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Reflections on a Culture of Learning and Growth: Community and Individual Paradigm Shifts: A Contemporary, Historical, Futuristic and Personal ContextThe building of the structure of this new world Faith, a structure with many functions, was at the core of Bahai programs and policies, goals and game-plans, so to speak, from 1921 to 1996, a period of 75 years, as well as back into the 19th century
This book of 530 pages(font 14) and 200 thousand words contains reflections and understandings regarding this new Baha'i culture of learning and growth, what amounts to a paradigmatic shift, in the Baha’i community which it has been going through since the mid-1990s. This newest, this latest, of the Abrahamic religions, has been developing a new culture in the last two decades(1996-2016). This new culture or paradigm will be developing in the decades ahead at least until 2044, the end of the second century of the Baha'i Era(1844 to 2044), and perhaps beyond into that third century, 2044 to 2144. Time will tell when the next paradigmatic shift will take place in the international Baha'i community.
Comparisons and contrasts are made to several previous paradigm shifts in the Baha'i community. Thoughts on future developments within this paradigm and future paradigms are suggested. In the first five years, 2007 to 2012, of the presence of this book, this commentary, on the world-wide-web, this work has contributed to an extensive dialogue on the issues regarding the many related and inter-related processes involved in the many ongoing changes in the international Bahai community, a community which exists in more than 200 countries and territories on the planet.
This work is dedicated to the Universal House of Justice, trustee of the global undertaking which the events of more than a century ago set in motion. The fully institutionalized charismatic Force, a Force that historically found its expression in the Person of Baha'u'llah, will have effloresced by a process of succession, of appointment and election, at the apex of Bahai administration for half a century by 21 April 2013.
I have also written this book as a form of dedication to, by some accounts, an estimated 25,000 Baha'is and Babis who have given their lives for this Cause from the 1840s to the second decade of this third millennium. I have also dedicated this book to the many best teachers and exemplary believers--those ordinary Bahais--who have consecrated themselves, indeed their lives, to the work of this Faith.
Finally, I have written this work in memory of my maternal grandfather, Alfred Cornfield, whose life from 1872 to 1958 has always been for me a model of an engagement in a quite personal culture of learning and personal growth.
This book is, arguably, the longest analysis and commentary on this new Baha'i paradigm that is currently available in the Bahai community, although several other books have appeared since this piece of writing first appeared in cyberspace in 2007. The overarching perspective in this book is a personal one that attempts to answer the question: "where do I fit into this new paradigm?" Readers are left to work out their own response to this question as readers inevitably must, now and in the decades ahead, as this new paradigm develops a life of its own within the framework already established in the first two decades of its operation: 1996 to 2016. The question now is not "if" but "how" each Baha'i will engage themselves, will participate, in this new paradigm as the first century of the Formative Age comes to an end in 2021 and in the years beyond as this third millennium continues to challenge all of humanity.
See also bahai-library.com/price_pioneering_four_epochs.
Reflections on a Culture of Learning and Growth: Community and Individual Paradigm Shifts: A Contemporary, Historical, Futuristic and Personal Context by Ron Price
This book of 530 pages(font 14) and 200 thousand words contains reflections and understandings regarding this new Bahá'í culture of learning and growth, what amounts to a paradigmatic shift, in the Baha’i community which it has been going through since the mid-1990s. This newest, this latest, of the Abrahamic religions, has been developing a new culture in the last two decades(1996-2016). This new culture or paradigm will be developing in the decades ahead at least until 2044, the end of the second century of the Bahá'í Era(1844 to 2044), and perhaps beyond into that third century, 2044 to 2144. Time will tell when the next paradigmatic shift will take place in the international Bahá'í community.
Comparisons and contrasts are made to several previous paradigm shifts in the Bahá'í community. Thoughts on future developments within this paradigm and future paradigms are suggested. In the first five years, 2007 to 2012, of the presence of this book, this commentary, on the world-wide-web, this work has contributed to an extensive dialogue on the issues regarding the many related and inter-related processes involved in the many ongoing changes in the international Bahai community, a community which exists in more than 200 countries and territories on the planet.
This work is dedicated to the Universal House of Justice, trustee of the global undertaking which the events of more than a century ago set in motion. The fully institutionalized charismatic Force, a Force that historically found its expression in the Person of Bahá'u'lláh, will have effloresced by a process of succession, of appointment and election, at the apex of Bahai administration for half a century by 21 April 2013.
I have also written this book as a form of dedication to, by some accounts, an estimated 25,000 Bahá'ís and Babis who have given their lives for this Cause from the 1840s to the second decade of this third millennium. I have also dedicated this book to the many best teachers and exemplary believers--those ordinary Bahais--who have consecrated themselves, indeed their lives, to the work of this Faith.
Finally, I have written this work in memory of my maternal grandfather, Alfred Cornfield, whose life from 1872 to 1958 has always been for me a model of an engagement in a quite personal culture of learning and personal growth.
This book is, arguably, the longest analysis and commentary on this new Bahá'í paradigm that is currently available in the Bahai community, although several other books have appeared since this piece of writing first appeared in cyberspace in 2007. The overarching perspective in this book is a personal one that attempts to answer the question: "where do I fit into this new paradigm?" Readers are left to work out their own response to this question as readers inevitably must, now and in the decades ahead, as this new paradigm develops a life of its own within the framework already established in the first two decades of its operation: 1996 to 2016. The question now is not "if" but "how" each Bahá'í will engage themselves, will participate, in this new paradigm as the first century of the Formative Age comes to an end in 2021 and in the years beyond as this third millennium continues to challenge all of humanity.
