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In my course on Spirituality and Health, I’ve been looking at the Baha’i quotes on materialism and if I could put them in my own words, I would say that the quotes suggest that:

Materialism is evil; a mirage that becomes a religion of its own, promising joy, comfort, peace and consolation, and happiness, but instead leaves us with only weariness, neediness, trouble, sorrow, poverty and destitution.  Any glory gained outside the Cause turns to abasement at the end.

It’s foolish to seek these treasures where they can’t be found because materialism deprives us of spiritual favors. To live outside the spiritual Kingdom is absolute darkness.  It leads to an infinitely destructive disease of the soul; causes isolation and despair; deprives the soul of its spiritual heritage and is unworthy of our high station.

Material progress insures the happiness of the human world. Spiritual progress insures the happiness and eternal continuance of the soul.

When materialism gains hold of us:

  • God is neglected
  • the religious world becomes weakened
  • there is a waning of the spiritual forces of life
  • spiritual susceptibilities vanish
  • guidance and knowledge of God no longer remain
  • the sense of mission that had defined religion contents itself with providing endorsement for campaigns of social change carried on by secular movements
  • religion is reduced to a personal preference, or a pursuit designed to satisfy spiritual and emotional needs
  • satanic qualities dominate hearts
  • individualism without restraint elevates acquisition and personal advancement to the status of major cultural values.
  • leaches out human motivation and interest
  • moral foundations vital to humanity’s future are degraded and destroyed
  • composure and peace vanishes from our souls
  • strife and hatred overshadow our love for humanity
  • bloodshed and violence prevail
  • gross self-indulgence masquerades as “freedom of speech”
  • the academic world settles into a scholastic industry preoccupied with dissertations, symposia, publication credits and grants.
  • science excludes from intellectual life all impulses arising from the spiritual level of human consciousness
  • greed hides behind “impersonal market forces”
  • unbridled exploitation of the masses
  • divine civilization becomes decadent
  • we’re deprived of the bounties of heaven
  • the season of winter falls upon mankind

We’re all submerged in materialism, especially those who live in cities, but we can use the following checklist to see what degree we are affected:

  • attachment to worldly things
  • excessive emphasis on material well-being
  • no thought beyond earthly possessions
  • focus on sensuous delights and comfortable surroundings
  • think and dream of earthly fame and material progress
  • highest ambitions centred in worldly success
  • no thought beyond their own physical well-being
  • pleasure and diversion fills their time
  • insatiable thirst for amusement
  • fanatical devotion to games and sport
  • reluctance to treat any matter seriously
  • lower things of life monopolize all thoughts and aspirations
  • don’t curb their lower propensities
  • no desire save the passions of this fleeting, mortal existence
  • scornful, derisory attitude towards virtue and solid worth
  • prejudice and animosity darken their outlook
  • apathy and lethargy paralyzes their spiritual faculties
  • fear and anxiety distracts their minds
  • in schools and universities, knowledge of the sciences is based upon material observations with no realization of Divinity in methods and conclusions
  • believe society exists to facilitate this quest, and the collective concern of humankind should be an ongoing refinement of the system, aimed at rendering it ever more efficient in carrying out its assigned task.
  • solely occupied with the things of this world
  • forgetful of those things of the spirit
  • blind to the spiritual significance of things
  • minds limited to exterior manners and traditional interests
  • no idea of the world of inner significances
  • not at all thoughtful of God’s thoughts
  • out of touch with God, considering this a reasonable attitude
  • not interested in attaining knowledge of the mysteries of God or understanding the secrets of the heavenly Kingdom

Religion teaches us what’s important in life and when it’s weakened, we become more materialistic.  God doesn’t want us to be tied down by our “stuff” or to pride ourselves on our earthly possessions.  When we do that, religion becomes narrow and darkened, while materialism becomes widened and advanced; we hold fast to imitation and counterfeit, neglecting the things of God.

It’s easy to get caught up in materialism, because it’s all around us, but if we want to break free, here are some steps to take:

  • turn to God
  • be enkindled by the fire of the love of God.
  • hold in your souls a vision of celestial perfection
  • prepare a dwelling-place for God’s inexhaustible bounty
  • long for the Kingdom.
  • read The Hidden Words
  • follow Bahá’u’lláh’s Pattern.
  • let your heart’s ambitions ascend to a more glorious goal
  • let your mental activity rise to higher levels
  • control of your carnal desires and corrupt inclinations
  • let go of waywardness and vain desires; envy and hate
  • abandon frivolous conduct, with its excessive attachment to trivial and often misdirected pleasures
  • moderation in all things
  • approach not those who are drowned in the sea of this world
  • abandon it to those who belong to it
  • daily vigilance
  • persevere and do your best

Remember who you are!  Bahá’u’lláh tells us:

  • You are the spirit of the world
  • You are the cause of the light of the world
  • You are the salt of the earth!

The bounties for turning away from materialism include attracting God’s grace and bounty; being gladdened and filled with bliss; and having our minds and souls attracted to God.

And if we don’t, we’ll continue to be deluded by the trappings of this nether world; setting our hearts on its adornments; wasting our lives and having to bear the consequences through a prolongation or worsening of our present condition.

Materialism isn’t all bad.  Spiritual development must follow and keep pace with material advantages; material knowledge should be illumined by the light of the spirit.

We need to change the way we think about materialism.  Material benefits and endeavors cannot be regarded as ends in themselves. Their value consists not only in providing for humanity’s basic needs in housing, food, health care, and the like, but also in extending the reach of human abilities.

As Dr. Esslemont says so clearly:  “all the signs of the times indicate that we are at the dawn of a new era in the history of mankind. Hitherto the young eagle of humanity has clung to the old aerie in the solid rock of selfishness and materialism. Its attempts to use its wings have been timid and tentative. It has had restless longings for something still unattained. More and more it has been chafing in the confinement of the old dogmas and orthodoxies. But now the era of confinement is at an end, and it can launch on the wings of faith and reason into the higher realms of spiritual love and truth. It will no longer be earthbound as it was before its wings had grown, but will soar at will to the regions of wide outlook and glorious freedom. One thing is necessary, however, if its flight is to be sure and steady. Its wings must not only be strong, but they must act in perfect harmony and coordination. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says: — “It cannot fly with one wing alone. If it tries to fly with the wing of religion alone it will land in the slough of superstition, and if it tries to fly with the wing of science alone it will end in the dreary bog of materialism.”

How has materialism affected your life?  Post your comments here: