Happiness: A Philosophical,
Psychological and Spiritual
Perspective
Copyright © 2003
Dr. Rodney H. Clarken
Director of Field Experiences and Professor
School of Education
Northern Michigan University
Goals and Objectives

From a philosophic, psychological and
spiritual perspective:



To define happiness
To explain why we want to be happy
To describe how to be happy
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Happiness Defined


hap·py - Enjoying, showing, or marked
by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy.
Philosophical definitions: “pleasure
conceived of as untroubledness, virtue
alone or together with external goods”
(The Morality of Happiness, Annas, p. 426)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Happiness Synonyms

gladness, joy, delight, felicity, contentment,
content, sense of well-being, pleasure,
enjoyment, satisfaction, lightheartedness,
rejoicing, elation, jubilation, high spirits, bliss,
beatitude, blessedness, rapture, ecstasy, gaiety,
exultation, transport, exuberance, merriment,
cheer, cheerfulness, cheeriness, glee, jollity,
mirth, gratification, blessing, comfort.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Antonyms

unhappiness, sadness, sorrow, grief,
woe; depression, despondency, low
spirits, misery, anguish, distress,
discomfort, bane, annoyance; calamity,
misfortune, thorn in one's side, cross to
bear.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Today’s Situation


Though material benefits have increased
exponentially, happiness has remained
flat or decreased.
The ideologies of the twentieth century
that promised happiness and welfare
have left us intellectually, spiritually and
morally bankrupt and unhappy.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Happiness and Ancient
Philosophy

…the entry point for ancient ethical reflection is
consideration of one's life as a whole, and
reflection leads one to the notion of one's final
end. Happiness enters as a thin specification of
this final end. As Aristotle says, there is
consensus that our final good is happiness, but
this point is trivial and settles nothing, for there
is intense disagreement as to what happiness
consists in. (The Morality of Happiness, Julia Annas, p. 329)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Socrates and Plato

"virtue and happiness were intimately
related for Socrates and Plato, with
wisdom a necessary and sufficient
condition for behaving well and being
happy. " (Parducci 10)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Aristotle’s Philosophy

Aristotle said happiness:


is the aim of life.
results from two kinds of habits:
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mental activity, such as knowledge, which lead to the
highest human activity, contemplation;
practical action (moral virtues conforming to the golden
mean) and emotion, such as courage.
is attained through intellectual and the moral virtues,
which results from the full realization of human
potential. (Nicomachean Ethics)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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The Utilitarian Definition

Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism,
combined the prescriptive with the descriptive
when he defined the good in terms of pleasing
consequences: that action is best that leads to
the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
Happiness itself was defined by Bentham as a
favorable balance of pleasure over pain.
(Parducci 11)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Utilitarianism
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
the supreme objective of moral action is the
achievement of the greatest happiness for the
greatest number.
William Paley: virtue is the "doing [of] good to
mankind, in obedience to the will of God, and for
the sake of everlasting happiness.
John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, William
James and John Dewey (using intelligence for
happiness) were influenced by utilitarianism.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Political Philosophy

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all
men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty, and the
pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these
rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of
the governed. (Declaration of Independence, 1776)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Modern Philosophy: Charlie
Brown

“HAPPINESS IS TWO KINDS OF ICE CREAM.
KNOWING A SECRET.
CLIMBING A TREE.
HAPPINESS IS FIVE DIFFERENT CRAYONS.
CATCHING A FIREFLY.
SETTING HIM FREE.
HAPPINESS IS BEING ALONE EVERY NOW AND THEN.
AND HAPPINESS IS COMING HOME AGAIN.
HAPPINESS IS MORNING AND EVENING,
DAY TIME AND NIGHT TIME TOO.
FOR HAPPINESS IS ANYONE AND ANYTHING AT ALL
THAT'S LOVED BY YOU.”
(Charles Shultz, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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HAPPINESS IS TWO KINDS OF
ICE CREAM.

