Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #116 (English)

Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California USA

May 30 – June 2, 2013.

Theme: "Establishment of the Universal House of Justice Jubilee Celebration"


Bábí-Bahá'í Theology of 'Adl (Justice) and the Lawh-i Ridván al-'Adl of Bahá'u'lláh, The

by Stephen Lambden

"This is the Ridwan al `Adl ("Paradise of Justice"). It was indeed made manifest through the Divine Bounty (al-fadl) for God hath ornamented it with His Mighty, Incomparable [Scriptural] Traces (al-athar)."

In the Name of God,

the Promoter of Justice (al-adil), the All-Wise (al-hakim). .. "This is a Tablet (lawh) in which God raised up His Name, the Promoter of Justice (al-`Ádil). [2] Therefrom did He breathe forth the Spirit of Justice (ruh al-`adl) within the temples of the totality of created things (hayakil al-khala'iq)" (Opening lines, AQA 4:299).

"Bestir yourselves, O people, in anticipation of the days of Divine justice (ayyám al-`adl), for the promised hour is now come. Beware lest ye fail to apprehend its import and be accounted among the erring" (AQA 4: 314 =Gleanings XII).

The roughly twenty page wholly Arabic scriptural Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh entitled Ridwán al-`Adl, (The Ridwān ["Paradise", "Beatitude"] of Justice) commences as translated above. It was addressed to a certain Aqa Sayyid Muhammad Ridā' Shahmirzadi (= "Rida after Nabil" [= Muhammad Rida']) (d. 1310/1892-3) one of the Baqiyyat al-sayf (`Remnant of the Sword'), the survivors of the Shaykh Tabarsī upheaval of 1848-9 (Ishraq Khavari, Ganj, No. 54, p. 208). This key Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh most likely dates from the late Edirne [Adrianople] period, perhaps early 1867. The text can be found in numerous manuscripts and has been published, in whole or in part, a number of times; including within the compilation of the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh named Athar-i Qalam-i A`la (`Traces of the Supreme Pen'); see vol. 4 (1st ed.), pp. 245-257 and (rev. ed. 125/1968), vol. 4 pp. 299-319. Shoghi Effendi translated two brief paragraphs of the `Tablet of the Ridwan al-`Adl' focusing on its central concept of `adl (justice) in his compilation of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh entitled Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh (1st ed. 1935), section No. XII [12] (p. 17) and section LXXXVIII [88] (p. 175).

A fairly lengthy Tablet, this revelatory writing opens with three explicit paragraphs then many more addressed to "this Name", the "Just". The many subjects dealt with cannot all be listed here. It must suffice to note that the Incomprehensibility of God is underlined and celebrated, the importance of justice for kings and rulers set forth, the position of the Báb as the herald, and the history of the persecuted, rejected and martyred figures of John the Baptist and Jesus is outlined as an object lesson for the followers of the Báb.

The central doctrinal locus of the `Tablet of the Ridwán al-`Adl', is God's Name, al-`Adl (the Just) or al-Ádil ("the Promoter of Justice"). The implications of the effects of this Divine Name are closely associated with the genesis of the Bahá'í revelation as an expression of the Ridwán (loosely, Paradise, Contentment, Beatitude, etc) of new age fulfillment. Bahá'u'lláh identified the initial, April-May 1863 disclosure of his new religion as an expression of Ridwán that is closely associated with the realization of Divine and human Justice.

A number of Biblical and Islamic predictions have it that in the eschatological, latter-day era, global justice would be realized at the messianic age:

"Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips (Isaiah 11:5) ... Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased. Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations ... He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice (mishpat) in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law (le-torat-ow) (Isaiah 42:1, 4) ... They will be called oaks of justice (`e-le ha-tzedek), the planting of the LORD to show his glory (le-hit'pa'er)" (Isaiah 61:3).

"When the [messianic] Qa'im rises he will rule with justice (al-`adl) ... He [the expected Qa'im] will fill the earth with justice (`adl) and equity (qist) just as it was filled with tyranny and oppression" (from Kulayni, al-Kafi cited al-Mufid, al-Irshad and Majlisi; Bihar 52: 338, etc).

"I am a believer in thee [Imam Husayn] and am one certain about thy [eschatological] return [parousia] (iyāb) with the regulations of my religion (bi-sharā'ī` dīnī) and the finalities of my endeavors (khwātīm `amalī)" (al-Tūsī, Ziyārat al-`Arba`īn, in Tahdhīb al-ahkām, 1079).

