Monday, December 16, 2002

I’ve been learning a lot from Christian mysticism lately -- about which I should probably clarify two things: I don’t think there’s a way for me to actually *be* a Christian, for a lot of reasons which I’ll examine in more detail some other time. Secondly, I don’t go around calling myself a mystic; I don’t think it’s accurate. I’m not sure that the line between mystic and ordinary believer can really be drawn that rigidly, unless you’re talking about someone who lives in a monastery or something. Especially in a religion like the Baha’i Faith, where there is a high proportion of converts. I know a whole lot of Baha’is who have had mystical experiences of one variety or another; some people just seem particularly prone that way -- and it doesn’t necessarily reflect real spiritual progress or insight.

Anyway, I’ve been particularly thinking about the Christian idea of repentance. It’s not a completely alien notion in the Baha’i framework, but it’s not something that receives a whole lot of emphasis, either. But I’m beginning to think it is foundational to a person’s spiritual life -- as much so as the individual investigation of truth. Actually, it is a type of truth-investigation, since it involves facing the truth about one’s self.

On the surface, the idea of repentance seems kind of morbid -- weeping for one’s sins and so on, or as a kind of smarmy “Are you right with the Lord?” kind of thing. But, really, what it involves is making yourself vulnerable, dropping your defenses. Because the more sensitive the area, the more we will defend ourselves and blame others, rather than taking a hard look at what we are doing wrong. And I really don’t know how we can obey the oft-repeated injunction in the Writings to “cleanse” or “purify” the heart without doing that. There is nothing that will make us more humble or aware of our helplessness before God, than struggling with our own sinful side.

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