Mysticism – a Christian response to a Baha'i statement

Thomas

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In a protracted dialogue with a Baha'i member of the forum it seems to me the particular distinction between orthodox or traditional Christianity and the Baha'i is a rebuttal of the idea of the Immanent Presence in the latter, and a subsequent lack of a shared comprehension of the mystical dimension of the Christian faith. It was with this in mind that I was looking for insight, and came across this article published online, from a Baha'i magazine.

Entitled:
Mysticism and the Bahá'í Faith by Farnaz Ma'sumian, published in Deepen, 1995 Spring, 6:3, pages 12-17.

Introduction
Almost every claim made here is demonstrably mistaken ... I was going to list them, but I realised I would be refuting every statement made. If anyone would like to discuss this further, I'm open to it.

The Realm of the Divine Essence
The transcendental nature of the Divine Essence is greatly emphasized in the Bahá'í Writings. He is beyond man's comprehension and imaginative power. In other words, man can never hope to understand the Divine Essence through his intelligence nor through his feelings and inner experiences.
It would seem the Transcendent is emphasised at the expense of the Immanent, and this I would point to as a short-coming of the Baha'i doctrine generally, and thus impacting on its discussion of the mystical dimension.

The conceptions of the devoutest of mystics, the attainments of the most accomplished amongst men, the highest praise which the human tongue or pen can render are all the product of man's finite mind and are conditioned by its limitations. .....From time immemorial He hath been veiled in the ineffable sanctity of His exalted Self, and will everlastingly continue to be wrapped in the impenetrable mystery of His unknowable Essence...(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, 1973, p. 62).
And the Christian mystics would assert the same, yet at the same time assert a profound sense of union with the Divine, a cessation of the sense of 'I and Thou', a deep and sustaining sense of that 'unknowable essence' which nevertheless makes itself known, if only in part.

The Bahá'í conception of God envisions a Being Who is independent of His creation ... is completely separate from it, in the same manner that the painter is separate from his painting. In other words, He does not dwell in man. Man is not a portion of God nor can he ever hope to become united with His Essence.
Here we see no sense or sign of the dimension of the Divine Immanence – the painter and painting analogy disallows it.

This Immanent sense is there in the Abrahamics, in the Greek Philosophers, in nearly all the world's Religious traditions. Even Buddhism encompasses it, albeit in a non-theistic manner.

Here lies one of the major differences between mysticism as viewed by most mystics and the Bahá'í Faith. The ultimate goal of the mystic is to attain the presence of the Absolute, and to become one with Him. This idea is well expressed in the words of the fourteenth century mystic Henry Suso:
He forgets himself, he is no longer conscious of his selfhood; he disappears and loses himself in God, and becomes one spirit with Him, as a drop of water which is drowned in a great quantity of wine. (Happold, 1990, p. 99).
The Bahá'í Faith emphatically rejects the idea that the finite man will ever be able to attain the presence of the Infinite or that a creature can merge with the Uncreated.
This sunders and places a chasm between the Baha'i Faith and the Abrahamics, and indeed most all of the traditions it claims to speak for.

The Realm of the Prophets
For the mystic there are simply two planes of existence; the realm of God (the world of Divine Essence), and the realm of creation which includes man and the prophets. The Bahá'í Writings maintain that in addition to the two aforesaid realms, there is the world of the prophets which acts as a link between the world of God and the world of creation. In other words, God reveals Himself to man through His prophets. It is through Them that God's covenant with man is renewed in every dispensation (Schaefer, 1983).

Here the sundering is made irrevocable.

The Baha'i writings effectively introduce a third realm, or rather an intermediate realm between God and man, the realm of the prophets, and in so doing allows Divine Immanence with regard to the prophets, but in so doing disallows immanence with regard to common humanity.

Bahá'u'lláh said:
The door of the knowledge of the Ancient Beauty hath ever been, and will continue for ever to be, closed in the face of men....
This is a staggering statement ... it utterly ignores – or refutes – the prayer of Jesus in John 17...


... No man's understanding shall ever gain access unto His holy court.
Again, an absolute statement that refutes the idea of Immanence, of Union between self and Self ... I think it refutes a central idea of every religious tradition. I stand to be corrected.


