2003 Bahá'í Conference on

Social & Economic Development

“Increasing Perceptions of Bahá’í Models of Development”
   Salon 14   2 p.m.

Facilitators/Presenters:  Gregory Kagira-Watson and Dwight Allen

Author of the written materials: Greg Kagira-Watson (copyright © 2003 )

Special thanks is given to  Roger Coe, Beatriz Ferriera, Jeff Keily, Layli Miller-Muno, and Steve Thomson for their advice on the scenarios.


Acting from the premise that Bahá’u’lláh’s “wondrous system” provides us with a “coherent” set of development principles applicable to the problems of the entire world, participants will be divided into groups representing different cultures, which then will consult on a particular local problem handed to them, along with the constraints and norms of the particular culture.  Problems might be the building of a school or center, illiteracy, obtaining fresh water, gender equality in the education of children, conflict with local traditions or religious leaders, lack of obedience to Baha'i laws by new Baha'is, etc.  Norms might include the subordinate status of women, lack of skills, pride, lack of self-confidence (deference to "experts"), traditions, values, or coordinating with the governments or tribal councils, etc.  During the debrief with the wider group, participants will explain the process of their particular consultation in terms of the Bahá’í principles used, with emphasis on how they are linked to each other and how a principle might “presuppose” another.  Similarities and differences between the groups will be compared and contrasted during the debrief.  The relationship between the deductive and inductive consultation processes in the transfer of “what works” from one culture to another will be discussed, as we increase our perceptions of the universals in Bahá’í development, from both "insider" and "outsider" perspectives.  We will attempt to discern the advantages (in SED) of what we, as a Bahá'ís, have been given “a priori” by God through Baha’u’llah -- as we attempt to develop different complementary models of development.


Goals of the workshop:

1.      Content: Explore SED problems in diverse cultural scenarios.

2.      Process: Engage in the process of consultation using Bahá’í principles.


Culture of Learning:

Culture implies community.  Community implies consultation.  Consultation is learning.


"Verily, God loveth those who are working in His path in groups, for they are a solid foundation." (Abdu’l-Baha -- Star of the West, Vol. 7, p. 36 and BWF, p. 401-402)


"Consultation bestoweth greater awareness and transmuteth conjecture into certitude. It is a shining light which, in a dark world, leadeth the way and guideth. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation." (Bahá'u'lláh, in Consultation: A Compilation, p.3 - Dev. Distinctive Baha'i Communities)

"Now, after all the years of constant teaching activity, the community of the Greatest Name has grown to the stage at which the processes of this development must be incorporated into its regular pursuits; particularly is action compelled by the expansion of the Faith in Third World countries where the vast majority of its adherents reside. The steps to be taken must necessarily begin in the Baha'i Community itself, with the friends endeavoring, through their application of spiritual principles, their rectitude of conduct and the practice of the art of consultation, to uplift themselves and thus become self-sufficient and self-reliant."  (UHJ, 10/20/1983, announcing the establishment at the World Centre of the Office of Social and Economic Development)


Three hour schedule:  2:00 – 5:00 pm            Salon 14

45 minutes:  Videos and introduction to goals and process of the session.

45 minutes:  Group members will take about 10 minute to read and understand the scenario.  Groups will then consult on their particular scenario, making sure to define the consultative process and identify Baha’i principles in a way that can be reported to the wider group during the debriefing exercise.  (Each group will have a monitor or the facilitators will move among the groups to help guide the process.)

10 minutes:  Break

60 minutes:  Each scenario group will have 10 minutes to report on the process and outcomes of consultation to the entire group, emphasizing what they learned about how some Baha’i principles were linked to other principles, citing any new discoveries within the process.  Reports should emphasize the consultation process more than the solution to the problems set in the scenario.

20 minutes:  Open discussion, led by facilitators, of similarities and differences between the approaches to consultation among the groups.  Compare and contrast the consultation process and ask the group what conclusions can be drawn about the universality of the principles of Baha’i consultation that guide the SED process.  (Inductive / deductive synthesis component to the learning exercise.)


