Nietzsche 1 and the Bahá’í Writings


Ian Kluge


 Irfan Colloquium,

 Bosch Bahá’í School,

May 22 – 25, 2015


NOTE: A version of this paper is scheduled for publication in Lights of Irfan, Volume 17, 2017.



  The goal of this paper is to demonstrate that the Bahá’í Writings and Nietzsche have far more in common than cursory examinations might suggest. They are not, of course, compatible on every issue, but there are substantial agreements, convergences and parallel ideas. We find these in regards to metaphysics and ontology, ethics and social thought as well as spiritual concerns. Our goal, therefore, is to correlate the Bahá’í Writings with Nietzsche’s philosophy and, as far as possible, to give Nietzsche’s work a Bahá’í reading or interpretation. 


1: Introduction: The Importance of Correlation Studies


In a letter to an individual believer, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith states,


 The Cause needs more Bahá’í scholars, people who not only are devoted to it and believe in it and are anxious to tell others about it, but also who have a deep grasp of the Teachings and their significance, and who can correlate its beliefs with the current thoughts and problems of the people of the world.[1]


Elsewhere he says,

 It is hoped that all the Bahá’í students will follow the noble example you have set before them and will, henceforth, be led to investigate and analyse the principles of the Faith and to correlate them with the modern aspects of philosophy and science.


In the same letter he adds,

 Every intelligent and thoughtful young Bahá’í should always approach the Causein this way, for therein lies the very essence of the principle of independent investigation of truth.[2]


Finally, he states,


If the Baha’is want to be really effective in teaching the Cause they need to be much better informed and able to discuss intelligently, intellectually,the present condition of the world and its problems. We need Bahá’í scholars, not only people far, far more deeply aware of what our teachings really are, but also well-read and well-educated people, capable of correlating our teachings to the current thoughts of the leaders of society.

We Baha’is should, in other words, arm our minds with knowledge in order to better demonstrate to, especially, the educated classes, the truths enshrined in our Faith.[3]


 This guidance from the Guardian makes clear the importance of “correlating” the Writings with the currents of modern thought. The reason is obvious: if the Bahá’í revelation is to play its part in healing the world, they must be actively involved in the “discourses of society”[4] in order  to  bring Bahá'u'lláh’s  teachings to bear on them. These “discourses of society” include those of an intellectual nature which inevitably influence and help shape the world-views and attitudes of countless people – especially the young. The continued wide-spread influence of Marxism and metaphysical materialism is a case in point. Correlating the Bahá’í Writings with other “systems of thought,” i.e. comparing, contrasting and evaluating them is a necessary first step to engaging in mutually beneficial discourse with them.  


Furthermore, as the Guardian points out, such correlations are necessary for Bahá’ís to be “really effective in teaching” because this builds the bridges that allow serious and in-depth exchanges of ideas which establish a Bahá’í presence in these debates. Obviously, this expands the influence of the Writings. Moreover, the correlating work recommended by Shoghi Effendi also benefits Bahá’ís insofar as it encourages us to   investigate, analyse and apply the principles of the Faith in new contexts and to new situations and problems. Doing so is “the very essence of the principle of independent investigation of truth” which equips us for teaching and defending the Faith and for engaging is serious inter-faith dialogue.


Shoghi Effendi’s foregoing statements provide ample reason for studying the Bahá’í Writings in relationship to Friedrich Nietzsche whose presence is ubiquitous in the modern world.  Even a partial list of topics initiated by or revolutionized by Nietzsche illustrates his pervasive influence: the death of God; the Superman; epistemological and ethical relativism; perspectivism; post-modernism, process philosophy; militant atheism and opposition to religion in general and Christianity in particular; the will to power especially in social and gender relationships; master and slave morality; the weaknesses of democracy; and the superiority of Buddhism and Hinduism. No serious engagement with the modern culture can avoid these issues and still expect to be received as a serious participant in the modern intellectual life. Furthermore, a list of writers, artists and philosophers influenced by him reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of 20th C intellects.[5] His influence is found in both popular[6] and serious art, literature, music, and has affected virtually every academic subject in the humanities and many in the soft sciences such as philosophy, sociology, psychology and counselling, cultural anthropology, social work and cultural studies. Nietzsche’s work is foundational to existentialism[7] and postmodernism[8] both of which have expanded well beyond academia to the ‘street level’ of contemporary thought and artistic expression. Directly and indirectly his influence has helped shape the world views and values of countless college and university students[9] at least some of whom will take Nietzsche’s thought to ‘street level.’ Notwithstanding his apparent militant atheism, he has had a major impact on Christian theology.[10] As is to be expected, Nietzsche is a source of inspiration of the “new atheism” which is currently a major source of controversy not just in universities throughout North America and Europe but also in public debates in the media and a plethora of legal cases launched against any public expression of faith.


Clear proof of his wide-spread influence is most readily seen in the almost universal debate sparked by the April 8, 1966 issue of Time magazine which asked the Nietzsche inspired question, “Is God Dead?” Nietzsche’s best known work, Thus Spake Zarathustra announced “God is dead!”[11]  Furthermore, Nietzsche’s influence “on the intellectual worlds of China and Japan has been enormous.”[12]  In Indian thought, Nietzsche’s influence is most obviously evident in the work of the Indian Muslim philosopher Mohammad Iqbal[13] and the mystic Sri Aurobindo.[14]  In the Muslim world, Farah Antun wrote articles on Nietzsche which were published in the early years of the 20th C as well as translating portions of Twilight of the Gods and the whole of Thus Spake Zarathustra.[15]  This tells us that at least some of Nietzsche’s work was directly available in the Islamic world. Nietzsche’s work affected the 19th C Muslim reformer Al-Afghani [16] and the early 20th C philosopher Kahlil Gibran.[17]  Carool Kersten also draws attention to the tremendous influence of Nietzsche’s vitalist philosophy on modern Muslim philosophers Mohammad Iqbal, Hassan Hanafi and Mohammed Arkoun,[18]  to which William Al-Sharif adds Abdullah Laouri, Bassam Tibi and Mohammed Abed al-Jabri.[19] 


Nietzsche’s influence was also felt in European Jewish culture as Yolan Hotam explains,


Nietzsche enjoyed wide popularity among Jewish intellectuals and, served them, too, as a kind of spiritual ‘idol’. . . It was as early as 1892 that a series of articles was published in    Die Allgemeine Zeitung Des Judentums, a journal associated with Liberal Judaism in Germany, in praise of Nietzsche and his favorable standpoint toward Judaism . . .   The integration of Nietzsche into the Jewish national discourse was evident in all quarters.[20]


Jacob Golomb’s “Nietzsche and Zion” shows that “Nietzsche’s ideas were widely disseminated among and appropriated by the first Hebrew Zionist writers and leaders.”[21] Among those influenced by Nietzsche were Martin Buber, Theodore Herzl and Max Nordau.


Nietzsche’s influence is wide-spread through the Hispanic world, i.e. through Spanish and South American philosophers, writers and poets, among them Luis Borges, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Pio Baroja, Miguel de Unamuno and Ortega y Gasset.[22] The latter’s The Revolt of the Masses seeks to re-define the Nietzschean concept of ‘aristocracy’ not in terms of a social class but in terms of self-overcoming and seeking challenges that break us out of our previous limits. Spain’s most famous poet, Garcia Lorca, was also influenced by Nietzsche.[23]


Given the global range of Nietzsche’s influence, it is difficult to not to conclude that correlating his philosophy with the Bahá’í Writings significantly deepens and adds to our knowledge and understanding of both. Not only can we increase our knowledge of the Writings themselves and provide a greater understanding and appreciation of their depth and diversity as we apply them to the challenges raised by Nietzsche, we can also expand our knowledge of Nietzsche by finding hither-to hidden affinities to the Bahá’í teachings. Given the ubiquity and prominence of Nietzsche studies, it is wise to follow Shoghi Effendi’s suggestion to spread Baha’u’llah’s influence by making the Writings part of the ‘great conversations’ about this towering thinker.


2: Reading Nietzsche: Special Challenges With Nietzsche


 Reading Nietzsche presents a knot of intertwined challenges that are not encountered –  with the possible exception of Hegel – to nearly the same degree with other philosophers. The major sources of this problem are two-fold. First, as we shall see throughout this paper, is that Nietzsche’s subtext often undermines or flatly contradicts the apparent meaning of the text. This inevitably leaves us with the problem of identifying what Nietzsche ‘really’ meant – if, indeed that is knowable. Second, the foregoing problem is exacerbated by Nietzsche’s mix of styles and genres; he does not consistently present his arguments by working step-by-step from premises to conclusions. He mixes genres and styles: serious extended discussions; shorter ‘notebook’ entries that are often modified by later entries; clever aphorisms, provocations, insults, and ad hominem attacks; quasi-biblical works like Thus Spake Zarathustra and philosophical myths such as the master-slave morality.


