Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #88 (English)

Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California USA

May 28 – June 1, 2009.

Beginning a Conversation: Scriptural Reasoning and the Bahá'í Faith

by Ben Schewel

Scriptural reasoning (SR) is a recent and increasingly important interfaith movement, influencing both the academic study of, and interreligious relationships, between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, although members of other faiths are beginning to participate as well. The purpose of this paper is to present the aims, methodology, and underlying principles of SR and to evaluate if and to what extent the Bahá'í scholarly community can be involved in the practice. SR is a practice of group study centered on Abrahamic scripture, i.e. the Tanakh, the New Testament, and the Qur'án, by a diverse community of scholars, theologians, and religious leaders from all three faiths. The format of SR is centered on the principle of unity in diversity, seeking to create a community of rigorous scriptural interpreters unified not in a specific interpretation of scripture, but rather in the collective practice of interpretation. With roots in traditional exegetical practices and contemporary hermeneutics, SR seeks to reinvigorate current religious thinking and to provide a meeting ground in which religious thinkers can form strong and meaningful relationships with other religious thinkers beyond their immediate religious community. SR is not designed to replace the communal practices, beliefs, and modes of discourse of any of the involved faiths. As one of the founders of SR states, "Participants in SR practice come to it as both representatives of academic institutions and particular `houses' (churches, mosques, synagogues) of worship. SR meets, however, outside of these institutions and houses in special times and in separate spaces that are likened to Biblical `tents of meeting'. Practitioners come together in these tents of meeting to read and reason with scriptures. They then return to their academic and religious institutions and to the world with renewed energy and wisdom for these institutions and the world." From this perspective, though the principles, methodology, and aims of SR are not distinctly Bahá'í, SR's conscious self-limitation allows for Bahá'ís to safely be involved in the practice. Furthermore, SR provides a number of timely and important opportunities for the Bahá'í scholarly community: it provides entry points for the Bahá'í scholarly community to deepen and unify its collective discourse, to engage and develop relationships with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars and leaders, to promote increased dialogue and improved relationships between the four communities, and to introduce the Bahá'í Writings to the participants involved in the practice.

Celestial Fire: Bahá'u'lláh as the Messianic Theophany of the Divine Fire (átar) in Zoroastrianism

by Farshid Kazemi

One of the foundational philosophical premises at the heart of Bahá'í ontology is that the structure of 'being' (wujúd) is one of 'process' and 'becoming' rather then static and fixed. This dynamic ontology in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh is typified by the symbolism of Fire which via its attribute `heat', is the cause of motion and hence the very foundation of being and existence. Fire, due to its dynamic nature, is often the symbol of the Primal Will (mashíyyat awalíyya) in the Bahá'í Writings, which manifests itself in history in the persons of the Manifestations of God. In one of Bahá'u'lláh's important tablets to Zoroastrians He states that this Divine Fire which is the Primal Will is the Cause of all things, that it is the secret contained in the Zoroastrian scriptures and that it is He who is the messianic appearance of this Celestial Fire (ātar). In this paper the mystico-messianic hermeneutics of Bahá'u'lláh in which He enunciates to be the theophanic appearance of the Zoroastrian Divine Fire (ātar) in person will be examined in light of some of the relevant material from the Gathas (the earliest Zoroastrian texts which are considered to be the Prophet's own words), and other Zoroastrian sources that point to this eschatological expectation. Also, some of the relevant history of the transference of this motif of the Zoroastrian Fire into early Greek philosophy, Judaism, Christianity, Arabic Hermetica/Alchemy and Islamicate philosophy will as well be briefly outlined.
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Distributive Justice: A Bahá'í Perspective

by Farhad Sabetan

Distributive Justice has been one of the main concerns of moral philosophy. Many philosophers have offered conceptions of justice that would be applicable to the distribution of wealth and income. The issue gained significant momentum in the latter part of the 20th Century with the path-braking works of John Rawls (A Theory of Justice), and later of Robert Nozick (Anarchy, State and Utopia ), among others. These theories, especially Rawls' theory of justice as fairness, will be discussed and critiqued in this presentation. Specifically, we will examine egalitarianism (where benefits and burdens are distributed equally), socialism (from each according to ability, to each according to needs), libertarianism (from each according to ability, to each according to willingness to pay), and various aspects of merit distribution (Plato's version, seniority, effort, output, etc.). An alternative Bahá'í-inspired theory of justice is presented that may, at the very least, complement Rawls', in that it would offer a realistic proxy to his original position where actors make decisions behind the veil of ignorance.

Elements of Immortality: A Nexus of Proofs by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Some Answered Questions

by James B. Thomas

This paper will approach this marvelous mystery in four steps that are based on objective reasoning by `Abdu'l-Bahá. [I] The spirit of man is examined; [2] An investigation of immortality of the spirit is pursued; [3] The proof with respect to progress after death is corroborated; [4] Entrance into the Kingdom of God is explicated.
Click here to read this paper online.