Quotes from the Writings are provided that illustrate various principles which might apply to some or all of the scenarios.  The OCEAN search engine, on a notebook computer, is also available for groups that wish to consult the Writings on a topic.  Each group should scan through the quotes and pick those that apply, in addition to any other Baha’i principles that occur to them. 


Concepts behind the workshop – Introduction:

Baha’is value diversity within and among cultures, and attempt to integrate all strata of society.  “Creative diversity” is in danger of pressure towards uniformity at the same time cultural exchange and interdependence opens up many new cultural and intellectual benefits.  The watchword for Bahá’ís, since the 1930’s has been “unity in diversity.”  The unity which can arise from the interdependence among the world’s peoples can never mean uniformity to Bahá’ís — should never pressure humanity towards uniformity.  Cultural diversity is too highly prized by the Bahá’ís; and yet, culture is not romanticized.  Cultures will change.  Cultures must change (especially as they interface with other cultures around them).  It is their nature to evolve, but hopefully they will do so in ways which enhance the quality of life, rather than by bringing on another whole set of problems, not the least of which is the psychological sense of loss and alienation which so many individuals have experienced in the process.  Obviously, there is much to understand about the psychological and spiritual dimensions of this potentially painful social transition into a world community of developed nations.


While Baha’is respect cultural traditions, Baha’i advocate the “selective” preservation of culture because some traditions are not in keeping with Baha’i understandings of those principles that contribute to the well-being of humankind, as gleaned from the Baha’i Writings.  Cannibalism, for example, is a practice that some indigenous Baha’i communities have themselves chosen to abandon.  One of the most interesting examples of cultural change in relation to SED comes from this the Daga people of Papua New Guinea, who have long been known to outsiders for their fierce fighting and intimidating sorcery.  By tradition, transgressions, large or small, against these peoples called for quick and often lethal vengeance called “pay-back” killing.  Some years ago, however, reports of dramatic changes began to emerge due to the influence of Baha’i community life.  According to regional government officials and travelers to the Daga area, several tribes acquired the reputation for peace-making and inter-tribal harmony.  The transformation was due to the Daga people’s growing acceptance of the principles and teachings of the Bahá’í Faith, including the peaceful resolution to conflict and the recognition of the brotherhood of all peoples.  Additionally, the influence of the Bahá’í Faith curbed the practices of witchcraft and sorcery. 


These are extreme examples, of course, of dramatic cultural evolution in cultures remote from more modern civilization.  The examples of Social and Economic Development are as diverse as the many cultures found in every country around the world.  Highly industrialized and technology oriented cultures have as many challenges as the so-called “LDCs” (lesser developed countries).


What criteria are used to select those traditional practices that should be preserved and those that should be discarded?   How do we know which principles found in our Sacred Writings should apply and which should not?  Are we sure that we have not simply used a small set or a subset of the principles that address a problem or issue and overlooked or ignored others?  How do we systematize our knowledge of these principles into an organic whole?   Should Baha’i teachers and pioneers insist on the adoption of new practices gradually, or as soon as a person becomes a Baha’i?  What is the Universal House of Justice’s position on violations of Baha’i law as the culture is evolving into “Baha’i” culture?  


When we ask what is meant by culture, most Baha’is would probably resonate with the definition of culture that came out of the World Conference on Cultural Policies held in Mexico City in 1982.  The UNESCO Practical Guide . . . has expressed it this way:

“Without neglecting the importance of creativity as expressed in intellectual and artistic activity, they considered it important to broaden the notion of culture to include behavior patterns, the individual’s view of him/herself, of society, and of the outside world [which includes both the natural and cultural environments].”  Continuing, they state, “The cultural heritage is not of course confined to tangible artistic or architectural forms of expression, the legacies of past civilizations.  It also consists of living cultures such as languages, spiritual, ethical and aesthetic values, the way we eat, the way we dress, and so on.”



  1. Read your selected scenario, as an aspect of development to focus on.
  2. Engage in the process of consultation, identifying both the Bahá’i principles that can be applied to the problems faced in the scenario and the principles that are used in the consultation.
  3. Determine in what ways the principles of development (SED) are related to each other.


