Friday, March 31, 2006

Master Principle

The Master Principle, Part One

Oneness of God Series

By John Taylor; 31 March, 2006

At heart the Oneness of God is a practical principle with implications
for every aspect of life, however mundane. Call it the Master
Principle. Judaism taught the Oneness of God in legalistic terms, as
heart and soul of the Ten Commandments, making love into a law. Jesus
Christ broadened the concept, making it into a principle of the mind
and a personal virtue by setting it into a parable,

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and
love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the
other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt 6:24)

You could call this the Parable of the Boss, or even, in view of the
mention of love and hate, the Parable of the Monogamous Spouse. Our
relationship with a single boss or a single spouse is a function of
love, and the One God is love.

A good boss can offer not only money but also a stable workplace,
assurance of future security, and a single, consistent set of goals
and expectations over many years. A well treated worker naturally
feels gratitude and reciprocates with loyalty. When there are more
than one boss (or lover), loyalty is divided. Usually, especially when
the two bosses do not agree in every way (and who does?), less
goodwill is generated and compensation for services tends to reduce to
mere money.

The result of two bosses at odds with one another? Stress is increased
in the workplace for all concerned. No matter how much money changes
hands, nothing can make up for divided loyalties and a tense work
environment. As the saying goes, without your health, nothing else
matters. A study reported in the media over the past week indicates
that what used to be called "sick building syndrome" is not the fault
of the building but in fact is the result of a toxic work environment.
The stress and tension in these locations literally makes workers
sicken and die.

Relations with God are the reverse of divided, they are by nature
singular. They extend into eternity and are ends in themselves. Since
we have only one heart, the One either predominates or is overwhelmed
by lesser considerations. Mammon, ruler of avarice and greed, offers
the only alternative, many divided loyalties, plus gain. Gain boils
down to monetary remuneration, which is instrumental, a means towards
other, lesser ends. Hence the conclusion of the parable, "ye cannot
serve both God and mammon."

It is not well known in these parts that the Qu'ran also propounds a
version of this parable that builds upon and extends the parable of
Jesus in important ways. Rodwell, one of the earliest translators and
still among the best, renders the parable like this,

"God setteth forth the comparison of a man with associates at variance
among themselves, and of a man devoted wholly to a man. Are these to
be held alike? No, praise be to God! But the greater part of them
understand not." (39:30)

This wording implies that the worker may not be a slave but perhaps
one of several associates in a large partnership, albeit a dissension
ridden one. However a later translator, Yusuf Ali, maintains the
possibility that the "man" may be in a master-slave or worker-employer

"Allah puts forth a Parable -- a man belonging to many partners at
variance with each other, and a man belonging entirely to one master:
are those two equal in comparison? Praise be to Allah! But most of
them have no knowledge." (Q39:29)

The implication is clear, a worker can and should be loyal and
grateful to a single benefactor. If that happens friendship rather
than naked power predominates. This cordiality is impossible when
there is more than one boss, especially when they fail to maintain
friendship, unity or even civility among themselves. The force and
vitality in society come from our ability to unify, to feel and act as
one. The Oneness of God teaches this, albeit invisibly. Nobody can see
or conceive of God, but He is palpable, a spirit that can be sensed.
It is every bit as obvious as its reverse, a toxic workplace. As John

"No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God
dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that
we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his
Spirit." (I John 4:12-13)

The point of the Qu'ranic version of the parable is that only God is
legitimate "whole owner" and the only effective group of mortals is a
"wholly owned subsidiary" of His Spirit. Consider the wording of this
third translation, by Marmeduke Pickthall, of this same Qu'ranic

"Allah coineth a similitude: A man in relation to whom are several
part-owners, quarrelling, and a man belonging wholly to one man. Are
the two equal in similitude? Praise be to Allah! But most of them know
not." (Q39:29, Pickthall)

We notice two things here, one, what we just noted about complete and
partial ownership. Only a united, single boss can summon complete
loyalty and wholehearted friendship from her workers. All serve the
One, and all obey. When His love predominates we are "wholly owned" by
God and outward equality or inequality cease to be invidious. Freedom
from envy is part of happiness. A happy worker will be able to leave
this life and look back on his service to that one boss with pleasure,
equanimity and satisfaction. All debts were repayed. That is being
"wholly owned" by the God of love.

The second aspect highlighted here is the question, "Are the two equal
in similitude?" There is no equality, no comparison, no possible
similarity of one to many, of unity to disharmony. A worker in a toxic
workplace cannot in any way equal a single, focused, directed worker.
The first, no matter how hard he tries, only wastes his efforts and
suffers harm as recompense. The second wins in every way; he does good
and benefits from participating in the only true superpower, the One.
The Bab said,

"Say, the power of God is in the hearts of those who believe in the
unity of God and bear witness that no God is there but Him, while the
hearts of them that associate partners with God are impotent, devoid
of life on this earth, for assuredly they are dead." (Selections, 153)

In sum, the big difference between Jesus's parable and that of the
Qu'ran is that the first compares one boss with two, and the second
compares one boss with many partners or co-owners. As is evident in
the Bab's saying, from the Qu'ranic parable we get the important
expression, "associating partners" with God, which is a better way of
describing idolatry in its modern incarnations as ideology or
so-called "isms."

Is this difference so big? Sometimes I think it is and sometimes not.
As Plato's dialog Parmenides lays out at length, there is only one and
many; the one and two resolves into the one and many. But then I think
that there is only one, it has all power, there is nothing else. This
reminds me of Leibniz and his invention of the binary system, which
resolves all numbers into either one or nothing. I will strive to
arrive at a resolution to this question in Part Two of this master
principle series tomorrow. I hope I succeed because I would really
like to know.

John Taylor

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mentions of Baha'i

Three Mentions of Baha'i in the Press

By John Taylor; 29 March, 2006

I subscribe to "Google Alerts," keyword "Baha'i," which sends you an
email link to every newspaper article in the world mentioning the word
or combination of words that you request. Yesterday it sent three
mentions of Baha'i, and I cannot help commenting on them.
Unfortunately, many of these local papers do not identify where they
come from, and my knowledge of geography is often not strong enough to
help in guessing. For example the first mention comes from the
Chronicle Herald, a newspaper evidently based somewhere in Canada's
Maritime provinces. Here is the link:


Their correspondent is taking a tour of Israel, and the brief mention
of Baha'i comes when he or she enters Haifa,

"Sunday is Israel's first business day of the week and presents busy
traffic and open shops in downtown Haifa. This city is the home base
of the Baha'i faith, with its 5.5 million worldwide adherents to its
philosophy of peace and understanding. We stop at the magnificent
Baha'i Gardens, 18 tiers of symmetrical, immaculate trees, shrubs and
flowers on the slope of Mount Carmel, anchored by the domed Baha'i

A positive comment, though of course there are nineteen terraces if
you include that whereon the Shrine of the Bab and other buildings

The second mention of Baha'i comes in an American paper called the
Bennington Banner in an editorial called, "Help Not Wanted." It
expresses misgivings about US support for regimes in Iraq and
Afghanistan, neither of which recognizes fundamental rights of
conscience and freedom of religion. The editorialist comments,

"About five years ago, the United States invaded Afghanistan. Since
then, President George W. Bush has often referred to the Afghan
government as an ally in his war of terror. Further, Bush refers to
Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, as his friend. Some friend and
ally, we say. Afghanistan's legal branch recently sentenced an Afghan
man to death for converting from Islam to Christianity. Thankfully, a
court on Sunday dismissed the case against him. Try converting in this
country - whether from Judaism to Christianity, Christianity to Islam,
Islam to Baha'i, what have you - and the worst thing you'll get is a
few of your friends throwing you a party of some sort. Not in
Afghanistan, though. There, they hang you, at the very least, threaten
to do so." <>

Is it a coincidence that "Baha'i" is mentioned here? Could it be that
this writer is aware of the recent call of the Baha'i International
Community that the UN inscribe in its renewed charter and perhaps even
in the Declaration of Human Rights a new, universal "right to convert"
from one religion to another? I have no way of knowing that -- short
of calling the fellow up, and I hate the telephone. Still, I am
curious about his obscure comment about holding a "conversion party."
Does he mean the funeral that some families hold for those who convert
away from their religion? Or perhaps it is a more positive sort of
party. Maybe someday there will be big bucks in conversion parties, as
there is now for birthday parties and weddings. Who knows? In any
case, the BIC seems to be having a surprising amount of influence in
their declarations and statements.

The third and final mention comes in an article from somewhere in New
Jersey called "Talk sparks ire at interfaith event," by a reporter
with the email, <>. This is the most startling
mention that I have seen for quite a while. I cannot keep from going
into it in detail. It discusses a minor kafuffle provoked by a Baha'i
speaker at a very large interfaith gathering of over three hundred
souls called the "Annual Interfaith Brotherhood-Sisterhood Brunch. The
reporter comments,

"But when 350 people from six different faiths gather in the same
hotel ballroom, there is bound to be some disagreement. And there was,
when a keynote speaker's address about the persecution of Baha'is in
Iran touched off anger among some Muslim attendees. Adherents of the
Baha'i religion, who number 5 million worldwide, claim that hundreds
in Iran have been killed or imprisoned or prevented from practicing
basic tenets since the 1970s. The monotheistic religion originated in
Persia in 1844 and is now Iran's biggest minority group. William L. H.
Roberts, a national Baha'i leader, spoke about "Freedom to Believe."
He condemned the Iranian government's "policy of slow, constant
strangulation, discrimination and persecution."

"Roberts called for those gathered to speak out against all religious
persecution, and used as another example an Afghan man who had been
facing possible execution for converting from Islam to Christianity. A
court has dismissed the case, which set off an outcry in the United
States and other nations. An official in Afghanistan said the man,
Abdul Rahman, could soon walk free, perhaps as early as today. ...
Besides religious persecution, Roberts asked members to speak out
against genocide in Darfur. He spoke about freedom to worship as a
"basic human right," and used as another example of the abuse of this
right the persecution of a native religious group in Brazil."

