A Resource Guide for Baha'i Studies--bibliography

53. Religious Dialogue and Pluralism

The Bahá'í Faith, the most recent of the major religious traditions, acknowledges the divine inspiration behind most of the previous religions and has teachings about their founding, history, philosophy, and destiny. It views all the world's major religious traditions as parts of an ongoing, developing religion that Bahá'ís sometimes call the Religion of God. Its approach thus bears some similarities to "Perennial Philosophy," popularized by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Aldous Huxley, and Frithjof Schuon; "Phenomenology of Religion," indirectly fathered by C. G. Jung and famously expounded by Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade; and "Religious Pluralism," chiefly associated with John Hick.

Religious dialogue and pluralism is so integral a part of the Bahá'í religion that isolating a few texts would be very difficult. One good summary definition, though, is found in Shoghi Effendi's World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, under the heading Fundamental Principle of Religious Truth, 57-8.

Esslemont, 116-24                         Huddleston, 22                            
Ferraby, 162-82                           Momen, 96-103                             
Hatcher and Martin, 81-4, 127-29          Smith 1987, 83-4, 144-5                   

Thus far little work has been done on the similarities and differences between Bahá'í philosophy and the above schools of thought. The most in-depth article, though slightly tangential to this topic, is Moojan Momen's "Relativism: A Basis for Bahá'í Metaphysics," in Moojan Momen, ed., Studies in Honor of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi, in Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 5, 185-218. John Hick has summarized the Pluralist position in an invited commentary, "Interfaith and the Future," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 4.1 (1994). Phillip R. Smith explores some pluralism paradigms, including Hick's, in "The Bahá'í Faith and Religious Diversity," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 1.1 (1991). Moojan Momen explores aspects of pluralism in "Fundamentalism and Liberalism: Towards an Understanding of the Dichotomy," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 2.1 (1992). Dann May's master's thesis The Bahá'í Principle of Religious Unity and the Challenge of Radical Pluralism is a very good examination of different scholarly concepts of religious pluralism and Bahá'í responses to them. An abridgement of his thesis, "The Bahá'í Principle of Religious Unity: A Dynamic Perspective," in Jack McLean, ed., Revisioning the Sacred: New Perspectives on a Bahá'í Theology: Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 8, examines the problem of pluralism in light of the Bahá'í principle of the theological unity of religions. This same volume includes Seena Fazel's "Interreligious Dialogue and the Bahá'í Faith: Some Preliminary Observations," which examines some forms of and challenges facing interreligions dialogue.

The Bahá'í teachings on other religions constitute the foundation on which Bahá'ís base their concept of pluralism and carry out their dialogue. One published effort to utilize Bahá'u'lláh's teachings as a basis for dialogue with other religions is Douglas Martin's "Bahá'u'lláh's Model for World Fellowship," in World Order, 11.1 (Fall 1976). Much of Udo Schaefer's work treats the topic of pluralism; his most extended study of the topic to date is Beyond the Clash of Religions: The Emergence of a New Paradigm.

The Bahá'í relationships and approaches to the major world religions are presented below. Most of these are not scholarly dialogues on pluralism, but are often mildly apologetic discussions of other religions and the Bahá'í fulfillment of their prophecies.

    53.1. Religious Dialogue: Ahmadíyya

The Ahmadíyya movement presents a significant challenge to the Bahá'í Faith. Ahmadism, the adherents of which number approximately ten million, is the only other religion in modern times which both claims independent prophecy after Muhammad (the fine theological points of this are debated), proclaims a universalist agenda, and prosecutes this agenda with zealous missionary activity.

Though Ahmadís have written numerous anti-Bahá'í tracts, Bahá'ís have, aside from three passing references in Unfolding Destiny (19, 29, 424), virtually ignored the movement. One of the most thorough academic works on the Ahmadís, Yohanan Friedmann's Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Ahmadí Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background, makes only one passing references to the Bahá'í Faith (p. 44). A much older work, H. A. Walter's The Ahmadíya Movement contains more references both to Babism (53 n.1, 134) and to the Bahá'í Faith and Bahá'u'lláh (53, 138). The only comparative works produced thus far are also short and old: a section in S.G. Wilson's Modern Movements Among Moslems, 138-9, and a two-page reference in The Moslem World, 31.1 (Jan. 1941), "Ahmadism and Bahaism in the Same Boat."

