Home


                                         Reason and the Baha'i Writings

                                                                                               Part I

 

1. Introduction

 The Scriptures of no other revealed religion place as much emphasis on the importance of reason as the Bahá’í Writings. While other religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Islam have a strong tradition of rationalist thought – Aquinas, Avicenna or Nagarjuna – derived from revealed Scripture, the  Bahá’í Writings themselves contain a wealth of direct statements about the nature, proper uses and limitations of reason. There are, in fact, dozens of passages directly extolling and even demanding the use of reason in regards to both the physical world and spiritual subject matter. When we add the indirect references, the amount of material discussing and, above all, recommending reason is truly astonishing.

 

 The value of an enterprise such as this is readily apparent. The intended audience of the Writings is humankind in general regardless of location, culture, class or any other subdivision of our species. From this it follows that whatever methods of reasoning the Bahá’í Writings employ and/or model vis-à-vis reasoning is intended for humankind as a whole, i.e. is intended to have universal validity. This is not to say other methods of reasoning – insofar as such exist – are invalid but that they have been superseded by the preferences shown by the Writings themselves. Whatever may have been done in the past is now transcended by the Writings which have been revealed to further progressive revelation.

 

The first part of this paper will explore in detail various aspects of what the Writings have to say about reason, its proper uses and its limitations as well as such related concepts as the “rational soul,” rationality, intellect and reasonableness. Among other things, the Writings identify reason as the essential and distinguishing attribute of the human spirit or “rational soul”[1]; as the test for differentiating true from false religious beliefs; as a necessary component of faith and as “the foundation of the religion of God.”[2] Shoghi Effendi even refers to the “invisible yet rational God.”[3]  Indeed, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sums up the Bahá’í teachings about reason and religion with his statement that “The foundations of religion are reasonable.”[4] Furthermore, in regards to the current age, he declares, “in this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of reason,”[5] indicating thereby that reason is especially important for teaching in the contemporary world.

 

However, even though reason and rationality are absolutely necessary according to the Writings, they are not by themselves sufficient in attaining certain knowledge. For this, reason must be aided by the Holy Spirit. [6] The Writings, as we shall see, espouse a “moderate rationalism” which recognizes that reason can tell us some things but not everything.  In other words, rationality does not exhaust the Writings. To fully understand what this means we must recall there are basically three ‘schools’ of rationality. The first, which we may call ‘strict rationalism,’ believes that rational investigation is the only path to knowledge. Reason alone is necessary and sufficient to tell us what is real and true. Science is an example of strict rationalism. At the other extreme are skepticism and irrationalism which, for various reasons, deny that reason can give us any genuine knowledge at all. Epistemology boils down to interpretation and preference. Reason is neither necessary nor sufficient. At best, rationality is a superficial façade that masks irrational forces, hides motives such as the will-to-power and disguises defective or even duplicitous thought processes. Most forms of postmodern philosophy belong here.[7] Between the two extremes we find ‘moderate rationalism’ which holds that reason by itself is necessary but not sufficient to give us some kinds of knowledge. In other words, we must begin with reason but cannot end with it. There is the ‘transrational’ which includes reason but goes beyond it. As we shall observe in this paper, the Bahá’í Writings espouse a ‘moderate rationalism.’   

 

While the first part of this paper will explore what the Writings actually tell us about reason, the second part concerns itself with some of the controversies surrounding the subject of reason, and especially, reason and religion, in the contemporary world. Various forms of post-modern philosophy reject the concept that reason can be a neutral, universal tool for discovering truth, even in science. More than anything else, it is an expression of the will to power, a way of dominating others, and, according to colonial studies, an instrument of Western cultural imperialism and oppression. It is neither politically nor culturally emancipatory, i.e. does not free us and is not associated with freedom or progress.

 

In addition, there is an argument that reason and logic, especially classical i.e. standard logic[8] based on the law of non-contradiction (LNC) are irrelevant to understanding reality in the age of quantum physics. The same is argued for the law of the excluded middle (LEM). We shall show how this critique is based on a misunderstanding of these logical axioms and their applications in experimental science, including quantum physics. Moreover, we shall see that the LEM is not easy to eliminate and, in fact, pervades the Bahá’í Writings. Outside of the sciences, the general contemporary attitude to reason is skeptical at best. [9] However, our study will show that the Bahá’í Writings have little in common with the contemporary philosophical skepticism about or even hostility to reason and more in common with Enlightenment optimism about reason.

           

 Another challenge grows out of the fact that the Writings extol and recommend reason as a test to differentiate truth from non-truth[10] and religion from superstition.[11] How can we reconcile the diversity of understanding which the Writings encourage with the obligation to apply rational standards to distinguish tenable from untenable ideas? After all, the application of a rational standard results in some ideas being rejected as unsustainable at least in their present form. This appears to work against diversity and ‘empower’ some viewpoints over others. On the other hand, how can we set aside such a standard without slipping into all the logical and/or ethical pitfalls that affect both relativism in general or special sub-types such as cognitive relativism in metaphysics? Without a standard to differentiate between tenable and untenable ideas we are inescapably in a situation of “anything goes” which the Writings do not support.




If they did, they would not refer to some ideas as “absurd,”[12] “childish,”[13] “erroneous,”[14] “mistaken”[15] and “wrong.”[16] None of these judgments is possible without applying a rational standard to judge these ideas. Our answer to this problem is a model called ‘rational perspectivism’ which applies a procedure used in the sciences.

 

This paper will also explore the extent and limits of reason’s power as presented by the Writings. Can reason tell us everything we want and/or need to know? As we shall see, the Bahá’í Writings espouse a “moderate rationalism” according to which reason can tell us some things but not all things. There are ‘other ways of knowing’ such as inspiration from the Holy Spirit. We shall examine what this means more precisely later in the paper. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mentions the limitations of reason in a small number of passages. However, unless understood in context, these passages can easily cause an unwary reader to slip into a pyrrhic skepticism that makes all truth-claims impossible and, ends with a “nothing goes” in contrast to the “anything goes” of all forms of relativism. In the last analysis both relativism and skepticism end up espousing the subjectivity of truth: we pick any belief we want and go with it ‘as true’ because for whatever reason, it pleases us. There are no objective standard. The Writings clearly do not support either of these positions.

 

2. A “Rational God”

          

Perhaps the most intriguing statement about rationality in the Bahá’í Writings is Shoghi Effendi’s reference to that invisible yet rational God Who, however much we extol the divinity of His Manifestations on earth, can in no wise incarnate His infinite, His unknowable, His incorruptible and all-embracing Reality in the concrete and limited frame of a mortal being[17]

 In reflecting on this phrase, it is important to note it does not violate the principle of the essential unknowability of God. As Adib Taherzadeh says:

It is essential to differentiate between the 'Essence of God' which Shoghi Effendi describes as the 'innermost Spirit of Spirits' or 'Eternal Essence of Essences', and 'God revealed' to humanity. The former is unknowable, while the latter is comprehensible to man.[18]

 

Taherzadeh, of course, is referring to the God Who can be known through His attributes, as noted by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:

That is to say, as things can only be known by their qualities and not by their essence, it is certain that the Divine Reality is unknown with regard to its essence and is known with regard to its attributes[19]

 

In other words, while God’s Essence is unknowable to us, “ ‘God revealed’ to humanity” through His “attributes”, His actions and creations can be known to us. The doctrine of the unknowability of God refers only to the Divine Essence itself and not to God’s attributes as revealed in the world.

 

 If God has reveals Himself to the world through His attributes as a “rational God,” then it follows that creation itself is rational. Were that not the case, we would not have the evidence to call Him a “rational God.” Of course, if creation were not rational, science would be impossible since science and technology assume the intrinsic rationality of the natural world to make predictions not only for experiments but also for devices of all kinds. One other conclusion follows: a “rational God” Who has revealed Himself through His attributes, actions and creations sends a rational revelation. Otherwise, there would be no evidence to call Him a “rational God.” From this we can deduce that the Bahá’í Writings are informed by rationality, i.e. their teachings, their arguments, their world-view or Weltanschauung and their vision of the future are consistent with rational thought.

 

 Vis-à-vis the “rational God,” what does – what can – the word ‘rational’ mean here? If by ‘rational’ we mean ‘logical’ we certainly do not intend to suggest that God ‘thinks’ according to the laws of logic. We do not know how God ‘thinks.’ All we can say is that God’s creation, His revelation of Himself in the world of nature, is comprehensible to reason. That is why we have science and why the Writings encourage us so keenly to pursue all the sciences. Reason, as will be shown below, has certain requirements or laws and the Writings are certainly consistent with these. Such consistency is what we would expect from a God Who is described by Shoghi Effendi as “rational.” 

 

3: Various Meanings of ‘Rational’

 However, ‘rational’ can also refer to a complex of meanings around the concepts of ‘being rational,’ ‘being reasonable’ and ‘being just.’ What do we mean, for example, when we say that a person’s words or actions are “rational” or “reasonable”? What we mean is ‘appropriateness’: our words/actions are appropriate to the nature or essence of the person who is acting and the situation s/he is acting in. All aspects of the situation are given their due, which, in the end turns out to mean we treat all aspects of a situation justly. “Know that to do justice is to give to everyone according to his deserts,” [20] i.e. to treat a person in a manner appropriate to his actions. For example, under normal circumstances, it is not reasonable or just to treat a teenager like a two-year old. Doing so is inappropriate to, i.e. does not correspond to, their natures or their actions. Indeed, doing so is a logical category mistake which treats one kind of thing as if it were another kind of thing. Such treatment, therefore, is illogical, inappropriate to their natures and, therefore, irrational and unjust. When Shoghi Effendi describes God as a “rational God” he is saying that God is never subject to these deficiencies.[21] 

 

 The Writings illustrate this aspect of ‘reason’ and reasonableness in several ways. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, for example, asks, “How can man be content to lead only an animal existence when God has made him so high a creature?”[22] Underlying this rhetorical question is the premise that acting against our higher nature is unreasonable or inappropriate to our nature; it is a category mistake in which we illogically treat ourselves as something we are not; in a word, it is unjust. Such behavior violates Bahá'u'lláh’s injunction, “Be fair to yourselves and to others, that the evidences of justice may be revealed, through your deeds, among Our faithful servants.”[23] In other words, if we do not behave according to our nature, if we behave inappropriately, we are not only being unreasonable but also being unfair to ourselves. Many of the statements about observing equity – fairness – also fit in with the concept of being reasonable, appropriate to our nature or station and justice:

Say: Observe equity in your judgment, ye men of understanding heart! He that is unjust in his judgment is destitute of the characteristics that distinguish man's station.[24]

 

Such behavior is unreasonable and unjust because it violates our human nature.

 

 Another aspect of God being a “rational God” is the concept of a final cause. This refers to having an ultimate goal or purpose for revealing Himself in creation. Consequently, everything that happens must be judged in light of this purpose or goal without which no event would ultimately make sense. This purpose provides the cohesion that changes mere haphazard phenomena into an ordered ‘whole’ and, thereby, gives them not only purpose but meaning and value. That purpose provides a standard by which to gauge the significance of all events. As the Writings tell us, God acts with purpose in not only in human history[25] but also in cosmic history:

 
This composition and arrangement, through the wisdom of God and His preexistent might, were produced from one natural organization, which was composed and combined with the greatest strength, conformable to wisdom, and according to a universal law. From this it is evident that it is the creation of God, and is not a fortuitous composition and arrangement.[26]

 

Thus, it is clear that the word ‘rational’ in “rational God” refers to a God Who reveals Himself to humanity as having purpose in creation.   
The concepts of ‘reason’ and ‘reasonableness’ also underlie the concept of  progressive revelation. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:

All religious laws conform to reason, and are suited to the people for whom they are framed, and for the age in which they are to be obeyed.[27]

 

Here we observe both concepts at work. First, “religious law [must] conform to reason,” i.e. be appropriate to the nature of its subject as well as conforming to the laws of reasoning. Second, progressive revelation is reasonable insofar as its provisions are appropriate for the age in which they are revealed. In other words, they must be reasonable insofar as they meet the needs of the age and have the correct solutions to its problems. Moreover, it would be unjust to the recipients of the revelation to expect them to accept inappropriate help. Our conclusion is Shoghi Effendi’s reference to the “rational God” means that God treats us in a manner appropriate to our natures and actions, i.e. rationally and justly.



4. The Rational Soul

In the Bahá’í Writings it is not only God Who is described as “rational.” The soul is also described in this way:



The human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal is the rational soul, and these two names -- the human spirit and the rational soul -- designate one thing. This spirit, which in the terminology of the philosophers is the rational soul, embraces all beings[28]

 

Elsewhere he makes a similar statement, saying “the human spirit consists of the rational, or logical, reasoning faculty,”[29] thereby seeming to identify intellect and reason and logical thinking. The idea of the essential rationality of the soul re-enforces by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s identification of humankind as a rational being. Reflecting on his words, we find that while the souls of plants and animals have powers or capacities appropriate to their ontological stations,[30] rationality is the essential attribute of the human soul, i.e. rationality is what makes us uniquely human. To be human is to be not just a soul but a rational soul. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement, therefore, re-enforces the points made in Bahá'u'lláh’s previous quote: the universality of reason, the rationality of the human essence and the informing of human capacities by reason. Since “the human spirit consists of the rational, or logical, reasoning faculty,”[31] and the intellect and reason are the same, then it follows that reason, logic and intellect are  probably the same in the Writings.

 

The concept of the essential rationality of humankind is also shown indirectly.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, for example:

But the mind is the power of the human spirit. Spirit is the lamp; mind is the light which shines from the lamp. Spirit is the tree, and the mind 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.[32]

 

The human spirit, as we have seen, is the rational soul and if the mind is the perfection of the human spirit, it too must be rational “as [the human spirit’s] essential quality.” Since all humans have a rational soul and mind, i.e. they are inherently rational by “essential necessity.” 
 

The following statement by Bahá'u'lláh also portrays humankind as an essentially rational being:


Consider the rational faculty with which God hath endowed the essence of man. Examine thine own self, and behold how thy motion and stillness, thy will and purpose, thy sight and hearing, thy sense of smell and power of speech, and whatever else is related to, or transcendeth, thy physical senses or spiritual perceptions, all proceed from, and owe their existence to, this same faculty[33]

 

First, we observe that the human essence is provided with the “rational faculty,” thereby making rationality one of humankind’s essential attributes or capacities. An essential attribute is one that a thing must have to be the kind of thing it is, in this case, human. Without it we would be something else. This implies that when we neglect or reject reason, we diminish ourselves, we become less than what we should be. It also implies that even though there are ‘other ways of knowing,’ and even though they may be mysterious in their operations, they are not thereby irrational. Mysteriousness and irrationality are not necessarily connected. If these ‘other ways of knowing’ were irrational, they would violate “the essence of man.” We may call them ‘trans-rational,’ because they include reason but transcend it. 

 

 Bahá'u'lláh says that all our powers of will and purpose, our physical senses and our “spiritual perceptions” originate with the “rational faculty” and, therefore, owe their existence to it. This means that these powers or capacities are dependent on the “rational faculty” which, therefore, has ontological priority over them and determines their nature, just as God, Who has ontological priority over us, determines our nature. These other capacities are, in effect, parts of the whole, i.e. of the “rational faculty” from which they come. In the words of Abdu’l-Bahá, “As with the whole, so with the parts.”[34] For that reason it is hard to resist the conclusion that these various powers are imbued with and informed by reason – a conclusion that strengthens the view that humans as specifically human (and not subdued by their animal nature) are inherently rational beings.

 

In addition, Bahá'u'lláh alludes to other faculties or capacities beyond the “physical senses” and even beyond our “spiritual perceptions” – but these, too, depend on the “rational faculty” for their existence. Thus, even these transcendent capacities are informed by rationality, i.e. they have a nature and purpose that enables them to be in harmony with reason. Of course, this does not mean that rationality alone exhausts their capacities but it requires that they at least meet the standard of reason since they originate with the “rational faculty” which determines their nature and purpose. When such harmony with reason exists, our “rational soul” is in control of our “material or lower nature”[35] and we have at least taken one step away from being controlled by physical nature, and are, thereby, a step closer towards greater spirituality.[36] The high status of the “rational faculty” is further clarified in Bahá'u'lláh’s assertion that it “should be regarded as a sign of the revelation of Him Who is the sovereign Lord of all.”[37]

 

Finally, since rationality is an attribute of “the essence of man,” i.e. of humankind in toto, it follows that all human beings possess this attribute to one degree or another. Consequently, individuals and cultures – regardless of when or where – are universally informed by reason to one extent or another. It is the essential commonality shared by all of us and, thereby, becomes one of the foundation stones for the unification of humankind into a global commonwealth. If there were no common underlying “rational faculty” in humankind, it would be impossible to build a unified world order because coherent planning and organizing could not occur. Indeed, most communication would be impossible.

 

 Bahá'u'lláh’s and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statements identifying reason with the essence of humankind have far-reaching implications especially for the goal of unifying human kind into one global commonwealth. Because rationality is a universal aspect of humanity, i.e. it applies to people across cultures, across historical epochs and across geography. Superficial appearances notwithstanding, there is a core of rationality within all cultures although the vicissitudes of historical circumstances may shape – or even distort – the development of these cultures in various ways. Rationality is a connecting principle among all cultures that transcends differences and is, therefore, a basis for positive global dialogue and the unified world order of Bahá'u'lláh. Even our evolutionary ancestors are included in the circle of reason. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that “man, from the beginning of his existence in the matrix of the world, is also a distinct species -- that is, man,”[38] which means that we have always possessed the distinguishing attribute of man i.e. the rational soul. Thus, the human race has been one in essence since the beginning of the evolutionary process. Because the rational soul is the common feature joining all human beings into one species, both the possession of a soul and its rational nature are foundation stones of the unified global world order Bahá'u'lláh came to establish.

 

Since the rational soul is the essence of man, it follows that no human activity can be altogether devoid of rationality. This raises questions with far-reaching consequences.  For example, when Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s tell us to “ponder in [our] heart[s]”[39] are such ‘ponderings’ rational? The heart has a different way of knowing but the fact that it follows a different process than the deliberations of the mind, does not necessarily mean that the process or the results are irrational or not explicable by reason. After all, these results have to meet the test of reason as recommended by the Writings themselves. Do the inspirations of the Holy Spirit take on a rational form for us to understand and obey them? They, too, have to meet the test of reason advocated by the Writings. Moreover, since humankind is a rational soul, does that mean that there is a universal standard by which by which human thought and behavior can be evaluated, a standard that cuts across time, place, culture and historical situation? These are all serious questions that we cannot avoid once we have recognized that all humans are rational souls.

 

The rational soul also provides a foundation for a universal epistemology insofar as the essence of all humans associated with a particular i.e. rational way of knowing and thinking. In other words, the rational soul provides a common and objective basis for the search for truth. It is objective because it transcends all individuals and cultures which is why, for example, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is able to recommend it as the standard by which to evaluate whether beliefs are genuine religion or mere superstition. Furthermore, since rationality is fundamental to our specifically human being, it follows that any attempt to circumvent rationality, to set it aside, to suppress it or ignore it not only does violence to our own nature but also is dooms any social undertakings such as re-vitalizing society because humans are not functioning naturally, i.e. according to their rational souls. By ignoring our rational souls, we are in fact, directly injuring ourselves and indirectly injuring others. 

 

Finally, let us briefly examine some of the broader implications of the Bahá’í  Writings vis-à-vis the rational soul. One of these, already noted in passing is that the doctrine of mineral,[40] plant, animal and human spirit firmly establishes the ontological reality of ‘kinds’ or ‘species.’ These kinds of spirit are the ontological foundations for the different kinds of beings that are instantiated in the physical world. In other words, ‘kinds’ are not human constructs as nominalism and post-modernism assert, but rather, they are objectively and ontologically real, each with its own particular spirit given by God. They exist a priori to human thought, i.e. they are givens, not merely human inventions. As we shall see, this lays the foundation for reasoning about or analyzing reality in terms of essences (sometimes called ‘substances’) and attributes – which is precisely what we find in the Writings.[41] This is important because when we reason, we must not only follow certain procedures, we must also reason about something, i.e. concepts and propositions about things. The kind of concepts and propositions we reason about helps determine the conclusions we are able to reach.

 

The ontological reality of ‘kinds’ also has important consequences for our reasoning in ethics and even in epistemology. For example, the Writings say that certain behaviors are inappropriate for humans, because humans are distinguished by a rational soul and a spiritual nature.[42] This applies to all humans because they are instantiations of the human spirit which determines what is and is not appropriate to our nature. In short, the nature of the human spirit (rational soul) is the basis of our ethical norms.[43] Here we find the basis of a Bahá’í theory of natural law and distinguishing the natural from the unnatural. Behaviors appropriate to animals for example, are not appropriate for humans with rational souls, even though we also have an “animal nature.”[44] In addition, the reality of kinds is the basis of the epistemological principle that the lower nature cannot comprehend the higher, which leads to the logical conclusion that humans cannot comprehend the Essence of God. [45] This, of course, is one of the inherent limits of reason.

 

5. Reason as Logic in the Writings 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s states “The human spirit consists of the rational, or logical, reasoning faculty”[46] The key idea here is the identification of the “rational” and the “logical reasoning faculty” as well as between the “logical, reasoning faculty” and the rational soul. This tells us about the kind of thinking he associates with the human spirit or rational soul, i.e. logical thinking. This idea turns up elsewhere in the Writings as well.

For example, commending the acquisition of virtues, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s associates reason and logic: “all this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress.”[47] Elsewhere he states that “If religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition.”[48] Here being logical is associated with being ‘reasonable.’ Furthermore, he asserts:

If we insist that such and such a subject is not to be reasoned out and tested according to the established logical modes of the intellect, what is the use of the reason which God has given man?[49]

 

Two points draw our attention. First, here, too, we have the identification of the “logical modes of the intellect” with reason which once again emphasizes the close association between logic and reason. Second, the reference to the “established logical modes” is significant because it suggests that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is thinking of the kind of logical reasoning established at that time which, for the general public in both the Euro-American West and the Muslim East was classical or standard logic. Here is another example of the close association of the logic and reason:

By intellectual processes and logical deductions of reason this superpower in man can penetrate the mysteries of the future and anticipate its happenings.[50]

 

Modern readers will recognize that using “logical deductions” to “penetrate the mysteries of the future” is the scientific practice of using logical reasoning to make predictions that can be tested. This also holds true in technology in which our ability to predict the behavior of things allows us to use them for our purposes as, for example, in building machinery or in chemical engineering.

 

The foregoing quotations make it clear that the Writings closely associate reason, logic and intellect. To demonstrate this, let us first examine statements which show that the intellect and reason are, at least, very closely connected.  

 
[God] has bestowed upon him the power of intellect so that through the attribute of reason, when fortified by the Holy Spirit, he may penetrate and discover ideal realities and become informed of the mysteries of the world of significances.[51]

The close association or perhaps even identification of reason and intellect is evident. Reason’s need for the Holy Spirit will be discussed later in the section on moderate rationalism. The same identification of reason and intellect is also manifest in the following: “Therefore, if religious belief, principle or creed is not in accordance with the intellect and the power of reason, it is surely superstition”[52] and “the evidences of intellect or reason are manifest in man.”[53] In the latter statement, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá seems to use reason and intellect as equivalent terms. This identification is also present in his discussion about reason as a means of acquiring knowledge.[54]

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s states that there is no use for God’s gift of reason if any subject “is not to be reasoned out and tested according to the established logical modes of the intellect.”[55] His assertion that “intellectual processes and logical deductions of reason” help unravel natural mysteries also makes this connection. Furthermore, we can make this deduction for ourselves. Since “the human spirit consists of the rational, or logical, reasoning faculty,”[56] and the intellect and reason are the same, then it follows that reason, logic and intellect are the same in the Writings.

 

 More specifically, ‘reason’ may also be used as a noun to refer to “the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways.”[57] In other words, reason is identified by intellectual activities such as analysis, evaluation, application, synthesis, identification of cause and effect, abstraction[58] identifying purpose, analogizing, inferring and deduction. It performs these in an orderly, step-by-step manner that others can follow and test for themselves. Reason in this technical sense has one absolute and essential requirement – it must not violate the law of non-contradiction (LNC). Violating the LNC simply reduces all discourse to incomprehensible non-sense because every statement can also mean its opposite; when that happens, anything can mean anything and communication ceases. Moreover, the quest for truth becomes impossible because if we can violate the LNC, we can say anything we want which, in the end leaves us prey to our imaginations.

 

This brings us to the vital issue of the actual reasoning processes exemplified in the Writings. If reason is so important in understanding the Writings, how do they make use of it? What do they model and what guidance do they offer to our own reasoning processes? Do the Writings show preference for any particular model of reasoning? These are some of the questions we shall endeavor to answer. 

 

5.1 The Law of Identity 
 
There is general agreement that reasoning must obey the law of identity (LI) according to which at any given moment, a thing, situation, or process is what it is and not something else. This is formalized as A = A. In one of its aspects, the law safeguards the essential identity or ontological integrity of things. `Abdu’l-Bahá seems to be almost referring to it directly when he says:


Now observe that in the sensible world appearances are not repeated, for no being in any respect is identical with, nor the same as, another being. The sign of singleness is visible and apparent in all things. If all the granaries of the world were full of grain, you would not find two grains absolutely alike, the same and identical without any distinction. It is certain that there will be differences and distinctions between them. As the proof of uniqueness exists in all things . . .[59]

 
Each thing is what it is. Elsewhere he applies this principle to the sun: “the sun is one in its essence, unique in its real identity, single in its attributes.”[60] To be a unity a thing is what it is and nothing else.

 

It is important to note that `Abdu’l-Bahá makes theological use of the LI in his arguments against reincarnation. In other words, he does not see this law of logic as applying only to worldly or empirical matters; he presents as a spiritual principle as well.  He states:

 

It may be said, for instance, that this lamplight is last night's come back again, or that last year's rose hath returned to the garden this year. Here the reference is not to the individual reality, the fixed identity, the specialized being of that other rose, rather doth it mean that the qualities, the distinctive characteristics of that other light, that other flower, are present now, in these . . .  that specific identity can never return.[61]

 

In effect, `Abdu’l-Bahá is saying that yesterday’s rose is yesterday’s rose – and not some other rose: “that specific identity can never return.”  He is also saying that attributes of the rose can be shared among other roses but that the individuality of that particular rose, its “intrinsic elemental reality”[62] is what it is and none other. Here is another example of the law of identity at work, indeed, forming the logical basis of his argument. At the end of his discussion about the alleged ‘return’ of Elijah, `Abdu’l-Bahá concludes, “In the same way, if we regard the return of the individual, it is another individual; but if we regard the qualities and perfections, the same have returned. [63] The original individual is who he is, and not another individual even though they share certain qualities or attributes which may re-appear. This argument is `Abdu’l-Bahá’s answer to the challenge of reincarnation – a theological topic – and demonstrates him using a logical law to prove a spiritual point. Yet again we see that logical reasoning and spiritual topics are not intrinsically opposed to each other.  

