They are the Future of Humanity

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

An Educational Model of Spiritual Education; Knowledge, Faculty, Dimension


Through spiritual education He (Baha’u’llah) led the people out of darkness and ignorance into the clear light of truth, illuminated their hearts with the splendor of knowledge, laid a true and universal basis for religious teachings, cultivated the virtues of humanity, conferred spiritual susceptibilities, awakened inner perceptions and changed the dishonor of prejudiced souls to the highest degree of honor and capacity.
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 341)

To become aware of, build, and disseminate the science of the love of God, which I call the foundational science of a swiftly emerging category of knowledge named by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, spiritual or divine science, a theory of knowledge that is inclusive of the spiritual, and a new model of education, are needed.
I say emerging category of knowledge, because spiritual sciences must already exist in order for them to emerge into the human world and consciousness.  Where do they exist?  Baha’u’llah wrote: “Unveiled and unconcealed, this Wronged One hath, at all times, proclaimed before the face of all the peoples of the world that which will serve as the key for unlocking the doors of sciences, of arts, of knowledge, of well-being, of prosperity and wealth”, (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 96) clearly indicating that these new sciences, arts, knowledge, and all the rest, for which His Revelation provides the key are already in existence, treasured up in the storehouses of God’s knowledge, and that they can be unlocked.  In a similar manner He spoke of Socrates: “He had a profound knowledge of such sciences as were current amongst men as well as of those which were veiled from their minds.” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah: 146) Here again He indicates that knowledge itself is part of any state of being, but “knowable” knowledge is a state of understanding and awareness.  “Knowledge”, He stated, “is all that is knowable…” (The Kitab-i-Iqan: 185)  What is knowable at any time is, I believe, circumscribed by human assumptions about its limits, assumptions which Socrates did not share with the people of his time.  With spiritual knowledge those limits are pushed back to infinity.  Thus humanity must have a new model of education.
By education I mean the bringing forth of potentiality into actuality, which is the actual meaning of the word.  All education is the bringing forth of some innate human ability through learning a knowledge structure: verbal ability through a language structure; mathematical ability through understanding the structure of rules and principles governing the manipulation of quantity.  In short, education happens when there is forged a unity of faculty and dimension through a knowledge structure.  Spiritual education is no different.  But spiritual education does not primarily bring forth our intellectual gifts of mind, but, rather, those spiritual ones connected with the heart and these turn the mind toward spiritual reality.
The Holy Books state that there are two natures to the human being, the eternal and the organic, spiritual and material, divine and human, and three contexts of reality, physical, intellectual, and spiritual.  Education to date has mostly focused upon bringing forth the physical and intellectual potentials of the human reality.  But the human reality has innate gifts and powers that puts it in touch with all three major dimensions of reality.  Today, I believe, the eternal, spiritual, divine aspect is emerging as the leading aspect of the human reality.  Thus, knowing the science of the love of God, and spiritual science in general, is needed.  It is accomplished through awakening those faculties in the soul that connect with the pre-existing spiritual dimension through a model or knowledge structure of that spiritual dimension. That knowledge structure is composed principally of spiritual principles.  These are enshrined in Revelation. The spiritual dimension is composed of the qualities of God whose reflections, so to speak, are both diffused throughout creation and within the human reality and connect it with the reality of His Manifestation.  That is, these qualities are emanations or signs of God and as Baha’u’llah says: “We will surely show them Our signs in the world and within themselves.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 177)
Down through human history, progressive Revelation is the unfolding Primal Will of God.  It is an unfolding propelled by the Manifestations of God in a logically connected, expanding tradition of Messages transforming spiritual essence into material manifestation, eternity into historicity, spiritual principle into human action.  Each of these revealed Messages has spiritually, intellectually, and socially transformed some fraction of humanity, through Its principles of life, thought, and behavior that awaken and train various faculties of the human being through models of, for example, justice, morality, loving compassion, knowledge and worship.  Hence we understand something of the material, social and intellectual transformations of humanity, and individual spiritual transformation is well-documented under names like religious or mystical experience and the changes that flow from that.  The next great domain to understand is humankind’s collective spiritual and social transformation.  The phenomenon of spiritual transformation is never a single process or event, because the spiritual dimension is, as pointed out, not a monochromatic landscape, but, like the natural, intellectual, and social worlds, is an infinitely rich and varied interaction of distinct powers and processes called the qualities and attributes of God.  It has dimensions within it, fields of force and changes of relations between these dimensions and forces that bring forth by their new configurations in Revelations new spiritual entities that are given intellectual form by the Revelators, and these intellectual forms over time find their material expression.  Human knowledge of this chain of causation in philosophy, science, and art is an analogy of the divine creation and the supreme educational model of Revelation.