Evolution of Man, The: Unity of Mankind

by Arsalan Geula

The origin and the theory of evolution of man have received great attention and has been subject of an ongoing debate within the scientific and religious communities. The position of any of these two groups seems to be irreconcilable and has caused much disunity and even affected school curriculums.

The Bahá'ís believe in the principle of the "Harmony of Science and Religion." Bahá'ís not only believe that the world and man were created by God, but also believe in the validity of "scientific findings." The Bahá'í Faith further teaches that science and religion each addresses different aspects of human reality, namely the material and the spiritual.

'Abdu'l-Bahá in His talks discusses many aspects of human's reality (creation, human body, evolution and souls).

In this presentation the followings will be reviewed:
  • The human evolution.
  • The Anthropic Cosmological Principle.
  • The evolution of humankind is the necessary outcome of the universal laws, and not the result of aimless events. The "random selection" could be interpreted as a directional random selection by design to produce higher organism: Homo sapiens. In other words, the randomness was incorporated into the creative design of the universe.
  • It is proposed that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements such as "...[man] from the beginning of his existence in the matrix of the world, is also a distinct species..." and "Man from the beginning was in this perfect form and composition..." (SAQ, p. 193) should be taken to mean that the idea of the design of man had existed from the beginning of the creation. If 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements are taken literally, it would contradict the present scientific understanding of evolution and the Bahá'í principle of the "Harmony of Science and Religion." The idea of a perfect human existed from the time of the creation of the world, but his body evolved gradually from lower elements to a higher during the course of time.

Gateways to the Qayyúm al-Asmá' of the Báb: Some Introductory Notes Based on an Examination of its Surah

by Stephen Lambden

The around 400-page Arabic Qayyum al-asma' (mid. 1844 CE) of Sayyid `Alí-Muhammad Shírazi, the Báb (d. 1850 CE) is not an easy book to comprehend. It is a kind of commentary on the Qur'anic story of Joseph (Q. 12) but much more besides. One way in which to approach this first major revelation of the Báb is to examine an aspect of its form and content through a study of its Surah or chapter titles. These titles were listed by the Báb himself in his Kitáb al-fihrist (Book of the Index) and perhaps other writings. They form gateways to the earliest thought of the Báb and provide keys for approaching major themes in his earliest essentially eschatological proclamation.

While the around 6,200 verses of the Qur'an are divided up into 114 named Surahs, the Qayyum al-asma' has a total of 111 Surahs. The names of the surahs in both these sacred books often derive from key words in the text of the surahs so described or entitled. The surahs of the Qayyum al-asma' mostly include `rewritten type' expository comments upon the successive 111 verses of the Surah of Joseph of the Qur'an (= Surah 12 containing 111 verses). Each of the 111 Surahs of the Qayyum al-asma' is around 3-5 pages long, having around 42 Arabic verses of varying length in rhyming prose (saj'). The total number of verses in the Qayyum al-asma' is thus around 4662 (= 111 x 42).

Around fifteen of the Qayyum al-asmá' (= QA) Surah titles (about 10%) are identical with those of the Qur'an; including the first Surat al-Mulk (Surah of the Dominion = QA1 + Qur'an 67), the fifth Surat Yusuf (Joseph = Q. 12) and the seventy fifth `Surat al-Shams' (The Surah of the Sun = Q. 91). Other clusters of Qayyum al-asmá' Surah titles theological such as the Surat al-Tawhid (= the `Surah of the Divine Unity' = Q. 112) and the Surat al- al-`Ama' (= the `Surah of the Divine Cloud', QA. 10). Some are cosmological such as the Surat al-`Arsh (the `Surah of the Throne' = QA. 16) and the Surat al-ma' (The `Surah of the Watery Expanse', QA.22).

Deep allegorical, non-literal interpretations of the Qur'an and traditions are frequently encountered in the writings of the Báb. This is true of his early Qayyum al-asmá' or Tafsir Surat Yusuf (`Commentary on the Surah of Joseph', mid. 1844), Kitáb al-Rúh (Book of the Spirit, c.1844-5) and other writings and letters, which claim to express aspects of the ta'wíl (inner exegesis) or báṭin (deeper) senses of the Qur'an or indeed, of "everything" (kull shay'). In the Qayyum al-asmá' the figure of Joseph and his 11 brothers -- making up the twelve `tribes of Israel' -- are interpreted in imamological and numerological terms when linked to the twelve letter kalimat al-tawhíd (la ilaha illa Allah = "There is no God but God"). This level of interpretation is reflected in several Surah titles.

