February 10, 2021

The Old Churches and the New World-Faith – by George Townshend, M. A. (Oxon) (Sometime Canon of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, and Archdeacon of Clonfert)

Having identified myself with the Faith of Baha'u'llah and sacrificed my position as a canon and a dignitary of the Church of Ireland that I might do so, I now make this statement on the relation of this Faith to Christianity and to the Churches of Christ.

It is submitted to all Christian people in general but more especially to the bishops and clergy and members of my own communion, with the humble but earnest and urgent request that they will give it their attention as a matter of vital concern to the Church. Only through an impartial investigation of the Cause of Baha'u'llah will they find, I fully believe, a means of reviving the fortunes of the Church, of restoring the purity and the power of the Gospel and of helping to build a better and more truly Christian world.

Baha'u'llah (Whose approaching advent had been announced in Persia nineteen years before by His prophetic Herald, the Báb, Himself a world-famous figure) made His public declaration as a Messenger of God in Baghdad in the year 1863. He affirmed that His appearance fulfilled the promised Return of Christ in the glory of the Father. He brought a Teaching which though ampler and fitted to a more advanced Age was in spirit and purpose the same as that of Christ. He revealed those "other things" which Jesus told His disciples He had to give them but which they could "not bear" at that time. His mission was to bring the work of Christ to its completion and realization, to reconstruct the social order of the world and build the long-promised Kingdom of God in very fact.

He addressed individual letters or specific messages to the monarchs of the West and to the members of the various ecclesiastical orders of the Christian Churches, and directed numerous and repeated exhortations and warnings to the entire Christian world. These without exception were ignored by Christendom when they were made, and they have now been set aside and disregarded for some eighty years. During that period the long established influence of Christ in Christendom has suffered a decline so unprecedented, so precipitous that the Bishops gathering for the Lambeth Conference were greeted in the London press with the challenge that "Christianity is fighting for its life"; while the Baha'i Faith proclaimed at that time by one lone Prophet shut in a Turkish prison has spread through the whole globe, has led the constructive thought of our time, has created a spiritual world-community joining the East and the West, and is fast making good its right to a place in the age-long succession of world-faiths.

December 10, 2020

A Sampler from Mahmud’s Diary – by Marzieh Gail

We tend to forget what a star 'Abdu'l-Baha was in the worldly sense, what a dazzling personality. We would be much mistaken if we thought of Him as an ivory-tower philosopher, a desert saint or One who spent His days only among the poor-although He loved them so much. The truth is that He Who was the perfect model for all Baha'is was splendid, sophisticated, in the good sense a man of the world; that He was equally at home in a palace or a hovel, with a beggar, scholar, or prince. He excluded no class from what Queen Marie of Rumania has referred to as the "wide embrace" - the Baha'i Faith - and none excluded Him. He would enter a city unknown, and His reception room would soon be overflowing. Weak and strong, known and unknown, they sought Him out, even Persian grandees who had persecuted His followers at home. Poets addressed odes to Him, artists painted Him, photographers took His picture. A number of word pictures exist, Browne's for example of 1890:

"Seldom have I seen one whose appearance impressed me more. A tall, strongly-built man holding himself straight as an arrow, with white turban and raiment, long black locks reaching almost to the shoulder, broad powerful forehead, indicating a strong intellect combined with an unswerving will, eyes keen as a hawk's, and strongly marked but pleasing features - such was my first impression of 'Abbas Effendi... Subsequent conversation with him served only to heighten the respect with which his appearance had from the first inspired me. One more eloquent of speech, more ready of argument, more apt of illustration, more intimately acquainted with the sacred books of the Jews, the Christians, and the Muhammadans, could, I should think, scarcely be found even amongst the eloquent, ready, and subtle race to which he belongs. These qualities, combined with a bearing at once majestic and genial, made me cease to wonder at the influence and esteem which he enjoyed even beyond the circle of his father's followers. About the greatness of this man and his power no one who had seen him could entertain a doubt."

