Talisman messages of March to May 2003Date: Sat Mar 1, 2003 2:00 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] quote 2
>Now, you may say that to make progress along the mystic path, one has to
Yes, I agree. I'm not sure why you have put up the argument about nuns. Has anyone suggested that we should become nuns? Who is suggesting that the rational faculty be set aside?
I personally don't think the issue of whether the UN goes into Iraq is the crucial issue. To my mind, the politicians are bunch of squabbling, hypocritical children and their actions are without importance in the long run. They will do whatever they do. They always have. Innocent people will die whatever happens. Politicians have been at this game for centuries. I think it is a mistake to get caught up in it like this is the only thing that matters.
I agree about taking action. In fact, again, I am not sure where you got the idea that I, or anyone else, was suggesting that we take no action. In my view, the important action to take is to teach the Faith. This is the action I take everyday.
The quote Sen provided from Abdu'l-Baha explains the reason I believe teaching the Faith is the most effective action to take. In the following quote, Abdu'l-Baha says that material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues must be reinforced with "spiritual perfections" and "luminous qualities" otherwise no fruit will result nor will the world find happiness. Without these spiritual perfections and luminous qualities, he says, calamities and violent afflictions are immanent. (Well, he's been proved right there.) He goes on to say that civilisation must be combined with "the Most Great Guidance" so that the material world may become perfect.
This is the reason I believe teaching the Faith is the most effective response and suggest that it is a mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from that important work by the shenanigans of disingenuous politicians. I simply do not accept that their activities, whatever they are, will lead the world to peace.
"However, until material achievements, physical
.... Therefore, this civilization and material progress should be
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha,p. 282)
I've thought up an example that I think illustrates my point. As I have already said, I see direct parallels here with what the liberals have learned about the House of Justice and its role in the Baha'i Revelation.
Prior to the upheaval of the mid-1990s with the AO and the liberals, we all assumed, without realising it, that what the House did was central to the Cause. This was an unspoken assumption. But when the House began doing things that were blatantly against the teachings, we had to question that assumption. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth later, we realised that the House is not central to the Cause. It is one, worldly, aspect of the Cause and what it decides may or may not have a part to play in the march of the Cause. We became much more sophisticated in our understanding of what the "Baha'i Faith" and the Cause were. We realised that you could be a Baha'i without even being tied to the administration! Such a thing was previously unheard of.
But, note, those who still see the House as central to the Revelation argue that those who don't see it that way are anti-House, anti-AO. Those liberals, they argue, cannot be true believers, for they are not firm in the 'covenant' (read: value the AO above all else).
I suggest that the liberals can be said to have "detached" themselves from the administration. You can see that this does not mean they are anti-administration. This does not mean that they do not participate in the administration, necessarily, or do not take an interest in, and discuss, its affairs. They accept that the administration is a necessary thing in the world for managing the affairs of the Baha'i religion. But they no longer 'believe in' the House of Justice. They believe in Baha'u'llah. Detachment, therefore, does not take one out of the world; rather, it revolutionises the meaning we give to things in the world. Detachment puts the meaning of each thing in its proper place.
And I am suggesting that the same process is required vis a vis the UN. We should not 'believe in' the UN, and consider its activities as central to the Cause of Universal Peace. Yes, what it does will have a bearing on the future, but it is only an institution. We need to 'believe in' Baha'u'llah and move forward on that basis. Just as we can imagine the victory of the Cause coming about through our action borne of this belief (and not through our reliance on the House), so too universal peace will come about only by this route (and not through being captive to the activities of the UN).
I am not anti-politics, anti-rational, anti-action, or anti-learning - or even anti-war for that matter. Just as I am not anti-AO or anti-House. I am simply one who insists on believing in Baha'u'llah, and only in Baha'u'llah.
I've tried to give an example of what I mean in my message to Daniela about the way the liberals detached themselves from the nightmare of Baha'i fundamentalism. The liberals found themselves caught up in a nightmare in which there seemed to be nowhere to turn, but they eventually fought their way out by eliminating it from their hearts. It is a spiritual thing, basically a change in the heart, where you go from being totally absorbed by a thing to seeing it outside of yourself.
Baha'u'llah exhorted the kings and rulers to renounce the world. Look at the following passage from the Aqdas, for example. Baha'u'llah is telling the kings to 'forsake their palaces and hasten to gain admittance into God's kingdom':
"By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men. Upon them the eyes of Baha are fastened. To this testifieth the Kingdom of Names, could ye but comprehend it. Whoso followeth his Lord will renounce the world and all that is therein; how much greater, then, must be the detachment of Him Who holdeth so august a station! Forsake your palaces, and haste ye to gain admittance into His Kingdom. This, indeed, will profit you both in this world and in the next. To this testifieth the Lord of the realm on high, did ye but know it." K83
The conservative Baha'i interpretation of this passage is that the realm of politics will be eliminated and only the realm of religion will remain. But, as Sen has strenuously argued and demonstrated, this is not the case. Similarly, when I refer to detaching from the nightmare of the current world situation, I am not saying that we should abandon the political realm altogether. Baha'u'llah did not mean this and neither do I. God is reflected in the political realm; I am simply suggesting how we might best see God reflected there.
I believe what Baha'u'llah means when he tells the kings and rulers to forsake their palaces and enter his kingdom is to purify their hearts of worldly benefits, such as their wealth and power, and have God live in their hearts. That way, they really are in a position to do their jobs well, for they will rule for the sake of God and not for the sake of themselves.
That's where I differ from some on this list. I don't think that those seeking to invade Iraq are pure in heart. I don't think they act for the sake of God. I think they act for themselves. And I therefore do not support what they do, even if their actions appear to be in line with Baha'i principle. I do not consider them to be trustworthy.
But yes, I agree with you that the intentions of some leaders are better than others.
>Another poem this time by Kabir :
I thought the poem from Kabir was fabulous. Send me another of your favourites.
>Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
You can't argue with the point he is making about 'salvation' being a state one finds in this life and not the next. If it is not found before death, then, as he says, rotten flesh will not join you with the esctatic. It is the same idea that Baha'u'llah refers to in the Valley of Wonderment, and which is one of my favourites: "O son, if thou art able not to sleep, then thou art able not to die. And if thou are able not to waken from sleep, then thou shalt be able not to rise after death."
OK, here are a couple more from Sultan Bahu:
"Everyone recites the creed of the tongue, few say the creed of the heart.
"I see my Lover on the outside, and He is also visible in my breast.
Both poems from "Death Before Dying".
You quoted me as saying:
I do not mean to eliminate the rational realm from consideration or call its usefulness into question. I said that the rational realm *alone* cannot provide us with lasting solutions. As you argued, it needs to be informed by spirituality. This was my point too.
When I talk about answers coming only from God, the following passage is the one I have in mind. In 1988, I photocopied the passage and put it my prayer book and read it everyday, along with my prayers. I did this because I found myself relying on others, when the writings tell us to rely on God. After reading this passage over and over, it became more or less automatic, whenever an issue came up, to turn to the Lord for help.
When I see the world in a desperate situation, it is automatic for me to think along the same lines. God can do anything. He can change people's hearts, and it would be nothing to the Lord to, for example, change the heart of a key player in this crisis or bring about some other eventuality so that, all of a sudden, we found the crisis had disappeared.
"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)
>Conscience is my ulitmate guide...I'm really reluctant to give it up,
Please don't give up your conscience. And don't give away your heart either.
But if your looking for something else to go on, here's a thought that helped me lots. A few years ago, I heard an expert on education being interviewed on local TV. He was over from the States for some reason or other. Apparently, he'd done research on genius and had examined the top candidates like Einstein. The conclusion of his research was that intelligence wasn't as much behind genius as certain character traits. I was glued to the screen: O my God, I thought, all you need is spiritual attributes! And those were: passion, single mindedness, perseverance, being able to take set backs.
Baha'u'llah says that if we sincerely search, God will guide us. And he says the steed of the valley of search is patience. I recall Sen saying once (and, Sen, if you want to disown this, you can) that a conclusion is where you stop thinking. So, don't give up in despair.
