I am currently reading the collected stories of H.P.Lovecraft. They are wonderfully imagined tales of cosmic horror ripping through the thin veil of reality. When one goes beyond the entertainment however, I feel a certain sadness that the stories reveal a kind of existential horror of the material world on the part of the author – the descriptions of slimy-orificed creatures replete with Freudian suggestion. There is also a kind of anti-Platonist motif in Lovecraft’s work with the universe of Cthulu falling as a dark shadow on the mundane world. The protagonists of Lovecraft’s stories often appear rendered spiritually helpless by their own materialism. In contrast Abdu’l-Bahá teaches that we have both a lower self and a higher self capable of reflecting the light of God. We are in this wonderful material world but not limited to it.
In man there are two natures; his spiritual or higher nature and his material or lower nature. In one he approaches God, in the other he lives for the world alone. Signs of both these natures are to be found in men.
I find Plotinus’ writings on the nature of God and the universe to be most intriguing. He taught that the universe emanated from a transcendent God (the One) unaffected or undiminished by Creation. Plotinus used the analogy of the rays of the sun or a reflection in a mirror to describe this relationship.
This Neo-Platonist concept of the universe emanating from God is reminiscent of the contemporary scientific theory of the ‘Big Bang’ with the universe exploding outwards from a single point. Where Plotinus differs is that current scientific theory suggests creation ex nihilo- a point of view that Plotinus disagreed with.
It is striking that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá uses similar Neo-Platonist arguments and imagery in ‘Some Answered Questions’ saying that
..there is the world of God, the world of the Kingdom, and the world of Creation: three things. The first emanation from God is the bounty of the Kingdom, which emanates and is reflected in the reality of the creatures, like the light which emanates from the sun..
Not surprisingly experts have questioned the legality of the recent judgement against innocent members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran.
On 8 August it was reported that seven Iranian citizens – Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Vahid Tizfahm and Mahvash Sabet – had been sentenced to 20 years in prison. These sentences have since been reduced to 10 years. The seven previously constituted the informal leadership of the Bahá’í faith in Iran and their case has attracted international attention. We write to express our serious concerns about questions of due process that have arisen since their arrest in 2008 and throughout their detention, trial and sentencing.
We understand that the seven were detained without a writ being addressed to them. They were then held in solitary confinement for between 105 and 175 days. These prolonged detentions, prior to any trial, are unacceptable by any standard of due process. At the trial the charges included “spreading corruption on earth”, “propaganda against the Islamic order”, and “espionage, co-operation with Israel”. We understand no evidence was produced to support these charges, and that no written verdicts have been delivered. The seven are reported to have had one hour of time with their legal representatives. The charges and the sentences appear to be motivated solely by the fact that they are members of the Bahá’í faith. We urge the authorities to respect Iran’s obligations under international law and, moreover, that Iran conducts the subsequent appeal of the seven in accordance with these obligations as well as its own laws.
Rosalyn Higgins QC Former international judge
Linda Lee President, Law Society
Mark Muller QC Chairman, Bar human rights committee
The founder of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania Ferenc Dávid (1510 – 15 November 1579) is quoted as saying
There is no greater mindlessness and absurdity than to force conscience and the spirit with external power, when only their creator has authority for them.
These words seem particularly apt when applied to the situation of the Baha’is in Iran who are being cruelly persecuted for their beliefs. What is the point in using physical power to force outward conformity when ultimately it is a spiritual matter between an individual’s conscience and God?