Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #93 (English)

Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, Michigan USA

October 8–11, 2009.

Crystallization of the Bahá'i Worldwide Community     edit

by Jena Khadem-Khodadad

See also Dynamics of Growth: A Baha'i Approach.

"Outward forms and symbols must be used to convey intellectual conceptions".
SAQ, p. 81

Large Scale growth is an imperative if the Bahá'í Faith is to fulfill its mission, as the begetter of a world civilization and culture. This paper presents certain understandings and insights on the growth of the Bahá'í Faith and proposes that the prospect for its large scale accelerated growth is promising; this may be attributed to a systematic and ingenious strategy which it has followed through a sequence of two phases. 1. The first phase has focused primarily on its geographical spread, although increase in the number of its adherents has also been an objective. 2. The second phase is focused primarily on increase in the number of its adherents, although increase in geographical spread also remains an objective. The orderly sequence in these two phases of growth places the Bahá'í Faith in a more favorable position than if the order had been in reverse. This paper uses a series of diagrammatic representations in explanation of this thesis.

The spread and growth of the Bahá'í world community is likened to the process of crystallization which takes place, in a solution, resulting in formation of a crystal. The metaphor of crystal is applied to the ultimate product of the crystallization of the Bahá'í world community. Using insights from chemistry, the process of crystallization of the Bahá'í community is effected through inductive factors; these include the core elements of the plans of the Bahá'í world. Significantly, the characteristics of a crystal are structural organization, beauty; its hallmark, however, is purity. Similarly, the product of crystallization of the Bahá'í Community must have structure, beauty and purity. The Plans of the Bahá'í world make provisions for these.

Divine Origin of the Bahá'í Faith     edit

by Fares Hedayati

On May 7th of this year, Mr. Ataollah Mohajerani , former minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance in the cabinet of Mr. Mohammad Khatami, called the Bahá'í faith a semi-religion or a "man-made" religion. This occurred in a press conference in Berlin. He further asserted that he came to this conclusion by reading the Book of Certitude and the Book of Bayan. When told that many of our compatriots believe in the Bahá'í faith and their citizenship rights should not be violated Mr. Mohajerani replied by saying that many Bahá'í in Iran are peasants and villagers and were deceived by personable Bahá'í teachers. He concludes by saying that the charge against those Baha'is who have been arrested and imprisoned is "espionage". He denies that they have been so charged because of their religion as Baha'is. He tried to justify the ample violation of the citizenship rights of Bahá'ís or to conceal it somehow.

Defense of the human rights of each Iranian, nay each human being, should not be conditioned upon their religious beliefs. Mr. Mohajerani, when faced with the question of citizenship rights of Bahá'ís, should not have mitigated and humiliated their beliefs. Even though persecution of the Bahá'ís of Iran is a stigmata on the brow of the history of our land, an even more shameful act is becoming an obstructing cloud for the sun and depriving Iran and Iranians from the truth of the Bahá'í faith. Persecution of the Bahá'ís have always been accompanied by defaming them and their beliefs and teachings in eye of the public, and their faith has been kept in a veil of mystery and dust of slander by their adversaries. Bahá'ís want something more than citizenship rights and that is acquaintance of people with the teachings and goals of their faith, which they believe is the solution to humanity's problems.

This article summarizes the proofs of the divine origins of the Bahá'í faith. Most of the proofs are from the Book of Certitude and the Book of Bayan. The purpose of using these two texts is to prove to Mr. Mohajerani the fallacy of his claims using texts he has read and referred to previously. For further clarification, proofs from Seven Proofs by the Bab, the Bahá'í Proofs and Faraed by Mirza Abulfazael Golpaygani are also mentioned in this article. This article is meant as a conclusive response to Mr. Mohaherani's statements, one that readers might ponder and reflect for its implications and its evidence to the contrary of those beliefs so common in Iran. Perhaps, it might lead to a more open and informed discourse on the Bahá'í Faith and the activities of Baha'is in the country where the religion originated. This article will also serve to introduce Mr. Mohajerani and other Iranians to the precepts and principles of the Bahá'í faith.

Dynamics of Growth, The: Factors which Impact the Growth of the Bahá'í Faith: Application of Analogies and Metaphors     edit

by Jena Khadem-Khodadad

See also Crystallization of the Bahá'i Worldwide Community.

