Talisman messages of October to December 1999
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1999 13:22:58 +1300 (NZDT)
X, I think you have made the right decision. My feeling is that if you pursue this, all you will get is grief and you will become even more disillusioned. My feeling, and this is certainly my personal response to the AO fiasco, is to simply ignore it and get on with life. The administration is irrelevant, it has made itself this way by living in its own world where it lives for its own end.
With the Internet, we can be Baha'is without interacting with the AO. I think the most positive thing to do is to create an alternative world for yourself, with all the people in it that love and support you. To my mind, the beauty of the Internet is that it reflects the spiritual world more than the physical world does. It is possible to create a whole world for yourself that mirrors your soul and the spiritual connections that you have with others, which are not apparent if we look only at our interactions on the physical plane. For example, if I dream about you tonight, I do that because you and I have a spiritual connection and that is our reality. We have never met physically, but this fact does not accurately reflect what we are to each other. I think of cyberspace as being very much like the next world, only in the case of cyberspace, we use computers and telecommunications for our 'mouths' and 'ears'.
The important and most real thing about people is whether their hearts are connecting. If our hearts are not connected, then the only thing that maintains a relationship is physical interactions - if you take those away, it becomes apparent that there is nothing real between people. This is the case with the administration. When I took away my physical interaction with it, I realised that I had little real connection with it at all. Those who are truly connected are connected in heart, and no amount of physical distance causes any real distance between them. You feel the connection inside all the time. It never goes away.
It was Baha'u'llah who said the material world is the world of illusion. It is fundamental Baha'i theology. "The world is but a show, vain and empty, a mere nothing, bearing the semblance of reality. Set not your affections upon it." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 328)
Well, it is not completely unreal, as `Abdu'l-Baha points out, but compared to God, say, it is illusion. The spiritual world, or the world of Oneness, is the world that is Real. Baha'u'llah asks us to "detach" ourselves from the material world so that we can live in the other world.
"Likewise, these souls, through the potency of the Divine Elixir, traverse, in the twinkling of an eye, the world of dust and advance into the realm of holiness; and with one step cover the earth of limitations and reach the domain of the Placeless." (Baha'u'llah: The Kitab-i-Iqan, Page: 157)
As for the notion that "they" are "us", although this is true spiritually, how does this affect our response to it? Should we not respond with honesty? To put it bluntly, what should one do in an abusive situation, which I believe this is? You stand up with courage and say, "this is not OK", and if you are not listened to, you say, "I'm out of here. I am demonstrating my love for you and myself by placing myself where you can no longer hurt me. 'Cos, hey, you need help, and you need to wise up to the fact that you need it. Whether you do or not, is in the hands of Baha'u'llah." Yes, the administration is us in the sense that we are our parents, for example, but that doesn't mean that I will accept responsibility for the abusive behaviour that my parents are exhibiting and be silent about it. I take responsibility by standing up to it and refusing to allow myself to be browbeaten.
I think the whole situation would be helped of the Baha'is stopped thinking that the Baha'i Faith *is* the administration. When the Baha'is get together and form real connections that are not based on the adminstrative structure or worldview, then the problem will be solved by our simply flowing around it. There is no point in fighting or trying to change that huge beauracracy, but we can bypass it and get on with drawing nearer to God despite it. Baha'u'llah will see to the administration, if we get out of the way and trust Him.
X, The Bab says in his "Journey towards God":
"Know ye that the paths to God are as numerous as the breaths of the creatures, and that there is no soul but one, and that there is no religion but the one religion, and it is the Cause of God."
So, what are we left with? We are left with one soul, one religion and one Cause, but it is as varied as the breaths of the creatures. Every moment, with every breath, we experience a sacred moment where we are creating with God our own personal experience of the one religion. Baha'u'llah says "Read the book of thyself"; the heart is the place where we do the creating. Baha'u'llah tells us that the heart is the gateway to heaven. It is the magic place where miracles happen.
I think most Baha'is, who are caught up in what I call "administration consciousness", believe that the one religion is accessed through the administration. (This is why miracles seem to have stopped happening.) But I would argue that, compared to the human heart, the administration is nothing. The Baha'is have unfortunately developed a worldview that privileges administration over the heart. X will ask me for evidence. The evidence is in the fact that so much of Baha'i activity is adminstration-centred and not devotion-centred.
I think the task facing disillusioned Baha'is now is to trust the readings they are getting off their hearts, for that is their personal experience of the one religion, and to discover the heart's power. Baha'u'llah tells us in the Hidden Words that the source of real power is not in this world:
"O SON OF MY HANDMAID! Didst thou behold immortal sovereignty, thou wouldst strive to pass from this fleeting world. But to conceal the one from thee and to reveal the other is a mystery which none but the pure in heart can comprehend." (Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, Page: 41)
For this reason, I suggest that the power of the administration is an illusion. Real power is in our hearts. One human heart is more powerful than the whole worldwide Baha'i administation. It's just a question of discovering this power within us. Do we *really* believe in Baha'u'llah, the one who tells us that:
We can reclaim our religion back. We can be this generation's dawnbreakers. Baha'u'llah has not forsaken us and His hand is not chained up. But He needs human hearts to act through; we just have to prove to Him that we do believe in Him and trust Him and love Him as we claim we do. We can do it sitting in our armchairs. Believe me, the physical world does respond to what's happening in our hearts. We can create the future. All it takes is some serious pioneering in our hearts.
At 02:04 24/10/99 -0700, you wrote:
Where does he say this (not that I disagree with it)? But it would help me to know what text you have in mind so that I can tell you what I think it says.
With administration consciousness, the assumption is that a 'unity' of these three is a trumping of the physical over the spiritual. So an outer reading of the law and text (legalism and scriptual literalism) is allowed to control believers' spiritual experience and this prevents them from developing their imaginal worlds. The experience of religion is then located in a place outside of the believers, and not in the place where Baha'u'llah intended it - in their 'selves'. If you locate your religious experience in your 'self' or imaginal world, then the meaning of the unity of law, path and Cause becomes apparent through the development of spiritual insight (irfan). But such a recognition occurs only in a person's heart and only when it is free. And it happens only when that person renounces the 'world'. The Baha'is need to realise that the 'world' *includes* the adminstration.
>Faith. Those of us who are more mystically inclined need to be involved
What we need to do is follow our hearts, whereever that takes us, and not allow ourselves to be told by others what is in our hearts and what our path is.
I was listening to a guy on the radio this morning who used to be a member of a gang, he said that when he was Christian he felt more guilt about his sin than when he was a gang member committing crime constantly! You see, the community has predetermined ideas about how people should express their spirituality and tries to channel it through those narrow paths, and people are left with thinking that religion is all about guilt and fear.
