Category Archives Opinion

Opinions, thoughts and ideas

Spiritual Themes in Bob Dylan’s Songs

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After the announcement that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the media began quoting people who had listed their favourites Dylan songs.

Fans, and I include myself here, love his lyrics and melodies. We enjoy listening to his often idiosyncratic singing voice, his skill on his instruments, and his excellent bands. His memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, is superb.

If asked to name what I think is the best of the best of his works, I would go straight to one song, one that I believe has a deeply spiritual theme and which resonates with me as a Baha’i. Continue reading

Ways to Use Words

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Language is one of the most striking features that distinguishes humans as the beings that we are. It is the tool that has allowed us to achieve so much, both in the world of thought and material development. It is clear that language has immense power. As Baha’u’llah says, “it is through its potency and animating spirit that the people of the world have attained so eminent a position.” But what are the best ways to use, and not abuse, language? Here are a few of my thoughts on Baha’u’llah’s guidance:  Continue reading

Oneness of Religion? Just Look at the Mess!

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Outwardly, the Baha’i notion of the oneness of religion is the furthest thing from the present babel of creeds competing to win the hearts and minds of mankind. It would be folly to deny that the belief systems and religious observances today represent a discordant cornucopia of theologies and rites.

Outward observance and formal theology is one thing. The actual living faith of billions from different religious backgrounds is an entirely different thing. The latter is usually far less defined and often has a lot in common across cultures and faith traditions. In my travels I’ve become completely sold to the notion that ordinary believers the world over, irrespective of faith tradition, have much more in common than theologians and so-called scholars. Intuitively these sincere ordinary folks possess a pure idea of the Divine.  Continue reading

Are We Violent or Compassionate by Nature?

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When human beings commit atrocities, whether individually or as a group, we are quick to judge our human race as nothing better than bestial, unable to control our grosser animal instincts. The fact that there exist people who are able to exhibit nobler qualities may, we reason, simply indicate that they are able to do this solely because they have not been pushed to their limits, but that they could easily descend to their brutish natures if provoked. However, Abdu’l-Baha tells us:

Signs of both these natures are to be found in men. In his material aspect he expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; all these are the outcome of his lower nature. The attributes of his Divine nature are shown forth in love, mercy, kindness, truth and justice, one and all being expressions of his higher nature. Every good habit, every noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature.

Continue reading

Movement, Change and the Purpose of Life

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The wind blows. Clouds move across the sky. Winter leeches colours from the leaves. Life is movement and change! Or in the words of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”

When I wandered the lonely and confusing plain between atheism and theism as a spiritual seeker, I reached a stage where I felt bewildered with the transitory nature of the world. I stopped and questioned the very nature of life: change. “Why?” I asked myself, “is there movement and change at all?” It seems like a silly question but when you think about it, God could have created any type of universe, so why did He create one that was ever-changing and impermanent?

Only some years later did I receive my answer: change is progress. Abdu’l-Baha explains that “Change is a necessary quality and essential attribute of this world, of time and place.” The reason that change is necessary, He explains, is that “the world of existence is progressive”.  Continue reading

What is Spiritual Healing?

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When I first started working as a medical intern I used to place a prayer book in my bag for work. At the time I thought I might have the opportunity to say a prayer for a sick patient or share a prayer with a family if they asked. Unfortunately a hospital is a busy place, and being an intern even more so. I put prayer and spirituality to one side, focusing on the material, scientific healing I was trained to practice. But maybe that is an excuse and I, like many of my colleagues, don’t put enough stock in the effects of spiritual healing. Continue reading