I mean that through progressively unfolding spiritual principles, Revelation unveils to human awareness and intelligence an ever-widening Divine vision and pattern of the dimensions of different virtues named above (i.e. love, justice, morality, intellect and volition, and others) creating an environment of new possibility for human experience.  Our innate faculties of the heart and mind, also named love, justice, morality, intellect, faith and vision, are the inner instruments and powers of an overarching human rational faculty, whose first purpose is the discovery of the revealed Word and the resulting recognition of God, as the senses are its outer functions.  These all connect with their corresponding dimensions through the universal and essential knowledge structure provided by the Revelators. That knowledge structure, which is, again, expanding spiritual principles, or human values, when authentically encountered, then awakens and gives life to what the House of Justice calls “that which is immanent in human nature”, (The Promise of World Peace: 3) educing the higher nature of the human reality—i.e. bringing it forth into action.  This is individual spiritual transformation.
It becomes collective when these new beings unfold their knowledge and experience into the world, providing shared human intellectual models, named science and art, which reveal the new creation they have discovered, in imitation of the creative divine one. Too, modeling the principles in behavior does the same thing, as mirror neurons kick in and provide a behavioral and emotional blueprint of the act within the mind of the observer.  That is, for spiritual education spiritual principles and moral behavior stimulate the bringing forth of spiritual being, i.e. bringing forth the higher nature from oneself is a bringing forth into the world to transform it.
Today, every member of the human family is called to this endeavor, in concert with new institutions of society within the Bahá’i Community that are designed to assist and guide this global advance into an ever-advancing civilization.  This is called the establishment of a new World Order. Yet, in truth, it is really the ages-old drive to erect the eternal Kingdom of God on earth, that “kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (King James Bible, The Book of Matthew 25:34)
  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Concluding Statement: The Science of the Love of God


These divine qualities, these eternal commandments, will never be abolished; nay, they will last and remain established for ever and ever. These virtues of humanity will be renewed in each of the different cycles; for at the end of every cycle the spiritual Law of God—that is to say, the human virtues—disappears, and only the form subsists.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions: 47)

The posts over the past year or more have explored some aspects of the science of the love of God: as philosophical statement; in language; physical science; psychologically as intentionality; and the inner building blocks of peace.  This foundational divine science is, I believe, a new union of knowledge and being; that is, a knowledge that unlocks and brings forth in its full glory the spiritual human reality in new relations with all existence and with its Supreme Creator. 
Without the love of God, meaning, relationally, God’s love for His creatures and, reciprocally, human love for God, all the other attributes and faculties of humanity combined are not sufficient to bring about peace.  For, the essence of the manifested nature of divinity is not reason, power, justice or morality, but the laws of love. Hence, there can be a science of this love, a science which would explore and explicate the manifold relations of beings as expressions of divine Love awakened by divine Knowledge generated by divine Will.  It would be, in its rational essence, an epistemology of love and the heart.  In a sense, the science of the love of God is the exploration of the impact of divine Revelation upon the whole of creation, a study that would, from any perspective, be infinite in scope and depth and yield.
It is in the context of a foundational and encompassing science of the love of God that we can explore Baha’u’llah’s statement in a Hidden Word: “Out of the wastes of nothingness, with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things. Thus, ere thou didst issue from thy mother's womb, I destined for thee two founts of gleaming milk, eyes to watch over thee, and hearts to love thee. Out of My loving-kindness, 'neath the shade of My mercy I nurtured thee, and guarded thee by the essence of My grace and favor. And My purpose in all this was that thou mightest attain My everlasting dominion and become worthy of My invisible bestowals.” (The Persian Hidden Words #29)
The varied and developmental expressions of that love through unnumbered millenia, released and built up through Revelations that gradually manifest the infinite complexity of the unfolding Will of God, shows, in a cosmological context, its power to join and knit together the archetypal “B” and “E” into different stages and forms of “Be and it is”: i.e. to create and progressively bind together all things in exquisitely intricate patterns and complex harmonies.  For, the B and the E when joined and knit together are an embrace, a relation, the same yet different divine Love.  It is the vibrating influence of the Spirit (breath) of God, the divine Will, blowing through the archetypal categories (reed) of the universal Mind to produce the music of the spheres.
Though these laws and principles are eternal and unknowable in essence, they are knowable in manifestation.  They form a knowledge structure that, as it unfolds through history, molds and brings forth an ever-advancing human knowledge which mirrors and reflects it. The knowledge structure that is spiritual knowledge, whose foundation I have been calling the science of the love of God, begins with recognition of the Manifestation of God.  The Bab wrote in this regard: True knowledge, therefore, is the knowledge of God, and this is none other than the recognition of His Manifestation in each Dispensation. (Selections from the Writings of the Bab: 89)  And: How vast the number of people who are well versed in every science, yet it is their adherence to the holy Word of God which will determine their faith, inasmuch as the fruit of every science is none other than the knowledge of divine precepts and submission unto His good-pleasure. (Selections from the Writings of the Bab: 88)
Spiritual principles, the rational part of the eternal Knowledge of God, resonate with that which is immanent in the human spirit.  In this regard, it is noteworthy that in the opening quote the Master equates the spiritual Law of God with human virtues. The rational faculty can be identified as the essence of that which is immanent, with what makes us human.  This overarching faculty itself has many faculties that it sustains and powers.  But the House of Justice’ statement, explored in the final posts, indicates not only that the human reality is created to respond to spiritual principles, but also that these faculties need the Word of God to awaken to their full potential and power today.