As a result of these and other difficulties discussed below, there is not just an extra-ordinarily wide range of judgments about Nietzsche’s meaning but also considerable discussion whether or not we can assign any definite meaning to him at all. Among these, Jacques Derrida is the most famous of those who deny that it is even possible to ascribe any specific meaning to Nietzsche. In his view, there is no “Nietzsche text,”[24] as such to work with, i.e. there are only interpretations and still more interpretations ad infinitum. Paul Kirkland states that Derrida presents Nietzsche as a “source for a celebratory overcoming of metaphysics and resistance to closed meaning,”[25] i.e. conclusive interpretations. He asserts that there is a “limitless play of meaning”[26] in all – not just Nietzsche’s texts. Derrida defines “play” as “the absence of the transcendental signified as limitlessness of play, that is to say, as the destruction of ontotheology and the metaphysics of presence.”[27] This simply means that there is no pre-existing essential meaning in a text i.e. no “transcendental signified”, that waits us to perceive and understand  it, that exists before us and even without us, and that becomes ‘present’ to us when we think ‘correctly.’ This pre-existent meaning limits the range of our interpretations. All we can do is put our own interpretations into words, but since (according to Derrida) words only refer to other words, and this referencing has no inherent limit, there can be no check on our interpretations, and, therefore, no conclusive understandings of any text.


Nietzsche scholar Sarah Kofman supports Derrida’s conclusion, holding that the extremely metaphoric nature of Nietzsche’s writing makes it impossible ‘entrap’ his thought in a single meaning. However, she claims that although no interpretation is privileged, some are better than others because they reveal more clearly that no interpretations are privileged.[28] Like Sarah Kofman and Jacques Derrida, Alexander Nehamas agrees that because of the highly metaphoric nature of Nietzsche’s writing there can only be interpretations:  

metaphor and aphorism constantly resist all attempts at a final definitive interpretation. Each stretch of Nietzsche’s text provides us with an indefinite

number of possible and conflicting interpretations.[29] 


He asserts there is “no neutral standard”[30] to judge their validity. Nevertheless, he, too, paradoxically also claims that “some interpretations are better than others.”[31] The logical basis for such a claim is not given. Another Nietzsche scholar, J.P. Stern, echoes the view that Nietzsche’s works are so equivocal and vague that,


[a]ny attempt at a coherent interpretation of writings so hybrid and at times so contradictory in content, and so remarkably versatile in form, is bound to be problematic.[32] 


In other words, no universally agreed upon understandings of Nietzsche are possible.


The existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers who helped pioneer Nietzsche studies (1935) has a similar view:


Not the acceptance of definitive pronouncements, taken to convey the final and indefeasible truth, but rather the sustained effort in which we continue to question, listen   to other contentions and maintain the tension of possibilities. What Nietzsche means can ever be assimilated by a will to possess the truth in a fixed and final form but only by a will to truth which . . .  is not closed to anything, and is able to wait. [33]


In other words, approaching Nietzsche with the desire to know the truth of what he really thinks, is futile. Nietzsche is not the kind of philosopher from whom one can expect clearly articulated ideas or at least efforts at clearly articulated ideas. As Ruediger Safranski says, “There is no point of arrival in Nietzsche’s philosophy, no outcome and no end result.”[34]  The best we can do is wait upon the ideas that emerge while studying Nietzsche’s texts.


In our estimation, we do not accept the foregoing viewpoints because suffer from at least two problems. First, if there can be no conclusive understandings of Nietzsche, if there can be – at best – an infinite regress of interpretations each of which is as good as the next, then there really can be no such thing as ‘understanding’ Nietzsche or even knowing what to discuss about him. Indeed, how can we even know we are debating the same point – and if we cannot know that, how can we discuss him at all? Knowing that Nietzsche’s work is often difficult to understand is one thing – and reasonable – but it is entirely different matter to claim that it is, in effect, impossible to know with some certainty what he said about any issue discussed in his books. This is not reasonable because it inevitably raises the question, ‘Why study Nietzsche at all if no one can really know what he means or at least, what he is trying to say or was talking about?’ What is the point of doing so? What could be achieved except an exchange of equally valid or invalid interpretations? Indeed, we cannot even gain understanding of Nietzsche for the history of ideas, let alone critically reflect on what he said.


Second, in our view, the Bahá’í Writings discourage such an understanding of doing philosophy. We recall Shoghi Effendi’s admonition to avoid turning philosophy into “one of the sciences that begins and ends in words,”[35] or, in Derrida’s words, indulging in a “limitless play of meaning.”[36] According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, “[p]hilosophy consists in comprehending the reality of things as they exist, according to the capacity and the power of man.”[37] In other words, philosophy has a purpose, i.e. the quest for knowledge and understanding and if a philosophy cannot contribute to this quest, we are better off setting it aside.


 We also reject such ‘Derridian’ readings of Nietzsche for a practical reason viz. the extreme improbability of an author returning to certain themes on numerous occasions and in numerous contexts if s/he felt s/he had nothing definite to say about them. Some of these themes concern the need for self-overcoming; the Superman; the eternal return; perspectivism; the wretchedness of Christianity and contemporary European civilization; master and slave morality and the will to power. The fact that he did not always make understanding him easy does not detract from the common sense observation that he was, indeed, trying to make a point on these issues.


Let us now turn our attention to the other challenges facing any reader of Nietzsche’s work. The second of these is his use of language – which often undermines his own message, especially when it comes to the Christian religion upon which he heaps seemly endless scorn. The credibility of his scorn is called into question by the copious amount of religious language and imagery employed throughout his work. This frequent use of religious language is symptomatic of what we shall call the ‘transcendental impulse’ of his thought which gives good reason to doubt that he has really given up on ‘the Transcendent.’ As noted by Solomon and Higgins, “Nietzsche hopes for a rebirth of spirituality.”[38] This pervasive ‘transcendent impulse’ establishes a clear connection to the Bahá’í Writings.


A third difficulty with understanding Nietzsche is that his language is often highly inflated often bombastic rhetoric making it difficult to know whether or not to take certain statements seriously, and if so, to what extent.  For example, in The Anti-Christ:


the concepts "the other world," "the last judgment," "the immortality of the soul, "the "soul" itself: they are all merely so many instruments of torture, systems of cruelty, whereby the priest becomes master and remains master . . . Everyone knows this, but nevertheless things remain as before. What has become of the last trace of decent feeling, of self-respect?[39]


If this kind of statement – examples of which are many – is not discounted as bluff and bombast, what can we do with it? Taking it literally as a matter of fact is untenable because it presents almost all the major philosophers in the Western tradition as sadistic psychopaths. Yet, if we try to take it seriously we confront the virtual impossibility of proving it with empirical evidence. In short, it reduces rational discussion to a contest of baseless speculations. Another example: “Christianity is a hangman’s metaphysics”?[40]  At best, this is a morbidly witty provocation but we are left wondering what does it actually contribute to a discussion of Christian metaphysics or Christianity in general. And once again, even if we knew what this really means how could we support this with evidence?


A fourth difficulty is Nietzsche’s tendency to make sweeping generalizations as, for example, “I mistrust all systematizers and I avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity.”[41]  While this certainly sounds incendiary, it has, in fact, little substance to support it. How does he – how could he – know that of such “systematizers” as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza (whom he admired), Kant and Hegel were tainted by a lack of integrity? Here is another self-evident example of a sweeping generalization: “Everything about woman is a riddle, and everything about her has one solution: it is called pregnancy.”[42] There is no evidence for this overstatement and, therefore, its value as anything except evidence of Nietzsche’s bombast is clear.


 The fifth problem concerns the often logically inconsistent nature of his work[43] on such

major issues as metaphysics, i.e. the will to power and the eternal return; ethics i.e. Zarathustra versus master-slave morality; and ontology, i.e. the nature of existing things.  For example, Nietzsche rejects metaphysics as studied since ancient times because, it divides the world into manifested appearance and the ‘hidden’ reality as the source of the appearance.[44] He writes,


 But there is no such substratum [that originates the action]; there is no “being” behind doing, effecting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed – the deed is everything.[45]


This idea cannot be logically reconciled with his doctrine of the will to power. The will to power as the essential force in all things undermines Nietzsche’s rejection of metaphysics insofar as metaphysics revives the distinction between what nature really is, i.e. the reality and how it manifests, i.e. the appearance, or, in Kantian language, the distinction between the underlying noumenon and its manifested phenomenon. The reasoning is straightforward. Either there is a ‘noumenal’ will to power manifesting in infinite ‘phenomena’ – or each thing is a separate will to power, like a “quanta of force”[46] i.e. the separate wills to power are multiplied endlessly and yet, somehow, all are doing the same thing i.e. seeking maximum expansion or power. If all are doing the same thing, maximizing the expression of power, then there is good reason to say that there is indeed a single power that is seen in each thing but is also common to all. And if this power persists, then in its persistence it possessed ‘being.’


