It is common for people to reject the idea of religious law for a more liberal philosophy. Yet, for those, like myself, who have worked hard with religious law and against our tendencies, and have seen the fruits of a more able generation rise from our efforts, religious law is everything that leads to access to power. In the Baha’i Faith, marriage is set of laws dovetailing with a number of ideas expressing an aspiration for the human being and human society. My own experience with Baha’i law and Baha’i marriage is inextricably linked with my particular spiritual journey on which I found the Baha’i Faith as a young adult. So it seems right that my comment on Baha’i Marriage should begin with an expose of my own being in life.
I am an introvert, a thinker, a creative energy. Various incidents in childhood convinced me that other people were unreliable. Certainly unreliable with my emotions. Quite unreliable with my needs and dreams. As a farm child I could spend a lot of time alone. Alone is my great attractor. Nonetheless, needs will out and the search to fulfil need became a constant, just as a resentment that I needed those ‘unreliable’ others to fulfil those needs.
Sometimes, as a child, I would wander into the farmland, delighting in not being at the farm house with the rowdy noise of other siblings and the ad hoc requests for farm chores from a parent. I wished I could stay out all day. Yet hunger undermined my will. Powerless, I would trudge home. Sometimes, situations had me running away, and delighting in the power I felt from that action. Yet, powerless against my own base needs, I would trudge home.
As a child, I found myself drawn to the amazing story and aspiration of the teachings of the Judaic Bible and Jesus Christ, and became devoted to the Catholic Church instructions. I became a disappointment to myself, unable to achieve for even a day, the aspiration.
Powerlessness and resentment built a rage against just about everyone, by the time I was eight years old. The rage built guilt. The guilt reinforced aloneness.
The Catholic Church, eventually, proved its own unreliability. I sacrificed myself once on its altar, and thereafter it only offered torture, physical abuse, emotional confusion, and philosophical ineptitude.
As the evidence of the unreliability of others, and my own unreliability, gripped my mind, even my building powers was unable to remove the feeling of powerlessness. A desire to feel the power by ‘running away’ gave sentiment to thoughts of wonder for the great darkness. Desire for death, thwarted by fear for God, reinforced guilt and shame. Guilt and shame reinforced separation, locked up rage, fed depression. While my thirst turned from wanting truth and reliability to wanting a pragmatic way to live an assured life, my path found the Baha’i Faith.
Baha’u’llah told me to be spiritually, materially and socially independent; to reject asceticism; to be of service to humanity; to marry and raise children to mention Him. Accepting Baha’u’llah’s way has been 30 years of fruitfulness. Much of that fruit has been through a painful extrication away from the story I harboured with all the powerlessness, resentment, rage, guilt, and depression. Even here, this writing is part of that reflection designed to unravel the knotted mind against spiritual openness, against the flow of the holy spirit.
Baha’u’llah’s way rests on several concepts of human and social development:
- The individual must achieve basic independence by the age of 15. Basic independence is represented by: the ability to recognise the Manifestation of God, Baha’u’llah, under a broad ability to independently search for truth; and the ability to choose a mate for life, ie be able to work with others, evaluate their character, and speak openly with parents about relationships.
- Men and women are equal in their independence.
- Marriage is for the purpose of raising children who will mention of Baha’u’llah, essentially serve His Cause and humanity.
- Marriage requires a man and a woman to choose to marry each other. Their choice shall be made on their evaluation that they are compatible characters;
- Marriage requires that the man and woman seek consent of the marriage from their parents, essentially to extend the evaluation of their compatibility;
- Marriage is a building of unity between two families, not simply the union of the couple, and, in this, parents have great responsibility, starting with consent but in ongoing development of the relationships between the families.
- Marriage is an undertaking that each partner will “Abide by the Will of God”, thereby always maintaining spiritual, material and social independence in a relationship designed to develop deep spiritual support for each other and their progeny.
Marriage, for me, has been a choice to accept Baha’u’llah’s teachings for the good of myself, and, in whatever small way, for society. Marriage, for me, has been much about arresting my rage and my desire for running away, and directing my powers towards the development of my wife and sons. I have not been particularly good at my lessons, nonetheless, the lessons continue to be provided and I am grateful for the powerfulness I now feel, not running away, and for the benefits that have accrued to my wife and my sons. I tend to be convinced of the unreliability of people, however I more accept that that is how they are, and I am ready to be convinced of their reliability. Baha’i marriage has created, for me, a construct for enormous self-development. I have achieved an increasing insight into selflessness. However I have also realised a power has lain behind the veil of the powerlessness that I felt from childhood and through much of adulthood, that there is a certain powerful truth in that powerlessness.
My take-home message is that, all of these ‘inadequacies’ we feel from childhood tend to make us look away, to hide them from others. We simply need to do exactly the opposite, to look at our notion of inadequacy in ourself and others, to accept that these inadequacies are indeed true, yet that they are also, not true. As parents, we can do much to encourage our children to speak of the inadequacies they see and feel, and to look clearly at how these are true and not true, how our story about the truth and not-truth of inadequacies make us feel and act, and how we can be independent of truth and not-truth in regard inadequacies, and thereby be independent in truth, in God, in the Holy Spirit, in selflessness. In this, parents will help each generation evolve toward a powerful way of living, towards the mystical nothingness from which humanity as a whole will find access to a great powerfulness.