The nature of being has been a preoccupation of philosophers and religionists for quite some time. Martin Heidegger devoted his whole philosophical career to exploring this question, while Paulo Freire identified the "humanization" of being as a prerequisite to social transformation. Yet much of society is not conducive the exploration and empowerment of being. In most churches there is an asymmetry of power and responsibility. Most of the members come a few times a month to "do the church thing", without reflecting on how it relates to their lives and institutions. In the tyranny of a passive crowd our real potential and vulnerabilities are neglected. We become as empty beings. As Paulo Freire would put it, we function like banks where those who speak eloquently and can dominate a discussion can make their deposits.
In the Baha'i community there has been a significant shift in the past few years to hold activities in people’s homes instead of a centralized location. These activities are no longer events in which a few perform and the rest spectate. Instead, everything is viewed as a process of building capacity within ourselves and the community. Being a Baha'i means actively working to overcome the divisions which plague our society, not standing in the larger and larger rooms together until the whole world is enclosed.
A Baha'i study circle stands as a model of engaging people of very different bearings in a singular study of spiritual human potential, while at the same time providing the flexibility of dialogue and independent thought. In each study course, a new practice is introduced which builds capacity for service to the community. By completing the last study course people are trained to bring along others through this process. The more I look into the historical thinking on being and community empowerment the more I see the Baha'i institute process as the ideal model.