>other's services at the threshold of the Beloved. The only way to improve
Again, people need to find the freedom to follow their hearts, otherwise religion is meaningless to them. This is the way to integrate and grow.
At 10:00 25/10/99 +0800, you wrote:
Dead right! We are a religion of the book, but what is the book we should be reading? The book of ourselves! All the physical books only have meaning when we read them with our own selves, and not accept anyone else's interpretation.
As for the hierarchy of books, Baha'u'llah tells us that the first proof is the Book of the Self of the Manifestation, the second proof is the Revelation, and the third is the physical book.
"Say: The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed as proof of His reality and truth." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 105)
It's important not to let the physical book trump and contradict the first and foremost Book. We read the first and foremost Book by reading the book of ourselves. We can read the physical book two ways: with our physical eyes only or with both our physical and spiritual eyes. If we read it with our physical eyes only, then we will come up with interpretations that contradict the first and foremost Book. We fall into the error of scriptural literalism because we focus on the words on the page and do not get behind the text to the spiritual world hidden there, which brings the meaning. But if we read the physical book with both eyes, then we read the text *and* the spiritual world of the foremost Book behind it. In short, we see the Hidden in the Manifest.
I suggest that you all pray. I know on one level this sounds trite, but it works.
Early in 1998, my sister needed a full time job so I offered to pray for her to get one and she got one about two or three months later. My sister is in her late 30s and is probably best described as agnostic. But on the basis of this success, she asked me to pray for her to find a husband. Geez, I thought, jobs are one thing, but husbands are another! So I said to Baha'u'llah, if he could swing it so that Dianne could find a husband, this would be good. She found him about six months later. I was amazed at the power of Baha'u'llah.
So, my suggestion is to forget the statistics and all the things in the world that, if we focus on them, make us feel hopeless and just chat to Baha'u'llah about it. He is the All-Powerful; He's the one who gives these things the nod. "Ask whatsoever thou wishest of Him alone; seek whatsoever thou seekest from Him alone. With a look He granteth a hundred thousand hopes, with a glance a healeth a hundred thousand incurable ills, with a glimpse he layeth balm on every wound, with a nod he freeth the hearts from the shackles of grief." He can do anything, and I think He's busting to prove it to us too.
In the middle of the night last night I formulated my answer to you. I often write messages in my mind at night and then type them up in the day. So here's what came of it!
Following Baha'u'llah, I made a distinction between two books: 1. The Book of the Self of the Manifestation, which is the first and foremost proof 2. The book, Baha'i scripture, which is the third proof.
I argued that we read the Book of the Manifestation using the book of our own selves. I base this on the tradition: "Read the book of thyself...", which Baha'u'llah often quotes:
"One must, then, read the book of his own self, rather than some treatise on rhetoric. Wherefore He hath said, 'Read thy Book: There needeth none but thyself to make out an account against thee this day.'"(14) (Baha'u'llah: Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, Page: 51)
Given that the Manifestation is no longer physically with us, we cannot access him physically, so we need to use what I call our spiritual faculties. In the Seven Valleys (Wonderment), Baha'u'llah talks about the dream, and points out that in a dream we talk and walk and see, but we don't use our physical bodies to do this. In fact, we are using our spiritual faculties, which mirror our physical abilities. So we can speak of our spiritual eyes, and spiritual ears and spiritual bodies and so forth. Also part of our spiritual reality is our inmost heart, our mind, including memory and so on. The Sufis say that we access this world in ourselves using our imagination. Hence they talk about each of us having an "imaginal world". This world is *not* fantasy; it is more real than the physical world.
Yesterday I read a Hidden Word in which Baha'u'llah refers to the idea of 'combing his raven locks' (Persian, no 79). Now, how exactly do we comb Baha'u'llah's hair and in what world does it make sense for us to do this? In our imaginal worlds, we might imagine how we would feel if we were combing Baha'u'llah's hair. How do we feel if have the honour of combing the hair of the one we love more than anything? This is a very sensuous and intimate act. It might make us feel overwhelmed with love, or all hot and sweaty, and it might bring us to feel union with Him. If you allow yourself to go there and be in that place inside of yourself, then you have read the Book of the Manifestation.
Ibn Arabi argues that God yearns to be united with us. There is some very complicated theology associated with this, but suffice to say that God yearns for us and when we read His Book, we yearn back and union results. This means that our most spiritual condition is a state of open hearted yearning and compassion, for when we feel this, we are reflecting the love God has for us. In essence, our goal should be to remain in this state permanently. Once you have spent time in it, it becomes increasingly difficult to leave. The idea is that you get hooked into that state of bliss inside and leave the physical world behind. This is detachment, and renouncing the world.
And as for scripture, this can be faithfully interpretated only when we are in this state of union, that is, reading the Book of the Manifestation.
And I would say that the common essential core is the rejection of the assumption that 'male' is normal and 'female' is abnormal, which leads to privilege.
But, again, this is just my personal take on feminism. As X has stressed, feminism is not one big monolithic thing.
>I love the Universal House of Justice because It was created by
And Baha'u'llah would agree with you: "In this Day, nothing can be of any benefit to anyone until he attaineth My love..." The House of Justice was created by a *verse* of Baha'u'llah, and Baha'u'llah doesn't even glory in the fact that he revealed verses: "Say: By God, the Eternal Truth, glory lieth not in revealing verses and the like. Rather, glory lieth in My Manifestation between the heavens and the earth, among the divers peoples of the world, if ye have eyes to see."
We know the House - in fact, we create the House - by virtue of our knowing the Self of Baha'u'llah. We do not know Baha'u'llah through our knowledge of the House. And in order to know Baha'u'llah, we need to detach ourselves from everything, including the House. Baha'u'llah asks us to detach from everything in the realm of the Cause!
"Nor can anything gain mention save by forgetting itself, and becoming oblivious to all that is in the kingdom of the Cause and the world of creation, how much more so to all that was created between the heavens and the earth." [All quotes from "Surah of the Companions"]
This leads me on to the meaning of the covenant. As X will tell us and will say very eloquently in his book, the heart of the covenant is the *rememberance of God*. Here, let me quote him discussing the Kitab i Ahd:
---- "drink then your fill in My glorious and wondrous remembrance." This passage is one of my personal favorites, probably because it goes to the heart of the matter. It is significant that it follows the definition of what it means to be a Bahá'í. The Covenant centers on the remembrance of God. This remembrance recognizes the reality of the Manifestation as the spiritual center, or dawning-place, of the remembrance of God. The Mashriqu'l-Adhkár (or dawning-place) is at one and the same time a spiritual station and a state of being; it is a person, a way of life, and a complex of buildings intended for worship and service. Any conception of the Covenant that does not speak of the remembrance of God, and include an understanding of the spiritual and social dawning-place of that remembrance, is deficient. ----
The covenant, then, is about remembering God so that we get ever closer to the Self of the Manifestation. The covenant is about irfan, developing mystical insight, inner illumination. *This* is the obedience aspect of the covenant, that we undertake each day of find God inside us. Only way, way, way down the path toward trivialities does the covenant have anything to do with the administration.