As a token of His mercy, however, and as a proof of His loving-kindness, He hath manifested unto men the Day Stars of His divine guidance, the Symbols of His divine unity, and hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God....(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 49).
This stands in utter contrast to the self-understanding of the Prophets of Israel, and even the Prophet Muhammed himself (pbuh). While distancing himself as among the prophets who stand apart from humanity, he also claims divinity by his enjoyment of the self-knowing of God.

These Manifestations of God have a unique station, and no matter how far man may spiritually advance he can never reach the station of prophethood... It is not a difference in degree, but in kind (typology) which distinguishes Prophets from the rest of mankind... They are, by nature, a higher form of existence.
Emphasis mine. The Manifestations are some for of demiurgic being.

The Bahá'í Faith maintains that human beings have a dual nature: a physical body and an immortal soul. Nonetheless, the Manifestations of God, besides these two natures possess a third one that is unique to Their station. This third nature is the capacity to receive divine revelation and to infallibly transmit it to mankind.


Know that the Holy Manifestations, though they have the degree of endless perfections, yet, speaking generally, have only three stations. The first station is the physical: the second station is the human, which is that of the rational soul: the third is that of the divine appearance and the heavenly splendor ... The physical station is phenomenal ... The second is the station of the rational soul ... The third station is ... the Word of God, the Eternal Bounty, the Holy Spirit... (Abdu'l- Bahá, Some Answered Questioned, pp. 151-152).
There we have it ... the Holy Spirit is the private purview of the 'Manifestations'.

I am thunderstruck ... I would have considered the Bah'i as misguided ... now I think it's worse than that.
 
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https://bahai-library.com/masumian_mysticism_bahai
Mysticism, viewed from a general perspective, is a reaction against the shallowness of a decadent civilization. It usually culminates when religion is at its lowest, and thus appears superior by comparison. People with an intense desire for spirituality, when civilization appears on the verge of collapse, are attracted toward a philosophy of escape and are repelled by the seeming flaws of the established religion.
What shallow rubbish, lol. This opening statement totally dismisses Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism along with Qabalah and all other ancient spiritual mysticism.
Whereas prophetic religion affirms personality, mysticism denies it. The former believes in life, values history and tries to realize ideals and goals. The latter, however, escapes from the world, rejects the natural life and disregards history.
This statement over-rides all the spiritual wisdom of the ancients and replaces it with modern 'realize your goals' approach.

Hopefully many of the views in this 'paper' do not represent those of all Baha'is?
 
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There we have it ... the Holy Spirit is the private purview of the 'Manifestations'.

I am thunderstruck ... I would have considered the Bah'i as misguided ... now I think it's worse than that.
The Holy Spirit is the Essence of the Manifestations of God Thomas.

We partake of the Holy Spirit only via Faith, we must be born again, or it is the dead that will bury the dead. You can not kill Christ.

The virgin birth, I see is a metephor of the Messengers pre-existence. They are the first and last, the beginning and the end the Alpha and Omega.

We are not pre-existent, we are given a soul at conception, born in the image of that "First cause", born in the Image of the Messengers who are the perfect example.

Regards Tony
 
The Holy Spirit is the Essence of the Manifestations of God Thomas.
From the article, I draw the conclusion that the view is that the 'Messengers', as 'Manifestations of God' are akin to the pneumatics in Gnostic anthropology – a different and superior order of human being who are fully realised in themselves – in whom God is manifest, as it were.

The Gnostics then have the psychics, a lesser order of being who have a potential to be saved, but who are utterly dependent on the pneumatic to actualise their realisation, then the hylics, the lowest order, who lack the spark altogether and are simply beyond redemption.

I'm not sure where the Baha'i would locate humanity on that scale?

We partake of the Holy Spirit only via Faith, we must be born again, or it is the dead that will bury the dead. You can not kill Christ.
But the article does dispute that, so are you refuting the article?

We are not pre-existent, we are given a soul at conception, born in the image of that "First cause"...
I'm not sure of the relevance of this to the discussion – no-one is suggesting otherwise?

... born in the Image of the Messengers who are the perfect example.
That's interesting – so do you interpret that in light of Genesis 1:26?

As a Christian, my understanding is in light of NT texts such as John 1:4, and the Hymn of Colossians (1:11-20) – notably v16-17: "For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth ... all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist."

A very ancient hymn, and a profound statement of Christian metaphysics. Clearly one can draw a comparison with the Platonic idea of the Forms, but simply put, all things exist potentially in the Logos, and all created natures are the logoi – so made in the image and likeness is, in one sense (there are many ways to understand this) that the idea of each and every existing thing is in the Logos, and in due course is manifest and comes to be.