 Furthermore, the denial of cause-and-effect[47] undermines the concept of Zarathustra’s moral teachings in general, viz. that people can and should change their lives in certain ways. Why would Zarathustra preach to them and try to convince them of his truth if he were not trying to alter their intentions and if he did not believe that their intentions could initiate new actions? His denial of a substratum, of “a ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming” makes moral exhortations like Nietzsche’s moot.


3. The Common Foundation Between the Bahá’í Writings and Nietzsche


First appearances notwithstanding, there are at least three major general foundational elements which the Bahá’í Writings and Nietzsche share in common: (1) the radical critique of modern society as suffering from irreversible social, intellectual, ethical and spiritual degeneration; (2) the absolute necessity for the establishment of a new kind of society and a re-constitution of humankind, and (3) at the most fundamental level, the Aristotelian substratum of their thought.[48] In these three areas, the Writings and Nietzsche have much more in common than a first glance might suggest.


3.1 The World in Decline


Both Bahá'u'lláh and Nietzsche viewed the modern world as being in a declining, degenerating condition, marked by “selfish disorders, intellectual maladies, spiritual sicknesses, imperfections and vices.”[49] Not surprisingly, such conditions lead to mass despair, i.e. an overwhelming conviction of the loss of all values, the loss of all hope for the future and the loss of all confidence in ourselves or anything else, including God. Nothing remains but a war of all against all and every man for himself. Bahá'u'lláh writes,


The winds of despair are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divideth and afflicteth the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and haos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective.[50]


In addition to being filled with despair, humankind has become perverse, i.e. being willfully unreasonable, self-destructive, contemptuous of the good and right and cantankerous for its own sake. Bahá'u'lláh says,


 The world is in travail, and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned towards waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight, that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue.[51]


The “perversity” of mankind is such that for the most part, people – like Nietzsche’s comfortable and smug “last men” – have not realized their desperate condition. As Bahá'u'lláh says, “The Hour" hath come upon them, while they are disporting themselves. They have been seized by their forelock, and yet know it not.”[52] In a poignant passage, He adds, “And when they behold the face of the All-Merciful, their own faces are saddened, while they are disporting themselves.”[53] In other words, they have fallen so far that even when their conscience recognizes their error in presence of divine revelation, they continue their unrestrained amusements. 


 It is Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, who provides us with the most detailed description of the decaying world order of our time.


No wonder, therefore, that when, as a result of human perversity, the light of religion is quenched in men’s hearts, and the divinely appointed Robe, designed to adorn the human temple, is deliberately discarded, a deplorable decline in the fortunes of humanity immediately sets in, bringing in its wake all the evils which a wayward soul is capable of revealing. The perversion of human nature, the degradation of human conduct, the corruption and dissolution of human institutions, reveal themselves, under such circumstances, in their worst and most revolting aspects. Human character is debased, confidence is shaken, the nerves of discipline are relaxed, the voice of human conscience is stilled, the sense of decency and shame is obscured, conceptions of duty, of solidarity, of reciprocity and loyalty are distorted, and the very feeling of peacefulness, of joy and of hope is gradually extinguished [54]


The ultimate cause of this universal decay is the rejection of God’s Manifestation for this age, Whose task is to renew and revitalize the “eternal verities”[55] of past dispensations and to advance humanity towards its next stage of psycho-spiritual and social evolution. The symptoms of degeneration touch all facets of human life – personal and psychological, spiritual, social and political and inevitably leave a trail of destruction behind them. Shoghi Effendi also refers to


The violent derangement of the world’s equilibrium . . . the radical transformation of human society; the rolling up of the present-day Order; the fundamental changes affecting the structure of government; the weakening of the pillars of religion; the rise of dictatorships; the spread of tyranny; the fall of monarchies; the decline of ecclesiastical institutions; the increase of anarchy and chaos; the extension and consolidation of the Movement of the Left; the fanning into flame of the smouldering fire of racial strife; the development of infernal engines of war; the burning of cities; the contamination of the atmosphere of the earth [56]


These resounding and forceful passages demonstrate that the Bahá’í vision of the corrupt nature of the world’s condition is the foundation for the loving but vigorous – and radical – prescription by the “divine physician” [57] for the renewal of humankind and the rebuilding of spiritual, social and economic life and governance.


Nietzsche also believes that the modern world is in desperate psycho-social-spiritual

straits, hence his in-depth explorations of what he calls “European nihilism.”[58] In The Will to Power, he defines nihilism: “What does nihilism mean? That the highest values devaluate themselves. The aim is lacking; ‘why?’ finds no answer.”[59] In short, we are left without values and purpose, or, as the Bahá’í Writings put it, we are left in despair. Nietzsche writes,


 Nihilism as a psychological state will have to be reached, first, when we have sought a "meaning" in all events that is not there: so the seeker eventually becomes discouraged. Nihilism, then, is the recognition of the long waste of strength, the agony of the "in vain,"  insecurity, the lack of any opportunity to recover and to regain composure--being ashamed in front of oneself, as if one had deceived oneself all too long.[60]


In words that remind us of the opening of The Communist Manifesto, Nietzsche announces:


Nihilism stands at the door: whence comes this uncanniest of all guests? . . . the end of Christianity  - at the hands of its own morality (which cannot be replaced) . . . it is in one particular interpretation, the Christian-moral one, that nihilism is rooted . . . Skepticism regarding morality  is what is decisive . . . [and] leads to nihilism . . . Buddhistic, yearning for Nothing . . . The Nihilistic consequences of the ways of thinking . . . the air of mediocrity, wretchedness, dishonesty, etc. Nationalism, Anarchism, etc. Punishment. The redeeming class and human being are lacking - the justifiers –[61] 


He adds,

 Skepticism regarding morality is what is decisive. The end of the moral interpretation of the world, which no longer has any sanction after it has tried to escape into some beyond, leads to nihilism. "Everything lacks meaning" (the untenability of one interpretation of the world, upon which a tremendous amount of energy has been lavished, awakens the suspicion that all interpretations of the world are false).[62]


In lines that remind us of Shoghi Effendi, he states:


My friends, it was hard for us when we were young: we suffered youth itself like a serious sickness. That is due to the time into which we have been thrown--a time of  extensive inner decay and disintegration, a  time that with all its weaknesses, and even with its best strength, opposes the spirit of youth. Disintegration characterizes this time,  and thus uncertainty: nothing stands firmly on its feet or on a hard faith in itself; one lives for tomorrow, as the day after tomorrow is dubious. Everything on our way is slippery and dangerous, and the ice that still supports us has become thin: all of us    feel the warm, uncanny breath of the thawing wind; where we still walk, soon no one will be able to walk.[63]


Here, too, we sense the inevitable doom that awaits us. In The Gay Science, he writes:

The peasant rebellion of the spirit. — We Europeans confront a world of  tremendous ruins. A few things are still towering, much looks decayed and   uncanny, while most things already lie on the ground. It is all very picturesque — where has one ever seen more beautiful ruins? — and overgrown by large          .               and small weeds. The church is this city of destruction: We see the religious community of Christianity shaken to its lowest foundations; the faith in . . . God has collapsed; the  faith in the Christian ascetic ideal is still fighting its . . . final battle[64]  


What is noteworthy here is that Nietzsche identifies nihilism with destruction of values and purpose [65] brought on by the end of the Christian church and Christianity itself.  In other words, he sees this psychological and societal decay as having a religious and spiritual origin, and, therefore, by implication, as requiring more than material healing in the form of more bourgeois comfort and ‘progress.’ Providing that spiritual remedy is precisely the major aim of Nietzsche’s philosophy, as seen, for example, in Zarathustra’s valiant efforts to regenerate and re-energize the “Ultimate Man”[66] who prefers to remain in his/her smugly satisfied comfort. Zarathustra does not offer a utopian technological future, universal prosperity, universal freedom or universal ease as his remedy – rather his cure is inner, personal or spiritual transformation won through painful self-overcoming. Similarly, the doctrine of the will to power is intended to inspire us to surpass our own weaknesses and failures and to become what we truly are, i.e. vigorous, noble and fearless beings.


 At this point it is worth noting that the Bahá’í Writings also recognize that all of creation is based on and permeated by a super-natural will whose foundation is God.


