Meditations

Talisman messages of April to December 2002

Date: Wed Apr 3, 2002 9:14 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Evolution and Science

Dear Tony,

Thanks for your simple explanation of terms. I am not up on any of this and so don't comment. But one thing you said got me thinking. You commented that Abdul-Baha insists on there being a divine purpose for creation. And it got me thinking that the thing about the divine purpose is that it *transcends* creation. It exists in what is often referred to as "pre-existence". From this point of view, everything that happens already has and always was intended to. Baha'u'llah captures this idea, for example, in the Mathnavi where, in lines 147-155, he is discussing the Day of "Am I not", the day in pre-existence when we were brought into being and the covenant was created. In the poem, one gnostic says, oh yes, he can remember that day, but another gnostic, who had greater insight, says "that day of God has never ended nor has fallen short, we're living in that day!". My point is that God's purpose for man, from the point of view of pre-existence, has always existed. But within the world of creation, it has not always been manifest. The mistake is to think that the divine will must be manifest in creation at all times.

Alison


Date: Fri Apr 5, 2002 8:52 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: meaning of infallibility

>So, we can be caught-up in the natural "play" unfolding before us, or in the
>mystery of God's "Reality". To me, such is the nature of "free will."

I don't know what your name is, but I agree with your analysis 100 percent. I think you are exactly right. When it comes right down to it, that is the guts of free will. There is no real freedom except in detachment from the world. Freedom within the world is constrained by the world and is therefore only a limited freedom.

Alison


Date: Mon Apr 8, 2002 11:38 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Evolution and Science

ME:
>>My point is that God's purpose for man, from the point of view of >>pre-existence, has always existed. But within the world of >>creation, it has not always been manifest. The mistake >is to think that the divine will must be manifest in creation at >>all times.

YOU:
>Unless you're suggesting the manifestation of the Divine Will, as "God's
>purpose for man," requires the existence of someone capable of understanding
>it. As in, the sound does not exist because there was nobody around to hear
>the tree fall, or the requirement of a "cause and effect" relationship to
>exist between God and His creation. However, this would require a
>distinction of "God's purpose for man" and other aspects of the Divine Will,
>which could not exist, IMO.

Yes, I was meaning the divine will as God's purpose for man. As I understood Tony's explanation, the idea of parallel evolution requires that man and apes always be different in some physical way, and have therefore evolved in a parallel fashion. It was never the case that man was an ape.

I was suggesting that one can hold to God's purpose for man, as Abdu'l-Baha does, and not feel a need to hold to parallel evolution. God can have a spiritual purpose for man, and man can once have been an ape. While man is an ape, God's purpose for man as a spiritual being is not manifest in the form man took at the time, except I guess to the degree of having physical faculties. This doesn't mean one has to deny the spiritual destiny of man. God's will exists in pre-existence and is always true. It just means that that spiritual destiny did not manifest in the world until later, when man and apes came to evolve differently.

For example, a sperm cannot write essays. It's gotta join up with an egg and go through many different forms and experiences before it does that. Science will tell you its a sperm and not a human being. But the divine will may manifest in it and, in time, it will write essays. From the point of view of pre-existence it was always willed to write essays.

Other sperms, even though they got to join up with eggs, they didn't end up writing essays. They were the gorillas. :-)

Alison


Date: Tue Jun 11, 2002 7:47 pm
Subject: Re: Historical Baha'u'llah

Dear silentspirit9,

You say that you want to get to know the human Baha'u'llah. Your message made me think of a letter of Baha'u'llah that Juan Cole translated and posted on the academic list H-Baha'i a while ago. I post it below. I also include Juan's comments about the letter, at the end.

I love the letter because it reveals a very touching part of the human Baha'u'llah. He is fascinated by the new animals he sees in the new place he has travelled to. He is also uncertain about his future. And he complains about the bitter cold.

I noted your comment in your message about how Baha'is loved Baha'u'llah. I thought it was interesting because my experience of Baha'is is that they seldom speak about Baha'u'llah. They are more interested in discussing and studying what the House of Justice says. Certainly around these parts Baha'is do not study Baha'u'llah and speak about him rarely. I don't think he is a person they think much about. And if you listen to the exhortations that come from on high in the Baha'i administration, the emphasis is on reading Shoghi Effendi. An example of how well Baha'is read Baha'u'llah is the fact that Peter Khan said in a speech in 2000 that Baha'u'llah said the House was infallible. Baha'u'llah never said that.

Alison

--------

To: H-BAHAI@H...
From: Juan Cole
Date: Fri, 10 May 2002 09:06:09 -0400
Subject: Messsianic Concealment and Theophanic Disclosure

Rosen, p. 126, no. 37:

Baha'u'llah, Istanbul, fall, 1863.

He is the mighty, the everlasting.

It is well known that the wayfarers unto God, after passing the way stations of what is other than he, arrived at the renowned place known as Istanbul. So far, nothing has been seen from its inhabitants but conventional, officious formalities. What will come next? What decree will fate inscribe behind the veil? But, we saw many barren trees and much frozen snow. Every moment the heat dissipates and the cold increases. The salamander of fire has been heard of, which depends on fire for its existence, by the grace of the all-knowing, the all-wise. But a snow salamander has never been seen. Now, by the wonders of God's handiwork, many snow animals have been observed. After than, what will the white hand of divine power and the illumined hand of the all-praised bring forth?

All are held in his grasp, and depend on his will. No God is there but he, the mighty, the eternal. Nothing else has happened. That is, there are no discussions. After our consultations, details will be sent. All will be comfortable in their quarters until the time comes. That time is in the hands of God, the mighty, the beloved. We make mention of all of the friends, and counsel all to avoid neglecting the mention of God, nor should they allow their love of him to be veiled by the love of anything else. Peace be among those who follow the truth.

--------

Remarks: It is interesting that Baha'u'llah depicts the journey from Baghdad to Istanbul not just as a physical one, but as a form of mystical wayfaring unto God. His criticism of Ottoman high culture as overly concerned with formalities echoes what he also said in the Tablet to the Kings. His humanity is demonstrated in touching ways here, as with his anxiety about the future, which remains unknown to him and his suffering with the unfamiliar, wintry autumn of Anatolia. I speculate that he saw for the first time white animals against the snow, perhaps dogs. For a man from lush, green, warm Mazandaran, who had just spent a decade in sultry Baghdad, this sight was apparently quite striking. He playfully contrasts Iranian myths of the salamander of fire with the Turkish reality of snow animals.

Baha'u'llah was clearly looking forward to some sort of consultations with Ottoman officials, having been brought to the capital. He was unaware that the decision had long ago been made to exile him to Edirne, and that his stop in Istanbul was a mere formality from the point of view of the sultan's officials. ----

cheers Juan Cole


Date: Thu Jul 18, 2002 8:33 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: FEAR Digest Number 1017

Dear Warren,

Baha'u'llah talks about fearing God and loving God, but I think he argues that we should be motivated by love when it comes right down to it: "Walk in my statutes for love of me and deny thyself that which thou desirest if thou seekest my pleasure." And again the Aqdas: "Observe my commandments for the love of my beauty". But I agree with you that fear of God is wisdom. I know that fear of God inclines me to pull my head in when I can feel it bending out of shape.

