Perception Into Faith:
A Radical Discontinuity Within Unity

By William Barnes

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #32
Bosch Bahá'í School: California, USA
November 23–26, 2000
(see list of papers from #32)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 2, pages 1-10
© 2001, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    Attaining eternal life has concerned the human soul for millennia. Using statements from many Scriptures, but especially the Bahá'í Writings, this paper will argue that entering into eternal life is both a change of being and of perception, an ontological leap and an epistemological one. The process starts with a mystical perception, like the kind that one thief experienced during the crucifixion of Christ.

    From there the paper moves to a discussion of the two natures of man. One nature is the temporal self, called the ego. The other is the eternal self, activated and nourished only by God's Word. These two selves are opposing conditions of existence. Thus, no transformational connection can unite them.

    The next part of the discussion focuses upon the age-old issue of faith versus good deeds as the necessary means for attaining eternal life. The Bahá'í writings say that good actions performed without knowledge of God "cannot be the cause of eternal salvation" and "entrance into the Kingdom of God" because they do not bring about a conscious perception of eternity. Faith is predicated upon knowledge and perception, and then good deeds. "By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds."

    The final part of the paper discusses the condition called in the Bahá'í writings the spirit of faith, where the soul is granted "the gift of faith" and its latent powers awaken. Faith and eternal life are, then, a spiritual resurrection into a larger mental existence that expands the powers of the soul.

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