Grow through What You Go through - artwork by Michele Jubilee
Original PDF

How to Cite

Filson, G. “Mind: ‘the Power of the Human Spirit’”. The Journal of Bahá’í Studies, vol. 32, no. 3-4, July 2023, pp. 9-53, doi:10.31581/jbs-32.3-4.337(2022).


This paper correlates Bahá’í concepts of the mind with insights from philosophy. It presents arguments from both sources for a non-reductive understanding of the human mind and argues that, although science can help us advance our understanding of the mind, it is not sufficient in this pursuit, as it cannot capture fully how the human mind experiences reality. The paper reviews the mind’s conceptual way of knowing, explores the implications of language for philosophy of mind, and considers how the pursuit of science and the phenomenon of religion both shed light on the capacities and nature of the mind. After suggesting that the process of learning in which the global Bahá’í community has embarked may serve as a model for engaging the human mind in a collective enterprise for the betterment of the world, it turns back to philosophy to submit that, while many contemporary philosophers persuasively argue that the human mind is not reducible to physical causality, the philosophical resistance to a spiritual dimension of the human mind is excessively limiting. The minds of human beings demonstrate capacities that lie beyond nature, and a conception of the mind as “the power of the human spirit” or “rational soul” can not only be a fruitful way of understanding the mind, but lead to an orientation by human beings in the world, demonstrated through the learning process discussed earlier in the paper, that holds promise for the future of humanity.

Original PDF


‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Paris Talks. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/paris-talks/

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Secret of Divine Civilization. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/secret-divine-civilization/

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/selections-writings-abdul-baha/

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Some Answered Questions. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/some-answered-questions/

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Tablet to Dr. Auguste Forel. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/tablet-august-forel/

Arendt, Hannah. The Life of the Mind, vols. 1 and 2. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.

Bacon, Francis. Novum Organum, Book 1 (1620). Collected in James Spedding, ed. The Works of Francis Bacon, Vol. 4, 1858.

Bahá’u’lláh. The Call of the Divine Beloved: Selected Mystical Works of Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/call-divine-beloved/

Bahá’u’lláh. The Kitáb-I-Íqán: The Book of Certitude. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/kitab-i-iqan/

Bahá’u’lláh. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/gleanings-writings-bahaullah/

Bahá’u’lláh. The Hidden Words. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/hidden-words/.

Bahá’u’lláh The Summons of the Lord of Hosts. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/summons-lord-hosts/

Bahá’u’lláh. Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Bahá’í Reference Library. www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/tablets-bahaullah/

Bellah, Robert N. Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age. Harvard UP, 2011.

Bellah, Robert N., and Hans Joas, editors. The Axial Age and Its Consequences. Harvard UP, 2012.

Brandom, Robert B. A Spirit of Trust: A Reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology. Harvard UP, 2019.

Damasio, Antonio. Feeling and Knowing: Making Minds Conscious. Penguin Random House, 2021.

Davidson, Donald. Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective. Oxford UP, 2001.

Davidson, Donald. Truth, Language and History. Oxford UP, 2005.

Desmond, William. Ethics and the Between. State U of New York P, 2001.

de Sousa, Ronald. The Rationality of Emotion. MIT Press. 1987.

Douven, Igor. “Peirce on Abduction.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. plato.stanford.edu/entries/abduction/peirce.html. Accessed 20 June 2023.

Farid-Arbab, Sona. Moral Empowerment: In Quest of a Pedagogy. Bahá’í Publishing, 2016.

Forst, Rainer. Normativity and Power: Analyzing Social Orders of Justification. Oxford UP, 2017.

Gabriel, Markus. I Am Not a Brain: Philosophy of Mind for the 21st Century. Polity Press, 2017.

Gabriel, Markus. The Meaning of Thought. Polity Press, 2018.

Gaukroger, Stephen. Civilization and the Culture of Science: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1795-1935. Oxford UP, 2020.

Godfrey-Smith, Peter. Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. U of Chicago P, 2003.

Gupta, Sanjay. Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age. Simon and Shuster, 2021.

Habermas, Jurgen. Postmetaphysical Thinking. MIT Press, 1993.

Habermas, Jurgen. Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity. MIT Press, 2002.