The "everyone is a revolution" idea is my distillation of some of the Arabic Hidden Words. What I hear Baha'u'llah repeatedly saying is that God lives inside us. "My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find me near unto thee." "Thou art my lamp and my light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than me." "Turn thy sight unto thyself that thou mayest find me standing within thee, mighty powerful and self-subsisting." "Thou art my dominion... thou art my light... thou art my glory... thou art my robe..." "Thy hearing is my hearing, hear thou therewith. Thy sight is my sight, do thou see therewith, that in thine inmost soul thou mayest testify unto my exalted sanctity, and I within myself may bear witness unto an exalted station for thee."

On the basis that God is standing inside us, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting, I conclude that we are each a revolution. I think people assume that in order to have power or to make a difference in the world, you have to have worldly power of some sort; for example, be on an assembly. But I think the Hidden Words argue against this. They argue that we are all potentially very powerful in ourselves because, hey, God the all powerful lives inside us. In order to be powerful, then, our primary task is to unlock what's inside us, not go running around tyring to gain worldly power and/or influence. Much can be done at home in quiet moments.

"Justice is, in this day, bewailing its plight, and Equity groaneth beneath the yoke of oppression. The thick clouds of tyranny have darkened the face of the earth, and enveloped its peoples. Through the movement of Our Pen of glory We have, at the bidding of the omnipotent Ordainer, breathed a new life into every human frame, and instilled into every word a fresh potency. All created things proclaim the evidences of this world-wide regeneration. This is the most great, the most joyful tidings imparted by the Pen of this wronged One to mankind. 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, Pages: 92-93)

It makes me think about the Mashriq I attend weekly with my friends. I think it is impossible for us to imagine the spiritual influence that our meetings are having. It is deceptive. Seemingly all we do is turn up and listen to Baha'u'llah's amazing words and to lovely music and get thoroughly carried away. And this is having an effect on the world? Hey, can't be, where's the toil and sweat? The "work" is in the discipline of attending regularly and in focussing on Baha'u'llah and not letting the world get in the way. In this way, I believe we can all discover our revolutionary power.

I looked at the web site you mentioned, by the way. I thought the peace prayers from all the religions were very powerful.

Alison


Date: Mon Jul 22, 2002 8:47 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Balancing structure and spontanaity ?

Gee, Larry, an easy question? :-)

I don't know what will happen with the administrative order in the foreseeable future. It may well get worse before it gets better, but I think it will get better over the long term. The fundamentalism we see today will disappear. I think it is important to bear in mind that the fortunes of the AO are in the hands of God. I was talking to Steve yesterday about the Watergate scandal. I was reminded of it because here in NZ, every time there is scandal in govt, it's called X-gate. Watergate proves that small, chance events can lead to huge change. The AO may one day come face to face with its Watergate. When that happens, no matter how much it may think it has things sewn up, the situation will prove that God is the only one who has things sewn up.

You seem to be asking how does one get out of a seemingly impossible situation. I can only tell you what I do. It probably sounds trite, but I turn to Baha'u'llah. And I sincerely believe that this is what the community must do. It's got to do that anyway, whatever situation it finds itself in. Scriptural basis for this?

"O MOVING FORM OF DUST! I desire communion with thee, but thou wouldst put no trust in Me. The sword of thy rebellion hath felled the tree of thy hope. At all times I am near unto thee, but thou art ever far from Me..." (Persian Hidden Words, No 21)

I have been deeply influenced by the idea that my rebellion has felled my hope. This quote springs to mind every time I feel as though there is no hope. Immediately, I realise that I have forgotten to ask Baha'u'llah for help. And then I am reminded of Abdu'l-Baha's words and I know that the situation only looks hopeless from my limited perspective. God, however, can do anything, so there is no such thing as never having hope and an answer:

"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, p: 51)

Yes, you're right that the community places too much emphasis on administration and not enough on developing spirituality. In light of what I have said above, I think the believers should create their own Mashriqu'l-Adhkars. The misunderstanding common in the community is that a Mashriq is a building, like the one in Wilmette. But the writings give us a number of definitions. First of all, the Mashriq is the heart of the believer. The Mashriq is also a devotional meeting. This is the kind of Mashriq I attend weekly and that any group of Baha'is can start up. In Terry Culhane's book "I beheld a Maiden" (Kalimat Press), Terry points out that the Aqdas prescribes the House of Justice in K30 and the House of Worship in the very next passage (K31). They are *both* vital to the community. Instead, we have Houses of Justice everywhere, and these are based on a very weak devotional community life.

Another interesting thing is what Baha'u'llah says in K149 about the covenant. "Recite ye the verses of God every morn and eventide. Whoso faileth to recite them hath not been faithful to the covenant of God and His Testament". How often have we heard Baha'is go on about obedience to the covenant being obedience to the House, and never mentioning the central importance of this verse? They put the concept of the covenant into an administration mould and never imagine it to have a devotional dimension.

Finally, my feeling is that the only way to avoid the dogmas you speak of is to focus on Baha'u'llah to the exclusion of all else. If we focus on a thing in the world to save us (such as the House) to the exclusion of God, we end up shackled by dogma. Only Baha'u'llah can transcend that.

Alison


Date: Thu Jul 25, 2002 9:02 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: Current world situation

Dear all,

Jim, I thought your message was really great.

You defined the issue as: >As far as terrorism is concerned, I would define the issue as what, >if anything, any of us can do about the wars between the world's game >masters.

This issue is important to me too. Perhaps I was ignorant before 9/11 but after it, it seemed that the world headed wholesale towards war. When Bush went into Afghanistan, I was sure WW3 was upon us. That turned out not to be the case. I have done some reading since then and realise that the Muslim world isn't united enough to present that kind of united front against US or Western aggression. But now Bush is planning to attack Iraq! and I am wondering if this nightmare is ever going to end with a single person alive on the planet. I am worried that the world is heading into a decade or decades of real gloom. I look back on the way the world was during the last world wars and think about how bleak things were then. Up until now, I have always imagined that that sort of thing was over and would never happen again. But now I think differently.

In line with your answer no 1, I thought, well, where are the Baha'is when you need them? Baha'u'llah is the answer, so where is he and what are the Baha'is up to? Are they doing their job? When I surveyed the community, I saw a community of people whose consciences and minds have been trampled by blind obedience to the House and an oppressive fundamentalism. What a tragedy. The world is headed for war and the Baha'is are lost in their vain imaginings. Great. In addition, as I understand it, the Baha'is has been counselled not to discuss these issues because that is involving oneself in politics.

