Subject: Unit 3
From: Lee & Kamyar
Date: Sun, 04 Sep 2005 02:45:26 -0400

Yes, I am STILL on Unit 3.  But after this posting, I can FINALLY move on to... oh,... um... Section "4" of Unit 3...  : - )   [Just in time to start Unit 6!]

Part 2 of my reflection on Unit 3, Section 3.

We left our hero [in my best superhero cartoon voice-over] struggling with issues of the "Day of Resurrection" and realizing she should have paid proper attention to her "What is the purpose of existence?" question, which is where we find her now...  : - )

My reflections on this question led me to three wonderful resources:  Ocean (of course) - see compilation on "Existence" at ; an article by Julio Savi (yes, I really LOVE his work!) on "The Development of Humankind" at ; and a QUICK review of the first half of John Hatcher's book "The Purpose of Physical Reality: The Kingdom of Names" (indicated below by "PPR").  I'll start with my summation and follow with some of my favorite supporting quotes for each piece.  [and I believe, at some point, a diagram will be forthcoming that illustrates Savi's article and some other stuff; as well as a few comparison tables/charts that I'd love to have people's assistance with creating]

After reading, all the ideas began organizing themselves around three components of "existence": (1) physical reality/creation, (2) humankind, and (3) the soul/individual?; with various "purposes" for each (though they all are interdependent).

(1) Physical reality
    "Out of the wastes of nothingness, with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things."   Baha'u'llah.   Therefore, it is the quintessential "learning laboratory".  "Physical reality thus functions metaphorically during our earthly lives as an integral and inextricable part of our efforts to achieve spiritual development by providing both the means whereby we perceive the spiritual attributes in the first place and the tools with which we can express and acquire attributes once they are understood."  (Hatcher, PPR, p. 84)  And what's the point of all this?  Baha'u'llah tells us " superior must be the destiny of the true believer, whose existence and life are to be regarded as the originating purpose of all creation."  (Gleanings, p. 140)

(2) Humankind
    Calls to mind the notion of "carrying forward an ever-advancing civilization".  For this, the Manifestations show us "how to use one world [physical reality] to understand the other [spiritual reality], how to achieve unity and harmony in our lives and identities as human beings." (Hatcher, PPR, p.76)  A Manifestation is also "a creative force Who puts in motion the energies and laws which will cause spiritual reality to become actuated in the phenomenal world." (Hatcher, PPR, p.77) [the Divine Springtime?!!]  "There is an inextricable relationship between the two aspects of reality because physical creation is an essential part of our spiritual education, and the spiritual enlightenment of mankind is the source of fulfillment for creation.  From such a perspective physical reality and our participation in it are detrimental only when we fail to use the experience correctly, when we fail to train our souls so that we have intenral justice..." (Hatcher, PPR, p.75)  Hatcher describes "justice" as "propriety, that which is most appropriate and fulfilling of inherent purpose." (PPR, p.71); and that justice is motion (PPR, p.56).  For me, this adds depth to the concept that "verily, justice is My gift to thee..."  So we have the privilege of building the Kingdom on earth, manifesting complete justice in the world.