>I guess I am questioning whether Baha'i authority is carrying Baha'is
I'm not sure what you mean by "Baha'i authority", but what I hear you saying in your message is exactly the same as what Sen was saying the other day about the first and most important spiritual authority in the Baha'i teachings being the *person* of the manifestation. The scripture, Sen put third. Note: religious authority (that is, the Baha'i administration) isn't even mentioned among the three: Person, revelation and then scripture.
The reason the Person of the manifestation comes first is explained in the quote you have provided. The only way to know Baha'u'llah is through your heart. This is primary. Your quote calls it divine authority. Baha'u'llah says over and over again that the only thing he asks of us is our heart; that is, to love him. He also says over and over again that we *must* follow our hearts too. We must see with our own eyes, hear with our own ears and know with our own knowledge. There isn't a difference between what we sincerely experience in our selves and the reflection of God/Baha'u'llah within us. They are the same thing. Understanding and experiencing this is the goal.
"The throne of God is but the lover's heart
I'm more than happy to submit myself to God and Baha'u'llah, but not to the Baha'i administration. That's the principal difference between me and most Baha'is. I think there is a world of difference between the two. God and Baha'u'llah are not the same thing as the Baha'i administration. I know that Baha'u'llah made provision for houses of justice, but he didn't tell me to blindly obey them as if everything they do and say is a direct revelation from God.
I agree with you completely about detaching oneself from worldly things, but the thing Baha'is tend to overlook is that the houses of justice are worldly things. We have to detach from them too, in order to truly obey Baha'u'llah. As you'll no doubt be aware, Baha'u'llah says he desires to be loved alone and above all else. That means to the exclusion of Baha'i institutions. The Baha'is are keen to preach about obedience, but when it comes to detaching from the thing they most cling to, they find excuses for not doing so, all the while pointing the finger at others.
I think the evidence of the community's attachment to worldly religious authority is all around us. It is seen in the community's blind adherence to a literal interpretation of the Will and Testament passage that whatever the House decides is of God. This passage, literally interpreted, has been privileged over all other Baha'i scripture. This has had catastrophic consequences for the community and the fortunes of the Cause. It is a repeat of what happened in Islam with the passage about Muhammad being the seal of the prophets. We can easily see there that Muslims have taken a literal interpretation of a passage, privileged it above all other verses in the Qur'an, and then made it an article of Faith. That's exactly what the Baha'is have done with the Will and Testament passage. (Although, in the Baha'i case, they haven't even picked the word of God!) This passage is privileged now so much that if you do not assent to it, you are declared a non-believer and tossed out of the community. We need only look at the Muslim community to get an idea of the pickle we are in as Baha'is.
Yes, I agree. I think Baha'u'llah's life is an example of this principle. Look at how much he suffered at the hands of humanity. Here he is - he is God come with the best ever news for humanity. He wants to tell people that they needn't have a care in the world, that the one they love deep in their souls has come in the form of another human being. The search is over... here he is, folks! And what does humanity do? Throw him in prison and treat him like he is the scum of the earth. And the rest of the world gets on with its business, unaware that God languishes in prison on the other side of the world.
Put simply, this broke Baha'u'llah's heart. Any ordinary person would have been consumed with bitterness and anger at this level of cosmic rejection. For me, that provides the context for Baha'u'llah's compassionate spirit. He kept on nurturing a loving heart, despite it all.
And the world keeps on rejecting him. The last scene of the Arabic Holy Mariner plays out each second. I believe that "recognising" Baha'u'llah, as we are asked to do, involves sharing this rejection experience in one's own soul. If you are Baha'u'llah's lover, then it stands to reason that you will share it at the deepest spiritual level. And so, in this way, we are all liable to become sunk in bitterness and anger too. What the administration has done to the Baha'i religion is one facet of it. I find it an on-going and difficult test to keep a warm heart in spite of it all.
>Yes, but one has to wonder about the sagacity of a god who proposes a
But would you say that people are interested in truth? I don't think they are. When I look around me, I see mass illusion. People are largely out for personal advantage, rather than for truth or principle. Maybe I am deluded too, but the point I am making is that people choose to be the way they are. They create their own social reality. If it goes bad, then they can only blame themselves.
What I hear Baha'u'llah asking is for us to value truth over our own interests. This means sacrificing self, because you have to pay a price for truth. It's not that people are shut out from truth and God is to blame for that, it's that people do not chose to pay the price for the bliss of truth.
It is not an unjust system; it is perfectly equitable: you chose, and then you get what you have chosen. You have created it for yourself.
> "The heart is the treasury in which God's mysteries are stored ; seek the
Larry, I love this. I know that when I am in my right mind, I feel rich. And that is when a wave of contentment overcomes me and I feel surrounded by a cloud of warmth. I can't stay in that place, but when I'm not in it, I know that it's because I have let myself believe that something other than the treasury of the heart holds value.
I was thinking this morning how in the last few years of my life I have lost a great deal. Membership in the Baha'i community is only one of the things I've lost. I have lost other things too that I have valued more. And I have wailed and lamented for hours and hours. There was a period in my life when I cried everyday, for months on end. I felt like everything was being taken from me and I wondered where love was. I felt an overwhelming sense of abandonment that went right to my soul. I grieved at a level that I never imagined was possible. But now, all that grief has passed from me. And in the dawn, I have discovered the truth of those words, that the heart is God's treasury and is the point of it all. But it wasn't until I lost all my worldly treasures that the real treasure came into view.
"Those who destroy their own treasures are the ones who find true love.
"Pain does not blossom in a heart that has no love.
>Praise the Creator that He has sent Baha'u'llah to draw the circle of
No, the human heart is the centre for the fulfillment of Baha'u'llah's grand design. Putting religious authority at that centre is the very thing Baha'u'llah condemns. That is the way believers from previous religions set things up and, as you have cogently argued, Baha'u'llah came to move humanity forward from there.
"Know this, O Youth! His House resides in hearts
It's dawn on Naw Ruz here. Because the sun rises in New Zealand first, it is also the global dawn of this festival.
When I think of Naw Ruz and the idea of things being made new, it makes me think of how Baha'u'llah's revelation has made the whole world new. We celebrate a new year today, but we also celebrate a new world recreated by Baha'u'llah's revelation at each moment. In each moment, I can hear creation proclaiming the manifestation of the Lord himself in the person of Baha'u'llah. And the message from the Lord is that he has come to show his lovers the way home.
My hope for this new year is that more people will discover the bliss of knowing Baha'u'llah and wash their cares away in the flood of this remembrance. I dedicate this new year and, indeed, the rest of my life to telling others about Baha'u'llah and joy he has brought to my life. Each moment I remember him, I am speechless with gratitude that the Lord sent Baha'u'llah to tell me that God himself wants to be my lover, and for favouring me with a hearing ear. I want to share this experience with others. With the grace of God, maybe others will find paradise in their hearts as I have done.
Dear, sweet, Baha'u'llah
XIV. "The Divine Springtime is come, O Most Exalted Pen, for the Festival of the All-Merciful is fast approaching. Bestir thyself, and magnify, before the entire creation, the name of God, and celebrate His praise, in such wise that all created things may be regenerated and made new. Speak, and hold not thy peace. The day star of blissfulness shineth above the horizon of Our name, the Blissful, inasmuch as the kingdom of the name of God hath been adorned with the ornament of the name of thy Lord, the Creator of the heavens. Arise before the nations of the earth, and arm thyself with the power of this Most Great Name, and be not of those who tarry." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Pages: 27-28)
Yes, it's fine for you to ask about my expulsion from the Baha'i community. I presume you have seen my web site. If not, the URL is in the signature below. There, you'll find the whole story of my expulsion.
The documentation shows that the House believed that I was disrupting the community. It has succeeded in keeping me away from the NZ Baha'i community by destroying my reputation as well as by removing my membership. The House feared that I would influence local Baha'is. Basically, I was a threat because I argued that the House was not infallible. If that idea caught hold, the House's stranglehold over the community would be thwarted. It would have to become accountable for what it did, rather than do as it pleases as it does now.