As I see it, then, the way forward is to work to free the Baha'is. For me, this is the primary objective. This is in line with my belief that it is Baha'u'llah's message that the world needs and it is only Baha'is who can teach it. Therefore the most effective way to get it out there is to free the teaching instruments. I think the only way to free the Baha'is is through prayer, example and education. As I have already said in a previous message to Larry, when you feel like there is no hope, turn to Baha'u'llah. I found an excellent quote for that yesterday: "The healer of all thine ills is remembrance of me. Forget it not". Second, Baha'u'llah argues that we should render him victorious using a goodly character:

"It behoveth the people of Baha to render the Lord victorious through the power of their utterance and to admonish the people by their goodly deeds and character, inasmuch as deeds exert greater influence than words." (Tablets, p 57) "In this day the hosts that can ensure the victory of the Cause are those of goodly conduct and saintly character." (Tablets, p 88)

As for education, this is where Talisman comes in. In this forum, we can educate ourselves in what the Baha'i principles and teachings tell us and how they apply to the situation we find ourselves in. Also, education will free the Baha'is from the bondage of fundamenatalism. We can also deal with the issue of what not getting involved in politics actually means. For it doesn't mean that we should keep our mouths shut when the whole earth is about to go sky high. Also, practising the skills of consultation here helps us in other areas of life. For example, I have learned here how to voice my opinion openly and to argue constructively and to hold my own against those who disagree. Talisman produces role models, which are key to learning. I learned most of my skills from watching Juan in the early years.

Anyone listening in who is interested in developing their confidence in speaking out, please do so. This is the place to learn. Baha'is are supposed to be family, although we often make an awful job of being such.

I think I'll stop there with this line of thinking.

Jim, I'll get back to you in response to your practical suggestions.

Alison


Date: Sun Aug 11, 2002 11:22 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Turning the tide

>However, this COULD explain the behavior of some of the current AO
>officials: cases of arrested spiritual development?

Tery, I think you've got it right here. What seems to happen is that "truth" becomes identified with the organisation and stops being the thing that lives inside yourself. When truth is the same as the organisation, it becomes a simple case of endless obedience - my organisation, right or wrong.

Steve and I have just watched a doco about the period in English history where the king was forced to relinquish power to parliament. Before this power was relinquished, there was a civil war between those who supported the king (they argued: my king, right or wrong) and those who supported parliament - ie a constitutional monarchy (we don't mind having a king, but he doesn't tell us what's right and wrong).

It's amazing how the very same issue raises its head over and over throughout history. The Baha'is face this exact same issue today. Should they support the House, right or wrong, or hold that each individual has the right to determine for themselves what's true - and thereby effectively limit the power of the House.

History is against the 'House, right or wrong' position.

Alison


Date: Wed Aug 14, 2002 11:24 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Abdu'l-Baha on war

I was reading the following message on the UU list for discussion of the Palestinian/Israeli war. It reminded me of Abdu'l-Baha's comments on war and I thought I'd share it here. I particularly liked the fact that this woman, having experienced Middle East conflicts from all sides, had come to the conclusion that all humans want the same basic things. I felt that she saw the situation from the point of view of the oneness of humanity, like Abdu'l-Baha does:

> How amazing the effort of vain imaginings when truth has
>no influence! How truly amazing! For instance, the belief in the
>difference of races is pure imagination, and yet it exerts great
>sway. Though all are human, nevertheless, some have named
>themselves Slavonic, others German, Chinese, French or British.
>But this difference of races is pure fantasy. How powerful will
>be when all are one and the same! It is clearly evident that the
>whole of humanity is one, but this truth has no currency, whereas
>racial difference, which is fiction and illusory, has great
>predominance.

I also liked her conclusion about abandoning hate. There is so much emphasis in the writings about abandoning hate - seeing all as a reflection of God and not creating 'enemies' in our minds by demonising others.

I argue that seeing another person or persons as all-powerful evil doers is an example of joining partners with God. Because of the power you give to that person or persons, they become god-like.

Alison


Date: Tue Sep 3, 2002 9:44 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Belief in God and spirituality

Larry,

Yes, I agree with you that God is not dead, but rather cannot be identified as a thing. I think that's what Baha'u'llah means when he stresses that God transcends creation.

I was reading the Ibn al-Arabi Society's newsletter and there is a quote in there that bears on this issue. Ibn al-Arabi argues, as I understand him anyway, that in order to know God we need to recognise him in the world. Although God himself is not in the world, his signs, or names and attributes, are and when we interact with those, we learn about God. This is particularly the case with a person we love. The relationship we have with those we love teaches us much about God. Ibn Arabi would say that we see an image of God in that person.

Now, getting to your point. Baha'u'llah says that when we get up close to the ones we love, we find inevitably that they let us down. He says that the world is like a vapour in the desert which the thirsty dreameth to be water, but it is in fact a mirage. And it is the same with the people we love, they inevitably let us down or we wonder what we saw in them and so on. The fact is though, that we did once see God in them. So what went wrong? We are created to love, but then Baha'u'llah himself tells us that it will always go horribly wrong. (This is also true of our belief in a religion, just to have its leaders turn bad.)

Ibn Arabi says: "the one who stays with the image is lost, and the one who rises from the image to the reality is rightly guided". By "image" he means the image of the beloved person or thing. Initially, we think that God is actually in the thing itself. But Ibn Arabi is saying that we must come to realise that God is not actually in the thing - all along, the thing has only ever been an image that has brought us closer to reality. We have to let the thing go and look beyond it to the higher reality it signifies.

A concrete example would be where people have a string of spouses in the hope that one day they will hit on the right one. Because the world is an illusion and inevitably a let-down, such people will never find the perfect partner. They believe that God is located in the person, and don't realise that what they see is an image of God teaching them who God is.

Another example is the Baha'is, who are convinced that God resides in the name Baha'. If they could just look beyond the name and see the transcendent reality that the name Baha' signifies, they would let go of their fundamentalism.

Alison


Date: Wed Sep 4, 2002 9:35 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Belief in God and spirituality

Larry,

> I don't think that we are let down by the ones we love

I disagree. I think we are let down by others all the time. I believe I have been let down by the Baha'i administration, for example. People do abandon us, abuse us, and so forth. Look at the way things are for many in the poorer countries. I think there can be no doubt that people let each other down all the time. There is a young boy of 14 here in NZ who has just been found guilty of murder. Just about everyone in his life that ever meant anything to him let him down.

I think accepting that we are let down is a part of accepting reality. "Sorrow not if things contrary to your wishes have been ordained..." I think Baha'u'llah is referring to the natural process we all go through of coming to terms with imperfections in others and the world.

>only that we are let
>down through our attachment to how we conceive the ones we love , which
>includes ourselves and can include God Itself .

But I agree with you here, that when faced with disappointments, we have to reconceptualise the situation. This was the point I was making. We can get lost in things like hatred, rebellion, bitterness, apathy and so on. This is would be the attachment you refer to. Or we can keep our eye on our God-image and realise that it is a transcendent reality that is only reflected in others. This forces us to detach from the worldly things in our life.

I suppose I have been very influenced by Baha'u'llah's approving quotation of this verse:

"Live free of love, for its very peace is anguish
Its beginning is pain, and its end is death."

Alison


Date: Mon Sep 23, 2002 5:01 pm
Subject: teaching

I was thinking some more about the idea that a person can be a Baha'i while not being a member of the Baha'i community. I think this idea has the potential for greatly increasing our success at teaching the Faith. If we were able to lighten up over community membership and see Baha'u'llah and his teachings as a universal that everyone, no matter what their religious persuasion, might be interested in, then we'd be able to spread the teachings around more.

