Nov 10, 2017

Glimpses of life in Iran in 1910 – by Dr. Susan Moody

[Excerpts from two letters by Dr. Susan Moody describing conditions of women, medical work, bravery of Baha’is, school for girls, and plans for Mashriqu’l-Adhkar]

Tehran, Persia, 
Jan. 11, 1910

Dearest Eva: Please redeem a promise I have made to the sisters here that their photo should be copied and spread in America. I think I mentioned that this is an important event in their lives; they have thrown down one rule, for once, that is, to show their faces to the world. I cannot describe to you how they are deprived.

Again today I was in a home the wife's mother was closely veiled because the husband's young brother was in the room; and later all the women left the room because two men friends of the family were coming. I could stay and enjoy hearing the newcomers tell of a recent trip to Russia, etc. On leaving I went to say good bye to the women -- their rooms are in an entirely separate court, as if in another house. A man servant passed just as I raised the heavy curtain to leave, and all the women screamed and pulled down their veils, or drew the "chadur” up over their mouth and nose. The husband we met in Paris and since being on the continent he is anxious to help free the women from their dreary life.

The hospital business is now arranged and after this week I am to be there with the other doctors in the afternoons. I met another, a non-Bahai doctor, this morning, and he asked me to assist him in an operation later. I liked him and hope to establish pleasant relations with them all. 

Oct 17, 2017

The Spirit of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – by Horace Holley

The divine power, in its fullness, penetrates the universe at all times, but each existent being shows for this power only to its own degree. Stone, plant, animal and man all are sustained by the one power, without which nothing could ever exist. In the same degrees that stone, plant and animal receive the power, it is received also by man, for man's physical being is the sum of all that nature contains. So long as man is content with these degrees of existence, man cannot be distinguished from nature either in origin or end; he would be considered merely as nature in the state of self-awareness, a mirror in which for a certain period nature can be seen ad known. Man is immersed in nature, though his thought is not coffined.

When we stand upon the shore of the sea, and watch the inrolling waves, it seems as though the ocean were moving and advancing upon the shore, but this motion and advancement are illusions of the eye, for each drop of the sea continues ever in the same place. It is a motion we attribute to the sea, which in the sea itself is only agitation. And thus the constant change and movement of life on the surface of nature; it is the illusion of life, not progressiveness of being. For nature as a whole lives, through the divine power, but the existence of each production of nature is merely lent and then withdrawn. The tree lives, but the leaves that are put forth by the tree wither and fall. Today we see a man, and the man shares in the common thought; but tomorrow we see another man in his place, and the actions and thoughts of the first are repeated. The continuity of men is but the continuity of leafage, not the continuousness of the tree from season to season.

But man is immersed in nature as the ship is immersed in the sea, and the force of the wind which practiced only agitation in the sea, produces true movement and progress in the ship. But the ship that is deprived of sails, and is rudderless, then shares only the agitation of the sea, the end of which vessel is destruction So man when deprived of those faculties that exist above nature, and independent of nature, lives in the agitation of nature and dies like the foam on the wave. By his thought he may perceive this, and become aware of it, but by thought it cannot he prevented or changed.

Sep 23, 2017

Happiness from the Baha’i Point of View – by Martha Root

The Baha’i Cause now encircling the world is a movement for unity of religions, universal peace and a universal language. Its founders, the Báb, Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha have brought to humanity a message which transforms for its followers this earth world into a spiritual Rose-Garden.

To present to you some of their thoughts on happiness is the purpose of this compilation of quotations. Asked the intimate goal of a human life ‘Abdu’l-Baha replied that it assuredly was not to eat, nor to sleep, nor to dress, nor to repose on the conch of negligence. Rather it is to find one's way to eternity and understand the divine signs; to receive wisdom from the Lord of Lords and to move steadily forward like a great sea.

Speaking with a group of friends He said:

"To see the joy of divine gladness on your faces is the cause of my happiness for when I see you happy, I am happy also. The divine Messengers come to bring joy to this earth, for this is the planet of tribulation and torment and the mission of the great Masters is to turn men away from these anxieties and to infuse life with infinite joy.”

"When the divine message is understood all troubles will vanish. Shadows disappear when the universal lamp is lighted for whosoever becomes illumined thereby no longer knows grief. He realizes that his stay on this planet is temporary and that life is eternal. When once he has found reality he will no longer retreat into darkness.”