>What has happened to the beautiful free faith which so inspired me during my
Unfortunately, this is the betrayal that every Baha'i who opens his or her eyes must deal with. I was speaking to a local Baha'i a few weeks ago and that person was filled with anger at the Baha'i administration. Having given a sizeable chuck of one's life to the Faith just to find that administrators are gaily abusing their powers and treating believers like dirt is a thing that takes years to get over. This is one reason why Baha'is deny the truth, I think. Because facing the truth is too painful a reality to face. It is easier to close your eyes to it and tell yourself that the administrators are good guys really, and that people like Alison Marshall are bad.
For me, the important thing is to provide support for those who are willing to face the truth so that they do not lose their faith. That is the tragedy, that a bunch of administrators who don't matter in the long run should be the cause of the loss of someone's faith, which matters more than anything. People now have the option of being "unenrolled Baha'is", which is what I am, as are many others here. People can be believers without being members of the community. We have to pioneer a way to do this, because the administration has made it so difficult for those with a sensitive heart and active conscience to exist within the community.
>What horrible, terrible sin has Alison committed that would lead to the
As I said, the House argues that because I don't believe the House is infallible, I do not meet the requirements of membership. The House interprets the last clause of the declaration card about accepting the spirit of the Baha'i administration to necessarily include the belief that the House is infallible. The House also maintains that belief in Baha'u'llah etc is not sufficient for a person to be considered a Baha'i. It doesn't matter that I love Baha'u'llah, pray and read the writings conscientiously twice a day, pass my tests, fast and teach. This is not sufficient for a person to be a Baha'i.
Thanks for your kind message. Yes, I understand that sickening feeling you get from the pretence, hypocrisy, and sense of superiority of religious authorities.
The few weeks ago, I saw a movie called "Molokai". It's a must-see if you have the chance. It's about a priest (Father Damien) who, in the late 19th century, goes to live on a Hawaiian Island called Molokai, where lepers were forced to live. They were dumped there and forgotten. Over his life time, Damien was able to gather some resources and build houses for the 1000 inhabitants and grow food and bring some order and comfort to their lives. Throughout the movie, he dreams of having some nuns come and care for the children, many of whom had no parents there. Eventually, towards the end of his life (he gets leprosy, of course), five nuns come from New York, but are convinced by the Catholic authorities to stay on the Hawaiian mainland to treat the lepers in the posh hospital, where govt and church got accolades for treating lepers. The nuns were told that Father Damien got lots of resources and didn't need yet more nuns! After five years, the nuns finally work out that they are being lied to and insist on travelling on to Molokai.
But in the middle of the battle for the nuns, there was a lot of correspondence between Damien and the church authorities on the mainland. You get the idea, there is Damien with leprosy, having sacrificed absolutely everything to care for these people and having had no support and he's desperate. So he writes in an immoderate manner, begging for help. And the authorities write back saying that he should take stock and consider that maybe he is always thinking of himself!
There is this very moving scene at the end when he dies. It was moving for me, not so much because Damien is the hero and dying, but the joy in his face when he was dying. He was happy because the nuns had arrived, finally, and he had succeeded in building a church, a hospital of sorts and housing. He was happy because he felt rich, that these things had all turned out OK in his lifetime. It seemed to me that he had mined the true meaning of wealth.
I think we just have to do our own thing, as Damien did, and let the hypocritical religious authorities do theirs.
> Leaders of cults have always been more than willing to send their
Larry, there's an interesting quote from Abdu'l-Baha on this issue of indoctrination. He argues that soldiers must "demand" to have the case for war put to them in "clear, intelligible language". And he says that the soldiers must say:
""Demonstrate to us", they must say, "that this is a just war, and we will then enter into the battlefield otherwise we will not take one step. O ye kings and rulers, politicians and warmongers; ye who spend your lives in most exquisite palaces of Italian architecture; ye who sleep in airy, well-ventilated apartments; ye who decorate your reception and dining halls with lovely pictures, sculptures, hangings and frescoes; ye who walk in perfect elysiums, wreathed in orange and myrtle groves, the air redolent with delicious perfumes and vocal with the sweet songs of a thousand birds, the earth like a luxuriant carpet of emerald brass, bright flowers dotting the meadows and trees clothed in verdure; ye who are dressed in costly silk and finely-woven textures; ye who lie down on soft, feathery couches; ye who partake of the most delicious and savoury dishes; ye who enjoy the utmost ease and comfort in your wondrous mansions; ye who attend rare musical concerts whenever you feel a little disconcerted and sad;... Come forth from your hiding-places, enter into the battlefield if you like to attack each other and tear each other to pieces, if you desire to air your so-called contentions. This discord and feud are between you; why do you make us, innocent people, a party to it? If fighting and bloodshed are good things, then lead us into the fray by your presence!"
I thought it was interesting that Abdu'l-Baha has applied the principles of independent investigation of truth and freedom of expression to soldiers. I don't believe the world would be in the situation it is now if it was socially acceptable for soldiers to do as Abdu'l-Baha says they should - require their govts to make the case for war before they will act. Instead, soldiers are expected to do as they are told. After all, as the conservative argument goes, wouldn't it lead to chaos if soldiers didn't do as they were told! Exactly what the Baha'i conservatives argue, but here it is in the political realm. There would be a big change in culture in the West, in relation to peace, if soldiers were allowed their civil right to disagree with what their govt was doing. I conclude from this that Abdu'l-Baha also did not think indoctrination for soldiers was a good thing.
I had to laugh when Bush advised the Iraqi soldiers to turn against their regime. He'd have a fit if the US soldiers did that.
I'm sorry I forgot to reference the quote. I was going to, but then it slipped my mind and I sent the message away.
The passage that I quoted is not the full quote. I'll append the full quote below. I found it in Waging Peace (Kalimat publication), pp65-67. It's from the diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. Questions asked of and answers given by Abdu'l-Baha, May 11-14 1914. Star of the West, vol 5 no 8 (August 1, 1914), pp116-117.
"The ideals of Peace must be nurtured and spread among the inhabitants of the world; they must be instructed in the school of Peace and the evils of war. First: The financiers and bankers must desist from lending money to any government contemplating to wage an unjust war upon an innocent nation. Second: The presidents and managers of the railroads and steamship companies must refrain from transporting war ammunition, infernal engines, guns, cannons and powder from one country to another. Third: The soldiers must petition, through their representatives, the Ministers of War, the politicians, the Congressmen and the generals to put forth in a clear, intelligible language the reasons and the causes which have brought them to the brink of such a national calamity. The soldiers must *demand* this as one of the prerogatives. "Demonstrate to us", they must say, "that this is a just war, and we will then enter into the battlefield otherwise we will not take one step. O ye kings and rulers, politicians and warmongers; ye who spend your lives in most exquisite palaces of Italian architecture; ye who sleep in airy, well-ventilated apartments; ye who decorate your reception and dining halls with lovely pictures, sculptures, hangings and frescoes; ye who walk in perfect elysiums, wreathed in orange and myrtle groves, the air redolent with delicious perfumes and vocal with the sweet songs of a thousand birds, the earth like a luxuriant carpet of emerald brass, bright flowers dotting the meadows and trees clothed in verdure; ye who are dressed in costly silk and finely-woven textures; ye who lie down on soft, feathery couches; ye who partake of the most delicious and savoury dishes; ye who enjoy the utmost ease and comfort in your wondrous mansions; ye who attend rare musical concerts whenever you feel a little disconcerted and sad; ye who adorn your large halls with green festoons and cut flowers, fresh garlands and verdant wreaths, illumining them with thousands of electric lights, while the exquisite fragrance of the flowers, the soft, ravishing music, the fairy-like illumination, lends enchantment; ye who are in such an environment: Come forth from your hiding-places, enter into the battlefield if you like to attack each other and tear each other to pieces, if you desire to air your so-called contentions. This discord and feud are between you; why do you make us, innocent people, a party to it? If fighting and bloodshed are good things, then lead us into the fray by your presence!” In short, every means that produces war must be checked and the causes that prevent the occurrence of war be advanced; - so that physical conflict may become an impossibility. On the other hand, every country must be properly delimited, its exact frontiers marked, its national integrity secured, its permanent independence protected, and its vital interests honored by the family of nations. These services ought to be rendered by an impartial, international Commission. In this manner all causes of friction and differences will be removed. And in case there should arise some disputes between them, they could arbitrate before the Parliament of Man, the representatives of which should be chosen from among the wisest and most judicious men of all the nations of the world."
