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  • Roger - Dr Roger Prentice 7:30 am on August 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Baha'i in Process blog, , Dia-logos, Dialogic method, Dialogue, Human needs, , The keys to development   

    Baha’i human rights – or developmental human needs – are these the keys to progress? 

    I once asked on a course I was teaching this question, “What is the origin of human rights?”  Very quickly a woman from Sweden said, “Human needs.”  This struck a deep chord in me and I began to wonder how that might be the case and what were the implications for those of us that are interested in Baha’i-inspired development and education.

    EleanorRooseveltHumanRightsRecently I found this quotation included with Wendi Momen’s long list of human rights established within Baha’i writings.  The most significant aspect of the quotation for me is the assertion that in governments, and in religions, autocratic governance actually prevents (presumably true and desirable ) development;

    `Under an autocratic government the opinions of men are not free, and development is stifled, whereas in democracy, because thought and speech are not restricted, the greatest progress is witnessed. It is likewise true in the world of religion. When freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech prevail — that is to say, when every man according to his own idealization may give expression to his beliefs — development and growth are inevitable.’ Abdu’l-Bahá 1912

    Thanks Wendi – your list and this quotation really go to the heart of the matter don’t they?

    The free expression of opinions is not a ‘human right’ so much as a human and social necessity without which (true and desirable) progress is not possible. To achieve inevitable development and growth three conditions are necessary freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech. Pow!

    As someone interested in education I can see the importance of these three, not least because elsewhere Abdu’l-Baha establishes discursive method, or dialogue (dia-logos) as desirable method over book-learning.  Very simply Baha’i-inspired development and learning require the dialogic, and the dialogic requires freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech.

    Why are these needs?  To release effictively human potential both in relation to the individual, your son or daughter or pupils, but also for mankind collectively.  The Revelation of Baha’u’llah is not His Writings it is I suggest human consciousness – slightly manifest, mainly still in the potential state.  I dont say this just because of this;

    There are certain pillars which have been established as the unshakable supports of the Faith of God. The mightiest of these is learning and the use of the mind, the expansion of consciousness, and insight into the realities of the universe and the hidden mysteries of Almighty God. To promote knowledge is thus an inescapable duty imposed on every one of the friends of God. SAB p. 126-7

    But more because of this;

    Say: The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed as proof of His reality and truth. Gl105

    So the task is to release potential, from our selves and from others – that I suggest is ‘the Revelation’  It = +/- x right actions.  By Revelation + – I mean the Revelation is human consciousness in two states 1) manifest and 2) potential.  If not then, “Where is the Revelation of Baha’u’llah – in the ink on sheets of paper?”   Right actions = those processes that we need to strengthern the transfer from the potential state to the manifest state.  That = the new civilization.  It seems continuous and multi-level dialogue supported by freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech are the keys.

    Thank goodness we can demonstrate this as a way of ‘teaching’ the world.  Nothing would undermine efforts more than rank hypocrisy.

    In the presence of God there is no room for hypocrisy………
    (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 116)
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  • Roger - Dr Roger Prentice 6:55 am on August 8, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Awareness, , Connection, , Contemplation, , Spiritual practice   

    The Tree of Contemplative Practices – which ones work for you? 

    This wonderful ‘tree of contemplative practices’ has been updated since I last looked at the relevant site;

    Tree of Contemplative practices new version

    My personal grateful thanks to all those who contributed to this wonderful ‘tree’. To go to the site to see much, much more click HERE

     
  • Roger - Dr Roger Prentice 7:32 am on August 6, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bad religion, , Christopher Hitchens, , Good Religion, , Materialism, Reason Faith and Revolution, , Richard Dawkins, , The Case for God,   

    Is spirituality an intrinsic part of being human? 

    450px-Terry_Eagleton_in_Manchester_2008_WikiPediaIs spirituality an intrinsic part of being human?

    Two recent authors have challenged the fundamentalist-materialist position of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens that is so entirely unsympathetic to the religious, or more accurately the non-rationalist.  They are Reason, Faith and Revolution, by Terry Eagleton and The Case for God, by Karen Armstrong.  (They are reviewed HERE by Paul Vallely in the Independent.)

