Baha'i studies

Executive and legislative

One of the friends asked:

What do you make of ‘Abdu’l-Baha having written:

“This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body must reinforce the executive, the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong, that all the regions of the world may become even as Paradise itself.” (Will and Testament, 14)

First, this shows quite clearly that Abdu’l-Baha is addressing a two-part structure, not a monist structure. Second, that these two parts are intended to be in harmony, not competing. Third, that the name of one part is ‘House of Justice’ and the name of the other is ‘Government.’

So far, so good: the meaning is unambiguous and comes from the actual structure of the paragraph, without depending on the meaning I attach to a particular word. But I double-check for consistency (I assume that Abdu’l-Baha does not contradict himself: intelligent people rarely do). Is there anywhere where Abdu’l-Baha says the House of Justice is the government, or the government is the House of Justice? No. Is there anywhere where he says that government or the House of Justice should be done away with, or is temporary? No. Is there anywhere where he says there is a fundamental conflict between them? No. Could words like House of Justice and Government have different cultural meanings? Not really.

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The mystery of sacrifice

One of the friends said:

Long ago I picked up a supposed quote from the Bab, “The mystery of sacrifice is there is no sacrifice.” Now I can’t find a source. Does anybody know if it is authentic or has another documented origin?

I am afraid this another of those kitab-e hearsay sources. It enters Bahai lore in 1916, in the words of one of the delegates to the National Convention, Mrs Elizabeth Greenleaf (1863-1941). An account of the proceedings says:

Mrs. Greenleaf: As I have listened, my thoughts have crystallized themselves into three sentences. The first is, “Lift up thy heart with delight that thou mayest be fitted to meet me and to mirror forth my beauty” (the voice of God speaking in the Hidden Words. The second is what Abdul Baha said to Isabel Fraser: Attainment is not through renunciation but through radiant acquiescence. The third is the word “’sacrifice.”‘ We use the great word and have heard much about the “mystery of sacrifice.” Now what is the mystery of sacrifice? The mystery of sacrifice is that there is no sacrifice.

Reported in Star of the West, Vol. 7, p. 66, published in July 13 1916, reporting on the closing session of the Convention in Chicago, April 29-May 2 1916.

This bit of wisdom may not be from Bahai scripture, but it is no less true for that. The paradox of sacrifice is already expressed in the Gospel of Luke: ”whoever would save his life will lose it; and whosever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

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Sixty-six years of the US Baha'i News (1924-1990)

Sixty-six years of Baha’i News (1924-1990) - or more than 10,000 pages of information

These issues have been Optically Character Recognized (OCR’d) permitting users to search on words and highlight and extract text.

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Church and State in Scripture

In a conversation with a friend about the translation of the 8th Ishraq (discussed here), I realised that he thought the whole question of the Bahai teachings on church and state hinged in some way on doubtful matters: on the translation of the Ishraqat, on whether the words “the consummate union and blending of church and state” had interpolated into a report of Abdu’l-Baha’s words, (See the entry ‘A consummate union’), and such like.

Nothing could be further from the truth: the separation of Church and State does not depend on a single verse of Bahai scripture, it is one of the core principles of the Faith, stated in various terms by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. It is often included (as ‘non-interference in politics’) in the various lists of the 10 or 12 essential Bahai principles. But the separation of Church and State is not just a Bahai teaching, it is solidly rooted in the Abrahamic tradition, from the days of Kings and Prophets to today. In the New Testament we find Christ saying:

Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. (Luke 20:25)

The Christian teaching also does not rest on a single verse. When Christ is tempted, the second temptation is worldly power (Luke 4:5). At his trial, Christ declares “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). In the Epistle to the Romans we read “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God..” (13:1) The letter to Titus (3:1) and the first letter to Peter counsel obedience to magistrates and governors.

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Articles online

This page contains a list of web sites that have, or link to, downloadable articles related to the Baha'i Faith. The web sites are divided into two categories:

  1. Libraries and journals
  2. Personal sites.

Libraries and journals

Baha'i Library Online

The Baha'i Library Online is one of the principal sources of articles available for download. It has a huge collection of articles related to the Baha'i Faith in its section "Secondary Source Material", which is viewed from the home page. The relevant options in this section are: