Entries about the mystical aspects of the Baha'i Faith, or religion in general

A mystical look at organic unity

Commoners Crown

This blog entry gathers together some of my recent thoughts on what organic unity means. I'm not sure where the idea of organic unity comes from. It isn't from Baha'u'llah that I'm aware; from Sen's book on Church and State (the passage on organic unity, pp 249-257), it must be the Guardian. A search on MARS brings up 45 instances of the Guardian using the word 'organic'. I don't want this to be a discussion on the Guardian's use of the term. I'm interested in the concepts from Baha'u'llah that might underpin the concept of organic unity.

The passage quoted by Sen, and the one Baha'is would most likely point to, is this one:

"Regard ye the world as a man’s body, which is afflicted with divers ailments, and the recovery of which dependeth upon the harmonizing of all of its component elements." (Summons p80)

The fundamental idea seems to be that we should regard humanity as a body. This is backed up by other important passages, such as this one from paragraph 58 of the Aqdas:

"Beware lest the desires of the flesh and of a corrupt inclination provoke divisions among you. Be ye as the fingers of one hand, the members of one body."

Full story...

Moving upstairs

So, what of the fast? I'll tell you. The night before last, I had a dream that I was visiting an old friend. She is the sort of person who is always on the go. Her whole life is run by the Protestant work ethic. She works hard full-time (despite moaning about it and threatening to give it away), her house is spotless and tidy, everything is done with the goal of getting it done yesterday. And she converses in the same fashion - talking a lot, doing most of the talking, and usually focusing on people's negative characteristics or tragedies. In the dream, she symbolises the Protestant work ethic side of me, the one that tells me if I'm not straining to the max, I'm lazy. I have often blogged about that aspect of me; it was a real eye-opener when I realised that that side of me wasn't the spiritual one.

{josquote}Then my friend invited me to see the new upstairs, where she now hung out. Ah, this was a revelation.{/josquote}

And so, in the dream, my friend was showing me the extensive alterations to her house. She had a whole new storey built onto her house. She showed me the new layout and use for the ground floor. She had brought in a lodger to live downstairs. He was a quiet Asian student and she showed me how she had made alterations to the back of the house so that he had space to put all his things. I saw them - his CDs, files and so forth - all stacked tidily on shelves. I got the impression that he enjoyed living there; it was comfortable and suited him perfectly. He liked to study and focus on his work. Here, things were quiet and he was left alone to get on with it. The dream seemed to be saying that this aspect of me has been put in order.

Full story...

Experiences vs. Transformation

As anyone who has known me for very long knows, I'm uncomfortable with adopting the description of "mystic" for myself, even though I have some interests in that direction. What I usually say is that I'm nowhere near disciplined enough to merit the name. But also, I feel like it sets up certain expectations in people -- or at least, I know I tend to have certain expectations of those who call themselves mystics. It's a bit like calling yourself an intellectual; it's a gentle form of bragging. I also feel like the line between those who practice mysticism and the ordinary believer are blurry. How long do you have to meditate every day before you qualify as a mystic, as opposed to a believer who tries to fit a little extra devotion into his life?

Mostly the line seems to be drawn in what kind of experiences one has, which I think is a mistake. In one sense, spiritual experiences are very meaningful -- at least those I've had are meaningful to me. But it's not necessarily a sign of spiritual progress. I've known too many people, both in real life and online, who talk about this dream or that vision, and then turn around 180 degrees on their beliefs rendering all those experiences moot -- a phenomenon that is often accompanied by an angry defensiveness. I have a real-life Baha'i friend who has swung between being super-orthodox and a disillusioned heretic mutliple times, and he's very prone to "spiritual experiences". In fact, I've seen it so often, I'm starting to wonder if there's some kind of inborn temperamental thing going on here. That these "mystical" types just tend to be mercurial.

Full story...

The Covenant: dissolving the hierarchy

(A nice academic-style title - phrase, colon, phrase - just for a change.)

Yes, this one is about the Covenant (with a capital C). What on earth is it? Administration Baha'is talk about it all the time and say it's vitally important. I agree it's important, but view it through a different lens.

The subject came up because Steve found a love song, which I'll tell you about, whose lyrics, for me, are all about the Covenant. And I wanted to share the song with you, plus my interpretation of it. Soon after I discovered the song, Steve was in conversation with a guy called Jonah, who is an ex-Baha'i and now Christian, who was telling Steve the following:

"My site is more openly opposed to the Faith than Alison Marshall’s is, but hers is from a Bahai perspective more insidious and dangerous, because she is working to dissociate in people’s minds the Faith and the Covenant. I don’t know if that’s how she sees it, but that is the upshot of her site: that working counter to the Covenant is consistent with being a good Bahai. But the Covenant is whole reason for the Faith’s existence. Without the Covenant, the Faith can’t bring unity, and the world is lost."
From a comment to the article "Moojan Momen is right" on the blog "Baha'i-Catholic Blog"

Read more: The Covenant: dissolving the hierarchy

The mirror of the soul

I have been reading the Qur'an over the last week. I opened it up because I reread Baha'u'llah's statement in the Kitab-i Iqan about the Surah of Hud:

"To them that are possessed of true understanding and insight the Surah of Hud surely sufficeth. Ponder a while those holy words in your heart and, with utter detachment, strive to grasp their meaning. Examine the wondrous behaviour of the Prophets, and recall the defamations and denials uttered by the children of negation and falsehood..." (Kitab-i-Iqan, pp5-6)
{josquote}I was struck with how the theme of the surah was exactly the same as that of the Iqan.{/josquote}

And so I opened the Surah of Hud and read it. Gracious, it was just as Baha'u'llah said: it was an account of how prophet after prophet came to earth and was rejected and how the disbelieving were therefore brought to ruin by God. I was struck with how the theme of the surah was exactly the same as that of the Iqan. I became enthralled and read on to other surahs and found them to be the same: Surah of Jonah and Surah of Thunder. I loved the Surah of Thunder; it is full of power, which I guess you'd expect from the name.

And it was a passage from Thunder that I wanted to discuss; specifically 13:28:

Read more: The mirror of the soul