 

5.2: The Law of Non-Contradiction 

One of the logical consequences of the law of identity is the law of non-contradiction (LNC). If things are what they are (at any given moment) then obviously it is impossible for them to be what they are and not what they are at the same time in the same sense and context. This is precisely what the import of the LNC. For example, we cannot weigh 180 pounds and not weight 180 pounds at the same time, in the same sense and in the same context. It is true that on the moon we would only weigh 29.8 pounds, but there is no contradiction here because the context has been changed.  We must remember that statements made from different viewpoints in respect to different aspects of something are not necessarily contradictory: a pencil may look like a rod from one angle and like a circle from another – but we can reconcile this apparent contradiction by taking viewpoint into account. Statements are genuinely contradictory only when one statement necessarily negates another and no difference of viewpoint, time or sense can resolve the negation.

 

 The best known and most used form of the LNC comes from Aristotle and is the definition familiar to the vast majority of educated people in both the Euro-American West and Muslim East in the time of Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The LNC is accepted by virtually all logicians. According to the LNC, a statement cannot be true and not-true at the same time, in the same sense and in the same context. For example, it cannot be true that Bill is hungry and not hungry at the same time in the same sense in the same context. He may not be hungry for dinner but ‘hungry’ for sex with his wife. Obviously, the sense of ‘hungry’ has changed. However, he cannot be hungry and not hungry for dinner at the same time though he may be hungry for lasagna but not hungry for lamb. Furthermore, it cannot be true and not-true at the same time and in the same sense that on September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers collapsed. More abstractly, A cannot be A and not-A at the same time in the same sense in the same context, or, A cannot have quality C and not have C at the same time in the same sense in the same context.

 

 The LNC works both at the intellectual and practical level. For example, we cannot say humankind has and does not have a “rational soul” in the same sense at the same time in the same context; either it does or it does not.[64] To have a rational soul potentially is still to have one; a rock, a sunflower and a bear lack such potential but humankind does not. God is either omniscient or He is not. (Here, too, the middle is excluded.) To say He is both would not only ascribe ignorance to God but would also cancel itself out. At a more down-to-earth level, regardless of what culture we live in, fire cannot cook and not-cook supper at the same time in the same way. Supper may be cooked for Jane but not for Joe, but it cannot be both cooked and uncooked for Jane at the same time. To claim otherwise is a logical self-contradiction i.e. the two statements cancel each other out – and we have meaningless garble even though it appears to be a sentence.

 

The strength of the LNC is that no matter what individuals or cultures claim to believe about logical contradictions, in real life they act according to this law. Their practice clearly contradicts their theory. People do not think there is a truck – or lion or a mastodon – coming and not coming at them at the same time and the same sense. If we seriously acted on such contradictory beliefs, our survival – and, indeed, the survival of the human race – would be imperiled. In denying the LNC we can talk the talk – but not walk the walk. An amusing light is shed on the LNC by the Persian philosopher Avicenna:  

Anyone who denies the Law of Non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as to not be burned.[65]  

 

The logical point of this satirical suggestion is the while people may deny and even offer elaborate theories about rejecting the LNC, in real life and in practical action they accept it despite their protestations to the contrary. By going to eat lunch, they have implicitly admitted there is a difference between having lunch and not having lunch. Avicenna’s waggish suggestion shows that he – like the present author – thinks that denials of the LNC are not to be accepted at face value and seen simply as a rhetorical strategy to achieve some other goal.

 

Nonetheless, there have been attempts to deny the LNC even though virtually all logicians accept it. The most obvious logical problem with denying the LNC is that to deny it, we have to assume it. In other words, such attempts are self-refuting. To deny the LNC assumes that any contradiction of our denial is false. But if the LNC is not valid, why should contradicting it be false?” To claim that the LNC is “false,” assumes that we must choose between the claim itself being true or false – which re-affirms the PNC. Since the LNC cannot be denied without affirming it, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it is logically undeniable.

 

Nagarjuna was a great Buddhist philosopher whose four-value logical system is said to violate the LNC. However, such is not really the case. In his major philosophic work, Verses from the Center, he disposes of opposing arguments by showing how they contradict themselves and are, therefore, untenable. But to say they are untenable because of self-contradiction is to implicitly accept the LNC. The reply that they are only untenable on their own terms does not solve the problem. Nagarjuna’s goal is to show all views are empty – but this implicitly leads to the conclusion that experiencing or understanding emptiness is the tenable alternative. Indeed, experiencing or understanding emptiness is the alternative he claims. It may also be asserted that the belief that samsara is nirvana are one and the same is a violation of the LNC in regards to metaphysics but this too is a mistake. The difference between samsara and nirvana being distinct and being the same is that we are speaking from two different standpoints, one before understanding and one afterwards. From the standpoint of samsara they are different while from the standpoint of nirvana they are one. In short, the context is different. Thus, there is no violation of the LNC. Of course, it need hardly be said that Nagarjuna’s theoretical denial of the LNC was also undermined by his actual practice as Avicenna points out. He surely knew that eating lunch and not eating lunch were two contradictory things. Otherwise he would have starved to death.   

 

The foregoing discussion notwithstanding, there is not necessarily a conflict between Verses from the Center and the Bahá’í Writings. Instead of treating Verses from the Center as an exemplar of logical procedure with a four-value logical system, we should think of it as a ‘salvational work’ i.e. as a text on how to attain the mind-set that allows us to ‘see’ or experience the truth of Nagarjuna’s understanding of emptiness. We have an analogous situation in some of Shakespeare’s and Donne’s poems. In these, a ‘poetic logic’ is used to help the reader attain a new attitude/feeling and new world-view or ‘vision.’ The ‘logic’ they use is imperfect, but it is subtle enough to give at least the appearance of proper logic and, thereby, argue for and induce a new state of mind or, at least induce a “suspension of disbelief.” Verses from the Center does the same thing though at a more technically advanced and subtle level. In other words, it is a soteriological and not a strictly logical work. This view does not undermine the value of Verses from the Center as a soteriological text which will help people to achieve the mind-set needed to accept and understand emptiness from Nagarjuna’s viewpoint. Nor does his view negate the value of some Buddhist practices that have arisen from it.

 

The Writings’ commitment to the LNC leads is based on the principle of the unity of truth. As `Abdu’l-Bahá says, “truth is one”[66] In other words, the Bahá’í Writings espouse the idea that there is only one truth about things, although this one truth can be expressed in different forms: “truth is one, although its manifestations may be very different”[67] However, ultimately, these many expressions of the truth can be rationally reconciled to reveal the one truth that underlies them all. `Abdu’l-Bahá makes this point in relation to science and religion when he says:

therefore, it has been said that religion is in contradiction to science, and science in opposition to religion . . . But when the truth of this subject becomes clear, and the symbol is explained, science in no way contradicts it; but, on the contrary, science and the intelligence affirm it. [68]

 

The one-ness of truth is also is also evident among different religions. `Abdu’l-Bahá hopes that:

these many rivers,[religions] each flowing along in diverse and separated beds, will find their way back to the circumambient sea, and merge together and rise up in a single wave of surging oneness; that the unity of truth, through the power of God, will make these illusory differences to vanish away”[69]

 

He also says, “Bahá'u'lláh has announced that the foundation of all the religions of God is one; that oneness is truth and truth is oneness which does not admit of plurality”[70] The one-ness or unity of truth means that genuinely contradictory statements about something cannot both be true. Of course, we must remember that statements made from different viewpoints are not necessarily contradictory: a pencil may look like a rod from one angle and like a circle head on – but we can reconcile these apparent contradictions by taking viewpoint into account. Statements are genuinely contradictory when the truth of one necessarily excludes the truth of the other and no difference of viewpoint can explain the differences. In other words, there cannot be one God and many at the same time, although the one God may be viewed from many perspectives and, therefore, appear multiple. `Abdu’l-Bahá says that “truth or reality is not multiple; it is not divisible”[71] and that “the different religions have one truth underlying them; therefore, their reality is one”[72] In practice this means that not all propositions are true which in turn means some propositions are false.

 

From the foregoing discussion, we may generalize that the Writings do not accept contradiction or self-contradiction as good or desirable. This, of course, should not be confused with the notion that variety is good because variety and non-contradiction are logically compatible. However, as the teachings about the unity of science and religion indicate, contradictions are to be solved in one way or another. This is exemplified in Some Answered Questions where `Abdu’l-Bahá reconciles various apparently contradictory Biblical passages[73] and between religion and science.[74]  Shoghi Effendi also takes pains to resolve apparent contradictions in the Writings[75] and in other matters relating to the Faith[76]

 

Why, we might ask, do the Writings place such emphasis on resolving contradictions? There are at least two answers to this. First, is the one-ness of truth which is a key principle in Bahá’í epistemology. Contradiction challenges this principle by fracturing the unity of truth and thereby suggesting there might be two or more incompatible truths about something.[77] Thus, contradictions must either lead to a more inclusive outcome or resolution, or be resolved in favour of one side or another. Second, if we allow contradictions into our reasoning, we can ‘prove’ anything we want and thereby fall prey to our own “vain imaginations” (Gleanings 6) and this is not conducive to our evolution as social and spiritual beings.

 

We shall have more to say about this when we examine the unity of truth.

 

5.3 The Law of the Excluded Middle in the Bahá’í Writings

 
 It is quite clear that the Bahá’í Writings are consistent with the LNC which exemplifies a two-value logic – the two values being true and false. Generally speaking, reasoning that is consistent with two-values has one distinguishing characteristic: it lays out clear alternatives between pairs of irreconcilable opposites or negations. The LNC does not allow us to affirm both because we would be contradicting ourselves. But are we required to choose one or the other – or is there a middle ground between the two? For example, either my dog’s name is Athena – or it is not. It cannot be both and according to the law of the excluded middle (LEM) one of these alternatives must be true. (If her name is Hera, obviously it is not Athena.) In other words, a statement must be true or false. This brings up the tricky problem of whether the Writings are consistent with the law of the excluded middle (LEM). Certainly there are numerous significant passages that are consistent with the LEM as well as the two-value i.e. true/false thinking on which it is based.  

 

The form of the LEM most familiar to European and Muslim culture in Bahá'u'lláh’s and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s time came from Aristotle’s Metaphysics according to which a proposition A is true or its specific negation is true.[1] The form of Aristotle’s assertion is very important, because straying away from it leads to all kinds of confusions. Thus, to repeat: either a proposition A is true or its specific negation is true. For example: either ‘April, 28, 2010 was a full moon’ is true or its specific negation – ‘April 28, 2010 was not a full moon’ is true. Both cannot be true since that would violate the LNC and, of course, common sense. According to the LEM, one or the other must be true. In short, there is no middle ground between falsity and truth. However, it should be noted that there are, indeed, logicians who dispute the LEM, but their views are very controversial.

 

The Writings offer numerous passages which are consistent with the LEM’s principle that we must choose between truth and error – and not something in between.  For example, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “This is the Truth and beyond the Truth there is only error”[78] and “This is the truth and there is nothing beyond the truth but manifest error”[79] as well as “This is the truth and there is naught beyond the truth save error.”[80] The last two statements are especially important because they make a general assertion about truth per se, namely, that ‘outside’ the truth there is only falsity. This clearly implies the LEM principle that there is no middle ground between them – and that we must choose one or the other. This also applies to the following statements: “ ‘Verily this is the truth and naught is there beside the truth but manifest error’ ”[81] and “falsehood and error are ever overcome by truth”[82] According to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá we should all have “a sword which divides truth from falsehood.”[83] This metaphor shows a clear division between true and false without any suggestion of a middle ground; moreover, the rigor of the language used strongly suggests we are obligated to choose between the two.

 

Two-value reasoning also applies to theological matters. Speaking of Christ, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  says, “The sword [Christ] carried was the sword of His tongue, with which He divided the good from the evil, the true from the false, the faithful from the unfaithful, and the light from the darkness.”[84] He also says, “When Christ appeared, He possessed a sword; but it was the sword of His tongue with which He separated the false from the true.”[85] Referring to Biblical issues, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asks, “Question: How shall we determine the truth or error of certain biblical interpretation?”[86] Clearly, we must have one or the other and just as clearly two-value thinking does not let us have both.

 

The same rigorous division between truth and error is observed in Bahá'u'lláh’s statement that “This, verily, is the truth, and all else naught but error.”[87] The unmistakable implication here, as in all other such statements, is that we should choose truth. Bahá'u'lláh also says, “Behold how the divine Touchstone hath, according to the explicit text of the Book, separated and distinguished the true from the false.”[88] Third alternatives are clearly excluded as they are in His statement that one of the tasks of the Manifestations is to ensure that “the true should be known from the false, and the sun from the shadow.”[89] In other words, Their mission is to help humans distinguish between truth and falsity and to choose one or the other. There is no suggestion that we evade such choices by trying to find a middle ground. Indeed, God tests our ability to choose truth or falsity:
 
the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns.[90]


Bahá'u'lláh shows the conflict or exclusivity of the two when He says, “They whose sight is keen, whose ears are retentive, whose hearts are enlightened, and whose breasts are dilated, recognize both truth and falsehood, and distinguish the one from the other.[91] There is no suggestion of finding a middle ground.

 

It is interesting to note that Christ, too, speaks in a manner consistent with the LEM when He says, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue [spew] thee out of my mouth.”[92] Elsewhere, Christ says, “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.”[93] Clearly, He rejects those who are “lukewarm” i.e. trying to have it both ways, and He expects people to make a clear choice for or against Him. This, of course, is an existential application of the LEM.

 

 In the foregoing examples, the LEM principle was explicitly at work vis-à-vis truth and falsity and the necessity to choose one or the other. However, there are additional statements in which we can see the LEM at work more indirectly, i.e. implicitly. They require us to choose one or the other of two opposite alternatives, but these alternatives do not deal with directly with truth or falsity. For example, Bahá'u'lláh says:

the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns.”[94]

 

This statement requires us to choose the one correct alternative in regards to right and wrong, guidance and error, happiness and misery and so on. It is important to notice that as required by Aristotle’s definition of the LEM, each of these terms is a negation of the other, e.g. happiness and misery. Furthermore, each choice is premised on the LEM. In regards to the “right and wrong” pair, there is an implicit choice we have to make: either  (1) ‘Good is better than wrong,’ or its negation (2) ‘Good is not better than wrong.’ We cannot choose both – and we must choose one of the pair, preferably the one Bahá'u'lláh that is guiding us towards. Logically, there is no middle ground between these two. A similar argument can be made about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘s assertion, “Thus we all have our choice between justice and injustice”[95] and his declaration that “In the same way, in all the action or inaction of man, he receives power from the help of God; but the choice of good or evil belongs to the man himself.”[96] In regards to ethics, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  says animals “are deprived of that degree of intellect which can reason and discriminate between right and wrong, justice and injustice; they are justified in their actions and not responsible.” [97] In other words, they are unable to apply the LEM, i.e. to choose between these paired opposites.

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement that “Now, either one must say that the Blessed Beauty hath made a mistake, or He must be obeyed”[1] applies the LEM to theology. We can either affirm that Bahá'u'lláh is the infallible Manifestation, Who, therefore, must be obeyed, or we can deny it. On the surface, the opposites spelled out by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá are not specific negations of each other: “He must be obeyed” does not appear to be a negation of “The Blessed Beauty hath made a mistake.” These are two different subjects, not mutual negations. But looks are deceiving. If we reflect that the Blessed Beauty is God’s Spokesman and, thereby, infallible, then any mistake on His part removes His authority – and our requirement to obey. On the other hand, if He has not erred as God’s Spokesman, then obedience is required because it is irrational to disobey someone who is always right as well as God’s Spokesman. There is no middle ground between these two. Once again, we observe the LEM at work in the Writings.

 

Are there other examples of the LEM being applied to theological issues? …………

 

This paper espouses the view that ‘LEM-statements,’ i.e. statements that demand either affirmation or denial are consistently found throughout the Writings. There is no middle ground between affirming or negating these propositions that are either given directly in the Writings or can be extracted from them. An example of a directly given LEM statement is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s assertion that “The human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal is the rational soul.”[98] It is either true or false. We can affirm it or deny it – but there is no middle alternative that evades these two choices. The only alternative is a dogmatic assertion that a middle exists. It may be objected that this is a very simple example – but that is exactly the point. Like the LNC, the LEM applies to all propositions, simple or complex, mundane or profound, in the Writings or out of them.

Its applicability is universal, which is why, like the LNC, it is used by everyone whether they believe in it or not. Either there is a truck on the road or there is not. It must be one or the other.

 

 In reflecting on the LEM in the Writings, we should not be misled by apparent paradoxes which seem to undermine it. For example, in order to explain why He does not, contrary to the custom in Persian writing, use numerous quotations, Bahá'u'lláh quotes:

If Khidir did wreck the vessel on the sea, Yet in this wrong there are a thousand rights[1][99]      


Obviously, since He quotes these lines, He finds them appropriate to His argument. But this raises a question: Is there not a suggestion that right and wrong are conflated in this quotation and that somehow we are on a middle ground between right and wrong? Such a conclusion does not necessarily follow. Rather than conflating the two and positing a hypothetical middle ground, it is more logical to say that the “wrong” is “wrong” but that it has some “right” consequences. This happens often enough in real life as in repentance, good deeds of atonement and spiritual growth. In fact, we have all been Khidir at one time or another in this way. Because an act and its consequences are not the same things, there is no logical necessity to interpret this example as violations of the LEM.



6.  The Unity of Truth

The purpose of the LI, the LNC and the LEM is to safeguard the unity of truth which is a key principle in Bahá’í epistemology. The reason for this principle is straight forward: contradiction challenges the unity of truth by suggesting that there might be two or more incompatible truths about the same thing. Which claim are we to believe? How can they both be true when they mutually negate or exclude each other? Our thoughts and actions are torn in opposite directions making coherent thought and action impossible. In addition, if we allow contradictions into our reasoning, we can ‘prove’ anything we want and thereby can easily fall prey to our own “vain imaginations”[100] because there is no more coherent order in our thinking. This is not conducive to our material, social or spiritual progress. 

 

Failure to resolve contradictions shows a problem with some aspect of the reasoning process. In some cases, these contradictions show the problem is a failure to think ideas through carefully. Shoghi Effendi writes, “Truth may, in covering different subjects, appear to be contradictory, and yet it is all one if you carry the thought through to the end”[101] a statement which reflects ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s assertion that “In like manner truth is one, although its manifestations may be very different.”[102] Shoghi Effendi also says, “Truth is one when it is independently investigated, it does not accept division,”[103] which, in practice, mean, that the divisions caused by contradictory reasoning are unacceptable. They fracture truth. In a similar vein, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asserts that “No one truth can contradict another truth.”[104] The principle of the unity of truth is important not only because applies to our reasoning but also to two of the most fundamental Bahá’í principles – the essential unity of all religions and the diversity of religion but also to religion and science: “Put all your beliefs into harmony with science; there can be no opposition, for truth is one.”[105] In practical terms, the principle of the unity of truth means we should not simply accept logical contradictions but should rather endeavor to resolve them. This is exactly what the Writings model. Throughout them, we find a wide variety of examples showing the resolution of contradictions. 

 

If we are to make sense of contradictions, there is only one way to solve the difficulty:  we must resolve it by showing that there has been a change of viewpoint, word sense, time or context. This change of viewpoint includes taking a higher point of view which accommodates both parts of the contradiction. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá applies this principle of changing view points to resolve the contradictions inherent in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The difficulty is to explain how God can be one and, at the same time three, God, Son (Manifestation) and Holy Spirit.

 

The question of the Trinity, since the time of His Holiness Christ until now, is the belief of the Christians, and to the present time all the learned among them are perplexed and confounded. All have confessed that the question is beyond the grasp of reason, for three cannot become one, nor one three. To unite these is impossible; it is either one or three.[106]

 

Two points are worthy of note in this selection. First, we observe ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s wish to show how this doctrine can be harmonized with reason, i.e. how contradictions in this doctrine can be resolved rationally. Second, he explicitly adheres to the LEM when he says that the Trinity is “either one or three.” It cannot be both i.e. “[t]o unite these is impossible.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that"

if we say that we have seen the Sun in two mirrors -- one the Christ and one the Holy Spirit -- that is to say, that we have seen three Suns, one in heaven and the two others on the earth, we speak truly. And if we say that there is one Sun, and it is pure singleness, and has no partner and equal, we again speak truly.[107]

 

According to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the sun in the sky is one sun; it cannot descend physically to earth anymore than the spiritual Sun of God can enter the limits of contingent reality. One of the pure mirrors is Christ, the Manifestation and the other is the Holy Spirit, both of which reflect the perfections of the sun. In respect to ontology there is only one sun, but in respect to perception there are three. This is a rational solution to what has been a treacherously difficult theological problem in Christianity.

 

To decide whether or not this solution harmonizes with the Nicene Creed, we need to examine ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s argument, bearing in mind its metaphorical nature. The Nicene Creed asserts that in the doctrine of the trinity, God, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons, yet one in substance. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s argument turns on our understanding of ‘substance.’ If substance is that which is neither said of a subject nor said to be in a subject[108] then the sun itself and its perfect reflections in the mirrors are substances, i.e. separate identities or ‘persons’ in their own right. Yet, in respect to form, they are one. Whether or not this explanation will satisfy all Christian viewpoints is an open debate, but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá does show that a rational resolution of this issue is possible.

 

Here is an example of Bahá'u'lláh rationally resolving a paradox by harmonizing it to be consistent with the LNC:

Meditate on what the poet hath written: "Wonder not, if my Best-Beloved be closer to me than mine own self; wonder at this, that I, despite such nearness, should still be so far from Him."... Considering what God hath revealed, that "We are closer to man than his life-vein," the poet hath, in allusion to this verse, stated that, though the revelation of my Best-Beloved hath so permeated my being that He is closer to me than my life-vein, yet, notwithstanding my certitude of its reality and my recognition of my station, I am still so far removed from Him. By this he meaneth that his heart, which is the seat of the All-Merciful and the throne wherein abideth the splendor of His revelation, is forgetful of its Creator, hath strayed from His path, hath shut out itself from His glory, and is stained with the defilement of earthly desires.[109]

                                                                                               

The apparent contradiction is self-evident: how can God be so near to us and yet so distant? Bahá'u'lláh Himself rationally resolves the paradox by explaining that ‘distance’ from our human perspective is to be interpreted as our ‘forgetfulness’ of God, i.e. our spiritual condition. On the other hand, ‘closeness’ is understood from God’s perspective as His omnipresence throughout creation. Our unconsciousness of this omnipresence creates the infinite distance between us.  There is a viewpoint shift between God, Who is omnipresent, and man, who is spiritually forgetful. Once this shift is taken into account, the contradiction is harmonized with the LNC.
Let us examine another example of Bahá’u’lláh rationally resolving an apparent contradiction by noting a difference in time. (Recall that according to the LNC, A cannot be not-A in the same sense, at the same time and in the same context.) 

 

Consider the sun. Were it to say now, "I am the sun of yesterday," it would speak the truth. And should it, bearing the sequence of time in mind, claim to be other than that sun, it still would speak the truth. In like manner, if it be said that all the days are but one and the same, it is correct and true. And if it be said, with respect to their particular names and designations, that they differ, that again is true. For though they are the same, yet one doth recognize in each a separate designation, a specific attribute, a particular character.[110]

 

How can the sun be both the same and different? With respect to the sun itself, there is no change, i.e. it is the same, but with respect to time, it is different. Noting the difference in time resolves the contradiction in a rational or logical manner so as not to violate the LNC.

 

Bahá'u'lláh uses a viewpoint shift to explain other seeming contradictions. For example, He writes, “For instance, let thine Eminence consider his own self; thou art first in relation to thy son, last in relation to thy father.”[111]  By taking shifts of viewpoint into account, Bahá’u’lláh explains what would otherwise be a hopeless contradiction, i.e. that the recipient of His missive is both first and last. Once the viewpoint changes are considered, the seeming contradiction is rationally resolved. This solution, of course, obeys the LNC. Despite appearances, his “Eminence” is not first and last in the same sense, at the same time and in the same context. The context differs insofar as in regards to the first, he is the father and in regards to the last, he is the son. Consequently, there is also a difference in time sequence. 

 

Following Bahá'u'lláh’s and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s example, we are able to rationalize and resolve the apparent contradictions involving the soul:

Verily I say, the human soul is exalted above all egress and regress. It is still, and yet it soareth; it moveth, and yet it is still. It is, in itself, a testimony that beareth witness to the existence of a world that is contingent, as well as to the reality of a world that hath neither beginning nor end.[112]

 

The contradictions are virtually self-evident: the soul does not move, it is “exalted above all egress and regress” – yet “it moveth.” This seeming impossibility is explained by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement that, "the spirit of man is not in the body because it is freed and sanctified from entrance and exit, which are bodily conditions. The connection of the spirit with the body is like that of the sun with the mirror. [113]

 

In respect to itself, the soul is free of the limitations of space, i.e. “sanctified from entrance and exit;” it does not move through space. Moreover, what we call a movement in regards to spirit is, therefore, only a change of its own condition or appearance in a different place such as the body, in the same way that the sun may appear in different mirrors on earth. In respect to itself, the spirit does not move but in respect to its places of appearance, it does.

 

Here is an example of one of the best known paradoxes in the Writings:  "The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different[114]

 

Superficially, it appears that there is a contradiction between the two forces being “the same yet different.” There are two ways of reading this statement. The first leads to the conclusion that while the “active force” and the receiver are the same in respect to origin and substance, they differ in respect to form and function. Liquid water, ice and steam are in an analogous situation. They are the same in respect to substance but differ in respect to form and function or action.  There is nothing contradictory in identical substances having different functions and, therefore, no violation of the LNC.

 

However, “the same” could also mean the same entity inter-acting with itself to be both “active force” and recipient. To see how this is possible, we must recall that the Writings maintain that all things have two aspects – their actualized reality and their unactualized potentials.[115]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “All beings, whether large or small, were created perfect and complete from the first, but their perfections appear in them by degrees.”[116] Every thing, therefore, is an inter-action of the actualized i.e. that which is in act, and the potential, i.e. the recipient waiting to be actualized by that which is in act. This is the “active force” and its recipient – which in one respect are the same and in another respect are different. This resolves the seeming contradiction in Bahá'u'lláh’s statement. Nor is there a violation of the LNC here. Actuality and potentiality are two different aspects of any real thing. A coin provides a physical example of one thing having two aspects: it has actual, physical substance i.e. metal but it also has form which is not the same as the substance. Both aspects are mentally distinguishable but are physically inseparable. The form of the coin may be considered active insofar as it determines the coin’s value, and the metal may be considered as the recipient i.e. the passive aspect. The two aspects interact.

 

These examples of how the Writings deal with paradoxes, i.e. seeming contradictions, make it clear that the Writings do not simply accept contradictions but rather resolve them rationally in a manner consistent with the laws of standard logic which they implicitly accept. They recognize that a statement and its negation in a counter-statement cannot both be true. They do not try to flout logic and common sense  by proclaiming that two mutually contradictory statements to be true at the same time and in the same way. In other words, they reject dialetheism according to which two contradictory statements can simultaneously true and false. Consequently, we may conclude that the Writings are informed by and in harmony with the foundational principles of standard logic.

 

On the basis of the foregoing discussion, we may draw two conclusions. First, reason plays an essential constitutive part in the Bahá’í Writings. In other words, they are informed by reason.  The Writings not only contain precepts that extol and recommend reason, but, as seen above, they also directly and indirectly illustrate its use in a wide variety of arguments and teachings. This is especially significant in light of the fact that the scriptures of no other revelation do this to the same extent.

