Science and Mysticism I

I recently came across reference to Mario Beauregard’s book The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul (HarperCollins). In checking the intro of the book online, I discovered Tom Wolfe’s words, “Since consciousness and thought are entirely physical products of your brain and nervous system.” (Note, Mario Beauregard writes against this materialist proposition).  I immediately saw that this is not a verifiable statement and, therefore, not essentially scientific. Not for the first time, it occurs to me that such statements come about because it is difficult, even for the scientists who work in the field, to establish themselves ontologically ie BE, in this case, a human who lives as if the world is an illusion, even though the ‘physical’ science might suggest otherwise.

However, in a sense agreeing with the materialists, the mysticism of Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i Faith, suggest that the world IS a type of illusion, mirage, reflection, of some greater reality. From this perspective, language maketh the world. Now this also became a 20th C philosophical idea associated with both existentialism and phenomenology. Baha’u’llah’s teachings seem to come down to the concepts that the mind/soul will acquire whatever it is ‘looking at’, and that, for the main, most of what we look at is fanciful. Rather, the Word of God is a literature (language) that intends to create a best practice foundation of language for the whole human population. Best practice literature acts to create a best ‘knowing’. In turn ‘knowing’, and here I tend to take a lesson out of that modern philosophical handbook, creates ‘being’ and ‘being’ automatically delivers action and behaviour. From a psychological perspective, ‘being’ is the state of true intent rather than the glossy brochure, and intent is the only attitudinal stance that is strongly correlated with behaviour. From best knowing, being (true intent) creates the act of enquiry (search, research, open communication), moral and ethical stance, and integrity.

The greater reality or worlds of God that Baha’u’llah then points to, becomes an ‘out of the box’ situation. That is, the mind is a black box which cannot see itself, only the data that it is pre-determined (by evolution if you will) to filter. However, by pointing to the limitations of the black box and the promise of a greater reality, Baha’u’llah, as other Great educators of the world, create infinite possibilities for the human being whether alive or dead.

Baha’u’llah’s interest lies, not in the rhetorical study, nor a prolonged practice of some mystical experience, for this can become ‘words that end with words’ or perhaps minds that are trained only for self-referent ‘bliss’, both fanciful traps of the mind. His interest lies in the extent that the practice of spiritual discipline, mystical insight and discourse translates into a type of being-in-action, in particular the development of true altruism and service to humanity. To Baha’u’llah, effort towards this framing is where any true knowledge comes from. The mystical viewpoint is all important to this, for unless there is a true intent in reaching for something that materialists say is physically / neurologically impossible, then there can never be a realisation of something that might be altogether possible.

Within this framework of the being-in-service, all mystical, spiritual and religious teachings, become subservient to fostering engagement through service among all human beings such that the whole global society is increasing perturbed towards an altruistic being.

Within that framework, scientific process becomes an essential tool against fancy and towards an understanding of God (The Hidden). Baha’u’llah’s view of science might be paraphrased again, as research-in-action-for-the-service-of-humanity. In one of His mystical works he encourages the leap of faith towards what He believed every human being would feel as granduer. Baha’u’llah seems keen to dispel notions that there is a different state of being of the scientist or the spiritual adept, that we are all seekers/researchers and that seeking requires certain moral and spiritual discipline even before technical skill.

As a social extension, however, Baha’u’llah suggests that the scientific and mystical processes are best expressed through the act of consultation. Governance, then, might be thought of as the dance of the acquiring of knowledge (science by individuals or groups), the social engagement with that knowledge (discourse involving knowledge, lived experience and spiritual meaning), and a daily enactment for best service through leadership consultation. By daily enactment, we might visualise a governance that is being an action driven responsiveness, a learning response, a governmental choice that is both determined on one hand, and fluid to the rapid revision of that choice on the other. Mysticism, in this form, creates an occurring for adherents in which their lives can be an engagement with others on an idea of a ‘reality of the heart’, a detachment from the power models, regardless of the overall social response, on the basis that such material responses as ‘unreal’. This creates a capacity for flourishing of great leadership. To the materialist this leadership might look to be the outcome of a self organising system. To the mystic, a simple question hangs, “Why Not?”, and becomes organising.

