Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Psychic Stuff

Based on a number of letters and questions over the last post, I thought I would address a question that came up in various ways: What is the Baha'i view of psychic phenomena?

As usual, before I answer, I must remind you, dear Reader, that this response is only my own view. It is not meant to be an official representation of the Faith, although I do base it on my understanding of the Writings.

I would also like to take a moment to remind you that I am a Baha'i, and that this is being written with the presumption that my audience is Baha'i, too, with the various understandings and assumptions that go with that. The main assumption, of course, being that you understand that the Baha'i Writings are divinely inspired and that this is a common starting point for our conversation.

Whew. That being said, let's see what 'Abdu'l-Baha says about psychic phenomena.

The first, and probably most important, quote from Him is, "To tamper with psychic forces while in this world interferes with the condition of the soul in the world to come. These forces are real, but are not to be active on this plane." He goes on to explain "The child in the womb has its eyes, ears, hands and feet, but these powers are not in activity. The whole purpose of the womb-life is the coming forth into this world. So, the whole purpose of this matrix-world life is the coming forth into the world of Reality, where all these (psychic) forces will be active. They belong to that world."

Most of the other quotes that I found in the Writings seem to stem from this one.

But let me just say that I think there is a distinction between what He refers to as "psychic phenomenon" and the "inspiration" to which we should try and be open. Personally, I do not see them as the same, and I think some other quotes from Him bear this out.

'Abdu'l-Baha talks about "inspiration" as being one of the 4 ways by which we can come to understand reality. "What is inspiration? It is the influx of the human heart." Yet, like the other 3 approaches to understanding, this one, too, is fallible. Whether it is through the senses, reason, traditions or inspiration, none have a guarantee of accuracy. With inspiration, "The question arises, How shall we know whether we are following inspiration from God or satanic promptings of the human soul?"

The answer, like a similar question for the other 3 methods, is trial and error. But we must also, as I say repeatedly, be sure not to impose our understanding upon others.

Take this story that I shared in the comments for a recent post:
There is a beautiful time when (my wife and I) were talking to this man we had just met, when I clearly heard a voice say "Ghana".

Without batting an eyelash, I asked the man where he was from. He smiled and said, "Where do you think I'm from?"


Both Marielle and Samuel (the guy), looked at me in shock.

This was the opening needed to really begin talking about the Faith.

Afterwards, when he had gone, Marielle asked me how I knew. I told her about the voice, and that I absolutely knew I had to somehow mention Ghana.

She looked at me in awe and said, "I know. I heard exactly the same voice just before you said anything. I was just trying to figure out how to bring it up when you asked him where he was from."
Was that a psychic phenomenon? I don't think so, for there was no effort on my part in an external direction. To me, it was no different than listening to the Samuel speak, just that the voice came from somewhere unexplained to me.

Did I "know" he was from Ghana? Of course not. But I did have a feeling, based not only on that voice (if I keep mentioning hearing voices, I'm sure I'll get locked up at some point), but also on his skin tone and accent. I didn't impose my "belief" on him by telling him that he must be from there, but asked him, instead. That was just courtesy.

I firmly believe that the Concourse on High, whatever we may understand that term to mean, offers every single one of us little nudges like that throughout our life. Being open to inspiration, to me, means allowing ourselves to accept these occassional nudges and act on them.

This is different from being "psychic", in which you are actively reaching out to try and cultivate these forces for your own use.

It is like the baby in the womb. As 'Abdu'l-Baha mentions, they have all these physical attributes, like arms and legs, but they are not actively using them. They are, however, using them, and exercising them inadvertantly. The action of a baby in the womb kicking has about as much volition as I do when I yawn.

The key here, to me, is to allow these nudges to guide me, but not to go out and seek them.

So, sorry if this didn't interest you, but I just had a feeling that I should write it. Then again, you probably knew that this is what I would write about today.


  1. For some reason, people are having trouble posting comments. I know I do moderate them, but that doesn't seem to be it. Anyways, here is a letter I just got:

    Hi Mead! Tried to post on the Blog...but no luck. Just wanted to say Thank you and I enjoyed the read. I love those isolated mystical moments in life and it was my good fortune to come across your article today! Really, really loved that story!

  2. Here is another comment that I received in my inbox. After receiving permission, I am copying it here with identifying names and places removed (to protect the innocent). When you see ellipses (...), it means I deleted a name.


    Hi Mead :
    Tonight you got my attention for the blog on Psychic powers and bahai faith, then I started reading couple of your blogs and one of them was about the dreams(Mead's note - see blog article http://onebahai.blogspot.com/2010/01/dreams-and-visions.html). your last dream and interpretation of it has made me cry and I can not stop. I am so emotional because we Persian bahais have to start to forgive the people who have inflicted so much pain on us. A pain that have stayed with us and will be with me to the last breath.
    Last night ... talked about forgiveness for healing of aboriginals and it has opened a wound for me too because I see how holding grudges against our abusers has spiritually paralysed our Persian friends including myself.
    I am getting to know you through your blogs and it is very sad that there is such a distance between Eastern friends and western friends in ... I have talked about it with a few ... friends, and I truly believe that one of the reasons for stagnation of our community is this lack of understanding of each other.
    I also wanted to tell you that your story about getting Marielle's name was so amazing because I have met ...(husband's name deleted) in my dream when I was 15, and Abdulbaha gave him to me in my dream, I was not even a bahai then! so I truly believe in power of our dreams. and at the end I like to wish you and Marielle a happy anniversary.
    Much bahai regards,

  3. Allah'u'abha Dear Mead,
    I found your post very interesting, i share your point of view. Coming from Africa, i am surrounded by this psychic beliefs and forces which have been an essential part of the african from the beginning of times up to now. I spoke about it last month in one of my post Blog (nathyandkangami.blogspot.com) : spirituality (religious) and spirituality (esoterism). Love your Blog. Keep it up.
    Warmest, Nathy

  4. I'm a Baha'i but in a headspace where am trying what having a strong susceptibility to being able to sense things beyond this plane mean. It's a struggle to find a place for this 'ability'. I try not to use it, but as you said it kicks it in an idiosyncratic way and sometimes at the most inappropriate times.

    But I have had dreams, visions without trying to enhance this ability. Although I am Baha'i, I have had spiritualists in my family way back who are into seeing spirits and mystical fortune telling which I do not believe in - being highly rational.

    My conclusion is the happy medium.

  5. I am glad to have come across this post. I have gained much knowledge and insight from this post and thank you for that. where i come from (Ghana,funny huh!) we (the Baha'i community) hardly talk on subjects like that. Though i have created a group for the youth where we share ideas and that of Psychic and Media (those who serve as a medium between the dead and the living) came up.
    Thanks again for your thoughts and the Quotations...very helpful