Epiphany?

I found on Baha’i Views a quote from another Baha’i blog, The Many Adventures of Shireen, where she says in the post Epiphany,

I feel we are now at a pivotal time in human history. Society is crying out for spiritual fulfillment and direction; the religious regimes of the past are no longer functional in that sense. We are in dire need of a drastic paradigm shift in order to align our understanding of existence in this world with that of what God has been telling us through His Manifestations

Shireen was just speaking for herself, of course, but I would be interested in hearing how other Baha’is react to this quote. The reason I single it out is that it raises some questions in my mind.

What is Baha’u’llah telling us that is different from what past Manifestations told us? How are the needs we face now different from the needs of past dispensations? What exactly is the paradigm shift that we have to undergo now?

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25 Responses

  1. It’s interesting that you singled out this paragraph from my blog post. I like that it raised a lot of questions for you, and hopefully for others as well.
    My answer to the questions posed would be simply that Baha’u’llah, in my understanding, has brought about a level of awareness about global unification unheard of in previous religious dispensations. It is historically traceable that, shortly after Baha’u’llah’s declaration of His mission, the Industrial Revolution occured, communication across vast distances became possible, and a global community was born.
    The Baha’i Revelation addresses the needs of a global community that is currently divided by arbitrary lines of geography, ethnicity, and thought. His message is not DIFFERENT than previous dispensations per se, but the ideas and actions are more far-reaching, globally focused rather than locally focused, as was the tradition of the past when transportation and communication across long distances was vastly more difficult.
    The world is shrinking into one global village, so the paradigm shift I mention is one where I suggest we no longer think of geographic boundaries as limiting the scope of our activities. If we are all human, and we are all created noble, as Baha’u’llah clearly states in His Writings, then we are one global family and we should ALL actively work towards making the whole world a cohesive, functional, happy family. No more violence, no more famine, no more war; if we wouldn’t want these things to happen to our close relatives, how much more should we then focus on not allowing these things to happen to our global family members?
    These are the things I was thinking about when I posted Epiphany.

  2. Hi Shireen, thanks for your comment. I appreciate you answering my questions. I have some more, if that’s okay.

    The Baha’i Revelation addresses the needs of a global community that is currently divided by arbitrary lines of geography, ethnicity, and thought.

    What specifically are the needs of the global community, and how does the Baha’i Faith address them differently than other religions do?

    His message is not DIFFERENT than previous dispensations per se, but the ideas and actions are more far-reaching, globally focused rather than locally focused, as was the tradition of the past when transportation and communication across long distances was vastly more difficult.

    Can you be more specific? What was it about Christianity, for example, that made it more locally focused?

    The world is shrinking into one global village, so the paradigm shift I mention is one where I suggest we no longer think of geographic boundaries as limiting the scope of our activities.

    Did the followers of previous religions decide to restrict themselves geographically? If so, what were the boundaries that Christians designated as the limit for their activities?

  3. I’m sorry, I’m going to have to get back to you on these rather excellent questions. I’m heading out on vacation today, but I want to be able to answer your questions thoroughly. So, hopefully I will have formulated a decent reply for you on my return home. :)

  4. I knew she wouldn’t come back.

  5. Give her time. Maybe it’s a long vacation, or she was swamped with work when she got back.

    Meanwhile, if any other Baha’i readers would like to chime in, please feel free.

  6. >What specifically are the needs of the global >community, and how does the Baha’i Faith address >them differently than other religions do?

    One of the needs of the global community is unity and Baha’u’llah teaches explicitly that the earth is one country and mankind its citizens. Previous Manifistations did not teach this explicitly.

    >Can you be more specific? What was it about >Christianity, for example, that made it more locally >focused?

    Christianity arose in an age and among a people who did not know of the existence of many parts of the planet. Jesus gave a revelation suited to a more locally focused age then the present age.

    >Did the followers of previous religions decide to >restrict themselves geographically?

    I don’t think so. The knowledge and technology available in those ages in which these religions first arose restricted the followers geographically.

    >If so, what were the boundaries that Christians >designated as the limit for their activities?

    Christians did not designate the boundries that limited their activities. Their activities are and were limited to areas “known” to them and to which they could travel.

    Puc Fada

  7. Thanks for your faith in me; I promised I would return, and here I am. :) Didn’t really have internet access while on vacation…

    Ok, so actually, the answers that Puc had posted in response here pretty acuratelly reflect what I was trying to get at in my original post in terms of locality versus globality.