Hacking, Ian. “Finding Out: Prolegomena to a Theory of Truthfulness and Reasoning in the Sciences.” Keynote Address, Canadian Philosophical Association, 28 May 2007.

Hatcher, John S. “The Mizán of Affect in Material versus Metaphysical Models of Human Consciousness.” Journal of Bahá’í Studies, vol. 32, no. 3-4.

Hatcher, William S. Minimalism: A Bridge Between Classical Philosophy and the Bahá’í Revelation. Juxta Publishing, 2002.

Heath, Joseph. Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy and Our Lives. Harper Collins, 2014.

Keller, Evelyn Fox. A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock. Macmillan, 1983.

Kern, Andrea. Sources of Knowledge: On the Concept of a Rational Capacity for Knowledge. Harvard UP, 2017.

Kimhi, Irad. Thinking and Being. Harvard UP, 2018.

Korsgaard, Christine. Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity. Oxford UP, 2009.

Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. U of Chicago P, 1962.

Lakatos, Imre and Paul Feyerabend. For and Against Method: Including Lakatos’s Lectures on Scientific Method and the Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondence. Edited and with an Introduction by Matteo Motterlini. U of Chicago P, 1999.

Lample, Paul. Revelation and Social Reality. Palabra Publications, 2009.

Larson, Erik J. The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do. Harvard UP, 2021.

McDowell, John. Mind and World. Harvard UP, 1994.

McDowell, John. Having the World in View: Essays on Kant, Hegel and Sellars. Harvard UP 2009.

McGinn, Colin. “Storm Over the Brain.” Review of Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain by Patricia S. Churchland, The New York Review of Books, 24 April 2014. www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/04/24/storm-over-the-brain/

Menand, Louis. The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America. Macmillan, 2001.

Nábil-i-A‘zam [Muḥammad-i-Zarandí]. The Dawn Breakers: Nabil’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá’í Revelation. Translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi. US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1932.

Nagel, Thomas. Mind and Cosmos. Oxford UP, 2012.

Nirenberg, David and Ricardo L. Nirenberg. Uncountable: A Philosophical History of Number and Humanity from Antiquity to the Present. U of Chicago P, 2021.

Pippin, Robert. Interanimations. U of Chicago P, 2015.

Pippin, Robert. Hegel’s Realm of Shadows: Logic as Metaphysics in The Science of Logic. U of Chicago P, 2019.

Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct, How the Mind Creates Language. HarperCollins, 1994.

Penrose, Roger. Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science. Oxford UP, 1994.

Putnam, Hilary. The Many Faces of Realism: The Paul Carus Lectures. Open Court, 1987.

Ranjbar, Vahid. “The Quantum State Function, Platonic Forms, and the Ethereal Substance: Reflections on the Potential of Philosophy to Contribute to the Harmony of Science and Religion.” Journal of Bahá’í Studies, vol. 32, no. 1-2, pp. 7–40. doi: 10.31581/jbs-32.1-2.501(2022).

Rousse, B. Scot. “Heidegger, Sociality and Human Agency.” European Journal of Philosophy, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 417-451, 2016. doi: 10.1111/ejop.12067.

Ruhi Institute. Book 5: Releasing the Power of Junior Youth.

Schewel, Benjamin. Seven Ways of Looking at Religion. Yale UP, 2017.

Schneider, Hans Julius. Wittgenstein’s Later Theory of Meaning: Imagination and Calculation. Wiley Blackwell, 2014.

Seth, Anil. Being You: A New Science of Consciousness. Penguin Random House, 2021.

Shoghi Effendi. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, June 7, 1946. Arohanui: Letters from Shoghi Effendi to New Zealand. Bahá’í Publishing Trust of Suva, Fiji Islands, 1982.

Shoghi Effendi. The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh.. US Publishing Trust, 1969.

Taylor, Charles. The Language Animal. Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 2016.

Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 2007.

Tomasello, Michael. A Natural History of Human Thinking. Harvard UP, 2014.

Wallace, R. Jay. “Normativity and the World.” The Royal Institute of Philosophy, Supplement n. 55, pp. 195-216, 2004. doi: 10.1017/s1358246100008687.

“We Hear What We Expect to Hear.” Science Daily, 8 Jan. 2021. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210108120110.htm

Creative Commons License

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 © 2023 Gerald Filson