Reason and Faith

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Reason and Faith

Postby nharandi » Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:18 pm

The nature of reason and faith within the Bahai Faith is very important in my opinion. Baha'u'llah answers the question of whether we understand and reason with the things we obey completely or accept them without any rational proof, in the following passage. I was wondering what you guys think Baha'u'llah's answer is.. it gets kinda confusing to me.

This is taken from 'The Tabernacle of Unity' - 2: Responses to questions of Mánikchí Ṣáḥib from a Tablet to Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl


Another of his questions: “Some maintain that whatsoever is in accordance with the dictates of nature and of the intellect must needs be both permissible and compulsory in the divine law, and conversely that one should refrain from observing that which is incompatible with these 29 standards. Others believe that whatsoever hath been enjoined by the divine law and its blessed Author should be accepted without rational proof or natural evidence and obeyed without question or reservation, such as the march between Safa and Marwah, the stoning of the pillar of Jamrah, 10 the washing of one’s feet during ablutions, and so on. Kindly indicate which of these positions is acceptable.”
Intellect hath various degrees. As a discussion of the pronouncements made by the philosophers in this connection would pass beyond the scope of our discourse, we have refrained from mentioning them. It is nonetheless indisputably clear and evident that the minds of men have never been, nor shall they ever be, of equal capacity. The Perfect Intellect alone can provide true guidance and direction. Thus were these sublime words revealed by the Pen of the Most High, exalted be His glory, in response to this question: “The Tongue of Wisdom proclaimeth: He that hath Me not is bereft of all things. Turn ye away from all that is on earth and seek none else but Me. I am the Sun of Wisdom and the Ocean of Knowledge. I cheer the faint and revive the dead. I am the 30 guiding Light that illumineth the way. I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty. I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight.” 11
Consider how clearly the answer hath been revealed from the heaven of divine knowledge. Blessed are those who ponder it, who reflect upon it, and who apprehend its meaning! By the Intellect mentioned above is meant the universal divine Mind. How often hath it been observed that certain human minds, far from being a source of guidance, have become as fetters upon the feet of the wayfarers and prevented them from treading the straight Path! The lesser intellect being thus circumscribed, one must search after Him Who is the ultimate Source of knowledge and strive to recognize Him. And should one come to acknowledge that Source round Whom every mind doth revolve, then whatsoever He should ordain is the expression of the dictates of a consummate wisdom. His very Being, even as the sun, is distinct from all else beside Him. The whole duty of man is to recognize Him; once this hath been achieved, then whatsoever He may please to ordain is binding and in full accordance with the requirements of divine wisdom. Thus 31 have ordinances and prohibitions of every kind been laid down by the Prophets of the past, even unto the earliest times.
Certain deeds that are undertaken in this day are intended to emblazon the name of God, and the Pen of the Most High hath fixed a recompense for those who perform them. Indeed, should any soul breathe but a fleeting breath for the sake of God, his recompense will become manifest, as attested by this mighty verse which was sent down from the empyrean of the Divine Will to the Lord of Mecca, 12blessed and glorified be He: “We did not appoint that which Thou wouldst have to be the Qiblih, but that We might know him who followeth the Apostle from him who turneth on his heels.” 13
Were anyone to meditate upon this blessed and transcendent Revelation and to ponder the verses that have been sent down, he would readily bear witness that the one true God is immeasurably exalted above His creatures, and that the knowledge of all things hath ever been and shall ever remain with Him. Every fair-minded soul, moreover, will testify that whosoever faileth to embrace the truth of this most great Revelation will find himself powerless 32 and incapable of establishing the validity of any other cause or creed. And as to those who have deprived themselves of the robe of justice and arisen to promote the cause of iniquity, they shall give voice to that which the exponents of hatred and fanaticism have uttered from time immemorial. The knowledge of all things is with God, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.
One day when this servant was in His presence, I was asked: “O servant in attendance! Wherewith art thou engaged?” “I am penning a reply”, I answered, “to his honour Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl”. I was bidden: “Write to Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl, may My glory be upon him, and say: ’Matters have come to such a pass that the people of the world have grown accustomed to iniquity and flee from fair-mindedness. A divine Manifestation Who hath extolled and magnified the one true God, exalted be His glory, Who hath borne witness to His knowledge and confessed that His Essence is sanctified above all things and exalted beyond every comparison—such a Manifestation hath been called at various times a worshipper of the sun or a fire-worshipper. How numerous are those sublime Manifestations and Revealers of the Divine of Whose stations the people remain 33 wholly unaware, of Whose grace they are utterly deprived, nay, God forbid, Whom they curse and revile!’
“’One of the great Prophets Whom the foolish ones of Persia in this day reject uttered these sublime words: “The sun is but a dense and spherical mass. It deserveth not to be called God or the Almighty. For the almighty Lord is He Whom no human comprehension can ever conceive, Whom no earthly knowledge can circumscribe, and Whose Essence none hath ever been or shall ever be able to fathom”. Consider how eloquently, how solemnly He hath affirmed the very truth that God is proclaiming in this day. And yet He is not even deemed a believer by these abject and foolish ones, let alone seen as possessed of a sublime station! In another connection He said: “All existence hath appeared from His existence, and were it not for God, no creature would have ever existed and been attired with the raiment of being”. May the Lord shield us all from the wickedness of such as have disputed the truth of God and of His loved ones and turned away from that Dayspring whereunto all the Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, have testified.’” 34
From that which hath been mentioned, it is clear that not every intellect can be the criterion of truth. The truly wise are, in the first place, the Chosen Ones of God, magnified be His glory—they Whom He hath singled out to be the Treasuries of His knowledge, the Repositories of His Revelation, the Daysprings of His authority and the Dawning-places of His wisdom, they Whom He hath made His representatives on earth and through Whom He revealeth that which He hath purposed. Whoso turneth unto them hath turned unto God, and whoso turneth away shall not be remembered in the presence of God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
The universal criterion is that which hath just been mentioned. Whosoever attaineth thereunto, that is, who recognizeth and acknowledgeth the Dawning-place of God’s Revelation, will be recorded in the Book of God among them that are endued with understanding. Otherwise he is naught but an ignorant soul, though he believe himself to be possessed of every wisdom. Now, were a person to see himself standing in the presence of God, were he to sanctify his soul from earthly attachments and evil intentions, and reflect upon that which hath been revealed 35 in this most great Revelation from its inception to this day, he would readily testify that every detached soul, every perfect mind, sanctified being, attentive ear, penetrating eye, eloquent tongue, and joyous and radiant heart circleth round and boweth down, nay prostrateth itself in submission, before the mighty throne of God.

