"By the Fig and the Olive": A Tablet of `Abdu'l-Bahá in Ottoman-Turkish on the Quranic Sura 95
by Necati Alkan
For the first time an Ottoman-Turkish Tablet by `Abdu'l-Bahá will be presented. The original text appears in a collection of Tablets and Prayers by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Ottoman-Turkish . `Abdu'l-Bahá comments on the verse By the Fig and the Olive (wa't-tin wa'z-zaytun), indeed, He presents a commentary on the entire sura. The four sacred symbols Fig, Olive, Mount Sinai and Mecca, "the City of security" will be studied in Biblical, and Qur'anic context previous to `Abdu'l-Bahá's exegesis in this Tablet.
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Cherubim, Seraphim and Demythologization: Some aspects of Babi-Bahá'i angelology and the mala' al-a`la (Supreme Concourse)
by Stephen Lambden
The English word "angel" derives from the Greek angelos and basically signifies, like the Biblical Hebrew mal'akh which it often translates, `messenger'. On the most basic level angels are divine messengers though the word "angel" indicates a bewildering variety of largely benevolent spiritual beings with a wide range of functions. Within religious and other literatures penned by thinkers of both the East and the West, a bewildering variety of angels have been pictured, identified with, worshipped, pondered, catalogued and studied. An almost endless number of individual angels as well as myriads of orders of angels has been catalogued. Numerous detailed listings of the variously mapped out angelic hierarchy have been registered by pious and learned Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. Knowledge of the sometimes secret names of specific angels has long formed part of mystico-magical gnosis. Numerous massive dictionaries of angels have been published during the past few millennia. On an academic level one thinks of the recent over 900 page E.J. Brill publication `Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible' (2nd edition, 1999). More popular is Gustav Davidson's quite bulky 1960s (with frequent reprints) Dictionary of Angels, including the Fallen Angels. Many similar works including Moolenburgh's Handbook of Angels are noteworthy though such writings cannot possibly all be listed here.
Fascination and concern with "angels" is an important feature of the contemporary new age scene. Identification with angels appears to many to be among the hallmarks of modern spirituality. Many today claim visionary or earthly experience of angels as conveyors of an otherworldly guidance or tokens of a beatific presence. Inspirational books purporting to contain `angelic messages' advising seekers after truth are easily obtained. The spirituality surrounding `The Angel Within You', `Guardian Angels', `Angels in Music', and even `Angels and Food' are examples of topics covered within modern booklets on matters angelological. The 1993 Guideposts book ` Angel Among Us' is an example of such literature as is Don Fearheiley's `Angels Among Us' which contains `Amazing True Stories of Ordinary People Helped by Extraordinary Beings' (Avon Books, NY 1993).
In Victorian times healthy country walking and butterfly collecting were thought appropriate pursuits. Today, in marked contrast we could be guided by an almost 300 page book entitled, `Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits'. The harmless pursuit of etymological beauty has been replaced by guidance on demonological aberrations! Though somewhat suspicious of new age spirituality, it is no wonder such well-known Christian evangelicals as Billy Graham have been moved to set down their understanding of biblical angels at the same time offering Christian guidance on popular angelological pursuits and beliefs. Potentially dangerous books about angels are legion --to coin something of an angelological phrase. In many modern European bookshops shelves are well-stocked with books about angels. Some of these books call people to very strange behaviour.
Bahá'i angelology, the doctrine regarding angels (sing. Ar. malak, pl. mala'ika; Per. firishtih) is rooted in and seeks to interpret references to angelic beings and their roles found in Abrahamic religious scripture and tradition. Though a wide range of angelic beings are mentioned in Babi and Bahá'i scripture these references and terminology is essentially that of earlier sacred books. Such references are usually meant to be understood symbolically, "spiritually" or "allegorically". Gabriel and Michael, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, the archangel Michael and Metatron, Azaziel and Diabolos and among the myriad angelic or demoniac beings considered essentially symbolic. Gabriel is not a real archangelic figure but has symbolic import. The angels and archangels are symbolic, archetypal figures as are supernatural demoniac entities which are without metaphysical reality. In simple terms, for Bahá'is "angels" are signs of divine activity, of assistance and mediatorship. Their satanic counterparts, devils and demons, etc are deemed non-existent indications of opposition divine providence and activity.