Imagine fronting up to Baha'u'llah and saying: "Hey, buddie, I've been faithful to the covenant; I do everything the House of Justice tells me to and believe everything it tells me to." What's Baha'u'llah going to say? AAHHHhhhhhhhh, "Love Me that I may love thee... Only when the lamp of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of passionate devotion, of fervid love, of rapture, and ecstasy, is kindled within the seeker's heart... Am I not your Lord?" This is the covenant. When the tingles are cruising up and down your spine and your body has turned to jelly, that is obedience. Obedience is an emotional yearning for God, not an intellectual assent to current dogma.
To equate the covenant with obedience to the adminstration is reductionist in the extreme. It reduces Baha'i religious experience to a boardroom fantasy.
I am very sorry that Talisman has been a stressful experience for you recently. I am also sorry to see you go. I hope the business of the file did not cause you to leave, for it is forgotten now. For my part, it was never so important as to mean that you should leave our community.
As I see it, everyone is fragile, but no one is willing to admit it, so we lash out at each other from our pain, instead of just being honest that pain is what we feel. I appreciate the courage you have shown on the occasions you have shared your feelings with us.
After your time away, please seriously consider coming back to us. Please remember that there are people on Talisman who are your friends and do not wish that to change.
It makes no sense to say that God is male or female or neuter. How can you say an unknowable essence has a sex or no sex? The thing is, whatever we imagine God to be is a product of ourselves. We each have an image of God, and that is OK, that's the way things are designed to be. We can't contemplate God's essence. So it is up to us to imagine God in a feminine or masculine or neuter form, just as we please. Baha'u'llah chose to contemplate God in a feminine form, hence the Maiden. I contemplate God in a masculine form, who is my 'Maiden'. We all have an image of the divine in ourselves, which is an image of our spiritual selves. It usually takes on the form of the thing we most love. But it has nothing to do with God's essence. In fact, it's a waste of time to meditate on God's essence, for the way is barred and to seek it is impiety, you may recall. The most fruitful enquiry is to examine one's own image and then develop a relationship with it.
At 23:59 26/11/99 +0800, you wrote:
When Baha'u'llah refers to not deviating one iota from the Book, I don't think he was referring to the many and various details of the book that relate to our physical life on this planet. I think his reference is to the Book of him that we access through our hearts. This is the most important Book. Baha'u'llah's *first* counsel is that we possess pure, kindly and radiant hearts. And this ties in with our first duty, which is to *know* him. The first act of obedience is to concern ourselves with the condition of our hearts because in this way we come to know God.
This is confirmed in the quote: "Then know that your love for God is God's good-pleasure with you and your good-pleasure with him. This is the religious path that was ordained by the right hand of God's wisdom, and it shall not change with a change of prophets... Whoever attains this flowing spring shall never forsake an iota of the Book..." Baha'u'llah is saying that *only* when we attain to a state where we feel our love for God inside us, access that trust placed in our hearts, will we then never forsake the Book. This feeling and knowledge come first.
What is this state where we know that our love for God is God's good pleasure with us? I will give an intellectual and a subjective answer. First the intellectual. I read a passage last night that I thought was a fabulous summary of it. It comes from Toshihiko Izutsu: "Creation and the timeless order of things" (published by White Cloud Press, yes, our very own Steve Scholl). Izutsu is discussing the relationship between God and creation, using the theory of the Iranian philosopher Jami al-Asrar:
Suppose we are reading a book. Our attention naturally is drawn toward the written letters. What strikes our eyes are primarily letters. We take notice only of the letters. We do not see the ink with which they are written. We are not even aware of the ink, while in reality we are seeing nothing other than various forms assumed by the ink. A slight shift of viewpoint will immediately make us realise that the letters are but of a "fictitious" nature. What really exists before our eyes is ink, nothing else. The seeming reality of letters is after all due to social convention. They are not realities in the most fundamental sense. Yet, on the other hand, it is equally undeniable that the letters do exist and are real in so far as they are various forms assumed by the ink which is the sole reality in this case.
Everything in this world is comparable to a letter in its double nature that has just been explained. Those who perceive only letters without taking notice of the underlying reality of the ink are those whose eyes are veiled by the letters... (p. 83)
So, creation is a trick of perception. In our ordinary, everyday consciousness, we look at the many things in creation and believe them to be things with independent existence. Like when we look at the letters in the book, we are focussed entirely on them and forget that they are in fact just many different forms of the one ink. In the same way, creation is many forms of the one Reality, and without the hidden reality of the One behind them all, they would not exist.
This principle can be applied to law and the book. If we look at the world from the point of view of ordinary consciousness, we think of law and the book as if they were just a couple of the many zillions of things that exist in the world. But when Baha'u'llah talks about the "Book", what he is referring to is the One Reality behind the many, not the physical book that we have on our shelves or even the various prescriptions that regulate our daily lives.
If we focus our attention on the many and are unable to see the One behind them, then all we will see is multiplicity and we will be confused by its contradictory nature. This is what happens when we think that divine law is equal to the many prescriptions in the physical book. It's not until we interpret the book from the point of view of the One Book, that we can make sense of those contradictions and be confident that we will not forsake the book at all. And this is the reason that our first duty is to *know* God, because until we know God, we cannot read God's book - be it the Kitab-i Aqdas or the book of creation.
How do we go about seeing the One behind the many? This is where the subjective argument comes in. It's all very well to understand this intellectually, but it has an emotional component as well, which we have to navigate and come to understand. There is a place inside our hearts that is a place of complete rest and bliss. There are many ways to access that place, it doesn't matter how we get to it, the important thing is being able to recognise it in our hearts and then being able to label it as the place in us where God resides. Of course, it is our divine or higher Self. It is God's home in us. When we are in that place inside us, we are with God and God is with us. This is why Baha'u'llah says that our love for God is God's good pleasure with us. He is referring to that place inside us.
What does that place feel like? Like I said, there are many ways to access it, but one key to unlocking it is sensuality. Music, sex, love, nature, a person, are all examples of things in the world that can unlock our hearts and open them to that place in us. This is the reason it is important to learn to listen in our hearts for the thing in the world that we are attracted to the most. Whatever it is, it is the thing/person that will take us to that place. We feel ourselves pulled towards it and to resist takes an inner force of opposition. We often fear it and try to block out its call because instinctively we know its power over us. But if we find courage and go into our hearts to that thing we love, we feel ourselves pulled into a space of overwhelming love and beauty. We feel ourselves naturally emptied out and given over to it. It brings us to tears and we might feel ourselves compelled to cry out in our adoration of it. Well, that's the place where God is inside us. "It is a trust of God deposited in the hearts of the sincere."
