Sunday, 25 May 2008

Infallibility 5

Mirza Abdu'l-Fadl's thesis

In my last instalment, I introduced the concept of propositional inerrancy. The concept is that a person who is propositionally inerrant can never be wrong about anything. I argued, using John Hatcher's article as evidence, that mainstream Baha'is believe, or are encouraged to believe, that the central figures of the faith as well as the House of Justice are propositionally inerrant.

I want to look at propositional inerrancy some more here. This time I will outline Mirza Abu'l-Fadl's thesis about the inerrancy of the prophets and scripture. As I understand it, his thesis is that the prophets cannot be relied upon as factually correct in matters such as history and science. I think this thesis contradicts mainstream beliefs about infallibility. But, unlike scholars of today, Abu'l-Fadl was protected by Abdu'l-Baha, who told the community that Abu'l-Fadl was a man of great learning and everyone should listen to him. So it didn't matter if Abu'l-Fadl said seemingly controversial things, the community assumed they were consistent with Baha'i teachings anyway.

Miracles and Metaphors

The argument I will consider here is found in Miracles and Metaphors (Kalimat Press, 1981, trans Juan Cole) pages 7-16. These pages contain a short essay Abu'l-Fadl wrote in answer to the following question: "Shaykh Nuru'd-Din al-Hindi asked our belief concerning Noah's age. Did he live 950 years as revealed in the Holy Qur'an, or does this have another meaning?" This raises questions about the inerrancy of scripture. Did people really live that long back then? Abu'l-Fadl begins his essay by pointing out that there are two views on this matter, the religious one and the scientific one. He briefly states the religious view and then outlines the scientific view at length. Gradually his discussion merges into his final conclusion, which is that historians should not rely on the scriptures for knowledge about historical events. I'll give an outline of the argument here.

The religious view: "whoever believes in the truth of the mission of the Prophet Muhammad, and believes that the Holy Qur'an is the Book of God revealed from heaven, necessarily accepts the validity of everything contained in that noble book. He acknowledges the truth of whatever was revealed therein, whether or not it accords with the understanding of the people…" (p7)

The scientific view: "no scholarly investigator will accept the authority of any statements unless he can determine their original sources and the degree to which these are reliable and trustworthy… [The Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian and Hebrew] historical traditions differ irreconcilably in their concepts, contain the diverse beliefs of their peoples, exhibit a huge variance in chronology, and clearly differ as to the names and events they mention." (p8)

Continuing his discussion on the scientific view, Abu'l-Fadl makes some important statements of principle, which provide a rule of thumb on how to look at scripture and what to expect from it. He quotes two traditions about Muhammad: "We, the concourse of Prophets, were sent to address people according to the capacity of their minds." and "Speak to the people of that with which they are familiar; do you wish God and His Messenger to be called liars?" (p9) One must conclude from this, he says, that the historian cannot rely on Qur'an verses and traditions for historical facts. Abu'l-Fadl then outlines the principles at work here:

"It is clear that the prophets and Manifestations of the Cause of God were sent to guide the nations, to improve their characters, and to bring the people nearer to their Source and ultimate Goal. They were not sent as historians, astronomers, philosophers, or natural scientists. Their position in the world of creation is like that of the heart in the body: it has a universal position with a general effect. The position of the learned in the world of earthly dominion is like that of a specific organ. That is, they have a particular position and a special effect. Therefore, the prophets have indulged the people in regard to their historical notions, folk stories, and scientific principles, and have spoken to them according to these. They conversed as was appropriate to their audience and hid certain realities behind the curtain of allusion." (p9)

I take from the above that the prophets bring us a type of knowledge that is different to factual knowledge about the world. The prophets teach us principles for governance, for moral conduct, and for how to draw near to God. They teach spiritual principles, which have a global and general effect. They do not bring us specific knowledge about the world – they are not 'scientists' in the broadest sense of the term or even philosophers. Instead, they go along with what the people of their day believe on these matters, using it as a basis on which to illustrate and teach the spiritual principles they do wish to convey. So what are we to make of such things as the stories of Adam, Satan and Noah? Abu'l-Fadl explains that they are "realities" (p10); in other words, they are metaphors that teach us about spiritual realities such as resurrection, renewal, punishment, appointed times, allotted times and the like. We should read these stories figuratively and not take them as historical fact. This doesn't rule out the possibility that a prophet is right in fact, but it does mean that prophetic writings cannot be relied on to be factually correct because there is always the possibility that they are intended as metaphor.