Two Categories or Vectors of SED:  (1) internal relationships within the Baha’i community itself, as members of other cultures come into and help shape the newly emerging Baha’i culture; and (2) the interface and relationship the Bahá’í community has to the wider culture (outside our communities).  


In your groups, in addition to finding the particular Baha’i principles that apply to the problem in your scenario, please try to consider and address the kinds of general questions that always come up within the context of Baha’i social and economic development, with respect to these two vectors:


Some questions with respect to internal SED:


Consider this quote:  “The steps to be taken must necessarily begin in the Baha'i Community itself, with the friends endeavoring, through their application of spiritual principles, their rectitude of conduct and the practice of the art of consultation, to uplift themselves and thus become self-sufficient and self-reliant."  (UHJ, 10/20/1983, announcing the establishment at the World Centre of the Office of Social and Economic Development)


What does it mean for a Bahá’í culture to evolve through mistakes – through trial and error?   How soon should Baha’is insist on obedience to Baha’i laws for new Baha’is within the Baha’i community?  What is the role of institutions in encouraging personal development?  Are sanctions sometimes applied too quickly?  How should we regard a normal maturation process of personal transformation, both within and without the community?  Is there deferential treatment between Baha’is and non-Baha’is in terms of tolerance, since Baha’is are expected to “know better” and are under the law?  Is ignorance of a law or spiritual principle an excuse for those who do not apply them?  Does God hold us accountable for what we do not know?  How or how not?  What does this imply about education and development, both inside and outside the Baha'i community?


Some questions with respect to external SED:


How do Baha’is approach development -- in the spirit of service, tolerance, love, humility and trustworthiness, or with condescension, arrogance and prejudice about what norms are acceptable within and without the Baha’i culture?  How do we avoid the traps of cultural relativism and pluralism?  What is the balance between expressing and living Bahá’í values, and respecting the so-called “wisdom of the ages” (i.e., traditions)?  Should they forget the old generation and focus on the new?   How do Baha’is counteract decades (centuries) of colonialism/indentured servant-hood where outsiders are still often regarded as “experts” and thus deferred to?  How can the Baha'is contribute without coming across as condescending or paternalist?  OR should they not be afraid of coming across in that fashion?  How can Baha’is make themselves available without intruding – to be considered as a resource rather than be told to go away (don’t show up in our traditional consultations, for example)?  How do we avoid cultural imperialism, or even its appearance?  For example, how do we deal with perceptions of “us and them, or “outsider and insider?”   How to we get to "us" in the larger sense?


Which process is more difficult and challenging: (1) associations with governments and other NGOs in carrying out social and economic development within the wider community (literacy projects, etc.), or (2) development within our own Bahá’í communities?  Where are we now?   Are we better at one than the other?  Shall we vote?  (show of hands)



In identifying the principles of SED, inevitably for Baha’is the principle of “Bahá’í consultation” comes to the fore (as per the Oct 20, 1983 letter from the House of Justice).  Most of you are already familiar with recommended processes, methods and practices in Bahá’í consultation – or at least your own cultural version of it, so we will not dwell much on that. Consider Scenario #2 on the Navajo culture for a different view of consultation than you may be familiar with.  Suffice it to say that principles of consultation must be discerned or agreed upon, as well as the principles that could apply to the problems faced within the cultural scenarios.  Imagine that some principles are not readily thought of as pertaining to consultation.  For example, consider these:


“The higher plane, however, understandeth the lower...notwithstanding the fact that all these entities co-exist in the phenomenal world, even so, no lower degree can ever comprehend a higher." (SWAB 47)


“Help him to see and recognize the truth, without esteeming yourself to be, in the least, superior to him, or to be possessed of greater endowments." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p.8)



Considering these (and similar) quotes, “What are the implications in consultation when someone has expertise?  What is the responsibility (inside the consultation process) of those “who know” with respect to “those who do not”?  What is the responsibility of those who listen?  We are told to value the advice of experts (e.g., “consult the most skilled…”) but what is an expert?  Is it an American Ph.D.?  …or is it the traditional elder, who holds the wisdom of the ages?