    The teachings of Christ, in my humble opinion, were designated for the people of a certain age, with the understanding that travel and communication were limited. In this day and age, one could argue that most of Christ’s teaching are still valid and I would agree, but the fact that so many denominations of Christianity exist and contradict each other on doctrine and dogmatic practice tends to belie the universality of a message that looks to me like it has lost something in the translation. Sorry, that may seem somewhat harsh, but that’s how I see it. I guess my point is that, while the Bible touts a message of brotherly love and fellowship, it doesn’t seem to have translated to a global scale as intact as it could have.

    On the other hand, my personal understanding is that the Baha’i Faith is protected against schisms and misunderstandings in a covenant that was established by Baha’u’llah Himself, designating a progression of leadership that was unseen in previous religious dispensations. Therefore, information and leadership has remained intact and throughout the world, wherever there are Baha’is, they all practice one common faith. So the globality of this unified understanding seems to stand out to me as a wholly new phenomenon in the annals of religious history.

  8. Puc Fada wrote:

    One of the needs of the global community is unity and Baha’u’llah teaches explicitly that the earth is one country and mankind its citizens. Previous Manifistations did not teach this explicitly.

    I disagree. Even if that exact wording isn’t found in Christianity, the sentiment is there.

    Christianity arose in an age and among a people who did not know of the existence of many parts of the planet.

    Yes, transportation technology is more sophisticated now than 2,000 years ago. But what does that have to do with the revelation itself? It doesn’t matter if Christians knew about other parts of the planet. When they found new regions, they knew the people there were children of the one God. They saw the revelation of Christ as equally relevant to everyone, regardless of where they lived.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that the Baha’i Faith is more relevant because it is more recent. But that is not a sufficient argument, as I’m sure you’d agree. Cao Dai appeared more recently than the Baha’i Faith. Is it therefore more relevant to the modern world? Not necessarily. Just because a religion appeared more recently, that doesn’t mean it meets modern needs more effectively.

    Jesus gave a revelation suited to a more locally focused age then the present age.

    What about Jesus’ revelation, aside from its date, makes it more suited to a locally-focused age?

    Shireen wrote:

    Therefore, information and leadership has remained intact and throughout the world, wherever there are Baha’is, they all practice one common faith.

    Throughout the world, wherever there are Catholics, they all practice one common faith.

    The teachings of Christ, in my humble opinion, were designated for the people of a certain age, with the understanding that travel and communication were limited.

    Can you give a specific example of a teaching of Christ that is no longer valid because travel and communication are less limited now?

    the fact that so many denominations of Christianity exist and contradict each other on doctrine and dogmatic practice tends to belie the universality of a message

    If you consider the Catholic Church alone, without regard to the other Christian groups, it is still the second largest religion in the world, after Islam. It is found in more countries than any other religion. How can the second most widespread religion be more universal than the first most widespread religion?

    Naturally we are sad that there are so many Christians (almost half) who remain outside the full embrace of the Church, but the Church herself doesn’t cease to be universal because some of her children leave it.

    And anyway, I’m puzzled by this logic that disunity in a religious community belies its universality. There was a great deal of disunity in Baha’u’llah’s family, as you’re well aware. Would it be reasonable to conclude that Baha’u’llah’s message was not universal?

  9. >>One of the needs of the global community is unity >>and Baha’u’llah teaches explicitly that the earth is >>one country and mankind its citizens. Previous >>Manifistations did not teach this explicitly.

    >I disagree.Even if that exact wording isn’t found in >Christianity, the sentiment is there.

    Well I wasn’t saying that the same sentiment isn’t implicit in any of the things Christ said. So, you seem to be disagreeing with a strawman.

    What I am saying is that Christianity cannot point back to any recorded statement, whether using these words or other words, of Christ which is an _explicitly_ teaching that the earth is but one country and mankind it’s citizens.

    Do you disagree with that?

    If you do, please let me see the words of Christ you believe do not merly imply that the earth is but one country and mankind it’s citizens, but rather make this same statement _explicitly_ using a different combination of words.

    Puc Fada

  10. >Yes, transportation technology is more >sophisticated now than 2,000 years ago. But what >does that have to do with the revelation itself?

    Plenty. Not only was transportation technology less sophisticated than it is now, but the knowledge and technology posessed by humans 2,000 years was less sophisticated than it is today.

    I believe that Christ tailored His revelation to meet the needs of an age when the knowledge posessed by humans was less sophisticated than it is today. This is one thing I believe about Jesus’ revelation, aside from its date, that makes it more suited to a locally-focused age.

    >It doesn’t matter if Christians knew about other >parts of the planet.

    Well, where I disagree with you is that relative to having unity of all the planet in that age, it would very much matter that the existence of many parts of the planet were unknown and undiscovered in that age. This is pretty self evident.

    >When they found new regions, they knew the people >there were children of the one God. They saw the >revelation of Christ as equally relevant to everyone, >regardless of where they lived.

    Some Christians did as you say when they found new regions, some considered themselves to be racially superiour to the natives they found living in those regions.