The unfolding articulation through history of eternal spiritual principles by the Manifestation of God and their application by people in various contexts—what Baha’u’llah called striving to “translate that which hath been written into reality and action”(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 249)—is, I believe, the foundational principles and practices of this great, new science, different in form and substance from all previous science and knowledge.  When these principles combine with the love of God they also serve a most important role in freeing the mind from its own entrapment in outmoded concepts, explanations and beliefs that is the cause of our current malaise, despair and confusion.
All attempts to apply the knowledge of God that is Revelation attract confirmations from the divine realm which over time infuse the mind and heart with the heightened understanding that comes from efforts to apply the teachings in different contexts.  This is harmonic resonance creating a field of influence: where pure energy patterns crystallize into insight, knowledge, and power which then radiate energies on the plane of visible manifestation. The knowledge is there to have an insight about.  But the insight cannot be had absent an increase in energy, in enthusiasm and dedication, to attain that state of knowledge.
The human being possesses, Baha’u’llah says, two visions.  These are organic and spiritual.  They have different rhythms of growths and progress, the organic is the outer pictures of the inner spiritual.  It is the spiritual that now takes the lead.
The Master wrote: “Although to acquire the sciences and arts is the greatest glory of mankind, this is so only on condition that man's river flow into the mighty sea, and draw from God's ancient source His inspiration. When this cometh to pass, then every teacher is as a shoreless ocean, every pupil a prodigal fountain of knowledge. If, then, the pursuit of knowledge lead to the beauty of Him Who is the Object of all Knowledge, how excellent that goal; but if not, a mere drop will perhaps shut a man off from flooding grace, for with learning cometh arrogance and pride, and it bringeth on error and indifference to God.” (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha: 110)
We may finish this long series of posts with the following statement from ‘Abdu’l-Baha, which seems to concisely sum up so much of the content of them.
“(T)he bestowals of God are moving and circulating throughout all created things. This illimitable divine bounty has no beginning and will have no ending. It is moving, circulating and becomes effective wherever capacity is developed to receive it. In every station there is a specialized capacity. Therefore, we must be hopeful that through the bounty and favor of God this spirit of life infusing all created beings shall quicken humanity, and from its bestowals the human world shall become a divine world, this earthly kingdom become the mirror of the realm of Divinity, the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity become unveiled and the image and likeness of God be reflected from this temple.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 160)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Transformative, Cohesive Power of Love


It is, therefore, evident that in the world of humanity the greatest king and sovereign is love. If love were extinguished, the power of attraction dispelled, the affinity of human hearts destroyed, the phenomena of human life would disappear.
(The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 255)

How is the Most Great Peace to come about most quickly and effectivly?  What is it founded upon?  The Master states: “This transformation of morals, this improvement of conduct and of words, are they possible otherwise than through the love of God? No, in the name of God. If, by the help of science and knowledge, we wished to introduce these morals and customs, truly it would take a thousand years, and then they would not be spread throughout the masses.
"Today, thanks to the love of God, they are arrived at with the greatest facility.” (Some Answered Questions: 304)
In Paris He stated: “What a power is love! It is the most wonderful, the greatest of all living powers.  Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful.  In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love. When the heart of man is aglow with the flame of love, he is ready to sacrifice all—even his life. In the Gospel it is said God is love.” (Paris Talks: 179-180)
Love is the foundation and greatest power because individuals do not become just or moral by willing it, or knowing what is just and right, but by loving justice and righteousness.  Similarly with peace.  But the heart must also love spiritual principle and heavenly attributes latent in itself.  This love is no mere affectionate feeling toward something or someone, or toward an ideal or a practical method.  It is faith and conviction, determination and sacrifice. 