This theory is consistent with the remark Muhammad is reported to have made when he was wrong about taking the low ground position for a battle and about not letting the date farmers artificially fertilise the date trees. He said: 'You are more knowledgeable about your world.' He was acknowledging their expertise in their specific areas of knowledge about the world.

There is a good example of what Abu'l-Fadl is saying in Baha'u'llah's writings. This was pointed out by Juan Cole in his article "Problems of Chronology in Baha'u'llah's Tablet of Wisdom", which appeared in the Spring 1979 issue of World Order on pages 24-39. In this article, Juan discusses Baha'u'llah's statement in the Tablet of Wisdom that:

"Empedocles, who distinguished himself in philosophy, was a contemporary of David, while Pythagoras lived in the days of Solomon, son of David, and acquired Wisdom from the treasury of prophethood. It is he who claimed to have heard the whispering sound of the heavens and to have attained the station of the angels. In truth thy Lord will clearly set forth all things, if He pleaseth. Verily, He is the Wise, the All-Pervading." (Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p145)

In the article, Juan shows that the two statements 'Empedocles was a contemporary of David' and 'Pythagoras lived in the days of Solomon' are drawn from Muslim historians, particularly Shahrastani, who said in his Religious Communities and Creeds (pp30-31):

"[Empedocles] was a contemporary of David the prophet, peace be upon him. He went to him and received knowledge from him. And he studied with Luqman the Wise and obtained wisdom from him."

"[Pythagoras] lived in the days of Solomon the Prophet, the son of David, peace be upon them, and acquired Wisdom from the treasury of prophethood. … He practised self-discipline until he reached the point where he heard the whispering sounds of the heavens and reached the station of the angels."

As Juan points out, phrases used by Baha'u'llah also appear in Shahrastani's texts in identical wording: "was a contemporary of David", "lived in the days of Solomon", "acquired wisdom from the treasury of prophethood", "heard the whispering sound of the heavens" and attained "the station of the angels". Therefore, it is almost certain that Baha'u'llah was using Shahrastani's text as a source for his information.

However, as Juan shows in the article, the idea that Empedocles was a contemporary of David and Pythagoras a contemporary of Solomon is not historically accurate. Modern dating has determined that David and Solomon lived in the 10th century BC and Muslim historians have them living even earlier, in the 12th century BC. However, "all major Muslim sources without exception agree that Pythagoras and Empedocles lived sometime in the sixth and fifth centuries BC." (p34) So it isn't feasible that Empedocles and Pythagoras were contemporary with David and Solomon.

This is an excellent example of Abu'l-Fadl's principle that the prophets go along with what the people of their day knew and, for this reason, their writings cannot be relied upon for factual information. But, as argued above, factual inaccuracy does not detract from the fact that Baha'u'llah is pointing to a sound spiritual reality. Here his point is that the Greeks derived their knowledge from the prophets. It is a fundamental principle of Baha'u'llah's revelation that all knowledge comes from the prophets, so the Greeks should be no exception. There is no doubt that the Greeks lived after the time of the Hebrew prophetic tradition and must have benefited from it in some way.

Juan's concluding comments about this factual error in Baha'u'llah's writings help us to understand how it is possible for such errors to appear in divinely revealed scripture:

"I have reached the conclusion that statements that are factually inaccurate can become embedded in divinely revealed texts. In the Baha'i Faith, as in other religions, however, there is a natural desire on the part of adherents to hold that statements contained in Holy Writ are inerrant and infallible. … No modern thinker can fail to be intensely aware of the historically conditioned nature of all human knowledge and thus of all human statements of that knowledge. Insofar as a divinely revealed text is nevertheless communicated in a human language, employing human concepts in a particular human social milieu, the statements therein are inevitably historically conditioned." (pp38-39)

Monday, 19 May 2008

Response to Priscilla

Hi Priscilla,

Many thanks for writing your thoughtful comments on my blog Infallibility 4. When I saw that you had left your comments on Baha'is Online, I decided it was probably time I put aside my misgivings about comments and open up my blog to comments. Although, the function is moderated and I don't plan to let just anything on. I value my time and that of my readers too much.

I think you have found some flaws in my argument.

You said: "I'm having a bit of difficulty with the section of this piece on the "physical world" and fallibility/infallibility. I wonder if “physical world” is not quite what you mean or if you mean it in a way I do not understand. Perhaps you can clarify."