The principles Bahá'u'lláh championed at his 1863 Ridwán declaration and a decade later in his Most Holy Book (al-kitáb al-aqdas) and other writings, were centrally related to the unfolding of the `Paradise of Justice' on all levels of creation and human society. The Tablet of the Ridwán al-`Adl celebrates and comments upon this.

The roughly synonymous Names of God al-`Adl ("the Just"; see Qur'an 6:115, 4:58, 16:90, etc.) and al-`Ádil ("the Just', "Promoter of Justice") do not explicitly occur in the Qur'an as an Attribute of God although the concept of Divine and human justice is central to the Qur'anic message and to the Islamic religion. Thus in certain Sunni versions of a prophetic hadīth (tradition) God's Name al-`Adl ("the Just") is important as the thirtieth of the ninety-nine `Most Beautiful Names of God' (al-asma al-husna; see Q. 7:180; 17:110; 20:8; 59:24). In another Shi`i Islamic version relayed from Imam `Alī (d. 40/661), it is counted number forty-eight of the ninety-nine Names of God (see al-Ghazzali, al-Maqsad, 105f; cf. No. 86, p.153 al-Muqsit ("the Equitable") and al-Kaf`ami, al-Misbah, 399-400). Close to the beginning of the Lawh-i Ridwan al-`Adl, Bahá'u'lláh alludes to these traditions referring to "this Name", al-`Adl / `Adil (the Just) as "a sun among the suns of Our Most Beautiful Names (al-asma al-husna)".

Justice and its promotion are very important religious concepts. One of the main characteristics of the latter-day, divine and messianic purpose is the realization of international global divine justice. At the very beginning of the Hidden Words (c. 1858 CE) of Bahá'u'lláh (Arabic No.2) a Bahá'í ethic of insāf ("equity" cf. the Name of God al-Muqsit) is counted the "best beloved" of all things in the "sight of God". The concept of insāf ("equity") and `adl ("justice") are very closely related and can again be synonymous.

Among the themes which will be summarily dealt with in this paper will be the pre-Bábí-Bahá'í promises of Divine Justice and their evolving fulfillment in the contemporary Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í world.

Translation

"Bestir yourselves, O people, in anticipation of the days of Divine justice, for the promised hour is now come. Beware lest ye fail to apprehend its import and be accounted among the erring." (Gl. XII).

"Know verily that the essence of justice and the source thereof are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him Who is the Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize this truth. He doth verily incarnate the highest, the infallible standard of justice unto all creation. Were His law to be such as to strike terror into the hearts of all that are in heaven and on earth, that law is naught but manifest justice. The fears and agitation which the revelation of this law provokes in men's hearts should indeed be likened to the cries of the suckling babe weaned from his mother's milk, if ye be of them that perceive. Were men to discover the motivating purpose of God's Revelation, they would assuredly cast away their fears, and, with hearts filled with gratitude, rejoice with exceeding gladness." (Gl. LXXXVIII)


Carmel Calling Jerusalem: History and Prophesy Related to Carmel, Mount Carmel and the Tablet of Carmel

by Stephen Lambden

"It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it" (Isaiah 2:2)

"Call out to Zion, O Carmel, and announce the joyful tidings: He that was hidden from mortal eyes is come! His all-conquering sovereignty is manifest; His all-encompassing splendour is revealed" (extract from the Tablet of Carmel)

As a major location of pilgrimage visitation and the site of the Bahá'í World Center in Haifa, Israel, Mount Carmel is very well known to Bahá'ís as it is to numerous others for cultural, religious and other reasons. Mount Carmel (= Heb. `The Orchard or Vineyard of God') is a 24 mile long mountain range. It surrounds or is adjacent to its key geographical centerpiece, the ancient city of Haifa (= Heb. Perhaps, `The Beautiful Shore'). Haifa is today the third largest city in Israel, a multicultural Mediterranean seaside city of some magnitude (pop. perhaps 270,000).

According to the Hebrew Bible, Mt. Carmel and Haifa (as well as Acre, Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, etc.) are found within the western Galilean land allocated to the various tribes of Israel, especially Asher, the eight son of the patriarch Jacob or the second son of Jacob and Zilpah (Joshua 19:24-31). Mt. Carmel lies on the western boundary of the tribe of Asher (Josh. 19:24). Both Jacob (fl. 2nd millennium BCE) and Moses (d. 13th cent. BCE) are said to have uttered blessings with prophetic implications upon the region of the tribe of Ashur (Gen. 49:20 and Deut 33:24).