The reporter spoke afterwards to an organizer of the brunch to get a
reaction, and she "did not think Roberts meant to be divisive.
`Because he is a Baha'i, and because he's involved in the national
Baha'i community, he's connected to the issues that resonate with his
people,' she said. She added that differences in opinion between
groups are a natural occurrence of the growth of the
Brotherhood-Sisterhood coalition." The more or less official Muslim
response was given by the next speaker.

"Darul Islah Imam Saeed Qureshi, who spoke after Roberts, apologized
for the persecution of Baha'is in Iran, but also asked those gathered
not to judge all Muslims by the actions of a few. `Today we are
together with Muslims who you see and experience as peaceful humans.
There are others that call themselves terrorists.' If you judge all
Muslims by the actions of the terrorists, he said, `there will never
be peace.'"

I note that he is implying that the Mullocrats of Iran are
"terrorists," which may be a bit harsh. Everybody knows that a
legitimate government cannot be terrorist, only those who oppose them,
or fall for whatever reason into their bad books. Iranian Jews and
Baha'is are spies and terrorists; the Mullahs are not using terror,
only discipline and self-defense against the subversion of people who
arrogantly dare to hold on to alternative belief systems. The reaction
to the Baha'i speaker among the rank and file of Muslims present was
less balanced and muted. The reporter reports:

"Several Muslims said after the speech that they were offended by what
they saw as Roberts' singling out of Islam as a persecuting religion.
`I felt that he's bashing Islam indirectly,' said Mehdi Eliefifi,
president of the New Jersey Outreach Group, which works to bring
different faiths together. `It feeds into the stereotype, putting
examples of bad behavior of individuals and governments as being the
main theme of Islam,' he said."

The stereotype this guy is speaking of is real and harmful. Still, the
term "Oriental tyranny" has been the operative descriptor of Islamic
lands for centuries. This stereotype but also historical fact. No
historian would dispute how notoriously corrupt and tyrannical most,
if not all, nominally Islamic governments have been throughout the
Middle East over the past thousand years and more. It is a stereotype,
like the oppression and degradation of women. However, the fact that
it has been true for so long is no reason to assume that it need
continue, or that there are inherent reasons for it beyond ignorance.
That indeed would be a prejudice born of a stereotype. Having high
expectations for an Islamic regime, then, is the reverse of
prejudicial, just as would be having high expectations for a girl in
achieving as much as a boy in life.

At heart is the question, yes Muslims are being singled out, but are
they being picked out unfairly? They would be if the government of
Iran were composed of many faiths, and all were dipping their hands in
Baha'i blood equally. But the fact remains that this ugly persecution
is all done by Mullahs in the name of Islam. Indeed, much more
explicitly so in Revolutionary Iran than in any nominally Muslim
regime over the past millennium. The Iranian government very pointedly
calls itself the "Islamic Republic." So their actions are an explicit
blot to all Muslims, everywhere. You cannot get around that fact. Get
over it, my Muslim brothers and sisters.

It would be hard to criticize what this Baha'i said on that day
without being there personally. The Master Himself on several
occasions stepped over an invisible line and offended the precious
sensibilities of religious bigots in His audiences. Still, I think he
might have assuaged the Muslims present a bit more had he laid
emphasis on the fact that Baha'is revere Muhammad and His faith,
Islam, as much as any Muslim. There is no reason to think that Baha'is
would ever "bash" Muslims. God forbid! No Baha'i could bash Islam
since we believe in it ourselves. We consider Muslims closer to our
hearts than any other world faith; unlike other faiths, we read the
Qu'ran and revere all that it teaches.

Consider this. If there are five million Baha'is in the world, and say
four million of them come from non-Muslim backgrounds, then you could
say that Baha'u'llah has in effect "converted" over four million souls
to a deep conviction in the divinity of Muhammad and Islam. How many
Muslims, no matter how prominent and devout, can say that they have
converted four million people? Not very many, I can tell you that.
Baha'u'llah has done more to blazon the glory of Islam than any
Muslim. He has brought no dishonor to this Faith, unlike those
hate-filled Iranian fops resplendent in their reactionary beards and
flowing robes bullying every helpless minority that comes under their

John Taylor

Monday, March 27, 2006

Beginning of Universal Language

Heraclitus, Logos and the Beginning of Universal Language

Oneness of God Essay Series

By John Taylor; 26 March, 2006

Heraclitus resists more than most the usual sound-bite stereotype of
his thought since he taught that ideas are themselves reductionist
distortions and only resolve into opposites and contradiction. He
opposed the idealism of Parmenides, who believed that nothing can
possibly be moved at any time. On the contrary, our world is in
constant flux; you cannot reduce it to a single permanent reality. His
best known quip is that "one cannot step into the same river twice."
More elaborately, Aristotle reports that he said,

"Things grasped together: things whole, things not whole; being
brought together, being separated; consonant, dissonant. Out of all
things one thing, and out of one thing, all things." (Heraclitus,
Fragment 10, qi Aristotle, De mundo 5.396b20)

Although "change reposes," the fact that everything compulsorily
alternates from contrary to contrary means that "it is weariness to
keep toiling at the same things and always beginning again." (Six
Enneads) He did not carry this to a relativist extreme (though his
followers, the Heracliteans, did) for he believed that behind it all
sits that conductor prompting the symphony of change that he called
logos, word or reason. Plotinus points out that Heraclitus had a
"sense of bodily forms as things of ceaseless process and passage,
(and) knows the One as eternal and intellectual." (Six Enneads) Also,
Aristotle hinted that Heraclitus also came to grips with a form of the
self-annihilating liar's paradox,

"While the doctrine of Heraclitus, that all things are and are not,
seems to make everything true, that of Anaxagoras, that there is an
intermediate between the terms of a contradiction, seems to make
everything false; for when things are mixed, the mixture is neither
good nor not-good, so that one cannot say anything that is true."
(Aristotle, Metaphysics)

Heraclitus seems to have discerned the discovery of Twentieth Century
science that most cells in the human body are constantly dying and
being reborn over a seven year cycle, that there is no such thing as a
singular "me," for what am "I" but a huge colony of diverse living
entities. In my gut are wild bacteria very dangerous outside the
stomach, in my mouth are many forms of life, including amoebae. My
brain tosses about signals, images, words and ideas that lived
centuries before my birth and will continue for millennia after I die.
The minerals and substances that make up my body soon will recycle
into any number of other life forms. There is no me, only us, and I
can never have complete solitude, for in mind and body I am a colony
of many living beings.

The lasting contribution of Heraclitus is not to point out the
obvious, that all things move and remain in flux, but rather the
implication that the dance of everything is mediated by language, by
the words, meanings, signs and semiotics that inform, convey and limit
thought. The fact that all else ends in self destructing
contradictions means "not that something is or is not, but that
something has a meaning, so that we must argue from a definition, viz.
by assuming what falsity or truth means." (Aristotle, Metaphysics)
Ultimately, the only thing we can see, say or think is in and about
Logos, for all else reduces to contradiction and nothingness.

One follower of Heraclitus was Cratylus, who is said to have taught
Plato philosophy before Socrates took over the job. He took the
linguistic result of Logos ruling over contradicting opposites to its
logical conclusion; he is said to have ended his career in complete
silence, only pointing to things. Cratylus would have agreed with
Ludwig Wittgenstein, who ended his Tractatus with, "Of what we cannot
speak, we must remain silent," except that he actually did keep his
mouth shut. Aristotle describes the reasoning:

"And again, because they saw that all this world of nature is in
movement and that about that which changes no true statement can be
made, they said that of course, regarding that which everywhere in
every respect is changing, nothing could truly be affirmed. It was
this belief that blossomed into the most extreme of the views above
mentioned, that of the professed Heracliteans, such as was held by
Cratylus, who finally did not think it right to say anything but only
moved his finger, and criticized Heraclitus for saying that it is
impossible to step twice into the same river; for he thought one could
not do it even once." (Aristotle, Metaphysics)

Cratylus, even in going so far as to point his finger at things only
demonstrated how far he had slid down a very slippery slope of
self-contradiction. For if the river is so changeable that you cannot
even step into it once, how can you even point to it? It has already
become something else before you can lift a finger. Thus even his
token attempt at communication -- without resort to logos -- was
hypocritical and doomed to self-contradiction and deception.

I have gone into such detail about Heraclitus because his logos
represents the crux of the flux, a crucial turning point between word
and action; "thus far, and no further." The fact that his would-be
followers literally silenced themselves says a great deal about the
perfection of his conception.

It is no coincidence that John, the beloved disciple, seized upon
Heraclitus's notion of Logos and placed it at the center of what he
had learned from his direct and intimate experience of Jesus's life
and teaching. To understand God, Jesus's station and mission as Logos
is as close to perfection as can be imagined. Jesus, John taught,
stood as an instance in human form of logos, an entity whose very
nature creates oneness out of many. "Holy Father, keep through thine
own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we
are." (John 17:11) His sacrifice transcended all possible words, ideas
and theories, which are contradictory and deceptive. As Baha'u'llah
points out, Jesus self-silencing on the cross allowed Him by some
mystical empowerment to enter into every creative act that followed,
from then until eternity. Without Heraclitus and logos it would be no
more possible to understand Who Christ is than it would the Baha'i
concept of Manifestation.

Having all this under our belt, I plan next time to enter into another
implication of logos, the idea of a universal language for all humans.