Several Surah titles of the Qayyum al-asma' are distinctly esoteric, reflecting Shaykhi perspectives and the Báb's interest in the `ulum al-ghayb (the `Esoteric Sciences'). Surah 65 of the Qayyum al-asma' is entitled Surat al-Ghayb (The `Surah of the Unseen'). Others bear such elusive names as the Súrat al-Iksír (`The Surah of the Elixir' = QA. 58), the Surat al-Tarbí` (= QA 64 + 94, `The Surah of the Rectangular-Fourfold'); the Súrat al-Bá' (= QA 83: `The Surah of the [Letter] "B" (al-bá')' and Súrat al-Tathlíth (= QA 95); `The Surah of the Threefold'). Alchemical, talismanic and other esoteric terminology is fairly common in the writings of the Báb. While Shaykh Ahmad (d. 1241/1826) was widely regarded as a master of the esoteric sciences by his awestruck successor Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d. 1259/1843) and others, the Báb claimed to communicate their deepest latter-day secrets. For him the `ulum al-ghayb (`esoteric sciences') often pointed to his messianic purpose and mission which is reflected in certain of the Surah titles of the Qayyum al-asma'. At least seven of the Qayyum al-asmá' Surah titles are suggestive of the Islamic esoteric sciences (`ulum al-ghayb). Perhaps 32 titles are eschatological connotations (e.g. Hujjat, the Proof = 48) while around 14 are suggestive legalistic titles (e.g. Surat al-Ahkam = 50+51+104-5). Six or more Surah titles include Shi`i-Shaykhi Islamic terms such as the Surat al-`Ashura ('The Surah of the 10th [of Muharram]'= QA.12) and the Surat al-Rukn (`The Surah of the Pillar' QA. 55).

In this paper the Surah titles of the Qayyum al-asma' will be listed, categorized and commented upon. It will be evident that the Qayyum al-asma' is much more than a neo-Qur'anic text or a new Bábi Qur'an. As the Báb explicitly states, it provides a deep, batin (inner) dimension to Islamic sacred scripture. Through subtle yet bold, often rewritten exegesis of the Qur'an, it opens up the reader to a new era in the understanding the Qur'an consonant with the imminent advent of the messianic Imám, the expected Qá'im. For Bahá'ís this first major work of the Báb also includes cryptic predictions of the Bahá'í revelation in the person of the eschatological Imám Husayn, returned as Bahá'u'lláh.

Introductory Review of Bahá'u'lláh's Lawh-i-Qina', An

by S. Quinn

In 1867–68, Bahá'u'lláh addressed Karim Khan Kirmání in his Lawh-i Qiná` (Tablet of the Veil) in response to Kirmání's Risálah dar Javáb-i Su'alát-i Mulla Jamal-i Bábí (A Treatise in Response to Mulla Jamal-i-Bábí's Questions). The Lawh-i Qiná` is a wide-ranging Tablet covering themes such as grammatical points in the Writings of the Báb, references to Kirmání in the Qur'an, and rejections of the Qur'an in the early periods of Islam. The purpose of this paper is to place the Lawh-i Qiná` in historical context, and demonstrate how that context explains certain elements in the Tablet, including those listed above. Indeed, a number of similar themes run through Kirmíní's Irshád al-`avám (Guidance of Common People), Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i Iqán, and the Lawh-i Qiná`. The paper will include provisional translations of sample passages from the Lawh-i Qiná`.
Click here to read this paper online.

Mathematical Model to Investigate Non-Material Realities, A

by Mahyad Zaerpoor-Rahnamaie

The Bahá'í Faith is the first major religion that encourages its followers to seriously and deliberately make a good use of the human rational and intellectual powers to get a more profound understanding of the multi-layered language of the sacred texts. It supports the idea that there has always been an essential and reciprocal relationship between the divine revelation with its hidden meanings on one hand and the fruits of human social/intellectual/scientific endeavors on the other. This mutual bond between the divine and the profane constitutes the backbone of what the Faith offers as a new paradigm for an "ever-advancing civilization".

The symbolic and multi-layered nature of the divine scriptures is, by design, a renewable and ever-lasting source of inspirations. It is up to us to delve into this fathomless ocean to grasp new meanings for, and relevance to, human condition. As humanity progresses in intellectual/scientific/technological fields, unprecedented opportunities arise to re-examine our historical and gradual understandings of the holy writings. One area of the Bahá'í Teachings that has a unique potential for further explorations is the vast field of non-material realities and, especially, the age-old question of "life after death". Such an abstract concept may be examined more closely when applying some of the insights offered in mathematics.

In our constant struggle for finding deeper meanings, relevance, and immediacy in abstract spiritual concepts, we have an, as yet little explored, ally of new developments in abstract mathematics. From the very beginning, starting from Pythagoras, Thales, and Euclid, many basic mathematical axioms, starting from the very notion of numbers, embodied many strong mystical/invisible/otherworldly components, setting them apart from other domains of human intellectual activities. In the writings of the Báb also we see continuous references to the mystical symbolism of numbers. The ancient association between the letters of Alphabets and their numerical values has always played an important role to add yet a new layer to the complexity of symbolic messages.

Does our cumulative knowledge assist us in better understanding of the Holy Words? Can mathematics act as a viable source of inspiration in seeking spiritual truths? Do some of the mathematical concepts have any counterparts in the realm of the spirit? To further explore these notions, the present talk will focus on the following four questions:
  • What are some of the basic mystical components in the history of the development of mathematics?
  • What are some of the features of n-dimensional spaces?
  • What are some of basic teachings of the Faith about the survival of the soul beyond this material world and the conditions of its progress?
  • What are some of the applications of n-dimensional spaces in offering a model to further explore the concepts of "Other Worlds of God" and the "Progress of the Soul" in the Baha'i Writings?

