Practical Mysticism of Baha'i

Aug 2017
On the greetings thread Romane said: "There is a saying - a Baha'i is a mystic with their feet planted firmly on the ground. Or, put another way, the Baha'i way is to be a practical mystic."

I wanted to unpack that statement. I'm really exicited about Baha'i and I'm reading all I can. I really love the unity to religions combined with the deep mystical vision, it's exactly what I've been looking for.

However, coming from other mystical traditions, particularly Kabbalah, Baha'i is indeed different and "practical mysticism" is a good way to say it. In Baha'i there is a belief in working towards an actual realization of the unity of God, unity of religions and unity of people even the actualization of world peace and one world federalist and democratic government. It's not a secondary political application of the faith but essential to the faith itself. Is this accurate?

The key difference is amoung other traditions mysticism relies solely on God to bring peace and unity. The Baha'i dream is beautiful but only by renouncing the world do we follow God. The world will pass away and new heaven and new earth will arise is our hope and faith.

What do you all think?

Shalom and Namaste,
Jun 2014
All mystic traditions I know of strive for world renunciation, the Baha'i mysticism included. But there is indeed a difference.

Many mystic traditions, in seeking this renunciation, seek to distance themselves from the world. That's why you have things like monasticism and aestheticism, clear attempts to separate themselves from the happenings of the world in order to attain renunciation.

And that does seem like the most obvious answer to attain that goal. If I want to detach myself from the world, my first thought is that removing myself from as much of the world as possible would be the obvious, easy way of doing so.

Though having moved through a non-monastic form of Taoism into the Baha'i Faith I am striving for something different. Renunciation, or detachment from the world, while remaining in it.

And in a sense being in the world is inescapable. Whether cloistered away in a monastic cell or in a busy city, one is still in the world, and thus one needs to detach while still living in the world. Thus there is a need to find a way to simultaneously exist in the world while attaining detachment from it. A way to "act without acting" to borrow the Taoist paradoxical phrase. :p A way of living and operating in the world while not being moved by the process of change and holding fast to the divine.

"Life and death are great affairs, and yet they are no change to him. Though heaven and earth flop over and fall down, it is no loss to him. He sees clearly into what has no falsehood and does not shift with things. He takes it as fate that things should change, and he holds fast to the source." (Chuang Tzu)
Oct 2013
Glenwood, Queensland, Australia
Good morning

This becomes a bit longish, for which Romane sincerely apologises. For one thing leads to another, and even then only the barest essentials can be covered due to lack of space. Also, a strong strong strong note – these are only my thoughts and understandings, and as such the possibility of inaccuracy stands strong.

Working without definitions can easily lead to mis-perceptions.

If we focus on the word “world”, what exactly do we mean by this? Do we mean this globe revolving around the sun and also revolving around its own self?

To this Romane would answer both yes and no.

This globe revolving around the sun can symbolise the human soul revolving around the Sun of Truth, the Ever-Lasting Being. This in turn means the recognition of the Manifestation, for recognition of the Manifestation is in itself the sole means of the recognition of God – the Manifestation is the repository of all that we can know about God – His qualities, His attributes, His knowledge and so on. (1) (2)

This globe revolving around itself can represent both the turning to the light and the turning to the dark of the human soul. We have the capacity for the utmost as angels, or we have the degredation of turning away from the light to the world of the self. We see portrayed that where ‘Abdu’l-Baha said that we are at the apex of darkness and the beginning of light (my words – cannot immediately find the exact quote)

These thoughts, however, are no more than the meanderings of a feeble mind. A far better definition of the symbolic meaning of the word “world” is found in the Writings of Baha’u’llah:

Say: By the world is meant that which turneth you aside from Him Who is the Dawning-Place of Revelation, and inclineth you unto that which is unprofitable unto you.

