No matter how mystical our insights, they are always a product of our limited soul. We can never break free of that. We go for eternity this way and that and still the worlds we experience are generated by our soul and its capacity. The manifestation however, has a soul without those limits. Baha'u'llah says that soul or self of the manifestation is the soul or self of God. It is transcendent. It doesn't experience the limitations of the rest of us. The manifestation is therefore different to us. It's not just a matter of vibrating at different frequencies. Ordinary humans can vibrate at the highest frequency of their spiritual capacity, but it's not suddenly going to turn them into a manifestation.

Alison


Date: Thu Jan 24, 2002 10:25 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Cosmo design & covenant in the heart

Dear Frank,

Yes, I accept that there is a realm beyond the manifestation and that is the realm of the essence of God. But the reason the manifestation is called the "Tree beyond which there is no passing" is because that realm is beyond us humans. You seemed to be saying that you could access that realm in your inner being. That I dispute and Baha'u'llah categorically denies it. Even the great mystics cannot reach God:

"Salman, all that which the mystics have mentioned refers to the plane of creation. For however high exalted souls and purified hearts soar into the heaven of knowledge and mystical insight, they can never escape the plane of contingent being or go beyond what was created in their own souls by their own souls. All the mystical insights of every mystic, all the mentions made by everyone who praises God, all the depictions of everyone who describes him, refer to the effulgence of his Lord that was created in his soul. All, in short, who meditate upon this matter will agree that creation cannot exceed the bounds of its own contingent being. All likenesses and all mystical insight refer, from the beginning that has no beginning, to his creation, which was created from nothing by the contingent will, by itself and for itself. Exalted be God above anyone's ability to know him by virtue of mystical insight, and above having the likeness of any soul refer to him."

-- Baha'u'llah: Commentary on a Verse by Rumi

The point is that we might think we are terribly spiritual, but the fact is that whatever we experience and conceive is a product of our own soul. We never break free of the limitations inherent in our creation and know the realm beyond the manifestation.

This isn't a matter of reading the writings literally or figuratively. The fact is that we are all limited spiritually to what has been created in our soul and no amount of metaphorical interpretation is going to change that.

This issue is important because when people think that they can access God for themselves, then they have visions of grandeur and it's all downhill from there.

Alison

----------

Giangiacomo,

>In other words, how can an impersonal essence think and behave like a >personal supreme being?

The impersonal essence doesn't think and behave like a personal supreme being. Descriptions do not apply to God. God is unknowable.

It is because of this that God raises up manifestations and clothes them in the characteristics that God chooses to appear in. The manifestation is the form that God chooses for himself. And, because this is what humans relate to, he chooses to appear as a human and has characteristics like mercy and compassion that make him personal to us. He does that in order to be near to us, Baha'u'llah explains. So it's not that the impersonal God is personal, it's that the impersonal God chooses to appear in creation as a personal God so that humans can relate to him and get to know him. The personal attributes of Baha'u'llah are a means God uses to enable us to know God; they have nothing to do with God in himself.

It is true that all humans are manifestations of God with a small "m" in that we all manifest all the attributes of God. But a Manifestation with a big "M" is different. You can see the difference if you look at the soul. If you read the quote I posted to Frank, you can see Baha'u'llah talking about the limited nature of our souls. Yes, we can get very spiritual, but in the end, our existence is confined to the limits of our soul. Abdul-Baha has a useful image to explain this. He says that we are like a compass, no matter which way it points and how much it jiggles around it is always revolving around a central point and it never breaks free of that limitation. Well, our soul acts in the same way. We are always revolving around the centre of our soul. No matter how mystical our insights, they are always a product of our limited soul. We can never break free of that. We go for eternity this way and that and still the worlds we experience are generated by our soul and its capacity. The manifestation however, has a soul without those limits. Baha'u'llah says that soul or self of the manifestation is the soul or self of God. It is transcendent. It doesn't experience the limitations of the rest of us. The manifestation is therefore different to us. It's not just a matter of vibrating at different frequencies. Ordinary humans can vibrate at the highest frequency of their spiritual capacity, but it's not suddenly going to turn them into a manifestation.

Alison


Date: Sat Jan 26, 2002 10:19 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: Cosmo design & covenant in the heart

Frank,

>Would I be safe in assuming that you believe the many worlds of God
>have Manifestations and that human souls after departing earth will
>still be under the Tree? Sometimes when I read the Writings I get the
>impression that we reach a degree of purity and then go back into
>the "Soup of all that Is" so to speak and in that way the worlds of
>being purify experience. Just wondering what you think about this
>idea.

My thinking is that we retain our identity and remain as distinct individuals throughout our spiritual journey. Spiritual development is, from my point of view, about the development of our individuality. It is not about merging with the Soup in the sense of losing ourselves. If we look, for example, at the wording of the Fire Tablet, Baha'u'llah says: "By thine aloneness the sun of oneness shone". Baha'u'llah merges with God when he stands alone in his person. In a situation where the whole world denies God, and one person stands alone in the face of oppression and bears witness to her faith in God, that person has, in my view, demonstrated an understanding of the elimination of self and the realisation of her own divine identity.

>The passages you sent in do seem to say that humankind is limited and
>always will be. If the idea of going back into the Soup when reaching
>perfection is valid (the valley of absolute nothingness) I wonder how
>a soul is to attain that perfection if the way is barred.

Yes, there is an answer to this. The way to the Essence of God is barred, but God (the Essence) knows that and so thought up a cunning plan to overcome it. He invented manifestations. Imagine God-the-Essence looking at his creation, which is like a spot in front of him. On that spot, amongst other things, is humanity. God-the-Essence says to himself, I want my creation to know me, therefore I am going to put a human into that spot and call him "God". He won't actually *be* Me, but he'll play My part in the human drama. I've decided to give him my greatest name, Baha'u'llah. And I'll get Baha'u'llah to tell humans that if they want to know Me, they have to know him - ie, Baha'u'llah.

