Wednesday, May 31, 2006


The Smell of Mortality

By John Taylor; 2006 May 31

"Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. The imperfect eye beholds imperfections. The eye that covers faults looks toward the Creator of souls." (Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation, 93)

Yesterday I wrote my daily contribution at the last minute, while I was online, something I rarely do. To my chagrin I hit the "send" button instead of the "save" button. The send button is an executioner that knows no reprieve. I had intended not only to revise more, but also to include the following further bit of feedback from another Badi' list reader to Monday's controversial review of the conference and the new counselor:

"Thank you so much for your reflections on the Inter-institutional conference. Your observations and conclusions are very accurate and I am going to forward your message to all the members of the St. Catharines Assembly as not everyone was able to attend. Your reflections will provide them with a very good sense of what now needs to happen to accomplish the goals of the Five Year Plan and make Entry By Troops a reality. Thank You So Much John."

I had in mind at this point cracking some joke along the lines of, "Oh no, please do not spread my faultfinding around, I am in enough trouble with the institutions of the Faith already!" But I have had leisure to think better of even hinting at such an attitude, for the whole thrust of the weekend for me was the astonishing maturity of the Ontario Baha'i Counsel. I had been prepared to some extent by attending a similar conference run by them a couple of years ago in Oshawa. As far as my relations with official bodies, the likes of the OBC I had never encountered in all my days, within the Faith or out. I did get the chance in the interval to buttonhole an OBC member last year and beg to hear what their secret was. Her explanation was nothing magical (I had half expected a magic lantern or some contract with darker powers to turn up in the story). She said that when they formed they were encouraged to study "the guidance" and they did so, together and apart, intensively over many months and years. She told me what specific letters they studied but unfortunately that information has slipped my mind.

Last night I viewed on DVD an old theatre performance of John Paul Jones in the role of King Lear. I pointed the old king out to the kids and informed them that here was the actor who played the voice of Darth Vader. They could scarce credit my words; he had no helmet and seemed frail and vulnerable. Darth Vader was nothing like Lear. Darth Vader had light swords, not metal ones.

Anyway, the whole play as I view it at this juncture of my life seemed to be about the difference between true power, a house build on stone, and false tyranny, a house built on sand, about the distinction between the betrayal of idle flattery and the truth of loyal love. Cordelia refuses to exaggerate her love to her father, saying, "I love thee to the extent of my bond, no more." Lear at that point does not realize that this is not minimizing love, it is saying as much as can be said about any human relationship. Lear was her father and king and she loved him as such but she recognized that when she married most of her thoughts, time and effort would go to her husband and children, not to her father. The Cause of God asks nothing more or less than just that, our bond, being faithful to the Covenant, living up to what truly exists between us and God. It is a serious mistake either to ignore or misrepresent that bond in thought, word or deed. Cordelia understood that, and even when called openly to flatter her father, she could not distort that sacred bond, even at the price of his loss of face, and of her life. He was stung by her affront to his prestige and summarily banished her. Before leaving she offered this prophesy to her two false sisters,

"Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides:
Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.
Well may you prosper!"

Here is an interesting definition of flattery, a determined covering over of faults. Covering faults is a good thing, and when it is your boss or king, it is a very profitable thing too. Indeed, it is too much in our interest. Fault covering then blocks out sincerity. One must not break the greater bond we all have with reality by carrying our fault covering an inch further than the hard and strict bounds of truthfulness. As it is with father and king, so it is with God. God in teaching us to pray does not ask for false flattery, he wants our bond, nothing more. He wants the truth, nothing more. I can go through the whole prayer book every day but if I leave out my Obligatory Prayer, I will have broken my bond. There is no way around that, and my prayers would be nothing but flattery, attempts to ingratiate myself with my Creator. As Mr. Scott pointed out in the insightful maiden speech in question here, the Writings teach that the soul progresses not by self fulfillment but by submission, by obeying the command of God. Nothing more nor less than complete obeisance is going to cut it.

Shakespeare also pointed out, I think it was in Troilus and Cressida, that there is a similar power imbalance between the sexes.

"Though men can cover crimes with bold stern looks,
Poor women's faces are their own fault's books."

