Cosmos and Chaos:
Myth, Creation, and the Bahá'í Administrative Order

By J. Vahid Brown

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #38
Louhelen Baha'i School: Michigan, USA
October, 2001
(see list of papers from #38)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 3, pages 21-40
under new title
"The beginning that hath no beginning: Bahá'í Cosmogony"
© 2002, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    One of the most significant developments in the 20th century study of religion has been the increasing attention given to the importance of myth, a term used here in its sense of "sacred narrative". As an instrument in the structuring of a coherent and foundational worldview, myth has been shown to be essential to the perception of continuity between the core message of religious traditions and the practices and communities that spring from them, and the study of myth has illuminated the congruence of the experience of spirituality as a sense of meaning and the expression of that sense in religious behavior.

    This paper will explore the dimensions of myth in the Bahá'í Faith. Drawing on a broad range of contemporary sources in the study of myth and myth theory, the elements and dynamics of myth will be outlined. This brief survey will suggest our method for what follows. The Bahá'í creation narrative will be described in some depth, followed by an analysis of Bahá'í narratives of religious history. The final section discusses the dimension of myth in contemporary Bahá'í life, particularly in relation to the Bahá'í Administrative Order. It will be maintained that an awareness of the mythic elements in the Bahá'í Faith sheds considerable light on the significance for Bahá'ís of the Administrative Order as a sacred phenomenon.

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