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To be a Bahai: the recollections of Wendell Phillips Dodge

Posted by Sen on April 28, 2017

Abdu’l-Baha and a child in Haifa, Israel, courtesy of http://media.bahai.org/.

When asked on one occasion: “What is a Bahai?” Abdu’l-Baha replied: “To be a Bahai simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.”

These words, often quoted in Bahai literature, are not authentic Bahai scripture, although the source is somewhat reliable. The words are among those supposedly spoken by Abdu’l-Baha on the Cedric as the ship arrived in America on April 11 1912. What happened is that a Bahai, Wendell Phillips Dodge, who was accredited with the New York City News Association, boarded the Cedric along with the customs officers and shipping news reporters, after the ship had been cleared the quarantine station. He interviewed ‘Abdu’l-Baha as the ship sailed into harbour.

An experienced Bahai translator and interpreter, Amin Farid (aka Mirza Aminu’llah Fareed), translated Abdu’l-Baha’s words into English, and Dodge wrote a report of what he had seen and heard, which was distributed through the Associated Press (see Alan Ward, 239 Days, p. 13). The various editors involved probably modified Dodge’s story, as is normal in newspaper reporting. However since the reporter, Dodge, was himself a Bahai – he was the son of Arthur Dodge who became a Bahai in 1897 and remained active until his death in October, 1915 (see Youness Afroukhteh, Memories of Nine Years in Akka, p. 433) – it is likely that it was Dodge’s original report that was submitted to the Bahai magazine Star of the West, which reprinted it on April 28, 1912 (Vol. 3, nr. 4. 3, p. 3). I have reproduced Dodge’s report from the Star of the West below. The Star of the West editors may also have polished it a little, but the weak links in the chain are the original interpreter – was Farid able to convey in English what he was hearing in Persian, and did he add his own colouring to it – and Dodge himself. When he writes “The chief cause of the mental and physical inequalities of the sexes is due to custom and training, which for ages past have moulded woman into the ideal of the weaker vessel,” and “the new age will be an age less masculine, and more permeated with the feminine ideals,” is he reporting the actual words Fareed used, or, as I think, transforming what he understood, using the language of the suffragettes?

Whether the sentiment “To be a Baha’i simply means to love all the world….” and the remainder of the Dodge report, are like those of Abdu’l-Baha is a matter of opinion. But in the Bahai Faith, canonical authority is a historical question, based on objective criteria that are given in the Bahai writings themselves, and that have been interpreted by Shoghi Effendi. Abdu’l-Baha writes:

Thou has written concerning the pilgrims and pilgrims’ note. Any narrative that is not authenticated by a Text should not be trusted. Narratives, even if true, cause confusion. For the people of Baha, the Text, and only the Text, is authentic” (translated in Lights of Guidance, p. 438)

and Shoghi Effendi:

I have insistently urged the believers of the West … to quote and consider as authentic only such translations as are based upon the authenticated text of His recorded utterances in the original tongue.” (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 5)

The word translated as “narrative” in Abdu’l-Baha’s letter apparently refers to orally transmitted reports analogous to the “traditions” (hadith) of Islam, but I have not been able to locate the original for this tablet to check what word is used. Such “narratives” became known in the Bahai community as “pilgrims’ notes” because a large portion of the narratives that circulated in the early Bahai communities of the West originated as returning pilgrims’ recollections of the words they had heard from Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi in Palestine. Most reports of the talks that Abdu’l-Baha gave in his western journeys, reported in Paris Talks, Abdu’l-Baha in London and The Promulgation of Universal Peace for example, are also pilgrim’s notes. However in some cases, the English text is not based on what an interpreter said, but on a record of what Abdu’l-Baha said in Persian, authenticated by him and later translated into English. Some Answered Questions and Memorials of the Faithful were produced in this way, and I have begun to translated the authenticated Persian records of Abdu’l-Baha’s talks in the West on a separate blog, Abdu’l-Baha Speaks. Apart from such translations made direct from authenticated texts, all the talks of Abdu’l-Baha that we are so fond of are “narratives” and “pilgrims’ notes”: the Bahai equivalent of hadith. Such texts often circulate in various forms, as there is no original to check them against.

