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The Baha’i teachings describe the source of power which emanates from the messengers of God, and thus all religious dispensations, as the Holy Spirit:

Whenever [the Holy Spirit] appears, it invests the world of humanity with a new life and endows human realities with a new spirit. It clothes all existence with a glorious attire, disperses the darkness of ignorance, and causes the light of human perfections to shine resplendent. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 164.

That spirit is the ultimate revealer of truth and certainty—but at the same time, the Baha’i teachings say, religious traditions of the past are fallible. How can both be true?

Abdu’l-Baha’s answers to that question involve the general movement and progressive nature of all the revelations of God. Every messenger of God starts a new cycle, bringing a new infusion of the Holy Spirit and its spiritual powers into all of creation. However, as each religion wanes over time, the infusion and power of the Holy Spirit dissipates and stagnates, no longer capable of engendering change. In other words, just as all living things and beings are susceptible to the principles of disintegration and atrophy, the creative impulse and vitality of religion, within the context of time and space, is also subject to the processes of disintegration; therefore, religion must experience a rebirth from time to time. Abdu’l-Baha used a seasonal metaphor to illustrate this point:

O ye loved ones of God! The wine-cup of Heaven overfloweth, the banquet of God’s Covenant is bright with festive lights, the dawn of all bestowals is breaking, the gentle winds of grace are blowing, and out of the invisible world come good tidings of bounties and gifts. In flower-spangled meadows hath the divine springtime pitched its tents, and the spiritual are inhaling sweet scents from the Sheba of the spirit, carried their way by the east wind. Now doth the mystic nightingale carol its odes, and buds of inner meaning are bursting into blossoms delicate and fair. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 255.

Abdu’l-Baha’s reference to acquiring knowledge through tradition refers to religion as a social ideology; over time, it has the potential to lose its vitality and span of influence, leaving only the sedimentary elements of its original inspiration in cultural and traditional forms. Abdu’l-Baha refers to the Holy Spirit as the progressive process of religious renewal, to the constant marching of the human spirit, to the dialectic of renewal and disintegration. Wherever and whenever religion is crystallized into dogma, the Holy Spirit disappears. The reality of religion is not only the rules and laws that it brings for society, but also the power of transformation and change it carries.

As the potency of the past religions declined, the empirical-rational worldview freed human society from the bonds of ignorance and superstition. Our modern world, however, has also experienced a spiritual malaise and the inversion of values. Abdu’l-Baha’s analysis does not reverse the course of scientific research or suggest two separate truths—one scientific and one spiritual. Instead, he urged us to remove the shadow of materialism from the process of inquiry. Within this context, he defined the role of the Holy Spirit as having two functions: the first being to advance the spiritual nature of man and the dynamics of its transformation, and the second to generate the vision of an emerging worldview that directs human society toward greater degrees of unity and reciprocity and higher expressions of altruistic behaviors.

That combination of individual and social transformation allows the process of inquiry to reflect truth and reality progressively, without the limitations imposed by the selfish ego. We can deduce from the writings of Abdu’l-Baha that objective knowledge is a myth, and that the process of acquiring knowledge is intimately linked with the values of the individual researcher. The search for truth, therefore, incorporates an ethical element, a reflection of the refinement of human character. Free inquiry in this scheme of extended epistemology necessitates a detachment from human desires, the renunciation of self and a casting aside of prejudices and personalities. The integration of sense perception, reason, tradition, and the Holy Spirit becomes potentially possible if presented within the dynamic context of the ever-advancing nature of the search for truth, and if seen as infused with an evolving moral agency.

Abdu’l-Baha’s statements in Some Answered Questions provide a framework for the development of a comprehensive method or paradigm of inquiry. In this paradigm the dynamic interactions among sense, reason, tradition, and the Holy Spirit should be viewed as a single process, grounded in empirical-analytic sciences, historical search of humanity for meaning, and the common spiritual thread underlying world religions. The great dialogue among these disciplines inevitably results in a grand theory of human salvation.

The Baha’i approach to acquiring knowledge is based on the principle that the universe has a spiritual dimension. This spiritual dimension, however, needs and uses the instrument of the physical reality, perceived through the senses, to objectively manifest its concealed potentialities. Therefore, it can be said that a comprehensive method of inquiry, which acknowledges the spiritual reality, would begin with sense perception, and then seek further refinement as it is complemented by other methods of acquiring knowledge. Abdu’l-Baha asserted that the Baha’i method of inquiry has its roots or foundations in the empirical world as well as in the metaphysical domain. In this physical plane of existence, all the content of knowledge is contextualized in history and social evolution. The nature of reality is spiritual, but our methods of comprehending that reality begin with the natural world.