    >Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying >that the Baha’i Faith is more relevant because it is >more recent.

    I wasn’t saying that the Baha’i Faith is more relevent merely because it is a more recent religion to appear in the world.

    However, I do believe that the deposit of divine revelation found in the Baha’i Faith is the most recent revelation from God. I also believe the most recent revelation is the most relevent to the age for which it was revealed.

    Puc Fada.

  11. If you do, please let me see the words of Christ you believe do not merly imply that the earth is but one country and mankind it’s citizens, but rather make this same statement _explicitly_ using a different combination of words.

    I don’t understand why you think this is a key point, but maybe that’s because I don’t understand the quote. What exactly does Baha’u’llah mean when he says, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”?

    I believe that Christ tailored His revelation to meet the needs of an age when the knowledge posessed by humans was less sophisticated than it is today. This is one thing I believe about Jesus’ revelation, aside from its date, that makes it more suited to a locally-focused age.

    Can you be more specific? In what way did he tailor his message to suit the age?

    Some Christians did as you say when they found new regions, some considered themselves to be racially superiour to the natives they found living in those regions.

    Some Christians didn’t live up to the standard of our faith. What does that prove? This is not a valid argument. It would be like a non-Baha’i dismissing the claims of the Baha’u’llah because a Baha’i he knew was an unsavory character. I saw a lot of disunity in the Baha’i communities I was a part of, but I don’t use that experience to claim the Baha’i Faith doesn’t bring unity.

    I would suggest that we evaluate others’ religions by the same standards by which we evaluate our own. If we know that individual Baha’is have failings and don’t always exemplify the Baha’i teachings, then we should have the open-mindedness to recognize that the same may be true of other religions, too.

  12. >I don’t understand why you think this is a key point, >but maybe that’s because I don’t understand the >quote. What exactly does Baha’u’llah mean when he >says, “The earth is but one country and mankind its >citizens”?

    You say maybe you don’t understand what exactly Baha’u’llah means when he says “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”, yet you claim with regard to this very statement of Baha’u’llah and I quote- “Even if that exact wording isn’t found in Christianity, the sentiment is there”

    Jonah, I don’t understand how you could possibly know the exact sentiment expressed explicitly by Baha’u’llah is found in Christianity, if you are not sure that you know exactly what Baha’u’llah means by the explicit statement of Baha’u’llah under consideration?

    >Can you be more specific? In what way did he tailor >his message to suit the age?

    Sure. He tailored his message to suit that age by making his teachings adeaquate for the peoples and society who lived in the age and dispensation of Christ.

    I believe your further comments are creating a strawman with regard to my statement that some Christians did as you say when they found new regions, while others considered themselves to be racially superiour to the natives they found living in those regions.
    This statement of mine is not an evaluation of your religion at all. It is, in my opinion and without evaluating your religion, merely a more accurate, factual and broader observation than your statement portrays of the reaction Christians had to discovering parts of the planet that were previously unknown to them.

    You suggest that we evaluate others’ religions by the same standards by which we evaluate our own. I assume you do not evaluate your religion based upon strawmen. My argument has not been what you seem to be suggesting- that I can evaluate other peoples religions by observing the failings of the followers of other religions.

    The only belief I have been expressing about your religion is the belief that Christianity cannot point back to any recorded statement of Christ which is _explicitly_ teaching that the earth is but one country and mankind it’s citizens (whether using these words or other words).

    Puc Fada.

  13. The statement “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”, if taken literally, is false. The word “citizen”, at least in English, is a political term. (If anyone knows how it is worded in the original, please let me know.) The word “citizen” refers to the rights and responsibilities a person has in a body politic, such as voting, serving on a jury, speaking at public hearings, paying taxes, etc. The word “country” has a variety of meanings in English, but given that it is paired with the word “citizen”, it is probably meant in the sense of “nation-state”.

    So Baha’u’llah couldn’t have meant the phrase literally, because we don’t have a world government. He must have been speaking metaphorically or figuratively. I take him to mean that people should place their loyalty in the human race rather than in their nation-state. Or to put it another way, they should regard the human race as their nationality. Not in a legal or political sense, but in the sense of their personal identity.

    There were no nation-states until a few hundred years ago, so naturally we won’t find them mentioned in the Bible. But the underlying sentiment, as I understand it, is that one’s identity as a human being is more fundamental than one’s identity as a member of an ethnicity or race or any other social group. And that when we meet others, we should see them first of all as human beings, and only secondly as members of a smaller category.

    This idea is found throughout the Bible. Paul, for example, chastises the well-to-do Christians in Corinth for carrying their class divisions into the eucharistic meal. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Christian community transcends the old division between Jew and Gentile, and Paul in his letter to the Galatians writes the famous line, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.” Christ gave his disciples the task of going out into the whole world and making disciples of all men.