March 29, 2000, was the day I received notification that I had been summarily disenrolled from the Baha'i community. This is the third anniversary of that day and I am now in a position to show the world Baha'i community what happened and why. A couple of weeks ago, the NSA was successful in having my case for judicial review struck out. This means that the court hearing I was originally after will not take place. It also means that the evidence is no longer sub judice and it is possible for me to tell the story from my point of view.
I have put the judgement up on my web site. You'll see that it is full of legal jargon and argument, so I'll try to explain the guts of it here. In essence, I was trying to get the court to "review" the decision of the NSA, to determine whether it was legal under New Zealand law. Before the court can do that, it has to determine whether the decision is one the court can review. The court decided that it could not review the decision to disenrol me because it was made by the UHJ not the NSA - and, of course, the UHJ isn't a party to the case, given that it is located in Israel. The judge's interpretation of the NSA/UHJ constitutions was that the NSA must do as it's told by the UHJ. The flip side of this, however, is that if a decision is made by the NSA, it would be reviewable by the court.
The NSA tried to argue that all its decisions are spiritual in nature and therefore not reviewable. The judge did not accept this. He held that if an NSA decision affects a person's rights, eg to do with money, property or even voting (such as in my case), then the decision is reviewable. But he did accept that decisions about purely ecclesiastical matters would not be reviewable. The judge also rejected NSA's argument that, because membership in the community is voluntary, NSA decisions would not be reviewable. In other words, although Baha'i community membership is voluntary, NSA still has a recognised legal duty to act in accordance with members' rights.
The judge also rejected my request for it to review the NSA decision because it thought I should have asked the NSA/UHJ to reconsider the decision first, before bringing the matter before the court. The judge argued that the constitution gave me the right to have the decision reviewed/appealed. The trouble with that argument is that the constitution only gives right of review/appeal from decisions of the NSA, not the UHJ. Review/appeal is from NSA to UHJ. Under the constitution, there is no remedy if the UHJ makes the original decision.
As the judge notes, he gave me the opportunity to have the NSA/UHJ reconsider the decision, but I did not take him up on that. I was never interested in being reinstated or having the decision reversed. What I wanted was to prove that I was never counselled and that the NSA had grossly misled the New Zealand Baha'i community in asserting that I had. If the court had seen fit to review the NSA decision, then it would have looked closely at the issue of whether I was counselled. This is what I was hoping to achieve. In the event, however, the judge did not think that proving I was treated unjustly was a good reason to be seeking a remedy from the court. At this point, I think the judge lost a grip on what courts are for.
But it's OK. Getting the courts to look at the issue of whether I was counselled was always the icing on the cake. I can show what happened anyway, and that is the next step. I have written a "Chronology of events" and put it up on my web site. It begins in late 1996, because the disenrollment was the culmination of a lot of little, separate events that took place over several years. The chronology is 20 pages long. This isn't because I have included a lot of detail, but because I have provided documentary evidence of what happened. Most of the evidence comes from personal correspondence between me and Steve (as individuals, not as a couple) on the one hand, and various administrative bodies on the other. Evidence also comes from NSA minutes and NSA correspondence with the UHJ. At relevant points, I have noted where NSA relies on an event as constituting part of my 'counselling'. It is easy, therefore, to get a clear idea of what exactly my 'counselling' amounted to.
The chronology reveals that the NSA minutes began including 'Alison and Steve reports' as far back as December 1998. We never knew that NSA was keeping an eye on us and recording our activities. In September 1999, the NSA became seriously concerned about us after a meeting was held in our local community about the April 7 letter. At that meeting, several local Baha'is expressed concern about the letter. This meeting caused the NSA a great deal of consternation. After this, the NSA met to discuss the 'Alison and Steve problem' and sent a report to the UHJ about us. This included four pages detailing things we'd done and said since 1996. The NSA was particularly concerned about Steve, who was much more outspoken locally than I was. The minutes give an indication of how the NSA viewed us and our activities. The UHJ responded to the report by asking NSA to do two things: hold another community meeting and have an NSA member meet with us. As it turned out, the community meeting was held, but NSA had not even arranged to meet with us before the UHJ instructed the NSA to disenrol me.
In the minutes from the NSA meeting held to discuss how it would inform me of my disenrollment, the following is recorded: "A question was raised about the fact that the National Spiritual Assembly had not yet implemented the instruction of the House of Justice to visit the Marshalls, and that the House of Justice must have received information from other sources." After the disenrollment, the NSA wrote to six local assemblies stating that: "Efforts have been made to clear up her misunderstandings, but these have been unsuccessful, hence the Supreme Body's decision".
When I saw that the NSA had told six local assemblies that I had been counselled, giving the impression that I had at the very least been contacted about the administration's concerns, I asked the NSA to correct this statement. The NSA refused to do this. Even though I took the matter before the Privacy Commissioner, still the NSA steadfastly refused to accept that the statement was factually incorrect or at least highly misleading. Instead, in a letter to me dated 15 August 2000, the NSA argued that the word "efforts": "does not indicate that all such efforts necessarily involved direct approaches to you by representatives of the institutions on the specific matters in question." This letter ends with a list of the "efforts" the NSA claimed it had made. These are noted on the chronology. You will see that some of these 'efforts' were made years before there was ever any thought that I be disenrolled. The NSA has simply reinterpreted all interactions I have ever had with the institutions as constituting 'counselling'.
In its submission to the court, the NSA outlined what it argues is acceptable procedure when disenrolling a member. It seems to believe that there is no contradiction between this approach and Baha'i principle:
"9.3 In terms of decision-making required when Baha'i membership is at issue or when infringements of Baha'i law are of concern to the institutions, decisions are made based on Baha'i principles. The Baha'i administration is non-adversarial in nature and works in subtle ways. There can be no comparison with the terminology used in legal proceedings in the community at large. For example, Baha'i institutions do not lay any 'charge' against an individual believer, and there is no necessity for giving 'direct notice' to the individual. Similarly, the concept of a 'case to be heard' is foreign to the Baha'i administration. It is at the discretion of the Baha'i administrative body to act as it sees fit in full accordance with the Baha'i principles. ...
9.4 Attempts by a National Spiritual Assembly to correct misunderstandings about the Faith by individual believers can be achieved in a variety of ways. The NSA does not employ the practice of formally approaching an individual before making a decision in every instance. There are many occasions when the deficiencies in understanding of individuals are addressed in a general, all-embracing way with the whole community (for instance, the presentation of community classes dealing with particular issues) rather than singling out individuals for specific attention".
I cannot see any adherence to principle in this testimony. The only 'principle' stated here is that the Baha'i administration reserves the right to treat people exactly as it pleases and refuses to allow any checks on its powers. However, I think the evidence shows that the National Spiritual Assembly was initially concerned that I had not been contacted, but later took the position that this did not matter.
I think the documentation illustrates how the Baha'i administration secretly watches, reports on and records the activities and views of members it sees as a threat. This spying can go on for years without the member knowing and despite general assurances to the contrary. When it suits the administration to act, it can summarily disenrol the person at any time and without any notice. In such circumstances, 'counselling' will comprise any communication that member has had with the institutions, whatever its nature, purpose and timing. This action will be accompanied by a backbiting campaign designed to destroy the member's reputation in the community.
I think members of the Baha'i community, and those contemplating joining it, have a right to know how the Baha'i administration behaves.
Yes, I think "Baha'iarchy" has a ring to it and might catch on as part of the language.
Your point about the AO's claim to be non-adversarial is spot on. The NSA seems to have taken the position that "adversarial" means "what Western courts do", not "Of or pertaining to opposition; involving adversaries." The NSA doesn't say in what sense its procedure is non-adversarial. The fact that it was unable to talk to me about this issue indicates that it certainly saw me as an adversary. One so bad, they secretly kept watch to record all the terrible damage I was doing to them. You are right, if you see someone as a friend, you talk to that person about things. That is why consultation is stressed so much by Baha'u'llah. The community meeting about the April 7 letter was an attempt to do exactly that. But that meeting was the very thing that was resented so much by NSA.