While Haifa has existed from the early centuries of the common era (CE), the 1500 foot high limestone Mount Carmel range has been an important center of human habitation since paleolithic times; note the early, prehistoric (500,000 BCE??) human-hominid (Neanderthal, Homo-Sapien) settlements. Significant historical and religious events have taken place in the Haifa-Carmel region for more than 3,000 years. The 9th cent BCE Transjordanian prophet Elijah had a confrontation with 450 priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18:17ff) where his cave-retreat or burial place is believed to be located. In fact there are two alleged caves of Elijah on Mt. Carmel! His successor Elisha also visited Mt. Carmel (II Kings 2:25) as did many other figures significant in Jewish, Christian and Islamic history.

According to the `On the Pythagorean Way of Life' of the Syrian born Neo-Platonic successor to Plotinus and Porphyry, Iamblichus of Chalcis (c. 240-325 CE), the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570- c. 497 BCE) spent some time in retreat in a sanctuary on Mount Carmel. It is interesting that the Mandaean Drāsā D-Yahyā ("Book of John") mentions Mount Carmel. Jesus of nearby Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus may well have gone to the Carmel region. Indeed, Mount Carmel is significant in the Bible where it is a symbol of beauty and fertility (see esp. Isaiah Isa. 35:2; Song 7.5 and Nahum 1:4).

Of especial interest in a Jewish context is the following passage from the homilitic midrashic work Pesikta de Rab Kahana (perhaps 5th cent. CE) where it is said in Piska ("section") 21:

"At the [eschatological] restoration Sinai, Tabor, and Carmel will hymn Moriah [= the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, see 2 Chron. 3:1] - Mount Zion -- in song."

The same source also has it (in the light of Isaiah 2:2 ) that R. Phineas (c. 360 CE) said in the name of R, Reuben (c. 300) that God would bring Sinai, Tabor and Carmel and build the [eschatological] Temple on their summits. The notion of personified "mountains" addressing one another has Biblical (and extra-Biblical) roots and is echoed in the Tablet of Carmel. That God would build a latter-day, spiritual, non-concrete New Jerusalem on Mount Carmel is explicitly stated by Bahá'u'lláh in his 1871 (or 1872) Lawh-i Hartik (= Hardegg), the Tablet to the Templar leader George David Hardegg (1812-1879). This has major implications spelled out in symbolic language in the `Tablet of Carmel' of Bahá'u'lláh, a fairly brief (2-3 page) wholly Arabic Tablet of great magnitude. It was written around 1891 during its author's fourth visit to Haifa

If Armageddon, the scene of the eschatological battle between the forces of "light" and those of "darkness", means "Mountain of Megiddo" (Aramaic har = mountain) then it is likely that Mount Carmel is indicated since this mountain is only a few miles from the scene of the latter-day apocalyptic conflagration (see Rev. 16:16). For some the modern battle of Armageddon "took place at the head of a pass through the Carmel Ridge, which overlooks the Valley of Jezreel from the south" (New World Encyclopedia, Mt. Carmel). General Edmund Allenby (1861-1936) led the British forces which precipitated the defeat of the Ottomans in Palestine and the subsequent freedom of `Abdu'l-Bahá.

The Tablet of Carmel involves Carmel (= Bahá'u'lláh / The Bahá'í revelation) crying out to Zion (= Jerusalem / the Jewish people and others) the good news of the Bahá'í revelation. Carmel, symbolic of the `new Jerusalem', invites Zion to faith as representing the previous edifice(s) of religion, the `old Jerusalem'. In the Hebrew Bible Zion/Jerusalem is personified as the place where God cries out: "the Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem... and the top of Carmel withers" (Amos 1:2 cf. Joel 3:16, etc). Bahá'u'lláh seems to reverse this Biblical pattern in the light of the `New Jerusalem' of his revelation symbolized by Mount Carmel. "Zion" is a topographical term which once designated the southeast hill of the later city of Jerusalem. This term occurs around 150 times in the Bible, though not in the Qur'an. Today Zion mostly designates the area of the `Temple Mount' where the Dome of the Rock is situated. It is symbolic, among other things, of Jerusalem as the locus of the Israelite religion/Judaism. In this paper these and related themes will be discussed.