Although Dodge’s report of Abdu’l-Baha’s words cannot be authenticated by a Persian record, it is very interesting and influential. The sentence beginning “: “To be a Baha’i simply means to love all the world …” was quoted by John Esslemont in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, first published in 1923, and is still included in the edition available at the new site of the Bahai Reference Library, although other pilgrim’s notes that Esslemont included in his first edition were removed by the editors of later editions. It is apparently a well-loved sentiment. It conveys the idea that what counts is not the religious labels we wear, but the deeds we do. That is a Bahai teaching, as Baha’u’llah writes:

Beware, O people of Baha, lest ye walk in the ways of them whose words differ from their deeds. (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 305)

… but it is not the whole story. Good deeds, without awareness, pure intentions and love, fall short of the Baha’i standard of conduct. In Some Answered Questions, Abdu’l-Baha is asked,

Those who do good works, who are well-wishers of all mankind, who have a praiseworthy character, who show forth love and kindness to all people, who care for the poor, and who work for universal peace what need do they have of the divine teachings, with which they believe they can well afford to dispense? What is the condition of such people?

He replied, in part:

Know that such ways, words and deeds are to be lauded and approved, and they redound to the glory of the human world. But these actions alone are not sufficient: they are a body of the greatest beauty, but without a spirit. No, that which leads to everlasting life, eternal honour, universal enlightenment, and true success and salvation is, first and foremost, the knowledge of God. It is clear that this knowledge takes precedence over every other knowledge and constitutes the greatest virtue of the human world. For the understanding of the reality of things confers a material advantage in the realm of being, and brings about the progress of outward civilization, but the knowledge of God is the cause of spiritual progress and attraction, true vision and insight, the exaltation of humanity, the appearance of divine civilization, the rectification of morals, and the illumination of the conscience.

Second comes the love of God. The light of this love is kindled, through the knowledge of God, in the lamp of the heart, and its spreading rays illumine the world and bestow upon man the life of the Kingdom. … Were it not for the love of God, the hearts of men would be bereft of life and deprived of the stirrings of concience. … Were it not for the love of God, estrangement would not give way to unity. …

It is clear that human realities differ one from another, that opinions and perceptions vary, and that this divergence of thoughts, opinions, understandings and sentiments among individuals is an essential requirement. … We stand therefore in need of a universal power which can prevail over the thoughts, opinions and sentiments of all, which can annul these divisions and bring all souls under the sway of the principle of the oneness of humanity. And it is clear and evident that the greatest power in the human world is the love of God. It gathers diverse peoples under the shade of the tabernacle of oneness and fosters the greatest love and fellowship among hostile and contending peoples and nations.

… The third virtue of humanity is goodly intention, which is the foundation of all good deeds. … Now, one can perform an action which appears to be righteous but which is in reality prompted by self-interest. For example, a butcher raises a sheep and guards its safety; but this good deed of the butcher is motivated by the hope of profit, and the end result of all this care will be the slaughter of the poor sheep. How many are the goodly and righteous deeds that are in reality prompted by self interest! But the pure intention is sanctified above such faults.

Briefly, good deeds become perfect and complete only after the knowledge of God has been acquired, the love of God has been manifested, and spiritual attractions and goodly motives have been attained. Otherwise, though good deeds be praiseworthy, if they do not spring from the knowledge of God, from the love of God, and from a sincere intention, they will be imperfect. …

In the world today we meet with souls who sincerely desire the good of all people, who do all that lies in their power to assist the poor and succour the oppressed, and who are devoted to universal peace and well-being. Yet, however perfect they may be from this perspective, they remain deprived of the knowledge and the love of God and as such are imperfect.

… The sun nurtures all earthly things and fosters their growth and development by its heat and light what greater good is there than this? Nonetheless, since this good does not flow from goodly motives and from the love and knowledge of God, it does not impress in the least. But when someone offers a cup of water to another, he is shown appreciation and gratitude. An unthinking person might say, “This sun which gives light to the world and manifests this great bounty must surely be praised and glorified. For why should we praise a man for such a modest gift and not yield thanks to the sun?” But if we were to gaze with the eye of truth, we would see that the modest gift bestowed by this person stems from the stirrings of conscience and is therefore praiseworthy, whereas the light and heat of the sun are not due to this and thus are not worthy of our praise and gratitude. In like manner, while those who perform good deeds are to be lauded, if these deeds do not flow from the knowledge and love of God they are assuredly imperfect.

