September 20, 2012

This Earthly Life and the Journey of the Soul after Death -- some reflections by John S. Hatcher, 1994

However knowledgeable we may become about the divine origins or our cosmos, however confident we may be about the destiny of humankind on this small planet, we never escape one abiding concern - that each of us will soon pass from this earthly existence. Therefore, whatever guidance and meaning religion can provide to help us conquer the challenges of our daily lives, possibly the greatest comfort it can offer is the assurance that our physical existence has a purpose, that somehow our earthly life, so fleeting and so fragile, is preparing us for something more enduring.

The Baha'i Faith has a vast amount of information to impart about the reality that awaits us after death. It is a vision that offers consolation, but it also has the power to investigate our lives here and now because it explains the relevance of our performance in this life to what we will experience in the continuation of our lives beyond physical reality.

For example, the Baha'i writings explain that our physical experience is unique. We get no second chance, no reincarnation, because we do not need it. Our brief lives, however chaotic and unjust they may sometimes seem to us, are quite adequate to provide us with the spiritual tools we will need to continue our progress in the next world. In fact, this life is important precisely because it does prepare us for the next stage of our existence in the same way that the gestation of the child in the womb prepares it for participation in this life. Yet our spiritual development is not completed in this physical life any more than the birth of an infant signals the completion of its growth. From the Baha'i view the journey of the soul is a process of endless growth and infinite possibilities. In this respect the Baha'i belief about the afterlife differs significantly from some other views, which assert that the afterlife is but a reflection of this life, a judgment: we spend eternity in some sort of heaven if we have done well, in a hell if we have not. In contrast, the Baha'i writings tell us that our lives are never static, even in the next world we will continue changing and developing. For while the human soul will never change its essence - will never become something other than a human soul - it is infinitely perfectible. We are, by nature, always in the process of becoming, and we always will be.

August 14, 2012

A day When the Faithful Rejoiced – by Hand of the Cause Abu’l-Qasim Faizi

A gigantic container of pearls and jewels with multifarious forms and hues was the Albert Hall [1963, London, England] when more than 6,000 Baha'is assembled to celebrate the centenary of Baha’u’llah's Ascension to the Throne of Glory.

To give the full account of that memorable event is beyond one man's power and capacity. It is a task to be fulfilled by the collective activity of many friends around the world.

This is only to give some highlights of the Congress in the shade of historical events and stimulate our imagination to correlate the early events of the Cause with the fruitful results of today's achievements.

First of all our precious pioneers - those luminous souls who forsook their homes and friends and scattered far and wide and settled amongst people of many kinds - after all the years of separation from their friends, kith and kin, now once more came together.

Like unto sailors who, after many dangers and perils, found themselves safely ashore, they were ready to tell the wondrous stories of their travels and inspire the friends to do more.

Like unto lamps, shattered in parts and empty of fuel, once more in that atmosphere of love and unity they were refilled and were ready to return with more vigor and hope to their lonely and solitary posts.

July 18, 2012

The Baha’i Movement in Japan – by Tokujiro Torii, 1931

“O my friends! Have ye forgotten that true and radiant morn, when in those hallowed and blessed surroundings ye were all gathered in My presence, neath the shade of the tree of life, planted in the all-glorious paradise? Ye all hearkened in bewilderment, as I gave utterance to these three most holy words: “O friends! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me nor with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly hopes and desires. If ye but sanctify your souls, ye would, at this present hour, recall that place and those surroundings, and the truth of My utterance shall unto all of you be made manifest.” (Baha’u’llah, Persian Hidden Words,” verse 19)

That radiant morning is not forgotten! It was on a day in August, 1916, that I found the eternal Light which I had sought and sought with a longing heart for a long time. At that time I was living in a town by the seashore where the beautiful Mount Fuji could be seen on the horizon. There came a messenger of the Kingdom of Abha and lifted up the veil of my soul. She taught me this simple truth that, “Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty, heavenly, ancient, imperishable and everlasting.” She brought a new light into my heart, a new thought into my mind and a new ideal into ray life. Every word she spoke to me was wonderful and luminous. It dispelled the darkness from my soul, brought fragrances to my heart like the breeze from the green fields, and made my inner sight keener and fresher than ever. This messenger who made me see the Sun of Reality was indeed Miss Agnes B. Alexander, my beloved spiritual mother from Tokyo.

