Destiny and Freedom in Gate of the Heart

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I’ve been reading Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart and I’m boundlessly enthusiastic. It’s more than a milestone of Bahai Studies: it contains much understanding that will help many of us trying to live the life of Faith – which the Bab, I think, would call the life of the heart. With the author’s permission, I’m going to make paraphrases of some sections, starting with a section on the Bab’s teaching on Destiny on pages 210-216. One might think that this topic has been chewed for centuries and can yield no new flavours: one chooses to believe in predestination, or in absolute freedom, or one simply hopes that human freedom is somehow compatible with the divine decree. Saiedi’s argument does start rather slowly, but stick with it: he comes to a remarkable argument newly translated from the writings of the Bab.

{josquote}God has created human beings with freedom and has enabled them to be shaped in time in accordance with their own decisions and choices – for which they are inevitably accountable.{/josquote}

The relation between freedom and divine predestination is raised directly at the level of human action, but destiny is actually a more general metaphysical principle and applies to any phenomenal event. In philosophical terms, the question of Destiny is related to the mystery of divine Action. Is God’s creative Action determined by the divine unconstrained Will, or is it dictated by the essences of things as a logical necessity? Are human actions determined by the divine Will, or are they products of human freedom? How can divine knowledge, which knows every event in advance, be compatible with human agency? How can actions be created by God yet caused by human beings? How can the essence of a thing be created by God and yet its choices – which are themselves rooted in that created essence – be free?

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