Sunday, April 13, 2008

On the View From Within the Baha'i Paradigm: There are no sides or feuds here

My perusal today of the Baha'i Library Forum reveals content of great merit. Brettz9 is masterful and succint in his summary as to why the application of the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are inappropriate for use "within the Baha'i paradigm" and in his discussion of different uses of the term "enemy" in relation to the Faith. He builds his case by incorporating the Writings and has pulled together relevant quotes.
Here is my red letter edition of his text. -gw

here are no sides or feuds here, no liberal or conservative camps within the Baha'i paradigm. The only possibilities for those within the Faith are Baha'is who seek to adhere to the Baha'i Administrative Order, those who are yet unaware of the teachings on the subject, and those individuals who try to subvert the faith to their own ends (whether they become Covenant-breakers, leave the Faith, become inactive, or return to the Faith). This Faith, even more so than any before it, has an ultimate authoritative voice on what is or is not allowed, as well as who or who is not a member, so it cannot be compared to Christian or even Muslim sects where the passing of the Founder led to unclarity about the rightful Succession.


nemy belongs to a special category of words which can sometimes indicate a mutual relationship and sometimes not. It is also used in the Writings both in a sense such as a categorization to avoid:

Let them see no one as their enemy, or as wishing them ill, but think of all humankind as their friends (Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, sec. 1)

yet the word is also used to describe a condition of opposition by at least one party:

This revelation have We given thee in Our holy Tablet, lest thou sorrow for what hath befallen Our House through the assaults of the enemy (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, section 58

umerous and powerful have been the forces that have schemed, both from within and from without, in lands both far and near, to quench its light and abolish its holy name. Some have apostatized from its principles, and betrayed ignominiously its cause. Others have hurled against it the fiercest anathemas which the embittered leaders of any ecclesiastical institution are able to pronounce. Still others have heaped upon it the afflictions and humiliations which sovereign authority can alone, in the plentitude of its power, inflict.

he utmost its avowed and secret enemies could hope to achieve was to retard its growth and obscure momentarily its purpose. What they actually accomplished was to purge and purify its life, to stir it to still greater depths, to galvanize its soul, to prune its institutions, and cement its unity. A schism, a permanent cleavage in the vast body of its adherents, they could never create. (World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 195)

"...the believers need to be deepened in their knowledge and appreciation of the Covenants of both Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá. This is the stronghold of the Faith of every Bahá'í, and that which enables him to withstand every test and the attacks of the enemies outside the Faith, and the far more dangerous, insidious, lukewarm people inside the Faith who have no real attachment to the Covenant, and consequently uphold the intellectual aspect of the teachings while at the same time undermining the spiritual foundation upon which the whole Cause of God rests.
In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 15 April 1949 to an individual believer, published in "The Light of Divine Guidance", vol. 2, p. 84)

his certainly would never justify calling someone an enemy nor feeling any personal animosity toward them, but it should indicate that there certainly can be persons who oppose the Faith, either internally or externally. For the internal cases, we know that these can never cause any permanent schism, but they can certainly cause temporary disruptions if Baha'is are not well-deepened and responsive, both as individuals, and more importantly, the institutions charged to deal with any internal challenges. ...

he House of Justice has referred to continued association with those who have attacked the Faith as being potentially "spiritually corrosive". I also don't think going out of our way to glorify such persons has any merit whatsoever. While Shoghi Effendi was willing to describe Mirza Yahya in God Passes By as "good-natured yet susceptible to the slightest influence", I don't think you'll find any dedicated tributes to the positive qualities of opponents of the Faith within his writings!

s with any human being facing someone who is actively opposing them, it might be tempting to make broad strokes against them, yet we are told in no uncertain terms to avoid doing so, and on the contrary, be willing--where called for--to indicate an enemy's merits (again, by "enemy" I am being descriptive, not indicating we should look at others as our enemies, besides acting under the statement I cited earlier about the need to be an "enemy" of the enemies of the Faith in the sense of not being content to let them spread untruths or create disruptions).

ften those will masquerade under the banner of "unity", when their intention is solely to disrupt, create doubts and divisions and nothing short of "vigilance" can avoid the commotion caused by those intent on deliberately raising havoc.


Letter photos all Creative Commons licensed:

1 comment:

Pioneering Over Four Epochs said...

I posted an introduction to the paradigmatic shift in the Baha'i community, the new culture of learning and growth that is at the heart of this paradigm, some 24 months ago. I did this posting at several internet sites and have updated/revised that post in these last two years. It seemed like a good idea to give readers some specific steps on how to access this now revised article, essay or book at Baha’i Library Online(BLO)
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The Association for Bahá’í Studies New Zealand in 2007 launched its open access, internationally oriented, peer reviewed electronic periodical OJBS: Online Journal of Bahá’í Studies, but in January 2009 that initiative was discontinued. One of its first issues would have been devoted to an exploration of this new paradigm.
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In the last two year period there have been many thousand views of my analysis, my statement on this new paradigm at the few sites where it has been posted. In addition to googling "Baha'i Culture of Learning and Growth" and accessing my article in the process at several internet sites, readers can take the following steps to access the latest edition of my article at BLO: (i) type Baha’i Library Online or Baha’i Academics Resource Library into your search engine; (ii) click on the small box “By author” at the top of the access page at BLO; (iii) type “Price” into the small box that then appears and click on the word “Go;” and then (iv) scroll down to article/document item #46 and (v) click on that item and read to your heart’s content. When your eyes and your mind start to glaze over, stop reading. The article can be downloaded free and you will then have access to a revised article, a 200 page, 90,000 word context for all this new paradigmatic terminology that has come into the Baha’i community in the last 13 years.
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The statement is a personal one, does not assume an adversarial attitude, attempts to give birth of as fine an etiquette of expression as I can muster and, I like to think, possesses both candour and critical thought on the one hand and praise and delight at the process on the other. I invite readers to what I also like to think is “a context on which relevant fundamental questions” regarding this new paradigm may be discussed within the Baha’i community. It is also my intention to update this article in the months and years ahead. One of the advantages of the BLO site is the freedom it gives to a writer to update the article right on the site in an ongoing process as new insights from major thinkers in the Baha'i community and information from the elected and appointed institutions of the Cause comes to hand.
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If time and the inclination permit, check it out. No worries, no obligation, just if it interests you. You may find the piece of writing too long as I'm sure many readers do. You may also find it too personal due to the fact that I attempt to answer the question: “where do I fit into this new paradigm?” After a few paragraphs of reading, you will get the flavour of the exercise. Just keep reading if your mind and spirit are enjoying the process.