    So I still don’t understand why a Baha’i would suggest that Christianity is locally-focused. Christianity does not endorse national or geographic divisions. It doesn’t focus on one part of the world to the exclusion of others.

    You might argue that real-life Christians have been nationalistic or racist or what have you. But that does not prove that Christianity is locally-focused. What it proves is that many self-identified Christians have not fully practiced their faith.

    You might argue that Christians couldn’t have looked past their local identity because they didn’t know about people on other continents. But that is illogical. The Mediterranean world was a diverse place, with lots of ethnic groups, languages, skin colors, religions, and other divisions. People in ancient times knew just as well as we do that the world is full of all kinds of different people. The idea that we have a common humanity that transcends our differences was also just as accessible to them.

    The difference between the ancient and modern world is not a difference between sameness and diversity, or between localness and globalness. Both worlds were diverse and heterogeneous. In fact, I’m not even sure we can say that modern people live in a more diverse world. On the one hand we today have the capability of travelling longer distances more quickly and safely, but on the other hand the number of ethnic groups and languages in the world has dropped dramatically.

    I have asked several times on this thread for a specific example of a doctrine of Christianity that is tailored to the technological level of the ancient world. So far no one has responded. I would still be interested in seeing an answer.

  14. “So Baha’u’llah couldn’t have meant the phrase literally, because we don’t have a world government. He must have been speaking metaphorically or figuratively.”

    If a Baluchi were to say that Baluchistan is but one country and the Baluchi’s are it’s citizens, I wouldn’t think that simply because there is no Baluchi government at present, he _must_ be speaking either fasly, metaphorically or figurativly .

    The Baluchi obviously regards Baluchistan as a single country and Baluchi’s as citizens thereof, even if there is not any Baluchi government at present. I disagree that the expression _must_ either be false or methaphorical/figurative, the
    expression “Baluchistan is but one country and Baluchi’s its citizens” can be understood to be an expression of the aspiration for a national government for Baluchistan that Baluchis wish to see.

    Simirarly, “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens” can be understood as an expression of the aspiration for world government that is clearly and explicitly spoken of in the Baha’i scripures. In my opinion, Christ’s statement giving his disciples the task of going out into the whole world and making disciples of all men does not contain the same level of expression for the earth to be regarded as one single country nor does it necesseraly include the same level of aspiration for world government that Baha’u’llah’s statement does.

    “There were no nation-states until a few hundred years ago, so naturally we won’t find them mentioned in the Bible.”

    Even if the teachings of Christ imply that one’s identity as a human being is more fundamental than one’s identity as a member of an ethnicity or race or any other social group, it seem obvious from your comment that Christ did not speak about the union of nation states in a world government that is expressly spoken of in the Baha’i teachings.

    “I have asked several times on this thread for a specific example of a doctrine of Christianity that is tailored to the technological level of the ancient world. ”

    Let’s say you learn addition in first class and multiplication in second class. There is no dotrine in addition that says it is suitable for learning in first class, yet the teacher tailors the teaching to suit the knowledge of the students in first class.

    Then after addition has been taught, multiplication is taught in second class. Multiplication does not contradict addition and we find that multiplication when taught explicitly, can be understood as something that is implicit in addition.

    I don’t believe the view has been expressed that there is a specific Christian doctrine that shows that Christianity is tailored to the technological level of the ancient world. The lack any explicit teaching of Christ regarding world peace upheld by world government is one factor in my belief that Christ tailored His teachings to suit the needs of the dispensation of Christ and not the requirements of the present age. The lack of such a teaching shows me that the teachings of Christ are not as focused on the global needs of humanity in the present age as the teachings of Baha’u’llah are. I believe the teachings of Christ are suitable for a more locally focused age then the present age, just as addition is a teaching suitable for students with a particular level of knowledge and multiplication is suited to students with a different level of knowledge.

    Puc Fada

  15. So the Baha’i Faith’s great advance over other religions is that it explicitly advocates world government? Christianity is locally-focused and geographically restricted in scope because it doesn’t take a position on it? Is world government the great paradigm shift Shireen was talking about?

  16. >So the Baha’i Faith’s great advance over other >religions is that it explicitly advocates world >government?

    It is one of those things that Baha’u’llah is explicitly telling us that is not found explicitly in what past Manifestations explicitly told us.

    In that sense it is one advance upon what past Manifistations told us.

    > Christianity is locally-focused and geographically >restricted in scope because it doesn’t take a >position on it?