In drawing on the works of other writers over the last five years, 2007 to 2012, I should emphasize at the outset of this lengthy read that, by 2012, the internet had a myriad print and audio-visual resources on this new paradigm. This book had become for me a sort of centrepiece within all the internet posts on the subject. Readers wanting to understand this new Bahá'í culture were not short on analyses and commentary to go to get a picture of what this new Bahá'í cultuire was all about. After five years of having this book in cyberspace it had become somewhat irrelevant to the mass of readers who preferred short posts. As 2013 approached, and the 50th anniversary of the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963, I found I was adding less and less, and editing less and less to this book. The book had become a useful resource for readers wanting a macroscopic view of the new Bahá'í paradigm.
What appears to be emerging from the digital revolution is the possibility of a new mode of temporality for public communication, one in which public exchange through the written word can occur without deferral, in a continuously immediate present. A world in which we are all, through electronic writing, continuously present to one another. There is, I would like to suggest, something unprecedented in this possibility of the escape of writing from fixity. What the digitalization of text seems to have opened up is the possibility for writing to operate in a temporal mode hitherto exclusively possible for speech, as parole rather than langue.(Hesse, 1996: 32). This ‘continuously immediate present’ of writing could allow our writing projects, and our conversations around those projects, to develop in a more fruitful, more organic fashion. Such is the case here.
Writers like myself in this document are willing to expose some of their process in public, to allow readers to see some of the bumps and false starts along the way. I didn’t at all have the sense, as I wrote the early edition of this book, that I was even embarking on a book-length project; I only knew that I had a small, persistent question that I wanted to think a little bit about. Having formulated an initial stab at one possible answer, having even been disagreed with, supported, and encouraged by my commenters to think in more complex ways about the issues I’d presented, only then was I able to recognize that there was more to be said, that there was something in the ideas to which I was compelled to commit myself. Without the beginnings of this book back in 2007, and the inadvertent process of drafting in public to which it led me, none of the ideas in the longer text could have come together.
But approaching my writing from the perspective of process, thinking about how ideas move and develop from one form of writing to the next, and about the ways that those stages are represented, connected, preserved, and ‘counted’ within new digital modes of publishing, was necessary for fostering this work that took full advantage of the web’s particular temporality. Everything published on the web exists, in some sense, in a perpetual draft state, open to future change; writers like myself recognize both the need this creates for careful preservation of the historical record of the stages in a text’s life and the equal importance for authors of approaching our work openly, thinking about how our texts might continue to grow even after they’ve seen the light of day.
As this text became increasingly available for the sort of ongoing development to which I refer above I recognized more and more the degree to which I was no longer the sole authors working on this book. YThis work became far more collaborative than any book I have written in the past, New modes of collaboration – over time, across distances – made possible by networked writing structures required me to think about originality quite differently, precisely because of the ways that these new modes intervene in my conventional associations of authorship with individuality.
These two facets of conventional authorship — individuality and originality — are complexly intertwined: insisting that a text must consist of one’s ‘own’ work is to insist that it make an original contribution to the field; the bottom that every tub sits on must not simply be its own, but uniquely its own. But not only does the operation of the digital network exclude the possibility of uniqueness in its very function. The links and interconnections that the network facilitates profoundly affect the shape of any given text. If, in digital scholarship, the relationships between the authors whose ideas we draw upon (now traditionally cordoned off from our own ideas via quotation marks and citations) and the texts that we produce in response are made material — if the work of our predecessors is some sense contained within whatever increasingly fuzzy boundaries draw the outlines of our own texts.
Reflections on a Culture of Learning and Growth: Community and Individual Paradigm Shifts:
A Contemporary, Historical, Futuristic and Personal Context
by Ron Price
This book of 530 pages and 200 thousand words(font 14) contains reflections and understandings regarding the new Bahai culture, what amounts to a gradual paradigmatic shift, in the Baha’i community. This community is now found in over 200 nations and territories on the planet. It is the second most widespread religion on earth. This paradigm shift has been taking place since the mid-1990s, with its first intimations going back arguably as far as April 1988 or even the 1970s when the concept of the institute first became part of the Bahá'í community's process of deepening its adherents. This new paradgim will continue in its various permutations and combinations, its wide-ranging developments at least until 2021, if not until the end of the 2nd century of the Bahai Era in 2044. This shift will possibly find an increasing elaboration beyond 2044 into the third century of the Bahá'í Era, 2044 to 2144, as this new world Faith plays an increasing part in the affairs of the world and its peoples. From time to time in this book I make mention of the paradigm shifts in our wide-wide world as it increasingly globalizes, planetizes and becomes one world socially as it already it, to a significant extent, technologically and scientifically. Of course, the wider paradigm shifts that involve the entire planet are all very complex and these wider shifts, are not the focus of this book, although they cannot be entirely divorced what the Bahá'í community and its 5 to 8 million adherents.
The Baha’i community had already put in place an evolving structural base for community building in the century before the emergence of this new paradigm. Community building became a focus for a process that the internationally and democratically elected body of the Bahá'ís, the Universal House of Justice, said began at the outset of this new paradigm in the mid-1990s. Most of my life as a Baha’i, as far back as the 1950s, and before that in the lifetime of my parents who were also Baha’is, during that first epoch(1937-1963), and its three stages, of Abdul-Baha’s Divine Plan, the major goal and emphasis was on building the structure, the institutional base of this "nascent Faith of Baha’u’llah” and what the House of Justice referred to in its Ridvan message of 2011 as “the harbinger of the New World Order.” "The evolving administrative structures offer glimmerings, however faint," the House of Justice pointed out, "of how the institutions of the Faith will incrementally come to assume a fuller range of their responsibilities to promote human welfate and progress."(Ridvan 2012)
The building of the structure of this new world Faith, a structure with many functions, was at the core of Bahai programs and policies, goals and game-plans, so to speak, from 1921 to 1996, a period of 75 years, if not in at least the quarter-century before that in the ministry of Abdul-Baha. In the last 20 years(1996 to 2016) the focus has been on "community" in addition to "structure." Of course, teaching this Faith, extending the base, the number of localities, the numerical, the statistical, foundation as far and wide as possible, making a larger group of believers, has always been high on the agenda of Bahá'í communities everywhere since the origins of this newest of the Abrahamic religions in the middle of the 19th century. The latest messages from the House of Justice, 12/12/'11, 19/1/'12, and 21/4/'12 are examples, par excellence, of this community building focus. This book attempts to incorporate messages from the House of Justice and national assemblies as they are published and as they relate to this new Bahá'í culture. The 12/12/'11 message from the House of Justice, a six page message which foreshadows many developments in the community in the decades to come, is discussed toward the end of this lengthy post at BLO. The most recent Ridvan message of 21/4/'12 I will comment on briefly in this book from time to time as I have already done briefly..