 

Second, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Bahá’í Writings are consistent with the laws of standard logic. However, to understand this conclusion correctly, it is important to recall that the Writings espouse moderate rationalism, i.e. the belief that reason can tell us some things but not all things. Beyond the reach of reason, though including it, or building on it, is the ‘transrational’ which shall be discussed below.

 

7. The Principle of Sufficient Reason

In addition to the three laws of standard logic, there is also the principle of sufficient reason which is implicitly assumed throughout the Writings. According to this – which is employed by all people either consciously or unconsciously – there must be a necessary and sufficient reason why every thing or event is what it is and not something else. We can also apply this to arguments and say that ‘For every proposition A there is a reason why A is true and not false, and this reason is sufficient to derive A.’ In other words, things happen in a certain way for a reason and this reason is enough to explain that events happened and why they happened in the way they did. Humans use the principle of sufficient reason whenever they try to ‘troubleshoot’ a problem, i.e. seek an explanation for it. They reject some explanations precisely because they are not sufficient to produce the exact effect they are dealing with. For example, a general power outage does not explain why the power went out only in the kitchen. To fix the problem we must find the right circuit breaker. That explains the fact that an outage occurred and why the outage occurred the way it did i.e. only in the kitchen.

 

`Abdu'l-Bahá, for example, appeals to the PSR when he says that the order and complexity of nature “is the creation of God, and is not a fortuitous composition and arrangement.”[117] This means that physical nature alone, is not sufficient to explain the composition, arrangement we find in the universe. We need more than material nature to explain nature adequately. The order of nature does not provide sufficient reason to adequately explain its own existence, order and complexity, i.e. it does not satisfy the PSR and in that sense, nature is not complete. `Abdu'l-Bahá confirms this, saying, “The materialists hold to the opinion that the world of nature is complete. The divine philosophers declare that the world of nature is incomplete. ”[118] Precisely because physical nature cannot even explain itself even in principle, logic forces us to posit something else that is ‘beyond’ – transcending – physical nature as a sufficient cause. (If it were part of physical nature, that ‘something’ would itself require explanation.) It is not a matter of arbitrarily choosing a transcendent cause but rather a matter of recognizing that logic leaves no other choice than something that transcends physical nature. Such transcendence is one of attributes religions ascribe to God, Who is, therefore, seen as the sufficient reason or sufficient cause. (This, of course, is the “God of the philosophers” not the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Josef.”) Elsewhere, `Abdu'l-Bahá amplifies this argument by appealing to God as the only sufficient reason or explanation for the order in the universe:

were it not for this Director, this Co-ordinator, the universe would be flawed and deficient. It would be even as a madman; whereas ye can see that this endless creation carrieth out its functions in perfect order, every separate part of it performing its own task with complete reliability Thus it is clear that a Universal Power existeth, directing and regulating this infinite universe. Every rational mind can grasp this fact.[119]

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s final remark is significant because he associates his argument with rationality itself: “every rational mind can grasp this fact.” This implies that a mind unable or unwilling to grasp this argument is not rational. In effect, his words are an unqualified rejection of opposing views as irrational and mistaken and he is making this decisive judgment using reason or rationality as a standard.  

 

Another demonstration of the PSR is `Abdu'l-Bahá’s argument to show the necessity for God by mans of a First Mover. There must be a First Mover because no sequence of causation can go on forever:

such process of causation goes on, and to maintain that this process goes on indefinitely is manifestly absurd. Thus such a chain of causation must of necessity lead eventually to Him who is the Ever-Living, the All-Powerful, who is Self-Dependent and the Ultimate Cause.[120]

 

In this passage, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá informs us that because no sequence of causation can be infinite, it must eventually come to God Who is “Self-Dependent,” i.e. independent of any precious cause. Logically speaking, we must posit the existence of God as the only way to avoid falling into the absurdity of an infinite causal sequence. Only God can satisfy the PSR on this account. There are two reasons why. First, the concept of an infinite line of causal acts is logical nonsense. A line or process of causes must be made up of a series of individual causal acts but the problem is that individual things, acts or events can always be counted to a definite number – which may be extremely high –but is, nonetheless definite, i.e. finite. Since a line of individual causal acts must be a definite number, there can be no indefinite, i.e. infinite number of them! That is why ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says the whole idea is “manifestly absurd.” Second, if the concept of an infinite line of causal acts were true, we would not be here! If we are the product of such an infinite line, there would be an infinite number of acts between any two acts – and we could never reach the present. But we have reached the present – ergo there is no infinite line of causal acts. Here, too, the concept is “manifestly absurd.”

 

Two points should be noted about this argument. First, this is not a repetition of Zeno’s arrow paradox since space is not made up of individual points whereas a line of causes affecting each other is made up of individual acts. Second, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statements do not subvert the Bahá’í concept of the eternal universe. According to the Writings, there has always been a creation but this does not mean that the current universe in which we live is itself eternal. Indeed, from the concept of the Big Bang, we know it has a beginning in time i.e. has a finite range in time. The problems associated with infinite regress do not apply here.    

 

There is another aspect to the PSR but to understand it, we must briefly review the Bahá’í theory of causality:



For the existence of everything depends upon four causes-- the efficient cause, the matter, the form and the final cause. For example, this chair has a maker who is a carpenter, a substance which is wood, a form which is that of a chair, and a purpose which is that it is to be used as a seat. [121]

 

In this confirmation of Aristotle’s theory of causality, `Abdu'l-Bahá says that all things have four causes, which, are distinguishable mentally but not separable physically. While the first three causes help bring the chair into existence, the final cause, the purpose, the reason for being is what actualizes and guides the other three causes. Without having the goal to build a chair, none of the other causes would be activated. Only the final cause can explain why the chair in `Abdu'l-Bahá’s example exists at all, i.e. it alone is the ultimate sufficient reason for the chairs existence. In its deepest sense, the PSR is the final cause of things for it alone is sufficient to explain why things exist and why they exist in the way they do. Thus, according to the Writings, all created things have a final cause which fulfills the PSR. For example, the Noonday Prayer offers a PSR for our existence as humans: “I bear witness that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee” as does Bahá’u’lláh’s statement that “All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.”[122] It is also apparent in Bahá'u'lláh’s prayer:

 
Lauded be Thy name, O Lord my God! I testify that Thou wast a hidden Treasure wrapped within Thine immemorial Being and an impenetrable Mystery enshrined in Thine own Essence. Wishing to reveal Thyself, Thou didst call into being the Greater and the Lesser Worlds . . . [123]

 

The purpose, PSR or sufficient reason for creation is for God to reveal Himself, i.e. from a theological perspective, this adequately explains why creation exists.

 No explanation of natural phenomena that fails to include a final cause or satisfy the PSR is complete or valid. For example, `Abdu’l-Bahá says, “For the noblest part of the tree is the fruit, which is the reason of its existence. If the tree had no fruit, it would have no meaning.”[124] Without the fruit, the tree lacks a sufficient reason to exist. This has enormous implications for the practice of science which seeks to make its explanations as complete as possible but is averse to the concept of final causes.

 

We can also see the PSR at work in Bahá’u’lláh’s statement that “All that is created, however, is preceded by a cause,”[125]  if we bear in mind that in the Writings, the word ‘cause’ can refer to any or all of the four causes mentioned by `Abdu’l-Bahá: material cause, efficient cause, formal cause and final cause. Reflection makes it clear that the final cause, the PSR, must precede all the other causes because without a final cause an event or entity would have no reason to exist: the efficient cause would have no reason to act on the material cause and the formal cause could not be actualized to meet certain specifications. It is worth noting that Bahá’u’lláh’s statement creates difficulties for any a-causal interpretations of quantum theory since according to Bahá’u’lláh all events are “preceded by a cause.” This, in turn, suggests that the statistical methods used in quantum mechanics are stop-gap measures until we can develop more precise causal methods of description.

 

One consequence of the PSR is that the universe is an ordered and rational place, and, therefore amenable to rational, scientific study. The scientific practice of finding and attributing causes – and manipulating them to our advantage – depends on assuming the validity of PSR, i.e. that every event has a cause which is sufficient to explain both the existence and the nature of the event. There is no logical point in looking for causal regularities in nature, if we do not believe that nature is ordered according to the PSR. This is true in the soft sciences like psychology or sociology as well as in such subjects as history, anthropology, philosophy or economics. Their goal is to reach explanations that satisfy the PSR.

 

7.1. A Conclusion

 The foregoing discussion leads to the conclusion that for a viewpoint to be reasonable or rational in the fullest sense, it must have the following characteristics:


            (1)  it must be appropriate to the nature of the subject matter; 

            (2)  it must be appropriate vis-à-vis context;

            (3)  it must not violate the principle of sufficient reason;

            (4)  it must not violate the laws of standard logic; 

            (5)  it must use word meanings consistently.

            (6)  it must harmonize with the Writings, or, at least not contradict them.

 

It is essential to recall that these criteria come from the Writings themselves and are not arbitrarily imposed from the outside. Moreover, each of them is consistently exemplified throughout the Writings, either explicitly or implicitly in the course of their explications. Consequently, in our view, satisfying as many of these criteria as possible is the only way to construct a coherent and rational argument and to harmonize with the Writings. Doing so is essential because, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “In this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of reason.”[126] Fulfilling these criteria is, indeed, the natural and common sense aim of all our understanding. Equally important is that these criteria provide a way of measuring our success in explaining the Writings. The better we satisfy these criteria, the better our claim to coherence or congruence with the Writings. Conversely, difficulties in any one of these areas weaken a viewpoint and create disharmony or incoherence with the Writings, thereby requiring either revision or rejection no matter whatever other virtues this viewpoint might have.  We shall have more to say on this below.

 

8. Other Kinds of Reasoning in the Writings

We shall now examine how the logic used by the Writings is applied in actual arguments. There are four basic argument types: deductive, inductive, analogical and dialectic. We shall examine them in turn.

 

Of course it is important to keep in mind that Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá themselves do not need to acquire intellectual knowledge and understanding by means of logic, deduction or any other method of reasoning. These methods are used for our sake, i.e. for the sake of humanity so that we can understand their teachings and see for ourselves that they are reasonable. In other words, these rules of thinking and methods of argumentation are for humanity’s benefit.

 

However, this practice carries a far-reaching implication, namely that humanity as a whole will learn to recognize and understand these forms of reasoning and accept them as valid. If people did not accept the models of reasoning provided by the Bahá’í Writings, they would obviously be at a disadvantage to understand the teachings. From this perspective, it appears that these forms of reasoning were intended for universal understanding. Otherwise there would be no point in asking everyone to investigate the Writings for themselves since those ignorant of these methods of reasoning could not comprehend and investigate them.

 

8.1. Deductive Reasoning

In deductive reasoning, we begin with a general statement or universal statement and then deduce specific consequences that are entailed in or implicitly included in the general statement. We infer a specific conclusion from the more general statement. Deductive arguments can be given formal presentation as one or a series of syllogisms, i.e. a three-part argument in which a conclusion is inferred from first two premises. Here is the most famous deductive syllogism in western philosophy.

All humans are mortal;
Socrates is human;
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

 

As we can see, the conclusion is already embedded in the first premise. If the first two premises are true, the conclusion is necessarily true; no other answer is logically possible.

The conclusion can only be challenged by disproving the first and/or second premises.

 

The Writings themselves do not contain any unambiguous references to deductive reasoning although, as we shall see, they pervasively exemplify its practice. Referring to science, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states, "By intellectual processes and logical deductions of reason this superpower [the intellect] in man can penetrate the mysteries of the future and anticipate its happenings.[127]

 

The phrase “logical deductions of reason” can be read as a validation of both deduction and induction (see below) as a way of gaining knowledge. From the statement itself, it is not clear whether ‘deduction’ is meant in a narrow, technical sense of reasoning from a general principle or as a general term for deriving a conclusion from something we know. The latter could include induction. Therefore, we shall take it as referring to both. What is important here is that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is validating them both as ways of acquiring knowledge. Indeed, he raises our regard for them by associating them with the “superpower” of the intellect “which is supernatural”[128] unlike many other human capacities.[129] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement also associates logic with the “supernatural” intellect.

 

Deductive reasoning is especially suited to the Writings because it depends primarily on the truth of the first premise or universal statement. This makes deduction the appropriate mode of reasoning for those in authority with completely trustworthy knowledge. Unlike scientists and other researchers still looking for the truth, the essentially infallible Manifestation and His interpreter (who has acquired infallibility) are able to give us absolutely reliable universal propositions – e.g. humans are made in God’s image – from which we can draw specific conclusions. Their universal propositions provide the guidance we need for our own reasoning process so that we do not wander too far from the truth.

 
Before we proceed to examine deduction in the Writings in more detail, it should be noted that there are two common forms of deductive argument. The first is the universal form which starts with a universal premise such as “All humans are mortal” – and then deduces a specific conclusion that is entailed by the universal or general premise.  We have already seen this in the example of Socrates. Of course, although the Writings do not overtly contain any formalized deductive syllogisms as shown above, many of the arguments they present have a syllogistic structure embedded in them.

 

A well known example of an explicit universal or ‘all statement’ from the Writings is “All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization”[130] from which Bahá'u'lláh immediately draws the conclusion that we should not behave like animals. The core logical argument can be expressed as a syllogism:
          
            1)  “All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization;”

            2)  Behaving like beasts will not advance a civilization;

            3)  Therefore, humans should not behave like beasts. (“To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man.”)

 

Of course, we must emphasize again that Bahá'u'lláh Himself is not dependent on such deductions for His knowledge and understanding. However, he uses this form as a pedagogical tool to help us grasp His teachings. He adapts His teaching to our limitations.

 

Deductive reasoning does not necessarily use the word “all” or “every” in its general or universal statements, but “all” or “every” must be implied. That is what makes them universal. For example, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s declaration that “[t]he human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal is the rational soul”[131] does not explicitly say “all” but it entails the assertion that all human beings, unlike animals, have a rational soul. Here, too, the Writings provide us with the first premise which encourages us to apply it in regards to a particular case.

The rational soul distinguishes man from animal;
Otto is a dog;
Therefore, Otto does not have a rational soul.

Another example is the following:

“If [a person’s] power for good predominates and his inclinations to do wrong are conquered, then man in truth may be called a saint.” [132]
X’s power for good predominates etc.;  Therefore, X may be called a saint.

 
Putting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s arguments into syllogistic form can be quite a laborious  step-by-step procedure which is probably why He does not do it. It would quickly prove tedious.

However, what is important is that it can be done in order to reveal the rigorous logical structure embedded in his arguments.

 

The use of deductive reason includes both “spiritual proof[s]”[133] and logical proofs. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá identifies the following as a “spiritual proof.”:

it cannot be said there was a time when man was not. All that we can say is that this terrestrial globe at one time did not exist, and at its beginning man did not appear upon it. But from the beginning which has no beginning, to the end which has no end, a perfect manifestation always exists. This man of whom we speak is not every man; we mean the perfect man. For the noblest part of the tree is the fruit, which is the reason of its existence; if the tree had no fruit, it would have no meaning. Therefore it cannot be imagined that the worlds of existence, whether the stars or this earth, were once inhabited by the donkey, cow, mouse, and cat, and that they were without man! This supposition is false and meaningless. The word of God is clear as the sun.[134]

 

The fundamentals of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s explanation can be formalized in two inter-related syllogisms.

      1) All created things need a final cause (reason to exist - PSR) to exist;

      2) The universe is a created thing;

      3) Therefore, the universe needs a final cause to exist.

and:

The perfect man is the final cause of the universe;
The universe has always existed;
Therefore, the perfect man has always existed.

 

Of course, `Abdu’l-Bahá augments this argument with considerably more details than we find in the syllogisms, but the two foregoing deductive syllogisms represent the logical core of his argument.

 

What follows is an example of a “logical proof.” `Abdu’l-Bahá says:

The logical proof of the immortality of the spirit is this, that no sign can come from a nonexisting thing--that is to say, it is impossible that from absolute nonexistence signs should appear--for the signs are the consequence of an existence, and the consequence depends upon the existence of the principle. So from a nonexisting sun no light can radiate . . . Know that the power and the comprehension of the human spirit are of two kinds -- that is to say, they perceive and act in two different modes. One way is through instruments and organs . . .The other manifestation of the powers and actions of the spirit is without instruments and organs . . . [135]

 

In this and the subsequent passages, `Abdu’l-Bahá goes to extraordinary lengths to show how the soul or spirit can operate without the body; he calls these points “the logical evidences for the immortality of the soul.”[136] If we focus on the main ideas to be proved in his detailed argument, we can detect two central deductive syllogisms at work. The first proves the existence of the spirit and the second, the spirit’s immortality.

 

All things that exist show signs of existence (“No sign can come from a nonexisting thing”);
The spirit shows signs of existence;
Therefore, the spirit exists

  and:

All things that depend on the physical body to exist cannot survive the dissolution of the body;
The spirit (which exists) does not depend on the physical body for existence;
Therefore, the spirit can survive the dissolution of the body i.e. is immortal.

 

These two deductive syllogisms represent the formal structure of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s argument. Of course, he goes into far more detail than these core syllogisms in order to provide useful and effective instruction for his audiences and to make his ideas as accessible as possible. Nevertheless, the deductive reasoning at the center of his argument can be clearly identified.

 

The other common form of deductive reasoning has its first premise in the conditional i.e. ‘if-then’ form. For example, here is a passage from Paris Talks:

I say unto you: weigh carefully in the balance of reason and science everything that is presented to you as religion. If it passes this test, then accept it, for it is truth! If, however, it does not so conform, then reject it, for it is ignorance![137]

 

The universal ‘all’ is implied as the condition of passing the test applies in all cases. Indeed, what we have here is the outline of a syllogism, a three-part form that makes reasoning that formalizes the steps of the reasoning process and makes our conclusions clearer.  

If statement X passes the test of reason and science, (then) it must be accepted;
X passes the test of reason and science;
Therefore, we must accept X.

or:

            (2) X does not pass the test of reason and science;

            (3) Therefore, we must reject X.  

There are numerous examples like this throughout the Writings.[138] Consider an additional example:

If we wish to deny everything that is not sensible, then we must deny the realities which unquestionably exist. For example, ethereal matter is not sensible, though it has an undoubted existence. The power of attraction is not sensible, though it certainly exists. From what do we affirm these existences? From their signs. [139]


Appearances notwithstanding, a syllogism is embedded here:

“If we wish to deny everything that is not sensible, then we must deny the realities which unquestionably exist”;
“The power of attraction is not sensible, though it certainly exists”;
Therefore, we do not wish to deny the existence of everything that is not sensible.

 

Here again we observe that the teachings are amenable to reasonable explication. Of course, we should not make the error of thinking this means that Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá arrived at these teachings by reasoning – rather it means only that They put the teachings in a form accessible to human reason with its inherent limitations.

             

Although the Writings are replete with universal principles and premises, they do not always immediately draw the theoretical and/or practical conclusions from them.

Nonetheless, these conclusions are entailed in the general or universal statements. For example, Bahá’u’lláh states that “all men have been created in the nature made by God”[140]  This universal attribute is proper to all human beings, is, in fact, part of their essential human nature, and allows us to draw certain a priori conclusions about anyone we meet. However, the vaster theoretical and practical conclusions we can logically derive from this premise are spread throughout the Writings. One inference from this premise is that if human nature is a divine creation, then people cannot be born with moral imperfections in their nature – which is confirmed when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “every individual is born holy and pure, and only thereafter may he become defiled.”[141] Another conclusion is that God does not create incomplete work, that human nature, i.e. the human essence, is immutable although its actualization may take time. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states,
                          
But even when in the womb of the mother and in this strange form, entirely different from his present form and figure, he is the embryo of the superior species, and not of the animal; his species and essence undergo no change.[142]

 

Another conclusion from the initial principle or premise is that as a divine creation, humankind has a certain inherent value and dignity which must be recognized. Thus, parents must teach their children “righteousness and the dignity of humankind”[143]  and recognize our duty "to arise and lay hold of all those instrumentalities that promote the peace and well-being and happiness, the knowledge, culture and industry, the dignity, value and station, of the entire human race[144]

 

Another example of a universal principle whose deductions are spread throughout the Writings is “justice”: “The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice.”[145] The logical consequences of this universal principle are seen in the passages about economic justice and the extremes of wealth and poverty; gender justice and the rights of women; and social and political justice: “Kings must rule with wisdom and justice; prince, peer and peasant alike have equal rights to just treatment, there must be no favour shown to individuals.”[146] In each case it is possible to show how the conclusion follows from the premise about the importance of justice.

 

It should be noted that the deductive reasoning form seems to predominate in the Writings. On countless occasions, they provide us with a general statement followed by examples. We observe the following pattern throughout the Writings:

For example, the power of intellect is not sensible; none of the inner qualities of man is a sensible thing; on the contrary, they are intellectual realities. So love is a mental reality and not sensible; for this reality the ear does not hear, the eye does not see, the smell does not perceive, the taste does not discern, the touch does not feel. Even ethereal matter, the forces of which are said in physics to be heat, light, electricity and magnetism, is an intellectual reality, and is not sensible. In the same way, nature, also, in its essence is an intellectual reality and is not sensible; the human spirit is an intellectual, not sensible reality[147]

 

First, the universal premise is stated and them the particular examples are deduced and listed. This is, of course, the deductive form. It may be observed that this is just how people naturally think and organize their ideas – which is true, and demonstrates the universality of classical or standard logic.

                                                                               

In examining some of the foregoing or other deductive arguments in the Writings, we may conclude that some of them are enthymemes, i.e. syllogistic arguments with one of the premises left unspoken because it is assumed or left for the reader to fill in. For example, we may argue that “All men are mortal and therefore Socrates is mortal,” omitting the premise that “Socrates is a man.” This does not, however, affect the logical nature and status of the argument itself.  It is simply a variant way of reaching a conclusion. 

 

We have demonstrated that deductive reasoning is pervasive throughout the Writings and that it is rigorous enough to be formalized in syllogistic form, thereby demonstrating that the Writings do not just advocate reason but practice it constantly in the Texts. This point becomes more salient when we realize that deductive reasoning follows the four laws of classical reasoning we have discussed in such detail: the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, the law of the excluded middle and the principle of sufficient reason. From a historical and cultural perspective this is not surprising since Muslim thought and philosophy was heavily influenced by the Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle who made systematic reasoning the foundation of intellectual practice. 

 

8.2. Inductive Reasoning

 Instead of working from the top down, as deduction does, inductive reason works from the bottom up and draws general or universal conclusions on the basis of specific examples. For example, we observe that in the past, ants were always attracted to the food at our picnics, and conclude that ants are attracted by picnic food. Unlike deductive conclusions which are logically certain, inductive conclusions have only a degree of probability. For example, if we have observed thirty chickens scratching for bugs, we may conclude that Hazel, the thirty-first chicken, will probably like scratching for bugs. Our conclusion will be more probable if we have observed thirty thousand chickens. Thus, while deductive arguments are either valid or invalid, inductive arguments have only greater or lesser degrees of likelihood.

 

The word ‘induction’ or its derivatives are rarely mentioned in the Writings. In the Tablet to August Forel, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes, “Also [humankind] bringeth to light the past events that have been lost to memory, and foreseeth by his power of induction future happenings that are as yet unknown.”[148] In other words, on the basis of past events, we can reach a conclusion about future events or likely future events. The individual examples show a pattern or trend. Elsewhere he says:

A scientific man is a true index and representative of humanity, for through processes of inductive reasoning and research he is informed of all that appertains to humanity, its status, conditions and happenings.[149]

 

This suggests that we learn from or conclude from specific individual events.

 

Despite the rarity of usage of ‘induction’ and its derivatives, the Writings nonetheless show us many examples of induction in practice. For example, here is a complete inductive argument with its conclusion stated at the end:

But when you look at Nature itself, you see that it has no intelligence, no will. For instance, the nature of fire is to burn; it burns without will or intelligence. The nature of water is fluidity; it flows without will or intelligence. The nature of the sun is radiance; it shines without will or intelligence. The nature of vapor is to ascend; it ascends without will or intelligence. Thus it is clear that the natural movements of all things are compelled; there are no voluntary movements except those of animals and, above all, those of man. Man is able to resist and to oppose Nature because he discovers the constitution of things, and through this he commands the forces of Nature; all the inventions he has made are due to his discovery of the constitution of things. For example, he invented the telegraph, which is the means of communication between the East and the West. It is evident, then, that man rules over Nature.[150]

 

This example models the proper form of an inductive argument: evidence is compiled and then a general or universal conclusion is reached. This is exactly what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá does. Here is another, briefer example of induction:

Alas that humanity is completely submerged in imitations and unrealities, notwithstanding that the truth of divine religion has ever remained the same. Superstitions have obscured the fundamental reality, the world is darkened, and the light of religion is not apparent. This darkness is conducive to differences and dissensions; rites and dogmas are many and various; therefore, discord has arisen among the religious systems, whereas religion is for the unification of mankind. True religion is the source of love and agreement amongst men, the cause of the development of praiseworthy qualities, but the people are holding to the counterfeit and imitation, negligent of the reality which unifies, so they are bereft and deprived of the radiance of religion. They follow superstitions inherited from their fathers and ancestors. To such an extent has this prevailed that they have taken away the heavenly light of divine truth and sit in the darkness of imitations and imaginations. That which was meant to be conducive to life has become the cause of death; that which should have been an evidence of knowledge is now a proof of ignorance; that which was a factor in the sublimity of human nature has proved to be its degradation. [151]

 

In this passage we observe how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá bases his conclusion – that we have turned the opportunities for new life into our degradation - on a wide variety of examples specifically named or alluded to. We should note that in this example, he is drawing a spiritual conclusion from these worldly examples. A final sample shall suffice to show the prevalence of inductive reasoning throughout the Writings:

Consider how the Roman Empire and Greek nation were at war in enmity and hatred after the Messianic day, how the hostilities of Egypt and Assyria, though subdued in intensity, still flamed in the warring element of these ancient and declining nations. But the teachings of Jesus Christ proved to be the cement by which they were united; warfare ceased, strife and hatred passed away, and these belligerent peoples associated in love and friendship. For strife and warfare are the very destroyers of human foundations, whereas peace and amity are the builders and safeguards of human welfare[152]

 

Here ‘Abdu’l-Bahá argues from a number of historical facts to his conclusion given in the last sentence.

 

Bahá’u’lláh also uses inductive arguments. He lists a series of historical examples in which people have yearned for the Manifestation and then, ironically, turned away from Him when He appeared. Indeed, Bahá’u’lláh goes into considerable detail in each case to give us evidence to support His argument. He then provides us His conclusion:

It behoveth us, therefore, to make the utmost endeavor, that, by God's invisible assistance, these dark veils, these clouds of Heaven-sent trials, may not hinder us from beholding the beauty of His shining Countenance, and that we may recognize Him only by His own Self. [153]

 

From this litany of failures to recognize a new Manifestation, Bahá’u’lláh draws the practical conclusion that we must strive not to make the same error and that we learn to recognize the Manifestation for Himself.

 

8.3. Analogical Reasoning

The Baháí Writings make frequent use of analogical reasoning to explain and support the teachings. In analogies, we observe that two things are similar but not identical, and then reason or draw conclusions about one thing, i.e. the target, by comparisons with something else, i.e. the source. An analogical argument, “states that because a thing a is like another thing b in some respect, it is possible that a is like b in other respects as well.”[154] The more similarities between the source and the target, the stronger the conclusion will be. However, we must recall that while analogical arguments provide good reasons to accept a conclusion, they do not provide logically necessary proof. Nor are all analogies are arguments by analogy. Some analogies are illustrative analogies which are not used to argue towards a conclusion.