John Taylor

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Women, Oneness and Peace

Women, Oneness and Peace

Oneness of God series

By John Taylor; 26 March, 2006

I mentioned Machiavelli lately, or at least his popular stereotype as
a coach for ruthless, amoral princes. Yet in a sense the sound bite
has been around long before the invention of television journalism.
Many original thinkers have long been distorted and mangled in the
popular mind, among the greatest victims being Jeremy Bentham,
Heraclitus, and Niccolo Machiavelli. While it is true that Machiavelli
wrote The Prince, a how-to manual for autocrats, he also wrote a much
longer work advising the leaders of a republic in how to do a much
harder task, learn from history and rule by the principles derived
there from. In my view, Machiavelli was not only a major founder of
political science, he also laid the groundwork for world government,
the rule of principle. Consider what he says here:

"This leads me on to consider how it sometimes happens that, when many
powers are united against a single power, though in combination they
are much more powerful than it is, yet more is always to be expected
from the single power, though less strong, than from the many even
though very strong, for apart from the many advantages which a single
power has over the many -- and they are countless -- there is always
this: it will be able by using a little industry to break up the many,
and to make what was a strong body weak." (Discourses, 438)

Here Machiavelli is predicting the quandary in which our world has
been sunk for many centuries, the inability of the many to stand
against a single, united sovereignty. I am not only thinking of
Napoleon, the tyrant who delighted in being matched against alliances,
but also of the current World Superpower. The American hegemony can
easily disperse any opposition it may encounter from the world
community. Right now its most urgent worry is Iran's nuclear
ambitions, which would fuel the "dirty bombs" of its terrorist client
network around the world. Once these evil-eyed purveyors of violence
carry the big stick, it would be the dawn of anarchy, a permanent end
of centralized governance. In Machiavelli's terms, nothing ever again
could be expected from a single power. Every city and large population
would be vulnerable to easily built, cheap bombs made of fertilizer
and fissile material. Any grouping with a point to make and a leaning
to violence would bring civilization itself -- Machiavelli's "many
powers" --to its knees.

Bill Clinton made a point in Montreal not long ago that I think
strikes at the heart of the issue. He said that as soon as any
religious group is willing to countenance murder to get its point
across, they have denied any role for God in their beliefs. Violence
is denial of the One True God; to deny Him is to deny life. I think
that historians will soon come to regard the Iranian revolution of the
late 1970's as the ultimate consummation of all previous revolts, all
the revolutions that started in idealism and then, inevitably, ate
their own children. This victory of fanatics marked the heart of
darkness; it began a network of terror, domestic and foreign whose
virulence was matched only by its Sunni spawn, the Taliban and Osama
Bin Laden.

It is no coincidence that many important Western feminist leaders came
to Tehran as events unfolded early on to protest the misogyny breeding
like vermin among Iranian revolutionaries. Had the world understood
the importance of women as bellwethers of danger, as markers of peace
and war, the protests would have been much more widespread. I did not
realize how true this was until I came across the following prayer for
a woman, a prayer that identifies with startling clarity the
importance of violence to the denier of One God, and how it blocks the
advance of women in particular. Here is the complete prayer:

"Thou seest, O my God, how the wrongs committed by such of Thy
creatures as have turned their backs to Thee have come in between Him
in Whom Thy Godhead is manifest and Thy servants. Send down upon them,
O my Lord, what will cause them to be busied with each others'
concerns. Let, then, their violence be confined to their own selves,
that the land and they that dwell therein may find peace.
"One of Thy handmaidens, O my Lord, hath sought Thy face, and soared
in the atmosphere of Thy pleasure. Withhold not from her, O my Lord,
the things Thou didst ordain for the chosen ones among Thy
handmaidens. Enable her, then, to be so attracted by Thine utterances
that she will celebrate Thy praise amongst them.
"Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee. No God is there but Thee,
the Almighty, Whose help is implored by all men." (Baha'u'llah,
Prayers and Meditations, CXV, p. 196)

Peace then is not a complete cessation of violence; it happens when we
redirect violence (struggle or Jihad) inward to one's own self in a
fervent struggle to perfect virtue. Seen from the outside, peace is
what happens when this internal struggle fuels effort outward in
positive ways, "busying oneself with the concerns of others." This
allies the one with the many; it endows the general interests of
humanity with Machiavelli's singular power of One.

John Taylor

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Max Headroom Principle

The Max Headroom Principle

By John Taylor; 25 March, 2006

We have been edging sideways into the notion that the Revelation of
the Bab acts on some deep mystical level as a Mother and that of
Baha'u'llah as Father. Together they are nurturing the understanding
of One God into maturity and independence. As the Qu'ran admonishes,
"No just estimate have they made of God, such as is due to Him."
(Q39:67, Yusuf Ali) Now for the first time in human history most
people most of the time will be conscious of God, His Oneness and
transcendence, as we were meant to. This new consensus upon One God
will be the foundation where the diverse, contending peoples will fuse
of their own will into one people of God. That is the mother of all
goals. Consider what God tells the Bab (Qurratu'l-Ayn) in the 23rd
Chapter of the Qayyumu'l-Asma about the purpose of His revelation,

"O Qurratu'l-'ayn! We have, verily, dilated Thine heart in this
Revelation, which stands truly unique from all created things, and
have exalted Thy name through the manifestation of the Bab, so that
men may become aware of Our transcendent power, and recognize that God
is immeasurably sanctified above the praise of all men. He is verily
independent of the whole of creation." (The Bab, Selections, 49)

One need only read "The Dawnbreakers" to witness the passionate love
for God that moved so many to give their all for the Bab. What greater
proof of God's power, sanctity and independence could there be than
these serial martyrdoms? These earth shaking events were the great
birthing, incomplete as a story but conclusively proving consolation.
Qurratu'l-ayn, "Solace of the eyes," by the way, is an Arabic
expression that refers to the relief of a mother after her
accouchement upon seeing her newborn babe alive and healthy, the fruit
of her labors. Her eyes are consoled by the new life. A martyr is a
spiritual solace of the eyes, a witness of conscience. A martyr has a
voluntary birth into the next world, spiritually a truer parturition
than physical birth. The Bab was Himself a Martyr, as were most of His
supporters. In terms of yesterday's essay, these martyrdoms would be
brilliant, spectacular flashes of "slow meteors" streaking across the
night sky.

There is one unique aspect of the events associated with the coming of
the Bab that `Abdu'l-Baha once pointed out, the fact that most often
Baha'u'llah was right there on the spot, personally guiding,
nurturing, counseling these great souls as they fought their battles,
both spiritual and literal. No religion has had such close attention
in its planting from another Manifestation of God as that of the Bab.
In the case of Tahireh, Baha'u'llah more than once had her rescued
from her enemies. These wonderful souls were in most cases personally
trained and guided by Him, and, as at Badasht, were often coached and
rehearsed in their public interaction. This Father was no absentee
"deadbeat dad." He did not distance Himself. He was there in the thick
of things, right to the end. In the darkest crisis after the attempt
on the life of the Shah, He Himself came forward and was first into
prison, the Black Pit of Tihran. Here, in this darkest, dankest sewer,
the torrent of new Revelation rushed down over His yoked head and
shoulders and spoke to him in the personification of a woman.

Baha'u'llah subsequently refined and extended the Bab's declaration of
purpose above, which is restricted to our recognition of divine power
and transcendence. His declaration of purpose includes our specific
role and reason for being, to know and love God.

"All-praise to the unity of God, and all-honor to Him, the sovereign
Lord, the incomparable and all-glorious Ruler of the universe, Who,
out of utter nothingness hath created the reality of all things....
Nothing short of His all-encompassing grace, His all-pervading mercy,
could have possibly achieved it.... Having created the world and all
that liveth and moveth therein, He through the direct operation of His
unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique
distinction to know Him and to love Him -- a capacity that must needs
be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose
underlying the whole of creation." (Gleanings, 65)

This unique distinction of a human being, the ability to know and love
God, did not come about on its own. It is the fruit of the mystic
unity between the Bab and Baha'u'llah; each is One, their Cause is
one. A sort of meiosis of their spiritual genes combines and splits
and from that is born the egg of a new human, one that knows and
loves, who in maturity can generate new life, consciously responding
to the divine purpose.

The maturity of creative power works individually and in groups. I was
forcefully reminded of this at the end of our latest Spiritual
Assembly meeting that I attended a few weeks ago. It was as if I was
asleep (not literally, I do not think) and a spiritual hand slapped me
awake with the words of the closing prayer for Assemblies. In an early
translation it starts off like this:

"O God! O God! Thou dost look upon us from Thine unseen Kingdom of
Oneness, [beholding] that we have assembled in this Spiritual Meeting,
believing in Thee, confident in Thy signs, firm in Thy Covenant and
Testament, attracted unto Thee, set aglow with the fire of Thy love,
sincere in Thy Cause, servants in Thy vineyard, spreaders of Thy
Religion, worshipers of Thy Countenance, humble to Thy beloved,
submissive at Thy door and imploring Thee to confirm us in the service
of Thy chosen ones. Support us with Thine unseen hosts, strengthen our
loins in Thy servitude and make us submissive and worshipping
servants, communing with Thee." (`Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha
v1, p. 16)

Even if I thought I was awake in the Assembly meeting, how could I
have been? Who could bear in mind this long list of explosive virtues
and attitudes? It is too much to take in consciously.

I did a word search and found that this is the only prayer that starts
off with the image of God looking down from the "unseen Kingdom of
Oneness." Why only in this Assembly prayer? Puzzling over that, I
named several of these essays "unseen heights" because the image of a
knowing but unseen Overseer haunted me. The prayer pictures
unforgettably what the principle of Oneness of God seems to be about,
about maximum headroom, about beholding and being beheld by an unseen
kingdom and as a result thinking "outside the box" of former human

I think this prayer was meant to shake us awake at the close. None of
the virtues invoked is traditionally associated with power. It is
startling. Machiavelli's ruthless, amoral Prince is its mirror
reverse. Here is a wholly new concept of power, the fruit of the Bab's
goal, "that men may become aware of Our transcendent power..." If God
has all power, we have only humility, knowing and loving Him like God
knows and loves us. This prayer seems just as if one were listening to
a summation address by the Exemplar, Who all this time has been in
spirit sitting in a chair at table with us. He sat with us during the
easy part of consultation, the deliberation and now He formally ushers
us out of the consultative congress into the difficult part, action,
carrying out the Assembly's decisions both in letter and in spirit.

