Reconciliation of Religion and Science
"In many writings of Abdul-Baha, Reconciliation and accordance of science and intellect are emphasized…"
Science and intellect in the Abdul-Baha's point of view:
1- In many writings of Abdul-Baha, science and intellect are emphasized. In his speeches in the Western societies, he eulogized intellect and science and called them as"lights" (Addresses, vol.1, p.225) and believed that they are "the reasons of superiority of man to animals" (Addresses, vol.1, p.226).
He supposed that the things contradicted with intellect and science are "ignorance" and "darkness". (Addresses, vol.1, p.225, 226) and "mere fancy". (Addresses, vol.2, p.136).
Abdul-Baha believed that intellect is a means of "comprehending the truth of objects" and a means of "worshiping the truth", (Addresses, vol.2, p.227) and he emphasized that religious beliefs (Addresses, vol.2, p.226) and all religious affairs (Addresses, vol.2, p.227, 136) should be in agreement with science and intellect. A religion against science and intellect, is" fancies" in his point of view which “wouldn’t be known as religion at all" (Addresses, vol.2, p.227) . So he suggested his followers "check your beliefs to get a reconciliation of science and religion" (Addresses, vol.1, p.157) and then requested his addresses "conform science to religion and religion to science" (Addresses, vol.1, p.158).
Sir Abbas Effendi made a conclusion as follow:
"The goal is to find out the fact that God created science and intellect as methods of comprehension. We shouldn't detain such a divine blessing and we should balance our affairs by means of them. Intellect comprehends religion and if man doesn't have intellect, then how can he comprehend religion. It is completely clear that intellect and science are necessary" (Addresses, vol.1, p.227).
In addition, he notified that the virtues mentioned for intellect and science are signs of Baha'u'llah's teachings; "The forth teaching of the Exalted Bahaullah is the reconciliation of religion and science" (Addresses, vol.2, p.147).
"…And among the teachings which were proclaimed by the Exalted Bahaullah was the reconciliation of religion and intellect and science. Science should confirm religion, and religion should confirm science…"(Addresses, vol.1, p.136).
"… So if religion is against intellect, it is "fancies" .it is also one of the teachings of Bahaullah…"(Addresses, vol.1, p.136).
The recommendations of Bahaullah in this matter are different from those of his son. On the one hand, Abdul-Baha believed that God created intellect and science as "methods of comprehension", and humans "balance all affairs" and also "comprehend" the religion by means of it and He believed it is impossible to comprehend religion without intellect so "it is clear that intellect and sciences are necessary". On the other hand, Bahaullah described a way to his followers in which there is no role for science and intellect, and suggested his followers to put aside their "intellect, comprehension and science" to know "the one whom God shall make manifest" (Bahaullah), a knowledge which is known as the basis of Bahá'í Faith.
Bahaullah recommended the Babi leaders in the last parts of kitab-i-Iqan:
"We entreat the learned men of the Bayán not to follow in such ways, not to inflict, at the time of Mustagháth, upon Him Who is the divine Essence, the heavenly Light, the absolute Eternity, the Beginning and the End of the Manifestations of the Invisible, that which hath been inflicted in this day. We beg them not to depend upon their intellect, their comprehension and learning, nor to contend with the Revealer of celestial and infinite knowledge." (Kitab-i-Iqan)
2- Abdul-Baha believed that intellect should be used as a method of comprehension and notified that the basis of the prophets' teachings, the truth of divine religions, and the spiritual aspects of these religions are totally in agreement with intellect and science; and whatever without this characteristic is a kind of "imitation", "vulgar belief" and "fancies" and it couldn't be a part of the truth of religions: "All kinds of imitations which exit in religions are against intellect and science and they are not the truth of religions and the corruptions which caused enmity and hatred among humans are result of these imitations". (Addresses, vol. 1, p.158)
"Therefore, these imitations which are in the hand of nations caused division, discord and idle fancies for they are against science and intellect. So we should have unfettered search after truth and find the truth of things by conforming the spiritual affairs to science and intellect. If we follow such way, all religions will be united to one religion because all of them are based on truth and there is only one truth in the world" (addresses, vol.3, p.99).
