Notes on Philosophy and the Baha'i Faith

Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
1) And since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one true God with His creation, and no resemblance whatever can exist between the transient and the Eternal, the contingent and the Absolute, He hath ordained that in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven. Unto this subtle, this mysterious and ethereal Being He hath assigned a twofold nature; the physical, pertaining to the world of matter, and the spiritual, which is born of the substance of God Himself. He hath, moreover, conferred upon Him a double station. The first station, which is related to His innermost reality, representeth Him as One Whose voice is the voice of God Himself . . . These Essences of Detachment, these resplendent Realities are the channels of God's all-pervasive grace. Led by the light of unfailing guidance, and invested with supreme sovereignty, They are commissioned to use the inspiration of Their words, the effusions of Their infallible grace and the sanctifying breeze of Their Revelation for the cleansing of every longing heart and receptive spirit from the dross and dust of earthly cares and limitations. Then, and only then, will the Trust of God, latent in the reality of man, emerge, as resplendent as the rising Orb of Divine Revelation, from behind the veil of concealment, and implant the ensign of its revealed glory upon the summits of men's hearts.

From the foregoing passages and allusions it hath been made indubitably clear that in the kingdoms of earth and heaven there must needs be manifested a Being, an Essence Who shall act as a Manifestation and Vehicle for the transmission of the grace of the Divinity Itself, the Sovereign Lord of all. Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth every man will advance and develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed. It is for this very purpose that in every age and dispensation the Prophets of God and His chosen Ones have appeared amongst men, and have evinced such power as is born of God and such might as only the Eternal can reveal.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 66)

3) These Manifestations of God have each a twofold station. One is the station of pure abstraction and essential unity. In this respect, if thou callest them all by one name, and dost ascribe to them the same attributes, thou hast not erred from the truth. Even as He hath revealed: "No distinction do We make between any of His Messengers." For they, one and all, summon the people of the earth to acknowledge the unity of God, and herald unto them the Kawthar of an infinite grace and bounty. They are all invested with the robe of prophethood, and are honored with the mantle of glory. Thus hath Muhammad, the Point of the Qur'án, revealed: "I am all the Prophets." Likewise, He saith: "I am the first Adam, Noah, Moses, and Jesus."
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 50)

4) The other station is the station of distinction, and pertaineth to the world of creation, and to the limitations thereof. In this respect, each Manifestation of God hath a distinct individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined revelation, and specially designated limitations. Each one of them is known by a different name, is characterized by a special attribute, fulfils a definite mission, and is entrusted with a particular Revelation. Even as He saith: "Some of the Apostles We have caused to excel the others. To some God hath spoken, some He hath raised and exalted. And to Jesus, Son of Mary, We gave manifest signs, and We strengthened Him with the Holy Spirit." 53
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 51)

5) He insists on the unqualified recognition of the unity of their [the Manifestations] purpose, restates the eternal verities they enshrine, coordinates their functions, distinguishes the essential and the authentic from the nonessential and spurious in their teachings, separates the God-given truths from the priest-prompted superstitions, and on this as a basis proclaims the possibility, and even prophecies the inevitability, of their unification, and the consummation of their highest hopes.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 108)

6) Then it is plain and evident that man needs an educator, and this educator must be unquestionably and indubitably perfect in all respects and distinguished above all men. Otherwise, if he should be like the rest of humanity, he could not be their educator, more particularly because he must be at the same time their material and human as well as their spiritual educator -- that is to say, he must teach men to organize and carry out physical matters, and to form a social order in order to establish cooperation and mutual aid in living so that material affairs may be organized and regulated for any circumstances that may occur. In the same way he must establish human education -- that is to say, he must educate intelligence and thought in such a way that they may attain complete development, so that knowledge and science may increase, and the reality of things, the mysteries of beings and the properties of existence may be discovered; that, day by day, instructions, inventions and institutions may be improved; and from things perceptible to the senses conclusions as to intellectual things may be deduced.

