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Old 09-11-2017, 11:22 AM   #1
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Will we see someday Bahá'u'llah in paintings and films?

In the Christian world, one of the things I've seen that makes Christians interested in the Faith wary about accepting Bahá'u'llah as the Christ Returned is the enormous psychological effect that Christian iconography has produced over Western civilization. Part of their brain asks "I know who Jesus is, but who is the Messiah you preach?" and by asking it, brings visual data to the place where decisions are made.

I understand the UHJ's concern about the disrespectful use that some people could potentially give to the image of His Blessed Beauty.
I understand that some film makers could perhaps not give His Majestic Figure the appropriate treatment.

Here are, though, mymain arguments in favour of a future reconsideration by the UHJ on the reproduction of images of Bahá'u'llláh. Please let me know what you think.

Argument 1. The impact of twenty centuries of a "visible" Jesus of Nazareth. We have seen how the benefits from reproducing the image of Jesus have exceed the risks by far. People fall in love of Jesus because they can link the Message of the Gospel with the image of a serene, noble, beautiful man. They've seen it in thousands of books, paintings, films, even T shirts. It is embedded in people's minds.

Argument 2. The image of Abdul Bahá has been in circulation for many decades and, to my knowledge, it has not led to any massive or significant mistreatment. On the contrary, his photographs and mute videoclips have attracted attention and sparked devotion.

Argument 3. If the Muslim countries are culturally not ready for such iconography, we could have two standards, one for West and one for the East, as we have with the dowry and other matters. So films and paintings would not be promoted in Muslim countries, but carefully introduced first in the West.

Argument 4. The one I think is more important: If we Baha'is don't do it, someone else will do it for us... and not with the intentions and manners we want. So we better take the matter in our hand and start producing art and cinema that extols the magnificent character of our Beloved One. Who could legally or ethically stop a non-baha'i artist to produce independently, against all our wishes, an equivalent of "Jesus Christ Superstar" musical? or a "Last Temptation of Christ"? How could we erase the fist impression than an Oscar-nominated film that misrepresented Bahá'u'lláh caused in the world?

Wouldn't it be better to act proactively, hiring now the best possibly film-making talent our funds could hire, and the best possible script our people could write? The cost of a single House of Worship could be invested in producing material that could touch the hearts of millions for many years!

Look at what the Mormons have done. They discarded the so-far popular images of a suffering Jesus bathed in blood and replaced it by a triumphant, glorious, powerful Jesus. Their move was a hit. The image has been reproduced now millions of times, even by Christian churches of group that otherwise attacked the Mormons. More importantly, it has brought a fresh image of a Christ that is Alive enough, Strong enough to act towards mankind.

What are your thoughts?


thesecondcoming_1024x768

Last edited by camachoe; 09-11-2017 at 11:34 AM.
 
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Old 09-11-2017, 12:09 PM   #2
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Well there's always a sort-of compromise approach. And since the Baha'i Faith grew out of Shia Islam where this compromise approach was found, it probably still applies as no Scripture to my knowledge has forbidden the practice.

The idea was basically that no person could accurately depict a prophet and it might be disrespectful to try to do so, so instead, why not make the prophet but leave his face veiled??

Often Muhammad was drawn with his face veiled by pure light and holy fire. The symbolism there was that the artist was trying to capture the radiant nature of the holiness emanating from Muhammad. Like a Christian halo... but more fiery!!:



Personally as I prefer symbolic and surreal in my art over literal or realism-based depictions, I hope for the "holy fire" veil to make a comeback in art. If nothing more than I really like the imagery of a prophet shrouded in white flame.
 
Old 09-11-2017, 02:33 PM   #3
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Dear camachoe,

I totally understand your point but the portrayal of any of the Manifestations or of the Master is forbidden. The Guardian and the House of Justice both made clear that this is not some temporary provision but part of the Law of God.