    53.2. Religious Dialogue: Buddhism

The Bahá'í scriptures affirm that the Buddha was an independent Manifestation of God. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, however, declares that the Buddha's original teaching of "the Oneness of God" eventually decayed into "ignorant customs and ceremonials." (Some Answered Questions, 165f.) There are mentions, not just in the Tripitaka, the earliest and most authentically-original Buddhist scriptures, but in the texts of all Buddhist traditions, of the future return of the Buddha as the Maitreya, or "Friendly," Buddha, sometimes also called the "Fifth Buddha." 'Abdu'l-Bahá said that Bahá'u'lláh is Maitreya, the return of the Buddha.

Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings on Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, and Related Subjects, in Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, is the source of Bahá'í writings with the most quotations on Buddhism.

Ferraby, 170                              Huddleston, 41                            

A popularly written exploration of Buddhist teachings as they relate to the Bahá'í Faith is Jamshed Fozdar's The God Of Buddha, followed by his Buddha Maitrya-Amitabha has Appeared. Though these works are clearly popular apologetics, and though some academics have criticized Fozdar's manipulation of Buddhist philosophy and prophecy, they are worth mentioning due to their relatively widespread acceptance in the Bahá'í community. Of slightly greater academic rigor, though much smaller in scope, is Moojan Momen's Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith. Jonah Winters has raised some points of Bahá'í scholarship and Buddhism in his review of Momen's Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith, in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 6.4 (Dec. 1994-Mar. 1995). Daniel Conner's "Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith," in World Order, 6.2 (Winter 1971-72), is a careful and tentative exploration of points of similarity between the Bahá'í Faith and Buddhism. Perhaps the best comparative study yet written is Phyllis Ghim Lian Chew's The Chinese Religion and the Bahá'í Faith, where she explores the development and interrelationship of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, and postulates Bahá'í parallels with them.

    53.3. Religious Dialogue: Christianity

Bahá'í primary texts speak of Jesus Christ, who is often referred to as "the Spirit of God," in the highest possible manner. Christianity has come to believe that the advent of Christ, the Logos, in the person of Jesus was the "first coming," and that Christ would one day return to earth in the "second coming." Bahá'u'lláh declares that he is the second coming of Christ.

References to Jesus and to Christianity in the Bahá'í writings are far too numerous to produce a complete list here. Instead, James Heggie's Bahá'í References to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can be pointed to as a comprehensive list of primary source references to Christianity. A few of the more noteworthy and important references are as follows: many citations of Bahá'u'lláh are to be found in Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 68-69, 84-85 (Kitáb-i-Íqán 20-29, 64, 66, 130-133), 175-80 (The Most Holy Tablet, sometimes referred to as the Tablet to the Christians, also in Tablets 9-17); 181-82 (first, second, and eighth Glad Tidings in Tablets 21-22, 24); 187 (second Taráz in Tablets 35-36); 235 (ninth Ishráq in Tablets 129-130). 'Abdu'l-Bahá discusses Christian subjects extensively; see Some Answered Questions, 16-7 and 87-139 and Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 51-53. A dialogue 'Abdu'l-Bahá had with a Christian pastor has been reprinted with commentary in 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "'Abdu'l-Bahá on Christ and Christianity," introduction by Seena Fazel, in The Bahá'í Studies Review, 3.1 (1993): 1-18. Some notes are in Lights of Guidance, 489-94.