The process I have described above in a few sentences and below in many more sentences is far more complex than the simple sketch I am outlining, a sketch that goes back to the first intimations of this Order in the 1840s. “The unveiled brilliance of the gilded dome that crowns the exalted Shrine of the Bab,” which the House of Justice referred to in its April 2011 message, is a tribute, a memorial, to the memory of the Man who was martyred in 1850 for this new System with its structures, its functions, its communities, which would be initially sketched by Him Whom God would make manifest, Baha’u’llah, in His voluminous writings as well as those of His Successor, Abdul-Baha. Still, this international Bahá'í community is only glimpsing, only manifesting, the first streaks of the promised dawn that is the promise and vision within this new Order. The full force of its implications are only slowly developing within the embryo that is the present paradigm.
What I have written in the above, of course, is my own way of putting things, my own thoughts, as the rest of this now lengthy book continues to explore these thoughts, thoughts put on paper beginning in 2007 and continuing in the five years since then, years of receiving messages from the elected and appointed branches on this new world Faith. I have also drawn on the thoughts of others extensively, some who read this book will say perhaps too extensively. But I make no apologies for the ample quotations from the words of others, individuals and institutions. This book has grown over the last five years largely through the writings of others, institutions and individuals, and this needs to be emphasized at the outset. If there is any inventiveness here it is in putting the writings of others into some warp and weft, some pattern of significance to me, a pattern I hope is also significant to readers. I hope to outline some of the dynamics of light and darkness, idealism and disillusionment that are characterisitic of the revolution at the heart of this paradigm
THE END OF THE CURRENT FIVE YEAR PLAN(FYP) in 2016:
By the end of this current Plan, 2011 to 2016, Abdul-Baha’s Divine Plan will arguably be one century old and the religion in which this Plan is being put into action will have some two centuries of historical experience. Much of our knowledge in life is acquired by experience.(Ridvan 2012) The Author of the letters providing the details of the Plan for the extension of this Faith around the world, penned His first words in March and April 1916 nearly three years after returning from His epoch-making journeys to the West. Those journeys were described by Shoghi Effendi as “a service of such heroic proportions no parallel to it is to be found in the annals of the first Baha’i century (GPB,p.279) They will be both celebrated and commemorated during the first two years, 2011 and 2012, of this FYP. This Plan of Bahá'u'lláh's appointed and legitimate Successor is at the core of this new paradigm. This new Bahá'í culture is inseparable from His Plan.
It was in September 1911, when Abdul-Baha arrived in London, the city He chose, the metropolis of the British Empire, as the scene of His first appearance before the public, that His western tour could be said to have begun.(Balyuzi, Abdul-Baha, p.141) In the last century, 1911 to 2012, the light of this Cause has penetrated, suffused and enveloped many a region of this planet and this process will go on inexorably in the next hundred years: 2012 to 2112. In some ways, Abdu’l-Baha’s journey to the West simply initiated, or perhaps more accurately, extended and began to systematize a process of teaching in the West begun in 1894, if not as far back as the 1840s when the first reports of this new religion began appearing in Western newspapers. During this centenial period of that historic whistle-stopping journey, the Bahá'í community is turning again and again to Abdul-Baha's words and His emphasis on the new social forms that will emerge in this Bahá'í Era.(Ridvan, 2012)
GLOBAL DIFFUSION: A LONG WAY TO GO
The Cause has not suffused the entire planet after the passing of nearly 170 years of the Baha’i Era(BE): “that goal is far from being fulfilled.”(UHJ, April, 2011) In the course of the evolution of this new paradigm the international Bahá'í community may see that goal fulfilled. Perhaps during one of the next major shifts in the Baha’i administration’s way of going about things, so to speak, that goal will be completed. Time will tell when and how. I have no doubt that this goal will be fulfilled. My belief, like so many of the beliefs of the adherents of this new world Faith, is characterized by a sense of its inevitability. It is only a question of time in the ongoing evolution of this new world Faith, this newest of the Abrahamic religions. In many ways the work of “the penetration of that light into all the remaining territories of the globe”(UHJ, April 2011) has just begun in this first century, 1911 to 2011, the first century since the travels to the West of the Bahá'í Faith's exemplar, Abdul-Baha. As Paul Lample notes in his useful discussion of this new paradigm: “Of the more than 16,000 clusters at the start of the second Five Year Plan in 2006, some 10,000 remained unopened to the Faith and less than 2% of those that had been opened were capable of taking on the challenge of growth.” (Paul Lample, Revelation and Social Reality, Palabra, 2009, p.104.)