 
One of the most striking arguments by analogy in the Writings concerns the organic nature of human society. According to Bahá'u'lláh, we should, "[r]egard the world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, hath been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and maladies. [155]

 

The underlying analogy is that both the human body and the world, or society, are living organisms, i.e. the same kinds of things initial appearances notwithstanding. Because they are the same kinds of things, we can transfer attributes from one to the other, i.e. from the source – the human body – to the target – the world or society. Thus, He says that the world or society can also suffer “disorders and maladies” which suggests that a proper order of parts and functions provides health. Such proper order would include integration of parts, the ability to adapt, purposive action focused on the good of the whole.

 

Shoghi Effendi uses this organic concept of society to build his argument for dealing with Covenant breakers. He describes the Faith “even as a living organism,”[156] which, like an organism is able “to expand and adapt itself to the needs and requirements of an ever-changing society.”[157] He transfers the attributes or an organism, i.e. the source to the target, i.e. the Baháí Faith, just as Bahá'u'lláh transfers the attributes of illness from the human body to the world in general. Consequently, he concludes that internal existential threats to the Faith must be excised from the Baháí community. Doing so:

[H]as nothing to do with unity in the Cause; if a man cuts a cancer out of his body to preserve his health and very life, no one would suggest that for the sake of unity it should be reintroduced into the otherwise healthy organism. On the contrary, what was once a part of him has so radically changed as to have become a poison.[158]

 

Because the Baháí Faith is like an organism, it cannot tolerate cancerous, i.e. internally rebellious and destructive elements within itself without exposing itself to mortal danger. This would not only threaten the Baháí Faith but also inflict injustice on all other members. Therefore, the threat must be removed.

 

 Another example of an argument from analogy is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s use of the sun and its planets to show why an intermediary between God and humankind is necessary. He informs us that, "An intermediary is needed to bring two extremes into relation with each other . . .  without an intermediary power there could be no relation between these pairs of opposites.”[159]

 

This is the principle on which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá constructs his analogy. It asserts that when two extremes are to be connected, a third connecting entity is necessary. In other words, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s argument is based on the structural similarity between the source of the analogy and its target.

The Divine Reality may be likened to the sun and the Holy Spirit to the rays of the sun. As the rays of the sun bring the light and warmth of the sun to the earth, giving life to all created beings, so do the 'Manifestations' . . . bring the power of the Holy Spirit from the Divine Sun of Reality to give light and life to the souls of men.[160]

 

The rays are the necessary intermediaries between the sun and the earth because the sun cannot descend to earth just as God does not descend into materiality. Consequently,  "there must be a Mediator between God and Man, and this is none other than the Holy Spirit, which brings the created earth into relation with the 'Unthinkable One', the Divine Reality."[161]

 

This argument by analogy proves the necessity of a mediator which is identified as the Holy Spirit. The Manifestations, in turn, reflect “the power of the Holy Spirit” to us.

 

It is important to distinguish between arguments from analogy such as we have examined above, and illustrative analogies which illustrate an idea but are not used to argue for a particular conclusion. However, purely illustrative analogies are unusual in the Writings. One example involves ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s detailed explication of the analogy of the structure of the solar system and the organization of the “spiritual realm of intelligence and idealism.”[162] By means of a visual analogy of the solar system he helps us understand our relationship to and place in the “spiritual realm.” This is not to say that we cannot extract general conclusions from the analogy – for example, the “spiritual realm” and the physical world closely resemble each other in certain respects – but proving that is not the prime purpose of the analogy as given. Its purpose is to help us understand a spiritual concept by means of a visual image.

 

However, the same basic analogy can also be used to suggest a specific conclusion. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “The spiritual cycles of the Sun of Reality are like the cycles of the material sun.”[163] The basis of the analogy is the identity of time or seasonal sequence, which then leads to the inference that “just as the solar cycle has its four seasons, the cycle of the Sun of Reality has its distinct and successive periods.”[164] In other words, changes in the spiritual seasons follow a certain order just like natural seasons and these changes are inevitable and come in an orderly manner. Beneath the apparent chaos, there is a hidden order.

 

It must be noted that analogical reasoning does not present decisive or conclusive proof like a formal argument. Such reasoning is probabilistic and the greater the similarities, the more likely the conclusion. In that sense, it is like inductive reasoning – which some authors associate with analogical reasoning – insofar as all we can establish is likelihood. No matter how many samples of swans we have, the next swan might be black, as was discovered in the late 1700’s. Thus, analogical reasoning is more a matter of persuasion than rigorous proof.

 

However, analogical reasoning follows the rules of standard logic, i.e. it does not violate the law of identity, adheres to the rule of self-contradiction and keeps to the law of the excluded middle. Let us take, for example, the analogy of the natural and spiritual seasons. We may not conflate the natural springtime with the spiritual fall since that would be self-contradictory. A thing cannot be both x and not-x at the same time in the same sense and in the same context. Of course, this does not prevent us from saying that one sense it is x and in another it is not-x. Thus, there is no violation of the laws of identity and self-contradiction. Nor may we cavalierly ignore the law of the excluded middle. A particular season is either spring or not-spring and not some third alternative such as the season of days that are like April 31st 1453 in Constantinople. 


 

8.4. Dialectical Reasoning

Dialectical reasoning is a procedure in which we investigate an issue through cross-examining, contradicting and exploring alternatives until we reach a point of agreement. This is the kind of dialectical reasoning we find in Plato’s dialogues which were so influential throughout ancient Greek, Western and Muslim philosophy. It is not necessarily – though it may be – a rigorous Hegelian procedure in which a thesis and anti-thesis conflict until a synthesis is attained.

 

In his guidance to the conduct of consultation by a Spiritual Assembly, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.”[165] This statement encapsulates the essence of dialectic reasoning in which we seek the truth by a careful cross-examination of all ideas, by trying them against contradictory or alternative suggestions and by analyzing them for internal logical consistency. Two words especially stand out in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement: “clash” and “only.” The former strikes a ‘Hegelian chord’ in its allusion to a “clash” or collision between a viewpoint and its anti-thesis and the resulting struggle in which both are tested for adequacy. A synthesis may or may not be reached. The word “only” seems to re-enforce this ‘Hegelian chord’ insofar as the “clash” of opinions (not individuals) is necessary to test each viewpoint adequately. The truth “cometh forth only” after having been tested this way. Implicit in this procedure is the possibility of discovering the truth to be a synthesis of previously conflicting views though it need not necessarily be so.

 

From ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement, we may conclude that the essence of Baháí consultation is the practice of dialectical reasoning. Naturally, this does not mean that the spiritual context of this intellectual procedure can be set aside; it forms the psycho-spiritual environment in which the quest for truth takes place and, thereby, influences the outcome. However, the purpose of creating this environment is to facilitate the discovery of truth by dialectical reasoning and on that basis, to decide upon a course of action by ensuring that human idiosyncrasies, foibles and/or personal agendas do not derail the dialectical process.

 

Baháí consultation makes a key improvement in the process of dialectical reasoning by requiring participants to surrender personal ownership of ideas.

When an idea is put forth it becomes at once the property of the group. Although this notion sounds simple, it is perhaps the most profound principle of consultation. For in this rule, all ideas cease to be the property of any individual, sub-group, or constituency. When followed, this principle encourages those ideas that spring forth from a sincere desire to serve, as opposed to ideas that emanate from a desire for personal aggrandizement or constituency-building.[166]

 

Eliminating the concept of ‘ownership’ of ideas is essential to dialectical reasoning because the required objectivity is easily lost if the participants are side-tracked by personal politics. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion.”[167] Truth is all that matters.

 

It should be mentioned in passing, that dialectical reasoning requires adherence to the four laws of reasoning discussed in previous sections. A dialogue in which terms are not used consistently, in which the choice of truth or falsity is evaded, in which logical self-contradictions are rampant and in which reasons are not adequate to the subject matter quickly degenerates into nonsense that communicates nothing except confusion. No one will know what anyone else is talking about and that makes communication impossible. It destroys the very possibility and purpose of consultation. 



 Even though the Writings require dialectical reasoning in consultation, there are few clear-cut examples of dialectic reasoning in the Writings themselves. This is not unexpected since the Writings characteristically reason deductively from infallibly given universal premises and do not generally show the process by which an actual conclusion is reached. Perhaps the closest to an example of dialectical reasoning is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s discussion of pantheism in Some Answered Questions. Here, he outlines and explains Sufi and Theosophist beliefs, contrasts them what the Prophets have taught and then reaches his own conclusion.[168] As required in a true dialectic, we observe various viewpoints in contention; finally, he explains creation as emanation and not manifestation. Emanation:

[C]an be compared to the sun from which emanates the light which pours forth on all the creatures; but the sun remains in the exaltation of its sanctity. It does not descend, and it does not resolve itself into luminous forms; it does not appear in the substance of things through the specification and the individualization of things; the Preexistent does not become the phenomenal[169]

In manifestation, "a single thing appears in infinite forms. For example, the seed, which is a single thing possessing the vegetative perfections, which it manifests in infinite forms, resolving itself into branches, leaves, flowers and fruit." [170]

In other words, the seed divides itself in various forms, unlike the sun in the previous quotation which does not divide itself. God, the Divine "does not descend nor abase itself to inferior states; then how could it be that the Universal Reality of God, which is freed from all descriptions and qualifications, notwithstanding Its absolute sanctity and purity, should resolve Itself into the forms of the realities of the creatures, which are the source of imperfections? This is a pure imagination which one cannot conceive.[171]

He then adds:

On the contrary, this Holy Essence is the sum of the divine perfections; and all creatures are favored by the bounty of resplendency through emanation, and receive the lights, the perfection and the beauty of Its Kingdom, in the same way that all earthly creatures obtain the bounty of the light of the rays of the sun, but the sun does not descend and does not abase itself to the favored realities of earthly beings.[172]

 

Pantheists have a part of the truth insofar as all things have signs of God within them, but this must not be misinterpreted to mean that God Himself has actually descended to be in them. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá corrects the pantheist misinterpretation and then incorporates a true understanding of it into the doctrine of emanation. In other words, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s explanation functions as a synthesis of two apparently irreconcilable ideas. 

 

9. Moderate Rationalism


 

 As previously noted, the Baháí Writings espouse a form of moderate rationalism

according to which there are limits to rational knowledge. The Writings do not strive for a “religion within the limits of reason alone”[173] to borrow Kant’s piquant phrase. They do not suggest that knowledge and human discursive reason are identical categories. Nor do they seek to eliminate the transcendental aspects of existence. The Writings accept ‘other ways of knowing’ i.e. ways of knowing that are not amenable to ‘discursive reasoning.’ Indeed, humans know more than they can express in language and more than they can formulate in abstract scientific and philosophic frameworks. Poetry and poetic devices such as symbols and metaphors are often used to express such experiential knowledge but even this has its limits.

 

            Before proceeding, it is important to understand what the moderate rationalism of the Writings does not mean. It does not mean that what the ‘other ways of knowing’ discover is irrational or that God created a non-rational world beyond human reason. This would not be in keeping with the concept of a “rational God”[174] as He is called by Shoghi Effendi. If God Himself is rational – albeit in ways infinitely transcending human rationality – He would not make creation irrational or non-rational because, as seen in the following passage, irrationality is associated with flaws and deficiencies. 

 

            Likewise, look into this endless universe: a universal power inevitably existeth,

which encompasseth all, directing and regulating all the parts of this infinite creation; and were it not for this Director, this Co-ordinator, the universe would be flawed and deficient. It would be even as a madman; whereas ye can see that this endless creation carrieth out its functions in perfect order, every separate part of it performing its own task with complete reliability, nor is there any flaw to be found in all its workings. Thus it is clear that a Universal Power existeth, directing and regulating this infinite universe. Every rational mind can grasp this fact.[175]

 

 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s references to “this endless universe” and a “universal power,” terminology indicate that the passage refers not just to material creation but also to non-material, spiritual creation. God is described as the “Director” and “Co-ordinator” Who actively ensures that the universe “functions in perfect order” and without Whom, “the universe would be flawed and deficient.” Without order and rationality, creation would be “even as a madman,” i.e. irrational, disorderly, flawed and deficient – possibilities which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá obviously rejects. Conversely, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement shows that he identifies ‘order’ and ‘rationality’ because both exhibit organization and regulation according to some guiding principle or the directives of an “invisible yet rational God.”[176] Even miracles are not, as some have thought, violations of the order of nature. [177] Shoghi Effendi, writes, “The operation of miracles is not necessarily irrational or illogical.”[178]

They may, for example, be results of the operation of so far unknown physical laws.

We should note, in passing, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement that “Every rational mind can grasp” the fact of orderliness and rationality of creation, implying thereby that those who cannot grasp this orderliness and rationality are not rational, at least on this point.

 

******[‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement above makes it clear that physical creation is orderly and rational. There is no need to assume that what is beyond human reason is necessarily non-rational, or irrational; we need only understand that there are levels of rationality not available to the discursive rationality with which we are familiar. Some have called these levels ‘trans-rational.’[179] Moderate rationalism in the Writings simply means that human reason is unable to know and articulate these higher or trans-rational realities and must – insofar as the limitations of human nature permit – know them in ‘other ways’ and recognize their articulations in metaphorical and symbolic language such as we find in the Writings. Some may have to be accepted as the word of the Manifestation. ]********

 

7.1: Moderate Rationalism and Modern Skepticism

 

            One of the challenges faced by any form of rationalism – be it moderate or strict  – is the argument with skepticism, the ancient belief that knowledge is unattainable and that reason is impotent in the quest for knowledge. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy informs us that “skepticism, in the most common sense [is] the refusal to grant that there is any knowledge or justification”[180] for knowledge. In the last analysis, all truth-claims are unjustifiable by reason and/or evidence. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy states that “[S]cepticism is now the denial that knowledge or even rational belief is possible either about some specific subject-matter (e.g. ethics) or in any area whatever.”[181] Most succinctly, the Routledge Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy asserts that skepticism is the belief “that we fail to know anything.”[182]

 

            The most recent incarnation of skepticism is postmodernism which not only rejects any exclusive truth-claim but also denies that reason is in any way a superior tool  in the quest for truth. For example, postmodernism denies that the truths of science are ‘more true’ or superior to mythical or magical explanations.[183] According to Lyotard, who invented the term ‘postmodern,’ such a claim to be ‘more true’ or superior is “terrorist”[184] because it can be used to “eliminate[ ] or threaten[ ] to eliminate, a player [point of view, culture] from the language game one shares with them.”[185] Reason sets up a false distinction between real i.e. rational knowledge and ‘folklore’ i.e. unreal, irrational ‘knowledge.’  Lyotard wants to free us from this dichotomizing modernity which “is identified with modern reason  . . .”[186] Michel Foucault has similar ideas, agreeing that any claim to possess truth is part of a “regime[ ] of power”[187] seeking to dominate its rivals. In Foucault’s words, knowledge “creates a progressive enslavement to its instinctive violence.”[188] Like Lyotard, Foucault also rejects the “meta-narrative’ of reason. According to him, “no given form of rationality is actually reason”[189] because reason and rationality vary from one culture to another and no form of reason is superior to any other. Given the varieties of reason all of which are equally valid, it follows that reason cannot provide universally valid knowledge. Thus, in the last analysis, we have no truth or reasons about anything but only interpretations. As Nietzsche, the movement’s inspiration said, “Facts is precisely what there is not, only interpretations.” [190] Jacques Derrida agrees. For him the world is a text which has no meaning before anyone has interprets it.[191] There is no truth outside of, or transcendental to, the interpretation and telling. In other words, there are no truths in themselves but only interpretations. Similarly, “[f]or Foucault, any word-referent has no concreteness, nor is there a reality which precedes discourse and reveals itself to discursive perception.”[192] In his view, there are no objective grounds for knowledge . . . [193] - a view which leads to the denial of the reality of essences apart from human interpretation or discourse.[194]

 

            It is not hard to see how these views lead to skepticism and irrationalism. Since there are only interpretations, and even interpretations can be endlessly de-stabilized and re-interpreted, we are unable to attain any truth or “rational belief.” The situation is exacerbated when we recall that for postmodernism, there is no rational or objective way of choosing (“privileging”) any particular truth-claim over any other. All viewpoints are equal. Even reason cannot give us any valid truth because reason is just another method or viewpoint, not better or worse than the others. Consequently, the discovery of truth, of knowledge is inherently impossible which is precisely what skepticism asserts.  Moreover, this view leads to irrationalism. If reason cannot help us find the truth and is no better than any other method of obtaining knowledge, why bother with it?  Perhaps we should make our decisions on the basis of personal and/or collective preference, or just as an act of will as Nietzsche suggests.

 

Truth” is therefore not something there, that might be found or discovered – but something that must be created            and that gives a name to a process, or rather to a will to overcome that has in itself no end – introducing truth as a processus in infinitum, and active determining –  not a becoming conscious of something that is itself firm and determined. It is a word for the “will to power”. [195]

 

In addition to asserting that truth-claims are examples of the “will-to-power,” Nietzsche also claims that truth is not discovered but constituted by us, “something that must be created.” It is up to our “active determining ” to create or invent the truth. In the language of postmodernism we construct the truth about everything. Nothing is given. In Foucault’s words, the object “does not pre-exist itself,”[196] which is to say, it does not exist before human discourse makes it the kind of object it is. This view, of course also leads to irrationalism. If neither reason nor intrinsic essential qualities determine what an object is, then what is to prevent us from constituting things according to personal or collective preferences? Unfortunately, there is no intrinsic limit to how far we can carry these principles – which may be harmless when applied by individuals but can be devastatingly destructive when applied by collectives such as nation-states.[197] If preference and will i.e. the “will-to-power” are all we have to go by, and rationality is optional, we have, in fact, attained a viewpoint that enshrines irrationality. There are no compelling reasons to restrain us. 

 

In contrast to postmodern skepticism, the Baháí Writings constantly emphasize that truth exists and that reason can discover it. Nowhere do they mention or suggest that humans make or construct the truth. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says,

 

[t]he power of the rational soul can discover the realities of things, comprehend the peculiarities of beings, and penetrate the mysteries of existence. All sciences, knowledge, arts, wonders, institutions, discoveries and enterprises come from the exercised intelligence of the rational soul.[198]

 

Obviously, knowledge of some sort is available to the rational soul and this knowledge is discovered, i.e. pre-exists the discoverer.  Elsewhere, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says,

 

God has created man in order that he may perceive the verity of existence and endowed him with mind or reason to discover truth. Therefore, scientific knowledge and religious belief must be conformable to the analysis of this divine faculty in man.[199]

 

Not only does reason discover truths but it is also described as a “divine faculty” thereby indicating its power and stature in our human nature. This is also emphasized in his description of the intellect as “supernatural.”[200] Note that “mind or reason” set the standard with which “scientific knowledge and religious beliefs” must conform. He also says, “He [God] has endowed [man] with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth.”[201] Two points are clear. First, truth exists – and it exists prior to its identification or perception by humans; it is, so to speak, a given.  Second, we are intended to use “mind or reason to discover truth.” Such discovery is one of the powers of reason. From this it follows that skepticism is unjustified, as is the belief that humans construct the truth and that no truth exists before our construction.

 

            To understand these insights in greater depth, let us examine one of the philosophically important passages in the Writings. According to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,

 

For the inner essence of anything is not comprehended, but only its qualities. For example, the inner essence of the sun is unknown, but is understood by its qualities, which are heat and light. The inner essence of man is unknown and not evident, but by its qualities it is characterized and known. Thus everything is known by its qualities and not by its essence. Although the mind encompasses all things, and the outward beings are comprehended by it, nevertheless these beings with regard to their essence are unknown; they are only known with regard to their qualities.[202]

           

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s assertions make it plain that the qualities we perceive give us actual knowledge about the sun or about man, i.e. the objects of perception. In other words, the qualities have a necessary and orderly connection to the essence manifesting them and, therefore, we can actually know something about the object’s nature or essence although this knowledge must be external and mediated by the qualities. Unattached qualities cannot give us knowledge about anything – which opens the door to radical skepticism and irrationalism and the impossibility of knowledge which, in turn, denies the teachings about progress in science, society and spirituality. How, for example, can we know about the sun if its qualities are not necessarily connected with it? The qualities are qualities of some particular thing. 

 

Because the qualities are connected to the essence of the thing that manifests them, the essence also constrains, restricts or puts limits on the qualities that it manifests. In other words, things have intrinsic, i.e. essential features which guide or constrain the qualities a thing can manifest to the world. A horse does not manifest the qualities of a grapefruit – or vice versa! Silly as the example may sound, it has important consequences because if the essence of a horse constrains the manifestation of qualities to horse qualities, then these qualities can tell us something about the nature of a horse. Because there is connection and constraint, qualities provide real knowledge of the thing’s nature.

 

At this point it is already clear that the postmodern concept of human construction of the truth has been rendered impossible. Our construction of a set of qualities into a ‘sun’ is constrained by the intrinsic features of these qualities over which we have no control. These qualities are given; they must be discovered, not constructed and they must be ‘composed,’ or constructed in a certain way to correspond to the sun we perceive. These qualities and their necessary features constrain our constructions, because they are manifestations of a thing’s essence which exists independently of us and our discourse. Of course, we may interpret the sun differently, for example, as a god, Helios, or as a fusioning ball of hydrogen gas – but even here we are limited. If we try to interpret it as a ball of ice and act on that interpretation we are likely to die soon. Unnecessary death is one of nature’s ways of telling us our interpretation of something is objectively wrong.

 

The necessary connection and constraint of qualities to their essence makes rational knowledge and science possible. Science studies the manifested qualities of things and makes necessary inferences about the nature – essence – of the thing manifesting those qualities. It makes and tests predictions on the basis of those manifested qualities; technology builds devices based on these predictable qualities. None of this is possible if qualities are not necessarily and rationally connected to and constrained or guided by the essence to which they belong. Without such connection and constraint, we can never know which qualities are appropriate to or necessarily connected to what. In that case, as we have seen, a horse could manifest the attributes of a grapefruit. Furthermore, we have no way of knowing which qualities are connected to each other. For example, how can we know the attribute of four-leggedness is connected to the quality of having a mane? Their regular co-appearance could just be a coincidence – or a delusion on our part. Such problems undermine the very possibility of using reason in the quest for scientific knowledge. Indeed, we could not use reason for knowing anything. This is untenable according to the Baháí Writings which place an enormous emphasis on the science and which, according to Shoghi Effendi, are “scientific in [their] method.”[1] If the Writings are “scientific in [their] method” then they are certainly rational in method and reason is an effective way of seeking and testing knowledge. 

 

*******The necessary connection between the qualities and the essence also makes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statements relevant to post-modern skepticism which categorically denies the existence of intrinsic essences.[203] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asserts that essences exist, and constrain or guide the qualities to which they are connected. In other words, the essence determines the qualities that are manifested and, thereby, establishes “the constitution of things,” [204]we discover by exploration and reasoning. The essence and its qualities are given to us humans though we may, of course, interpret things albeit within the limits set by the intrinsic features of the qualities. However, we must remember that we are always interpreting qualities that are connected to and constrained by an essence that is given to us. In other words, our interpretations are also constrained by the intrinsic features of the qualities. Because of this constraint, we do not constitute or compose their essential natures. Instead, we discover these natures and use reason to learn about them through their manifested qualities.

 

            ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s teaching on this subject opposes the post-modern view that essences do not exist or cannot be known to exist and that so-called essences are constructed i.e. composed by us by arbitrarily selecting certain number and/or kind of qualities.[205] According to this view, all knowledge, including scientific knowledge of nature is constituted by us and is not given. Thus, our knowledge of things is not a discovery of nature as God made it (see below), i.e. a discovery of “the constitution of things,”[206]  but rather a discovery of arbitrary man-made compositions that do not tell us anything about the object of study. Such studies may possibly tell us something about ourselves – yet this, too, is problematic, because self-knowledge must also be constructed . . . ad infinitum. Obviously, science is impossible with this view which inevitably leads to skepticism since the acquisition of knowledge is infinitely delayed by an endless sequences of interpretations. ***********************************************

 

            To sum up: the difference between the Baháí Writings and postmodern skepticism  is that the Writings assert that the essential nature of things and their qualities are given although they may be interpreted in different ways. The qualities that the essence of a thing manifests constrain how humans can understand them. Lighting may, for example, be constituted or interpreted as a bolt from Zeus or as the release of a static electrical build-up. However, neither interpretation can deny the potentially fatal consequences of a lightning strike –a quality that constrains our understanding. Our interpretation does not constitute or affect the essential nature of lightning in the slightest.    The necessary connection and constraint that marks the relationship between essences and qualities is the pre-condition for rational thought and science, as well as for the importance the Writings place on science. We shall explore how great the emphasis on this rational knowledge below.

 

8. The Limits of Reason

 

            Because moderate rationalism holds that reason has limits, it is important to know what these limits are. Doing so requires a brief excursion into ontology since Baháí epistemology has an ontological foundation. In a nutshell, the Writings teach that ontology determines epistemology, i.e. the ability to know is determined by a thing’s ontological status. The basic principle is that “the degrees of existence are different and various, some beings are higher in the scale than others.”[207] These ontological distinctions have epistemological consequences insofar as the higher levels of being comprehend the lower levels and are, therefore, able to understand them. In brief, the powers of human reason are limited by our ontological location.

 

            Humankind, which is the highest species includes all the powers beneath it i.e. the mineral, plant and animal as well as rational soul which is our distinguishing trait. This also means that humankind is a microcosm, a universe in miniature: “the greater world, the macrocosm, is latent and miniatured in the lesser world, or microcosm, of man. This constitutes the universality or perfection of virtues potential in mankind.”[208] Because humankind is on a higher ontological plane than the rest of physical nature, we can understand nature since “The higher plane . . . understandeth the lower.”[209] This, of course, is another reason why skepticism is logically incompatible with Baháí ontology – within the limits of human power we are able to gain knowledge about the lower levels of reality.

 

The first limitation of reason concerns our knowledge of God. Humankind is on a lower ontological plane than God, and, therefore, because “no lower degree can ever comprehend a higher,”[210]  humans are also prohibited from comprehending i.e. understanding God.

 

It is evident that the human understanding is a quality of the existence of man, and

that man is a sign of God: how can the quality of the sign surround the creator of the sign?  --  that is to say, how can the understanding, which is a quality of the existence of man, comprehend God? Therefore, the Reality of the Divinity is hidden from all comprehension, and concealed from the minds of all men. It is absolutely impossible to ascend to that plane. We see that everything which is lower is powerless to comprehend the reality of that which is higher[211]

 

This quotation links our ontological status to our inability to attain the plane of Divinity.

The ontological difference between God and humankind cannot be overcome, i.e. it is an intrinsic aspect of Baháí ontology and epistemology. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá categorically says, “it is absolutely impossible to ascend to that plane.” This logically forbids all claims to know “the reality of the Divinity” and all claims to having attained and experienced ontological unity with God, even if only as a subjective state. Even to interpret a subjective experience as ontological unity with God is prohibited by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s categorical declaration. Consequently, since God is on a higher ontological plane, no amount of reasoning, not even the most rigorous application of logical thought can gain any knowledge of God’s Essence: “His Essence is above all comprehension.”[212]

 

To man, the Essence of God is incomprehensible, so also are the worlds beyond this, and their condition. It is given to man to obtain knowledge, to attain to great spiritual perfection, to discover hidden truths and to manifest even the attributes of God; but still man cannot comprehend the Essence of God.[213]

 

Nor can reason comprehend the higher spiritual realms such as the Abhá Kingdom, i.e. “the worlds beyond this, and their condition.” This is another important limitation of reason, one which has a direct effect on beliefs regarding the after-life and the existence of super-sensory realms of being. Of these worlds, we can only know what the Writings tell us.  