The Master states: May the light of love shine forth and illumine hearts, and may human lives be cemented and connected until all of us may find agreement and tranquillity beneath the same tabernacle and with the standard of the Most Great Peace above us move steadily onward.(The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 115) “So powerful is the light of unity,” asserts Baha’u’llah, “that it can illuminate the whole earth. The one true God, He Who knoweth all things, Himself testifieth to the truth of these words.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 288)
This is the dawn of a new era.  What the Bahá’i Writings call “a new race of men” is to emerge onto the stage of history to renovate the conditions of existence and transform the world. The Master puts the task and the scope of change this way to the followers of Baha’u’llah: “It is your duty to be exceedingly kind to every human being, and to wish him well; to work for the upliftment of society; to blow the breath of life into the dead; to act in accordance with the instructions of Bahá'u'lláh and walk His path—until ye change the world of man into the world of God.(Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá: 90
Only the transformed soul can build and live in the Kingdom of God.  The world of God resembles the world of man about as much as the world of man resembles the world of the ant.  All must be changed or transformed, even that which was good in the world of man cannot be lifted intact into the celestial relations characterizing the world of God.  The old order changethyielding place to new, And God fulfils himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world." (From Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Idylls of the King)
With the Revelation of Baha’u’llah such a profound change can be made.  He promises: “The heights which, through the most gracious favor of God, mortal man can attain, in this Day, are as yet unrevealed to his sight. The world of being hath never had, nor doth it yet possess the capacity for such a revelation. The day, however, is approaching when the potentialities of so great a favor will, by virtue of His behest, be manifested unto men.(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 214)  And: “The potentialities inherent in the station of man, the full measure of his destiny on earth, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be manifested in this promised Day of God.(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 340) Yet He also warns, in words true both for every individual and for humankind’s quest for peace, and which return us to the condition of willing self-abnegation: “There is no peace for thee save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me; for it behooveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own; to put thy trust in Me and not in thyself.” (Arabic Hidden Words: 61)
On the knowledge side, what are the essential spiritual principles upon which this great transformation rests?
No better summation exists than this magisterial statement from Shoghi Effendi: “The Revelation proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh, His followers believe, is divine in origin, all-embracing in scope, broad in its outlook, scientific in its method, humanitarian in its principles and dynamic in the influence it exerts on the hearts and minds of men. The mission of the Founder of their Faith, they conceive it to be to proclaim that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is continuous and progressive, that the Founders of all past religions, though different in the non-essential aspects of their teachings, "abide in the same Tabernacle, soar in the same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the same speech and proclaim the same Faith." His Cause, they have already demonstrated, stands identified with, and revolves around, the principle of the organic unity of mankind as representing the consummation of the whole process of human evolution. This final stage in this stupendous evolution, they assert, is not only necessary but inevitable, that it is gradually approaching, and that nothing short of the celestial potency with which a divinely ordained Message can claim to be endowed can succeed in establishing it.
“The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the unity of God and of His Prophets, upholds the principle of an unfettered search after truth, condemns all forms of superstition and prejudice, teaches that the fundamental purpose of religion is to promote concord and harmony, that it must go hand-in-hand with science, and that it constitutes the sole and ultimate basis of a peaceful, an ordered and progressive society. It inculcates the principle of equal opportunity, rights and privileges for both sexes, advocates compulsory education, abolishes extremes of poverty and wealth, exalts work performed in the spirit of service to the rank of worship, recommends the adoption of an auxiliary international language, and provides the necessary agencies for the establishment and safeguarding of a permanent and universal peace.” (Shoghi Effendi, From the document: Appreciations of the Baha'i Faith)
These sentences represent not just a statement of belief for Baha’u’llah’s followers, noble and idealistic as they are.  They are the very foundation of the science of the love of God.
 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Perfection of the Human Reality and Human World


Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth every man will advance and develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 67)

Spiritually, there is, I believe, a difference between perfect and perfection, between essence, which is created perfect, and existence, which achieves perfection. The first is the essential creation, the other is the manifest one.  Humans can comprehend the manifest creation, but not the essential creation, for the manifest is known through revealed and discovered knowledge, while the essential is creation as perfectly and completely fashioned originally by God.
The Master explains: “All beings, whether large or small, were created perfect and complete from the first, but their perfections appear in them by degrees. The organization of God is one; the evolution of existence is one; the divine system is one. Whether they be small or great beings, all are subject to one law and system. Each seed has in it from the first all the vegetable perfections….In the same way, the embryo possesses from the first all perfections, such as the spirit, the mind, the sight, the smell, the taste—in one word, all the powers—but they are not visible and become so only by degrees.
“Similarly, the terrestrial globe from the beginning was created with all its elements, substances, minerals, atoms and organisms; but these only appeared by degrees: first the mineral, then the plant, afterward the animal, and finally man. But from the first these kinds and species existed, but were undeveloped in the terrestrial globe, and then appeared only gradually. For the supreme organization of God, and the universal natural system, surround all beings, and all are subject to this rule. When you consider this universal system, you see that there is not one of the beings which at its coming into existence has reached the limit of perfection. No, they gradually grow and develop, and then attain the degree of perfection.” (Some Answered Questions: 198)
The same interplay of perfection/perfection, essential and fully manifest, exists in human intellectual and moral development.  The soul is perfect in itself as a creation, since all things are created perfect and complete—perfect because complete—yet there is growth in manifest perfection: “Every imperfect soul is self-centred and thinketh only of his own good. But as his thoughts expand a little he will begin to think of the welfare and comfort of his family. If his ideas still more widen, his concern will be the felicity of his fellow citizens; and if still they widen, he will be thinking of the glory of his land and of his race. But when ideas and views reach the utmost degree of expansion and attain the stage of perfection, then will he be interested in the exaltation of humankind. He will then be the well-wisher of all men and the seeker of the weal and prosperity of all lands. This is indicative of perfection.” (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha: 69)
Now these stages of human and natural development and growth mirror and get their influence from the Holy Manifestations of God appearing in various stages.  “In cycles gone by, each one of the Manifestations of God hath had His own rank in the world of existence, and each hath represented a stage in the development of humanity.” (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha: 56.)