Esslemont, 211-33                         Huddleston, 21-25                         
Ferraby, 172-9                                                                      


Bahá'í authors have produced a great deal of work relating the Bahá'í Faith to Christianity. The majority of this is apologetic, often dealing with interpretations of prophecy. Though popular, and not strictly scholarly in approach, the work of Michael Sours stands out as being of relatively greater depth and academic usefulness. His books include A Study of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet to the Christians, which offers a lengthy commentary on Bahá'u'lláh's Lawh-i-Aqdas. His series of books titled Preparing for a Bahá'í-Christian Dialogue may also be of interest, though the title is misleading; the books seem primarily designed to help Bahá'ís explain their religion to Christians. Also worth mentioning is Richard Backwell's The Christianity of Jesus. This book does not attempt to fit Christianity to a Bahá'í mold such that Christianity's prophecies are stressed to the exclusion of its other teachings, as many Bahá'í books do. Rather, Backwell presents a study of Jesus and his teachings that is merely complemented by Bahá'í interpretations.


Bahá'í scholarship covers a variety of Christian subjects. Jack McLean's "Deification of Jesus," in World Order, 14.3/4 (Spring/Summer 1980), offers a well-informed Bahá'í perspective on the christological and trinitarian controversies in the early church. Juan R. Cole's "The Christian-Muslim Encounter and the Bahá'í Faith," in World Order, 12.2 (Winter 1977-78), offers a detailed discussion of points of disagreement between Christians and Muslims--particularly Muslim views of Christian teachings--and the Bahá'í position on the same issue. Often the Bahá'í position offers ways of resolving differences between Muslims and Christians, hence this article is of use in dialogue between Bahá'ís and either party. Seena Fazel and Khazeh Fananapazir have published "A Bahá'í Approach to the Claims of Exclusivity and Uniqueness in Christianity" in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 3.2 (1990-1991): 15-24. Robert Stockman has explored related issues in "Jesus Christ in the Bahá'í Writings," Bahá'í Studies Review, 1.2 (April 1992). Valuable correction and expansion of the paper is found in Michael Sours, "Concerning differences between Christian and Bahá'í Terminology in Dr. Robert Stockman's article 'Jesus [sic] in the Bahá'í Writings'" in Bahá'í Studies Review, 3.1 (1993): 79-86. Christopher Buck's dissertation, Paradise and Paradigm: Key Symbols in "Persian" Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith, is the first full-length comparativist study. A historical comparative survey is Moojan Momen's "Early Relations Between Christian Missionaries and the Bábí and Bahá'í Communities," in Moojan Momen, Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 1. This work has been expanded in Moojan Momen, The Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, 1844-1944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts. Udo Schaefer discusses many aspects of Christianity and Christian theology in The Imperishable Dominion, especially 4-23, and "Answer to a Theologian," in The Light Shineth in Darkness.


A certain amount of dialogue has already occurred as a result of Christian attacks on the Bahá'í Faith and the Bahá'í replies; the best examples of this apologetic literature are Huschmand Sabet's The Heavens Are Cleft Asunder and Udo Schaefer's The Light Shineth in Darkness. Both works, especially the latter, display familiarity with historical-critical research on the Bible. Hatcher and Martin also address Christian anti-Bahá'í polemic (The Bahá'í Faith 200-202). By far the most complete and most academic response to Christian polemic is, unfortunately, only available in German. However, its import qualifies it for inclusion here: Udo Schaefer, Nicola Towfigh, and Ulrigh Gollmer's Desinformation als Methode: die Bahá'ismus-monographie des F. Ficicchia.

    53.4. Religious Dialogue: Confucianism and Taoism

Confucius and Lao-tzu are treated equally in the Bahá'í writings: each is seen as a great reformer and religious teacher, but not a Manifestation or even a lesser prophet. Neither Bahá'u'lláh nor 'Abdu'l-Bahá mentions either Lao-Tzu or Taoism, but 'Abdu'l-Bahá praises Confucius in many places (e.g. Some Answered Questions, 165f. and Promulgation of Universal Peace, 356).

Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings on Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, and Related Subjects, in Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, contains the most quotations on Confucianism, though only one reference to Taoism.