 The beginning of all things is the knowledge of God, and the end of all things is strict    observance of whatsoever hath been sent down from the empyrean of the Divine Will that pervadeth all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth.[67]


Elsewhere Bahá'u'lláh says that “Through His [God’s]  world-pervading Will He hath brought into being all created things”[68] and later adds, “Happy is the man that hath apprehended the Purpose of God in whatever He hath revealed from the Heaven of His Will, that pervadeth all created things.”[69] In other words, everything in existence is a manifestation of the Divine Will just as in Nietzsche all things are manifestations of the will to power. Moreover, in both cases, all things strive to manifest their potentials and use their power to the utmost. This means that in effect, the Bahá’í Writings and Nietzsche converge on their fundamental metaphysics.


Already at this point, we observe a significant convergence of the Bahá’í Writings and Nietzsche not only vis-à-vis their basic metaphysics but also in regards to the modern world’s loss of values, purpose and meaning,  the decay of spirituality and faith in God, and the disintegration of social order. The following admonition by `Abdu'l-Bahá could well apply to Nietzsche’s comfort-loving “Ultimate Man” who is more concerned with getting the latest ‘stuff’ than with his/her spiritual well-being:


 material progress alone does not tend to uplift man. On the contrary, the more he becomes immersed in material progress, the more does his spirituality become obscured.[70]


In other words, the appropriate response to this civilizational crisis is not more material well-being but inner spiritual renewal. Both Bahá'u'lláh  and Nietzsche agree that a significant part of the modern world’s confusion is that too many seek materialist solutions to spiritual problems. This impossible quest only increases despair – and fuels still more desperate efforts to fill the ‘hole in the soul’ with more ‘stuff.’ `Abdu'l-Bahá’s reminds us that “Unless man maketh spiritual progress in the world of spirit, intellect and heart, he cannot gather universal results from material advancements.”[71] Here, too, Nietzsche agrees – after all, Zarathustra brings the ‘ultimate men’ self-transformative insight and vision, not a higher standard of living. More precisely, he offers them a challenge to overcome themselves and to begin their evolution to a greater self inspired by the goal of “being” someone rather than being possessors of goods i.e. of “having” something.[72]


  From the perspective of their ultimate purpose of raising humankind to its fullest potential, Bahá'u'lláh and Nietzsche are on the same path. This is clear not only in the goals of Bahá'u'lláh’s mission for “the exaltation of humanity [and] divine civilization”[73] but also in Zarathustra’s attempts to inspire and revitalize the ‘ultimate men’ to aspire to be more than they are and become bridges for the Superman. Zarathutra announces, “I teach you the Superman. Man is something that should be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?”[74]


 Arthur Danto sees nihilism as the underlying problem confronting Nietzsche[75] but he is at pains to point out that Nietzsche’s nihilism has a negative and a positive aspect i.e. what Nietzsche calls “passive nihilism”[76] and “active nihilism.”[77] “Passive” nihilism is a sign of decreased power, despair, “the weary nihilism that no longer attacks.”[78] By contrast “active” nihilism is a sign of increased power and is a “violent force of destruction,”[79] i.e. a nihilism that clears away all the traditional beliefs and ideas – all the thoughtless and comforting imitations – that prevent us from actualizing our full potentials as conscious beings. To use the Zen analogy, it is the ‘nihilism’ of emptying the cup before new tea can be poured in. Arthur Danto calls this the “Nihilism of Emptiness”[80] as opposed to the “Nihilism of Negativity . . . [which] was essentially a negative and destructive attitude against a body of moral, political and religious teachings.”[81] The “Nihilism of Emptiness” is the recognition the “vain imitations of the past are no longer adequate.


 Here, too, once we make allowance for languages, it is clear that the Writings and Nietzsche converge. What Danto calls Nietzsche’s “passive nihilism” is what the Writings refer to with such words as ‘despair’ and ‘hopelessness’ both of which suggestion inaction, lack of motivation, inner paralysis and indifference. Because the “Ultimate Man” cannot bring him or herself to the necessary discipline of self-overcoming which is essential for both Bahá'u'lláh and Nietzsche, the ‘ultimate men’ seek ‘salvation’ in self-indulgence and, thereby, make matters worse. As `Abdu'l-Bahá says, “Despair, both here and hereafter, is all you will gain from self-indulgence”[82] because “self-indulgence” only intensifies their despair and “passive nihilism” as a result of the vicious circle of indulgence followed by the end of satisfaction followed by despair. 


As we have seen, the Bahá’í Writings and Nietzsche are in essential agreement about the essential decrepitude of the modern world as well as the nature of the remedy for this condition. Indeed, it is already clear – and will become clearer – that Nietzsche’s remedies for self-transformation and moral renewal are not so relentlessly antagonistic to religious thought as superficial inspections suggest. Among the scholars who have recognized this are Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins:


And while Nietzsche attacks Christianity in many of its manifestations he does not attack either Jesus or spirituality. Indeed, we tend to see Nietzsche as among the most spiritual of philosophers so long as we do not conflate spirituality with the herd sentimentality of organized religion.[83]


3.2 The Need for Revolutionary Change


Note: It isvital to forestall even the possibility of misunderstanding on a crucial point: although Bahá'u'lláh’s goalis revolutionarychange in mankind, His method is evolutionary, i.e. spiritual,  psychological, social development, developing our “spiritual susceptibilities which are merciful and heavenly characteristics.”[84] Indeed, Bahá’í’s are strictly commanded to give up involvement in partisan politics and show loyalty to governments. We shall have more to say on this below.  


In our view it is clear that Bahá'u'lláh does not see Himself as a reformer Whose purpose is to ameliorate or mitigate the shortcomings of the old world order – rather, His goal was to bring the old world order to an end and to establish a new one. This is clear when He writes, “Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.”[85] There is, of course, nothing against making improvements where opportunities arise, but such improvements are not His primary purpose in today’s world. His position is straight-forward: Bahá'u'lláh sees the need for revolutionary change, i.e. deep, fundamental change and no mere superficial patchwork.


The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionizedthrough the agency of this unique, this wondrous System—the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.[86]


In The Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, He describes the Manifestation as “fully capable of revolutionizing the world through the power of a single Word”[87] and calls on humanity to:


 Cast away that which ye possess, and, on the wings of detachment, soar beyond all created things. Thus biddeth you the Lord of creation, the movement of Whose Pen hath revolutionized the soul of mankind.[88]


This statement shows that the revolutionary changes Bahá'u'lláh envisages are not just societal but also deeply personal, in effect, also requiring a revolution in our inner values and priorities. The following statement makes His goal of renewal evident to all:


O peoples of the earth! God, the Eternal Truth, is My witness that streams of fresh and soft-flowing waters have gushed from the rocks through the sweetness of the words uttered by your Lord, the Unconstrained; and still ye slumber. Cast away that which ye possess, and, on the wings of detachment, soar beyond all created things. Thus biddeth you the Lord of creation, the movement of Whose Pen hath revolutionized the soul of mankind.[89]


The imagery of water flowing from rock draws our attention to the theme of revitalization and renewal – which is precisely Baha’u’llah’s mission in our time. The call to awakening and spiritual flight strengthens this theme of a new race of men, as does the following: 


I testify that no sooner had the First Word proceeded, through the potency of Thy will and purpose, out of His mouth, and the First Call gone forth from His lips than the whole creation was revolutionized  and all that are in the heavens and all that are on earth were stirred to the depths. Through that Word the realities of all created things were shaken, were divided, separated, scattered, combined and reunited, disclosing, in both the contingent world and the heavenly kingdom, entities of a new creation, and revealing, in the unseen realms, the signs and tokens of Thy unity and oneness. Through that Call Thou didst announce unto all Thy servants the advent of Thy most great Revelation and the appearance of Thy most perfect Cause.[90]


The foregoing passages leave no doubt that Bahá'u'lláh intends a revolution as radical and foundation-shaking as any political revolution could be – though, of course, He is referring to the spiritual transformation of humankind. He limits His revolution to mankind’s inner life because He knows these inner changes will eventually manifest themselves in the outer world of individual behavior and societal order. Indeed, there is good reason to insist on the primacy of personal transformation over immediate revolutionary action. In history, we often see that revolutions trying to bypass the necessity for transformative inner changes inevitably slip backwards into the old ways albeit in new forms: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.[91]

It was observed in Soviet Russia, for example, when the old absolute Tsarist aristocracy was ousted by the new aristocracy of commissars and other elites, they were no less absolutist than the nobility they replaced. Similarly because people had not undergone inner transformation, the high humanistic hopes and high ideals of the French Revolution led to the Terror and then to the almost two decades of war with the Napoleonic Empire instead of introducing the reign of peace, reason and liberty.


