Dec 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".

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.