"Manifold and mysterious is My relationship with God. I am He, Himself, and He is I, Myself, except that I am that I am, and He is that He is." Quoted by Baha'u'llah in Gleanings,66-67

Baha'u'llah should therefore, in a manner of speaking, be thought of as "God". Baha'u'llah is not God in his essence, but he has all God's characteristics. When we return to God, we return to Baha'u'llah. Baha'u'llah touches on this in the Iqan, where he interprets the passage in the Qur'an "attaining unto the Presence of God" to mean 'attaining unto the Presence of the Manifestation'.

Alison

----------

Jo,

>Why does Baha'u'llah tell us to look for *God* within ourselves in
>the Hidden Words and elsewhere if we are not more than reflections of
>a reflection as you poist - for then we would only have to read the
>Writings of the Prophet and never try and access anything within.

The God within us is the reality of the manifestation. As you say, we are reflections of a reflection.

No, it is not sufficient to simply read the writings to access the divine within. A useful way to look at this is to make a distinction between the "book" and the "Book". Baha'u'llah makes this distinction himself, which is where I got it from. The "book" is the thing on the bookshelf and the "Book" is Reality, or the "ground of being", as Juan mentioned the other day. The purpose of the book is to lead us to the Book. Most people never get past the book; the book becomes an obstacle to their progressing to the Book within them. Baha'u'llah says in the Aqdas:

"Take heed lest ye be prevented by aught that hath been recorded in the Book from hearkening unto this, the Living Book, Who proclaimeth the truth: 'Verily, there is no God but Me, the Most Excellent, the All-Praised.'" Kitab-i-Aqdas, K134

When I say that Baha'u'llah should be thought of as God, I don't mean to reduce him down to a book. I refer to the Living Book of Reality.

Alison


Date: Tue Jan 29, 2002 7:52 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: Cosmo design & covenant in the heart

At 23:51 28/01/02 +0000, you wrote:
>If this is the case then it is encumbent upon the peoples of the
>world under the Manifestation to follow the dictates of the UHJ's
>authoritative elucidation of the interpretations of Shoghi Effendi to
>the letter of the law as this is God on earth.

The House of Justice is not God on earth.

The assertion that the House is God on earth highlights the importance of the fact that there is only one "God" in creation, and that is the manifestation. The fact that the manifestation represents God in creation is of central importance to the divine unity. The manifestation represents God's unity by being the only God in creation. Asserting that the House is God is asserting that there are two Gods: Baha'u'llah and the House, which is impossible and a violation of the divine unity.

Alison


Date: Thu Jan 31, 2002 5:49 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Body count

>"O ye spiritual friends ! Firmness must reach a degree that if all
>the souls (Baha'is) be destroyed by the evil wishers and there remain
>but one, that one singly and alone should be capable of withstanding
>all who live on earth, and of spreading the fragrances of holiness."
>"Thus may ye remain unshaken by the painful occurrences in the Holy
>Land, and remain firm throughout the disastrous events. If all the
>friends oppose (the Cause of God) with sword and one remain (firm),
>he will be the proclaimer of God, a divine herald, and will stand
>before all upon the earth." Abdu'l-Baha in Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha,
>pp. 25, 379

In commentary on these fabulous quotes from Abdu'l-Baha, I wanted to tell the list about an article that I have recently read in the journal of the Ibn Arabi Society. The article is called "Globalisation of the Spirit: Prerequisite for a New Dispensation" by Christopher Ryan, which he gave at the 2001 Ibn Arabi Society Symposium titled "Man in the Image of God".

In this article, Ryan explains how humans are a microcosm of the universe and how, within themselves, they have the power to change the world. Even one soul can do so, as Abdu'l-Baha says in the quote above. In the article, Ryan uses Nelson Mandela as an example. I thought he did a wonderful job explaining how one person can change the world by being patient through suffering. Here is how he puts it:

"Nelson Mandela, whose story is well-known to us, became a Moses to his people. For 27 years he sat in the eye of his oppressor, a prisoner of his Pharaoh, while his mirror, which was his people's mirror, was polished. More than that, it was as if a lens itself was being ground during those many years of apparent suffering and humiliation, a lens which never ceased to focus and magnify the plight of his people before Pharaoh, until he reflected back in the eyes of the oppressors their own condition, until in fact the country itself came to see the prison of its own ignorance. Nothing short of universal love became focused in the person of Nelson Mandela, a great giving of being which opened the eyes of the world through the painstaking example of his years of submission and then the resolution, integrity, care and patience with which he eventually dismantled the false premise of his enemy's estate, using only the weapon at his disposal, an unfaltering certainty in the truth of the dignity of Man. No one could have been been better qualified than him to say, in his inaugural address:

'Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure about you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.'

Mandela's story speaks of a microcosm, a small picture of something very big - of the responsibility that comes with this awareness of Man's place, as preserver and maintainer of the universe... A large place is what Man is - to be the place of complete reflection of this motivation which is to love. And there is nothing, nothing that we can do, but admit of this largeness, acknowledge, agree, with a profound 'yes' to this largeness in ourselves, because there is nothing else."

Alison again: this last paragraph reminds me of the Sufi understanding of the covenant, which is that in pre-existence God said to us all: "Am I not your Lord?" to which we answered "yes". Faithfulness to the covenant, therefore, is saying 'yes' to the largeness inside and, like Nelson Mandela, testifying to it through our steadfastness during times of suffering when we stand alone before all on earth.

Alison


Date: Fri Feb 1, 2002 8:58 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: Cosmo design & covenant in the heart

Jerome,

Who is belittling the House? I have asserted that the House is not God on earth. Aziz has pointed out that they do not share in the Most Great Infallibility. I don't understand why that is belittling the House.

I appreciate that you feel the House's point of view on things Baha'i has great merit. That is your legitimate point of view. For me, I see their point of view as one view among many. As far as their legal responsibilities go, their job is to legislate on things not clear in the book. Their interpretations of the Faith are not authoritative - that is, not binding on the Baha'is, who have a responsibility to see for themselves.

As regards things going wrong in religion, Baha'u'llah explains why this happens in a number of places. I cite one passage from Gleanings below. He says things go wrong when people effectively give their religious leaders the same station as the manifestation - in other words, they regard their leaders' opinions as the opinions of God himself. This raises the leaders to be partners with the manifestation and therefore of God, and the people stop thinking for themselves. This is what destroys religion. That is why it is very important not to think of the House as God on earth or to think of what the House says as being the word of God. As I have already said, the House is a legislative body and its opinions on the Faith are not authoritative.