    No, I don’t believe anybody has said that Christianity is geographically restricted. It is my belief that Christianity first appeared in an age and for an age that was more locally focused than the present age. The reason it was a more locally focused age was not because of Christ or the position Christianity takes on issues. It was a more locally focused age simply because, unlike the present age, many parts of the planet were unknown and undiscovered. The teachings Christ gave and the manner in which He gave them was adequate and suitable for that age.

    > Is world government the great paradigm shift >Shireen was talking about?

    I do not speak for Shireen, but I believe the teachings of Baha’u’llah reveal the paradigm shift that is necessary for the present age. One of those teachings of Baha’u’llah is a world commonwelth of nations.

    Puc Fada.

  17. It is one of those things that Baha’u’llah is explicitly telling us that is not found explicitly in what past Manifestations explicitly told us.

    It isn’t necessary to emphasize the explicitness of favoring world government. I don’t think the Bible says anything about it, either explicitly or implicitly.

    Christianity is not a set of propositions or policy statements designed for the needs of a particular age. Christianity speaks to the human condition itself, which transcends things like transportation technology. There is an essence to human nature that remains constant, and that is what Christianity deals with.

    I believe the teachings of Baha’u’llah reveal the paradigm shift that is necessary for the present age. One of those teachings of Baha’u’llah is a world commonwelth of nations.

    What would be another example?

  18. “It isn’t necessary to emphasize the explicitness of favoring world government.”

    Yes, you believe it isn’t necessery and I believe it is necessery.

    “I don’t think the Bible says anything about it, either explicitly or implicitly.”

    I believe your question “What is Baha’u’llah telling us that is different from what past Manifestations told us?” is answered.

    “Christianity is not a set of propositions or policy statements designed for the needs of a particular age.

    I think the social needs of the present age are absent from the teachings of Christianity even though the spiritual needs are present.

    “Christianity speaks to the human condition itself, which transcends things like transportation technology. There is an essence to human nature that remains constant, and that is what Christianity deals with.”

    Since you are a Roman Catholic I assume that you believe so, I also assume that you believe Judaism speaks to the same human condition and the same human nature that remains constant.

    Puc Fada

  19. I think the social needs of the present age are absent from the teachings of Christianity even though the spiritual needs are present.

    This distinction between social teachings and spiritual teachings is not present in Christianity. We don’t think in these terms.

    Since you are a Roman Catholic I assume that you believe so, I also assume that you believe Judaism speaks to the same human condition and the same human nature that remains constant.

    Yes, that’s right.

    Baha’is believe that Moses brought a set of laws, and then Jesus came and made additions and subtractions according to the proverbial “needs of the age”. This is not an accurate representation of what happened, but the explanation of why is too important to put in a comment thread. When I get some time I’ll write a new post on this topic.

  20. >Baha’is believe that Moses brought a set of laws, >and then Jesus came and made additions and >subtractions according to the proverbial “needs of >the age”.

    In my opinion your statement falls short and is not an accurate representation of what Baha’is believe.

    As far as I know, Baha’is believe Moses gave a Divine revelation, not just a set of laws, for the dispensation of Moses and Jesus came and fulfilled the promises contained in that Divine Revelation that Moses gave. For Baha’is, Jesus isn’t just “making some additions and subtractions according to the proverbial “needs of the age””, but on the contrary is the fulfillment of the Divine Revelation Moses gave. Isn’t that a little more accurate account of what Baha’is believe?

    “When I get some time I’ll write a new post on this topic.”

    I hope it will be devoid of strawmen.

    Puc Fada.

  21. You’re miscontruing my point. I wasn’t making a categorical statement about the entire Baha’i belief system. You referred to the Baha’i doctrine that Manifestations bring two sets of teachings – spiritual laws and social laws. That’s what I’m responding to.

  22. There is an Asian proverb that goes something like
    “to plan for a day catch fish.
    to plan for a year, grow rice.
    to plan for a century, grow trees
    to plan for a millenium, grow Men”

    The religious, regardless of specific sect, believe that God sends Messengers to Man to Teach Man how better to live and grow. Both Spiritually and Socially.

    Religions are recipes for creating and maintaining better human societies.

    The Message must by necessity be split into 2 parts;
    1= truths that are context independent and transcend any specific moment in time or society.
    2= truths that are specific to the circumstances of those The Messanger is trying to help.

    Bahai’s call these Spiritual and Social teachings respectively.

    As Man’s circumstances change, the validity of context dependent truths must also by necessity change, A good example is dietary laws which make perfect sense when there is no refrigeration or biological understanding of disease but are overly restrictive once those limitations are overcome.

    The validity of Spiritual truths does not change. The concept of a Creator. The concept of treating your fellow Man well. etc etc. These principles transcend any specific religion and are present in every major religion, for they are bedrock principles for helping humans form stable, sucessful, long lasting societies.

