The Role of Material Goods in Spiritual Development

How to Cite

Poyer, L. “The Role of Material Goods in Spiritual Development”. The Journal of Bahá’í Studies, vol. 1, no. 3, Sept. 1989, pp. 57-64, doi:10.31581/jbs-1.3.5(1989).


The problem of materialism is widely recognized as a source of dissatisfaction in industrial civilization. At the same time, mass production and modern technology are also acknowledged as providing desirable standards of health, education, and physical comfort. The challenge is to develop creative, satisfying ways to live within mass production/mass consumption society. Learning to deal appropriately with material goods is important to living in accordance with Bahá’í principles of individual spiritual growth. Understanding the symbolic dimension of goods, through insights from anthropology and psychology, provides us with a way to manage our use of possessions towards this end. Objectification—the process through which physical things are imbued with meaning in a specific sociocultural context—is a key concept in this understanding. Objectification can produce alienation, in the Marxian sense; but, used properly, the capacity of things to carry meaning has the potential to assist individuals in their personal growth. Recognition of the symbolic dimension of objects is particularly critical in enabling individuals to strive for detachment in highly materialistic societies.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. If you wish to adapt, remix, transform, or build upon this work in any way, you may not distribute your work without first contacting the Editor for permission.

Copyright © 1989 Lin Poyer