However, even though the progressive inner transformation of man is the goal and the means of Bahá'u'lláh’s revelation, it does not follow that the decline and degeneration of societies around the world will not be momentous or even cataclysmic. Shoghi Effendi writes,


  A world, dimmed by the steadily dying-out light of religion, heaving with the explosive forces of a blind and triumphant nationalism; scorched with the fires of pitiless persecution, whether racial or religious; deluded by the false theories and doctrines that threaten to supplant the worship of God and the sanctification of His laws; enervated by a ampant and brutal materialism; disintegrating through the corrosive influence of moral  and spiritual decadence; and enmeshed in the coils of economic anarchy and strife -- such is the spectacle presented to men's eyes, as a result of the sweeping changes which this revolutionizing Force, as yet in the initial stage of its operation, is now producing in the life of the entire planet.[92]


“This revolutionizing Force” i.e. the Bahá’í’s revelation, is “now producing,” generating, inspiring such vast changes and upheavels on a global scale because it is necessary to clear away  decrepit traditions and institutions that impede human progress in order to establish a “new World Order.”[93] In short, the Bahá’í revelation stimulated the disruption and eventual destruction  of the old world so humanity will continue to evolve. The decline and eventual failure of the old world order is not a goal in itself but is a necessary means, a transition stage to the establishment of a new divinely mandated world order. It is, so to speak, the necessary destruction that precedes creation and will be accompanied by inescapable conflict.  As Shoghi Effendi notes,


 We have only to refer to the warnings uttered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in order to realize the extent and character of the forces that are destined to contest with God's holy Faith peoples, nations, adherents of divers faiths, will jointly and successively arise to shatter its unity, to sap its force, and to degrade its holy name. They will assail not only the spirit which it inculcates, but the administration which is the channel, the instrument, the  embodiment of that spirit. .”[94]

This point must not be overlooked lest we diminish the powerful and significant historical role played by Bahá'u'lláh and all other Manifestations in the intellectual and spiritual evolution of mankind. The Manifestations both clear away the old and build the new: these two processes are correlated. On this theme of a contest between the new revelation and the old order, Shoghi Effendi also writes of:


the burden of the impending contest that must be waged, sooner or later, within the borders of the Union itself, between the rising institutions of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic divinely appointed Order, and the exponents of obsolescent doctrines and the defenders, both secular and religious, of a corrupt and fast-declining society.[95]


Shoghi Effendi even assigns responsibility for the start of the inexorable conflict on the way to a new world order:


Our adversaries in the East have initiated the struggle. Our future opponents in thewest will, in their turn, arise and carry it a stage further. Ours is the duty, in anticipation of this inevitable contest, to uphold unequivocally and with undivided loyalty the integrity of our Faith and demonstrate the distinguishing features of its divinely appointed institutions.[96]

The first point worth noting is that there is no way of avoiding this conflict which is described as “inevitable” as in the previous quotation he described this conflict as “destined.” It is also worth noting that Shoghi Effendi writes of “adversaries” and “future opponents” recognizing the agonistic or contesting aspects of the Bahá’í Faith’s relationship to “outworn creeds.”[97] He even blames them for “initiat[ing] the struggle” and acknowledges that we have a duty to defend the Faith against these attacks, i.e. have a “duty” to involve ourselves in this struggle. Finally, it should be noted that this “contest” is external, a “struggle” with people and institutions in our environment. Although this aspect of the Revelation is not emphasized as much as the internal contest or agon within ourselves (which is examined below) we cannot minimize its importance given its role in the historical unfoldment of Bahá'u'lláh’s revelation.


 The key question is how this contest or “agonistic engagement”[98] is to be pursued. In the case of the Bahá’í Faith, it is waged not by the violent overthrow of governments,  political opposition by means of partisan politics, subversion or extra-parliamentary movements but by means of new ideas, revitalized values, good personal examples, energized hope, and appeals to the spiritual elements in human nature. In other words, the Bahá’í Faith will not actively work to weaken or bring down the old world order but rather primarily emphasizes spiritual renewal and personal and social transformation. The underlying principle is that by the power of example these transformational activities will gradually encourage people to turn their loyalties away from the old world order and turn towards Bahá'u'lláh’s revelation. Acampora’s reference to Nietzsche as a “lover and fighter”[99] in our view, also applies to the Bahá’í Faith which is motivated by its love for the progress of all humans as well as by the necessity of consigning the old world order into the past. However, while Bahá'u'lláh's revelation is motivated by love, there should be no mistake about this “contest”: it is absolutely real and implacable, and is waged for the highest imaginable stakes – the future of humankind.  Indeed, Shoghi Effendi’s own words emphasize the inevitable and uncompromising character of the contest between Bahá'u'lláh's new world order and the old world order: this “contest . . . must be waged, sooner or later.” We shall discuss “agonistic engagement” and the agonistic worldview again when we explore the concept of self-overcoming.

  For his part, Nietzsche seeks to undermine the ruling concepts of decadent Western Civilization by attacking its foundational concepts in metaphysics, ethics, logic, religion and social organization. Like Bahá'u'lláh', Nietzsche is no mere reformer; he has no confidence in contemporary party politics or in political revolutions to solve the problems of nihilism and societal decay. Both insist that we must not confuse and conflate the desire to make revolutionary changes in society by means of individual transformation in goals and values, with the work of political parties, programs and partisan conflicts. As demonstrated by the French Revolution and the Revolutions of 1848, without genuine, deep personal transformation in the majority of individuals, the changes wrought by merely political revolutions are superficial patchworks and generally disappointing. If people are not inwardly and spiritually transformed, they will inevitably repeat the very behaviors the revolution was supposed to eliminate.

 Like the Bahá’í Writings, Nietzsche also has an agonistic aspect related to both the external world as well as the inner self. The outwardly directed agonistic impulse is perhaps most startlingly and strongly expressed in Thus Spake Zarathustra:

 O my brothers, am I then cruel? But I say: That which is falling should also be pushed!

  Everything of today – it is falling. It is decaying: who would support it? But I – want to  push it too!

 Do you know the delight that rolls stones into precipitous depths? – These men of today – just see how they roll into my depths!

  I am a prologue to better players, O my brothers! An example! Follow my example!

And him you do not teach to fly, teach – to fall faster![100]

The essential message here – the dramatic flare and hyperbole aside – converges with the Bahá’í Writings. Certainly, the agonistic attitude is there, i.e. the conviction of an inescapable conflict as noted by Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. Neither Nietzsche nor the Writings show the slightest inclination to ‘save’ or even reform the old world order; as Zarathustra asks, “Who would support it?” He wants to “push” the falling old order by means of his philosophy, both by  undermining the conceptual foundations and by offering a more viable and inspiring alternative. He can help this old order to “fall faster” with his incisive analyses of its most cherished concepts and beliefs and, at the same time, show the way to a renewal of mankind. This converges with the Bahá’í strategy which consists of (1) identifying and explaining the spiritual poverty and corruption, the weakness and even wickedness of the modern world as well as (2) providing guidance for spiritual progress and a vision of a unified humanity in a global commonwealth. Nietzsche, of course, expresses himself more theatrically but the two strategies are for all purposes, similar.

3.3: The Rejection of Politics

Shoghi Effendi is clear that for Bahá’ís partisan politics in whatever form are not a viable way of changing the world:

 Bahá’ís should remember that we stand above politics. That that field does not interest us; that we attribute importance to things of the spirit, that we await salvation to come from the Faith that burns in our hearts.[101]

Of course, non-participation in partisan politics does not mean Bahá’ís are not engaged in helping to solve humanity’s problems but we must sure that neither we nor the Faith are being co-opted to narrow partisan purposes. They must be fully aware of the 'Abdu'l-Bahá ‘s  statements of that:


 universality is of God, Bahá'ís in every land are ready, nay anxious, to associate themselves by word and deed with any association of men which, after careful scrutiny, hey feel satisfied is free from every tinge of partisanship and politics and is wholly  devoted to the interests of all  mankind.[102]

 Of course, non-participation in partisan politics does not mean that the Bahá’í Writings do not have certain principles vis-à-vis governance. They make it quite clear that free, open and democratic government is better for human progress than autocratic government[103]; that elected parliaments  are good – if conducted properly[104]; that undue centralization is to be avoided[105]; that consultation is the model for productive parliamentary debate[106]; that republican democracy is acceptable but that Bahá'u'lláh prefers what is now called ‘constitutional monarchy.’[107] Moreover, in all cases, the Writings make it clear that a nation’s effective social and political order must ultimately depend on the spiritual qualities of its citizens. That is why Shoghi Effendi points out, politics are unable to provide the true unity a nation or humankind needs to continue its psycho-social and spiritual progress:

Religion must be the cause of love. Religion must be the cause of justice, for the wisdom of the Manifestations of God is directed toward the establishing of the bond of a lovewhich is indissoluble. The bonds which hold together the body-politic are not sufficient . . . the bond holding men together may be political. How often it happens that the  diplomacy of nations makes a treaty of peace one day and on the morrow a declaration of war! It is historically evident and manifest that these bonds are not self-sufficient.[108]

We might note at this point that Nietzsche’s disdain for democracy (discussed below) is not entirely opposed to the Writings which clearly endorse democracy on one hand, but also see democracy requires new participants transformed by a new spirit if governance is to rise above the fatal disadvantages of partisan politics. Forbidding Bahá’ís to engage in partisan politics is one way of weakening the highly imperfect democratic system we have now and to start building a new system based on unity in diversity, love and true consultation. 