''Reflect on the tribulations the divine Messengers endure in each age -- exile, prison, the cross, decapitation; yet they ever remain tranquil. Behold the apostles of Christ! They had many trials. The friends of Baha’u’llah in Persia have undergone unspeakable calamities. Their possessions were seized and destroyed, their children captured, their lives sacrificed; yet at the hour of martyrdom they danced with joy, for they were completely detached from the life of this world. Trials have never prevented men from knowing the happiness of the beyond. Nay, rather, this is the path.'' 

Aug 15, 2017

Humanity's Coming Encounter with Baha'u'llah - by Douglas Martin, April 1992

Anniversaries are an invitation to take stock, to review where we have come from. The hope is that we can secure a vantage point from which we can better appreciate what lies ahead. Centenaries are particularly valuable in this respect, because the perspective they provide is so much longer, and the vantage point, hopefully, correspondingly high.

In reviewing of the unfolding public message of the Cause over the past 100 years it is important to distinguish this message from the Faith's teaching work. There are as many teaching methods as there are Bahá'ís: some five million of them at the present count. There are as many "Bahá'í messages", perhaps, as there are inquirers. Entirely apart from this worldwide effort of individuals to teach other individuals, the Bahá'í community as a body has pursued a parallel, century-long -- and remarkably systematic -- program to create an accurate and favorable image of the Cause in the public mind generally.

There is no one satisfactory term that captures this endeavor. The meaning of the much-used word "proclamation" has, unfortunately, become steadily more blurred as it has been used for various group teaching initiatives. What we are talking about are such activities as public information, government relations, publicity, publishing, media production and public relations, whose aim is to ensure that the society around us gains a reasonably sound understanding of the nature and purposes of the Bahá'í Cause.

Jul 26, 2017

Message to Persian Baha'is abroad for “The Holy Year", 1992 - from Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum

This is a wonderful opportunity to say something to the dear Persian Baha'is as we approach the hundredth anniversary of the Ascension of Baha'u'llah in this year which, for all of us, all over the world, is so holy. I think the Persian believers who have, for one reason or another, left their homeland and are now living abroad, should consider very seriously, at this historic moment, what their duty is to the Cause of God, which after all originated in their own native land and they became the first followers of this new Faith in the whole world, the ones who gave their lives by the thousands to defend and establish it, to assert its truth and carry its message abroad. This is the Persian believers' immortal distinction in the history of our religion, but likewise it imposes a great responsibility upon them.

It says in the Bible: "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required". I think this particularly applies to the dear Persian believers at this moment in the history of the Cause of God. The thing that is most important, now, for all the Baha'is, particularly for those who come from Baha'u'llah's native land, is to arise, each one of them, forgetful of himself and his own limitations, putting aside every feeling of unworthiness or lack of capacity or experience, and teach the Cause of God as never before.

The humblest of Baha'u'llah's followers must realize he is capable of receiving Divine confirmations if he will arise and go forth, at this great turning point in human history, to share with the frightened, disillusioned, hopeless masses of his fellow men, the life-giving teachings of the Blessed Beauty. It is the sacred duty of all of us to let mankind know that this Cause of God exists and that Baha'u'llah has appeared for the redemption of mankind.

Jun 21, 2017

Question: What is easy familiarity? – from a talk by Peter Khan, 1984

[Transcribed from video tape at Hawaii Summer School 1984, from a question asked]

“The practice of indiscriminate kissing and embracing involving unrelated people of opposite sexes is not desirable, and discouraged. Particularly these days when restraints are being abolished one by one, the Baha'is should make efforts to uphold in their personal lives and in their relationships to one another the standards of conduct set forth in the teachings." (Shoghi Effendi, ‘Advent of Divine Justice’)

I want to comment on that, but before I do, I want to finish the letter from the Universal House of Justice. The House of Justice says: "...like most problems to do with human behavior, this is a matter more affected by education, general standards, and attitudes, than by hard and fast rules." We will pick that up again in another letter by the Universal House of Justice in a moment, but notice several things they are saying. It is better carried out by education, general standards and attitudes than by hard and fast rules. Let me call your attention to the fact that there is room for individual differences and individual interpretation. For example, one of the sentences referred to kissing and embracing. Let me call your attention to the words used, "indiscriminate kissing and embracing". What is indiscriminate kissing and embracing, involving unrelated people of the opposite sex? It is not desirable, and discouraged. Notice they don't say prohibited. My point rather than propounding one point of view is to indicate the need to look closely at the words used by the Guardian in deciding what one feels is right and wrong. Decide for yourself what is indiscriminate! Decide what it means for yourself, what it means about being not desirable, and discouraged. There is room for individual differences. Like I said, if I were to come into the room and kiss every female and touch every male would that be indiscriminate? If it were all people that I had been friendly with for years, would that still be indiscriminate?