Yes, I can see the source of the confusion now. By "physical world", I mean this world as opposed to the next one, which is a spiritual world. The Arabic word "al-dunya" means this world and is used to refer to the world in which we live this, our first life before we die and move on to the next one. It includes the entirety of the physical universe and all that is in it and not just nature.

"Both the definitions of infallibity that you give assume a judging, acting consciousness, something the physical world (trees, rocks, stars, dog turds, water molecules, etc.), as far as I know, does not have. Since I don’t see how the physical world can err, be deceived, sin, or disbelieve, etc, I don’t see how it can be “the very opposite” of infallible in either the propositional inerrancy sense of the term or in the sense that you attribute to Baha’u’llah."

Yes, you're right. It was a random thought that should have been removed in the editing for the very reason you give. I'm still nutting these issues out myself of course, and sometimes random ideas that come during writing lead to important ideas. I thought this one had promise! I think I was probably taken by the way the randomness of the world made claims to propositional inerrancy seem just silly.

"As I think about it more, I realize that I have been under the impression that the Baha’i writings (somewhere I can’t locate at the moment, perhaps because the passages don’t exist) give the idea that the physical/natural world perfectly reflects the divine to the degree that it can because it has no choice but to do so. (And also that we humans have the capacity to more fully reflect the divine, but also the free will that allows us not to.) This idea of the “physical world” seems to me to be more in-line with the idea of infallibility you attribute to Baha’u’llah than opposite to it."

Yes, the writings do say that nature perfectly reflects the divine. Here is the classic on that one:

"Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion. It is endowed with a power whose reality men of learning fail to grasp. Indeed a man of insight can perceive naught therein save the effulgent splendour of Our Name, the Creator. Say: This is an existence which knoweth no decay, and Nature itself is lost in bewilderment before its revelations, its compelling evidences and its effulgent glory which have encompassed the universe." (Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p142)

"I would note, too, that Muhammad’s error in stopping the manual fertilization of date trees was in ignoring the predictability of changes in the physical world, not an outcome of its liability to 'change in any way at any time.' It seems in the examples you give that it is human choice and consciousness that are contingent, not 'the physical world.' Of course, we are part of the physical world, too . . . but I don’t think our part can really be generalized to all of it, to the very nature of 'the physical world.'"

Yes, what you say has made me realise that those were poor examples of my point. The reason I like those stories is the last comment from Muhammand that: 'You are more knowledgeable about your world.' This points nicely to ideas I want to discuss next. I will argue that infallibility is a virtue not a knowledge, like compassion is a virtue but not a knowledge of the world. Although, at the same time, we might say that a person who is compassionate has knowledge, but it is different to, say, being able to predict earthquakes. But I won't say any more because I'll end up running away with myself.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Infallibility 4

Infallibility and the idea of never being wrong

In earlier instalments of my infallibility series, I have argued that infallibility means what Baha'u'llah says it means: being guarded against sin, rebellion, impiety, disbelief, joining partners with God and the like. In this instalment, I want to begin exploring the common understanding Baha'is have about infallibility - that it means never being wrong. At some later point, I will compare it with what Baha'u'llah meant by the term.

The Shorter Oxford Dictionary tells us that the English word 'infallible' means: "of a person or judgement etc: not liable to err or be deceived". The idea here is that the person or judgement is guaranteed to be right. When we say in English that something is infallible, we are thinking to ourselves: we can rely on this thing because it's accurate - it always gets it right. Characteristic of this understanding is that it does not allow for a grey area. If something gets it wrong, we'll quickly say that it's fallible. Something can't be usually infallible or 90 percent infallible. It is either infallible or it is not. The concept of infallibility is understood in the same way as the concept of uniqueness. Something is either unique or it is not; it is one of a kind or it is not. So, an important aspect to the meaning of the English concept of infallibility is that it is an all-or-nothing affair. It does not admit of degrees.

This understanding is reflected in John Hatcher's article on infallibility: "Infallibility does not admit degrees. That is, a statement is either infallible or it is not." Hatcher is emphasising the very idea that infallibility is not a grey area, it is an all-or-nothing affair, a statement or advice is either infallible or it is not. Note that it is not usual, as Hatcher has done here, to assign infallibility to a statement or advice; usually we say that a person or institution is infallible. What is likely intended is that a statement or advice from an infallible source is guaranteed to be right, end of story.

This position is often referred to by its critics as 'propositional inerrancy'. 'Proposition' here simply means a statement or assertion. The idea is that a person is propositionally inerrant if that person's statements or assertions are never wrong. I think the common Baha'i view on infallibility is wider even than this, for the common view is not only that the House's statements and assertions are inerrant but that its guidance and decisions are too. Despite this, I will label the common view on infallibility 'propositional inerrancy' so that I can easily refer to it and distinguish it from other positions.