As an aside, the NSA's assumption that, because it is not "western" in its approach, it is therefore non-adversarial is a good example of what Baha'u'llah means by being attached to names. Something he accuses people of regularly. The NSA thinks it is free from the 'stain' of being adversarial purely because it thinks it is non-western. It has put no thought into the actual meaning of the word 'adversarial' and examined whether it is in fact being that way.
And yes, I agree that their action in disenrolling me was a betrayal of the principle of the oneness of humanity. I have coined a new phrase for it, I think of it as a crime against spirituality.
The UHJ must have thought that I'd just disappear into nothing. Its e-mail instructing NSA to disenrol me ends with the hope this was the end to a sorry affair. Instead, the members responsible for this shameful act have a lifetime's memory of their crime in the form of an Alison Marshall who maintains her faith and Baha'i life, and who actively teaches the faith and tells the truth about what they do. One day, a future House of Justice will rescind this decision and posthumously (or earlier) reinstate my membership. It won't do this because membership in itself is important, it will do this because it wants to heal that institution of the shame brought on it in 2000.
"O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH! Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive any man's injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and sealed it with My seal of glory." -- Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, no 64
At 16:15 31/03/03 +0000, you wrote:
I think you misunderstand the facts. I had no dispute with my local community. The local assembly said it had no dispute with me. We were all getting on fine.
The "problem" was entirely in the minds of administrators. The New Zealand National Assembly and the House of Justice had 'problems' with things Steve and I were saying. They were the ones with the 'problem'. And they still have that 'problem'.
But like Larry, I don't have any interest in attending local events, even if I could attend the administration ones. The last I knew, those events had little to do with Baha'u'llah, who is the point of it all.
But I attend local events that I organise. With local believers, I attend a weekly devotional meeting. I've been doing that for over two years now. And I could never describe how much it has changed my life and that of the others who come. It has had a revolutionary effect. All those who question the power of the holy Word should attend a Mashriq regularly for a year and see what happens. In my view, all we need to change this world is sincere hearts and a devotional life. In this, we display a faithful, sustained commitment to Baha'u'llah. God takes care of the rest.
Yes, I understand your concern. Actually, I think the world is grappling with it now. There is much concern that US imperialism will lead to it dominating the whole world, with the result that there is no dissent.
But I don't think that a world dominating force, be it American or Baha'i, will eventuate. God is the ruler of the world, not the Americans or Baha'is. God is also the Most Great Dissenter. :-) And when God wants to dissent, he can really do a grand job of it! Look at Baha'u'llah's life - it is all about dissent.
As I see it, humans are created to yearn for God and transcendence. This holy spirit can never be suppressed. This is what Baha'u'llah says over and over. Even when things look really bleak and it seems the oppressors have won, God raises up more dissenters (true lovers) out of nothing.
While we are being oppressed, it is hard to remember that all rulers, good and bad, are eventually brought down by God. But no ruler is everlasting. "Pride not yourselves in your glory, and be not ashamed of abasement. By My beauty! I have created all things from dust, and to dust will I return them again." (Persian Hidden Word)
Simple: because of love for one's Lord and for the Lord's manifested Self, Baha'u'llah. That is what true lovers do, they stick up for those they love. This is all through the writings: "For everything there is a sign. The sign of love is fortitude under my decree and patience under my trials." "The true lover yearneth for tribulation even as doth the rebel for forgiveness and the sinful for mercy." These are Baha'i teachings. It has nothing to do with umbilical cords, except the Most Important one, which links us to our Lord. Baha'u'llah tells us to cling to the cord that links us to him. It gives us our existence. Cut that, as you suggest you have done, and in my view you lose life itself.
Don't you see? Baha'u'llah says over and over that the purpose of his religion isn't to get things perfect in the world of humanity (although that is an ongoing, albeit impossible, goal). The purpose of his religion is to see who'll stick up for Baha'u'llah when things go wrong. God's method is to filter out the true lovers, not to make the Baha'i community perfect on the spot.
>>....the best way to fight this creeping Falwellization of the Baha'i
I think Juan's suggestion here is spot on. This is exactly what we need to do. It's not necessary to agitate within the community. Global change comes about through gradual cultural shifts. And Talisman is contributing in a very important way to that shift.
"Wherefore fear ye, O My well-beloved ones? Who is it that can dismay you? A touch of moisture sufficeth to dissolve the hardened clay out of which this perverse generation is molded. The mere act of your gathering together is enough to scatter the forces of these vain and worthless people.... " (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 93)
>It *is* a fact that being a Baha'i in the mainstream
This, in my view, is propaganda. I do not have any problem with the structure of the Baha'i community and its institutions. I simply disagree with its policies; in fact, I think they are contrary to the Baha'i teachings. It is administration propaganda to equate disagreement over policy with things like subversion and treason.
It seems to me that you have played in the administration's hands perfectly. They want you to think that you have no option but to leave if you disagree with them. In this way, they have been able to divorce you from your religion, and made it seem sane for you to argue in terms of cutting the cord to Baha'u'llah.
I don't know how a meaningful discussion can come from your questions. They presuppose a certain way of looking at things that I don't share. I simply don't frame the situation in the way that you do. You make assumptions about how change takes place. I look at it the way Baha'u'llah has taught me to. You seem to think that worldly power is important, but Baha'u'llah says it isn't. You assume that if a person rules the Baha'i world community, they somehow 'have' something important as regards the revelation, but they don't. A pure heart and nearness to Baha'u'llah is the only thing of value. And it is also the only thing that has power to create lasting and meaningful change. In my view, if people were to turn to Baha'u'llah and value these small things above all else, then we would see worldly change take place in a fashion that would stun the sceptics.
No. I see the administration for Baha'u'llah's religion in the same light as the administration we have for our countries. New Zealand is a liberal democracy. The members of parliament go about their daily business running the country. The state doesn't interfere with my beliefs or freedoms of conscience and speech. I think the role of the Baha'i administration is the same. It should simply get on with the day-to-day running of the community, and keep out of my personal life. It certainly should stop spying on me and other fellow believers here on Talisman.
What I do object to, therefore, is the way the Baha'is turn their administration into a sacred cow, and turn the House of Justice into an oracle. In my view, this is idolatry. You have suggested that being a Baha'i means believing various things about the administration, but we need to be clear about what is required. Baha'u'llah never said the House of Justice was infallible. This idea comes from a literal interpretation of something Abdu'l-Baha said. But I think he'd be horrified at what the current generation has read into his words. I think, when all said and done, what's required of us is the recognition of the House's right to make Baha'i law. This is the primary job given to it in the Will and Testament. (I recognise that the NZ parliament has this right too.) I don't have any problem with it or with the fact that the House is the world administrative body. As I have said before, it is the administration that labels criticism of it "sedition". But that is simply nonsense.
As for the best way to deal with the administration's fundamentalism, my feeling is that we must respond by being the best Baha'is we can. Warren was asking how I thought change could be achieved, and I say it is achieved by doing what Baha'u'llah asks of us (not by joining the UUs). In my view, the Baha'i community is off the rails because it has not done what Baha'u'llah has asked of it. Most importantly, individuals must pray, read the writings and so on. Nothing can be built except on the personal relationship each soul has with its creator. Without that, there is no foundation, no current of grace coming through from the next world. Our hearts must be loving and pure. We can see from the example of the House of Justice how hypocrisy and flash buildings lead to nowhere. Hearts must be in love with their creator for real and lasting change to take place. "My first counsel is this: possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart."
I fell upon a cool passage just today, which indicates the unimaginable power and influence the soul can have on the world:
"The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. Through them the clouds rain their bounty upon men, and the earth bringeth forth its fruits. All things must needs have a cause, a motive power, an animating principle. These souls and symbols of detachment have provided, and will continue to provide, the supreme moving impulse in the world of being." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 157)
You don't have to die to have an enormous spiritual impact on the world. You just have to purify your heart and rub that dust off it so that the sun's disk can shine in it and spread rainbow lights like a crystal. I think this is the way to change the world. We change what's 'out there' by changing what's 'in here'. Focusing one's energies solely on manipulating the outer world to make it conform to one's fancies is an idle waste of time, in my view.