Conflict Transformation: A Case Study of the Universal House of Justice Messages to the Bahá’ís in Iran

by Mahyad Zaerpoor-Rahnamaie

In the Old Testament, the history of conflict is as old as human history, starting from the Genesis. This talk comprises of two parts: it will first cover the gradual developments of how humans have been dealing with conflicts both on interpersonal and community levels. There are at least five distinct but overlapping stages of facing conflicts. The two more traditional forms of “conflict eradication” and “conflict denial” use power and aggression as the basic modes of operation. The two more recent stages of “conflict management” and “conflict resolution” use modern tools of consultation rather than confrontation. After a brief review of these familiar stages, the newest stage of “Conflict Transformation” will be more fully discussed. This recent concept welcomes social conflicts as effective catalysts to foster constructive changes that reduce violence, increase justice in direct interactions and social structures, and respond to real life problems in human relationship. Clearly, most of these recent ideas have obvious counterparts and examples both in the Bahá’í Sacred Writings and its history.

In the second part of the talk, an attempt will be made to detect components of “conflict transformation” in the contents and tone of the letters written by the UHJ to the Bahá’ís in Iran. In the past thirty some years, Bahá’ís of Iran have been subjected to horrendous human rights violation and bravely endured their ghastly conditions. The dynamics of growth and maturation within the community has been, to a great part, due to the continual guidance received from UHJ. It seems that the tone and the content of these letters have themselves gone through a gradual change and more in line with the underlying concepts of “conflict transformation.” It seems that the letters from the House are more and more encouraging the Persian Bahá’ís to see the present conflicts and the adversarial role of the government as a propelling force for growth, creating positives from the difficult or negatives.


Development of the Baha'i Community, The: 1963 — 2013

by Muin Afnani

While the growth of the Bahá'í Community under the guidance of the Universal House of Justice in the 50 years since 1963 expands over a wide range, it could be perceived in terms of two parallel sets of activities. On the one hand we have witnessed the expansion and consolidation of the Bahá'í community to such an extent that it practically covers the entire globe; on the other, the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh has increased its influence substantially in the life of society. Having passed the stage of obscurity the Faith has earned the respect and admiration of international & national institutions and many world leaders. On Issues as diverse as human rights, environment, education, peace, race and ethnic issues, and development the views of the Bahá'í community are sought and respected by many at local, national, and international levels.

In essence the House of Justice has continued the processes that were started by `Abdu'l-Bahá and expanded by Shoghi Effendi based on the provisions of the three Charters of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh: The Tablet of Carmel, The Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, and the Tablets of the Divine Plan. In this period we have observed the expansion of the Bahá'í community, consolidation of Bahá'í institutions as well as the creation of new institutions at various levels, the development of institutions at the Bahá'í World Center, as well as acquisition and development of local and national properties and endowments. Through 11 global plans, ranging from 12 months to 9 years in duration, the House of Justice has nurtured the members of the Bahá'í community while increasing the stature of the Faith in the eyes of the public. The era from 1963 to 2013 could be divided into various periods each with particular set of priorities and emphasis in the unfoldment of the divine Plan. With the introduction of the institute process by the House of Justice in 1996, the community has embarked on a steep learning process to increase the capacity of all its members to arise and serve humanity.


Ethics and the Bahá'í Writings: A Philosophical Survey

by Ian Kluge

The Bahá'í Writings promise an ethical renewal for all the peoples and cultures in the world and ethical guidance for the future personal, social and spiritual evolution of humankind. This paper pursues a philosophical examination of the Writings' ethical teachings, how they relate to the major ethical systems proposed in the past, and how they deal with some of the difficulties inherent in past systems. Among the topics discussed are virtue ethics, utilitarianism, existentialism, Kant's theories, natural law theory, ethical subjectivism and objectivism, relativism, intuitionism, Nietzschean ethics, and self-realization ethics. Special attention will be paid to Udo Schaefer's magisterial two volume "Bahá'í Ethics in Light of Scripture" which was the first study to undertake a systematic review of Bahá'í ethical teachings.

Click here to read this paper online.