Phyllis Ghim Lian Chew's The Chinese Religion and the Bahá'í Faith, where she explores the development and interrelationship of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, and postulates Bahá'í parallels, is the most complete Bahá'í study to date of these religious traditions. Chew has focused solely on Taoism in another study, "The Great Tao," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 4.2 (June-Sept. 1991). Jamshed Fozdar's The Fallacy of Ancestor Worship is also worth mentioning because, though it is a short apologetic work, it contains some of the only discussion of Confucianism in the corpus of Bahá'í scholarship.

    53.5. Religious Dialogue: Hinduism

Bahá'í teachings on Hinduism are more or less identical to those on Buddhism. Hinduism, clearly, teaches of numerous incarnations, or avatárs (lit. "descents"), of God. 'Abdu'l-Bahá affirmed one of these, Krishna, as the prophet of whom Bahá'u'lláh represented the return. Indeed, the conception of the avatár is so central to Hinduism that Bahá'ís teaching the Faith in India often explicitly refer to Bahá'u'lláh as an avatár.

Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings on Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, and Related Subjects, in Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, contains the most quotations on Hinduism. A few notes are in Lights of Guidance, 502-3.

Ferraby, 170                              Smith 1996, 93, 144-5                     
Huddleston, 41                                                                      

Most works published on the Bahá'í Faith and Hinduism are not relevant to this bibliography, being both apologetic and short brochures. The exceptions are Moojan Momen's Hinduism and the Bahá'í Faith, which attempts to relate the teachings of these two traditions and S. Raman's "My Quest for the Fulfillment of Hinduism," in World Order, 3.3 (Spring 1969) which takes a similar approach, but from the perspective of a Hindu who has become a Bahá'í. Three other academic works with passing references to Hinduism are a short study of the use of Hindu hymnology in teaching the Bahá'í Faith to Hindus: William Garlington's "Bahá'í Bhajans," in World Order, 16.2 (Winter 1982); Garlington's "Bahá'í Conversions in Malwa, Central India," in Moojan Momen, From Iran East and West: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 2, which is an abridgement of his dissertation The Bahá'í Faith in Malwa: A Study of a Contemporary Religious Movement; and a comparison of traditional Hindu health and healing science with Bahá'í teachings, Felicity Rawlings' "Maharishi Ayurveda: A Bahá'í Exploration," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 4.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1991).

    53.6. Religious Dialogue: Islam and Sufism

Though a great deal of scholarship examining the historical and theological influence of Islam on the Bábí and Bahá'í religions exists, there is little published Bahá'í-Muslim dialogue at the moment. This is partly because, on the one hand, many official Islamic positions regard Bahá'ís as apostates and, on the other hand, cultural memories of persecutions are often too fresh in the minds of Bahá'ís of a Middle Eastern background to allow their embracing dialogue yet. Indeed, the Universal House of Justice has even cautioned Bahá'ís against making any effort to discuss the Faith with those Muslims of a Middle Eastern background (Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities 7.44 and Lights of Guidance 428-30; see also Duane K. Troxel's cursory "Islam: A Brief Introduction," in Deepen, 3.2.2 [Summer 1992]).

James Heggie's Bahá'í References to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is a comprehensive resource of primary source references to Islam. Some of the primary mentions of Muhammad are Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 69-70 (Kitáb-i-Íqán 65-66, 108-111, 135-136, 185-187) and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, 18-24. See also Lights of Guidance, 494-8.

Ferraby, 46-47                            Huddleston, 24-25                         
Hatcher and Martin, 1-5                   Smith 1987, 60-1, 64                      