I'm mentioning this because in my country, in living in Australia in years gone by, there was a view propounded that kissing in the Baha'i Faith was forbidden. This created a great deal of controversy and antagonism in the Baha'i community, many hot feelings were expressed, one by the other, and things became polarized. Eventually the whole thing was dampened down and we got some degree of rationality to the thing, by calling attention to the fact that these are the words of the Guardian and that you decide for yourself. If you think it mean prohibited, O.K. , lots of luck, you behave that way if you want but don't force others to behave in that way. If they want to come to that conclusion, fine, but it is important not to read too much or too little into the Writings, rather to see where the Writings go.

May 12, 2017

Parents' Words and Deeds are Children's Examples – by Hand of the Cause Ali-Akbar Furutan

“Take heed, O people, lest ye be of them that give good counsel to others but forget to follow it themselves.” (Baha’u’llah, ‘Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah’)

It is only natural that, as parents, you should take a deep interest in the training and education of your children. You cherish the hope that they will grow up free from defilement, good-tempered, well-behaved, and deserving to take their place in society as civilized and progressive-minded human beings.

It is certain, for instance, that you prefer your children not to tell lies, not to backbite, and not to wrongly accuse others of misdeeds. You hope they will be honest and trustworthy, and will not sully their tongues with offensive and unpleasant talk. You expect them to show respect towards their parents, and, in short, to observe fully those moral principles which are conducive to the advancement of the human race, and to its distinction and happiness. If such be the case, then it is important to understand a delicate matter: this wish can only be realized when it is translated from thoughts into actions. In other words, you yourself must possess the very characteristics and perfections that you want your children to acquire, for in the view of the world's renowned scholars, the sayings and actions of parents exert a tremendous influence on their children. Experts are all united in the opinion that it is the parents who establish the morals and manners of their children, with the characteristics and virtues of the mother exerting a greater influence. Whatever the parents may do and whatever they may say (be it good or ill), will become a pattern for the child's conduct.

Many child psychologists believe that most of children's actions come about through imitation. This condition in children is so intense that we can compare the innermost self of a child to a mirror in which are reflected the actions and words of the father, mother, and others who come in contact with him.

Mar 7, 2017

The Meaning of: Jesus, Son of God – by Hand of the Cause William Sears

Misunderstanding about the reality of the station of Christ has caused great difficulties among Christians for over nineteen centuries. It has even caused grave separation among His followers. Christ’s station has been described as everything from that of a human reformer and teacher to that of the physical Son of God, even as that of God Himself.

The very symbol used by the early Christians called attention to Christ’s exalted station. When the sign of the fish was secretly used to identify Christian believers to each other (approximately AD 180), it was chosen, we are told, “because the Greek word for it [fish], I-CH-TH-U-S, formed the initials of the phrase Iesous Christus theou uios soter—‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’.” (1)

Christians now find it exceedingly difficult to believe in or to accept any new Messenger of God, because of their misunderstanding of the station of Christ.  Although Jesus Himself clearly promised that One would come after him, and referred to His own return in over 250 separate New Testament passages, Christians still insist:

“Other Messengers or Prophets are of much less importance than Christ. They are mere teachers, but Jesus is the Son of God. No other station can rank as high as that.”

This attitude is reminiscent of what the people said at the time of Christ. They took this very same position in relation to Moses. When they were told about a new Messenger of God called Jesus of Nazareth, they answered:

“He is but a poor, unlearned teacher. Moses was the Interlocutor, the Mouthpiece of God. He actually talked with God and heard His voice in the Holy Mountain. No other station can rank as high as this.”

Once again we find the outward symbol blinding the people to the inward truth.