I am writing a commentary on the divine unity which covers this issue about how we raise our leaders to be, effectively, manifestations. I repost it now as a separate message.

Alison

"Behold, O Muhammad, how the sayings and doings of the followers of Shi'ih Islam have dulled the joy and fervor of its early days, and tarnished the pristine brilliancy of its light. In its primitive days, whilst they still adhered to the precepts associated with the name of their Prophet, the Lord of mankind, their career was marked by an unbroken chain of victories and triumphs. As they gradually strayed from the path of their Ideal Leader and Master, as they turned away from the Light of God and corrupted the principle of His Divine unity, and as they increasingly centered their attention upon them who were only the revealers of the potency of His Word [ie leaders of religion etc], their power was turned into weakness, their glory into shame, their courage into fearů Behold, how they have joined partners with Him Who is the Focal-Point of Divine unity." (Gleanings:69)


Date: Tue Feb 12, 2002 12:35 pm
Subject: forget the Mormons

I think we need to get away from old ways of thinking and onto new ones. For me, old ways of thinking include believing that institutions of any stripe are our saviour, whether for teaching the Faith or promoting democracy. Institutions have their place, but they aren't our saviour. Thinking they are our saviour is idolatry and the path to oppression. We've got to save ourselves; that's what I hear Baha'u'llah saying. If we want to teach or we want democracy or peace, then the place to begin is with ourselves and believing that we can influence the world. We are powerful all by ourselves. The trouble is that we look to those who have temporal power, who are part of the world's institutions, and believe ourselves to be powerless compared to them. But I say that we are helpless only if we forget that God is more powerful than any institution and can wipe one out any time he chooses. God can, and does, make whomsoever he pleases to be powerful.

I want to present some ideas about how individuals can be powerful. Basically, it is via networks. I was watching a programme on the TV the other day, and they were saying that scientists have examined the way a school of fish operates in concert. Large flocks of birds do the same. The fish can be swimming along in a huddle and all of a sudden a nasty fish attacks, wanting to eat a humble fish. The school opens up and a hole appears and the nasty fish swims through and misses. They played footage of this happening over and over. Each time, the school got out of the way, making beautiful patterns, which were always different. Scientists examined the principles behind this movement, which appeared to require central planning. The principles they came up with were that each fish only needed to keep an eye on its neighbours and follow them at a safe distance. When a fish attacked, the other principle that came into play was: get out of the way. Using computers, they were able to simulate the fish behaviour using these basic principles. Given this, I suggest that by simply keeping peace with our neighbours and keeping at a safe distance, we could create a world that was ruled by peace.

The other idea on this I had came from a friend of mine. He says that it is proved that any two people in the world are linked together by about six other people, who are linked by association:

>It has been found by experiment that any two people in the world - right
>now any of about six billion - chosen at random, are connected to one
>another by a short chain of intermediate acquaintances, of typical length
>about six. This phenomeno is, colloquially referred to as the "six degrees
>of separation". Turning to the language of network theory, any network in
>which the lengths of such chains are small compared with the number of
>people in the network, is said to display the small-world effect. As a
>matter of fact our world of human beings displays the small-world effect to
>a marked degree: Six billion people and typically only six degrees of
>deparation between us!
>
>I told you about the experiment with a wallet, but i think i got that
>wrong, although the basic idea was right. The experiment i really had in
>mind was this: a study performed in the late 1960s by Stanley Milgram. He
>took a number of letters addressed to a stockbroker acquaintance of his in
>Boston, Massachusetts, and distributed them to a random selection of people
>in Nebraska. His instructions were that the letters were to be sent to
>their addressee (the stockbroker) by passing them from person to person,
>and that, in addition, they could be passed only to someone whom the passer
>Knew on a first-name basis. Since
>it was not likely that the initial recipients of the letters were on a
>first-name basis with a Boston stockbroker, their best strategy was to pass
>their letter to someone whom they felt was nearer to the stockbroker in
>some social sense: perhaps someone they knew in the financial industry, or
>a friend in Massachusetts. A reasonable number of Milgram's letters did
>eventually reach their destination, and Milgram found that it had only
>taken an average of six steps for a letter to get from Nebraska to Boston.
>He labeled this situation "six degrees of separation". Milgram's experiment
>was poorly controlled, and certainly contained many sources of error.
>However, the general result that two randomly chosen human beings will be
>connected by only a short chain of intermediate acquaintances has been
>subsequently verified, and is now widely accepted.

This indicates to me that what we need to do is influence the people around us for the good. If we all did this, the world would be enlightened. Something like Talisman, which has 215 members, has a huge potential for influence and change for the good. Messages teaching the Faith here greatly affect the small worldwide Baha'i community and the world spiritually.

I think the future of the world is in our own hands. If we give our power over to institutions and follow them as saviours, that is the path to oppression. It's not about forgetting our philosophical problems and falling in behind the House (for example), but about getting a hold of our own power, believing in ourselves and being the best person we can be.

Alison


Date: Fri Feb 15, 2002 11:26 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Haifa in danger of missile attack.

Thanks George for keeping us up to date with the latest news. It's anyone's guess what's going to happen from here.

>What I cant understand is that Abdu'l-Baha states that America (and its
>democratic political system) will be the leading country in promoting the
>Baha'i Faith having written the Prayers and compilations to America. Has a
>World War to happen first before America leads the Baha'i Faith to success?

I think the important principle to remember is that Abdu'l-Baha is not Captain Picard and what he says doesn't make it so. God is the only one with that power.

I think his comments, whether referring to the House or the US, should be seen as statements of what he hoped would come to pass, rather than as predictions. Abdu'l-Baha is not a prophet, nor can he stop an institution going off the rails just by saying that it will be good.

In any case, nothing is absolutely good. That's the problem. We read Abdu'l-Baha and think the House is guaranteed to be good. Then we stop scrutinising it; we just sit back and give over our unquestioning trust. Next thing we know, we have a millstone around our necks. These institutions will be good if we keep a close eye on them. That's the way Abdu'l-Baha's hopes for them will be realised.