One article that does constitute dialogue is Juan Cole's "The Christian-Muslim Encounter and the Bahá'í Faith," in World Order, 12.2 (Winter 1977-78). Another item, which is perhaps the most detailed examination of the relationship between the Bahá'í Faith and another religion as the most sophisticated attempt to conduct dialogue with it, is Heshmat Moayyad, ed., The Bahá'í Faith and Islam: Proceedings of a Symposium, McGill University, March 23-25, 1984. Most of the articles contained herein are cited elsewhere in their places of direct relevance. Seena Fazel and Khazeh Fananapazir have published "A Bahá'í Approach to the Claim of Finality in Islam" in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 5.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1993). Stephen Lambden has written a short piece on the importance of Muhammad and Islam for the Bahá'í Faith the aim of which is to prepare Bahá'ís for an eventual dialogue with Muslims, "Muhammad and the Qur'án: Some Introductory Notes," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 1.1 (1991). Two of Udo Schaefer's essays in The Light Shineth in Darkness, "The Bahá'í Faith and Islam" and "Muhammad and the West," provide excellent prolegomena to a Bahá'í-Muslim dialogue. A fair number of discussions have been occasioned by anti-Bahá'í Muslim polemics. Most are more apologetic than scholarly. One good response is Mohsen Enáyat's "A Commentary on the Azhar's Statement Regarding 'Bahá'ís and Bahá'ism,'" in Bahá'í Studies Review, 2.1 (1992). One introductory essay on an important yet under-studied topic is Moojan Momen's "The Bahá'í Influence on the Reform Movements of the Islamic World in the 1860's and 1870's," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 2.2 (Sept. 1983).


The mutual influence between Bahá'u'lláh and Sufism is far too little studied given the importance and depth of the topic. Shoghi Effendi provided some introductory notes of Bahá'u'lláh's interactions with the Sufis of Sulaymáníyyih in God Passes By, 121-4, a topic which Juan R. Cole has greatly expanded in "Bahá'u'lláh and the Naqshbandí Sufis in Iraq, 1854-1856," in From Iran East and West: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 2. Steven Scholl examines the Sufi practice of dhikr--chanting the "remembrance" of God--and its treatment in the Bahá'í writings in "The Remembrance of God: An invocation technique in Sufism and the writings of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 2.3 (Dec. 1983).

    53.7. Religious Dialogue: Jainism

Jainism was founded around the sixth century B.C.E. by Mahávíra. He was also known as Jina, or "Victor," hence "Jainism." Jain philosophy and religion bear many congruences with Buddhism and Hinduism; a difference is that asceticism and the doctrine of ahimsa, or non-injury to all living things, while both elements of Buddhism and Hinduism, are stressed more strongly in Jainism. Jainism currently claims approximately 2.5 million adherents.

There are no references either to Jainism or to Mahávíra in the Bahá'í writings. Thus, Bahá'ís can neither affirm nor reject Mahávíra's claim to prophethood.

    53.8. Religious Dialogue: Judaism

Bahá'í teachings regard Moses as the founder of modern Judaism and as an independent Manifestation of God. Noah and Abraham are also considered Manifestations. Many of the other prophets of the Hebrew Bible--the "Old Testament"--are said to be "lesser prophets" who interpret and promote their religion rather than reveal a new one.

Bahá'í primary texts mention Moses and the Old Testament prophets in far too many places to present a comprehensive list here. James Heggie's Bahá'í References to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is a comprehensive resource of primary source references to Judaism. Some Answered Questions provides the fullest historical and philosophical expositions of Bahá'í teachings on figures of the Hebrew Bible. A few other notable references are Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 64-5, 84 (Kitáb-i-Íqán 10-12 54-5, 62-63, 66); 462 (Gleanings, LXXXVII) and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, 12-115. Some brief comments are in Lights of Guidance, 498-500.

The relationship between Judaism and the Bahá'í Faith is, largely owing to current political situations, one that needs to be discussed with delicacy. The importance of the land of Israel as the theater of much of Bahá'í history and the location of the Bahá'í World Center makes it vital that Bahá'ís be clear about the great deal of respect they hold for both Judaism and the nation of Israel. Partially due to the tact such interrelations warrant, Bahá'ís have as of yet produced little scholarship on Judaism.