    Unfortunately, humans tend to forget things or twist truths as they retell them or over time. Most of us have played the “message circle” game which demonstrates how easily such can happen. This means even the “permanent’ truths become transient because _we_ make them so by distorting or forgetting them.

    And so, Man needs the “message” “retransmitted” every so often to both clean up the errors in the transcendent parts and to update the context dependent parts to be more germane.
    Bahai’s call this Progressive Revelation, and believe it happens every 1000 years or so.

    Bahai’s believe that the spiritual teachings of the Messengers before Baha’u’llah had been distorted to the point where God needed to give Man another “booster shot” of the spiritual truths and therefore sent Baha’u’llah for that purpose.

    They also believe that the circumstances Man now finds himself in socially are unique in human history.

    For the first time, the possiblity of a truly global society exists. As does the ability for Mankind to render the earth nigh unto sterile.

    For the first time, slavery is just about universally despised, For the first time, the concept of true equality in rights regardless of color, creed, race, sex
    is a meme that is driving overall social affairs.
    But so to is the backlash that leads to genocide.

    In short, our intellectual and technical development has progressed to the point that it has become imperative that our moral and spiritual development be equally developed lest Man become extinct.

    Bahai’s believe that the social teachings put forth by Baha’u’llah and continuously refined by those he left in charge of the faith are explicitly about the social context within which we presently live and therefore more germane than social teachings meant for social conditions vastly different than ours.

    So
    1= A World government
    2= A true end to war
    3= true equality among the races and sexes
    4= explicit recognition of Progressive Revelation
    5= explicit recognition that religious truth is split into social and spiritual teachings.
    6= explicit guidance that religion and science must work together and not contradict even though they speak to very different phenomena and methods of independently investigating Truth,
    etc etc.

    If you want to dig further, you will have to find a Baha’i and ask. Bahai’s are forbidden to teach beyond a minimal amount without active interest and participation of those seeking. I’ve “walked the line” as close as I feel comfortable with given the circumstances.

  23. XL-ex-bahai here. (30+ years in bahai gridlock.)

    further bias disclosure: I’m not catholic, I’m buddhist/integralist. the “whole earth catalog” was far more important to me growing up than the bible or koran, or bahai scripture, but my family history is/was protestant/mennonite (fwiw). I grew up in several countries, inlcuding japan.

    both bahai and catholic christianity (as well as islam) are generally appalling backward religions that just so happen to contain a significant accumulation of spiritual wisdom that came from the general evolution and development of humanity – not “god” or “revelation” as defined traditionally.

    in the current age, evolution is far more important than the so called “revelations” of prophets, manifestations, etc. (which consists mostly of warmed over and outmoded metaphysics)

    both bahai and catholicism are basically “middle man” scams, the believer (sheeple) has to buy into tribal mythology and ethnocentrism/conformism to “get to” transcendance (“spirituality” in bahai lingo) and “find belonging in the group”.

    catholicism is a political/military sham as the unearthing of the Nag Hammadi texts clearly demonstrates:

    early christian nonconformists were hunted down like dogs and had to bury their unorthodox texts in clay pots in caves in the desert before they were exterminated by the assassins, scammers, bishops, popes, etc. of the High Church (as Elaine Pagels explains: in the not-unreasonable-at-the-time quest for a great conformist universal european basis of geopolitical power).

    later, the only “crusade” against europeans (the Cathars 1100s, 1200s ) by the High Church was purely a political and military reaction against NONCONFORMIST accusations of spiritual and economic corruption within the High Church.

    hundreds of years of war between protestants and catholics was needed to lurch the High Church out of the more egregious forms of backwardness and corruption. in the end, the high church is largely irrelevant as a dominant geopolitical force. the paradigm of medieval-imperial christendom was supplanted by Natural Law (modernism) in the 1600s – during and after the english civil war.

    (note: I do have a great appreciation for the extraordinary, inspiring and humble devotion of the past Pope -peace be upon His blessed and luminous soul- to the living spirit and image of the Divine Feminine, and His outstanding and exemplary advocacy for peace, justice and tolerance. all of which was made possible by the atomic weapons of the USA, science, democracy, capitalism, etc., which were fought against tooth and nail for centuries by the catholic church. the current Pope, a “pretty darn smart feller”, is likewise an extraordinarily insightful and intelligent critic of postmodernism gone awry – the “mean green meme”.)

    Anyways, back to the main point- Natural Law (“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”) springs from rationalism and is inspired by perennial philosophy, not “revelation”. To the extent that it draws on the excellent populist aspects of the teachings of Jesus (which tend to be conveniently ignored by both the High Church and bab/bahaullah!), it is a revision and overturning of basic catholic assumptions about the natural and social-political order.