And Lady Blomfield says of Him as He was in 1912: "He wore a low-crowned taj, round which was folded a small, fine-linen turban of purest white; His hair and short beard were of that snowy whiteness which had once been black; His eyes were large, blue-gray with long, black lashes and well-marked eyebrows; His face was a beautiful oval with warm, ivory-coloured skin, a straight, finely-modelled nose, and firm, kind mouth ... His figure was of such perfect symmetry, and so full of dignity and grace, that the first impression was that of considerable height... inner glory shone in every glance, and word, and movement as He came with hands outstretched."

November 18, 2020

The Writings of the Guardian: – “precise and luminous” - by Rúhíyyih Khanum

In an age when people play football with words, kicking them right and left indiscriminately with no respect for either their meaning or correct usage, the style of Shoghi Effendi stands out in dazzling beauty. His joy in words was one of his strongest personal characteristics, whether he wrote in English—the language he had given his heart to—or in the mixture of Persian and Arabic he used in his general letters to the East. Although he was so simple in his personal tastes he had an innate love of richness which is manifest in the way he arranged and decorated various Bahá’í Holy Places, in the style of the Shrine of the Báb, in his preferences in architecture, and in his choice and combination of words. Of him it could be said, in the words of another great writer, Macaulay, that “he wrote in language ... precise and luminous.” Unlike so many people Shoghi Effendi wrote what he meant and meant exactly what he wrote. It is impossible to eliminate any word from one of his sentences without sacrificing part of the meaning, so concise, so pithy is his style....

The language in which Shoghi Effendi wrote, whether for the Bahá’ís of the West or of the East, has set a standard which should effectively prevent them from descending to the level of illiterate literates which often so sadly characterizes the present generation as far as the use and appreciation of words are concerned. He never compromised with the ignorance of his readers but expected them, in their thirst for knowledge, to overcome their ignorance. Shoghi Effendi chose, to the best of his great ability, the right vehicle for his thought and it made no difference to him whether the average person was going to know the word he used or not. After all, what one does not know one can find out. Although he had such a brilliant command of language he frequently reinforced his knowledge by certainty through looking up the word he planned to use in Webster’s big dictionary. Often one of my functions was to hand it to him and it was a weighty tome indeed! Not infrequently his choice would be the third or fourth usage of the word, sometimes bordering on the archaic, but it was the exact word that conveyed his meaning and so he used it. I remember my mother once saying that to become a Bahá’í was like entering a university, only one never finished learning, never graduated. In his translations of the Bahá’í writings, and above all in his own compositions, Shoghi Effendi set a standard that educates and raises the cultural level of the reader at the same time that it feeds his mind and soul with thoughts and truth....

The supreme importance of Shoghi Effendi’s English translations and communications can never be sufficiently stressed because of his function as sole and authoritative interpreter of the Sacred Writings, appointed as such by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will. There are many instances when, owing to the looseness of construction in Persian sentences, there could be an ambiguity in the mind of the reader regarding the meaning. Careful and correct English, not lending itself to ambiguity in the first place, became, when coupled with Shoghi Effendi’s brilliant mind and his power as interpreter of the Holy Word, what we might well call the crystallizing vehicle of the teachings. Often by referring to Shoghi Effendi’s translation into English the original meaning of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, or ‘Abdu’l-Bahá becomes clear and is thus safeguarded against misinterpretation in the future. He was meticulous in translating and made absolutely sure that the words he was using in English conveyed and did not depart from the original thought or the original words. One would have to have a mastery of Persian and Arabic to correctly understand what he did....

The Guardian was exceedingly cautious in everything that concerned the original Word and would never explain or comment on a text submitted to him in English (when it was not his own translation) until he had verified it with the original.

(‘The Priceless Pearl’)

October 18, 2020

The Missionary as Historian: William Miller and the Baha’i Faith – by Douglas Martin

A review of William McElwee Miller’s THE BAHA’I FAITH: ITS HISTORY AND TEACHINGS (S. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1974), 358 pages, appendices, index. 