Ultimate Empowerment Lives Beyond Choice

We make choices. It is the only method for a common human to nurture a pure heart “Sow the seeds of My divine wisdom in the pure soil of the heart, and water them with the waters of certitude, that the hyacinths of knowledge and wisdom may spring up fresh and green from the holy city of the heart.” (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words) and, in doing, so soothe the requests and proddings of an older worldlier creature that speaks to our breasts.

Yet of those vehicles of purity that are born into the world for our guidance, the word, ‘choice’ is simple distinction of the clay for which they have no vernacular. “I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of thy Lord, the Almighty,  the All-Praised, have stirred. Can it be still when the tempestuous winds are blowing? Nay, by Him Who is the Lord of all Names and Attributes! They move it as they list. The evanescent is as nothing before Him Who is the Ever-Abiding. His all-compelling summons hath reached Me, and caused Me to speak His praise amidst all people. I was indeed as one dead when His behest was uttered. The hand of the will of thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Merciful, transformed Me.” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 11)

Theirs is not a place for choosing, theirs is a place of knowing and being and powerfulness. Theirs is a reality in which the world is a shadow of ‘unawareness’. “Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water, and seeming as pictures to the eye.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 177) “Know ye that by “the world” is meant your unawareness of Him Who is your Maker, and your absorption in aught else but Him. The “life to come,” on the other hand, signifieth the things that give you a safe approach to God, the All-Glorious, the Incomparable. Whatsoever deterreth you, in this Day, from loving God is nothing but the world.”  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 275)

For we common humans, we need words of ‘sacrifice’, to distinguish between the dull demands of that old creature and the illumined treasure room of love. Those vehicles of love, born in the world to map the way to the treasure room, have no vernacular for sacrifice. “I have renounced My desire for Thy desire, O my God, and My will for the revelation of Thy Will. By Thy glory! I desire neither Myself nor My life except for the purpose of serving Thy Cause, and I love not My being save that I may sacrifice it in Thy path. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 36) They are the treasure room of love. “We, verily, have come for your sakes, and have borne the misfortunes of the world for your salvation. Flee ye the One Who hath sacrificed His life that ye may be quickened? Fear God, O followers of the Spirit, and walk not in the footsteps of every divine that hath gone far astray. Do ye imagine that He seeketh His own interests, when He hath, at all times, been threatened by the swords of the enemies; or that He seeketh the vanities of the world, after He hath been imprisoned in the most desolate of cities?” (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 10)

For we common humans, we need words of ‘justice’, to claim a right among the stronger old creatures among us. Those vehicles of justice, seeing the shadow beneath them, casts a law to protect the embryonic humility and insightfulness growing within our being. Theirs is a chastisment of the unjust from a place of power where imprisonment has no meaning. “My imprisonment doeth Me no harm, neither the tribulations I suffer, nor the things that have befallen Me at the hands of My oppressors. That which harmeth Me is the conduct of those who, though they bear My name, yet commit that which maketh My heart and My pen to lament.” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 23)

I could go on in this vein, through all the characteristics of progressive civilisation and virtuous humanity. For the philosophy of the human being is founded in the desire to have an equitable place, a place with choice, a place without domination. While the Manifestation of God lives in a place of power beyond such philosophy of equity. On one hand they submit to a position of the greatest inequity. On the other hand, they prove that this position, far from being powerless, is the position from which the empowerment of all humanity can emanate. This is their way and their proof.

