Letter to Abdu'l-Baha
Dr. Forel
9 Paragraphs

Esteemed Sir, I have just been reading some wonderful letters which, according to Herr Wilhelm Herrigel, who translated them into German, you sent to a lady, Frau Dr. F., in l910. Is this true? Were these letters really written as early as 1910, before the war? If that is the case, I am quite astonished at the prophetic clarity of your vision. (1:1)

But I have a very important question to put to you. I must tell you that, at the age of seventy-two. I am still enraptured by the truths of science. As early as 1874 I wrote an extensive book about the behaviour of ants, and since then I have written works on the anatomy of the brain, hypnosis, the sensory perception of insects, the hygienics of the nervous system, the sexual question, etc. From 1879 to 1898 I was Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Zurich and director of the mental asylum there. From all this, you will understand the background to the question I am about to ask. (1:2)

In addition, I have read the principles of the Baha'i Faith, or rather interpretations of them, and furthermore your treatise (translated from the English of Miss Goodall) 'Against the Belief of the Naturalists Regarding the Essence of God, and Professor Edw. G. Browne's conversation with Baha'u'llah in 'Akka in 1890. Finally, I have read, in German, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl's book on the history of the Baha'i Faith. (1:3)

It seems to emerge from these writings that you accuse naturalists in general of the sort of errors that only certain fanatical adherents of a really strict materialism could be guilty of, materialists like Oswald and Haeckel, who propose a 'metaphysics of energy, or of matter' without any real justification. It is a waste of time to debate learnedly on the atom, energy, the infinite, the universe and so on; such words are empty of meaning. For my part, I am a monist, in the following sense: I am convinced that the functionings of the brain and of the human mind [or soul] are simply an inseparable whole. It follows that I cannot believe that the individual soul survives after the brain has died. This monism belongs to the sphere of science and is proven inductively. In metaphysical matters, on the other hand, I declare myself a complete agnostic, like the philosopher Socrates or the great naturalist Darwin, which means that 'God' for me is nothing but the Essence of the Universe, presumably absolute, but for man absolutely unknowable. It is accordingly absolutely useless to want to furnish Him with any attributes, or with any sort of purpose. 'God', that is, the supposed metaphysical absolute, is the source of what is good and what is bad, for us as well as for every other being. Why? We do not know, and every attempt at an explanation is useless, and indeed harmful. Whenever we try to fathom God, we just go round in vicious circles. For that reason I had already refused Christian 'confirmation' at the age of sixteen. I do not belong to any creed. (1:4)

In your debate with the advocates of materialism, however, you assert, according to Herrigeland other Baha'is, that God has self-consciousness, a will and the power of choice; that He is perfect. But self-consciousness, will and the power of choice are attributes of the human individual, and we have no notion of what perfection might be. Your God would be 'personal', in other words similar to a human being, an idealized human being. Other passages in the writings of your wonderful international religion do not accord with a certain narrow-mindedness which comes through in the whole book by Mirza Abu'l-Fadl (who launches a veritable assault on the free-thinkers). Despite all my admiration for your human principles, I must confess that I do not understand your 'Divine' principles. This, then, is my question: (1:5)

May I, yes or no, belong to the Baha'i Faith with the agnosticism I have mentioned above, without deceiving myself and others? (1:6)

In 1916 or 1917 I published an essay on what I called the scientific religion of the 'Social Good', along the lines I have mentioned, but with similar characteristics to your religion. On 15 February 1921 I am returning to my home, Yvorne [Vaud], in Switzerland; if you reply to me there, I will be able to send you this essay. (1:7)

Please accept, my dear Sir, the expression of my sincerest admiration. (signed) Dr. A. Forel Formerly Professor at the University of Zurich Ruppurr near Karlsruhe, Baden, Germany, Auerstrasse 24. 28 December 1920. (1:8)

P.S. It is only in order to explain my question that I have above set forth exclusively those points at which I consider the Baha'i Faith deviates from my own belief, so far as I can judge from Herrigel, etc. For all the rest, particularly as regards morality or humanitarian ethics, and the all-embracing tolerance for all forms of belief on earth, I can only admire and whole-heartedly support you. (1:9)

End of Quote

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