Seemingly the only comparative work yet written is Walter Fischel's "The Bahá'í Movement and Persian Jewry," in The Jewish Review, March 1934. Fischel also examined some aspects of Jewish conversion to the Bahá'í Faith in "The Jews of Persia," in Jewish Social Studies, 12 (1950). Susan Stiles Maneck occasionally mentions Jewish conversions in her work on Zoroastrianism. The most complete academic study of a Jewish topic from a Bahá'í perspective is Stephen Lambden's "The Sinaitic Mysteries: Notes on the Moses/Sinai Motifs in Bábí and Bahá'í Scripture," in Moojan Momen, Studies in Honor of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi: Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 5. This long article--which is exhaustive in both its etymological and theological scholarship--examines certain elements of Old Testament symbolism and their treatment in primary Bahá'í writings. The article is an expanded variation of Lambden's earlier "The Islamo-Bahá'í Interpretation of Deuteronomy 33:2," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 2.2 (September 1983). Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl also wrote a short informal piece entitled "Why Moses Could not See God," in Letters and Essays 1886-1913.

    53.9. Religious Dialogue: Manichaeism

The primary Bahá'í writings make no mention of Manichaeism. However, two articles have considered the role and person of its founder, Mání, and the relation of the religion to the Bahá'í Faith. The most complete Bahá'í analysis of Manichaeism is Daniel Keith Conner's "Mani and Manichaeism: A Study in Religious Failure," in World Order, 11.2 (Winter 1976-77). Christopher Buck has also briefly discussed Mání, whom he considers the first figure in history to have consciously pursued the role of world-prophet, in "A Unique Eschatological Interface: Bahá'u'lláh and Cross-Cultural Messianism," in Peter Smith, ed., Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 3.

    53.10. Religious Dialogue: Mormonism

Joseph Smith is not considered to be either a Manifestation or a lesser prophet, but rather a sensitive person who was influenced by the spiritual forces Bahá'u'lláh released (Lights of Guidance, 2d edition, 510f.) Given Smith's merely human status, he is not considered to have had the ability to prophesy (ibid. 484). Nonetheless, Kenneth D. Stephens has attempted to demonstrate that Smith foretold the appearance of The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. This is contained in the longest, though non-academic, exposition of the relationship between the Bahá'í Faith and Mormonism yet published, Stephens' So Great a Cause! A Surprising New Look at the Latter Day Saints.

Lights of Guidance, 510-11, has three paragraphs on Joseph Smith.

George Townshend appears to be the first Bahá'í author to publish on Mormonism, producing The Conversion of Mormonism in 1911 and Why I am not a Mormon, in 1907. These are currently out of print. William Collins has written three excellent (and available) articles about Mormonism: "The Bahá'í Faith and Mormonism," in World Order, 15.1/2 (Fall 1980/Winter 1981); "The Bahá'í Faith and Mormonism: Further Reflections," in World Order, 17.3 (Spring 1983); and "Research Note: Mormonism and the Bahá'í Faith," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 3.2 (1990-1991).

    53.11. Religious Dialogue: Native and "Primal" Religions

The Bahá'í writings speak quite highly of the spiritual capacities of native peoples, including especially many references to Native North Americans. 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote in 1916 that, should "the original inhabitants of America" be exposed to modern education and to the Bahá'í Faith, "they will become so enlightened that the whole earth will be illumined." (Tablets of the Divine Plan, 32f.) Presumably in light of this, Shoghi Effendi emphasized quite strongly and repeatedly that the North American Bahá'ís devote especial effort to dialoguing with native peoples. However, mentions of native spirituality and religion are few and far between in Bahá'í literature.

Some of the more noteworthy of the numerous mentions of native peoples are Citadel of Faith 15-18 and Lights of Guidance, 2d edition, 523f., 530, and 599. There is a compilation of writings by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice entitled Importance of Teaching Indigenous People. The Bahá'í Community of Canada has released a statement entitled "A Bahá'í Perspective on Issues of Concern to the World's Aboriginal Peoples," reprinted in The Bahá'í World: An International Record, 1993-94, 277-294. This, though, is a statement on social principles, not religion.