If I were a Baha’i in Egypt

While Egypt continues its tumultuous political conflict, it is worthwhile taking pause to reflect on the attitude of the Baha’i community that has had an association with Egypt extending back to the days of the exile of Baha’u’llah to Akka in 1868. On Jan 24th 2013, the prominent Egyptian intellectual and author, Dr. Tarek Heggy published an article in Arabic that was first noted to be posted in “Civic Egypt” website, and titled “If I were a Baha’i” which has gained a bit of attention because of its direct language and its straightforward statements of facts, that enumerated the trials and tribulations suffered by Egyptian Baha’is over the years, and up to the present time. What Dr Heggy also infers by his article is that, in complete contrast to the political upheavals of a disconsolate population, the Baha’is remain patient and peaceful under tribulation, assured of the transformative nature of the processes underway in Egypt. I would add to Dr Heggy’s article: Baha’is in their silence are pleading with the people of Egypt – make your pain and suffering a thing of yesterday, come and talk with Baha’u’llah.

If I were a Baha’i in Egypt by Tarek Heggy

If I were Bahá’í  I would have informed the world of the systematic plan to eliminate all trace of the Bahá’í Faith and the Baháís from Egypt. 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have brought to the attention of all the great personalities and the intellectuals of the world the respect and regard with which their peers in Egypt received ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Son of Bahá’u’lláh) during His visit to this country in the early 20th. Century, and with what filth and disregard today’s pretentious personalities and false intellectuals of Egypt smear the fair name of Bahá’í and the Bahá’ís. 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the concourse of Justice in the world on the subject of the Al-Azhar Establishment and say to its honourable Ulamá: How could you decide today that Bahá’í is not a religion when the Superior Shar’ia Tribunal of Beba/Souhag ruled in 1925 that “Bahá’í is an independent religion.” 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the concourse of Justice in the world on the subject of the Al-Azhar Establishment which with all the mosques, mesdjids and kettab schools at their disposal in Egypt, have found it necessary to disown the Bahá’í Community of their main Centre building to use it for a Qur’ánic school.

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the concourse of Justice in the world on the subject of the imprisonment of some 92 Bahá’ís–men and women–aged between 2 and 80 years. They were arrested between midnight and dawn from all over Egypt and transferred to jail in Tanta; then falsely accused of treason, misconduct and espionage, far and wide in the media, for no other reason than because they are Bahá’í. 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the concourse of Justice in the world on the frequent arrest of Bahá’ís, men and women, their incarceration in jail for days, weeks or months for interrogation. The courts have never found them guilty of neither crime nor fault, but they were Bahá’í. 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the concourse of Art in the west and in the east, to the case of one of the greatest and most admired artists of Egypt, Hussein Bikar, who was arrested in his home and driven to jail with other renowned Bahá’ís for days of interrogation regarding his and their Bahá’í Faith. 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the concourse of Art in the west and in the east, and would say to them: Hussein Bikar, one of the greatest and most admired Artists of Egypt had no Identity card at his death at almost 90 years of age. The Egyptian Authorities refused to issue one with “Bahá’í” mentioned in the space for religion. 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the world Organizations of Law and Justice and of Human Rights, government and non-government alike, and said to them: imagine that in Egypt of the 21st. Century, individual Identity Cards have to include the binding indication of the religion of the individual? 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the world Organizations of Law and Justice and of Human Rights, government and non-government alike, and said to them: imagine that in Egypt of the 21st. Century, individual Identity Cards must include the binding indication of one of only three religions notwithstanding the individual’s wish or faith? 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the world Organizations of Law and Justice and of Human Rights, government and non-government alike, and said to them: in Egypt of the 21st. Century, the sons and daughters of Bahá’ís are issued individual Identity Cards with a dash (–) for religion while their parents are refused identity cards: WHY? Because the Egyptian State does not recognize Bahá’í marriage! O people of the world: come and take stock of administrative excellence! 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness all the Ministers of Education of the world and informed them that: the Minister of Education of Egypt has declared that he will refuse admittance of children–yes children of Bahá’ís to the government schools because the children are Bahá’í!

If I were Bahá’í: I would have informed the world that the new Egyptian Constitution contains the necessary elements for the elimination of the Bahá’í minority in Egypt. 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have informed the world that burning the homes of Bahá’ís takes place with impunity in Egypt. 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have taken for witness the world Organizations of Mass Media, of Law and Justice and of Human Rights, government and non-government alike, and informed them that in Egypt, inciting to kill Bahá’ís, through TV and speeches is normal and is done with impunity! 

