Sunday, May 15, 2005

One Common Faith, paragraphs 24-27

As I mentioned in the previous entry, the next paragraphs continue with a restatement of some pretty basic Baha'i teachings:

The teachings of Bahá'u'lláh cut through this tangle of inconsistent views and, in doing so, reformulate many truths which, whether explicitly or implicitly, have lain at the heart of all Divine revelation. . . .

The only problem I have with this is the rather arrogant dismissal of previous traditions; it is, of course, Baha'i teaching that Baha'u'llah has reconfirmed many of the basic and eternal truths these traditions contain.

To presume to judge among the Messengers of God, exalting one above the other, would be to give in to the delusion that the Eternal and All-Embracing is subject to the vagaries of human preference . . .To imagine, further, that the nature of these unique Figures can be-or needs to be-encompassed within theories borrowed from physical experience is equally presumptuous.

These kinds of statements always worry me, because this was the basis for harrassing Baha'i scholars i.e. that they used academic methods, regarded by the House as "materialist" to examine the Faith -- and in particular, the treatment of Baha'u'llah as a human being and historical figure.

What is meant by "knowledge of God", Bahá'u'lláh explains, is knowledge of the Manifestations Who reveal His will and attributes, and it is here that the soul comes into intimate association with a Creator Who is otherwise beyond both language and apprehension: . . . 26
Religion, thus conceived, awakens the soul to potentialities that are otherwise unimaginable. To the extent that an individual learns to benefit from the influence of the revelation of God for his age, his nature becomes progressively imbued with the attributes of the Divine world:

However, it might be pointed out that the soul can be awakened to such potentialities by following the teachings of any of the Manifestations.

Belief is thus a necessary and inextinguishable urge of the species that has been described by an influential modern thinker as "evolution become conscious of itself".16 If, as the events of the twentieth century provide sad and compelling evidence, the natural expression of faith is artificially blocked, it will invent objects of worship however unworthy-or even debased-that may in some measure appease the yearning for certitude. It is an impulse that will not be denied.

I really don't know what is meant by "artificially blocked" here. Something similar is mentioned in the introduction to this paper: accelerating breakdown in social order calls out desperately for the religious spirit to be freed from the shackles that have so far prevented it from bringing to bear the healing influence of which it is capable.

I do not know what they think is preventing religion from doing its healing work; we have religious freedom -- indeed, religious choice has never in history been more free than it is right now. This is not universal, of course, there are still countries that limit, or even actively persecute religious minorities, but it is precisely in the Western "materialist" countries so condemned by this paper that religion is most free -- and material techological advances that have made information about different religions more free than anyone could ever have dreamed possible. However, it may be that freedom of religious choice is not what they are talking about here.


Anonymous said...


I think the phrase referring to the religious impulse being "artifically blocked" is most likely referring to the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union (and China?) where religions were expressly banned. It doesn't seem to me that in the West that there has been any "artificial blocking" of religion, at least in the sense of something imposed from a government. In the West, the loss of religious influence is more the fault of the religions making themselves irrelevant by clinging to superstition. I guess this could also be a type of "block" on the religious impulse as well, but it seems to be an entirely different type.


Anonymous said...

Umm... address the previous to Karen, not Kaern, of course.


Karen said...

Deqr Simeon,

That was my first thought, too: that this was a reference to the Communist countries who didn't allow the free practice of any type of religion. But the introduction, especially speaks like this "blocking" is still going on -- and I don't think they're just talking about China, North Korea, and Cuba.

Also, the paper makes it pretty clear that both Communist and Democratic countries are condemned as being two sides of the same materialistic coin.

However, I really can't say for sure. There is much in this paper that could do with some clarification.