In developed Babi-Bahá'i sacred scripture belief in "angels", "demons" and their like is demythologized, to use a phrase of the late German Christian theologian Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) indicative of a quasi-rationalistic rejection of things no longer entirely credible in the light of modern thought and science. For Bahá'is such aforementioned entities have no reality in the sense of a metaphysical existence or an ontologically verifiable reality. In the Bahá'i viewpoint "angels" do not constitute a distinct celestial order superior in rank to humankind. Bahá'i scripture maintains that humans beings can be "angels" by living an angelic spiritual life while "angels" are sometimes a transcendentalization of human activities and propensities as well also as cosmic laws and forces.
Issues touched upon in the above paragraphs will be set out in greater detail in this paper. So too aspects of the Shaykhi and Babi- Bahá'i interpretation of specific angelic figures within the Abrahamic religious tradition. Bahá'i symbolic interpretations of religious angelology and to a lesser extent demonology will be analysed and summed up. It will be argued that while there is a demythologization of angels, the jinn and demons, etc this does not mean that there is no Bahá'i belief in human immortality or multiple worlds populated by innumerable individuals. There certainly is a clear Bahá'i belief in supernatural assistance from angelic humans passed on. Indeed, the Bahá'i interpretation of the implications of the Arabic qur'anic phrase mala' ala`la ("Supreme Concourse") all but replaces the traditional belief in archangels with a new superhuman though very real link with the unseen worlds. In Bahá'i scripture traditional angelology is largely spiritually interpreted though belief in multiple supernatural "worlds" beyond time and space populated by "angelic" humans and "archangelic" maz*ahir-i ilahi (Manifestations of God) overseeing universes seen and unseen is fundamental.
Hallowing of the critical and the blessedness of creativity: via `spiritualization as dialectical process' as the mystical heart of education
by Roger Prentice
"The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of mystery." Huston Smith
1 If the purpose of the Revelation of Bahá'u'llah is to bring about the spiritualization of humankind then the processes of education and learning must themselves be spiritualizing - (as well as taking place in classrooms ( and a society) that is open, catholic, inclusive, dialogic, consultative, democratic and which celebrates diversity).
2 If `the core of religious faith is that mystical feeling which unites man with God.'(L o G p. 507) then the core of education must also be mystical feeling - assuming that education is `in life' as opposed to `about' life.
3 If spiritualization is a journey not a destination, then education, and its processes, must be a journey not a destination, and must have openness as well as closedness, mythos as well as logos, heart as well as head.
4 If it is through `visits' to the `Most Mighty Ocean', K-i-A p. 504 that the `island of knowledge' grows then we must incorporate these dualities dynamically - here I suggest the process I call Dialectical Spiritualization.
5 Spiritualization as dialectical process is seen as a) problematization, including in the Freirean sense, and b) dialogue. The dialectical here is Socratic, (but does not exclude the Hegelian thesis, antithesis and synthesis). Then dialectic, and dialectic alone, goes directly to the first principle and is the only science which does away with hypotheses in order to make her ground secure; the eye of the soul, which is literally buried [}] in an outlandish slough, is by her gentle aid lifted upwards; and she uses as handmaids and helpers in the work of conversion, the sciences which we have been discussing. Custom terms them sciences, but they ought to have some other name, implying greater clearness than opinion and less clearness than science: and this, in our previous sketch, was called understanding. The Republic
6 Dialectical Spiritualization. It is suggested is the means for understanding the process at the heart of Bahá'i education. In contradistinction to dialectical materialism, Dialectical Spiritualization uses all the dualities - e.g. awe, wonder and reverence as well as reason, metaphorical-subjective knowing as well as rationality.
7 Dialectical Spiritualization is derived from a range of the most important principles of education as found in the Bahá'i Writings. However they are stated, or implied, in a single passage from the writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá - Bahá'i Ed. p. 79 (in fact, it is suggested that this passage constitutes a complete model of education).
8 Dialogue itself as concept and processes is extended to include more than just interpersonal conversation, to be in fact multi-level and holistic, and to include the subjective-creative as well as the objective- philosophic.
