The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Timothy Mulligan <>
To: Timothy Mulligan <>
Subject: Re: Why I returned...
Date: Friday, August 21, 1998 9:49 AM
FYI, this post of mine was bounced by soc.religion.bahai because I was disrespectful
toward Esperanto.
(Sigh)  Fred, I'm beginning to think you're right about those SRB moderators.  I
tried to be very measured and moderate in this post.  Seems I can't win with
Tim Mulligan
Timothy Mulligan wrote:
> Chris,
>     Thank you for your refreshingly thoughtful and intellectually honest post.
>     In many respects, I think you hit the nail on the head.  What's lacking in
> the Baha'i Faith is mysticism -- the direct experience of God.  But you must see
> that a religion that emphasizes the mediation of a "manifestation" between God
> and humanity will naturally eschew mysticism.  (Indeed, Christian mystics
> throughout the ages have often come under fire, e.g., by the Inquisition, for
> sharing their experience of God, as in the case of St. John of the Cross, as
> "pure nothingness," without mentioning the humanity of Christ [which St. Theresa
> of Avila insisted upon always remembering, perhaps to immunize her own mysticism
> against charges of heresy]).  Instead, we find in the Baha'i Faith what the
> Bhagavad Gita calls "bhakti," or devotional religion, with Baha'u'llah as the
> object of devotion.
>     As you may have noticed, in several of my many posts over the past week,
> I've recommended _The Perennial Philosophy_ by Aldous Huxley, at title with
> which I'm sure you are familiar.  In that book, Huxley presents the kernal of
> all great religious traditions as being an essentially mystical experience.  The
> exoteric features of religions, Huxley points out, are ultimately hindrances in
> realizing the Divine.  They may not even be particularly good at *preparing*
> souls for the mystical journey.  I think the Baha'i Faith bears witness to this
> truth as much as any religion.  Its extreme focus on evangelization,
> proselytism, "teaching," gaining converts, call it what you will, shifts the
> energy of its adherents toward pure exotericism, i.e., the outward features of
> the religion.  Even the existence of scriptures like _The Four Valleys and the
> Seven Valleys_ doesn't compensate for this focus -- it simply exists as a kind
> of non sequitur.
>     Many have argued, as you argue, that religions are necessary for an orderly
> civilization.  For instance, from the secular world, F.A. Hayek, the great
> economist, in his book _The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism_, goes to
> great lengths to point out that moral and religious systems evolve much like
> language evolves, and that they evolve as they do because they serve a real
> human need.  They cannot, Hayek says, be dismantled without severe societal
> consequences.  Hayek makes this argument while insisting that he is an agnostic.
>     Actually, the Baha'i Faith violates Hayek's principles, because it
> constitutes a kind of "social engineering."  Although some evolution of its
> institutions is envisioned, still, the form of the future "World Order" is
> supposedly set out by the Central Figures.  That's the kind of thing (in the
> form of socialism and central planning) that Hayek was arguing against.  It is
> as futile as developing a language out of whole cloth (e.g., Esperanto -- where
> the heck is *that* going??), although here, I would make an exception for
> American Sign Language.
>     So while I agree with you, Chris, that organized religion serves an
> important societal purpose, I can't agree that the Baha'i Faith even succeeds,
> or will succeed, on that level. As von Hayek might have said, it's too
> "engineered," too "pre-fabricated."  Morever, given its exoteric emphasis, the
> spiritual experience of its members is more a type of "bhakti," or even less
> than that -- an emotionalism -- that merely reinforces the ego, the false self,
> instead of dismantling it in preparation for Divine Union in this life.
>     As a student of mysticism, I'm sure you know that the true goal of human
> life is to "lose the self," and to allow God to live in us.  There are many
> insidious ways in which the ego, the self, perpetuates itself.  One of these is
> through grasping an identity ("I am a Baha'i"), and even through "doing good."
> This is a very subtle matter, difficult to explain in a Usenet post.  I
> certainly don't understand it myself, let alone live it (as you can tell from my
> nasty Usenet posts).
>     So my position, to sum up, is this:  (1)  organized religion *is* necessary
> to civilization, or else it would not have evolved; (2) the Baha'i Faith, to the
> extent that it is already "engineered" and pre-fabricated, may not even serve
> the traditional civilizing role of the "evolved" and, hence, integrated,
> religions; (3) my personal spiritual growth can only really occur through a
> mystical path, not exoteric religion, and is probably not consistent with the
> needs of society at large.
>     I welcome further dialog on this issue.
> Tim Mulligan
> Chris L. Donaldson wrote:
> > Hello Everyone:
> > First of all, let me apologize up front for the length of this message.
> > Also, if you're a brand new Baha'i, read no further and might I suggest you
> > unsubscribe from your Baha'i related news groups for at least a year...and
> > deepen as best you can within your local community.
> > I left the Baha'i Faith officially a little over a year ago. I returned last
> > month. When I left, I had no desire to publicly renounce and dispute the
> > Faith on the news groups. It was a personal decision that I did not wish to
> > air. Be that as it may, I would have agreed with many of Tim Mulligan's
> > comments ( though Baha'u'llah's stature never really was an issue with me).
