Peter Gyulay’s Baha’i Blog articles offer much food for thought, and I find myself thinking about them long after I’ve closed my laptop. If you’re interested, you’ll find all his work here but one of his pieces that I think is really relevant to this post is called My Thoughts on the Mystical Dimensions of the Baha’i Faith. In it, he shares an introduction to what mysticism is and how it is aligned with Baha’i teachings and principles. In fact, Peter wrote a whole book on the topic and it’s called Walking the Mystical Path with Practical Feet: The Baha’i Approach to Spiritual Transformation.
Here’s what Peter shared with me about his book and what he learned in the process of putting it together:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Newcastle, Australia. I’ve been a Baha’i since 2003. I earn my living as an English language teacher but my passions are writing, music, being in nature and living an eco-friendly life on a plant-based diet and a bicycle.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?
I have been interested in mysticism for a long time, even before I became a Baha’i, and for my whole Baha’i life, I have been trying to understand the mystical dimension of the Baha’i Faith. Although my understanding will continue to deepen, I felt the need to crystallise my thoughts and share them with others as I think the topic is an important one.
It’s great to see the development of so many wonderful Baha’i-inspired media initiatives around the world, and with podcasts becoming more and more popular globally, it’s no wonder that the creation of Baha’i-inspired podcasts, like our very own Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson, are becoming more prevalent in the online space.
I was excited, therefore, to learn about a new podcast series called ‘The Soul Salons‘, created by Zarrin Caldwell, which aims to explore our spiritual world and the world of the divine, through the works and teachings of prophets, poets, mystics, and philosophers throughout the ages. Whether it’s taking a deep dive into the works of several known – and unknown – English poets, or exploring some of the teachings of Confucius, each episode is designed to reveal insights that can be applied to our own daily lives.
I caught up with Zarrin to find out more about ‘The Soul Salons’ and here’s what she had to say about her new podcast series:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Zarrin, can you tell us a little bit about ‘The Soul Salons’ podcast?
The aim of the podcast series is to look at the work of prophets, poets, mystics, and philosophers throughout the ages whose teachings have focused on our divine, or spiritual, reality. ‘The Soul Salons’ are purposefully kept short – about 12 minutes each – so that they are easy to listen to and to reflect on.
The body is great at telling us when something isn’t functioning. Aches, pains, rashes, lumps… all of these tell us that something is wrong with the body and we need to find out what it is. The symptoms are signs leading to a deeper underlying problem. But we don’t just have a body; we also have a soul. In fact, we are souls living with a body. So, if there are signs in the body of good and bad health, are there similar signs in the soul?
The perplexing thing about the soul is that it is so elusive and mysterious. We cannot see or touch it. Baha’u’llah says of the soul:
Verily I say, the human soul is exalted above all egress and regress. It is still, and yet it soareth; it moveth, and yet it is still. ((Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p.161))
In a world that is being governed more and more by the words of those leaders and individuals who prove “skillful at appealing to superficial emotion”, we are called to lofty heights, to rise above the sea of slogans to a spiritual distinction that is defined by our deeds. These slogans are nullifying our ability to act and rise beyond our “natural inertia” and become those beings of light that are distinguished by their actions.
It is in this world of gross materialism, the mud of our current reality, that the lotus of action must bloom. It must be our actions that distinguish us as those who truly believe: people who “do as they say”. The deeds of our lives are those that distinguish our moral selves and continually imbue us with the principle of an unwavering commitment to integrity. Here are three ways that our deeds can define us: Continue reading
Photo: Amanda Conrad (Flickr)
A few nights ago, I invited three of my friends over for dinner. At some point, the topic of religion came up and the conversation that ensued was very interesting, given the diversity of religious backgrounds represented in the room, but also incredibly challenging. Firstly, there was me, a Baha’i who had been brought up as a Christian in an Eastern Orthodox church with a strong – and very, very old – religious tradition of its own. And then there were my three friends – one of Druze heritage, another with a somewhat secular Anglican upbringing, and the last of Jewish descent. All three of them, however, are self-professed “militant atheists” with a profound disdain for religion that was only kept in check that night by their long friendship with me and their unwillingness to offend me (too much).
For the first ten minutes of the conversation, I found myself feeling incredibly relieved that my role as dinner hostess was keeping me occupied in the kitchen, where I could hear the conversation but be spared the unpleasant task of having to be the sole defender of religion! For the next ten minutes (after I ran out of dinnerware to fiddle around with), I sat with them, feeling a mixture of amusement, discomfort, defensiveness, guilt and indecision as to what the prudent thing to say was. However, as I kept listening, I felt more at ease, realising one very important thing: for the most part, I agreed with them!
It became quickly apparent, as the conversation unfolded, that my friends and I had many values in common and that much of their discomfort with religion came from a strong commitment to the very principles that I cherish as a Baha’i: justice, compassion, honesty and integrity – just to name a few. The only point of difference between us, however, was that while they felt dismayed and despondent about the problems that religion has caused in the history of humanity, I remained optimistic about the transformative power of religion. Continue reading