He then goes on to say:

Verily, the thing that deterreth you, in this day, from God is worldliness in its essence.
( Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 54 : Epistle to the Son of the Wolf )

And again:

It is incumbent upon thee, by the permission of God, to cleanse the eye of thine heart from the things of the world, that thou mayest realize the infinitude of divine knowledge, and mayest behold Truth so clearly that thou wilt need no proof to demonstrate His reality, nor any evidence to bear witness unto His testimony.
( The Kitab-i-Iqan, p 84 : Kitáb-i-Íqán - The Book of Certitude )

By implication, when the word “world” is used in its symbolic sense, we speak of that which cannot be percieved directly, only indirectly – that is, the spiritual versus the material. ‘Abdu’l-Baha speaks of the material as being that which can be perceived by the five senses, the spiritual as that which can only be seen by its effects (3) (4) (5). So, by extension, the word “world” is related to the qualites exemplified by the application of the negative of the angelic qualities – anger, avirice, greed, arrogance and etc., etc., etc. (and this can become a long discussion on its own).

As in the manner in which the material globe revolves so that every spot on the earth has a turn facing the sun, so too the human soul turns toward the Sun and receives illumination. At this point, we can say that he/she/it is enlightened (i.e. reflects the light of the Sun). We turn away from human knowledge, which can become a veil to the truth, we turn away from selfishness, we turn away from our negative behaviours. We have, then, in truth, turned away from the world. Though yet walking with our feet on the physical ground, our hearts are with our spirit, which lives in the heaven.

This condition, however, is utterly useless in itself unless it should find practical application in the realm in which we live. How useful is it to have compassion, for example, if this compassion is not expressed in actions upon this earth. The same can be said for all the angelic (Godlike) qualities.

We may live in the world, but are not of the world, having willingly chosen to abandon the world for the realm of the spirit.

There is, in the Kitab-i-Iqan ( Kitáb-i-Íqán - The Book of Certitude ), an explanation of many of the symbolic meanings of words like “world”, “smoke”, “sun”, “moon”, “stars” and much more.

With most warm greetings



(1) Man, the noblest and most perfect of all created things, excelleth them all in the intensity of this revelation, and is a fuller expression of its glory. And of all men, the most accomplished, the most distinguished and the most excellent are the Manifestations of the Sun of Truth. Nay, all else besides these Manifestations, live by the operation of their Will, and move and have their being through the outpourings of their grace. “But for Thee, I would have not created the heavens.” Nay, all in their holy presence fade into utter nothingness, and are a thing forgotten. Human tongue can never befittingly sing their praise, and human speech can never unfold their mystery. These Tabernacles of holiness, these primal Mirrors which reflect the light of unfading glory, are but expressions of Him Who is the Invisible of the Invisibles. By the revelation of these gems of divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty and grace, are made manifest.
( The Kitab-i-Iqan, pp 94-5 : Kitáb-i-Íqán - The Book of Certitude )

(2) The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace, according to His saying: “His grace hath transcended all things; My grace hath encompassed them all” hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence. These sanctified Mirrors, these Day-springs of ancient glory are one and all the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the light that can never fade. Even as He hath said: “There is no distinction whatsoever between Thee and them; except that they are Thy servants, and are created of Thee.” This is the significance of the tradition: “I am He, Himself, and He is I, myself.”
( The Kitab-i-Iqan, pp 91-2 : Kitáb-i-Íqán - The Book of Certitude )

(3) Some Answered Questions, pp. 210-11 “The Physical Powers and the Intellectual Powers” Some Answered Questions

(4) Some Answered Questions, pp. 143-5, “The Five Aspects of Spirit” Some Answered Questions

(5) Some Answered Questions, pp208-9, “Souls, Spirit, Mind” Some Answered Questions
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Aug 2017
Thanks for the responses.

Romane, I loved the passages you quoted. I need to read more of these texts!

Walrus, you definitely got what I was saying about a monastic type approach. Even not being a monk you can have a simmilar view or approach to your spiritual practice. I love the idea that all my life at home with the kids and at work is my monostary.

By the "world" I meant what you said here: "negative of the angelic qualities – anger, avirice, greed, arrogance and etc". I don't mean the material, physical world.