Metaphysics Reconsidered: A Dialog between `Abdu'l-Bahá and August Forel

by Ramin Neshati

Age-old and unresolved philosophical debates over the purpose and essence of life, the nature and form of existence, the scope and structure of knowledge, the origins and models of morality or the theistic arguments over the presence and attributes of an omniscient, super-natural deity have long dodged thoughtful inquiry and challenged the constraints of human reasoning and logic. Throughout recorded history various schools of philosophy have offered explanations, hypotheses and theories to categorize, analyze and rationalize such debates. However, the prolific contributions of philosophers to human learning and wisdom, from the ancient to the modern, have yet to yield a converged, consistent, coherent and integrated framework to settle these persistent philosophical debates. How do Bahá'í teachings address such metaphysical questions? Such an exploration forms the root and reason of this talk.

Toward the end of his life, `Abdu'l-Bahá corresponded with the celebrated Swiss scientist Auguste-Henri Forel. To the Swiss, Forel is a renowned philosopher, neuroanatomist, psychiatrist, and entomologist. Forel wrote to `Abdu'l-Bahá on December 28, 1920, after having heard of the Bahá'í Faith through his acquaintance with German adherents of this nascent religion. In this letter he expresses, among many topics, his astonishment at `Abdu'l-Bahá's pre-World War I `prophetic vision,' declares his personal belief in monism, his disbelief in the survival of the human soul after the death of the physical body, and wishes to know whether he can be considered a Bahá'í despite his `agnostic' beliefs. `Abdu'l-Bahá responded on September 21, 1921, nearly two months before he passed away. In God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi refers to `Abdu'l-Bahá's letter to Forel as `one of the most weighty the Master ever wrote.' Referencing the talks he had given during 1911-1913 when he traveled extensively to Europe and North America, `Abdu'l-Bahá painstakingly reiterates the Bahá'í principle of the complementarity of science and religion and addresses Forel's questions in a nuanced and sophisticated manner. He explains the nature of the human soul, compares and contrasts mankind to other forms of life, and delves into the relationship between man and nature. Finally, he directly and exhaustively addresses the existence of a divine create force as an unknowable metaphysical reality. Forel's reaction to `Abdu'l-Bahá's letter is noteworthy. He finds the bulk of his beliefs congruent with `Abdu'l-Bahá's explanations save for his unshaken conviction in monism and, quite possibly, a misreading of Abdu'l-Bahá's explication on the nature of the soul and its relationship to human intellect and the brain. Yet, Forel unambiguously professes his belief in the Bahá'í `principles' and affirms the same in his will. Here we will review the context and content of `Abdu'l-Bahá's dialog with Forel and explore how Bahá'í teachings on metaphysical realities can credibly and persuasively interact with current intellectual trends in ontology, epistemology and related streams of philosophical inquiry.

Mysteries of Alast: The Realm of Subtle Entities (`Alam-i Amr) and the Primordial Covenant in the Bábí—Bahá'í Writings

by Farshid Kazemi

One of the more esoteric terms in Shí`í-Shaykhí thought that has found its way into the vast corpus of the Bábí-Bahá'í sacred scriptures is called `the realm of subtle entities' or `álam-i dharr (lit. world of particles). The source of inspiration for this term (dharr) in the early Shi'i cosmology and cosmogony lies in one of the more important and dramatic scenes which informs the whole spectrum of Islamic thought, namely the primordial covenant of Qur'an 7:171-2. It is there, in what seems to be pre-existence, that God addresses humanity in the form of particles or seeds (dharr) saying, `Am I not your Lord?' (alastu bi-rabbikum) while the archetype or potential of all future generations of humanity responds with the loving reply, `Yes' (balá.) In light of the significance of this term for the Covenant in the Bábí-Bahá'í revelations it is surprising that there has only been but passing references to it in some secondary Bahá'í sources. In this paper we will outline the history and background of this term and examine some of the interpretations or hermeneutics accorded to it by select examination of its use in Shi`ism, Shaykhism, and the Bábí-Bahá'í religions. Among other themes that will be touched upon in relation to `alam-i-dharr is the hermeneutics of the pre-existence of souls, the question of free will and predestination, the seven stages of creation (marátib-i sab`ih), and the mystic colour hierarchies (alwán).

Keywords: Covenant, Quaternary, Will, Purpose, Predestination, Decree, Free Will, Pre-existence, dharr.
Click here to read this paper online.

Overview of the Bahá'í Writings on Iran (Part 1), An

by Mina Yazdani

This presentation is based on the speaker's study of issues related to the social situation of Iran, drawing on the published Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi, and as described in the presenter's book Uzá'-i- Ijtimá`í-i Iran dar `ahd-i- Qájár az khilál-i- áthár-i-mubárakah-yi Bahá'í [Iran at the Time of the Qájár Dynasty: A Perspective from the Bahá'í Sacred Writings], Hamilton: Association for Bahá'í Studies in Persian, 2003.