 R. Kevin Hill notes that “Nietzsche rejects all the political ideologies on offer, from left to right as delusions, ‘convictions’ with no foundation.”[109]  Politics as practiced in Europe during his time no longer serve any useful purpose: “the time for small politics is gone,”[110] a point also emphasized in  his disparaging remark that:


      The conditions under which any one understands me, and necessarily understands me--I know them only too well . . .    

Hemustbeaccustomedtoliving on  mountain tops—and to looking upon the wretched gabble of politics and nationalism as beneath him.[111]   

Indeed, his contempt for politics is expressed even more strongly:


At that point trade would acquire nobility, and the nobility might then enjoy trad- ing as much as they have hitherto enjoyed war and politics, while the esteem for politics might undergo a total change. Even now it is ceasing to be the art of the nobleman, and it is quite possible that some day one may find it so common and  even vulgar that, along with all party literature and journalism, one would classify it as "prostitution of the spirit."[112]


His judgment could hardly be more damning. Speaking as a cultural commentator, he asserts that:

“All great cultural epochs are epochs of political decline; that which is great in the cultural sense has been unpolitical, even anti-political.”[113]

Ted Sadler adds,


 For Nietzsche as for Heraclitus, politics is one of the most overestimated things in the       world, mainly because it caters for the instincts of the common, unphilosophical natures who are always in the majority. Politics stands in opposition to the radically individualizing character of philosophy expressed in Heraclitus’ statement (Diels-Kranz: Fragment 246) ‘I searched out myself.’[114]


This view is complementary to a Bahá’í perspective insofar as it re-enforces the necessity of a spiritual regeneration within individuals if politics are to be raised to the higher level envisaged by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. In other words, Nietzsche agrees with the Writings that the fundamental problem of politics is spiritual, mankinds inner life. Tamsin Shaw points out another area of agreement between Nietzsche and the Writings in this regard. She says that Nietzsche is completely skeptical about the ability of modern politics to create the genuine consensus needed to make the modern state workable. Like Walter Kaufmann, she believes:


 that Nietzsche indeed fails to articulate any  positive, normative political theory . . . His guiding political vision, I shall claim, is oriented around the rise of the modern state,  which requires, normative consensus in order to rule and a simultaneous process of  secularization that seems to make uncoerced consensus impossible . . .  Nietzsche doubts  that secular societies can otherwise generate sufficient consensus.[115]    


In other words, according to Shaw, Nietzsche sees the same problems in politics as 'Abdu'l-Bahá, i.e. there is a lack of genuine unity to ensure the success of the modern state. Of course, Nietzsche would not agree that religion is necessary because  “the bonds which hold together the body-politic are not sufficient.”[116]



To summarize: Nietzsche also sees the need for revolutionary changes in Europe and through his philosophizing, he undermines the metaphysical, intellectual, religious, moral and social beliefs on which Western Civilization is built and by which it justifies itself and its actions. Similarly, the Bahá’í Writings undermine and challenge the degraded religious institutions as well as the corrupted theological and ritual accretions that have distorted the “eternal verities” taught by previous Manifestations and held back human progress. They also oppose such spiritually false and damaging beliefs as metaphysical and economic materialism, the belief that “existence is an illusion,”[117] and “the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism.”[118] Indeed, virtually all aspects of the old world order need to be abolished or re- re-invented. And, like Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, Nietzsche is aware that there is an “impending contest that must be waged, sooner or later” between the outworn and essentially lifeless old order and the invigorated new order.


 Like the Bahá’í Writings, Nietzsche rejects the partisan politics of his time but also has  certain political principles and far-reaching goals. Most of these these principles and goals flatly contradict the Bahá’í Writings. Moreover, as we shall see below, these principles and goals  involve him in a number of serious inconsistencies with some of his other teachings. Consequently, on this issue there is a major, irreconcilable division among Nietzsche scholars about the correct interpretation of what Nietzsche says about his general political views. One side of this debate holds that Nietzsche despised democracy as “not only a deterioration, that is to say, the depreciation of a human type, a mediocratizing and lowering of values.”[119] Instead, he advocated what Mark Warren calls a:


 neoaristocratic conservatism – a conservatism looking back to the social orders that developed in Europe between the Renaissance and the emergence bourgeois political orders, and forward to a time when similar cultural aristocracies might be established.[120]  


Bruce Detwiler calls Nietzsche’s political views “the politics of aristocratic radicalism”[121] which seems to establish rule by the most powerful and ruthless. It is not hard to find evidence for such beliefs in Nietzsche:


Every heightening of the type “man” hitherto has been the work of an aristocratic society  – and thus it will always be; a society which believes in a long ladder of rank order and  value differences in men, which needs slavery in some sense . . . To be sure, we must  not yield to humanitarian self-deception about the history of the origins of an   aristocratic society . . . Let us tell ourselves without indulging ourselves how every   superior culture on earth got its start! Men whose nature was still natural, barbarians in every frightful sense of the word, men of prey  . . .  such men threw themselves upon weaker, better-  behaved, more peaceable races . . . The distinguished caste in the beginning was always the barbarian caste; their superiority lay not primarily in their physical but in their psychic power; they were more whole human beings (which on  every level also means “more whole as beasts).[122]


Clearly, Nietzsche approves of the aristocrats for their leadership because they “heighten[ed] “the type of ‘man.’” In other words, the human race as a whole benefits by their rule. It might be argued that their violent nature was only instrumental at the start of their climb to power and that their real superiority lay in “their psychic power; they were more whole human beings.” However, the fact remains that they seize and keep power by violence for such is the nature of life itself. Nietzsche writes:


Life is essential assimilation, injury, violation of the foreign and the weaker, suppression,hardness, the forcing of one’s own form upon something else, ingestion and – at least in its mildest form – exploitation . . .  life is simply will to power . . . “Exploitation” is not a part of a vicious or imperfect or primitive society ; it belongs to the nature of livingthings [123] 


Nietzsche justifies the aristocrats as realists who accept the conditions of natural life and take advantage of them.[124]

 It is clear that the struggle for domination based on the universally present will to power, is ontologically integral to life. Being ontologically integral to life, it cannot be removed without eliminating life itself. Consequently, for Nietzsche “exploitation” “suppression” or domination i.e. “the forcing of one’s own form upon something else” does not mean a society is “primitive” or “vicious” as most ethical systems would assert. These are activities that are necessary for and natural to life. In Nietzsche’s view, the aristocrats ought to rule precisely because they have attributes listed above, they accept the nature of reality without any shame and/or guilt, and because the aristocrat  feels himself the value-determining; he does not need to be ratified; he judges that “which is harmful to me is harmful as such; he knows that he is the something which gives honor to objects; he creates values . . . his morality is self-glorification.[125]


In our view, Nietzsche’s ideas on this matter have at least three major inherent problems aside from their conflict with the Bahá’í Writings. First, they undermine some of Nietzsche’s other central teachings. First, it promotes – in contradiction to his doctrine of continuous self-overcoming – a ruling class without any capacity for self-critique and self-evaluation, i.e. a ruling class which sincerely experiences itself and whatever it does as “the good.” Such attitudes discourage if not outrightly forbid self-overcoming since the necessary ‘goodness’ has already been achieved. These rulers are, in effect, stuck at a certain point in their development. This does not bode well for their future success. Moreover, the portrait of this aristocracy is wholly inconsistent with Nietzsche’s most extended portrayal of an aristocrat and his teachings, namely Zarathustra. Indeed, Zarathustra is far closer to the religious ideals Nietzsche claims to despise than to an ‘aristocrat.’ He, too, recognizes that relentless self-overcoming is the sine qua non of human progress, admonishing his listeners, “You must overcome yourselves ten times a day.”[126]

 This raises an important question in our understanding of Nietzsche: who – Zarathustra or the ‘aristocrat’ – represents Nietzsche’s ideals more closely? A reconciliation between the two seems improbable. For reasons that shall become evident as we proceed, we maintain that Zarathustra fits Nietzsche’s ideal better than the ‘aristocrat.’ We shall refer to these – and other – aristocratic short-coming again.