The implications of this statement of Lample's, of course, around the thousands of Bahai communities in dozens of countries is that the Faith has grown very slowly in many, many places and this slow growth may continue for some time in many places. It is important, it seems to me, not to infuse this new paradigm with a problem Bahai communities have had for decades: unrealistic expectation of the growth in the numbers of believers. The assumption that numbers will increase by hard work and effort is true but only partly and only in some places. In some places this assumption is warranted. The experience I have had in the nearly 60 years I have been associated with this new Faith, and the experience I am aware of from my reading and study of this Cause, leads me to have high expectations for this Faith's growth but they have become, over the decades, more realistic ones for its slow growth in many parts of the globe, if my last 60 years of experience is any judge. My experience often, but not always, makes me feel "sure-footed in the application of the knowledge I have gain through this experience."(Ridvan 2012)
The Bahai Faith has grown from some 100 thousand at the outset of the first Plan in 1937, when my parents were about to first meet and marry in the lunch-pail city of Hamilton Ontario, to some 200 thousand in 1953. That year, 1953, was a historic juncture in the history of this Cause for a number of reasons, not the least of which personally, was that my mother joined the Bahá'í Faith that year. The Bahá'í tmeple in Chigao was dedicated that year; the Ten Year Crusade was launched and the Shrine of the Bab was completed. It was a big year. This Faith now has some 5 to 8 million depending on what set of statistics one draws on. The subject of numbers, of statistics, has complex dimensions and the subject is one that seems to raise controversy from time to time due to the long-standing emphasis on numbers, an emphasis both inside the Faith and out. But in most places I have lived in my day-to-day life and in many, many places I have not lived, growth has been 'discouragingly meagre' and, from my point of view, this has been due to those unrealistic expectations. But this slow growth is also due to many other factors which this book aludes to from time to time. The whole question of the growth of this Cause is a complex one with complex answers. Peter Smith's book(2004), Bahá'ís in the West, gives an excellent overview of the growth of the Cause from decade to decade, up to 1990. I cannot do better than refer readers here to this book if they are interested in the statistical side of this new Faith up to the emergence of this new paradigm.
COMPARISONS AND CONTRASTS WITH OTHER PARADIGMS
I could make extended comparisons and contrasts between the current culture of learning and growth, the new Baha’i paradigm, and the several previous paradigm shifts in the Bahai community. I could also anticipate future developments within this paradigm and future paradigms. In spite of the enthralling, the stupendous, vision that Bahá'u'lláh gifted to the world(Ridvan 2012)of the future of humankind and my own particular proclivities in sci-fi writing this temptation is also avoided. The scope of what was originally an essay, and is now a book of more than 500 pages(depending on what font-size is used), does not allow for any detailed comparisons and contrasts with previous paradigms beyond some very general observations. The elaboration of what will clearly seem to many like the utopian visions of this world religion is also something I do not deal with. Such comparisons and such visionary statements can be found in many published Bahai works, at posts on the internet for those readers who are interested, and in the talks of various Bahai speakers--some published and some not. The Bahai vision is so enthralling that it inspires the optimist and leaves the skeptic and cynic laughing and somewhat bemused. As I say, though, I only make some general and limited comments later in this book for those readers who enjoy or who persist through these 100s of pages. The new paradigm, I should emphasize here, is best conceptualized as a mixture, a dynamic mixture, of past paradigms and present, this new Bahá'í culture. This new Bahá'í culture has not sprung-up ex nihilo. This new Baha’i culture is also not some monolithic scheme superimposed everywhere and anywhere in the same way. There is what you might call a case-specific contextualization. The new paradigm is a vast metatext in which the smaller contexts, the local communities and our individual lives, have been cast. This has been the case throughout Baha’i history, throughout previous paradigms. As we approach this new metacontext, though, we must be on our guard that we avoid what has always seemed to me to be our curious tendency towards oversimplification and absolutism when it comes to spiritual matters. Our knowledge in many aspects of the individual and society is notoriously imprecise, a fortiori, in relation to spiritual matters. Uncertainty, with its implications of trust, is our spiritual condition and it is quintessential to our spiritual development. So much of the Bahá'í journey is dynamic and continuously changing, a moving and fluctuating system, a flexible road-map to all possibilities. There is "an extraordinary rservoire of spiritual potential" available to the individual to draw on(Ridvan 2012) to help him or her act and, in the process overcome the "layered veil of false premises," the apparent "insurmountable obstacles," and "the prevailing theories of the age" which "seem impervious to alteration."(Ridvan 2012)
Unity in diversity has always been the watchword inspite of the best efforts of individuals to impose some simplistic and sterile uniformity. Each cluster, each assembly, each community, each Bahá'í, develops in their own way given the special circumstances of each individual and each community. The Baha’i community and the individuals within it in this new paradigm and in the old have been one and all expected to master worldly evils as they have gone about creating the Kingdom of God on Earth. As they have done this, of course, they have needed to reject the sins people commit, but not the sinners. We all need to do battle with our inner demons and not worry too much about the demons of others. The context for all of this are what you might call contraries which we so often try in vain to reconcile and balance: principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance,discretion and prudence on the one hand and fellowship, candour and courage on the other.
To act in accordance with this new Faith’s teachings has always been an imperative and it has always been a challenge. This has often been against popular opinion, but it has not been against secular authority. This has often been difficult and it has required a robust optimism. This is true, a fortiori, in this new Bahá'í culture. A goodly portion of humility is also a prerequisite in the Bahá'í life since no Bahá'í knows what his or her own end shall be. This is not a religion which guarantees individual salvation through either belief or good works. The Bahá'í community and its adherents are more interested in saving the planet. The ultimate judgements about souls is left to God. There are many people in the world doing good work for humanity, but it is the Bahá'ís who have the blueprint for the erection of the dam that will in time stop the flood which, at present, threatens to engulf humankind.