“We are dealing ... not with what we would like to believe, but with historical facts established beyond a doubt which we cannot but accept.” — William Miller 

William McElwee Miller is a man with an obsession. Although by profession a Presbyterian clergyman, and for forty years employed in that Church’s missions in Persia, Rev. Miller has focused a great part of his energies as a writer and as a public lecturer on the subject of the Bahá’í Faith. The two books he has written are both on that topic (1), as are a third work on which he collaborated with the Reverend E. E. Elder, (2) and a number of articles published in the religious press. His most recent book, ‘The Baha’i Faith: Its History and Teachings’ may be fairly regarded as the final flowering of this lifetime preoccupation. 

To say this should not suggest that Rev. Miller regards his subject with any affection. He briefly acknowledges that the Baha’i Faith has become a worldwide religious force to be taken seriously. In speaking of The Bahá’í World, the fourteen-volume summary of the Faith’s activities since 1925, he says: “Whoever peruses [these volumes] ... will be impressed by the fact that the Bahá’í Faith is indeed a world Faith.” He groups it in this respect with Christianity and Islam, whose “field is the world.” (3) Such a judgment is in itself no small admission. In his initial assessment, written in 1931, Rev. Miller dismissed the Bahá’í Faith as “a dying movement,” a minor “sect” which was on the point of disappearing entirely from the world scene: “It is only a matter of time until this strange movement ... shall be known only to students of history.” (4) His latest book would, therefore, have benefited greatly from even a brief explanation of so startling a change of mind. 

What has not changed is Rev. Miller’s very negative view of the youngest addition to the world’s religions. Essentially, the Bahá’í Faith which he pictures for his readers is a product of a century-long conspiracy conceived by persons of the basest character and motive. Its present-day followers (whose own spiritual life Rev. Miller assesses as in no way distinguished) are entirely deceived as to their Faith’s real nature. Its laws and teachings are either superficial, harmful, or irrelevant to mankind’s needs. Its administrative order is “a dictatorship.” 

September 13, 2020

Baha’u’llah as Protector – by Mabel Hyde Paine

In whatever way we view Baha'u'llah, awe and wonder and an inability to comprehend must loom large in our attitude. An early pilgrim wrote of 'Abdu'l-Baha, "As we gazed on Him I realized that we could in no way comprehend Him; we could only love Him, follow Him, obey Him and thereby draw nearer to His beauty. I understand that we could not fathom the mystery of His being, we could only hope to be engulfed therein." [1] How much more, even, is this true of Baha'u'llah.

Yet, as Baha'is, we are not shut out as by a veil from Him. We recognize in Him the living Word of God, that same Word of which St. John wrote: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men.  ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father."[ 2] As Baha'is we have the enlarged conception of "the Only Begotten of the Father", that it applies to all the great Messengers or Manifestations of God. As Baha'is, adoring Baha'u'llah, we adore Jesus the Christ, Muhammad, all those great Ones who come to this earth, but Who at the same time always abide in the heaven of the creative power of God.

God has willed that these great Ones, Who were with Him from eternity and to eternity will abide with Him, should come to earth and take up the human life and live it perfectly. They are the channels through which the power of God may come to us. They are our help in troubles and in peril, our sanctuary of protection. As Isaiah put it, "A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." [3]

Among the ways by which we may come to an abiding sense of the reality of this protective power of the Manifestations is study of Their Words, which are deeply creative. Another way is a deep acquaintance with the lives They led while on earth.

August 10, 2020

Baha’u’llah’s Epistle to the Son of the Wolf – Notes by Marzieh Gail

This is the last major outstanding Tablet of Baha’u’llah. The last He wrote before He left us; before that happened of which the Báb has written, "all sorrow is the shadow of that sorrow."  This is the last of the hundred books He revealed for us.