Abdu’l-Baha says that unity is achieved when everyone is heard, and that sometimes the least “sophisticated” person provides the greatest insight.  How do we elicit and honor the views of those that tend to defer to others? (Again, consider the Navajo example of consultation as an alternative.)


Countervaling Opinions and Principles:

In your workshop consultation, as an aspect of our new Bahá’í “culture of learning,” the goal is to learning something new about consultation and its relationship to Baha’i principles.  Every principle has a certain valence or weight to bear upon a matter.  Some principles apply more than others for a given circumstance.  The truth is often found in opposing principles, not simply opposing opinions.  “Should anyone oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed.” (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 87)  Our Writings teach us that for every principle that can be brought to bear on a matter, we should seek any and all other principles that appear to contradict or oppose that principle, which may rather complement or spark further light upon the matter under consideration.  This is familiar to Eastern thought which sees the whole truth by perceiving the relationship between opposites (e.g., yin / yang).  For example, the Writings say that evil is a “non-existent thing,” and also say that “evil surely exists and that we must not close our eyes to it.”  How do you balance these seemingly opposite truths?  Where is one more applicable to a given context than another?  This is one example.  There are many others. 

"Nothing short of the spirit of a true Bahá'í can hope to reconcile the principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion, and prudence on the one hand, and fellowship, candor, and courage on the other."  (S.E.: Bahá'í Administration, pp. 63-64 -- Lights of Guidance, p. 34)

We say we believe in principles, but do we actually apply the principles if they are expressed as half-truths – apart from the whole system of principles?  How can we be sure that there are not other principles or opposing principles that we did not think of, or that we are blind to, when we apply just once principle?  Isn’t the purpose of consultation to safeguard against this?  Once we have the principles, shouldn’t we also ask ourselves whether there is more than one way to apply the principle?  Isn’t the application of principle a life-long learning process?  In the absence of this “culture of learning” are we not in danger of assuming that we know the principles, based on our typical way of doing things?  Isn’t this the danger of blind imitation or tradition?  Isn’t it possible that the application of a half-truth is same thing as fundamentalism, or non-thinking?   . . . The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation." (Bahá'u'lláh, in Consultation: A Compilation, p.3 - Dev. Distinctive Baha'i Communities)  Consultation is our gift to understanding.


Model building as an outcome of consultation and science:

Views and understandings of Social and Economic Development are expressed in models, are they not?  (For example, the “Authenticity Project” presented here at the conference is called a model.)  So, what is a model or a paradigm (the two essentially being synonymous)?  A simple definition of a model is a representation or picture of something else, or a pattern of something to be made.  A model airplane is representational, for example.  Models are always based on a set of assumptions or principles within a domain.  There are many models of social and economic development that apply within a particular context.  For example, there are model for agriculture, and models for literacy.  They do not contradict each other just because they are different.  They complement each other when they happen to be based upon the truth.  So, there is an implicit truth-seeking in models.  Models are attempts to represent reality.  We also call them approaches to reality or schemas and conceptual frameworks that interpret reality.  Those that are based upon the same set of fundamental principles always complement each other, even when they are very different – just as the different religions are complementary in revealing different aspects of Divinity and God’s purpose for man.


The Bahá’í model of development seems to be that there is not one model – the "end all and be all" of all models that would transfer across contexts – but rather that the application of Bahá’í principles are expressed locally as various models that address the particular needs of that culture.  Once the principles are established as a system, or a systematic approach, then the combination of those principles represents a model – assuming that the principles “hang together” in predictable and logically consistent ways.  Within the domain of SED, some models seem to be better than others, in terms of their efficacy or power to produce results.  The interpretative power of the model to define reality or create solutions, in logically consistent ways, determines its efficacy.  Sometimes models work just fine for a time, until some new phenomena is discovered and then you have to reevaluate and expand your model design.  For example, Newtonian physics once represented a model of the universe until some things were discovered in nature that could not be explained by Newton's laws.  So, new models of “relativity” and “uncertainty” were developed to account for other patterns and behaviors in nature.  And yet, these new models do not contradict or invalidate the earlier model.  The application of Newton’s gravitational laws, as a set of principles, will get you to the moon and back just fine – without Einstein’s theory of relativity or Heisenberg’s principles that “model” the movement of subatomic particles.


