It’s a start…

This blog is dedicated to exploring the proposition that:

What the Bahá'ís do believe is that we have three aspects to our humanness, so to speak, a body, a mind and an immortal identity – soul or spirit. We believe the mind forms a link between the soul and the body, and the two interact with each other. [Shoghi Effendi, Arohanui, p. 89]

I like this statement by 'Abdu'l-Bahá (from Some Answered Questions, pp. 208-09):

Spirit is the lamp; mind is the light which shines from the lamp. Spirit is the tree, and the [tag]mind[/tag] is the fruit. Mind is the perfection of the spirit and is its essential quality, as the sun's rays are the essential necessity of the sun.

There's much to be explored about our humanness. I hope readers will join in the exploration.

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4 comments

  1. Dear Barney,
    I have found it impossible to work out a consistent statement about the relationship between mind, spirit and soul etc from the many writings. This is caused, in part, by the impossibility of words to accurately represent spiritual realities and the inconsistencies in the translations we work from in English.

    When I studied the issue, I found that the best writings to work from were from Baha’u’llah; principally, this statement from the Summons: ““Say: Spirit, mind, soul, and the powers of sight and hearing are but one single reality which hath manifold expressions owing to the diversity of its instruments.” pp 154-55, para 35 I have written a series of blog entries on this topic, in which I examine what Baha’u’llah says on this issue in what I consider to be the three principal sources:
    – Suriy-i-Ra’is, in Summons of the Lord of Hosts, pp 152-55
    – Commentary on the verse ‘He who knows his self knows his lord’ (which is also in Gleanings at LXXXIII)
    – Tablet of the Disconnected Letters, which is not officially translated.

    The discussion on my blog begins at http://whoisbahaullah.com/blog/?p=134 . The messages that comprise the discussion are located one after the other in the Study category.

    Alison Marshall

  2. Many thanks for your help with this study, Alison. I very much appreciate your pointers. I shall read your blog entries and we may have a dialogue about this.

    –Barney

    1. Oh dear just noticed that this discussion was 6 years ago – oh well I’ll send my piece anyway! – R

      Hi Alison & Barney

      The issue Alison raised interests me a lot.

      Translational problems admitted I think we can work on one or two foundational ideas.

      All is God.

      All is spirit, (including matter).

      Spirit is One, but manifest at various levels, the highest of which, apart from the Holy Spirit, is the human spirit.

      We are hampered not just by inadequate reading of the Writings but by false notions that we osmosis-like suck in from our culture. (The two go together – or compound each other! e.g religion is about tick box-ing beliefs as opposed to direct religious experience + practice & service. As you may know, John Hick, outstanding theologian of oneness & friend of Baha’is said about mysticism (1981 p.423):

      ‘Mystical experience…..does not seem to me to be anything other than first-hand religious experience as such. This is, however, the core of religion.’

      He became a Quaker!

      Western thinking has been cursed by a negative Enlightenment effect in the rise of secularism – for example the belief that our ‘interior’ live is a set of non-physical organs – corresponding to heart, liver kidneys etc. Of course there are mental functions that are differentiated – memory, reasoning etc. but the one that really matters is the separation of heart and mind. I believed that foundationally it is false duality. Confirmation came from Martin Cortazzi who pointed out that one meaning of Xin in Chinese is ‘heart-mind’.

      The human spirit is as Ken Wilber says a holon, within a holon (the Holy Spirit), within that infinite and unknowable Whole we call God.

      Another breakthrough confirmation for me came when I discovered this which nails the singleness of soul, mind and spirit;

      it (Human Reality) is the same reality which is given different names, according to the different conditions wherein it becomes manifest.
      Because of its attachment to matter and the phenomenal world, when it governs the physical functions of the body, it is called the human soul.
      When it manifests itself as the thinker, the comprehender, it is called the mind.
      And when it soars into the atmosphere of God, and travels in the spiritual world, it becomes designated as spirit.
      Star of the West 7.19 (March 1917):190

      Interesting to compare this with Baha’u’llah’s statement provided by Alison, “Say: Spirit, mind, soul, and the powers of sight and hearing are but one single reality which hath manifold expressions owing to the diversity of its instruments.” pp 154-55, para 35

      Recognizing the difficulties Alison has pointed up I took a ‘define your terms’ approach HERE which includes the meaning by soul is meant ‘individuated human spirit’ and as in the case of a lost ship ‘hundreds of souls were lost’. Individuation is a useful concept if the idea is for us to accentuate the ‘higher self’ – spiritual progress then becomes a lessening of the egoistic elf (sorry I meant self!) in favour of a process of non-individuation. But you can’t de-individuate what ain’t individuated in the first place! (As I observe the ego rising in my 2.8 year old great-grand-daughter.)

      PS

      I think some aspects of Baha’i are in such a mess because we don’t read the wider community with well-informed Baha’i eyes AND we don’t read the Baha’i world (especially the writings) with eyes informed by the best available wider-community informed eyes. This is a powerful reciprocal dynamic. I argued it energetically with Adib – he finally conceded but said. “Roger OK but clothe what you say in Baha’i terms otherwise you will split the community.” Now that is an interesting concern isn’t it! I think i’ve read that the Guardian had interestings things to say about the relationship between wider reading and our reading of the Writings. The belief seems to be that Baha’i-ness is hermetically sealed – . This includes attitudes such as, “Oh we can’t trust Buddhism because we don’t know exactly what the Buddha taught.” Look at what Thich Nhat Hanh, b. 1926, has achieved!

  3. Roger, many thanks for your contribution to this 6 or 7 year old strand. You may have prompted me to get this blog going again. It’s such a fascinating and important area of thought, both being and doing.

    I have just been preparing six one-hour sessions on the life and ministry of Shoghi Effendi for the Swedish winter school. It’s a long time since I have paid such close attention to his life and works, and it struck me most forcibly that his qualities and thought are much more all-embracing than Bahá’ís are generally aware.

    You mention the wonderful John Hick – definitely one of my theological heroes.

    Anyway, stimulated by your comments, Roger (for which, many thanks), I may well disinter this blog and invite further dialogue.

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