The second problem with Nietzsche’s view of the alleged mental superiority of the aristocracy is difficult to reconcile with his claim that they were co-opted, i.e. outwitted and enlisted in the cunningly devised priestly ethics.  Did they not realize what was happening or – later – what had happened to them? If they did not, how could Nietzsche say they are pre-eminent in their “psychic powers”?[127] Obviously, the priests were too clever for them. And if they did realize they had been tricked,  why did they not use their superior ruthlessness and capacity for violence to set matters ‘right’? Already at this point, it is obvious that Nietzsche’s teaching of the aristocrats is beset by numerous internal problems that undermine its consistency and viability as an explanation for the development of morals among humankind. This teaching is difficult to defend even as a ‘explanatory myth’ because even myths have to make sense, i.e. have a minimal amount of internal consistency and rationality – and this idea has neither.


   The third problem is that by justifying the aristocracy by appealing to nature, Nietzsche falls into the Humean fallacy of confusing ‘what is’ with ‘what ought to be,’ i.e. of confusing ‘description’ with ‘prescription’ and ‘knowing what is the case’ with ‘endorsing what is the case.’ Describing and prescribing (endorsing or obligating) are logically different procedures as seen in the following example: just because it is a fact that Alexis always cooks supper at our house – a description of her actions – does not mean that Alexis should always cook supper at our house – a prescription or obligation. Here is an example from nature: just because it is a fact that mother rabbits sometimes eat their young in times of danger does not mean that human mothers are obligated to do the same. Clearly, when it comes to relations among humans we are not intended to imitate nature, or, as Rosie Sayers remarks so wittily in “The African Queen,” “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”[128] Humans are not merely animals but also have a spiritual nature, and, therefore, must overcome the harshness of nature and not turn them into an excuse to maltreat others.


 And among the teachings of His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh is man's freedom: that through the Ideal Power he should be emancipated and free from the captivity of the world of nature; for as long as man is captive to nature he is a ferocious animal, as the struggle for existence is one of the exigencies of the world of nature. This matter of the struggle for existence is the fountain-head of all calamities, and is the supreme affliction.[129]


Elsewhere, `Abdu'l-Bahá says,


 The Prophets come into the world to guide and educate humanity so that the animal nature of man may disappear and the divinity of his powers become awakened.[130]


The Bahá’í Writings are obviously incompatible with Nietzsche’s beliefs about justifying ethics by an appeal to physical nature. Indeed, even Nietzsche is not consistent on this subject as seen in his exemplar, Zarathustra who preaches and practices self-overcoming. Over-coming our own violent or sensual impulses, preferences, laziness, bad habits as well as our addiction to comfort – as seen the “Last Men” whom Zarathustra condemns – is not inherent in physical nature. That is why Bahá'u'lláh says:


Know ye that the embodiment of liberty and its symbol is the animal.   That which beseemeth man is submission unto such restraints as will protect him from his own ignorance, and guard him against the harm of the mischief-maker.[131]


The “submission unto . . . restraints” is precisely the self-overcoming Nietzsche also requires and encourages. Such self-overcoming, i.e. such transcending of these natural impulses of our character is precisely what Zarathustra demands. Clearly, he is rising above or transcending our physical, animal nature. This is evident when he says:


 The spiritualization of sensuality is called love: it is a great triumph over Christianity. A further triumph is our spiritualization of enmity. It consists in profoundly grasping the value of having enemies: in brief, in acting and thinking in the reverse of the way in which one formerly acted and thought.[132]


Love, as all adults know, is more than and cannot be reduced to lust which is simply an animal response. Once again we find evidence of what we have called the ‘transcendental impulse’ in Nietzsche, i.e. a felt necessity to avoid reductionism to pure physicality. For this reason, Zarathustra does not strive to create better animals but humans who are able to sublimate or transcend their animal natures. Kaufmann points out that Nietzsche “used another word side by side with sublimation: Vergeisterung, spiritualization,”[133] thereby pointing to the ‘transcendental impulse.’ We should also add that Nietzsche’s advice about the value of having enemies and thinking about them differently as before converges with:


 Let them see no one as their enemy, or as wishing them ill, but think of all humankind  as their friends; regarding the alien as an intimate, the stranger as a companion, staying    free of prejudice, drawing no lines.[134]


Both passages advocate that we should not view our enemies in the natural way and rise above our impulses to find value in our foes.

 Of course, the Writings embrace the idea of basing ethics on humankind’s non-animal, i.e. on our spiritual nature far more clearly an unambiguously than Nietzsche.


  Know that there are two natures in man: the physical nature and the spiritual nature . . .The physical nature is born of Adam, but the spiritual nature is born from the bounty of  the Holy Spirit. The first is the source of all imperfection; the second is the source of all   perfection.[135]


In contrast, Nietzsche’s philosophy is conflicted on this issue insofar as it advocates sublimation and spiritualization on one hand and, at the same time, warns us to:


 remain true to the earth and do not believe those who speak to you of superterrestrial hopes! They are poisoners whether they know it or not . . . To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadful offence, and to esteem the bowels of the Inscrutable more highly than the meaning of the earth[136] 


Nietzsche’s unspoken assumption here is that belief in any kind of a transcendental or “superterrestrial” world – be it a platonic world of ideas, a supernatural ground of being or a  heavenly afterlife – is intrinsically incompatible with loyalty to the earth i.e. with recognizing that our earthly life is intrinsically good and necessary. In short, at this point he seems to reject the ‘transcendental impulse’ that we find elsewhere in his work. Furthermore, he believes that the existence of a “superterrestrial” world devalues and degrades the earth and our earthly existence. This devaluation is seen in the unfavorable contrast between the strains, challenges and sufferings of earthly life with the purity, repose and ease of any sort of “superterrestrial” realm.


Nietzsche’s claims about the “superterrestrial” world are not true of the Bahá’í Writings. First, there is Bahá'u'lláh’s condemnation of asceticism and monasticism: they impede the full celebration of earthly life and the divine gifts it offers:


Living in seclusion or practising asceticism is not acceptable in the presence of God. It behoveth them that are endued with insight and understanding to observe that which will cause joy and radiance. Such practices as are sprung from the loins of idle fancy or are begotten of the womb of superstition ill beseem men of knowledge.[137]


It is worth noting that Bahá'u'lláh emphasises the “joy and radiance” of earthly life just as Nietzsche does. Moreover, He clearly condemns such practices as originating in “idle fancy” and “superstition” and, thereby, unmasking them as distortions of human existence. There is no sign of devaluing the earth or earthly life here.


 Second, the Bahá’í view of human life – a character-building[138] journey from earth to the endless spiritual evolution of the Abha Kingdom – is a process view in which there is no rationale for thinking that the first step diminishes or devalues the first. In a static world-view, such claims might make sense but in a process view in which past steps are implicitly included and even raised to a higher level, Nietzsche’s reasoning does not hold.


 Thus, we find another strong convergence between the Writings and Nietzsche. Both of them present life on earth as necessary, i.e. unavoidable and as intrinsically good. It cannot be replaced by anything else and, as Bahá'u'lláh’s foregoing quote demonstrates, must be appreciated and honored.[139]

(This article continues with Part 2: Nietzsche and the Baha'i Writings on the next page.)

[1]Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, 21, October, 1943 in Scholarship, p. 4’ emphasis added.

[2]Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, in Scholarship, p. 17; emphasis added; emphasis added.

[3]Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, 5 July, 1949, in Scholarship, p. 11; emphasis added.

[5]Robert Wicks, “Friederich Nietzsche” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

[6]Nicholas Ferroni, The Philosopher Who Indirectly Influenced Music and Pop Culture, in the Huffington Post, 06/25/2012. See also Eric Walter, Nietzsche Our Contemporary, in Philosophy Now, April/May 2015.

[7] Alliterator, “Let Us Make Good: Existentialism in Pop Culture (Part One),

[8] Angela McRobbie, postModernism and Popular Culture,

[9]A good short summary of his influence is Nietzsche’s Reception and Critiques, 2015, at

[10]Craig Hovey, Nietzsche and Theology, p. 1.

[11]Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, First Part, Zarathustra’s Prologue, Section 2. See also The Gay Science, #108.

[12]Graham Parkes, Nietzsche and East Asian Thought: Influences, Impacts, and Resonances in The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, edited by Bernd Magnus AND Kathleen M. Higgins, p. 356. See also, Carol Diethe, Historical Dictionary of Nietzscheanism pp. 55 – 58 for entries on Japan, China. 

[13] Nietzsche was a major influence on Mohammed Iqbal’s vitalist philosophy. See M. Hanif, Islam and Modernity, p. 231. See also Nietzsche and Asian Thought edited by Graham Parkes.

[14] Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Reading Nietzsche in India, The Indian Express, Saturday, April 18, 2015. See also Michael Skowron, Nietzsche in Indian Eyes.

