HOW TO KNOW EVERYTHING

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.

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Employability now vs the Future

Just finished listening to this talk back with Melbourne restaurateur and youth mentor Peter Coronica. Peter has employed over 1000 young people over the last 25 years.

He says parents play a vital role in preventing youth unemployment by getting kids off the sports ground, out of music class and into paid work as early as possible.

While broadly supporting Peter’s premise and experience, I took some exception to his ‘priorities’, wondering where those choices that he made, came from. Over the years i have read and listened to an array of educational experts and my conclusion is that a learning culture shows up with these characteristics that are applicable from 0 – 99 year:

  1. Mimicry and modelling;
  2. memorization;
  3. physical development;
  4. creative development;
  5. socialization, community engagement, and empowerment;
  6. exposure to the natural environment;
  7. building a knowledge base;
  8. technical skills.

I realise that many of these characteristics come from people who have spent their career on one of these items as has Peter Coronica. And their individual focus tends, i think to skew that characteristic from its appropriate expression as within a wholistic framework constructed from all characteristics.

There is more I can say specifically about this framework for age appropriate development and learning, however the framework implies a great deal of change in the structure of education, learning, culture, productivity and economics. However, i believe it is the surer future for our children and young people: to have it all.

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.