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Posts Tagged ‘bahai theology’

To be a Bahai: the recollections of Wendell Phillips Dodge

Posted by Sen on April 28, 2017

Abdu’l-Baha and a child in Haifa, Israel, courtesy of http://media.bahai.org/.

When asked on one occasion: “What is a Bahai?” Abdu’l-Baha replied: “To be a Bahai simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.”

These words, often quoted in Bahai literature, are not authentic Bahai scripture, although the source is somewhat reliable. The words are among those supposedly spoken by Abdu’l-Baha on the Cedric as the ship arrived in America on April 11 1912. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“… a body of learned Bahais”

Posted by Sen on July 15, 2015

Ivan Sakhnenko, The Anatomy Lesson
On a facebook group, one Bahai wrote:
Obviously the House of Justice needs someone w/ an appropriate background to explain the Writings to them.” This was in the context of letters that showed the Universal House of Justice’s understanding of Bahai teachings evolving over time. I will give more details below.

I am sure the suggestion was well meant, but I think it is heading in the wrong direction entirely. However first I will have to explain why the suggestion could be made. The ‘problem’ for the Bahais, is that it is clear from doctrine and practical observation that the Universal House of Justice, the head of the Bahai community, does not always understand the Bahai scriptures correctly. If there was a guarantee that it would always be correct, the Guardianship would have been unnecessary. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments »

Copper to Gold?

Posted by Sen on February 3, 2014

coppernugget Amended July 2015

An enquirer asked: Do Baha’is really believe that copper turns into gold after 70 years if protected from becoming dry (or solidified)?

The most important skill for understanding scriptures, including the Bahai scriptures, is not mastery of the original languages, or other arcane knowledge, but familiarity with literary language: the ability to read poetry and similar writing. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 58 Comments »

The Guardian and the Governor

Posted by Sen on July 30, 2013

Someone asked a question in the comments to this blog, which is so important I have decided to answer in a new posting. He asks whether a government leader [in Israel] who enrolled in the Bahai community would have had temporal authority over the Guardian, had the line of guardians continued, or would the governor have had to defer to the authority of the Guardian, as the head of the Bahai community? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, Political science, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

A question answered: Chapter 1 of Some Answered Questions

Posted by Sen on July 14, 2012

One of the participants on the Facebook group Bahais United in Diversity wrote:

I’m afraid I have to point out that Abdu’l-Baha contradicts himself [in the proof of the existence of God, in the first chapter of Some Answered Questions]… First he suggests that “Nature has neither intelligence nor perception.” So God must exist. Then he says that “man is the branch; nature is the root,” and asks “can the will and the intelligence, and the perfections which exist in the branch, be absent in the root?”
So the will and the intelligence and the perception are in nature after all… and God becomes unnecessary to explain order in nature and the emergence of human life.

It’s a sharp observation, but the problem lies in the translation rather than in Abdu’l-Baha’s reasoning. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Theology, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

“Matters of State” or “administrative matters”: the scope of the House of Justice

Posted by Sen on November 5, 2011


[Updated May 2012, December 2016]
In 2008, I posted an entry about the translation of the Eighth Ishraq, which is the eighth section of one of Baha’u’llah’s shorter works, the Ishraqat or Splendours. The posting explained why I thought that the 1978 translation authorized by the Universal House of Justice was incorrect where it says “All matters of State (‘umuur-e siyaasiyyah) should be referred to the House of Justice.” The earlier translation by Ali Kuli Khan, “Administrative affairs are all in charge of the House of Justice, and devotional acts must be observed according as they are revealed in the Book” was, I thought, more accurate, and more consistent with other works by Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Church and State, Community, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

Age of consent

Posted by Sen on May 18, 2011

On the Talisman discussion list, a participant noted:

> We appear to have three somewhat contradictory choices for the age of consent, according to Sen: 14 years old; 15 years old,; or “unknown” / not yet decided

The reason the question comes up, is that there’s a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that says “There is no specific minimum age mentioned in the Baha’i teachings at which girls may marry,” yet there is a specific minimum age for marriage given in the Kitab-e Aqdas. They can’t both be right. Or can they?