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Re: Reason and Faith

Postby nharandi » Thu Jan 01, 2009 1:53 am

edit: i was tired when i first read this,

is it accurate to say that Baha'u'llah is saying reason and rationality should bring one to acknowledge God as the source of ultimate and perfect wisdom/reality, and then, you accept everything that comes from it

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Re: Reason and Faith

Postby coatofmanycolours » Thu Jan 01, 2009 10:44 am

"is it accurate to say that Baha'u'llah is saying reason and rationality
should bring one to acknowledge God as the source of ultimate and
perfect wisdom/reality, and then, you accept everything that comes from it"

yes nharandi; I think it is accurate. Also, I think Baha'u'llah teaches
that it is essential to seek out, find and recognize the Manifestation
of God for the age in which you are born. Upon reading His words,
you are truly listening to what God is saying now.

This is my understanding.


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Re: Reason and Faith

Postby coatofmanycolours » Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:17 am

"By the Intellect mentioned above is meant the universal divine Mind."
-Baha'u'llah as quoted in opening thread.

Friends; To my understanding, Baha'u'llah is here referring to a profound
and advanced concept. It has been voiced throughout the ages using
various terminologies, by the Prophets of God and by certain philosophers.

The Bab speaks of the concept of 'First Will' in 'Selections from the Writings
of the Bab p. 126:

"...know thou that the First Remembrance, which is the Primal Will of God,
may be likened unto the sun. God hath created Him..."

God hath created First Will Who is, as I understand it, the universal divine
Mind to which Baha'u'llah refers. The nature of this Mind is to know God
and to love God as no other being can. This Mind is nearest to God in the
order of contingency, that is, He is the primary effect emanating from the
originating Cause of all things, which is God. This Effect, in turn, is the Cause
of all other effects such as the human principle, the animal principle, the
vegetative principle, the mineral principle and universal matter/energy.

Again, this is how I visualize the subject so far. Please take my
understandings as just that -my tiny efforts to turn to unknowable God
and listen to what His Manifestation is teaching.

