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The unity provided by religion, that is.
Here is a post I just made to Talisman9, a Bahai oriented discussion group:
It was written, “I doubt that religion — the most divisive force we have ever had — will unite us.” Yes this has been written many times and recently by me. Your comment that this is like saying unity is divisive points to a paradox and sets up a question.
If religion unites groups large and small why can’t it be used to unite the world?
The answer and more questions lie within the quote from Abdul Baha that you provided — as is often the case with his writing. He often provides answers that also contain challenges.
“After the moral aspect of humanity becomes readjusted, then the greatest unity will be realized; but without this moral readjustment it is impossible to establish harmony and concord, for it is a fact that war, conflict, friction and strife are but the visible results of deterioration of morality and corruption of character. But when the morality of humanity is beautified with praiseworthy virtues there will be an end to war.”
Here AB doesn’t say that religion will change the moral aspect of humanity (not in this quote) — he says that once the readjustment has taken place — then unity will occur.
I agree with this completely.
Abdul Baha was an enthusiastic supporter of many religions. He said to Elbert Hubbard that his trip to the US would have been worthwhile if it had accomplished nothing more than introducing him to Christian Science. He told many Baha’is who where troubled by the thought of a father or daughter who held onto their birth religion that they should be left alone because their faith was serving them well. I don’t believe that he really thought that everyone would become a Baha’i or that this was necessary for the establishment of a new world order and world peace.
The readjustment that Abdul Baha wrote about will occur one person at a time. There will always be many religions in the world, some making more sense and being more useful than Baha’i. But Baha’i and many other religious movements will continue to help improve the moral aspect of humanity. This does not depend on a particular belief set or particular mythology. Many belief sets and mythologies work well to move people toward Abdul Baha’s vision of moral readjustment.
The paradox of unity is divisive will be undone when people are willing to share and work together with folks who believe differently from them. Many Baha’i’s do this today, some with no intention of converting their colleagues in other religions
What is needed is not one over arching religion designed to unite the world, what is needed is a readjustment of the moral aspect of humanity. This will be done one person at a time through education, communication, study, prayer, philosophy, poetry, religion, literature, painting, photography, altruism, good causes and all of the other positive forces in the world.
The world shrinks more everyday. We know of the suffering of people on the other side of the world in minutes. People are mobilized to help. They join forces even though they probably have differing views of the heavens and earth, of the existence or non-existence of god or gods; of life after death or oblivion. As the Buddhists believe — these things are irrelevant to the readjustment to the moral aspect of humanity. It is the readjustment that is important.
In the end it is love that will unite us, or nothing will
Elbert Hubbard was a prolific writer of the early twentieth century. He was a major figure in the Arts and Crafts movement having establish a hand crafted publishing house called Roycrofters, famous for beautiful, illuminated limited edition volumes, bound in leather.
His book “Hollyhocks and Goldenglow” is a collection of essays on topics from the Titanic to Abdul Baha. (I recently made an entry on the Talisman9 discussion forum about this and what follows was drawn from that post.)He writes movingly about the Titanic recounting the bravery, loyalty and love of Mrs. Straus who refused to leave her husband for a life boat. Ironically Hubbard and his wife, Alice perished three years later aboard the Lusitania. Survivors told stories of their courage, matching the characteristics of Mrs. Straus.
There is also an essay about Abdul Baha entitled “A Modern Prophet.” The first sentence reads “A very great man has recently visited America.” It continues: “So out of Persia comes Abdul Baha, who calls himself “The Servant of God.” His followers are called Bahais. This man has diverted one-third of the population of Persia from Mohammedanism. …. This man is the modern Messiah.”