Not really, at best two kinds of ice cream
is a short-lived pleasure, and then only if
you like ice cream, are not too full to eat
it, not worried about gaining weight,
lactose tolerant and the two kinds are
ones you like (i.e., Anchovy flavored,
Blue Moon and Bubble Gum).
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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HAPPINESS IS FIVE
DIFFERENT CRAYONS.

Maybe, if you are six years old and want
five different crayons, they can bring
some happiness and may bring some
temporary joy or satisfy some desire, but
not if you are 18 year old, expect a box
of 64, eat them, get five colors you hate,
get punished for having them, or they
break or….
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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FOR HAPPINESS IS ANYONE AND
ANYTHING AT ALL
THAT'S LOVED BY YOU.

Now this is getting at a more real and lasting
happiness. Happy people are loved, love, make
more friends, and have a richer social life and
more fulfilling relationships than unhappy
people. (We do not know whether love causes
happiness or happiness causes love, but,
according to the latest research, being loved
and loving probably will not hurt you.)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Happiness and Psychology


Most of psychology has focused on
unhappiness, mental illness and
weakness rather than happiness, mental
health and strength.
Recently Positive Psychology is
scientifically studying positive emotion,
virtue, strengths and happiness.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Authentic Happiness

Following slides adapted from Martin E. P.
Seligmann, 2002. Authentic Happiness:
Realizing the New Positive Psychology to Realize
your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Simon and

Schuster: New York.
Summarizes and comments on the research,
stories and reflections to answer questions
about and deepen our understanding of
happiness.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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No Shortcuts

The belief that we can rely on shortcuts
to happiness, joy, rapture, comfort, and
ecstasy, rather than be entitled to these
feelings by the exercise of personal
strengths and virtues, leads to legions of
people who in the middle of great wealth
are starving spiritually. (Seligmann, p. 8)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Positive Emotion and
Character

Positive emotion alienated from the
exercise of character leads to emptiness,
to inauthenticity, to depression, and as
we age, to the gnawing realization that
we are fidgeting until we die. The
positive feeling that arises from the
exercise of strengths and virtues, rather
than from the shortcuts, is authentic. (p. 8)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Positive Psychology
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
Draws on science, philosophy and
religion to identify positive emotions, six
core virtues, twenty-four signature
strengths and ways of using the
signature strengths in relation to work,
love, and parenting.
See www.authentichappiness.org for
more info and self assessments.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Positive feelings
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lead to a longer, healthier, well-wed, and
generally happier life.
A study of nuns shows a very strong a
positive relationship between happiness
and longevity and health.
pleasurable activities do not bring the
gratification and positive emotion that
the kind actions do.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Happiness


broadens intellectual, physical and social
resources and reserves that allow us to better
survive and thrive.
Happy people have better health habits, lower
blood pressure, stronger immune systems, more
productivity, richer social lives, greater empathy,
higher pain endurance. They are better decision
makers, more creative, quicker thinkers and
outperform peers in persistence, problem
solving, independence, enthusiasm and
exploration
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Positive emotions: Past
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contentment, satisfaction, fulfillment and
serenity
Dwelling on the past is overrated
Increasing gratitude about your past,
forgiving past wrongs and rewriting your
past to free yourself from limiting and
debilitating ideologies are beneficial to
increasing present happiness.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Positive emotions: Future
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optimism, faith, confidence and hope.
Increase optimism by recognizing and
disputing pessimistic thoughts through
examining the evidence, alternatives,
implications and usefulness of our
thoughts and how to change them as
needed
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Positive emotion: Present
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divided into two separate things and
routes: pleasures and gratifications.
Pleasures are limited and gratifications
abiding.
Use savoring, mindfulness and avoiding
habituation to heighten pleasures.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Gratification
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
results from the use of our strengths and
virtues.
components that indicate growth and
lead to happiness and satisfaction involve
challenge, concentration, goaldirectedness, total absorption, flow and
the suspensions of consciousness.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Six Virtues for Gratification