This nascent Faith of Baha’u’llah, this harbinger of the New World Order, requires of the faithful to labour on His behalf to create that humane Kingdom in His behalf. Such labour requires method and system and a movement away from egocentric individual interests toward far broader tasks. This mission requires a religious obligation and ties individuals into a community. The purpose is far higher than utilitarian calculations and the pursuit of material gain. A family of trust and helpfulness exists in this community and it serves as a natural training ground for group participation skills. This training ground has an increased specificity in this new Bahá'í culture. Habits and theories of blame have no place in this paradigm but, given the nature of human beings, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, the lack of personal development in many souls if not most, many obstacles limit the growth of this new culture in ways similar to the limiting factors in previous paradigms. Blame is a negative reaction to the limitations we struggle with daily, and like doubt, which undermines the very basis of that daily struggle, it is a mental habit that produced adults more aware of human weakness than human strength. There is, too, a gradual and inevitable absorption in the manifold perplexities and problems afflicting humanity as Bahá'ís everywhere try to put into place the complex structure and increasingly elaborate community at the heart of this paradigm. We are buffeted by circumstances and distracted by crises. The arduousness of the task we face in this new paradigm we but dimly recognize. It is not easy. It is very difficult. All things really worthwhile are, it seems to be just about by definition, very difficult. Much of the education most of us have is like a knife without a handle and it is, at worse, dangerous and, at best, often useless. We labour under so many misconceptions and false assumptions: literalism, the heavy burden of ludicrous expectations of others and of our own dear selves, the notion, the falseness, of a spiritual life not rooted in our animal existence, a failure to accpet that pain is always a necessary tiller of the heart's soil.
I MAKE NO PROMISES
I trust that readers who stay with this text will have some reward. Of course, as in any writing, writers can not promise and---if they do---it is either at their peril or it is because of their previous literary successes. This I can not claim due to my many unsuccessul efforts to write books and I don't like to venture into perilous territory, literary and otherwise, if I can help it. I have developed a more cautionary approach to life as I have come to head into its evening hours. In the first five years, 2007 to 2012, of the presence of this book, this commentary on the new Bahai culture, on the internet, this work has contributed its part---as some posts on the internet do---to an extensive dialogue on the issues regarding the many inter-related processes, complex structures and community functions involved in the ongoing changes in the international Bahai community in these last two decades. This book at BLO has received more than 10,000 hits which is one measure of the extent to which it has been read at least at this one site. But words, I must emphasize, are one of the leatr parts of faith; faith I have often thought is a gift to be lived and, even after several decades, I am a beginner---however much I write in this analysis of the new Bahá'í culture. I cannot give others faith nor understanding. That is their job.
The word ‘temperament’ comes to us from medieval physiology. A temperament was seen as a balance of multiple humors, a composite of multiple psychical forces, a concept for the general trend of the soul. Temperament was seen and is a vague sensibility, a kind of broad appraisal of a person’s attitude. It is a category that spans one’s nature and education. Our temperaments guide our attention, but they are also reflections of our past experiences. Temperament changes, such was the medieval view, according to the balance of humors in the body; it changes with age, and it is reflective of one’s upbringing and general cultural inheritance. A temperament is also part of the culture of an individual, but it extends beyond the individual into deep and often unconscious attitudes, habits, prejudices and capacities. Temperament is rarely directly expressed; it is instead uncovered through the analysis of actions. One’s temperament shows through as a vague and general propensity, the sum total of many disparate and unrelated acts. It is a broad composite, built and undone over the course of a lifetime. It is a psychic process embedded in complex social processes. It lies behind what I am writing in this book about the new Bahá'í culture.
In writing this book it is my hope that I have uncovered a certain philosophico-historical spirit which is grounded in the living specificity of my nearly 60 years of association with this new world Faith. It is a philosophical spirit echoed among a number of my contemporaries and historical predessessors in the Bahá'í community. It is a philosophy of the street and of the neighbourhood, of the local and of the specific, of the problem-centered and of the community oriented. It is also playful and affirmative. It is a type of spirit that contains a genealogical criticism. It construes the historical sense as attitude, perspective, and a way of life rather than as system, as book, or as an ascetic and transcendental attitude. It means affirming temperament, locality, and problems. It seeks out origins and explanations, but only to a limited extent; it attempts to make interventions into particular habits and attitudes that I have have lived with and observed for decades. The practices of reading and interpreting, of arguing and analyzing are woven into the very field of the new Bahá'í paradigm itself, as a part of its game-plan, its aims and objectives. My writing has been shaped by a century of tempestuous violence on the planet; I write in order to heal whatever wounds I find and to allow differences to live together. Ironically, I write as much to create and to clarify problems as to dissolve and solve them.
For this writer, there are two texts: (i) the Book and its legitimate interpreters and (ii) the forever unfinished, decentralized text of history—forever supplemented, new chapters being written in all sorts of places by all sorts of people not especially in touch with one another. There is some work of ‘correspondence,’ and some of ‘production.’ I write, or so I like to think, as a type of Emersonian self, exhorting others through my temperament towards a fundamental faith in the possibility of personality beseeching others with Emerson to, "affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, trade and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history," that there is a great responsible thinker and actor, the indwelling God "within me mighty, powerful and self-subsistent," working wherever I work; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature.‛(Emerson, Self Reliance, p. 270). My temperamental prison, made as it is of glass, is also a prism that reflects and refracts thought so that it might be broken and colorful.
POWER AND AUTHORITY IN THIS NEW PARADIGM
Power, as I concieve it, is not seen as a property, but as a strategy. Its effects of domination are attributed not to ‘appropriation’, but to dispositions, manoeuvres, tactics, techniques, functionings.‛ Power in this sense is not exercised by the ‚powerful,‛ but is a network of activities carried out by everyone in society? In short this power is exercised rather than possessed; it is not the ‘privilege’, acquired or preserved, of the dominant class, but the overall effect of strategic positions. It is an effect that is manifested and sometimes extended by the position of those who are dominated. The operation of power or rather its manifestation is found in particular acts. As such, power does not ‛obey the law of all or nothing‛ but is rather manifested in localized episodes that have effects on the entire network in which it is caught up. At the same time, power cannot be separated for purposes of understanding its operation since power produces knowledge. There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations. From the perspective of the theory of power, individuals themselves are products of the system of power relations. The individual man is already himself the effect of a subjection much more profound then himself.
In organizations, in the international organization that is the Bahá'í Faith, authority is the scope of the legitimate power of the elected institutions of this new world Faith, or legitimate power possessed by individuals when acting on behalf of these elected institutions. This authority is conferred through officially recognized channels within the Bahá'í Faith, and represents a portion of the power of these elected institutions. For example, a Bahá'í institution might have the authority to deprive an individual of his voting and administrative rights. That institution could also provide an authorized person to determine if a member of the community should have such rights removed. In contrast, a group of Bahá'ís might have the power to do all of the above things, but still lack the authority because the actions would not be legitimate.
