Eighteenth Reflection

organization accord with the nature of human beings. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s definition of nature and religion, on the contrary, imply the primacy of relations over individual things. In the above quotation, first ‘Abdu’l-Baha says that nature is necessary relations arising from the realities of things. But then he continues to say that if we observe the matter more carefully we will find out that “every reality is but an essential requisite of other realities.” In other words, the reality of all things are interdependent, and this interdependence and mutual relations constitute the primary truth of nature. This dialogical concept of reality emphasizes relations, totality, and reciprocity as the truth of being. Society is not just the sum of individuals. Instead, social relations constitute both society and individuals. When philosophers of the Enlightenment thought of reality they thought of objects and mechanical artifacts. But when ‘Abdu’l-Baha thinks of reality he sees them as organic beings. In the above quotation, he uses the example of human body: “ Consider the body of man, and let the part be an indication of the whole. Consider how these diverse parts and members of the human body are closely connected and harmoniously united one with the other.” 2. Historical Consciousness Another element of the worldview of the philosophers of the Enlightenment was their static conception of society. Since reality was understood in terms of objects, a mechanical understanding of the world was emphasized. Since individuals were defined as having a universal nature, and social institutions were reflections of that same nature, society was perceived as a static reality. Only one form of society and social institutions accord with the nature of things and once in existence, it will never change. The social order advocated by the Enlightenment is an unchangeable natural order for all human beings. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s message was the opposite. Reality was defined as an organic reality and therefore, being is understood as a living, growing, developing and historical reality. In his Treatise on Politics (Risaliyi Siyasiyyih), ‘Abdu’l-Baha defines religion as necessary relations arising from the realities of things. On the basis of that definition, he concludes that religions are like the medicine which is necessary for healing the specific forms of illness that afflicts the body. Since this body changes, its character, needs, and problems change as well. All Manifestations of God are the same physician who know the necessary relations of this organic reality and bring about new remedies which correspond to the changing conditions of humanity. The same definition, therefore, becomes the occasion for affirmation of historical consciousness, namely the dynamic character of social reality and its ever-advancing development. 3. Volitional Necessity Philosophers of the Enlightenment understood reality as governed by necessary relations. But for them this meant that the world is a mechanical and material reality. The law of causation, therefore was perceived as a natural and logical necessity that is rooted in the nature of things. Consequently, the philosophers of the Enlightenment were likely to deduce from such idea, a naturalistic, materialistic and sometimes atheistic concept of the universe. It is very interesting that in the Tablet to Forel, ‘Abdu’l- Baha uses this definition in order to defend a spiritual worldview and offer an argument for the existence of God. Immediately in that same paragraph, he defines the realm of nature as a human body, whose unity is sustained by a living mind. God is the ground of the reality of the universe. But in that same tablet, ‘Abdu’l-Baha presents another novel and complex argument to prove the existence of God. The main point of ‘Abdu’l-Baha is that nature is defined by necessary relations, but this necessity is not a logical or compulsory necessity. Instead, it is a volitional necessity. The relations and laws of the

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