Baha'i studies

Reconciling the Other

The Baha'i Faith in America as a Successful Synthesis of Christianity and Islam

{josquote}The Bahá'í Faith is more than a Christian-Muslim syncretism.{/josquote}

A number of scholars have commented on the Islamic elements of basic Bahá'í theology and practice as found in Europe and America. In fact, the study of the Bahá'í religion, even in the West,continues to be thought of academically in terms of Islamic Studies. And yet, the Bahá'ís themselves, in the United States and elsewhere, are quick to deny that their religion is Islamic. Indeed, many ordinary Bahá'ís are even unaware of the Islamic roots many Bahá'í teachings, and they experience them instead as the fulfilment of Christianity.It appears then that the Bahá'í Faith in America, at least, has developed historically as a successful synthesis of Christianity and Islam. In fact, this may be the only successful synthesis of the two traditions which exists as a living religion. Naturally, a reductionist argument is not being made here: The Bahá'í Faith is more than a Christian-Muslim syncretism. Nonetheless, basic elements of both religions have been harmonized in current Bahá'í thinking and practice. This paper will seek to identify some Muslim elements in the Bahá'í religion as it is practiced in the United States and demonstrate how these elements have been Christianized in Bahá'í practice. It will comment on the power of religion to achieve one of its fundamental purposes— to dissolve contradictions and reconcile the unreconcilable.

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Disaster Capitalism and the Baha'i Faith

Similarities and Differences

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Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine, provides a thorough criticism of free market capitalism and challenges the view that it has been spread throughout the world peacefully. Her main premise is that disaster capitalists take advantage of opportune moments—moments in which societies find themselves in states of shock—to impose free market, neoliberal policies. The economic theories of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School are portrayed as forming an ideology that has dedicated followers and is responsible for grave injustices and suffering around the world. The Bahá’í Faith, a global religion founded in 19th century Persia, seemingly shares some ideological ground with Friedmanite capitalism as depicted in The Shock Doctrine. This paper will take a critical perspective and compare and contrast the two belief systems with an eye to exposing the elements of each which have led or could potentially lead to the perpetration of injustice and oppression

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The United States of Paranoia and the Masters

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Jesse Walker, Editor of Reason Magazine, has written a new book that has gotten considerable positive attention from print and electronic media, and has some insightful comments about various types of conspiracy theories and the relationships between them. He defines five types: the Enemy Above, the Enemy Below, the Enemy Within, The Enemy Outside, and the Benevolent Conspiracy.

One of the occupational hazards of writing about groups that think in conspiratorial, paranoid terms about outsiders is that they will invent conspiracy theories defining you as their enemy. Although there have been random comments about dugpas and Jesuits, people angered by my Blavatsky research seem mainly to want to use words I find flattering in the extreme, like academic and materialistic skeptic, but which nonetheless are completely wrong. The same thing has happened to a much greater degree with Baha’is as a result of my writing about them– again I’m presumed to be in nefarious cahoots with an international network of academic scholars. It’s flattering yet appalling that believers can manufacture such imaginary K. Paul Johnsons, and that “scholarly bete noire of Theosophists and Baha’is” will be the first impression anyone gets about me via Google. On one hand, Theosophists are infinitely kinder and gentler in their Benevolent Conspiracy theory than Baha’is are in their various Enemy Within and Enemy Outside scenarios....

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Bounded Religious Communities' Management of the Challenge of New Media

Baha’í Negotiation with the Internet

{josquote}[The American Baha'i community's] strict adherence to a certain structure and hierarchy within the offline structure of the community is in many respects simply replicated and encouraged online.{/josquote}

The negotiation of new forms of media by religious groups is a dynamic and complex process that involves decision-making engaging the history, tradition and beliefs of the community. This negotiation process is especially complex for bounded religious communities, which establish rigid social and value-laden boundaries allowing them to create and maintain a unique and separate cultural system. Observing how members of bounded religious communities interact with the Internet enables us to consider how some groups resist the fluidity of networked relations and instead use technology to maintain closed social structures and solidify their unique identities. This is clearly seen in the case of the Bahá’í faith, especially in the patterns of use and limits American Bahá’ís have developed to engage with the Internet. By using the Religious Social Shaping of Technology approach, developed by Campbell (2010), as a lens to explore the challenges and choices made by the Bahá’ís, this process of technological negotiation is unpacked.

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The extraordinary life and work of Robert Felkin – Baha'i Mage

Robert Felkin

Abstract: In investigating the relationship between the Baha’is and the Western Esoteric Tradition, several individuals emerge as important in both circles, however, none are as prominent in as many fields as Robert Felkin. Felkin was notable as a physician, a missionary, an Anglican, a magician and a Baha’i. The purpose of this paper is to examine his life and work in the context of his search for Ascended Masters and the multiplicity of identities and roles he assumed.

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