Animism and Baha'i-ism
Animism (spirit/soul, in Latin) is not a religion in the sense that it incorporates a structured set of uniform beliefs. It is a religious way to see the world. All forms of animism think that in our daily lives we are surrounded by spirits. These can be spirits of animals, of dead people or of purely spiritual beeings.
~Origins of animism~
The term was first used by Sir Edward Tylor (1832-1917) in an attempt to identify the set of religious beliefs from which all religions originate. He claimed that, in prehistory, man came with the idea of soul. This led to the belief in countless spiritual beings present in nature and involved in daily activities of people.
People who practice animism are currently concentrated in Australia, in the group of islands Malanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, from the Pacific Ocean, in Central and South America, in south-central parts of Africa and in some parta of central and eastern Asia, including remote parts of Siberia.
Typcal items are veneration of nature, toteism,veneration of ancestors and shamanism. Worship in natural places was noted most frequently among those groups who believe in one supreme God that, since he created the world, actually retired from active involvement. Such a god has sent the work on earth to „spirits of nature”: forces of nature (rain / thunder / darkness / light), or natural objects like mountains, forests, sun and moon.
It is a set of beliefs and practices spread in the family, tha clan or the tribal group, seeking to maintain a relationship to the mystical world of spirits by means of certain objects considered to represent the relationship. Totems (often plants or animals) are often perceived as ancestors’ spirits, possessed by superhuman protective powers and inspiring respect and admiration. In many parts of the world, it is believed that the survival of the clan depends on maintaining these sacred links. Toteism can not be considered a religion with its own rights. Still, it offers important clues about ways in which animist beliefs found an expression people’s lifes.
Veneration of the ancestors
Another set of practice consists of veneration of ancestors. There is no religion that can be named „veneration of ancestors” because its numerous and different elements developed in various ways in every region in which it is practiced. The center of these beliefs is the certitude that the dead continue their existence among the living, continuing to influence their activities. Australian natives, for example, look back to an era when the spirits of their ancestors walked the Earth and gave it the shape it has today. The native clans have a great respect to those places which are believed to contain the spirits of these protective ancestors. In the life of the „Zulu” people, „the shadows” of their ancestors play an important role; it is believed that they influence and participate in primary rituals of birth, puberty, marriage and death. The melanesian and polynesian people consider the unborn, the living and the dead, members of a single comunity. Premature death of a person can cause a painful lonelyness and that’s why he is considered very dangerous for the living.
Shaman is the name given to a cult leader in Siberia, a person granted with special gifts because of the acquired knowledge about the world of spirits, which is closed to ordinary people. It is believed that the shaman can leave his body to move in other unseen worlds and to bring from his meetings with the spirits the powers of prophecy and healing. Most primary religions have a specialist of this kind.
Baha'i Faith appeared in Persia (modern Iran). It stemmed directly from the babist movement founded in 1844 by Sayyid Ali Muhammed of Shiraz (1819-1850). The babist movement devotees believed that their leader had been send by God to prepare Madhi’s arrival. The he chose–Bab- means „gate”. In 1848 the movement had a significant number of followers and it separated from islamism. The babist movement followers were persecuted and in 1850 their leader was executed. The separation was held after his death, until, in in 1863 Mirza Ali Huseyn (recognised leader of the biggest of the two factions left) declared in Ridvan Garden, in Bagdad, that he is Bahaullah or „glory of God”. The baha’i identify the beginning of their religion with this moment.
The new movement has been more tolerant and more peaceful than the somewhat militant and exclusivist babism and it quickly grew in Persia. The followers came mainly from the more educated Muslim classes and from jews and parsee attracted by its modernity and its liberal attitude towards the secular way of life. Baha'i Faith has its origins in the idea of "hidden Imam", the divine messenger, which is a direct descendant of the prophet Mohamed and will reappear to show God's intentions with humanity. Through its founder, the Baha’i religion developed the idea that that God is one, that all religions are fundamentally identical, and that humanity is united in its search after truth and justice. God showed himself in succesive manifestations. The great prophets and leaders Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddah, Jesus Christ, Mohamed, Bab and, finally, Bahallah himself are messengers from God, which show through their lifes the true meaning of His (God’s) plan for you. None of the prophets is superior, they were all devotees to the world in which they lived in.
Modern goals of the Baha’i faith
The teaches of bahaism consciously approach the condition of humanity in the modern world. The goals are both social and political as well as personal and spiritual, learning the need to reject prejudices based on race, faith or sex. Ethnic and cultural diversity are welcome and Baha’i tradition seeks to create a world government that will abolish unjust variations of wealth distribution and opportunities, and will end the aggression that leads to war.
Rituals and behaviour
The Baha’i belief has relatively few rituals. Believers must pray every day, to observe the rules of monogamy, to avoid drugs and alcohol and to respect holy days like the birth of Bahaullah (November 12) and the martyr of Bab (9th of July). Also they to meet once every 19 days for the Nineteen Days Festival-although not necessarily serve a rich meal, the emphasis is on religious worship, administration and social pleasure. In adition, Baha’i followers must keep the fast, as muslims do on Ramadan. The fast lasts 19 days, from 2nd to March 20. March 21st is the first day of the Baha’i year. There isn’t only one Baha’i Scripture, but all of Bahaullah’s work, of his son and his successor and they are considered sacred and inspired from God, containing his revelations for our modern world.