Lawh-i-Hikmat (Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Wisdom):
Spiritual Materialism vs. Dialogical Thinking
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #60
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 26–29, 2005
(see list of papers from #60)
published in Lights of Irfan, volume 7, pages 119-162
under new title
"Lawh-i-Hikmat, Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Wisdom: Towards a Progressive Bahá'í Theology"© 2006, Irfán Colloquia
This commentary on Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet results in these tentative and preliminary conclusions:
In every case it is the task of the student of Bahá'í theology to use discrimination and apply it according to the Pauline statement: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
- The primary focus of Bahá'í studies must by on the Writings of the Faith, and the philosophical understanding and interpretation need to follow and be enlightened by the Revelation. Attempting to use philosophical categories and trying to understand the spiritual reality in materialistic scientific ways must be called spiritual materialism like the transpersonal philosophy of Ken Wilber.
- Therefore, the relationship between the spiritual and material needs to be re-evaluated. Bahá'u'lláh stated that the two aspects of creation, the active and the passive, the form and the receiver, the material and the spiritual are the same and are different. As a guiding principle of this understanding the Bahá'í concept of unity in diversity can be used, as well as, the philosophical understanding of Teilhard de Chardin about the unity of spirit and matter. The relationship between the whole and the part needs to be re-defined from this point of view as well.
- The meaning and importance of the sentence "The essence and the fundamentals of philosophy have emanated from the Prophets" should be further followed up in terms of the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, talking about the Spirit of Faith and the Holy Spirit. This emanation is a spiritual process, not a materialistic or historically provable fact, and must be considered in any study of philosophy from a Bahá'í perspective.
- The Dialogical Thinking, as presented by Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber and Ferdinand Ebner can assist in understanding the importance of the "Word" in the I-Thou relationship and the Divine Word, the Manifestation, as the origin, the beginning of all that is. This thinking introduces some philosophical understanding of the fact that God is unknowable, in the sense of substantial thinking, but man is created to know and to worship God in the personal-dialogical way, which denotes the spiritual aspect of reality and is expressed in prayer.
- The last, but perhaps the most important conclusion of this paper, is the obligation to look at modern philosophy and distinguish between the findings and statements of modern philosophers. There are philosophies that are words leading to words and thereby dealing only with "that which they comprehend". On the other hand, there are modern philosophers, there are philosophical ideas and visions of contemporary thinking, that are based on the essence and the fundamentals that have been revealed by and emanate from the Prophets of the past and the Prophets of today, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. And there are, certainly some philosophers, who are in the middle, having only partially recognized this spirit of the Prophet.
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