There is very little academic work on native religions. One study of the relationship between the Bahá'í Faith and Native North American religion is Joseph O. Weixelman's "The Traditional Navajo Religion and the Bahá'í Faith," in World Order, 20.1 (Fall, 1985). Christopher Buck's lengthy essay "Native Messengers of God in Canada? A test case for Bahá'í universalism," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 6 (1996), argues that the Iroquois hero Deganawida can be considered a Manifestation of God. Robert Stockman's "The Bahá'í Faith and Primal Religions," in Deepen, 10.4.1 (1996), is a short but useful discussion of early and mythic religions and how the station of their prophet-magicians compares with the Bahá'í definition of Manifestations of God. Another item of possible relevance is a video on the Bahá'í Lakota Sioux musician and dancer Kevin Locke, entitled "Morning Stars: A Profile of Kevin Locke," which discusses native prophecies.

    53.12. Religious Dialogue: New Age Movements

Though very little relates the New Age movement to the Bahá'í Faith, a common misconception is that the Faith is either a form of or is associated with New Age thought. Many aspects of what can be ascribed in general to the term "New Age" and the loosely-defined spectrum of groups and beliefs of which it consists do bear similarities with some teachings of the Bahá'í Faith: the New Age idea of the awakening of humanity in the arrival of the Age of Aquarius is similar to the Bahá'í teaching of the entrance into maturity of the human race; a stress on international peace, cooperation, and the eventual dissolution of national borders coincides well with the peaceful world government of the Bahá'í New World Order; and the re-emphasizing of things spiritual over and against the prevailing materialism of the age of modernity is intrinsic to both. However, other general aspects of New Age thought, such as the relativism of ethics, the eschewing of centralized organization, and a common fascination with divination and the paranormal are all quite antithetical to Bahá'í teachings.

Smith 1987, 35-8, 84, 104, 111-14, 54-5                                             


The one major historical interaction Bahá'ís have had with a "New Age" group was a relatively close relationship 'Abdu'l-Bahá had with the Theosophists. 'Abdu'l-Bahá discusses Theosophy in Paris Talks, Promulgation of Universal Peace, and Some Answered Questions, H.M. Balyuzi addresses the topic of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Theosophists in 'Abdu'l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. The most complete treatment of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's relations with theosophy is K. Paul Johnson's Initiates of Theosophical Masters, especially 97-103. He focused his discussion further in "Theosophical Influence in Bahá'í History," published in Theosophical History 4:1 (January 1992). Robert Stockman offered a response to this article from a Bahá'í perspective in a later issue of the same journal.

Smith 1987, 91, 104, 109, 112, 149, 191,                                              


Aside from brief discussions in Udo Schaefer's Beyond the Clash of Religions, pages 22-4 and 37, there have been no studies to date on the Bahá'í Faith and the New Age movement. However, two common motifs of New Age thought have been addressed with growing frequency by Bahá'ís and Bahá'í scholars: near-death experiences and life-after-death, and spirituality/spiritualism. Many of these texts are listed above, 3. Afterlife. Though not new scholarship, some useful compendiums that could strongly appeal to New Age interests.

Books written by Bahá'ís in the New Age style include Angela Anderson's 1968 book Valley of Search, a quintessential New Age autobiography of self-discovery in which she discusses her experiences with the teachings of Ouspensky and Gurdjieff and working with gurus in a consciously New Age quest, ending with her becoming a Bahá'í. Much of Erik Blumenthal's work, such as his The Way to Inner Freedom: A Practical Guide for Personal Development, also offers an example of "New Age" Bahá'í literature. The multi-author Green Acre on the Piscataqua includes a section on Swami Vivekananda and the Bahá'í Faith and makes a passing reference to the theosophist Annie Besant.

    53.13. Religious Dialogue: Sabaeanism

There are, historically, two distinct groups of people known as Sabaeans. One is the Sabaeans of Harrán, a "pagan" sect which flourished in the early times of Islam. Muslim writers have written extensively about the group. However, the Qur'án includes the Sabaeans as "People of the Book" three times (2:62, 5:69, and 22:17), and the Bahá'í writings list the Sabaean religion as one of the first world religions of which any record exists today and as one of the nine "true" religions surviving today. This religious group would appear to be, not the Sabaeans of Harrán, but rather a distinct religion of the Abrahamic tradition that flourished in Mesopotamia in the early centuries B.C.E., often equated with the Mandaeans. Shoghi Effendi considered Abraham to be a follower of the Sabaean religion, and elsewhere wrote that it could not be determined whether the Sabaean or the Hindu religions were older. This might seem to be a historical discrepancy, but could be resolved if the Sabaean religion is clearly identified as a form of Mandaeanism, which latter is widely acknowledged to be ancient.

