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Viv Bartlett has authored an intriguing new book called Navigating Materialistic Minefields. The book is written in a conversational style and Viv draws on his own personal experiences however the subjects covered are deeply meaningful and can provide readers with a spiritual perspective for daily life.
Viv kindly agreed to tell us more about his new book, what inspired him to write it, what it covers and what he hopes you’ll take away with you once you’ve finished reading. Here’s what he shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1945 and became a Baha’i when 20. This was the result of joining my mother in an intense search to make sense of why my 14-year-old younger brother–a child–was ‘taken’ after accidentally electrocuting himself. Before I accepted Baha’u’llah I considered myself an atheist. His Teachings on life after death, however, were so comforting along with others focused on the oneness of humanity. In effect, shocked by my brother’s death, I was very concerned about how all manner of suffering, individually and collectively, could be reduced to the lowest possible level.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write Navigating Materialistic Minefields?
Fundamentally I did not want my brother’s death and my parent’s suffering to be in vain. We are now living at a time when belief in God and the necessity of continuous Revelations of His guidance through His Representatives is not understood. This has led to a massive discarding of religion, and consequently the reduction of thinking to materialistic terms which does not satisfy or inspire the soul. Misconceptions about our human nature and social evolution are the children of materialistic reductionism. It leaches out from the soul all higher aspirations and motivations leaving the body of mankind soulless–as a dead entity. Instead of joy there is gnawing anxiety, instead of unconditional love there is an ‘us and them’ mentality, instead of submission to the will of God there is submission to our own and other’s views and opinion. When the heart is given to Baha’u’llah it cannot remain silent; it yearns to shout out loud that He has come and is singing a new song, a song that will entrance the soul with a beatific vision of meaning, oneness, love and ecstasy. This book is me shouting at the top of my voice! I wanted to introduce Baha’u’llah’s Teachings, by looking through the spiritual lens of His Revelation to counter materialistic reductionism. Ostensibly this is an effort to obey Abdu’l-Baha’s charge to, ‘summon the arguments and proofs of the necessity of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation.’
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your book?
The first two chapters dwell on an intense search for answers with my mother and a young friend, Rita, who later became my wife. This led to meeting the Baha’i Faith and becoming aware of its import in our lives.
The book is then divided into three parts, the first challenges the insidious and dangerous minefield of six materialistic assumptions. I question the assumption: that the universe has a beginning that occurred by chance; that man is just an intelligent animal; that our intelligence is centred in the brain; that you can’t change human nature; that God is not needed for the harmony and progress of humanity and that there should be no limit to personal freedom providing no harm is done to others.
The Second part navigates the materialistic minefield of existential questions. Evidence is given for the existence of the human spirit or soul and a spiritual world we enter even before death. Huge amounts of suffering, particularly of the innocent and children, and if there is a God, does He allow it, is considered. The precious gift of free will, its dual characteristic and its correct use to counter what is considered ‘evil’, is emphasised. It is argued that the power of the Manifestations of God is capable of removing our free-will if They choose, as They are a higher order of creation.
The third part is about understanding spiritual processes and systems by looking through a spiritual lens. Through this lens we see God is a perfect Creator and everything He makes is perfect. Sadly, an ‘imperfect eye beholds imperfections,’ and, consequentially, one’s spiritual nature tends to atrophy over time. A sort of spiritual blindness occurs, preventing beholding Divine intervention through a series of Manifestations of God. Religious leaders in every age, which Baha’u’llah calls ‘veils of glory’, through theologies, rituals and traditions, antithetical to true religion, have contributed to the atrophy of the soul’s spiritual powers. Indeed, one of the chapters considers that atheism is mainly a product of exalting one Messenger of God above Others. This has also led to fanaticism and horrific religious conflicts that provide arguments, as I did, for atheists, against God’s existence and the necessity of religion in human affairs.
I rejected religion and God in these terms and like so many atheists today, ‘threw the baby out with the bathwater’. Understanding spiritual processes and systems in harmony with science is fundamental to my approach.
The book culminates in proving God’s existence through the life and works of His Manifestation. Evidence of this is gathered by focusing on Baha’u’llah as the latest Representative of God, whose life and works are not obscured in antiquity, as are the Founders of the ancient religions.
Finally, there is an appeal for all well-wishers of humanity to unite in the vision of oneness, given by Baha’u’llah, for the betterment of the world. To leave behind us and them type thinking and relating through attractive, empowering spiritual forces released from His Revelation. On this path of oneness minefields of materialistic assumptions will have to be navigated for personal and collective safety. But the primary motivation for doing so is to win the good pleasure of God in a relationship with Baha’u’llah. By this means we enter paradise!
Baha’i Blog: Who is its target audience?
I appeal to all atheists and agnostics to at least read a little of the wonderful Baha’i texts. I’m also hoping that some of these pages may help young people with cogent arguments and proofs when in conversation with materialistic thinkers. Of course, adult Baha’is may also be reinforced through this attempt to summon the arguments and proofs.
Baha’i Blog: What was something you learned in the process of creating this book?
Have a strong desire as to want to serve in this capacity. Then identify an area or subject that you feel you can make your contribution. Offer intense prayers for assistance, knowing that however inadequate you feel to the task that God can transform an ‘an atom into lights and suns.’
What words of encouragement might you have for other aspiring Baha’i authors?
Just make a start, if only a few words–write something, even if later you look back and feel it’s rubbish. Persevere writing – this is the creative phase – enjoy the freedom of it. Baha’u’llah will inspire you with new thoughts and understandings. Share what you have written with someone, ask for their feedback. Re-write the book editing and adding as necessary. Then review everything ready for publication. Stick at it. It took me nine years to write this book.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Viv, for sharing this with us.
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