Aside from this, if you consider the matter with fairness you will see that these good deeds of the non-believers also have their origin in the divine teachings. That is, the Prophets of old exhorted men to perform them, explained their advantages and expounded their positive effects; these teachings then spread among mankind, successively reaching the non-believing souls and inclining their hearts toward these perfections; and when they found these actions to be laudable and to bring about joy and happiness among men, they too conformed to them. Thus these actions also arise from the divine teachings. But to see this a measure of fair-mindedness is called for and not dispute and controversy.

The recollections of Wendell Phillips Dodge contain much more than the sentence beginning “To be a Baha’i simply means to love all the world …”. He reports Abdu’l-Baha’s words on the importance of accurate newspapers, on liberty, women’s suffrage and material civilization. How much of this is Abdu’l-Baha and how much is Dodge is an open question.

Star of the West III:3, 28 April 1912, from page 3

Abdu’l-Baha’s arrival in America

Wendell Phillips Dodge

Abdu’l-Baha, the eminent Persian philosopher and leader of the Bahai movement for the unification of religions and the establishment of universal peace, arrived April 11th on the steamship _Cedric from Alexandria, Egypt. It is his first visit to America, and except for a brief visit to Paris and London last summer and fall, it is the first time in forty years that he has gone beyond the fortification of the “prison city” of Acre, Syria, to which place he and his father, Baha’o’llah, the founder of the Bahai movement, were banished by the Turkish government a half century ago.

He comes on a mission of international peace, to attend and address the Peace Conference at Lake Mohonk the latter part of the month, and to address various peace meetings, educational societies, religious organizations, etc.

When the ship news reporters boarded the _Cedric down the bay Abdu’l-Baha was found on the upper deck, standing where he could see the pilot, his long, flowing oriental robe flapping in the breeze. He was clothed in a long, black robe open at the front and disclosing another robe of light tan. Upon his head was a pure white turban, such as all eastern patriarchs wear.

His face was light itself as he scanned the harbour and greeted the reporters, who had been kept waiting at quarantine for three and a half hours before they could board the ship with the customs officers, owing to a case of smallpox and several cases of typhoid fever in the steerage, which had to be removed to Hoffman Island for isolation, and the ship then fumigated. He is a man of medium height, though at first sight he seemed to be much taller. He is strongly and solidly built, and weighs probably one hundred and sixty-five pounds. As he paced the deck, talking with the reporters, he appeared alert and active in every movement, his head thrown back and splendidly poised upon his broad, square shoulders, most of the time. A profusion of iron grey hair bursting out at the sides of the turban and hanging long upon the neck; a large, massive head, full-domed and remarkably wide across the forehead and temples, the forehead rising like a great palisade above the eyes, which were very wide apart, their orbits large and deep, looking out from under massive overhanging brows; strong Roman nose, generous ears, decisive yet kindly mouth and chin; a creamy white complexion, beard same colour as his hair, worn full over the face and carefully trimmed at almost full length – this completes an insufficient word picture of this “Wise Man Out of the East.”

His first words were about the press, saying:

“The pages of swiftly appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world; they display the doings and actions of the different nations; they both illustrate them and cause them to be heard. Newspapers are as a mirror which is endowed with hearing, sight and speech; they are a wonderful phenomenon and a great matter. But it behoveth the editors of the newspaper to be sanctified from the prejudice of egotism and desire, and to be adorned with the ornament of equity and justice.

“There are good and bad newspapers. Those which strive to speak only that which is truth, which hold the mirror up to truth, are like the sun: they light the world everywhere with truth and their work is imperishable. Those who play for their own little selfish ends give no true light to the world and perish of their own futility.”

Dr Ameen U. Fareed, a young Americanized Persian physician and surgeon, who is a nephew of Abdu’l-Baha, and who acted as interpreter, then told of how Abdu’l-Baha spent most of his time on the way across standing beside the wireless operator, himself receiving numerous messages through the air from his followers in America.

Talking to the reporters in his stateroom aboard the _Cedric, Abdu’l-Baha told of an incident which occurred in the Holy Land last winter, and it shows what a rare sense of humour this great world figure has. An enquirer, about to set off to Jerusalem, was one day discussing with Abdu’l-Baha the subject of pilgrimage:

“‘The proper spirit,’ said Abdu’l-Baha in his quaint way to the enquirer, ‘in which to visit places hallowed by remembrances of Christ, is one of constant communion with God. Love for God will be the telegraph wire, one end of which is in the Kingdom of the Spirit and the other in your heart.’
“‘I am afraid my telegraph wire is broken,’ the enquirer replied.
“‘Then you will have to use wireless telegraphy,’ I told him,” said Abdu’l-Baha, laughing heartily.