The source of Bahá'í writings with the most quotations on the Sabaean religion is Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings on Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, and Related Subjects, in Compilation of Compilations, vol. I. Two paragraphs are in Lights of Guidance, 502.

The only full investigation into the Sabaeans by a Bahá'í--though containing no mention of the Bahá'í Faith--is Christopher Buck's attempts to untangle the identity of the Sabaeans in "The Identity of the Sabi'un: An Historical Quest," in The Muslim World 74 (July/Oct 1984). B. Hoff Conow has also written Who Were the Sabaeans? Clues to a Forgotten Religion, but this work has not been released as of this edition.

    53.14. Religious Dialogue: Sikhism

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was quite adamant that he was neither a prophet nor an avatár, but rather simply a spiritual teacher. Later gurus, especially the second through the fifth, made the religion somewhat intentionally syncretistic. Partly for these reasons, Bahá'ís do not consider Sikhism to be a "revealed" religion.

The one and only mention of Sikhism in any of the Bahá'í writings is a passing reference in God Passes By, 302, though a footnote to Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, page 150, makes a reference. No scholarship has been done on it thus far.

No comparative work has been done on Sikhism and the Bahá'í Faith. R. Raj Singh summarized Nanak's life and teachings in "Nanak, The Founder of Sikhism," in World Order 26.2 (Winter 1994-95), but made no mention of the Faith in the essay. Two sources that mention Sikhism, if only in passing, are biographies of Pritam Singh, the first Sikh Bahá'í and a distinguished Bahá'í teacher. These appear in the Bahá'í World vol. 15, pp. 874-6, and in Dipchand Khianra's Imortals, a series of biographical sketches of some Bahá'ís of India who contributed to the development of the community there.

    53.15. Religious Dialogue: Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is one of the nine living religions which Bahá'ís regard as founded by a Manifestation of God. Certain Zoroastrian scriptures record that "a descendent of the Iranian kings" named Sháh-Bahrám will arise and bring peace to the world. Shoghi Effendi affirms that Bahá'u'lláh is Sháh-Bahrám (God Passes By 95).

Excluding the traditions of the Abrahamic trajectory, the primary Bahá'í writings mention Zoroastrianism more than any other religion. This is the only "Eastern" religion specifically addressed by Bahá'u'lláh (see, e.g., God Passes By, 211). See, for example, Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings on Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, and Related Subjects, in Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, for quotations on Zoroastrianism.

Ferraby 171                               Smith 1987, 92-97                         
Huddleston 38                                                                       

The history of the Bábí and Bahá'í religions has in many ways been closely intertwined with Zoroastrianism. A high percentage of early Bábí converts came from Zoroastrian backgrounds, on which topic Susan Stiles wrote her Master's thesis entitled Zoroastrian Conversions to the Bahá'í Faith in Yazd, Írán, a version of which she published in Juan Cole and Moojan Momen, From Iran East and West: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 2. She complemented this study under the name Susan Stiles Maneck, in "The Conversion of Religious Minorities to the Bahá'í Faith in Iran: Some Preliminary Observations," Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 3.3 (1990-1991): 35-48. Second, Michael Fischer, in his doctoral dissertation Zoroastrian Iran Between Myth and Praxis, has extensively discussed conversions to the Bahá'í Faith and also the 1903 massacre of Bahá'ís at Yazd. Parts of this have been published in Fischer and Mehdi Abedi, Debating Muslims: Cultural Dialogues in Postmodernity and Tradition and reprinted in Bahá'í Faith and Islam, "Social Change and the Mirrors of Tradition: The Bahá'ís of Yazd." The latter discusses Zoroastrianism on pages 36-41.

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