"If a religious affair does not conform to science and intellect, it is fancy because everything contrary to science is ignorance. If a religion is against science, it is ignorance. How can a man be satisfied with an affair which is completely out of reason? We should call it a vulgar belief. All prophets' teachings are based on truth and there is only one truth in the world and it conforms to science." (Addresses, vol.1, p.155)
In spite of these expressions, Bahaullah claims that by the time of his manifestation, whatever came to man's mind or whatever will come to his mind in future -whether a few or a lot- cannot be a means of knowledge of God. Even if it had been as so, by the time of his manifestation, people would not refer to their intellect for comprehension. If according to Abdul-Baha the followers " find the truth of things by conforming the spiritual affairs to science and intellect", if "All prophets' teachings are based on the truth" and " imitations which exit in religions are against intellect and science" and "they are not the truth of religions", by the time of Bahaullah, everything is inverted and man's intellectual perceptions cannot be taken into account:
"Be aware, nowadays whatever comes to your mind or will come to your mind or whatever comprehended rationally, by those who are superior or anterior to you, would not be means of knowledge and comprehension" (kitab-i-Badi, p.286)
And maybe that's why Abdul-Baha describes the problems of religious leaders in those days as follow:
"Nowadays, the religious leaders supposed that religion is imitations of ancestors…. Because they believed that religion is against learning and there is no need to think and ponder about religious beliefs and there is no need to make an agreement between religion and science because science and intellect are against religion" (addresses, vol.1, p.225)
3-Abdul-Baha described religious leaders' intension as follows: "Therefore, the religious beliefs should be composed of mere inspiration of spiritual leaders and followers should believe in whatever mentioned by them even if they are against intellect and learning. While we believe that science and intellect are light and religion must conform to science and intellect" (addresses, vol.1, p.225)
And in contrary to his speech, Bahaullah as the chairman of religious leaders requested in his addresses "not to appeal to your intellects, comprehension and science" and suggested them to put aside the intellectual perceptions of people around them; whether they are superior or anterior to them, in addition he believes that the cause of deviation of humanity is his comprehension. If people close their eyes and their ears and not turn to whatever they percept by means of them, they will not be misled:
"Unto every discerning observer it is evident and manifest that had these people in the days of each of the Manifestations of the Sun of Truth sanctified their eyes, their ears, and their hearts from whatever they had seen, heard, and felt, they surely would not have been deprived of beholding the beauty of God, nor strayed far from the habitations of glory." (Kitab-i-Iqan, p.9)
And on the basis of this belief, he requested his addresses just turn to his writings: "If friends of God purify their hearts from whatever have heard before and turn to the dawning place of command, and pay attention to whatever manifested by him completely, they will be friend of God truly." (Powers, p.231)
Bahaullah believed that the best pleasure in the world, for the Babis & Bahá'ís is to accept his claim and believe in them without any question and without need to conform to other things:
"There is no pleasure in the world better than keeping followers who listen to verses and understand them but never ask a question about them and never compare them with other things" (kitab-i-Badi’, p.145)
4- It should mention that these statements do not indicate all of Abdul-baha's expressions about the value of science and intellect. At those times when he didn't have the mental disturbance of satisfying his American and European addresses, he clarified his father's explanations about science and intellect and in this case he devaluate the rank of intellect to the extent that call it imperfect and hesitates about the credibility of it and presented the intellectual comprehensions as a kind of disorder:
"There are only four accepted methods of comprehension—that is to say, the realities of things are understood by these four methods."
The first method is by the senses—that is to say, all that the eye, the ear, the taste, the smell, the touch perceive is understood by this method. Today this method is considered the most perfect by all the European philosophers: they say that the principal method of gaining knowledge is through the senses; they consider it supreme, although it is imperfect, for it commits errors...
The second is the method of reason, which was that of the ancient philosophers, the pillars of wisdom; this is the method of the understanding. They proved things by reason and held firmly to logical proofs; all their arguments are arguments of reason. Notwithstanding this, they differed greatly, and their opinions were contradictory... Therefore, it is evident that the method of reason is not perfect, for the differences of the ancient philosophers, the want of stability and the variations of their opinions prove this. For if it was perfect, all ought to be united in their ideas and agreed in their opinions.
