July 30, 2010

The Races of Men - Many or One? –- by Louis G. Gregory, published 1929

(For a brief write-up about Louis Gregory please visit Baha'i Heroes and Heroines)

The world today is making many discoveries in the realm of phenomena. The greatest of these concerns man himself, the laws which relate to his being and those which govern his relations with his fellow beings. Although many glooms and shadows still sway the minds of men, yet two great lights are shining with increasing splendor. One is science and the other religion. Through these luminous orbs men are coming to know each other much better than in past ages.

A century or more ago men with few exceptions accepted the dogma of eternal division and separation between various human stocks, which were regarded as distinct human species. This gave to any one of them the right by virtue of its material might to claim a station of inherent superiority conferred by Divine Power.

A few men of genius saw differently. One of these rare souls was Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. It is altogether remarkable that writing at a time when special privilege was enthroned and human slavery was sanctioned by the laws of all lands, he should have declared it to be self-evident that all men were created free and equal. Was this statement an accident? Was it not his intention to imply that all white men were created equal? No, that the great principle declared by the American Commoner was not on his part fortuitous is indicated by a further statement as well as by his personal attitude toward Benjamin Banneker, the Negro astronomer, who was his contemporary and by him was appointed as one of the surveyors of the site of the city of Washington. Writing about this colored scientist to one of his foreign friends, President Jefferson said:

July 16, 2010

The Role of Women – by Hand of the Cause Ruhiyyih Khanum

A talk given at Women’s Teacher Training College, Tamale, Ghana, 15 February, 1971

I am very honoured to be here. This is an unexpected pleasure. I didn't know that I was going to have the honour of addressing the girls in this school, and I can't think of any audience that I would rather speak to than young people, and especially young women, and I am very grateful for this opportunity.

The role of women is something that is very important in the Baha'i Faith and it is a subject that interests me very much. We say nowadays that men and women should be equal, and in the Baha'i Faith we say that humanity is like a bird, that a bird flies with two wings, one wing is men and one wing women. If the two wings don't fly evenly together, the bird cannot soar, it cannot go high in the sky. So we attach the greatest importance to women having an equal position in society with men.

Now an equal position does not necessarily mean that they have to do the same things. You know, I come from the United States and Canada and in our part of the world we have the idea that anything that a man does, a woman can do. If a man is going to drive a truck, a woman can drive a truck; if a man is going to be President of the United States, the woman says: why shouldn't I be President? Every single thing that a man does nowadays, a woman wants to do too. Well, all right, if a woman like Indira Gandhi is the Prime Minister of a great country like India, or like Golda Meir of Israel - whom I have met and who is a wonderful woman, a very distinguished woman – that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean every single one of us has to be a Prime Minister or has to be a truck driver or has to be a President! Equality is not in doing exactly what your husband does, equality is that your husband should consider that you are a human being with exactly the same rights that he has, this is real equality. And women have a part to play in society that we Baha'is believe is perhaps more important than men's, and in a moment I will tell you what that is.

July 12, 2010

Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah – A Reflection, by George Townshend

Here the world's religions meet and are fused into one by the fire of a great love. "This is that which hath descended from the realm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity,"

In an age of compendiums there is no other compendium such as this. No other pen has attempted to make a summary which shall be so concise and so complete as to contain in less than eight score brief Words of Counsel the vital substance of the world-religions. In the newly printed version of Shoghi Effendi, the "Hidden Words" makes a small pocket volume of fifty-five pages.

Yet for all its terseness it bears none of the marks of a digest or an abstract. It has the sweep, the force, the freshness of an original work. It is rich with imagery, laden with thought, throbbing with emotion. Even at the remove of a translation one feels the strength and majesty of the style and marvels at the character of a writing which combines so warm and tender a loving kindness with such dignity and elevation.

The teaching of the book throughout is borne up as if on wings by the most intense and steadfast spirituality. With the first utterance the reader is caught away to the heavenly places, and the vision is not obscured when the precepts given deal with the details of workaday life, with the duty of following a craft or a profession and of earning a livelihood to spend on one's kindred for the love of God. The picture given of man and of human nature is noble and exalted. If he be in appearance a "pillar of dust," a "fleeting shadow", yet he is in his true being a "child of the divine, and invisible essence," a "companion of God's Throne." The created worlds are designed for his training. The purpose of all religious teaching is to make him worthy of the love of God and able to receive his bounties.