We could suppose that there is only ONE Baha’i model of development, but that would be Baha’u’llah’s model, which is imperceptible to us.  Perhaps our many models are increasing our perception of this model.  As we attempt to develop them, relative to our cultural contexts, we try to discover as many principles that are applicable to our problems and projects, and we attempt to see how these principles are related.


Here are a couple of simple examples how principles inside a model are interrelated.:



One model of a human being’s purpose is based on two fundamental principles: 1) knowledge and 2) love.  We were created to know and to love God.  Human beings can be defined in terms of these two capacities -- knowing and loving -- and they are so interrelated that we cannot separate them.  We say they “presuppose” each other so that in isolation they are meaningless.  Our capacities are a reflection of His capacities were told – in His “image.”  We have to first know what we love or we cannot love it.  We love knowledge and we must love knowing or we will not learn  In this model the human being is a model of God.  God KNEW His love for us and therefore He created us.  A model of a human being can be built simply on two principles – defining his purpose.


We can add still another principle and expand the model.  We can see in God’s purposeful act of creating us  His capacity to “intend” or His expression of Will.  Again because we are in His image, we can translate this principle to the human condition; our own acts of loving or knowing can be expressions of will.  Now we have expanded the model of a human being – basing it on three fundamental principles (instead of just two): Knowledge, love, and volition. 


We can continue to build a model of God’s purpose for man by adding still other principles.  Abdu’l-Baha said that our purpose is to acquire virtues or other attributes of God – beyond these first two knowing and loving capacities.  However, one must know these attributes, be “attracted to” (love) these attributes, and will to obtain them.  Thus, all these principles are still fundamental principles (or “first” principles) because they still presuppose each other.  


Baha’u’llah expanded our purpose further and said “all men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.”  (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 214)   So the model our purpose can be expanded to include this additional fundamental principle, which cannot undermine or negate any of the other fundamental principles for which God created us.   This model is based on our design, our purpose and our nature.  The model is never the whole picture, it is merely representational and evolving.



Another example of a model in which all the “first” principle are related is our model for building peace in the world.  “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”  So the principle of peace is dependent on the principle of unity, but this unity is dependent on other principles.  “This unity can never be achieved so long as the counsels which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed are suffered to pass unheeded.”  (Gleanings, p. 286)  So what are some of these other counsels?


We know that purpose of the Revelation is the recognition of the Oneness of mankind.  So unity is predicated upon recognition of oneness, and the recognition of oneness is also dependent on the elimination of prejudice.  So, peace depends on unity, which depends on oneness, which depends on the elimination of prejudice.  This is what is meant by first principles in the science of systems – the fundamental principles presuppose each other.  You cannot separate them from each other.  Secondary principles might include the forms of prejudice, for example (religious, racial, gender, age, etc.)


Fundamental principles form a set or a system.  One of the meanings of being systematic, then, is to approach problems with a set of coherent problem solving principles.  For the purpose of your exercise today, you must discover in the approach to any problem those principles that cannot be separated from each other.  As we have just seen, there is some power in finding more and more principles that presuppose each other, as we build a model or solution to a problem.  So your task is to find as many of the principles that can be applied to your situation and determine how they are related.  If you do this, you are building a model for development.  Realize of course that even if two groups had the same set of problems within different contexts the models could be very different.  Any number of complementary models can be built upon the same set of fundamental principles.  So long as they contain a sufficient number of the same principles or the very same set, they will complement each other.  Hence, we must try to include as many Bahá’í principles as might apply to models of development, as they vie with each other for efficacy.