I don't know if I have an answer to what I think of the Baha'i dream of unity. At first, it seemed naive, but with more thought I'm not so sure. After all in a sense aren't we all already one people, one faith, under one God. We just don't know it.

Theology, I've found, is often more about differing emphasis. I definitely wouldn't say that God doesn't want us all united in peace and life be that honors our diversity. I wouldn't say that such a feat though impossible to us is impossible with His help.

I'll keep reading and praying!
Aug 2017
Then I found this in the four valleys:
"The story is told of a mystic knower, who went on a journey with a learned grammarian as his companion. They came to the shore of the Sea of Grandeur. The knower straightway flung himself into the waves, but the grammarian stood lost in his reasonings, which were as words that are written on water. The knower called out to him, “Why dost thou not follow?” The grammarian answered, “O Brother, I dare not advance. I must needs go back again.” Then the knower cried, “Forget what thou didst read in the books of Síbávayh and Qawlavayh, of Ibn-i-Ḥajíb and Ibn-i- Málik,16 and cross the water.”'

I'm such the grammarian.
Jul 2017
Olympia, WA, USA
The key difference is among other traditions mysticism relies solely on God to bring peace and unity. The Baha'i dream is beautiful but only by renouncing the world do we follow God. The world will pass away and new heaven and new earth will arise is our hope and faith.

What do you all think?
Yes, this is how I see it, but I do not think most people are willing to entertain the thought of renouncing the world. First, they have to think about it before they can embark upon the journey. I do not think most people even think about it let alone know what that means. I often wonder if this is just a Baha’i concept, but other Baha’is do not seem to understand it the same way I do. They seem to think the world is just fine as long as it does not come in between them and God; but Baha’u’llah wrote that it does, so logically speaking, where does that leave us?

All this is simply my observation and maybe it is somewhat biased given I live in a very materialistic culture in the United States. To renounce the world here one has to go completely against the tide and one is alone on such a journey. I feel alone even among other Baha’is because I do not think they truly understand what Baha’u’llah wrote and its implications.

Mainly because most people are not willing to renounce the world and self for God and other, I feel the Baha’i dream is a long way off...

I am not a mystic by any stretch of the imagination but I would like to be close to God, whatever that means. ;-) I am not too interested in the “practical aspects” of the Baha’i Faith although I realize they are important. However, I tend to be very logical; so if Baha’u’llah is right, if we renounce the world then our spirits will be transported by His Word, and we will throw into commotion the Greater World... This has practical aspects because only then are we going to transform the hearts of men and bring about world unity.

Only by cleaving unto God and renouncing the world can we really be close to God, because according to Baha’u’llah the heart is one and undivided:

“Thou art God’s shadow on earth. Strive, therefore, to act in such a manner as befitteth so eminent, so august a station. If thou dost depart from following the things We have caused to descend upon thee and taught thee, thou wilt, assuredly, be derogating from that great and priceless honor. Return, then, and cleave wholly unto God, and cleanse thine heart from the world and all its vanities, and suffer not the love of any stranger to enter and dwell therein. Not until thou dost purify thine heart from every trace of such love can the brightness of the light of God shed its radiance upon it, for to none hath God given more than one heart. This, verily, hath been decreed and written down in His ancient Book. And as the human heart, as fashioned by God, is one and undivided, it behoveth thee to take heed that its affections be, also, one and undivided.Cleave thou, therefore, with the whole affection of thine heart, unto His love, and withdraw it from the love of any one besides Him, that He may aid thee to immerse thyself in the ocean of His unity, and enable thee to become a true upholder of His oneness. God is My witness. My sole purpose in revealing to thee these words is to sanctify thee from the transitory things of the earth, and aid thee to enter the realm of everlasting glory, that thou mayest, by the leave of God, be of them that abide and rule therein….” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 237-238

“By the righteousness of God! The world and its vanities, and its glory, and whatever delights it can offer, are all, in the sight of God, as worthless as, nay, even more contemptible than, dust and ashes. Would that the hearts of men could comprehend it! Cleanse yourselves thoroughly, O people of Bahá, from the defilement of the world, and of all that pertaineth unto it. God Himself bearethMe witness. The things of the earth ill beseem you. Cast them away unto such as may desire them, and fasten your eyes upon this most holy and effulgent Vision.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 304