Alison


Date: Mon Feb 18, 2002 10:31 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Prophets or not Prophets?

>Now obviously we won't be here to worry about it, but how easy will
>it be for these baha'is at the end of the dispensation to recognize
>this new manifestation? Won't it be easier for them to play the role
>of the scribes and pharisees? Wouldn't the seat of power, Haifa
>itself, with all its buildings and gardens act as an incentive not to
>recognize the new person but to hang on to what they've got?
>Especially, as if the new manifestation is a woman, she woouldn't be
>eligible to sit on the UHJ?

That's right. As things stand, she wouldn't be eligible for membership on the House of Justice. And, as you say, whether the future manifestation is male or female, the House will not be his or her supporter. Although, no doubt some individuals will recognise him/her, whether they be House members or whoever. But we can be sure that by the time the new manifestation comes, things will have gone completely off the rails with the Baha'is. In the Iqan, Baha'u'llah gives the conditions for the appearance of a manifestation:

"What "oppression" is greater than that which hath been recounted? What "oppression" is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it? For opinions have sorely differed, and the ways unto the attainment of God have multiplied. This "oppression" is the essential feature of every Revelation. Unless it cometh to pass, the Sun of Truth will not be made manifest. For the break of the morn of divine guidance must needs follow the darkness of the night of error. For this reason, in all chronicles and traditions reference hath been made unto these things, namely that iniquity shall cover the surface of the earth and darkness shall envelop mankind." Kitab-i-Iqan, Pages: 31-32)

George: When I said that Abdu'l-Baha was not a prophet, I meant that we should not regard him as a person who can predict the future infallibly. However, I do regard him as a Lesser Prophet, in the sense that he is a spiritual guide. Usually, people think the two go together, that a spiritual guide will be able to predict the future. But I don't believe that. God does whatever he wants, and not even Baha'u'llah knew for sure what God would do. Of course, there are principles that you can apply to help predict the future, and spiritual guides use these to help see into the future. There is the principle that all things must change: so you can be sure that at some stage an oppressor will fall or die. There is also the principle that if a person acts against spiritual principle or virtue, the consequences of those actions will come back on the person in, often, negative ways. But there is no knowing for sure. Baha'u'llah points out in the Iqan that Noah -

"several times promised victory to His companions and fixed the hour thereof. But when the hour struck, the divine promise was not fulfilled. This caused a few among the small number of His followers to turn away from Him, and to this testify the records of the best-known books." (p7)... "what could have caused the nonfulfilment of the divine promise which led the seekers to reject that which they had accepted? Meditate profoundly, that the secret of things unseen may be revealed unto you, that you may inhale the sweetness of a spiritual and imperishable fragrance, and that you may acknowledge the truth that from time immemorial even unto eternity the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns. Even as He hath revealed: "Do men think when they say `We believe' they shall be let alone and not be put to proof?"(1)" (pp8-9)

Alison


Date: Thu Feb 21, 2002 9:50 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Fwd: Salmani affair

I think Baha'is are so used to not being given information about Baha'u'llah's writings that it is instructive to look at an example of a group who are actively working to gather and index all the writings of the person they are interested in.

When I first read the journal of the Ibn Arabi Society, this was the first thing that stood out for me. Instead of the administration of the Society giving me a party line, they actually *told* me straight out what was happening about manuscripts of Ibn Arabi's writings and those of his commentators, and what they were doing about gathering them together and putting them in microfilm so that *scholars* might have access to them. They actually tell their members that they are doing this and report to them about their progress! No information is hidden, there is no talk about whether some of Ibn Arabi's writings might not be suitable for the world at this time, and there is no talk about some scholars being allowed access and others not. All they are interested in is making sure that his writings are secure, indexing them, and making copies so that everyone can read them.

There's no excuse that the Baha'i authorities haven't adopted the same attitude to Baha'u'llah's writings. Baha'u'llah's writings belong to humanity and humanity has a right to them. The Society acts like Ibn Arabi's writings belong to humanity. The House acts like Baha'u'llah's writings belong to it.

Imagine the House talking to us like this:

"The Society has long been interested in setting up a microfilm archive of the important Ibn 'Arabi manuscripts, both to safeguard this irreplaceable heritage for the future and to make it more accessible to scholars who wish to work from the original material. We discussed such a project with the Cultural Attache, and were invited to submit a proposal about how an archive could be established and maintained. This was sent to the Ministry of Culture in early August, and we await a response some time in the autumn. This proposal sets out various stages of the project. First, to identify, through research in situ, the core historical manuscripts by Ibn 'Arabi and Sadr al-din Qunawi, i.e. those which can be traced with certainty back to them or their immediate companions. Initial investigations indicate around 350 for Ibn 'Arabi and about 150 for Sadr al-din Qunawi. Then, to systematically make microfilm copies with the view to setting up two archives, one in Turkey under an appropriate body, and one in the UK under the care of the Society. Once this has been completed, the project could be extended to archiving the core works of followers of Ibn'Arabi in Turkey such as al-Qashani, Daud of Kayseri and 'Aziz Mahmud Hudayi."

>As you said Juan, with the internet anyone can publish a book today. You can
>cut out the publisher, printer and keep a lot of costs down.

Yeah, I intend to publish a whole lot of stuff in the remaining years of my life. The House got me at 40 years, but I've another 40 to go... No Baha'i publisher is going to go near anything I write now that I am kicked out of the community. And anyway, I would never have anything I write go to review. I plan to put it all on my web site. It's just great. Pre-Internet and I'd be silenced, but with the Internet, they can't stop me.

Alison


Date: Fri Feb 22, 2002 11:18 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] acquiring virtues

Dear Juan,

>In the realm of spirituality, Baha'u'llah says that he has simply distilled
>the spiritual messages given to "the Prophets of old." He hasn't brought
>new spiritual teachings. He has brought new spiritual potency, but the
>substance of the spiritual teachings is common to the great world
>religions.

I agree with you, obviously, but I think the issue is more complex than how you portray it.

In Tablet of the Son, for example, Baha'u'llah discusses how his revelation is spiritually different to previous ones. He explains that words like "monotheism" and "mysticism" and even "virtues" take on new meanings. He explains that although it is true that these understandings were inherent in the previous religions, it is also true to say that they are not.

