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Baha'is and the Paranormal

Spiritualism and the occult were both very popular entertainments in the United States in the early years of the Twentieth Century, as were explorations of Eastern thought and religions--which is how the Bahá'í Faith came to be known and established here. However, its Founder, Bahá'u'lláh, did not include spiritualism, reincarnation and the like in His divine prescription for the betterment of mankind.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of Bahá'u'lláh, traveled to the West in 1911 & 1912, spending many months touring and speaking in the United States, for the purpose of strengthening and developing the nascent Bahá'í community here, as well as to spread his Father's teachings. 2012 is the Centenary of that trip. Reading the transcripts of His many talks reminds me forcibly of just how much work was involved to clear misunderstandings among the new believers, as well as the public. He not only spoke of religious history, but also of the importance of abandoning all forms of prejudice and injustice, especially those based upon racism, nationalism and economic inequalities, in order to bring about world peace. Time was also spent weaning the early Bahá'í community away from spiritualism, astrology, numerology, phrenology and other popular past times.

While the Bahá'í teachings define true human nature as spiritual and accept the reality of psychic faculties, they specifically forbid attempts to force development of such. These faculties are considered innate, but unneeded in this life. 'Abdu'l-Bahá repeatedly warned, "To tamper with psychic forces while in this world interferes with the condition of the soul in the world to come. These forces are real, but are not to be active on this plane. The child in the womb has its eyes, ears, hands and feet, but these powers are not in activity [there]. The whole purpose of the womb-life is the coming forth into this world. So, the whole purpose of this matrix-world life is the coming forth into the world of Reality, where all these (psychic) forces will be active. They belong to that world." - quoted in Dr. J.E. Esslemont's, Baha'u'llah and the New Era, p. 193

No doubt there are instances of true psychic phenomena; I've encountered people with them myself. However, it is also true that most of it is imagination. Telling the real from the imaginary is the challenge! Making decisions based upon information whose reality we cannot verify is foolish: "Briefly, there is no question that visions occasionally do come to individuals... On the other hand, this comes to an individual through the grace of God, and not through the exercise of any of the human faculties. It is not a thing which a person should try to develop. When a person endeavors to develop faculties so that they might enjoy visions, dreams etc., actually what they are doing is weakening certain of their spiritual capacities; and thus under such circumstances, dreams and visions have no reality, and ultimately lead to the destruction of the character of the person." - Lights of Guidance, p. 515

"Truly mystical experiences based on reality are very rare, and we can readily see how dangerous it is for people to go groping about in the darkness of their imagination after the true thing...If we are going to have some deeply spiritual experience we can rest assured God will vouchsafe it to us without having to look for it." - excerped from Lights of Guidance, p. 514

So, no, a Bahá'í's commitment to developing his/her spiritual prowess will not mean the psychic powers. Rather, followers of this Faith are busy acquiring and honing the age-old virtues of good character, as well as strengthening their relationships with each other and with their neighbors. Building a better world with the help of the Holy Spirit doesn't mean magical intervention; it is just hard work, little by little, day by day.

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