Divine Philosophy and The Frankfurt School’s Critical Theory

Vahid Houston Ranjbar
10 min readMay 30, 2021
photo by Pixabay

“Philosophy is of two kinds: natural and divine. Natural philosophy seeks knowledge of physical verities and explains material phenomena, whereas divine philosophy deals with ideal verities and phenomena of the spirit.” ʻAbdu’l-Bahá, the son of the prophet founder of the Bahá’í Faith, explained at talk given during his 1912 visit to North America, “..divine philosophy — which has for its object the sublimation of human nature, spiritual advancement, heavenly guidance for the development of the human race, attainment to the breaths of the Holy Spirit and knowledge of the verities of God — has been outdistanced and neglected.”[1] He predicted that this outdistancing would have dire consequences for humanity.

ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s use of what he termed Divine philosophy, brought a critical eye to the thoughts and assumptions of humanity; “ Old ideas and modes of thought are fast becoming obsolete. Ancient laws and archaic ethical systems will not meet the requirements of modern conditions,”[2] he explained. ʻAbdu’l-Bahá would go on to overtly challenge the institutionalized racism and sexism that permeated American culture at that time. For example, in a withering attack on the assumptions and cultural norms which he saw at the root of the impending violence inherent in western civilization he decried, “the breeding ground of all these tragedies is prejudice: prejudice of race and nation, of religion, of political opinion; and the root cause of prejudice is blind imitation of the past — imitation in religion, in racial attitudes, in national bias, in politics. So long as this aping of the past persisteth, just so long will the foundations of the social order be blown to the four winds, just so long will humanity be continually exposed to direst peril.”[3]

Not only in theory but in actual praxis did ʻAbdu’l-Bahá operate, such that at the beginning of the 20th century he had already not only advocated education of girls (in preference to boys) but went on to have the Bahá’ís establish the very first girls’ schools in Iran under very difficult social circumstances[4]. He explained that it was only through the education and emancipation of women and girls that a society can see real progress. He also inspired the American Bahá’í community by 1920’s to host the first ever Racial Amity Conference [5]and…

Vahid Houston Ranjbar

I am a research physicist working on beam and spin dynamics. I like to write about connections between science and religion.