A sleepwalker cannot really be said to have a plan, but I suppose I
have gone into all this now, in the middle of talking about
Heraclitus, because one of the prime operating impulses of philosophy
and the concept of One God is to "speak truth to power." Plato at the
height of his powers went off on a hopeless mission to coach a
pleasure loving young tyrant in how to be a philosopher king. He was
aware of the inherent futility of the endeavor but he made the
attempt, saying that this is what wisdom must always seek to do. The
wise long to unite knowing with acting, love and wisdom uniting with
political power.

Jesus prophesied that this unification would one day take place. He
foresaw a spirit of truth who will guide unto all truth, One who
"shall not speak of himself but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall
he speak." Baha'u'llah echoes this in the apothegm at the beginning of
His major Tablet, "Words of Paradise,"

"He is the One Who speaketh through the power of Truth in the Kingdom
of Utterance." (Tablets, 57)

This is why the Creative Word comes first, and all follows from it.
Those who place words of truth first clue into its spirit and exude an
atmosphere of virtue, and thus gain the support of the "unseen hosts"
invoked in the Master's prayer. This is how the One is bringing about
a new cycle of human power. The Logos that Heraclitus discerned brings
order to flux and chaos, which is inherent to material existence. The
Logos is the parenting of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, which allows us to
hold Logos in our very heart and consciousness. This Word makes us for
the first time, individually and in duly constituted groups, worthy to
bear the otherwise all-corrupting force of power.

John Taylor

Friday, March 24, 2006

Slow Meteor

The Slow Meteor and Our Mother of Oneness

By John Taylor; 24 March, 2006

I did not plan to write about the Oneness of God, it just happened, it
grew on its own. This has been a long winter of discontent, racked by
illness for me and mine and in this time of struggle and regression I
have come to think of the Oneness of God as more than a principle. It
is my mother. Yes, my brain already knows that it is the mother of all
principle, but I have come to think of it as much more, as an
intensely personal thing, well, not a thing but a person, as my nurse
and comforter in my darkest and saddest hours. There came a time in
the depths of illness and stagnation when I thought of stopping these
daily essays and doing something with my life. Making money or

But then unhappiness plunged down like a torrent on my head and I had
to return to keep sanity. I could feel an ocean of melancholy,
palpable, heavy as a thousand mountains. Later, in my daily recital of
the Tablet of Ahmad I heard as for the first time the words "God will
dispel his sadness..." Clearly, the only way for my sadness to be
dispelled was to recite sincerely, and to write that silly daily
essay. I knew then that there is no choice. It does not matter if
anybody ever reads it or not, that is utterly beside the point.
Otherwise, the ocean of depression would slosh down, overwhelm and
drown me.

Even now the profound sadness of the strange vision that I had then,
when sadness was briefly not dispelled, oppresses me if I hesitate or
falter. What I saw was this.

Imagine a meteor hitting the earth and killing all life in an instant.
That would be tragic and disastrous. But the way things are, is it any
better? We are all living for our time, then we die. Life is born and
reproduces and then dies, constantly. Death comes just as inevitably,
it is just a matter of time, of more or less time. All of us, insects,
humans, young and old, are doomed to die every bit as much as if that
meteor were to hit and exterminate us instantly. No worse, at least we
would die together from that impact. That would be the end of it all,
there would be no more deaths if that happened. Dying together and
ending it forever, there would be comfort in that. As it is, we die
alone, at any time, unpredictably, separated from others, alone and,
ultimately, un-mourned. This earth spins us off it relentlessly,
continually, one by one, and there is nothing anybody can do about but
wonder who will fly off sooner and who will be a bit more tardy.
Instant or slow, all are just as dead.

That is the view from earth, and I cannot shake its black cloud off,
at least not until after I have written my little daily bit about the
Oneness of God. That experience dispels the shadow of the meteor, for
a time. The temerity of trying to tackle this principle would shake me
otherwise, had I a choice, for this is surely by far the most
difficult of all the principles. It is the principle of principle, the
mother, and it is in everything. But chased by the fury of that "slow
meteor" dealing intermittent death to all, I flee into her arms again
and again, every morning. They are loving arms...

Surely, there is a longer view than my slow meteor, a happier
perspective, one that means more in the broader scheme of things. I
have to believe that. But the view is obscure from down here. All I
see is a slow meteor, picking us off one by one. I see the slow meteor
in every face, in the faces of the old, the halt and the lame, but
worst of all I see it in the faces of children too. It lurked in dark
shadows under the eyes of my little ones, Silvie and Thomas, as
illness dragged them down. Hard to bear, hard to witness.

I cling to my mother for dear life, for dear hope. That means, for me,
in great part the Bab, for in my daily bread, that is, the Tablet of
Ahmad it says that His Book is "the mother book, did ye but know." In
His mother of all books He wrote this prayer,

"Magnified be Thy name. Hath aught else save Thee any independent
existence so as to be capable of hinting at Thy nature, and doth
anyone but Thee possess any trace of identity wherewith I could
recognize Thee? All that is known owes its renown to the splendour of
Thy Name, the Most Manifest, and every object is deeply stirred by the
vibrating influence emanating from Thine invincible Will. Thou art
nearer unto all things than all things." (Bab, Selections, 195)

When He says that "every object is deeply stirred by the vibrating
influence emanating from Thine invincible Will..." I see my
slow-motion meteor. It may even be what Heraclitus was talking about
when he said that all things resolve into fire and are born out of
fire. "Fire lives in the death of earth, and air lives in the death of
fire; water lives in the death of air, and earth in that of water."
(Intellectual Tradition, 65) The universe is opposites vibrating or
resolving back and forth, life and death, existence and non-existence.
"God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and
hunger; but he assumes different forms, just as when incense is
mingled with incense; every one gives him the name he pleases." (Id.)
And most of all there is not an atom, not a jot or tittle that can
escape or disobey His Will in the slightest.

"The sun will not overstep his bounds; if he does, the Erinnyes (three
sisters who avenge crime), allies of justice, will find him out."

I know these three Erinnyes girls personally, intimately, in my
sadness, for I have disobeyed, stepped over bounds and felt their
righteous blows. I have fled pain and fear it, but I have my mother to
protect me and guidance of the Master. `Abdu'l-Baha cogently
demonstrates how universal obedience to fire proves that there is
benign direction from the One.

"It is certain that the whole contingent world is subjected to a law
and rule which it can never disobey; even man is forced to submit to
death, to sleep and to other conditions -- that is to say, man in
certain particulars is governed, and necessarily this state of being
governed implies the existence of a governor. 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." (Some Answered Questions, 6)

This is the decree, the law laid out in the holiest of law books, the

"Everything that is hath come to be through His irresistible decree.
Whenever My laws appear like the sun in the heaven of Mine utterance,
they must be faithfully obeyed by all, though My decree be such as to
cause the heaven of every religion to be cleft asunder. He doeth what
He pleaseth. He chooseth, and none may question His choice."
(Kitab-i-Aqdas, 21-22)

Heraclitus could have been commenting upon this when he wrote: "God,
ordering all things as they ought to be, perfects all things in the
harmony of the whole. For god all things are fair and good and just,
but men suppose that some are unjust and others just." (Ib., 65-66)
Death and birth are both just, both good, in the aspect of eternity.
The meteor, be it slow or quick, is a good thing and all else is

Let us pray that we will see it with our very eyes one day. I can see
no way to end these thoughts other than with prayer. Here are five
prayers from scripture that seem to me particularly directed at the
Oneness of God as principle.

Five Prayers of Oneness of God

"O people! I swear by the one true God! This is the Ocean out of which
all seas have proceeded, and with which every one of them will
ultimately be united. From Him all the Suns have been generated, and
unto Him they will all return. Through His potency the Trees of Divine
Revelation have yielded their fruits, every one of which hath been
sent down in the form of a Prophet, bearing a Message to God's
creatures in each of the worlds whose number God, alone, in His
all-encompassing Knowledge, can reckon. This He hath accomplished
through the agency of but one Letter of His Word, revealed by His Pen
-- a Pen moved by His directing Finger --His Finger itself sustained
by the power of God's Truth." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, LI, 104-107)

"Praised be Thou, O my God! This servant of Thine testifieth that
naught else except Thee can ever express Thee, nor canst Thou be
described by any one save Thyself. The thoughts of them that have
recognized Thy reality, however much they may ascend towards the
heaven of Thy praise, can never hope to pass beyond the bounds which,
by Thy behest and decree, have been fixed within their own hearts. How
can the creature who is as nothing comprehend Him Who is the Ancient
of Days, or succeed in describing the full measure of His sovereignty
His glory, and His grandeur?" (Prayers and Meditations, pp. 228-229)

"Glorified is He Who sendeth down His verses to those who comprehend.
Glorified is He Who speaketh forth from the Kingdom of His Revelation,
and Who remaineth unknown to all save His honoured servants. Glorified
is He Who quickeneth whomsoever He willeth by virtue of His word "Be",
and it is! Glorified is He Who causeth whomsoever He willeth to ascend
unto the heaven of grace, and sendeth down therefrom whatsoever He
desireth according to a prescribed measure." (Baha'u'llah, Summons of
the Lord of Hosts, Surih of Haykal, #2, p. 6)

"All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord, when they hear
the words of thy mouth. Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord:
for great is the glory of the Lord." (Ps 138:4-5)

"What I desire, however, O my God, is that Thou shouldst bid me unveil
the things which lie hid in Thy knowledge, so that they who are wholly
devoted to Thee may, in their longing for Thee, soar up into the
atmosphere of Thy oneness, and the infidels may be seized with
trembling and may return to the nethermost fire, the abode ordained
for them by Thee through the power of Thy sovereign might."
(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, 184)

John Taylor

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Spirit and One God, Part II

Spirit and One God, Part II

By John Taylor; 23 March, 2006

Last time we discussed a puzzling reference in Baha'u'llah's Tablet of
Hikmat to an unnamed Prophet who, in a moment of inspiration, said
that "all things are filled with spirit," a dark saying that in
subsequent philosophy was blown out of proportion. Upon further
investigation I realized that this may well be a reference to Thales
of Miletus, a thinker whose extensive writings were lost but who is
traditionally mentioned as the first of the Ionian or pre-Socratic
thinkers. He is reported as saying that "all things are full of gods,"
thus founding monism, a strain of thought about the identity of God
and creation that Baha'i thinking is at great pains to resist.
Aristotle in de Anima says that Thales,

"seems to have regarded the soul as something endowed with the power
of motion, if indeed he said that the lodestone has a soul because it
moves iron." (quoted in, Intellectual Tradition of the West, Vol. 1,
p. 63)

I had not realized that magnets had such influence so early on and
that they were a "technological" paradigm for soul and spirit as
pervasive attractive forces. Thales, then, was the first known
hylozoist, the belief that all matter is alive (hyle, meaning matter,
and zoe, life); this belief, with qualifications, is one that
`Abdu'l-Baha did advocate. He believed that water was the basis of all
things, and we now know that living organisms are based upon water.
Whether Thales is the actual person referred to by Baha'u'llah in the
following, the one who overheard a Prophet of God say that all things
are full of spirit, is very hard to say.