When the ship was abreast the Statue of Liberty, standing erect and facing it, Abdu’l-Baha held his arms wide apart in salutation, and said:

“There is the new world’s symbol of liberty and freedom. After being forty years a prisoner I can tell you that freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition. Unless one accept dire vicissitudes he will not attain. When one is released from the prison of self, that is indeed a release.”

Then, waving adieu to the Statue of Liberty, he continued:

“In former ages it has been said, ‘To love one’s native land is faith.’ But the tongue in this days [_sic] says. ‘Glory is not his who loves his native land; but glory is his who loves his kind – humanity.'”

“What is your attitude toward woman suffrage?” asked one of the reporters.

“The modern suffragette is fighting for what must be, and many of these are willing martyrs to imprisonment for their cause. One might not approve of the ways of some of the more militant suffragettes, but in the end it will adjust itself. If women were given the same advantages as men, their capacity being the same, the result would be the same. In fact, women have a superior disposition to men; they are more receptive, more sensitive, and their intuition is more intense. The only reason of their present backwardness in some directions is because they have not had the same educational advantages as men.

“All children should be educated, but if parents cannot educate both the boys and the girls, then it would be better to educate the girls, for they will be the mothers of the coming generation. This is a radical idea for the East, where I come from, but it is already taking effect there, for the Bahai women of Persia are being educated along with the men.

“We have only to look about us in nature;” Abdu’l-Baha continued, “to see the truth of this. Is it not a fact that the females of many species of animals are stronger and more powerful than the male? The chief cause of the mental and physical inequalities of the sexes is due to custom and training, which for ages past have moulded woman into the ideal of the weaker vessel.

“The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the scales are already shifting – force is losing its weight and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine, and more permeated with the feminine ideals – or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more properly balanced.”

“What is a Bahai?” asked one of the reporters.

“To be a Bahai simply means to love all the world, to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for Universal Peace, and the Universal Brotherhood,” replied Abdu’l-Baha.

The ship now pointed its nose up the North River, and, gazing in a look of bewildered amazement at the rugged sky line of the lower city formed by the downtown skyscrapers, the “Wise Man out of the East,” remarked, pointing at the towering buildings:

“These are the minarets of Western World commerce and industry, and seem to stretch these things heavenward in an endeavour to bring about this Universal Peace for which we are all working, for the good of the nations and mankind in general.

“The bricks make the house, and if the bricks are bad the house will not stand, as these do. It is necessary for individuals to become as good bricks, to eradicate from themselves race and religious hatred, greed and a limited patriotism, so that, whether they find themselves guiding the government or founding a home, the result of their efforts may be peace and prosperity, love and happiness.”

The ship now reached its pier, where were anxiously waiting several hundred Bahais, as the followers of Abdu’l-Baha are called, who had been craning their necks down the river for a first sight of him since early morning. The ship docked shortly after noon, but, fearing that a demonstration in public would not be the best thing for the Cause, and not liking that sort of thing, the venerable Persian Divine did not leave the ship until the pier had been quietly cleared of his followers, who were told to meet him in the afternoon at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kinney, where he greeted them a few hours later.

Related content:
‘You can never organize the Bahai Cause’
This great American democracy?
O God, refresh and gladden my spirit

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Let’s talk ….

Posted by Sen on August 6, 2015

… about Mehrangiz Kar and the service of women, about open and courteous discussions, and more

This posting begins with the following letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States, dated July 31, 2015, in response to Bahai involvement in an embarrassing internet fracas. The letter itself explains the situation further: Read the rest of this entry »

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“… a body of learned Bahais”

Posted by Sen on July 15, 2015

Ivan Sakhnenko, The Anatomy Lesson
On a facebook group, one Bahai wrote:
Obviously the House of Justice needs someone w/ an appropriate background to explain the Writings to them.” This was in the context of letters that showed the Universal House of Justice’s understanding of Bahai teachings evolving over time. I will give more details below.

I am sure the suggestion was well meant, but I think it is heading in the wrong direction entirely. However first I will have to explain why the suggestion could be made. The ‘problem’ for the Bahais, is that it is clear from doctrine and practical observation that the Universal House of Justice, the head of the Bahai community, does not always understand the Bahai scriptures correctly. If there was a guarantee that it would always be correct, the Guardianship would have been unnecessary. Read the rest of this entry »

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This great American democracy?