The moments we are in that place of adoration are the moments we can be said to be truly remembering and praising God. That place is God's good pleasure with us. What we do when we go to that place - which, by the way, Rumi calls the Placeless - is we attain to a subjective experience of God. We can never completely know God as an object that we understand with our intellect. We have to have a subjective, emotional knowledge of God as well. And to do this, we need to empty ourselves of ourselves, and to do this, we need to approach the thing in our hearts that we are attracted to and that we know "does it for us".
This is what is meant by "knowing" God. Baha'u'llah tells us repeatedly that we can only know God by accessing our selves. And this principle is also true of Baha'u'llah. If you go to the Placeless inside yourself and then read Baha'u'llah's writings, you will immediately recognise emotionally that that's the place inside himself where he is coming from. And once you can do that, then you are in a position to understand or interpret the book of creation and the physical books that constitute the written revelation. But once we have come to the Placeless, or the Book, as Baha'u'llah says, we will not deviate from it, because it is paradise. It is the "City of Radiant Acquiescence."
Dear friends I read the House's letter, but couldn't recognise the Baha'i community they described. Does anyone out there know of a community that even remotely resembles this?
> The effects of this systematic approach to human resource
My feeling about institutes is that they are simply vehicles for socialising people into the institutional image of the Faith, which dominates the community nowadays. If you look closely at the language you can see the thinking behind the images, like "human resources", "systematisation", "formal programmes", "effective systems", "well-defined strategy", "mobilize these newly trained human resources", "triumphal conclusion". But what of the mystical relationship between the individual and God? It is something that is fitted into the interstices for a bit of background colour. In 100 years time, people will be hit in the face by the way that language has been used here.
It's at times like this that I delight in the thought that I have wrenched myself free from that image of the Faith. X's remarks of a few days ago ring in my ear: thank God for Talisman, where I can be a Baha'i and be free to develop my own image of the Faith, one that springs directly and freely from my heart unimpeded by institutional influence.
>At 10:17 AM 11/28/99 +1300, you wrote:
X, Is there something about what I said that you find objectionable or that you disagree with? If so, then you'll have to spell it out because I cannot see why those quotes are relevant to what I said.
>X, tongue in cheek, asks: You may, of course, develop your own image of
Or does it have something to do with this supposed tongue-in-cheek comment?
I get the feeling that underneath all that innuendo is hatred, X. You hate me because I disagree with you and you can't let someone have a different view of the Faith than the one you have taken on. This is how I read it.
At 17:05 28/11/99 -0800, you wrote:
X, I agree 100% with X also. I took exception to your innuendo and so-called joke because I didn't hear any heart in them. I don't think Baha'is who like each other make comments like "your image of the Faith is outside that of both Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha", even in jest. It hurts my feelings when you say those things to me. I still remember as though it were yesterday when you made the snide comment about six months ago that I had gone to a restaurant and had Sohrab instead of sorbet. You might think it's a bit of a laugh, but I have never forgotten it.
So I appeal to you, X, if you like me as you say and you believe that the heart is important, then it will matter to you that you hurt me with your remarks and you will not do it again. Talisman is the one place where I have the right to express my beliefs freely, and freely means without having to put up with you calling into question, even in jest, my allegiance to the Faith, just because you disagree with those beliefs.
X I am not 'worked up' about the joke you think is so funny. I was testing you to see just how much you in fact did 'like' me when you say you did and just how much you think heart is important. Now I have the answer. If you liked me and you thought heart important, you would have come to a subjective experience of me within yourself, and on the basis of that feeling, apologised and determined to try not to make such jokes in future. But instead your ego has gotton in there and you have justified yourself, even in the face of a clear violation of list rules. That's OK. I don't particularly care. Now I know you better, that's all. I leave you to God.
At 11:37 27/11/99 +0800, you wrote:
I wanted to share with you this quote from Abdu'l-Baha. When I read it, I wept uncontrollably for quite some time. Here is Abdu'l-Baha going to the 'book' of his self and reading the script on the pages. You can tell from what he says that that place is a place of pure love, vulnerability, yearning (as you say), emptiness of self in the sense of being entirely given over to the 'other' in an internal act of 'reaching out', courage to express deeply felt experiences of one's need for union with the 'other'.
"188. O ye the cherished loved ones of Abdu'l-Baha! It is a long time now since my inward ear hath heard any sweet melodies out of certain regions, or my heart been gladdened; and this despite the fact that ye are ever present in my thoughts and standing clearly visible before my sight. Filled to overflowing is the goblet of my heart with the wine of the love I bear you, and my yearning to set eyes upon you streameth like the spirit through my arteries and veins. From this it is clear how great is my affliction." (`Abdu'l-Baha: Selections ... `Abdu'l-Baha, Page: 216)
I think this is the love we are asked to strive to find within ourselves. If we are in this place, then we 'know' God, for this is God's experience. Abdu'l-Baha is reflecting God in the mirror of his heart and this is what he is reading out loud to us. God is pure vulnerability. We are asked to come to a subjective experience of God in our hearts and that means becoming pure and complete humility (humanity). It's a test of faith. When you are truly linked up with the All-Powerful and you know for sure that you are, then your insecurities dissolve and you have no need to display your power, no matter what the provocation. My experience of God - and we can see it clearly in the life of Baha'u'llah - is of a mystical combination of power and vulnerability all packaged into one.
>Alison- Something that I had to come to terms with is this: central to being a Baha'i is acceptance of the a priori reasoning as put forth by X. In fact, within a Baha'i understanding he is quite correct. Unlike X, I reached the conclusion that the entire reasoning had more holes than a sieve. Put bluntly: are you a Baha'i, or are you holding on to membership in an organization that has no intent on living up to the ideals that may have drawn you to join in the first place? ...
I do not believe that central to being a Baha'i is accepting the a priori reasoning put forth by X. This is why I am still a member of the Baha'i community and still a Baha'i. As I have mentioned here before, each of us has an image of God in ourselves. That image has nothing to do with God-in-herself, it is a product of the person who holds it. So, you have an image of God, and I have an image of God and X has an image of God. Baha'u'llah would have us hold to the image that springs directly from our hearts; that is, we access the image by going into ourselves through prayer and meditation and learning about the image that we are thereby inspired with as a result of that process. "He who knows himself knows his Lord".