There’s a way of having your cake and eating it to, squaring the circle, even perhaps escaping the iron law of the exuding middle (see my profile). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aqdas and Law | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

UHJ elucidations

Posted by Sen on March 7, 2011

In a discussion on Talisman9, one friend said that he felt obliged to incorporate any statement made by the Universal House of Justice under the infallible protection of God into his corpus of beliefs, and another said that if the Universal House of Justice makes a certain understanding of doctrine an inherent part of its legislation, he felt obligated to understand and believe that. Does the *UHJ’s power of elucidation imply this? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 103 Comments »

This great American democracy?

Posted by Sen on February 27, 2011

A Bahai friend asked about Abdu’l-Baha’s reference to America as a “democracy,” in the talk he gave to the Orient-Occident-Unity Conference in Washington on 20 April 1912. In the course of researching it, I found a short prayer by Abdu’l-Baha for East-West unity, which I have translated, and also discovered that a much loved and quoted reference to the future of America, known as the “prayer for America,” is not authentic.

The context of this query was a discussion of whether the United States is a republic, or a democracy. The question appears to depend largely on definitions: if a republic is a state with an elected head of state and a government answerable to the people, and a democracy is a state with a government chosen in free and fair elections, with freedom of speech and protection of individual and minority rights under the rule of law, the United States would appear to aspire to be a democratic republic, at the intersection of these two terms.

Be that as it may, I was asked about the term “American democracy” in the talk Abdu’l-Baha gave at the Orient-Occident-Unity Conference. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Political science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

A 1912 Announcement of the Covenant?

Posted by Sen on January 13, 2011

This posting is about a story, according to which New York is the city of the Covenant because that is where Abdu’l-Baha announced the Bahai Covenant in the West, on June 19, 1912. The words of the important talk by Abdu’l-Baha, which has been called the ‘announcement,’ have been preserved in a surprisingly reliable form. As it is not published in sources such as Promulgation, I have reproduced it below. Reliable as it is, the text and the stories around this announcement, raise some questions: what exactly was newly announced, or revealed? Who named New York the city of the Covenant, when, and why? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

‘You can never organize the Bahai Cause’

Posted by Sen on December 16, 2010

I’m not a historian: I’m interested mainly in the timeless task of understanding the Bahai teachings, leaving history to those able, and crystal-ball gazing to those interested. But those who don’t know their history, will repeat mistakes in understanding quite needlessly, so sometimes we need to look back at the history of an idea in the Bahai community, especially where it is a mistaken idea that keeps resurfacing. In this case I am looking at some words attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Abdu’l Baha to Martha Root

Posted by Sen on November 29, 2010

This tablet from Abdu’l-Baha, translated by Shoghi Effendi, was published in Star of the West in October, 1919, and has not been republished in full since then. It is interesting both as the source of a well-known appeal for peace (re-published in the Bahai World Centre’s Compilation on Peace, but in a different translation) and for Abdu’l-Baha’s comparison between the Testament of Baha’u’llah, which appointed Abdu’l-Baha as head of the Bahai community, in writing, and the oral traditions on which the appointment of Peter rested. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Eleven essentials: the Bahai principles as taught by Abdu’l-Baha in London

Posted by Sen on October 27, 2010

Towards the end of his life, Baha’u’llah wrote a number of works that included numbered lists of his teachings. Abdu’l-Baha also wrote several letters that include such numbered lists of essential teachings. Not surprisingly, Abdu’l-Baha sometimes adopted the same format when speaking to gatherings, however the records of these in English are often unreliable. One of these talks – one for which there are authenticated Persian notes (here), not just notes taken in English, caught my attention because it includes “the separation of religion and politics” as a key principle and also refers to this as “not entering into politics” — a formulation that will be more familiar to Bahais. An earlier report of this talk is published in Abdu’l-Baha in London (which incidentally shows that not all talks in that book cannot be authenticated). Naturally that report, based on an interpreter’s words, is more compact than the Persian version which I have translated. Its list of principles differs, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Church and State, Political science, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 56 Comments »

Religious law as a symbolic language, in Gate of the Heart

Posted by Sen on September 14, 2010

Continuing with the readings from Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart, I’ve turned to the first of six principles of moral and spiritual action that Saiedi finds in the Persian Bayan. He calls it ‘the mystic character of action.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aqdas and Law, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Perfection and conservation in Gate of the Heart

Posted by Sen on August 12, 2010

Continuing with the readings from Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart. I’ve selected a section beginning on page 315, where it is headed ‘Perfection and refinement’ — a title that doesn’t do justice to the implications of these concepts for a theology of positive stewardship for the natural world.
~~~~~
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Ethics and Morality, Theology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Worship as Paradise, in Gate of the Heart

Posted by Sen on July 20, 2010

Continuing a series of postings to give readers a taste of Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart , I’ve chosen a section on pages 248-251 entitled “Worship as Paradise.” Naturally, in the book, Saiedi cites his sources, but if you want those, you will have to buy the book.

