February 10, 2019

Question: If all souls' thoughts were entirely given to holy thoughts of God, what would become of the world from a commercial standpoint? – Answer by Mirza ‘Abu’l-Fadl

circa 1902: Mirza Abu'l-Fadl (center)
with some early Western believers

Love, faith and being filled with the will of God are not contradictory to the temporal affairs that man has to attend to -- that is, we can be filled with the love of God and at the same time look after our worldly life and pursuits which are necessary to guarantee our social welfare and prosperity, etc. -- though in the beginning it is difficult for us to realize this state in ourselves, yet this can become feasible and practical, if we obey the laws and ordinances of God.

For instance, consider David: While he was attentive and watchful over his temporal affairs and worldly dominion to such an extent that he looked after each one of his soldiers, computed their number, arranged their sustenance and means of living, and while he was so alert in arranging administrative affairs that he was not at all heedless of the neighboring kings and their thoughts -- even through outward means -- even in such wise that through warfare and battles he strengthened that weak kingdom of the Israelites and glorified his people before the eyes of the great kings of Egypt and Assyria -- nevertheless, could it be thought that he was meanwhile separated from the love of God? Or could it be said he was so carried away by temporal occupations and cares as to make him heedless of the commemoration of God? And could we and you, as some people, bring ourselves to believe that David did sin?

January 15, 2019

Baha’i Scientific Proofs of Life after Death – a talk by Martha Root, 1927

An address given at the second Baha'i session of the Nineteenth Universal Congress of Esperanto, August first, 1927, in Danzig, Europe

"O Son of the Supreme! Death have I ordained even as glad-tidings for thee; wherefore dost thou sorrow? Light have I made to illumine thee, why veil thyself from it?" (From the "Hidden Words" of Baha'u'llah)

There is not a question of this twentieth century which interests people more, perhaps, than the scientific proofs of life after death. It is a great privilege, therefore, to present some of the scientific proofs of immortality from the Baha'i teachings.

Baha’u’llah teaches that the physical body, just as science tells us, is composed of atoms which through attraction cohere, and thus the body is formed. But later these atoms disintegrate and we have what is called destruction or death; but that the spirit within the body is entirely different. It is not composed of atoms which cohere and disintegrate; the spirit is composed of one element, one substance, therefore it can never disintegrate.

The spirit is an effulgence which shines upon the body as the sun shines upon the mirror. One can never point to any part of his body and say, "The spirit is located here." The spirit, in its very essence is immortal, and when the spirit within us is once awakened - and this constitutes what is called in the Bible "being born again" - we become immortal here and now; and when we pass on, this awakened spirit goes with full consciousness into the higher kingdom. It puts off the body as one would a garment, and it will function more powerfully without the limitations of the body. 'Abdu'l-Baha teaches that when the spirit enters the kingdom of light it puts on a spiritual body - a celestial body which will never change, and the spirit continues its progression in the higher realms.

'Abdu'l-Baha also teaches that there are many worlds of God. Everything in the physical world has its counterpart in the spiritual world, For example, the scientists say that there are three hundred million worlds quite as large as this little earth. If there are three hundred million physical worlds then there are also many spiritual worlds, even as Christ indicated when he taught, "In my Father's house are many mansions."

December 19, 2018

August 2000: The Millennium World Peace Summit: A Baha'i Perspective, presented by Dr. Albert Lincoln, Secretary-General of the Baha'i­ International Community.

New York - 29 August 2000

Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen.

Over a century ago, a venerable religious figure confined in a remote outpost of the Ottoman Empire articulated a vision that may inspire our deliberations at this historic gathering. Addressing one of his followers, Bahá'u'lláh penned these words:

“Our hope is that the world's religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth”. [1]

Our world is undergoing rapid and far-reaching changes, drawing humanity ever closer together, into what some have called a global village. Cultures and peoples that, for most of history, have lived in isolation from one another are now interacting face-to-face, on a daily basis. Sadly, however, social progress and the growth of wisdom and understanding have not kept pace with material advances, so that our global village is not a happy or a peaceful place. Indeed the time has come for its elders to take counsel together and think of the future.

Our Children are the Future
Looking beyond immediate crises and conflicts, one of the greatest dangers facing mankind comes from a generation of children growing up in a moral vacuum. Our hearts go out to the child-soldiers of Africa, the child-prostitutes of Asia and the desperate scavengers of the world's countless slums and refugee camps, victims of a poverty which is both spiritual and material. But we must not forget the millions of young people growing up in societies whose traditional value systems lie in ruins, or those deprived of spiritual training by generations of dogmatically materialistic education. And lest we oversimplify the causes or the remedies, let us also call to mind the young products of permissive liberalism in the West, some of whom are as well-armed and violence-prone as their age-mates in less prosperous lands.