In spite of all this: 

If I were Bahá’í: I would have said to those in authority in Egypt: I am loyal to my country, I love my country, I strive for the success and progress of my country and I consider the children of my neighbors as my children without consideration of religion or creed. How wonderful would Egypt be were you, who are in authority, to follow in this same path.

No More Namby Pamby

On this Christmas day of 2012, I am reminded of the moment that saw Jesus ben Joseph entered the waters of baptism, open himself to the Holy Spirit, and become to completely, wonderfully reflect the Glory of God. In every instance of His life, thereafter, He demonstrated that power through His unremitting stance for the spiritual requirements of all the people living in His moment, towards that day that ” shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:2-2:4)

I am reminded that Jesus, forsaking every comfort so that He could establish the law of love with humanity and exact the promise of the Covenant of God with humanity, saying ” I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (Gospel of John 16:12 – 16:14)

And, even in that, He made it clear as he felled the tables of money veiling the sacred place, the place of worship, that there is necessity in the spiritual stance to go to the priests of rituals of the ego and yell loudly, “NO! NO! NO!, GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!

For Jesus, that stance was completed in His recognition that they would, then, find an excuse to kill Him. For the money makers asked Him,” “What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then they said, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” But He spake of the temple of his body.” (King James Bible, John 2:18-2:21). His death would be the opening of the hearts of His disciples to the Holy Spirit and the establishment of Temple of Christ in the hearts of people throughout the world.

And, so, here, at Christmas 2012, my ego railing within, reminding me of the words that Christ gave us to use to put voice to that ego and its soothing, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”(King James Bible, Matthew), I take this stand. I commit to the promise of love and peace. I commit to saying to the priests of rituals to the ego, war, and hoarding. “NO! NO MORE, NO EXCUSES!” I commit to turning guns into plough shares. I commit to turning violence into calm and peace. I commit to raising the children of the world with physical and spiritual nourishment. I commit to empowering the youth as peacemakers and community builders. I commit to turning prisons into playgrounds. I commit to caring for the planet for every living thing. I commit to the dance of extending love and justice across the planet. No more Namby Pamby. I take this stand.

UK Tribute to Centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s Visit

Image of viewing of Historical archives
Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government– pictured right – examines personal and historical items associated with ‘Abdu’l-Baha at a reception hosted by the British government for the Baha’i community, 28 November 2012.

BWNS: LONDON — Government ministers and members of parliament here welcomed more than 80 Baha’is to a unique event to pay tribute to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, 100 years after His visit to Britain.

It was the first time the British government has hosted a special reception specifically for the Baha’i community.

‘Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921) was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah and His appointed successor as head of the Baha’i Faith. From 1910-1913, following His release from a lifetime of exile and imprisonment, ‘Abdu’l-Baha made an historic series of journeys to present Baha’u’llah’s teachings to audiences outside of the Middle East. His two visits to the British Isles took place in September 1911, and from December 1912 to January 1913.

The reception was held by the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government
on Wednesday 28 November. Welcoming the guests, Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP expressed appreciation for the contribution Baha’is make to UK society. He praised the “little bits of kindness” he had observed among the Baha’is and added, “We wouldn’t tick along quite so well without Baha’is in our community.”

Don Foster MP – who is Minister for Integration – told the gathering that, of all the significant people to come from his home constituency of Bath, he was proud to include Ethel Rosenberg, a founding member of the British Baha’i community.

“You continue to distinguish yourselves in the professions, the arts and particularly in the vital areas of education and conflict resolution,” Mr. Foster told the Baha’is. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s “important truth” that “we should pursue peace together and differences of race and division between religions must cease is as true today as it was then,” he continued.

Kishan Manocha, speaking on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom, thanked Mr. Pickles for hosting the event, describing it as a “tremendous honor and pleasure.”

Writer and actor Annabel Knight – who is a Baha’i – noted that ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit was a landmark occasion for the fledgling community which helped the small band of British Baha’is to cement their identity and put service at the heart of their community life.