He must also impart spiritual education, so that intelligence and comprehension may penetrate the metaphysical world, and may receive benefit from the sanctifying breeze of the Holy Spirit, and may enter into relationship with the Supreme Concourse. He must so educate the human reality that it may become the center of the divine appearance, to such a degree that the attributes and the names of God shall be resplendent in the mirror of the reality of man, and the holy verse "We will make man in Our image and likeness" shall be realized. [1]
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 8)

8) The prophets of God are the first educators. They bestow universal education upon man and cause him to rise from lowest levels of savagery to the highest pinnacles of spiritual development. The philosophers too are educators along lines of intellectual training. At most they have only been able to educate themselves and a limited number about them, to improve their own morals and, so to speak, civilize themselves; but they have been incapable of universal education. They have failed to cause an advancement for any given nation from savagery to civilization.
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 84)

14) "The Bahá'í view on that subject is that the Dispensation of Muhammad, like all other Divine Dispensations, has been fore-ordained, and that as such forms and integral part of the Divine Plan for the spiritual, moral and social, development of mankind, It is not an isolated religious phenomenon, but is closely and historically related to the Dispensation of Christ, and those of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. It was intended by God to succeed Christianity, and it was therefore the duty of the Christians to accept it as firmly as they had adhered to the religion of Christ.
(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 495)

15) All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 214)

17) The civilization, so often vaunted by the learned exponents of arts and sciences, will, if allowed to overleap the bounds of moderation, bring great evil upon men. Thus warneth you He Who is the All-Knowing. If carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation. Meditate on this, O people, and be not of them that wander distraught in the wilderness of error. The day is approaching when its flame will devour the cities, when the Tongue of Grandeur will proclaim: "The Kingdom is God's, the Almighty, the All-Praised!"
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 342)

19) It has been ascertained that among civilized peoples crime is less frequent than among uncivilized -- that is to say, among those who have acquired the true civilization, which is divine civilization -- the civilization of those who unite all the spiritual and material perfections.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 271)

20) And among the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh is that although material civilization is one of the means for the progress of the world of mankind, yet until it becomes combined with Divine civilization, the desired result, which is the felicity of mankind, will not be attained. Consider! These battleships that reduce a city to ruins within the space of an hour are the result of material civilization; likewise the Krup guns, the Mauser rifles, dynamite, submarines, torpedo boats, armed aircraft and bombing areoplanes -- all these weapons of war are malignant fruits of material civilization. Had material civilization been combined with Divine civilization, these fiery weapons would never have been invented. Nay, rather, human energy would have been wholly devoted to useful inventions and would have been concentrated on praiseworthy discoveries. Material civilization is like a lamp-glass. Divine civilization is the lamp itself and the glass without the light is dark. Material civilization is like the body. No matter how infinitely graceful, elegant and beautiful it may be, it is dead. Divine civilization is like the spirit, and the body gets its life from the spirit, otherwise it becomes a corpse. It has thus been made evident that the world of mankind is in need of the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Without the spirit the world of mankind is lifeless, and without this light the world of mankind is in utter darkness. For the world of nature is an animal world. Until man is born again from the world of nature, that is to say, becomes detached from the world of nature, he is essentially an animal, and it is the teachings of God which convert this animal into a human soul.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablet to the Hague, p. 8)

22) This divinely-purposed delay in the revelation of the basic laws of God for this age, and the subsequent gradual implementation of their provisions, illustrate the principle of progressive revelation which applies, as Bahá'u'lláh Himself explained, even within the ministry of each Prophet. "Know of a certainty that in every Dispensation the light of Divine Revelation hath been vouchsafed to men in direct proportion to their spiritual capacity.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 4)

23) "... Muhammadanism is not only the last of the world religions, but are fuller Revelation than any one preceding it. The Qur'án is not only more authoritative than any previous religious gospel, but it contains also much more ordinances, teachings and precepts, which taken together constitute a fuller Revelation of God's purpose and law to mankind than Christianity, Judaism or any other previous Dispensation. This view is in complete accord with the Bahá'í philosophy of progressive revelation, and should be thoroughly accepted and taught by every loyal Christian Bahá'í."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 12, 1933)
(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 497)

25) Within a compass of two hundred pages it proclaims unequivocally the existence and oneness of a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty; asserts the relativity of religious truth and the continuity of Divine Revelation; affirms the unity of the Prophets, the universality of their Message, the identity of their fundamental teachings, the sanctity of their scriptures, and the twofold character of their stations; denounces the blindness and perversity of the divines and doctors of every age; cites and elucidates the allegorical passages of the New Testament, the abstruse verses of the Qur'án, and the cryptic Muhammadan traditions which have bred those age-long misunderstandings, doubts and animosities that have sundered and kept apart the followers of the world's leading religious systems; enumerates the essential prerequisites for the attainment by every true seeker of the object of his quest;
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 139)