Finding a Trace of the Traceless Friend: Reflection on Bahá'í Scholarship as a Journey in the Valley of Search

by Wolfgang Klebel

In this presentation the attempt is made to shed some light at Bahá'í Scholarship from the First Valley of the Seven Valleys of Bahá'u'lláh, the Valley of Search. The combination of finding a "trace" of a "traceless friend" indicates the mysteriousness and complexity of this task, and introduces us into the mystical realm. The introductory section of the Seven Valleys closes with the following words, indicating that the purpose of this Book is "that every man may thereby win his way to the summit of realities, until none shall contemplate anything whatsoever but that he shall see God therein." (SVFV 1) The summit of reality indicates that it is a different and new reality that is presented in the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, which must be the basis of all Bahá'í scholarship.

In a letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice it was stated that "The combination of absolute loyalty to the Manifestation of God and His Teachings, with the searching and intelligent study of the Teachings and history of the Faith which those Teachings themselves enjoin, is a particular strength of this Dispensation." This issue cannot be solved other than by grounding all research and study on this new understanding of reality.

These topics will be discussed in following the Valley of Search:

  1. Prerequisites of search
  2. Independent Investigation and the role of the heart, culture and tradition
  3. How to deal with distractions
  4. The standard of Majnún, seek her everywhere
  5. The exclusivity of search and sacrificing everything for it
  6. Seeking the truth in every country, in every mind and in every soul
These points and some excursion into closely related topics will be presented and the whole paper is carried by the conviction that scholarship in the Bahá'í Faith, and its assumptions about the reality of this world, is much easier than following the assumptions of modern science about reality from the point of view of any previous religion. Modern science often is based on a reductionistic and mostly materialistic world view. The followers of previous religions are not able to combine their religious understanding of reality with modern science at all.

Bahá'í scholars need to discriminate and be selective when comparing the Bahá'í writings with what is taught today in academia. The reality of the new scientific findings, obviously not all of them, but of the most progressive and forward looking scholars and philosophers of today need to be studied and coordinated with the Writings of the Faith. It is the Bahá'í scholar who has not only the ability but the task to sort this out and look forward in his thinking.

As a Christian theologian I had to live in two worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of Einstein, the world of the Gospels and the world of modern science. As a Bahá'í scholar the world has been opened up and the most modern thinkers and scientists can be found to be inspired by the new Revelation, even if they had never heard of Bahá'u'lláh. I have presented this understanding in all my previous presentations at the `Irfán Colloquia for many years.

As a Bahá'í scholar and seeker we must live in this new World Order (GWB 136) of Bahá'u'lláh. Then Bahá'u'lláh will

... draw thee from the earthly homeland to the first, heavenly abode in the Center of Realities, and lift thee to a plane wherein thou wouldst soar in the air even as thou walkest upon the earth, and move over the water as thou runnest on the land (SVFV 3)
Only when the center of reality, as presented in the Bahá'í Revelation is fully accepted by the scholar can he/she devote absolute loyalty to the Manifestation of God and combine it with an unfettered search after truth. Any attempt to make compromises in theory or practice will escalate the conflict and bring grief and disunity into the life of the scholar. This situation is not new, it was present in every Revelation in the past, and the words of Jesus (Matthew 10:16) come to mind when considering the Bahá'í scholar in a modern academic setting.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Click here to read this paper online.

Forces of Evolution, The

by Arsalan Geula

"The Forces of Evolution" is related to and a continuation of a previous presentation on "General Theory of Evolution and Human Evolution." While keeping in mind the principle of "Harmony of Science and Religion," we will discuss the important question that always arises when we discuss evolution:
"If we assume that the result of evolution is `the survival of the fittest,' then why nature and evolution should lead to a very complex individual like `homo sapiens' who would be at higher risk of annihilation by natural catastrophes. Single cell organisms and insects have a much higher probability of survival than mammals or humans."
In discussing this subject we will review the following topics:
  1. Creation: God is the "Creator," the "Sustainer"
  2. Natural force (Élan Vital).
  3. Entropy: Second law of thermodynamic.
  4. Anthropic Anthropomorphic Principle.
  5. Biocentrism.
  6. The Bahá'í Faith and evolution.
    1. Bahá'u'lláh's Writings.
    2. `Abdu'l-Bahá's Writings.
It will be argued that these topics are not contradictory. The presentation will include references to many of Bahá'u'lláh's and `Abdu'l-Bahá's Writings, especially of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Wisdom. It will discuss the following points:
  • "The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different." [Big bang theory]
  • "...indeed created through the irresistible Word of God which is the Cause of the entire creation..." [Emanation]
  • "Know thou, moreover, that the Word of God -- exalted be His glory -- is higher and far superior to that which the senses can perceive, for it is sanctified from any property or substance."
  • "Verily, the Word of God is the Cause which hath preceded the contingent world..."

