Sunday, April 30, 2006

Houseguests, Corruption

Houseguests, Corruption
By John Taylor; 2006 April 30
Life has been hectic for the Taylor family lately. Last weekend we had as overnight guests a family of five Esperantists from Rochester, New York. It gets confusing when they are around, since their paterfamilias is named, in Esperanto, Tomaso, just like our youngest, a six-year-old. For convenience in the past we hit upon calling my youngest son by the Czech form of his name, Tomas (pronounced Tomash; Czechs use that form of the name Thomas since Tomaso means in their language "that meat.") The problem is that we all forgot that solution and used the form, Tomaso, that we are used to.
The elder Tomaso had just bought a two seated tandem add-on for his bicycle which allowed his eldest son, six year old Jonas, and the younger Tomaso to tag along and pedal from behind. We went for a spin to try this contraption out (he had just bought it on Ebay and this was the maiden voyage) and at the same time return some videos to Video Tonight, at the other end of town. It was about a kilometer there and a kilometer back
The adult Tomaso said later that it had been a strange experience to ride his normal bicycle without any need for pedaling. Two enthusiastic six-year-olds can be a powerful force, he found. Most of his energy was spent persuading them to stop pedaling so that he could slow down and stop for stop signs. I made it worse by challenging them to a race. The three of them easily left me in their dust. At home, the Alexander family already own a tandem bicycle, so with the tandem add-on, plus a baby seat, it will be theoretically possible for their whole family of five to ride together in one long bicycle train. Tomaso the elder even sketched a light-hearted plan to enable the baby to pedal too from its baby seat.
Next week our houseguests will be a Czech couple presently living in Sherbrooke, Quebec; the wife is an old friend from Marie's childhood. The plan is to take a day trip to Niagara Falls. Tomaso is looking forward to this but I dread it; last time we went, just after Christmas, my fear of heights translated itself into fear for Tomaso. I was beside myself; I could not bear seeing him anywhere near the ledge to that sheer drop below the falls. I tried to find ways for Silvie and Thomas to play their games elsewhere. This trip I think I will take my bike along and arrange to be somewhere else when they take that stroll by the cliff.
More On Corruption and Integrity
"It is a difficult task, O citizens, to make speeches to the belly, which has no ears." (Plutarch, Life of Marcus Cato, 8)
Let us continue our thoughts about corruption and the nature of integrity. Baha'u'llah, in the Words of Paradise, enjoins rooting out corruption,
"We exhort the men of the House of Justice and command them to ensure the protection and safeguarding of men, women and children. It is incumbent upon them to have the utmost regard for the interests of the people at all times and under all conditions. Blessed is the ruler who succoureth the captive, and the rich one who careth for the poor, and the just one who secureth from the wrong doer the rights of the downtrodden, and happy the trustee who observeth that which the Ordainer, the Ancient of Days hath prescribed unto him." (Kalimat-i-Firdousiyyih, Tablets, 69-70)
This is the unity that Baha'u'llah taught. Not compromise, but unification in truth by means of both organization and spirit. Uniting for narrow ends will not be enough as long as the overall goal, the good and permanent prosperity of the human race, escapes us. But let us not fool ourselves. Being a trustee has never been easy, for along with power comes infinite opportunities for profit. Even when a trustee himself does not stand to gain, it is too often convenient, even unavoidable, to play special interests off on one another. For the ignorant and the compromised, pandering is ever easier than edification.
This begins from our earliest days. Anyone who is distinguished in any way becomes a magnet for flatters, as Socrates observed of a gifted young leader who later nearly dragged the state under with his ambitious schemes,
"And Alcibiades fared no better. His personal beauty on the one hand incited bevies of fine ladies to hunt him down as fair spoil, while on the other hand his influence in the state and among the allies exposed him to the corruption of many an adept in the arts of flattery; honoured by the democracy and stepping easily to the front rank he behaved like an athlete who in the games of the Palaestra is so assured of victory that he neglects his training; thus he presently forgot the duty which he owed himself." (Zenophon, Memorabilia)
Our first duty, as Socrates says, is to ourselves. We all have a sense of what is right and wrong and must maintain our integrity in that in the face of sore temptation. This is far from easy, for the first weapon that bad guys use, even before violence, is bribery. Consider the prayer in the Psalms,
"Do not gather my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men in whose hands is wickedness. Their right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in my integrity. Redeem me, and be merciful to me. My foot stands in an even place. In the congregations will I bless Yahweh." (Ps 26:9-12, WEB)
I read in this morning's paper a good example of integrity, the story of a young Toronto actress. Following the advice of her teachers, she decided to specialize in an area that no other actor is doing. Although her hearing is good, she learned American Sign Language and became adept at portraying deaf people; even before graduating from her ASL course she had job offers. But in the meantime she had met many gifted deaf actors and her integrity made her refuse these offers. Why are real deaf talents being ignored? So instead of putting herself first, she decided to put on a theatre production showcasing these talented but ignored young actors and actresses to the agents and casting directors who determine the direction of these peoples' careers. All her friends had called her crazy for turning down job offers but by following the voice of conscience she no doubt forged a better and just as successful path for herself in life.
Most people think of Charles Darwin's voyage as one of scientific discovery but on his way through Argentina he uncovered a climate of open corruption that is, I think, instructive, so I cite it at length.
"Police and justice are quite inefficient. If a man who is poor commits murder and is taken, he will be imprisoned, and perhaps even shot; but if he is rich and has friends, he may rely on it no very severe consequence will ensue. It is curious that the most respectable inhabitants of the country invariably assist a murderer to escape: they seem to think that the individual sins against the government, and not against the people. A traveler has no protection besides his fire-arms; and the constant habit of carrying them is the main check to more frequent robberies."
"The character of the higher and more educated classes who reside in the towns, partakes, but perhaps in a lesser degree, of the good parts of the Gaucho, but is, I fear, stained by many vices of which he is free. Sensuality, mockery of all religion, and the grossest corruption, are far from uncommon. Nearly every public officer can be bribed. The head man in the post-office sold forged government franks. The governor and prime minister openly combined to plunder the state.
"Justice, where gold came into play, was hardly expected by any one. I knew an Englishman, who went to the Chief Justice (he told me, that not then understanding the ways of the place, he trembled as he entered the room), and said, "Sir, I have come to offer you two hundred (paper) dollars (value about five pounds sterling) if you will arrest before a certain time a man who has cheated me. I know it is against the law, but my lawyer (naming him) recommended me to take this step." The Chief Justice smiled acquiescence, thanked him, and the man before night was safe in prison. With this entire want of principle in many of the leading men, with the country full of ill-paid turbulent officers, the people yet hope that a democratic form of government can succeed!" (Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle)
Darwin was correct; a healthy democracy depends upon the integrity of a large proportion of the population, and especially their leaders. Otherwise government, whatever its form, degrades into kleptocracy, leadership by thieves. Present democratic leaders, sophisticated as their publicists are, cannot escape the impression that that they are the best that money, big money of course, can buy. They cannot escape it, so they do not even try. They are quite open and honest about their dishonesty. One example is an American senator, Christopher Bond, who stands up for Briggs and Stratton, who own two factories in his home state. Their fight is against all those who selfishly wish to breathe clean air.
"... as soon as air pollution regulators suggested adding a golf-ball-sized catalytic converter to the lawn mower, they found themselves in one of their fiercest political battles of the past decade. On one side, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators in California. On the other, the largest lawn and garden equipment maker in the country and a powerful Republican senator. And in the middle, the 6 million or so lawn mowers shipped to retailers every year."
"For older regulators, it is a replay of Detroit's initial resistance to those who wanted to clean up car exhaust by installing catalytic converters, which pull smog-forming chemicals and carbon monoxide out of the exhaust. Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., has repeatedly put hurdles in front of regulators. Bond operates from a position of strength in these matters. He is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that controls the budgets of agencies like the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission." (Felicity Barringer, "Lawn Mowers on Pollution Hit List," New York Times)
Kleptocracy is not the rare thing that I once thought it was, probably it has predominated in most places most of the time throughout history. Proof of that was the preponderance of slavery in most past empires and societies. Slavery is in effect legalized theft of a person's labor and life's work. I predict that in future political scientists will stop paying attention to forms and methods and will realize that there are only two real types of political organization, kleptocracy or theocracy. There is no in-between, there is self of God. They will learn, in other words, to pay attention to the proverb,
"To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress." (Prov 28:21)
We will continue this discussion of corruption sometime soon.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ninth Day thoughts

Morning Thoughts on the Ninth Day of Ridvan

By John Taylor; 2006 April 29


  Our Jamal feast took place at Anne's home in Bing near Dunnville last night, having been moved at the eleventh hour from its planned location in the Caledonia Library. The feast there was cancelled because of the native protest and police roadblocks choking the town of Caledonia. Helen Kelly and her daughter Nancy, our Baha'is on the spot, are surrounded by noisy, heated demonstrations and violent confrontations between a splinter group of the Six Nations (Canada's most populous Indian reservation) and the Ontario Provincial Police -- one local placard published on the front page of a local newspaper mocks the reluctance of this police force to remove the protesters from a land developer's housing development with a large placard saying: "Ontario Provincial Poultry."