26) Repudiating the claim of any religion to be the final revelation of God to man, disclaiming finality for His own Revelation, Bahá'u'lláh inculcates the basic principle of the relativity of religious truth, the continuity of Divine Revelation, the progressiveness of religious experience. His aim is to widen the basis of all revealed religions and to unravel the mysteries of their scriptures. He insists on the unqualified recognition of the unity of their purpose, restates the eternal verities they enshrine, coordinates their functions, distinguishes the essential and the authentic from the nonessential and spurious in their teachings, separates the God-given truths from the priest-prompted superstitions, and on this as a basis proclaims the possibility, and even prophecies the inevitability, of their unification, and the consummation of their highest hopes.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 108)

The Manifestations of God are believed to possess capacities that do not exist in humans, and this difference is not a difference in degree but a difference in kind. The Manifestations of God are not seen to be simply great thinkers or philosophers who have a better understanding than others, but that, by their nature, they are inherently superior to the average human.[6] Thus, the Manifestations of God are special beings, having a unique relationship to God as they have been sent by God from the spiritual world as an instrument of divine revelation. They are understood to have existed in the spiritual world prior to their physical birth in this life. They are also seen to have innate, divinely revealed knowledge and absolute knowledge of the physical world.[6] According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son and successor of the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, the Manifestations of God must be distinguished above any other person in every aspect and qualification, in order that they can effectively train and educate people.[7]

"The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. Through them the clouds rain their bounty upon men, and the earth bringeth forth its fruits. All things must needs have a cause, a motive power, an animating principle. These souls and symbols of detachment have provided, and will continue to provide, the supreme moving impulse in the world of being."[9]
"God sent all His Prophets into the world with one aim, to sow in the hearts of men love and goodwill, and for this great purpose, they were willing to suffer and to die. All the sacred Books were written to lead and direct man into the ways of love and unity; and yet, in spite of all this, we have the sad spectacle of war and bloodshed in our midst."[10]

In Bahá'í belief, all of the Manifestations of God are from the same God and have the same spiritual and metaphysical nature, and that there is absolute equality among them. The differences between the various Manifestations of God and their teachings, Bahá'u'lláh explained, are due to the varying needs and capacities of the civilization in which they appeared, and not due to any differences in their level of importance or nature.

While Manifestations of God are explained to have always come to humanity and will continue to do so, `Abdu'l-Bahá explained that there are distinct cycles within this process. The cycles consist of hundreds of thousands of years and are characterized by three periods. The first period involves the coming of a series of Manifestations of God who prepare humanity for a universal theophany; the second period involves the appearance of the Manifestation of God that brings the universal theophany and his dispensation; finally the third period includes the Manifestations of God that come after. `Abdu'l-Bahá stated that in the current cycle, the first period was started by Adam and extended to the time of the Báb. Bahá'u'lláh is seen as the universal Manifestation of God, and the current cycle will continue for another 500,000 years.[1]

'Abdu'l-Bahá writes in the Tablet of the Universe ("Lawh-i-Aflákiyyih") that there are infinite Manifestations of God in the infinite worlds of God.[22]

In the Bahá'í definition, there is a distinction between minor prophets and the Manifestations of God, the major prophets. This distinction is also referred to as lesser/greater, dependent/independent, follower/universal, and other similar phrases. The Manifestations of God or the major prophets are compared to the sun, which produces its own heat and light, and the minor prophets are likened to the moon, which receives its light from the sun.

The Manifestations of God are described as prophets endowed with constancy. The term endowed with constancy refers to prophets to whom a book was revealed (in which the book contained legislation) and with whom lasting covenants with God were made, abrogating past covenants. For example, Bahá'u'lláh describes Moses as a Manifestation of God and his brother Aaron a minor prophet; Moses spoke on behalf of God, and Aaron spoke on behalf of Moses (Exodus 4:14-17). Furthermore, the other prophets of the Old Testament such as Jeremiah, David, Solomon, Ezekiel, and Isaiah are described as minor prophets as they came in the shadow of the dispensation of Moses to develop and consolidate the process he set in motion.[1] There is, however, no definite list of who is or isn't a minor prophet in the Bahá'í understanding.