Abdu'l-Baha also discusses this subject in Some Answered Questions,
'The Relation Between God and the Creature' p. 203

He says:

"The first thing which emanated from God is that universal reality, which
the ancient philosophers termed "First Mind" and which the people of Baha
call the "First Will"."

See? An Intelligence Who knows and loves God and Who is universal,
relative to all beings. His voice is heard in the voice of each and every
Manifestation of God. They commune with Him, love Him, pose questions
to Him and in the human side of Their nature, revere Him and become
self-effacing, allowing Him to shine through with the rays of life.

What do you think of this concept?


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Re: Reason and Faith

Postby brettz9 » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:28 pm

I agree with all that's been said... Peter, that is an interesting correlation of passages, pointing out the First Will as apparently being a reference to the Manifestation. I had seen reference to the "First Will" in Some Answered Questions before, but in that context it seems more--umm--ethereal.

Here's the wider context:

Therefore, all creatures emanate from God--that is to say, it is by God that all things are realized, and by Him that all beings have attained to existence. The first thing which emanated from God is that universal reality, which the ancient philosophers termed the "First Mind," and which the people of Bahá call the "First Will." This emanation, in that which concerns its action in the world of God, is not limited by time or place; it is without beginning or end--beginning and end in relation to God are one. The preexistence of God is the preexistence of essence, and also preexistence of time, and the phenomenality of contingency is essential and not temporal, as we have already explained one day at table.+F1
Though the "First Mind" is without beginning, it does not become a sharer in the preexistence of God, for the existence of the universal reality in relation to the existence of God is nothingness, and it has not the power to become an associate of God and like unto Him in preexistence.

(p. 203)

One extremely interesting (unconfirmed as authenticated) passage on creation:

Regarding thy question as to the beginning of Creation: Know thou that the Truth (GOD) has eternally ever been, and so also have His creatures, for there is no beginning either for the Truth (God) or for the creatures. According to the bodies in the contingent world, the "beginning" mentioned in the Holy Scriptures means the beginning of the Manifestation, and "creation" signifies the Second Spiritual Birth: as Christ says, "You must be born again." There is no doubt that the beginning of this Spiritual creation was the Manifestation Himself, for each Manifestation of the Divine Manifestations is the Adam (of His time,) and His first believer is Eve, while all the souls who are born of the Second Birth are His children and decendents. In the New Testament it is recorded: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit." Again in John 1:13" Which was born not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
(Signed) Abdul-Baha Abbas.

(Revealed Oct. 24, 1903. Translated in the Holy City. Translation certified to by Mirza Fareed Ameen, Dec.26, 1903.)
Pub. by C.e. Sprague, 3502 Lake Ave., Chicago, Ill. Apr. 19, 08.; from the Barstow Collection, BC#286C

Elsewhere in this collection is mentioned the meaning of the stages of creation mentioned in Genesis... It makes it all so clear, beautiful, and meaningful, that it is unfathomable that people would actually want to cling to literal interpretations... Maybe this quotation reconciles the references to both timelessness and to being a specific Manifestation? (I'm a little tired myself...)

nharandi, I agree this is a very important subject. I think this portion of that which you cited condenses the discussion fairly well:

The lesser intellect being thus circumscribed, one must search after Him Who is the ultimate Source of knowledge and strive to recognize Him. And should one come to acknowledge that Source round Whom every mind doth revolve, then whatsoever He should ordain is the expression of the dictates of a consummate wisdom.

One other helpful analogy, which I recall is made explicit in the Writings, is that as with choosing a competent physician, we first find one who we trust and have reason to trust, and then, by having recognizing a higher authority, don't act as though we know better than the expert, for example, stating that we don't need to take the bitter-tasting medicine the doctor prescribes because we think something else should work just as well. But even after accepting a doctor, we can still seek to understand why a certain remedy is given, etc., and indeed being an active patient ensures we apply the remedies in the most intelligent manner. (Sometimes I think God is a bit rushed in giving the detailed answers I might like, just as my doctors are often in a rush! Seriously though, the more we focus on delving into the Ocean of His Words, the more we find the answers already there...Indeed reading the Writings is itself a prescription.)