Having thought about propositional inerrancy a great deal, I've discovered that one could write a whole book about it. Issues associated with it spring off in all directions. I don't intend to try to tackle them all. In this instalment, I'll deal with some and cover others later. Here I will look at issues associated with the contingency of the physical world.

The common criticism of the position that John Hatcher argues for is that people go for it because it provides them with certainty. As Sen McGlinn so aptly put it, by aligning ourselves with something infallible, we guarantee that we are "not-wrong" ourselves. It is, he continues, "a way of short-circuiting the critical faculty and banishing doubt and reflection". If we rely on something infallible, then we don't have to think about any issue ourselves. It's easy.

A fundamental problem with propositional inerrancy is that it runs completely contrary to the way the physical world works. The physical world is contingent. God created it that way. The Shorter Oxford defines 'contingent' as: "of uncertain occurrence; liable to happen or not". If we put that idea with the physical world, we get a world that is made up of happenings that have occurred, that may or may not occur and that may change in any way at any time. It is a world where things are uncertain and not reliable at all. If anything, the contingency of the world makes it the very opposite to infallible. It's easy to see, then, that if we take propositional inerrancy and apply it to an aspect of the contingent world, it cuts a path of certainty through the morass of life. Even if certainty is not what motivates people to believe in propositional inerrancy, there can be no doubt that generating a realm of certainty is a natural consequence of the position.

Is certainty in a contingent world possible? Best place to look for it is in relation to the prophets. For them, do we find a realm of certainty that has banished the contingency of the world to outside its borders? In what follows, I will look at some prophets and at Baha'i central figures and identify situations where, in my view, they were not propositionally inerrant. Note that I am not arguing that they were not 'infallible'. I'm arguing that they were not propositionally inerrant. Note also that I am not trying to be disrespectful of the prophets. I am just trying to show the reality of the situations they faced.

To start with, we have the story of Noah that Baha'u'llah recounts in the Kitab-i Iqan (para 7). Baha'u'llah tells us that, several times, Noah promised victory to his followers and prophesied the hour. Each time, the prophecies failed and this caused some of his followers to leave. Here is an example of a prophet's fallibility. He made statements and they proved to be wrong, and this is confirmed by Baha'u'llah himself. In fact, Baha'u'llah tells us that God actually caused the prophecies to fail (para 8).

You might be saying: yes, but Noah is a minor prophet and not one endowed with constancy. I argue that the principle still applies. Let's look at a couple of stories about Muhammad:

"Ibn Ishaq, who is said to have been a Shi'ite, relates two revealing early Muslim stories about the Prophet Muhammad. One is that at one of the battles with the Meccans, the Prophet staked out a position on a plain at the bottom of some hills. One of his companions asked him, 'Is this from God or is it your idea?' Muhammad allowed as how it was his own idea. The companion said, 'In that case, I suggest we take the high ground.' And the Muslims did, and they won. On another occasion the Prophet noticed that in Medina the date cultivators hurried things along by manually fertilizing the female date trees with pollen from the males. He found this human/plant sexuality disturbing and ordered it to cease. Of course, the date crop was awful the following year. When the date farmers complained to him, he admitted that perhaps his intervention had been an error. 'Antum a`lam bi dunyakum,' he said: 'You are more knowledgeable about your world.'" (cited by Juan Cole, email message to Talisman 02 Aug 1998)

And what about the Bab? The Bab told his followers that he would go to the Shrine of Husayn in the Atabat (Iraq) after his pilgrimage to Mecca, to make a crucial declaration of his mission to a gathering of his followers. The Babis placed huge weight on this public declaration, believing it to be the fulfilment of the centuries-old prophecy that the Qa'im would come and defeat his enemies completely. However, persecutions in the Atabat at the time had become serious and this caused the Bab to call the meeting off and he went home to Shiraz instead. This was a serious challenge to the faith of the early believers. Their expectation that the Qa'im would triumph over his enemies was not borne out and this caused them to doubt the Bab's authenticity. They interpreted this turn of events as proof that the Bab was fallible. He had arranged a momentous gathering, but had not proved himself able to overcome the contingencies thrown up to prevent it. (For details about this story, see Abbas Amanat: "Resurrection and Renewal", pp 250-254)