Objectively, Christ, as the Logos, provides order, meaning, and direction for all creation.

The Logos is spoken to and present within creatures as logoi, individuated expressions that anchor created things in God as their source and sets these things on the path of eschatological return.

How do you read 'Image'?
 
The Universal House of Justice has not long ago released this.
The Call of the Divine Beloved: Selected Mystical Works of Bahá’u’lláh
Is there anything here you can point me to as being relevant to the discussion?

This from Gleanings, XXVII
"And since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one true God with His creation, and no resemblance whatever can exist between the transient and the Eternal, the contingent and the Absolute ... "
Here is a statement that refutes the idea of Divine Immanence and indeed any kind of union with the Divine.

Contrary to the sacra doctrina of just about all the world's great religions.

"... He hath ordained that in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven. Unto this subtle, this mysterious and ethereal Being He hath assigned a twofold nature; the physical, pertaining to the world of matter, and the spiritual, which is born of the substance of God Himself."
So these 'stainless Souls' are a kind of demiurgic being, not God as such, but above-human intermediaries, a different order of being to the rest of humanity.

He hath, moreover, conferred upon Him a double station. The first station, which is related to His innermost reality, representeth Him as One Whose voice is the voice of God Himself... The second station is the human station, exemplified by the following verses: “I am but a man like you
Which clearly there are not, according to the first station, but just appear to be.

So in answer to your question:
who knows why such a personal opinion was stated?
I'd say it's based on what is stated by the man himself.

The essay is on the Baha'i Library website, so presumably it carries an official endorsement – there is no 'this is an opinion and not necessarily ... ' kind of conditioning statement.

I can find no biographical details of the author, other than she was on the faculty of the Wilmette Institute (a Baha'i Teaching Faculty) and a contributor to a pretty-well foundational document in her day.
 
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From Some Questions Answered (39: The Human and Divine Stations of the Manifestations):

Para 1: WE STATED BEFORE that the Manifestations of God have three stations: first, the material reality,which pertains to the human body; second, the individual reality, that is, the rational soul; andthird, the heavenly manifestation, which consists in the divine perfections and is the source of the life of the world, the education of the souls, the guidance of the people, and the enlightenment of all creation.

Para 2: ... But the individual reality of the Manifestations of the All-Merciful is a sanctified reality, and it is so because it surpasses in essence and in attributes all created things... So the other human realities are souls, which, like the moon, acquire their light from the sun, but that sanctified Reality is luminous in and of itself.

Para 4: The third station is that of divine grace ... The individual realities of the holy Manifestations cannot be separated from divine grace ... Thus the ascension of the holy Manifestations is simply the abandonment of Their elemental bodies ... The Manifestations ofGod are like so many different mirrors, as They each have Their own distinct individuality, but that which is reflected in these mirrors is one and the same sun.


I was labouring under the illusion that the famous Baha'i Mirror analogy was an explanation of the Divine radiance illuminating human souls. Now I see this applies to the manifestations only.

Divine or Mystical Union, for the human, is seemingly ruled out entirely.

In short then, I'd say the Baha'i Faith simply fails to comprehend the message of God as given in the Abrahamic Scriptures – the fullness of the meaning of Grace.

While it seeks to preserve the utter Transcendence of the Divine – which I applaud but which is asserted with no less rigour by the Abrahamics and other sacred texts, it completely fails to comprehend Divine Immanence, which underpins the whole message of those texts, by creating a demiurgic being interposed between God and His creation.

Thus, it falls short of the Mystery of Faith – I would like to see how the Baha'i explains:
1 Corinthians 13:12: 'For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

1 John 3:1-3: "Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God. Therefore the world knoweth not us, because it knew not him. Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is. And every one that hath this hope in him, sanctifieth himself, as he also is holy."
 
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That's interesting – so do you interpret that in light of Genesis 1:26?
I understand that as the Messenger of God, that is the image we are created in, the perfect Human are the Messengers, the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

The key here is the Virgin Birth. With the Message of Jesus we see that the Messengers are born just as we are from the womb of our mothers, yet the are born of the full potential, born already annointed of God. I see they are pre-existing in that Holy Spirit.

Both the Bab and Baha'u'llah have said it is they that spoke to Moses through the Burning Bush. That in itself opens the door to a different understanding of the Father and of God, there are many academics that have tackled that concept, they have explained it quite logically for me.