(3) Individual/Soul
    In order to facilitate this, we each have to "know and love God".  It strikes me that there are two components to this: an inward orientation (knowing God through knowing yourself) and the outward orientation (loving God by translating your knowledge into actions in service of humanity).  This inward orientation, in particular, relies heavily upon our primary educational tool, "the independent investigation of truth", the ability "to see with our own eyes".  The bounty of obedience to the Covenant is the gift of sight/insight.  'Abdu'l-Baha informs us that, "The bestowals of God which are manifest in all phenomenal life are sometimes hidden by intervening veils of mental and mortal vision which render man spiritually blind and incapable but when those scales are removed and the veils rent assunder, then the great signs of God will become visible and he will witness the eternal light filling the world." (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.89)  Of what benefit is sight (beyond the personal ones)?  It allows us to solve problems (see the end in the begining; be as the lesser prophets of Israel) and to translate spiritual insights/principles into actions - our outward orientation.  "Each individual has an essential part to play in the process of fulfilling human potential." (Hatcher, PPR, p.54)  "First, we come to understand the nature of an attribute or abstract quality by observing how it is dramatized in physical action.  Second, we decide to acquire the attribute by resolving to dramatize it in a similar kind of action of our own.  Third, we fulfill our noble intent, not once but consistently, repeatedly, until the repsonse becomes habitual and instinctive."  A new race of men is born - through KNOWLEDGE, VOLITION for action, and habitual ACTION (Core Curriculum).  As Savi says, life is a school for spiritual transformation.  He describes it as a process of growth, characterized by the following elements, it's: gradual, cyclical, relative, and infinite (Savi, The Eternal Quest for God, Chapter 3, pg. 17).  You'll have to read that page for more details, but here are some re: its relativity.  "All progress is relative; all spiritual attainment is relative.  What might be exalted spiritual advancement for one soul might be regressive for another.  ["The good deeds of the righteous are the sins of the Near Ones." 'Abdu'l-Baha, SAQ, p. 126]  Since each of us advances in relation to a myriad influences, opportunities, and obstacles, a true assessment of spiritual achievement must perforce be veiled to all except an infinitely knowledgeable being ["O FRIENDS! Verily I say, whatsoever ye have concealed within your hearts is to Us open and manifest as the day; but that it is hidden is of Our grace and favor, and not of your deserving." PHW #60]." (Hatcher, PPR, p.55)  Now I can really appreciate why "'The ways unto God are as the number of the breaths of [His] creatures' is a mysterious truth, and 'To every [people] We have appointed a [separate] rite' is one of the subtleties of the Qur'an." ('Abdu'l-Baha, Travelers' Narratives, p. 91).  This leads me to my favorite quote (which I have previously shared, but I like to repeat it as often as I can): "The primary task of the soul will always be to investigate reality, to live in accordance with the truths of which it becomes persuaded and to accord full respect to the efforts of others to do the same."  UHJ, "Message to World's Religious Leaders", p. 5)  Again, 'nuff said!  Hatcher adds a few more qualities to the process (see Savi above), that it's: characterized by constant motion and born of free will/choice.  "...the human soul in motion has achieved it's fundamental objective.  It's long term goal is to sustain that progress." (PPR, p. 56) and "[after explaining the value of children being "trained" to be good] ...the important progress of the young soul is taking place when that motion toward human perfection becomes freely chosen, self-sustained, autonomous.  ...human justice or salvation must ultimately derive from each individual's conscious striving." (PPR, p. 57)  Oh... and, it's difficult, "Very often pain is the feeling of inadequacy a human being experiences when confronted by a situation that he has not yet learned how to meet spiritually." (Savi, p.4)  "First, spiritual growth, especially after basic habits are formed, is gradual, painstaking, difficult...  Second, habit and discipline, instead of being restrictive or limiting, are, when applied positively to the early formation of attributes, agents of liberation and advancement ["rather We have unsealed the choice wine"]." (Hatcher, PPR, p. 85)

A closing thought, with implications for teaching and for this subject (OCF/religion):  "If a child has not been trained to persist in spite of anxiety and discomfort, if he or she has not experienced analogous situations where efforts have proved rewarding, the abstract assurance of spiritual rewards will probably not prove sufficient impetus to ensure success.  Indeed, nothing is more frustrating or cruel than to admonish a child to be good without helping him or her to comprehend what goodness means and how it is acquired. 
    "Being thus aware of the initial discomfort of human growth is particularly important when a child begins to weigh the value of moral principles against the enticements of sensuality.  If the child pursues only that which "feels good," he or she is doomed.  The same principle holds true in the investigation of religion itself.  If we search for a set of beliefs that does not challenge us, if our sole criterion for a religion is that it feel comfortable, we may be in danger of assuming that our current state of development is the standard by which to judge beliefs.  Obviously the reverse should be the case -- we need to assess our own progress by a standard which is independent of our own condition, a standard based on spiritual truths that continually exhort us to strive beyond our present state of accomplishment." (Hatcher, PPR, p. 86)

All this, and I haven't even gotten to the heart of Unit 3 on modernism and dogma -- oooh boy! do I have some thoughts!!  : - )