Posted by Sen on February 27, 2011

A Bahai friend asked about Abdu’l-Baha’s reference to America as a “democracy,” in the talk he gave to the Orient-Occident-Unity Conference in Washington on 20 April 1912. In the course of researching it, I found a short prayer by Abdu’l-Baha for East-West unity, which I have translated, and also discovered that a much loved and quoted reference to the future of America, known as the “prayer for America,” is not authentic.

The context of this query was a discussion of whether the United States is a republic, or a democracy. The question appears to depend largely on definitions: if a republic is a state with an elected head of state and a government answerable to the people, and a democracy is a state with a government chosen in free and fair elections, with freedom of speech and protection of individual and minority rights under the rule of law, the United States would appear to aspire to be a democratic republic, at the intersection of these two terms.

Be that as it may, I was asked about the term “American democracy” in the talk Abdu’l-Baha gave at the Orient-Occident-Unity Conference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shoghi Effendi’s diary

Posted by Sen on February 18, 2011

There are numerous ‘pilgrim’s notes’ recording people’s memories of the words of Abdu’l-Baha or of Shoghi Effendi, some more reliable than others. But the diary entries below are Shoghi Effendi’s reports of the words of Abdu’l-Baha, dated in 1919, as the First World War was ending. They include Shoghi Effendi’s translations of sections of Abdu’l-Baha’s tablets.

The first letter contains a citation from a Tablet of Abdu’l-Baha that, so far as I know, is not published elsewhere. The third letter, dated February 10, 1919, gives some insight into the motives of the British authorities in awarding a knighthood to Abdu’l-Baha on 27 April 1920, based on a recommendation submitted by the British Administrator, Major-General Money, on 18 July, 1919. Read the rest of this entry »

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Abdu’l-Baha speaks to the NAACP

Posted by Sen on February 10, 2011

from Remey, 'Observations' 1908

This talk by Abdu’l-Baha, given in Chicago, was published in Star of the West volume 3, No. 3, page 30, dated April 28, 1912. This is puzzling, since the talk was not given until two days later! That issue of Star of the West reports talks dated up to May 5 1912, so presumably the “April 28” number was actually printed sometime in May. The talk has been republished in Promulgation of Universal Peace, page 69, but the editor of Promulgation has nipped and tucked here and there, taking out some of the wrinkles, adding some explanations, and removing Abdu’l-Baha’s humourous references to green and blue people. A friend has asked for the unvarnished text, so I am posting it here. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘You can never organize the Bahai Cause’

Posted by Sen on December 16, 2010

I’m not a historian: I’m interested mainly in the timeless task of understanding the Bahai teachings, leaving history to those able, and crystal-ball gazing to those interested. But those who don’t know their history, will repeat mistakes in understanding quite needlessly, so sometimes we need to look back at the history of an idea in the Bahai community, especially where it is a mistaken idea that keeps resurfacing. In this case I am looking at some words attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, Read the rest of this entry »

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O God, refresh and gladden my spirit

Posted by Sen on May 13, 2010

One of the friends asked for the Persian text of the well-known prayer that begins, “O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand….

I had to disappoint him: there is no Persian original for this. It comes from the Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab for May 9, 1914. He would write his diary in Persian, and later translate parts of it into English and distribute the translations. In this case, his handwritten English translation has survived in manuscript (a friend has a copy), and contains this prayer, Read the rest of this entry »

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World Order, Administrative Order

Posted by Sen on January 1, 2010

A Pilgrim’s note

On Planet Bahai (a very good Bahai discussion forum), I had been arguing that Baha’u’llah’s World Order and the Bahai Administrative Order are two different things, to which the moderator Dale replied,

There is a pilgrim’s note, I forget the origin of it, in which Shoghi Effendi one day asked where authority resides after Baha’u’llah’s ascension….

“‘Abdu’l-Baha,” replied the person to whom he was talking.

“And where,” he then asked, “does authority reside after the Master’s passing?”

“The Guardian,” the other person replied.