The distinction can also be described as the difference between inspiration and revelation. Revelation is seen to be the direct and infallible perception of God's word and is only accessible to the Manifestations of God who transmit it to humanity. On the other hand, inspiration is seen to be the indirect and relative perception of spiritual truths that each person may have access to. Bahá'u'lláh stated that at times, God chooses ordinary people to act as prophets and thus inspires them to play certain roles in human affairs; these people however remain ordinary people whose powers of inspiration have been further developed by God.[23]

It is implied, though not specifically named, that the American continents have had their share of divine revelations, which somewhat have been lost to time except in oral traditions.

Baha’i Proofs for the Existence of God

to show that belief in God can be rational and logically coherent and is not necessarily a product of uncritical religious dogmatism or ignorance. To prove proofs of God in the Baha’i Writings are logically valid and defensible. to up-date explanations for some traditional proofs which are still valid but easy to discount in their original form.

What do we mean by ‘God’? We not mean God in the personal sense, or the God-image of any religion. We mean the “God of the philosophers” i.e. an ‘entity’; Whose nature it is to exist i.e. is beyond time and Who is absolutely independent of anything else; Who does not exist in time and space, i.e. is not localized by time and space or conditioned by time; Who is absolutely immune from change or influence or limitation by anything else and is, therefore, omnipotent, and omniscient.

This philosophical definition prevents confusions and errors in reasoning. E. G. “category mistake” : atheists may assume that God is a ‘thing’ like all other things – subject to change, time, space, dependence on external causes etc. A common atheist argument: “If God created everything, who created God?” This shows two logical mistakes: (1) A category mistake in which one kind of thing – those subject to time, space and needing a cause –is confused with another type of ‘thing’ which has none of these traits, i.e. God. (2) Changing the subject: the atheist is substituting his concept of God for the religious concept. Since the religious concept of God is under debate, the atheist is changing i.e. avoiding the subject. Because the atheists’ version of God leads to paradoxes does not necessarily mean the religious concept does too. Such a false assertion is also a non sequitur – i.e. the conclusion does not follow from the premise(s).

# 1: THE “PRIME MOVER” ARGUMENT: “Such a process of causation goes on and to maintain that this process goes on indefinitely is manifestly absurd. Thus such a chain of causation must of necessity end lead eventually to Him . . . Who is the Self-Dependent and the Ultimate Cause.” (Tablet to August Forel, p. 18) “Manifestly absurd” because infinity has neither beginning nor end. In order to get to the present moment, you would have to first go through an infinite number of prior ‘steps’ or ‘causal events’. Or, to trace the source of a present event, you would have to go back an infinite number of ‘steps’ or ‘causal events.’ This is logically impossible – because you never arrive in present. Not a re-hash of Zeno’s paradox: it is not based on the infinity of ever smaller (theoretical) steps over a limited distance with a fixed beginning and end but an infinity with neither beginning nor end. This comparison is a false analogy.

# 2: The Argument of Contingency (SAQ, 5) Everything we know has a cause external to itself. Nothing brings itself into existence because to cause itself means it has to exist before it exists. This is logically impossible. “THEREFORE, “because a characteristic of contingent beings is dependency, and this dependency is an essential necessity, therefore, there must be an independent being whose independence is essential. (SAQ, p. 6) A non-contingent, independent being i.e. an external cause must exist to bring contingent beings into existence.

# 3:The Argument from Sufficient Reason (PSR): The PSR states that for every thing or event there is a reason why that thing/event exists or happened. This is the basis of all science and scientific thinking done by scientists or not. All peoples and all cultures use it consciously or unconsciously. There is no adequate explanation for the universe, i.e. nature does not explain itself. Natural / scientific explanations lead to an infinite regress.