November 12, 2018

An Italian scientist extols the Báb: – one of the very first documentations made by a European of the episode of the Báb – by Ugo R. Giachery

Among the apostles of modern science and liberty of thought, a prominent place belongs to Michele Lessona, an Italian, whose sincere and courageous words inspired and helped mold the character of at least two generations of Italians.

A scientist, a writer, a philosopher, an explorer and an educator, Professor Lessona stands out - with a stature that towers above that of many a well-known scientist - as one of the foremost thinkers of the nineteenth century.

He was born September 20, 1823, in Venaria Reale, a suburb of Turin. His father, Dr. Carlo Lessona, was at the time the director of the well-known veterinary school of Venaria, and this fact might explain the boy's early interest in scientific study. In 1846 Michele Lessona obtained a degree of medicine and surgery from the Royal University of Turin. Immediately after graduation he went to Egypt and, although rather young, was appointed Chief of the Khan Kah Hospital in Cairo.

In 1849 he returned to Italy and became an instructor in Natural History, first in Asti and then in Turin. In 1854, at the age of 31, he was appointed Professor of Mineralogy and Zoology at the Royal University of Genoa. In 1864, after his return from Persia, he taught first at the University of Bologna and then at the University of Turin. Here he occupied in 1865 the Chairs of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, becoming in 1877 the Rector of that University.

Professor Michele Lessona
During his life Michele Lessona produced a variety of scientific and literary works. Among his classical publications are to be remembered an illustrated treatise on natural history, in several volumes; his masterpiece on ethics, Power and Will; Confessions of a Rector; Memoirs of an Old Professor; and the translation into Italian of the best known works of Darwin, Samuel Smiles, John Lubbock, and many others.

In 1892 King Humbert of Italy made him a Senator for life, a well-deserved recompense for his patriotism, leadership and learning. He passed away, amidst universal sorrow, on July 20, 1894, in his beloved Turin.

October 9, 2018

Brief History of Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in America - by Corinne True

“O people of the world! Build ye houses of worship throughout the lands in the name of Him Who is the Lord of all religions. Make them as perfect as is possible in the world of being, and adorn them with that which befitteth them, not with images and effigies. Then, with radiance and joy, celebrate therein the praise of your Lord, the Most Compassionate. Verily, by His remembrance the eye is cheered and the heart is filled with light.” (Baha'u'llah, ‘The Kitab-i-Aqdas’)

Having heard enthusiastic reports of the building of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in Ishkabad, Russia, the members of the spiritual committee of the Chicago Assembly were inspired to supplicate to the Center of the Covenant, ‘Abdu'l-Baha, to grant permission for the second Mashriqu’l-Adhkar to be built in America.

On Jane 7, 1903, a Tablet was revealed in Acca by ‘Abdu’l-Baha saying "Now the day has arrived in which the edifice of God, the divine sanctuary, the spiritual temple, shall be erected in America."

The following words from the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Baha clearly indicate the erection of a material building: "The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, though outwardly a material foundation, is possessed of spiritual effect and causes the union of hearts and the gathering of souls... Praise be to God! The erection of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar has a great effect in all grades (or states). It was tested in the east and so evidently and plainly was it proved good (that) even when in a village a house was called the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, it possessed a different effect. How much more its building and organization."

Furthermore, He says, “The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is the most important matter and the greatest divine institute. Consider how the first institute of His holiness Moses, after His exodus from Egypt was the 'Tent of Martyrdom' which He raised and which was the travelling temple. It was a tent which they pitched in the desert wherever they abode, and worshipped in it. Likewise, after His holiness Christ - may the spirit of the world be a sacrifice to Him - the first institute by the disciples was a Temple. They planned a church in every country. Consider the Gospel (i.e. read it) and the importance of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar will become evident. I hope that all the beloved of God, collectively, on the continent of America, men and women, will strive night and day until the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is erected in the utmost solidity and beauty."

August 5, 2018

A Brief History of the American Development of the Baha’i Movement – by Thornton Chase

Thornton Chase
In the month of June, 1894, a gentleman in Chicago desired to study Sanskrit, in order to further pursue his search into ancient religious teachings. While seeking an instructor he met a Syrian who had come to Chicago from Egypt a short time before, and who told him of the Baha’i Movement.