The Bahá'í Faith, has achieved an impressive worldwide expansion for a religion which had its beginning in mid nineteenth century. Despite this remarkable spread, the Bahá'í Faith remains yet unknown to the vast majority of humankind. Bahá'ís, worldwide, constitute less than one tenth of a percent of the world's population of almost six and a half billion. This number is incommensurate with the magnitude of the mission of the Bahá'í Faith as the unifier of the human race and the begetter of a world civilization. Accelerated large scale expansion and growth are the urgent challenges which this Faith is facing.

The Bahá'í world community is now mobilized to address these challenges, at the two dimensions of qualitative and quantitative growth. In this paper, several analogies and metaphors, from the natural sciences, will be presented and applied to the question of growth. `Abdu'l-Bahá , often used analogies and metaphors in His talks and writings to convey concepts and elucidate His arguments. Some Answered Questions is replete with such examples. `Abdu'l-Bahá states that "outward forms and symbols must be used to convey intellectual conceptions" (SAQ-p.81). With this intent, several novel metaphors, analogies and examples will be applied to the question of growth, in two fundamental areas: 1- The essential requirements and conditions for vital, viable and sustainable growth in any dynamic system and 2- The factors which can significantly enhance and accelerate the rate of growth of the Bahá'í Faith.

Interpretations of Holy Texts Provided in Some Answered Questions: An Analytical Review     edit

by Vahid Rafati

In the Writings of the Exalted Báb and in the Books and Tablets of the Blessed Beauty and `Abdu'l-Bahá, the interpretations and elucidations of the Holy texts of the past as well as explanations of, and commentary about, numerous Islamic traditions have a special place of importance. In fact dozens of texts issued from the pens of the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith are, in reality, commentary and interpretations of the holy writings of past.

A passing review of the Writings of the Exalted Báb reveals that many of His most important and lengthiest works were devoted to the explanations and interpretations of the various chapters (sura) of Qurán, such as Baqara, Joseph, Kawthar and Al-`Asr, in order to expatiate upon the verities of this Faith in the context of the concepts and contents of those chapters, while at the same time divulging the verities inherent in those writings.

The Blessed Beauty also has many such Writings, e.g. the Tablet interpreting the Sura Al-Shams, or the one explaining the verse "Kull'u'Ta`ám" (verse 93 of the Sura Ál-Imrán), as well as the Tablet interpreting the disconnected letters at the beginning of certain chapters (sura) of Qurán, and the tablet interpreting the Sura Al-Shams. Many important discussions on topics such as "Qiyámat" (Resurrection), "Khátimiyyat" (the Seal of the Prophets), "Yaumú'lláh" (the Day of God) and "Liqáyi Iláhí" (meeting God) in major Works of His, e. g. Iqán and the Tablet of Sheikh, can be keys to the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures of the past including the Old and the New Testament and the Holy Qurán.

The number and variety of texts revealed about the interpretation of the Holy Books of the past points to the importance of the study of the manner in which the scriptures of the past are to be interpreted and understood. Also, using the modern science of Hermeneutics, these concepts need to be fully studied and thoroughly analyzed so that the enormous role of Bahá'í studies in understanding the scriptures of past dispensations may become evident.

Neo-Platonism and the Bahá'í Faith     edit

by Ian Kluge

This paper will analyze The Enneads of Plotinus and, to a lesser extent, Proclus' The Elements of Theology in order to identify how their teachings agree with and differ from the Baha'i Writings. Our analysis will begin but not end with an examination of the doctrine of emanationism and its philosophical and theological implications. It will deal with such topics as the soul, the nature of God, apophatic theology, the meaning of union with the divine, the nature of matter, contemplation as action and descent and return.

We shall also do spend some time on a `meta-analysis,' to evaluate to what extent Neo-Platonism and the philosophy embedded in the Baha'i Writings are similar types of philosophy, and `traveling' in the same direction although not in agreement on all points. This will help us understand the nature of the philosophy embedded in the Writings.

See also Part Two.
Click here to read this paper online.