9 When we go to God, when we seek to de-egotize ourselves in meditation through at-one-ment, we `return' with what - with feeling, before it is clothed in thought. This spirit-feeling then becomes thought - a process never better described than by the poet Seamus Heaney. The poetic-mystic heals the heart head split because it allows us to live in, as well as with Mystery, with unknowing, and eventually with subjective knowing and then, sometimes some degree of objective knowing (knowing is justified true belief - after Plato).
10 If the critical is thus hallowed, then so also is the creative blessed, since it is that which calls upon the `Most Mighty Ocean' as the `I' calls upon the Spirit. The spoil gathered from these `raids upon the inarticulate' precede, in metaphorical imagistic form, to create subjective knowing - later comes reason.
11 Assuming a Bahá'i values milieu, we have in `spiritualization as multi-level dialectical process' the dynamics of Bahá'i educational process, and the dynamics of Bahá'i community process and development.
Introduction to Kabalistic Mysticism, An
by Moshe Sharon
Ling Ming Tang and the Influence of Babi and Bahá'i Teaching
by Jianping Wang
This paper is based on the written and oral sources from Ling Ming Tang, a Sufi Order in Northwest China and explores the possible historical linkage between the followers of Babi and Bahá'i Movements in Iran and the believers of a Qadiriyya Order in China. Through the mystical spiritual contacts following the ancient Silk Route: from Baghdad, Yemen, Hamadan, Tehran, Kashghar, Yarqand, Hami to Lanzhou, as the evidence indicates, Fragrant Papa and other followers of the Bab and Bahá'u'llah (i.e. Habib Allah, Hamid al-Din and Jamal Effendi or his disciples) transmitted Babi and Bahá'i teaching mingled with Sufi mysticism to Ma Lingming, the founder of Ling Ming Tang in the period of late 19th century and early 20 century. As Ma Lingming's Sufi ideas clearly integrates a concept of Bab that is very different from other Sufi orders in China, and Ling Ming Tang emphasizes the ties with South Xinjiang where Jamal Effendi stayed for a certain time, the paper strongly argues that Babi and Bahá'i teaching may indeed have influence over the Sufi creed embraced by Ma Lingming. The hypothesis also becomes more convincing through a comparing the Bab and Ma Lingming, their background, their life experiences and their social basis. Finally in describing present-day Ling Ming Tang, its tolerance to and interaction with other religions, its efforts in improving environment and its harmonious relationship with neighbours including local authorities, the paper concludes that in many aspects the thought of Ling Ming Tang is similar to the Bahá'i Faith. Such similarities are due to the constant connection in spiritual exchanges between Iran and China, between West and East and between Islam and Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism.
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Markiz al-Marakiz: Qazvin and the Babi/Bahá'í historiographical tradition
by Sholeh Quinn
During the Safavid era, the city of Qazvin became an important center of historical writing. This was partly a result of Shah Tahmasp moving the capital city from Tabriz to Qazvin. Consequently, several historians composed their chronicles in this city. These include individuals such as Yahya ibn 'Abd al-Latif Husayni Qazvini, author of the Lubb al- tavarikh, Hasan Beg Rumlu, author of the Ahsan al-tavarikh, and Budaq Munshi, author of the Javahir al-akhbar. Qazvin was subsequently eclipsed by Isfahan after the capital moved to that city during the reign of Shah 'Abbas.
However, some three centuries later, Qazvin again seems to have become a center of historiographical production. Whereas the primary focal point of the 19th century ruling Qajar dynasty and its official historiography was the city of Tehran, alternative historiographical traditions were developing in other parts of the country. These focused on the events associated with the emergence of the Babi and Bahá'í religions. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the development of a regional historiography focusing a few select events of Qazvin. A number of Babi and Bahá'í histories will be analyzed, including the narratives of Hajj Nasir Qazvini, Mulla Ja'far Qazvini, and Shaykh Kazim Samandar Qazvini.