Christ wished to show the close relationship which existed between the Messenger or Prophet and God.  Therefore, He used the clear symbol of the son; the only son, who is granted special privileges in speaking for the father. In this light His explanations were readily understandable.

Oct 19, 2016

The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – by Amin Banani

The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha are the fruit of more than half a century of prolific labour from His early twenties to the seventy-eighth and final year of His life. Their full volume is as yet unknown; and much remains to be done in gathering, analyzing, and collating His literary legacy.

His Writings consist of personal correspondence, general tablets, tablets on specific themes, books, prayers, poems, public talks, and recorded conversations. Approximately four-fifths of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Writings are in Persian; the rest -- with the exception of a very small number of prayers and letters in Turkish -- are in Arabic. ‘Abdu’l-Baha was both fluent and eloquent in these three languages. Transcriptions of His extemporaneous speeches are often indistinguishable from His Writings. In a culture that placed a high premium on rhetoric ‘Abdu’l-Baha was recognized by friend and foe, Arab and Persian, as a paragon of distinctive style and eloquence.

It is the intent of this article to touch upon the character of that style and to present an overview of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Writings in various genres and categories. Discussion of the language and style is inherently limited, as it must be attempted across twin barriers of culture and tongue; the attempt at categorization is necessarily arbitrary and is meant to serve only as a catalogue. Obviously any number of criteria, such as chronological, thematic and linguistic, can provide different sets of categories. Furthermore, some works cited as examples of certain categories could easily be put under others.

‘Abdu’l-Baha was, of course, not a prophet and at no time claimed to have received direct revelation from God. But the Centre of the Covenant of Baha’u’llah, and the appointed Interpreter of His Revelation, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’is believe, was divinely inspired and guided. His Writings, therefore, constitute for the Baha’is at once a part and an interpretation of their Scriptures.

Sep 8, 2016

Education of Children -- an interview with Hand of the Cause Mr. Furutan, April 1953

Question: How can we teach values to children?

Mr. Furutan considered this a very important subject. He clarified the question by saying that this implied how to bring eternal values, not found outside of religion, to children.

"Only teach through parables and stories," he said, "like Jesus Christ." "Those that will reach the mind of the child."

In ‘Some Answered Questions’, ‘Abdu’l-Baha said, ''Wisdom must be limited to the mentality of the hearer." Mr. Furutan also reminded us of the stories in the Bible where Jesus refers to the Kingdom of God as being like a mustard seed, and the enemies of God like dead bodies. With these two He compared the right from the wrong. Mr. Furutan reiterated how Jesus used the language of the farmer and the home. He told us that Jesus used the familiar language.

In teaching these eternal values we must make use of similes that can be comprehended, such as the one of the sun and the manifestation, and the one that the faith of God is like a fountain that cleanses and purifies.

Mr. Furutan told us to recall the story in the Tablet to the Son of the Wolf when Baha'u'llah refers to His own intimations of prophethood and a maiden. How, as He was falling asleep, a feeling rushed over Him like a flood from head to foot similar to a waterfall.

"We must create a new terminology", said the Hand of the Cause." “Anyone with the talent and the time should glean stories for this use from the Holy Books." He has done this in Persia and will send us the books in order that we may translate them. Some of the methods he uses with his classes are: In teaching Bounty and Grace. He asks, "What makes us see?" They answer, "Light." "If you turn off this light can you see? You have your eyes, why then can you not see?" He then tells the students, that in this same manner if God removes His bounty from us, our souls cannot see even though we have physical bodies.

Aug 14, 2016

The Seed Sowing of the Ages - by May Maxwell

Address at the Fifth Session of the Baha’i Congress
Hotel Mealpin, New York City
April 28th, 1919
(Stenographically reported)

Beloved friends: As we have gathered here day by day and night by night in this room in the heart of this great city, we must have all realized that we are in the presence of an extraordinary event, that as the torrents of living water have poured from these great creative Tablets over our souls, we have been submerged in a realm of light and beauty and love which leaves us in great amazement. It may be that the most difficult thing for the soul is to become conscious of the greatness of events with which we are contemporaneous. We look back over the history of the human race and we see how many thousand years ago God made covenant with mankind through Abraham, and in that covenant He promised that the day would come upon this dark world when the seed of Abraham should be as the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea.