#4: The Proof from Nothingness (implicit in the PSR) Abdu’l-Baha: “For absolute nothingness cannot find real existence, as it has not the capacity for existence.” (SAQ, p. 281) Therefore, a super-natural entity is needed to bring things into existence or to be their foundation. Nothingness is the non-existence of anything, so how could existence come from it? The ‘nothingness’ of quantum theory is not really an absolute nothing but a potential. To claim that absolute nothingness can bring something into existence is a logical error: it violates the law of identity: nothingness is not something. It also violates the law of self-contradiction by claiming “A = not-A”.

# 5: The Argument from Form and Law “It is certain that the whole contingent world is subject to a law and a rule which it can never disobey. . . “ (SAQ 6) What is the origin of natural rules and laws that gives things order, and thereby, form? If these laws come from matter, how, where did matter get the capacity to make them? And what gave matter its susceptibility to the influence of these laws or the power to influence others? If we stay within natural explanations, we wind up again with an infinite regress – which gives us no answer and no indication that an answer exists. To say we don’t need an answer is to abandon the PSR and the basic project of science.
# 6: The Argument from Design: “This composition and arrangement, through the wisdom of God and His pre-existent might, were produced from one natural organization, which was composed and combined with the greatest strength conformable to wisdom. From this it is evident that it is the creation of God and is not a fortuitous composition and arrangement.” (SAQ, p. 131) “this garden, this tree, this blossom, this fruit would in nowise have come to exist by themselves in such order and perfection. Similarly . . . this infinite universe with all its grandeur and order could not have come to exist by itself. ...(Tablet to August Forel, p. 11) “this piece of bread proves that it has a maker.” (SAQ 6) First: the actions of making the bread, like any action, lead to a First Cause. Second: Even if the composition was “fortuitous” i.e. without design, we must still seek for the origin of the laws of chance and probability – which in themselves show order and design, e.g. the laws of gravity; thermodynamics; No natural / logical explanation of natural laws is logically possible: the formation of natural laws requires other natural laws and lead to an infinite regress – and the end of logic and science.

# 7: The Argument from Degrees Because of the various deficiencies or imperfections in all phenomenal things, Abdu’l-Baha argues that “there is an Eternal Almighty One, Who is the possessor of all perfections” (SAQ, 6) The reasoning is straight forward: all phenomenal things have limitations; limitations have to be imposed in some way; what imposes the limitations must be superior to what is limited. When we apply this principle to the whole natural, phenomenal universe, it is clear that a super-natural entity or principle is needed which does not have any limitations itself. We can start with any limitation we choose – as with the First Cause argument we eventually end at a Prime Mover or Prime ‘Limiter.’

# 8: The Ontological Argument (Anselm, Goedel, Plantinga) Embedded in the argument from God’s perfection. Existence is a ‘perfection’, a predicate i.e. something positive that adds ‘something’. If you deny this (like Kant) try paying off a bank loan with imaginary money that lacks this predicate and perfection . . . If you deny this (like Kant) try paying off a bank loan with imaginary money that lacks this predicate and perfection . . . The concept of something whose nature it is to exist is not inherently self-contradictory and is not forbidden by the facts of reality. Therefore, it is possible for such a thing to exist. If existence is possible to something whose nature it is to exist, then that something must exist. If it’s possible for a necessary being to exist, it exists. Therefore God exists.

Addendum: Some Illogical Arguments Against God’s Existence Science has disproven God: God is not a ‘scientific object.’ A proper scientific object must be (1) material/physical; (2) quantifiable/measurable; (3) allow testable predictions and (4) reproducible test results; (5) falsifiable; (6) limited / focussed. God meets none of these criteria. Therefore, any so-called ‘scientific’ statement about God is self-contradictory and is not scientific. The same applies to the claim that a super-natural aspect of existence is scientifically possible. Occam’s Razor: (it’s not an axe): we do not add needless complication to an explanation. Problem: we can only say a ‘complication’ is needless if we know everything about something and can see ‘We don’t need that.’ But we don’t know everything about the nature of the universe – and, therefore cannot say God is a needless complication. Given that nature does not explain itself, God is, logically speaking, absolute necessary.

Conclusions Belief in a super-natural entity – God – is rational and coherent and does not depend on faith in revelation to be valid. The arguments for God’s existence found in the Baha’i Writings are logically valid. Whether or not someone finds them persuasive is a separate matter. The fact that nature does not and cannot logically explain itself within the framework of the scientific method, makes the existence of a super-natural ground-of-being a logical necessity.

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