Unfortunately, this process gets messed up over time. Rather than allowing each believer to access their own image through the divine process I have outlined, the community of believers gradually develops and agrees on an image of God external to themselves and tries to impose this on others. It eventually will say that a person is not a believer unless their image is exactly the same as that of the group. This is what Ibn 'Arabi called "God created in the faiths". Each religion has it to the extent that it has dogma and this is imposed on members either through coercion or socialisation.
Given this, I agree that X's image and reasoning is that of the Baha'i community, but it is the "God created in the Baha'i faith" community. It bears no resemblence to God-in-herself, nor does it exhaust all possible images of Baha'. I do not have to subscribe to it in order to be Baha'i. And given that one of Baha'u'llah's main purposes was to free people from the "God created within faiths", I also do not accept that I must subscribe to the communal image in order to be a member of the community.
>The sad fact is X feels that the defense of his high social status in the
I agree with you that the healing and transformation of the world requires spirituality to be brought into the public sphere, but if you feel you are in a position to slam X for not exhibiting this behaviour, then you must show it forth yourself. All I hear from you is shouting and anger. Where is your detachment?
You are doing exactly what you accuse X of. You have relied entirely on an intellectual, social, psychological and political analysis of the situation at issue; you have given us an intellectual and professionally accepted definition of spam, you have given us your psychological, social and political analysis of X. What I can't see is how your conclusion about the importance of spirituality has informed your actions.
Even if you are right about the definition of spam and even if you are right in your analysis of who X is, you are still loud and abusive in public. This renders your being right worthless. Where is your public spirituality, the very thing you say is transformative? The sad fact is that you have not transformed this situation at all. All you have done is given us a display of your ego. Isn't that the exact same behaviour you hate so much in X?
Thank you for your considered response. I am grateful to you for putting out there some very important issues and I am glad for the opportunity to express my opinion on them.
I don't want to dwell on things that seperate us, but as for the thing about right being worthless, all I was trying to say was that the way in which you delivered your truth was by shouting it, and it was clear from messages that you were getting that people's ears were closing as a result. That's all.
I also don't want to be drawn into a discussion about X's personality or even about his management of the list. You clearly have critiques about his behaviour and take on things, but I want to genuinely suggest that there is a way to transcend all that and leave it behind. I have issues with the behaviour and positions taken by the House, and I believe that through mysticism I have found a way to transcend that. I think the principle works in both situations.
From what I can determine, you see the conservative/radical situation from a political point of view. You see it in terms of a power struggle, in terms of people jockeying for position, you see egos flying, you see blindness and entrenched positions. I see that too. But my reaction to that is different to yours. I don't think it matters, in the sense that I don't believe that what we see there is where the real power is. Baha'u'llah tells us that the end is in the beginning, that we should strive to a mystical insight that collapses the notions of 'first' and 'last'. From this mystical point of view, from the point of view of the One, the whole story is already written. The book of creation is already written. If we hold a book in our hands and see its covers and know the substance of the story is held between the covers, we know it is all already mapped out. The One that wrote the book is the powerful One, not the actors in the story. They are in reality illusory, and as such, powerless. So you see, from my point of view, whether it be X or the House, they are just actors in the unfolding drama of the Cause and in themselves, they do not have any power.
So my response to the conservative/radical situation is not to get involved in the day-to-day detail of the story. I don't mean that I will not participate where I believe it is effective to do so, what I mean is that my decision to act is based on my perception of the situation from the point of view of the One, not from the point of view of one acting in the play. From the point of view of an actor, the other actors have power and you get yourself entangled in their little dramas. This is attachment. This is what I see you doing. But if you struggle to maintain the perspective of the One, the detailed actions of the actors become just letters that put together the words of the Divine Book of the Cause. Don't get me wrong, Baha'u'llah is clear that the struggle between good and evil in the material world is real and that it is important to act for the good in that struggle while in this life. I am not advocating quietism. But I am saying that the decision to take an action in the play should be based on the perspective of the One, not based on the condition of being caught up in the petty detail. In this way, one acts with detachment and one's actions have an effect. Otherwise they do not. So the struggle to detach from the world and to see from the perspective of the One is crucial to having a positive effect on the struggle in the material world.
From the perspective of those who do not see the story from the point of view of the One, they are not detached from the petty detail of the story. They will inevitably see everyone acting for political, social, psychological and emotional reasons. This is the condition of their eyes. All they will see is everyone caught up in the struggle. And this is how you are seeing me. It is true that I am a liberal - mystics are usually on the radical side of things, politically speaking - but this doesn't necessarily mean that I am determined by this radical group think that you talk about. In fact, only to the extent that we are able to read the story of the Cause from the perspective of the One, can we determine just exactly where a person is coming from. For example, from the point of view of the fanatics in Baha'u'llah's time, Baha'u'llah would have appeared like just another annoying radical, whereas in fact, he was a completely detached being who was simply acting out his part in the Divine Drama. He was constantly accused of having political motives, but this was because his accusers wore 'political eyes' and lacked the discernment to differentiate between an action duly considered and calculated from the perspective of detachment and an action motived by self.
And so X, while I believe that it is important to be fully informed about the political aspects of the radical/conservative phenomenon, I think it is equally important to transcend the issue itself and become detached from its petty detail so that our actions have power and are appropriate. I also suggest that it is only by doing this that real spirituality will inform the public sphere.
As such, I believe that the most profitable action to take in the world is to help people to gain the perspective of the One within themselves. This can be done in many ways, but for me it means teaching mysticism and gaining in mystical insight myself so that my interventions might be increasingly effective.
I didn't mean that you were not with God. I was pointing out that it is impossible to be "with" an unknowable essence! But, this is not a cause for despair. The fact that it is impossible to be with the Unknowable Essence has interesting consequences. One of those is that everyone's image of God is erroneous; each one of us has an image, but it is wrong in the sense that it bears no relationship to what God really is. So, for starters, we are all wrong when it comes to God and no one will ever get it right. This is a very humbling and leveling thing. In fact, Baha'u'llah tells us that our image of God is *always* a product of ourselves. So when you say you are with God, of course you are, but what you are with is your image of Her/Him, not the Real Thing in Essence. And this is true of all of us all the time.
The fact that it is impossible to be with God, for me, means that no one has the right to impose their image of God on me, for all images are created by the perceiver. Moreover, you can have as scrumptious a God as you can dare to imagine. In fact, the scrumier the better, because the more delicious He/She gets, the closer you are to the Real Thing.
>In fact when we graduate into absolute nothingness
To me, that's when we our image of God is so scrumy, we pass out on the thought of Him/Her. We are so caught up in imagining that God is 'out there' directing our affairs and bearing down on us, that we miss that unimaginably beautiful being inside that's desperate to tell us we're adorable. :-)
>I love the warm fuzzy imagery of our
X, Yes, you are adorable to me! When I hear you say things like "Unknowable God Juice", it fills my heart with delight.