           

            A second limitation of reason and human knowledge in general is our inability to know the essences of things directly. This has already been touched on vis-à-vis God. Adib Taherzadeh says,

 

It is essential to differentiate between the 'Essence of God' which Shoghi Effendi describes as the 'innermost Spirit of Spirits' or 'Eternal Essence of Essences', and 'God revealed' to humanity. The former is unknowable, while the latter is comprehensible to man.[214]

In other words, God’s Essence cannot be known but the qualities that God reveals to

humanity are “comprehensible,” i.e. known to us. The same situation prevails in ‘Abdu’l-

Bahá’s explication about the relationship between essences and qualities.

 

Know that there are two kinds of knowledge: the knowledge of the essence of a thing and the knowledge of its qualities. The essence of a thing is known through its qualities; otherwise, it is unknown and hidden.[215]

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s wording in the second statement requires careful examination. It asserts  that the “essence of a thing is known through its qualities; otherwise it is unknown and hidden.” It is important to point out what this sentence does not say, namely, that essences are unknowable in any way whatever. Rather, it tells us that we can only have indirect knowledge of essences mediated “through its qualities.” We cannot have direct, immediate knowledge of the essence in-itself. All knowledge of the essence is indirect, and mediated “through [the] qualities.” The essence actualizes and manifests these qualities in the world at which point we can perceive them and reason about them. Of course, it does not actualize them all at once;[216] potentials are “unknown and hidden.” Our knowledge of the essence of things is, therefore, always external and indirect and consequently, our reasoning is limited to these externalized, manifested qualities and actions of things. Abdu’l-Bahá goes on to say, 

 

For the inner essence of anything is not comprehended, but only its qualities. For example, the inner essence of the sun is unknown, but is understood by its qualities, which are heat and light. The inner essence of man is unknown and not evident, but by its qualities it is characterized and known. Thus everything is known by its qualities and not by its essence. Although the mind encompasses all things, and the outward beings are comprehended by it, nevertheless these beings with regard to their essence are unknown; they are only known with regard to their qualities.[217]

 

This passage reinforces the interpretation that the essence of things is not known in-itself but only externally by way of manifested qualities and their inter-action with the world. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gives two examples of this: “the inner essence of the sun” which is “understood by its qualities” and “the inner essence of man” which “characterized and known” by its manifested qualities. This distinction prohibits all claims to direct, internal, immediate or ‘mystical’ knowledge of essences, thereby maintaining the existential integrity of all created things. Only God has such knowledge of “inner essence[s].” Furthermore, this distinction also puts restrictions on ‘other ways of knowing’ or transrational modes of knowledge by forestalling all claims to immediate, ‘inside’ knowledge of other things. This obviously prohibits the validity of any claims of ontological ‘mystical union’ with God since that would obviously provide such ‘inside’ knowledge of the divine.

 

            There is yet another limitation of reason – one which has far-reaching consequences for our understanding of the Writings. This limitation is that reason alone cannot complete its quest for knowledge, i.e. it lacks the power to attain the certainty with which the process of reasoning completes itself. In other words, reason is necessary but is not sufficient to attain its natural goal of certainty. The cause of this deficiency is not far to seek. To attain certainty, reason can only rely on still more reason, thus setting up an infinite regress which never achieves its goal. Thus, to achieve this certainty we must go beyond reason since reason cannot do this for itself.  On this matter, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says,

 

How shall we attain the reality of knowledge? By the breaths and promptings of the Holy Spirit, which is light and knowledge itself. Through it the human mind is quickened and fortified into true conclusions and perfect knowledge.[218]

 

In our view, the “reality of knowledge” includes the certainty that all knowledge aims at. (If it did not, what would be the point of knowing?) The mind – which includes reason – is “quickened,” i.e. made more alive so that it actualizes more of its potentials. Moreover, it is “fortified into true conclusions” which means that the reasoning capacities are strengthened so that our findings have certainty. “Perfect knowledge,” in our understanding, refers to knowledge that is true, complete and certain, i.e. has attained the innate telos of all knowledge. 

 

Elsewhere, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá makes similar points when he says,

 

But the bounty of the Holy Spirit gives the true method of comprehension which is infallible and indubitable. This is through the help of the Holy Spirit which comes to man, and this is the condition in which certainty can alone be attained.[219]

 

Here, too, we find reference to the “true method of comprehension” which is available to the “quickened” mind as well as to the certainty or infallibility that “perfect knowledge” requires. Inspiration comes externally and allows us to attain certainty. Both this passage and the previous one occur at the end of a discussion of Bahá’í epistemology, i.e. a general discussion about acquiring knowledge, not just about religious issues or spiritual truths. This is made plain in the following:

 

without the Holy Spirit he [man] would have no intellect, he would be unable to acquire his scientific knowledge . . .  The illumination of the Holy Spirit gives to man the power of thought, and enables him to make discoveries by which he bends the laws of nature to his will.[220]

 

Without the Holy Spirit, humans would have no “intellect” i.e. no mind and no reason by

which to make scientific discoveries. Obviously, the “illumination” of the Holy Spirit is a pre-condition for the intellect or reasoning power in humankind; this divine illumination “gives to man the power of thought” and “enables him to make discoveries.” This explains why the action of the Holy Spirit cannot be explained in strictly rational terms. Reason can show why the Holy Spirit is necessary, but it cannot show the exact way it works to make reason possible. Reason depends on the “illumination” and according to the Writings that which is ontologically lesser and dependent cannot understand and explain that on which it depends. Thus, the conclusion that the Holy Spirit’s actions are beyond reason is not merely a mystification or evasion but rather a strict logical consequence of the relationship between the dependent things and that on which they depend.

 

The Holy Spirit, according to the foregoing selections is involved from the very start in the quest for knowledge. It provides “illumination” which may be understood in at least two ways. First, it makes possible a specifically human consciousness, i.e. a form of consciousness with an intellect and reason capable of making discoveries. It provides a consciousness of truth. Second, the Holy Spirit provides “illumination” as in ‘vision’ which shows us more of reality and truth than we could apprehend by reason alone and increases our understanding beyond the limits of even the most sophisticated reasoning processes. Thus, the Holy Spirit is necessary for the acquisition of secular as well as religious knowledge in regards to “true conclusions” and “certainty.” Achieving “true conclusions” and “certainty” is precisely what completes knowledge or fulfills its natural goal.[221] The following quote emphasizes that with the aid of the Holy Spirit, reason can discover non-natural, spiritual truths i.e. “ideal realities”:

 

He has bestowed upon him the power of intellect so that through the attribute of reason, when fortified by the Holy Spirit, he may penetrate and discover ideal realities and become informed of the mysteries of the world of significances.[222]

 

Yet again we observe that the powers of reason are not confined to the natural, i.e. phenomenal world and can, in fact, acquire super-natural knowledge with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This makes it clear that by itself reason possesses such abilities in potential but cannot actualize them without the action of an external power. 

 

            Notwithstanding the foregoing discussion, there are two quotations which seem to imply that humans can attain certain knowledge without the assistance of the Holy Spirit when all four ways of knowing agree. Speaking of the power of love as the basis of existence in the various Kingdoms of creation, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says,

 

But a statement presented to the mind accompanied by proofs which the senses can perceive to be correct, which the faculty of reason can accept, which is in accord with traditional authority and sanctioned by the promptings of the heart, can be adjudged and relied upon as perfectly correct, for it has been proved and tested by all the standards of judgment and found to be complete. When we apply but one test, there are possibilities of mistake[223]

 

After he provides his argument, he concludes,

 

This is a proof perceptible to the senses, acceptable to reason, in accord with

traditions and teachings of the holy books and verified by the promptings of human hearts themselves. It is a proof upon which we can absolutely rely and declare to be complete.[224]

 

These passages seemingly contradict other statements that deny the reliability of humankind’s ways of attaining truth. What are we to make of the assertion that if all four methods of acquiring knowledge agree, we have “proof upon which we can absolutely rely” and proof that can be “relied upon as perfectly correct”?

 

The strongest way to resolve this apparent contradiction is to assume that such unifying insight happens because the Holy Spirit is present implicitly. After all, without such inspiration, we would lack the understanding to make these connections among the four ways of knowing.  The Writings inform us that the Holy Spirit is necessary in the quest for knowledge and understanding. 

 

Likewise the Holy Spirit is the very cause of the life of man; without the Holy Spirit he would have no intellect, he would be unable to acquire his scientific knowledge by which his great influence over the rest of creation is gained. The illumination of the Holy Spirit gives to man the power of thought[225]

 

Consequently, we may reasonably assume that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is

implicitly active in the cases cited by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. There is strictly speaking, no need for an explicit statement on this matter. This resolution of the apparent contradiction

also supports the statements in which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explicitly mentions the need for divine inspiration.

 

            There is yet one more, extraordinarily important limitation of reason to discuss, viz. the unreliability of reason. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to this limitation in his discussions about the four ways of pursuing knowledge. Despite their reliance on reason, he notes that philosophers cannot come to any final agreement on a wide variety of issues.

 

Therefore, it is evident that the method of reason is not perfect, for the differences of the ancient philosophers, the want of stability and the variations of their opinions, prove this. For if it were perfect, all ought to be united in their ideas and agreed in their opinions.[226]

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s conclusion is based on the premise that truth is one; consequently, if reason were fully reliable, this one truth would be evident to all. Elsewhere he adds that these differences among scientists and philosophers are “clear proof that human reason is not to be relied upon as an infallible criterion.”[227]

 

            We must carefully examine ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statements about the unreliability of reason because they can easily be misused to undermine much of what the Writings

say about the proper uses of reason. These statements, if mis-interpreted, can lead to claims of a serious self-contradiction in the Writings. On one hand, the Writings proclaim the limitations and unreliability of reason while on the other hand, they put an enormous emphasis on reason and rationality, even for religion and spiritual issues. For example, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declares that “If religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition.”[228] In other words, he says religion is demoted to a “tradition” if it opposes “logical reason.” Furthermore, he instructs us by saying,

 

I say unto you: weigh carefully in the balance of reason and science everything that is presented to you as religion. If it passes this test, then accept it, for it is truth! If, however, it does not so conform, then reject it, for it is ignorance![229]

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá categorically tells us to use reason as a test for distinguishing religion from ignorance and superstition. However, if reason is unreliable, how can we use it as instructed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá? How can it be useful to recognize superstitions or to free ourselves from the burdens of supposedly irrational traditions when reason itself is not reliable? On the surface at least, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s critique of reason seems to undermine and contradict the Writing’s strong advocacy of reason. This confronts us with a stark question: Do the Writings contradict themselves by urging us to apply reason on one hand while seeming to undermine the validity of reason on the other?

 

            One way of resolving this apparent contradiction is to recall Shoghi Effendi’s statement that the Bahá’í Faith is “scientific in its method.”[230] Science recognizes that in principle reason is fallible and that all truth-claims are provisional, but at the same time in practice truth-claims are accepted as true until there is actual evidence and better reasoning to disprove them. No mere speculation about possibilities will do – better empirical evidence and better reasoning are required. Thus, while from the perspective of principle, there are no absolute certainties in science, in actual practice there are pragmatic  certainties with which we work until concrete experimental and observational evidence suggest otherwise. All accepted scientific facts are in this position: fallible in principle but having pragmatic certainty. For example, no one seriously questions the heliocentric theory of the solar system or explanations for the seasons though in principle they are open to other explanations. 

 

Applied to the Writings, this leads to the view that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statements about the fallibility of natural, unassisted reason concern principle, while his frequent statements extolling and recommending reason refer to practice. In other words, there is no self-contradiction because the two kinds of statements refer to different aspects of reasoning. Therefore, they do not undermine each other. Furthermore, we must not confuse reasoning that has been “fortified”[231] by the Holy Spirit and thereby can attain “certainty,”[232] and reasoning that is unassisted by the divine and cannot be certain. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s declaration about the limits of reason only applies to the latter. Thus, one type of reason does, in fact, lead to certainty though it is difficult for humans to know which reasoning process has been divinely inspired.

 

            The inherent fallibility of reason raises the problem of circular reasoning. If reason is fallible and is used to judge a work of reasoning, we are caught in a vicious circle. Is there a way of escape? In principle, for science there is no escape since there is nothing superior to reason by which to judge it and its results. One can only check and re-check one’s data and conclusions in hopes of finding hidden errors – and await the results of other research. On the other hand, Bahá’í epistemology distinguishes between natural reason working alone and natural reason “fortified”[233] by the Holy Spirit and, therefore, has a superior platform by which to judge the results of reasoning. The problem for Baha’is is knowing which reasoning process has been “fortified” and which has not. 

 

             The Writings contain some guidance on this matter, guidance which is another aspect of being “scientific in its method.” Like the sciences, they offer a “negative gate-keeper” method of excluding – at least until concrete empirical evidence is provided – certain viewpoints. For example, although in quantum physics the Copenhagen interpretation is most often cited, there are, in fact, several other scientifically valid interpretations of quantum data. They all make the same predictions and are, therefore, equally tenable. All theories that meet the criteria of making correct predictions are allowable, e.g. the many-worlds theory or Bohm’s causal theory. Theories that can not meet these criteria are excluded – at least until it can be shown they can make correct predictions.

 

            A similar situation prevails in the Writings which categorically reject such viewpoints metaphysical pantheism[234], ontological materialism,[235] and re-incarnationism[236] among others. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also rejects the traditional interpretation of the Fall[237] of which he says, “the intelligence cannot accept it,”[238] as well as a host of traditional interpretations of Biblical subjects.[239] Among the other views rejected is the concept of a real infinite regress,[240] atheism, the materiality of the soul and the mortality of the human soul. What this list – which could be extended – models is a negative gatekeeper function which allows us to weed out untenable ideas and which establishes a boundary within which Bahá’í thought must operate. In other words, if it can be shown that a particular viewpoint involves, for example, pantheism, then, for the sake of consistency with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s declarations, such contradictions to the Writings must be remedied. Otherwise, what is the point of the guidance the Writings offer? 

 

            The advantage of the negative gate-keeper method is that it safeguards diversity and, at the same time, diminishes the chances of error. The Writings, as we have seen, provide a compendium of errors to guide our explorations and keep our thinking consistent with the Writings. All views consistent with the Writings are, so to speak, tenable. Of course, it is not hard to see that this “negative gate-keeper” method is already the standard practice among Bahá’í’s who work hard to make their ideas consistent with the Writings. Our understandings of the Writings can have ‘practical certainty’ as long as these understandings are reasonable, harmonize rationally with the Writings and are supported by textual evidence. This means that understandings that are better supported from and harmonized with the Writings and better reasoned are to be preferred as more likely to be true or truer than views that are lacking in these attributes.

 

            The need for negative gate-keeping is clear. Without the ability to make critical judgments and to impose some criteria of understanding, without some way of distinguishing truth from error, the independent investigation of truth would be a pointless exercise. Why bother seeking the truth if every proposition or viewpoint is true? Indeed, if every proposition or truth-claim is true, how can we even try to distinguish truth from error? The inability to differentiate truth from error, is, of course, one of the major weak points of relativism not only in terms of logic but also vis-à-vis the Writings. If we cannot identify error, then “anything goes”[241] – a position that does not accord with the Writings which are replete with references to errors of various kinds and even “the people of error.”[242]

 

Let us hasten to add that there is no refuge from the problem by saying that all viewpoints contain some elements of truth. How could we identify those ‘true elements’ without a standard or guidance by which to separate them from what is false? Nor, in our view, do the Writings support the notion that all beliefs have some elements of truth. We have already observed this in their unqualified rejection of infinite regresses as well as several beliefs such as materialism.

 

            Further evidence for the distinction between fallibility in principle and the encouragement of rationality in practice lies in the enormous disparity between the number of passages extolling and recommending reason and the very small number of passages about its limitations.[243] A good teacher puts the most emphasis on the main lesson he wants to teach. In this case, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s main lesson concerns the importance of using reason in the quest for both spiritual and worldly knowledge. This is what he returns to time and again.

If religious belief and doctrine is at variance with reason . . . it is unworthy of belief and not deserving of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith is impossible. How can man believe that which he knows to be opposed to reason? Is this possible? Can the heart accept that which reason denies? Reason is the first faculty of man, and the religion of God is in harmony with it.[244]

It is noteworthy that he says ideas opposed to reason are “unworthy of belief” and even connects reason to the heart insofar as “the heart finds no rest in it [the irrational].” He asks rhetorically if the heart can believe what is rejected by reason. He goes even further, noting that we “real faith” in the irrational “is impossible,” thereby connecting rationality and genuine faith. The implication, of course, is that faith in the irrational is not real faith, a truly challenging statement for any religious leader to make. Significantly enough, he also identifies reason with the “first faculty of man,” meaning that – as he has said before in Some Answered Questions – reason is the faculty that distinguishes man from all lower forms of life and, therefore, religion – also a uniquely human phenomenon – “is in harmony with it.”

 

            Given the enormous encouragement for reason throughout the Writings, how are we to use the small number of passages showing the limits of reason? Most obviously, they are not intended to deter, undermine or discourage the daily use of reason in our quest for truth but rather to remind us that reason, while necessary, is not self-sufficient. Because it is not perfect, we need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Manifestations and the Universal House of Justice.

 

An example of the one-sided misuse of the fallibility of reason is the argument that since reason is flawed, we cannot assert any truth-claim or interpretation of the Writings is more or less tenable than any other. In the last analysis, all ideas are equal. As long as we have a one-sided focus on the fallibility of reason this makes sense – but as soon as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s repeated emphasis on the practical use of reason as a test for truth comes into play, it does not. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s emphasis and examples make it clear that we are to use reason to distinguish the tenable from the untenable, the true from the untrue, the good from the bad. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not give us a test for truth that, in effect, is useless.

 

Inevitably, it will be asked ‘Who is to determine which understanding can be passed by the negative gatekeeper?’ The Bahá’í Faith has no clergy or any other agency to ‘ensure’ doctrinal conformity because the individual’s right to investigate and think for himself is guaranteed – which effectively leaves the question of tenability open for debate. This works in the case of the Bahá’í Writings because they cover a large number of issues of both theoretical and practical nature to which all debate on Bahá’í issues must be referenced. In other words, the Writings themselves act as a gatekeeper to ensure rational understanding and the intellectual development of ideas. No class of people or individuals is empowered to make definitive judgments on the tenability or untenability of ideas. Moreover, for additional guidance there are the declarations of the Universal House of Justice.

 

9: Non-Discursive Knowing and ‘Thinking’

 

            So far in this paper we have examined what is called discursive reason, i.e. reaching conclusions on the basis of chains of inference from a universal premise and/or from empirical evidence. Discursive reasoning requires clearly articulated steps according to the four laws of logic. In our view, this kind of reasoning is heavily emphasized throughout the Writings – but does not cover all ways of acquiring knowledge and reaching conclusions. The Writings, as noted before, espouse a moderate rationalism which recognizes the validity of non-discursive methods of finding truth.

 

            Before proceeding, it is important to highlight that non-discursive reasoning is not to be confused with irrationality. The irrational and the non-discursive differ insofar as irrationality involves a cognitive deficiency or confusion in the reasoning process. It may

also involve setting aside reason in favor of something else, e.g. a personal preference or desire, a political agenda, an advantage to be gained or a sheer assertion of will power for its own sake. On the other hand, non-discursive reasoning is a way of acquiring knowledge or reaching conclusions that does not involve the chains of inference we have previously examined. Such non-discursive reasoning is sometimes called “trans-rational” to convey the idea that it goes beyond reason but does not violate rationality.

 

            When speaking of non-discursive reasoning, it is important to distinguish between (a) the process and (b) the result. By definition, the process itself is non-discursive i.e. it cannot be communicated by laying out a chain of logical inferences. About the process we must remain silent, or communicate it by metaphors, analogies or by various forms of artistic expression; that is precisely why the arts play such an important role in religion and the experiences of religious life. However, the result, i.e. the conclusions we reach or the actions we take on the basis of the non-discursive process must, at the very least, not contradict the Writing’s emphasis on rationality. The Writings would be weakened by a serious self-contradiction in their epistemology if rationality and ‘other ways of knowing’ come into conflict instead of complementing or at least being neutral to each other. Even if the process of attaining knowledge is non-discursive, the results must still make sense in and be applicable to this world. If they do not, they will simply be irrational – something which the Writings reject. It is our contention that both the discursive and non-discursive results complement each other and form a unified whole.

 

            It is noteworthy that irrationality has only negative connotations in the Writings.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá associates the irrational with the “foolish,”[245] and with the “irrational drinker.”[246] Shoghi Effendi associates it with the “illogical,”[247] with “irrational instincts of youth, its follies, its prodigality, its pride, its self-assurance, its rebelliousness, and contempt of discipline”[248] and “superstition.”[249] Irrationality has no place in the Bahá’í quest for knowledge and truth.

           

            The first kind of non-discursive cogitation concerns the heart, which, according to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, is not in conflict with the mind or reason: “The world of minds corresponds with the world of hearts.[250] In other words, the heart and mind are distinct, but not opposed, i.e. they correlated like two sides of a coin, each side being necessary to the existence of the other. This means they are compatible and consistent and, therefore, complementary and able to work together. Such coordination is made clear in the following statement:

 

If religious belief and doctrine is at variance with reason, it proceeds from the limited mind of man and not from God; therefore, it is unworthy of belief and not deserving of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith is impossible. How can man believe that which he knows to be opposed to reason? Is this possible? Can the heart accept that which reason denies? Reason is the first faculty of man and the religion of God is in harmony with it.[251]

 

There are several noteworthy issues here. First, is the suggestion that what is rational comes from God, and what is irrational comes from the human mind. Here, too, God is associated with rationality – though this trait does not, of course, exhaust His nature. Second, the heart cannot find rest in beliefs and doctrines that are “at variance with reason.” In other words, the heart cannot find rest in the irrational and even more – “real faith” in the irrational is “impossible.” This suggests that apparent faith in the irrational is spurious. The heart cannot accept ideas that violate reason which means that in some sense the heart is rational too or at least sufficiently sensitive to rationality to make it a requirement. Finally, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá affirms reason as “the first faculty of man” which is to say our distinguishing and highest feature. For this reason, religion must be in “harmony” with reason since otherwise religion will be incomprehensible to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He also says, the human spirit “is also existent in the heart, which organ is largely connected with the brain or the center of the mind.”[252]

Here, too, a connection between heart and mind is indicated. That is why ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “The principles of the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh should be carefully studied, one by one, until they are realized and understood by mind and heart.”[253] This, and numerous other quotations show the two co-operating, which implies that despite differences of process, they are unified in their discoveries and conclusions.                      

           

Throughout the Writings we are instructed to “ponder in [our] hearts”[254]  a variety of subjects such as Bahá'u'lláh’s prophesies,[255] “the mysteries of Divine Revelation,”[256] and the social principles of the Faith.[257] In other words, the heart, like reason, is able to cogitate, assess, reflect, analyze, understand and conclude. For example, Bahá'u'lláh says, “Ponder this in thine heart, that thou mayest comprehend its meaning,”[258] and “Ponder this in thine heart, that the truth may be revealed unto thee”[259] thereby showing that the heart can examine, reflect on, understand and comprehend the truth. The heart has an epistemological function as indicated by the phrase “understanding heart.”[260] The heart’s function in acquiring truth is noted elsewhere as well: “May your hearts become clear and pure like unto polished mirrors in which may be reflected the full glory of the Sun of Truth”[261] and “men of enlightened heart worship truth on whatever horizon it appears.”[262] It also has a cognitive function, as indicated by the phrase, “sight of thy heart”[263] which is to say that in its own way, the heart can perceive things, in this case, “intellectual realities” among which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá lists “all the qualities and admirable perfections of man”[264] and “love.”[265] The heart is also described as a “spiritual faculty”[266] which is gifted “spiritual susceptibilities”[267] which is to say it is open to spiritual influences: “reflections of the spirit and impressions of the Divine are now mirrored clear and sharp in the deep heart's core.”[268]

 

However, we are still left with the question of what it means to ‘ponder in our hearts.’ How can we ‘ponder’ or reach understandings or conclusions without abstract concepts or discursive logical operations or, possibly, even without words? How can we ‘think’ or “ponder” this way? On the basis of our studies, we conclude that the Writings give no clear answer to these questions for the obvious reason that it is impossible to provide a discursive account of the non-discursive heart processes. By their very nature, these must remain mysterious though, as previously noted, the conclusions reached by these processes must be rational or at least not offend against rationality.

 

Nonetheless, the Writings do provide some clues to help us develop a sense of what is meant. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes,

For example, the mind and the spirit of man are cognizant of the conditions and states of the members and component parts of the body, and are aware of all the physical sensations; in the same way, they are aware of their power, of their feelings, and of their spiritual conditions. This is the knowledge of being which man realizes and perceives, for the spirit surrounds the body and is aware of its sensations and powers. This knowledge is not the outcome of effort and study. It is an existing thing; it is an absolute gift.[269]

Knowledge of our own inner, physical states and heart-thinking (if we may call it that) is not based on a clear-cut subject-object division as are all other kinds of knowledge and thought. When we perceive a tree or think about an idea, there is a difference between the object of thought and the person thinking, i.e. between subject and object, the knower and what is known. We are not the tree or the Greek concept of tragedy and therefore must consciously exert “effort and study” to know and think about them. We apply conscious, discursive reason to them precisely because they require “effort and study.” However, things are different with our inner bodily and spiritual states. Here, we are both subject and object, knower and known, and this makes ‘heart-knowledge and heart-thinking fundamentally different from discursive knowing and thought. It is a direct, immediate, intimate “knowledge of being” not a mediated, objective knowledge about being that can be acquired by “effort and study.” To use a common phrase, we “just know” because it is “knowledge of [our] being.”

 

            Furthermore, given the consistent association of the heart with various kinds of

love in the Writings, it seems likely that heart-thinking is intimately connected with

love, i.e. the ‘agapeic’[270] aspects of human existence. These include sympathy, empathy, personal and existential concern, compassion and devotion. Thus, when we “ponder in [our] hearts” it seems likely that we ‘think’ under the guidance of, or in the light of, love as the fundamental force in the cosmos: “Love is the fundamental principle of God's purpose for man, and He has commanded us to love each other even as He loves us.”[271]

When pondering in our hearts, we observe and deliberate about people, things and issues from the perspective of God’s love as reflected in us and thereby reach our conclusions. How exactly this happens, cannot, as said before, be discursively explained. It is a process that must be personally experienced directly to be understood. In that way, it resembles what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says about our understanding of immortality:

 

But if the human spirit will rejoice and be attracted to the Kingdom of God, if the inner sight becomes opened, and the spiritual hearing strengthened, and the spiritual feelings predominant, he will see the immortality of the spirit as clearly as he sees the sun[272]

 

In other words, heart-ponderings and its conclusions are immediate experiences – like seeing the sun – and, therefore, can only be described – if at all – by poetic devices such as symbols, metaphors and analogies. They cannot be explained discursively. This, we hasten to recall, does not mean that non-discursive heart-thought and discursive thinking are opposed to each other: “The world of minds corresponds with the world of hearts.[273]

 

The Uses of Reason in the Writings

 

            We shall now examine how reason is actually used in the Writings. Since ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that “Religion must stand the analysis of reason”[274] it is evident that reason may be applied not only to empirical, physical reality but also to spiritual, non-material issues. Obviously, if religion must withstand “the analysis of reason,” then reason must be able to tell us something about religion and spirituality, and what it can tell us is reliable enough to make this statement feasible. 