A good example from Baha'u'llah can be found in the Kitab-i Iqan. Baha'u'llah clearly states there that when he left Baghdad for the mountains of Kurdistan, he had no intention of returning. But, as he puts it, his "mortal conceptions" and "human designs" were overridden by God and he was summoned to return:

"Alone, We communed with Our spirit, oblivious of the world and all that is therein. We knew not, however, that the mesh of divine destiny exceedeth the vastest of mortal conceptions, and the dart of His decree transcendeth the boldest of human designs. None can escape the snares He setteth, and no soul can find release except through submission to His will. By the righteousness of God! Our withdrawal contemplated no return, and Our separation hoped for no reunion. The one object of Our retirement was to avoid becoming a subject of discord among the faithful, a source of disturbance unto Our companions, the means of injury to any soul, or the cause of sorrow to any heart. Beyond these, We cherished no other intention, and apart from them, We had no end in view. And yet, each person schemed after his own desire, and pursued his own idle fancy, until the hour when, from the Mystic Source, there came the summons bidding Us return whence We came. Surrendering Our will to His, We submitted to His injunction." (Iqan, p 251)

What are we to make of this? Baha'u'llah sets out with the intention of not returning. If we'd been on the spot at the time and could have asked him what he was doing, every indication is that he would have said something like: I'm going to the mountains of Kurdistan in order to avoid being the subject of discord and I do not intend to come back. But that was the fallible plan of a mortal and a human, which didn't turn out as planned. Baha'u'llah even admits here that he did not know that God would override his plan not to return.

Moving from the prophets to Abdu'l-Baha, we have the issue of the Guardianship. Shoghi Effendi was unable to appoint a successor because no suitable candidate existed among those eligible and this caused the Guardianship to lapse. This was not anticipated by Abdu'l-Baha. The Will and Testament itself testifies to the fact that Abdu'l-Baha believed the Guardianship would last through the centuries.

As for the House of Justice, the Guardian himself did not consider it to be propositionally inerrant. This is clear from the following statement in World Order of Baha'u'llah, where the Guardian envisages the possibility that the House of Justice might make a law that he believed was not in the spirit of Baha'u'llah's teachings:

"Though the Guardian of the Faith has been made the permanent head of so august a body he can never, even temporarily, assume the right of exclusive legislation. He cannot override the decision of the majority of his fellow-members, but is bound to insist upon a reconsideration by them of any enactment he conscientiously believes to conflict with the meaning and to depart from the spirit of Baha'u'llah's revealed utterances." (Shoghi Effendi: World Order of Baha'u'llah, p 150)

The point of these stories is that, even for the prophets and chosen ones, the contingent world was not made certain for them, despite their privileged spiritual knowledge. Events they expected to happen did not always eventuate. The contingency of the world did get in the way. Baha'u'llah has much to say about the contingency of the world. But I have not found anywhere where he says that God makes the contingent world constant for believers. On the contrary, Baha'u'llah explains that the contingency of the world is there for a purpose and plays an important part in God's plan. In explanation, he says that God causes the prophets to get it wrong, and appear powerless and fallible in the face of contingency in order to test the faith of the believers. What do they have their faith in - in the world or in God? In his discussion about Noah and the fact that God caused his prophecies to fail, Baha'u'llah says:

"from time immemorial even unto eternity the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong..." (para 8)

Interesting, isn't it, that God should cause these doubts to occur in the minds of believers, in order to distinguish right from wrong? What exactly could be "wrong" here? I would say that what's wrong is placing one's faith in the world being certain. This is wrong because it conflicts with the principles that God does whatever God wills, and that God's hands are never chained up. When you think about it, there is actually nothing 'wrong' about not being right all the time. Who cares? There is no lack of virtue in it. But there is something truly wrong about putting one's faith in the world being the way you expect it to be.

"Say: By God, you are only as a wayfarer resting in the shade of a tree. But that shade is of necessity ephemeral, and you must not repose your confidence in it or in anything that will pass away. Put your trust in what does not perish, in what endures in the immortality of God, the everlasting, the eternal, the glorious. Have you found that your mornings are like your evenings, or that your youth is like your old age? All this is a reminder to you, Muslims. The contradictions apparent in all things were only ordained to remind you of the impermanence of your selves, so that you might become aware of it and not be obdurate." Baha'u'llah: City of Radiant Acquiescence, para 11

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Forgiveness, fellowship and justice

I had some interesting responses to my previous blog entry "A Ridvan vision" and want to respond here to some ideas that came up. You can read some responses to my vision on Jim Habegger's blog "A Wayfarer's Tales". The first response is called "Alison's Ridvan vision: first reactions", but Jim adds several more posts after that.