    I do still agree with the basic bahai idea (which is hardly unique to bahai) that for christians to hold mindlessly to every iota of christian orthodoxy and dogma is a disgrace to the history of humanity’s rise out of the slime pit of superstition, ignorance, bigotry, corruption, prejudice and backwardness.

    (of course most bahais are weirdly blind to their own slavishly held superstitions/prejudices/etc.)

    many postmodern philosophers have completely discredited the so called “universalisms” of the judeo-christian-islamic-bahai traditions.

    So, to get back to the main discussion: bahai progressive revelation has many inherent problems, and it is interpreted by many bahais in an even more problematic manner.

    Shireen, like most bahais, is selectively ignorant of real history. She typically attempts to use selected facts to support biased bahai theory instead of simply understanding facts for what they really are.

    e.g., the industrial revolution started in the 1600s/1700s, NOT after the so called bahai revelation.

    so one then wonders: according to bahai, what (pre-bahai) “manifestation” WAS responsible for the industrial revolution? Mohammed? that seems like such an incredible “stretch” as to be ridiculous.

    the industrial revolution (as part of modernism: natural law, democracy, science, rationalism – enlightenment thought, separation of church/state, etc.) resulted in massive paradigm shits AWAY from traditional authority including both aristocracy and ecclesiastic (high church) authority and the superstitions and antiquated metaphysics that traditional authority rested on.

    the paradigm shift to modernism was an EVOLUTIONARY process, not a REVELATORY process:

    no “manifestation” was needed, or welcome.

    so, bab/bahaullah’s claim to have inspired the industrial revolution (100-200 years after the fact) is a giant lie that is completely absurd on its face.

    Same for slavery: it was abolished in the middle east and east africa by the British Royal Navy – completely absent the supposed “inspiration” of bab/bahaullah.

    The Queen of England abolished slavery because england was sufficiently industrialized/mechanized to no longer need slaves, AND because it made the english colonialists and imperialists MORALLY SUPERIOR (at least in their own stilted minds) to the “coloreds” that they were lording over and exploiting all over the planet (including the middle east).

    That’s right folks: the abolition of slavery was used as a pretext for the continuation and expansion of european imperialism!

    Abolishionists existed in the west long before bab/bahaullah. As far back as ancient Greece and Rome there were anti-slavery movements and philosophies. The charters of the Cortes in late medieval spain, which preceeded the Magna Carta, established the basic philosophical principles of liberty (later overturned by the unfortunate French imperialist version of modernism which was adopted by the corrupt spanish aristocracy). Many “local” church movements elaborated the political and theological principles of the “liberty” of tradesmen and craft guilds and similar mutual aid societies *long* before the great consolidation of european imperial powers and nation states. (see Liggio and other recent libertarian histories and revisions by the Austrian school, Mises and von Hayek devotees, etc.)

    President John Adams (the only founding father who never owned slaves) wrote voluminously and with considerable insight about all of the ancient and medieval attempts at democracy, liberty, etc., IN THE 1700s – LONG BEFORE THE “INSPIRATION” OF THE BAB/BAHAULLAH “REVELATIONS”.

    The final absurdity of bahai “progressive revelation” (and its ridiculous claims to be “modern”) concerns “world government” and “world peace”.

    Just before ” 9/11″ I started examining some of Shoghi Effendi’s ideas about the bahai world commonwealth. It became quite clear after reading that horrid stuff and talking to some nonconformist bahai historians that what SE envisioned was some kind of murky, incoherent amalmagation of imperial Christendom and Islamic esotericism.

    PLEASE NOTE: The most clear evidence of this that I found is in SE’s clear denunciation of the rise of national liberation movements in former colonies of european empires. SE clearly states that the superior form of culture is one patterned on either a reformed islamic empire or reformed christian empire (or a mix).

    Participatory democracy, particularly the separation of church/state, would be the first victim of a “bahai world superstate”.

    The bahai “new world order” would clearly usher in a dark age of thought policing and conformity that would reverse much of humanity’s political, economic and cultural progress over the last 100-200 years!

    The pattern of all of the absurd, incoherent and embarassing arguments and discussion within the bahai community about things like

    1) the massive and increasing levels of dysfunctionality, ineptitude and incompetence of “bahai administration” (which simply imitates all many other similar forms of failed bureaucracy in the modern world),

    2) or the exclusion of women from election to the universal house of justice,

    3) or the bahai position on the spiritual and social “unworthiness” of homosexuals,

    4) or the unclear plan for legitimate succession after the death of the guardian,

    5) or the confusing and unworkable nature of the overall bahai plan for world government and economics (left for future decisions of a potentially corrupt, superstitious universal house of justice hiding behind an appallingly irrational, absurd and superstitious facade of “infallibility”),

    6) or the bizarre attempt to establish a quasi-theocracy as the basis for world government –

    it all started to become clear that bahai was riddled with the same kinds of illogic , “antipatterns” and dysfunctional nature found in all human groups.