"From among the people there was he who held fast unto this statement
and, actuated by his own fancies, conceived the idea that the spirit
literally penetrateth or entereth into the body, and through lengthy
expositions he advanced proofs to vindicate this concept; and groups
of people followed in his footsteps." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets, 145-146)

The idea that spirit is a mere force of nature is a reductionist
scientific speculation that goes against the grain of the Jewish
prophetic tradition. Thales began a break-up between faith and
philosophy and this, broadly speaking, may be what Baha'u'llah is
referring to. Karen Armstrong, referring to the God of Jacob in the
Bible, emphasizes how practical and non-speculative the human covenant
with God was understood to be in these times. God,

"...struck a bargain: in return for El's special protection, Jacob
would make him his elohim, the only god who counted. Israelite belief
in God was deeply pragmatic. Abraham and Jacob both put their faith in
El because he worked for them: they did not sit down and prove that he
existed; El was not a philosophical abstraction. In the ancient world,
mana was a self-evident fact of life, and a god proved his worth if he
could transmit this effectively. This pragmatism would always be a
factor in the history of God. People would continue to adopt a
particular conception of the divine because it worked for them, not
because it was scientifically or philosophically sound." (Armstrong,
History of God, 17)

The overall emphasis of Baha'u'llah in both His Writings and personal
opinions is on practical wisdom over speculative philosophizing. In
the Tablet of Hikmat itself He is at great pains to emphasize that
Socrates, whose criticism of physical speculations was notorious, was
a holy man, that he advocated One God and represented a return to the
spirit of the divine prophets of Israel.

Nonetheless, let us briefly continue glancing over the currents of
early speculative thought that splash around the concept of one God.
Xenophanes of Colophon (570-480 BCE) traveled extensively as a poet
and observed that in Thrace God was seen as blue-eyed and red haired,
in Africa He was pictured as black skinned and flat nosed.

"But if cattle or lions had hands, so as to paint with their hands and
produce works of art as men do, they would paint their gods and give
them bodies in form like their own -- horses like horses, cattle like
cattle." (Intellectual Tradition, p. 69)

Very early on, Xenophanes, recognized that any conception of God has
to be inherently flawed by the very fact of its being a conception. He
objected to portraying the gods as morally corrupt, and said that if
God "saw" or "thought" it was with His whole Being. No part of Him
could be separated out or moved around. He also started off what we
now call evolutionary theory, observing that some undersea fossils are
found on mountainsides and venturing to explain how they got there.
The following could even be taken as anticipating the Baha'i concepts
of search for truth and progressive revelation.

"In the beginning the gods did not at all reveal all things clearly to
mortals, but by searching men in the course of time find them out
better." (Id.)

Heraclitus, whom we summed up last time, wrote one book, which he
donated to the temple of Delphi and it was later lost when that
building and religion were destroyed. He is reported to have objected
to earlier attempts to reduce everything to a single substance. Change
is the main characteristic of the universe, and everything resolves
into fire as it changes. The law of change is not total, for behind it
is Logos, a rational principle that orders all things. The power of
Logos is inherently subtle,

"An unapparent connection is stronger (or: better) than one which is
obvious." (Heraclitus, Fragment 54, from Hippolytus, Refutation of all
heresies, 9,9,5)

His nickname was "the rudder" because this Logos he saw as being
behind the ephemeral. Outer things are labile because they are subject
to the unity of opposites; they come together and dissolve by
oppositions. Such illusion corrupts our thinking at a very deep level.
"Though reason is common, most people live as though they had an
understanding peculiar to themselves." (Intellectual Tradition, 66) Of
God he is reported as saying,

"The wisest of men will appear as an ape before God, both in wisdom
and in beauty and in all other respects..." (Intellectual Tradition,

We know God not by our merit but by means of wisdom. The oneness of
God is wisdom.

"Wisdom is one thing: to understand the intelligence by which all
things are steered through all things: it is willing and it is
unwilling to be called by the name of Zeus."

To emphasize how close this is in many important respects to the
teaching of the Master, I will close with this selection from
`Abdu'l-Baha's reported words and deeds in England.

Knowledge must result in Action (from Abdu'l-Baha in London, 107-109)

A representative from a well known society made reference to its
meetings for the purpose of a search into the reality of truth, and
'Abdu'l-Baha said "I know of your work. I think a great deal of it. I
know your desire is to serve mankind, and to draw together Humanity
under the banner of Oneness; but its members must beware less it
become only a discussion. Look about you. How many committees have
been formed, and living for a little while, have died! Committees and
Societies can not create or give life.

"People get together and talk, but it is God's Word alone that is
powerful in its results. Consider for a moment: you would not trade
together if you had no income from it and derived no benefit! Look at
the followers of Christ. Their power was due to their ardour and their
deeds. Every effort must have its result, else it is not a true
effort. You must become the means of lighting the world of humanity.
This is the infallible proof and sign. Every progress depends on two
things, knowledge and practice. First acquire knowledge, and, when
conviction is reached, put it into practice.

"Once a learned man journeyed to see me to receive my blessing, saying
he knew and comprehended the Baha'i teachings. When I told him that he
could receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit at any time when he put
himself in a receptive attitude to accept them, he said he was always
in a receptive attitude.

"'What would you do,' I asked 'if I were to suddenly turn and strike
you?' He instantly flared with indignation and strode angrily about
the room.

"After a little I went over and took his arm, saying, 'But you must
return good for evil. Whether I honoured you or despised you, you
should follow the teachings; now you merely read them. Remember the
words of Jesus who said, 'The first shall be last, and the last
first.' The man turned, shook my hand and departed, and I have since
heard of many kind acts he has done."

John Taylor

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Philosophy and Baha

Philosophy and the Feast of Baha

By John Taylor; 22 March, 2006

We returned from the feast of Baha last night and stuck into our storm
door was an envelop with ten dollars cash and this printed note from
Ron, our LSA secretary:

Tuesday, March 21
6:45 PM

John and Marie,

I got the call from Helen at 6:40 PM that only she and Nancy and maybe
Gail were going [to the Feast] plus you and myself. I was just going
out the door when she called.

She and Nancy are really tired and would like to have cancelled but
you had already left. As you read this you will already know that. I
do hope that your feast was a good one despite the small turnout.

I had a difficult day with a long stressful treatment at the Cancer
Centre so I decided to stay put and I must leave early tomorrow
morning for the next one.

My sister is in a bit of a crisis and I must deal with that on
Thursday. I have been supporting Betty's family and Barbara's family
as they face some difficult decisions.

I appreciate having the evening free but I do wish Helen had called me
sooner so I could have saved you the trip to Caledonia.

Here is ten dollars to help you with the gasoline cost of that trip.


When she read that Marie said, "He does not need to run around like a
chicken with its head cut off, he has enough on his plate without
worrying about us." But I thought back to all the feasts I used to
attend in the big city; I would ride the bus and get lost and forget
the address of the Feast or screw up the location completely and often
be in tears at missing it but still I knew all too well that whether I
show my face there or not would hardly be noticed by anybody. Now the
secretary of the community not only writes us a personal note but
includes gas money to cover the costs of travel! Truly, I feel utterly
unworthy to be in this number.

We are talking about the pre-Socratics. When I had been out of school
for a few years I audited some philosophy classes. The first was a
very large class and the lecturer was talking about love. It was just
before mid-term exams and there was a palpable atmosphere of tension
in the room. It was as if a great hand were pushing down on the heads
of these poor young people, pressuring them to listen up about love
and not mess up, for their whole career was on the line. Any
philosophy such a class might learn must be like the work of slaves or
laborers forced to scrabble to survive. The product comes out of
force, it has nothing to do with love or love of wisdom.

The second class I audited was smaller and the kindly, gentle, bearded
professor -- who bore more than a passing resemblance to Socrates --
was complaining about the pre-Socratics, about how we have only
fragments of what they said, and that these fragments are more poetry
than philosophy. They can always be taken several ways, unlike the
plodding but unambiguous product of a modern philosophy treatise. The
class was then disrupted by a very angry student who vociferously
objected to one way that a certain pre-Socratic might be interpreted.
He violently disagreed and the professor was apologetic and placating.
Myself, I felt highly embarrassed for the subtext of this tirade was
addressed to his fellow students. He was telling them, "Look at me, I
can get this passionate about stuff that you dummies can hardly even
grasp." This too, struck me as a highly anti-philosophical atmosphere
in which pearls were cast before swine.

My more recent grass roots experience with popular philosophy in the
form of the Socrates Cafe movement in some ways improves on the
slavish, forced attention to philosophy that you find in an academic
atmosphere. Among these adults there is a certain detachment about
ideas, but mostly it swings the other way toward apathy. For them it
is as if philosophy were one channel in a five hundred channel
universe and we are free to flip the dial there, or not.

