Academic journal article The Journal of Baha'i Studies

Destiny and Freedom in the Bahá'í Writings

Academic journal article The Journal of Baha'i Studies

Destiny and Freedom in the Bahá'í Writings

Article excerpt

Conocer los límites de nuestro destino y libertad y, especialmente, conocer cómo este último puede ser mejor utilizado son dos aspiraciones muy comunes entre los seres humanos. Este ensayo comentará acerca de un número de Escritos relevantes, principalmente traducciones oficiales, algunas Tablas no traducidas, así como unas charlas de 'Abdu'l-Bahá e interpretaciones de Shoghi Effendi. El destino humano es un misterio y solamente el verdadero buscador puede lograr alguna percepción de él. La vida misma lo asistirá en este empeño. Los seres humanos son libres, y sin embargo sus vidas son reguladas por los decretos de Dios, decretos tanto irrevocables como revocables. Un hombre utiliza mejor su libertad si entiende la voluntad de Dios y hace un esfuerzo disciplinado para cumplir con ella en su vida diaria, con aquiescencia radiante.

Come, for last night, to me, the invisible messenger spake,

Saying: "In contentment's stage, be: from destiny flee not."

Between the lover and the Beloved, veil is none:

Hafiz! thou thyself art thy own veil From the midst, arise....

-Hafiz

To know the boundaries of one's destiny and freedom and, especially, to know how the latter - which seems a fundamental element of human life, if human life must have a meaning - can be best used are undoubtedly two very common aspirations among human beings. The Bahá'í Writings give the cue for many reflections on these issues and offer advice on how these two legitimate aspirations may be attained. We will be satisfied with a few considerations based on the study of a number of relevant, authoritatively translated Writings, and some untranslated Tablets, as well as a few talks by 'Abdu'1-Bahá and interpretations by Shoghi Effendi.

THE TRUE SEEKER AND THE MYSTERIES OF DESTINY

A first reflection arises from what Bahá'u'lláh writes, in His Four Valleys, about destiny, which in those circumstances He calls "God's immutable decree [qadar], His foreordained mystery [sirr-i-muqaddar, lit., the mystery of predestination]" (Seven Valleys 57). He writes: "[W]hen searchers inquired of this, He [Imam ?\?\ made reply, 'This is a bottomless sea which none shall ever fathom.' And they asked again, and He answered, 'It is the blackest of nights through which none can find his way'" (57). Then Bahá'u'lláh adds: "Whoso knoweth this secret will assuredly hide it, and were he to reveal but its faintest trace they would nail him to the cross. Yet, by the Living God, were there any true seeker, I would divulge it to him; for they have said: 'Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear'" (57-58).

If we relate these words to our daily experiences, one of the meanings they seem to convey is as follows. Although destiny is a mystery, if one will love God and will have the courage to demonstrate that love through one's behavior, God's Messenger will make one understand the secret of one's destiny and, hopefully, the meaning and the boundaries of one's freedom.

HUMAN BEINGS ARE FREE

That each human being is a free creature is beyond any doubt. Bahá'u'lláh states it very clearly: "Unto each one hath been prescribed a pre-ordained measure, as decreed in God's mighty and guarded Tablets. All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition [irádih]" (Gleanings 149, 77:1). One's freedom makes every human being responsible for one's own deeds, for which one will finally "be called to give account" (Bahá'u'lláh, Arabic Hidden Words, No. 31), "For surely if deeds were not rewarded and yielded no fruit, then the Cause of God . . . would prove futile" (Bahá'u'lláh, Súriy-i-Vafá, in Tablets 189).

Therefore Bahá'u'lláh seems to deny any form of predestination, intended as "the foreordination by God of each individual's ultimate destiny particularly eternal life" (Webster's Third International Dictionary, s.v. "predestination"). Seemingly He also disallows any form of determinism, intended as "the philosophical theory which holds . …

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