Quote:
Originally Posted by the Guardian
...the Faith can certainly be dramatized, but two things must be remembered: no personal presentation of the Bab, Bahá'u'lláh or the Master, only Their words can be used, but no figure must represent Them; great dignity must be the keynote. (1951)
Quote:
Originally Posted by the Universal House of Justice
Your understanding that the portrayal of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh in works of art is forbidden, is correct. The Guardian made it clear that this prohibition refers to all the Manifestations of God; photographs, or reproductions of portraits, of the Master may be used in books, but no attempt should be made to portray Him in dramatic or other works where He would be one of the 'dramatic personae'. However, there can be no objection to symbolic representation of such Holy Figures, provided it does not become a ritual and that the symbol used is not irreverent. (1972)
Quote:
Originally Posted by the Universal House of Justice
The prohibition on representing the Manifestation of God in paintings and drawings or in dramatic presentations applies to all the Manifestations of God. There are, of course, great and wonderful works of art of past Dispensations, many of which portrayed the Manifestations of God in a spirit of reverence and love. In this Dispensation however the greater maturity of mankind and the greater awareness of the relationship between the Supreme Manifestation and His servants enable us to realize the impossibility of representing, in any human form, whether pictorially, in sculpture or in dramatic representation, the Person of God's Manifestations. In stating the Bahá'í prohibition, the beloved Guardian pointed out this impossibility. (1977)
 
Old 09-12-2017, 05:02 AM   #4
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Thank you very much for your answer, Sören.
 
Old 09-12-2017, 10:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
Argument 1. The impact of twenty centuries of a "visible" Jesus of Nazareth. We have seen how the benefits from reproducing the image of Jesus have exceed the risks by far. People fall in love of Jesus because they can link the Message of the Gospel with the image of a serene, noble, beautiful man. They've seen it in thousands of books, paintings, films, even T shirts. It is embedded in people's minds.

What are your thoughts?
Yes, I have seen pictures of Jesus hundreds - if not thousands - of times growing up in the Bible Belt. But 99.9 percent of the time he was a white Jesus.

Last edited by ahanu; 09-12-2017 at 10:59 PM.
 
Old 09-13-2017, 09:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SoerenRekelBludau View Post
Dear camachoe,

I totally understand your point but the portrayal of any of the Manifestations or of the Master is forbidden. The Guardian and the House of Justice both made clear that this is not some temporary provision but part of the Law of God.
Dear Soeren

I would like to have clear if this is part of the "social" aspects of religion or not. When you say "Law of God", I quickly associate the term with the everlasting, universal spiritual laws that do not vary from dispensation to dispensation.

One of your quotes belong to Shoghi Effendi and the other two to the UHJ.

To my understanding, the pronouncements of the UHJ can be undone by the UHJ itself.

I know that the UHJ has no way to change any of the commandments or statements from the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and Abdul'Bahá, but I am not sure about Shoghi Effendi's recommendations.

In the absence of a Guardian, can Shoghi Effendi's views can be changed by the UHJ?
If not, I would not understand the difference in station between the Central Figures and the Guardian, regarding the applicability of their laws.

Do you have any statement on this topic from Abdul Bahá?
 
Old 09-13-2017, 11:31 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
I would like to have clear if this is part of the "social" aspects of religion or not. When you say "Law of God", I quickly associate the term with the everlasting, universal spiritual laws that do not vary from dispensation to dispensation.
Dear camachoe,

as I onderstand it this is an unchanging law. 'Abdu'l-Bahá takes this as an example in Some Answered Questions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by 'Abdu'l-Bahá
Now, consider: Christ frequently repeated that the Ten Commandments in the Pentateuch were to be followed, and He insisted that they should be maintained. Among the Ten Commandments is one which says: "Do not worship any picture or image." [Cf. Exod. 20:4-5; Deut. 5:8-9.] At present in some of the Christian churches many pictures and images exist. It is, therefore, clear and evident that the Religion of God does not maintain its original principles among the people, but that it has gradually changed and altered until it has been entirely destroyed and annihilated. Because of this the manifestation is renewed, and a new religion established. But if religions did not change and alter, there would be no need of renewal.
Quote:
Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
To my understanding, the pronouncements of the UHJ can be undone by the UHJ itself.
Yes, it can. But the House of Justice explicitly refers to statements made by the Guardian. Therefore it is marked as a topic outside it's sphere of legislation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
I know that the UHJ has no way to change any of the commandments or statements from the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and Abdul'Bahá, but I am not sure about Shoghi Effendi's recommendations.