It was written to a priest in Isfahan, a priest called the "Son of the Wolf". His father had spoken the words that sent the "twin shining lights," the King of Martyrs and the Beloved of Martyrs to their death. They were laid in two sandy graves near Isfahan. (Years afterward, an American woman named Keith Ransom Kehler knelt there and wept and brought them flowers; then in a few days she was stricken and died, and the friends carried her back to these same graves and buried her beside them).

This priest, Aqa Najafi, had committed the unforgivable sin: he had violated the Covenant and blasphemed against the Holy Spirit; that is, he had hated, not the lamp, not the Prophet of God as an individual -- from ignorance, or because he did not recognize Him -- but the light itself, the perfections of God which the Prophet reflects; he had hated the light in the lamp -- and "this detestation of the light has no remedy...”

This priest was, then, the most hopeless of sinners. His evil found expression in many ways, and among them was this, that with his pupils, he kicked at and trampled the martyred body of Mirza Ashraf, in Isfahan (not the Ashraf of whom we read in Gleanings; Siyyid Ashraf, whose head was cut off in Zanjan).

And yet, Baha'u'llah begins this Tablet with a prayer of repentance for Aqa Najafi to recite. He offers this breaker of the Covenant forgiveness; just as, in His Most Holy Book, He offers forgiveness to Mirza Yahya, the treacherous half-brother who tried to destroy him. This offering is a demonstration of "Badá" -- of the principle of the free operation of the Will of God, Who doeth whatsoever He willeth and shall not he asked of His doings.

July 12, 2020

The Divine Servant – The Life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – Part 1: 1844-1908 – by Jinab-i-Fadil

Jinab-i-Fadil
The life of 'Abdu'l-Baha is very significant among the lives of the past heavenly educators. If we study the history of the former manifestations of God, we realize that the first portion of their lives has been free from anxiety and persecution, while the life of 'Abdu'l-Baha from the day of His birth has been one of vicissitude, trial and painful ordeals.  

Moreover, the enemies and foes of ‘Abdu'l-Baha, never ceased to plan and scheme to persecute and bring about his exile and banishment, and to annihilate His Revelation. And these people had more general power than the enemies of the former prophets.  

One of the Divine Allegorical incidents was that 'Abdu'l-Baha was born in Teheran the same night upon which the Báb proclaimed His Mission in Shiraz - that is, May 23rd, 1844. Baha'u'llah gave the name of His father to ‘Abdu'l-Baha. This name was Abbas but He always called Him Master – “Aqa” - even when He was a little child.  

The first few years of the life of 'Abdu'l-Baha were spent amid the most tragic and dramatic events of the life of Baha'u'llah. He was the center of the movement, every tragic event revolved around Him and His home was the rendezvous of all the Baha'is. All the news and all that transpired in the Cause was brought to Him. His home was well known as the headquarters of the Movement and often groups of rowdies would throw stones and try to hurt the inmates. When ‘Abdu'l-Baha was a little child groups of urchins would surround Him and try to stone Him. Even at the early age of eight or nine years 'Abdu'l-Baha had already witnessed the plotting of the enemies and had seen the friends martyred and guillotined. Up to this age He had seen many headstones of heroes and heroines who had gone to their death with radiant acquiescence.  

Most of the time Baha’u’llah was absent from home traveling in the interest of the Cause, and visiting the friends in prison. His property was confiscated and both day and night His household was in danger, so there was no opportunity for 'Abdu'l-Baha to go to school and learn the things which other children have to learn.

May 19, 2020

Psychology from the Spiritual Standpoint – by Ella Goodall Cooper

Ella Goodall Cooper
We, as Baha'is, approach the study of psychology as we do every other science which is helpful to humanity, since one of our cardinal principles is that in this day science and religion must work hand in hand in order to bring to pass that spiritual civilization which is the goal of all true education. "Study the sciences," says' ‘Abdu’l-Baha, "acquire more and more knowledge. Assuredly one may learn to the end of one's life. Use your knowledge always for the benefit of others."