From the great philosophies and religions
of the world:
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wisdom and knowledge,
courage,
love and humanity,
justice,
temperance,
spirituality and transcendence.
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Signature Strengths: 1-9
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Wisdom and knowledge: 1. curiosity/interest
in the world, 2. love of learning, 3.
judgment/critical thing/open-mindedness, 4,
ingenuity/originality/practical intelligence/street
smarts, 5. social intelligence/personal
intelligence/emotional intelligence, 6.
perspective.
Courage: 7. valor and bravery, 8.
perseverance/industry/diligence, 9.
integrity/genuineness/honesty.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Signature Strengths: 10-17
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Humanity and love: 10. kindness and
generosity, 11. loving and allowing oneself to be
loved.
Justice: 12. citizenship/duty/teamwork/loyalty,
13. fairness and equity, 14. leadership.
Temperance: 15. self-control, 16.
prudence/discretion/caution, 17. humility and
modesty.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Signature Strengths: 18-24

Transcendence: 18. appreciation of
beauty and excellence, 19. gratitude, 20.
hope/optimism/future-mindedness, 21.
spirituality/sense of
purpose/faith/religiousness, 22.
forgiveness and mercy, 23. playfulness
and humor, 24. zest/passion/enthusiasm.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Religion Best Path to
Happiness


Religion has been seen as the best path to
happiness both in this world and the next.
“the Divine religions, the holy precepts, the
heavenly teachings, are the unassailable basis of
human happiness, and that the peoples of the
world can hope for no real relief or deliverance
without this one great remedy.” (Abdul-Baha, The Secret of
Divine Civilization, p. 99)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Religion Opens Doors of
Happiness

Religion confers upon man eternal life
and guides his footsteps in the world of
morality. It opens the doors of unending
happiness and bestows everlasting honor
upon the human kingdom. It has been
the basis of all civilization and progress in
the history of mankind. (Abdul-Baha, The Promulgation of
Universal Peace, p. 361)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Divine Law brings Happiness

In this way the primary purpose in
revealing the Divine Law--which is to
bring about happiness in the after life
and civilization and the refinement of
character in this--will be realized. (The
Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 46)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Religion & Eternal Happiness

The concept of heaven as a place of
eternal happiness is found in most
religions:

Nirvana for Buddhists, Happy Hunting
Grounds for some Native Americans, Valhalla
for Scandinavians and Germans, Paradise for
Jews, Christians, Baha’is and Moslems;
Elysium for classical Greeks and Romans.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Hebraic-Christian View of
Happiness

"Happiness is serving God, living in
accordance with God's wishes as learned
from holy scripture or by personal
revelation. " (Parducci 11)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Beatitudes
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Jesus Christ promised blessedness/happiness
to:
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the poor in spirit,
those who mourn,
the meek,
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
the merciful,
the pure in heart,
the peacemakers,
those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
(Matt. 5:3-11)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Buddhism & Happiness
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Happy indeed we live who are free from:
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hatred among those who still hate. In the midst of
hate-filled men, we live free from hatred.
disease among those still diseased. In the midst of
diseased men, we live free from disease.
worry among those who are still worried. In the midst
of worried men, we live free from worry.
Happy indeed we live who have nothing of our
own. We shall feed on joy, just like the radiant
devas. (Dhammapada, 197-200)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Buddhism on Happiness


There is no fire like desire. There is no
weakness like anger. There is no suffering like
the khandhas. There is no happiness greater
than peace.
Therefore, if he is a man of understanding and
penetration, learned and habitually moral,
devout and noble, one should cultivate the
company of that just and wise man, in the same
way as the moon keeps to a path among the
stars. (Dhammapada, 202 & 208)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Egyptian Book of the Dead

indicates that happiness in the afterlife
was dependent on the deceased’s having
led a virtuous life on earth.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Spiritual Virtues of Happiness

