¶62. Sin, Evil, and Satan
The Bahá'í writings frequently make use of the symbols of Satan, sin, and evil, but they make it clear that these terms are not to be interpreted literally. "Evil" is simply a way of describing the lack of a positive quality such as "good," just as darkness is the lack of light but not a real entity; "Satan" is not a being or an independent force, but a metaphor for the bestial, selfish nature of humanity; and "Sin," while real, does not have the same sense of a concrete entity as it can in Chistianity.
'Abdu'l-Bahá explains the meanings of these terms in Promulgation of Universal Peace, 230, 287; Paris Talks 177-8; and 294-5 and Some Answered Questions, 122-5, 212-15, 248-50, 263-4, and 266-7. Lights of Guidance also contains quotations, in 403, 512-14 and 520-22.
Esslemont, 84, 150 Hatcher and Martin, 110-1 Ferraby, 152-3 Huddleston, 54
William S. Hatcher attempts a refutation of the existence of evil using philosophical logic in "A Logical Solution to the Problem of Evil," in Logic and Logos: Essays on Science, Religion, and Philosophy. One very complete study of antichrist and apocalypse imagery is Stephen Lambden's two-part series "Antichrist-Dajjál: Some notes on the Christian and Islamic Antichrist traditions and their Bahá'í interpretation," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 1.2 (1982) and 1.3 (1982).
¶63. Social Order
Bahá'u'lláh enjoined monks to leave the confines of a life of seclusion and actively participate in the world. This principle of active involvement over private pursuits informs much of the Bahá'í attitude towards the social order: the communities of the world's people, from the most local to the most global, must develop trusting working relationships and ultimately become one as family. It thus comes as no surprise that the Bahá'í social reform teachings, on matters such as justice, interreligious amity, economics, race relations, and gender equality, are perhaps the best known aspect of the Bahá'í Faith. They feature prominently in the Bahá'í scriptures and are discussed in many works, though not always in a very scholarly fashion.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 181-238 (Bishárát, Tarázát, Tajallíyát, Tablet of the World, Ishráqát, tablets in which Bahá'u'lláh advocates specific principles of social organization (all also found in Tablets)). 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 132-33, 283-95; Some Answered Questions, 273-77 (about strikes). All of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Secret of Divine Civilization is devoted to the question of reform of society; 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote it in 1875 as a treatise recommending the reform of Iranian society. An entire compilation of Bahá'í scriptural passages, titled Social and Economic Development, has been prepared to provide an easy access to the Bahá'í principles relevant to development.
Esslemont, 133-55 Momen, 34-5, 42-4, 50-3, 60-5 Ferraby, 94-107 Smith 1987, 74-80, 146-54 Hatcher and Martin, 93-96 Smith 1996, 124-8 Huddleston, 153-72
A few articles have been written exploring specific principles in detail. One of the better is Hossain Danesh's "The Violence-Free Society: A Gift To Our Children," (Bahá'í Studies, 6) which considers the roots of violence in our society and ways to eliminate them. The entire Spring/Summer 1985 issue of World Order magazine was devoted to social issues; it contained Gregory C. Dahl's "Values, Culture, and Development"; Kurt Hein's "Radio for Development"; and S. Pattabi Raman's "World Education: In Quest of a Paradigm." A volume of essays by Bahá'ís on social issues, edited by Anthony Lee and published under the title Circle of Unity: Bahá'í Approaches to Current Social Issues, includes articles on peace and the anti-nuclear movement, race relations, poverty and wealth, Marxism, and the women's movement. There was also an entire issue (1.1, Feb. 1984) of Bahá'í Studies Notebook devoted to development, titled Towards an Ever-Advancing Civilization. Brian Aull's "The Process of Social Change," in World Order, 23.3 (Spring/Summer 1989): 9-18, is the best article yet written on the subject of why Bahá'ís avoid partisan politics and advocate a unific approach to social change. Also relevant to the Bahá'í approach to social organization is Philip Hainsworth's Bahá'í Focus on Human Rights.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
A large number of works have been composed that explore the application of Bahá'í principles to social and economic development. Anne Rowley Breneman's "Social and Economic Development Toward World Peace" is part of the above-mentioned World Order dedicated volume. Moojan Momen's Bahá'í Focus on Development is one of the better and shorter works. Holly Hanson Vick's Social and Economic Development: A Bahá'í Approach is longer and offers more depth. She has also written several excellent articles under the name Holly Hanson: "The Spiritual Framework of Development" in World Order, 23.1/2 (Fall 1988 Winter 1988-89); "On Morals and Material Things" in World Order, 24.2/3 (Spring and Summer 1990); and "Bahá'í Development Strategies: A Meeting of Social Ideologies," in Charles Lerche, ed., Emergence, 145-60. Mary Fish's "The Spiritual Dimension of Social Development," in World Order, 24.1 (Fall 1989/winter 1989-90): 23-35, offers an excellent summary of the Bahá'í approach to development. A particularly useful case study of a Bahá'í social and economic development project is Kurt J. Hein's Radio Bahá'í Ecuador: A Bahá'í Development Project, an adaptation of the author's doctoral dissertation. It describes the creation of the first Bahá'í radio station and its immense impact on the local indigenous culture through its educational and musical programs.
