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COLLECTIONPublished articles
TITLEThese Four States Conferred Upon Thee": Tetrarchic Thinking in Philosophy, Theology, Psychology
AUTHOR 1Wolfgang A. Klebel
TITLE_PARENTLights of Irfan
PUB_THISHaj Mehdi Armand Colloquium
ABSTRACTWe follow Bahá’u’lláh’s new principles and forget old patterns of thought in order to find peace, not only in the world, but also in our hearts. One new paradigm includes four-fold relationships, like Firstness/Lastness vs. Inwardness/Outwardness.
NOTES Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #109, Bosch Bahá'í School (May 2012). Mirrored with permission from
TAGS- Philosophy; Psychology; Theology
Abstract: This presentation tries to follow ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement that we have to follow Bahá’u’lláh’s new principles and forget the old patterns of thought in order to find the peace of the heavenly kingdom, not only in the world, but primarily and foremost in our hearts:
“Now the new age is here and creation is reborn. Humanity hath taken on new life. ... The people, therefore, must be set completely free from their old patterns of thought, that all their attention may be focused upon these new principles, for these are the light of this time and the very spirit of this age.

Unless these Teachings are effectively spread among the people, until the old ways, the old concepts, are gone and forgotten, this world of being will find no peace, nor will it reflect the perfections of the Heavenly Kingdom.” (SWA 253).

Bahá'u'lláh's Writings have frequent references to four-fold relationships such as "Firstness and Lastness – Inwardness and outwardness" (SVFV 27); "Motion and Stillness – Will and Purpose" (GWB 164) and several others in the Writings. This presentation will show how these fourfold principles, we call "tetrarchies," are a new way of thinking about humankind and the entire universe. It is significant that all these statements originated during the Baghdad and Edirne period of Bahá'u'lláh’s translated Writings, which means that they are to be understood in a mystical context.

The word “Tetrarchy” is not mentioned, as such, in any enumeration of Bahá'u'lláh’s principles, yet, it is this writer’s opinion that this idea presents a new way of thinking. This concept describes a new pattern of thought, a new basic hermeneutical and ontological principle permeating the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.

The new idea presented in this paper is the tetrarchic understanding of reality, which this writer has developed and presented in all of his previous Irfan and ABS presentations beginning with the paper on “True of Thyself”, (Lights of Irfan, Book Six, 2005) mentioning the four states of man from the Seven Valleys (page 27). To describe these four states with the word tetrarchy has been introduced two years ago and used in the paper “The Essence of Man”, which is now in print, in the last copy of Lights of Irfan. Since then, the study of the Writings has resulted in new insights and new philosophic sources have been found to further develop the concept of tetrarchy. Besides Wilber’s (born 1949) Quadrants, Romano Guardini’s (1885 – 1968) “Gegensatz” (translated as Polarity or Oppositeness) and its development in the Integral Philosophy of Augustinus Wucherer (born 1929) has given a newer and deeper understanding of the tetrarchic structure of reality; promoting a new understanding of concrete reality, in contrast to the understanding of reality in abstract concepts.

These two ways of understanding, abstract and personal, are similar to Ferdinand Ebner’s (1882 – 1931) distinction between Personal and Substantial Understanding, as presented in the paper “The Word is the Master Key of the Whole World” (Lights of Irfan Book Eight, 2007).

Another rather new aspect of this understanding is the epistemological question of how we understand, which was presented by Romano Guardini in three different ways of understanding: the rational (Logical, Abstract), the trans-rational (Personal, called Intuition) and the super-rational understanding (called Vision or “Anschauung”). These three ways of understanding surprisingly correspond with Bahá'u'lláh’s three differing planes of understanding the wayfarer moves in the Seven Valleys (page 20):

“Thus, for that they move on these three differing planes, the understanding and the words of the wayfarers have differed; and hence the sign of conflict doth continually appear on earth. For some there are who dwell upon the plane of oneness and speak of that world, and some inhabit the realms of limitation, and some the grades of self, while others are completely veiled.” (SVFV 20)
Here the rational abstract understanding is referred to under the term limitation, the intuitive way of understanding is referred to under the terms of grades of self and the vision is described as the plane of oneness, while Bahá'u'lláh adds the ones who are completely veiled, calling them ignorant. Bahá'u'lláh further indicates that this differences of understanding create the conflicts of this world; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has interpreted this idea, stating that accepting Bahá'u'lláh’s principles will bring peace to the world.

It is postulated by this writer, that these developments of philosophy and new thinking are based on the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, in spite of the fact that all the thinkers, quoted here, had no knowledge of the Bahá’í Faith. As presented before (Lawh-i-Hikmat, Lights of Irfan Book Seven, 2006), Bahá’í theology is understood as being progressive, always starting with the Writings, but finding in the Writings new patterns of thought and ways of thinking, which often enough have been found as well by other thinkers, who do not necessarily know of the Bahá’í Faith.

This idea was recently expressed by the Universal House of Justice (in One Common Faith 2005, p. iii):

“Bahá’ís will come to increasingly appreciate that the Cause they serve represents the arrowhead of an awakening taking place among people everywhere, regardless of religious background and indeed among many with no religious leaning.”
Concluding, it has to be indicated that this presentation is the outline of the forthcoming book of this writer, to appear hopefully in the year 2013 under the same title: “Understanding Reality.”
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