Basically, Baha'i's believe there is one God, that all of humanity is one family, and that there is a fundamental unity underlying all religions. We believe that Baha'u'llah is the latest in a string of messengers that God has brought to us to help us understand the times we are living in. These messengers connect us to all of the world's religions. We believe that in this era Baha'u'llah has offered us teachings that will lead to world peace, that all of humanity will acheive a spiritual and social maturity that allows us to live as one family in a just, global society. We refer to this as "progressive revelation". It does not mean that the previous prophets were wrong, it means we are facing new challenges that need to be addressed in terms that we can understand. For example, Baha'i's believe that science without faith is materialism, and faith without science is superstition. We live in a scientific era - we need to consider it as part of the whole.
The "developmental thread" in Waldorf education supports a deep understanding of this by bringing children stories as their awareness shifts through the grades.
My personal path (and there is no clergy in the Baha'i faith so we are encouraged to study the writings ourselves and to gather together for study circles, and conferences like summer schools) has me examining the laws that Baha'u'llah set forth in a personal light that spirals out to the greater community, to my country, and to the world. I am always looking from the present to the future to gain a deepening understanding of why they exist.
Prayer, fasting, studying all the world's religions, educating my children head, heart, and hands - the laws that relate to these are easy for me to accept. The ones I've needed to go deeper with relate to partisan politics, and economics.
Baha'i's are not to get involved in partisan politics on a personal level or as a representative of other Baha'is. I'm deepening my understanding of this. We can vote, we are expected to follow the laws of the country we call home and observe all the rights and freedoms that go along with that. We can speak out for human rights, but we must always be very careful not to become enmeshed in partisan politics. In the Faith we vote for our own representatives, (we have no clergy, but we have local, national, and a universal body that attend to administrative needs) but there is absolutely NO campaigning, and it is a secret ballot all the time. At first I was focussing on the idea that this might exist as a way of protecting the Faith from the shifting tides that are part of partisan politics (thinking of the persecution of Baha'i's in Iran) but I'm going deeper now and I see it as a case of striving to live as we want to see worldwide change. BE the CHANGE.
There is also a law called "The Right of God" which in a simplistic way means that once our needs are taken care of and we have a predetermined amount of wealth in reserve, we owe God 19% of the surplus. Projects in the faith of course cost money, and we all contribute as we're able to something called "the Fund" which has all sorts of uses from funding children's classes, to service projects, to paying for photocopying. The Right of God is seperate from this. We are only to pay it when paying it will fill us with joy. My understanding of it has deepened by looking at the Anthroposophical concept of the threefold social order. I'm looking at this law and how kind it is (no one is checking up on you to see if you've paid yours), how it is based in a deep spiritual joy, and looking for the practical world vision in that. Obviously, large portions of the world's population will never be able to reach the level of material wealth necessary to pay their Right of God. However, how many of us could and don't recognize that wealth? How many of us are so bound to materialism that we feel it would be a hardship when in practical fact it wouldn't be? Still - that is not the point where you are required to pay it - it has to be given from a place of joy. So spiritually what has to change?
Our concept of abundance. Our concept of giving. Our concept of what is ours. Our concept of the role of money on a global level.
So then I looked at the connection between an abolishment of partisan politics and if everyone who was willing and able, paid their Right of God, what could be accomplished on a global level? Wow. The true end of global poverty. Equality. A real place of beginning for World Peace.
We discussed purely practical personal ways to get there at Summer School, just like at Chiron. Baby steps. Thats where we are in this. Each doing our best, striving. The practical is bound to the spiritual and the spiritual to the creative and the creative to the practical. Threefolding.
Oh yeah, for those unfamiliar with Steiner's threefold social order - it boils down to this:
Liberty in cultural life,
Equality in a democratic political life, and
(Uncoerced) fraternity/sorority in economic life.