Mystical Dimensions of the Bahá'i Administrative Order, The
by Kavian S. Milani
Writing in the 1930's Shoghi Effendi stated that there are features and relationships in the Bahá'i Administrative Order that will be defined and analyzed by future generations. This article is a study of one such feature; that is, the mystical dimensions of the Bahá'i Administrative Order. The thesis is advanced that Bahá'u'llah has through the Covenant bequeathed to posterity "an excellent and priceless heritage." Through this heritage the wayfarer can encounter the Holy Outpouring (Fayd-i- Muqaddas). Whereas the Administrative Order is generally examined as a system of governance, this paper explores the Administrative Order as a mystical entity. It is generated through a "mystic intercourse" with Bahá'u'llah as the "active" (Pen) element and `Abdu'l-Bahá as the "recipient" (Tablet) element. This mystic intercourse begets the Will and Testament that then becomes the Charter of the Administrative Order. The Bahá'i Administrative Order has a number of unique features when examined as a mystical entity, and this paper interrogates some parallels between it and Sufism (Islamic Spirituality) as alternative mystical paths. The implication for the human soul whether a believer, scholar or one serving on Administrative bodies is clear: the encounter with the Administrative Order is critical to the mystical path.
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Mysticism and the Bahá'i Community
by Moojan Momen
In this paper, we will examine five characteristic features that are common to mystical orders whether these be in Buddhism, Christianity or Islam:
1. A hierarchical structure with a leader who is regarded as being farthest along the spiritual path and who is thought capable of guiding others along that path, together with the attendant practices of obedience and confession.
2. The insistence that it is only by personal, oral transmission of the teaching and experience of the community that one can really make progress along the spiritual path. It is not something that can just be learned from books.
3. An inclination towards monasticism or asceticism.
4. Practices that lead to altered states of consciousness.
5. A tendency towards a monistic view of reality
In the authoritative Bahá'i texts, mysticism is placed at the centre of the religion. In this paper, we will examine Bahá'u'llah's attitude to these characteristic features of mystical orders. Rather than going along with the prevailing patterns that involve the organization of mystical orders as isolated groups among the believers, Bahá'u'llah turns the whole of the Bahá'i community into a mystical fellowship. In doing this, he also introduces radical changes in the approach to the five characteristics delineated above, dealing with the leadership of the Bahá'i community and such issues as the transmission of knowledge and ways of organizing the community in ways that are very different to those of previous religions.
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Mysticism in the African Traditional Religion and the Bahá'i Faith: classification of Concepts and Practices
by Enoch N. Tanyi
Both African Traditional Religion (ATR) and the Bahá'i Faith (BF) originate from the same source, God, but at different times in the evolution of humankind. The former precedes the latter in time. Since God is the source of mysteries and is, indeed, mystery itself, the two religions are essentially mystic in nature. Owing to this common origin, the two have much in common. But owing to the time variable, their concepts and practices are different from each other. The Bahá'i Faith teaches mysticism but does not expressly classify the types found in its teachings. In comparing the two religions on this theme, the approach adopted is to determine a Bahá'i classification system and then to fit the ATR concepts into this system. Attempting this exercise is the object of this paper. According to this research work, there are six classes of mysticism in the Bahá'i teachings. They are defined as follows:
Class One or True Mysticism. The ecstatic joy that results from communion with the Souls of the Manifestations leading to physical martyrdom or the living of a life of self-sacrifice and saintliness . This is a more refined state of Incipient True Mysticism.
Class Two or Incipient True Mysticism -- The state of spiritual communion or feeling (which is the core of religious faith) uniting man with God, and which can be chiefly brought about and maintained by means of worship, prayer and meditation, for the sake of union with God and the acquisition of human virtues and powers for the development of the individual and society.
Class Three or Cognitive or Coronary Mysticism. The realm of spiritual meanings and realities not apparent to the senses or obvious to the intelligence. This has to do with reflection upon scriptural and religious writings, i.e., the mystic meanings of the words and symbols in the Holy Writ, the profound emanations of sages and mystics, or the spiritual significance of certain religious acts.
Class Four or Biological and Societal Mysticism. The adolescent, developmental stage of an individual or the stage `in the evolution of the organisation of human society... `...in the collective life of mankind,...endowing the whole human race with such potentialities of well-being as shall provide, ... the chief incentive required for the eventual fulfillment of its high destiny.
Class Five or Natural or Mundane Mysticism. Concepts and practices not purely for union with God and the development of human virtues, but aimed basically at solving mundane and orthodox occult problems and, in some cases, keeping harmony between the living world on one hand, and the spirit world and ancestors on the other. These concepts are, largely, either upheld by the Bahá'i teachings or are neutral. They are basically true.