The presentation addresses a number of relevant questions: What were the events in Iran to which the Bahá'í writings were responding? During which time periods were most such references to Iran made? What is the nature of the content of these writings? What guidance and recommendations was offered for the improvement and development of Iran? What duties were assigned to Bahá'ís in the service of Iran? What is the future which the Bahá'í writings envision for Iran?

With these factual issues clarified, the speaker goes on to suggest that, based on the reason for their appearance, the Bahá'í Writings pertaining to Iran can be tentatively categorized under two headings: a) those focusing on the development and progress of Iran, irrespective of the immediate situation of Bahá'ís living in that country; and b) those passages revealed or written during the phases of heightened persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran, which almost invariably correspond to episodes of socio-political unrest in the country, such as 1300AH/1883, 1308AH/1891, and 1321AH/1903, and the period of the Constitutional Revolution (1324—29AH/1906—1911). The investigation of the Writings in the former category helps us develop a better understanding of Bahá'u'lláh's vision of the future of humanity at large; while the study of the latter provides us with an understanding of the history of the Faith in the first century of Bahá'í era (B.E.), and tools to conceptualize a Bahá'í reading of the history of Iran in Qájár era.

Overview of the Bahá'í Writings on Iran (Part 2), An

by Mina Yazdani

This presentation is based on the speaker's study of issues related to the social situation of Iran, drawing on the published Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi, and as described in the presenter's book Uzá'-i- Ijtimá`í-i Iran dar `ahd-i- Qájár az khilál-i- áthár-i-mubárakah-yi Bahá'í [Iran at the Time of the Qájár Dynasty: A Perspective from the Bahá'í Sacred Writings], Hamilton: Association for Bahá'í Studies in Persian, 2003.

The presentation addresses a number of relevant questions: What were the events in Iran to which the Bahá'í writings were responding? During which time periods were most such references to Iran made? What is the nature of the content of these writings? What guidance and recommendations was offered for the improvement and development of Iran? What duties were assigned to Bahá'ís in the service of Iran? What is the future which the Bahá'í writings envision for Iran?

With these factual issues clarified, the speaker goes on to suggest that, based on the reason for their appearance, the Bahá'í Writings pertaining to Iran can be tentatively categorized under two headings: a) those focusing on the development and progress of Iran, irrespective of the immediate situation of Bahá'ís living in that country; and b) those passages revealed or written during the phases of heightened persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran, which almost invariably correspond to episodes of socio-political unrest in the country, such as 1300AH/1883, 1308AH/1891, and 1321AH/1903, and the period of the Constitutional Revolution (1324—29AH/1906—1911). The investigation of the Writings in the former category helps us develop a better understanding of Bahá'u'lláh's vision of the future of humanity at large; while the study of the latter provides us with an understanding of the history of the Faith in the first century of Bahá'í era (B.E.), and tools to conceptualize a Bahá'í reading of the history of Iran in Qájár era.

Path of God, The: Declaration Towards a Global Ethic and the Bahá'í Faith, Parts 1 and 2

by Wolfgang Klebel

1. PART I

In this first part of the presentation, the Global Ethic will be compared with the Bahá'í Faith; this comparison was suggested by the commentary of the German theologian Hans Küng, who prepared the text of the `Declaration Towards a Global Ethic' in 1993 for the Parliament of the World's Religions:
"It will now be an enjoyable task for the scholars of the various religions to work out the project for a global ethic further in the light of their own religions and to bring out three things:
  1. How strongly the `Declaration Towards a Global Ethic' is rooted in their own tradition;
  2. How far their own tradition corresponds with other ethical traditions;
  3. How far their own tradition has a distinctive, specific, special contribution to make to the ethic."
In the official website of the Bahá'ís of the United States (http://bahai.us/) the following summation of the Bahá'í Faith is presented:
"The central theme of Bahá'u'lláh's message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for humanity's unification into one global society. While reaffirming the core ethical principles common to all religions, Bahá'u'lláh also revealed new laws and teachings to lay the foundations of a global civilization."
In all religious traditions these core ethical principles are described as the Path (the Way or Pathway) of God; in the Bahá'í Scriptures it is called the Straight & Righteous Path of God, the Path of Justice & Truth, the Glorious & Exalted Path of Remembrance & Guidance, the Path of Love of God

Quotes from other religions:
Zarathustra: "Making straight the paths for the Religion of the future" (Avesta-Yasna, Hymns)

Krishna: "O Indian Prince! of him whose feet are set On that fair path which leads to heavenly birth:" (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita)

Buddha: "It is the Noble Eightfold Path, the way that leads to the extinction of suffering." (The Eightfold Path)

Isaiah:"I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go." (48:17)

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John14:6)

Mohammad: "Say: As for me, my Lord hath guided me into a straight path; a true religion, the creed of Abraham." (Qur'an, Surah 6 Cattle)

The Báb: "My Religion which is none other than this glorious and exalted Path." (SWB 158)