Authority in the Bahá'í community can also be seen in situations in which authority is an institutional function. An elected Bahá'í body, for example, might hire employees as a standard function of its existence. However, most of that body's members are not authorized to hire employees. This authority is passed down through Bahá'í administration to specific individuals sometimes with limited institutional involvement.
THE LANGUAGE OF PARADIGMS
The language of paradigms has been used across many academic disciplines and fields of discourse to describe current and shifting understandings of knowledges, beliefs, assumptions, and practices. Thomas Kuhn (1962) made the term “paradigm” recognizable with his publication of Structure of Scientific Revolutions in the very year before the emergence of another Bahá'í paradigm in 1963---the year of the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963. That was the same year--1962--my own travelling and pioneering for the Canadian Bahá'í community began. For Kuhn, a paradigm was a collection of shared beliefs, a set of agreements about how the world may be understood. According to Kuhn, the differences between Newton's mechanical universe and Einstein's relativistic universe represented a shift in paradigms. Each of these two approaches to physical science represented a worldview, or a paradigm, that guideed how scientists saw the world.
Hans Kung (1988), the great Catholic theologian, is among those who has applied Kuhn’s understanding of paradigms to religion. He identified several paradigms that have shaped religious history. Among recent Christian worldviews are the modern, Enlightenment paradigm and the emerging Ecumenical paradigm. In comparing these two paradigms, Frederick Schleiermacher’s (1996; 2001) contributions that shaped much of modern liberal theology have been challenged by the pluralism of more recent ecumenical and interfaith theological understandings (Cobb, 1982; Hick, 1982). The new does not replace the old, yet it does provide an alternative foundation of thought for understanding contemporary religious practices. This is also true of the new Bahá'í paradigm: it does not replace the old, but it does provide an alternative foundation, an altered, an additional, structural, institutional, organizational scheme or framework, a new language so to speak. This framework, this structural embellishment, has assisted and is assisting the Bahá'í community to deal with a multitude of functions: its emergence from obscurity and the public image it has slowly acquired in the last several decades; the new horisons and developments in the wider society; the unfolding educational processes from childhood to old age, the several stages in the lifespan, within the Bahá'í community; the extension of the Cause to every corner of the planet and the deepening of those people who are attracted to this global, this very wide-spread, religion---and much more, a more that this book discusses in its 500 pages.
A paradigm as a worldview containing deep-seated assumptions that are so much a part of a person that it is often difficult to step back and see what the assumptions are. Such assumptions and views of the world are central to a person’s belief system and to the ways that a person lives and acts in relation to others. In some ways, as this new paradigm has evolved in its first two decades(1996-2016), Bahá'ís need to be able to practice multi-paradigmatically, to discern the assumptions most often used within the Cause as an organization and then use their critical thinking and their personal skills to move across different facets of the paradigm to accomplish goals congruent with the values, beliefs and attitudes necessary to implement the aims and goals of this new Bahá'í culture. This multi-paradigmatic perspective is useful when deciding what course of action to take when faced with the many options now open in both individual and community life in this 21st century. A new complexity has emerged both in the wider world and in the Bahá'í community. In the Bahá'í community this is particularly the result of developments in this new Bahá'í culture of learning and growth, developments that have been slowly introduced and incrementally developed. This book includes a discussion of the philosophical assumptions and the practical implications of this new paradigm since paradigms emerge in practical frameworks based on these assumptions. The multiparadigmatic perspective to which I refer is, for me at least and I hope for others, a heuristic tool for approaching so much that is found in this new Bahá'í culture.
A PARADIGM IN A MULTI-PARADIGMATIC FRAMEWORK
There are several practical and theoretical elements to think about when considering this paradigm, a paradigm which for me possesses a multiparadigmatic framework. Religion and spirituality have a range of meanings and they provide a category for understanding the context of broad and diverse spiritual and sacerdotal practices engaged in by individuals and communities. With Bahá'ís located in some 120,000 localities there is an immense diversity of practice taking place within this paradigm. The epistemology, the nature of the knowledge, that each Bahá'í has acquired and will acquire, is as varied as there are Bahá'ís. How does one know what is true or real? Traditional sources of knowledge in the Bahá'í community include: intuition, perception, testimony, experience, and rational thought. Within Bahá'í history there are four common sources: reason, revelation, tradition, and experience. There are, of course, variations on these sources and the weight they carry, with some sources dominating others. For example, the socially hegemonic force of authority is found in Bahá'í religious tradition, in what Bahá'ís call "the Writings" or The Book. This is balanced by what you might call individual thought and emotion as an experiential source of knowledge. This latter source lacks authority but it is crucial in determining what each Bahá'í does in practice. It is here that what I call the multi-paradigmatic framework is born. Here, we begin to see one important factor: the distinction between hard knowledge, which is capable of being transmitted in a tangible form, the tradition of sacred writings, and soft knowledge, which is more innate, more experiential, and more personal.
A rational, orderly approach to the new Bahá'í culture and a feeling that there is “one best way” or a commonly accepted “right way” to accomplish tasks characterize what you might call a functionalist approach to the new Bahá'í paradigm. Most assumptions and theories that have guided Bahá'í practice in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are also central to a functionalist approach to this new paradigm. A second approach, an interpretive approach, to this new paradigm has as its focus consensus and equilibrium but it is subjectivist in nature so that the social reality of the new paradigm for each individual is based on human experiences and these experiences exist primarily as a human, an individual, a social construct. Interpretations of what is real in life and what each individual engages in within the new Bahá'í culture reflect individual understandings and intersubjectively shared meanings. The individual Bahá'í seeks to understand written texts and his or her lived experiences as well as those of the Bahá'í community. The populations served by the Bahá'í community, what are sometimes called targeted or receptive populations, those small pockets of the population where the limited resources of the Bahá'í community can be brought to bear, brought to a focus in the teaching and service work of individuals and the community, are an important part of the community building process in this new Bahá'í paradigm. Each Bahá'í approaches these pockets of the population in their own way guided by the institutions of the Cause, institutions which have been around for decades and new institutional forms which have arisen only in the last twenty years and which constitute the evolving institutional nature of the new paradigm.
