There is a concept in the facilitation of Baha’i Study, of elevated conversation. Elevated conversation is something that anyone can enter. It does require knowledge of certain things but, those things being known or understood, it is not necessary to be knowledgeable about other things and still be able to enter elevated conversation about those things.
Well those couple of sentences are, I am sure, just baffling. So lets look at it through a specific principle of the Baha’i Faith: religion and science are in harmony.
The first thing i would say is that, while scientific knowledge is useful for an elevated conversation around this principle, it is only that it can be a tool of elevated conversation, not a tool of scientific knowledge. This is a distinction that is important to make.
Let’s drill down into the ideas.
Conversation can be described as being in play with another or others. Play, for those who have forgotten what that is, is the to and fro without expectations, but from which something flourishes. It is mostly a very enjoyable experience for everyone.
‘Elevated’ in the context of Baha’i empowerment training might be defined as the transformation of complaint based issues to generative Baha’i Principle based conversation. Baha’i principles are socially transformative concepts based on the vast array of spiritual principles exhorted by Baha’u’llah, with implications for individual empowerment and action.
In elevated conversation, the facilitator can be thought of as holding a space for the other(s) and themselves to be working as with these generative principles. “As with” meaning both that the participants ARE the principle, and work WITH the principle. The facilitator could ask whether the other(s) agree with the principles as they are presented. Alternatively, the facilitator could request that the other(s) just try the principle on, like wearing a coat, for the duration of the conversation.
So, in regards science or any scientific idea. The Baha’i principle is that Science and Religion is in harmony. So, as Baha’is we don’t need to know everything there is about religion or science to explain the harmony. In fact, if you think about it, that would be a ludicrous expectation of ourselves and others. Rather, we as Baha’is have accepted to wear the coat of ‘science and religion is in harmony’. So the elevated conversation with scientific friend can be in the form of a request. “Brianna, can I request that you ‘wear’ this idea around for a while?” “You can always take it off, later on, if it doesn’t feel comfortable” Because as we know, we can only guess at what is wearable by looking at it on the rack. Until we try it on, we don’t really get a feel for it. And there is very little reality in a conversation about things. Reality is only what comes into being as a structure, an action. Conversation of course, is an action, so the distinction between conversation (play with another) and ‘about things’ (imagination), is important.
Once a person has agreed to ‘wear’ the concept of science and religion are in harmony, then the conversation can progress in the space of that concept. In that generative (creative) space, which you as facilitator are holding open for the conversation, there are only things that are ‘science and religion are in harmony’. Complaints about science and complaints about religion are not possibilities in that space. So, when complaint rises, the facilitator can notice it to the other(s). “So, can you see that, when you move the conversation into complaint about the past, or science or religion, that you have moved to a domain of ‘nothing new or transformative is happening here’. This human tendency to move to complaint is more often not about truth, just a social tendency, an habitual domain to get us into social engagement, upon which we peg some rationale, after the fact. So ‘holding the space’ means that the facilitator requests, “How about we come back to the arena of science and religion are in harmony,” “Okay, now what comes up for you in this arena, this space.”<
A note on generative language. Generative language is future and creative based language. It gets life from words that are about creating into the space. It might not be surprising to see that these words are the same as what we call 'virtues' or names of God, in the Faith eg enthusiasm, love, courage, beauty, wonder, questions, service, contribution, etc etc etc.
So, in practical terms, in the space of 'science and religion are in harmony' you can present the quotations from the writings that seem to link to a scientific idea, existence, the universe, even the limitations of human knowledge. In the spirit of conversation you might try a couple of quotes with an interaction in generative conversation. What comes up for you and the other(s)? What comes up dictates the next conversation, the next writings you might use. So be in play, in enjoyment. Then it never needs to stop.
If a conversation is always in play, does it have any purpose? A generative conversation would be expected to realise some milestones in development. By inference, if the conversation fails to develop, it is not generative, perhaps looping, certainly stagnating and eventually will stop. Within any branch of a conversation, it may indeed stop as the participants find no further point of generation. Yet, often another branch, another choice of direction, can be taken. Any conversational direction with another may yield fruit. Fruits of the tree of conversation are a form of contribution to the world, a service to humanity. The new contribution in the world is that the person has been transformed, that they ARE something new. The generative or elevated conversation can take advantage of any milestones in transformation that shows up as a new contribution.