Bahá'u'lláh: "The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth." (GWB 156-157)
Aristotle in the Nicomachean ethic has provided the groundwork for ethics in his basic understanding of virtues, saying that we become virtuous by doing virtuous acts, i.e., describing the virtuous life as a path one has actually to walk, or as a habit one has to practice, clearly stating that virtues have to be learned.
"The virtues we get by first exercising them, as also happens in the case of the arts as well. For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyre-players by playing the lyre, so too we become just be doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts."
This presentation will demonstrate that the Bahá'í Tradition follows substantially in the same tradition and in the tradition of all other religions, having in common with them many spiritual principles. Further, it will compare several specific ethical principles as they are expressed in the Declaration of a Global Ethic with principles of the Bahá'í Faith. In this process it will become clear that the Bahá'í Ethical principles are not only corresponding with most principals of the Global Ethic, but are renewing them, extending and augmenting them, and adding a new spiritual foundation and an astoundingly deep theological balance to them, all of which could not be expressed in the Declaration and was only marginally present in all previous revelations.

In this process the Bahá'í Faith can be described as the fulfillment of all previous Revelations and providing for mankind a deeper and better, a more mystical and unifying ethic. One could even say the Bahá'í Faith is a resurrection or rebirth of the Path of God.

2. PART II

In the second part this paper will conclude that a common global ethic is the most likely first step towards the unification of all religions and could become the inspiration guiding the leaders of the diverse religion towards the goal of Unity in Diversity described by the beloved Guardian in the New World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. The Prerequisites for the Wayfarer in the Path of God are described in the Bahá'í Writings as follows:
  1. The Revelation of the Manifestation give Laws and Guidance for the wayfarer in the Path of God
  2. The right attitude to recognize and accept the Path required that "A true seeker ... must, before all else, cleanse and purify his heart" (KI 192)
  3. In order to follow the Path of God this essential recommendation is made: O seeker, It behooveth us firmly to ... embrace the dawning light of divine guidance (KI 37)
The presentation will have the following conclusions:
  1. In order to go the Path of God we must have the "Revelation and Guidance" (PM 179) of the Manifestations`
  2. In order to move towards a unity of all religion we have to have "a new love for, and a genuine appreciation of the unity underlying, the various religions" (WOB 196)
  3. Further, we have to regard all religions "in no other light except as different stages in the eternal history and constant evolution of one religion." (WOB 114)
  4. The "unalterable purpose" of the Bahá'í Faith and the purpose of all fellow wayfarers must be "to assist" each other "in the realization of their highest aspirations." (WOB 114)
The following graph can give a vision of how the Bahá'í Revelation can be understood as the Unity of different facet of ethical truth. The Prayer of the Báb, the four Pathways of Love of Bahá'u'lláh are placed in the frame of the description by Bahá'u'lláh of the four divine states, firstness and lastness, outwardness and inwardness, following this Verse:
In thine outward appearance, thou tellest of the appearance of power in the realms of divine creation; in thine inward being thou revealest the hidden mysteries which are the divine trust deposited within thee.

And thus firstness and lastness, outwardness and inwardness are, in the sense referred to, true of thyself, that in these four states conferred upon thee thou shouldst comprehend the four divine states, and that the nightingale of thine heart on all the branches of the rosetree of existence,re whether visible or concealed, should cry out: "He is the first and the last, the Seen and the Hidden...." [1 Qur'án 57:3.] (SVFV 27).
The Vision presented in this paper is opening the Path of God to all seekers and all religions, the Path leading to the True One in the City of the Heart, which can be described as the new Bahá'í Ethic.
Click here to read this paper online.

Resurrection: Hell and Heaven

by Ghasem Bayat

The concepts of Resurrection, Heaven and Hell and Purgatory are rooted in the ancient belief systems of most religious traditions of the world. Some of these concepts are to be found with significant contradictions in names, descriptions and implications amongst various nations.

In this article, a pertinent review is offered from the religious texts of the followers of the Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian and Islamic Faiths that will show how the resulting images are at odds with the concept of Justice of God and man today. Examples will be offered of believers in these faiths who are distancing themselves from those ideas and their efforts to present them in a new form.

Lastly, these concepts will be presented in detail from the Bábí and Bahá'í Writings, and will be compared to the old beliefs. It would become immediately obvious that although the Writings use the same old names in referring to those beliefs, yet the concepts that are introduced are refreshingly new and appealing. This would demonstrate the ability of these new concepts to form the basis of a new human consciousness and behavior that can unite all in mind, spirit and action.

Review of the History and Content of Anti—Bahá'í Publications, A

by Muin Afnani

This presentation explores the historical context as well as the content of some of the accusations published against the Faith. Most of these accusations surfaced in Persian publications and later on some of them were either translated into other languages or were adapted and published elsewhere.

Some of the attacks on the Faith are directed to the forms or styles of some of the Writings, while others attack some concepts or principles.

The Writings of the Báb have been attacked more than others for their style and form. There are also attacks on the content of His Writings. Some examples of both form and content will be discussed and analyzed.

The attacks on the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh have also been leveled against their form and their content. The same is true of the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, but to a lesser degree.