As part of this multi-paradigmatic perspective to which I refer above, Bahá'ís must watch that no trace of paternalism, superiority or prejudice comes into their interaction with others or estrangement and disaffection will result among those whom they want to teach/reach. This is not an easy call; much of the work in the Cause is not an easy call. It never has been. Rather than seeing the new culture's issues in black and white terms, there are many Bahá'ís who are more comfortable with many shades of gray and they see themselves and their roles in this new paradigm in many different ways. What I seek, and what the Bahá'í community has been aiming at for decades---and no less in this new culture---in this articulation of the context of this new Bahá'í culture is a basis for universal participation. Volition and choice, a variety of lines of exploration and walking the path in the company of others in different ways, are all part of this interpretive approach.(12/12/'11)
Another approach to this new paradigm might be called the radical humanist. With a focus on emancipating the human consciousness, a major concern of this paradigm, in this context, is releasing human development from the constraints of the status quo. Postmodern philosophers who concentrate on individual changes rather than social change, including Foucault (1980) and Derrida (1981) may be relevant to this approach to the new paradigm. Due to their generalizing nature, few theoretical perspectives are found in this approach; rather, the individual focus of emerging spiritual, transpersonal and holistic practice modalities align with the assumptions of this approach. If a Bahá'í values the subjectivity of the interpretive approach, but feels that the change emerging from the understanding of the community consensus doesn’t match their own understandings and he or she sees contradictions which they cannot resolve, then the change-oriented and consciousness-raising relativism of this approach may be a more appropriate fit. This is a complex idea to which I hope to return at a future time here at BLO.
The multiparadigmatic approach offered here reflects one understanding of the complex intersections of theory and theology as well as the integration of the individual and the community, the institutions and the immense variety of Bahá'í groups. With the knowledge and expertise that individuals develop, as well as their own understandings, hopefully each person will find a heuristic for considering the problems and successes of this new Bahá'í culture from diverse perspectives. I feel that the information in this multiparadigmatic framework can be of value to individuals who seek to put into place this new culture. This understanding of paradigms may serve as a teaching tool for promoting increased self-understanding, for conducting organizational analysis, for evaluating practice theories, and for discussion related to the integration of everyone into a system of universal participation---what has been an elusive goal in the Bahá'í community for decades. The philosophical assumptions can be utilized in conversations about self-awareness and a more professional use of self in community, so to speak. The continuums or the spectrums of approach to this new paradigm, can also be of value in framing our thought and practice.
This framework may also serve to aid in understanding differences and similarities among Bahá'ís and the assumptions of each Bahá'í about the world and society. Any time we say or hear, “Well, God expects us to....” “The Writings say....,” or even, “the new paradigm demands..." we have an opportunity to reflect on our assumptions, and this matrix of paradigms provides a tool to aid us in considering these things. Whether used in teaching human behavior, practice or reflection, in discussing the relationships between faith and knowledge, or in introducing teaching in relation to different religious perspectives, this framework can be built into existing tutor and study circle practice in an effort to encourage students to consider the role of our many underlying assumptions that often go unnoticed and unmentioned.
THE CONCEPT OF EMOTION OR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN THIS NEW PARADIGM
Over the last decade and a half, since the emergence of this new Bahá'í culture, there has emerged a growing interest in the concept of emotional intelligence(EI). This is particularly true within literature relating to occupational psychology, leadership, human resource management, and training. EI is especially relevant to the importance of social constraints and self restraint. EI can enshrine a more general move towards greater emotional possibility and discretion both within the Bahá'í community and beyond — an ostensible emancipation of emotions from the attempts of others to script the management and display of the feelings of individuals. Rather than offering a simple liberation of our emotional selves, EI can be seen to present demands for a heightened emotional reflexivity concerning what is emotionally appropriate in interaction with others. EI involves both greater emotional freedom plus a proliferation of new modalities of emotional control, albeit based now on the expression of feelings as much as their repression.
People often regard emotion as a value-laden concept which is inappropriate for life in commmunties. In particular, emotional reactions are often seen as disruptive, illogical, biased, and weak. Emotion in this context is seen as a deviation from what is sensible or intelligent. It should be linked to the expressive arenas of life, not to the instrumental goal orientation that drives groups. Emotions are often regarded by people as a pollutant to clear-headed decision-making: something that needs to be checked on entry to any group setting because they are a deviation from intelligence. Emotions in this context are seen as being linked only to the expressive arenas of life: to leisure, to pleasure, to personal life.
EI embodies the understanding that the degree and pattern of control exercised over emotions is something that is learned, developed, enhanced, and can be harnessed to the advantage of the group. The notion of EI, as it has evolved in the last two decades, aims at dissolving the traditional opposition between emotionality and rationality, cognition and affect, thinking and feeling. It stylistically renders all activity as profoundly personal. It potentially offers an emancipation of the emotions within the group and beyond — a corrective to the myth of the rational group, and to traditional models of intelligence which stress only cognitive functioning and abstract reasoning ability. EI is about how we handle ourselves and others. EI can essentially be defined as how well you handle yourself. It refers to the extent of our emotional literacy, our ability to recognise our own emotions and those of others. It relates to a person’s capacity both to manage their emotions and to draw upon these as a resource. As Aristotle writes: Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right de-gree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not easy. It is precisely these kinds of capacities that are not detected by conventional models of intelligence, and yet, they matter fundamentally.