For me, philosophy is in the Feast, in the little details of the
community shown in that monthly snapshot. Last night only a remnant of
our walking wounded made it out. There was Gail, whose whole family
are Baha'i and whose Aunt is just pioneering to the Faro Islands.
There was 6 year old Thomas, whose flu had resolved into a painful ear
infection, and who has a hangdog expression, uncharacteristically
subdued by his first serious illness. He looks around the room with a
half smile on his face, strangely reminiscent of the handsome movie
star Ben Affleck. There were Helen and Nancy, whose usual health woes
are pushed into the background by worry about a native demonstration
protesting a land development taking place several doors down from
their home in Caledonia. And there were those who could not come, like
Betty who broke her hip just after a return from India, where she was
presented with an award for her many books published by their
Publishing Trust.

During the Feast, Helen Kelly shared the following prayer of
Baha'u'llah for someone making a decision (they are to say it 19 times
a day for 19 days), which a travel teacher had given to her many years
ago. I copied it down but did not find it in Ocean.

"O My God! Thou seest me detached from everything save Thee, clinging
to Thee. Guide me then in my doing in a manner which profiteth me for
the glory of thy cause and the loftiness of the state of Thy

More broadly, there is the world situation, most especially the
Baha'is in Iran. Now the Mullahcrats are taking down names of Baha'is,
clearly readying themselves for another holocaust, and there is
nothing to be done but brace ourselves and trust in the mercy of God.
Betty's latest book is a vociferous protest against this bloody
persecution. She never misses a feast, but the hip operation kept her
away this time.

Philosophy is in this snapshot of believers being propelled by love,
not forced or pressured love or apathetic entertainment love, but love
of Baha'u'llah. A love sending them continually into eternity in a
slow-mo sequence of bowling pins struck by a bowling ball, or maybe
the star field simulation screensaver, where you do not notice a star
until it is a line streaking into oblivion. Philosophy is the total
devotion of Ron, who has no time for philosophical thoughts but is
absolutely devoted to family and community, who looks over our
believers and many non-believers like a mother hen her chicks, seeing
that Betty and any other sick person gets flowers and a card, even as
he himself can hardly move for arthritis, prostate cancer and a
thousand other afflictions. I will give his ten dollars for gas to the
Huqquq, for when I make a donation to my chosen deputy, even though (I
found out later) a member of the NSA I always get back a handwritten
note, a complete anachronism in this age of computer printouts but a
sign of personal devotion that seems in the spirit of Ron's way out of
line contribution to our gas expenses.

John Taylor

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Spirit and One God, Part I

Spirit and One God, Part I

By John Taylor; 21 March, 2006

Today, for Naw Ruz, let us talk about spirit and how it relates to the
principle of One God.

In a recent talk Peter Khan, a member of the House of Justice,
mentioned one of our great challenges as Baha'is. We firmly believe
that the spirit made a great jump in power in Persia in the year 1844,
and that this infused a great creative impulse in thought and in every
walk of life. This idea most who hear it today regard as preposterous
and incomprehensible. Khan points out that this is to be expected
since in a similar way much of what we regard now as a mainline
scientific understanding of the universe would have been regarded in
the 19th Century by scientifically minded persons as similarly
ridiculous and incomprehensible. Khan points out that science freely
accepts today that our bodies are constantly being bombarded by
invisible rays, radio waves, magnetic fields, gravitons, neutrinos,
gamma radiation, cosmic rays, and more. That would not have seemed
rationally credible to the scientific mind until the 20th Century. We
should be confident in view of this progress, Khan points out, that
our Baha'i belief in the pervasiveness of spirit may not seem so
absurd to the scientific understanding not so far in the future.

Baha'u'llah Himself seems to have briefly alluded to this vexing
question of a pervasive, invisible spirit in His Tablet of Hikmat
where He writes,

"The essence and the fundamentals of philosophy have emanated from the
Prophets. That the people differ concerning the inner meanings and
mysteries thereof is to be attributed to the divergence of their views
and minds." (Tablets, 145)

This idea "emanating" from a Manifestation of God is that spirit is
the means by which an image of reality enters into the mind. As a
Psalm puts it, "For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light
shall we see light." (Ps 36:9, KJV) Spirit thinks us, we do not think
it; no authority is derived from how we articulate what it gives us,
and anything born of that leads to distortion and corruption. Paul
seems to have understood this well, saying something very similar in
the following,

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have
entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for
them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit:
for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For
what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is
in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of
God." (1 Corinthians, 2:9-11, KJV)

An invisible, pure, knowing, pervading spirit is a major preoccupation
in Eastern religion. Take this passage from the Bhagavad-Gita.

"But beyond My visible nature is My invisible Spirit. This is the
fountain of life whereby this universe has its being. All things have
their life in this Life, and I am their beginning and end. In this
whole vast universe there is nothing higher than I. I am the taste of
living waters and the light of the sun and the moon. I am OM; the
sacred Word of the Vedas,.... And I am from everlasting the seed of
eternal life." (Gita 7:5-10)

Baha'u'llah in this same passage of the Hikmat continues, referring to
a prophet who as far as I can determine is the pre-Socratic
philosopher Heraclitus, or perhaps his Israelite teacher, since
"Prophet" is capitalized here:

"We would fain recount to thee the following: One of the Prophets once
was communicating to his people that with which the Omnipotent Lord
had inspired Him. Truly, thy Lord is the Inspirer, the Gracious, the
Exalted. When the fountain of wisdom and eloquence gushed forth from
the wellspring of His utterance and the wine of divine knowledge
inebriated those who had sought His threshold, He exclaimed:
"'Lo! All are filled with the Spirit.'"
"From among the people there was he who held fast unto this statement
and, actuated by his own fancies, conceived the idea that the spirit
literally penetrateth or entereth into the body, and through lengthy
expositions he advanced proofs to vindicate this concept; and groups
of people followed in his footsteps." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets, 145-146)

This could refer to any or all of several schools of thought that
ended in literalistic parodies of the idea of spirit. It could be
talking about Manichaeism, or the origin in Hinduism of reincarnation,
or indeed Paul's own doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ. It may
allude to the tendency of any group to lose the love and flexibility
of spirit and consequently to value one's understanding above truth.
This divisive process is often described in the Qu'ran, "Of those who
divided their religion and became seas every sect rejoicing in what
they had with them." (Qur'an 30:32, Shakir Ali, tr.) The vision born
of spirit, on the other hand, is inherently unifying, as the Bab
points out:

"Reduce not the ordinances of God to fanciful imaginations of your
own; rather observe all the things which God hath created at His
behest with the eye of the spirit, even as ye see things with the eyes
of your bodies." (Bab, Selections, Kitab-i-Asma, XVII, 15, p. 146)

Still, there may be no need to go further since Heraclitus is well
known to have held that spirit in the form of fire is the basic
substrate of all matter. Baha'u'llah's brief saying, 'Lo! All are
filled with the Spirit,' distills what little is known of Heraclitus's
philosophy. A Dictionary of Philosophy sums up the wide ranging
teaching of this early Greek philosopher.

"Heraclitus of Ephesus, died after 480 BCE. Greek philosopher known as
"the obscure," "the riddler," and "the weeping philosopher." The most
famous doctrine attributed to him was that all things are in a state
of flux; even the unchanging hills change, but more slowly than most
other things. This doctrine was, however, certainly balanced by a
notion of logos, the word or reason, which keeps everything in order,
and there was also some doctrine, hailed by Hegel, of the unity of
opposites. Heraclitus postulated fire as the basic matter of the
universe; for him, the fire of the human soul was related to the
cosmic fire, which virtuous souls eventually join." (p. 145)

Having this introduction to Heraclitus, let us delve further tomorrow
into the place in history reserved for his idea that "all things are
filled with spirit."

John Taylor

Monday, March 20, 2006

Unseen Heights

Seeing Through the Unseen Heights

By John Taylor; 20 March, 2006

Again my six-year-old son Thomas is sinking under a flu-like bug,
marked by a fever that lasts days on end. Perhaps he had it already
and it recrudesced. He will be missing yet more school now that March
Break is over. I find this extra sad and distressing now that I know
exactly what they are going through. It is one thing to suffer
ourselves and yet another to witness an innocent suffer.

The novel I am reading is Jules Verne's Mysterious Island, which was
translated in unabridged, accurate format for the first time in 2002.
Mysterious Island is Verne's masterpiece but it is only one of about a
half dozen other novels that he wrote in the castaway genre. I ordered
a film version of this story from the Hamilton Public Library but
found to my disappointment that it was just a cartoon for kids. We all
watched the video together, not a high budget production. Even the
normally uncritical Silvie noticed its rough edges. Still I had to
admit that in many ways it is the most faithful filming of the actual
events in the novel of any I have seen. Not a dinosaur to be seen.

As I watched this sorry cartoon I thought about how you might make a
really good film about Mysterious Island. Start with a virtual reality
simulation of a virgin island and strand on the island virtual sim
creatures. Make it realistic enough that they will starve without
carefully chosen periodic care packages from you, the player. Thus you
play the role of Captain Nemo in Verne's story, who observes events
and intervenes only when absolutely necessary. Make this a computer
situation and release so that, unlike ordinary games, it would record
the collective experience of all players and feed data back to the
Mysterious Island Central. Thus the most interesting permutations and
results would change the rules of the simulation itself. The film's
directors and actors would play the simulation over again and again,
which would make Verne's purpose in writing the book clear. Verne's
ostensive goal, by the way, he laid out in letters to his publisher:
he wanted to go over ground covered by those two great predecessors in
the castaway genre, Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson, whose
stories had illuminated his own childhood. He wanted to uncover
something new, something missing in the earlier stories. Perhaps one
day, with the aid of computer simulations and better film making
techniques, someone will do Verne's story justice.

There is a castaway element to the Greatest Story Ever Told, that
recounted in scripture. Consider this, from the first verses of the
seventeenth Surih of the Qu'ran, Night Journey, the one the Bab
renamed "Children of Israel,"

"Say: Verily, were men and Djinn assembled to produce the like of this
Koran, they could not produce its like, though the one should help the
other. And of a truth we have set out to men every kind of similitude
in this Koran, but most men have refused everything except unbelief."

