Since then, this has led me into an inquiry into why Baha'u'llah writes against hedonism. First, I went to The Hidden Words and then to his Kitab-i-Iqan. I'd like to share some quotations, and a few words in commentary. The topic is of course inexhaustable; so the aim here is just to stimulate thinking.
In The Hidden Words there are a number of passages on the subject. It would be impossible to give a complete account of their meaning. However, one pattern that emerges is that pleasure can be a veil between us and knowledge of God's blessings, which goes far beyond the delight we can have in any one thing.
O SON OF BOUNTY! Out of the wastes of nothingness, with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things... And yet heedless thou didst remain, and when fully grown, thou didst neglect all My bounties and occupied thyself with thine idle imaginings, in such wise that thou didst become wholly forgetful, and, turning away from the portals of the Friend didst abide within the courts of My enemy.In the Kitab-i-Iqan, there's a passage that in my opinion confirms Plato's argument from the Republic. Except in this case, Baha'u'llah broadens the idea out to also address the power of hatred to repel us from the truth.
The Hidden Words, Persian 29
O SON OF MAN! A dewdrop out of the fathomless ocean of My mercy I have shed upon the peoples of the world, yet found none turn thereunto, inasmuch as every one hath turned away from the celestial wine of unity unto the foul dregs of impurity, and, content with mortal cup, hath put away the chalice of immortal beauty. Vile is that wherewith he is contented.
The Hidden Words, Persian 61
He must purge his breast, which is the sanctuary of the abiding love of the Beloved, of every defilement, and sanctify his soul from all that pertaineth to water and clay, from all shadowy and ephemeral attachments. He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth. Even as thou dost witness in this day how most of the people, because of such love and hate, are bereft of the immortal Face, have strayed far from the Embodiments of the divine mysteries, and, shepherdless, are roaming through the wilderness of oblivion and error.In addition, there's also this passage, in which Baha'u'llah calls on his readers to eat "of the good things which God hath allowed you."
-Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, 213 p. 192-3
Should a man wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing whatever to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or in the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him. Eat ye, O people, of the good things which God hath allowed you, and deprive not yourselves from His wondrous bounties. Render thanks and praise unto Him, and be of them that are truly thankful.Certainly, he is calling on his readers to enjoy such things. But he situates that enjoyment within a context of rendering thanks and praise to God for those same things. Stepping back, I think what's important is that the pleasure we take in this world should be in the context of a broader knowledge of the blessings God has given us. What's important is that it opens our eyes to this broader plan, not shut us out from it.
Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, CXXVIII p.276