July 23, 2010

Soul, Mind and Spirit

January 30, 1913, at 30 rue St. Didier, Paris
From Persian notes; translated by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab

One of the ladies present has asked me to speak on the subject of soul, mind and spirit. She desires an explanation of these terms.

The terminology of ancient philosophers differs from that of our time. In later ages certain terms have developed through which we see these subjects in a different light. According to some ancient philosophers, the words soul, mind and spirit imply the underlying principles of life, expressing the various phases of the one absolute reality. They were different names for the operations of one essence. For instance, we say a man sees, hears and speaks seeing, hearing and speaking are the different performances of the same power which animates man. Different schools of thought have given different names to the various operations of the one essence. For instance, when some speak of the emotions of consciousness they call it soul; when they express the discovering power of man they call it mind, and when they refer to the animating essence of the world of creation, they call it spirit.

The differentiation which we make of these subjects is as follows: By soul we mean that power which is the mover of this physical body which is entirely under its control and lives in accordance with its dictates. The soul that lives in the material world is dark for in the material world there is aggression, struggles greed, vice and transgression. If the soul remains in this station, and moves along these paths it will receive no uplift, but if it becomes the recipient of the world of mind, its darkness will be transformed into light; its tyranny into justice, its ignorance into wisdom and its aggression into loving kindness. There will be no more struggle for existence and man will become free from egotism. He will be released from the material world and become the embodiment of justice, the personification of the virtues. He will become a sanctified soul and be the means of the illumination of the world of humanity and an honor to human kind. He will confer life upon the children of men so that all nations will attain to the station of perfection. To such a person we may apply the name of "a holy soul."

July 21, 2010

Religion is the “greatest bestowal of God in the world of humanity”

Talk at Temple Emmanu-El
450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California
Notes by Bijou Straun

The greatest bestowal of God in the world of humanity is religion, for assuredly the divine teachings of religion are above all other sources of instruction and development to man. Religion confers upon man eternal life and guides his footsteps in the world of morality. It opens the doors of unending happiness and bestows everlasting honor upon the human kingdom. It has been the basis of all civilization and progress in the history of mankind.

We will, therefore, investigate religion, seeking from an unprejudiced standpoint to discover whether it is the source of illumination, the cause of development and the animating impulse of all human advancement. We will investigate independently, free from the restrictions of dogmatic beliefs, blind imitations of ancestral forms and the influence of mere human opinion; for as we enter this question, we will find some who declare that religion is a cause of uplift and betterment in the world, while others assert just as positively that it is a detriment and a source of degradation to mankind. We must give these questions thorough and impartial consideration so that no doubt or uncertainty may linger in our minds regarding them.

How shall we determine whether religion has been the cause of human advancement or retrogression?

We will first consider the Founders of the religions -- the Prophets -- review the story of Their lives, compare the conditions preceding Their appearance with those subsequent to Their departure, following historical records and irrefutable facts instead of relying upon traditionary statements which are open to both acceptance and denial.

July 15, 2010

Baha’u’llah and the history of the Baha’i Revelation

18 April 1912
Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall L. Emery
273 West Ninetieth Street, New York
Notes by Miss Dixon

Tonight I wish to tell you something of the history of the Bahá'í Revelation.

The Blessed Perfection, Bahá'u'lláh, belonged to the nobility of Persia. From earliest childhood He was distinguished among His relatives and friends. They said, "This child has extraordinary power." In wisdom, intelligence and as a source of new knowledge, He was advanced beyond His age and superior to His surroundings. All who knew Him were astonished at His precocity. It was usual for them to say, "Such a child will not live," for it is commonly believed that precocious children do not reach maturity. During the period of youth the Blessed Perfection did not enter school. He was not willing to be taught. This fact is well established among the Persians of Tihran. Nevertheless, He was capable of solving the difficult problems of all who came to Him. In whatever meeting, scientific assembly or theological discussion He was found, He became the authority of explanation upon intricate and abstruse questions presented.

Until His father passed away, Bahá'u'lláh did not seek position or political station notwithstanding His connection with the government. This occasioned surprise and comment. It was frequently said, "How is it that a young man of such keen intelligence and subtle perception does not seek lucrative appointments? As a matter of fact, every position is open to him." This is an historical statement fully attested by the people of Persia.

He was most generous, giving abundantly to the poor. None who came to Him were turned away. The doors of His house were open to all. He always had many guests. This unbounded generosity was conducive to greater astonishment from the fact that He sought neither position nor prominence. In commenting upon this His friends said He would become impoverished, for His expenses were many and His wealth becoming more and more limited. "Why is he not thinking of his own affairs?" they inquired of each other; but some who were wise declared, "This personage is connected with another world; he has something sublime within him that is not evident now; the day is coming when it will be manifested." In truth, the Blessed Perfection was a refuge for every weak one, a shelter for every fearing one, kind to every indigent one, lenient and loving to all creatures.