 In point of fact, though, the constabulary did make a raid in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago where they arrested a dozen or so demonstrators, but these were immediately replaced by hundreds more who took their place. (I was interested to hear this, since our Canadian Constitution specifically prohibits arrests in the middle of the night; naturally when you are dealing with native people you have to get into the spirit of the thing by breaking as many rules as you can.) Although they are very nervous about all this fractious activity, the insuppressible Helen has taken the opportunity to teach the Faith.

 She goes over to the Tim Horton's coffee shop periodically and discusses their history with the young native people showing up here from around the country. (This influx so worries the authorities that they have taken the extraordinary measure of shutting down Hamilton's Mount Hope Airport) They are surprised to learn the story of Emily General, who was not only a Baha'i but also an important elder at Six Nations and went overseas to England to help translate for her people in the negotiations of their treaty.

 Most Baha'is here met Emily before she died back in the 1980's and I remember being on her farm -- if I did meet her, she was very sick and aged at the time. Some of the young people were so pleased and gratified by Helen's history lessons that they offered to come over and sweep out her house and yard. I have great admiration for Helen; although she is now old, sick and frail, she has a unique ability to arouse interest among young people. Among teachers of the Faith in this area, she comes second only to Aghdas Javid. These events, trying as they are for her, seem designed to bring out the best in her.

 I must say, my curiosity has been aroused and I may go over to Caledonia, check in on Helen, and give you a first hand report. I have no sympathy for these land developers targeted by the protesters -- all are well aware that a great deal of money is on the line and that the developers will pressure the powers that be at their beck and call. The developers have already threatened to sue the police for not ejecting the aboriginal teepees on their land -- the fact that this is desecrating an historic gravesite uncovered by the construction there matters nothing. Every spare bit of land everywhere, not just on Indian gravesites, is being sacrificed for low density housing, McMansions, and all of us Canadians take it as a matter of course.

As I wrote the above I decided to accede to Thomas's often repeated plea to go to an arcade and take him to Caledonia, come what may -- all week we have been listening to: how many days, hours, minutes until the feast? He is very avid to spend his three dollars at a video arcade next to where the feast was planned to take place. After all, this may be a teaching opportunity, a very rare thing for me. Their Baha'i children's class, the "Peacemakers," which normally takes place in downtown Caledonia Saturday mornings at Pat's home office, was cancelled for other reasons. I called Helen and got the latest scoop.

She was audibly shaken and asked for prayers. The only way to get to her place now is to show your driver's license to police with a local address on it. Here house is literally surrounded and if they close off the area she will have no way to get food, even though she lives next to a shopping plaza. The latest rumor is that the authorities are going to call in the army, which would raise the stakes of this unpleasantness to the level of another Oka. She says that church and other faith groups were invited to attend the rally in the Canadian Tire car lot next to her home last night but that she decided not to go. "It is too political, and I am an assistant (to the ABM)." She warned me not to take little children there because profanity and racial epithets are being liberally thrown from both sides of the barriers. I disagree. Plato said in the Republic to take kids to witness wars and battles first hand, as long as you can keep them at a safe distance. Of course if Tomaso and I are pummeled to death by tomahawks and police batons, I will be less inclined to listen to Plato's educational advice in future. At any rate, today's morning reading, suggested by Baha'i Canada, is this:

"Verily, all created things were immersed in the sea of purification when, on that first day of Ridvan, We shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of Our most excellent Names and Our most exalted Attributes... Consort ye then with the followers of all religions, and proclaim ye the Cause of your Lord, the Most Compassionate; this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them who understand." (Kitab-i-Aqdas, 47)

 This unambiguously connects this holy Ridvan festival, of which today is the ninth day, to teaching and associating with other faith groups. In view of that, how can I confine myself to my own home?

John Taylor

Friday, April 28, 2006

stroll with the Master

Dear friends on the blog,

The following is the plain text version for the Badi Blog of this
historic article that took place in a Chicago park in 1912; one
caption to a picture says a "typical" Baha'i meeting. Imagine, a
meeting in a park with the Master present being "typical!" But I
suppose He promised to be there if we meet in the right spirit, so I
suppose this is not as far fetched as it seems at first blush. I can
send you the illustrated version as in the original Star of the West,
if you contact me.

A Stroll with `Abdu'l-Baha
Culminating in a typical Baha'i meeting under the trees of Lincoln Park, Chicago
-from Star of the West, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 27

By Honore J. Jaxon

During Abdu'l Baha's stay in Chicago at the Plaza Hotel, it became a
matter of frequent occurrence for him to take a morning or evening
stroll in Lincoln Park that magnificent pleasance where lawns and
woods extend northward from the hotel for several miles along the
shore of Lake Michigan.

On these occasions it was usual for him to accept the escort of any of
the friends who might have the good fortune to be on hand and at
leisure at the time of starting; and one of the most interesting of
these episodes was the one of which there is presented herewith an
outline as illustrated by the camera of a friend who although belated
at the start had been guided through the mazes of the park to the
place where the little party was pursuing its way among the trees.

Near the lake ward side of the middle portion of the park is an
unusually well stocked zoological department. The many strange and
beautiful forms of bird and animal life herein presented proved very
interesting to Abdu'l Baha, as he walked among them with a man nor
which somehow reminds one of the legends of St. Francis of Assisi, and
the all consciousness said to have been displayed by that lovable
saint in his communings with the birds and animals of his day; and it
was here that Abdu'l Baha was moved to grant per mission for the first
of the pictures taken during this stroll the occasion chosen being at
a time when the cortege found itself grouped very conveniently for
camera purposes between two lines of iron palisade.

Photographic operations being thus pleasantly initiated, Abdul Baha
next consented to a group picture which was suggested to the minds of
some of the ladies while the party was descending a broad and noble
flight of masonry stairs that had been built to accommodate a steep
inflection of the footway as it passed through a wooded deli.

From this point, Abdu'l Baha directed 'his course to a place where
springing from the midst of heavy bushes on either shore a single
arched footbridge rises high above a wide lagoon, whose dark waters
are said to have closed over many a discouraged soul that had chosen
the crown of the bridge as the place from which to cast a final
"longing, lingering look" at earth and sky. The landscape disclosed
from this viewpoint is indeed one of the fairest in Chicago; and it is
worthy of remark, that it includes in its nor thermos reaches the spot
where on the distant horizon the grounds of the coming Chicago
Mashriqu'l-Azkar slope down to meet the waters of the lake.
"Beautiful" was the comment made by Abdul Baha in English, and with
quiet but loving emphasis, as he gazed northward from the parapet of
the bridge. His glance comprehended tooth the widespread panorama and
the placid waters beneath, and there sprang into being among the
friends present a strongly marked impression that he was moved to
special prayer by becoming innately aware of the thrilling human
experiences connected with the scene.

Before leaving the bridge Abdul Baha acceded to another group picture
while the friends were seated at the summit, and also to a remarkable
full length picture of him self alone, which has been reproduced as
the frontispiece of this issue. The course of the morning's walk then
turned back toward the animals' quarters; and here, while apparently
engrossed in contemplating the movements of a majestic polar bear,
Abdul Baha delighted the friends by exhibiting coincidently the
charming sense of humor and the all consciousness which are alike so
strongly marked in him. No sooner had the picture been taken of Abdul
Baha standing alone on the bridge, then the friends commenced to
express to each other their desire to secure a similar picture that
would show the beautiful silver locks that fl& down from under his
turban and ripple across the collar of his robe at the back. His
seeming absorption in study of the great bear suggested to all,
simultaneously, that this was the opportune moment; and a joyful
conspiracy was at once entered into everyone quietly tip toeing out of
range, while the active agent of the proposed photographic larceny set
up his tripod and prepared for a time exposure that would insure a
satisfactory clearness of detail in the desired picture.

Soon a perfect focus was obtained and apparently everything was
ready, but just as the members of the little group were holding their
breaths in thrilled anticipation of success at the very moment,
indeed, when the operator had seized the bulb, the pressing of which
would open the shutter and start the exposure of the film Abdul Baha
turned suddenly around with a delighted little chuckle, and playfully
smote the would be thief across the back of his neck with a light
touch of his walking cane, thereby conferring one unique distinction
which the recipient of this "love tap is probably cherishing as a
happy memory!

And now came the most striking feature of the morning's experience
and the subject of the closing photographic illustration. From the
episode of the bears' den, Abdul Baha led the friends toward the lake,
and taking one of a number of seats conveniently disposed under a
group of trees, invited the friends to likewise be seated. They found
themselves arranged in a circle, and, after dictating an answer to a
letter which had teen read to him that morning as he had walked along,
Abdul Baha suddenly commenced talking to them in a strain of intimate
and friendly counsel which exalted the hearts of all present and
warmed the determination of each one to be doubly on guard against any
future possibility of becoming a cause of disunion or discord. Two
striking gems we herewith reproduce:

"Some of you may have observed that I have not called attention to any
of your individual shortcomings. I would suggest to you, that if you
shall be similarly considerate in your treatment of each other, it
will be greatly conducive to the harmony of your association with each

And then, as a concluding delight of the mornings spiritual feast,
this charming illustration of the subject of organization:

"I want you to be organized like a flock of the doves of Heaven, whose
attitude and conduct toward each other is a symbol of that which will
take place among human beings when human beings shall become willing
to accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit." With these words, the home
ward course was taken, and so concluded a typical and memorable Bahai
meeting in a park, which will ever hereafter be associated in memory
with the blessed influence of the "Servant of Baha."