"Note that what appeared was virtues, of which all remained ignorant. It would be the indisputable truth to say that all of these virtues were hidden and concealed in the scriptures and that in the dispensation of the Point (the Bab) of the Bayan, the veiled faces of meaning came out from behind the curtain in the chambers of the divine verses. And if it were said that what went before was a concise mention, whereas thereafter came one who clarified and spoke in detail, that would be the truth, in which there is not doubt. If it were said that what became manifest in the new revelation had not been apparent in previous dispensations--though all are wondrous and new--this saying is also correct and complete. For if God speaks a word today that comes to be on the lips of all the people, before and after, that word will be new, if you only think about it. Consider the word, "monotheism," about which all the manifestations of the Eternal Truth have spoken in each dispensation, and which all the adherents of the various religions have asserted. Nevertheless, in each dispensation it is an innovation, and its novel character can never be withdrawn from it. God breathes into each word he speaks a new spirit, and the breezes of life from that word waft upon all things outwardly and inwardly. Again, for how long and until what age and era can the traces remain visible, of the divine verses revealed by the Manifestations of both the inner soul and of the farthest horizons?"

I think, therefore, that there are spiritual differences in the revelations, even though it is also true that all revelations are expressions of the changeless faith of God. And for this reason, accepting the new revelation is important and has spiritual ramifications for the individual.

I also think that Baha'u'llah thought it was important for people to recognise him as being God in his new attire, as he often put it. Why else would he have spent so much time going on about the fact that the Babis rejected him? He asks them why they didn't recognise that he was the Bab. It seems logical to me that if they recognised the spiritual reality of the Bab, they would have seen it manifest in Baha'u'llah. He says to the Babis in Tablet of the Son, for example: "Is there any passage of the scriptures that instructs you to hesitate about his cause when the succeeding Manifestation appears? Say: Then produce it!"

I think that Baha'u'llah is using a similar argument here in this passage from "Tablet of the Uncompounded Reality". The poet claims to see God everywhere, but Baha'u'llah points out that if this were true, then he would see Baha'a'llah, who is God. Baha'u'llah concludes that the poet's words are either empty or for worldly reasons such as reputation and livelihood, he was deprived of believing in Baha'u'llah.

"Consider the philosopher Sabzivari. Among his verses there is a poem, which conveys the following meaning: "No Moses is alive to hear it, otherwise the chant of 'I verily am God!' exists in every tree." Such words as these has he spoken and his meaning is that the true knower of God rises to such a station that his eyes perceive the lights of the effulgences of the luminous Source of manifestation and his ears discern His call from all things. There is no objection to these words of the philosopher, but, as we have already stated, this is the realm of words. In the realms of deeds, however, it can be seen that although the call of the divine lote-tree has been raised upon the highest spot in creation in clear and unambiguous language and is inviting all beings through the loftiest of summonses, he has paid no heed whatsoever. For had he harkened, he would have arisen to make mention of it. Either we must say that these were empty words which flowed from his mouth, or that, for fear of his reputation and love of his livelihood, he remained deprived of this station [of belief] and of testifying to it. Either he understood and concealed [his belief] or he understood and denied [Baha'u'llah's claim]. Woe to those who waste their whole lives in trying to establish the truth of their vain imaginings and yet, when the lights of the Divine Presence are shining forth from the horizon of the name of the Self-Sufficient, they remain deprived thereof."

Note that Baha'u'llah here is saying that it is a "deed" to recognise him. This would mean that a person whose deeds were virtuous - or had acquired virtues, as you say - would recognise Baha'u'llah. Frankly, I think Baha'u'llah could be fairly interpreted as saying that mystical insight equates with recognition of him. In Tablet of the Son, he says:

"For instance, the souls who have ascended to the peaks of mystical insight and those who remained at the lowest rank have precisely the same station in the eyes of God. For the nobility of knowledge and insight is not dependent on these attributes in themselves. If they lead to the Eternal Truth and acceptance of it, they are approved. Otherwise, they are rejected. On this plane, all words are mentioned on the same level."

I think when he talks about spiritual insight leading to the Eternal Truth and acceptance of it, he means recognition and acceptance of himself.

"Yes, today every soul who affirms belief in what was revealed from the heaven of the divine will has ascended to and attained the summit of mystical insight. All others are deprived and non-existent."

What does he mean by "what was revealed from the heaven of the divine will"? I think he means his new revelation (which, yes, is the changeless faith of God, but is also the faith its new and different attire).

Alison


Date: Thu Feb 28, 2002 9:38 am
Subject: Re: burning a few terrorists

Dear Bill,

I take your point about Reality being impersonal. But I don't think we can assert it as a categorical fact. Nothing can be said of Reality, it is transcendent of all attributes. So while Reality is, as you say, impersonal, it is also personal.

I have been thinking a lot about the idea that Reality is impersonal lately - I guess because a person in my family is suffering from a debilitating disease and in a sense, you could think that Reality has come by chance with this. But then I was reading the Valley of Knowledge the other day, and the story of the guy who scales the wall in despair. The watchmen can be seen as the impersonal Reality coming upon him. But the story has a personal, purposeful ending.

My conclusion on this at the moment is that, yes, Reality does fall upon us in seemingly impersonal random ways. But our journey through these events is personal and purposeful. Our goal is return to God. The story tells us that events drive us to the garden of our Beloved, but we perceive events as tragic, random and cruel on our travels. Baha'u'llah is teaching us that in the Valley of Unity, we do not interpret our journey in those ways any more because these labels do not exist. We have already arrived; the Valley of Knowledge is the last plane of limitation.

Alison


Date: Wed Mar 6, 2002 11:21 am
Subject: a JW omnibus

For Daniela, Karen and George,

Daniela: thanks for your interesting message about the fund envelope that arrived at your door. The House of Justice put out a message, that 12 November one, in which it stated that it was setting up a new fund that would be devoted to the upkeep of the gardens.

I remember in the 90s how our local community, with sincere devotion and love, ran all sorts of little fundraising ventures to earn money for the Arc. The enthusiasm for these ventures gradually waned over the years and fell pretty much by the wayside after about four years. I remember when the enthusiastic support for the Arc dropped off, although no one said anything, the inevitable demands for funds locally took precendence. For example, here we have a local Baha'i centre and its mortgage needed to be paid off, plus it has an enormous insurance bill annually. For a small community, these are large financial commitments.