~~~~
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Devotions, Theology | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Destiny and Freedom in Gate of the Heart

Posted by Sen on July 13, 2010

I’ve been reading Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart and I’m boundlessly enthusiastic. It’s more than a milestone of Bahai Studies: it contains much understanding that will help many of us trying to live the life of Faith – which the Bab, I think, would call the life of the heart. With the author’s permission, I’m going to make paraphrases of some sections, starting with a section on the Bab’s teaching on Destiny on pages 210-216. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Theology | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

A Muhammad Ali revival?

Posted by Sen on March 27, 2010

Mirza Muhammad Ali was a younger brother of Abdu’l-Baha who rebelled against his brother’s authority as head of the Bahai community, was able to secure possession of some Bahai properties and for some time to cause other difficulties, particularly by misrepresenting Abdu’l-Baha to the government as a threat to the Ottoman state. By the end of his life, Muhammad Ali was left without friends or followers, and had been forced to abandon the properties that he had seized, but did not have the means to maintain in a liveable condition. He died in 1937. There has been no “Muhammad Ali” sect of the Bahai Faith for seventy years past. So why mention this old history here?

In recent weeks we have seen the curious phenomenon of an attempt to revive the claims of Muhammad Ali, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Defence of the Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha on individuality

Posted by Sen on March 23, 2010

Portrait of Abdu'l-Baha in Badayi'u'l-athar

The following talk given by Abdu’l-Baha, on individuality and personality, is of interest both for understanding how he thought about the human person, and for its relevance to individualism in Bahai belief. It is authentic Bahai scripture, albeit in an early translation, because it is translated from Persian notes taken at the time. Abdu’l-Baha’s practice was to check and correct the Persian notes of his talks, so — assuming that was done in this case, which is a safe bet — the text below has the same status as Some Answered Questions and Memorials of the Faithful, which were produced in the same way. The talk was published in Star of the West vol 4, no2, April 9 1913 from page 38. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Individualism, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Anna presents the New World Order

Posted by Sen on November 25, 2009


wob66

An awkward question

Anna’s come a long way – to national television, in fact. She’s being interviewed on her favourite subject: the Bahai Faith. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Church and State, Defence of the Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Executive and legislative

Posted by Sen on October 29, 2009

Two columns hirschTrilith_Stonehenge [Updated, July 2012: added A Traveller’s Narrative]
 
One of the friends asked:

What do you make of ‘Abdu’l-Baha having written:

“This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body must reinforce the executive, the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong, that all the regions of the world may become even as Paradise itself.” (Will and Testament, 14)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Church and State, Political science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Church and State in Scripture

Posted by Sen on October 6, 2009

cimabue_detailIn a conversation with a friend about the translation of the 8th Ishraq (discussed here), I realised that he thought the whole question of the Bahai teachings on church and state hinged in some way on doubtful matters: on the translation of the Ishraqat, on whether the words “the consummate union and blending of church and state” had been interpolated into a report of Abdu’l-Baha’s words, (See the entry ‘A consummate union’), and such like.

Nothing could be further from the truth: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s Friday: thank God

Posted by Sen on April 11, 2009

calendaraddonI happened recently to be reading the wikipedia page for the Bahai Calendar and noted that it said “Like Islam, Friday is also the day of rest in the Baha’i Faith.”

That’s not true for Islam: Friday is the day on which attendance at the congregational prayers at noon in the mosque is obligatory for those Muslims who are able, but it is not a ‘day of rest’ in Islam. But what about the Bahai Faith? We do not say our obligatory prayers in congregation (although we may say them, each for himself, during the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar service, but that is another story). Do we have a day of rest, as the wikipedia article says?
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aqdas and Law, Bahai Writings, Community, Devotions, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Entry by troops (time to be announced)

