Comprehension of Truth From the Perspective of Elucidations in "Some Answered Questions"

By Arman Fahandej

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #83
Center for Bahá'í­ Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 3–6, 2008
(see list of papers from #83)


    Comprehension of truth and its methods have attracted the thinkers since ancient time in the history of thought. Epistemology is one of the classical fields of knowledge. Man, based on the method which gains his knowledge, is depended to a specific cognitive school. In this paper we will explore the different schools of thought to investigate the reality of things based on one of the chapters of "Some Answered Questions" and two tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá which were written in Arabic. First we review the visions of knowledge during the history, and then we introduce the four main methods of comprehension of truth based on the vision of 'Abdu'l-Bahá: Senses are the most complete mean for scientists. Reason is the higher scale for the philosophers; they try to find the truth by power of reason. People who believe in religion and religious traditions consider Tradition the method of the understanding of the truth. In this tradition, divine texts are understood as the main source for the truth. Finally mystics put the priority for reaching the truth to the inspiration as the main route to find the ultimate perception. Acceptance of any of these methods as the perfect method for understanding of the realm of truth; lead to belonging to one school of thought. We introduce and review the history of these schools mostly based on the Islamic tradition which 'Abdu'l-Bahá has spoken in this context. After that, we would evaluate all of these methods of knowledge: obviously senses are not the most complete because they have many faults even in exploring the materialistic world; `Abdu'l-Bahá has introduced reason imperfect because based on logical studies two philosophers obtain two different results in the same subject, even sometimes one philosopher changes his idea based on the same circumstances that he has found another argument. The difference between arguments about truth shows it is not the ultimate method for finding the truth. Text of the Holy Scriptures could not be understood without the usage of reason. Because the reason itself is imperfect, it is not possible to find the divine comprehension just from holy texts; it is easily possible to misunderstand the meanings through interpreting. In case of inspiration, there is no means to distinguish between divine inspiration and satanic temptations. After indicating the imperfectives of all these methods we introduce the apex of consciousness and the secret of divine guidance. 'Abdu'l-Bahá considers this method as the most complete method without any faults and mistakes. He refers to this method in "Some Answered Questions" as the "Bounty of Holy spirit". Bahá'u'lláh in his "Four valleys" asserts this station as the most perfected way of understanding the truth. We review the specifications of this station based on Bahá'u'lláh's writings and refer to some Islamic sources which provide some impacts of this strength. Finally we pose the main argument of the paper which is despite the "Fo'ad" is the only confident method to understand the reality of the things, based on some talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá each of the other methods and schools of thought can benefit in their own realm and we need to follow them and use them in our social life to make the better life and find the different aspects of truth. Finally we conclude that 'Abdu'l-Bahá emphasizes on usage of all four schools of thought to find the truth in our life.

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