> >
> > Although I left quietly, I did instigate a discussion string addressing
> > similar subjects as Tim's regarding "Baha'i Mysticism" and the apparent lack
> > of communal Baha'i spirituality see
> >
> > <> I only
> > bring this up because some of the responses I received then are relevant
> > here. A number of the responses suggested that my feelings and observations,
> > though they certainly were valid, reflected an emptiness within myself and
> > at the very least, indicated a personal responsibility for me to make
> > positive change in that direction within my local Baha'i community. At the
> > time, I thought these responses callous and diversionary, but the last year
> > or so has played them out. In that time, I returned to Christianity only to
> > find what I thought were "Baha'i shortcomings" followed me no matter what
> > church community I joined. The historical inconsistencies continued to
> > plague my intellect and the spiritual void returned with all its loneliness
> > and isolation. Hummm...
> > Over the year, I found myself "lurking" in the Baha'i new groups again (I
> > see a few other ex-Baha'is are doing the same), hitting every "why I am a
> > Muslim and not a Baha'i" web page I could find, and getting strangely
> > excited every time something of the Baha'is appeared in the media. To make a
> > long story a little shorter, I never really left the Baha'i Faith in my
> > heart. I only separated myself from what I then thought was a superficial
> > and tedious community. I wrote the NSA and got my card back. Enough said on
> > that.
> > Now, lest you think I'm basking in my newly found Baha'ihood, let me share
> > with you a few observations I bring with me from the deserts of religious
> > nomadism. I realize that the majority of you, being devout Baha'is, will not
> > agree with many or most of my points, but I'm not talking to you right now.
> > Go to the next message quickly before the seeds of doubt are planted. For
> > the rest of the lurkers, ex-Baha'is and dogma cynics, consider that:
> >  The existence of a personal God maybe up for debate, but Man's
> > insatiable search for the meaning of self-consciousness and a collective
> > ground to give direction is not. It is a part of our history.
> > - The god that can be explained with words, or pointed to by religion, or
> > imaged in mind or print is not God. It comes from our own limited
> > understanding of reality and does not transcend Man as it must. The sooner
> > we move past the simplistic notion of a creator god moving around
> > souls/cities/ nations and building religions as interpreted in the
> > Judeo-Christian era the better
> > - Religion is a creation of Man, for Man to understand and draw nearer to
> > this collective ground and to provide structure and community for our
> > personal search. Period. Mankind has achieved many great things throughout
> > history; the many religious vehicles for our spirituality being among them.
> > The best of what we have become and created could be "of God" but is not by
> > God. Because these religions are culturally driven created man-made
> > structures, under minute scrutiny the cracks and flaws invariably appear,
> > the Baha'i Faith included.
> > - These religious structures do seem to be necessary for the majority of
> > Mankind to progress spiritually (morally, ethically?). Without them, Man is
> > reduced to a maelstrom of "isms", whether it be nihilism, narcissism, etc.
> > Regardless, over time the end result is spiritual stagnation and moral
> > degradation. Tim, we need religious community to grow!
> > - So, we need religion. The manifestations and siants, as we recognize the
> > stations, build them for us. Life moves on and civilization, hopefully,
> > moves forward.
> > - These manifestations (and institutions), though highly polished mirrors,
> > are fallible; take a close look at any mirror! Writings contradict one
> > another, stations are assumed by more than one person, Guardians die before
> > appointing new ones. In the meantime the hungry starve, the poor suffer, the
> > oppressed languish and die.
> > - A few poor and hungry souls might figure out that religious structures
> > have very little to do with the reality of God. These individuals stop
> > talking and reading and fighting and reforming and arguing...and they start
> > listening. They cultivate the silence in their own mind and hearts so that
> > the truths that may have been present there all along can be heard,
> > experienced and to a limited degree shared. This is the life-giving pulse of
> > any religion and is the one facet of the Baha'i Faith I have found most
> > lacking.
> > - Strangely, the Baha'i literature is seeped in and demands this mystical
> > relationship with God. I think the Americanization if the Baha'i Faith,
> > though doing much to progress the cause by numbers and organization, has
> > come at a great cost.
> > Can a Baha'i think like this? To sum things up, I think so. What's more,
> > we need the Tims of the Faith not to leave but to be recognized and
> > encouraged to stay and provide a rational and critical spingboard from which
> > to grow our religion. We have inherited allot of baggage from our Jewish,
> > Christian, and Muslim brothers and sisters. Baggage that they are going to
> > have to deal with if they are going to survive into the 21st century, see
> > Bishop Spong's call for christian reformation at
> >
> > <> . But the Baha'is are
> > not immune. We may have a really up-to-date list of "equalities" to get us
> > into the new era, but the spiritual maturity of our people remains an issue
> > with which every Baha'i institution from the Universal House of Justice on
> > down will have to
> > recognize and respond.
> > Thanks for your patience ...Allah'u'abha
> > Chris