"If none be found to stray . . ."

Discussion in 'Baha'i' started by Ahanu, Jan 3, 2019.

  1. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Going back to this, I guess I can simply continue to elaborate on post #9: How can anyone sin (e.g., be greedy) in a perfect creation, in which your every need is met? Quick thought experiment. Let's use greed as an example. In an imperfect creation we find scarce resources, so some seek to horde them at the expense of others. Of course, the absence of resources doesn't necessarily make one sin; rather, it opens up new decisions for one to make. Consider the grasshoppers Abdu'l-Baha observed one day and used to illustrate a moral example for human beings:

    "All the nations are thinking of how to advance their own interests while working against the best interests of other nations. They desire their own personal advantage while seeking to undermine affairs in other countries. They call this the "struggle for survival" (tanázu'-i baqá), and assert that it is innate to human nature. But this is a grievous error; nay, there is no error greater than this. Gracious God! Even in the animal kingdom cooperation and mutual assistance for survival are observed among some species, especially in the case of danger to the whole group. One day I was beside a small stream and noticed some young grasshoppers which had not yet developed wings seeking to cross to the other side in order to obtain food. To accomplish their goal, these wingless grasshoppers rushed forward into the water and vied with each other to form a bridge across the stream while the remaining grasshoppers crossed over on top of them. The grasshoppers were able to pass from one side of the stream to the other, but those insects which had formed the bridge in the water perished. Reflect how this incident illustrates co-operation for survival, not struggle for survival. Insofar as animals display such noble sentiments, how much more should man, who is the noblest of creatures; and how much more fitting it is in particular that, in view of the divine teachings and heavenly ordinances, man should be obliged to attain this excellence."​

    There are cases in history when natural disasters have caused a scarcity of resources. Now if all resources (e.g., water and food) were there for all human beings from the get-go and for the entire duration of creation, then us humans would have nothing to horde from others. In other words, the choice to be greedy would evaporate in a perfect world, because greed would then be as unfathomable as a flying unicorn would be to us.

    Strangely, creationists imagine that in the past our every need was met in Adam's state of bliss in the Garden of Eden. And in the halls of Silicon Valley transhumanists imagine that in the future the very dust we walk on will be programmed to materialize our every need. Both express the desire for perfection.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  2. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Greed? It is mere excess. You can still have all your needs met and be greedy, right? Well, maybe not if we're considering a long evolutionary view.

    I am making a particular assumption about the evolution of greed. Even animals can appear to be greedy. Some link greed to the reptilian brain. The fact there has been intense competition for scarce resources for millions of years must have some type of effect on our brains. Perhaps sin can be described as an evolutionary hangover, and perhaps this is what going against "the will of God" can be described as since human beings were never made perfect from the start; instead, they are in the process of becoming and moving towards a greater unity. Sin is to remain stagnant, to refuse to grow and realize our potential nature, which is one that seeks to expand into greater levels of consciousness. The Bab wrote:

    "The One true God may be compared unto the sun and the believer unto a mirror. No sooner is the mirror placed before the sun than it reflects its light. The unbeliever may be likened unto a stone. No matter how long it is exposed to the sunshine, it cannot reflect the sun. Thus the former layeth down his life as a sacrifice, while the latter doeth against God what he committeth. Indeed, if God willeth, He is potent to turn the stone into a mirror, but the person himself remaineth reconciled to his state."​

    The metaphor of the stone above reminds me of stagnation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
  3. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    But then again we are also wired to belong to a group. Our ancestors had to cooperate to survive, supporting the idea those who cooperate were selected while those who did not perished, because those who were selfish were banned from the group. This contrasts with the idea that the competition for food selected those with a predisposition to greed. Both seem correct (although they contradict each other), making it even more puzzling for me.

    It seems to me inevitable that sin would exist in an imperfect universe that develops and acquires perfections over millions and millions of years. In my opinion, Thomas' view only makes sense in a static universe. From a developmental point of view, how could none have strayed from the path? Only in a universe of square circles?

    By the way, for anyone interested . . . a brief description of the Baha'i view of human nature can be found here.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Because the example of the very rich show us, those who have everything want more?

    For me, the sin lies not in the nature of the world, but in the nature of man. For greed to evaporate, I don't think you need to perfect the world (a supply that meets demand), rather perfect the man.

    I tend to disagree, but perhaps or perhaps not ... certainly we could say his every need was met, it was his wants that got him into trouble.

    It's a false one.
     
  5. Arif Ghamiq

    Arif Ghamiq Active Member

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    It is the opinion of many Muslim Scholars, Teachers & Students that Adam’s act of disobedience was due to greed.
     