"Know thyself," enjoined Socrates, without, however, revealing any method of going about it. Nevertheless, the precept still holds good, and extends to knowing one's neighbor, since "the proper study of mankind is man." To the Baha'is this popular interest, far from being improper, is encouraging, for it is a token of people's interest in one another, which interest we believe will grow and grow till all come to recognize the truth of Baha'u'llah's saying, "This handful of dust, the earth, is one home."

In sharp contrast to the popular superficial and often selfish applications of psychology, are the earnest endeavors, profound and beneficent, of the conscientious psychiatrists and physicians, patiently working to unravel the intricate threads of maladjusted lives, using the valuable technique contributed by the psycho-analysts, to bring education to the normal, and relief to the abnormal, members of society.

To these men, Janet, Freud Jung, Adler and others, society owes a debt, which is ever growing, as the efforts, particularly those of Dr. Adler and his colleagues in Vienna, are being extended to cooperate not only with medical men but also with the educator and social welfare worker, and we ardently hope the circle may soon widen to include the enlightened and scientifically-minded religionist, as well. The efforts of this group are directed toward prevention of abnormal conditions through education, rather than merely the relief of the tragic situation after it has been allowed to arise. Is not this the object of spiritual education also?

March 17, 2020

Happiness – Material and Spiritual – by Shahnaz (Louise Spencer) Waite

Thomas Edison, when celebrating his eighty-second birthday, was asked to give his formula for a happy life. He replied -"I am not acquainted with anyone who is happy." He could not give a recipe for happiness, he who had given to mankind so much that had brought comfort and enlightenment the world over, because, as he stated he knew no one who was happy. His statement was unqualified, he made no exceptions.

On the other hand, there are countless cults whose leaders make a specialty of "formulas for happiness." They promise perfect "health, wealth, love, and happiness" to all who will pay the price for the formula with instructions as to how to apply it; but it does not seem to work out well or more of their followers would demonstrate the promised results.

The extreme scarcity of happiness goes to show that there is something else to be sought for upon which happiness depends, or else that one is searching in the wrong direction.

There are as many human opinions as to how happiness may be obtained as there are various conceptions as to what constitutes that blissful state. That which ranks first among these may be classified under sense-gratification. By the pleasure seeker it is confused with the sought-for prize. Yet we know that sense-gratification is not happiness neither is asceticism practiced to win this sacred gift.

It has been said that "happiness ever flees the ardent seeker," that it "comes unbidden when it comes at all." Conditions must be right, for it enters the human heart. It cannot dwell with discord or inharmony. It is never found where evil impulses, greed and selfishness dwell.

Neither does marked culture, education, talents or fame encage it. Palatial environments, wealth and social position seem more often to frighten it away; and sordid conditions offer no inducement for its abiding place. Material grandeur, pomp and glory hold nothing that attracts its divine nature.

January 14, 2020

1979: The tragic death of the Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga and his family – by NSA of Canada

The Universal House of justice has shared with us a copy of a letter dated January 11, 1980, from the Hands of the Cause of God residing in the Holy Land to the Hands of the Cause of God throughout the world. We hope this will allay any concerns the friends may have had over the circumstances surrounding the death of our beloved Hand of the Cause, Enoch Olinga.

"In all of these sad events it is some consolation to know that apparently the murder of Mr. Olinga was in no way directly connected with either religion or politics; in other words no one associated Enoch with any political factions and this attack on him was not in the nature of an attack on the Faith itself. Enoch may have been killed just because he was an affluent businessman and well known because of this and as a 'leader' of the Baha’is.

“For some years past in Uganda the elimination of prominent people has been a fixed policy of certain factions and nearly all those who fell into this category fled the country. Mr. Vuyiya, who arrived in Kampala from Nairobi three days after the event, writes ' ... staying in the middle of the town, I had the full effect of the state of near anarchy in Kampala at night. There were shots every night.' He points out that in the nightly curfew no one could tell who was roaming about the streets and that every night brought with it ‘... the news of the murder of yet another family.'

