Subject: Unit 1
From: Lee & Kamyar
Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2005 16:30:06 -0400

Unit 1 Reflections - Part II
 [After reading each unit, I plan to return to the Foreward to re-examine my original questions/thoughts in light of what I've just read.  So after Unit 2, here is Part II of my reflections... but, let me apologize from the start for the length of this (and I'm sure the others) post - I am primarily doing this for me, to help me organize all my scattering thoughts and research into one place -- use it if you care to.]
 ¶1 -- If we are to find "the courage to rise above fixed conceptions inherited from a distant past", we must take a fresh look at everything.  It requires developing our spiritual faculties of sight ("O SON OF SPIRIT!  The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes."  Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words #2) and approaching the process with the following guidance in mind, "In order to find truth we must give up our prejudices, our own small trivial notions; an open receptive mind is essential. If our chalice is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life. The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one.
     Therefore it is imperative that we should renounce our own particular prejudices and superstitions if we earnestly desire to seek the truth. Unless we make a distinction in our minds between dogma, superstition and prejudice on the one hand, and truth on the other, we cannot succeed. When we are in earnest in our search for anything we look for it everywhere. This principle we must carry out in our search for truth."  (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 136).  Interesting to note that we are given the following guidance regarding "teaching":  "In accordance with the divine teachings in this glorious dispensation we should not belittle anyone and call him ignorant, saying: 'You know not, but I know'. Rather, we should look upon others with respect, and when attempting to explain and demonstrate, we should speak as if we are investigating the truth, saying: 'Here these things are before us. Let us investigate to determine where and in what form the truth can be found.' The teacher should not consider himself as learned and others ignorant. Such a thought breedeth pride, and pride is not conducive to influence. The teacher should not see in himself any superiority; he should speak with the utmost kindliness, lowliness and humility, for such speech exerteth influence and educateth the souls." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 30).
 ¶2 -- The "implications of the truth that God is one and... religion is likewise one" seem to be the behaviors we're called upon to exhibit to bring our lives into full accordance with that reality.  It is connected, for me, to the message of Baha'u'llah (see Unit 2, ¶1 coming soon).  I don't believe His message can be summed up as "the three onenesses" (though it's catchy and easy to remember).  Other Manifestations have spoken of oneness and unity ["He who experiences the unity of life, sees his own self in all beings, and all beings in his own self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye." Bhagavad Gita 6.29], indeed, philosophers and historians spoke of it before Baha'u'llah's Revelation [late 1700's, see first chapter of Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race by Ashley Montagu - I can get you the exact reference if you're interested].  Perhaps his message is more about "the implications" of that truth, namely how we as a society, as a civilization, must structure ("Order") ourselves.  [The World Order of Baha'u'llah "blends and harmonizes, as no government fashioned by mortal hands has as yet accomplished, the salutary truths which each of these systems undoubtedly contains without vitiating the integrity of those God-given verities on which it is ultimately founded."  UHJ, Indiv. Rights and Freedoms, pg.6]
 ¶3 -- In pondering how should "the believing masses of humankind relate to one another", I found in Century of Light (pg.8) that The Secret of Divine Civilization sets out "the spiritual principles that must guide the shaping of their society in the age of humanity's maturity."  (Now I have to get a copy of that, and thoughtfully study it.)
     Developing a "new understanding of religion's purpose" is second only to developing "a deep understanding of the process by which humanity's spiritual life evolves" (¶5) in subjects that have me excited enough to devote what little free time I actually get to "thoughtful study".  I'm thankful to have this group as a means to facilitate that.  As Peter Khan says in his talk on mental tests, "We are not simply spreading one religion to clutter up a world full of religions."  And as Abdu'l-Baha shares with us, "Even Christ did not become manifest that we should merely believe in Him as the Christ, follow Him and adore His mention. All these are limited in scope and requirement, whereas the reality of Christ is an unlimited essence. The infinite and unlimited Reality cannot be bounded by any limitation. Nay, rather, Christ appeared in order to illumine the world of humanity, to render the earthly world celestial, to make the human kingdom a realm of angels, to unite the hearts, to enkindle the light of love in human souls, so that such souls might become independent, attaining complete unity and fellowship, turning to God, entering into the divine Kingdom, receiving the bounties and bestowals of God and partaking of the manna from heaven. Through Christ they were intended to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, attain a new spirit and realize the everlasting life. All the holy precepts and the announcements of prophetic laws were for these various and heavenly purposes." (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 442)
     Trying to grasp the purpose of religion is something I imagined I'll be wrestling with throughout my life here.
 ¶4 -- Still meditating upon "what is the religious spirit?"  I came across this statement in Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha'u'llah (pg. 14), "[Let us also bear in mind that the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation.] Nothing short of the spirit of a true Bahá'í can hope to reconcile the principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion, and prudence on the one hand, and fellowship, candor, and courage on the other."  Which of course begs the question -  what IS the "spirit of a true Baha'i" {and how do I get one!!  : - )  }  Perhaps rampant individualism is one of the shackles on religious spirit, and can be addressed with the process described by the UHJ in "Individual Rights and Freedoms..." (pg.21) : "How noteworthy that in the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, while the individual will is subordinated to that of society, the individual is not lost in the mass but becomes the focus of primary development, so that he may find his own place in the flow of progress, and society as a whole may benefit from the accumulated talents and abilities of the individuals composing it. Such an individual finds fulfilment of his potential not merely in satisfying his own wants but in realizing his completeness in being at one with humanity and with the divinely ordained purpose of creation."