Caption to photograph of Baha'i meeting in Park, SW, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 29:
"I want you to be organized like a flock of the doves of heaven, whose
attitude and conduct toward each other is a symbol of that which will
take place among human beings when human beings shall become willing
to accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

John Taylor

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Breaking Out of the Den of Thieves

Breaking Out of the Den of Thieves

By John Taylor; 2006 April 27

"The king by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth
gifts overthroweth it." (Prov 29:4)

Until recently most in the West hoped that progress, the advance of
civilization, would eventually solve all of our problems. The 20th
Century brought the bitter lesson that civilization is itself a force
of corruption; the more we developed the worse off we became. The
overall result is what we considered lately; the discovery by climatic
scientists in the 1990's that global warming is trapping heat and
global dimming is choking and darkening the planet, both at the same
time. The consensus is grim: overall heat is winning out over dimming.
In spite of the braking effect, global warming is proceeding with
unexpected alacrity. We are literally killing the planet with our own
excrement. We are in deep dish hoodoo. What is going on? How did the
forces of corruption become so overwhelming? Asking this question over
the past Ridvan week I cannot avoid trying to come to grips with the
idea of corruption. What does corruption mean, anyway? Here are four
dictionary definitions, from Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary,

Corruption: 1. impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle,
depravity. 2. decay, decomposition. 3. Inducement to wrong by improper
or unlawful means (as bribery). 4. A departure from the original or
from what is pure or correct.

By rights definition number four should come first, after which the
others follow. Which begs the question, what is pure and correct? Our
answer, developed on this essay blog since the end of January, is that
the Oneness of God, His Word and teaching, is the essence of purity
and correctness. Betray that and the forces of impurity, incorrectness
and corruption set in.

Jesus entered Jerusalem at Passover, a festival of purification. In
the temple an annual temple tax could be paid and pigeons were sold to
sacrifice within for the expiation of inadvertent sins. This departure
from the original purity of religious teaching explains why Jesus was
angry and overturned tables in the temple grounds where these
transactions took place. He declared that this was a house of prayer,
not a robber's cave (Matt 21:13). This may have been a reference to

"Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in
your eyes?" (7:11)

We can only imagine the indignation of Jesus, Who had taught the
parables of the Widow's Mite and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
The first parable teaches that the spiritual power of donation is
proportional to one's own sacrifice in giving, and the second that a
prayer will justify us only if we adopt a humble attitude; prayers are
not answered those who exalt their own righteousness and moral worth.
None of this can be bought or sold and to conduct transactions on holy
ground is to imply that they can be. This was tantamount to corrupting
the name of God.

What does corrupting the name of God mean? What does keeping it "pure"
mean? We have an insidious, almost genetic belief that God is out for
His own good in teaching us. He wants us to glorify Him, so He must be
Glory seeking, right? We are always out for number one in everything
we do, so why should not He be like that too? The fact is that He is
not, but we persistently think that He is, we cannot get our heads
around it. Our misconception of God's basic motive, that He is out for
His benefit, not ours, is given great attention in scripture. Take
this paragraph from the prayer that was my morning reading today,

"Purify, O my God, the hearts of Thy creatures with the power of Thy
sovereignty and might, that Thy words may sink deep into them. I know
not what is in their hearts, O my God, nor can tell the thoughts they
think of Thee. Methinks that they imagine that Thy purpose in calling
them to Thine all-highest horizon is to heighten the glory of Thy
majesty and power. For had they been satisfied that Thou summonest
them to that which will recreate their hearts and immortalize their
souls, they would never have fled from Thy governance, nor deserted
the shadow of the tree of Thy oneness. Clear away, then, the sight of
Thy creatures, O my God, that they may recognize Him Who showeth forth
the Godhead as One Who is sanctified from all that pertaineth unto
them, and Who, wholly for Thy sake, is summoning them to the horizon
of Thy unity, at a time when every moment of His life is beset with
peril. Had His aim been the preservation of His own Self, He would
never have left it at the mercy of Thy foes." (Baha'u'llah, Prayers
and Meditations, 197-198)

All these thoughts are part of my startled reaction to an article in
the May 2006 Scientific American about the self-help movement. Michael
Shermer's skeptic column in this science magazine is anti-religion,
but a Baha'i would agree with almost everything he debunks. This
month's column is called, "SHAM Scam; The Self-Help and Actualization
Movement has become an $8.5-billion-a-year business. Does it work?" I
will not reproduce it here since you can read it in its entirety on
the Scientific American website.

Shermer's point here is that the term "self-help" is an oxymoron. He
asks, "If you need to pay for someone's help, why is it called
`self-help'?" He notes that the vast majority of the buyers of self
help books bought another self-help book within the previous eighteen
months. Here is a multi-million dollar industry that thrives on its
own failure to teach people how to help themselves. I am reminded of
the studies of the revivalist movement that found that almost all of
the people going up on stage to be "saved" or "healed" had attended
the same kind of meeting the week before, the month before, and so
forth. If they are being healed and saved, why keep coming back?
Shermer ends his article by quoting a saying that Jesus Himself also

"Patient, heal thyself--the true meaning of self-help."

This invocation of doctors hints at how profoundly corrupt we are.
Even the wealthiest and best educated nations are slipping behind in
basic measures of health. Obesity is rampant; the average lifespan is
slipping fast. There is little interest on the part of patients to
heal themselves, and doctors take time only to sign a prescription

This I think is why the Baha'i Writings lay such heavy emphasis on the
term "arise," for you can only rise out of bed once in the morning. We
heal ourselves once, then we are healthy. There is no coming back
again and again, no repeated shelling out for cures that fail. When a
Baha'i reads and prays morn and eve, she does not need others to feed
spiritual nourishment, she gets it from the pure source. Covenant,
then, is another word for self-healing.

John Taylor

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mullah Index

The Mullah Index

By John Taylor; 2006 April 26

In my daily reading this morning, from the Kitab-i-Asma, the Bab
excoriates Muslims who kept themselves out of its spirit, who have not
the "slightest notion" of Islam, who proved that they understood not a
letter of the Qu'ran,

"... otherwise they would not have turned away from God, Who hath ...
caused them to die and hath proffered life unto them, by clinging to
parts of their religion..." (The Bab, Selections, Kitab-i-Asma, XVII,
2, p. 140)

This is thought provoking. God causes us to die and then live (note
the reversed order, you learn to live material life, which is a form
of dying, and only then do you live spiritually, if you accept the
life offered by God) Religion is one, a whole, like the one true God.
Clinging only to a part of one's faith rather than the whole is to
corrupt it, make of it an idol, syncretize it. This happens no matter
how loudly and ardently one mouths the phrase, "there is no God but

Then the Bab discusses the mania of the Mullahs for making up rules
regulating every detail of their followers' lives. I have heard
optimistic Muslims declare that they find this a comfort, that they
enjoy having a rule for the minutiae of daily existence, from the
dinner plate to the cut of their clothing. The Bab disagrees, He
considers this wrong headed, a betrayal of the Spirit.

"Ye spend all your days contriving forms and rules for the principles
of your Faith, while that which profiteth you in all this is to
comprehend the good-pleasure of your Lord and unitedly to become
well-acquainted with His supreme Purpose." (Id.)

It hit me after reading this that what the Bab is pointing to is a
more sophisticated form of corruption that developed from Islam and
spread around the world. Islam was a more complex and sophisticated
religion than any that came before, and it gave to the world most of
the structures that make up the modern state. This is a good thing,
mostly. But it also, thanks to the early Mullocracies, gave us
bureaucracy, red tape, the stultifying mass of laws, rules and
regulations that is the chief characteristic of government in our age.
And it started in religion. Consider this brief article which has been
prancing about the world's newswires over the past week or so.

Bureaucrats look to Kafka, by Henry Samuel
(Daily Telegraph, filed: 15/04/2006)
France has created a "Kafka index" that measures the complexity of a
project or law against its usefulness to cut red tape. The index -
referring to Franz Kafka's The Trial, which describes one man's fight
against a nightmarish bureaucracy - is a scale of one to 100 measuring
how many hurdles, from forms to letters or phone calls, are needed to
win state permits or aid for a project. "It is an indicator to measure
as objectively as possible the most complex procedures so that we can
then simplify them," said a government spokesman. The index will be
regularly updated on a website, raising the prospect of a hit parade
of France's most Kafkaesque ministries.