  6. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    What is a sin for humans is not a sin for animals. Baha'i theology presents us with relationalism:

    "All sin comes from the demands of nature, and these demands, which arise from the physical qualities, are not sins with respect to the animals, while for man they are sin. The animal is the source of imperfections, such as anger, sensuality, jealousy, avarice, cruelty, pride: all these defects are found in animals but do not constitute sins. But in man they are sins."
    -Abdu'l-Baha
    Greed didn't enter the world through man; it was already there in animals. I've seen a dog greedily hog all the food for himself, snarling and biting any other dog that tried to get any food when he had plenty of food to go around for all four of them.

    Humans must "rise" from their lower nature, but it seems you two are thinking of this upside down from a "fallen" worldview.

    There is always a supply that meets demand? Surely you don't want to assert that. Some in the ancient world, such as many Native American tribes, viewed comets as bad omens. Who can blame them? Comets have been known to cause worldwide famines!

    I think they go hand-in-hand. Leave man in nature all alone with animals and he will not grow up to found Rome no matter how much the Romulus and Remus mythology insists such is the case. Instead, after entering society they will be unable to fully acquire a language, becoming nearly unrecognizable as human beings. Environment is definitely important. I would have to reject any worldview of "man" that doesn't think so.

    On a related note in Baha'i thinking all things must be perfected. See quotes from the Bab below:

    "No created thing shall ever attain its paradise unless it appeareth in its highest prescribed degree of perfection. For instance, this crystal representeth the paradise of the stone whereof its substance is composed. Likewise there are various stages in paradise for the crystal itself . . . So long as it was stone it was worthless, but if it attaineth the excellence of ruby B a potentiality which is latent in it B how much a carat will it be worth? Consider likewise every created thing."​

    And:

    "[W]hoever possesseth power over anything must elevate it to its uttermost perfection that it not be deprived of its own paradise. For example, the paradise of a sheet of paper on which a few excellent lines are inscribed is that it be refined with patterns of gold illumination, adornment, and excellence that are customary for the most exalted parchment scrolls. Then the possessor of that paper hath elevated it to its utmost degree of glory."
    If such is the case for a sheet of paper, then how much more we should take care of and attend to our own environment and help nature itself attain perfections.

    Again, it is not difficult to see how millions of years of competition for food led to a predisposition to greed?

    Here are some related quotes about nature from Abdu'l-Baha:

     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  7. Arif Ghamiq

    Arif Ghamiq Active Member

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    “What is a sin for humans is not a sin for animals”

    I don’t see how I gave an impression to the contrary? And what a long list that is. I’ve often heard people justifying human behavior by pointing out that it happens in the animal kingdom - natural.

    Giving in to, or justifying the animalistic impulses of the lower “Commanding Self” (Nafs Ammarah) is how sin becomes manifest in humanity - lowering oneself - falling beneath the human standard (Surah 95).
     
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  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Humanity ain't so humane, civilization ain't so civilized.
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    I'd say the same. Sin requires the free assent of the will to do that which one knows to be wrong.

    You misunderstand. I think external circumstance is irrelevant where sin is concerned. In any circumstance, you'll find sinners and saints rubbing shoulders. The circumstance does not determine man's the response.

    On perfection, I think this is where we can tend to get caught up in the details of ontology.

    Christ said: "There is none good but one, that is God." (Mark 10:18, Matthew 19:17, Luke 18:19).

    God, being God, is the Source of life, being, existence, etc. It all flows from Him. In the face of God, nothing is perfected, but then God does not expect perfection, rather He asks for 'goodness', and by so doing we can share in His nature. God saw all of creation, and saw it was good. It was not perfect, but it was good enough.

    Well we're facing an extinction event, aren't we, and I would rather say the more pressing problem is not helping nature attain perfection, but rather helping nature sustain its viability as regards life ... and that is very much in doubt.
     
  10. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Hmmmm, as in going against master's command(ment)s? ...wheels turning in new territory
     
  11. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Yes,
     
  12. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    So,.not.all.dogs are in heaven..
     
  13. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet Deus Pascus Corvus

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    Perhaps the root of greed implies the need to store for the future. When do you stop storing? A day ahead? A month? 20 years?

    There's a parable by Christ about a rich man storing excess in barns, yet his life was taken from him that same night, in the midst of his prosperity?

    So in a way greed is a lack of faith in God's promise to provide? God feeds the ravens.
     
  14. Cino

    Cino Big Love

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    Just to throw something into this discussion, a similar concept:

    In Buddhism, the mental states of greed, hatred, and delusion are considered the "three roots" of bad actions (karma) which bind a being to existence in Samsara. Nirvana is the release from this bondage (literally the "unbinding").

    While it is neither a "rise from a lower state" nor a "return to a higher" conceptualization, it still, to my understanding, expresses the same kind of yearning.
     
  15. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    External circumstance is irrelevant where sin is concerned? Interesting that humans have a predisposition for certain sins, eh? Like war and team aggression.

    Here's a question for you: In contrast to humans and chimpanzees, why have bonobos never been seen to engage in team aggression or war?
     

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