And now, when I hear the House saying it has set up a fund, it is clear that what was looked at by the community as a one-off sacrificial effort - to build the Arc - has become a life-long drain on its resources. It's like the "head" has grown very big and is now so heavy it cannot be carried by the body. It has become an enormous burden.

I think this situation is an example of what is being referred to in these lines from Rumi, quoted by Baha'u'llah in the third valley of the Four:

"Love shunneth this world and that world too
In him are lunacies seventy and two
The minstrel of love harpeth his lay
Servitude enslaveth, kingship doth betray."

The community "loves" the House; it believes it to be infallible, it gives its all for it. Even when what is demanded of it is contrary to its best interests, will result in the wasting away of its resources, it can think of nothing else but doing the bidding of the House. I think the community is in the valley of love with respect to the House. It has "burnt to ashes the harvest of reason"; members do not reason about whether they should obey - they just do. Those who question and use reason are not regarded as lovers - understandably so.

But, as the last line of the quote indicates, the minstral of love has an important sting in his tale: servitude enslaveth, kingship doth betray. Now that the community has given its unquestioned and complete loyalty to the House, as a lover does, the tale of the minstral is appearing on the wind. The community is a slave to the House, which has betrayed it. The community finds itself in the prison of its own love. The demands for money will never stop, the regard for the real needs of the community are forever ignored, the head will think only of itself.

All over the place, it is asked how come the Baha'i Faith has gone off the rails like this. But what is happening has nothing whatsoever to do with the Baha'i Faith going off the rails. What we are looking at here is the simple principle that love of things in the world always enslaves and betrays. This is a spiritual principle:

"Verily I say, the world is like the vapor in a desert, which the thirsty dreameth to be water and striveth after it with all his might, until when he cometh unto it, he findeth it to be mere illusion. It may, moreover, be likened unto the lifeless image of the beloved whom the lover hath sought and found, in the end, after long search and to his utmost regret, to be such as cannot 'fatten nor appease his hunger.'" Gleanings, pp 328-329

The purpose of this betrayal process is to teach people not to set their affections on things in the world.

Many believe that if they don't love at all, they can arrive at this goal and avoid the betrayal. But you can't. The steed of the valley of love is pain, "and if there be no pain this journey will never end". Basically, you have to play the role of the humiliated one to grow. So, I'd say the community is right on target.

-------

Karen: thanks for posting the URL to your article. I have just finished reading it and found it very inspiring. One thing you mentioned that I didn't know about was the fact that the House seems to have backed off trashing the disillusioned and are asking members to try to befriend them or something. This is apparently a part of the five year plan.

If there is anyone out there who is of a mind to, I would be interested in hearing a brief summary of what is in the five year plan. Now that I am not a member of the community, I am not up on these things in any more.

-------

George: The trouble with your argument, I think, is that it ignores what a spiritual principle is. Let's take the equality of women and men for example and run it through a similar scenario to the one you have proposed. We could argue that Baha'is only assert that women and men are equal because, well, men have always ruled women. When women get that equality though, they will dominate men. Well, why not? Whereas before they were subordinate, now they have power and are going to use it! Men beware! It's a secret us women have that we never let men know about, just like the Baha'i administration secretly hides the fact that one day it will take over the civil governments.

What would you say to a woman who asserted a position like that? I think one would justifiably say: you do not understand the nature of a spiritual principle, which applies no matter what's happening on the ground, and, worse, you do not believe in the principle of the equality of women and men at all.

The principle of the separation of church and state is a spiritual principle, here for all time, and it applies no matter how much power religious authorities may have. There are many spiritual reasons for why the principle exists, and these are discussed by Sen in his excellent, ground-breaking article on the theology behind the principle. It's up on the Web, as I understand it, if you haven't already read it.

Alison


Date: Wed Mar 20, 2002 9:21 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Jump or Be Pushed

>We have to carry it on, we rank and file, since its
>officers and trustees are delinquent or paralyzed by their extreme
>narrow-mindedness.

And I think "carrying on" means doing, perhaps for the first time, what Baha'u'llah asks of us. Baha'is are taught that tests are a good thing. Here is our opportunity as a community to welcome this one and find out what bounty it holds for us.

I think the silver lining in this test is that it forces us to learn to take responsibility for our own spirituality. I mean, good grief, look at the past religions. They all fell into the dynamic where the masses went to sleep and become targets for manipulation by their leaders. It's no wonder whoever it was said that religion was the opiate of the masses. Baha'u'llah doesn't want that to happen in his religion. He has given each of us the personal responsibility for our own path. But we have given it to the Baha'i administration. Baha'is are socialised to do this. The letter written to the House demonstrates this. The author is asking the House for answers to questions, assuming that the House has authoritative answers. But it doesn't. No one does, except ourselves. We have to find our own answers, ones that are authoritative for us.

I believe in a vision of the Baha'i community where each member has his or her own personal "Baha'i Faith", in which the mystical relationship between Baha'u'llah and the heart of the believer is central. At the moment, however, the Baha'i administration stands in way of that relationship, asserting itself as Baha'u'llah's representative and wanting the believers to turn to it for Truth. These are the two competing paradigms at work today in the history of the Faith.

I see this situation as an example of the universal struggle between the oppressor and freedom. We see it clearly in history, where humanity struggles for political freedom. In this case, it is in a religious context, and the Baha'i administration is playing the part of the oppressor - it is the limiting patriarchy we have hooked around our necks - and Baha'u'llah is the symbol of Freedom, the one without limitation. At the moment, the Baha'is are asking themselves: is there a Baha'i Faith without the Baha'i administration? The very question reveals just how insidious patriarchal conditioning is. The purpose of a patriarchy is to get us to believe that there is no life without it. It goes very, very deep into our psyches. The man who wrote the letter to the House is acting within this patriarchal paradigm. He asks big daddy for an answer, he got an 'authoritative' answer, it tells him there is no religion with big daddy, so the questioner leaves religion altogether. He thinks he has made himself free by his action, but in fact, by leaving, he is still acting within the patriarchal paradigm.