What a lovely, catchy name! The Kafka Index. And what a great idea, to
create a way of measuring and naming the amount of delay in every
department. Kafka's master novel was written not coincidentally in
Prague; it describes an oppressive, faceless bureaucracy that charged
people without naming the charge or citing evidence of guilt. Hatred
as laws instantiated. But still, it seems unfair to charge the artist
with the crime that he denounced in his brilliant novel by calling it
the "Kafka Index." A much better name would be the "Mullah index."
That would be truer to history, it would give full credit where credit
is due.

The Mullah Index should not be restricted to red tape; it should
extend to all corruption. For that is the spade that the Bab in the
above is calling a spade. Petty nitpicking rule mongering by those
with power is corruption as much as any other crime, in the same way
that state sponsored violence is just murder and terrorism done by
officials shielded by the state. We need a programmer activist to go
into Google Maps and make up a display of the Mullah Index for every
region of the world -- and do it in a fair way, one that would show
North America to be the most corrupt place on earth, even as the
Guardian declared it to be.

In order to do that, you would just have to factor in the amount of
wealth being wasted. Sure, in poor areas thousands and even millions
are sucked away by corruption, but here it is billions and trillions.
To name just one example, Bush II has spent so much money over budget
since he took office that economists tell us he has brought the
world's most powerful economy almost to its knees. His heritage as
president is a multi-trillion dollar crime that took place in full
view of the world. Apres moi, le deluge. It is my hope that this will
end forever the concentration of so much power in the hands of one
person. Though as the term "Mullah Index" implies, concentration of
power into a professional elite offers little as an alternative. Group
power, but not elite power, that is what is needed.

What we need to end corruption is to arrange things so that we feel
the pain as it happens. If a leader decides to overspend, alarm bells
should go off immediately. That happens in our body. If I bump into
something in the night I feel the pain immediately. It does not turn
up in next years' health Annual Report, I feel it here and now. If I
do something good, it feels good. If you could do that for accounting,
we would have an effective body politic and huge national debts --
which are essentially money that belongs to all extorted by nation
states, would be a thing of the past.

Let us end with some selections from Plato, the ultimate authority on
corruption and how to deal with it. Start with this fragment on
corruption and generation, from Plato's Philebus:

Soc. Next let us see whether in another direction we may not find
pleasures and pains existing and appearing in living beings, which are
still more false than these.
Pro. What are they, and how shall we find them?
Soc. If I am not mistaken, I have often repeated that pains and aches
and suffering and uneasiness of all sorts arise out of a corruption of
nature caused by concretions, and dissolutions, and repletions, and
evacuations, and also by growth and decay?
Pro. Yes, that has been often said.
Soc. And we have also agreed that the restoration of the natural state
is pleasure?
Pro. Right.

The greatest book on both corruption and regeneration of the state is
Plato's masterwork, the Republic. Here we find all the criteria by
which a Mullah Index might be set to indicate. Consider the following

"... Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of
a sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation
and corruption."
"... There was gymnastic which presided over the growth and decay of
the body, and may therefore be regarded as having to do with
generation and corruption..."
"We would not have our guardians grow up amid images of moral
deformity, as in some noxious pasture, and there browse and feed upon
many a baneful herb and flower day by day, little by little, until
they silently gather a festering mass of corruption in their own soul.
Let our artists rather be those who are gifted to discern the true
nature of the beautiful and graceful; then will our youth dwell in a
land of health, amid fair sights and sounds, and receive the good in
everything; and beauty, the effluence of fair works, shall flow into
the eye and ear, like a health-giving breeze from a purer region, and
insensibly draw the soul from earliest years into likeness and
sympathy with the beauty of reason."
"... Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption of the majority
is also unavoidable, and that this is not to be laid to the charge of
philosophy any more than the other?"

John Taylor

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Racial Amity

Racial Amity

By Louis G. Gregory

From Bahai Year Book, 1925-1926, Bahai Publishing Trust, Wilmette,
Ill., 1926, pp. 165-169
-Report of an Address given at the First Convention for Amity between
the white and colored races, held at Washington, D. C.
(JET: scanned on April 25, 2006; I have changed some orthography and
added paragraph breaks.)

"All races, tribes, sects and classes share equally in the bounty of
their Heavenly Father. The only real difference lies in the degree of
faithfulness, of obedience to the laws of God. There are some who are
as lighted torches; there are others' who shine as stars in the sky of
humanity. The lovers of mankind, these are the superior men, of
whatever nation, creed or color they may be." ('Abdu'l-Baha, Paris
Talks, 148)

The new springtime is the spiritual springtime, with the flow of the
light and the love of God, the Divine Unity, into the hearts of
mankind. When the springtime comes, the winter, with its decay,
degradation, and death, has passed away, and we find the sun shines
with brilliancy and splendor, and that clouds of mercy shower their
drops upon humankind. We feel these zephyrs of divine providence waft
upon all. The light of reality gleams. The human heart becomes more
tender and sympathetic to the needs of its fellow beings, and all
these vibrations of love that are transmitted from the Kingdom of God
have their play in the hearts of men and make more certain and real
this thought of brotherhood.

We have our problems to solve in this country, but let us not become
despondent over them, realizing that today the whole world is having
its problems and difficulties. There is no country in the world today
that has not difficulties equaling, if not surpassing, our own. I do
not say this with the suggestion that misery loves company, but in
order that we may not be despondent and think that these difficulties
are hindrances. The divine springtime has appeared and the great
enlightened principles, which are the light and progress of the whole
world of humanity, are set in motion.

These relate to the great peace, the universality of truth, to the
great law that humanity is one, even as God is one, to the elevation
of the station of woman, who must no longer be confined to a limited
life but be everywhere recognized as the equal and helpmeet of man.
These pertain to the universality of education, to the oneness of
language, to the solution of this economic problem which has vexed the
greatest minds of the world and its noblest hearts, and to that
supreme dynamic power, the Holy Spirit of God, whose outpouring upon
the whole world of flesh will make this a world of light, of joy, and
of triumph. "In His Name," as the Herald proclaimed, "In the name of
God, the victor of the most victorious, proclaim! God will assist all
those who arise to serve Him. No one is able to deprive Him of His
majesty, His dominion, His sovereignty; for in the Heavens and the
earth, and in all the realms of God, He is the victorious and the

If we follow the Creator in all His marvelous work, we shall find that
it is characterized by infinite diversity and variety. Wherever the
human eye moves in creation we see variegated forms. In the mineral
kingdom if you should bring together a number of jewels, the diamond,
the emerald, the ruby, the sapphire, the pearl, you will find that
their combined beauty is greater than any single element.

They enhance each other's value.

Traveling through the far western country one may see thousands of
sheep gathered together in a peaceful fold, one shepherd and one fold.
The fact that some of these sheep are black and others are white does
not make the slightest difference in that community of interest, for
they know each other not by their color but by their kind, and they
love each other in response to that spirit of God which vibrates in
all creation.

One star differs from another in magnitude, but each and all of these
stars contribute to the brilliancy of the heavens. We have heard the
wonderful harmony of an orchestra. We have heard those rich strains.
Have you ever stopped to consider that in an orchestra the words, the
music, the voices, the instruments may be different; and yet exquisite
harmony, under the guidance of a great master, may come from that

The world has had a note of discord for many thousand years, and it
must impress itself upon every reasonable man that war, force, and
violence, are the greatest calamities that afflict the world of
mankind. But now we are striving for the note or harmony. The thought
of harmony, itself, is a happy thought, something that makes the
hearts of men joyful, something that makes their minds flash with the
gems of reality. For our own peace, safety, and salvation, we should
make every effort to bring harmony out of these discordant notes that
have been struck for time and ages throughout the world.

The races living side by side need each other. If even two communities
which are near each other cooperate, it works to the commercial
development and the happiness of both. We know the advantage and
benefit which comes through cooperation when it affects two great
nations, even though their ideals and principles and self-interest
differ in every stage of their growth; but, today we need a harmony
which is so universal that it will bind together the hearts of all
these struggling elements which make up creation.

Let us follow the guidance and the wisdom of God!

Have you stopped to observe that the clouds of His mercy shower upon
all the world of humanity; -that the air we breathe is not confined to
one church, or one synagogue, or one mosque, but the universal bounty
of God supports all life and creation? The sunshine, with its great
splendor, is not limited to this class or that class, or this race or
that race, or one nation or another, but it beautifies and glorifies
the whole realm of existence.

God's is the universal bounty and He loves all of His children. He has
provided for them out of that great love. Shall men, therefore,
reverse the purposes of God? Shall we reject the divine wisdom and
initiate a different plan? If the divine plan is one of light, shall
we make ours one of darkness? If the divine plan is one of providence,
shall we devise a plan of greed? If the divine plan is one of
altruism, shall we make ours the plan of selfishness? If the divine
plan is universal tolerance, shall we inaugurate a plan of prejudice
and pride? How can man escape disaster and humiliation if he is so
self-centered and so self-satisfied that he attempts to reverse the
principles of God?

The races living side by side have a common origin and a common
destiny. From God we came and to Him we return, and we have many
things in common. We live in the same favored land; we are warmed by
the same sunshine; we strive for those same virtues and ideals which
adorn and beautify the home; we have the same virtue of patriotism
(and may this embrace the world!); we speak the same language; and,
most significant of all, we profess the same religion.

