Sammenhengen mellom det åndelige og det materielle

Sammenhengen mellom det åndelige og det materielle

Sammenhengen mellom det åndelige og det materielle

The emergence of the materially and spiritually prosperous global civilization associated with humanity’s age of maturityrequires that the practical and spiritual aspects of life advance harmoniously together. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that while “material civilization is one of the means for the progress of the world of mankind,” until it is “combined with Divine civilization, the desired result, which is the felicity of mankind, will not be attained.1 He continues:

Material civilization is like a lamp-glass. Divine civilization is the lamp itself and the glass without the light is dark. Material civilization is like the body. No matter how infinitely graceful, elegant and beautiful it may be, it is dead. Divine civilization is like the spirit, and the body gets its life from the spirit, otherwise it becomes a corpse. It has thus been made evident that the world of mankind is in need of the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Without the spirit the world of mankind is lifeless, and without this light the world of mankind is in utter darkness.2

For the material and spiritual dimensions of civilization to advance in harmony, the very notion of prosperity needs to be re-examined. Material means are clearly vital to the advancement of civilization, and achieving prosperity implies that all people should have access to such means. Prosperity, however, cannot be understood as the mere accumulation of personal wealth. Such an individualistic conception—bereft as it is of the values of spiritual civilization—inevitably places undue weight on indulging desires and tends to cultivate a love of luxury. To contribute to the advancement of material and spiritual civilization, material means need to be used for far higher purposes: to foster unity, to uplift and edify the life of society, and to facilitate access to knowledge for all people, to name but a few.

A word of caution is also needed about our understanding of spirituality. It is too easy to view the concept in a superficial way—to comprehend it as little more than a tool for maximising satisfaction or as a veneer of activities or rituals designed to soothe the nerves and anxieties roused by a materialistic life. True spirituality reaches to the very roots of human existence: it permeates action and channels individual and collective efforts for the betterment of society, it cultivates thirst for knowledge, it elevates work to the station of worship, it promotes empathy, it provides for the control of selfish impulses, it emphasises oneness and interconnectedness, it fosters generosity and humility, and it nurtures appreciation for diversity and attraction to beauty. “[S]pirituality”, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states, “is the greatest of God’s gifts…May you, one and all, increase daily in spirituality, may you be strengthened in all goodness, may you be helped more and more by the Divine consolation, be made free by the Holy Spirit of God, and may the power of the Heavenly Kingdom live and work among you.3

Tro og fornuft

Tro og fornuft

Tro og fornuft

Faith and reason are attributes of the human soul through which insights and knowledge can be gained about the physical and the spiritual dimensions of existence. ‘Abdu’l-Bahástates: “By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds.1 He describes reason as “the first faculty of man2 and notes that reasoning power “singles man out from among created beings, and makes of him a creature apart.3 “God has given us rational minds for this purpose, to penetrate all things, to find truth. If one renounce reason, what remains?4 Faith and reason together make it possible to discover the powers and capacities latent in individuals, and in humanity as a whole, and enable people to work for the realization of these potentialities. 

It is often claimed that a duality exists between faith and reason—that the heart and the mind exist in a state of perpetual opposition. Yet such a duality is based on inadequate descriptions of both faith and reason. Faith, for example, is all too often understood as fanciful thinking, superstition, irrationality, and blindness to fact—it is defined as the antithesis of knowledge. Similarly, reason is reduced to a particular type of rationality that confines itself to the realm of the empirical, excluding everything that cannot be calculated and claiming to be free from assumptions. In reality, faith and reason are complementary faculties of the human being that together make possible the understanding of reality; they are both tools that enable society to apprehend truth. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes: “If religion is opposed to reason and science, faith is impossible; and when faith and confidence in the divine religion are not manifest in the heart, there can be no spiritual attainment.5

To have faith is not merely “to know” the truth. True faith is conscious knowledge expressed in action. Bahá’u’lláh states that “The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds…6 On the same subject, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes: “it is first ‘to know’ and then ‘to do’.7 If we know of a truth, then, it is incumbent on us to act in accordance with it, detached from the things of this world. “[T]hey that tread the path of faith,” Bahá’u’lláh has written, “must cleanse themselves of all that is earthly—their ears from idle talk, their minds from vain imaginings, their hearts from worldly affections, their eyes from that which perisheth. They should put their trust in God, and, holding fast unto Him, follow in His way.8

In numerous passages, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá underscores the importance of reason and rationality, noting that these faculties distinguish the human being “above all other forms of life.9 He states that “The greatest gifts of man are reason and eloquence of expression.10 He asks: “How can man believe that which he knows to be opposed to reason?…Can the heart accept that which reason denies?11 and, “How can a man believe to be a fact that which science has proved to be impossible?” concluding that if a person believes in spite of their reason “it is rather ignorant superstition than faith.12 He explains that we should devote our senses and faculties to “service of the general good” so that human beings, who are “distinguished above all other forms of life for perceptiveness and reason” should continually work “until all mankind are safely gathered into the impregnable stronghold of knowledge.13

Vitenskap og religion

Vitenskap og religion

Vitenskap og religion

Bahá’ís reject the notion that there is an inherent conflict between science and religion, a notion that became prevalent in intellectual discourse at a time when the very conception of each system of knowledge was far from adequate. The harmony of science and religion is one of the fundamental principles of the Bahá’í Faith, which teaches that religion, without science, soon degenerates into superstition and fanaticism, while science without religion becomes merely the instrument of crude materialism. “Religion,” according to the Bahá’í writings, “is the outer expression of the divine reality. Therefore, it must be living, vitalized, moving and progressive.”1Science is the first emanation from God toward man. All created things embody the potentiality of material perfection, but the power of intellectual investigation and scientific acquisition is a higher virtue specialized to man alone. Other beings and organisms are deprived of this potentiality and attainment.2

So far as earthly existence is concerned, many of the greatest achievements of religion have been moral in character. Through its teachings and through the examples of human lives illumined by these teachings, masses of people in all ages and lands have developed the capacity to love, to give generously, to serve others, to forgive, to trust in God, and to sacrifice for the common good. Social structures and institutional systems have been devised that translate these moral advances into the norms of social life on a vast scale. In the final analysis, the spiritual impulses set in motion by the Founders of the world’s religions—the Manifestations of God—have been the chief influence in the civilizing of human character.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá has described science as the “most noble” of all human virtues and “the discoverer of all things”.3 Science has enabled society to separate fact from conjecture. Further, scientific capabilities—of observing, of measuring, of rigorously testing ideas—have allowed humanity to construct a coherent understanding of the laws and processes governing physical reality, as well as to gain insights into human conduct and the life of society.

Taken together, science and religion provide the fundamental organizing principles by which individualscommunities, and institutions function and evolve. When the material and spiritual dimensions of the life of a community are kept in mind and due attention is given to both scientific and spiritual knowledge, the tendency to reduce human progress to the consumption of goods, services and technological packages is avoided. Scientific knowledge, to take but one simple example, helps the members of a community to analyse the physical and social implications of a given technological proposal—say, its environmental impact—and spiritual insight gives rise to moral imperatives that uphold social harmony and that ensure technology serves the common good. Together, these two sources of knowledge are essential to the liberation of individuals and communities from the traps of ignorance and passivity. They are vital to the advancement of civilization.