Posted by Sen on February 17, 2009

It has been my experience that Bahais often become discouraged as a result of having unrealistic expectations of what is called entry by troops (EBT) and large scale conversion. I would like to look again at what the Bahai scriptures say about this, and at how Shoghi Effendi conceived the historical process of growth. The little that the scriptures say suggests to me that its importance has been over-rated, and that the time-frame of entry by troops, its nature, and how the Bahais can bring it about have all been misunderstood. From my reading of the world and of the scriptures, I suggest that we should not now be greatly preoccupied with entry by troops or large scale conversion: a concern with the needs of the age we live in, and the needs of our Bahai communities today, will indicate healthier, locally-specific priorities which – ironically – will be more conducive to actual ‘growth’ in every sense. We will start by briefly looking back over the last two generations.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Ethics and Morality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Century of light

Posted by Sen on January 15, 2009

BahaIn Century’s end, I showed that Bahais of my generation widely expected universal peace to arrive in the twentieth century. Some of the texts on which this belief was based did not refer to the twentieth century; others did refer to the twentieth century or dates in the 20th century, but were pilgrims’ notes. There may be more, but I have found five such unauthentic sources:

onecandle– The Maxwell’s pilgrim’s notes, anticipating the Lesser Peace by 1953.
– Esselmont’s pilgrim’s notes, in the first edition of Baha’u’llah and the New Era, anticipating universal peace by 1957. As Dan Jensen has pointed out, the 1950 edition changed the date to 1963, but it is still just a pilgrim’s note, and universal peace was also not achieved in 1963.
Sarah Kenny’s Haifa notes anticipating the Lesser Peace in the 20th century.
– A report in the Montreal Star on September 11, 1912, printed in Abdu’l-Baha in Canada p. 35, saying that peace would be universal in the 20th century.
– A talk reported in The Promulgation of Universal Peace page 126, and in Star of the West 3.8.14, calling the twentieth century the century of international peace.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Century’s end – my two cents

Posted by Sen on January 12, 2009

spinningtopWhen I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

The word ‘century’ appears unproblematic: a period of a hundred years, which in common usage begins with the year 00 (although sticklers will insist that the century begins in the year 01, so that the 21st century began on 1 January 2001). But in reading the Bahai texts, things are not so simple. In this post I want to look at the peculiar significance Bahais have mistakenly attached to the 20th century and what can be learned from the whole affair; in the next posting I will look at what the Bahai writings really say about the ‘century’ (not the 20th century).
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments »

The future of religions

Posted by Sen on January 5, 2009

One of the friends asked:

What is the ideal future envisioned in Baha’i religion? Is it a global order in which the world is composed of many diverse religions, each tolerant of one another, and the Baha’i just one amongst many? Or would the Baha’i be the organizing principle?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Islam, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

He cannot override …

Posted by Sen on December 30, 2008

wobIn Shoghi Effendi’s 1934 letter ‘The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah,’ there’s a well-known paragraph in which he says that “the Guardian of the Faith has been made the Interpreter of the Word and that the Universal House of Justice has been invested with the function of legislating …”. I want to look at the paragraph after that, which deals with the fact that the Guardian is a member of the House of Justice; so that while the spheres of the two institutions are distinct, their memberships overlap. How would that work, with the Guardian or his representative in the room, while the House of Justice was making its decisions?
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

How theocracy happened

Posted by Sen on December 2, 2008

A person investigating the Bahai Faith had encountered theocratic ideas among the Bahais she met, and asked if these were correct, and where they came from. But in fact, she seemed to know already that these ideas must be wrong. She wrote:

> I have to say that the idea of a one-world government run by a
> religious institution of any sort whatsoever, is what I can only
> call a total nightmare. I cannot believe for one second that this
> is what Bahaullah envisaged,

She was quite right. This is certainly not what Baha’u’llah envisioned!
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

The knower as servant (response to Paul Lample)

Posted by Sen on October 20, 2008

I’ve been reading Paul Lample’s “Learning and the Evolution of the Bahá’í Community.” From page 15, he presents various possible roles for the “learned Bahai” in the Bahai community, saying among other things that learned Baha’i is not an “artist”, and concluding “Perhaps the learned Baha’i is more like the ‘scout’ who helps to guide an expedition on a journey into unexplored territory.” I found it striking that he did not mention the possibility that the learned Bahai could be a servant, someone who uses knowledge to minister to the faithful.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

What is theology, and what’s it good for ?

Posted by Sen on October 1, 2008

On my web site, I’ve put up my part of two discussion threads about theology, and how the Bahai community can face the fact that some people know more than others, on particular topics, but without replicating the structures of past religions in which greater knowledge often translates into greater authority. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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