If we but put our religion into practice, and do not quarrel about its
form, this alone would be sufficient to solve any human problem.

But there is more than this to consider.

In the past the white people of America have done a very noble service
to the colored people of our land, and this is something we should
stop to consider. About the time of the civil war you fought each
other for our freedom. That is one thing which we should not wish to

The eloquent Senator has referred to the progress made by the colored
people in America as distinguished from their backward condition in
Africa. This, too, is a service which has come to us through you, from
contact with your civilization. This is something that we should
appreciate. This is something that all thoughtful people must
appreciate. On the other hand, if you stop to consider the other side
of the question you may find that there are some services which are
valuable which the black people of America have rendered the white

Lest I, who am outwardly identified with one racial group should be
thought to be claiming too much for my own, I wish to quote to you the
ideas of two distinguished southerners: Passing through the city of
Atlanta a few months ago I saw the statue to the Hon. Henry W. Grady,
a statesman of the New South, and one of its most brilliant advocates,
now passed away. It was this enlightened statesman and friend of men
who declared that one of the greatest mistakes ever made was that this
country did not erect a monument to commemorate the loyalty and
fidelity of black men and women during that awful period of the civil

About a year ago it was my pleasure to listen to an ex-confederate
soldier, Doctor Boags of Florida, a man bowed by the weight of 80
years, who had come from his home in Florida, leaving a sick bed, and
had taken a journey to Washington to speak upon this very question.
The subject which he selected was the golden rule applied to the race
question, and the eloquent speech which he delivered was a vibration
of love. He said more for us, that ex-confederate veteran, than we are
willing, in our most sanguine moments, to claim for ourselves. So I
say to you that these enlightened souls saw the relationships of these
races to each other. It is only by co-operation, mutual appreciation,
and good will that we can get anywhere in the solution of these
problems that vex us.

If this room were filled with darkness we could not remove that
darkness by intensifying the darkness, nor can we remove discord from
the face of the earth by increasing discord. Darkness has no reality.
Darkness is only the absence of light. When the light comes in,
darkness disappears of its own motion. So all the turmoil, and
distress, and hatred in the world are only the absence of this divine,
perfect love.

Therefore let us shed the light of divine love, a real love, upon all
of our fellow beings, a love for the sake of God, a love which has no
limits, no boundaries of race, or country, or clime, or color, or
creed, but is a universal reality of the Sun of Truth shining from the
very Throne of God. Such a love will remove all these questions from
the world and will make us realize our relations to each other as we
realize first of all our relations to God. Without knowing the divine
bounty and the divine love a man cannot know even himself.

I believe that under the providence of God this Nation of ours has a
bright destiny - it may reach it through sorrow, I hope it may achieve
it through joy - and that is, as has been so eloquently expressed by
our noble friend, the nations of the whole earth are looking to
America for peace, for the example of ideal brotherhood.

If they are asking us for bread, shall we give them a stone?

I believe that America, under the inspiration of divine Guidance, will
fulfill the high ideal of this noble destiny by fusing with the fire
of love, into one harmonious brotherhood all the variegated elements
of which this world is composed, and it is incumbent upon each
individual, just insofar as he can, to contribute to this ideal
brotherhood; and not only theorize about such a condition, but put his
thoughts into action; for the wise man today is the man who makes his
knowledge practical.

Speaking about the interrelations between the white and colored
people; some months ago, traveling through the city of Monroe I met a
friend who travels much and uses his eyes. He told me one of his
impressions. He said that if, traveling through a section of the
South, he came into a community and in this community saw nothing but
white people he could immediately form a correct impression by their
general bearing and manners, about the habits of their colored
neighbors. But if, on the other hand, he saw nothing but colored
people of the community, he could also form a very vivid and correct
impression of the habits and manners of the white people.

Now this may seem somewhat far-fetched, but you can see that it is the
logical condition with regard to these civilizations so closely
associated for centuries, that one should be but the reflex of the
other. Therefore, instead of being critical toward our fellow beings,
we can most happily occupy our time by considering what contribution
we can ourselves make to the spirit of peace and brotherhood
throughout the world.

If our thoughts, and our aims, and our ideals are constructive, they
will be supported in this day by divine confirmation and, will bring
this light of peace and brotherhood to all the people of the world.

Let us not for a moment be despondent, for the glorious Sun of Reality
has dawned and the light of that Sun now illumines the whole world. It
is only for us to discover what a great bounty God has provided for
us. "To the state of holiness He calls us!" To the exalted state of
peace and ideal brotherhood he summons us! If we bring the best
treasures of our minds and the noblest resources of our hearts, coming
to the aid of the Lord against the mighty support this happy
condition, He will give to us that inward peace which shall leave its
bright traces in all the realm of existence. It will make us true men
and women; it will make us the torch-bearers of the light of God and
will enable us to transmit a radiance by which the peace and pleasure
and happiness of the whole world of existence will be adorned.

And there is nothing more glorious for man than to realize this bright
destiny. God is with us! We can not fail if we are firm in His
covenant and steadfast in His commands. This gloomy age will pass away
and the radiance of the divine love will penetrate the whole earth,
for as 'Abdu'l-Baha the Great Teacher says,

"There is a mysterious power at work in the hearts which moves the
rocks, which rends the mountains, which creates new spiritual worlds,
which administers all complicated and difficult affairs."

This power will not fail, for it is the vibration that emanates from
the Kingdom of God.

JET, Note: the above is evidently a paraphrase of the following:
"There is a power in this Cause, a mysterious power, far, far, far
away from the ken of men and angels. That invisible power is the
source of all these outward activities. It moves the hearts. It rends
the mountains. It administers the complicated affairs of the Cause. It
inspires the friends. It dashes into a thousand pieces all the forces
of opposition. It creates new spiritual worlds. This is a mystery of
the Kingdom of Abha." (quoted in Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, Diary Notes, July
7, 1914, in Baha'i Scriptures, #622, p. 304)

John Taylor

Monday, April 24, 2006

Weariness of Earth

Global Dimming and the Weariness of Earth

By John Taylor; 2006 April 24

Back in our Ancaster High and Vocational School geography class in the
early 1970's I still recall when my teacher explained about the
greenhouse effect. This phenomenon, he said, keeps greenhouses warm in
winter and on a broader scale it applies to whole planets. Venus, for
example, is superheated by its atmosphere and no life can sustain
itself there, in spite of the fact that it is within the same
hospitable belt as Earth and Mars, where sunlight is theoretically
moderate enough to sustain life. He said that human pollution produces
carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that can bring about global warming,
here, on Earth.

This seemed alarmist, an infinity from my teenaged world. An idea
popped into my head.

I put up my hand and asked, "Well, if air pollution increases, won't
clouds reflect off the sunlight into space? Won't that actually
decrease global temperatures?"

He was surprised, hummed and hawed and finally admitted he could not
answer that. He was not my favorite teacher but had to allow that he
could admit when he ran across a stumper. Little wonder though that he
could not respond when it is only in the past ten years or so that
climatologists have come up with adequate answers.

Reading science news reports carefully but in dribs and drabs over
several years, I missed the overall import of what is happening. I am
grateful for the PBS television show Nova that this week presented a
documentary that brought the findings all together in a suspenseful,
not to say frightening manner. What has been discovered is that the
cooling effect of smoggy clouds reflecting light and heat off into
space is indeed operating, much more than anybody had expected.
Overall, however, this global dimming effect is muting the greenhouse
effect, which is now seen to be an even more powerful heat trapping
effect than anybody had calculated. That is, if we were to reduce air
pollution to zero, that would actually accelerate the greenhouse
effect. It would be like releasing the string on a drawn, taught bow.
Our planet would heat up like a pressure cooker in decades, leading to
a cascading, autocatalytic effect. At some point in this scenario
methyl-hydrates presently frozen on the ocean floor would melt, rise
in great bubbles to the surface. Since these gases are hundreds of
times better heat sponges than our present greenhouse gasses, our
planet would become a pressure cooker, just like Venus.

Another frightening possibility in the short term that was mentioned
in this broadcast is that global dimming will cause an imminent repeat
of the drought and mass starvation that devastated the Sahel in
sub-Saharan Africa during the 1970's and 1980's. Climatologists, going
over the data in the light of global dimming, found that this
humanitarian disaster was caused by the cooling effect of European air
pollution, which nudged the winds that had always brought the Sahel
monsoon southwards. Instead of soaking their fields, the monsoon went
south, away from populated regions. The result was a twenty year long
draught and millions of souls starving to death. Now not the African
monsoon but the clouds and winds that bring the monsoons of India,
southern China and Southeast Asia are in peril of shifting southwards.
That shift in weather patterns threatens three or four billion people,
two thirds of the human race, with a slow, hellish death by inanition.

As I was watching this documentary, again, an idea popped into my head.

