The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 168.
In the previous essay we delved into the meaning of deepening in the Baha’i writings, on one level an act of personal introspection and individual discovery of the truth. Now we’ll examine the benefit of consultation—of sharing and discussing those writings with others.
All of us begin deepening our knowledge of faith and spirituality by ourselves—a necessary and natural process. When we encounter a new source of wisdom, we automatically want to learn more, to question ourselves and the world around us. So we explore that new knowledge by reading, deepening, meditating and reflecting. But how do we do make sense of it all? How do we know what is right, and truth? How do we share it with others?
It’s really a question of investigating reality:
The first teaching is that man should investigate reality, for reality is contrary to dogmatic interpretations and imitations of ancestral forms of belief to which all nations and peoples adhere so tenaciously. These blind imitations are contrary to the fundamental basis of the divine religions, for the divine religions in their central and essential teaching are based upon unity, love and peace, whereas these variations and imitations have ever been productive of warfare, sedition and strife. Therefore, all souls should consider it incumbent upon them to investigate reality. Reality is one and when found, it will unify all mankind. Reality is the love of God. Reality is the knowledge of God. Reality is justice. Reality is the oneness or solidarity of mankind. Reality is international peace. Reality is the knowledge of verities. Reality unifies humanity. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 372.
We cannot make it, do it, understand it, or survive it, alone. If we really want to deepen our knowledge and ourselves, we have to share it with others, discuss it with others, and refine our understanding with others. Even the great basketball star Michael Jordan had to be fed the ball by teammates.
In consultative deepening, Baha’is and their friends simply share a passage from the Baha’i teachings and discuss it openly and honestly. You’re familiar with the concept if you’ve ever participated in just about any meeting: A topic is opened, discussion follows, consensus arises, and action of some kind results. Baha’i consultation follows that basic pattern—but focuses on finding the truth:
In this Cause consultation is of vital importance, but spiritual conference and not the mere voicing of personal views is intended. In France I was present at a session of the senate, but the experience was not impressive. Parliamentary procedure should have for its object the attainment of the light of truth upon questions presented and not furnish a battleground for opposition and self-opinion. Antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth. In the parliamentary meeting mentioned, altercation and useless quibbling were frequent; the result, mostly confusion and turmoil; even in one instance a physical encounter took place between two members. It was not consultation but comedy.
The purpose is to emphasize the statement that consultation must have for its object the investigation of truth. – Ibid., p. 72.
Abdu’l-Baha defines Baha’i consultation as “spiritual conference in the attitude and atmosphere of love:”Consultation is to deepening as breathing is to living. Baha’is find deep pleasure in discussing any topic, and sharing it amongst others for their honest reactions and feedback. That consultative process produces thoughtful interchange, considered opinion and the openness necessary to change everyone’s thinking.
Even a majority opinion or consensus may be incorrect. A thousand people may hold to one view and be mistaken, whereas one sagacious person may be right. Therefore, true consultation is spiritual conference in the attitude and atmosphere of love. Members must love each other in the spirit of fellowship in order that good results may be forthcoming. Love and fellowship are the foundation. – Ibid., pp. 72-73.
These two essentially spiritual processes—deepening and consultation—form the basis for the thoughtful study of the Baha’i teachings.
What words of wisdom guide you?