When Moses gave the great Tablets to the Israelitish people and they gathered on either side of the mountain and took an oath of allegiance and devotion and love and loyalty to that great covenant of steadfastness and servitude to the people, another great epoch in the seed sowing was unfolded.  When we look back upon such periods in the world we realize their greatness. We understand their sublime significance, and yet we here gathered are living in a period so infinitely greater and more wonderful that we are dazzled by the brightness of the light so that we cannot see. Those Israelitish people fulfilled their covenant and were led away and found the Promised Land of God.

Jun 4, 2016

The White Silk Dress – reflecting on the life of Táhirih (The Pure One) - by Marzieh Gail

The body lies crushed into a well, with rocks over it, somewhere near the center of Tihran. Buildings have gone up around it, and traffic passes along the road near where the garden was. Buses push donkeys to one side, automobiles from across the world graze the camels' packs, carriages rock by. Toward sunset men scoop up water from a stream and fling it into the road to lay the dust. And the body is there, crushed into the ground, and men come and go, and think it is hidden and forgotten.

Beauty in women is a relative thing. Take Layli, for instance, whose lover Majnun had to go away into the desert when she left him, because he could no longer bear the faces of others; whereupon the animals came, and sat around him in a circle, and mourned with him, as any number of poets and painters will tell you - even Layli was not beautiful. Sa'di describes how one of the kings of Arabia reasoned with Majnun in vain, and how finally "It came into the king's heart to look upon the beauty of Layli, that he might see the face that had wrought such ruin. He bade them seek through the tribes of Arabia and they found her and brought her to stand in the courtyard before him. The king looked at her; he saw a woman dark of skin and slight of body, and he thought little of her, for the meanest servant in his harem was fairer than she. Majnun read the king's mind, and he said, 'O king, you must look upon Layli through the eyes of Majnun, till the inner beauty of her may be manifest.’” Beauty depends on the eyes that see it. At all events we know that Tahirih was beautiful according to the thought of her time.

Perhaps she opened her mirror-case one day – the eight-sided case with a lacquer nightingale singing on it to a lacquer rose - and looked inside, and thought how no record of her features had been made to send into the future. She probably knew that age would never scrawl over the face, to cancel the beauty of it, because she was one of those who die young. But perhaps, kneeling on the floor by the long window, her book laid aside, the mirror before her - she thought how her face would vanish, just as Layi's had, and Shirin's, and all the others. So that she slid open her pen-case, and took out the reed pen, and holding the paper in her palm, wrote the brief self-portrait that we have of her: "Small black mole at the edge of the lip - A black lock of hair by either cheek -" she wrote; and the wooden pen creaked as she drove it over the paper.

Apr 20, 2016

The signs in the heavens during the appearance of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh - by Hand of the Cause William Sears

It is said in Scripture and Tradition that at the time of the birth or announcement of every Messenger of God, a star or a sign appears in the heavens.

Nimrod was warned of the star that told of the coming of Abraham. The soothsayers warned Pharaoh of the star in the heavens that foretold the coming of Moses. The Magi informed Herod of the new star that guided them to the throne of the "spiritual king," Jesus. The same legend is told of Buddha, Zoroaster, Muhammad and Krishna.

What were the signs in the heavens during the appearance of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh? The holy Scriptures of all faiths had spoken of Twin-Revelations that would appear at the "time of the end." Now that the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh had appeared, fulfilling these prophecies, what were the signs in the heavens?  Signs, not for one, but for two Messengers of God, Who would appear almost simultaneously?

Some of us know the story of the great comet of 1843 which foreshadowed the coming of the Báb.

Sir James Jeans, late British astronomer and mathematician, stated in his book ‘Through Space and Time’, "oddly enough, many of the most conspicuous appearances of comets seem to have coincided with, or perhaps just anticipated, important events in history." [1]

One of the most unique stories of a comet is that told of the period during which the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh were engaging correspondence, and during which the Báb was preparing His followers for the appearance of Bahá'u'lláh. This story was told in the stars as well as on the earth.