[15] Josep Puig Montada,Farah Antun: Active Reception of European Thought, Universidad Complutense de Madrid,

[16] Christoph Schuman, editor, Nationalism and Liberal Thought in the Arab East: Ideology and Practice, p. 121

[17] Emily Rhoads, Influence of Friederich Nietzsche  Upon the Writings of Kahlil Gibran, 

[18] Carool Kerstein, Cosmopolitans and Heretics: New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study of Islam, p.143 and 178.

[19] William Al-Sharif, Christianity, Islam and Secular Criticism, p. 95.

[20]Yotam Hotam, Modern Gnosis and Zionism, p. 156.

[21]Jacob Golomb, Nietzsche and Zion, p. 1. See also Golomb, Nietzsche, Zionism and Hebrew Culture.

[22]Carol Diethe, Historical Dictionary of Nietzscheanism, p. 50 – 52.

[23]Cristina Brenner, A Plane of Intersection: Nietzsche and Garcia Lorca, PH.D. dissertation, 

[24] Ashley Woodward, Interpreting Nietzsche, p. 1.

[25]Paul E Kirkland, Nietzsche’s Noble Aims: Affirming Life, Contesting Modernity, p. 5; emphasis added.

[26]Paul E Kirkland, Nietzsche’s Noble Aims: Affirming Life, Contesting Modernity, p. 5.

[27] Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, p. 50.

[28]Paul E Kirkland, Nietzsche’s Noble Aims: Affirming Life, Contesting Modernity, p. 6.

[29]Alexander Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 15 – 16; emphasis added.

[30]Alexander Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 3.

[31]Alexander Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 3.

[32].P. Stern, Nietzsche, p. 25.

[33]Karl Jaspers, Nietzsche: An Introduction to the Understanding of His Philosophical Activity, p. 9; emphasis added. 

[34]Ruediger Safranski, Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biograp  hy, p. 350.

[35] Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, p. 445.

[36]Paul E Kirkland, Nietzsche’s Noble Aims: Affirming Life, Contesting Modernity, p. 5.

[37] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 211.

[38]Robert C Solomon and Kathleen M Higgins, What Nietzsche Really Said, p. 97.

[39] Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, # 38, (Mencken), emphasis added

[40]Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, (Hollingdale), “The Four Great Errors”, # 7, p. 53.

[41] Nietzsche, Twilight of the Gods, (Hollingdale) in “Maxims and Arrows” # 26.

[42]Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, (Hollingdale) “Of Old and Young Women”, p. 91.

[43] Some writers seek to make a virtue of this difficulty. See, for example, Wolfgang-Mueller-Lauter, Nietzsche: His Philosophy of Contradictions and the Contradictions of His Philosophy

[44]Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann/Hollingdale) # 582, A, p. 313.

[45]Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, (Kaufmann), I, #13.

[46]Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann/Hollingdale) # 551, p. 296.

[47]Nietzsche, The Will to Power (Kaufmann), # 551, p. 295 – 300.

[48]Ian Kluge, The Aristotelian Substratum of the Bahá’í Writings, in Lights of Irfan, Volume 4, 2003 or # 13 at Also Ian Kluge, Some Answered Questions: A Philosophical Perspective, in Lights of Irfan 10, 2009 or # 11 at

[49] `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 204 – 205.

[50] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CX,  p. 216.

[51] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, LXI, p. 118; emphasis added. See also Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 12.

[52] Bahá'u'lláh. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, XVIII, 43.

[53] Bahá'u'lláh, The Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 101.

[54]Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 187; emphasis added.

[55]Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 108.

[56] Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá’í World, 1950 – 1957, p. 103.

[57]  `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 23.

[58]Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann/Hollingdale) in “Towards an Outline” # 1, p. 7.

[59]Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann/Hollingdale), # 2, p. 9.

[60] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufman/Hollingdale) # 12, p. 12.

[61]Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann/Hollingdale) in “Towards an Outline” # 1, p. 7; emphasis added.

[62] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufman/Hollingdale) # 1, p. 7.

[63] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufman/Hollingdale) # 47, p. 40.

[64]Nietzsche, The Gay Science, (Common) in “The Peasant Revolt of the Spirit,” # 358, p. 174.

[65] See Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann/Hollingdale), # 2, p. 9.

[66]Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, (Hollingdale), in “Zarathustra’s Prologue”, # 5, p. 45.

[67] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, II, p. 5.

[68] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXLVIII, p. 318.

[69] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CLIX, p. 335.

[70] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 108.

[71] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of `Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. 3, p. 565.

[72] Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be?

[73] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 300.

[74]Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, (Hollingdale), “Zarathustra’s Prologue” # 3, p. 41.

[75]Arthur Danto, Nietzsche as Philosopher, p. 22.

[76] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann), # 22, p.15,

[77] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann), # 23, p. 15 – 16.

[78] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann), # 23, p. 16.

[79] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (Kaufmann), # 23, p. 16.

[80]Arthur Danto, Nietzsche as Philosopher, p.32.

[81]Arthur Danto, Nietzsche as Philosopher, p. 29.

[82] `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 105.

[83]Robert C Solomon and Kathleen M Higgins, What Nietzsche Really Said, p. 199.

[84]  `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244.

[85] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 7.

[86] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, LXX, p. 7.

[87] Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 259.

[88] Bahá'u'lláh, The Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 117.

[89] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 39.

[90] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CLXXVIII, p. 295 - 206.

[91]“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

[92]Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 46 – 47; emphasis added.

[93] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, LXXX, p. 136.

[94] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 17. See also The Compilation of Compilations Vol II, p. 142; The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 41; The Decisive Hour, p. 123; God Passes By, p. 411.

[95]Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 155.

[96]Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 155; emphasis added.

[97] Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, p. 4.

[98]Christa Davis Acampora, Contesting Nietzsche, p. 201,

[99]Christa Davis Acampora, Contesting Nietzsche, p. 192.

[100] Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (Hollingdale), III, # 20, p. 227.

[101]Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Divine Guidance, Volume I, pp. 47 – 48.

[102] Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 125; emphasis added.

[103] `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 197.

[104] `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 73; The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 17.

[105] `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 167.

[106] `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 73.

[107] Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 28.

[108]Shoghi Effendi, Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p. 43.

[109]R. Kevin Hill, Nietzsche: A Guide for the Perplexed, p. 44.

[110]Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, (Cowan), “We Scholars,” # 208.

[111] Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, (Mencken), Foreword.

[112] Nietzsche, The Gay Science (Kaufmann), I, # 31.

[113]Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, (Hollingdale), in “What the Germans Lack,” # 4, p. 63.

[114] Ted Sadler, “The Postmodernist Politicization of Nietzsche” in Paul Patton, Nietzsche, Feminism and Political, p. 225; emphasis added.

[115] Tamsin Shaw, Nietzsche’s Political Skepticism, p. 2 – 3; emphasis added.

[116]Shoghi Effendi, Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p. 43.

[117]  `Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 278.

[118]Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 113.

[119]Nietzsche, (Cowan) Beyond Good and Evil, # 203.

[120]Mark Warren, Nietzsche and Political Thought, p. 213.

[121] Bruce Detwiler, Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism.

[122]Nietzsche, (Cowan) Beyond Good and Evil, IX, # 257.

[123]Nietzsche, (Cowan) Beyond Good and Evil, IX, # 259; emphasis added.

[123]Nietzsche, (Cowan) Beyond Good and Evil, IX, # 259,

[124] There is no question that passages such as this – and there are others – made it easy for Nietzsche’s sister Elizabeth to portray him as a forerunner of National Socialism. From our perspective this is not the case if for no other reason than that Nietzsche despised nationalism (especially German nationalism) and socialism. (See The Will to Power, # 125)  National Socialism was too much of a mass i.e. “herd” – or Volk – movement to merit Nietzsche’s approval. In Nietzsche and Political Thought, Mark Warren sees certain aspects of Nietzsche’s beliefs as “distinctively fascist” (p. 211).

[125]Nietzsche, (Cowan) Beyond Good and Evil, IX, # 260.

[126]Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, (Hollingdale), “Of the Chairs of Virtue,” p. 36.

[127]Nietzsche, (Cowan) Beyond Good and Evil, IX, # 257.

[128]The African Queen (1951) with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

[129] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 302,

[130]  `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 41.

[131] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CLIX, p. 335.

[132]Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, (Hollingdale), V, # 3, p. 43.

[133]Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, p. 197.

[134] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 1.

[135]  `Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 118.

[136] Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (Hollingdale), “Zarathustra’s Prologue,” # 3, p. 42.

[137] Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 71.

[138] The poet John Keats called this world “the vale of soul making” in a letter to his brother (Feb. 14, 1819). The term strikes me as appropriate to the Bahá’í teachings on the purpose of earthly life. 

[139] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXXVIII, p. 274.