Not in the way the fundamentalists suggest. The Guardian said some very inconvenient things. For example, the Guardian said in World Order that if the House made a law that the Guardian thought was against the spirit of the revelation, he would be bound to ask them to reconsider it. Now, if the House was as infallible as is maintained today, how could it ever make a law that is contrary to the spirit of the teachings? Baha'is today would argue that such an eventuality is impossible.
>Alison, if I am correct you will not accept re-entry into the New Zealand
Paul, I'm not sure what you're getting at here. I would accept re-entry into the community if I was invited back. But it would have to be with no strings attached and on the understanding that my disenrollment was a dreadful mistake.
One of the main reasons I took the matter to court was because I wanted to advance the relationship between civil and Baha'i law. This is something the Baha'is are going to have to get used to. In future, Baha'is won't be overcome with feelings of betrayal when issues come before the courts. For example, people sue the NZ government all the time and the NZ government doesn't accuse them of treason and threaten to take away their citizenship. Everyone knows that these things are a way of sorting differences and of progressing our understanding of the law.
When it comes to changing the Baha'i community, I think the answer we come up with is determined by the way we see the problem. The reason that I said to Paul that I didn't think a useful discussion would come from his questions was because, for me at least, the issues he raises (such as who has worldly power over the community) aren't the definitive problems. Yes, it's true that the House is oppressive and has largely destroyed the freedoms of conscience and speech. But finding a solution to that problem, to me, doesn't mean focussing on that particular issue alone, but focussing on others, which in turn will fix that problem. I don't mean that in an absolute way. Juan, for example, stresses the importance of discussing publicly what the House is doing and producing reasoned critiques of it. Of course, I agree with that too. I have participated a lot in that process myself over the last few years.
But I think other things are required also. In a nutshell, we must *be* what we want others to be. It is one thing to criticise others, but we do not provide a solution unless we role model the behaviour we want others to show. And part of what we want to see in others is the genuine spiritual devotion we are asked to develop as Baha'is. Paul talks about 'changing the community from the inside' and not being able to achieve change from the outside. I agree with his point, but would reinterpret the meaning of his words. To me, being on the 'inside' doesn't mean being a member of the community. It means being so close to Baha'u'llah that one is 'inside' the paradise of his revelation. It means immersing oneself in the ocean of his words. It means praying to him and loving him and having him the centre of one's life. It means conscientiously struggling to overcome one's attachment to the world and preparing oneself for the time when we meet Baha'u'llah. So, yes, I agree with Paul that we must be on the 'inside' to create change, but that is the 'inside' I think is important.
You ask what the Baha'i community needs to do to change itself. I used to ask myself that question all the time too. But I've come to think that it isn't the right way to look at the problem, although it is obviously important. The trouble I see with it now is that it is outwardly focused; it asks "what can others do to fix this". I now believe that it's vain to think in terms of changing others. I look at the community and see that they have a House of Justice that they love. I mean, the community worships the House of Justice, so they must see God in it and must love it. They have exactly what they want. The culture of the community creates the leadership we now see. If that's the way they want things, then let them have it. Do you know the account of the woman who wanted to throw a rock at Baha'u'llah's face when he was being hauled through the streets? Baha'u'llah stopped and stuck his neck out especially so that she'd get a good aim. He didn't want to deprive her of the right to do something she genuinely believed would bring her glory before God. Well, I'd hate to deprive the Baha'is of the same thing.
The important thing for me is to provide people with the opportunity to choose to see Baha'u'llah in different way to that promulgated by the Baha'i administration. In the end, our lives are about showing God who we are through our choices. Baha'u'llah calls it the principle of "separation and distinction". Those who can see the poverty of what the Baha'i administration offers will look elsewhere for answers and God will lead them to them. I think Shawn's story proves that. Shawn left the community, disillusioned, then searched the writings and found a new Baha'u'llah. People will find truth if they search it out with sincerity. Therefore, I think the important thing is to provide a place where people can find it, and Talisman provides that.
You asked for feedback on your letter to the unknown list. In a nutshell, my feedback is that I agree with all your sentiments. I can imagine, though, that most of what you say would come over as sacrilege to mainstream Baha'is.
I greatly admire the way you studied the writings after resigning and discovered Baha'u'llah for yourself. In this, I think that you have done THE most important thing. Now Baha'u'llah is yours and no one will be able to take him away from you. I just read this yesterday: "Every soul that walketh humbly with its God, in this Day, and cleaveth unto Him, shall find itself invested with the honor and glory of all goodly names and stations." (Gleanings, p159) I think these words are beauty itself.
You asked for the URL for my commentary on infallibility and the House. In this commentary, I discuss the issues you raise in the first couple of paragraphs of your letter.
>If every ordained authority after Bahaullah were, is, and will be,
This is in the Iqan:
'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. As the traditions referred to are well known, and as the purpose of this servant is to be brief, He will refrain from quoting the text of these traditions.' (Baha'u'llah: The Kitab-i-Iqan, Pages: 31-32)
There's no doubt that humanity will corrupt Baha'u'llah's revelation so much that it will be necessary for another manifestation to come. And Baha'u'llah is arguing here that that corruption is a necessary ingredient for the revelation of the next manifestation. You are exactly right that this principle contradicts the idle fancy that the House of Justice is infallible. I don't think there's any question that the House of Justice will persecute the next manifestation, especially given the role the leaders of religion have always played in opposing the manifestations.
>In other words, the man (Bahaullah) whose words I read and whose words
Yes, that's right. The "Baha'i Faith" as the Baha'i community understands it to be is largely a construct of the Baha'i administration. It bears little resemblance to the revelation itself. Having so few translations available in English has played a part in this, I think. I know for me how much my conception of the Faith changed as I read more and more provisional translations and came to understand the mystical writings better. The corporate model of the Faith that dominates members' lives now was replaced by this stunning recognition that God himself (the one who really is rich and powerful) was calling me to be with him forever. Like, talk about find freedom!
I agree with Karen. Just as bad as the exclusion is the relentless stream of sexist justifications used to "explain" this clear hypocrisy. As Karen says, does the Baha'i Faith stand for equality of the sexes or not? The question isn't difficult.
I think it's interesting to compare Nosrat's arguments on women on the House with those on alcohol. When it comes to alcohol, he argues that there can be no reason to disobey the law, even if science has found some small benefit. He pulls in science and religion to back him up. But when it comes to women on the House, the attitude is the opposite: "well, I know what the principle says, but realistically it's impossible to live up to it! After all, only a handful of women are disadvantaged." In the first case, he sticks to principle and rejects excuses and in the second he rejects principle and embraces excuses.
In the Hidden Words, Baha'u'llah makes a telling statement: "Guidance hath ever been given by words, and now it is given by deeds. Every one must show forth deeds that are pure and holy, for words are the property of all alike, whereas such deeds as these belong only to Our loved ones..." (Persian HW 76)
And this must be read alongside the following:
"Holy words and pure and goodly deeds ascend unto the heaven of celestial glory. Strive that your deeds may be cleansed from the dust of self and hypocrisy and find favor at the court of glory; for ere long the assayers of mankind shall, in the holy presence of the Adored One, accept naught but absolute virtue and deeds of stainless purity." (Persian HW 69)
My understanding of this is that in this dispensation, only holy deeds are acceptable. In previous times, it was accepted that people said one thing and did another, but in this dispensation, this is not accepted. My understanding is that this is one of the meanings of the Day of God:
"Say: O men! This is a matchless Day. Matchless must, likewise, be the tongue that celebrateth the praise of the Desire of all nations, and matchless the deed that aspireth to be acceptable in His sight." (Gleanings XVI)
I say excluding women from House membership is not matchless. It is hypocrisy and rejected in this Day of God. You may have gotten away with it in previous times, but you can forget it today. In this Day, God rules and he doesn't accept this silly nonsense. Nor can the exclusion be called "absolute virtue" and "stainless purity": there is only one reason for excluding women and that is so that men may have a worldly advantage over women. There is no purity in that.