There are many ways that this "producing its like" could be
understood. It could mean just copying it. The Qu'ran survived a
thousand years by being transcribed periodically, then for many
centuries it was printed in presses. Now we can do this very easily,
just hit a few buttons on the computer and "cut" the text of the
Qu'ran and "paste" it into as many places we wish. Simple reproduction
cannot be what is meant by "producing its like," can it?

I think the most elaborate attempt to "produce its like" is the
Enlightenment tradition, which in a thousand areas of life would
replace religion with science. The castaway novel itself is an attempt
to get down to basics, to cut through the superstitions of human
history and find a means of survival that uses science and reason

What then is the counterpart to the castaway novel in the Book of God?
I think it may be the story of a life of suffering, any life of
suffering, every life with suffering. For pain has a way of isolating
us on the isolated shores of worldly hopelessness. It cuts off from
all our baggage of outer supports and inherited goods and bads. In
pain, all is cut away save frail faith; you have only "producing the
likes" of Holy Writ to get you through to the other side. And once you
start writing that, only God can carry the project through. As the
Lord declared to Samuel,

"...when I begin I also make an end." (Sam 3:12)

The case of Ludwig Von Beethoven springs to mind. He had nothing to
console him as he descended into the isolation of deafness, the
ultimate hell for a musician and composer. His affliction inspired him
to write his climactic Ninth Symphony, some say the sublimest music
ever written. In these testing times he is reported to have kept above
his piano these five words, evidently taken from the Bhagavad Gita,

"...for above all things, God."

That is the principle of the Oneness of God, simply keeping Him above
all things, understanding the huge chasm between us and the One. The
like of this is can never be produced by human means. If the endless
gap between God and not-God, between Perfection and imperfection,
ceases to block but actually turns into a bridge, one that shines like
a sun, then it becomes a principle we can use. In this light
inequality coaxes as well as denies, like the light of Naw Ruz, that
shines out tonight. Baha'u'llah describes the process of this new
creation in explicit detail.

"I testify that no sooner had the First Word proceeded, through the
potency of Thy will and purpose, out of His mouth, and the First Call
gone forth from His lips than the whole creation was revolutionized,
and all that are in the heavens and all that are on earth were stirred
to the depths. Through that Word the realities of all created things
were shaken, were divided, separated, scattered, combined and
reunited, disclosing, in both the contingent world and the heavenly
kingdom, entities of a new creation, and revealing, in the unseen
realms, the signs and tokens of Thy unity and oneness. Through that
Call Thou didst announce unto all Thy servants the advent of Thy most
great Revelation and the appearance of Thy most perfect Cause."
(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, 295-296)

John Taylor

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fast Within a Fast

My Pre-Naw Ruz Fast Within a Fast

By John Taylor; 16 March, 2006

I come off over a week of violent illness with these impressions. Call
it "My Pre-Naw Ruz Fast Within a Fast" because I turned away meals,
even the thought of anything in my stomach made it turn. Not, that is,
a spiritual fast. It started probably in the weakness that early on
ended my spiritual fast two days after it started. The result is the
same, a fast within a fast. Like the play within the play in Hamlet,
it serves a function.

When this viral thing hit full force I was, more than anything, lost
in admiration at the stoic courage of these two kids, who lost the
week of school just before March Break to the same bug. If it had been
me in their shoes we would have been hearing nothing but, "Momka, make
it stop!" and "Momka, turn off the invisible toaster, I am roasting."
But we heard none of that, to the point where at times I imagined them
ready to return to school, whereas -- I now could see -- they were
far, far from it. The life threatening illness phase of this
affliction faded gradually into a latter stage of coughing fits that
keep me awake all night asking the question: which is worse, gross
suffering or utter misery? Can you trade one for the other?

My significant other, whatever her other merits, is the reverse of a
nurse and I was left in my darkest hours with a sorely depleted will,
stewing, tossing and turning in bed, stymied by decisions like,
"Should I get up and brush my teeth or should I keep retching at my
own bad breath?" or, "Should I fight my revulsion and drink more water
to reduce the migraine head pain, or should I just let the fever and
the head pain dance together here on my pillow?"

The worst was over with but the dry coughing remained. Starved for an
iota of human contact and warmth, I turned up early for our monthly
fireside, aware that it was unwise, I should not be there. I carried a
little mini-cassette tape recorder that I hoped to give to and ask
someone to tape the discussion. In my confused state, I had not
brought a tape for it. But I was reminded of my un-wisdom in showing
my face immediately by M, who fearfully passed by, face averted, mouth
covered, saying to me, "Go home." Meekly, I left before infecting more
victims. I hardly blame anyone for fearing this formidable virus.
Still if there were a moral spectrum of illness and cure, with viruses
on one end and `Abdu'l-Baha on the other, I would place believers like
this on the viral side, along with the green slime I cough into these
tissues. For them "Baha'i" is antinomian, a contagion not a reality
... a Baha'i visits the sick, nurses, helps them, shows concern, or at
least civility. A person who quails is unworthy to utter the word much
less mount a charger and enter the arena of spiritual endeavor. A
Baha'i thinks not of danger but of the law.

"But his delight is in the law of the Lord. And on his law he
meditates day and night." (Psalms 1:2)

As the fever mounted, much earlier on, I went to our Philosopher's
Cafe meeting on suicide in Wainfleet. Stu had to be at a teacher's
reunion and I was the only animator this time. Perhaps fortunately, I
was the only person to turn up. It would have been suicide for others
to do so. The person who suggested the topic was Mark, a handsome dark
haired young French teacher at Dunnville High School. He did not come
either, but last time he told of the problems that teachers here are
having counseling young people against suicide, the most common cause
of death among youths after accidents.

It seems that one of Mark's most brilliant students, with a good
family, a nice car, a pretty girlfriend, captain of the football team,
was having good times with some friends at his farm home when he
stepped into his bedroom, pulled out a shotgun and blew his head off.
Now all the others are saying, "This guy had it all, and he chose to
end it. If a winner like that could not deal with life, do not I have
even more reason to kill myself?" That, it seems, is how young people
think. God's law is not their delight, nor do they mediate on it, day
or night.

At the end of our most recent Haldimand Spiritual Assembly Meeting
someone read the usual closing prayer. It begins, in an early
translation, "Thou dost look upon us from Thine unseen Kingdom of
Oneness, [beholding] that we have assembled in this Spiritual
Meeting..." It hit me then that this explains exactly what this
principle of Oneness is all about. Unseen heights. Awareness that we
are being seen, that the light of the One pervades all. And, now that
I think of it, open sunlight fries viruses, doesn't it? So to get rid
of viruses, we just have to bring everything out into the light. We do
not need drugs or human cures, we just need the light of the law of
God. I hope that I will be able to live into the new year to continue
this series on the Oneness of God, and do it justice.

For me, the most characteristic aspect of Baha'u'llah's teaching is
the unity of word and deed. Okay, Jesus got riled against hypocrites,
but outside Jesus, I cannot think of any thinker who puts so much
emphasis on being and acting, not just talking. Consider this, where
Baha'u'llah defines "wise" as those who are not hypocrites; the
original word for "wise" being translated, I would guess, is "Hakim,"
which also means doctor, scientist, or person with "know-how" or
savoir faire.

"This Wronged One hath invariably treated the wise with affection. By
the wise is meant men whose knowledge is not confined to mere words
and whose lives have been fruitful and have produced enduring results.
It is incumbent upon everyone to honour these blessed souls. Happy are
they that observe God's precepts; happy are they that have recognized
the Truth; happy are they that judge with fairness in all matters and
hold fast to the Cord of My inviolable Justice." (Baha'u'llah,
Tablets, 62)

After so many hours of pain and misery, I read what He says here about
being happy with joy and longing. All I wanted, sunk in pain, was to
be happy, or at least to know that happiness exists somewhere in the
world. Baha'u'llah is saying that it is a possibility, if only we
observe God's precepts. Yet I turn on the television (the only time I
watch it, especially advertisements, is when I am sore sick) and I see
the reverse of that. Nothing but a death wish, a suffering wish. We
truly, deep down, spiritually are asking for nothing but a
bloodletting. That is why mindless violence pervades light
entertainment, it is the only consolation for not knowing real

I thought, well, I am suffering from cold, cough and sore throat, at
least I can relate to the cough medicine ads that used to be so
common. But I did not find any. No longer needed. I had been looking
forward to seeing my cough depicted in a moving plumbing chart. But I
found to my surprise that drug ads no longer find it necessary even to
mention any problem that their product may be deemed to stoop to cure.
They just say, "Gruffledyn. Ask your doctor about it." Or, more often,
just, "Gruffledyn." Why no emphasis on the problem, the pain and
suffering it relieves? Because people have gone beyond taking a pill
to solve an ache or a pain, they take pills as a reflex, like
breathing air. How else could prescriptions for insomnia medications
have shot up four or five times in the past four or five years? A
little tweak to doctors, a little to the public, and the reflex kicks
in; then sleep, a normal aspect of life is made into a money machine.
All you do is mention the brand name, and everybody knows what to do.

One light in my dark times was mentioned on a talk show, a satiric
comedy about industry's MOD squad (Merchants of Death, tobacco, booze,
and guns), which is soon to be released as a feature film, called
"Thank You For Smoking." Coincidentally, I had the book-on-tape among
many others on deck, and so I listened to the novel as I drove to
Hamilton to return my library materials. A very well crafted story
that made me think I should do more with my warning label dot com
ideas when I return to health. Somehow to combine humor with satire
with social reform, that would be glimmer of hope to make a mark.