“The honor and exaltation of every existing
being depends upon causes and
circumstances…the root of the exaltation of man
is the good attributes and virtues which are the
adornments of his reality. These are the divine
appearances, the heavenly bounties, the
sublime emotions, the love and knowledge of
God; universal wisdom, intellectual perception,
scientific discoveries,
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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justice, equity, truthfulness,
benevolence,

natural courage and innate fortitude; the
respect for rights and the keeping of
agreements and covenants; rectitude in all
circumstances; serving the truth under all
conditions; the sacrifice of one's life for the
good of all people; kindness and esteem for all
nations; obedience to the teachings of God;
service in the Divine Kingdom; the guidance of
the people, and the education of the nations
and races.” (Abdul-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 77-80, 1908)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Psychological and Spiritual
Virtues


The virtues identified in psychological
happiness are similar to those mentioned
by Abdul-Baha at the beginning of the
20th century.
We will compare them and then identify
how spiritual virtues relate to happiness
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Wisdom and knowledge

(routes to wisdom, the acquisition and
use of knowledge) Abdul-Baha said:
universal wisdom, intellectual perception,
scientific discoveries;
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Courage

(exercise of will to accomplish goals in
the face of opposition, external or
internal) Abdul-Baha said: natural
courage and innate fortitude; serving the
truth under all conditions; the sacrifice of
one's life for the good of all people;
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Love and humanity

(positive interpersonal interactions)
Abdul-Baha said: truthfulness,
benevolence, service in the Divine
Kingdom; the guidance of the people,
and the education of the nations and
races; kindness and esteem for all
nations;
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Justice

(civic activities) Abdul-Baha said: justice,
equity, the respect for rights and the
keeping of agreements and covenants;
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Temperance

(protection against excesses of all sorts,
appropriate and moderate expression of
desires) Abdul-Baha said: rectitude in all
circumstances; obedience to the
teachings of God
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Spirituality and
transcendence

(spirituality, connection to a larger entity)
Abdul-Baha said: divine appearances, the
heavenly bounties, the sublime emotions,
the love and knowledge of God;
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Virtues and Happiness

You are the reality and expression of
your deeds and actions. If you abide by
the precepts and teachings of the
Blessed Perfection, the heavenly world
and ancient Kingdom will be yours-eternal happiness, love and everlasting
life. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 9)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Spiritual Perfections

The body of the human world is sick. Its
remedy and healing will be the oneness
of the kingdom of humanity. Its life is the
Most Great Peace. Its illumination and
quickening is love. Its happiness is the
attainment of spiritual perfections. (`Abdu'lBahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 19)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Amity and Unity

Similarly, consider how the cause of the
welfare, happiness, joy and comfort of
humankind are amity and union, whereas
dissension and discord are most
conducive to hardship, humiliation,
agitation and failure. (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'lBaha, p. 287)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Service

Your intention deserves a thousand
praises, because you are serving the
world of humanity, and this is conducive
to the happiness and welfare of all. (Selections
from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 296)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Reunion with the Beloved

The greatest happiness for a lover is
to converse with his beloved, and
the greatest gift for a seeker is to
become familiar with the object of
his longing; (Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 683-4)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Character

…the happiness and greatness, the rank
and station, the pleasure and peace, of
an individual have never consisted in his
personal wealth, but rather in his
excellent character, his high resolve, the
breadth of his learning, and his ability to
solve difficult problems. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of
Divine Civilization, p. 23)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Wealth and Happiness

Even this earth's happiness does not
depend upon wealth.…The rich are
mostly negligent, inattentive, steeped in
worldliness, depending upon their
means, whereas the poor are dependent
upon God, and their reliance is upon
Him, not upon themselves. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The
Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 33)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Giving to Poor

