Sunday, March 27, 2011

A dialectic of crisis and victory

Organic systems have certain properties that are specific to that domain, and which are very different from inanimate objects. The world of cold mechanical parts is a very different world than that of living things, those things that grow or decay. One of these differences is in the element of time.

Every system is made up of components. And these components will have to be connected together, and work with each other, in relationship with one another. There is also the concept of cycles or seasons, and a set of relationship. While cycles start and end, and there are new cycles, no two cycles are identical, and there is not a concept of senseless repetition. 

For instance if we think of a machine, it is certainly critical that all of its elements be of the right proportion, and fit together. When we are to construct this machine, we can make one part or another, then if we are interrupted and leave all the parts on the floor of a garage and we go away and come back weeks later, if no external factor has intervened those parts will be exactly where we left them, and we can just pick up where we left and continue our work. Progress is predictable and linear in time. We go only in one direction as we advance in building our machine. Tomorrow is always better than today.

However the condition of an organic system is quite different. You cannot start to build an organic system, then leave everything for a few weeks. If you do that when you return nothing will be the same. Parts will begin to dissolve and rot sets in. Even when you are always paying attention and making an effort, still things do not move in a linear fashion. You do not get uniform progress. But even temporary set backs, which are essential to the long term progress can be regarded as moving forward. Crisis itself has value. Mistakes are welcome. If our expectations are mechanistic then the process appears to us to be up and down, two steps forward and one step backward. But if our vision is comfortable with organic processes, with a measure of ambiguity, then all we see is up and up, forward and forward.

To appreciate this we need to free ourselves from rigid thinking, from mechanistic worldview, and from influences from a secular and materialistic civilization that insists on precision, and defines progress only along one dimension. This is the theme of paragraph 10 of the letter of 28 December 2010 from the Universal House of Justice. A study of this paragraph suggests the following questions:

1.     In many clusters the friends have experienced certain “difficulties” during the implementation of their intensive programs of growth. This paragraph states that “setbacks” are not only possible, or even likely, but they are “inevitable”. Why is this the case? 
2.     What is the “dialectic of crisis and victory”?

3.     How can we address “a momentary breach in the bonds of unity”?

4.     Mention two measurements that often “fall short of the demands of rapid expansion”. 

5.     It is often desired that several activities advance together. However in practice sometimes one activity flourishes, while others lag behind, creating an imbalance. What might be the solution to this?

6.     Can one cluster learn from the experience of another? Is this the best form of learning? 

Nearly all the analogies used by Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha to describe the processes and dynamics of building a new civilization are taken from the organic world of nature. Trees, ocean, sun, flowers, birds, waterfalls and colors are among the images used. Can you find and share some of these quotes?


  1. "The human species is an organic whole..."

    "The body politic may be likened to the human organism..."

    "As preordained by the Fountain-head of Creation, the temple of the world hath been fashioned after the image and likeness of the human body. In fact each mirroreth forth the image of the other, wert thou but to observe with discerning eyes. By this is meant that even as the human body in this world, which is outwardly composed of different limbs and organs, is in reality a closely integrated, coherent entity, similarly the structure of the physical world is like unto a single being whose limbs and members are inseparably linked together."

  2. Dear Sana,

    Thank you for sharing these great quotes. If you have the references for the sources of these quotes, it will be much appreciated.

  3. Of course! Sorry for the late response (I just noticed your post!)

    The first quotation comes from the Prosperity of Humankind. The second paragraph of the first section of this document references Baha'u'llah's analogy of the human world to the human body, then asserts that there is no other model for the organization of planetary society than the human body. The paragraph after begins with "What is true of the life of the individual has its parallels in human society", and then goes on to say "The human species is an organic whole"

    The second quotation comes from a talk of 'Abdu'l-Baha on May 5, 1912, from the Promulgation of Universal Peace. In the fifth paragraph, He mentions that society, like the human body, requires organic cooperation, coordination, and harmony between its parts in order to express the fullness of life; and without these elements, social disease results.

    And the third quotation is included in the World Centre's compilation on the Redistribution of Wealth (also in the Huquq'u'llah compilation), and is from a Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Baha in persian. Again, He notes that the human body has integration, coherence, and inseparability between its parts, and thus so should the world of humanity.