 “For the position of Adam, with regard to the appearance and manifestation of the divine perfections, was in the embryonic condition; the position of Christ was the condition of maturity and the age of reason; and the rising of the Greatest Luminary was the condition of the perfection of the essence and of the qualities.” (Some Answered Questions: 124.)
“Each of the Divine Manifestations has likewise a cycle, and during the cycle His laws and commandments prevail and are performed. When His cycle is completed by the appearance of a new Manifestation, a new cycle begins. In this way cycles begin, end and are renewed, until a universal cycle is completed in the world, when important events and great occurrences will take place which entirely efface every trace and every record of the past; then a new universal cycle begins in the world, for this universe has no beginning.” (Some Answered Questions: 1)
       Evolution is the bringing forth of more of the essential, complete and infinitely complex perfect creation into greater manifest perfection.  This is accomplished through the synchrony of inner and outer transformations.  Recall Baha’u’llah states: “And yet, is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?” (The Kitab-i-Iqan: 240)
         The stage of maturity and perfection is the highest stage of manifestation, when the essence itself appears along with its qualities, remembering that in spiritual philosophy the essence of something is its spiritual form, its heart and central quiddity or character, what is called into being by name.  Perfection is when the center appears in its highest, most glorious appearance.  
Earlier in these posts I discussed the two kinds of peace outlined in the Bahá’i Writings, called the Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace. Advances toward both spheres is required.  That is the unique perspective and plan that the Bahá’i Revelation and community take in this great endeavor, as stated in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi.
“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.  
No movement in the world directs its attention upon both these aspects of human life and has full measures for their improvement, save the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.  And this is its distinctive feature. If we desire therefore the good of the world we should strive to spread those teachings and also practise them in our own life. Through them will the human heart be changed, and also our social environment provides the atmosphere in which we can grow spiritually and reflect in full the light of God shining through the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.
“And, with regard to the solution of the world's problems, he indicates that: ‘We need a change of heart, a reframing of all our conceptions and a new orientation of our activities. The inward life of man as well as his outward environment have to be reshaped if human salvation is to be secured.” (The Compilation of Compilations vol. I: 84 from document, Conservation of the Earth’s Resources)
Together with the transformation in humankind’s inner character into its divine aspect is the transformation of its outer conditions into a world civilization founded upon spiritual values and principles: the perfection of the human world.  That is, humanity must make its leap into maturity and perfection simultaneously spiritual and social.  This has been the great movement of social evolution from time immemorial.  Shoghi Effendi quoted the Master’s explanations on the collective development of humanity: “At one time it was passing through its stage of childhood, at another its period of youth, but now it has entered its long-predicted phase of maturity, the evidences of which are everywhere apparent... That which was applicable to human needs during the early history of the race can neither meet nor satisfy the demands of this day, this period of newness and consummation. Humanity has emerged from its former state of limitation and preliminary training. Man must now become imbued with new virtues and powers, new moral standards, new capacities. New bounties, perfect bestowals, are awaiting and already descending upon him. The gifts and blessings of the period of youth, although timely and sufficient during the adolescence of mankind, are now incapable of meeting the requirements of its maturity." (The World Order of Baha'u'llah: 164)
Baha’is are not alone in seeing a new world coming, and the new relations to be built that will transform the links between inner and outer worlds.  For example, one of the twentieth century’s leading psychologist’s and social theorist’s wrote: “I believe that the One World which is emerging can come into existence only if the New Man comes into being—a man who has emerged from the archaic ties of blood and soil, and who feels himself to be a son of man, a citizen of the world whose loyalty is to the human race and to life, rather than to any exclusive part of it; a man who loves his country because he loves mankind, and whose judgement is not warped by tribal loyalties.” (Erich Fromm, Beyond the Chains of Illusion: 169)
This coming civilization, with its promised peace and prosperity, is not something that human beings can invent, bring about, or create alone and unaided. Rather, it is and has always been the progressive realization of the purpose of God and His Manifestations through the all-powerful influence of Their Revelations.  That spiritual content of that purpose is rooted in what Christ called “the Kingdom of Heaven within you”; its social realization is what that same Christ called the “kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (The Book of Matthew 25:34) This Kingdom of Heaven within is to be made into the Kingdom of God around us, what the Book of Revelation calls “the descent of the new Jerusalem.”  The Kingdom already spiritually exists, indeed has always existed, in its full splendor and grandeur in eternity, and has been unfolding on the plane of manifestation since the beginning of time.  Its time has now arrived.  We are at “the end of days”, which is the edge of eternity.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Faculty of the Heart


Just now the soil of human hearts seems like black earth, but in the innermost substance of this dark soil there are thousands of fragrant flowers latent. We must endeavor to cultivate and awaken these potentialities, discover the secret treasure in this very mine and depository of God, bring forth these resplendent powers long hidden in human hearts. Then will the glories of both worlds be blended and increased and the quintessence of human existence be made manifest.