“No,” he said. “It resides with the World Order of Baha’u’llah.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Defending Shoghi Effendi

Posted by Sen on November 22, 2009

Shoghi_Effendi_stands This posting begins by discussing a letter written on behalf of the Guardian, which refers to “the Bahai theocracy” as a divinely ordained system, and goes on from there to address the claims that there is ‘a theocratic undercurrent’ in Shoghi Effendi’s writings, or that he contradicted himself, changed his mind or concealed his real views for reasons of prudence. In addition to the few places where Shoghi Effendi speaks directly on the topic, we can look at the Bahai writings he translated, to see what teachings he thought were central and important for the English-speaking Bahais to understand.

The posting continues by looking at the future renaming of the Assemblies as Houses of Justice, and what Shoghi Effendi says about the role of the Universal House of Justice in the Bahai Commonwealth and in a future superstate, which leads to some considerations regarding the role of an established religion, or state religion, in a society. Another section looks at a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi which says that, one day, “the Bahais will be called upon to assume the reins of government,” and at another letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that speaks of the International Tribunal and Court of Arbitration being merged in the Universal House of Justice. Read the rest of this entry »

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Knowledge: project or process?

Posted by Sen on May 4, 2009

encyclopaediaprojectThe Bahai Encyclopaedia Project has begun to put up a selection of online articles. As of today, there are 21 articles online, so it is just a small beginning. Two are classified under “teachings and laws,” but one of these is misfiled: it is on the Letters of the Living and belongs in the history category. That leaves one article on the Bahai teachings, the one entitled ‘children.’

Looking down this article, I was surprised to see that even where better sources are easily available, it draws extensively on The Promulgation of Universal Peace, which is not an authentic source. In a footnote to the footnotes the Encyclopaedia editors even list Promulgation of Universal Peace among ‘scripture and other authoritative texts.’ The author and editor are clearly not aware of source-critical issues, which is not a promising start for such a project.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Conversation with God

Posted by Sen on February 28, 2009

We had a potluck for yummy-ha, with pecan pie. It was followed by imaginative and effective musical devotions: first all learning to sing a simple prayer with variants, and then all humming that tune while some short readings were read slooowly, the spoken phrases matching the musical phrases.

mantisheadSince the potluck took place at the day and home which regularly hosts a Ruhi circle, the devotions flowed straight on to a Ruhi session, Book 1 Chapter 2, on Prayer. The first words of the chapter are “Abdu’l-Baha says that prayer is conversation with God.” No source was given. This part of the Ruhi book raises a lot of questions, and questions are always good.
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1917 and all that

Posted by Sen on February 6, 2009

paperstorm Amended April 3, 2011
The Bahai community has a tendency to get carried away with its enthusiasms for prophecies that supposedly give an insight into the immediate future. I’ve discussed one of these in Century’s end, about the expectation that “unity of nations” would be achieved by the year 2000. The story this time goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the Bahais were waiting for cataclysms to strike in 1917, followed by a world at peace in which “all nations shall be as one faith.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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Century of light

Posted by Sen on January 15, 2009

BahaIn Century’s end, I showed that Bahais of my generation widely expected universal peace to arrive in the twentieth century. Some of the texts on which this belief was based did not refer to the twentieth century; others did refer to the twentieth century or dates in the 20th century, but were pilgrims’ notes. There may be more, but I have found five such unauthentic sources:

onecandle– The Maxwell’s pilgrim’s notes, anticipating the Lesser Peace by 1953.
– Esselmont’s pilgrim’s notes, in the first edition of Baha’u’llah and the New Era, anticipating universal peace by 1957. As Dan Jensen has pointed out, the 1950 edition changed the date to 1963, but it is still just a pilgrim’s note, and universal peace was also not achieved in 1963.
Sarah Kenny’s Haifa notes anticipating the Lesser Peace in the 20th century.
– A report in the Montreal Star on September 11, 1912, printed in Abdu’l-Baha in Canada p. 35, saying that peace would be universal in the 20th century.
– A talk reported in The Promulgation of Universal Peace page 126, and in Star of the West 3.8.14, calling the twentieth century the century of international peace.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Century’s end – my two cents

Posted by Sen on January 12, 2009

spinningtopWhen I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

The word ‘century’ appears unproblematic: a period of a hundred years, which in common usage begins with the year 00 (although sticklers will insist that the century begins in the year 01, so that the 21st century began on 1 January 2001). But in reading the Bahai texts, things are not so simple. In this post I want to look at the peculiar significance Bahais have mistakenly attached to the 20th century and what can be learned from the whole affair; in the next posting I will look at what the Bahai writings really say about the ‘century’ (not the 20th century).
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