I began thinking about this when I was reading the Ibn Arabi Society newsletter (see passage below). People who join the Ibn Arabi Society are people of all faiths who are interested in Ibn Arabi's teachings. I think the Baha'is would do better if they took this sort of open, universal approach, rather than limiting themselves to steering people into community membership. Perhaps if the community could embrace more categories of person, like believers who are members, believers who are not members, people who agree with the Baha'i social teachings, people who follow Baha'i spiritual guidance, those who study the Baha'i Faith because they are interested in religion, and so forth.

Baha'u'llah had things to say about many aspects of life, if, in teaching, we just put it all out there and let people decide for themselves what their interaction with the teachings were, then I think people would warm to the Baha'i Faith much more. The Baha'i community could be the place where those who want to formally join can sign up. I think it's tragic that the Baha'is can only think up one category, and as good as consider everyone else an infidel.

Alison

----------

(Remember that Ibn Arabi's thought is basic to the concepts used by Baha'u'llah. And look at the interest in him! - Alison)

Interview with Prof James Morris, in Ibn Arabi Society newsletter, Summer 2002, Issue 18 pp21-22

JM: But maybe we could talk about audiences now - who wants to know about Ibn Arabi, who is seeking him out. Looking at the Islamic world, one could identify a key audience to be Muslims living in the West. In places like Exeter University or any major university in the Western World, increasingly, people who are coming to study Islamic Studies are Muslims trying to figure out what Islam means in a variety of new cultural settings, so you don't get the people who have already settled that question in various ideologies, but you do get a lot of seeking students.

One group, which is according to Ibn Arabi's original audience, are travelers or seekers - he calls them 'al-quawm' - these people are everywhere, and they find Ibn Arabi for all sorts of reasons. Some come to study in an academic setting, and some do so elsewhere. So one is trying to translate the aspects of his work that appeal to those kinds of audiences, which are its practical orientation and practical spiritual life, and that is a very vigorous audience. Really it is pointless with that kind of audience to distinguish between Muslim and non-Muslim, for what these people are interested in is practical spiritual guidance and clarification, and the particular religious setting is less important. Just as there are a lot of people who are interested in Jewish mysticism, or Buddhist esotericism, without becoming Jews or Buddhists, so there is a large audience interested in Ibn Arabi, and it certainly overlaps between Muslims and non-Muslims.


Date: Tue Sep 24, 2002 9:13 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] teaching

Larry,

"I have always thought that the active - inactive definition of Baha'i was worse than useless . I now prefer to refer to myself as a neo-Baha'i and I approach teaching from this standpoint . As a neo-Baha'i I can be active in teaching but feel no need to participate in the Baha'i community"

Good for you. It has taken me a while to come to this. I think I have been spending the last couple of years working on my new identity and the idea of teaching has only just begun to develop in me. I really like your concept of a neo-Baha'i. I realise that it takes a new way of seeing oneself to teach in the universal way that you describe.

But I'm practising and have been finding that teaching has become a whole new world. As a member of the community, I found the concept of teaching a nightmare. The administration pushed it down members' throats and I felt perpetually guilty about it. No matter what I did, I never felt like I was doing enough and if people didn't declare, which they almost always never did, I felt I was a failure. Then I would read Baha'u'llah's exhortations to teach, and that would put me into a tail spin. I put the books away and went into hopelessness over it. I was envious of people's success stories because they never happened to me.

And now, after twenty-odd years of that, I am kicked out of the community and discover what teaching means for me! I used to be very timid about being a Baha'i and found it difficult to tell people that I was one. Now, most people I deal with reasonably regularly know because I tell them. Now that I am no longer a member of the community, I guess I feel free to speak the truth as I see it. This has been key for me. Instead of feeling like I have to present the party line, I just say how I experience Baha'u'llah and explain what he taught.

Probably, most of the people I regularly interact with have some interest in religion at some level, so discussions usually revolve around sharing experiences and understandings. I feel very comfortable with this. It means that I can talk about my latest experiences and ideas and say openly that they have been inspired by such-and-such a conversation with Baha'u'llah, or such-and-such a teaching that I was reading about or whatever it was. And the other person will do the same.

I suppose I have given away the idea of converting and have just 'come out' over who I am and let it be other people's problem if they don't like it. The hatred I've experienced from Baha'is has taught me not to care particularly about other people's disapproval. Isn't it interesting that it wasn't until I was kicked out of the community that I felt able to come out about being a Baha'i. I feel sure that it was because I was free of the party machine. I see this as crucial to your concept of teaching as a neo-Baha'i.

BTW, I see no reason why your Mistress of the Word of God could not also be the Maid of Heaven, given that the Maid of Heaven symbolises the Word of God.

Alison


Date: Mon Sep 30, 2002 8:40 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: teaching

Hi Randy,

I think we are saying the same thing, only in different words. By saying that unity is the goal and justice the method, I am saying that unity is realised - as you say, it already is in a hidden reality - but it is manifested in the outer world when we pursue justice. Using another, less emotive analogy, the goal is to get the tree to fruit, and the method is to feed and water it. You can't manufacture fruit, but you can create the conditions conducive to the tree producing it.

As I understand Baha'u'llah, he does say that the goal is to unite humanity. But the administration is fond of saying that too. That means that when we hear it said, we associate it with the administration and its fundamentalism. I think it is important to go back to what Baha'u'llah himself says and get a handle on his meaning, free of the load the administration has put on it.

Baha'u'llah says, as Ian quoted: " The Great Being saith: O ye children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men" (Gleanings, CX, p. 215)

I've had to rethink what Baha'u'llah means by unity of the human race here, and I think the answer is in the next clause "foster the spirit of love and fellowship". To my mind, unity is about eliminating hatred and building loving bonds between people. It is hatred that causes disunity; it separates people from each other and causes us to see the "other" as a demon. If hatred is dispelled and love promoted, then people live together in peace and tolerance. This fits with the tree analogy - create the conditions in which hatred is dissolved and love promoted and the fruit of unity will grow.

I think the mistake the administration makes - and this is the point you are making, as I understand it - is that it tries to manufacture the goal by whatever means. In other words, it tries to manufacture the fruit rather than create the conditions in the community that will produce it. I call this the ideological path to unity. Using this method, you manufacture an outer unity using party discipline. This means everyone has to do as they are told; conscience is limited to inner brain functioning, and everything that comes out of you is controlled. This is manufactured unity. It has nothing to do with unity as Baha'u'llah means it, which is about dissolving hatred and promoting love and fragrance.

And as we know, you can't dissolve hatred and build love using party discipline. The two are opposites. As we have seen from Marxism, for example, ideological unity is, in reality, hatred. It has not overcome the demonising of difference.

Another thought I had about justice was that Baha'u'llah says: "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. (Persian Hidden Words, no 64) Baha'u'llah has pledged himself, and made it a part of his covenant, not to forgive any man's injustice. Doesn't sound to me like he considered justice to be of secondary importance. You can't have a "unity" where the rulers are unjust and condemned by Baha'u'llah.