We have to have Faith, we need the Messengers as the example. Abdul'baha gives a talk on why we need a teacher. This world mirrors why we need an Educator.

The Tablet of the Universe by Abdul'baha gives a great vision as to how creation came about, that Tablet is amazing to me, I do wonder if science will mirror the spiritual concepts contained in that Tablet. I will post the link but offer a couple of snippets with my thoughts.


It opens

"Praise be to God Who hath ever caused His Names and Attributes to penetrate the degrees of existence; Who hath made the effects of those Names and Attributes to shine resplendent and their signs to be firmly established in both the hidden and manifest worlds. By them He hath made the holy realities that are informed by His grace and are the recipients of His outpourings to be the sole revealers of all that pertaineth unto Him, and hath caused them to move through the firmament of perfection in arcs of descent and ascent. He hath ordained these Names and Attributes to be the first and foremost origin and cause of being in the world of creation and the source of the different grades of realities in the degrees of existence...."

The Messengers, the First Cause. (To me this also allows for Messengers on other worlds)

"...... For this reason God brought into being a universal attractive force between these bodies to hold sway over them and govern them, a force deriving from the firm ties, the mighty correspondence and affinity that exist between the realities of these limitless worlds. By the operation of this attractive force those holy and resplendent suns, with their luminous worlds, satellites and planets, circling and orbiting in their heavens, at once exerted attraction and were subject to it, induced motion and were themselves moved, began orbiting and set into orbit other bodies, shone forth and caused others to shine. In this manner they became arranged in a perfectly ordered system, each one a handiwork of consummate fashioning and manifest beauty, each one an enduring creation and a conclusive proof. Glory be to Him Who attracted them, laid firm hold on them, imbued them with effulgence, ordered them and set them in motion; and far from His glory be that which any of his creatures can affirm of Him or attribute to Him.

The Messengers as one Unified body were the first cause, note that the Manifestations are the Suns, they have their worlds, with satellites and planets (Disciples / Saints / lesser prophets?) They shone forth (is this the time of Annointment?) and cause others to shine (Is this the believers?)

All I know Thomas, is I am very small, really nothing in the creation, I am only alive in this Spirit.

To God creation has no time, the past exists the future exist, we have but a blink in time to make our choice. We are part of that eternity yet the gift of consciousness I see starts here, a gift.

How massive is this topic Thomas! How marvellous is creation! How great is God above our comprehensive abilities!

Regards Tony
 
As a Christian, my understanding is in light of NT texts such as John 1:4, and the Hymn of Colossians (1:11-20) – notably v16-17: "For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth ... all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist."
So now I can give thoughts on this.

My understanding is that Baha'u'llah said even the Holy Spirit is created. I see we are an emanation of that Spirit.

I would have to meditate on what is Him in your quoted passages, read the full chapter.

Unfortunately ran out of time, a workday calls.

Thank you, Will get back to your reply later.

Regards Tony
 
How do you read 'Image'?
A reflection, as in a mirror.

Regards Tony
Objectively, Christ, as the Logos, provides order, meaning, and direction for all creation.
Yes, exactly as I understand it.

The key here, is that I see Christ is not the flesh of Jesus, Christ is the Essence of Jesus the Emanation of the Holy Spirit, all the Attributes and Names of God.

Regards Tony
 
I understand that as the Messenger of God, that is the image we are created in, the perfect Human are the Messengers, the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.
I would argue from metaphysics that the origin of the image, in the Absolute, transcends the human.

If I understand you correctly, whereas the Abrahamic believes we are made 'in the image and likeness' as per Genesis 1:26, the Baha'i doctrine says we are made in the image and likeness of the Messengers?

The key here is the Virgin Birth. With the Message of Jesus we see that the Messengers are born just as we are from the womb of our mothers, yet the are born of the full potential, born already annointed of God. I see they are pre-existing in that Holy Spirit.
My whole issue is with the apparent absence and seeming denial of the of the possibility of a Divine Union between God and man. You keep diverting to 'Messengers'. Can we focus on the issue at hand – the question of Divine Immanence?

Virgin Birth as Christianity sees it underpins the Mystery of the Union between the Divine and the human. In the Incarnation, the two natures are united in one Person. As the Fathers would say, "God came to man that man might come to God."

By posing Messengers as different-to and other-than human (via a third nature we do not have) – they are effectively a superior order of being – the union ends there, and falls short of the world.