20 Comments

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  • Melody Souza
    Sep 17, 2018
    difference between spiritual and religious. All religions do have many things in common. 1) source of power 2) A key to the future 3) a leader or leaders 4) followed by masses of people There is one more thing they have in common you guess what that is. ... Spirituality holds all of the above. There is no "my way is the only way." And the absence of judgement or condemnation of others.
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  • Joseph Bynum
    Sep 15, 2018
    The sun is the spirit of GOD... Without it every thing and i mean everything would die!!!
  • Adrian Small
    Sep 15, 2018
    This ideology is Luciferian basically by trying to find a constant within all religions and ultimately water them down by trying to focus on the constant within religions for people to focus on to bring them to a unified way of thinking. There is no mention of Jesus as the one and only one that can give you the Holy Spirit and that God is in control it’s as if they are using it as a tool to further society instead of a relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is God.
    • Joshua Dantic
      Dec 03, 2018
      Hes is the beginning and the end so he left what he said and thats what needs to be understood. Jesus was the last.
    • Behrooz Sabet
      Sep 28, 2018
      Suzanne- Thank you for asking this question. Bahá’ís believe that religious disputes and conflicts are caused by human failure to distinguish between the two dimensions of religion, universal/spiritual and particular/ social. As far as the universal/spiritual purpose of religion is concerned, there is no distinction among all the divine revelations; they all preach a common faith. However, social laws are not unchanging absolutes, since they are subject to change as humanity evolves. In this light, Bahá’ís regard religious disunity and fanatical religious fervor not only as disruptive phenomena but also as the cause of the bankruptcy of religion and the ...degradation of the true meaning of the spiritual values they represent.
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    • Behrooz Sabet
      Sep 28, 2018
      The preceding discussion brings us to the conclusion that religions have a common thread underlying their essential nature: they are all divine in origin and together constitute one perennial religion. To further understand this concept, we have to elaborate more on this question: If all religions are united in their basic teaching, what is the rationale behind the appearance of different manifestations of God? Bahá’ís believe that the generating impulse of different revelations and their inspired culture lie on the dialectic of fragmentation and /integration of the successive dispensations. This process is called “progressive revelation.”
  • Pam Silcox
    Sep 13, 2018
    For there to be human beings, there MUST have been a Creator, for we didn't create ourselves; for there to be a natural world, there must have been a Creative Force, we human beings did not create the natural world. For there to be Creator, a Creative Force, then it stands to logic & reason that there is a spiritual basis upon which this planet earth revolves around, so therefore the spiritual element resides within mankind, our natural spiritual dimension.
  • Solorza Josh Laura
    Sep 13, 2018
    Truth
  • Behrooz Sabet
    Sep 11, 2018
    Thank you, Dana. I will carefully review your article. Behrooz
  • Dana Paxson
    Sep 11, 2018
    Thank you for this fine essay and its engagement with the Writings! If you'd like an exploration of the cosmological aspects in lighthearted conversational form, I invite you to the article 'Space Drawings' on my website: https://excursions.danapaxsonstudio.com/excursions/2018/07/11/space-drawings/ With warm best wishes, Dana Paxson
  • Cody Price
    Sep 09, 2018
    Its amazing isnt it
  • Behrooz Sabet
    Sep 04, 2018
    The temporality of the world of creation helps us to understand the role of God as the First Cause better. Abdul Baha in some Answered Questions said: Certain sages and philosophers hold that there are two kinds of pre-existence—essential and temporal—and that there are likewise two kinds of origination—essential and temporal. Essential pre-existence is an existence which is not preceded by a cause; essential origination is preceded by a cause. Temporal pre-existence has no beginning; temporal origination has both a beginning and an end.
  • Behrooz Sabet
    Sep 04, 2018
    Dear friends, thank you for your comments. Here is my two cents' worth regarding Marty's question:
    We should remember that in the world of creation everything is temporal; it has a beginning and an ending. Human beings are subject to laws of composition and decomposition. Civilizations rise and fall. Stars are born and die. Does this mean something existed before the Big Bang? Even though the Big Bang is the standard theory, there are also alternative theories. However, we should respect and allow science to resolve this issue by itself.