Alison


Date: Mon Oct 7, 2002 8:51 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] the covenant

Hi Larry,

Yes, I take your point about deferral. I know that in times of crisis, I take a certain course of action, but feel I must wait to see the good results and to feel a sense of peace. As you say, this deferring process is a product of our limitations. After I have come to terms with a situation that has gone contrary to my wishes, then the sense of deferral dissipates and I am able to move on, reinterpreting the situation and believing it was always meant to be that way. Baha'u'llah makes this point in the Valley of Knowledge where the lover scales the wall. If he'd known from the beginning what the end would bring, he wouldn't have felt that the grace of God was being deferred.

There's another tradition, which Baha'u'llah quotes in the Gems, that came to mind when I read your message. Baha'u'llah quotes: "The believer is alive in both worlds." If this is a believer's everyday experience - being aware of the physical and spiritual reality of his or her life - then the concept of deferral becomes pretty meaningless. I try to remember the reality of the next world as I go about my daily life. I find it helps me get through, because I find this world so depressing. I guess I escape into my remembrance of the spiritual world. But as I understand it, that is what we are supposed to do: abide not but in the rose-garden of the spirit.

I read a Rumi poem once, where he argued that waiting was an illusion. In moments where I have felt like waiting was going to overwhelm me, I have meditated on this point. I am sometimes able to calm myself with the inner knowledge that, as Baha'u'llah says, the end is in the beginning - in other words, the end is already real if I experience it in my heart, even if it isn't a reality in the physical world. At those times, I feel the covenant present with me, and not something deferred; I know I have found its pre-existent reality inside me. If I am not in touch with that reality, it's because I have shifted, not God!

Alison


Date: Mon Oct 21, 2002 7:56 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Fwd: UU NEWS October 20, 2002

>>Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's
>>character, give him power.
>>
>>-- Abraham Lincoln

Now there's a good quote. Baha'u'llah makes the same argument in his Commentary on a Verse by Rumi. There he argues that one cannot know if a poor person is generous or stingy unless you give that person money. He explains that the changes in the world, which come about through the revelation of God's names, create changes in people's circumstances and that brings to light new aspects of their character.

Here is the paragraph from Baha'u'llah's commentary:

"For instance, consider the divine name, "the Self-Sufficient." In its own kingdom, this name is unified. But after its effulgence in the mirrors of human existence, the effects of that effulgence appear in each soul according to that soul's exigencies. For instance, in the generous it appears as generosity, whereas in the miserly it takes the form of avarice. In the ill-omened it becomes abasement, and in the blessed it appears as good fortune. For in the condition of poverty, souls and what is in them are concealed. For example, the generosity and avarice of someone who does not possess a single penny is hidden. Likewise, in such a condition his good or bad fortune would as yet be impossible to discern. After becoming self-sufficient, every soul shows forth what is within it. For instance, one might expend what he possesses in the path of God. Another might organize war materiel and arise to engage in battle with the truth. One might safeguard others to the point where he denies his wealth to himself and his family. Consider how from one effulgence so many different and contradictory things appear. But before that effulgence all these souls were subdued, concealed and languid. With one ray from the sun of the name, "the Self-Sufficient," how he has resurrected these souls and made visible and manifest what was hidden within them! If you contemplate this utterance with the eye of insight, you will become aware of hidden mysteries."

Alison


Date: Tue Oct 22, 2002 8:47 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] teaching (Social Justice)

>It seem to me that the challenge to each and every one of us as human beings
>must be not to seek Justice for ourselves or our causes but to learn to
>become Just Persons. To be dispensers of justice to others.

I think you have stated a profound truth here, Warren.

We tend to focus entirely on justice as it manifests itself in the world. People get themselves involved in just causes, but don't take the time to examine their own behaviour and concern themselves with spiritual development. Look at Osama bin Laden, to take an obvious case. He believes he is acting in pursuit of a just cause, but has not eliminated hatred within him and so he perpetuates injustice in the world. To me, this demonstrates the folly of thinking that just causes alone can change the world. Another pattern that you get is politicians claiming on the election trail that they support this, that, and the next just cause. But then they get into power and do something else. Why? Because the justice of the cause they supported was not a reality within them.

I find that the best response to the world's current turmoil (a just cause if ever there was one) is to focus on Baha'u'llah and continue my struggle to detach from the world. It seems like running away from the challenges the world faces, but I have found that focusing on my spiritual life generates the power to create real change.

Alison


Date: Tue Oct 22, 2002 8:47 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] What to tell our children ?

Dear Larry,

I've had the same experience that coming to terms with Baha'u'llah's humanity has helped me come to terms with mine. You know how Baha'u'llah says that he knows what is in our innermost heart all the time? Well, now, throughout the day I find myself feeling or thinking something way down inside me and then I remember that Baha'u'llah is witnessing it - in a sense, he experiences it simultaneously with me. And then I sometimes have a conversation out loud with him about it. Sometimes, I think of something funny and then remember Baha'u'llah has just experienced it too and then burst out laughing, knowing that we have shared a joke.

To me, Baha'u'llah's perfection is in his human-ness. He is the all compassionate one. He is sorry when I cry in despair, even if what I am unhappy about is a sorrow only from my limited perspective. I know he doesn't say "get over it", but gently nurtures me through and is there to share my delight when I witness wider horizons that make the sorrow disappear.

I've just remembered this great quote in the Iqan I found the other day. "Nothing whatsoever keepeth Him from being occupied with any other thing". (Qur'an 55:29) Gee, I love that! God is so huge, and yet he can be entirely focused on me and my little world and, at the same time, be as intimately involved in everybody else's life! He is not too big for me to be important to him. I am possessive about Baha'u'llah, you know. But everyone else can be possessive of him too. He would love that!

Alison

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

The Word of God teacheth lamentation and moaning to the nightingales
warbling upon the bough of remoteness and bereavement, instructeth them
in the art of love's ways, and showeth them the secret of heart-surrender.

Baha'u'llah

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


Date: Sun Oct 27, 2002 7:48 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] what to tell our children ?

Larry,

"Thinking about what would motivate a God/dess to create the conditions necessary for phenomenal existence , it seemed obvious that aloneness could be such a motive."

I agree. I think this is the import of the very famous and much loved hadith: "I was a hidden treasure and loved to be known, therefore I created the creation so that I might be known".

The mystic, Ibn Arabi, taught me a lot about God's yearning for us - each of us. It puts a whole new spin on what religion is at its core. It's not about institutions but getting back to that pre-existent place within ourselves where we remember our connection to our inner Beloved, who is our own divine self. As Baha'u'llah says in the Gems:

"Til I chose your love as my religion
I remained without an orthodoxy
How surprised and shocked I should be afterward
If I were not completely bewildered at you."

Alison


Date: Tue Oct 29, 2002 8:41 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] what to tell our children ?

Amen to all that you say, Larry.

Now, if there was some way to get the rest of the world to see it that way too. I've been doing a lot of thinking about that. Any ideas on that score? What I've come to so far is that it makes little difference what a person says exactly. The important thing is more the spirit in which it is said.

But now that I come to think about it, Baha'u'llah gives principles for speech. I've looked them up and here they are:

1. For utterance to be penetrating, it must be refined and this is conditioned on the heart being detached and pure.

2. Utterance needs to be moderate. Moderation is "obtained by blending utterance with the tokens of divine wisdom which are recorded in the sacred Books and Tablets."