Forgiveness: Its meaning and merits from religious as well as scientific viewpoint

by Keyvan Geula

Forgiveness has been historically the business of religion. Forgiveness is a complex and deeply personal, cultural and religious phenomenon. In recent years science has shown interest to understand the psychological, social and physical benefits of forgiveness. Science and religion both acknowledge the complex question of justice and forgiveness.

The presentation will examine:

  • How religious faith, in particular Bahá'í Writings and history, guide and inspire us to forgive?
  • How science provides a secular frame and steps for forgiveness?
  • Is forgiveness a sign of weakness?
  • Can forgiveness be taught?
  • How and why we should choose to forgive?
The presentation draws meaning from stories, metaphors, prayers, historical references and examples of forgiveness from both perspectives and its impact on human soul, psyche, body and society.

Integration of Centralization and Decentralization in the Bahá’í Administrative Order

by Iraj Ayman

The Universal House of Justice is a unique institution in the field, and discipline, of Public Administration. It is the only international governing council whose members, every five years, are internationally elected by all the members of its community, namely the Bahá'í s around the world, in a three-stage election, which is free from any kind of electioneering. It is the center of an order that "constitutes the very pattern of that divine civilization which the almighty Law of Bahá'u'lláh is designed to establish upon earth" [WOB 152]. Among its many features, it functions as the nerve center of an unprecedented administrative structure that combines the advantages of both centralized and decentralized systems of administration and management.

The Bahá'í Administrative Order is an organic entity, gradually growing and developing under the care and guidance of the Universal House of Justice, which presents a solution to many of the challenges and problems in the field of Public Administration. This study concentrates on one of those issues and problems, i.e. centralized versus decentralized systems of administration, from the perspective of the Bahá'í pattern of administration. It also discusses the role and function of the Universal House of Justice, as well as other Bahá'í senior administrative intuitions, in relation to centralization and decentralization.


Justice, Rights, Unity: Foundations of a Prosperous Civilization

by Farhad Sabetan

This presentation examines the relationships between Unity, Justice, and Rights from a Bahá'í perspective compared to the way these themes are conceptualized today. Through an exploratory approach, various assumptions about social formation are reviewed and critiqued. The predominantly accepted conception of society as either a mere sum total of individuals or as social division of labor based on tasks and functions are compared with viewing society as an organic system. The implication of each approach is examined on the modes of relationships formed among individuals forming the society. It is maintained that these underlying assumptions frame various notions of rights, democracy and justice (or lack thereof), which leads to expected and often undesirable and at times disastrous outcomes. The approach primarily relies on current findings in economic philosophy. In particular, theories promoted by Rawls, Sen, and Arrow are examined in contrast with a Bahá'í view on social justice. While these thinkers have made significant contributions to clarifying abstract notions such as justice and have provided operational instruments to define and articulate them, fundamental work remains on relaxing their assumptions on human nature and individualism, and the implications these assumptions have on the impossibility of aggregating individual preferences to reach an overarching social welfare rule. This presentation draws significant inspiration from the statement issued by the Bahá'í World Centre titled "Prosperity of Humankind" whose rich content requires deep examination of pivotal concept forming existing social realities.

Knowing Self, Knowing God: Discovering One's Own Innermost Divine Reality

by Habib Riazati

How our belief systems and perspectives on Human Nature will impact the political doctrines and governing principles, and various meanings, applications and the implications of "Self-Knowledge" and how such a knowledge is equivalent to the "Knowledge of God"!

One of the main objectives of this presentation is to examine some of the writings of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá on some of the universal and the contextual meanings of the statement: "One who knows his own self, shall also know God" uttered by the sages and manifestations throughout the history of humankind.

Another major goal of this presentation is to demonstrate the practical relevance of the doctrine of Self-Knowledge on the developments of individual, society (community), and the governing institutions. In another words, how the different belief systems and perspectives on the Nature and the Reality of man (human) could have positive or negative influences- on how we view our own individual self, our attitudes towards others and about the world, and most importantly how the different ideological doctrines on human nature have resulted in the creation of different social and political orders throughout the history.