I thought, well, I am suffering from cold, cough and sore throat, at
least I can relate to the cough medicine ads that used to be so
common. But I did not find any. No longer needed. I had been looking
forward to seeing my cough depicted in a moving plumbing chart. But I
found to my surprise that drug ads no longer find it necessary even to
mention any problem that their product may be deemed to stoop to cure.
They just say, "Gruffledyn. Ask your doctor about it." Or, more often,
just, "Gruffledyn." Why no emphasis on the problem, the pain and
suffering it relieves? Because people have gone beyond taking a pill
to solve an ache or a pain, they take pills as a reflex, like
breathing air. How else could prescriptions for insomnia medications
have shot up four or five times in the past four or five years? A
little tweak to doctors, a little to the public, and the reflex kicks
in; then sleep, a normal aspect of life is made into a money machine.
All you do is mention the brand name, and everybody knows what to do.
Call it antinomian medicine, a sickness within sickness.

John Taylor

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Unseen Heights, I

The Unseen Heights, I; Book Four, Chapter III of Zenophon's Memorabilia

By John Taylor; 9 March, 2006

At this juncture in our exploration of the Oneness of God, it may be
appropriate to go through in detail one of the greatest documents on
this subject in ancient literature. This is the so-called
"Teleological Chapter" of Zenophon's Memorabilia. This book, you will
recall, is the memoirs of Zenophon about his teacher, Socrates.
Socrates, of course, was beyond the shadow of a doubt the greatest
teacher in history, outside of the Manifestations of God. Zenophon
begins by recalling those whom Socrates did not teach, those without
the prerequisites, as it were, for entrance into the school of
philosophy. He then proceeds to an argument about God and creation
which bears close resemblance in tone and content to how the Master,
Abdu'l-Baha, approached the Oneness of God. Finally, the piece de
resistance, we hear echoed the first two paragraphs of the Aqdas,
which admonishes all to recognize and obey God, and to do so according
to one's own lights, one's own cultural heritage and religious
background. Here is the birth of universal religion, one common faith.

"It may be inferred that Socrates was in no hurry for those who were
with him to discover capacities as speakers or as men of action or
invention, without a well-laid foundation of self- control
[Sophrosune, temperance, sanity of soul]. For those who possessed
abilities without these saving virtues would, he believed, only become
worse men with greater power for mischief. His first object and
endeavor was to instill into those who were with him a wise spirit, a
soundness of soul in relation to the gods. That such was the tenor of
his conversation in dealing with men may be seen from the current
accounts of others during his lifetime who were present on some
particular occasion. I confine myself to a particular discussion with
Euthydemus at which I was present.

Socrates said: Tell me, Euthydemus, has it ever struck you to observe
what tender pains the gods have taken to furnish man with all his

Euth. No indeed, I cannot say that it has ever struck me.

Well (Socrates continued), you do not need to be reminded that, in the
first place, we need light, and with light the gods supply us.

Euth. Most true, and if we had not got it we should, as far as our own
eyes could help us, be like men born blind.

Soc. And then, again, seeing that we stand in need of rest and
relaxation, they bestow upon us "the blessed balm of silent night."

Yes (he answered), we are much beholden for that boon.

Soc. Then, forasmuch as the sun in his splendor makes manifest to us
the hours of the day and bathes all things in brightness, but anon
night in her darkness obliterates distinctions, have they not
displayed aloft the starry orbs, which inform us of the watches of the
night, whereby we can accomplish many of our needs?

It is so (he answered).

Soc. And let us not forget that the moon herself not only makes clear
to us the quarters of the night, but of the month also?

Certainly (he answered).

Soc. And what of this: that whereas we need nutriment, this too the
heavenly powers yield us? Out of earth's bosom they cause good to
spring up for our benefit; and for our benefit provide appropriate
seasons to furnish us in turn not only with the many and diverse
objects of need, but with the sources also of our joy, pleasure and

Yes (he answered eagerly), these things bear token truly to a love, a
beneficent regard for man.

Soc. Well, and what of another priceless gift, that of water, which
conspires with earth and the seasons to give both birth and increase
to all things useful to us; nay, which helps to nurture our very
selves, and commingling with all that feeds us, renders it more
digestible, more wholesome, and more pleasant to the taste; and mark
you in proportion to the abundance of our need the superabundance of
its supply. What say you concerning such a boon?

Euth. In this again I see a sign of providential care.

Soc. And then the fact that the same heavenly power has provided us
with fire -- our assistant against cold, our auxiliary in darkness,
our fellow-workman in every art and every instrument which for the
sake of its utility mortal man may invent or furnish himself withal.
What of this, since, to put it compendiously, there is nothing
serviceable to the life of man worth speaking of but owes its
fabrication to fire?

Euth. Yes, a transcendent instance of benevolent design. It may be
called an extreme instance of the divine 'philanthropy.'

Soc. Again, consider the motions of the Sun, how when he has turned
him about in winter he again draws nigh to us, ripening some fruits,
and causing others whose time is past to dry up; how when he has
fulfilled his work he comes no closer, but turns away as if in fear to
scorch us to our hurt unduly; and again, when he has reached a point
where if he should prolong his retreat we should plainly be frozen to
death with cold, note how he turns him about and resumes his approach,
traversing that region of the heavens where he may shed his genial
influence best upon us.

Yes, upon my word (he answered), these occurrences bear the impress of
being so ordered for the sake of man.

Soc. And then, again, it being manifest that we could not endure
either scorching heat or freezing cold if they came suddenly upon us,
note how gradually the sun approaches, and how gradually recedes, so
that we fail to notice how we come at last to either extreme.

For my part (he replied), the question forces itself upon my mind,
whether the gods have any other occupation save only to minister to
man; and I am only hindered from saying so, because the rest of
animals would seem to share these benefits along with man.

Soc. Why, to be sure; and is it not plain that these animals
themselves are born and bred for the sake of man? At any rate, no
living creature save man derives so many of his enjoyments from sheep
and goats, horses and cattle and asses, and other animals. He is more
dependent, I should suppose, on these than even on plants and
vegetables. At any rate, equally with these latter they serve him as
means of subsistence or articles of commerce; indeed, a large portion
of the human family do not use the products of the soil as food at
all, but live on the milk and cheese and flesh of their flocks and
herds, whilst all men everywhere tame and domesticate the more useful
kinds of animals, and turn them to account as fellow-workers in war
and for other purposes.

Yes, I cannot but agree with what you say (he answered), when I see
that animals so much stronger than man become so subservient to his
hand that he can use them as he lists.

Soc. And as we reflect on the infinite beauty and utility and the
variety of nature, what are we to say of the fact that man has been
endowed with sensibilities which correspond with this diversity,
whereby we take our fill of every blessing; or, again, this implanted
faculty of reasoning, which enables us to draw inferences concerning
the things which we perceive, and by aid of memory to understand how
each set of things may be turned to our good, and to devise countless
contrivances with a view to enjoying the good and repelling the evil;
or lastly, when we consider the faculty bestowed upon us of
interpretative speech, by which we are enabled to instruct one
another, and to participate in all the blessings fore-named: to form
societies, to establish laws, and to enter upon a civilized existence
-- what are we to think?

Euth. Yes, Socrates, decidedly it would appear that the gods do
manifest a great regard, nay, a tender care, towards mankind.

Soc. Well, and what do you make of the fact that where we are
powerless to take advantageous forethought for our future, at this
stage they themselves lend us their co-operation, imparting to the
inquirer through divination knowledge of events about to happen, and
instructing him by what means they may best be turned to good account?

Euth. Ay, and you, Socrates, they would seem to treat in a more
friendly manner still than the rest of men, if, without waiting even
to be inquired of by you, they show you by signs beforehand what you
must, and what you must not do.

Soc. Yes, and you will discover for yourself the truth of what I say,
if, without waiting to behold the outward and visible forms of the
gods themselves, you will be content to behold their works; and with
these before you, to worship and honor the Divine authors of them. I
would have you reflect that the very gods themselves suggest this
teaching. Not one of these but gives us freely of his blessings; yet
they do not step from behind their veil in order to grant one single

And pre-eminently He who orders and holds together the universe, in
which are all things beautiful and good; who fashions and refashions
it to never-ending use unworn, keeping it free from sickness or decay,
so that swifter than thought it ministers to his will unerringly --
this God is seen to perform the mightiest operations, but in the
actual administration of the same abides himself invisible to mortal

Reflect further, this Sun above our heads, so visible to all--as we
suppose--will not suffer man to regard him too narrowly, but should
any essay to watch him with a shameless stare he will snatch away
their power of vision. And if the gods themselves are thus unseen, so
too shall you find their ministers to be hidden also; from the height
of heaven above the thunderbolt is plainly hurled, and triumphs over
all that it encounters, yet it is all-invisible, no eye may detect its
coming or its going at the moment of its swoop. The winds also are
themselves unseen, though their works are manifest, and through their
approach we are aware of them.

And let us not forget, the soul of man himself, which if aught else
human shares in the divine--however manifestly enthroned within our
bosom, is as wholly as the rest hidden from our gaze. These things you
should lay to mind, and not despise the invisible ones, but learn to
recognize their power, as revealed in outward things, and to know the
divine influence.

Nay, Socrates (replied Euthydemus), there is no danger I shall turn a
deaf ear to the divine influence even a little; of that I am not
afraid, but I am out of heart to think that no soul of man may ever
requite the kindness of the gods with fitting gratitude.

Be not out of heart because of that (he said); you know what answer
the god at Delphi makes to each one who comes asking "how shall I
return thanks to heaven?"--"According to the law and custom of your
city"; and this, I presume, is universal law and a custom everywhere
that a man should please the gods with offerings according to the
ability which is in him.

How then should a man honor the gods with more beautiful or holier
honor than by doing what they bid him? but he must in no wise slacken
or fall short of his ability, for when a man so does, it is manifest,
I presume, that at the moment he is not honoring the gods. You must
then honor the gods, not with shortcoming but according to your
ability; and having so done, be of good cheer and hope to receive the
greatest blessings. For where else should a man of sober sense look to
receive great blessings if not from those who are able to help him
most, and how else should he hope to obtain them save by seeking to
please his helper, and how may he hope to please his helper better
than by yielding him the amplest obedience?

By such words--and conduct corresponding to his words--did Socrates
mould and fashion the hearts of his companions, making them at once
more pious and devout and sounder of soul, more virtuous.

John Taylor