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 294)

In the next few posts I will be ending this long discussion on the role of spiritual faculties in bringing about peace with the heart and love.  But, in fact, for the peace of humanity, as well as the whole of creation, they are first.  That is because, with the heart, we have arrived not only at the end or conclusion of a line of argument, but also at the beginning of spiritual perception, which is the center, the pivot and Source, the motive power, the embracing, all-fruitful productive source out from which come all qualities when stimulated by divine Will and formed by divine Knowledge.  It is the essential union and unity, the joining and knitting together of the B and the E.
While the object of the will is “the good”, and the object of the intellect is “the true”, the object of the heart is “the Beloved”.  Spiritually, all things start in and with the heart, the receptor of higher energies and their radiant center out into the world, the pivot where transformational change takes place onto higher levels of being and knowing.  It is the heart's attraction and love for the Word of God, as both His speech and His Person, that begins spiritual transformation.  I have titled this discussion the faculty of the heart, the meaning of this phrase being not a faculty in the heart, but, rather, the faculty that is the heart.  The heart has its own way of knowing, and it is love. 
Love is the pre-existing, metaphysical “material” field and cause, the receiver of the active force of Intellect, and described by ‘Abdu’l-Baha as “the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things.”  (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha: 27)  
Divine love is why there is existence at all.   In a prayer that declares some of the powers of God, Baha’u’llah has the one praying state of God “Whose love is the cause of my being,” (Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah: 259) ‘Abdu’l-Baha generalizes this specific cause into a universal principle: “We declare that love is the cause of the existence of all phenomena and that the absence of love is the cause of disintegration or nonexistence.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 255)
The station of the heart with its complementary focusing and radiating powers is, in relation to humanity, occupied by the Manifestations of God.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha writes: “Yet the Holy Manifestations of God are even as a looking-glass, burnished and without stain, which gathereth streams of light out of that Sun, and then scattereth the glory over the rest of creation.” (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha: 50)
It is He and His Words that in every dispensation awaken within the soul its divine image and transform it more into His likeness.  It is He and His Words that bring forth the knowledge of the heart, and gives humanity the principles of the epistemology of love.  Baha’u’llah entreats us: “…endeavour to comprehend the meaning of the "changing of the earth." Know thou, that upon whatever hearts the bountiful showers of mercy, raining from the "heaven" of divine Revelation, have fallen, the earth of those hearts hath verily been changed into the earth of divine knowledge and wisdom. What myrtles of unity hath the soil of their hearts produced! What blossoms of true knowledge and wisdom hath their illumined bosoms yielded! Were the earth of their hearts to remain unchanged, how could such souls who have not been taught one letter, have seen no teacher, and entered no school, utter such words and display such knowledge as none can apprehend? Methinks they have been moulded from the clay of infinite knowledge, and kneaded with the water of divine wisdom. Therefore, hath it been said: "Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth." It is this kind of knowledge which is and hath ever been praiseworthy, and not the limited knowledge that hath sprung forth from veiled and obscured minds. This limited knowledge they even stealthily borrow one from the other, and vainly pride themselves therein!
“Would that the hearts of men could be cleansed from these man-made limitations and obscure thoughts imposed upon them! haply they may be illumined by the light of the Sun of true knowledge, and comprehend the mysteries of divine wisdom. Consider now, were the parched and barren soil of these hearts to remain unchanged, how could they ever become the Recipients of the revelation of the mysteries of God, and the Revealers of the divine Essence? Thus hath He said: "On the day when the earth shall be changed into another earth." (Kitab-i-Iqan: 46-47)
The relation of the heart to the rational faculty, or power of understanding, is inherent, the heart and its spiritual powers being an essential aspect of the power of understanding. Yet humanity has not used this great endowment as it could have.  We previously quoted these words of the Master that pertain to this theme: “They do not use that great gift of God, the power of the understanding, by which they might see with the eyes of the spirit, hear with spiritual ears and also comprehend with a Divinely enlightened heart.”