Both the Bab and Baha'u'llah ...
You're not addressing the issue of Immanence ...

That in itself opens the door to a different understanding ...
So God is not Immanently present in and to the world? And a doctrine that says He is, is in error?

How marvellous is creation! How great is God above our comprehensive abilities!
Not quite as marvellous as a creation in which God utterly transcends our comprehension, and yet chooses to make Himself known in and to the souls of those who love Him – that's my point.

St Augustine wrote: "tu autem eras interior intimo meo" – "You were more inward to me than my most inward part,” or prosaically “you were closer to me than I am to myself.” (Confessions Book 3)

Islam says "And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein." (Quran, Surah 50:16).

As far as I can see, the Baha'i doctrine makes no allowance for this or any order of union with the Divine.
 
...

St Augustine wrote: "tu autem eras interior intimo meo" – "You were more inward to me than my most inward part,” or prosaically “you were closer to me than I am to myself.” (Confessions Book 3)

...

I have never seen this before, but it reminded me of a devotional quality I have seen in other writings.
I was curious to find out more and found a site that's worth looking to get more detail on St Augustine's thoughts.
ETA I forgot to post the site https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/confessionsaug/quotes/theme/inwardness/
 
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Not quite as marvellous as a creation in which God utterly transcends our comprehension, and yet chooses to make Himself known in and to the souls of those who love Him – that's my point.

St Augustine wrote: "tu autem eras interior intimo meo" – "You were more inward to me than my most inward part,” or prosaically “you were closer to me than I am to myself.” (Confessions Book 3)

Islam says "And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein." (Quran, Surah 50:16).

As far as I can see, the Baha'i doctrine makes no allowance for this or any order of union with the Divine.

There are many passages such as this in the Baha'i Writings.

Example - "God hath revealed, that "We are closer to man than his life-vein."" Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 185 (Most likely quoting the Quran Verse)

Also offered.

"Meditate on what the poet hath written: "Wonder not, if my Best-Beloved be closer to me than mine own self; wonder at this, that I, despite such nearness, should still be so far from Him."" Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 185

Also

"This most great, this fathomless and surging Ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you. Behold it is closer to you than your life-vein! Swift as the twinkling of an eye ye can, if ye but wish it, reach and partake of this imperishable favor, this God-given grace, this incorruptible gift, this most potent and unspeakably glorious bounty." Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 326

Regards Tony
 
I would have to review those passages in context, Tony, otherwise all I see is contradictions?

I would hope, rather than simply cite passages, you might offer a cogent response to the question of Immanence – a list of sayings clearly derived from the Quran.

In the absence of anything from you, I did look round and found this:
"In Baha'i teachings, the prophets – or to use the more characteristic Baha'i term "Manifestations of God" – have both a human and a divine nature. Baha'u'llah expounds this as the "twofold station" of the Manifestations of God (see Kitab-i-lqan 152ff., 176ff.). With regard to their ontology, they are said to have preexistent souls. In a 5 January 1948 letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi, for example, states, "The soul or spirit of the individual comes into being with the conception of his physical body. The Prophets, unlike us, are pre-existent. The Soul of Christ existed in the spiritual [world] before His birth in this world" (Lights of Guidance 504)."
Taken from "Immanence and Transcendence in Theophanic Symbolism", Michael W. Sours, in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 5:2, pages 13-56
Ottawa. Association for Bahá'í Studies North America, 1992, ff87, p51.

This shows a clear distinction between Manifestations and the rest of humanity, and that Immanence applies to Manifestations only.
 
This shows a clear distinction between Manifestations and the rest of humanity, and that Immanence applies to Manifestations only

If it did not, there would be no need to be born again, from the flesh into the Spirit that is logical and reasonable.

Thomas, did Jesus need to be born again?

Are you or any of us equal to Christ?

When we are born again, into that Spirit, I see that is the answer to you question.

Regards Tony
 
So God is not Immanently present in and to the world?

Yes, God is Immanently present via the Messengers, via the Holy Spirit, the Messengers One and All are the Embodiment of the Holy Spirit.

It is unto them, One and all, that we need to be born again into, it is via them that we know of and worship God.

Regards Tony
 
Born again unto Zoraster, or Noah, or Adam, or Jeremiah or Buddha?

Where are you getting this stuff from? Oh yes -- Baha'u'llah as the copycat Jesus...imo
 
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