Class Six or Orthodox Occultism. Concepts and practices not purely for union with God and the development of human virtues, but aimed basically at giving free rein to the ego, or at seeking to appear mysterious and powerful before other mortals. They are often used for nefarious or inimical activities, and are either prohibited by the Bahá'i teachings or discouraged. They are also mainly true, but some aspects of some of these concepts are false.
The ATR concepts can be fitted into this Bahá'i classification as follows:
Class One. Ecstatic joy resulting in physical martyrdom or the living of a life of saintliness and self-sacrifice.
Class Two. WORSHIP, PRAYER, Meditation (B), and Self-sacrifice (B).
Class Three. The comprehension of the hidden, inner meanings of scriptural and religious writings and acts.
Class Four. Adolescence in the individual and in society.
Class Five. MIRACLES, Medicine (A), TRADITIONAL MEDICINE, THE GIFT OF HEALING, HERBALISM, SOOTHSAYING, ANCESTRAL REVERENCE, DREAMS and VISIONS, TALISMANS and CHARMS, Protection against knife cuts and bullets(A), Libation (A), Animal sacrifice (A), OTHER OFFERINGS (A).
Class Six. Black magic (A), Witchcraft (A), Sorcery(A), Necromancy(A), Mediumship (A), Spirit-possession(A), Dreams and Visions(A), Talismans, Charms and Spells (A).
As conclusion, mysticism in the Bahá'i Faith can be classified into six classes in descending order of importance, using as criterion the essential objective of the concept or practice and its vitality in the fulfilment of the purpose for which man was created, which is, to know God and to worship Him directly and indirectly by serving his fellow creatures.
Class One mysticism has no parallel in ATR. Class Two mysticism is common to both religions insofar as worship and prayer are concerned in basic principles. Class Three mysticism is also shared by both religions, but the basis of the essentials of this class is less authentic in ATR, limiting the sayings and acts in ATR to the emanations of sages, mystics, and religious leaders. Class Four mysticism is shared by both only insofar as in ATR, adolescence or the coming of age in the individual's life is concerned. Almost all the concepts in ATR fit into classes five and six of this classification system.
NB: Concepts in capital letters apply to both religions; concepts in small letters and (A) are either solely or mainly of ATR; concepts in small letters and (B) are either solely or mainly of the Bahá'i Faith
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Notes about the Lawh-i-Ra'is and the Lawh-i-Fuád, Some
by Siyamak Zabihi-Moghadam
Parable of Majnun and Layli, The
by Jack McLean
The story of Layli (Layla) and Majnun is the classic love tale of the Middle East which is also prized by Sufi mystics as a profound spiritual allegory of the soul's search for and ultimate union with God. The Persian poet Nizami collected a number of folk versions of this originally Bedouin tale from the North Arabic tribe of Amir in western Saudi Arabia (7th century CE) and shaped them into a single narrative of more than 4,000 stanzas which has been compared for its beauty and depth to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
This love story is to be understood, inter alia, as a parable, a short story whose moral is explicitly stated by Bahá'u'llah in his commentary. It is noteworthy in this regard that the story does not take place, as one might expect, in the Valley of Love, but in the Valley of Knowledge.
In the perspective of philosophical theology, this paper examines Bahá'u'llah's adaptation in The Seven Valleys (Haft vadi) of Rumi's story entitled "the unworthy lover" at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth Daftar in the Mathnavi (Nicholson's translation). While this story amounts to only three paragraphs, and is followed by two paragraphs of commentary, it contains much in a small compass.
While The Seven Valleys, The Four Valleys (Chahar vadi) and Bahá'u'llah's other mystical writings can be comparatively analysed with the criteria of scholarly works of mysticism in mind, and particularly, but not exclusively, those of the Sufis, as a mysticism of search and union, or a mysticism of knowledge, the story of Layli and Majnun, as a tale of lost love refound, is conveyed in terms of "ordinary" mundane consciousness. In this sense, this love story contains purely literary or prosaic as well as mystical elements. It also firmly anchors the element of narrative theology within mystical literature or theology itself.