 ¶5 -- This is probably my favorite paragraph of the Foreword.  I'm inspired to further study when I hear that "the gift of faith itself" brings the "responsibility" to make use of insights from the Writings.  While searching for clues re: the process of spiritual evolution, I came across some really interesting stuff.
     "The mainspring of Bahá'u'lláh's message is an exposition of reality as fundamentally spiritual in nature, and of the laws that govern that reality's operation. It not only sees the individual as a spiritual being, a 'rational soul', but also insists that the entire enterprise that we call civilization is itself a spiritual process, one in which the human mind and heart have created progressively more complex and efficient means to express their inherent moral and intellectual capacities.
     Rejecting the reigning dogmas of materialism, Bahá'u'lláh asserts an opposing interpretation of the historical process. Humanity, the arrowhead of the evolution of consciousness, passes through stages analogous to the periods of infancy, childhood, and adolescence in the lives of its individual members. The journey has brought us to the threshold of our long-awaited coming of age as a unified human race. The wars, exploitation, and prejudice that have marked immature stages in the process should not be a cause of despair but a stimulus to assuming the responsibilities of collective maturity." (Baha'i International Community, 1999 Feb, Who is Writing the Future)  [WOW, there's that "arrowhead" analogy again; and there's a whole other evolutionary process - of "consciousness".  If humans are the tip of that one, who/what is the shaft?!  Exciting possibilities!  Just read about "the dawn of consciousness" in Toynbee's world history book, Mankind and Mother Earth, " is not surprising that the dawn of consciousness should have been followed by a million or half a million years of torpor, before Man began to exercise actively the spiritual and material power with which his awakening to consciousness had endowed him." and "..for the two million years that have passed since the first stone was chipped into a more useful shape by australopithecus is the twinkling of an eye compared with the 2,000 million years more, for which, so it has been estimated, the biosphere will continue to be habitable if Man permits."  (pg.26)]
     Found some interesting insights into the stages of humanity's evolution in the Core Curriculum materials:
        infancy - time of rapid physical, social and cognitive change; period of exploration
        childhood - vigorous growth and learning; become participating members of society by learning rules and having obligations; period of construction
        adolescence - time of real awakening of spiritual understanding and the consciousness of spiritual hunger; preparation and readiness for increased responsibility; time of change and re-examination; period of cycles of production, examination, destruction, and more production
     We're clearly in the period of adolescence ["In a period of history dominated by the surging energy, the rebellious spirit and frenetic activity of adolescence, it is difficult to grasp the distinguishing elements of the mature society to which Baha'u'llah beckons all humanity."  UHJ, Indiv. Rights and Freedoms, pg. 10].  Any thoughts on when we entered it?!?!!  Also, any one else humbled by this statement on our ability to "see" the future?
     Seems tied to the statement in the Advent of Divine Justice (quoted in Indiv. Rights and Freedoms, pg. 19), "So, far from adopting a carefree attitude, the community must be conscious of the necessity to present a correct view of itself and an accurate understanding of its purpose to a largely skeptical public."
     Indiv. Rights and Freedoms provides a few more questions to enrich our examination and deepening on this evolutionary process we're in, "We make these observations not to indulge in criticism of any system, but rather to open up lines of thought, to encourage a re-examination of the bases of modern society, and to engender a perspective for consideration of the distinctive features of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh. What, it could be asked, was the nature of society that gave rise to such characteristics and such philosophies? Where have these taken mankind? Has their employment satisfied the needs and expectations of the human spirit? The answers to such questions could lay the ground for a contrasting observation of the origin and nature of the characteristics and philosophy underlying that Order." (pg.11)
     Also found some fascinating insights into process in an address given by Ian Semple on "Obedience" (26 July 1991); check this out:
     "History has shown a tendency of mankind to oscillate between extremes of tyranny and unbridled license... [sound familiar?  Unit 2 ¶ 8 & 11]  Baha'u'llah has shown us how we can freely give obedience to the standard of truth so that obedience and freedom combine in a harmonious whole."  "To explore this concept I want to consider it in the light of five processes (all of which require the exercise of one's reasoning powers - they are the negation of the concept of blind obedience):
        1.  The first is to accept oneself as the ultimate source of authority.
        2.  The second is to recognize one's own insufficiency. (causing a search for truth)
        3.  The third is to validate a source of authority outside oneself.
        4.  The fourth is the process of understanding the requirements of that source of authority. (in order to obey)
        5.  The fifth is the role of judgement [Arabic Hidden Word #2?!] in carrying out these requirements.  The foundation for all development is to know oneself and to accept one's own responsibility for one's own life.
     We can often see these steps in our own lives, but helpful to note that step #1 doesn't/can't occur until "after" you've left blind obedience behind.  Reminds me of the following quote (#5) from the compilation on materialism for Unit 2: "Consider to what a remarkable extent the spirituality of people has been overcome by materialism so that spiritual susceptibility seems to have vanished, divine civilization become decadent, and guidance and knowledge of God no longer remain. All are submerged in the sea of materialism. Although some attend churches and temples of worship and devotion, it is in accordance with the traditions and imitations of their fathers and not for the investigation of reality. For it is evident they have not found reality and are not engaged in its adoration." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 221)
 But I'm getting ahead of myself...  that's all for now!!