"Thus when the essence of one's utterance is endowed with these two requisites it will prove highly effective and will be the prime factor in transforming the souls of men. This is the station of supreme victory and celestial dominion. Whoso attaineth thereto is invested with the power to teach the Cause of God and to prevail over the hearts and souls of men."

Quotes from Tablets pp198-199

Alison


Date: Fri Nov 1, 2002 8:39 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] teaching (Social Justice)

>Detachment does not mean running away from reality, it means seeking through
>prayer and meditiation a more conscious contact with spiritual reality and
>allowing it to influence our responses to the world around us rather than be
>reacting to these influences emotionaly and irrationally.

Well put, Warren. I've memorised it, along with your other comment about the primary importance of *being* justice.

I think, though, there is a general misunderstanding that detachment means running away from reality. This hit home to me when I was tossed out of the community. The NSA guy living locally accused local Baha'is sympathetic to my case of not being detached, in the sense that they were allowing their emotions to cloud their judgement. This is a common argument. The idea is that if you have compassion for someone when it is socially inconvenient to do so, then that is not being detached.

But, the NSA guy, who claims to be detached, is in fact denying reality and, ironically, caught up in self and passion.

Alison


Date: Sun Nov 17, 2002 11:37 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Freedom of Conscience

Tony,

Of course you are right that I don't need to refer to how language determines meaning in order to argue that freedom of speech is related to freedom of thought, but I am sold on this stuff. I think it is fascinating.

I've just finished reading an article by the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. It was a short piece called Course in General Linguistics (out of a larger work, I think). In this article he explains what language is and how we work in it. I was glued to the page. It is very complex, but to give an idea of what he is saying, he explains that language is not the signs, concepts and sound-images, but the relationship between all these. One word has a meaning only in relation to others around it. One example he gives is that in a language in which you have a dual, like in Arabic, the plural in that language has a different meaning to the plural in English.

To give an idea of how he sees language, he likens it to a chess game. Language is like the rules of the game. He says that no piece on the board has meaning in isolation. The meaning of each piece is determined by its position on the board at any one time. And this is changing constantly as the game is played. The same is true of words or signs. They have no meaning in isolation, this is given to them by the system of language. And the meaning changes over time.

It seems to me that the AO, or any other dominating worldly power, achieves power by trying to control the rules of the chess game. It is able through various means to impose its own rules of the language game and in that way determine the meaning each one of us plays in the community. So for example, the House controls discourse in the community and has been able insist that I play the role of the abased apostate, using the words "no longer a member of the community, therefore not a Baha'i'. Similarly, I think, the Bush administration has created the "issue" of Iraq out of language. If the liberals are able to make moves on the chess board, then they have the power to change the meaning of words and the part that they play in the community. This is a threat.

Baha'u'llah, as I understand the Iqan, is arguing that God in fact sets the rules and gives meaning to everything through his Word. And, as Baha'is, we are asked to see the whole human experiment through his eyes. I now understand this to mean that we must see human affairs through *his* story, which he demonstrates in the Iqan repeats throughout history. It is a metastory in pre-existence. And he explains what that story is: in general, there is the hero, who is the manifestation but doesn't have to be a manifestation, it is potentially each one of us; and there is his followers; and there are the bad guys who call the hero a sorcerer, infidel and such like. The hero must be abased. This is important, otherwise the badies wouldn't not be sorted from the goodies.

And what distinguishes the goodies from the badies is the person's ability to see the role the hero is playing within the divine story, and not the role the hero is playing within the story created by those who appear to dominate the rules of the game. To see the reality of the divine story requires detachment. Proof of detachment is the ability to shift oneself from operating in the worldly story to operating entirely in the divine one. People who have made such shifts act in ways that are inexplicable, such as the martyrs dancing to their deaths. They are manifesting a total renunciation of all meaning and value held by their contemporaries.

My feeling is that this is what we must become if we want to see change in the Baha'i community.

Alison


Date: Wed Nov 20, 2002 8:54 pm
Subject: contradictions

>Well they do say the history of mankind is the history of war.

But the point I was making before, and the same goes again here, is *who* says this and on what basis? You thought you'd found a contradiction, but there may not be a contradiction if these assertions are false.

As you pointed out, if the history of mankind is the history of war, then there will be no history when war is eliminated. I think this sort of thinking comes from people who feel there must a war, or other conflict, to keep their interest in life up.

Alison


Date: Thu Nov 21, 2002 8:12 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] self-censorship

Dear Warren,

Your long message brought up so many issues. The first one is about there not being safe opportunities in the community for people to speak about their personal lives. Dear God, I recall our local community debating this issue endlessly! Developing a safe environment for people to speak was never really achieved, except occasionally when the chairing was good. I agree with you that this is a key issue. Unless the places where people consult are safe and supportive, I don't believe any sense of community can be developed. For, as you go on to say, people learn by hearing other people's stories. They find out that they are not the only ones who experience a certain thing, and they bond and grow.

I think the idea that if you have a problem, you take it "through the proper channels" is isolating, just as you say. It is a way to control people. I remember clearly the feeling I had when I first joined Talisman and discovered that people *on the other side of the world* faced the same community problems as we did here at the bottom of the world. And we discovered that the proper channels were a dead-end everywhere.

I also agree that the Faith can be an addiction, like alcoholism. Like you, in the early days of my Baha'i life, I made some poor decisions that impacted badly on my daughter. I was a sole parent through my twenties, which were her early childhood years. Looking back, I cannot believe that I placed the interests of the local assembly over hers to some extent. I got nominal support from the assembly, but no real concern for my family circumstances. The group dynamic in the assembly was more about finding the poor sucker who'd do the secretarial work. And that was me, for a few years.

Now, in my new Baha'i life, I have found a way to integrate my Baha'i-ness with the rest of my life. Rather than see "being a Baha'i" as being separate from the other aspects of me, "being a Baha'i" is the animating purpose behind all that I do. There is no separation between the "Baha'i me" and the other mes.

I've already mentioned that I am reading a book by Bruce Lawrence called "Defenders of God", which is a discussion on fundamentalism. I have just read his discussion about the difference between ideology and religion. He is arguing that fundamentalism is a religious ideology. In one of his many comparisons between religion and ideology, he says that:

"Ideology is motivational to this world, not cognizant or reflective of the other world. It is on this point that the content of ideology and religion diverge most widely. Religions are marked by rites of passage for the individual, while ideologies aim to mobilize energies toward achieving corporate goals. It could be said that religion focuses on maximizing individual benefit through group participation, while ideology is intent on maximizing group benefit through individual participation. The this-worldly aspect of ideology should be not mistaken for crude materialism. Ideologies do appeal to deep-seated human instincts. In this sense, they are quasi-religious." (p79)

My thinking is that the Baha'i administration has turned the Faith into an ideology and away from a religion. Islamic fundamentalists are open about the fact that they have turned Islam into an ideology. The Faith is run by ideologues. This explains why, if you get close to the Baha'i administration, corporate interests take over, and one's personal spiritual path becomes secondary, if not completely forgotten. You think you are a member of a religion, but discover that something else is going on.