The rational faculty’s transformation into its highest state needs the heart to touch the divine, to absorb and reflect spiritual knowledge, the true gnosis: the knowledge of God.  In the human reality it is the heart that receives the imprint of Reality, and from the transformed heart radiates out streams of light.  In quotes I have used before, Baha’u’llah, quoting the Qur’an, states: "Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth."  The Master prayed…”that God in His mercy may illumine your hearts and souls with His glorious Light, then shall each one of you shine as a radiant star in the dark places of the world.”  In a prayer, Baha’u’llah asks God on behalf of every member of humanity: “Illumine mine eyes, O my Lord, with the splendors of the horizon of Thy Revelation, and brighten my heart with the effulgence of the Day-Star of Thy knowledge and wisdom...” (Prayers and Meditations of Baha'u'llah: 227-228)  And in another: “…enlighten our hearts with the effulgence of Thy knowledge, and illumine our breasts with the brightness of Thy names.” (Prayers and Meditations of Baha'u'llah: 220-221) 
Divine Love is both the law of attraction and the ground force finding, through the formative power of the Word of God, its highest natural expression in humanity’s gift of conscious understanding.  Yet, through conscious love and attraction for God and after recognition of His Manifestation human beings can go higher and manifest greater powers by going deeper. ‘Abdu’l-Baha says: “All the virtues which have been deposited and potential in human hearts are being revealed from that Reality as flowers and blossoms from divine gardens.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 39)  He also stated: “In this century of the latter times Bahá'u'lláh has appeared and so resuscitated spirits that they have manifested powers more than human.” (Promulgation of Universal Peace: 277.)
The faculties of the rational faculty are active to some extent in their human state, and were prominent during the human era of life, but not to their greatest potential, for there are higher, nobler states than the human.  In the emerging divine state of being and knowing, these faculties will awaken to spiritual purposes and powers, to their full potential and perfection.  As we will see, the heights to which humankind will go are, as yet, unimaginable.  So great and noble are these states that Shoghi Effendi wrote of current efforts to perceive them: “All we can reasonably venture to attempt is to strive to obtain a glimpse of the first streaks of the promised Dawn that must, in the fullness of time, chase away the gloom that has encircled humanity.” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah: 34)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Volitional Capacity and the Supreme Moral Act


Souls must be transformed, communities thereby consolidated, new models of life thus attained. Transformation is the essential purpose of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, but it lies in the will and effort of the individual to achieve it in obedience to the Covenant.
(Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992: 64-65)

When we look into the human kingdom, the importance of will and volition in human development, especially spiritual development, cannot be overemphasized.  "The incomparable Creator hath created all men from one same substance, and hath exalted their reality above the rest of His creatures. Success or failure, gain or loss, must, therefore, depend upon man’s own exertions. The more he striveth, the greater will be his progress." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah: 82-83) But here we can confront and explicate the huge reversal that must occur when moving from the human into the spiritual.  It is the reversal that occurs whenever a transcendent move must be made, for the whole unfolded development of a organism becomes enfolded into the centerpoint of a whole new kind of progress, as the whole of the seed unfolded into the tree and the whole of the tree is enfolded and embodied in the fruit. 
When moving from the natural to the human the individual self-assertive will was born, a separation by reversal out of the collective, tribal mentality.  The individual became an entity in himself i.e. a human, reflective self.  This birth of the subjective self is both the fruit of a long phase of human development and the seed for the next millennia-long phase.  It was both the enfolding into a new manifest human reality of spiritual qualities and mental abilities developed over centuries of advance, and the beginning of the unfolding of a whole new set of qualities lying within the fruit/seed.  Similarly the movement today from human to spiritual can only occur when the self-assertive will is sacrificed so it can be reborn into the self-sacrificing soul.
Volitional capacity is defined not only by the faith to achieve goals, but also by the determination to take needed action, by what is actually chosen to do and carried out.  Faith is a key element in this process, for as an aid to formulating goals and purpose it is central to generating motivation and action.  Even in today’s materialistic age, faith retains “its central role in consciousness.” It’s just that it “appeared impotent to influence the course of events.” (One Common Faith: 12)
Sometimes the greatest act of faith is that of surrender, the giving up of self for a greater selfhood, of assertive ego individuality for a humble spiritual one.   Faith is built upon hope.  But while faith is, spiritually, the perfection of the intellect, hope is an act of the will, as is overcoming fear. Hope is a desire for all that is good—that is, for all that can bring us to God.  Fear then is a healthy avoidance of all that takes the soul away from God.  This is the foundational power of hope and fear in the volitional arena.
The significance of will and volition is implied in Abdu’l-Baha’s statement that in spite of the numerous things beyond human control, the most significant events (our moral and ethical choices), are not. “Some things are subject to the free will of man, such as justice, equity, tyranny and injustice, in other words, good and evil actions; it is evident and clear that these actions are, for the most part, left to the will of man.” (Some Answered Questions: 248)  
We know that willing is not just a capacity for volition and intentions, but, in relation to creating reality, it is the first capacity, the one that gets everything else going, the link between mind or knowledge and action.  The will is the greatest faculty for advancement and progress, for the will is incapable of willing backwards.  We can, however, will to give up the will.  When this is not a cancellation of action that leads to paralysis, it is not only our supreme moral act, but also the greatest act of empowerment.  Recall the Master is reported to have said: “It is a great power to have a strong will, but a greater power to give that will to God.”