In the absence of a Guardian, can Shoghi Effendi's views can be changed by the UHJ?
No, the statements of the Guardian are authoritative explanations of the texts and form part of "the Bahá'í teachings". They cannot be altered by anyone. They could not even be altered by another Guardian. He only could have elucidated the statements of a former Guardian and therefore contextualized them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoghi Effendi
Regarding future Guardians: they cannot “abrogate” the interpretations of former Guardians, as this would imply not only lack of guidance but mistakes in making them; however they can elaborate and elucidate former interpretations, and can certainly abrogate some former ruling laid down as a temporary necessity by a former Guardian.
The House of Justice also has the power to elucidate on the implications of the teachings but in this process can in no way contradict the Writings themselves or any authoritative interpretation made by either 'Abdu'l-Bahá or Shoghi Effendi.

Quote:
Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
If not, I would not understand the difference in station between the Central Figures and the Guardian, regarding the applicability of their laws.
The Guardian is human like one of us. He is in no way special and has - as an individual - no "better" or "fuller" grasp of the teachings, nor does he in any way have a special connection to the Divine source of knowledge. It is the institution of Guardianship which has a special function within the Administrative Order and is endowed with Divine confirmations and assistance. 'Abdu'l-Bahá is regarded the perfect exemplar of Bahá'í life and has a special station which includes an universal understanding of Bahá'u'lláhs message. Therefore he was allowed to add new topics to the Teachings even in cases where Bahá'ui'lláh did not say anything about it. In a sense we can say that 'Abdu'l-Bahá received revelation not directly from God but indirectly from His father. This is the reason why we speak of "prayers revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoghi Effendi
Whatever the Master has said is based on the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. He was the perfect Interpreter, had lived with Him all His life; therefore what He says has the same standing, even if a text of Bahá'u'lláh is not available...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoghi Effendi
No Guardian of the Faith, I feel it my solemn duty to place on record, can ever claim to be the perfect exemplar of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh or the stainless mirror that reflects His light. Though overshadowed by the unfailing, the unerring protection of Bahá'u'lláh and of the Báb, and however much he may share with `Abdu'l-Bahá the right and obligation to interpret the Bahá'í teachings, he remains essentially human and cannot, if he wishes to remain faithful to his trust, arrogate to himself, under any pretense whatsoever, the rights, the privileges and prerogatives which Bahá'u'lláh has chosen to confer upon His Son. In the light of this truth to pray to the Guardian of the Faith, to address him as lord and master, to designate him as his holiness, to seek his benediction, to celebrate his birthday, or to commemorate any event associated with his life would be tantamount to a departure from those established truths that are enshrined within our beloved Faith. The fact that the Guardian has been specifically endowed with such power as he may need to reveal the purport and disclose the implications of the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh and of `Abdu'l-Bahá does not necessarily confer upon him a station co-equal with those Whose words he is called upon to interpret. He can exercise that right and discharge this obligation and yet remain infinitely inferior to both of them in rank and different in nature.

Last edited by SoerenRekelBludau; 09-13-2017 at 11:37 AM.
 
Old 09-13-2017, 03:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahanu View Post
Yes, I have seen pictures of Jesus hundreds - if not thousands - of times growing up in the Bible Belt. But 99.9 percent of the time he was a white Jesus.
Jesus wouldn't have looked like a blond, blue eyed fair skinned European. It's most probable that He was dark with dark eyes like today's Palestinians.
 
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