Another set of good passages on reason and faith are the last two paragraphs of Some Answered Questions, Chapter 34,

best wishes,

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Re: Reason and Faith

Postby coatofmanycolours » Sat Jan 03, 2009 6:03 am

"...the First Will as apparently being a reference to the Manifestation..."

hi Brett; Yes, I think of the Manifestation of God as having a dual nature. For example,
in Jesus we see a man who is the Essence of Detachment -graced by a pure and perfect
heart -a lucid and receptive mind. In this mind and heart are reflected the reality of
Christ, which is timeless and eternal. To my mind, this reality is none other than First
Will, and is all-knowing and wise. Like the sun, Christ does not descend to the earth.
Assent and descent does not occur for the sun. Rather, its rays shine from a lofty
position, giving life to plants, animals and people.

In the Person of Ali Muhammad (the Bab) is mirrored the reality of the Ancient
(Preexistent*) Beauty, which to my mind is also known as First Will. As that sun rises
it shines from the meridian and is called by the name Baha'u'llah.


*[1 Jamal-i-Mubarak, the Blessed Beauty, the title which is here given to Bahá'u'lláh.
He is also called Jamal-i-Qidam, the Preexistent, or Ancient Beauty. But we shall
designate Him as Bahá'u'lláh, the title by which He is known in the West.
-Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions note.

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Re: Reason and Faith

Postby pilgrimbrent » Wed Jan 07, 2009 11:26 pm

"is it accurate to say that Baha'u'llah is saying reason and rationality should bring one to acknowledge God as the source of ultimate and perfect wisdom/reality, and then, you accept everything that comes from it?"

These quotes come to mind:

"Today, at table, let us speak for a little of proofs. If you had come to this blessed place in the days of the manifestation of the evident Light,[Bahá'u'lláh] if you had attained to the court of His presence, and had witnessed His luminous beauty, you would have understood that His teachings and perfection were not in need of further evidence. Only through the honor of entering His presence, many souls became confirmed believers; they had no need of other proofs. Even those people who rejected and hated Him bitterly, when they had met Him, would testify to the grandeur of Bahá'u'lláh, saying, "This is a magnificent man, but what a pity that he makes such a claim! Otherwise, all that he says is acceptable." But now, as that Light of Reality has set, all are in need of proofs; so we have undertaken to demonstrate rational proofs of the truth of His claim." (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 36)

"I now assure thee, O servant of God, that, if thy mind become empty and pure from every mention and thought and thy heart attracted wholly to the Kingdom of God, forget all else besides God and come in communion with the Spirit of God, then the Holy Spirit will assist thee with a power which will enable thee to penetrate all things, and a Dazzling Spark which enlightens all sides, a Brilliant Flame in the zenith of the heavens, will teach thee that which thou dost not know of the facts of the universe and of the divine doctrine. Verily, I say unto thee, every soul which ariseth today to guide others to the path of safety and infuse in them the Spirit of Life, the Holy Spirit will inspire that soul with evidences, proofs and facts and the lights will shine upon it from the Kingdom of God. Do not forget what I have conveyed unto thee from the breath of the Spirit. Verily, it is the shining morning and the rosy dawn which will impart unto thee the lights, reveal the mysteries and make thee competent in science, and through it the pictures of the Supreme World will be printed in thy heart and the facts of the secrets of the Kingdom of God will shine before thee."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, p. 369)

In my personal view, rational proofs are invaluable and essential for some people. The Tablet "The Four Valleys" describes four different kinds of seekers, and some are seekers through the Mind, but as He says, not just the human intellect, but the mind illumined by the Universal Mind.

You might also take a look at the Tablet of the Universe. Google it, it's a good translation of this extraordinary Tablet by the Master, and goes a lot into the relationship between science and revelation.

I think the mind can take us just so far. And then we have to slay the mind. We need to defy the mind, and subordinate it to the soul and the heart. And then, His promises come true and we attain to an inner harmony of faith and intellect; intellect illumined by the divine guidance in the Baha'i Writings. The mind is actually not slain, nor is it injured or distorted. It is merely hauled back from its insistence that it is capable of understanding the Divine Mysteries, and brought into its proper relationship to the other elements in the human being.

So the mind brings us to a certain point, and then there is faith, and these aren't sharp boundaries, this is an inner spiritual process. And then there is another transition from faith to confirmation, and then to certitude. At least that's as far as I can see.


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Re: Reason and Faith

Postby CasaDeFlores » Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:11 pm

It was with great interest to read the discussion on reason, reasonable mind and intellect as in the writings.
Is there more ? :-k

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