As the statements of the life and teachings of Baha’u’llah, and his son, Abbas Effendi, the "Greatest Branch," otherwise known as ‘Abdu'l-Baha, accorded with the declarations of numerous sacred prophecies, and with the age long expectations of mankind, it was deemed of value to investigate those claims as far as possible.

Other seekers for truth became attracted to the study of these matters, with the result that five accepted the teachings as true during the year 1894. In 1895 a number of earnest students became interested, classes were formed, and several became "believers," and in 1896, the followers of the Baha’i Cause in Chicago were numbered by hundreds.

A class of Truth Seekers was begun in Kenosha, Wis. another in Milwaukee, and individuals from New York, Cincinnati, Washington and other points, came in touch with the Movement in Chicago, and carried information of it to their friends at home, so that in 1898 many students in eastern cities were eagerly seeking knowledge of God through this channel.

On Nov. 4th, 1900, there arrived in New York, Mirza Assad’u’llah a Persian teacher of authority from Acca, in Palestine, and Haji Hassan Khorassani, a prominent merchant of Cairo, Egypt; with Mirza Hossain Rouhy, and Mirza Buzork, as interpreters. They remained in New York, meeting and teaching large numbers of people, until Nov. 26th, when they visited Johnstown, New York, for two days, and reached Chicago at 4 p. in. Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 29th, where they made their headquarters for a year and a half.

July 7, 2018

Excerpts from a letter by the Greatest Holy Leaf to the American Baha’is in 1924

Let us then, affectionate brothers and sisters, ponder for a while upon the underlying reason that had made God’s divine Messengers prefer a life of torture to one of ease, and those blessed martyrs, so many of them cut off in the springtime and promise of their youth, choose death with faces radiant with joy. What did the Bab sacrifice His promising youth for except out of a burning desire to have mankind live in unity and peace; and what was the spirit that animated those bold and heroic martyrs but love and adoration to a Cause they wished to triumph? What made Baha’u’llah, born and brought up in opulence, fling away all earthly possessions and choose upon Himself unspeakable hardships and deprivation, save for an earnest appeal to the world at large to turn their hatred for one another into genuine love and to make a world seething with blood a peaceful home for God’s children; and why did ‘Abdu’l-Baha who could have chosen a life of ease and comfort, prefer to lead a crusade against the strongholds of human hearts and make a direct appeal to individuals as well as groups that unless we love one another with all our might and with all our heart we are absolutely doomed. He carried a crusade not with a sword of steel but with a sword of love and affection. And if we dare call ourselves Baha’is it simply means that we have to follow in their wake. It means that we must always have the public weal in mind and not give up ourselves wholly to our inclinations and desires, and it means that we must picture before us the perseverance and self-sacrifice of those early volunteers and make a whole-hearted effort to be like unto one of them; and it shall be only in this way that we can safeguard this great Cause of God.

This in brief, is what our beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, is patiently and eagerly expecting from every single one of us. This, he says, should mark us from all other men and this should differentiate us from those to whom religion is something to believe in and not to inspire to action. ...

April 18, 2018

Centenary of the Tablets of Divine Plan - a talk by Paul Lample, Member of the Universal House of Justice, Bahá’í House of Worship, Chicago, May 20, 2016

[Please note: some headings were added to the transcript to further encourage readership]

Friends, it's such a pleasure to be here with you this evening, and especially at such an auspicious time.

You know from the two wonderful letters that the Universal House of Justice sent out on the 26th of March that this is the occasion of the centenary of the Tablets of the Divine Plan. In those letters, there's a testimony to the tremendous sacrifices and efforts that Bahá’ís have made―both the heroes of the Faith, but also the rank and file―over a century to try to translate whatever ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said in the Tablets of the Divine Plan into reality and action. Of course, those letters also capture the unique role that your community [the Bahá’í community of the United States] and its spiritual forebears have played in this process both directly and in the way that it contributed to raising up [Bahá’í] communities in so many parts of the world.

This centenary is an occasion, I think, to pause and reflect a little bit about who we are and what we're doing, so I wanted to share some thoughts along those lines with you.

Condition of the world around us
As we look around the world and review the news, on almost a daily basis we see a cacophony of problems that hit us in the face every day―these problems and habits of humanity that reflect a breakdown of the world around us, of the fabric of the society. I don't know about you, but I have to confess to my own shortcoming here: Whenever I get up in the morning and start looking at the news, my blood starts to boil! I can’t imagine how people can do this, how this guy can say this, and so on. Then I have to pause and calm myself down and remind myself, “Well, Paul, the old world order is winning all of its goals!” It's disintegrating at quite a rapid pace, so I should take heart and not be so upset.