“As nothing worth mentioning, including a large sum of money which was available in Mr. Olinga's desk, seems to have been stolen from the home, some people consider that it was one of the acts being regularly committed by some obscure faction, to create the impression that lawlessness was rampant and thus discredit the efforts of the new Government to maintain law and order. In similar killings these 'thugs' have stated they are not thieves but have come 'only for lives.'

October 23, 2019

July 1950: Pilgrimage to the Scenes of the Báb’s Captivity and Martyrdom – by Hand of the Cause Dhikru’llah Khadem, translated by Marzieh Gail

A hundred years have now gone by since the meek and holy Báb, the Gate of God, was put to death at noon on July 9, 1850, and even to the present day the world and its peoples ("except for those into whose eyes God hath shed the radiance of His Face") are fast in a deathlike sleep, unconscious of a mighty Faith, a transcendent Dispensation, which made prophets and seers of past ages cry out and weep with longing for it. At this time the Baha'is of the world, from the northernmost point of the globe to the southernmost, and from Far East to Far West, following the example of Shoghi Effendi turned their hearts toward the Country of Sorrows, to commemorate at the Guardian's bidding the first Centenary of the Bab's martyrdom. In recognition of this event the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Persia went on a nine days' pilgrimage into Adbirbayjan. This is an account of their journey and what it meant to one of them.

Journey to Tabríz
It is Thursday, the 6th of July, 1950. It is the day of Istijlál, the day of Qudrat, the month of Rahmat, of the year Javáb, of the sixth Váhid of the first Kull-i-Sbay'. The group of travelers has set out as pilgrims, in a spirit of humility and penitence and great love, going to the place of the Báb's last agony. They are traveling to that spot whose very name, some thousand years ago, set fire to the heart of Muhammad's descendent the Imám Muhammad-Báqir, so that he spoke these words of it: "Inevitable for us is Adhirbáyján. Nothing can equal it ... "

They are traveling to see the place with their physical eyes, but also to weep over the anguish of that Lord of men in the Country of Sorrows itself, where earth and air, mountains and lakes, streams, trees, and stones bear witness to the wrong that was done Him. They will pour out for Him as a libation something of the sorrow of their hearts.

The bus goes fast. Again it slows. It fulfills the promise as to the Day of the Lord and the coming of the Kingdom when, Scripture says, the earth will be rolled up. All along our talk is of the passion of the Báb.

July 17, 2019

‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Center of the Covenant – by Juliet Thompson

Juliet Thompson in her studio
'Abdu’l-Baha: Vibrant Personality and Unique Function of the Figure Who Heralds the Golden Age

In these days when a civilization is dying before our very eyes, and when the great Prophet, Baha’u’llah, has appeared, standing on the threshold of a new age with a scroll of new commandments in His hand, two other Figures stand with Him, of heart-captivating beauty: - the youthful Báb, His Forerunner, equal in rank with Him as an independent Revelator, and the Son of Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha. “’Abdu'l-Baha", translated, means "Servant of the Glory", and this is His self-assumed title. Baha'u'llah entitled Him ‘The Master’".

In the language of Shoghi Effendi, the present Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, 'Abdu'l-Baha "holds not only in the Dispensation of Baha'u'lIah, but in the entire field of religious history, a unique function. Though moving in a sphere of His own and holding a rank radically different from that of the Author and the Forerunner of the Baha'i Revelation, He, by virtue of the station ordained for Him through the Covenant of Baha'u'llah forms, together with Them, what may be termed the Three Central Figures of a Faith unapproached in the world's spiritual history. He towers, in conjunction with Them, above the destinies of this infant Faith of God from a level to which no individual or body ministering to its needs after Him, and for no less a period than a thousand years, can ever hope to rise."

Among the many titles conferred by His Father on 'Abdu'l-Baha is that of "The Mystery of God". The Guardian, referring to these titles, writes that they "invest Him with a power and surround Him with a halo which the present generation can never adequately appreciate."

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.''