John Taylor's Column

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

Can you organize the Baha'i Faith?

Can you organize the Baha'i Faith?

By John Taylor; 2006 June 21

"If an individual has an opportunity to plant a tree, even if he knows the Day of Judgment is imminent, let him plant the tree." (Muhammad)

A while back I stumbled across the following quote in an early Baha'i book:

"The Baha'i revelation is not an organization. The Baha'i Cause can never be confined to an organization. The Baha'i revelation is the spirit of this age. It is the essence of all the highest ideals of this century. The Baha'i Cause is an inclusive movement; the teachings of all religions and societies are found here. Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Mohammedans, Zoroastrians, Theosophists, Freemasons, Spiritualists, et al., find their theories fully developed in this revelation." (Baha'i Year Book, Vol. 1, 1925-1926, p. 146)

I liked these sentiments and hoped that it was authentic scripture. This was cited without attribution in an article called "The Unity of Civilization" by a non-Baha'i scholar, Y. S. Tsao. Did it come from the Master? Ocean turned up dry, so I tried Sifter, Star of the West. That search engine found its earliest occurrence in the following, which I quote again in full, since there is at least one slight difference:

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Cosmopolitical Rights

Standing up for our Cosmopolitical Rights

By John Taylor; 2006 June 20

In yesterday's essay, "Facing Cosmopolitical Reality" we looked from several angles at "cosmopolitics," literally, "universe politics," a word Kant used to describe the political order that will come about under a permanent peace pact, as opposed to the warring, partisan politics that are the mark of a truce—a truce is only a cessation of hostilities in order to rest and make yet more preparations for further, endless war. Only a permanent pact is worthy of the name "peace," and its cosmopolitics would be a wholly different animal from the violent struggle we call politics. Baha'is, we noted, are cosmopolitically involved but disengaged politically.

Kant was directly inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and we briefly looked over the latter's understanding of law. Law, he said, is a human attempt to implement universal justice by assuming a state of total equality among all members. Acts performed under the rule of law are of a different moral order because all are acting on all for the sake of divine justice. Kant called this jus cosmopoliticum, or cosmopolitical right; from this primal right are derived freedom, equality, and all other human rights.

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Cosmopolitical Reality

Facing Cosmopolitical Reality

By John Taylor; 2006 June 19

Not long ago a deepened believer asked me loaded question, "Do Baha'is get involved in or discuss politics?" The answer is an emphatic yes and no. The problem, as so often happens, is rooted in language. English squeezes too many meanings into the word "politics" to make it possible give an unqualified yes or no answer. It would be "no" if by politics you mean partisan political parties, but "yes" if you consider, "The earth is but one country" to be a political statement, as it no doubt is. It is unfortunate that the word "cosmopolitics," a term given prominence by Immanuel Kant, has not come into general parlance. If it were, you could say, "Baha'is are non-political but at the same time fervently committed to cosmopolitical issues." Let us explore this further.

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Sapere Aude!

Sapere Aude! Enlightenment IV, Or, Two World Kluge

John Taylor; 2006 June 18

Last time we discussed a neologism from the world of high technology: "kluge," meaning "witty," a clever rig-up that serves during the modeling phase of the scientific advance, which in turn is a phase of the "religious method," since "how" and "why" serve each other, each feeding back to the other. The Qu'ran, we saw, advises those who understand to, "...listen to the word, then follow the best of it." (Q39:18, Shakir) The law of Baha'u'llah requires this morning and evening when we relate the experience of our day to the wisdom gained in prayer and reading Holy Writ. Baha'u'llah asked the leader simply to take this to the next level, to consciously choose advisors from among those who show justice and faith (that is, those who know how and why, who have scientific and moral qualifications), and then, "take thou counsel with them, and choose whatever is best in thy sight, and be of them that act generously." (Baha'u'llah, Summons, 209) This approach combines, we saw, the critical "hacker" spirit of Protestantism and the loyal, obedient integrating genius of Catholicism.

When the critical, protestant spirit predominates fractiousness picks love and community apart. Change comes rapidly but the center easily falls apart. Aristotle observed:

"For the law has no power to command obedience except that of habit, which can only be given by time, so that a readiness to change from old to new laws enfeebles the power of the law. Even if we admit that the laws are to be changed, are they all to be changed, and in every state? And are they to be changed by anybody who likes, or only by certain persons?" (Aristotle, Politics)

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One World Kluge

One World Kluge

By John Taylor; 2006 June 15


Today let us start with a new word, at least for me. It is "kludge," pronounced "KLOOJ." Kludge came into prominence in the high tech world around the time that the UHJ first formed, in the early 1960's. It means, according to the engineer who coined it, "an ill-assorted collection of poorly-matching parts, forming a distressing whole." I had confused it in both meaning and pronunciation with "fudge," (in the sense of cheating by mashing figures together) but kludge comes from a German word for "witty." A system that is kludged is cleverly put together from cannibalized parts and it works adequately; it may threaten to fail at any time because its components were not meant for the job they are doing, but it gets by. It acts as a demonstrator.

Last year, I bought an el cheapo digital camera that acted for us as just such a demonstrator, if not a pure kludge. It worked as advertised but using it rapidly exposed severe inadequacies. It had a back panel display but no viewfinder, so I could not take pictures outside in the sun. It had no flash so I could not take pictures in most indoor lighting situations. If you cut out the great outdoors and indoor situations too, that leaves very little!{josquote}It had a back panel display but no viewfinder, so I could not take pictures outside in the sun. It had no flash so I could not take pictures in most indoor lighting situations. If you cut out the great outdoors and indoor situations too, that leaves very little!{/josquote} My el cheapo digicam was an instant kludge, serviceable only by demonstrating to all of us exactly what we really needed in a camera. Our next camera acquisition was closer to the high end, "prosumer" market.

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