 

The intellectual proofs of Divinity are based upon observation and evidence which constitute decisive argument, logically proving the reality of Divinity, the effulgence of mercy, the certainty of inspiration and immortality of the spirit. This is, in reality, the science of Divinity. (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 326)

 

In other words, the existence of God – Who is absolutely non-material – can be

“decisive[ly]” proven by reason and logic, a view re-affirmed when he says, the

 “existence of the Divine Being hath been clearly established, on the basis of logical proofs.”[275] (SWB, p. 46) He even lists a series of metaphysical points which logical reasoning can prove, such as a “logical proof of the immortality of the spirit”[276] and says, “The Unity of God is logical, and this idea is not antagonistic to the conclusions arrived at by scientific study.”[277] He adds, “All religions teach that we must do good, that we must be generous, sincere, truthful, law-abiding, and faithful; all this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress.”[278] Finally, in a generalized statement about reason and logic in regards to religious-metaphysical questions, he says,

 

In divine questions we must not depend entirely upon the heritage of tradition and former human experience; nay, rather, we must exercise reason, analyze and logically examine the facts presented so that confidence will be inspired and faith attained.[279]

 

It is noteworthy that in this passage, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sees the exercise of reason, analysis and logic as necessary to the inspiration of confidence and the attainment of faith. Thus, we must conclude that reason and logic are necessary (though not sufficient) to faith; ignoring them would, in fact, undermine faith. He says, “If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible, and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation.”[280] Perhaps the following statement best sums up Abdu’l-Baha’s teachings about the relationship between faith and reason:

 

If religious belief and doctrine is at variance with reason, it proceeds from the limited mind of man and not from God; therefore, it is unworthy of belief and not deserving of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith is impossible. How can man believe that which he knows to be opposed to reason? Is this possible? Can the heart accept that which reason denies? Reason is the first faculty of man[281]

 

Not only does ‘Abdu’l-Bahá connect reason and spirituality in this statement, he also connects the heart

 

 

 

 

‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  uses logic in ethics as well. Referring to prejudice against women, he says,

 

Inasmuch as we find no ground for distinction or superiority according to the creative wisdom in the lower kingdoms, is it logical or becoming of man to make such distinction in regard to himself?” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 75; emphasis added)

 

In effect, he is pointing out that gender prejudice is a logical error, a failure in reasoning.

More generally, he declares “Now, all questions of morality contained in the spiritual, immutable law of every religion are logically right.” (Paris Talks, p. 142; emphasis added) In other words, he proclaims that what Shoghi Effendi calls the “eternal verities” (The Promised Day Is Come, p. 108), i.e. the “spiritually immutable laws” are correct in terms of their underlying logic. Here, too, logical consistency is an attribute of revelation. 

 

            The final limit on reason to be considered is to

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10: The Uses of Reason in the Bahá’í Writings

 

           

Know then that the Lord God possesseth invisible realms which the human intellect can never hope to fathom nor the mind of man conceive. When once thou hast cleansed the channel of thy spiritual sense from the pollution of this worldly life, then wilt thou breathe in the sweet scents of holiness that blow from the blissful bowers of that heavenly land.[282]

 

The message is clear: there are limits to what the human intellect can understand but there ways of overcoming this limitation.

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Moderate Rationalism      

The limits of reason lead us to a basic insight about human knowledge: we humans can know more than we can say, i.e. that discursive knowledge is not the limit of human knowing, cf Whitehead;  Bloch?

INTUITIVE BODY KNOWLEDGE

 

Rationality and discursiveness

Cultivate spiritual susceptibilities within a universal religious/social outlook.

KNOW MORE THAN WE CAN PROVE?

“spiritual susceptibilities”

 

The facts outlined above lead to two conclusions about reason and the Bahá’í Writings. First, the Writings teach a moderate rationalism, i.e. they teach that reason

is necessary but not by itself sufficient to obtain knowledge about the physical world and about “ideal” or spiritual matters.[283] The Writings thus occupy a middle ground between strict rationalism which says that reason is the only valid way to acquire all types of knowledge and skepticism which says that reason is irrelevant because in the last analysis, we do not even know if there is any real knowledge for humans to acquire. There are only opinions all of which are equally valid or invalid. Such skepticism finds no support in the Writings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “God has created man in order that he may perceive the verity of existence and endowed him with mind or reason to discover truth.”[284] He also says, “He [God] has endowed him [man] with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth.”[285] Clearly, truth exists and is discoverable by human reason.

 

Since truth exists and can be discovered by reason, several questions arise. The most important of these concerns the standard by which truth can be identified and distinguished from error. How do we know when we have discovered truth? Do the Writings give us a reliable standard that we can use to at least identify untenable viewpoints? How could God expect us to seek and find the truth if He gives us no reliable standard by which to find it – or at least to avoid falsehoods? If we do not have a principle by which to distinguish tenable from untenable views do we have to accept all views since all can make equal claims to tenability, i.e. “anything goes.”[286] This would destroy any sensible meaning in Bahá'u'lláh’s injunction to investigate truth for ourselves because we could never know if we had the truth or even a probable truth. Without an accessible standard for truth, Bahá'u'lláh would, in effect, be undermining His own command and making it impossible and pointless to obey. In our view, Manifestations do not make such elementary logical errors. Nor can we say the Writings constitute the standard of evaluation. In the first place, we still need a standard by which to judge among competing interpretations of the Writings themselves, and, in the second place, the Writings refer us to reason as the basic tool for making such judgments.

 

If we say religion is opposed to science, we lack knowledge of either true science or true religion, for both are founded upon the premises and conclusions of reason, and both must bear its test.[287]

 

In other words, we are to use reason as our standard since both religion and science are “founded upon the premises and conclusions of reason.” This suggests that viewpoints that are in logical conflict with the teachings either directly or by implication, or have internal rational problems of their own are untenable and must be scrapped or revised.

 

            It is important to be clear about the need for a standard by which to test and evaluate ideas: without such a standard we would be lost in a welter of truth-claims, viewpoints, beliefs and visions. At the very least, we would be unable to differentiate irrational from rational proposals and left in perpetual doubt as to what to believe and/or do. Without a reliable standard to judge ideas, we can easily slip into skepticism in which all ideas become ‘interesting suggestions’ none of which can elicit commitment because we cannot know if anything is really true. Alternatively, we can slide into relativism in which there is no standard by which to distinguish tenable from untenable claims. In that situation, it is all too easy to adopt our personal viewpoints, tastes, needs, advantages and preferences as the standard for indentifying truth.  In short, we have purely subjective standards for truth and tenability and, therefore, as many truths as there are truth-claims. All alleged truths are only ‘true for me’ and ‘true for you.’

 

Although superficially attractive for their open-mindedness and tolerance, among other things, relativism and subjectivism makes it impossible to establish universal ethical principles as well as the unification of humankind within the framework of one worldview to unify humanity. This approach can never realize ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s vision in which “All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race, and become a single people.”[288] Nor will this approach agree

 

That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest

 instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one

 universal Cause, one common Faith.[289]

 

If there is to be one Cause and one Faith that is universal and common, then there must be a “golden core” [290] of principles that are necessarily shared by all standpoints, stages of personal development, tastes, preferences and so on. Without that “golden core” neither the Cause nor the Faith would be universal or common. Furthermore, if there is such a “golden core,” then there must be at least one criterion by which to identify ideas which do or not fit in. Otherwise, we are back at the “anything goes” problem. Once we are trapped in the “anything goes” problem, numerous signature Bahá’í teachings fall by the wayside. For example, how could we assert that revelation is “progressive” if all ideas and customs are equally valuable reflections of a personal or collective viewpoint? The very meaning of “progressive” requires the admission that some viewpoints are more tenable or suitable than others which have been overtaken by historical circumstances.

 

 

 

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

 

 

 

 

According to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, humans have subjective knowledge “which is the knowledge of being, is intuitive; it is like the cognizance and consciousness that man has of himself.”[291] He adds,

 

the mind and the spirit of man are cognizant of the conditions and states of the members and component parts of the body, and are aware of all the physical sensations; in the same way, they are aware of their power, of their feelings, and of their spiritual conditions. This is the knowledge of being which man realizes and perceives, for the spirit surrounds the body and is aware of its sensations and powers. This knowledge is not the outcome of effort and study. It is an existing thing; it is an absolute gift.[292]

 

This, of course, is consistent with the principle that “that which surrounds is greater than the surrounded, and the surrounded cannot contain that by which it is surrounded, nor comprehend its reality.”[293] Since the spirit “surrounds the body,” it is privy to the interior or subjective knowledge of the body, as well as our “spiritual conditions.”[294] This is also true of humans vis-à-vis the lower level

 

 

 

Yet there is a third reality in man, the spiritual reality. Through its medium one discovers spiritual revelations, a celestial faculty which is infinite as regards the intellectual as well as physical realms. That power is conferred upon man through the breath of the Holy Spirit. It is an eternal reality, an indestructible reality, a reality belonging to the divine, supernatural kingdom; a reality whereby the world is illumined, a reality which grants unto man eternal life. This third, spiritual reality it is which discovers past events and looks along the vistas of the future. It is the ray of the Sun of Reality. The spiritual world is enlightened through it, the whole of the Kingdom is being illumined by it. It enjoys the world of beatitude, a world which had not beginning and which shall have no end.

 

That celestial reality, the third reality of the microcosm, delivers man from the material world.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 51)

 

 

This is a rational proof which we are giving, so that the wise may  326  weigh it in the balance of reason and justice. But if the human spirit will rejoice and be attracted to the Kingdom of God, if the inner sight becomes opened, and the spiritual hearing strengthened, and the spiritual feelings predominant, he will see the immortality of the spirit as clearly as he sees the sun, and the glad tidings and signs of God will encompass him.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 325)

 

 Other ways of knowing

 

True distinction among mankind is through divine bestowals and receiving the intuitions of the Holy Spirit. If man does not become the recipient of the heavenly bestowals and spiritual bounties, he remains in the plane and kingdom of the animal.  

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 316)

 

 

SYNONYMS FOR REASON AND MIND

 

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

           

2.1 What is Reason in the Writings? III

 

            Reason in the Writings is more than consistency with classical logic. It also includes causal thinking.

 

           

 

 

 

            The facts outlined above lead to two conclusions about reason and the Bahá’í Writings. First, the Writings teach a moderate rationalism, i.e. they teach that reason

is necessary but not by itself sufficient to obtain knowledge about the physical world and about “ideal” or spiritual matters.[295] The Writings thus occupy a middle ground between strict rationalism which says that reason alone is necessary and sufficient to acquire all types of knowledge and skepticism which says that reason is irrelevant because in the last analysis, we do not even know if there is any real knowledge for humans to acquire. There are only opinions. Such skepticism finds no support in the Writings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “God has created man in order that he may perceive the verity of existence and endowed him with mind or reason to discover truth.”[296] He also says, “He [God] has endowed him [man] with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth.”[297] Clearly, truth exists and is discoverable by human reason.

 

Since truth exists and can be discovered by reason, several questions arise, the most important of which concerns the standard by which truth can be identified and distinguished from error. How do we know when we have discovered truth? Do the Writings give us a reliable standard that we can use to at least identify untenable viewpoints? How could God expect us to seek and find the truth if He gives us no reliable standard by which to find it – or at least to avoid falsehoods? If we do not have a principle by which to distinguish tenable from untenable views we have to accept all views since all can make equal claims to tenability, i.e. “anything goes.”[298] This would destroy any sensible meaning in Bahá'u'lláh’s injunction to investigate truth for ourselves because we could never know if we had the truth or even a probable truth. Bahá'u'lláh would, in effect, be undermining His own command and making it impossible and pointless to obey. In our view, Manifestations do not make such elementary logical errors. Nor can we say the Writings constitute the standard of evaluation. In the first place, we still need a standard by which to judge among competing interpretations of the Writings themselves, and, in the second place, the Writings refer us to reason as the basic tool for making such judgments.

 

If we say religion is opposed to science, we lack knowledge of either true science or true religion, for both are founded upon the premises and conclusions of reason, and both must bear its test.[299]

 

In other words, we are to use reason as our standard since both religion and science are “founded upon the premises and conclusions of reason.” This suggests that viewpoints that are in logical conflict with the teachings either directly or by implication, or have internal rational problems of their own are untenable and must be scrapped or revised.

 

            It is important to be clear about the need for a standard by which to test and evaluate ideas: without such a standard we would be lost in a welter of truth-claims, viewpoints, beliefs and visions. At the very least, we would be unable to differentiate irrational from rational proposals and left in perpetual doubt as to what to believe and/or do. Without a reliable standard to judge ideas, we can easily slip into skepticism in which all ideas become ‘interesting suggestions’ none of which can elicit commitment because we cannot know if anything is really true. Alternatively, we can slide into relativism in which there is no standard by which to distinguish tenable from untenable claims. In that situation it is all too easy to adopt our personal viewpoints, tastes, needs, advantages and preferences as the standard for indentifying truth.  In short, we have purely subjective standards for truth and tenability and, therefore, as many truths as there are truth-claims. All alleged truths are only ‘true for me’ and ‘true for you.’

 

Although superficially attractive for its open-mindedness and tolerance, among other things, relativism and subjectivism makes it impossible to establish universal ethical principles as well as the unification of humankind within the framework of one worldview to unify humanity. This approach can never realize ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s vision in which “All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race, and become a single people.”[300] Nor will this approach to agree that

 

That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest

 instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one

 universal Cause, one common Faith.[301]

 

If there is to be one Cause and one Faith that is universal and common, then there must be a “golden core” [302] of principles that are necessarily shared by all standpoints, stages of personal development, tastes, preferences and so on. Without that “golden core” neither the Cause nor the Faith would be universal or common. Furthermore, if there is such a “golden core,” then there must be at least one criterion by which to identify ideas which do or not fit in. Otherwise, we are back at the “anything goes” problem. Once we are trapped in the “anything goes” problem, numerous signature Bahá’í teachings fall by the wayside. For example, how could we assert that revelation is “progressive” if all ideas and customs are equally valuable reflections of a personal or collective viewpoint? The very meaning of “progressive” requires the admission that some viewpoints are more tenable or suitable than others which have been overtaken by historical circumstances.

 

            The second conclusion this paper draws about reason and the Bahá’í Writings is that the Writings exemplify a position I call “rational perspectivism.”[303] Rational perspectivism is based on three components. The first is the extraordinary confidence in reason exemplified by the Bahá’í Writings. Even though it is a moderate rationalism, the extent and depth of this confidence in reason is startling and unparalleled in the scriptures of any previous dispensation. On the basis of this enormous confidence in reason, we come to the second component of rational perspectivism: reason and rationality are the standard which the Writings consistently encourage us to use in the quest for knowledge and truth. The full meaning of reason and rationality will be explored below. The third component of rational perspectivism is that reason is the negative gate-keeper,         CF POPPER’S FASIFIABILITY TEST – “CRITICAL RATIONALISM”

 

Wiki : What is held to be true today might be improved upon later on. Therefore, Popper holds that a theory that has not yet been falsified has a certain degree of truth or verisimilitude in it. This does not mean that at no stage can truth be known. What it means is that with every improved version of the truth or verisimilitude, human knowledge draws closer to truth. Thus 'human truth' will never reach the truth but it will continue to draw closer to it. Whatever resists falsification will remain a part of human truth until it is falsified or improved upon. -          USE IDEAS NOT TERM CRIT RAT-

)  i.e. reason can help us identify and reject or at least side-line untenable views. However, any views that are consistent with reason are tenable, even though they may contradict each other. In other words, reason cannot impose any limits on the diversity of rational understandings of the world or of the Writings.  In this way rational perspectivism balances maximal scope for diversity of thought without falling prey to a rationally uncritical outlook in which “anything goes.” Viewpoints may differ sharply but to avoid the dangers of skepticism and subjectivism, they must at the very least, be rational which includes not being in logical conflict with the Writings. As long as these criteria are met, any number of viewpoints may be accepted. No single perspective can claim exclusive dominance among the diversity of rationally tenable views but at the same time, we retain the ability to use our capacities for critical thinking to reject logically untenable positions. 

 

We may visualize rational perspectivism by using the garden metaphor so beloved by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He distinguishes between the cultivated and uncultivated plants, i.e. between the plants in the garden and those outside in their “wild state” (SAQ 194), i.e. between those that are fruitful and those that are not. To be included within the garden, a plant must meet the standard of cultivation (i.e. reason) – which many, but not all – plants (perspectives) do. This does not preclude other differences among the cultivated plants within the garden. Nor does it preclude a wild plant being trained, i.e. corrected (re-interpreted) to meet certain criteria and, thereby, gain entry into the garden.[304]

 

Rational perspectivism does not prevent us from examining the riches or gems of the Bahá’í Writings from a variety of philosophical perspectives because rationality is not something that belongs to only one culture or another. It is a human universal. Indeed, it is the distinguishing feature of the human soul:

 

The human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal is the rational soul, and these two names -- the human spirit and the rational soul -- designate one thing. This spirit, which in the terminology of the philosophers is the rational soul, embraces all beings[305]

 

In other words, to be human in any culture at any historical time means to possess a rational soul. It is something that all humans have in common, and, therefore, is an essential component in any “universal Cause.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also states, “The human spirit consists of the rational, or logical, reasoning faculty, which apprehends general ideas and things intelligible and perceptible.” [306] Since rationality is a human universal, there is no cause to expect that world-views from different cultures are deprived of it. Consequently, there are no grounds to assume a priori that the standard of reason will exclude all philosophies except those in the Western tradition and deny us the riches of these non-Western world-views in studying the Bahá’í Writings. Furthermore, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s identification of the human soul with rationality logically entails that in reason we have found one of the essential criteria by which to judge among competing truth-claims. Rationality is the inherent resource upon which all humans can draw when developing and evaluating ideas and experiences and it is an intrinsic resource through which the Manifestation can appeal to all human beings across cultural, national and religious lines.

 

Rational perspectivism should not be confused with relativism which it resembles in its openness to diversity. Relativism is a combination of two basic propositions: first, all truth-claims are no more than interpretations – personal and/or social understandings, and second, there is no absolute, neutral standpoint from which to adjudicate among the various truth-claims. Because we cannot adjudicate among them, we have to accept them all, at least in principle. Each viewpoint is the product of our personal and/or social “horizon of understanding” (Gadamer); our interpretations reflect our situation in the world, our nature and our stage of psycho-spiritual development. Thus, everyone’s viewpoint is ‘true for him/her’ and that is as much judgment as we can pass. After all, there is no principle by which we can evaluate or differentiate among the diversity of views. The numerous logical and other philosophical problems associated with relativism will be explicated as necessary throughout our paper.

 

For now, it suffices to point out that all forms of relativism – for example, ethical, cultural, metaphysical, cognitive relativism – suffer from the same basic logical deficits. No form of relativism is logically isolated from these problems for the obvious reason that they all share the rejection of a fixed standard of judgment. This is easy to illustrate. The most basic philosophical problem of relativism is that it is self-refuting. If we assert that all truth-claims are only relatively true, then we are saying that our assertion about truth-claims is absolutely or universally true – which violates the very claim we are trying to establish. All points of view are relative – except this particular point of view which is absolute! This is not only a self-refutation, it is a case of special pleading. If our assertion itself is taken as only relatively true, then it is possible that some truth-claims are, in fact, absolutely true – which also undermines the original assertion. This self-refutation is a serious problem because a philosophical position that cannot even state its fundamental principle without self-contradiction is not something we can rely and build on. All special forms of relativism suffer from this common problem. For example, we might claim cognitive relativism in metaphysics is exempt from this general difficulty. However, the self-refutation and self-undermining remains. To assert cognitive relativism in metaphysics, i.e. to assert that all metaphysical truth-claims are only relatively true, is in fact to assert an absolute claim about metaphysics, namely that no absolute claim is possible. This refutes itself. If we say that our original claim is also relative, then we have re-opened the possibility that some absolute might exist and this weakens, or undermines, the original contention.

 

The crucial difference between relativism and rational perspectivism is that the latter recognizes a standard by which to judge truth-claims. The standard most emphasized throughout the Writings is reason which we shall carefully explore in this paper. For now, let us recall ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement that “God has created man and endowed him with the power of reason whereby he may arrive at valid conclusions.”[307] Not only does this statement clearly identify reason as a means by which to reach “valid conclusions” but it also entails the consequence that if some conclusions are valid then others must be invalid. Otherwise, there would be no point in describing a conclusion as “valid.” Thus, reason can help us distinguish between tenable and untenable propositions, between truth and falsity. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also states that

 

He has endowed him with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth, and that which he finds real and true he must accept[308]

 

In other words, reason helps us to discover truth, and we are obligated to accept this truth. Conversely, to comply with the instructions to use reason and are obligated to accept truth, then we are equally obligated to reject or at least set aside for further study ideas that cannot meet the standard of reason. In this passage (and others like it) we also discern the outline of the concept of reason as a negative gate-keeper which rejects or sets aside all ideas that cannot meet rational standards but accepts all ideas that can. This assures respect for diversity while, at the same time, weeding out rationally untenable and false ideas at least until they are amended.

 

 

           

 

III. Moderate Rationalism

 

            If reason alone cannot provide certain knowledge, the question arises whether such knowledge is attainable. The positive answer is best understood in light of the Writings’ espousal of “moderate rationalism.” Moderate rationalism adopts a middle ground between an extreme rationalism that believes reason is the only source of knowledge, and skepticism that rejects all methods of acquiring knowledge as unreliable, and, therefore, asserts nothing. Because it accepts the standard of reason, it also avoids the dangers of subjectivism which sees personal standpoints, stages of development, preferences, advantages and even tastes determining what is or is not true. Moderate rationalism maintains that reason is a necessary but is not a sufficient condition for complete and certain knowledge. It is the first, but necessary step in determining whether or not a proposition is tenable.

 

            Because moderate rationalism believes that reason is necessary but not sufficient to obtain absolutely certain knowledge, it is open to ‘other ways of knowing’ which are trans-rational. These ‘other ways of knowing’ do not contradict reason but complete it, by, among other things, providing the absolute certainty reason cannot attain on its own.

The ‘other way of knowing’ mentioned by the Writings in this regard is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Having critiqued various ways of getting knowledge, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states,

 

What then remains? How shall we attain the reality of knowledge? By the breaths and promptings of the Holy Spirit, which is light and knowledge itself. Through it the human mind is quickened and fortified into true conclusions and perfect knowledge[309]

 

In other words, we can get knowledge of the highest order, i.e. both true and absolutely certain – “the reality of knowledge” – from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is identified with “knowledge itself” which ‘quickens’ or enlivens, inspires and guides the human mind to reach “true conclusions.” In other words, reaching “true conclusions” is possible for man, at least in principle.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit when he states,

 

But the bounty of the Holy Spirit gives the true method of comprehension which is infallible and indubitable. This is through the help of the Holy Spirit which comes to man, and this is the condition in which certainty can alone be attained.[310]

 

He has bestowed upon him the power of intellect so that through the attribute of reason, when fortified by the Holy Spirit, he may penetrate and discover ideal realities and become informed of the mysteries of the world of significances.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 303)

 

The Holy Spirit is needed to attain certainty because reason by itself is necessary – knowledge cannot be irrational – but is not sufficient. However, the application of this criterion for certainty presents problems since it is difficult to know whether or not we are being guided by the Holy Spirit. The best we can do in a practical way is to ensure that our reasoning is logically correct and guide our conclusions by the Writings whenever they have something to say about a subject.

 

Despite his references to the Holy Spirit

 

             There may yet be another limitation on reason, namely, that reason only applies to the physical world and cannot tell us anything of spiritual topics. This, however, is not supported by the Writings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  writes, “Religion must stand the analysis of reason.”[311] Religion, of course, includes spiritual, non-material issues. Obviously, if religion must withstand “the analysis of reason,” then reason must be able to tell us something about religion and what it can tell us is reliable enough to make this statement feasible.  Otherwise it would not be religion. He also asserts that

 

The intellectual proofs of Divinity are based upon observation and evidence which constitute decisive argument, logically proving the reality of Divinity, the effulgence of mercy, the certainty of inspiration and immortality of the spirit. This is, in reality, the science of Divinity. (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 326)

 

In other words, the existence of God – Who is absolutely non-material – can be “decisive[ly]” proven by reason and logic, a view re-affirmed when he says, the “existence of the Divine Being hath been clearly established, on the basis of logical proofs.” (SWB, p. 46) He even lists a series of metaphysical points which logical reasoning can prove, such as a “logical proof of the immortality of the spirit” (SAQ, 225), and says, “The Unity of God is logical, and this idea is not antagonistic to the conclusions arrived at by scientific study.” He adds, “All religions teach that we must do good, that we must be generous, sincere, truthful, law-abiding, and faithful; all this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress.” (Paris Talks, p. 141; emphasis added) Finally, in a generalized statement about reason and logic in regards to religious-metaphysical questions, he says,

 

In divine questions we must not depend entirely upon the heritage of tradition and former human experience; nay, rather, we must exercise reason, analyze and logically examine the facts presented so that confidence will be inspired and faith attained. (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 327; emphasis added)

 

It is noteworthy that in this passage, ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  sees the exercise of reason, analysis and logic as necessary to the inspiration of confidence and the attainment of faith. Thus, we must conclude that reason and logic are necessary (though not sufficient) to faith; ignoring them would, in fact, undermine faith. He says, “If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible, and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 181) Perhaps the following statement best sums up Abdu’l-Baha’s teachings about the relationship between faith and reason:

 

If religious belief and doctrine is at variance with reason, it proceeds from the limited mind of man and not from God; therefore, it is unworthy of belief and not deserving of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith is impossible. How can man believe that which he knows to be opposed to reason? Is this possible? Can the heart accept that which reason denies? Reason is the first faculty of man (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231)

 

‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  uses logic in ethics as well. Referring to prejudice against women, he says,

 

Inasmuch as we find no ground for distinction or superiority according to the creative wisdom in the lower kingdoms, is it logical or becoming of man to make such distinction in regard to himself?” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 75; emphasis added)

 

In effect, he is pointing out that gender prejudice is a logical error, a failure in reasoning.

More generally, he declares “Now, all questions of morality contained in the spiritual, immutable law of every religion are logically right.” (Paris Talks, p. 142; emphasis added) In other words, he proclaims that what Shoghi Effendi calls the “eternal verities” (The Promised Day Is Come, p. 108), i.e. the “spiritually immutable laws” are correct in terms of their underlying logic. Here, too, logical consistency is an attribute of revelation. 