EI serves to highlight that institutions cannot simply script the emotions of the individuals in the community, cannot simply manufacture a desired subjectivity. Individuals inevitably resist such attempts and, moreover, the model of power that is implied in such notions itself needs to be revisited. Indeed, as a consultancy discourse, EI centrally involves the notion that the kinds of control practices involved in any organizational scripting of emotions, any engineering of feeling, are profoundly unintelligent. A key theme behidn the application of the concept of IE is that, withina group, individuals should be afforded considerable personal discretion concerning how they display, manage, and monitor their feelings. In this way, then, the discourse of EI ostensibly offers the conditions for a liberation of emotional expression.
In the place of scripting it promotes the development of a heightened emotional reflexivity concerning what is emotionally appropriate in group settings and in the inner life and private character of the believers. Put simply, EI involves a discursive shift towards implicit, unstated, and motile standards of what is emotionally fitting, ‚apposite, ‚appropriate, or intelligent. And these shifting and flexible standards of behaviour are in many ways more demanding, more difficult to negotiate than scripts or clearly delineated formal rules regarding what is permitted and correct, and what is not. Thus, rather than offering a simple and unequivocal free play of emotions expressed in a group, EI presents the discursive conditions for a proliferation of new modalities of emotional control, albeit based now on the expression of feelings as much as their repression. As far as long-term changes in the character of social/self control are concerned: freedom and constraint are conceived not so much as opposites, but as two sides of the same coin. I leave it to readers to further their understanding of EI and its application to the new Bahá'í culture.
THE CONCEPT OF A LEARNING COMMUNITY
The concept of the learning community has been promoted in many places in recent decades. Educational effectiveness is enhanced when people are part of a learning community. The Bahá'í community is not a classroom, but it is a social environment, and each member of each Bahá'í community has psychological and cognitive, sociological and historical understandings, personal constructions of knowledge which depend on relations with others. Bahá'ís are engaged in community building and aim to create a safe environment for their learning community, for taking risks and for authentic collaboration. In this new paradigm the perception of individuals that they are members of a community and this membership is the basis for their collaborating and learning is important. The community provides its members with shared goals and culture, a shared feeling of being part of a greater whole. The ability to negotiate meaning, and the ability to reproduce the community through acquring new members is part of the group ethos and experience. Mutual support among community members or communities of learners, has long been considered beneficial in the Bahá'í community long before this new paradigm.
The sense of community affects the success of all programs. Understanding what is meant by community can be challenging, as members do not always have the same definition of community as they go about their work. Community has been described as shared experiences in which both individual and group needs are met, either linked to a place and time or transcending place and time. Another way of seeing a community is as a group of individuals interacting and connecting with each other either through formal or informal organizationat activity. The presence of experienced community members provides the learning context for new members as they enter.
Teachers or tutors can engage students or participants in a process of mutually negotiating the norms and values of the learning community. Empowering members to establish the criteria for designing and assessing their learning community has its theoretical foundation in constructivism. The perspective supported by constructivism states that the instructor is a facilitator and the learner is an active constructor in knowledge creation. Similarly, the recently popular concept of the “guide on the side” encourages increased interaction among participants, with the tutor stimulating consultation as needed.
Members of a Bahá'í community are almost always given the opportunity to assess their experience. Teaching and learning do not always consist simply of the teacher’s planting knowledge in the student’s garden. In this new paradigm all Bahá'ís learn from each other. Further, having students self-assess is a skill they may have to do professionally, since giving and receiving feedback is a vital part of social work practice. The study presents the results of a community-building exercise in which three cohorts of students create the assessment standards and later use the standards to assess faculty and their peers.
Individuals and groups in this new Bahá'í culture need to be understood as relational beings. Rather than marking a structure of static or passive relations, individuals whether singular persons or groups of related persons are agents whose relations are manifested in purposive action. In human relations we never react to another person, but to you-plus-me; or to be more accurate, it is I-plus-you reacting to you-plus me. ‘I’ can never influence ‘you’ because you have already influenced me; that is, in the very process of meeting, by the very process of meeting, we both become something different. In this process, called ‘circular response’, we are creating each other all the time.‛ Agents on this account emerge not as separate individuals, identical with themselves---that is, individuals as understood through a logic of identity---but rather as intersections, as the activity-between.(I thank Mary Parker Follett for this idea) Reality is in the relating, in the activity-between. From this perspective, individuals, of whatever sort, are such because of their ability to act with purpose and to do so in response to the actions of others. As a result, who one is, must be understood as a co-constitutive process that has the double effect of marking off one from others and of connecting one to a larger whole where the differences between individuals are connected. As agents, individuals are not merely passive but act in accord with desires. Desire, in this sense, is a goal-directed disposition that marks an agent and has its meaning in action.
The character of individual agents—agents whose desires are formed and are to be fulfilled through reactions to relations to others in the Bahá'í culture-—are framed by three factors: (1) one's response to an environment that is not to a rigid static one, but to a changing environment; (2) to an environment which is changing because of the activity between it and me; (3) that function may be continuously modified by itself. In this sense, agents are always situated in relation to an environment in terms of which their desires are a new relation formed by the intersection of the agent’s history and interests with the interests and constraints that emerge from the environment.
The situations in the Bahá'í culture that we each encounter and ourselves change through the process of interaction, and formulate new desires to be realized. Put another way, as individuals encounter other individuals, their desires change and develop in relation to the desires and the activities of the other individuals. In order to realize these changing desires, individuals must take action in the newly emerging situation. They must become parts of new wholes. This process of becoming parts of new wholes is the process of integration in which the desires of individuals interact in a way that evolve new desires and new individuals that include the original individuals but which are also more than a mere sum of its parts. Follett calls this more a plus value, which then becomes new collective desires of the community. They lead to still more action and still more new wholes. Or it might be put thus that response is always to a relating, that things which are varying must be compared with things that are varying, that the law of geometrical progression is the l