I think this shows that what props up the 'oppressor' is not whether we belong to this or that religion or organization, but how we conceptualise the situation. It is the stuff in our heads that props up the House's illegitimate claim on our spirituality. Being inside or outside the Baha'i community has nothing to do with being free of it. If we let the House drive us out of our Faith, then the House's power is still over us. If we stay in and allow the House's power to run our spiritual life, the House has power over us. Either way, we aren't actually free; we are reacting to a power that we believe is real.

I want to suggest that the way through and to be free is to dissolve the oppressor in our own psyches. Much of the energy spent so far addressing the fundamentalist turn in the Baha'i community has been focussed on the House and the activities of the Baha'i administration and its staunch supporters. Although this has been essential work toward the goal of freeing the Baha'i community from fundamentalism, I believe that the most subversive thing that we can do to win against its oppression is to get ourselves free of its psychological pull entirely. It is possible to "carry on" as a Baha'i and to be completely outside of its domain. This means that one is not reacting to it, positively or negatively, and thereby propping it up, but outside of it altogether. This is what a patriarchy, or any oppressor, fears most, that its victims will be completely free. An oppressor relies on the oppressed to exist; it relies on its victims being socialised within the confines of its sphere of reality. It creates a reality that everyone has to believe in. Freedom is about dissolving that reality within our own selves.

I know that all this sound like words. It doesn't have any meaning unless you experience it. I went and saw The Shipping News the other day and it illustrated this process. Two of the main characters, the aunt and her nephew, work through the psychological limitations left inside them by the oppressive behaviour of their brother/father. He had raped the sister and taught his son that he was useless. The house that the aunt was brought up in symbolised the oppression of that man and the abusive culture of the whole family back through the generations. In the end, the aunt and nephew, each through their own processes, overcome the internal fear and limiting residue the man left in them. When they did this, a storm came and destroyed the house. At the end of the movie, the nephew stands on the cliff where the house once stood and the voice over gives us a newspaper headline capturing what had happened to him: "Big storm destroys house. Leaves excellent view".

And that is what is happening to the Baha'is. This crisis in the community is giving us the opportunity to destroy the internal limitations, symbolised in the world by the House and the administration. If we work on ourselves to get free of them, a big storm will blow away their oppression and it will leave an excellent view.

"Ignorant eyes see nothing but the dust...
Gnostic eyes see down the road a million years."
-- Baha'u'llah: Mathnavi

Alison


Date: Thu Mar 21, 2002 9:25 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] on justice

Tommy (is this how I should address you?),

The paragraphs before and after the one I quoted help with understanding what Baha'u'llah is getting at, I think. I'll quote all three at the bottom of this message.

At the beginning of the first paragraph, Baha'u'llah says that the basis and origin of justice is whatever the manifestation decrees. Then at the beginning of the second paragraph he says that by justice every deserving person is given his due. Then he makes what I think is a most interesting statement: that people are given their due in the manifestation of their being, not as most people imagine. I think he means that we are given our due in our inner selves -- in our soul, our spiritual lives -- and not in the worldly context. For example, a righteous person may be treated badly by an oppressor, and that appears to be injustice, but God gives that person his due by enabling that person to become detached from the world and be free in his inner self. Such a person would talk as Baha'u'llah always did; he didn't care about the worldly tribulations he suffered because he was detached from the world and was constantly in the presence of God.

Baha'u'llah goes in the second paragraph to say that those who disbelieve in him have left the citadel of justice and is a wrong doer. And he says that if a person does everything, including doing justice "among the people" - in other words, in a worldly context - that person has wronged "himself" if he hesitates in the Cause. In the third paragraph, Baha'u'llah cites an example of a person whose "justice lies in his belief in God, which is not equaled by the justice of the heavens and the earth". Clearly, then, the inner manifestation of justice is more highly valued than the justice in the world.

I think Baha'u'llah is saying that the basis of justice is his Word and justice in each of us is our recognition within our selves of that Word. He accepts that justice is also manifestated in the world, in the form of good deeds, but for that to have spiritual value, it needs to be a reflection of our inner recognition of Baha'u'llah as the basis of justice.

Alison

-------------

"O people of the earth, know that justice hath planes, stations and meanings beyond reckoning, but we shall sprinkle upon you spray from this ocean so as to purify you from the filth of tyranny and render you among the sincere. *Know verily that the essence of justice and the source thereof are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him who is the Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize this truth. He doth verily incarnate the highest, the infallible standard of justice unto all creation. Were His law to be such as to strike terror into the hearts of all that are in heaven and on earth, that law is naught but manifest justice. The fears and agitation which the revelation of this law provokes in men's hears should indeed be likened to the cries of the suckling bab weaned from his mohter's milk, if ye be of them that perceive. Were men to discover the motivating purpose of God's Revelation, they would assuredly cast away their fears, and, with hearts filled with gratitude, rejoice with exceeding gladness.* Say: Even though autumn gales denude the trees of their spring ornamentation, they do so only so that other adornments might appear. Thus hath the matter been decreed by the Mighty, the Omnipotent.

By justice every deserving person is given his due. This occureth as ye witness it in the manifestations of being, not as most of the people have alleged. Then ponder, that ye might know the intent of that which hath been revealed from the wondrous Pen. Say: The justice of the One at whom the pillars of tyranny have been shaken and the stanchions of idolatry have crumbled consists in the affirmation of this Manifestation in this Dawn, wherein the sun of Baha' hath risen above the horizon of eternity with evident dominion. Whoso disbelieveth in Him hath departed out of the citadel of justice, and his name is recorded among the wrongdoers in mighty and guarded Tablets. Whoso accomplisheth all the deeds in the heavens and the earth and doeth justice among the people until the end that hath no end, yet hesitates in this Cause, hath wronged himself and is among the unjust. Await, O people, the days of justice. Verily, they have come in truth! Beware lest ye veil yourselves therefrom, or join the ranks of the heedless.