Hannah Arendt states: “Only by surmounting an inner resistance does the Will become aware of its genesis.” (The Life of the Mind: 162)  But I wonder about that.  Awareness of this sort is intellectual.  No doubt, by overcoming resistance the will knows and can increase its power.  But the greatest resistance to overcome is not willing to negate another volition, but not willing to negate the self.  This often occurs from a belief that there is no life after this one, only extinction.  But some things are only known to exist by their opposites.  That is, if material life exists, that itself is an indirect proof of the life of the spirit.  The Master explains: Among the proofs of the existence of a divine power is this: that things are often known by their opposites. Were it not for darkness, light could not be sensed. Were it not for death, life could not be known. If ignorance did not exist, knowledge would not be a reality. It is necessary that each should exist in order that the other should have reality…Things are known by their opposites.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 82)
Also when one is in great trial or difficulty the will often falters.  The way out may be surprising.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha stated: “The afflictions which come to humanity sometimes tend to centre the consciousness upon the limitations, and this is a veritable prison. Release comes by making of the will a Door through which the confirmations of the Spirit come. “The confirmations of the Spirit are all those powers and gifts which some are born with (and which men sometimes call genius), but for which others have to strive with infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who accepts his life with radiant acquiescence.” ('Abdu'l-Baha in London: 120-121)   Willing self-surrender is the greatest act of empowerment, for the soul connects with the almighty, divine Power.
Again this is not a one-time or spasmodic thing, but can be turned into a central pillar of one’s life, if one wishes to tap into spiritual power consistently.  The Master stated that to fully manifest this power that penetrates to the realities of things, “we must be self-abnegating, we must have pure spirits, pure intentions, and strive with heart and soul while in the human world to attain everlasting glory.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 187)  This is not a new teaching for this age.  The Lord Christ stated two thousand years ago: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (King James Bible, Luke 9:24)  The difference is that in Christ’s time the principle was for the emerging single individual.  Today, the principle applies to the emerging single collective, humankind.
Willing to know God is a willingness to be self-abnegating.  To humbly submit to the counsels of Baha’u’llah in regards to organizing human affairs is the volitional means to bring about unity and peace.
Will is the first cause of creation because it alone comes out of itself.  That is, it alone of all faculties has the power to move itself or not, and it is this ability to will yes or no that is the basis within humanity of obedience or disobedience to the dictates of divine Will.
Regarding the establishment of world peace, ‘Abdu’l-Baha stated: "All of us know that international peace is good, that it is conducive to human welfare and the glory of man, but volition and action are necessary before it can be established. Action is essential. Inasmuch as this century is a century of light, capacity for action is assured to mankind.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace: 120)
Since moral choices and actions are within the scope of human will, then the capacity to choose and will peace is assured.  But choice must be informed choice, not just of social possibilities but, the more important knowledge is knowledge of actual human nature, for this knowledge enables real choices to be made.
Will is the creative power and ground of the plane of manifestation, linking this plane to the essential plane of Spirit.  Since the essential merit of spiritual principle is that it harmonizes with that which is immanent in the human reality, and this harmony generates “an aspiration, a will, a dynamic”, and since unity is unattainable so long as the counsels of Baha’u’llah are not recognized and followed, then absence of spiritual principle in human affairs will not generate the necessary volition and determination to tackle deep-seated problems and challenges, like establishing peace.  In this context we can understand why Shoghi Effendi called our “Age of Transition” the “Age of Frustration.” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah: 171)  It is an age characterized by, as the House of Justice puts it, “a paralysis of will” that “must be carefully examined and resolutely dealt with.” “This paralysis is rooted,” they go on, “in a deep-seated conviction of the inevitable quarrelsomeness of mankind, which has led to the reluctance to entertain the possibility of subordinating national self-interest to the requirements of world order, and in an unwillingness to face courageously the far-reaching implications of establishing a united world authority. It is also traceable to the incapacity of largely ignorant and subjugated masses to articulate their desire for a new order in which they can live in peace, harmony and prosperity with all humanity.” (The Promise of World Peace: para. 26)
Through its spiritual principles, which are the rational part of Revelation, the Religion of God educates the heart and soul, taps the roots of motivation, and generates individual and collective volition.  Collective capacity for action is the result of the generation of a common will and widening of vision.  The power of action lies first within the individual, but it surges within the group collectivity.  The dynamic of will can be used to generate a collective human will to achieve peace. 
A universal cycle of human development has ended, a new era of spiritual development of humanity has dawned; eternal truths are being discovered and applied.  Hence one can read simultaneously both the foundational language of essences, soils, and ground alongside paeans to the glory of this Day.  But all comes forth from the faculty of the heart encounter with the Word that brings forth its grounding in universal love.