"Could this be why the Bush administration is so avid all of a sudden
to make harboring illegal immigrants into a felony? Is it getting
ready to play hardball over what they know is about to happen, a world
heating up like an oven? Are farsighted but cold-hearted leaders
readying draconian survival measures for the privileged few they

The gas and oil burning machineries of a cynical elite causes climate
shifts, and now they brace for the inevitable reaction: massive
illegal immigration, wars, the death throes of an entire civilization.
We are in for a very cold, inhospitable future when planners
consciously adopt a devil-take-the-hindmost strategy instead solving
the illness behind the symptoms. If so, this regime and its
materialist ideologues are much worse than Nazis, worse than Stalin,
worse than Mao, who only murdered millions of people. What must it be
like to be responsible for three or four billion dead? That is a lot
of blood to have on your hands.

Of course it does no good to pick out a few and blame them
exclusively. Everybody is responsible here to some extent. Far more
than a mere regime change would be required to turn things around as
they must be turned around, immediately. A revolution is needed from
the ground up, from the very soul to the total collectivity. Only God
can ever do that. God has been calling us to do this for a long time,
as long ago as the Qu'ran, which calls followers of Judeo-Christian
religions to cooperate as like minded communities,

"O People of the Book! Come (let us join) on a platform [lit. a
formula] that may be common between us --that we serve naught except
God." (Q3:64, quoted in Rahman, Meaning of the Quran, 63)

Rahman suggests that this can mean that all paths other than the
straight one to God are deviant, that the sum of all paths taken by
men is not equal to the truth about God. And in the face of current
climatic reality, who can ever trust a human solution to suffice? And
worst of all, the worst unbelievers are not outside religion, they
have infiltrated it to its very heart. For that reason, not only the
air but the very ground under our feet is disgusted with us, as
Baha'u'llah makes unforgettably clear in a Hidden Word.

"O Ye that are Lying as Dead on the Couch of Heedlessness! Ages have
passed and your precious lives are well-nigh ended, yet not a single
breath of purity hath reached Our court of holiness from you. Though
immersed in the ocean of misbelief, yet with your lips ye profess the
one true faith of God. Him whom I abhor ye have loved, and of My foe
ye have made a friend. Notwithstanding, ye walk on My earth complacent
and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you and
everything within it shunneth you. Were ye but to open your eyes, ye
would, in truth, prefer a myriad griefs unto this joy, and would count
death itself better than this life." (Baha'u'llah, Persian Hidden
Words, 20)

The Baha'i Faith does not deviate, it continues the Qu'ran's clarion
call for a cooperative revolution of religions starting on the most
fundamental level, that of Spirit. The Guardian gives the following
succinct, definitive explanation of the Baha'i prescription:

"Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the
world-wide Law of Baha'u'llah. Far from aiming at the subversion of
the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to
remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an
ever-changing world... It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger
aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon
the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative
claims of a unified world. It repudiates excessive centralization on
one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. Its
watchword is unity in diversity such as 'Abdu'l-Baha Himself has

"`Consider the flowers of a garden. Though differing in kind, color,
form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of
one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays
of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto
their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants,
the leaves and blossoms, the fruit, the branches and the trees of that
garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of hues, form
and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the
effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought,
temperament and character, are brought together under the power and
influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human
perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the
celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth
the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent
thoughts, sentiments, ideas and convictions of the children of men.'"
(Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, 41-42)

John Taylor

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Old Economics Article


From Baha'i Year Book, 1925-1926, Baha'i Publishing Trust, Wilmette,
Ill., 1926, p. 170

The world vision of 'Abdu'l-Baha included in every way the betterment
of mankind. This betterment must be physical as well as spiritual for
the enlightened individual cannot continue to exist under conditions
that are only suitable for a primitive creature. 'Abdu'l-Baha says the
day of force has passed, the day of love has dawned. In the ages
behind us force and competition constituted the laws of being, but in
the period we are entering love and co-operation wil1 be the
dominating principles. The Messenger of God, always the Divine
Educator in each new age, reveals laws for the founding of a divine

While in the United States 'Abdu'l-Baha told us how an ideal community
might be established. He also outlined definitely the changes that
would manifest in business methods reflecting the New Era. These he
explained would gradually eliminate competition, and substitute
co-operative means of conducting all sorts of industrial and
commercial enterprises. He said that employer and employee must be
brought together so that the management of affairs would not rest
solely in the hands of the owners of a factory or institution, but
would permit of consultation between worker and director, so that all
decisions would result from mutual understanding. Strikes arise he
declared because neither worker nor manager feels the point of view
and temper of the other. He insisted that workmen must always be
represented on the boards of the companies employing them, that they
must have access to the books and understand the financial status of
the concern for which they worked so that they could estimate the
justice of any change contemplated in the wage scale.

He declared that strikes could never accomplish the end desired by the
workers for until they understood the financial conditions of the
firms employing them they would keep on demanding more and more wages
in ruinous degree, while if they comprehended the financial situation
they would themselves propose reasonable measure. 'Abdu'l-Baha taught
moreover that violent action invariably produces reaction, thu5
defeating the end in view, and collectively or individually brutal
force destroys its own purpose.

He said the workers must become owners of stock in the centers that
employed them and have a share in the profits which accrued so that in
the end they would no longer be paid wages but would receive their
portion of the return on work and capital invested. He said also that
in such a plan the employee must be protected from loss, because as he
did not possess capital in cash but rather in his industry there would
come lean years in which the financier could wait comfortably for his
delayed dividends, on account of his accumulated wealth, but at such
periods the worker endowed only with hands and brain, must receive the
stipend nece5sary for his expenses.

When the worker has his seat upon the board of management and can vote
on the rate of wages, the di5position of surplus capital, dividends,
employment individual and collective, and all questions involving the
control of the enterprise, then the worker and manager will understand
one another and strikes will be completely eliminated. This has been
the result wherever such a method has been inaugurated and it is
surprising to observe its rapid increase in adoption. 'Abdu'l-Baha's
plan is practically that of the shop committee system applied many
years ago by Hart Schaffner and Marx, the great clothing firm. It was
initiated after a terrible strike during which the members of the
concern discovered to their amazement that they did not understand at
all the conditions of their employees, and being kindly people they
wished to guard against the return of a similar situation. Since then
they have had no strikes. Sidney Hilman has established the
Amalgamated Garment Workers Union on the same system. This involves an
elected board of workers and employers which in case of failure to
arrive at a majority decision in any question selects a financial
expert from the outside in whom both sides have perfect confidence,
who casts the majority vote to which all submit.

The commercial world has recently been much interested in the fact
that the Nash Garment Factory of Cincinnati whose owner has become
famous under the title of "Golden Rule Nash" as a result of his
endeavor to follow the Golden Rule in dealing with his employees, has
invited Sidney Hilman to organize a branch of the Amalgamated in the
Institution. Nash never permitted union membership among his
employees, declaring that his own methods and authority were
sufficient to ensure justice and fair dealing with his people. In the
last two years however his business has grown so immensely that he
could no longer keep in personal touch with his workers and through
the constant intervention of foremen and superintendents injustice
crept in. He realized that it was necessary to have help and looking
over the union field was immediately attracted by the shop committee
plan of the Amalgamated as one which ensured a continuous
understanding between employers and workers. It is planned to create
harmony and therefore must eliminate strikes.

Perhaps the most brilliant illustration of such harmony is the immense
Cochrane Carpet Factory of Yonkers, where this method was introduced
many years ago by Alexander Cochrane, with the most beneficent
results. The establishment is at present on what is practically a
co-operative basis with the best possible relationship between owners
and employees.

'Abdu'l-Baha spoke of a new consciousness that would arise in mankind
that would render it impossible for men in future to enjoy great
wealth selfishly. At present a man lives in a palace in London or New
York, and within a stone's throw of him are people who never in their
lives have fully satisfied hunger. The man in the palace enjoys his
own comforts feeling no responsibility for the others; but by and by
he will become so uncomfortable in the knowledge of other men's
sufferings that he can no longer endure his luxury. Then he will
devote his energies to changing the laws of the community so that
henceforth no one can be hungry and poverty will be abolished.

The day must come, 'Abdu'l-Baha declared, when no city will tolerate
slums, when all children will have equal rights of education, and when
the rich will even begin to give away their wealth because of the new
consciousness of other's needs which penetrate them. We are able to
see the fulfillment of this last prophecy, at least in its
commencement, in the immense Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations, and
in the numerous cases already in evidence of people like Dix the
garment maker, who having acquired a fortune of several millions
through the assistance of his faithful employees, decided that he had
enough money and he would like to offer his employees an opportunity
to be equally fortunate in business. So with the co-operation of his
son, he put his factory into the hands of his workers at a temporary
and nominal royalty, and with his son served the new company for a
year with no salary, so that the firm should have the benefit of
experience in its inauguration. Within the past year at least a dozen
manufacturing establishments have followed the example of Dix which
plainly indicates that another feeling is arising in the world about
the possession of money.