Jan 16, 2016

The Greatest Holy Leaf’s unparalleled role in religious history and the significance of the Arc, the site of her resting place – by Baharieh Rouhani Ma’ani

The year 2013 marks the hundredth anniversary of ‘Abdu’l- Bahá’s return to the Holy Land from His historic trip to Egypt and the West. He left Haifa for Egypt in September 1910 and returned there three years later. The person “invested … with the responsibility” to attend “to the multitudinous details arising out of His protracted absence from the Holy Land” (‘BAHÍYYIH KHÁNUM’, A compilation from Bahá'í sacred texts and writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum's own letters, made by the Research department at the Bahá'í World Centre [henceforth “BK”] p. 39) was His honoured sister, Bahíyyih Khánum, [1] the Greatest Holy Leaf. In the words of Shoghi Effendi: “At the time of His [‘Abdu’l- Bahá’s] absence in the western world, she was His competent deputy, His representative and vicegerent, with none to equal her” (BK 28).

The centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s return to the Holy Land after His protracted absence coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. As we gather to celebrate these landmarks, we take time to ponder upon the life of a most remarkable woman in the history of religion, focus attention on the outstanding services she rendered and on the significance of the site Shoghi Effendi chose for her burial place. It was his choice of a specific spot on Mount Carmel that determined the location of the Arc, around which are built the institutions of the world administrative centre of the Faith, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice occupying its centre top.

The Greatest Holy Leaf

Born in Tihran to Bahá’u’lláh and Ásíyih Khánum in 1846, she was named Fatimih at birth. She was later called Bahíyyih. In a Tablet revealed in her honour, Bahá’u’lláh confirms that she appeared in His name. “Verily she is a leaf that hath sprung from this preexistent Root. She hath revealed herself in My name and tasted of the sweet savours of My holy, My wondrous pleasure” (BK p. v). The full text of Bahá’u’lláh’s original Arabic of the above is inscribed around the circular dome of the Greatest Holy Leaf’s monument on Mount Carmel (Ibid).

Nov 29, 2015

The Meaning of Resurrection – by Hand of the Cause William Sears

What is the meaning of the Resurrection of His Holiness Jesus the Christ? It is written that after three days He rose from the dead. How can this be explained to the logical mind?

Baha'u'llah has also unsealed the meaning of the "resurrection" of Christ and the meaning of "resurrection day". Baha'u'llah pointed out that there was a beautiful, eternal truth hidden in this inward symbol of the Resurrection, but that it had been gravely misunderstood. As a result, it became the cause of disputes between religions, as well as between religion and science. The doctrine of the Resurrection has also been the cause of preventing literal-minded people from accepting the new Messenger of God, Baha'u'llah, in this day.

By clinging to this belief in the bodily resurrection, the eyes of the people have become blinded to the truth. They have deprived themselves of the spiritual resurrection, the very basic purpose of their existence on earth. Such people are truly "dead" in the "graves" of error.

The Teachings of the Baha'i Faith say:

"The resurrections of the [Messengers of God] are not of the body ... Their parables, and Their instructions, have a spiritual and divine signification, and have no connection with material things." [1]

Sep 6, 2015

The God Who walks with men – by Hand of the Cause Horace Holley

From an older day we hear there was a time when God walked with men. That ancient belief is now a faded rose that has lost its glory, but it keeps a precious fragrance which still stirs the heart with wonder and with hope.

God walked with men! The idea seems to change the world from a great, implacable machine into a place of adoration and fulfilled love. It makes us ask, do we live in a universe of mechanical atoms, of strange, perfect stars and suns looking down without feeling or pity upon our griefs and lonely failures, or can we be actually living in the compassionate heart of God?

How could such an exalted idea ever become lost and forgotten? Was it merely a beautiful but empty dream? Or was it a sublime truth we have sold for the price to pay for personal and selfish desires?

This world, we know too well, without a God who walks with men, imprisons us in a vast loneliness where we have to live with our own discontent, our failure, lacking real purpose or aim. It is not enough to become at times part of some officially heralded movement pronounced necessary and noble if the nobility does not penetrate into our own hearts and redeem us from our unsatisfying selves. But the discontent lingers and the hope occasionally returns.

What has happened to human beings that they can be so skillful in doing great things but so helpless when they turn their wonderful powers to the greater task of ordering their own hearts?