Origin and Evolution of Mankind as Elucidated in the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, The     edit

by Arsalan Geula

See also Part I

Part II—Discussion of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements in regard to the evolution of man:
  • 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements concern philosophical issues rather than scientific ones. "The materialistic philosophers of the West ... the philosophers of the East -- such as Plato, Aristotle and the Persians..." (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 356)
  • 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.

"Point of the Beginning" and the "Seal of the Prophets", The: An analysis of the well-known Qur'anic verse (33:40) and of the consequences of its misinterpretation by Islamists     edit

by Gloria Yazdani

It is revealed in Chapter 18 verse 109 of the Qur'an that "If the ocean were ink wherewith to write out the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid..." And in chapter 96, verse 1, of the same blessed Book it is stated, "Read in the name of your Lord, who created ... Read, and your Lord, Most Exalted teaches by means of the pen." The "Pen" indeed reflects in Islamic theology and ideology the station of "the reality of realities" ... A symbol of the creative forces of divine Revelation; yet astonishing it is that -- despite the Qur'an's own testimony to the fact that oceans of inc would ran out before the words of God would come to an end -- generation after generation of Muslims have clung to an understanding of the Qur'anic verse (33:40) that claims an end to divine Revelation. A claim that so clearly and defiantly ignores divine promises of unending bestowals and bounties! "...Let not our hearts deviate now after Thou hast guided us, but grant us mercy from Thine own presence; for Thou art the Grantor of bounties without measure..." (Qur'an 3:8)

This paper makes an overview study of the concept of the infiniteness of time (with a beginning that has no beginning and an end that has no end); it reviews the theological belief by both Baha'is and Muslims of an ancient Covenant between God and humankind; it touches upon the allegorical nature of certain scriptures as attested by the Qur'an itself; and it draws upon the undeniable force of advancement throughout the ages and the unequivocal role of religion in this advancement.

These elements are then brought together in order to define the aforementioned Qur'anic verse within the context of the oneness of the Prophets in the immensity of a timeless universe, and to demonstrate the adverse consequences of the manner in which it is being interpreted by Islamists.

"Our Lord! Thou art He Who will gather mankind together against a Day about which there is no doubt; for Allah never fails in His promise..." (Qur'an 3:9) And yet our Muslim brothers and sisters are suffering the deprivation of seeing the Premised Day of God by a mere misinterpretation of an allegorical verse! In the words of Baha'u'llah "For when God — Blessed and Glorified is He — sealed the station f prophethood in the person of Him Who was His friend ... He promised all men that they shall attain unto His Own presence in the Day of Resurrection... Blessed be he who knoweth of a certainty that he shall attain unto the presence of God on that Day when His Beauty shall be made manifest..." (Gems of Divine Mysteries page 42)

Spiritual Impact of Story Telling: A Psychological Analysis     edit

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?

Theory of the Origin and the Evolution of Mankind: A Scientific Perspective     edit

by Arsalan Geula

See also Part II
The origin and the theory of evolution of man have received great attention and been the 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 address different aspects of human reality namely the material and the spiritual.

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

This presentation is given in two parts:

Part I—Scientific section:
  • General theory of evolution.
  • Human evolution.
  • The Anthropic Cosmological Principle.
  • The evolution of humankind is the necessary outcome of universal laws, and not the result of aimless events. The "random selection" could be interpreted as a directional random selection by design to produce a higher organism: Homo sapiens. In other words the randomness was incorporated into the creative design of the universe.

Unity in Diversity: Toward a Correlation of the Bahá'í Perspective with current empirical findings in the social science literature     edit

by Ismael Velasco

As a global community uniquely and entirely centred on the achievement of unity (while emphatically rejecting uniformity), whose "watchword" is bindingly said in its authoritative writings to be "unity in diversity", the Baha'i community may well have much to learn from, and much to contribute to, the immense efforts that are being devoted by psychologists, sociologists and network theorists to understanding the workings of both unity, and diversity, in human collectivities. The present paper, rather than aiming at an exhaustive review, is a "pathfinder" essay, seeking to locate diversity and cohesion research within the field of Baha'i studies, providing a preliminary survey of some key trends in the social science literature; offer some initial thoughts as to how these findings correlate with the perspective found in the Baha'i Writings; and, in particular, delineate the type of practical insights which this field may offer the Baha'i community, and the opportunities which the workings of the Baha'i community might in turn offer researchers seeking insight into this area.