¶64. The Spiritual Life
The Bahá'í Faith sees every action in life as a potentially religious act, and offers guidance about how to live one's life to its spiritual fullest. Even the administrative order is seen as ultimately a spiritual body, as indicated by the names given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá: local and national spiritual assembly.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 35-59 (Hidden Words); 248-49 (Words of Wisdom in Tablets 155-157); 512 (Gleanings, CXXX); 131-33 ("Tablet of the True Seeker," from the Kitáb-i-Íqán 192-194 (also found in Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 503-5, and Gleanings, CXXV)). 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 202-8. Lights of Guidance contains a section that addresses spirituality, 540-543. The compilation Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings on Spiritual Reality includes sections on the spiritual life, human spiritual nature, and spiritual education.
Esslemont, 71-87 Huddleston, 54-60, 76-86 Ferraby, 108-23 Smith 1987, 84-85 Hatcher and Martin, 101-3
Numerous Bahá'í writers have addressed the topic of spirituality. J.A. McLean's Dimensions in Spirituality stands out in its depth and comprehensiveness of scholarship. Another comprehensive treatment is H.B. Danesh's The Psychology of Spirituality, which investigates the topic largely through psychological case studies. Horace Holley's "The Angel in the Garrison," reprinted from Star of the West in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 3.3 (1990-1991), is an old (1924) but still interesting piece. William Hatcher's "The Concept of Spirituality" (Bahá'í Studies, 11, reprinted in The Bahá'í World: An International Record,, Volume XVIII, and The Law of Love Enshrined) is the most detailed treatment available. Daniel C. Jordan's "Knowledge, Volition, and Action: The Steps to Spiritual Transformation," in World Order, 7.2 (Winter 1972-73) provides an excellent theoretical model regarding spiritual growth. Jordan's "Becoming Your True Self," in World Order, 3.1, considers the nature of human potential and how to release that potential. Genevieve Coy's Counsels of Perfection: A Bahá'í Guide to Mature Living represents a useful examination of how a Bahá'í should live his or her life, written from a popular perspective.
¶65. Tests and Growth
The process of human development is fraught with moral and spiritual choices, which represent opportunities for spiritual growth. Such a point of moral or spiritual choice Bahá'ís call a test. Sometimes one makes the correct choice and does the right thing. Often one knowingly makes the wrong choice; this is what Bahá'ís would call a sin. While Bahá'í theology does not emphasize the evil of sin the way traditional Christianity does, nor does it see sinfulness as an innate human characteristic, the Bahá'í scriptures do contain many prayers that one can say to ask for forgiveness from sin.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 183 (ninth Glad-Tidings in Tablets 24-25); 188-89 (third and fourth Taráz in Tablets 36-38); 248-49 (Words of Wisdom in Tablets 155-156). Lights of Guidance, 126-37, includes notes on calamities and crises.
Esslemont, 195-96 Huddleston, 56-57 Ferraby, 81-2, 151-2 Momen, 109-10 Hatcher and Martin, 109-12
There is as of yet no "systematic theology" of the Bahá'í Faith. There are a few aspects of the religion which make the systematization of its theology a uniquely daunting prospect. One is the sheer scope of a Bahá'í theology. The writings of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá are all considered to be sacred text, and the interpretations of Shoghi Effendi to be infallible. Thus, instead of investigating the thought of just one figure, as, say, Muslim or Buddhist theologians can do, a systematic Bahá'í theology would have to take into account the thought of four figures as well as the question of any possible differences among them. A second consideration is that the compass of theology amenable to scholastic investigation is circumscribed by the fact that the primary figures of the Bahá'í Faith have revealed a more complete set of teachings than have those of any previous religion; that is, since certain theological issues, for example the nature of prophethood, have been explicated in detail by the Bahá'í primary figures themselves, the scope of investigation open to a Bahá'í theologian is wholly different than that open to, say, a Christian theologian, who must base a good deal of his or her scholarship on philosophy. A third consideration is that Bahá'u'lláh very carefully drew distinctions between what the human mind can and cannot comprehend. Many of the issues that a theologian would otherwise address, for example sacred cosmology, Bahá'u'lláh offered differing metaphors for and drew attention to the fact that all were mere metaphors. This would seem to preclude systematization. The above considerations must be tempered by the fact that each one could perhaps just as easily prove to be an aid, not a hindrance, in undertaking Bahá'í theology.