Upon analysis, we find that this parable exhibits not only classical features but is also singularly modern since it contains strong psychological existential elements that are unsparing in their realism.
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Prolegomenon to the Study of Babi and Bahá'i Scriptures, A: The importance of Henry Corbin to Babi and Bahá'i Studies
by Ismael Velasco
During his lifetime Henry Corbin was the foremost Western authority on the Islamic philosophy of Persia and ranks among the most influential Islamicists of the 20th century. His work has unique relevance in understanding the philosophical contexts for the emergence of the Babi and Bahá'i Faiths in 19th century Persia. While best known for his work on Avicenna, Ibn Arabi, Suhrawardi and the school of Isfahan, imamology and Ismailism, he is also the most significant Western scholar of Shaykhism to date. His work thus constitutes a philosophical bridge between the Babi-Bahá'i Faiths and the philosophical and religious matrix within which they were conceived.
This paper examines the relevance of Corbin's massive corpus (reckoned at around 300 volumes) to the emerging field of Babi and Bahá'i studies. It gives an overview of Corbin's work, identifying the main fields of his labours and highlighting his major writings. Corbin's work on Shaykhism is highlighted; his overall perspective on Shaykhism is summarised, and his key works on the subject noted and briefly described. Against this background two distinctive aspects of Corbin's work are suggested as having the potential to constructively influence Babi and Bahá'i studies, notwithstanding their potential pitfalls.
Firstly, Corbin's methodology, which he describes as phenomenological, in contradistinction to the historical approach which dominated and dominates the field of Islamics. As a philosopher first, and Islamicist second, Corbin is interested in locating and articulating the inner experience of Shi'i spirituality in the realm of thought (rather than the world of history). The philosophical insights of a text, rather than its historical faithfulness, is what Corbin is interested in. Thus a tradition of the imams, embedded in Shi'i spirituality, may yield profound spiritual insight and be philosophically true to Corbin's idea of Shi'ism - even when historically it may regarded as spurious.
Criticism of this approach comes pertly from historians, who perceive a rather cavalier attitude to facts, distorting the original voice or the empirical basis of particular ideas and beliefs. An example of particular relevance is his discussion of Shaykhism, where the thought of Shaykh Ahmad is often blended with that of Karim Khan Kirmani or even "the Sarqar Aqa" (head of the Kirmani Shaykhis), in the 1960s! Criticism also stems from Corbin's own philosophical endeavour, which is said to blur the distinction between Corbin's own thought and the authors he studies. An eminent scholar of Ibn 'Arabi, William Chittick, wrote of Corbin's commentaries on Ibn `Arabi that it was difficult to tell where Ibn 'Arabi's thought ended and Corbin's began.
With these caveats, an approach to religious texts which seeks to identify their universality and creative force; which makes elaborate reference to their genesis in specific philosophical and spiritual traditions, yet gives precedence to their present philosophical and religious significance and stresses their intellectual continuities across diverse historical and social settings, may yet point to useful and relatively novel methodological lines of inquiry into Babi and Bahá'i texts.
The second and most relevant aspect of Corbin's work is of course Corbin's actual findings. Corbin followed the thread of Islamic spirituality from the 12 Imams at its genesis, to the Shaykhi school at its terminus. He thus may be said to have carried out in effect a philosophical genealogy of the Babi and Bahá'i religions from the perspective of the history of ideas. Corbin's great synthetic labour has particular value in releasing the allusive power of the Bahá'i writings (specially for Western audiences), and in gaining a deeper understanding of key theological, philosophical and literary concepts in the Babi and Bahá'i Faith.
For instance, Corbin's writings return again and again to the concept of the Manifestation (mazhar) of God and elucidate in highly relevant ways many of its subtleties. Other key Babi and Bahá'i concepts whose philosophical genealogy may be traced through Corbin include the unknowability of God, progressive revelation, the Prophetic cycles, the spiritual and figurative interpretation of texts, the Covenant of God, the worlds of God, and many more. Prominent symbols that appear again and again in Babi and Bahá'i scriptures are also treated in extenso in Corbin's opus including: the Countenance of God, Sinai, the Point, the Seal of the Prophets, the lover and the Beloved, the Maiden, spiritual veils, heaven and heavens, color symbolism, spiritual stations (maqamat) etc.