The exclusion is also emotional and irrational - and makes a lie out of all that is claimed about male 'detachment'.
Below is a quote in which Baha'u'llah talks about not drinking alcohol. The quote isn't about the alcohol law as such. Rather, it is arguing that one should abstain from drinking alcohol, not because drinking alcohol will ruin your life, but because you want to submit to the Word of God and be detached from all else besides God. Baha'u'llah refers to the fact that drinking alcohol is forbidden in the Book.
I don't see the problem. The law seems clear to me. Drinking alcohol is forbidden, except for medical purposes. I don't think that the small benefit found in drinking alcohol is reason to put the law aside. It is almost always possible to find 'benefit' in not doing what is right. Going into Iraq was against international law, but it was justified on the basis of perceived benefits.
I don't see why people should stay away from the Faith in droves just because drinking alcohol is forbidden. The law didn't stop Islam from spreading. I see drinking alcohol as a cultural thing that people do in this time. In the future, culture will change and the idea of drinking alcohol will be unknown. I don't think humanity will lose anything valuable if this happens.
"O concourse of divines! It is not yours to boast if ye abstain from drinking wine and from similar transgressions which have been forbidden you in the Book, for should ye commit such deeds, the dignity of your station would then be tainted in the eyes of the people, your affairs would be disrupted, and your name disgraced and dishonoured. Nay, your true and abiding glory resideth in submission to the Word of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, and in your inward and outward detachment from aught else besides God, the All-Compelling, the Almighty." Summons of the Lord of Hosts, Suriy-i-Haykal, paragraph 88
"Say:.." is used extensively in the Qur'an. As I understand it, Baha'u'llah used the same device for his writings to underline the divine nature of his Word and probably to continue a tradition people were used to.
When I hear "Say:", I think it is the Houri (who brings the revelation to Baha'u'llah) telling Baha'u'llah what to say to humanity. So, she says to him: say this and say that and say the next thing.
But sometimes when I read "Say", I think that it is Baha'u'llah instructing me to say what he says to humanity.
The word `adl is used in the title of the tablet, which is Ridwan al-`Adl.
I looked up the word `adl in my Arabic-to-English dictionary and it gives the following meanings: "straightness, straightforwardness; justice, impartiality; fairness, equitableness, probity, honesty, uprightness; equitable composition, just compromise". I remember a few years ago Juan saying that the English language had a large number of words in it; many more than Arabic does. I've always assumed that was why the Arabic words in my dictionary have many English equivalents.
The other word of the tablet's name is interesting: ridwan. (The "al-" bit in the name can be read as meaning "of") The word ridwan is a noun, which the dictionary says means: "consent, assent, agreement, acceptance, approval, sanction; good will, favour; pleasure, delight". The noun comes from the verb radiya, which means "to be satisfied, be content with; to consent, agree to; to approve of, accept, sanction..."
It's interesting because the Baha'is think of ridwan as meaning paradise and garden, because the word is associated with Baha'u'llah's being in the Garden of Ridvan.
But Baha'u'llah uses this idea of contentment a lot. He devotes a whole tablet to it, which Juan has titled City of Radiant Acquiesence. You'll find it among the provisional translations. It is one of my favourites. In that tablet, Baha'u'llah counsels us to strive for contentment.
So maybe there is something interesting about the way these two ideas, of contentment/acceptance/pleasure and justice/equity/uprightness, are linked together in the title of this tablet. Can a person act with justice if they are not content? I think not.
As for the word insaf, that is a bit more complicated. The dictionary gives: "justice, equity, fairness, just treatment". It derives, at base, from the verb nasafa, which means "to reach its midst (day), become noon". Other verbs that derive from that base contain the meaning of dividing in half, just as the day is divided in half at noon. But the verb from which the noun insaf comes is 'ansala, which means "to be just; to treat with justice, be just with someone; to see that justice is done to someone, see that someone get his right; to treat without discrimination; to establish someone's right in the face of a rival or oppressor; to serve someone".
I know the Arabic is difficult, but an important thing to notice about the word insaf is that it takes in this idea of causing something to happen. The verb 'ansala, from which the noun insaf derives, is known as a "causative verb", which is a verb that means causing or making X to happen. It is almost always transitive.
I'm not sure where Susan Maneck got the idea that 'adl wasn't distributive justice and that insaf takes in the idea of openness and moderation. I'd be more inclined to say that `adl is justice, the justice-thing, and that insaf is just treatment, or acting justly. `Adl takes in the ideas of straightness, uprightness and honesty, and insaf takes in the idea of dividing down the middle and not discriminating. Perhaps that could also be called openness.
My own take on the politics issue is a uniquely Baha'i one. :-)
I start from the proposition that only Baha'u'llah and his Word can heal the world. He states this many times, but here is one example:
"Perplexing and difficult as this may appear [turning copper into gold], the still greater task of converting satanic strength into heavenly power is one that We have been empowered to accomplish. The Force capable of such a transformation transcendeth the potency of the Elixir itself. The Word of God, alone, can claim the distinction of being endowed with the capacity required for so great and far-reaching a change." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 200)
In my view, then, only Baha'u'llah and his Word provide answers to the world's problems.
Baha'u'llah also says that everything in creation has been created to serve the Cause. This includes politics. I think it follows that politics should be seen as a tool for furthering the interests of the Cause and thereby fulfilling the spiritual and material goals for humanity. On this basis, participation in politics is acceptable.
The trouble comes, I suggest, if we think that politics will be our salvation. As I see it, people tend to see politics in this light. They believe and look for answers to the world's problems in the political realm. Whereas I would argue that the answers are in Baha'u'llah's Word and that politics is a means of realising the vision of the Word.
We can look back and see how people have mistakenly sought salvation in things in the world, and this has always ended in tears. Positivists thought that all answers were to be found in science and logic, for example. People seek answers in all the realms of human activity, be it politics, science, education, marriage, or religion. I am not suggesting, by the way, that answers are in 'religion' as such. This is my beef with the fundamentalists. They 'believe in' their religion as it manifests as a religious community and administrative structure. I am saying that the answers are in the Word, which is transcendent truth.
In my view, then, we should view the political realm as a tool to further the interests of the Cause and participate in it on that basis. But politics should not be seen as our salvation or allowed to become an all-consuming focus that is effectively an alternative religion.
I have been giving these ideas some thought.
I understand that as the way things are set up now, political parties are an important part of how democracy is 'realised', if you like. But I wonder if they are an essential feature. Is it conceivable that in several hundred years time, say, there will be democratic nations (and we can expect all nations to be democracies by then) without political parties as part of their system? Surely, there are numerous ways to be 'democratic'. The dictionary defines democracy as: "Government by the people; a form of government in which the power resides in the people and is exercised by them either directly or by means of elected representatives". Does this have to involve political parties? The way we do things is determined by our culture. As culture changes over time, perhaps society will find new ways of being democratic.
I am partly arguing this because you jump from Baha'u'llah's approval of the British system to an assumption that he approved of political parties. I can accept this in a general sense, but not if it is used to argue that political parties are the only way to do democracy and this is Baha'u'llah's position because he approved of the British system. Surely, Baha'u'llah's approval was more generally of the British move to have the people rule themselves, and how exactly that is done over the centuries is something people will work out at the time.
The other reason I raise this is because the political party system has its flaws, and if, for example, I was to exercise my 'republican duty', I might want to explore how the system might be improved. I think it would be a bad thing if people felt locked into the current system as it stands. And I fear that your arguing that Baha'u'llah approved of political parties gives the message that people are going against their faith if they want the current system different or improved.
>Baha'is as individuals therefore I would suggest should be able to operate
Yes, I do. But I see fundamental problems with the way Baha'u'llah says we are to be as Baha'is and the way politics is generally carried out. I was thinking yesterday, for example, how Baha'u'llah says that humanity will have reached its maturity when the civil leaders will *not* want power, but will serve anyway for the sake of the Cause.
For me, political involvement wouldn't be about seeking power so much as educating people that their own interests do not lie in seeking an advantage over their neighbour but in spiritual values. This is what I understand Abdu'l-Baha to mean when he says we must spiritualise western civilisation, which has achieved only material perfection.