Theology is an integral part of the entire range of Bahá'í
writings. However, a few texts of particular relevance can be pinpointed. Part
two of Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Íqán,
97-257 is devoted to a discussion of the nature of God and his
Manifestations (see Adib Taherzadeh's Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh volume 1, 175-197). His Tablet of Wisdom, in
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, 135-52, stands out for its
explanations of philosophy, cosmogony, and other theological themes (see
Taherzadeh's Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh volume 4, 32-49).
Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of All Food, a translation of which,
complete with extended notes, Stephen Lambden published in
Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 3:1 (June 84), presents a
four-tiered cosmology of the worlds of God. Bijan Ma'sumián has written
a summary discussion of this in "The Realms of Divine Existence as Described in
the Tablet of All Food," in Deepen, 3.2.2 (Summer 1994).
'Abdu'l-Bahá also discusses theological and philosophical matters
extensively. Probably the best single source is Some Answered Questions.
Another crucial theological text from 'Abdu'l-Bahá is his "Commentary on
'I Was a Hidden Treasure,'" published both in original and in translation by
Moojan Momen in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 3.4 (Dec. 1985).
Shoghi Effendi wrote what is probably the first attempt at a systematic
theology with his "Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh," reprinted in
World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, in which he delineates the
stations of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and
the administrative order (see William Hatcher's "An Analysis of The
Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh," in The Vision of Shoghi
Effendi.) The compilation Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings on
Spiritual Reality includes sections on theological topics such as the
nature of God, the afterlife, and the soul.
Ferraby, 33-7, 159-61 Momen, 91-103 Hatcher and Martin, 23, 47, 116-26 Smith 1996, 65-7 Huddleston, 29-34
The early Bahá'í theologian Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpáygání's Miracles and Metaphors and Letters and Essays 1886-1913 contain many discussions of theological issues, though not written in a Western academic style. One of the first publications devoted to a single aspect of theology is Juan Cole's "The Concept of the Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings," Bahá'í Studies, no. 9. The best summary on Bahá'í theology is Jack McLean's "Prolegomena to a Bahá'í Theology," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 5.1 (1992), 25-67. Udo Schaefer has touched upon certain aspects of theology in his writings, including "Answer to a Theologian," in The Light Shineth in Darkness, and many places in The Imperishable Dominion, especially 15-23. Jack McLean's Dimensions in Spirituality, though not on theology as such, addresses many of its issues. The most complete exposition of Bahá'í theology to date is Revisioning the Sacred: New Perspectives on a Bahá'í Theology: Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, ed. Jack McLean. It contains articles on the Bahá'í Faith and apophatic theology, Liberation Theology, Pluralism, Hermes Trismegistus, and other topics. Another useful volume dedicated to Bahá'í theology is Julio Savi's The Eternal Quest for God. Another complete examination of theology, though with a slightly more philosophical focus, is B. Hoff Conow's The Bahá'í Teachings: A Resurgent Model of the Universe. John Hatcher examines the nature of the Manifestation in "The Doctrine of 'The Most Great Infallibility' in Relation to the 'Station of Distinction,'" in The Law of Love Enshrined. Moojan Momen's "Relativism: A Basis for Bahá'í Metaphysics," in Studies in Honor of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi: Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 5, discusses the worlds of God and presents an excellent comparison of monistic versus dualistic cosmologies.
¶67. Unity / Unity in Diversity
As the keyword of Christianity is love and that of Islam is submission (to the will of God), the keyword of the Bahá'í teachings is unity. The motivating theme behind Bahá'u'lláh's teachings is that he came at a time when humanity was ready to receive the teachings of one God, one world, and one human race. Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá pointed out that the truest description of the created world is unity: that religion and science are both manifestations of a single Truth and that the same principle of attraction is what binds both atoms and people together. However, recognizing and appreciating the diversity perceptible in all levels of existence is just as important as recognizing the unity underlying it; hence the principle of "unity in diversity." Favorite analogies of 'Abdu'l-Bahá are that a garden would be worthless if it did not feature a variety of flowers, and that the harmony of a single musical chord depends upon the diversity of notes comprising it. In the theological sphere, the principle of unity informs the Bahá'í interpretation of all religions as being expressions of the same truth but mediated through different Manifestations in different cultures and different times. In the social sphere, the principle of unity in diversity motivates Bahá'ís to teach cooperation among nations and amity between races.