Guess what? Yesterday, when I was reading the writings, I came across Baha'u'llah referring to a "luminous star-shower". It would seem that a luminous star-shower is the thing we should use to fend off Satan; that is, any one that prevents us from "entering the holy and concealed sanctuary". I can see you throwing stones at all those idle fancies that stop the Baha'is from entering the sanctuary of Baha'u'llah in their hearts. :-)
"When this Sacrifice wished to enter the abode of nearness to God, the realm of His Lord, the Exalted, the Most High, behold, Satan manifested himself in the form of a man and desired to prevent Him from entering the holy and concealed sanctuary. When We recognized him, We cast stones at him with Our own power and might. Thus did it come to pass, if ye be of them that know. It behooveth thee to emulate Him and do as He did. If thou perceivest that anyone desireth to deter thee from loving this Youth, know that he is Satan who hath taken the form of a human being. Then take refuge with God and exorcise him with a luminous star-shower. Beware lest thou payest heed to anything." Baha'u'llah: The Surah of Sacrifice
Thank you for sending along the poem from Ruhiyyih Khanum. I had read it before, but was interested to read it again, in the light of what Bahu has to say and my understanding of it.
Just recently had been thinking about faith and love and was delighted when I discovered this poem last night. I was particularly struck that Bahu said people openly asked for faith but were ashamed of love. This is my experience too. I think this describes Baha'i culture. We will talk openly about our faith in Baha'u'llah but it's not usual for a person to express their love for him. I don't know about your community gatherings, but here it would take an extremely courageous person to speak openly about love as part of their religious experience. It's not socially sanctioned, not that it's banned so much as not done. I have thought this behaviour a Western thing, but here is Bahu saying exactly the same thing about his culture (Pakistan: 17th century). So, I guess it's a spiritual rather than a cultural thing. And that to zoom in on the delicate part of ourselves and find our humanity is the journey of all humans.
I liked the way Ruhiyyih Khanum captured the fact that love transforms our vision. She describes how those with faith see beauty in the seemingly mundane: jewels in stones, trees in sticks and so forth. For me, this captures the difference between a person who just has faith, and one whose faith is based on love. Love transforms vision and enables a person to see the hidden in the manifest. When we look at something with the eye of love, we see its potential. We relate to it from the point of view of both what it is and what we can see it will be. Those who don't see it with the eye of love, see only the manifest and don't believe in its special hidden powers. So faith is blind without love, for love provides vision and guides the way. In the valley of bewilderment, all we have is the fact that we love. If that goes, we are left with a meaningless faith.
I think the Baha'i community has lost its way and is now running on blind faith; I can see this from the fact that there is no love expressed at gatherings. The Baha'is desperately seek guidance, but look for it outside themselves in the form of House letters. They see the outer form of the faith - the administration - and mistake it for the Faith. And I think that the latest message from the House (which was shared on Talisman) is evidence for this too. The language is business-based; what few references there are to love come across to me as decoration. As X C so eloquently said in his latest message, when he get got away from the community, he found his love for Baha'u'llah! Same's true for me. I know the Baha'is genuinely believe they love the Faith when they are caught up in their community activities, but the concentration on administration and growth, and silence on devotional life and the mystic relationship between God and the believer, makes the current manifestation of Baha'i life sterile to me. I think the House would do well to listen to this.
[If you're wondering how a Friday quote ended up on Talisman on Wednesday, it's because Alison really believed yesterday was Friday. :-) She even took Bahu out for dinner last night, thinking it was a Friday night! Of course, it was Thursday, and today is Friday, which she found out when Steve told her today wasn't Saturday!]
Wow, what a challenge! Explain love! I've been thinking about it all day, wondering how I might approach it and then it occured to me while pulling weeds around my roses that I would say that love is a sanctuary and hang it on this quote:
"Say: O concourse of monks! Seclude not yourselves in your churches and cloisters. Come ye out of them by My leave, and busy, then, yourselves with what will profit you and others. Thus commandeth you He Who is the Lord of the Day of Reckoning. Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, truly, is the seclusion that befitteth you, could ye but know it.He that secludeth himself in his house is indeed as one dead." (Baha'u'llah: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Page: 49)
Baha'u'llah is telling the monks that if they want to get away from the world and get close to God, they won't achieve this by means of a physical seclusion. Rather they need to attend to the condition of their hearts. They need to live in love within their own beings, they need to seclude themselves within their attachment to God within themselves. Secluding yourself in your house is silly, we must live in the house of the love of God within ourselves. Our being is the house in which we should lock ourselves up and in that house we build a refuge on the love of God.
The idea that the love of God is a stronghold in which we seclude ourselves indicates that it is our place of protection. This is a trick of perception and it takes lots of practice but if we look to Baha'u'llah's example, he was the whole of his life surrounded by enemies and his life was always in danger. How did he survive, stay calm and write things that indicate that he felt totally protected? Because he was secluding himself in the love of God. He and His Beloved were together in his heart and he never left that beautiful place inside himself.
We need to find that place of love inside ourselves and then learn to live there. We have instructions from Baha'u'llah on how to get there. He says that his first counsel is to possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart. And then tells us that in doing so we gain an ancient, imperishable and everlasting sovereignty. You see, that place is powerful beyond our imaginations; certainly it is more powerful than anything in the physical world. Which is why Baha'u'llah was not phased by what was going on around him. Sure, he had plenty to say about it, but deep down there in his heart, he kept safe inside his sanctuary.
There are plenty of references to the idea that love is a sanctuary in the Hidden Words. "My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish." (Arabic: no 9) "Thou art My stronghold; enter therein that thou mayest abide in safety. My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find Me near unto thee." (Arabic: no 10)
An important thing to remember is that love is One. The Sufis and the Baha'is talk about the four loves: God - God; God - creation; creation - creation; and creation - God. Abdu'l-Baha tells us in his Commentary on the Hidden Treasure that there is another one: the love we feel for ourselves. Yes, if we manifest the attributes of God, then it stands to reason that we will love ourselves for we will see God in us. The important thing about these five loves is that they are One. This can seem confusing. For example, Baha'u'llah tells us in the Hidden Words that we can only have the love for him in our hearts - you know, friend and foe cannot abide within the one heart. We think this means we cannot love people, we must love God. But no. The various objects of love in our lives are like the many manifestations. For example, there are a number of manifestations, but what we are asked to do is to look at them from the point of view of their One Reality. They all come from the One Source; they are all the signs of the One Sun; they are all One in that they all preach and represent the One Cause. Well, same's true of the many objects of love in our lives. Whether it be the various people that we love, with varying intensities and in varying situations, or our love for God or for Baha'u'llah or for the House of Justice, they are all manifestations of the One Love in our hearts. From a subjective point of view, they all take us to that sanctuary of the love of God in our hearts.