When these Bahá'í principles constitute a system; that is, when they are intricately linked, they provide organization to the work of development.  What I mean is that in isolation they are inadequate to carry out the development process.  In isolation they may even appear meaningless, or at best irrelevant.  For example, one group advancing the cause of women's rights or another group advocating the use of a universal auxiliary language may obtain greater results if their causes are first linked to social justice and the elimination of prejudice (the emotional attachment to an untruth).  Furthermore, this principle of eliminating prejudice is an aspect of the principle of recognizing the oneness of humanity, which in turn helps lay the foundation of social unity.  Unity, itself, as a principle, can be seen as the precursor to world peace.  This does not mean that the principles are definable in terms of each other — for instance, unity cannot be defined simply in terms of the equality of men and women, or the equality of races.  So, one aim of the conceptual framework is to challenge half-truths constituting the first principles, in order to systematize knowledge.  Half truths are often simply inadequate explanations on a topic or theme.  The example of evil above should suffice.  It would be insufficient to explain the Baha'i interpretation of evil with only part of the Writings on the subject.  To understand more fully we must attempt to develop a comprehensive conceptual framework, to find the whole explanation -- by collecting the parts of the explanation, wherever they may be scattered within the Revelation.  All general truths or principles condition each other.  Together, or in combination, they attain a level of generalizability which transcends any special case or special context within the system — thus, they may be called universal. 

These are some of the characteristics of their coherence, defining the nature of the whole.  To say that a set of development principles is adequate means they are able to act as a model, or framework of analysis, which can interpret the cultural context in ways to make them applicable to every circumstance that the development situation challenges you with.  Baha’is believe, of course, that Baha’u’llah has given us these principles and our job is to discern their application as we attempt to more fully discern the whole system.  We begin deductively for any given cultural context or circumstance, but inductively we attempt to understand "what works" as we apply them across cultures.

"Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System -- the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.  Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 136)

A systematic approach to bringing about unity and harmony within a community could thus be characterized as (w)holistic — approachable only from the whole set of principles.  In other words, understanding unity requires an understanding of the system — understanding the world as a system — as a world that works for everyone.

The Solution is not the Solution:

Yes, you are being asked to consult on problems within a cultural context and come up with a “possible” solution – but not necessarily “the” solution.  We hope that the most valuable learning outcome of this exercise is going the process – not coming up with a product.  Still, you need a context to focus on – a context to take you through the process of identifying the principles, as they might apply to a particular setting.  Again, your job is not to solve the problem as much as it is to identify the principles that apply to the problem.  You might even come up with a set of alternative solutions or approaches to the problem.  What do you think?  Would different approaches to the same problem be in harmony with each other if developed from the same set of principles?  Explore this idea.


A Coherent set of Principles is a System:

Rather than merely list a set of principles that might apply during your consultations, we hope that you will identify those “first principles” that in some ways presuppose each other, which means that they cannot be applied in isolation from each other. They must be seen as a whole – as a system rather than a list.  For example, the education of children cannot be considered outside the issue of gender equity.  Taken together the principles have a certain coherence, which is to say they hang together.  Coherence simply means that the principles do not contradict each other, and that they are applicable to all problems (there is no principle within the system that does not apply) and adequate within each problem (there is no problem to which they cannot be applied).


The Principle and its Opposite.

Another particularly important example, which may represent a special type of first principle, is the principle and its opposite.  The truth of the principle lies in juxtaposition with its opposite because they are really two sides of one coin.  So, for every application of the principle opposing perspectives must be considered (as a way of challenging half-truths), and the application of the principle may slide from end of the spectrum to the other.  For example, individual interpretation or the right of the individual to freely express his views is safeguarded in the Faith, but absolute authority remains in the Sacred Texts.  This is an example of two principles that some will see as opposites, which in reality are not.  Our perception of the truth and its application lies along a continuum, but the continuum is one reality.  Again:

"Nothing short of the spirit of a true Bahá'í can hope to reconcile the principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion, and prudence on the one hand, and fellowship, candor, and courage on the other."  (S.E.: Bahá'í Administration, pp. 63-64 -- Lights of Guidance, p. 34)

a priori” versus “a posteriori

The terms “a priori” and “a posteriori” refer primarily to how or on what basis a proposition might be known. A proposition is knowable a priori if it is knowable independent of experience. The distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge thus broadly corresponds to the distinction between empirical and nonempirical knowledge – what we can already know prior to experience and what we learn through experience, through inductive (and deductive) reasoning.  The Baha’i teachings give us a set of principles about the nature of human reality without us having to discover them through experience.  We deduce their applicability and induce their generalizability.


