Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Purpose of Principle

The Purpose of Principle and Religion

More on the Master's Explication of the Principles in Paris; BPS III

By John Taylor; 2008 Nov 25, 3 Qawl 165 BE

We have looked in earlier parts of this essay series at the first two Baha'i principles, search for truth and oneness of humanity. We have seen that together these twin principles act as a pivot around which all the other principles revolve. It is the intimate connection between them, their close togetherness and reflection of one another, that makes these two into principles. Without this, none of the Baha'i principles would be principles, and the methodology of principle would not be unique as it is.

Think of it.

Most educated, liberal-leaning people today agree with either of these two principles. They think it would be great if more people became seekers of truth and forgot old traditions and superstitions; at the same time, they could hardly fail to acknowledge that all humans are one, and that we should treat every underprivileged member of the human club with kindness and compassion.

But, and this is a big "but," they would not see one leading naturally into the other. After all, if everybody became in independent truth seeker, pounding out their own personal views of reality, who is to say that this will not lead to more differences rather than less? Is it reasonable to expect human variance to just go away on their own? Would not unification require tremendous effort, even elaborate indoctrination and expensive propaganda campaigns designed to persuade the masses to think alike? And even then, what reason do we have to think that conflicts will be spread even more by all this effort? Yet that is exactly what Abdu'l-Baha said must happen, effortlessly, smoothly, as a natural outcome of the nature of truth, God and the universe. He wrote,

"... the nations of the world have to investigate after truth independently and turn their eyes from the moribund blind imitations of the past ages entirely. Truth is one when it is independently investigated, it does not accept division. Therefore the independent investigation of truth will lead to the oneness of the world of humanity." (JWTA, 35)

The reason truth will not admit of division is simply because there is One God Who Personifies Truth, and, like all great artists, He creates the universe in His own image, according to his own, single vision. He wills oneness and makes it our deepest, inner nature to agree with one another in all that matters most.

Oneness cannot accentuate conflict, it by nature dispels it, without any direct human effort, like snow melting under a hot sun. The more ardent and sincere our investigation of reality, the great the heat, the more clearly our similarities to other seekers is made clear before our eyes. At the same time, we will perceive diversity, but we will know that it is a condition of this world, and particularity is only of secondary importance in the greater scheme of things. "Put the kingdom first, and all will be added unto you." This is a spiritual reality that all great spiritual teachers have spoken of, but only today are we ready and able to respond to it as the entire human race.

For example, Jesus often said, "It is written," and, "So it was from the beginning..." At such times He was speaking of the nature of spiritual principle. By "beginning" He did not mean a temporal, worldly provenance, much less some primitive Golden Age lost to history. He was referring to existential purity, to a thought or condition where the mind relates to the One True God as its direct Origin. Such is principle. Again, the dozen or so Baha'i principles are prophesied in the Book of Revelation,

"...the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Rev 22:2)

According to this vision, the twin pivotal principles would be the trunk of the tree, the several spiritual principles its roots, and the leaves -- the tree's vivifying link to the sun and air, the principle of universal peace. Peace on earth is the ultimate goal of all principle. The rest, the supporting branches and fruits of the tree of principle, would be the several other principles that we are examining in the order given in the address Abdu'l-Baha gave to the Theosophists in Paris, 1911.

Our next principle, then, is that "Religion should be the cause of love and affection,"

"Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart."

The traditional view of religion -- accepted by fanatics and scholars alike -- is that religions are mere traditions, sets of belief without purpose other than their own self-perpetuation. Of course this should be anathema to anyone who believes in God, since only He, and no set of doctrines, however basic, is the "be all and end all," beyond questioning or change. Abdu'l-Baha pre-supposes that the world's faiths are there to benefit mankind, and this places religion in line with science as a tool or appliance for the general good. He continues,

"If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion."

This is a radical definition. Religion is anything that brings about love and unity. But the same is true of the Baha'i principles. If principles do not result in peace on a universal level, they are not worthy of the name. We would be better off going back to ideology and imitation as ways of pacifying, organizing and indocrinating large numbers of people.

"All the holy prophets were as doctors to the soul; they gave prescriptions for the healing of mankind; thus any remedy that causes disease does not come from the great and supreme Physician."

It is ironic that the half dozen or so large religious traditions in the world today all can look back on many centuries of successful integration of the societies they influenced. This is a great fruit, and proof that the "doctors" who started them prescribed a worthy remedy for the world as they found it. Nothing can take that away from them. But the irony is this: those who imagine they are upholding their faith tradition by opposing their remedy to those of others, as exclusive and final, are in reality betraying and destroying the best of the past, not to mention any hope we may have for a peaceful future. Baha'u'llah very emphatically forbade any such negation of "rival" faith traditions by followers of His Faith and its principles,

"There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God." (Gleanings, 216)


John Taylor

email: badijet@gmail.com
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