So what does Baha'u'llah mean when he says to cast out the foe? I think he means the foe to be anything or anyone that attracts us away from that Sanctuary. He wants us to abide in His Sanctuary, he asks us not to stray. But we get ourselves into tangles with the world and we forget that beautiful place inside us - that place of rest and comfort, where everything is perfect and wonderful and we feel invincible and like anything is possible. You see, Baha'u'llah assures us that nothing can befall us except what we he allows. We on the other hand, don't trust him or want to possess something he hasn't ordained for us or have something happen that he hasn't ordained. We try to manage reality so that our desires our realised. This is complex. I won't get into the difference between love and selfish desire. (I haven't thought it through enough yet.) Subjectively, the two can feel the same. The important thing is to acquire the pure, kindly and radiant qualities. It could be said that the wayfarer's journey is about turning selfish desire into love. A person may selfishly desire something, but for that person at that time, it's the best 'love' he or she can manifest. Over time, that emotion can grow into a more mature expression of love.
Anyway, another very important thing is the relationship between love and the covenant. You see, I would argue that the Sanctuary is the Covenant. So when Baha'u'llah talks about faithfulness to the Covenant, he means our faithfulness to that beautiful place inside our hearts where the love of God should reign. The Covenant is that thing that God placed in us in pre-existence when we accepted God as our Lord. "Say: O people, be faithful to the covenant of God, and break not the pact to which you swore in the world of preexistence, in the presence of God, the Mighty, the Glorious, the All-Knowing." (Baha'u'llah: The Garden of Justice) We know from the Hidden Word, that the pact we agreed to then included three things:
"O MY FRIENDS! Have ye forgotten that true and radiant morn, when in those hallowed and blessed surroundings ye were all gathered in My presence beneath the shade of the tree of life, which is planted in the all-glorious paradise? Awe-struck ye listened as I gave utterance to these three most holy words: O friends! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings. Would ye but sanctify your souls, ye would at this present hour recall that place and those surroundings, and the truth of My utterance should be made evident unto all of you." (Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, Page: 19)
1. Prefer not your will to Mine. 2. Never desire what God did not desire for us. 3. Never approach God with a lifeless heart.
If we go back and examine the things that would draw us away from the Sanctuary - you'll recall I said that we move out of our Sanctuary because we don't trust that Baha'u'llah will provide for us. We start to freik out in our hearts, we experience fear or whatever, or we try to possess what he hasn't ordained or to have happen what he hasn't ordained. Or maybe, we simply go to sleep! and close ourselves off to love because we want a quiet life. You see, the very same things take us out of our Sanctuary as are listed as articles of the Covenant.
And finally, one more important thing. Detachment. We think the subjective experience of detachment is emotional cut-off. You know, we can get into a state in our heads where our intellect reigns over our heart and we don't feel anything. This might be the general state for intellectual pursuits. A person in this state is not necessarily detached. Detachment is not defined by this state. Detachment is detachment from the world, and the world, Baha'u'lah tells us, is anything that gets between us and God. In other words, the world is the foe, it is anyone or anything that takes us out of our Sanctuary. A detached person is a person who lives in the Sanctuary, they are faithful to the Covenant. Now, such a person may be operating in what I call "intellectual mode", but this in itself does not define his or her detachment. Such a person is detached because nothing in the world can drag that person from the Sanctuary. This has consequences for consultation. We tend to consult in "intellectual mode", but Baha'u'llah tells us that the heaven of divine wisdom is adorned by both consultation *and compassion*. There is an emotional component: our hearts must be in their Sanctuaries.
I think that's all I wanted to say. :-)
X, if my messages break your heart, then you should attend to your heart. For there is nothing wrong with mine. I don't lament the problems in the Baha'i community because I feel a lack inside myself. Quite the contrary. I lament the problems in the Baha'i community for the sake of the community. I speak of them in the hope that one day it might examine itself for its own good. As for me, I am more fulfilled now than I ever have been. If you think I need love, then you'll be surprised to see my Baha'i millennium poem when it goes up on the net in January. It's all about love and how I'm bursting with it. *I* don't need to be fixed just because I can see that the Baha'i community has major problems to deal with.
And as for my response to the problems I see in the community, I believe that the way I am living my life now is an example of a solution, if the Baha'is would care to take a look sometime. Let them come on Talisman, for example, and see our institute for themselves. They're keen on models, so here's one they can examine. I know that my response can be interpreted as me separating myself from my community, running away, so to speak. But all I have done is separate myself from what took me away from Baha'u'llah. This is firmness in the covenant. You'll recall that Baha'u'llah also took himself away from the community when he thought his presence could not contribute any good. From my point of view, if the things around you are dysfunctional, the best thing you can do is to take the heat for being honest about it. That way, you make a path to a future. This may require a physical separation, but it demonstrates commitment and love.
It's dishonesty that drives us apart; the unwillingness to examine the facts impartially to determine whether something is in fact wrong.
Here's the quote from Abdu'l-Baha that X suggested we study:
"O thou who art happy with the glad tidings of divine bestowal! There are those who believe that the cause of salvation is none other than a confession of Divine Unity. There are those who say: "This is not sufficient. Belief in Divine Unity must be combined with righteous deeds as prescribed by the All-Merciful." There are still others who aver that the above must be combined with a most praiseworthy character blessed by God. And yet again there are those who assert that one must encompass all the grades of spiritual perfection and attain the beauty of an inner conscience before one can be truly saved. But undoubtedly, what is most certain, most sure and incontrovertible, what the People of God cling to most confidently is that the true cause of salvation is none other than steadfastness in the Testament and firmness in the Covenant of the All-Merciful. This faithfulness is the particular characteristic of our belief in the Manifestation of God in this Day. This is the truth enshrined in the safeguarded Mystery of this Cause and verily, in this faithfulness can be found all the other grades and standards of salvation."
What's he saying? Well, it seems to me that the passage is about what defines salvation and the inclination of people to judge others as to whether they are saved by using exclusive definitions of salvation. And the purpose of the passage is to stop the believers judging each other in this way, by making simple faithfulness to Baha' the all-encompassing consideration.
Abdu'l-Baha is confronted with believers telling each other that the other is not saved unless they have a certain characteristic: A says X is what's needed for salvation, but B says this isn't enough, you need Y as well; but C says that's not enough, you need Z and so on. Without realising it, they are making their assessments on the basis of what is important for them as individuals. Projecting myself into the picture, for example, I might say that a person is not saved unless they have encompassed the grades of spiritual perfection. Someone else, let's say Ian, might say a person is not saved unless he does righteous deeds. But both Alison and Ian have chosen those characteristics because they reflect what's in their respective souls. Abdu'l-Baha tells us in his commentary on the Hidden Treasure that people see things differently because they are manifesting different names of God.