 

            The final limit on reason to be considered is to

 

 

           

 

III. What Do the Writings Mean By ‘Reason’?

 

           

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we shall see below, by reason the Bahá’í Writings means thinking that follows the law of non-contradiction (PNC) which can be expressed in various forms. The best known and most used of these is Aristotelian which says that a statement cannot be true and untrue at the same time, in the same sense and in the same context. For example, it cannot be true that Bill is hungry and not hungry at the same time in the same sense in the same context. He may not be hungry for dinner but ‘hungry’ for a football games. Obviously, the sense of ‘hungry’ has changed. However, he cannot be hungry and not hungry for dinner at the same time. Furthermore, it cannot be true and untrue at the same time and in the same sense that on September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers collapsed. More abstractly, A cannot be A and not-A at the same time in the same sense in the same context, or, A cannot have quality C and not have C at the same time in the same sense in the same context. This works both at the intellectual and practical level. For example, we cannot say humankind has and has not a “rational soul;” it either does or it does not. God is either omniscient or He is not. Fire cannot be hot and cold at the same time in the same way. It is hot to us and cold in comparison to the sun but it cannot be hot and cold to the sun simultaneously. To claim otherwise is a logical self-contradiction i.e. the two statements cancel each other out. The strength of the law of non-contradiction is that no matter what people or cultures say or claim to believe, in real life action they act as if this law is true. People do not think there is a truck coming and not coming down the road at them; no one really believes that there is a fire cooking and not cooking breakfast. If we seriously acted on such contradictory beliefs, our survival – and, indeed, the survival of the human race – would be imperiled. Theoretical objections to the LNCpale in comparison the practical necessity of following it.  

 

There have been attempts to deny the LNCbut none of them have been successful, and virtually all logicians accept the LNCas foundational to logical reasoning. The first – and most obvious – problem in denying the LNCis that we have to assume the LNCto disprove it. In other words, such attempts are self-refuting. To deny the LNCassumes that any contradiction of our denial is false. But if the LNCis not valid, why should contradicting it be false?” To claim that the LNCis “false,” assumes that we must choose between the claim itself being true and false – which re-affirms the PNC. Since the LNCcannot be denied without affirming it, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it is logically undeniable. An amusing side-light to the LNCis the Persian philosopher Avicenna’s remark that

 

Anyone who denies the Law of Non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as to not be burned. Avicenna, (Avicenna, Metaphysics, I; commenting on Aristotle, Topics I.11.105a4–5.)

 

A second law or axiom of classical logic is the law of the excluded middle.

 

 and if we deny the latter, we also deny the PNC. However, multi-valued logical systems which deny the law of the excluded middle and assert there may be other true values than “true” and “false” do not claim that a statement can have more than one truth value in the same sense at the same time in the same context. Thus, multi-valued logics do not deny the PNC. A third argument states that the LNCis simply a product of western cultural thinking. Nagarjuna’s tetralemma’s are a famous example of non-western logic that supposedly denies the PNC. However, in his main work, the Verses from the Center, he disproves opposing arguments by showing how they lead to self-contradictory results, and thereby claiming that they have invalidated themselves. In effect, he employs the LNC– although theoretically he denies it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

of the law of non-contradiction, one of the three

basic laws of classic logic. The other two are the law of identity which says that and the law of the excluded middle,

 

 

Underlying this critique is the belief there are other systems of logic that were somehow displaced

 

 

 

 

this use tells us nothing about the validity of classical logic itself. Saying that it has been used for cultural imperialism does not disprove its validity – no matter how much we may dislike “neo-colonialism.” Intercultural politics has no competency to judge the technical validity of any logical system, be it classical or Nagarjunian. Third, as already pointed out above, regardless of what individuals or cultures say they believe, in actual practice they use the LNCand classical logic. In other words, practically speaking, people obey the law of non-contradiction. It is simply unavoidable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            We shall begin our examination of reason and rationality in the Writings with the foundational fact that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá identifies the human spirit as the “rational soul.” He says,

 

The human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal is the rational soul, and these two names -- the human spirit and the rational soul -- designate one thing. This spirit, which in the terminology of the philosophers is the rational soul, embraces all beings, and as far as human ability permits discovers the realities of things and becomes cognizant of their peculiarities and effects, and of the qualities and properties of beings.[312]

 

Possession of a rational soul is the feature that differentiates humankind from animals, i.e. is our essential attribute as a species.[313] Animals – and by implications, machines – do not have it even potentially, i.e. there is no rational capacity in them to actualize. Of course, in some unfortunate human cases, the rational potential remains in or fades into latency but nonetheless such persons are rational in principle – which is not the case for animals and machines. Furthermore, the rational soul “embraces all beings” which in the Bahá’í Writings means that it possesses the powers, virtues and “conditions and states” [314] of all lower degrees of being, i.e. the mineral, the plant and the animal. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “man himself comprehendeth all the stages beneath him. Every superior stage comprehendeth that which is inferior and discovereth the reality thereof.”[315] What is important here is that the knowledge of these “realit[ies]” is only available to the rational soul. Furthermore, if rationality is necessary to acquiring this knowledge then it follows that rationality is also a necessary aspect of the knowledge we gain. Without rationality, it would not be able to call it ‘knowledge’ because we would not be able to understand it. This is made clear by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá when he states,

 

If it [the previous explanation] were otherwise, the foundations of the Religion of God would rest upon an illogical proposition which the mind could never conceive, and how can the mind be forced to believe a thing which it cannot conceive?” (SAQ, p.115; emphasis added).

 

There are two main points here. First, the mind cannot conceive of an “illogical proposition” i.e. we cannot actually form a concept of illogical hypotheses. The mind’s rational nature prevents it from doing so. This does not, of course, prevent rational ideas from being presented symbolically or metaphorically through poetry or through the non-literal language of revelation. Second, the mind cannot be “forced to believe” an inconceivable, i.e. illogical proposition. Here we see the close connection between being logical, being conceivable and being believable, a connection re-enforced by the following statements: “If he believes in spite of his reason, it is rather ignorant superstition than faith”[316] and “If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible, and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation.”[317]

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

            ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also states, “The human spirit consists of the rational, or logical,

reasoning faculty, which apprehends general ideas and things intelligible and

perceptible.”[318]  It is important to note that he identifies the rational with the “logical reasoning faculty” which shows that by ‘reasoning’ he means ‘logical’ reasoning, i.e. reasoning according to the law of non-contradiction to be explored below. This is emphasized again when he asserts, “If religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition.” (Paris Talks, p. 142; emphasis added) Here, too, reason and logic are identified. In the following quotation, this equivalence is extended to the intellect: “Therefore, if religious belief, principle or creed is not in accordance with the intellect and the power of reason, it is surely superstition”[319]

 

           

 If the human soul is rational by nature, and if man’s destiny is spiritual, i.e. to “know [God] and to worship Him,” it is unlikely that the rationality of the soul – our essential attribute distinguishing us from animals – applies only to “our every-day physical world.” It could not distinguish us from animals if it only made us better animals and was unable to help us attain our “spiritual destiny.” (Compilations, Bahá’í Scriptures, # 809, p. 443) Of course, as we shall see below, reason is a necessary but not by itself a sufficient requirement for our spiritual development. Second, ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  speaks of the “rational or logical reasoning faculty” thereby clearly identifying rationality, logic and reasoning.

 

Second, rejecting the “appeal to logic and rationalism” creates difficulties with the Writings which frequently and robustly promote the use of reason – even in metaphysical and religious issues – as essential to the nature of the Bahá’í Faith. Many of these issues deal with the non-physical world which plainly shows that the Writings do not think reason and logic are limited to physical reality. For example, ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  says,

 

I say unto you: weigh carefully in the balance of reason and science everything that is presented to you as religion. If it passes this test, then accept it, for it is truth! If, however, it does not so conform, then reject it, for it is ignorance! (Paris Talks, p. 144)

 

It is worth noting that religion must “pass[]” the test of reason before it should be accepted. In other words, contrary to Momen’s assertion that logic can only refer to “our everyday physical world,” reason is one of the ways to test the genuineness of religious teachings. Obviously, reason can only do so if it is applicable to spiritual issues, i.e. to non-physical issues. Moreover, to do so, reason must be able to reason to valid conclusions about spiritual issues, since if it could not, it could not function as a test for religious teachings. Here is another example of the same criteria: “If religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition.” (Paris Talks, p. 142; emphasis added) In other words, ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá demotes religion that does not conform to “logical reason” to a mere “tradition.” These are strong words indeed, because traditions are precisely what progressive revelation sweeps aside. Manifestations come to up-root traditions and to re-vitalize the “eternal verities.” (The Promised Day Is Come, p. 108) Even stronger is his statement that “[I]f religious belief, principle or creed is not in accordance with the intellect and the power of reason, it is surely superstition.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 64; emphasis added) ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  sums up these teachings that “The foundations of religion are reasonable.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 128). This could not be the case if reason and logic could only operate in our “every-day physical world.”

 

‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  also sees a close connection between reason, the heart and faith. This gives reason an enormous importance in our religious lives which inevitably includes issues related to non-physical realities and which are not confined to “our everyday physical world.” He affirms, “And among the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh is, that religion must be in conformity with science and reason, so that it may influence the hearts of men.” (Tablet to the Hague, p. 5; also in SWB, p. 299; emphasis added) In other words, if a statement is not rational, it cannot “influence the hearts of men.” The way to the heart goes through reason. He states,

 

If religious belief and doctrine is at variance with reason, it proceeds from the limited mind of man and not from God; therefore, it is unworthy of belief and not deserving of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith is impossible. How can man believe that which he knows to be opposed to reason? Is this possible? Can the heart accept that which reason denies? Reason is the first faculty of man, and the religion of God is in harmony with it (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231; emphasis added)

 

The fact that “the heart finds no rest” in unreasonable religious teachings indicates that heart also demands rationality. This is emphasized by ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá ’s rhetorical question, “Can the heart accept that which reason denies?” Obviously, in his view, it cannot. S we shall see below, this leads to the conclusion that both reason and the heart are needed, that neither alone is necessary and sufficient. ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  also explains that “real faith is impossible” without reason, a statement clarified by the following: “If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible, and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 181) Unreasonable ‘faith’ does not give us the intellectual and existential strength and steadfastness we require. It should also be noted that ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  identifies God’s teachings are identified as rational, i.e. in accordance with reason: “the religion of God is in harmony with it.” Indeed, religion that does not harmonize with reason is “not from God.” This is an extremely strong assertion because it makes rationality one of the tests by which we can distinguish true from false religion. Again, it needs to be emphasized that using reason-logic as such a test for true religion precludes limiting reason and rationality to “our everyday physical world” since religious obviously includes metaphysical concerns. In addition, ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  claims that “reason is the first faculty of man.” Although somewhat ambiguous, this declaration shows the importance of reason as that with which the “religion of God” is harmonized. It also links reason to knowledge and conclusions that are not limited to “our every-day physical world.” 

 

            Furthermore, he affirms,

 

If it [the previous explanation] were otherwise, the foundations of the Religion of God would rest upon an illogical proposition which the mind could never conceive, and how can the mind be forced to believe a thing which it cannot conceive?” (SAQ, p.115; emphasis added).

 

The importance of this declaration is that it associates the “foundations of the Religion of God” with logic or reason and makes belief dependent on logical conceivability. The significance of logic or reason could not be stated more forcefully. Elsewhere he states, “The foundations of religion are reasonable” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 128). These foundations would obviously include metaphysical matters beyond “our everyday physical world.” Speaking directly to our time, he affirms that “in this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of reason” (SAQ 7; also 197). He says, “Every subject presented to a thoughtful audience must be supported by rational proofs and logical arguments.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 253; emphasis added) It is important to note his use of the imperative “must.”

 

            Third, the importance of rationality – including rationality in regards to metaphysical issues – is emphasized by ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá ’s rejection illogical statements. After all, the purpose of reason is to separate the irrational or illogical from the rational and logical. As already noted, he says,

 

If it [the previous explanation] were otherwise, the foundations of the Religion of God would rest upon an illogical proposition which the mind could never conceive, and how can the mind be forced to believe a thing which it cannot conceive? (SAQ, p.115; emphasis added)

 

The reason why “illogical proposition[s] are not acceptable is obvious: illogical statements cannot be understood, i.e. any claim to know and explain what they mean entangles itself in logical confusions or leads to results that the Writings reject. An important implication of this statement is that the mind cannot even conceive the illogical – and, therefore, belief in it is impossible. This shows that the mind, which is a “power of the soul or spirit (SAQ, p. 209),  is by its very nature rational and designed for rational knowledge.  Elsewhere he affirms “This [argument] is equivalent to saying that the comparative degree exceeds the superlative, that the imperfect includes the perfect, that the pupil surpasses the teacher -- all of which is illogical and impossible.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 81) Here, too, he rejects that which is illogical, adding that illogicalities are “impossible,” i.e. they cannot be real. He identifies the illogical with the ‘inconceivable’ and the ‘unreal.’ So far, then, it is evident that ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  embraces reason and logic and rejects illogicality. In Some Answered Questions (pp. 88, 115) he denies several arguments on grounds of their illogicality. In other words, he expects our arguments to meet the standards of reason and logic.

 

            The fourth problem is that, as we have noted throughout this paper, ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  also uses logic and reason to discuss issues that are metaphysical, i.e. beyond the “our every-day physical world.” (15) Doing so contradicts Momen’s statement that the “Aristotelian standards “are themselves not tenable when we are considering matters that relate to anything outside our every-day physical world” (15). ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  writes, “Religion must stand the analysis of reason.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 175); religion, of course includes spiritual, non-material issues. Otherwise it would not be religion. He also asserts that

 

The intellectual proofs of Divinity are based upon observation and evidence which constitute decisive argument, logically proving the reality of Divinity, the effulgence of mercy, the certainty of inspiration and immortality of the spirit. This is, in reality, the science of Divinity. (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 326)

 

In other words, the existence of God – Who is absolutely non-material – can be “decisive[ly]” proven by reason and logic, a view re-affirmed when he says, the “existence of the Divine Being hath been clearly established, on the basis of logical proofs.” (SWB, p. 46) He even lists a series of metaphysical points which logical reasoning can prove, such as a “logical proof of the immortality of the spirit” (SAQ, 225), and says, “The Unity of God is logical, and this idea is not antagonistic to the conclusions arrived at by scientific study.” He adds, “All religions teach that we must do good, that we must be generous, sincere, truthful, law-abiding, and faithful; all this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress.” (Paris Talks, p. 141; emphasis added) Finally, in a generalized statement about reason and logic in regards to religious-metaphysical questions, he says,

 

In divine questions we must not depend entirely upon the heritage of tradition and former human experience; nay, rather, we must exercise reason, analyze and logically examine the facts presented so that confidence will be inspired and faith attained. (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 327; emphasis added)

 

It is noteworthy that in this passage, ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  sees the exercise of reason, analysis and logic as necessary to the inspiration of confidence and the attainment of faith. Thus, we must conclude that reason and logic are necessary (though not sufficient) to faith; ignoring them would, in fact, undermine faith. He says, “If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible, and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 181) Perhaps the following statement best sums up Abdu’l-Baha’s teachings about the relationship between faith and reason:

 

If religious belief and doctrine is at variance with reason, it proceeds from the limited mind of man and not from God; therefore, it is unworthy of belief and not deserving of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith is impossible. How can man believe that which he knows to be opposed to reason? Is this possible? Can the heart accept that which reason denies? Reason is the first faculty of man (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231)

 

‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  uses logic in ethics as well. Referring to prejudice against women, he says,

 

Inasmuch as we find no ground for distinction or superiority according to the creative wisdom in the lower kingdoms, is it logical or becoming of man to make such distinction in regard to himself?” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 75; emphasis added)

 

In effect, he is pointing out that gender prejudice is a logical error, a failure in reasoning.

More generally, he declares “Now, all questions of morality contained in the spiritual, immutable law of every religion are logically right.” (Paris Talks, p. 142; emphasis added) In other words, he proclaims that what Shoghi Effendi calls the “eternal verities” (The Promised Day Is Come, p. 108), i.e. the “spiritually immutable laws” are correct in terms of their underlying logic. Here, too, logical consistency is an attribute of revelation. 

 

            The fifth problem of relativism, including cognitive relativism: in relativism there is no way of distinguishing truth from error because there is no absolute standpoint from which to make such definitive judgments. Any attempt to make a judgment about truth or error assumes the existence of an absolute standpoint – and this is precisely what relativism denies. Since there is no absolute standard there is no way to judge the truth or error of cognitions, understandings or interpretations. Cognitive relativism – whether in regards to metaphysics or not – is no exception. Because there is no standpoint from which to adjudicate among truth-claims or interpretations of truth-claims, we cannot even decide which one is ‘closer’ to the truth than another. In effect, the standard of truth is purely subjective, i.e. is determined by the interpreter’s point of view, his “horizon of understanding” (Gadamer), his stage of psycho-spiritual development or his psychological nature.  Choosing among various viewpoints we have only our own subjectivity by which to select our preference. Thus, vis-à-vis metaphysics, monism, pantheism, dualism, polytheism and panentheism are all true from some viewpoint – and there is no way to choose among these perspectives. Metaphysics has, in effect, become a Rohrschach test in which our preferred metaphysical system is simply a reflection of our subjective inner state.

 

Thus, truth is no longer the issue; instead, the point of issue has been shifted to the subjective self. One of the most serious results of such a shift is that, in effect, it reduces all knowledge or cognition – not just all metaphysical knowledge – to self-knowledge. Listing and discussing the plethora of negative consequences of this reduction is beyond the scope of this paper. At this point it suffices to note that relativism of any sort prevents us from saying that each viewpoint embodies some element of truth because even such a minimal truth-claim assumes the existence of an absolute standard. This leaves us with two problems. First, only pure subjectivity remains in epistemology. Second, cognitive relativism undermines the Bahá'í teaching of progressive revelation. The reason is clear: without an objective goal, an absolute standard by which to adjudicate developments, we cannot say there is “progress” i.e. movement in a certain direction. Progress has been reduced to mere change.

 

We hasten to add that the doctrine of progressive revelation as presented in the Writings does not fall into this trap. Since revelation is progressive, i.e. teleological, it has a goal and that goal is known: the unification of humankind. Vis-à-vis metaphysics, this goal includes the integration of all religions into one: “All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race, and become a single people. All will dwell in one common fatherland, which is the planet itself." (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 117; he is quoting ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá , SAQ, p. 65) Elsewhere we read, “t is impossible to reform these violent, overwhelming evils, except the peoples of the world become united in affairs, or in one religion.” (Compilations, Baha'i Scriptures, p. 150) Bahá'u'lláh’s revelation is, of course, the guide to that goal. Consequently, we are able to evaluate and judge which ideas and developments are compatible with this revelation and which are not.

 

Our sixth point is that there is a way of testing whether or not the Writings are committed to reason. The purpose of logic and reason is to help us identify truth and error in order to accept truth and reject error. The Writings clearly identify certain views – including metaphysical and theological views – which they find incorrect. Vis-à-vis the Christian interpretation of original sin, ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  asserts “This explanation is unreasonable and evidently wrong” (SAQ 120; emphasis added). It is important to note the wording: ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  says this interpretation is “unreasonable” and consequently “wrong,”– not that it is or might be true from another viewpoint as cognitive relativism maintains. Indeed, the Writings reject a variety of metaphysical and ontological teachings as wrong: materialism, the belief that the world is an illusion, pantheism, reincarnation, divine incarnationism and the multiplicity of God. The Writings also reject monism, i.e. any suggestion that humans are able to become essentially one with God. Bahá’u’lláh even states that a small number of religions are so much mistaken that he describes them as “the outcome of human perversity” (Gleanings, CXI, p. 217). In other words, the Writings work with the fact that a commitment to reason requires a separation of the truth from error – even in regards to metaphysical –theological matters. In SWAB (p.53), ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  notes that some people worship a God of their imaginations: “Thus are the people worshipping only an error of perception.” The statement strikes at the very heart of the claims of cognitive relativism vis-à-vis metaphysics because a perception is a viewpoint, and ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  declares this viewpoint to be mistaken.  Speaking of reincarnation, he says, “God forbid that one should hold to such a fiction and gross error.” (SWB, p. 183) In SAQ (p. 148), he rejects any distinction between God and His essential attributes because such a distinction leads to an infinite regress, and “This is an evident error.” (SAQ, p. 148) We need not multiply quotations on this matter.

 

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

Surprisingly, the emphasis on reasoning in the Bahá’í Writings is a cause of controversy since it may be argued that the emphasis on reason and rationality are no more than a “neo-colonialist” attempt to impose Western thought forms, i.e. classic or “Aristotelian” logic on the rest of the world.  This “neo-colonialist” critique has three problems. First and most obviously, this is a ‘political’ critique, i.e. a critique based on inter-cultural politics and as such is wholly irrelevant to the enormous emphasis placed on reason by the Writings and to the use of reason in philosophical debates. After all, it was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá who said that “in this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of reason.”[320]

 

Second, the “neo-colonialist” critique commits the logical error of confusing and conflating what a thing is with how it is used. A car is a transport vehicle, but it may also be used as a homicidal weapon. There is nothing inherently homicidal about a car and there is nothing inherently “neo-colonialist” – or political at all – about classic reason. This issue may be – but need not be – politicized by attaching it to unrelated issues, especially of a historical nature. However, doing so is dangerous as history has shown. I do not think we want to add “neo-colonialist” logic to “bourgeois genetics” and “Jewish physics.”[321] The fact is, reason is simply a means of reaching correct answers as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us: “God has created man and endowed him with the power of reason whereby he may arrive at valid conclusions.”[322] (Note the implication of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá‘s remark that not all conclusions are “valid,” i.e. that some are invalid.)

 

Third, the “neo-colonialist” critique back-fires on Bahá’í’s who make it because, as we shall demonstrate below, the Writings use classical or “Aristotelian” logic. This would, in effect, make them part of “neo-colonialist” domination of non-western cultures as the Bahá’í’ Faith spreads around the world. Understanding many of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘s arguments and expositions requires at least a basic understanding of certain Aristotelian ontological concepts,[323] as well as explicit acceptance of the first two laws of classical logic, the law of identity and the law of non-contradiction. Moreover, the use of classical reasoning in the Writings not only gives encouragement to others to learn this type of reasoning – if only to understand the Writings more completely – but also gives classical reasoning strong endorsement for use in our own work.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

Furthermore, he states,

 

By mere intellectual development and power of reason, man cannot attain to his fullest degree -- that is to say, by means of intellect alone he cannot accomplish the progress effected by religion. For the philosophers of the past strove in vain to revivify the world of mankind through the intellectual faculty . . . Therefore, the world of humanity must be confirmed by the breath of the Holy Spirit in order to receive universal education.[324]

 

In other words, purely man-made philosophical systems and/or ideologies based on the “power of reason” cannot replace the guidance of religion and the Holy Spirit in human development.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

Moreover, given the practical orientation of the Bahá’í Writings, it is not surprising to find a vast disproportion between the two or three paragraphs about the unreliability of reason and the dozens of declarations extolling and recommending reason. Clearly, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wants us to concentrate more on the actual application of reason in our worldly and spiritual lives than on the principle – which must be kept in mind, but should not hinder our use of reason and our acceptance of its results as practical certainties. In other words, That is how a body of established scientific knowledge is built up and how we can both rely upon science and, at the same time, remain open to new discoveries. Science acknowledges that more rationally argued cases are stronger and more likely to be true than cases based on poor logic and/or weak evidence. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement is about a principle  to keep in mind – it is not s a principle that we must keep in mind; it is not there to undermine our use of practical  but this principle does not in practice undermine or

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

We may explain this use of the scientific method in another way. Since we cannot be sure of who has been inspired by the Holy Spirit or not, what are we to do? We can only remember – as a precaution against human vanity – that no one can know this and therefore, that no one can be absolutely certain. However, in practice things look different. We can follow the Writings in applying reason to countless issues, and stay with the best conclusions of reason until reason and/or evidence prove otherwise. This viewpoint combines the principle of fallibility with practical or procedural certainty.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

We come to similar conclusions when we analyze the apparent discrepancy between the fallibility of reason and the encouragement of reason when we analyze it in terms of Schleirmacher’s concepts of grammatical and psychological modes of interpretation.[325] The grammatical mode refers to the words of a statement and their actual, ‘superficial’ grammatical meaning. The psychological mode refers to the author’s intention or purpose. Rather than being opposed to each other, both of these modes are necessary for a full understanding of a text. When we study the grammatical aspect of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s critique of reason, it tells us clearly that reason is fallible, at least by itself. However, what is the psychological intent of the tremendous emphasis on reason?

 

 

 

pointing this deficiency out to us? It is, of course, informational, i.e. reason is necessary but is not sufficient by itself, but, given the disproportionate emphasis on reason there is clearly more to it than that. The context of these critiques is an overwhelmingly positive presentation of reason and consequently, they function as a reminder, a nuance to the main lesson and not as the main lesson itself. If they were the main lesson, they would – as we have already seen above – reduce all the Bahá’í statements extolling reason to an illogical shambles. This cannot have been ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s intent. Therefore, understanding these passages requires us to look beyond surface grammatical meaning and see them for what they are, i.e. warnings against pride and extreme rationalism. They are not intended to undermine the use of reason in worldly or spiritual matters. They are also the intellectual foundations for moderate rationalism.  

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

 

For now, it suffices to note that he consistently rejects illogical reasoning. For example, speaking of a particular theory of human origins, he rejects it, saying,

 

This is equivalent to saying that the comparative degree exceeds the superlative, that the imperfect includes the perfect, that the pupil surpasses the teacher -- all of which is illogical and impossible.[326]

 

Equating the “illogical” and the “impossible” is enormously significant ontologically because it implies that reason and reality are intimately connected with one another, so much so that if something is “illogical” it is also “impossible.” In other words, nature is rational, i.e. ordered, which is not only the implicit assumption of all science, but also helps us understand why we have a rational soul.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

 

By far the most influential spokesman for the distrust of reason is Nietzsche, the 19th C predecessor of post-modernism, who sees Socrates as the embodiment of the “theoretical man”[327] who suffers from the “profound illusion. . .  [and] unshakable faith that thought, using the thread of logic, can penetrate the deepest abysses of being.”[328] Logical thought i.e. reason does not discover truth by exploring reality but creates it.

 

“Truth” is therefore not           something there, that might be found or discovered – but something that must be created and that gives a name to a process, or rather to a will to overcome that has in itself no end[329]

 

In other words, the process to create ‘truth’ is “a will to overcome,” i.e. the will to power that has no other purpose or end than to overcome whatever it encounters. Consequently, reason itself is no more than a part of this will to power. It is a “regime of power,”[330] a means of exercising power of others. Foucault’s position can be summarized as follows:

 

Against modern theories that see knowledge as neutral and objective (positivism) or

emancipatory (Marxism), Foucault emphasizes that knowledge is indissociable from

from regimes of power. His concept of ‘power/knowledge’ is symptomatic of the

            postmodern suspicion of reason and the emancipatory schemes advanced in its name.[331]

 

Reason and all claims to knowledge or truth are parts of “regimes of power,” i.e. a way of empowering certain classes of people in power and disempowering others. Knowledge, truth-claims are not neutral and the belief that reason, knowledge and truth, and progress are necessarily combined is a myth.[332] Foucault’s specific argument against reason is that reason has a history and, therefore, cannot claim to be universally true.

