Posted by: samandal | March 2, 2011

Bahá’í Unitarianism, V: Bahá’í as a Spiritual Practice

Díyáfat-i-‘Alá’, the Feast of Loftiness

Spirituality is the practice of the presence of God; religion is the externalization of the content of spirituality, while theology is the conceptualization of the content of religion. Spirituality is to religion as justice is to law or as wine is to vinegar, while religion is to theology as law is to equity or as vinegar is to honey.

Spirituality may be manifested through religion, but religion is not synonymous with spirituality. Yet devotional practices are structured activities; spiritual development requires spiritual practice. Veneration, recollection, prayer (both formal and informal), contemplation and mindfulness may be identified as the core elements of a Bahá’í spiritual practice in a Unitarian context which, like the Bahá’í tradition, stresses the unity of God and the unity of the human race.

The emphasis for Bahá’í Unitarians should be on spiritual practice rather than formal theology or religious doctrine, on social service rather than polemics or partisanship. This allows individuals to integrate themselves into the life of their local Unitarian community and identify themselves as Unitarians who embrace a Bahá’í spiritual practice rather than as Bahá’ís who happen to attend a Unitarian congregation.

The Church of the Larger Fellowship is a member church of the Unitarian Universalist Association. It provides a ministry to isolated religious liberals who, for geographical or other reasons, are unable to attend a Unitarian congregation.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá specified that the mashriqu’l-adhkár should be linked to a number of philanthropic institutions, such as a hospital, drug dispensary, travelers’ hospice, school and university. Lotta Hitschmanova, a world-renowned humanitarian, founded the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, which she led for many years; she supervised and inspected all its multifarious projects. Unitarians are active out of all proportion to their numbers in United Nations associations and in the World Federal Government movement.