Staticity into Motion

By Joan Sheppard

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #15
Bahá'í National Center: Wilmette, Illinois, USA
August 9–10, 1997
(see list of papers from #15)

    Since the beginning of monotheistic religious tradition, salvation has been represented in fragments; through art and literature, as the River Styx, the Pearly Gates, the Resurrection, the Garden of Paradise. In the Bahá'í Faith, this fragmented and highly imaginative picture takes on a more realistic and scientific dimension. The vision of salvation presented in the Bahá'í Faith is simple and unadorned, and for the first time gives unity and practical significance to the entirety of mankind's existence. It speaks to the maturity of mankind.

    This presentation will focus on the development of the concept of salvation, from the beginning of the monotheistic religious tradition in Judaism to the Bahá'í Faith. The concept will be examined in relation to changing paradigms of the universe, and also as a construct of the society and culture of each religion.

    Significant aspects of salvation, such as the heavens, the journey of the soul after death, good and evil, and heaven and hell, will be looked at with respect to their changing aspects as a result of the process of maturation. By tracing the development of the concept of salvation, from the Christian practice of "buying time" to the Bahá'í concept of salvation as motion, as a progression towards spiritual perfection, the progression of the concept of salvation as something that is "out there" will increasingly become located inside the individual believer.

    Joan Sheppard has a Master of Arts in English Literature from York University. After teaching English as a Second Language for several years, she returned to university last year to complete a B.Ed. degree at the University of Toronto. Ms. Sheppard lives in Rockwood, Ontario, where she is also a freelance writer and a member of the Eramosa Writers' Group.

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