Alison


Date: Fri Nov 22, 2002 7:57 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Freedom of Conscience

Benjamin,

As I see it, it isn't a matter of me or any person judging another person. As I understand Baha'u'llah, he is arguing that the measure is all in our nearness to God.

I'll give an analogy. Let's say we have a warehouse full of people and it is very cold outside. There is a fire in the warehouse but it is invisible. Everyone feels the cold, but only some stand quietly and sense a source of warmth. In order to achieve this, they have had to quiet themselves from the babble of others complaining about the cold. These ones, sensing the heat, move towards it and feel warm. But in order to do this, they had to move away from the crowd of babblers. They are taunted for doing so, because envy sets in. The babblers sense these people may be warm but won't make the effort to feel it themselves and improve their situation. They get a lot out of being a babbler. Perhaps they are the leaders of the babblers.

Each person has the chance and the choice to move close to God. And it is on this decision that God, not others, judges us. But the situation is set up so that "judgement" is something that takes place all the time. It isn't a matter of a person passing down a judgement as in a court, our position in the warehouse and our behaviour there and the extent to which we move closer to the source of warmth is our 'judgement'. Judgement isn't something that takes place later, in another realm, it is happening all the time. Right now, in the warehouse. The babblers can't see that they are being judged and are suffering the consequences of their decisions. They believe that judgement is a thing that takes place between them. They have judged those who have moved towards the warmth and believe this judgement is real. But in fact the touchstone is nearness to God, which is not a part of the babblers' reality.

"Tear asunder, in My Name, the veils that have grievously blinded your vision, and, through the power born of your belief in the unity of God, scatter the idols of vain imitation. Enter, then, the holy paradise of the good-pleasure of the All-Merciful. Sanctify your souls from whatsoever is not of God, and taste ye the sweetness of rest within the pale of His vast and mighty Revelation, and beneath the shadow of His supreme and infallible authority. Suffer not yourselves to be wrapt in the dense veils of your selfish desires, inasmuch as I have perfected in every one of you My creation, so that the excellence of My handiwork may be fully revealed unto men. It follows, therefore, that every man hath been, and will continue to be, able of himself to appreciate the Beauty of God, the Glorified. Had he not been endowed with such a capacity, how could he be called to account for his failure? If, in the Day when all the peoples of the earth will be gathered together, any man should, whilst standing in the presence of God, be asked: "Wherefore hast thou disbelieved in My Beauty and turned away from My Self," and if such a man should reply and say: "Inasmuch as all men have erred, and none hath been found willing to turn his face to the Truth, I, too, following their example, have grievously failed to recognize the Beauty of the Eternal," such a plea will, assuredly, be rejected. For the faith of no man can be conditioned by any one except himself." Gleanings, LXXV

Alison


Date: Wed Dec 4, 2002 10:02 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Theo-semiotics

>John:
>Sure, I have no problem with this. But it's not what Abdul Baha
>writes: He writes that the mystic knower experiences "traces and
>effulgences" of God that *have been placed* within us. He does not
>say that these have been produced by us. Anyway, I'm getting close to
>splitting hairs here so I'll desist on this one.

I don't think that he saw a contradiction between the effulgences being placed within us and their being generated by our soul. The process of generation by the soul is the same as the process by which they are placed within us. What other possibilities are there? The effulgences can either well up from within us or be flashed magically into us from outside.

>John:
>It is not a mystical vision and I think it would be wrong to
>associate mysticism too strongly with with visionary experiences. In
>fact, most mystical traditions are sceptical of "visions"; and with
>good reason for in many cases they are probably just the result of a
>rich and active subliminal consciousness. They distract the seeker
>from his/her true goal which is *fana* - extinction, cessation,
>annihilation, passing away of the self/ego/personality and absorption
>in "God".

I don't see fana' and baqa' in this way. I don't think they entail the annihilation of the self in the sense of annihilating our personality and sensual and other experience. I think it is more a case of awakening to the fact that God is inside you experiencing all that you experience. If you shut down all that you are in an effort to experience fana', then you shut down God too. All you have achieved is the annihilation of the effulgences placed in you. As you see, so does God. As you hear, so does God. As you think, so does God. You and God are joint subjects of your experience. Your experience is God's experience of you. What you are is what God knows you to be. Being aware of this all the time is baqa', or living in God. You realise that the medium by which you exist and have experiences is the medium of God. All that you experience is experienced within him.

Fana', death of the self, is dying to the illusion that you exist outside of God. "Self" is the belief that you act independently of God, rather than through him. When you recognise that your real partner is God and that he is inside you and always will be and that you can never be parted and he will aid you and bring you joy, everything else becomes unimportant. You "forget your soul, spirit, body and very being", as Baha'u'llah explains. I don't think he means for this to be taken literally, so much as an allusion to the ecstacy you experience when you experience "union" with God. The mystic becomes forgetful of self because she is taken up in ecstacy, not because she is trying to annihilate herself.

Alison


Date: Fri Dec 6, 2002 9:39 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Theo-semiotics

Warren said:
>If I know The God in me and you know The God in you, We know The God in each
>other.

That's right. (along with everything else you said!)

Today at Mashriq, we had a reading from the Mathnavi. There were a couple of lines in there that I think say what you are saying:

"Love means a letting go of mortal life
to claim with heart and soul eternity."

And here it is again in the Words of Wisdom:

"The essence of love is for man to turn his heart to the Beloved One, and sever himself from all else save Him, and desire naught save that which is the desire of his Lord."

We generally think that to love a person is to turn our hearts towards that person. That, of course, is correct, but it is not wholly so. I hear Baha'u'llah saying that the way to love is to turn one's heart to God, the Beloved One inside ourselves, and find the divine presence in there. From that place, are we able to truly love another person. As you say, because when I know the God in me, then I recognise and bear witness to the God in you. Mutual recognition is what we experience as love, I think.

>Are you familiar with the Twenty Third Psalm?

"The Lord is my shepherd...": yes, I used to sing it at church when I was a child.

Alison

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

The cloud of the Loved One's mercy
raineth only on the garden of the spirit.

Baha'u'llah

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


Date: Sat Dec 21, 2002 8:24 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Potential convert with serious questions

Dear Liam,

That certainly is an impressive search story. If you keep searching like that, with sincerity, honesty (to yourself) and passion, you are certain to find all the answers you seek.

My other general reaction to the end-bit of your story was this: relax! You're doing a fabulous job walking your spiritual path. You are already doing it, and are a role model to all on Talisman.

You seem to be concerned about "which religion to chose", but I think this isn't necessarily the key issue. That's the sort of question that society values, but I think it would be a pity if you felt a sense of urgency to *make a decision* when that wasn't right for you. As your story shows, you will make key decisions - such as the one to believe in a creator - when that time is right for you. I think it is more important for you to continue following your heart and nose. Things will be sure to fall into place as you go, as they already have done.

I think the best way to know Baha'u'llah and to decide whether you think he is a prophet or sociologist is to read his writings extensively.