“Know ye from what heights your Lord, the All-Glorious is calling? Think ye that ye have recognized the Pen wherewith your Lord, the Lord of all names, commandeth you? Nay, by My life! Did ye but know it, ye would renounce the world, and would hasten with your whole hearts to the presence of the Well-Beloved. Your spirits would be so transported by His Word as to throw into commotion the Greater World—how much more this small and petty one! Thus have the showers of My bounty been poured down from the heaven of My loving-kindness, as a token of My grace; that ye may be of the thankful….” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 139-140

“Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. Out of the whole world He hath chosen for Himself the hearts of men—hearts which the hosts of revelation and of utterance can subdue. Thus hath it been ordained by the Fingers of Bahá, upon the Tablet of God’s irrevocable decree, by the behest of Him Who is the Supreme Ordainer, the All-Knowing.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 279

“By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men. Upon them the eyes of Bahá are fastened. To this testifieth the Kingdom of Names, could ye but comprehend it. Whoso followeth his Lord, will renounce the world and all that is therein; how much greater, then, must be the detachment of Him Who holdeth so august a station! Forsake your palaces, and haste ye to gain admittance into His Kingdom. This, indeed, will profit you both in this world and in the next. To this testifieth the Lord of the realm on high, did ye but know it.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 212
Oct 2013
Glenwood, Queensland, Australia
Good morning MysticMonist

Romane sees all the participants in this and other threads as being on the same wavelength. That there are some differences in the way we see things is excellent, for through this sharing we learn from each other, and our understanding grows.

I don't know if I have an answer to what I think of the Baha'i dream of unity. At first, it seemed naive, but with more thought I'm not so sure. After all in a sense aren't we all already one people, one faith, under one God. We just don't know it.
Does it need an answer? You echo all our thoughts when you say “After all in a sense aren’t we already one people, one faith, one God.”

This paragraph jogged something lose in my mind (I daren’t shake my head now in case that “something” rattles ). That everything in our past has been merely a lead-up to this age and this transition the human species is now going through, which itself is but the prelude to yet a greater transition. We have been through all this before, multiple times, each time with an increasing intensity due to the increasing nature of the changes. Romane would like to briefly touch on what he perceives, as another aspect practical mysticism.

When we look around, we see three processes in action. 1 – the collapsing society around us. 2 – the increasing awareness of our oneness and the processes which are bringing in equality and unity. 3 – the spiritualisation of the human species.

Rather than repeating this next, it will be understood that each transition, there will have been great stresses. Changes in language, changes in commerce and finances. Changes in relationships. Changes in so many things And, we can also safely say, a certain amount of violence between the two protagonists; in crude terms, the for and the against. Every one of these changes took a period of time as all the adjustments were worked out. But the fact and the point of the matter is that each of these earlier changes/transitions eventually became the accepted reality, even to this day.

The first transition was that of becoming recognised and recognisable family units.

The next transition was that from family units to concrete and recognisable tribal units.

The third transition was that from tribal units to city units.

The fourth transition was from city units to national units.

The fifth transition is that which we are going through now – the transition from national units to an international unit. If we may accept that history repeats itself, we may confidently assert that the unification of the human race is certain.

This deals with points 1 and 2 above. The Baha’i Teachings speak of a Lesser Peace, followed by the Greater, or Most Great Peace. The first, if one’s understanding is correct, is more of a political unity, the second is the spiritual unity.

Lesser Peace : Glossary
Most Great Peace : Glossary

Finally, the 3rd point. Humanity has progressed in a material sense for longer than we have recorded history. With the transition now, one of the “things” we see is the gradual spiritualisation of the species. As with everything, this is a process of evolution. One would point out here that the Baha’i Teachings is not just for evolution, nor just for creation – both these are extremes, one for religion, the other for science – instead, the view, put crudely, is that of creation through evolution. As we have successfully evolved through the material conditions, this last one in process now, now we can take the next step and evolve through the spiritual conditions. From the seed, to the plant, to the flowering, to the fruit of this material growth, the conscious and recognised spiritualisation of all humanity. It is no co-incidence that our spiritual doctors, still in the very earliest stages of their learning, the psychology and psychiatry doctors, came into existence within this time in our evolution/growth.