May 17, 2015

The Baha'i Concept of God – a talk by Ali-Kuli Khan, 1956

The Baha'i concept of God is that of a Supreme Being - of course, the language of man is inadequate to describe this great reality that we call God. All that we can speak concerning God is of the Manifestations of God's attributes; but as to the inner nature of God, Rumi, the mystic poet of Persia, 800 years ago, said: "How can you, O Philosopher, dare fathom this fathomless ocean? This is a Path that none could travel by meditation or contemplation. Man can no more fathom the essence of that divine Reality than a slip of straw could sink to the depths of the sea."

This shows the impossibility for the mind of man to comprehend the Invisible Essence, as for a wisp of straw to reach the bottom of the sea. Well, then, how are we to recognize and to know God?

The answer is that man can know God only through the Manifestations of His Names end Attributes in this visible world. For example you find the skies and the seas and of the earth, and the passing of the seasons, - phenomena manifesting forth life's various phases. Life finally ends in what seems to be a state of death; and then again, when the first season of the New Year comes around, you see life anew emerging from what appeared to be extinction, manifesting itself anew as does nature pregnant with blossoms, beauty, and delicious fruits.

Apr 29, 2015

The ninth cycle of the Bahá’í calendar and its relationship to the teaching work – by ‘Ali Nakhjavani, former member of the Universal House of Justice

[‘Alí Nakhjavání, now a resident of France, served for 40 years as a member of the Universal House of Justice.]

The letter of the Universal House of Justice dated July 10, 2014, with its attachment about the Bahá’í calendar, was a great surprise to many of the friends in the Bahá’í world. To clarify several technical issues involved and to appreciate the timing and understand the implications of this message, this article is offered to the readership of this eminent journal.

In this epoch-making message that launches a unified Bahá’í calendar, the Universal House of Justice pointed out to us: “The adoption of a new calendar in each dispensation is a symbol of the power of Divine Revelation to reshape human perception of material, social, and spiritual reality. Through it, sacred moments are distinguished, humanity’s place in time and space reimagined, and the rhythm of life recast.” The same message drew attention to the fact that the launching of the new calendar will further “unite” the Bahá’í world.

Why is the Bahá’í calendar associated with a lunar calendar?

The friends in the West had always known, through books such as God Passes By and The Dawn-Breakers, that many Bahá’í historical dates were recorded and mentioned based on the lunar calendar of Islam. They had been also aware that a few Bahá’í anniversaries were being observed in some countries in the East in accordance with the lunar calendar, while the rest adhered to the dates of the solar calendar.

To provide for resolving this disparity, the Bahá’í texts stipulated that the Universal House of Justice had to determine the locality in the world that should be used as the Bahá’í meridian and the manner in which the Bahá’í calendar could be adjusted to enable the Birthdays of Bahá’u’lláh and of the Báb to occur on two consecutive days, as indicated in Bahá’í texts attributed to Bahá’u’lláh Himself.

Apr 26, 2015

Simultaneous Process of Expansion and Consolidation – an explanation by Hand of the Cause 'Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum

[In 1964 Hand of the Cause 'Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum spent several months in India and in the nearby countries of Ceylon, Nepal and Sikkim. While in India she participated extensively in the mass teaching program being carried on in the villages in all parts of that land. The following comments written on her return to the Holy Land give much food for thought among all the Baha'is of the world who wish to see their beloved Faith grow and expand among the multitudes not yet touched by the Word of Baha'u'llah.]

The entire Baha'i world is watching the progress being made in India. Her teaching activities and the remarkable rate of increase in the number of believers in that country during the last five years, are the envy and admiration of her sister communities. But I feel a word of advice is in order here. Often, the active workers inside a community, who are bearing the full weight of teaching, administering and supporting it, get the idea that they should slow down on 'expansion' and 'consolidate.' This is a dangerous idea - a very dangerous idea.

It was our beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, who first used these terms; we learned them from him; but he never separated the two things. To him expansion was constant teaching, according to the express command of Baha'u'llah, like an army that is marching to conquer, never losing an advantage, never ceasing to go on. Consolidation is what comes behind the army; the food supply, the education of the conquered people, the establishment of garrisons. It would be a sorry army indeed that sat down to enjoy the luxuries of inaction when it had the advantage! There are other armies on the march in these days, ominous, terrible, destructive armies, not only physical ones (perhaps the least dangerous of all) but ideological ones; materialism is on the march at a terrifying rate, godlessness is advancing with frightening swiftness, inadequate political ideologies, whether from the East or from the West, are seeking to conquer the minds of men.