The attacks have come from various sides. The early attacks were mounted by religious fundamentalists. While this continued in later decades, some people who claimed to be secular, or at least pretended to be so, began to attack the Faith. A list of their publications and typical attacks will be shared.

Since 1930's political accusation against the Faith became popular, and though the specifics of attacks have changed over the years this genre of attacks have remained a popular form in the anti-Bahá'í publications to this day.

The years of 1905—1909, which was the period of Constitutional Movement in Iran, were particularly tumultuous years for the Bahá'ís because of the accusations leveled against the Bahá'í community from various groups and parties in order to exploit the situation and advance their agenda.

In short, since 1844, the new Faith of God has been subject to attacks, verbally and in publications, by the clergy, government officials, secularists, nationalists, socialists, and other groups. The form and nature of attacks have changed over the years owning to the changing of religious, cultural, and political climates.

The Bahá'ís have responded to the attacks, but due to lack of access to media and free press, until recently they had not been able to widely distribute their rebuttals to the accusations.

Both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh started the process of writing apologetics to defend the truth of their Cause. For example, Bahá'u'lláh wrote the Book of Iqán in defense of the Cause of His Forerunner, and the Book of Badi' in defense of His own Revelation.

As time permits the context and content of various forms of attacks will be shared and analyzed.


Soul, Spirit, Mind and Intellect, from Antiquity to a Bahá'í Perspective: An Intertextual Trajectory from Biblical Times and Hellenistic Antiquity to the Islamic and Bábí-Bahá'í Psychology

by Stephen Lambden

"The soul is the cause or source of the living body. The terms cause and source have many senses. But the soul is the cause of its body alike in all three senses which we explicitly recognize. It is (a) the source or origin of movement, it is (b) the end, it is (c) the essence of the whole living body" (Aristotle, De Anima).

"O Kumayl [spirits] (anfus) are four [1] the augmentative vegetative [plant spirit] (al-namiyya al-nabatiyya) [2] the sensate animal [spirit] (al-hissiyya al-hayawaniyya) [3] the sacred rational (al-natiqa al-qudsiyya) [human spirit] and [4] the universal Divine [Spirit] (al-kulliyya al-ilahiyya)" (Attributed to Imam `Ali (d. 40/661) as cited in Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 58:85)

"Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind ... The soul of man is the sun by which his body is illumined, and from which it draweth its sustenance, and should be so regarded" (Bahá'u'lláh, GWB: LXXX).

"... spirit is universally divided into five categories: [1] the vegetable spirit, [2] the animal spirit, [3] the human spirit, [4] the spirit of faith, and [5] the Holy Spirit ... The human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal is the rational soul, and these two names—the human spirit and the rational soul—designate one thing ... But the mind is the power of the human spirit. Spirit is the lamp; mind is the light which shines from the lamp ... (`Abdu'l-Bahá', SAQ, LV).

What, if anything, constitutes the human "soul" is by no means universally agreed upon today. Some materialistic and other philosophers and scientists deem it illegitimate to ask such questions. Many deny it as a supra-bodily spiritual or metaphysical phenomenon. What is the `essence' of the human being, however, has for several thousand years been a subject of deep and constant religious and philosophical debate. For many centuries varieties of resolutions to this and related questions have occupied some of the greatest religious and scientific minds. For many today, when the quest for the nature and purpose of human life and the possibility of human immortality remain fundamental, such questions are of paramount importance. This paper will be a meditation upon select past ideas about the human mind-soul-intellect-spirit-essence along with a summary presentation of aspects of the Bahá'í position and its Graeco-Islamic background.

It will be demonstrated in this paper that the roots of much religious thought on the question of the "soul" can be found in select Biblical texts and ancient in numerous Graeco-Islamic philosophical treatises. The massively influential Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) authored a well-known and foundational Greek treatise Περὶ Ψυχῆς (= Peri Psyches, Latin = De Anima), "On the Soul" in which he gave an elaborate description of the functions of the soul. Many Jewish (e.g. Moses Maimonides), Christian (e.g. Tertullian of Carthage and Thomas Aquinas) and Muslim thinkers (see below) have been influenced by versions or translations of the De Anima and related works of Aristotle and other Hellenistic thinkers of antiquity.

Along with a large quantity of Greek philosophical writings, the De Anima of Aristotle was several times paraphrased and translated into Arabic. In `Abbasid times, the Christian Hunayn ibn Ishaq (d. 260/873) accomplished this as did Muslims and others associated with the circle of his erudite contemporary Ya`qub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi (d. c. 260/873). Matters were again taken up and developed by Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi (d. 339/950) and by Abu `Ali al-Husayn ibn `Abd-Allah ibn Sina, better known in the west as Avicenna (d. 428/1037), an important philosopher, physician and mathematician whose massive, multi-volume Kitab al-shifa' (Book of the Cure) includes a Kitab al-nafs or `Treatise on the Soul'. Therein Islamic and Neoplatonic thought are integrated and developed. Among many others who contributed to the evolution of ideas about the soul was Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606/1209), who penned an important treatise entitled Kitab al-nafs wa'l-ruh wa sharh quwahuma (`The Book of the Soul and the Spirit and an exposition of their Faculties') and Ibn Rushd or Averroes (d. 595/1198), who wrote several important Arabic commentaries upon Aristotle's De anima. These Islamic philosophers respected and utilized but went way beyond Aristotle's foundational speculations in setting down their sophisticated ideas about the human soul-spirit-mind-intellect. Their thoughts contributed to the Bahá'í spiritual psychology mentioned in various scriptural writings or alwah ("Tablets") of Bahá'u'lláh and found, for example, in chapters of `Abdu'l-Bahá's Mufavaddat ("Some Answered Questions").

