Monday, August 27, 2018

A personal disappointment

“Star of the West” was a Bahai magazine published in the United States. This volume contains issues from 1920-1922. They show that the Bahai faith, despite its modernist-liberal message, is at bottom no different from other traditional monotheist religions based around unquestioning obedience to the one true prophet. After a while, the magazine gets downright annoying to read, with constant paens to Baha'u'llah (the main Bahai prophet) and his son and successor Abdul-Baha (who died in November 1921). The “third Bahai convention” in the United States seems to have consisted almost entirely of the faithful listening to accolades of this kind. Abdul-Baha's “Tablets” (messages) have the status of divine revelation. Yet, the revelations are often prosaic, as when several of them mention “Star of the West”!

Abdul-Baha claimed to have supernatural contact with the decesead Baha'u'llah, who presumably transmitted God's messages to him. He also claimed to be the Center of the Covenant, the sole authoritative interpreter of the Bahai scriptures, infallible, and the object of unquestioning obedience. The bad guys are the “Covenant-breakers”, and Abdul-Baha's condemnations are couched in pretty strong language, as in this telegram: “Haifa Wilhelmite. He who sits with leper catches leprosy. He who is with Christ shuns Pharisees and abhors Judas Iscariots. Certainly shun violators. Inform Goodall True and Parsons telegraphically. Signed Abbas Abha. Greetings.” (My Persian is a bit rusty, but doesn't Abbas Abha actually mean Son of God? Quite the title!)

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Bahai is a split from Shia Islam, and it seems that it has taken over the notion of infallible imams who perfectly mirror God (and each other). There is also an apocalyptic strain, with Abdul-Baha kindly informing his flock that they have misunderstood a certain prophecy from the Book of Daniel. Apparently, God's kingdom on Earth won't be established in 1917, but in 1947! At least, it will begin to be established at that time, whatever that means. (In 1947, the Cold War “officially” started. Perhaps Truman was the hidden imam?)

For a long time, I assumed that the Bahais were somewhat different from the established religions, but it seems they are just as dogmatic, impossible and cultic as everyone else… ;-(

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