Reality, Soul and
the Worlds of God
The purpose of this compilation of the Bahá’í writings is to organize these writings in such a fashion as to set forth an ontological and cosmological paradigm of all existence or reality. To accomplish this awesome task within the defined confines of a Bahá’í compilation is supremely challenging.
A distinctive feature of this compilation is that it is not a comprehensive compilation, but rather, a representative compilation. This is after all, a compilation on “reality, soul, and the worlds of God," a very encompassing topic. If all the relevant quotes in the writings were placed under each subject heading, this compilation would assume encyclopedic proportions and be very unwieldy. The task of organizing or indexing all the Bahá’í writings into such an ontological or cosmological paradigm is actually another project which has been underway, and is known as The Master Index of the Bahá’í Writings, or more informally, The Worlds of God Index. In a sense, this compilation can be viewed as a mini-Worlds of God Index.
To facilitate a better understanding of this paradigm of reality, a companion study guide is in the works. A study guide, unlike a compilation, can be in the author’s own words. This study guide can summarize the selections in the compilation and refer to them as the supporting quotations for each concept.
This compilation is also intended to be a reference book cited in other publications and course materials to be produced by the Foundation for the Investigation of Reality, a Bahá’í inspired non-profit organization dedicated to answering the need identified by the Universal House of Justice:
It is not merely material well-being that people need. What they desperately need is to know how to live their lives—they need to know who they are, to what purpose they exist, and how they should act towards one another; and, once they know the answers to these questions they need to be helped to gradually apply these answers to everyday behavior. It is to the solution of this basic problem of mankind that the greater part of all our energy and resources should be directed.
It can be argued that there are multiple ways to organize the writings into an overall paradigm of reality. The method used by this compilation and by the indexing techniques used in the Worlds of God Index are not an official authoritative method approved by any Central Figure or Institution in the Bahá’í Faith. However, given that such an authoritative method is non-existent, the method presented is one insightful way in which such indexing and organizing can be done, and it works and makes sense! In fact, the act of making sense of the writings and applying them in a holistic-like way is encouraged in the writings themselves.
The study of truth or reality and the term “divine philosophy” are inter-related. The term “divine philosophy” might invoke in the reader an impression of a science which hair-splittingly begins in words and ends in words, with no practical relevance to real life, and a science solely for scholarly intellectuals. A close study of the uses of this term in the Bahá’í Writings however reveals that the intended meaning of this term is inherently experiential, and meant for everyone.
The individual’s pursuit and study of “divine philosophy” is conditioned on his or her carrying out the first principle of Bahá’u’lláh, which is the obligation of each individual to independently and unfetteredly investigate reality and truth for oneself (with emphasis in bold where appropriate):
Philosophy is of two kinds: natural and divine. Natural philosophy seeks knowledge of physical verities and explains material phenomena, whereas divine philosophy deals with ideal verities and phenomena of the spirit. The field and scope of natural philosophy have been greatly enlarged, and its accomplishments are most praiseworthy, for it has served humanity. But according to the evidence of present world conditions divine philosophywhich has for its object the sublimation of human nature, spiritual advancement, heavenly guidance for the development of the human race, attainment to the breaths of the Holy Spirit and knowledge of the verities of God—has been outdistanced and neglected. Now is the time for us to make an effort and enable it to advance apace with the philosophy of material investigation so that awakening of the ideal virtues may progress equally with the unfoldment of the natural powers. In the same proportion that the body of man is developing, the spirit of man must be strengthened; and just as his outer perceptions have been quickened, his inner intellectual powers must be sensitized so that he need not rely wholly upon tradition and human precedent. 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. Then and then only the reality of things will be revealed to us. The philosophers of Greece—such as Aristotle, Socrates, Plato and others—were devoted to the investigation of both natural and spiritual phenomena. In their schools of teaching they discoursed upon the world of nature as well as the supernatural world. Today the philosophy and logic of Aristotle are known throughout the world. Because they were interested in both natural and divine philosophy, furthering the development of the physical world of mankind as well as the intellectual, they rendered praiseworthy service to humanity. This was the reason of the triumph and survival of their teachings and principles. Man should continue both these lines of research and investigation so that all the human virtues, outer and inner, may become possible. The attainment of these virtues, both material and ideal, is conditioned upon intelligent investigation of reality, by which investigation the sublimity of man and his intellectual progress is accomplished. Forms must be set aside and renounced; reality must be sought. We must discover for ourselves where and what reality is. In religious beliefs nations and peoples today are imitators of ancestors and forefathers. If a man's father was a Christian, he himself is a Christian; a Buddhist is the son of a Buddhist, a Zoroastrian of a Zoroastrian. A gentile or an idolator follows the religious footsteps of his father and ancestry. This is absolute imitation. The requirement in this day is that man must independently and impartially investigate every form of reality.
Since the ability to investigate reality in such a fashion is of such primal importance, it is natural to assume that we need an objective framework or paradigm in which to conduct our investigation. For that objectivity, it makes sense to look at what God has revealed for us through His Prophets rather than what our fellow human beings have devised:
Bahá’u’lláh wrote: “The sages aforetime acquired their knowledge from the Prophets, inasmuch as the latter were the Exponents of divine philosophy and the Revealers of heavenly mysteries.