In the Arabic and Persian languages a spectrum of terms has sometimes interchangeably been used to pinpoint and define aspects of the human soul-spirit-mind-essence, etc; including, for example, rúh ("soul"-"spirit") , `aql (intellect) and nafs ("soul"). The last of these terms has a very rich Abrahamic (Semitic) religious semantic history being linked with the biblical Hebrew term nephesh "soul". When, according to Genesis 2:7, God created and breathed into the human (Adam), he became a nephesh hayya or "living soul". The Arabic-Persian word nafs, when linked with other words, has a very wide range of senses ranging from the lower, possibly satanic human "self" to that Logos-like Divine Reality, sometimes designated the nafs kulliyya or "Universal Soul".

In his commentary on the hadith "He who hath known his nafs ("Self") hath known his Lord" (man arafa nafsahu fa-qad `arafa rabbahu) and elsewhere, the great Shi`i philosopher theologian and mystic, Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i (d. 1246/1826) makes wide-ranging and detailed comments upon the meaning of the word nafs ("soul", etc), as does his successor Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d. 1259/1843) in a number of his books and treatises.

Despite the massive legacy of the past 2,500 years of thought about the human `soul' many still wonder whether and in what senses, if at all, one can legitimately speak of an individualized human "soul" (nafs), "spirit" (ruh), "mind" or "intellect" (aql). Bahá'í sacred writings have a good deal to say about these matters, making it perfectly clear, for example, that every individual, no matter of what religious or non-religious background, has had, from the moment of conception, an individualized eternal reality designated as the "soul". Exactly what this "soul" is remains something deeply mysterious, though deeply real by virtue of its potentialities and spiritual-intellectual capacities. For Bahá'ís the human "mind" with its spiritually related intellectual powers expresses aspects of the many perfections of the multi-faceted human soul. In this paper such questions will be considered and tentative conclusions drawn.


Spiritual Impact of Story Telling: A Psychological Analysis

by Keyvan Geula

The phenomenon of telling and listening to stories is as old as the history of civilization. The great civilizers of humanity; its divine teachers have used story telling to educate and transform human reality. The stories of Job and Joseph have been revisited in the Bible, Quran and the Bahá'í Writings to teach us about the dual nature of human reality and the ways we handle ourselves in crisis and victory.

In recent years story telling has become a powerful means of political and social change. Science is discovering the power of story in teaching a verity of concepts including math, physics, chemistry, etc. Psychology in particular has found the magical powers of the narrative and story to be a powerful tool to deal with mental diseases especially trauma and how story can help us redefine our story and find our powers.

In this presentation we explore:
  • What is the definition of story?
  • Why does human brain enjoy stories and what does this affinity do for the positive or negative power of story?
  • How do the emotional and cognitive effects of a narrative influence the work of the mind in psychotherapy and help change our thoughts, views, feelings, beliefs and real-world decisions?
  • Why and how the messengers of God have used the power of story and narrative to teach, guide and protect human reality?
  • How story can help with the integration of science and religion; spirituality and psychotherapy
  • What are the implications of story in the work of the oneness of humanity and our ever advancing civilization?
  • What are some of the examples of use of story and narrative in Bahá'í prayers and Teachings?

Tahirih's Insight into the Inner Nature of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh

by Laleh Shahriary

There are those who speak about Tahirih's eloquence and charm, the very qualities which garnered her universal veneration. There are those who believe that Tahirih was perhaps the world's first "suffragette", the very element which reverberates the fundamental Bahá'í principle, the salient right that men and women are equal. There are also those who state that Tahirih arose fearlessly to advocate for a fundamental revolution, the very disposition which distinguished her from the people of her time. Yet there is one resplendent characteristic rarely mentioned, and that was her innate insight into the inner nature of the cause of Bahá'u'lláh. As the Beloved Guardian beautifully describes: "Her boundless energy was vitalized by her recognition of the Mission she had risen to champion." This ubiquitous characteristic was demonstrated during the short course of her life, but also in the poems she revealed. These are the very topics that we will observe during the coming session of `Irfán Colloquia. From the discussion, you will acquire an insight into the phenomenon that formed a chief pillar in the history of the Bahá'í Faith. We hope that you will catch a glimpse of Tahirih's vision, the compelling influence of a woman who threw off her veil, epitomizing the emancipation of women, the same veil that has suppressed women for hundreds of years.