'Abdu'l-Baha said that in the future all economic conditions would be
ameliorated, and the law of brotherhood would become the basis of
life. As an illustration of future possibilities he sketched the
business methods of an agricultural village, saying he chose
agriculture because its proper regulation is the basic factor in all
economic life. He explained that the organization of the village would
apply to any community. According to this system each citizen of the
town owns and tills his own fields without jurisdiction or limitation
of acreage, but the village elects a committee of citizens to market
the product of the entire community and when the harvest is sold the
committee levies a tax on each producer according to the amount of
surplus he has, beyond the amount necessary for the support of his
family. Only the surplus is taxed, and each is allowed perfect freedom
as to his expenses; but if his surplus is large it is quite heavily
taxed on the principles of an ascending tax for individual wealth.

This last is easily comprehensible to us from the point of view of the
income tax with which we are familiar, but the application of the tax
and its existence as a fluid income in the village is not so easily
appreciable. It is an expression of the new economic consciousness.
There will be some producers, comments 'Abdu'l-Baha, whose return will
not provide sufficient income for their needs. For instance if a
farmer has expenses of five thousand dollars and an income of twenty
thousand, he can pay a considerable tax on the fifteen thousand
surplus which comes to him. But if a man has expenses of five thousand
dollars and only returns of three thousand, then he must meet a
deficit of two thousand.

In such a case, says 'Abdu'l-Baha, he draws two thousand dollars from
the exchequer of the community, and ,in this way taxation becomes a
fluid source of wealth flowing back and forth among all citizens,
banishing poverty and assuring comfort for everyone. Certainly in such
a commonwealth there could exist no slums, there could exist no
prejudice, nor suspicion, nor hatred. To image it gives one a sense of
sympathetic brotherhood which is almost inconceivable at the present
moment. But its reality lies in the new consciousness that is

John Taylor

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ridvan Speculation

Ridvan Speculation: Just What Does Ridvan Mean?

By John Taylor; 2006 April 20

Happy Ridvan, dear friends. For those who want a good general summary
of what this holiest Baha'i festival is I recommend the following
short article about Ridvan on the website of the Baha'is of America.

What I would like to do on the Badi' list today is examine the meaning
of the word "Ridvan." What does this Arabic term mean, as used by

Today, the first day of Ridvan, is the first of a twelve day long
festival that, according to the Badi' Calendar, starts off on the
thirteenth day of Jalal, Glory, and continues until the fifth of
Jamal, Beauty. As the names of these two 19 day long Badi' months seem
to signify, Ridvan is a period of passage from glory to beauty, from
Jalal to Jamal. The ultimate Jalal, glory is to recognize God
directly, independently, without need of metaphorical crutches, the
Day of God, even as the prophet Isaiah predicted would come about one

"The sun shall be no more your light by day; neither for brightness
shall the moon give light to you: but Yahweh will be to you an
everlasting light, and your God your glory." (Isa 60:19, WEB)

Ridvan ends in the month of Beauty, and surely the most beautiful
Jamal experience imaginable is to gain final approval from the One who
created us, who made us for a purpose, His purpose. "For the Lord
taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with
salvation." (Ps 149:4) From glory to beauty, that is part of what the
word "Ridvan" means. But in the Aqdas, His most important book,
Baha'u'llah made it clear that the purification of Ridvan, especially
this first day of Ridvan, is not confined to two names, or nineteen
names, but takes in and vivifies all names and attributes of God.

"Verily, all created things were immersed in the sea of purification
when, on that first day of Ridvan, We shed upon the whole of creation
the splendours of Our most excellent Names and Our most exalted
Attributes." (Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, 47)

Ostensibly, Ridvan commemorates the departure of Baha'u'llah from
Baghdad, where He had been exiled from His native Persia (Iran) about
a decade before. His destination was Constantinople, capitol of the
Turkish Empire. The city of Baghdad in ancient times was called
Babylon (Gate of the Gods); it was considered holy from antiquity,
long before Biblical record. The earliest histories relate that the
people of the whole region believed that in Babylon the buildings of
this world most perfectly mirror those of the divine, ideal world. Not
far south of here, in Ur, God sent Abram into exile with a promise
that his seed would multiply. Similarly Baha'u'llah did not leave this
Ridvan garden without God announcing through Him great news to His
followers and admirers.

Just before Baha'u'llah left Baghdad, on this day, the first of
Ridvan, He and a handful of aids crossed over to a garden on an island
on the outskirts of Baghdad, subsequently known as the Garden of
Ridvan, or Paradise. They arrived at the garden just before the
afternoon call to prayer. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, 152) Here,
starting on the first day, Baha'u'llah revealed a prodigious number of
His most important Tablets, all in one way or another announcing His
mission to the followers of the Bab. These letters, some book-length,
were entrusted to certain prominent Babis. They were charged to take
them back to Persia, where most Babis lived at the time. From this
Ridvan time forward, anyone who accepted the station of Baha'u'llah
was no longer properly named a Babi but a Baha'i.

The Guardian noticed what is not perhaps obvious to the Western eye,
that this sea change in Baha'u'llah's Mission was not just on paper,
as it were, it also was signaled by a new stance and more dignified
form of dress.

"...the perceptible change noted in His demeanor; and finally, His
adoption of the taj (tall felt head-dress), on the day of His
departure from His Most Holy House - all proclaimed unmistakably His
imminent assumption of the prophetic office and of His open leadership
of the community of the Bab's followers." (Shoghi Effendi, id.)

Baha'u'llah's eldest son, `Abdu'l-Baha, who had been present and was
very busy making all executive arrangements during this pregnant
twelve day period, in later years wrote the following prayer
commemorating Ridvan.

"Thou seest, O my Lord, the assemblage of Thy loved ones, the company
of Thy friends, gathered by the precincts of Thine all-sufficing
Shrine, and in the neighborhood of Thine exalted garden, on a day
among the days of Thy Ridvan Feast -- that blessed time when Thou
didst dawn upon the world, shedding thereon the lights of Thy
holiness, spreading abroad the bright rays of Thy oneness, and didst
issue forth from Baghdad, with a majesty and might that encompassed
all mankind; with a glory that made all to fall prostrate before Thee,
all heads to bow, every neck to bend low, and the gaze of every man to
be cast down. They are calling Thee to mind and making mention of
Thee, their breasts gladdened with the lights of Thy bestowals, their
souls restored by the evidences of Thy gifts, speaking Thy praise,
turning their faces toward Thy Kingdom, humbly supplicating Thy lofty
Realms." (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, 175-176)

This prayer evidently was revealed in or near the second garden of
Ridvan, a newer commemorative garden near the Mansion of Bahji, near
Akka, where Baha'u'llah spent His last years. Baha'u'llah, and later
`Abdu'l-Baha, would often, especially on holy days, pitch their tents
in this second garden of Ridvan, no doubt doing all possible to
recall, for the benefit of Themselves and the pilgrims visiting the
holy places, the pristine glory and beauty of the original Ridvan near
Baghdad where the Great Announcement took place.

This mention of Ridvan as the "Great Announcement" is why I said
earlier that Ridvan "ostensibly" commemorates the announcement to the
Babis in the garden near Baghdad. For, judging from what Baha'u'llah
says in the following passage from His tablet to Napoleon III, in a
broader sense Ridvan signifies the annunciation of the Lord of Hosts
to all, a spiritual baptism of creation, sanctified above time and

What does Ridvan mean? Here, based upon a quote cited below, is what I
understand it to mean.

Ridvan is the focal point of each of the nineteen feasts in the Badi'
calendar, each of which is devoted to one of nineteen names of God. It
began long before the announcement in the Baghdad garden with the
parallel, ground breaking announcement of the Babi revelation. It
continued and intensified in the "Great Announcement to Mankind," a
series of Tablets addressed to the world's kings and other leaders,
and it continues apace, with you and me, whenever we ourselves come to
appreciate and accept that announcement -- I was fortunate enough to
declare my faith in Baha'u'llah about a week before Ridvan, in 1973,
but I think not only for me but any soul who portentously declares
their belief in Baha'u'llah, "signing your card" as it is sometimes
called, is mirrored and celebrated in the Ridvan festival. Ridvan also
happens whenever we teach the faith, when we pass on the greatest gift
to others, when we give them a fair chance to call themselves Baha'is

Anyway, I glean all that from the following:

"All feasts have attained their consummation in the two Most Great
Festivals, and in two other Festivals that fall on the twin days; the
first of the Most Great Festivals being those days whereon God shed
the effulgent glory of His most excellent Names upon all who are in
heaven and on earth, and the second being that day on which We raised
up the One Who announced unto the people the glad tidings of this
Great Announcement. Thus hath it been set down in the Book by Him Who
is the Mighty, the Powerful. On other than these four consummate days,
engage ye in your daily occupations, and withhold yourselves not from
the pursuit of your trades and crafts. Thus hath the command been
issued and the law gone forth from Him Who is your Lord, the
All-Knowing, the All-Wise." (Baha'u'llah, Summons, 1.153)

A footnote explains that though there are now nine Holy Days wherein
we take off work, in 1868, when this was written, there were only
four, one, the "naming day" of Ridvan, two the Declaration of the Bab,
which had initiated the Baha'i Era, the first stage of the Great
Announcement. Days three and four are the "twin days" festival; the
two birthdays of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, which in the lunar Muslim
calendar fall on successive days.