June 23, 2012

Some warm memories of ‘Abdu’l-Baha -- by Stanwood Cobb

I first met ‘Abdu’l-Baha vicariously, so to speak, and it was this meeting that brought me into the Baha’i Faith in the summer of 1906. It happened that being in the vicinity of Green Acre that summer I made a pilgrimage there to see what it was all about. My curiosity had been aroused by weekly articles in the Boston Transcript. At the time I was studying for the Unitarian ministry at the Harvard Divinity School.

It was a warm Sunday afternoon in August. The big tent on Green Acre’s lower level, where the lecture hall now is located, was filled to capacity to hear some famous sculptor from New York. I was not greatly interested in his lecture. It was not for the sake of art that I had come, but for the sake of religion.

At the end of the lecture I went up to speak to Sarah Farmer -- who had been presiding in her own ineffable way, shedding a warm spiritual glow upon the whole affair. As I had previously met her in Cambridge at the home of Mrs. Ole Bull, I ventured to recall myself to her.

Miss Farmer took my hand in hers and cordially held it while she looked into my eyes and asked, “Have you heard of the Persian Revelation?”

“No,” I answered.

“Well, go to that lady in a white headdress and ask her to tell you about it. I know by your eyes that you are ready for it.”

What had she seen in my eyes? I do not know. But what she had read there proved true. For within half an hour from that moment I became a confirmed Baha’i and have remained so ever since.

May 26, 2012

The Word of God, the world of spirit, and the world of matter — a talk by Lua Getsinger

December 17, 1911, Sunday evening
California Club Hall, San Francisco, California
(Stenographically reported by B.S. Straum)

One time in Acca, when 'Abdu'l-Baha was trying to make us understand the possibility of man more clearly knowing God, He used this chart.

(The chart is dark one side, light on the other and consists of circles. At the top a circle labeled INFINITE ESSENCE - GOD. Next circle to the right and on the light side written "Highest possible attainment by man - the Prophets". Circles descending to the bottom circle which is half in the dark and half in the light labeled "Human Kingdom." Three circles on the left labeled (ascending) “Animal Kingdom", "Vegetable Kingdom", "Mineral Kingdom". From the large circle at the top are rays going out labeled "Love, Life, Knowledge, Faith, Forgiveness, justice, Mercy, Primal Will, Beauty, Power, Generosity, Munificence, Peace, Righteousness, Purity". The chart is circular in itself with words written upon the rays at the top "Word of God", along the side "Spirit", at the bottom "The Christ Holy Spirit", and to the left "Matter".)

Just a word of explanation regarding the chart itself.

He likened the Infinite Essence, the Incomprehensible, unto the sun, the substance of which we do not know save through the analyzation of the waves of light emanating therefrom.

The first Effulgence emanating from the Infinite Essence, is the Word of God, the Creator. The rays of light emanating from the First Effulgence constitute the Holy Spirit, or the Christ.

The darkened half of the chart represents the world of matter, and the other half the world of Spirit, or the Heavenly Kingdom.

We have, then, the Illuminator, the Illumination, and that which is to be illuminated.

Taking it for granted that the statements made in mythic or God-given writings must be absolutely true, however anomalous or irreconcilable with the facts of modem science and the deductions of enlightened reason they may appear to the natural mind, we affirm that the sacred scriptures are true in their own domain - the soul. By the sacred scriptures we mean the Word of God, the revealed Word of God, considered apart from its setting of Man's interpretation, or interpretations of that Word. And, farther, that they are equally true in respect to physical science; that through them Deity speaks to men, who may thus learn, if their comprehension will allow them, the secret nature of things, whether pertaining to the life of earth or of the hereafter.

According to the sacred Scripture, we are told: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." But before this, there was no beginning, because that which existed before this beginning of the Word, and the manifestation thereof, always was the Infinite Essence, the Unknowable, Incomprehensible, Almighty God, for we are told that all That is is as a result of the Word, that by the Word were all things made that are made.

April 20, 2012

Notes on Baha’i concept of spirituality – by Adib Taherzadeh

In their message to the participants at the International Conference in Dublin, the Universal House of Justice called for a campaign of spiritualization of the Baha’i community. Some friends have been asking the true meaning of spiritualization and want to know how to achieve it. The word “spiritual” when used in a non-Baha’i context has connotations which could mislead the individual. To be spiritual is not to hold one’s head in the clouds and walk in the air, or become careless of the affairs of this world.

The Baha’i concept of spirituality is simple. When the soul draws near to Baha’u’llah it becomes spiritual. A true Baha’i whose heart is closely linked with Baha’u’llah will grow in spirituality. He will become so enamored of Him that he will obey His teachings wholeheartedly and serve His Cause with the utmost devotion.