We conclude from the above that with all the methodological strengths and weaknesses implicit in Corbin's method, his distinctive and highly personal synthesis of Shi'i philosophy (the most comprehensive in Western languages to date) constitutes an invaluable adjunct to in-depth studies of Bahá'i scripture, Bahá'i philosophy, and Bahá'i spirituality. It serves as a broad genealogical map of key Bahá'i ideas pointing the way to new fields of inquiry, particularly in the field of comparative studies. In this light, from the perspective of Bahá'i scholarship, Corbin's work may be seen as a veritable Prolegomenon to the study of Babi and Bahá'i scripture.
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Seven Valleys and the Scientific Method
by Robert Sarracino
The Seven Valleys, which in the words of Shoghi Effendi "describes the seven stages which the soul of the seeker must needs traverse ere it can attain the object of its existence", is Bahá'u'llah's "greatest mystical composition". And yet, it is also a practical and inspirational guide and sourcebook for those engaged in a process of discovery - whether self discovery or discovery into the secrets of nature through scientific investigation and research.
This presentation will discuss the scientific method and will then advance the view that the essence of the scientific method is contained in The Seven Valleys. Finally, it will discuss application of the truths contained in the Seven Valleys to the three primary activities of the practising scientist, namely teaching, scholarship and research.
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Theological Responses to Modernity in 19th Century Middle East: The Examples of Bahá'u'llah and Muhammad 'Abduh
by Oliver Scharbrodt
This paper discusses two theological responses to Western modernity in 19th century Middle East. It presents the responses that are given by Bahá'u'llah (1817-1892) and Muhammad 'Abduh (1849-1905). 'Abduh is undoubtedly one of the most influential thinkers of modern Islam. Being the disciple of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and the teacher of Rashid Rida, 'Abduh stands in the line of eminent personalities in the Islamic world of the last two centuries. Afghani's fame is based on his Pan-Islamic political activism, while Rida's significance lies in his ideological impact on modern Muslim political movements like the Muslim Brotherhood. Both secular liberal-minded Muslim intellectuals and fundamentalist ideologues refer to 'Abduh as their predecessor in reforming Islam. 'Abduh received a traditional education at Azhar where he came in contact with Afghani and became one of his closest disciples. Because of his support for the nationalist movement that emerged in Egypt in the 1870's, 'Abduh was exiled to Beirut after the defeat of 'Urab's nationalist revolt in 1882. Later he went to Paris and allied with Afghani, publishing with his teacher the anti-British journal al-'Urwat al-Wuthq'. In 1888, the permission was given to him to settle again in Egypt, where he started working as a judge and became chief mufti of Egypt in 1899. Until his death in 1905, he was much involved in publishing activities and tried to implement administrative and educational reforms at Azhar.
This paper is an attempt to place the emergence of the Bahá'i Faith in the context of 19th century Middle Eastern gedankenwelt. So far only little research has been made to investigate the relationship of the Bahá'i Faith towards Middle Eastern reform thinkers and to compare their ideas. One has to observe that its role in relationship to those reform movements has been overlooked so far, although there were partly intense contacts between `Abdu'l-Bahá' and those reform thinkers. 'Abduh met at least once, but probably several times 'Abdul-Bahá' during his exile in Beirut. The nature of 'Abduh' s relationship to `Abdu'l-Bahá and to the Bahá'i Faith certainly requires further research. Bahá'u'llah's and Abduh's ideas on theology, prophetology and salvation history are expounded and compared. The comparison does not only aim at showing differences and parallels, but also at finding reasons for them in relation to the objectives of their respective reform programmes. It demonstrates how both thinkers try to bridge tradition with modernity and to find a theological response to the tension between both forces by appropriating, stressing, dismissing and modifying elements of the traditions they come from and enriching them with modern ideas. With their theologies, Bahá'u'llah and Muhammad 'Abduh attempt to explain the decline of Middle Eastern societies and to justify the necessity of reforms. The comparison shows that despite the similarities in the modernist outlook of their theologies, both find two different responses to modernity. Whereas 'Abduh remains on the grounds of the Islamic tradition and seeks to make it relevant to the modern world, Bahá'u'llah introduces himself as a new source of divine authority and founds a new religion.
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