We are told immerse ourselves in the creative Word, to meditate and concentrate on it, to unravel secrets6 and obtain insights into the world’s problems8 and act on that new found understanding. To do that, we need to heed Bahá’u’lláh’s counsel, “behold My Revelation through Mine eyes.” “Were ye to behold Him with the eyes of another, ye would never recognize and know Him.”
We therefore must use the standard of the writings to come up with a paradigm of existence:
Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring Balance established amongst men. In this most perfect Balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, did ye but know it.
By systematizing the Bahá’í writings to come up with a non-authoritative paradigm of existence instead of systematizing a paradigm of existence from purely human sources, we can study and apply this science (divine philosophy) in our lives very effectively. The application of this science, however, is beyond the scope of this compilation. This compilation, rather, is intended to be the underlying reference work for courses and other publications intended for your spiritual upliftment, personal transformation or self-help / self-improvement. Studying this compilation in and of itself however is also a very effective deepening technique for obtaining insights about where (and why, and how, etc.) you and everything else fits in God’s plan of creation.
The mission of the Prophets, the revelation of the Holy Books, the manifestation of the heavenly Teachers and the purpose of divine philosophy all center in the training of the human realities so that they may become clear and pure as mirrors and reflect the light and love of the Sun of Reality.
With that said, there are also two important generic topics to be addressed regarding the quotes of any Bahá’í compilation: the issue of “authentication” and the issue of “authorized translations.”
An authenticated text simply means there is an original Persian or Arabic manuscript for the text in question, that it was verified to be genuine (not fake) by Shoghi Effendi or the research department of the Universal House of Justice, and that there is an “authorized” (see below for definition of “authorized”) English translation of that manuscript.
An authorized translation is one done by Shoghi Effendi or by the research department at the World Center and approved by the Universal House of Justice. There are exceptions to this rule where a passage or a Tablet has been translated by an individual other than the Guardian and that translation has been accepted as authorized by the Universal House of Justice. The final determination that a translation can be considered authorized rests solely with the Universal House of Justice.
Regarding the talks of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice wrote:
Regarding the status of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talks published in The Promulgation of Universal Peace and Paris Talks, original Persian transcripts of some, but not all, of the talks are available. We provide the following extract from a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice which indicates that “in the future each talk will have to be identified and those which are unauthenticated will have to be clearly distinguished from those which form a part of Bahá’í Scripture.”
The original of Some Answered Questions in Persian is preserved in the Holy Land; its text was read in full and corrected by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself. Unfortunately, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not read and authenticate all transcripts of His other talks, some of which have been translated into various languages and published....However, the Guardian allowed such compilations to continue to be used by the friends. In the future each talk will have to be clearly distinguished from those which form a part of Bahá’í Scripture. This does not mean that the unauthenticated talks will have to cease to be used—merely that the degree of authenticity of every document will have to be known and understood. (23 March 1987).
For ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, no original transcripts exist, and the following letter was written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi in this regard:
Regarding ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London: Nothing can be considered scripture for which we do not have an original text. A verbatim record in Persian of His talks would of course be more reliable than one in English, because He was not always accurately interpreted. However such a book is of value, and certainly has its place in our Literature.
The Research Department can not, at present, provide a detailed listing of which extracts from Foundations of World Unity and Bahá’í World Faith are authentic and which are not as, to date, such a listing has not been compiled....We note that the majority of the passages in Foundations of World Unity are extracted from talks of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá published in The Promulgation of Universal Peace.
In this compilation, all the writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb are from authorized translations of authenticated Tablets, with the exception of several quotes from the book Bahá’í World Faith in which Bahá’u’lláh was quoted.
Of the publications which quote ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, and Tablet to August Forel are authorized translations from authenticated tablets and talks.
The talks attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá which are found in Paris Talks and Promulgation of Universal Peace are not authorized translations. Some of these talks do have Persian originals, but these Persian originals were not used to create the English translation. These books therefore cannot be considered authorized translations.
Regarding the compilation Bahá’í World Faith, many of the quotes have been superceded by newer translations. I have quoted from this publication where there is no other occurrence of them in newer translations. Some of the quotes in that compilation which have not been re-translated and re-published are in fact authenticated and authorized translations, however, instead of researching the matter at this time, I have chosen to conservatively label all of Bahá’u’lláh’s and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s quotes in Bahá’í World Faith as unauthenticated.
In this compilation, under each topic heading, the authorized translations of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s writings are quoted before the authorized translations of His talks. These are then followed by His unauthorized writings and talks. The unauthorized translations are prefaced with the phrase “no authority” in editorial brackets [] for ease of reader identification.
Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice have allowed unauthorized translations of books to be printed and used:
....the Guardian allowed such compilations to continue to be used by the friends. In the future each talk will have to be clearly distinguished from those which form a part of Bahá’í Scripture. This does not mean that the unauthenticated talks will have to cease to be used—merely that the degree of authenticity of every document will have to be known and understood.
On those grounds such quotes are included in this compilation; however the quotes carry less weight than certifiably authenticated writings and authorized translations, which is why they are visibly segregated in the text of this compilation.
Enjoy your immersion in this compilation!
J. Michael Kafes
on behalf of
The Foundation for the Investigation of Reality