The knowledge of the soul

The study of the Holy Writings will enable us to appreciate this important subject. A human being has a soul and a body. We have acquired a great deal of knowledge about our bodies, but the knowledge of our spiritual nature is far more important.

The soul of man does not originate from the world of matter; it is an emanation from the spiritual worlds of God. During the period when the embryo is growing in the womb of the mother, the soul becomes associated with the body. Because the soul is a spiritual and not a material entity, it does not enter the body or leave it. The soul is exalted above entry or exit, ascent or descent. It is independent of any earthly agency. Its association with the body is similar to the association of light with a mirror. The light is not inside the mirror; it is reflected in it, and when the mirror is removed, the light remains unaffected.

February 16, 2012

The Valley of Love -- by Juliet Thompson

The “Seven Valleys” of Baha’u’llah is a letter written by Him to an eminent Sufi, in which the Poet of poets, the supreme Revelator of this day, chooses a theme used in the Islamic middle ages by the Sufi poet, Attar: the seven stages through which the soul must pass in its migration from self to God.

"Not until the whole nature is consumed to the roots," wrote Attar, "can the heart become a casket of rubies to pay the price." Baha’u’llah, in His Seven Valleys, leads us as far as the Valley of Annihilation, in which the fire of love, consuming at last "the whole nature," unites the soul to the Divine Beloved. Then He tells us that even so pure a state as this is "but the first gate to the city of the heart."

The Valley of Love is the second stage in this spiritual journey.

The Sufis' interpretation of the Islamic Religion is, in a sense, Pantheistic, for to them the Essence the Deity Itself permeates all created things and the whole creation is in the process of becoming God. According to the Teachings of Baha’u’llah, the Essence of the Creator is like the sun, which, as 'Abdu'l-Baha explains "does not divide itself into luminous particles" and enter planetary life, but emanates life-giving rays. Thus the soul's relation to its Creator is one of emanation. Our only means of comprehending the Divine Essence is through the great Messenger of God, who are as flaless mirrors reflecting to us His holy Attributes.

Throughout the "Seven Valleys," a delicate ear will hear the call of Baha’u’llah to the Sufis to recognize the Messenger of today.

The traveler in the Valley of Search, when he has "found a trace of the Traceless Friend and inhaled the fragrance of the lost Joseph from the Divine Herald," immediately plunges into the Valley of Love and "is consumed by the fire of love."

He has found the Messenger, has seen for the first time, powerfully reflected, the unclouded Beauty of God. And he has become like a new-born babe in a strange and glorious world.

January 24, 2012

The Significance of the House of 'Abdu'lláh Páshá -- an article prepared at the World Center and sent to all National Spiritual Assemblies on 4 March 1975 by the Department of the Secretariat of the Universal House of Justice

Some of the most poignant, dramatic and historically significant events of the Heroic Age of our Faith are associated with this house, which derives its name from the Governor of 'Akká who built it and used it as his official residence during his term of Office, from 1820 to 1832. It stands just inside the north-western corner of the sea wall of 'Akká in the close neighbourhood of the citadel where Bahá'u'lláh was confined. The main building is L-shaped, facing south and cast on its outer prospects. The structure, though chiefly on two stories, is irregular and on the inside angle has balconies, uncovered stairways, a bathhouse and a well. The entire property comprises large courtyards and is bounded on the west, or seaward, side by a wall, which turns due east at its southern angle and continues towards the heart of 'Akká, forming after a few yards, the wall of a narrow street; at the eastern terminus of this wall, and within the property, is an imposing house which was occupied by that Governor of 'Akká whose incumbency coincided with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's residence in the main building, and whose northern windows permitted him to maintain a constant surveillance of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's activities. Beyond this house is a small mosque. The eastern boundary of the property is a row of houses giving directly, on its western aspect, to the courtyard and offering many additional vantage points for observing the Master. A similar row of houses extends from the north-eastern corner along the northern boundary until they terminate at the longitudinal wing of the main building which, at this point, projects northwards into several conjoined buildings, making a large irregular outcrop on the northern boundary. The western end of the northern boundary is a short stretch of wall completing the enclosure at the north-western corner of the west wall. Large stables, coach houses and storerooms line the southern boundary.

In this house, fifty lunar years after the Báb's martyrdom, in January, 1899, the casket containing His sacred and precious remains was received by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who successfully concealed it until it was possible to inter it, with all honours, in its permanent resting-place in the bosom of Carmel. In this house 'Abdu'l-Bahá was confined during the period of His renewed incarceration. Shoghi Effendi, in God Passes By, testifies to the conditions of His life at that time: