You may recognize him as Dan Humphrey, the aspiring writer from the hit TV series Gossip Girl, or starring as a homicidal bookshop manager named Joe Goldberg in the recent Netflix series You, or as the lead singer of Brooklyn based, indie pop band MOTHXR. But did you know he’s also a member of the Baha’i Faith?
Our Cloud9 guest artist this episode: American actor, musician, and social justice advocate Penn Badgley. Penn started acting in his teens and has worked in film and television ever since. He began his search for spirituality in 2010 while shooting an early season of Gossip Girl. In this interview, Penn opens up about how a BP oil spill prompted his exploration into the connection between justice and spirituality. This search guided him to the rainforests of Colombia, where he first came across the Baha’i Faith. He later became a Baha’i in 2015.
The Baha’i Faith, founded by Baha’u’llah in the mid-19th century, is one of the world’s fastest growing religions. It teaches the essential worth and oneness of all Faiths, advocates for the unity and equality of all people, and works to establish justice, harmony and peace in every nation.
In the first half of this two-part episode, we begin our conversation by exploring how Penn has learned to reconcile the teachings of his Faith with his creative practice as an artist. Baha’i’s believe that humanity is made up of both material and spiritual dimensions, and for these dimensions to coexist and advance in unity, there needs to be harmony between them. Penn walks us through the factors he considers when accepting certain roles, how he finds coherence between these two dimensions, and why he believes it’s important to align his spiritual life with his material life, as the Baha’i teachings recommend:
Among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is that although material civilization is one of the means for the progress of the world of mankind, yet until it becomes combined with Divine civilization, the desired result, which is the felicity of mankind, will not be attained. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 298.
We discuss how he uses his online presence as a powerful tool to navigate difficult conversations surrounding relevant and critical issues today. We also learn about the importance of showing love to everyone who crosses our path, whether in person or online:
Ye were created to show love one to another and not perversity and rancour. Take pride not in love for yourselves but in love for your fellow-creatures. Glory not in love for your country, but in love for all mankind. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138.
In relation to that spiritual goal, Penn shares a memorable experience he recently had in a migrant detention center, while highlighting the vital work of the non-profit Tahirih Justice Center, further emphasising the Baha’i teachings on justice:
We close the first half of this two-part interview by learning about the conditions that led Penn to discovering the Baha’i faith, and how a mystical tablet by Baha’u’llah called The Seven Valleys, and a document from the Universal House of Justice titled The Promise of World Peace accompanied his search for truth.
Be sure to look for the second half of our interview, which will be released next week!