The third method of understanding is by tradition—that is, through the text of the Holy Scriptures—for people say, “In the Old and New Testaments, God spoke thus.” This method equally is not perfect, because the traditions are understood by the reason. As the reason itself is liable to err, how can it be said that in interpreting the meaning of the traditions it will not err, for it is possible for it to make mistakes, and certainty cannot be attained. This is the method of the religious leaders; whatever they understand and comprehend from the text of the books is that which their reason understands from the text, and not necessarily the real truth; for the reason is like a balance, and the meanings contained in the text of the Holy Books are like the thing which is weighed. If the balance is untrue, how can the weight are ascertained?
Know then: that which is in the hands of people, that which they believe, is liable to error. For, in proving or disproving a thing, if a proof is brought forward which is taken from the evidence of our senses, this method, as has become evident, is not perfect; if the proofs are intellectual, the same is true; or if they are traditional, such proofs also are not perfect. Therefore, there is no standard in the hands of people upon which we can rely but the bounty of the Holy Spirit gives the true method of comprehension which is infallible and indubitable. This is through the help of the Holy Spirit which comes to man, and this is the condition in which certainty can alone be attained." (Addressees, p.224)
5- Maybe Abdul-Baha was fascinated by the scientific progresses of the Westerns countries. Whenever he delivers a speech in their societies, he suggests to deliberate the religious beliefs by means of science and "to conform science to religion and religion to science" and whatever contradicted by science is called ignorance, darkness and fancy and whenever he is far from them, he forgets his previous expressions and denies their scientific theories and calls them useless empirical discoveries:
"The first method is by the senses... Today this method is considered the most perfect by all the European philosophers: they say that the principal method of gaining knowledge is through the senses; they consider it supreme, although it is imperfect, for it commits errors... so we cannot rely on it."
On the one hand, he says the division among people happens because they don't imitate science and intellect: "these imitations which are in the hand of nations caused division, discord and idle fancies because they are against science and intellect." And on the other hand, he calls the differences in the scholars' opinion and their contradictions as a mean to prove the imperfection of intellect in mankind.
On one part, he describes intellect as a method of comprehension and a means of balancing the affairs and also a means of perception of religion; "God created science and intellect as methods of comprehension... we should balance our affairs by means of it. Intellect comprehends religion and if man doesn't have intellect, then how can he comprehend religion." And on the other part, he speaks about the incredibility of religious meanings which are comprehended by reason only because of the disorder of intellect as a method of comprehension; "the reason is like a balance, and the meanings contained in the text of the Holy Books are like the thing which is weighed. If the balance is untrue, how can the weight are ascertained? "
He says the problem of religious leaders of these days is originated by their rules which do not allow the reconciliation of science and religion;" the religious leaders supposed that religion is imitations of ancestors... Because they believed that religion is against learning and there is no need to think and ponder about the religious beliefs and there is no need to make reconciliation between them because science and intellect are against religion" and in contrary he sometimes criticizes them because they follow their "intellectual conceptive" and believe that's why they cannot find the "real truth":" This is the method of the religious leaders; whatever they understand and comprehend from the text of the books is that which their reason understands from the text, and not necessarily the real truth."
He emphasized that intellect (reason) should be used as a means of distinguishing between the illusions and the truth of religion, and as a means of unification of religions;" we should have unfettered search for truth and find the truth of things by conforming the spiritual affairs to science and intellect. If we follow such way, all religions will be united to one religion, because all of them are based on truth and there is only one truth in the world!" He says the human's comprehension of religious texts is imperfect only because he uses his intellect (reason) as a means of comprehension;" because the traditions are understood by the reason. As the reason itself is liable to err, how can it be said that in interpreting the meaning of the traditions it will not err? For it is possible for it to make mistakes, and certainty cannot be attained."
In this way, all aspects about one subject matter which may be occurred in the minds of philosophers, pillars of wisdom, religions or nations are gathered by Abdul-Baha in his expression about this subject.
If different ideas about a subject matter cause disorder in comprehension and if intellect is an imperfect means of comprehension; then it is evident that reason is not perfect, for the differences of the ancient philosophers, the lack of stability and the variations of their opinions prove this. For if it was perfect, all ought to be united in their ideas and should have had one opinion. There will be no other choice for Abdul-Baha's whether to hesitate about the credibility of "the true comprehension of the Human reason" which was mentioned by him, or to be assured that at least Abdul-Baha didn't benefit from "the bounty of holy spirit" and his assistances.