For although at the present time the rich
enjoy the greatest luxury and comfort,
they are nevertheless deprived of eternal
happiness; for eternal happiness is
contingent upon giving, and the poor are
everywhere in the state of abject need.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 132)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Two Kinds of Happiness

Happiness consists of two kinds; physical and
spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its
utmost duration is one day, one month, one
year. It hath no result. Spiritual happiness is
eternal and unfathomable. This kind of
happiness appeareth in one's soul with the love
of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues
and perfections of the world of humanity. (Tablets of
Abdu'l-Baha, p. 673)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Material and Spiritual

Material progress ensures the happiness
of the human world. Spiritual progress
ensures the happiness and eternal
continuance of the soul. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation
of Universal Peace, p. 142)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Conjoin Material and Spiritual

The physical happiness of material conditions
was allotted to the animal…. But the honor of
the human kingdom is the attainment of
spiritual happiness in the human world, the
acquisition of the knowledge and love of God….
This is his real happiness and felicity. But if
material happiness and spiritual felicity be
conjoined, it will be "delight upon delight," (`Abdu'lBahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 166)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Need Spiritual

No matter how far the material world
advances, it cannot establish the
happiness of mankind. Only when
material and spiritual civilization are
linked and coordinated will happiness be
assured. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Trouble

If any trouble or vicissitude comes into
your lives, if your heart is depressed on
account of health, livelihood or vocation,
let not these things affect you. They
should not cause unhappiness, for
Bahá'u'lláh has brought you divine
happiness. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 188)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Health and Healing

We should all visit the sick. When they
are in sorrow and suffering, it is a real
help and benefit to have a friend come.
Happiness is a great healer to those who
are ill. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 204)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Depends on Spirit

The happiness of the world depends
upon man, and the happiness of man is
dependent upon the spirit. The world
may be likened to the lamp chimney,
whereas man is the light. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The
Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 240)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Morality and Virtues

Until the moral degree of the nations is
advanced and human virtues attain a
lofty level, happiness for mankind is
impossible. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.
375)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Spiritual Comprehension

May your souls be illumined by the light
of the Words of God, and may you
become repositories of the mysteries of
God, for no comfort is greater and no
happiness is sweeter than spiritual
comprehension of the divine teachings.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 459)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Prejudice an Obstacle

The obstacle to human happiness is
racial or religious prejudice, the
competitive struggle for existence and
inhumanity toward each other. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The
Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 468)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Sociability and Happiness

In his [human] life and being cooperation
and association are essential. Through
association and meeting we find
happiness and development, individual
and collective. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,
p. 35)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
68
Knowledge and Happiness

In truth, knowledge is a veritable
treasure for man, and a source of glory,
of bounty, of joy, of exaltation, of cheer
and gladness unto him. (Bahá'u'lláh-Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh
Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas p. 50)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
69
Freedom! Liberty! Security!

There is no cause for sorrow or
unhappiness anywhere; every means of
happiness and enjoyment is about you,
for in this human world there is no
greater blessing than liberty…. Freedom!
Liberty! Security! These are the great
bestowals of God. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal
Peace, p. 52)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
70
Equality of Women and Men

And let it be known once more that until woman
and man recognize and realize equality, social
and political progress here or anywhere will not
be possible. For the world of humanity consists
of two parts or members: one is woman; the
other is man. Until these two members are
equal in strength, the oneness of humanity
cannot be established, and the happiness and
felicity of mankind will not be a reality. (`Abdu'l-Bahá,
The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 77)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
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Spiritual Behavior

In a time to come, morals will degenerate to an
extreme degree. It is essential that children be
reared in the Bahá'í way, that they may find
happiness both in this world and the next. If
not, they shall be beset by sorrows and
troubles, for human happiness is founded upon
spiritual behavior. (Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p.
127)
© Rodney H. Clarken 2003
72
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Happiness-Scientific, Philosophical and Spiritual Perspective