Certainly `Abdu'l-Baha supported the idea of a broader Ridvan, a name
change not only of that small number of cowed and persecuted group
from "Babis" to "Baha'is," but an event that spiritually renamed the
entire human race, and to which they albeit unknowingly responded.

"This is the day when the Day-Star of Truth rose over the horizon of
life, and its glory spread, and its brightness shone out with such
power that it clove the dense and high-piled clouds and mounted the
skies of the world in all its splendour. Hence do ye witness a new
stirring throughout all created things. See how, in this day, the
scope of sciences and arts hath widened out, and what wondrous
technical advances have been made, and to what a high degree the
mind's powers have increased, and what stupendous inventions have
appeared." (`Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, 111-112)

Ridvan, then, means an infusion of life, an inspiration, a final
declaration of maturity, a coming of age festival of spirit. Ridvan
leads the backsliding, pleomorphic human race forward to the stage of

This new understanding had been prepared for in the Writings of the
Bab, who ceased using the word "prophet" to describe Himself and the
One God Would Make "Manifest," now they were to be called
"manifestations," showings, instantiations of the Will of God. The
Manifestation, most importantly, does not predict a future
consummation of our hopes, He offers a plan for implementing it. In
our collective childhood Logos, Word of God, had meant spirit, word or
code, now it means "master plan," for Logos offers a new,
participatory religious sensibility. The plan we work together with
God. No more did the One go out and say, "I will make ye fishers of
men," now every Letter of the Living had to set out on his own and
attain to the Promised One using only his own spiritual resources.
Manifest indeed.

Most of all, there is ample evidence for a broader view of the word
"Ridvan" in the Writings of Baha'u'llah Himself. There are by my count
at least twenty mentions of the word "Ridvan" in the Kitab-i-Iqan, the
foremost doctrinal work of Baha'u'llah. For example, there is a
"Ridvan of the divine presence, the Eternal, the All-Glorious;"
speaking of His own life, He says, "... the portals of the Ridvan
cannot forever remain open"; He talks about the "Ridvan of the
Gospel," the Ridvan of divine wisdom, of everlasting, of heavenly
reunion, of divine knowledge, the Ridvan of God, of understanding, of
immortality, of unfading splendour, of resplendant glory, of the
divine Presence, of the heart, of divine good pleasure, and finally of
the "Sadrih of the Ridvan of God."

Let me close with this remarkable passage that most Badi' readers may
not have seen, and which we only have in a provisional translation. It
sums up not only the essence of the message that Baha'u'llah conveyed
on this, the first day of Ridvan, but also more broadly the three
salient features of His revelation as a whole.

"On the first day of His arrival in the garden designated the Ridvan,
the Ancient Beauty established himself upon the Most Great Throne,
thereupon the Tongue of Glory uttered three blessed verses. First,
that in this revelation the use of the sword is prohibited. Second,
that whoso layeth a claim ere the expiration of a thousand years is
assuredly in grievous error; by year, a complete year is intended and
any interpretation of this matter is forbidden. And third, that the
One True God, exalted be His Glory, at that very moment shed the
splendours of all His Names upon the whole creation." (Baha'u'llah,
quoted in Saiedi, Logos and Civilization, 242)

There is more than enough food for thought in this pregnant passage to
keep us reflecting for the rest of the entire twelve day Festival just
starting. In any case, may it be a joyous and productive time for you
and yours.

John Taylor

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Karenina Unity Principle

The Anna Karenina Unity Principle

By John Taylor; 2006 April 20

I am slowly reading (too slowly, actually, I realize that I need new
reading glasses -- as Barbara, our community's Oldest Member often
advises me, "Do not get old.") Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and
Steel," which Bill Gates recommended as the most important book
written in the last fifty years. It seems that this book in part
inspired and guided him in his prodigious acts of charity. How
prodigious, you ask? Consider, his Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation
gives away more funding for international health care than the entire
World Health Organization. When I read that I felt shame on behalf of
the governments of the world, for by rights what they give should
dwarf what any individual, no matter how rich, could ever contribute.

As a Baha'i, I find myself agreeing heartily with Gates' assessment of
the importance of this book, for it demonstrates how totally
scientific knowledge backs up the central message of the Master, even
His opinions about the importance of the Holy Land. This area contains
the Fertile Crescent, where we got our most productive crops and
domestic beasts some 10,000 years ago. Without that, there could not
be large numbers of people. If that does not put the holy in Holy
Land, what does? Consider the following statement of the Master, from
one of His most important Tablet:

"All countries, in the estimation of the one true God, are but one
country, and all cities and villages are on an equal footing. Neither
holds distinction over another. All of them are the fields of God and
the habitation of the souls of men. Through faith and certitude, and
the precedence achieved by one over another, however, the dweller
conferreth honor upon the dwelling, some of the countries achieve
distinction, and attain a preeminent position. For instance,
notwithstanding that some of the countries of Europe and of America
are distinguished by, and surpass other countries in, the salubrity of
their climate, the wholesomeness of their water, and the charm of
their mountains, plains and prairies, yet Palestine became the glory
of all nations inasmuch as all the holy and divine Manifestations,
from the time of Abraham until the appearance of the Seal of the
Prophets (Muhammad), have lived in, or migrated to, or traveled
through, that country. Likewise, Mecca and Medina have achieved
illimitable glory, as the light of Prophethood shone forth therein.
For this reason Palestine and Hijaz have been distinguished from all
other countries." (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, 61-62)

The central thesis of "Guns, Germs and Steel" is that there is only
one race of human beings, that the only applicable distinguishing
factor between peoples is the climate and geography of the area in
which they live. Reading in detail about how true this is everywhere,
I see certain "dark" sayings of the Master in a different light.

For example, the following from His blueprint for development, Secret
of Divine Civilization... This has been taken by some to imply that
the inhabitants of His native people are genetically superior to other
peoples. Reading it now I see that by "endowments conferred by birth"
He is talking exclusively about the landscape and resources of Persia,
and that nothing else is implied; to imagine otherwise is to overturn
the central pillar of Baha'i faith, oneness of humanity, not to
mention all findings of science over the past century.

"It should not be imagined that the people of Persia are inherently
deficient in intelligence, or that for essential perceptiveness and
understanding, inborn sagacity, intuition and wisdom, or innate
capacity, they are inferior to others. God forbid! On the contrary,
they have always excelled all other peoples in endowments conferred by
birth. Persia herself, moreover, from the standpoint of her temperate
climate and natural beauties, her geographical advantages and her rich
soil, is blessed to a supreme degree. What she urgently requires,
however, is deep reflection, resolute action, training, inspiration
and encouragement. Her people must make a massive effort, and their
pride must be aroused." (Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization,

The last two sentences here should inspire a world-wide oneness of
humanity publicity campaign. All the ingredients for a conclusive case
are in Secret and the findings reported in Guns, Germs and Steel.
People everywhere, not only in Persia, will remain overawed, helpless
and demoralized by the great Bugaboo, The West, until they make an
effort at change and follow this recipe. They must out develop the
developed lands, for they are taking us all on a rollercoaster ride to
hell. The peoples of the world will never stand tall and make a
"massive effort" until their leaders of thought inspire them in ways
that "arouse their pride." Pride in membership in the human family,
yes, all well and good, but especially pride as a member of the region
in which we live. We have to see that it was a great accomplishment
just inhabiting the more difficult regions, and be proud of it. All
clear thinkers who understand the broad picture see that these peoples
are not poor, deprived and afflicted because they are inferior, so
there is no point in blaming themselves or anybody else. We just have
to see it and act it ourselves.

We can do it, but only if we follow these steps: reflection, action,
training, inspiration, in a constant feedback loop. If we are
conscious that we we are one, that only our environment varies, we can
act on that. But no matter what, we must go through each step one
after the other, and not miss any. Each is an essential for success.
It is just like happiness; happiness is not one big pipe dream
fulfilled but it is the combined result of several factors, each
essential. Jared Diamond calls this the Anna Karenina principle. Let
him explain in his own words from the chapter in Guns, Germs and Steel
explaining why some animals can be used by humans and others cannot.

"Domesticable animals are all alike: every undomesticable animal is
undomesticable in its own way. If you think you have already read
something like that before, you are right. Just make a few changes,
and you have the first sentence of Tolstoy's great novel Anna
Karenina: `Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is
unhappy in its own way.' By that sentence, Tolstoy meant that, in
order to be happy, a marriage must succeed in many different respects:
sexual attraction, agreement about money, child discipline, religion,
in-laws, and other vital issues. Failure in any one of those essential
respects can doom a marriage even if it has all the other ingredients
needed for happiness." (Guns, Germs and Steel, 157)

The thesis of "Secret of Divine Civilization," in these terms, is that
the developed and advanced members of the human family have succeeded
not because they are superior to peoples in undeveloped areas, but
simply because they periodically, systematically, one way or another
go through the unavoidable steps: reflection, action, training,
encouragement, plus a few others explicated in "Secret of Divine
Civilization." They do not miss any. So as Diamond might paraphrase
Tolstoy, "Unified folk in the broader family of humanity are all
alike; disunified peoples are disunified each in their own way."

John Taylor