I find Jim's blog very interesting. He raises many important issues, some of which I hope to discuss here. One question, which I think is long overdue, is why do Baha'is seem to regard the Internet as a place where they read and write, but not a place they 'do' anything. Somehow, interacting on the Internet isn't considered a place where we 'act', so we don't apply Baha'i principles, such as courtesy, to how we behave. Would Baha'is behave in their local community in the same way that they do on the Internet? I guess it's like getting behind the wheel of a car. People who are usually calm natured suddenly turn into monsters and become capable of road rage. Here's what Jim has to say:

"Some harmful prevailing online social practices that have alarmed me the most revolve around thinking of the Internet as only a place to talk and write, and thinking of what we do there as something apart from "real life." I'd like to see more people practicing spiritual principles and community service, and working on community development, in online communities. I'd like to see more people spending more of their online time in fellowship across religious boundaries." Baha'is on the Internet

But I digress; as my title suggests, I want to talk about forgiveness, fellowship and justice. In my previous blog entry ("A Ridvan vision"), I said that I forgive those who I believe have wronged me in the past. What do I mean by that? What do I think forgiveness is? To me, forgivenss is an inner state where I can say to myself in all sincerity: I no longer harbour ill feeling toward that person, who I believed wronged me in the past. Initially, I was angry, upset or whatever. But now, I am not. It doesn't matter any more; I have let it go and moved on. I wish the person well. To me, that is forgiveness. The importance of forgiveness is that it enables me to draw closer to God. It means that there is no longer a shadow over my heart that veils me from my Lord. My heart is clear and happy because it longer harbours any animosity.

In my view, forgiveness is different to fellowship. One might think that forgiving someone will lead to fellowship with them. Perhaps, but not necessarily. For starters, the other person may not have forgiven me. They may not want my fellowship. Secondly, the two parties involved may not naturally seek each other's company anyway. "For like seeketh like, and taketh pleasure in the company of its kind." (PHW 10). Often we fall out with those we don't have any affinity with or those who hold very different views to us. Mutual forgiveness may not lead to warm relations, but it should lead to cordial relations, which is the basis of what's required of us by Baha'u'llah. In any case, fellowship is a two-way thing. It requires mutual consent. For example, the House of Justice has seen fit to remove me from community membership. I don't consider it, and never have considered it, courteous to agitate for my membership to be reinstated. Real fellowship is the fruit of a freely chosen decision. If the House doesn't freely choose to have me as a member of the community, then I will respect that. Although, I would like to be welcome at local holy day celebrations - but I am not and so I leave it alone.

I also think that forgiveness is different to justice. People tend to get them confused. They refuse to forgive because they think it means the party who has wronged them gets off the hook. But it doesn't mean that at all. I no longer harbour ill feeling toward the House for what it did to me, but that does not mean I was not wronged or that the House does not suffer the consequences of what it did. Those consequences are nothing to do with me. Baha'u'llah deals with that institution and its members as he sees fit. My role isn't found there; it's in looking after the health of my own heart and freeing it from ill feeling. Baha'u'llah has written a tablet in which he explains how each of us does suffer the consequences of our actions. The tablet is called "Tablet of the Right of the People" and it can be downloaded at the Online Journal of Baha'i Studies (vol 1).

In the end, it came down to this for me: my only desire is to live in Baha'u'llah's sanctuary. Once you can see it, nothing else matters and forgiveness in the illusory show of life becomes automatic.

Hafiz: Ghazal no 41

One rose from the world’s garden is enough for us.
In the field, the shade of that flowing cypress is enough for us.

May I never be intimate with hypocrites.
Of the world’s weighty things, a heavy cup is enough for us.

For good deeds they grant you the palace of paradise.
We rends and paupers, the Magi’s cloister is enough for us.

Sit by the stream’s edge and watch life pass by,
for this sign from a passing world is enough for us.

See the cash in the world’s bazaar, and the world’s torments.
If not enough for you, this profit and loss is enough for us.

The friend is with us. Why would we look further?
Intimacy with that soul-companion is enough for us.

I am here at your door, for God’s sake don’t send me to heaven,
for in all the universe the head of your alleyway is enough for us.

Hafiz, it is unjust to complain about the wellspring of your fate.
A nature like water and flowing ghazals are enough for us.

From The Green Sea of Heaven. Fifty ghazals from the Divan of Hafiz, translated by Elizabeth Gray (1995)