I certainly understand your concern about being disillusioned again. There are people on this list who once believed in Baha'u'llah but have changed their minds about that belief. For me, there have been a few times in my Baha'i life when I felt disillusioned, but never lost faith. My experience is that if you seek answers from Baha'u'llah, they will always come. If you feel disappointed on your journey, it is not necessarily the end of your journey, it is simply a new beginning. The journey will only stop if you stop searching. People do stop searching because they become heart-broken, but I think to stop searching is to die.

You don't have to join the Baha'i community to be a Baha'i. I am not a member of the community but I am a Baha'i. That is the way some people avoid the nastiness that goes on in the community while retaining its spiritual oasis.

As for your feeling that you never felt anything spiritual in the past, this is simply socialisation. You have been socialised to view the world in a certain way; in fact, what you experience as "you" is simply a bundle of values that you hold at any one time. As these values change, the sense of "you" does also. These values are so natural to you, you don't realise that they make you up. But when your spiritual search leads you to question them, then that becomes scary, because the journey is asking us to sacrifice "self". The lesson in this is that the sense of "death" we experience when the self changes is an illusion. Another word for this process is transformation.

As I said, if your spiritual sense was defunct, you would never have written that message to Talisman.

Alison


Date: Fri Dec 27, 2002 8:26 pm
Subject: new race of men

"I compare his views to the idea of Baha'u'llah of a "new race of men," an idea that is present perhaps in all religions that teach about an end time where a Golden Age of some kind is inaugurated."

Dear Randy,

I think that when Baha'u'llah refers to a "new race of men" he means *us* and not some future generation in a Golden Age. By that, I mean that we have the potential to be a new race of men, whether or not we realise that potential is another thing. Here's the quote:

"The day is approaching when God will have, by an act of His Will, raised up a race of men the nature of which is inscrutable to all save God, the All-Powerful, the Self-Subsisting. He shall purify them from the defilement of idle fancies and corrupt desires, shall lift them up to the heights of holiness, and shall cause them to manifest the signs of His sovereignty and might upon earth. Thus hath it been ordained by God, the All-Glorious, the All-Loving." Suriy-i-Haykal in Summons of the Lord of Hosts, para 8

The first point I want to make is that I think we live in the "golden age" right now. Here's Baha'u'llah in the Mathnavi (lines 147-155):

"Once someone posed this question to a gnostic:
O you, who've grasped the mysteries of God
O you, by bounty's wine intoxicate
do you recall the day of 'Am I not?'
He said: I do recall that sound, those words
as if it were but yesterday, no less!
It lingers ever in my ears, His call
that sweet, soul-vivifying voice of His.
Another gnostic, who had climbed beyond
had bored the mystic pearls divine, replied:
That day of God has never ended nor
has fallen short, we're living in that day!
His day's unending, not pursued by night-
That we're alive in such a day's not strange
Had Time's Soul ceased its yearning for this day
then Heaven's court and throne would fall to dust
For through God's power this eternal day
was made unending by His Majesty."

Of course this passage has many meanings, but the meaning I want to take out of it is that Baha'u'llah is contrasting two understandings of the "time" when we are in God's presence and he asks us 'Am I not your Lord?' and we, in theory, say 'yes'. The first gnostic says that he recalls that time as a past event, but the second gnostic knows that the "time" when that exchange took place was in pre-existence - in other words, it is happening all the time. Every moment of our existence that question and answer is repeated. Every moment is, therefore, a very great moment. In addition, Baha'u'llah also asks us the same question via his revelation - Baha'u'llah asks us to recognise him as Lord - and so we are living in that "time" in that sense too.

The point I am wanting to make is that we should not undervalue the day in which we live - both because Baha'u'llah's revelation is a return of the time in pre-existence when we were asked the question that created the covenant, and because that moment recurs every moment of our lives. On this basis, I argue that we live in the "Golden Age" right now. We waste our lives if we "forget" our pre-existent connection to God, and think that only those in times gone by or in some golden future are the ones to carry out the important work of the Cause. If we are not a new race of men now, then that isn't because we are not gifted, it is because we left the new race of men to a future generation. The 'new race of men' will be the one that refuses to dream about the future, and grasps the present opportunity. This very attitude will be the key to attracting the unimaginable bounties.

Another point I wanted to make is mentioned in passing by Baha'u'llah a few paragraphs later. In paragraph 14, still referring to the new race of men, Baha'u'llah says: "Were they to unloose their tongues to extol their Lord, the denizens of earth and heaven would join in their anthems of praise - yet how few are they who hear! And were they to glorify their Lord, all created things would join in their hymns of glory. Thus hath God exalted them above the rest of His creation, and yet the people remain unaware!"

The paragraph suggests that even though God has raised up the new race of men, only a few will hear what they have to say, and people will largely remain unaware. This doesn't fit with the usual dream that when God raises up these good people, everyone will naturally recognise their wisdom and take them as leaders.

The fact that the people will not recognise the new race of men is consistent with what Sen calls the doctrine of two sovereignties. God has given sovereignty of the world to the kings and rulers, but he has kept the sovereignty of the heart for himself. This distinction leads to the curious situation where Baha'u'llah, although a prisoner on earth and to all intents and purposes completely without power, is at the same time the sovereign of the spiritual world.

It is therefore likely that the new race of men will live among the people and the people will not know it.

Alison


Date: Tue Dec 31, 2002 7:16 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] new race of men

Larry,

I don't think that Baha'u'llah holds to a linear, hierarchical view of station. I think that is a misreading of an important theme in his thought.

Baha'u'llah argues that *love* is a sovereignty, a spiritual sovereignty, and that this is the only sovereignty worth having - that is, worldly sovereignty (which you get in a linear hierarchy such as the one you describe) is as nothing beside a spiritual sovereignty borne of love. This spiritual sovereignty does not come as a result of lauding it over people. It comes from loving God even in adversity. A person who loves God and is grateful even in adversity is a person who demonstrates in their actions that they know that love is a greater sovereignty than worldly vanities. In the quote from Prayers and Meditations, Baha'u'llah is saying that this spiritual sovereignty is so wonderful that even kings (the symbols of worldly sovereignty) would long for it.

"O SON OF SPIRIT! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting." (Baha'u'llah: Arabic Hidden Words, no 1)

As for the new race of men, the passage in which Baha'u'llah speaks of them refers to the fact that these people are *characterised* by their choice to renounce worldly vanities in favour of maintaining in their hearts the love of God. They are "purified from the defilment of idle fancies and corrupt desires":

"The day is approaching when God will have, by an act of His Will, raised up a race of men the nature of which is inscrutable to all save God, the All-Powerful, the Self-Subsisting. He shall purify them from the defilement of idle fancies and corrupt desires, shall lift them up to the heights of holiness, and shall cause them to manifest the signs of His sovereignty and might upon earth. Thus hath it been ordained by God, the All-Glorious, the All-Loving." Suriy-i-Haykal in Summons of the Lord of Hosts, para 8

The hierarchy you describe is a corrupt desire and by definition a person who was into that sort of thing could not have the spiritual sovereignty Baha'u'llah alludes to here.

It is important to understand that a person who is good, in that they love God above all else, is a great person; but their greatness does not reside in the fact that they are better than others. Their greatness stems from their choice to love God and not worldly vanities. Such a person embodies the principle: "Poverty is my glory".

Alison