John Taylor's Column

John Taylor lives in Dunnville, Ontario, Canada and is an essayist

Moral Relativism and Baha'i

Moral Relativism and the Baha'i Message

I have been several days switching computers, having bought a new one. This is a much longer and more complex job than I had anticipated. Meanwhile, how to keep the Badi' list going? How's about this: our community had a thought-provoking deepening last Thursday night about attacks against the Baha'i Faith led by Joseph Woods. In passing, Joe mentioned the following article which is to be found on a Baha'i discussion forum, written by our Auxiliary Board Member:


{josquote}...our community had a thought-provoking deepening last Thursday night about attacks against the Baha'i Faith led by Joseph Woods.{/josquote}

This URL includes as well a response by the author being responded to, one Brendan Cook, who evidently is bound and determined to 'reform' the Baha'i Faith even before he enters it. Their arguments are detailed and inter-windingly complex. You can read it all for yourself at that web locale. To oversimplify, Arjomand says that spiritual law is like physical laws, unchanging; a cobra bite would kill the human body a thousand years ago, today, and a thousand years from now. Cook responds, rather subtly, that nothing is all that simple, that cobra venom in minute quantities is used in medicine, and that spiritual laws cannot be treated as simple, monolithic, unchanging entities either. This Cook fellow should consult a thesaurus, because his objection against simplicity that simple is too simple cannot stand unless his objection to Arjomand's simplicity is that it is reductionist.

Go to the original blog entry and its accumulated comments...

Ethics of Monotheism

The Great Being and His Son on the Ethics of Monotheism

By John Taylor; 2006 August 08

Let us continue with our Oneness of God essay series which began back in January. The next Baha'i principle that we are slated to cover is that of ethics and moral rectitude. Here is the "Great Being" statement from the Lawh-i-Maqsud:

"And likewise He saith: The heaven of true understanding shineth resplendent with the light of two luminaries: tolerance and righteousness." (Tablets, 169-170)

What is enlightenment? Here is the answer, straight from the source of our being. There is a crucial difference between sitting passively in a spotlight and going out to actively shine your own lamp into the darkness. The former is passively illuminated but may or may not be enlightened, good, or right. The latter is a true moral agent who understands that good is light, that right is light. Such a moral agent is enlightened by understanding what light is and by balancing a moral equation not unlike Einstein's E=MC2. Relativity cannot exist without absolutes; the great moral problem is how to distinguish what is absolute from what is relative, what is principle and what is dispensable. An enlightened moral agent discerns how light mediates the two absolutes mentioned above by the Great Being, the two luminaries of tolerance and righteousness.

Read more: Ethics of Monotheism

Missionary Interviews Abdu'l-Baha

A Missionary Interviews Abdu'l-Baha

By John Taylor; 2006 August 7

The interview we are about to focus in on today took place on the 13th of April in the lobby of the Hotel Ansonia, not long after the Master had arrived in America. It was the same day they got news of sinking of the Titanic. Mahmud Zarqani records in his diary that the relieved believers thanked God that the Master had refused their repeated requests to board this wonder of the age on her maiden voyage. Mahmoud records that the Master took a carriage and made a casual remark that helped make me into a town planning nerd,

"On the return to the hotel the carriage drove through the park roads. The Master remarked, 'America will make rapid progress in the future but I am fearful of the effects of these high buildings and such densely populated cities; these are not good for the public health.'" (Mahmud's Diary entry dated Saturday, April 12, 1912)

On a technical note, Mahmoud, making the sort of mistake that was rare until the invention of computers, got his dates one day out of whack for much of their year in America, so this comment may have actually taken place on the day of this interview, or maybe not, I am not sure. Mahmoud describes what the Master said in a similar interview with Christian clergy a few days later:

Read more: Missionary Interviews Abdu'l-Baha

Escaping the Neutral

Escaping the Neutral Values of Nature

By John Taylor; 2006 August 06

As the sultry dog days of summer plod on relentlessly, like many middle aged men in my position my languid thoughts slowly turn to cannibalism. Probably this is the influence of a book-on-tape I am listening to during my daily table tennis practice, a biography of Christopher Columbus. The now-extinct Carib Indians (from whom is derived the very word "cannibal") indulged in this practice to a shocking degree, even going so far as castrating a prisoner to fatten him up and make him a more choice hors d’oeuvre for a future feast.

This had the perhaps not so surprising effect that all Caribs, even the old women, fought like devils when they encountered foreigners who they suspected might be hostile. They were well aware that a fate far worse than death awaited should they be overcome, dead or alive. Their desperation in battle impressed even the brutes on Columbus's ship, who thought nothing of murder, slavery and rape. One native, not realizing that the men in the strange ship had only the relatively innocent purpose of capturing, enslaving and parading him about Europe as a curiosity, fought so furiously that the Europeans damaged the valuable goods by eviscerating him. Disappointed, they threw him overboard to drown, but he stuffed his guts in place with one hand and with the other began swimming for shore. They recaptured him, tied and bound him, and threw him back to the fishes. This did not stop him either and they were forced to dispatch him by using him for target practice with their crossbows.

Read more: Escaping the Neutral

Materials on the Master's Visits to England and Paris

More Source Materials on the Master's Visits to England and Paris

By John Taylor; 2006 August 05

It is coming up to the time when all good Canadian Baha'is are thinking about the Master's visit to our land. The official days slated for celebrating this great event in our history is late August and early September.

In preparation for this time, I have scanned in some currently written source materials from Star of the West magazine on the Master's trips to England and France.

The first two selections can also largely be found in "`Abdu'l-Baha in London," though while correcting the OCR errors I noticed at least one minor editorial correction of this text that was made in the book version; there may be more.

The article on the Master's visit to Paris is by Mary Ford, a Westerner who spoke Persian and had visited Him in Akka earlier on. This as far as I can see, is unique and not found elsewhere. It is nice introduction to Paris Talks, offering several priceless details about the Master's time there. After this introduction, she collects together partial notes for several Paris addresses of the Master that she had attended. I include here only the first two. For purposes of comparison, I also include a full copy of the full version of the first talk. This she says was recorded separately by Assadu'llah and his notes in Persian formed the basis for Paris Talks, which I believe was translated by Laura Clifford Barney. Ford does not give dates, but the Paris Talk does gives a date: October 21, 1911, which is the day after a day later declared as "UN Day." As far as I can see, the second talk that Ford entitles "The Earth is God's," does not seem to have been included in Paris Talks. As you can see, its wording is very strong, stronger even than in the better known talk of the day before.

Read more: Materials on the Master's Visits to England and Paris