Say: O people, array your temples with the adornment of justice. Then judge by what God hath decreed in the Tablets and be not among the transgressors. Say: Should anyone take a drink of water at My command, that is better than the worship of all who are on the earth. For God will never accept the deed of anyone save if it is embellished with the ornament of My permission among the worlds. Observe, O people, what We have ordained in the Tablets, for it hath been revealed from the kingdom of God, the Help in Peril, the Mighty, the Powerful. Whoso averteth his gaze upon perceiving the fragrance of the garment of My name, the All-Merciful, will, verily, see in all things the signs of his Lord, the Just, the Wise. O Pen of the Most High, send forth the servant named Rida after Nabil as one of the manifestations of justice in the realm of creation. Verily, his justice lieth in his belief in God, which is not equaled by the justice of the heavens and the earth. O servant, listen to the shrill sound of the Pen of the Most High. Then gather the people on the shore of the Most Great Ocean, which hath appeared by virtue of this ancient and pre- existent Name. Safeguard the servants of the All-Merciful, lest the countenances of insight be bruised by the blows of the allusions of Satan's manifestations. Thus hath thy Lord, the Glorious, the Beneficent, commanded thee. Observe what thou hast been commanded by the Mighty, the Beauteous. Be as a high wall between the Magog of idolatry and the hosts of the All-Merciful, lest the hordes transgress their bounds. Thus was the matter revealed from the kingdom of the decree of thy Lord, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Verily, We have made thee a reminder from Us among our servants, and rendered thee a fortress for Our creatures among the worlds, that thou might preserve them from the darts of allusions and remind them of this Announcement, whereat the temples of the Names have quavered, faces are covered with dust, the earth of grandeur hath been cleft, and the fruits have fallen from every towering, unshakable tree."

Baha'u'llah: The Garden of Justice


Date: Thu Mar 28, 2002 8:09 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] The meaning of 'infallibility'

Vincent,

There is another kind of infallibility, which isn't known in Western thought, but which is the kind of infallibility that Baha'u'llah is claiming. It has nothing to do with propositional or papal infallibility. It is about reality. Baha'u'llah is, to put it bluntly, claiming to *be* reality. He is claiming to be *what is*. This doesn't just include the reality of our external lives, but also the reality inside us, such as our thoughts, dreams, feelings, and so forth, our whole inner self. Baha'u'llah is the stuff of reality in which we play out our existence. In mystical terms, it might be said that God loans his "being" or creates reality for us so that we might exist and know. When a person "recognises" Baha'u'llah, what they are doing is accepting Baha'u'llah's claim that he is what is.

This is where the infallibility idea kicks in - you can't argue with reality. Things happen to us in our lives and we have, often, no power over them. We are put through the playground of existence throughout our lives and experience myriad situations and suffer a kaleidoscope of emotions. Often, when things happen that we don't like, we say that they shouldn't have happened. Let's say our spouse leaves us in unpleasant circumstances. We are bitter about this. Yes, anger and resentment are a part of the grief process, but in the end, if we cling to bitterness, it is only ourselves who suffer. Spiritual growth comes from working through these things and coming to accept them. We learn humility. That is reality working on our characters. That is infallibility.

When you *are* reality, you control what is. This is why Baha'u'llah says that if he declares wrong to be right, such a declaration would be just and right. Whatever is is Baha'u'llah and our spiritual path is always about finding the meaning of that within ourselves. Not being able to come to terms with what reality has dished up is the same as denying Baha'u'llah's infallibility.

Alison


Date: Fri Mar 29, 2002 9:04 am
Subject: Re: meaning of infallibility

Dear Bill

Yes, certainly. Lamenting over things like mass murder is a natural part of the growth process. I think the goal, though, is for us to discover that the world is an illusion. This realisation is the basis of detachment. I was trying to say that our struggle is to learn not to get caught up in a place of, as Baha'u'llah put it, either love or hate, within the context of the worldly drama.

You'll recall Baha'u'llah and the puppet show? When Baha'u'llah was a boy, he watched a puppet show. A mighty gruesome one too, a guy gets his head chopped off, as I recall. After it was all over, the puppeteer put the show away in his bag. Baha'u'llah tells us he was struck by this. He is making a parallel here between the physical world and the puppet show. Lots of awful things - and lots of wonderul things too - happen in the physical world. Much of it is a mystery to us, for we are only actors on a huge stage that we can't encompass. Our job is to become detached from it by discovering that we are in a show that God/Reality puts on for us. When we are attached, we are in a scene in the show and believe it to be real. When we become detached, we know we are acting a part. Baha'u'llah knew he was acting a part. He lamented the state of things, but he also thanked God at every moment for his blessings. The real tragedy was not the injustice going on inside the puppet show, but that humanity couldn't see that Baha'u'llah had come to free humanity from the show entirely!

Alison


Date: Sat Mar 30, 2002 9:54 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: meaning of infallibility

>One issue which many would see as problematic with this paradigm is
>that in a play the actors are creations of the playwright, and their actions are
>ultimately based on his/her script. If this is the case, would it not follow
>that the actors themselves are not accountable for their actions?

That's right. This is the free will issue and it is a mystery.

What I am referring to isn't something that can be captured in words. Described in words, the whole thing comes over as a big contradiction.

Baha'u'llah discusses it in his Mathnavi. He refers to the fact that the Sufis would talk about states like "intoxicated", "sober", "nearness" and "separation", but he argues in the poem that all these states are limited. He adds to the collection even names like "heed" and "heedlessness" (137), which take in the idea of accountability, which you refer to.

In line 273, he begins:

Walk this path with striving feet to free yourself
from either care: the Friend's absence or union...
When you sense for sure the spirit's mystery
that there is nothing anywhere but God
then wash away in spirit's stream the mire
that you may see the Pure One's emanations
that you may see reunion in reunion
that you may see your heart with Beauty shine
Such union never will be contradicted
Such union never ends in separation
If you've an ear for fatherly advice
both are blasphemy: union, absence!

The point is that there is a place of "union" that is beyond all names, all conditions. It doesn't make sense to speak of free will in such a place. Free will is just a name too. Strictly speaking, such a place cannot be called a place of "union" because it is beyond union too, as Baha'u'llah explains. When I was speaking of the puppet show, I was referring to the kingdom of names. Baha'u'llah is saying here, as I understand him, that this kingdom and its attributes are fleeting, blasphemy.

Alison