How can you distinguish real holy men from charlatans?
Answer: The question
carries a supposition and begs a question. It supposes that a faculty
of discernment exists. If discernment is absent, then we can expect the
charlatan — a euphemism for the hypocrite — to fool some of the people
some of the time. The second point is this: what is the definition of
holiness? One person’s holiness may not be another’s.
In the life of faith, everything depends upon credibility; credibility
depends upon example. Professed religious persons know that they must
strive sincerely to be a living example of their chosen spirituality.
Faith in our day must be translated into active service to society. To
be true, holiness must be tried and tested in adversity.
The simplest answer is, of course, that the charlatan does not walk the
walk. He or she seriously betrays some cardinal virtue(s) befitting the
religious life: a violation of chastity; greed; the love of luxury;
illegal or immoral business practices; intemperance and so forth.
Charlatans prey on the weak, the innocent and the naïve, using their
religion for self-satisfaction.
Bahá’ís are fortunate in having ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and
successor of the Prophet-Founder Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), as the ideal
model of every spiritual virtue. Let some of the 10,000 souls who
attended his funeral on Nov. 28, 1921 in Haifa speak for themselves.
Nine speakers from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, all the
notables of the British administration and foreign delegations,
gathered on Mount Carmel to lay ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to rest. It was an
interfaith funeral, quite unlike any other ever held in the Holy Land.
Salomon Bouzaglo, one of the leading figures of the Jewish community in
Haifa, described ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as having been “the living example of
self-sacrifice”; a Christian writer declared that he lived “the life of
the Messenger and Apostles of God”; the Mufti of Haifa spoke of “the
beautiful and wondrous story of his life, spent in doing that which is
right and good.” Real holy men are distinguished by their deeds —
whatever their religion. -