Induction:  the deriving of a conclusion through the inference of generalized principles from particular instances.  One starts by observing raw data, phenomena or behavior in order to notice patterns or principles that are operating under these conditions or circumstances.  (We go from the specific instance to the general principle.)


“The greatest need of all peoples is for the Faith itself, so that they may know the destiny towards which they as individuals and members of society must strive, and will learn from the teachings those virtues and methods which will enable them to work together in harmony, forbearance and trustworthiness. . . . The principle remains, however, that the spiritual precedes the material.  First comes the illumination of hearts and minds by the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, and then the grass roots stirring of the believers wishing to apply these teachings to the daily life of their community.”  (Universal House of Justice, Social and Economic Development, p. 25) 


The inductive process of reason begins with observation of raw data or phenomena (the facts of matter), suspects a pattern, determines a pattern (rule or principle), pattern becomes a theory, theory becomes a principle or law – and the body of scientific knowledge expands.


Example (law or principle of gravity): Observe a falling object, suspect pattern that all objects fall.  Experiement and determine that this pattern is consistent and predictable.  Generalize this pattern to a principle and say all objects fall.  Now you have a paradigm, until some anomaly contradicts the principle.  Helium balloon do not fall when you let them go.  The float up into the air.  Thus, you discover another principle and your model of gravity changes – it gets redefined because you realize you are living in a bigger universe with more principles than you first imagined. 


Deduction: the deriving of a conclusion by reasoning; specifically : inference in which the conclusion about particulars follows necessarily from general or universal premises.  One starts with the principles and applies them to specific instances.   (We go from the general principle to a specific application.)


In Baha’i SED we seem to have the advantage starting with spiritual principles applicable to development (given to us by God) instead of having to do a lot of experimenting to figure them out.  Most science requires a lot of observation and experimentation in order to figure out the principles or laws that govern a domain, but the Baha’is are in large part spared from that, which of course saves us a lot of time.  We have the advantage of being able to begin deductively rather than inductively.  This “a priori” knowledge may be one of the main reasons our projects are so successful.  This does not seem to spare us from the inductive process required to learn what kinds of applications of principle may apply across different cultural context – what kinds of things can be shared and transfer from one culture to another.



In terms of “what works” in Baha’i SED has God given us “a priori” knowledge (Divine principles) that somehow gives our projects some special advantage of not having to induce a “system” of social and economic development principles at the start?  What is our advantage and responsibility, then, with respect to this?  How do we handle this without feeling proud or thinking we are better than other organizations?


Other organizations do, in fact, come up with some of the same principles, though each organization seems to represent an emphasis only one or a few – not the whole set that we view as Baha’u’llah’s “wondrous system.”  For example, an organization may work for increasing democracy, the advancement of women, or the elimination of racial prejudice, which is all well and good.  Our Writings tell us that the Holy Spirit is working throughout all the peoples in this age, causing an unconscious response to the same Divine laws so it is not surprising to find other organizations that have the same knowledge -- and we can even learn from their experience.  However, our vision is an increasing conscious awareness of the whole system of Divine principles and laws, according to the written Revelation.  Baha’is have the advantage of seeing how these principles are linked.  For example, what does democracy mean if people do not apply spiritual values in the choices they make?  They will not even know what they should want.

"For the mass of the population is uninformed as to these vital agencies which would constitute an immediate remedy for society's chronic ills." (`Abdu'l-Baha: Secret of Divine Civilization, Page: 39)

Advancement of women must be tied to the advancement of men, so that the bird of humanity will have balanced wings.  The elimination of racial prejudice is somehow connected to the broader perspective of the oneness of all life and its profound interconnectedness.  Again, these principles, when disconnected from each other, constitute only half-truths.

Leaving the rational or conceptual aspect of model building, let’s get to the practical side and do it.  Let’s get to the task at hand.   Scenarios:<<<  CLICK HERE for the scenario topics for consultation.

 (Note: Some of the concepts presented in this paper are derived from the Appendix section of a paper presented at the World Decade for Cultural Development at UN Headquarters in New York City.  For a fuller discussion see:: http://www.homestead.com/watsongregory/files/un_talk.html )