Read: Scholarship and Authority seminar


There is a parallel of material wealth and intelligence. It is easy to be seduced, and think you are better. The same is true of physical beauty and strength. It is fine to enjoy beauty, fitness, and intelligence, but it should all be to serve the Faith. The pursuit of scholarship should be with a pure heart. That's when we can be useful scholars. It's easy to be led astray, so constant vigilance required.

We must look for the odor of mischief, and pray for protection. Parents must raise their children with this knowledge. `Abdu'l-Bahá says it is incumbent upon Bahá'í children to surpass other children because they have been cradled in the grace of God. ("Thou didst ask as to the education of children. Those children who, sheltered by the Blessed Tree, have set foot upon the world, those who are cradled in the Faith and are nurtured at the breast of grace -- such must from the beginning receive spiritual training directly from their mothers.") Bahá'í people should be known all over the world, and acquire sciences and arts. We need to be balanced spiritually, mentally, and physically. We are powerless; the power comes from God.

Question and Answer Session

Patti Tomarelli: What about schools, reform, etc. What do we do?

Hatcher: There is no good answer. I home school my kids. School should reinforce what is taught at home; his parents could make assumptions that society is trying to reinforce those values. The reason the Bahá'í child must learn faster is because we know the framework. How to protect children against society when society should reinforce good morals? Answer: we must build our own society. This is the heart of 4-yr plan...don't wait for the need before building up our institutions...build them now. There is no solution in present-day society; we must create it.

Ghadirian: I agree, there is no easy solution. We are in a special period of transition, and there is a wisdom in it. Children in this environment raised strong will be strong later. Institutes are working all over the world; example: Mexico has a long waiting list of people to participate in institute.

Markert: some Bahá'í schools are having Bahá'í youth academies...there are high standards of learning. This is the chance to deepen in the fundamental verities of the Faith.

Diane Brandon: question about the e-mail lists Talisman and Talisman2. Is anyone monitoring this?

Ghadirian: the whole Talisman process was monitored closely...if there is anything that needs to be said concerning the community, we'll let you know.

Patricia Harmsen: about hermeneutics; what are the parameters of knowledge of faith? What are the boundaries?

Hatcher: I'm not sure what you mean.

Harmsen: There are inaccurate interpretations made, sounding authoritative.

Hatcher: there is a distinction between studying writings which you are obliged to do. Bahá'u'lláh says:

O My servants! My holy, My divinely ordained Revelation may be likened unto an ocean in whose depths are concealed innumerable pearls of great price, of surpassing luster. It is the duty of every seeker to bestir himself and strive to attain the shores of this ocean, so that he may, in proportion to the eagerness of his search and the efforts he hath exerted, partake of such benefits as have been pre-ordained in God's irrevocable and hidden Tablets. (Gleanings CLIII)
Don't be afraid of interpretations or reading others. There are only two authoritative ones: `Abdu'l-Bahá + Guardian. Does this answer your question?

Harmsen: What about the individual rights + freedoms letter?

Hatcher: What line of reasoning are you afraid of? Your own writings or those of others? The Íqan says every verse has 70+1 meanings; this necessarily means there is no single interpretation. Scholarship is not the enemy; BAD scholarship is: ad hominem attacks, no recognition of the Divine, presumes to be authoritative. It is a law of the Faith not to read the writings of Covenant-breakers. To non-Bahá'í's this seems constricting. A scholar might say, "What could they know that I don't?", and approach their writings, to find out that yes, they are mindless. This explained the actions of Mirza Muhammad-`Ali: it is the act of disobedience which crosses the line. Then you are exposed to the disease of cynicism. Scholarship is not the enemy, and interpretation is not the enemy. If someone is trying to deliberately undermine the Faith, that's different. But in just analyzing a passage, join in! Don't be afraid. The Covenant provides logical links between Bahá'u'lláh and what you've discovered.

Charles Cooper: about Dr. Hatcher's presentation, I observed a dichotomous framework for faith. Is there a concept of God or faith that is not?

Hatcher: it is not really a dichotomy; they are two aspects of the same thing. There is the logical foundation of belief, and leap of faith. If you accept `Abdu'l-Bahá is the Perfect Exemplar because Bahá'u'lláh said so, you did investigate the truth of it. If you investigate this issue later, it is confirmed.

Cooper: but different cultures have different systems of logic. The dichotomous one thinks everything is black/white, hot/cold etc. Perhaps this Western dichotomous mindset prevents people from accepting the Faith?

Hatcher: when I became a Bahá'í there was a distinction: were you a "heart Bahá'í" or "head Bahá'í"? How did you come to join the Faith? Well, it doesn't matter how you got here. Some people will never need to analyze it; they had a dream or vision. The Dawn-Breakers didn't have the Sacred Writings to go on.

Eugene Andrews: I wanted to point out that Bahá'u'lláh said that the essence of Faith is "fewness of words and abundance of deeds".

Arash Abizadeh: about Dr. Hatcher's concept of the Divine in explanations of history. What role does it play? Example: for me, the Martyrdom of the Bab, since childhood, has had great meaning, because it meant the Bab could not be stopped. This is a different way of looking from asking natural scientist to explain what happened.

Hatcher: such a scientist would be forced to answer what caused the violation of law of probability to make 750 bullets cut the ropes, and not the people. The most plausible answer is that it was a force: a spiritual force.

Abizadeh: so a non-theological social history is not possible?

Hatcher: No, it's possible, but it's not complete. Newton asked about movement of the apple from the tree. Amanat's work is useful for its listing of events, but when he delves into explaining why it happened and he ignores the Bab's own explanation, he is limiting himself.

How do we avoid being mindlessly theological? Bahá'u'lláh says here's what happens in the Iqan: the people rejected Hud. Why? Because of the divines, who didn't understand poetic language. Bahá'u'lláh then gives 100 pages of explanation of how to interpret. Dr. Hatcher's brother's synthesizing of pure math and faith is so wonderful, because it proves the presence of the Divine Force. You don't have to be mindless; Bahá'u'lláh gave you the basis of knowledge. You don't need to justify the Faith.

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