I find this essay an engrossing report by a non-Baha’i. Particularly interesting is this:
“Christian Science interests Abdul Baha greatly. It is somewhat humiliating thing for us when we think that this new American religion was never heard of by Abdul Baha until recently. Now he has practically embraced it. He says it represents one arc of the great circle of truth, and that if he had learned nothing else from his trip to America but the truths of Christian Science, he would be amply repaid.He says he comes more as a learner than a teacher. Nevertheless, he is obliged to give out the light that has been given to him. He keeps the good by giving it away.He quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson freely, delights in Walt Whitman, and loves the memory of Tolstoy, and is on terms of great tenderness toward every good and noble thing that makes for human betterment.No man of recent times has shown such a magnificent affirmative spirit as this Abdul Baha.”
Hubbard was a prolific writer who is not very well known today — not the household word one might think he would be. (The exception might be his “Message to Garcia” that I believe was read in grade or high schools years ago.)His contemporaneous account of Abdul Baha’s visit is precious I think. There may be errors in the essay but it rings true. He doesn’t say that he met Abdul Baha but I think he must have. Does anyone have knowledge of this possible meeting? I find the comments about Christian Science, Emerson and Whitman intriguing and perfectly consistent with my mental and emotional image of Abdul Baha and his approach to life.The book is available as a reprint or as an antique in its original leather bound form if you can find it.I love the idea that Abdul Baha quoted Emerson and loved Whitman but this is the only reference to that I know of. I think many Baha’is would reject the idea. If you are a Baha’i what do you think? And please let me know of other references like this that you are aware of.Many thanks,Frank
Photo: The Christian Science Center at Night — sorry I don’t have any photos of Bahai temples (all the photos on my blog are mine –just a habit I like to keep) But Abdul Baha really liked Christian Science — I’ll blog about that someday soon — so its ok.
I just received an email message from a Baha’i scholar — Sen McGlinn. He is very learned — a graduate student of religion who has written a book entitled “Church and State: A Postmodern Theology” that postulates that Bahaullah meant for church and state to be seaparate. He was kicked out of the Bahai Faith as thanks for his efforts, but that’s another story.
Here is what he wrote:
On 23 Oct 2007 at 19:24, Frank Winters wrote:
“Now — when a writer — or Manifestation for that matter — uses the
term Most Great Infallibility, doesn’t that imply degrees? Most great,
somewhat great just plain great, not quite great and so on?”
That’s exactly what Baha’u’llah says. Not just several degrees, but
also several different kinds:
Know thou that the term ‘Infallibility’ hath numerous meanings and
divers stations. In one sense it is applicable to the One Whom God
hath made immune from error. Similarly it is applied to every soul
whom God hath guarded against sin, transgression, rebellion, impiety,
disbelief and the like. However, the Most Great Infallibility is
confined to the One Whose station is immeasurably exalted beyond
ordinances or prohibitions …
(Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 108)
Here is my reply:
The choice of the word infallible has to be unfortunate. If one leaves out the word and thinks about what Baha’ullah says then it is about being on the right path, I think. What might be a better word?
I tried inerrant but that means pretty much the same thing yet is has for me a connotation of travel to a goal so maybe its closer. Protected from getting off the path — is there a word for that? Steadfast?
‘Sigh’ — its another test. This is my primary argument with God: why all the tests? People need help not @#$% tests. Plain, clear language not flowery prose that could at times mean anything! Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King — better leaders than Baha’ullah or so it seems.
In the days when salvation was about individuals, tests made more sense. Now its the existence of the species that is at stake. Why test all of us in this way?
I’ll tell you why — the entity we call God is not only unknowable it is unthinking in the way we think. Logic has no place there. And God must be indifferent to the question of future human existence. As Baha’ullah says nothing we do has any effect on God whatsoever.
And …. wouldn’t it be great if, as Baha’ullah said, the books really were opened? Religion is still mumbo-jumbo to most people, even in the Baha’i era — if there is such a thing as that.
Well that’s the latest.
I’d like to get some comments on these posts — a number of people have been reading my first post about Baha’ullah — ‘seekers?’ Baha’is? Speak up — what do you think? I will not be hurt or offended if you say you are offended — just don’t tell me to shut up because after all its a free world, isn’t it?