Expressions of unity pervade the Bahá'í writings. One of the best summaries of the Bahá'í teachings on unity is 'Abdu'l-Bahá's so-called "Seven Candles of Unity" passage, in Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 30-32. Foundations of World Unity is a collection of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's addresses and writings loosely based upon the theme of unity. One of the clearest summary expositions of the principles of unity and unity in diversity is Shoghi Effendi, World order of Bahá'u'lláh, 41-45.
Esslemont, 116-132 Huddleston, 70-1 Ferraby, 68-79 Momen, 34-6, 58-60 Hatcher and Martin, 74-98, esp. 78-79
Anjam Khursheed discusses 'Abdu'l-Bahá's "Seven Candles of Unity" in The Seven Candles of Unity, chapter 16. Full-length studies of Bahá'í teachings on unity include Hossain B. Danesh's Unity: The Creative Foundation of Peace and Zaerpoor Mahyad's Educational Implications of Bahá'í Philosophy with a Special Consideration of the Concept of Unity. B. Hoff Conow discusses some of the philosophical facets of unity in The Bahá'í Teachings: A Resurgent Model of the Universe, chapter 6. Dann J. May explores its theological underpinnings and implications in "The Bahá'í Principle of Religious Unity: A Dynamic Perspective," in Jack McLean, ed., Revisioning the Sacred: New Perspectives on a Bahá'í Theology: Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 8.
The topic of unity is of course a very broad and general one. Examinations of more specific topics include the following: June Manning Thomas has discussed the social implications of unity for the urban culture in "Race Unity: Implications for the Metropolis," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 6.4 (Dec. 1994-Mar. 1995). In a similar vein, Charles O. Lerche examines unity vs. estrangement in "Us and Them: A Study of Alienation and World Order," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 5.4 (Dec. 1993-Mar. 1994). A cursory presentation of unity in the political sphere is William Barnes' "Forging More Perfect Unions," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 5.1 (1992). Christopher Buck has examined the symbolism of unity in relative depth in Paradise and Paradigm: Key Symbols in "Persian" Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith, chapter 7. The National Spiritual Assembly of the United States has sponsored two projects which sought to seek out and examine instances of racial, ethnic, and religious unity and cooperation. Though not scholarly, they provide useful sociological observations. These are Models of Unity I, which studied groups in Chicago, and Models of Unity II, which studied groups in Atlanta. Roxanne Lalonde examines a possible application of unity in diversity to environmental ethics in "Unity in Diversity: A Conceptual Framework for a Global Ethic of Environmental Sustainability," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 6.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1994). The issue of divine unity, tawhíd, has been addressed by Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Golpáygání in Bahá'í Proofs, 1`39-153.
ONENESS OF HUMANITY
The Bahá'í scriptures strongly emphasize the equality of all human beings and call for the establishment of a world where all have equal rights and opportunities.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 58 (Arabic Hidden Words, 68); 203 (sixth and seventh leaves of Paradise in Tablets 66-68); 234 (sixth Ishráq in Tablets 127-128). A classic description and summary of the Bahá'í concept of the oneness of humanity may be found in Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, 41-45; this passage may also be found in Call to the Nations, 29-32.
Esslemont, 209-10 Huddleston, 69-76 Ferraby, 68-79 Momen, 34-6, 54-9, 63-5, 81 Hatcher and Martin, 75-81 Smith 1987, 75-6, 82-84
The Bahá'í scriptures emphasize that work performed in the spirit of service to humanity is a form of worship. As a result, Bahá'ís view work in a way similar to the Protestant concept of a calling. The Bahá'í scriptures exhort even the wealthy to have a profession. Bahá'u'lláh specified that women as well as men should receive vocational training, thereby granting women the right to work (an unheard-of idea in the nineteenth-century Middle East).
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 184 (Twelfth Glad Tidings, in Tablets 26). 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 144-46. A full, if short, section is in Lights of Guidance, 623-27.
Esslemont, 79, 143 Momen, 19 Ferraby, 99
One of the only books devoted to Bahá'í perspectives on work is W. Craig Weaver's and Helen M. Bond's The Glorious Journey: a Bahá'í Approach to Work and Service, which is a popularly-written discussion of a variety of issues related to careers, corporate work, economics, and service.