Laozi and the Bahá'í Faith (Part II)

by Roland Faber

Bahá'u'lláh admonishes Bahá'ís (and all human beings) to converse with adherents of all religions in the spirit of understanding and love, because all religions emanate from one source and all human beings are created from the same dust and to reflect the infinity of divine attributes. While Bahá'í Scripture recognizes many of the great religious traditions, Daoism, one of the most ancient efforts to build a peaceful and universal civilization, is barely mentioned. After exploring and situating the two-fold symbol of its becoming, the Laozi (Dao De Jing), its scripture, and Laozi, its sage, two questions will be raised: What are the resonances of early Daoism with the Bahá'í Faith? And how can we understand the station of Laozi from a Bahá'í perspective? This exercise is an attempt in sensibility for the mission of the Bahá'í Faith to facilitate the universal mutual understanding of religions and to reflect their unique contributions to unity in difference.


Last Refuge, The: Fifty Years of the Ministry of the Universal House of Justice

by Shahbaz Fatheazam

This paper focuses on the emergence of the Universal House of Justice and studies the experience of the Bahá'í world community with its supreme body since its inception. As a corollary, the organizational structure of Bahá'í polity and its special vision of politics and government is also examined highlighting the connection between the institutional and the cultural and how the influence and durability of institutions is a function of the extent to which they are inculcated in political actors at the individual or organizational level. To this end, cognitive scripts, moral templates and personal perceptions are used liberally.

The task is made difficult by the limitations imposed by: (a) our intellect which is not fixed but always relative to the culture, ideas, arts and sciences, of the times. It needs aging before it is potable and safe; (b) the absence of precedence which raises the problem of how to move the information we have gathered into any form of conceptual framework — a set of concepts that are easy to understand and that can travel' — i.e. are truly comparative across systems — and can thus be related to the political process in various societies and to which all people may easily connect; and (c) the very contemporary nature of a complex subject so closely rooted to the present with no proper distance that our proximity to the passage of time brings us too close to and perhaps even too much part of the events to make proper historical judgements compounded by how little we know about what is yet to happen in an institution whose provisions and implications are yet to be unveiled.

We also underline the importance of how the evolution of any religious community rests on its ability to analyze its institutional set-up and how the constitution of the international governing body of the Bahá'í Faith is necessary to its viability quite apart from the need to maintain a healthy interaction between masses and leaders whose outcome must match, as closely as possible, intended results, assured only by man's willingness or ability to live within the structure of authority.

Click here to read this paper online.

Man's Station in the Universe: A Scientist's Journey

by Mehrdad Ehsani

The Universe is very simple: mostly made of hydrogen, helium and energy. However, the earth contains amazing complexity that is nearly unique in the universe. Unique circumstances have made possible organic chemistry and life on earth, leading to the most complex structure in the universe: the human brain. For example, we can show that the energy consumption of the human brain per kilogram is 100,000 times the energy per kilogram that our sun can produce. The purpose of all this miraculous combination of events is human consciousness and spiritual awareness. We will explore this physical-spiritual phenomenon in this talk.

This presentation is intended to show the nobility of man and his/her divine purpose. Quotes from Bahá'u'lláh will be referenced to show that this is the central teaching in his Writings. Further, it will be shown that keen observation of the world around us, all the way to the edge of the universe, will enlighten the sensitive observer to the same realization. Thus, we will see that one can progress from "faith" to "certitude", first through the intellect, then through the heart, and finally, through unconditioned consciousness (I bear witness O my God ...). This is what Bahá'u'lláh calls the state of "Absolute Nothingness", where "even love is a barrier between the lover and the Beloved".

I will offer scientific and spiritual pointers to how evident, and yet subtle, the notion of Absolute Nothingness, the unity of one with all, is. Although the talk is intended to be simple, it is hoped that it will open a window to our true nature, or our essence. We will start with the notion of simplicity and complexity: how as we travel from the outer universe toward the planet earth and toward the human brain we go from simplicity to complexity. This will show that the human brain is at the apex of the very large pyramid of the manifest universe. The brain realizes human mind and spiritual awareness. All of this is to show how noble and sacred the world around us, and the station of man in it, is.