 

What reason perceives as its necessity or, rather, what different forms of rationality offer

as necessary being can perfectly well be shown to have a history; and the network of contingencies from which it emerges can be traced.[333]

 

That is why “no given form of rationality is actually reason.”[334] There are as many forms of reason as we can imagine. From this view it follows that reason cannot provide universally valid knowledge or truth, and certainly cannot exclude different thought processes as ‘unreasonable.’  One might argue that it is difficult even to know what the words ‘reason’ or ‘knowledge’ can mean in Foucault’s philosophy since both refer only to what the episteme or cultural code has constituted or constructed, and thus, could mean anything at all.

 

The same ideas, when applied to colonial studies, leads to the position that ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ are Western tools for discrediting, replacing and dominating the thought forms of other, ‘weaker’ cultures. In short, reason and logic are instruments of Western cultural imperialism. Neo-colonial studies maintain that the actual validity of reason is limited to its own culture and no system of reasoning is inherently better – or worse – than any other. As we have seen with Nagarjuna’s tetralemmas and the fact that people follow classical logic even though theoretically they deny it, there is no reason not to believe that classical logic is how people naturally operate. 

 

            Another challenge facing proponents of reason is the belief that quantum physics has shown that macro-world logic and especially classical logic is not relevant to the underlying micro-world. In the first place, this objection does not invalidate the use of classical logic in the macro-world in which we all live. We will never be able to eat and not-eat at the same time in the same sense and in the same context. It may be that just as Einstein did not invalidate Newton, so a universal logic may include classical logic as a

special case – but this is not the same thing as invalidation. For example, earth satellites and moon shots still use Newton’s formulas. However, leaving such speculation aside, it is clear that we live in a macro-world in which classical logic applies. In addition, the Writings themselves neither say nor imply anything about quantum logic. That does not mean we cannot read them with quantum logic in mind, but it does prevent any dismissal of classical logic which they do in fact use.

 

 

This conclusion does not necessarily follow. In the first place, it is a consequence of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum phenomena. However, this is a problem because there exist a number of other equally valid interpretations of quantum phenomena (e.g. many worlds; Penrose’s objective collapse theory) at least one of which, David Bohm’s does not entail any violation of classical logic. Until we can experimentally eliminate one or several of these alternatives, they remain viable options for understanding quantum phenomena. 

 

 

This view is not tenable. In the first place, it is based on a misunderstanding of the LNC which claims that a statement cannot be true and not-true at the same time, in the same sense and in the same context. Alternatively, we may say that an entity A cannot have and not-have the same attribute C at the same time in the same senses and in the same context. When we apply this to the wave/particle duality, it is clear that in one context – a double slit – the particles behave like waves and in another context – a single slit – the particles act like particles. There would only be a violation of the LNC if the particles acted like particles and waves at the same time in the same context. But they do not, i.e. they follow the LNC. A similar conclusion emerges when we examine the concept of superposition. Briefly, quantum superposition says that

 

a physical system (say, an electron) exists in all its particular, theoretically possible states or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously; but, when measured, it gives a result corresponding to only one of the possible configurations[335]

 

The superposition also includes the probability of being in a certain state. In the well-known story of Schroedinger’s Cat, the cat is both alive and dead before it is observed or measured, at which moment it will be one or the other. First, we should note that when a measurement or observation is made, only one of the possible states actualizes in the macro-world. This confirms the LNC – we get one result or another, but not both.

 

Second, how are we understand that statement that “a physical system (say, an electron) exists in all its particular, theoretically possible states  (or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously”? The question that arises is this superposition an epistemological construct or is it on ontological fact?

 

 

 

 

We cannot tell if the superposition exists because the moment we observe it, it collapses into one of its possibilities.

 

 

 

These possible states exist in potential, i.e. as (Aristotelian) potentials, and each system has its own potentials the range of which can be calculated. But they remain potentials until actualized as one state or another. In other words, we do not know what the state of a physical system until we look i.e. make a measurement; till then, it is in all possible states at the same time. But what do these possible states consist of? Until we look our calculations give us the probabilities of various states. But these probabilities differ – and probability (a) is not probability (b). 

 

 

           

 

Third, it is important to note that even quantum experiments are designed to provide positive or negative answers. A hypothesis is true or false but not both at the same time, in the same sense and in the same context.

 

 

 

 

 

 – though we cannot know which one actualizes until an observation is made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 and especially classical logic which is based on the law of non-contradiction (LNC).

 

 

We shall show how this idea is based on a misunderstanding of quantum physics which still uses the LNC to prove that a hypothesis is true or false but not both in the same sense at the same time in the same context.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

           

We shall briefly discuss attempts to disprove the LEM. One of the most famous is  C.S. Pierce’s claim that there are three alternatives: A is true, A is false or A is ‘possible.’ The last choice supposedly falls between the first two insofar as it neither affirms nor negates A. However, in our view this is not tenable. First, Pierce’s suggestion confuses and conflates two modes – possibility and actuality, it i.e. mixes apples and oranges. A is either (1) true, or A is (2) untrue or, according to Pierce, A is (3) possible. (1) and (2) refer to an actual state of affairs while (3) refers to a possible or conditional state of affairs. In effect, (3) changes the topic, i.e. introduces a new topic which requires its own choices: A is possible is true or A is possible is false. If we say A is ‘possible’ to these choices, then we have started an infinite regress – which is a sure indication something is logically wrong.

 

There is another problem with Pierce’s attempt to avoid the LEM. To say that A is possible implies that it may or may not be true; in effect, we do not know. In other words, while A is true and A is false are reports about the situation with A, to say we do not know is a report about our own epistemological situation – which is a different subject altogether. Pierce’s suggestion is simply off-topic. If it were argued that ‘It is possible’ is a report about the existential situation of A, i.e. that it could be true but is not yet true, then this answer belongs in a separate inquiry about possible existence, not in an inquiry about actual existence or non-existence. We would then have a new case for which to apply the LEM: B is possible. We either affirm or deny proposition.

 

Third, Pierce’s answer is an example of amphiboly. What does ‘A is possible’ actually mean? It could mean that A is possible – but is not yet actualized, or, it could mean A is possible – but maybe not, or, it could mean we just do not know how answer the original choice of A is true or A is false. How are we to know which of these alternatives are meant? In short, Pierce’s answer is too vague to qualify as a disproof of the LEM. There are, of course, other ways to argue against the LEM so clearly the matter is under dispute. The Bahá’í Writings, however, are informed by the LEM and seek to accept it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The problem is that it initiates an infinite regress that, in effect, is no answer at all. Imagine we have a proposition which says A. According to Pierce, we have three alternatives: A is true, A is false or A is possible. If we choose either A is true or A is false, we have a definitive answer. If we choose A is true then we can still ask, ‘Is it true or false that A is true?’ and the answer is that it is true. Nothing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we have a proposition that ‘A is possible’ then, according to Pierce, that proposition is either true, false or possible. ‘Is that proposition true or false or possible?’ If we reply that A is true or that A is false, we have a definite answer but if we say the proposition ‘A is possible’ is only possible

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, ‘A is possible’ does not allow us to say the original proposition A is both true and false,

 

 

 

However, when we apply the LEM to these three alternatives, we end up affirming the LEM. One proposition states, ‘A is possible’ – which is either true or false, i.e. we affirm the LEM. If we say that it is possible that A is possible, we have initiated an infinite regress which is universally regarded as a sign of faulty reasoning. Moreover, ‘possibility’ is not the same kind of thing as affirmation and negation,

 

Saying that we do not know if the proposition is true or false does not establish a middle ground i.e. it does not violate or escape the law; it is a statement about one’s own subjective epistemic situation and not a statement about the proposition itself. The claim that not knowing the truth or falsity of a proposition is in itself a middle ground ends either in an infinite regress – a sure sign of logic gone wrong – or in an affirmation of the law of the excluded middle. If someone says, ‘I do not know if the proposition is true or false, w need only ask ‘Is this statement true or false?’ If the answer is ‘I do not know’ we have started an infinite regress and if we answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ then we are choosing in accordance with the law of the excluded middle, thereby affirming it. C.S. Pierce claimed that the actual and probable are intrinsic to the LEM, i.e.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ So while the law of non-contradiction tells us that no statement can be both true and false, the law of excluded middle tells us that they must all be one or the other.

 

Given a statement and its negation, p and ~p, the PNC asserts that at most one is true. The PEM asserts that at least one is true. The PNC says "not both" and the PEM "not neither". Together, and only together, they assert that exactly one is true.

 

So, the law of the excluded middle is an axiom

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

(The knowledge of things which men universally have is gained by reflection or by evidence -- that is to say, either by the power of the mind the conception of an object is formed, or from beholding an object the form is produced in the mirror of the heart.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 157)

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

 

This statement can be analyzed into two levels of propositions here, one implicit, the other explicit. First, implicit in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement are three propositions which we must either affirm or negate: ‘Good is not the same as evil’; ‘The true is not the same as the false’ and ‘Faithfulness is different from unfaithfulness.’ Second, at the explicit level we also have three propositions to either affirm or negate: ‘Christ divided the good from the evil’; ‘Christ divided the true from the false’ and ‘Christ divided the faithful from the unfaithful.’ Again, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá offers no middle choices. The explicit statement that “Christ divided the false from the true’ also requires assent or negation. Similar logical analysis shows the LEM structure in other statements throughout the Writings

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

CONCLUSION

 

this paper will show why the Bahá’í view of reason has much in

common with the optimistic Enlightenment world-view that associates reason, freedom and progress. There is far more emphasis on the use of reason than on its limitations. Indeed, its use is commanded even to test religious claims.[336] However, its moderate rationalism, rational perspectivism and acceptance of other ways of knowing prevent it from complete identification with the Enlightenment doctrines of reason. On the other hand, its strong encouragement of reason and reasonableness also put it out of harmony with the entire post-modern philosophic tradition from Nietzsche to Gadamer.[337] The Writings sail a middle path between Scylla and Charybdis on this issue. 

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “The human spirit consists of the rational, or logical, reasoning faculty, which apprehends general ideas and things intelligible and perceptible.”[338]  We should first note that “logical reasoning” deals both with the “perceptible” which pertains to the material world but also with the “intelligible” which is beyond the material world and refers to “general ideas” or universals. For example, while everyone has seen a particular cat, but no one has ever seen ‘catness,’ in general. The second aspect of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement says that the human spirit is or “consists of” our rational faculty. This deepens the identification between the soul-spirit and rationality since rationality is not merely an attribute of the soul but is the essence or substance of the soul itself.  He plainly identifies the rational with the “logical reasoning faculty” thereby indicating that by reasoning he means logical reasoning. The nature of reason is the topic to we will now turn our attention. This inevitably involves some theoretical discussion before we turn back to the Writings.

 

Substance attribute reasoning.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

If thou wishest the divine knowledge and recognition, purify thy heart from all beside God, be wholly attracted to the ideal, beloved One; search for and choose Him and apply thyself to rational and authoritative arguments. For arguments are a guide to the path and by this the heart will be turned unto the Sun of Truth.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v1, p. 168)

 

The western nations are   endowed with the capability of understanding the rational and peerless words of Bahá'u'lláh and realizing that the essence of the teachings of all the former Prophets can be found in His utterance.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 289)

 

The first condition of perception in the world of nature is the perception of the rational soul. In this perception and in this power all men are sharers, whether they be neglectful or vigilant, believers or deniers. This human rational soul is God's creation; it encompasses and excels other creatures; as it is more noble and distinguished, it encompasses things. The power of the rational soul can discover the realities of things, comprehend the peculiarities of beings, and penetrate the mysteries of existence. All sciences, knowledge, arts, wonders, institutions, discoveries and enterprises come from the exercised intelligence of the rational soul.

 

            (Compilations, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

 

All sciences, knowledge, arts, wonders, institutions, discoveries and enterprises come from the exercised intelligence of the rational soul.

 

            (Compilations, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

 

 

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

There are individuals who have weak intellects and their powers of reasoning have not developed, but the strength and power of religion must not be doubted because of the incapacity of these persons to understand.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 145)

 

 

It is evident that within the human organism the intellect occupies the supreme station.            (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 63)

 

 

He has bestowed upon him the power of intellect so that through the attribute of reason, when fortified by the Holy Spirit, he may penetrate and discover ideal realities and become informed of the mysteries of the world of significances.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 303)

 

If the animals are savage and ferocious, it is simply a means for their subsistence and preservation. They are deprived of that degree of intellect which can reason and discriminate between right and wrong, justice and injustice; they are justified in their actions and not responsible.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 352)

 

It cannot know the mysteries of magnetism because the bestowals of abstract reason and intellect are absent in its endowment.

 

            (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 357)

 

The greater part of it has been attained through intellect, through the ideal senses. Man's inventions have appeared through the avenue of his reasonable faculties. All his scientific attainments have come through the faculty  358  of reason. Briefly,

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 


[1] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 208.

[2] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 115.

[3] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 112. 

[4] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 128.

[5] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 7; see also Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , p. 269.

[6]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 303.

[7] See Ian Kluge, Postmodernism and the Baha’i Writings, Lights of Irfan, Vol…….

[8] Nicholas Bunnin; Jiyuan Yu (2004). The Blackwell dictionary of Western philosophy, p. 266: “[Logic] is divided into standard (or classical) logic, non-standard logic and inductive logic. Standard logic includes traditional logic (Aristotelian syllogism) and modern classical logic which is an expansion of traditional logic . . .” Also ^ L. T. F. Gamut (1991). Logic, language, and meaning, Volume 1: Introduction to Logic, pp. 156–157: propositional and predicate logic (classical logic is propositional) “can nevertheless be regarded as standard logic.”

[9] See for example Fashionable Nonsense by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont.

[10] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Foundations of World Unity, p. 73; The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 79, 287.

[11] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 63.

[12] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 291.

[13] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 219.

[14] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 278; Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 124.

[15] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 87.

[16] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 6.

[17] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 112; emphasis added.

[18] Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah v 4, p. 129; emphasis added.

[19] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 220.

[20] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 108.

[21] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel, p. 17.

[22] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 122.

[23] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXVIII, p. 277; emphasis added.

[24] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, C, p. 203.

[25] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, XXXIV, p. 79.

[26] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 181; emphasis added.

[27] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 141.

[28] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 208; emphasis added.

[29] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Tablets of ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  v1, p. 115; emphasis added

[30] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 208.

[31] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Tablets of ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  v1, p. 115; emphasis added

[32] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 208.

[33] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, LXXXIII, p. 163; emphasis added.

[34] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, 139; The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 30.

[35] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Paris Talks, p. 60.

[36] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 7.

[37] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, LXXXIII, p. 163.

[38] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Some Answered Questions, p. 193.

[39] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Tablet to August Forel, p. 25

[40] Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 384.

[41] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 1, p. 117. 

[42] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 96; Some Answered Questions, p.7;

[43] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 119.

[44] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 41.

[45] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel, p. 15.

[46] ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Tablets of ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  v1, p. 115; emphasis added

[47] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Paris Talks,  p. 141.

[48] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Paris Talks,  p. 142.

[49] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 63.

[50] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 49; emphasis added. 

[51] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 303.

[52] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 63.

[53] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 357.

[54] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 254, 356.

[55] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 63.

[56] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Tablets of ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  v1, p. 115; emphasis added

[57] The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reason

[58] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Vol. 1, p. 115.

[59] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 282 emphasis added. 

[60] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 1, p. 117.

[61] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ,Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , p. 184.

[62] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace. p. 421.

[63] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 134.

[64] The issue relating to the law of the excluded middle will be discussed below.

[65]  Avicenna, Metaphysics, I; commenting on Aristotle, Topics I.11.105a4–5.

[66] `Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 146.

[67] `Abdu’l-Bahá Paris Talks, p. 128. 136.

[68] `Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 105.

[69] `Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 30; emphasis added. 

[70] `Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 454; emphasis added.

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

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

[73] `Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 41.

[74] `Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 105; see also Paris Talks, p. 141.

[75] Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 453.

[76] Shoghi Effendi, The world Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 8.

[77] This is not to suggest there cannot be two perspectives of one truth. However, ultimately the two perspectives must be reconcilable i.e. made one. 

[78] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 1, p. 115.

[79] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 2, p. 304.

[80] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 3, p. 524.

[81] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel, p. 25.

[82] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 367.

[83] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 1, p. 166.

[84] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Paris Talks,  p. 55; emphasis added.

[85] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 292; emphasis added.

[86] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 212.

[87] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXX, p. 255.

[88] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 227; emphasis added.

[89] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 53; emphasis added. Cf  also The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 228.

[90] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 8; see also 202.; 221.

[91] Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 9; emphasis added.

[92] King James Bible, Revelation 3: 16.

[93] King James Bible, Luke, 11: 23.

[94] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 8; see also 202.; 221.

[95] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Paris Talks,  p.160.

[96] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 249.

[97] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 352.

[98] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 208.

[99] Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 26.

[100] Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 44.

[101] Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Feb. 24, 1947 in  Lights of Guidance, p. 476.; emphasis added.

[102] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Paris Talks,  p. 128; emphasis added.

[103] Shoghi  Effendi, Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p. 35.

[104] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Paris Talks,  p. 136.

[105] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Paris Talks,  p. 145.

[106] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 3, p. 512; emphasis added.

[107] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 113.

[108] Aristotle, Categories 5, 2a 14-15.

[109] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, XCIII, p. 185; emphasis added.  

[110] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, XIII, p. 22.

[111]Bahá'u'lláh, , The Seven Valleys, p. 26.

[112] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, LXXXII, p. 161-2: emphasis added. 

[113] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 229. 

[114] Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh,, p. 140.

[115] Ian Kluge, “Bahá’í  Ontology: An Initial Reconnaissance”; “The Aristotelian Substratum of the Bahá’í   Writings”; “Some Answered Questions: A Philosophical Perspective.”

[116] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 198.

[117] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 181.

[118] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 329.

[119] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 48; emphasis added. 

[120] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel, p. 18.

[121] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 280; emphasis added.

[122] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CIX,  p. 214.

[123] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 175.

[124] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 196 – 197. See also Paris Talks, p. 98.

[125] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, :XXXIII, p. 162.

[126] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 7.

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

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

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

[130] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CIX, p. 214.

[131] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 208.

[132] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 59.

[133] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 197.

[134] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 196.

[135] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 225.

[136] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 228.

[137] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks,  p. 144.

[138] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 7, 90, 177, 258, 293, 304 to identify only a few.

[139] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 18; emphasis added. 

[140] Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, LXXXVII, p. 149.

[141] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 190.

[142] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 184.

[143] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 124.

[144] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 4.

[145] Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 36.

[146] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, 154.

[147] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 83; emphasis added. 

[148] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel, p. 11; emphasis added.

[149] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 50.

[150] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 3; emphasis added.

[151] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 179; emphasis added.

[152] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 98; emphasis added.

[153] Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, XIII, p. 26.

[154] Bunnin and Yu, editors, The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy, p. 25.

[155] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXX, p. 254.

[156] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 23.

[157] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 23.

[158] Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 16; emphasis added.

[159] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p.57.

[160] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p.57.

[161] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p.57.

[162] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 93.

[163] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 74.

[164] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 94.

[165] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 87; emphasis added.

[166] “Consultation,” http://info.bahai.org/article-1-3-6-3.html

[167] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 87.

[168] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 289.

[169]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 293.

[170] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 293.

[171] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 295.

[172] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 295; emphasis added.

[173] Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, http://www.hkbu.edu.hk/~ppp/rbbr/toc.html 

[174] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 112.

[175] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 48.

[176] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 112.

[177] David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section X.

[178] Shoghi Effendi, From the Guardian to an individual believer, October 1, 1935: Canadian Bahá'í News, February 1968, p. 11. Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 490.

[179] Ken Wilber, ************************************************************

[180] Robert Audi, ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, p. 846.

[181] Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, p. 340.

[182] Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, p. 795.

[183] Paul Feyerabend, Against Method.

[184] Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, p.63.

[185] Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, p.63.

[186] Best and Kellner, “The Postmodern Turn in Philosophy: Theoretical Provocations and Normative Deficits”

[187] Best and Kellner, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations, p. 50. See also Jacques Derrida, “Violence and Metaphysics” in Writing and Difference, p. 91.

[188] Michel Foucault, “Homage to Jean Hippolyte” in Sheridan, Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth, p.120.

[189] Michel Foucault, “Structuralism and Post-Structuralism,” in The Essential Foucault, p.93.

[190] Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, Book III, Section 12.

[191] Niall Lucy, A Derrida Dictionary, p.71.

[192] Darren Hynes, “Michel Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge.” http://www.mun.ca/phil/codgito/vol4/v4doc1.html

[193] Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, “The Postmodern Turn in Philosophy: Theoretical Provocations and Normative Devices.” See also Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, p. 53.

[194] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, # 560; see also # 583.

[195] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, # 552; emphasis added.

[196] Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, p.49.

[197] This  postmodern outlook has distinctive similarities to the philosophies written in support of  Naziism. See Monika Leske,  Philosophen im Dritten Reich.

[198] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p.  217; emphasis added.

[199]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 287.

[200]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 49.

[201] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 291.

[202]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p.  220.

[203] Foucault writes, “behind things [there is] not a timeless essential secret but the secret that they have no essence.” In Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” in The Essential Foucault, p.353.

[204]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 3.

[205] Ken Wilber’s The Marriage of Sense and Soul . . . .Ian Kluge’s . . .

[206] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 3.

[207] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 130. 

[208]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 69.

[209] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 69.

[210] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 47.

[211] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 146; emphasis added.

[212] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 148.

[213] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 66.

[214] Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah v 4, p. 129; emphasis added.

[215] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 220; emphasis added.

[216] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 69. Potentials are never revealed all at once. 

[217] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 220.

[218] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 21; emphasis added.

[219] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 297; emphasis added.

[220] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 58. See also Foundations of  World Unity, p. 51.

[221] The exact meaning of certainty etc will be discussed below.

[222] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 303; emphasis added.

[223] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 254.

[224] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 256; emphasis added.  

[225] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 58; emphasis added.

[226] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 296; emphasis added. 

[227] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 21.

[228] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks,  p. 142; emphasis added.

[229] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks,  p. 144; emphasis added.

[230] Shoghi Effendi, Extracts from the USBN, # 85, July 1934, p. 6.

[231] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 22.

[232] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 299.

[233] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 22.

[234] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 289.

[235] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 262.

[236] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 167.

[237] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 122.

[238] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 122.

[239] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions in Part 2 “Some Christian Subjects,” pp. 83 – 143.

[240] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 148.

[241] The logical problem of “anything goes” is self-evident. If “anything goes” then so does its opposite, “Nothing goes.” We have a clear case of self-undermining. This also applies to special types of relativism, e.g. cognitive relativism in metaphysics. Any cognitive standpoint leads to ‘valid’ opinion on a metaphysical issue. But this includes the standpoint that says not all standpoints on metaphysical issues are equally tenable. Here, too, we have self-undermining, i.e. a logically inconsistent position.  

[242] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 51.

[243] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá . Some Answered Questions, p. 207; The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 21 and 254.

[244] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231;emphasis added.

[245] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 185.

[246] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 3, p. 492.

[247] From the Guardian to an individual believer, October 1, 1935: Canadian Bahá'í News, February 1968, p. 11) Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 490.

[248] Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 117.

[249] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 137.

[250] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 270; emphasis added. The idea that each part of creation reflects the rest is reminiscent of Leibniz’ monads and of holography. 

[251] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231.

[252] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 1, p. 102.

[253] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 22; emphasis added.

[254] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 241.

[255] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 17.

[256] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 47.

[257] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel, p. 25.

[258] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, XVII, p. 46.

[259] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, XXXII, p. 76.

[260] Bahá'u'lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 51.

[261] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 95.

[262] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 128; emphasis added.

[263] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 37.

[264] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 263.

[265] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 83.

[266] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 1, p. 208.

[267] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 7. Also Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 2. p. 286.

[268] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 19.

[269] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 157.

[270] From the Greek ‘agape’ i.e. unconditional love.

[271] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 121.

[272] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 225.

[273] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 270; emphasis added. The idea that each part of creation reflects the rest is reminiscent of Leibniz’ monads and of holography. 

[274] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 175. 

[275] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 46.

[276] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 225.

[277] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 141.

[278] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 141.

[279] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.327; emphasis added.  

[280] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 181.

[281] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231.

[282] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 185.

[283] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 303.

[284] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 303, p. 287; emphasis added.

[285] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 291.

[286] Especially in ethics this “anything goes” has absolutely unacceptable consequences; for example, we could not really differentiate Mother Teresa and Dr. Mengele, the “angel of death” at Auschwitz.

[287] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 107; emphasis added. 

[288] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 65; emphasis added.

[289] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXX, p. 255; emphasis added. 

[290] Alexander Skutch, The Golden Core of Religion, New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1970.

[291]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 157.

[292]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 157.

[293] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 146.

[294] Scientific measurements are, by definition, external and cannot tell us anything about the subjective experience of the individual. Instrumentation can only tell us about the electro-chemical correlates of subjective experience.

[295] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 303.

[296] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 303, p. 287; emphasis added.

[297] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 291.

[298] Especially in ethics this “anything goes” has absolutely unacceptable consequences; for example, we could not really differentiate Mother Teresa and Dr. Mengele, the “angel of death” at Auschwitz.

[299] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 107; emphasis added. 

[300] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 65; emphasis added.

[301] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXX, p. 255; emphasis added. 

[302] Alexander Skutch, The Golden Core of Religion, New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1970.

[303] In a previous paper, “Relativism and the Bahá’í Writings” (in Lights of Irfan,  ) I referred to a similar position as “relationalism” or “evolutionary Platonic perspectivism.” In developing this viewpoint further, I have adopted the more descriptive term ‘rational perspectivism.’ 

[304] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 466.

[305]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 208; emphasis added.

[306] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  v1, p. 115; emphasis added.

[307] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 312; emphasis added.

[308] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 291.; emphasis added.

[309] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 22; emphasis added. 

[310]‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 297; emphasis added.

[311] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 175. 

[312] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 208.

[313] This reinforces the case for an essentialist understanding of the Writings.

[314] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,  Some Answered Questions, p. 158;  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 69; p. 88;

[315] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,  Tablet to August Forel, p. 15; emphasis added.

[316] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, 141.

[317] Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 181.

[318] ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Tablets of ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  v1, p. 115; emphasis added

[319] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 63.

[320] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p. 7.

[321] “Bourgeois genetics” was the Soviet Communist term for genetics based on genes, chromosomes  etc. “Jewish physics” was the Nazi term for relativity and quantum physics. The Soviets, too, at first regarded relativity and quantum theory as “bourgeois.”  Cf. Comrades by Robert Service.

[322] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 312.; emphasis added.

[323] Ian Kluge, “The Aristotelian Substratum of the Bahá’í Writings” in Lights of Irfan, Vol. 4.

[324] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,  p. 170.

[325] Schleierrmacher, Hermeneutics and Criticism

[326]  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 81; emphasis added.

[327] Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Section 18.

[328] Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Section 15.

[329] Nietzsche, The Will to Power, # 552; emphasis added.

[330] Best and Kellner, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations, p. 50.

[331] Best and Kellner, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations, p. 50; emphasis added.

[332] Best and Kellner, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations, p.34.

[333] Michel Foucault, “Structuralism and Post-Structuralism,” in The Essential Foucault, p.94.

[334] Michel Foucault, “Structuralism and Post-Structuralism,” in The Essential Foucault, p.93.

[335] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_superposition

[336] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá , p.  47.

[337] Ian Kluge, Post-Modernism and the Bahá’í Writings, Lights of Irfan, Vol.

[338] ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá , Tablets of ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá  v1, p. 115; emphasis added