I heard one of the Amnesty International founding members interviewed on the radio a few weeks ago. He is a theologian, and I would say, a saint. He held tenaciously to spiritual values. It left me wondering whether that had something to do with Amnesty managing to stay on track all this time -- in contrast to the Baha'is, who have lost sight of spiritual values and turned towards worldly power. Amnesty has a much greater and an excellent contribution to make, whereas the Baha'is offer nothing.
In our local government, political parties are not an important factor. People just vote for the people they want, although some councillors are affiliated to parties. Many people run as independents.
I can see why in this day and age political parties are important for keeping democracies reasonably democratic and not letting them fall into dictatorships. But I wonder, if the values Baha'u'llah teaches do catch hold, and people do figure out that we are one, whether this will change the way we do democracy. Surely, this is what Baha'u'llah wanted and this is why he came.
Thanks Larry. Don't ever let that flame go out!
I like that idea about spiritual legitimacy. For me, Baha'u'llah has brought the news that God wants to have a personal relationship with me - yes, little, nobody, me. And he has taught me that I am worthy of the goal of meeting God. For me, that's spiritual legitimacy!
But also, I consider my 'ancestors' to be people like Baha'u'llah, Imam Husayn, Abdu'l-Baha, Jesus and others whose stories I identify with, like the guy who had the candles put in his flesh. I do not belong to an indigenous culture, like the Maori culture, where ancestors are a key part of spiritual identity and legitimacy. My spiritual identity and legitimacy comes from my part in the history of the Cause, stretching into eternity (forward and back). I think of my ancestors in the next world often and sense their presence with me. I anticipate the time when I will meet them and we will hang out together - although, spiritually we already do that when I am open to it.
>The rules of this game are that you put up and shut up or you get out.
Did you get that from the Aqdas? I don't recall Baha'u'llah ever saying that this was a rule of His game.
This sounds more like the Baha'u'llah I know:
"Beware lest ye prefer yourselves above your neighbors. Fix your gaze upon Him Who is the Temple of God amongst men. He, in truth, hath offered up His life as a ransom for the redemption of the world. He, verily, is the All-Bountiful, the Gracious, the Most High. If any differences arise amongst you, behold Me standing before your face, and overlook the faults of one another for My name's sake and as a token of your love for My manifest and resplendent Cause. We love to see you at all times consorting in amity and concord within the paradise of My good-pleasure, and to inhale from your acts the fragrance of friendliness and unity, of loving-kindness and fellowship. Thus counselleth you the All-Knowing, the Faithful. We shall always be with you; if We inhale the perfume of your fellowship, Our heart will assuredly rejoice, for naught else can satisfy Us. To this beareth witness every man of true understanding." (Gleanings, Pages: 315-316)
Peter: given that you think my beliefs are inconsistent with the Baha'i teachings and you are the one with true belief, perhaps a response more in keeping with the passage above would be for you to offer up your life as a ransom for my redemption. Or overlook my faults and show forth the fragrance of friendliness, loving kindness and fellowship (note that it's "fellowship", not "get out").
What's wrong with your rule is that it doesn't sound like Baha'u'llah's counsel to me. Baha'u'llah says only the fragrance of the above qualities will satisfy him. I suggest that these are the rules of the game.
>Then tell me why oh why haven't you been allowed to follow the dictates of
I suggest that it is fruitless to search for a real explanation from the facts. There was no justification for my disenrollment.
The only way to make sense of it is to look at the explanations Baha'u'llah gives us. He says, over and over, 'abasement is my glory'. The fact that I have been abased is grace. Look at religious history; it is all about abasement. We take that for granted when we look at history, but when the same paradigm plays out right before our eyes, it is difficult to see. We have to navigate our way through the many voices that are claiming to have the truth. It's not just an intellectual exercise; what we decide has consequences. But every generation is subjected to this same test. Each one of us must decide what is true in his or her given circumstances. This is the way God tests our faith. If we are sincere in heart, we will find the truth.
There must be an infinite number of interpretations for the concept that the believer is alive in both worlds.
For me, it isn't so much about messages being passed from one world to another, as about what happens to a believer when she "dies" to this world before actually physically dying. By dying spiritually to the physical world, one is then born in the next. The believer then lives in two worlds at the same time: the physical world and the spiritual world. The mystics refer to this process as fana' and baqa': the first being the death of self and the second being life in God. Baha'u'llah refers to both these stations in the first sentence of the seventh valley: "This station is the dying from self and the living in God, the being poor in self and rich in the Desired One."
I would say that being alive in both worlds means experiencing eternal life now, before death, and experiencing that reality as being more real than anything in this world. This world is, after all, just dust, and we are forms that move around in it ("O moving form of dust"). Those who believe this movement constitutes reality are asleep to the spiritual world. Our task is to wake ourselves up from the dream of this life that we are all submerged in, and experience within our selves the reality that we are at all times standing in the presence of God.
Try a thought experiment: imagine Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha coming into the room and sitting down in your lounge with you. Does that make your skin fill with goose bumps? That is what I mean about the reality that we are in the presence of God all the time. He is always looking at us, but because we are distracted by things in the physical world, we are unaware of Baha'u'llah's presence. Often, we'd be ashamed to think that he was seeing what we were up to. But he does say our actions and the things we think and feel are written in open characters before him. I think that being alive in the next world means being aware of that Presence abiding with us as we pass through life.
The obvious meaning of infallibility to me is to act without self-interest. This would include your definition - not to be attached to one's mistakes and be able to correct them, alter one's direction and so forth.
In the Aqdas, Baha'u'llah sets the primary principle for those taking counsel together as: "... to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, ..." K30
For me, then, "sinlessness" means not making decisions out of self and passion, but detaching from worldly influences and making decisions based on principle.
Baha'u'llah defines error in the Words of Wisdom: "The source of error is to disbelieve in the One true God, rely upon aught else but Him, and flee from His Decree."
Another interesting spin on all this (mystical, of course :-)) is the spiritual station referred to in the Mathnavi 136-141:
"Now fragrance from sweet meadows of the soul
There is a station beyond contradictions like "heed" and "heedlessness" - beyond all contradictions in fact. Baha'u'llah explains this station at length in the Valley of Unity, in the Seven Valleys and the Gems. For me, this is the mystical meaning of being free from error. It means being a Paradise where these names no longer have meaning.
"If you've an ear for fatherly advice
I think the fundamental disagreement I have with your argument lies in the fact that I view things like humility as spiritual attributes rather than as intellectual positions. For me, humility is a condition of the heart. Therefore, it is possible to assess one's opinions critically, as you are suggesting is done in science, but not be humble in heart.
Baha'u'llah says time and time again that he has come to claim the *hearts* of men. Baha'is are required to acquire spiritual attributes, and this means a transformation of the heart. It involves getting to a point within onself where you experience genuine love for all, as we see in the example of Abdu'l-Baha. Here are the attributes Baha'u'llah lists as the critical ones:
"The virtues and attributes pertaining unto God are all evident and manifest, and have been mentioned and described in all the heavenly Books. Among them are trustworthiness, truthfulness, purity of heart while communing with God, forbearance, resignation to whatever the Almighty hath decreed, contentment with the things His Will hath provided, patience, nay, thankfulness in the midst of tribulation, and complete reliance, in all circumstances, upon Him. These rank, according to the estimate of God, among the highest and most laudable of all acts. All other acts are, and will ever remain, secondary and subordinate unto them...." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 290)
The attribute of infallibility is like all the attributes of God, including those listed above. When it manifests itself in a person, it becomes a reality in that person's heart. That person lives with it like a piece of clothing, only it is an adorning of the heart rather than the body. That person is characterised by the adorning.
In response to your idea that the critical attitude is humility applied to the theory of knowledge, I would say that that would depend on the person in question and whether his/her critical attitude is rooted solely in the intellect or is a reality in the person's heart. It is possible to be critical all over the place and not be getting closer to truth. Criticism can destroy. Criticism can be used by tyrants as well as by truth seekers. What tyrants don't have access to, though, is a spiritual character.