The talk will briefly use the current scientific knowledge to illuminate the nature of the "physical reality". This is to show how mysterious this world really is. In fact, there is no gap between reality and nothingness (this is alluded to in the Book of Certitude). This will show us that what we see as the manifest reality is in fact dependent on our capacity to perceive. The finer and more sensitive our perception, the more we realize the nothingness that manifests itself as the real world and we are part of this dance of nothingness as form.

The above talk will be given as the personal journey of this speaker who started as a Bahá'í and after spending a lifetime in search of deeper truths in science and spirituality, arrived at the ancient and simple insight that is "the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden". This insight melted his heart in the love of Bahá'u'lláh and his teachings.


New Approach to Proof of God and Soul Based on Bahá'í Writings, A

by Farjam Majd

Probably the most ancient and fundamental question of all times on the individual and the collective mind is: "Is there a God?"

The answer to this question has profound implications, and indeed direct impact on the life of mankind and how it looks upon the very meaning and purpose of life. It can change what we strive for, how we look at ourselves and others, what goals we set, and how we live.

In regards to proof of existence of God, opinions range from "there is no god," to "the existence of God cannot be proven or disproven," to "the existence of God can be proven." `Abdu'l-Bahá was of the latter mind, and this paper follows His lead.

The meaning of proof, types of proof, and conditions of the existence of a proof are explored. A few of the classical proofs of the existence of God are briefly examined. Some of the modern reasons believed by some to show why God is not needed to explain the universe are also reviewed.

The proof of existence of God is pursued on two levels, which have been the traditional stomping grounds of those examining this question: the phenomenal world and its fundamental laws and properties, and the evolution of species on earth. The approaches chosen are necessarily extra-scientific, that is, beyond the domain of science, but not beyond the domain of rational discourse. More specifically, it is shown that "something cannot result from nothing," or put metaphorically, "there is no free lunch." This pre-existence principle is applied to the physical world itself and the properties embedded therein.

The pre-existence principle is also applied to the phenomenon of evolution by examining information contents at various organizational levels of living organisms. A second approach applied to evolution is based on probabilities. A simplified model of DNA permutation is presented and argued that low level organizations cannot spontaneously assemble into higher level organizations by a purely random process.

It is concluded that the ultimate source of pre-existence is God, and that the pre-existent properties are attributes of God. It is further concluded that the DNA molecule is endowed with pre-existent potentials and configurations of life gradually triggered to be revealed over the course of time, which is outwardly observed as evolution.

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Religion, Revelation and Peace: Approximations between Whitehead and Bahá'í Thought

by Roland Faber

A.N. Whitehead is one of the most interesting philosophers of the 20th century. Being a mathematician (writing the Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell, his student and colleague) and a philosopher of science, he became convinced that the scientific materialism underlying 19th century science was not only wrong given the new physical discoveries in Relativity Theory and Quantum Physics, but that it was philosophically insufficient to understand the complexity of the world and to reflect the variety of our experience adequately. Besides reformulating the metaphysical basis for a new understanding of reality through relations, processes and creativity, he was one of the few thinkers to include the divine into this new philosophical endeavor. This presentation will concentrate on Whitehead's view on religion, revelation and peace by which he, later in his life, applied his cosmology to questions of the future of a civilization of peace that does not exclude religion and has found an harmonious understanding of the relationship of philosophical thought and revelatory inspiration on its way to a new level of expressing humanity.


Shoghi Effendi's Diary Letters

by Mehrdad Bashiri

The purpose of this presentation is to provide an introduction and overview of a unique collection of 143 diary letters written by Shoghi Effendi from February to November 1919. This collection of diary letters is written in a critical stage of Shoghi Effendi's life when he was serving as `Abdu'l-Bahá's secretary and interpreter. The contents of these diary letters vividly reflect various aspects of `Abdu'l-Bahá's life in the Holy Land after the end of the First World War (Nov. 1918). The diary letters include numerous translations of `Abdu'l-Bahá's letters along with His talks at the pilgrims gatherings.

Shoghi Effendi by describing the details of his Grandfather's life so masterfully invites the readers to join him in a spiritual journey to the Holy Land. His emotional descriptions of the events in the daily life of the Master confer upon every reader a vivid joyous spiritual pilgrimage.

He intended for his diary letters to be distributed in the West amongst the believers. A copy of this collection is stored at the National Bahá'í Archives of the United States. Except a few that were printed in the Star of the West Magazine in 1919 and 1920, the rest have remained unpublished.