We have grown to be an impatient species, looking for instant gratification. Now we must become patient, as the farmer is patient as he/she/it tends their crops. And Who is the Farmer of the human species?

You may find Shoghi Effendi’s description of the Ten Part Process of interest in this regard : Glossary

With warmest greetings

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Aug 2017

Thanks for elaborating. It's really helpful to explore this. In my encounter of Baha'i teachings I have a natural, almost automatic resistance to some of it. It's been great to honestly look at why that is.

Bahá'u'lláh wrote and taught in the 1800s. During that time, philosophy had multiple movements with simmilar themes such as idealism/romanticism, modernism, and structuralism. All these saw a simmilar promise of progress to human advancement in science, philosophy, politics and moral development. They saw reduced reliance on susperstition and traditional tribalism. You can even see this a bit in Marxism and in the optimism of America. Hegel was a chief philosopher of this time (1770-1831). His main view is of the Hegelian dialect. He believed you had competing paradigms that resulted in evolution to a higher, superior new paradigm. This in turn would encounter a new rivalry and would again be evolved on and on, but with constant improvement. For example, we had US and it's NATO allies versus the USSR and Warsaw Pact. The Cold War ended and the US was victorious but through the process it and the world was fundamentally changed. Now it is the democratic world versus Islamic extremism. Bahá'u'lláh of course wasn't Hegel, but there is definitely influence there.

Philosophy and the world underwent drastic change as the result of the two world wars and the holocaust as well as the looming Cold War with threat of nuclear self anhiliation. This gave rise to more skeptical and iconoclastic schools of thought like post-modernism. Paradoxically this also saw a renewed interest in evangelicalism and fundamentalism in religion as a reaction against liberalism.

So the Baha'i dream is unsettling to today's post modern and anti-authoritarian sentiments. Those world views are just part of the air we breath and it can be hard to recognize or gain objectivity.

Hegel is wrong, humanity won't progress by its own merit. History is not on an inevitable march forwards. It can just as easily slip back into darkness and there are social ills that will never be outgrown.

But neither is post-modernism right. Not everything is meaningless or realitive. God is real and closer to us than we are to ourselves. He calls us to faith and virtue in this troubled time as much as any. He keeps his promises to all his children and is our saving help and refuge.

Indeed if God were to unite the people of earth then no power could stand against him. Desmond Tutu, the black archbishop from South Africa critized his apartheid system and of every unjust regime. He said that they eventually fade, they never get the last word.
Oct 2014
Dear MysticMonist,

I can give you some examples from my own life. First of all, I have spent a few years translating some ten of our books. In that process, I realized that I became strongly influenced by the Guardian's writings. You know those never-ending sentences of his. There is a reason behind them. What he tried to show us, is that things are not as simple as we would like them to be - reality is complex.

After doing those translations, I've realized that my own thinking has developed further, and it's noticed by others.

There is one qoute from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh that I constantly use: "Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear." I keep using it in my work with complex custody cases, and often quote it. I even use it i courtrooms - and it explains complex situations. I use that quote, for example, to determine who is the best parent. People often use fear as a means to gain benefits. By using that quote, I point out the nasty psychological processes that are at work in such cases. It reveals the methods of panic mongers and instigators of witch hunts.



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Aug 2017
That is a neat story.
Your quote is from the four valleys.
Right after it is this:
"And if he feareth not God, God will make him to fear all things; whereas all things fear him who feareth God.”
Which one of my favorite passages. Fear God and we having nothing to fear, they will fear us.

Since I was doing a search for the term fear in the 7 and 4 valleys I can across this too;
"Fear God and God will give you knowledge’;

Fear in this context means respect and submission rather than panic.
Thanks again for the thoughts!

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