When we look around us, we see, for example, the effects of corruption ― especially political corruption; of moral laxity and an ingrained prejudice. We see all of these things especially in the United States. These are the things you [find] in the conversations that are really at the heart of this disintegrative process. These were the evil tendencies that Shoghi Effendi identified in The Advent of Divine Justice. He might as well have been reading the headlines today. Now everywhere we look we see these [evils] in various manifestations, these elements [that] are eating away at the fabric of our society. This behavior is a reflection of the way human beings think. “The reality of man is his thought,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said. The world we see around us reflects the thought and actions of the peoples of the world. You think this way, and then you behave this way, and this is the world you get. If you don't like this world, if there's a problem with it, then you have to learn how to think in a different way and act in a different way.

January 17, 2018

The Life and Service of the Greatest Holy Leaf - by Dr. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani

(Adapted from the address of Dr. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani to the Baha’i International Conference, Montreal, Quebec, 3 September 1982)

Across the world, from East to West, thousands of Baha’is have turned their hearts this year towards one single woman called the ‘Maid of Baha’. In conferences they have stood before multitudes to speak of the ‘Scion of Baha’, the ‘Remnant of Baha’. In solitude they have all found themselves speechless to describe adequately this ‘archetype of the people of Baha’. ‘Abdu’l-Baha Himself refers to her in a way that recalls all that cannot be said: ‘I dare make no mention’, He wrote, ‘of the feelings which separation from her have aroused in my heart. ...’ ‘I do not know’, He continues, ‘in what words I could describe my longing for my honoured sister.’

Shoghi Effendi, writing about his great-aunt after her passing in July 1932 also acknowledged that words could not adequately convey all that she was: ‘Not even a droplet of all thine endless love can I aspire to fathom, nor can I adequately praise and tell of even the most trifling out of all the events of thy precious life.’

How can we hope to encompass anything of her nature, therefore, when those who give us the words remind us that they will not suffice? How can we contain her when all our lives put together cannot comprehend the least trifling of the events she witnessed, the suffering she endured? It must be with feelings of awe that we approach this subject and with a sense of wonder that we ask: who was this ‘Maid’, this ‘Scion’, this ‘Remnant of Baha’ who must remain for all of time our ‘archetype’.

December 6, 2017

Remembering Shoghi Effendi as Interpreter – a talk by Glenford Mitchell

[Transcript of a talk on July 27, 1997, at the Foundation Hall of the House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois]

1997 marks the centenary of the Birth of Shoghi Effendi. There are no celebrations of the occasion official or otherwise, because Shoghi Effendi did not wish his birthday to be celebrated. He made this clear in writing “to commemorate any event associated with his life would be tantamount to a departure from those established truths that are enshrined within our beloved Faith” [Shoghi Effendi, ‘Dispensation of Baha’u’llah’]. However there is nothing to stop us from remembering him, indeed how can we forget so unique and indispensable a figure of the Faith of Baha’u’llah. Since I have been offered an opportunity a very welcome one I should say, and a pleasant opportunity of being with you today, I invite you to join me in remembering Shoghi Effendi as interpreter.

It is only fair, I think, to tell you that the talk I am about to give will be lengthy. It comprises of three parts. The first part is the Word as Genesis, second interpreting the Word and third the literature of interpretation. Now, perhaps you have heard that phrasing before because I have been involved in some form of resurrection... and… not as spectacular as that involved Lazurus but it was some form of resurrection because some years ago I wrote an article by this title which was published in the World Order magazine so since I assume most of you have not heard about this article I take a chance and bring a large of it chunk to your attention. So then let’s begin.

Part 1

The Word as Genesis

"The Word is the beginning and the end of all things." You know the Word, capital W:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God". So begins the gospel according to St. John. "Thou didst wish to make thyself known unto men, therefore thou didst through a Word of Thy mouth bring creation into being and fashion the universe". So goes one of the statements in one of the well-known prayers of Baha’u’llah.

Creation is sustained and advances by the power of the Word. The manifestation comes in a human form and although we have in Him a physical presence, a tangible sign of God’s love, yet this is temporary. When He leaves what we have is the Word because His most important act is to deliver the Word. Baha’u’llah describes it, that is the Word, in a prayer as "Thy most sublime Word, through whose potency Thou didst call creation into being and didst reveal Thy Cause".

November 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. 

October 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.

September 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.'' 

August 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.

July 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.

June 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.

March 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.

October 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.

September 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.

August 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.

June 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.

April 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.

January 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).

November 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]