    Shoghi Effendi himself went to catholic schools (!weird!), so he had a natural tendency to think along the lines of the old european elites when he was “translating” bahai scripture.

    As such his translations and other guidance are an odd mishmash and mix of references to premodern metaphysics and spiritual images (“universalized sufism”) with modernist (and a few postmodernist) notions of social progress.

    bahai administration is a horrid, conformist and inflexible system that is the result of a long history of power grabs by bureaucrats, fundamentalists, snobs, elitists and racists who are unified in their common quest to silence and marginalize any form of criticism, nonconformism or dissent.

    One is hard pressed to find a consistent, clear theme of modernism within bahai scripture itself (“when taken as a whole”), so bahais have concocted a distorted folk religion formulation that, while charmingly naive in its simple minded notions of justice, equality, peace and social progressivity, is not much more than confused marketing “spin” for a religion that i reality rests on a foundation of outmoded/premodern metaphysics.

    when challenged, such flimsy bahai folk-apologetics invariably fall back on demonizing “materialism” (poorly defined), christianty or islam (significantly misinterpreted), etc.

    such bahai folk culture is characterized by more than intellectual disorganization and lack of discipline, it is also spiritually indulgent and narcissistic. there is a stunning lack of awareness amongst most bahais of the many developments in human transformational theory (and “new age” culture) at places like the California Integral Institute, Noetic institute, Naropa, Esalen, and so forth.

    Bahai administration -completely disregarding the clearly stated primary “covenental” purpose of the religion: “irfan”- suppressed the “Mashriq” movement which was a alliance between bahai intellectual nonconformists and populists seeking to develop a “hands on” (temple based) transformative spiritutal lifestyle in the 90s.

    All power had devolved to the bahai administrative bureaucrats, and they would hold on to it jealously even if it meant destroying the spiritual life of the very people that follow the religion.

    bahai scholars don’t do very much better than the bahai folk-apologists. bahai scholars are clever artists at avoiding reality and spinning webs of distortion and digression to cover up the glaring contradictions of logic found in bahai scripture. they practice the fine art of using selective facts to support conclusions already arrived at.

    to add insult to injury, bahai culture is (or was – in the 80s/90s) riddled with political correctness. feminazis and “diversity” advocates/consultants circulated in the bahai community attempting to indoctrinate people with their nonsensical notions of pluralism and cultural relativism. My impression is that – as of several years ago (when I left bahai) – the doctrinaire PC/left elements of bahai culture were made somewhat unwelcome by the rise of the Ruhi fundamentalist brigades.

    Such is the nature of the endless cycle of bureaucratic reinvention that is typical of dysfunctional organizational cultures and institutional structures.

    Bye!
    ep

  24. Integral philosopher Ken Wilber asks: why are religious people not troubled by some things that are not in the bible/qur’an, such as:

    enchiladas or jeeps

    but other things that are not in the bible/qur’an, such as

    science, particularly evolution,
    or,
    participatory democracy and capitalism

    are the cause of a huge amount of discomfort for religious people (literalists)?

    The obvious answer is that enchiladas and jeeps do not symbolize the immense loss of power that premodern religion had over the political, economic, intellectual and cultural life of the people.

    But science/evolution/democracy does symbolize such a loss.

    In any case, people that are not “emotionally attached” to western religion probably could more easily see the contradiction between christian, muslim or bahai “literalists” being comfortable with some aspects of the non-scripturally-explained modernist world (enchiladas/jeeps), but not others (science/evolution or democracy-capitalism).

    in the case of both bahai and catholicism, good answers about how science and democracy fit into the world-view (and life-experience) offered by either religion seems to be glaringly absent.

    thanks,
    ep

  25. I just read the excellent “resources” item on this blog about slavery.

    Slavery was a near-universal phenomena in human “civilizations”, and many of other cultures, for at least 5,000 to 10,000 years. (see Orlando Patterson)

    Islam attempted to reform slavery, but ironically and tragically, expanded it.
    (see Bernard Lewis
    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/med/lewis1.html)

    Fr. Bartolome de Las Casas (Dominican) -peace be upon his blessed, luminous spirit- famously argued for the souls of natives americans in front of the vicious and predatory elements of the spanish colonial aristocracy – defying accusations that he was a heretic and traitor.

    Fr. de Las Casas was truly one of the bright lights of western civilization.

    http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=2627

    http://www.lascasas.org/manissues.htm

    While it may not be unreasonable to speculate about islamic influences on de Las Casas, it is obviously completely ridiculous to propose any influence from bab/bahaullah.

    Thanks,
    ep

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