Abdu'l-Baha tells us that the true cause of salvation is faithfulness in the Covenant. (I guess in his time, that was a simple idea in that he personally embodied it.) The idea is that if a person is "faithful", it doesn't matter how this is displayed - that is, whether by deeds or perfections, 'correct' theology or whatever - because in faithfulness, all other standards of salvation are found. In other words, if you are of Baha', that is sufficient. Baha'u'llah tells us that "Death proffereth unto every confident believer the cup that is life indeed... It conferreth the gift of everlasting life." (Gleanings, p. 345) So, whatever the particular expression of your soul, if you are a believer, you are saved.
I agree that the Spirit will not be attracted to a community that strays from Baha'u'llah's teachings and does not practice the equality principle or any other for that matter. As I said, this is my criticism of the administration, that it has strayed from the spiritual principles, which define reality. And I agree that we need to "get back to the basic teachings to once again to attract the Spirit". But I disagree that the "main thing that effects the AO is power", by which I assume you mean money. I think this is a contradiction. On the one hand you say that the Spirit is attracted by adhering to principle and then you say that the main thing that effects the AO is money. The AO has plenty of money, it is building a huge arc on Carmel. This is not drawing believers and, on its own, will not.
It is all very well for us to criticise others for not adhering to principle, but if we want to make a difference we must educate ourselves and acquire spiritual perfections so that we can adhere to principle ourselves. There is no other way to change the world than to be an example of what we want others to become. All the money in the world is not going to bring about this result. The current state of the administration is testimony to this.
As I see it, the purpose of Talisman is to provide an environment where anyone interested in developing themselves can do so, so that they can attract the Spirit and make a real difference. That is the reason I am here.
>Was there any outcome from the discussion regarding increasing the posts. As
No, I don't think the list will fade away. And I certainly don't believe that the limit of two messages per day will lead to that happening. In fact the opposite has proved the case. The multiple messages were the reason some people gave for leaving. The list has been around now for five years. For a couple of years prior to 1998, the list was a war zone. But it survived that, and if it can survive that, it can survive anything. I think the future of the list is very promising, especially now that personal attacks have been eliminated. Over time, I believe that Talisman will develop a reputation for being the one safe place where all views can be aired. I also believe that the list already has interesting people on it.
It may be the case that people post opinions that we disagree with or that appear to us to be contrary to the Faith. But the important thing is that those opinions are being aired and that they are being aired in a constructive way. This means that they can be discussed and discussed reasonably. This is what is needed for people to change their views.
I find the whole business a test of patience and acquiesence. I find it difficult to be patient with those I disagree with and who I think are being ridiculous. But we are told that the reward for patience is unlimited. When others are driving us up the wall, it is not just about correcting their views, it is also about how we handle their unreasonableness. I have found through bitter experience that the only way to correct others is by finding patience and love inside me first. The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Usually, we are quick with the consultation and slow with the compassion. I know I have fallen short of this standard many times, but now I'm trying to rectify that.
Hi X I read your TRB message on unity with great interest. It made me think of this quote, which seems to say that unity cannot be built on disunity!
"Such exhortations to union and concord as are inscribed in the Books of the Prophets by the Pen of the Most High bear reference unto specific matters; not a union that would lead to disunity or a concord which would create discord. This is the station where measures are set unto everything, a station where every deserving soul shall be given his due. Well is it with them that appreciate the meaning and grasp the intent of these words, and woe betide the heedless. Unto this all the evidences of nature, in their very essences, bear ample testimony. Every discerning man of wisdom is well acquainted with that which We have mentioned, but not those who have strayed far from the living fountain of fairmindedness and are roving distraught in the wilderness of ignorance and blind fanaticism." (Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Pages: 167-168)
As I read this quote, it reinforces the concept that unity is built on justice: "This is the station where measures are set unto everything." Elsewhere, Baha'u'llah says that: "The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men." (Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p: 67) So, it is clear that unity cannot be brought about at the price of justice. All things must be set in their correct place for unity to manifest itself. Put another way, there is no unity unless we adhere to spiritual principle.
So what did Abdu'l-Baha mean when he asked us to obey decisions that we believed were wrong? I think he was talking pragmatically, which he often did. Take my local community for example. Community members often second guess LSA decisions, and it is usually a situation where someone just needs to make a decision so that the community can get on with being a community! Sometimes people get wound up about unimportant things and can be a right pain. Our assembly is so shell shocked from this kind of behaviour that it is almost apologetic for making a decision these days. The result is a shambles. There is no direction. I'd rather the assembly went ahead and made decisions; I can put up with the few bad ones. At least that way it would grow and we would feel like we were moving in some direction.
I agree about the power of prayer. I have always loved `Abdu'l-Baha's statement that if we want something, we should turn to God for it and to no one else:
22. O thou who art turning thy face towards God! Close thine eyes to all things else, and open them to the realm of the All-Glorious. Ask whatsoever thou wishest of Him alone; seek whatsoever thou seekest from Him alone. With a look He granteth a hundred thousand hopes, with a glance He healeth a hundred thousand incurable ills, with a nod He layeth balm on every wound, with a glimpse He freeth the hearts from the shackles of grief. He doeth as He doeth, and what recourse have we? He carrieth out His Will, He ordaineth what He pleaseth. Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All-Merciful Lord. (`Abdu'l-Baha: Selections ... `Abdu'l-Baha, Page: 51)
I agree with X that a combination of material and spiritual means is required. But how do these work together? I hear `Abdu'l-Baha saying that we turn to God and He provides all, including the money. He doeth whatsoever he willeth, and without His blessing we can kiss goodbye to the material means to do anything.
But this is not an intellectual thing. I didn't come to truly appreciate what this meant until I made the decision in March 1998 to pray in a committed fashion. I was deeply affected by the fact that prayer and the devotional life were undervalued in the Baha'i community and eventually decided that I would act alone to find my "place of worship" inside myself. I began regularly going to a church that was near to my work so that I could say my obligatory prayer and beg Baha'u'llah to grant my wishes. There were things I yearned for, so I got down and began pleading. At the time, I had what I thought were a number of pipe dreams. But after six months, they had all been granted me and I was struggling for things to wish for. My way of seeing God was completely turned around. Now I saw God's power, wealth and bounty. I no longer saw God as one who wants to deprive me. God became the one who stood at the forefront of my dreams shining a light ahead so that I could find the path. My dreams got wilder and wilder and as a result, life got more and more exciting and I realised that there was no limit to that process. That's how big God is! This is my experience of the power of prayer. But it's one of those things you have to experience to believe. Words could never capture how amazing it is.