    Here I want to appreciatively critique a passage from Chapter 2 of Eagleton’s book (p 83).  The passage says;

    Transcendence, however, did not simply go away. In one sense, this is precisely what Ditchkins (Dawkins + Hitchens) is complaining about; but the matter is more complex than that.  The less plausibly religion seemed to answer to the human desire for a realm beyond science, material welfare, democratic politics and economic utility, the more robustly literature, the arts, culture, the humanities, psychoanalysis, and (the most recent candidate) ecology have sought to install themselves in that vacant spot.  If the arts have accrued an extraordinary significance in a modern era for which they are, practically speaking, just another kind of commodity, it is because they provide an ersatz sort of transcendence in a world from which spiritual values have been largely banished.

    The issues I have are;

    1 Transcendence is a, more or less, normal part of being human like the mystical, of which transcendence is an essential part, like philosophizing, like sexuality, like breathing.  It couldn’t go away unless every new human was subjected to a radical lobotomy.  The ‘more or less’ depends on how crass or sensitive the individual’s education has been.

    2 Instead of ‘desire for a realm’ I would prefer something like ‘intrinsic state of being’.  That which Dawkins and Hitchens would expunge is not a faulty behaviour but an essential part of being human – possible hard-wired, associated with the structure and functioning of the right hemisphere of the brain.

    3 Eagleton, like Armstrong is a successful critic of those he calls Ditchkins and a successful champion of this other ‘thing’ that isn’t the rational mind.  But the ‘thing’ is not an aberration, a sop, a weakness, a behavioural defect, a culturally-induced pattern – it is a universal part of being human.  Eagleton needs a better term for this ‘thing’, this part of being human that provides certain states being and engaging and knowing.  He might do well to study Armstrong’s use of, and explanations of, ‘mythos’.  However with her use I would plead that it start intra-personally otherwise it gets easily pushed out to being a thing in the social and cultural inter-personal world.

    4 Failing to place mythos as art of being human leads Eagleton a set of judgments that are Ditchkins-esque in their severity.  His list of literature, the arts, culture, the humanities, psychoanalysis, and (the most recent candidate) ecology are not vehicles for ersatz transcendence but vehicles for the real thing – because the transcendent or mystical experience is part of being human – from nature mysticism to sexuality.

    5 To bring in, in this context, the horror of arts commodity-fication clouds the most important argument.

    At the community level 60-80% of our friends are artists.  They aren’t all crippled by commodity-fication.  One or two perhaps but the possession of spiritual values is not synonymous with being religious, nor is the absence of conventional religiosity any bar to possessing spiritual values – as the Marxist Eagleton fully demonstrates.

    Even at the Tate level of the arts commodity-fication is not primarily the issue.  ‘Art now doing the job that philosophy used to do’ is as much the case as ‘art is now doing the job that religion used to do’.  Then there is the issue of what gets in and what doesn’t get in.  This is the prerogative of individual gate-keepers called curators, who along with particular critics, determine the particular kinds of discourse that will be presented.  They only indirectly serve ‘the market’.

    Transcendence, mystical experience and the possession or non-possession of spiritual values exist because we are human, and in the world with others.  Good religion feeds these aspects of being human – and rationality for that matter.  Bad religion blocks or distorts them.

    Eagleton fails to establish that -”beyond-the-reasoning-mind part of being human which I feel is essential for the full success of his arguments. This is for want of a term such as mythos and secondly because he doesn’t start with the psycho-spiritual reality of what it is to be human.

    Armstrong does so much better in this via her ‘we-need-a-balance-of-mythos-and-logos’ arguments in her ‘Case for God’, something I will celebrate in future posts.

    I deal further with these and allied issues in my Spiritualizing Pedagogy: education as the art of working with the human spirit

    As to the question, ‘Is spirituality an intrinsic part of being human?’ my answer is yes – good religion feeds these deeper aspects of being human – including rationality.  Bad religion blocks or distorts them.  As to the differences between the two that also is the subject for further pieces.

     
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