As always with poetry, this can mean several things. When I read that, I think of a foul mouthed and verbally abusive neighbor I have. Her profanity to husband and children float over the fence between us every day. She is a young woman but as Shakespeare warns, her perpetual scowl has already written deep lines of anger into what could have been an attractive face. She shows the "book of her faults" to all the world, and all unawares. In fact I thought of her often last weekend when people came to the microphone sharing their successful experiences asking people to sit down and go over a prayer with them, as Ruhi Book One stipulates. It would be pretty funny if I asked her to do that, and if she accepted and was transformed by the Word. It would be astonishing. On the other hand, if she rebuffed me, would I have in hand a "Ruhi refutation?" Considering the many unpleasant run-ins I have already had with these neighbors, the latter seems more likely.

In any case, flattery between men and women, and children and parents, is a more common and insidious danger, perhaps, than with distant authority figures. The fact is that Lear was both, father and king. That is an argument for royalty, for everyone has a father and, whether they consciously realize it or not, the quality of their relationship with their father conditions how they feel about government. And about God. That is why scripture openly encourages us to think of the Manifestation as a father. The Hidden Words especially starts off every verse with "O Son of..." Every virtue, every flaw, is an outcome of the filial bond, of what kind of a son or daughter we are, whether we can truthfully say, "I love thee according to my bond, no more." Or, no less. The truth is that this is no small thing, it is the hardest thing in the world. It is harder than the world itself.

The climax of the play, I think, comes when the two betrayed and exiled fathers, Gloucester and Lear, meet. Both can say with great understatement that they are "more sinned against than sinning." The former has been brutally blinded for his loyalty to Lear, the latter driven far beyond the brink of madness. But only now can they truly say that they know what love and loyalty mean. Only fifteen words pass between them.

GLOUCESTER: "O, let me kiss that hand!"
KING LEAR: "Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality."

I was in tears here, the first and only time in this performance. Baha'u'llah outlawed the kissing of hands in the Aqdas, and here, I feel in my bones, is the reason why. The only time that act can be done sincerely, without flattery or pretension, is in their situation, in the middle of a remote field with nobody look, when the king has lost his kingdom and the servant has given his very eyes out of loyalty. Otherwise, it is an invidious act.

Warmed by my own "unmanly tears" (as they are called in the play) I was reminded of another dramatic event in Baha'i history. A perfidious brother of the Master asked for forgiveness and was taken back into the fold, as it turned out only temporarily. A moment worthy of a thousand screenplays, you can read Youness Afroukhteh's eyewitness account of it in "Memories of Nine Years in Akka." One of the believers was so overcome with joy that this Aghsan had repented that he broke the law of the Aqdas and spontaneously fell to the brother's feet and kissed his hand. Afroukhteh was watching the Aghsan's face carefully and saw the man positively puff up with ego, so gratifying was it for him once more to be the object of the adoring obeisance of the Baha'is. Truly, the man was not aware at all of the "smell of mortality." Had he been, he would not have broken the Covenant, his Bond, and erased his own honor forever.

Still in tears, I wondered, is the believer who fell at that egomaniacal man's feet and kissed his hand to blame for what happened, did that cause his eventual reversion to betrayal? Would the Aghsan have shown himself loyal in the end if the Baha'is had loved and welcomed him more temperately? I do not know, perhaps we are in part to blame when such things happen. We have a duty to love, but not more than our bond, to adore rather than merely to love is to put the objects of our immoderate affection to sore testing. I think we should be aware every minute of what we are doing when love servants of the Cause in high places, even when we are covering up their sins. We must ask: Is covering it over an act of affection and charity, or is it flattery, ego feeding? Think of Lear's unfaithful daughters. Was he to blame for their immoral life and eventual betrayal? Should he have intervened earlier? Part of me wants to say yes, to blame the father, but consider the following:

"Those who are unfamiliar with the workings of the Faith of Baha'u'llah may find it difficult to understand the reasons why these hypocritical, proud and ambitious men were not cast out of the community by Baha'u'llah Himself during His lifetime since He was well aware of their corruption and deceit. To appreciate this important point, one must remember that although the Manifestation of God continually urges the believers to purify their motives in the service of the Cause and exhorts them to remove every trace of hypocrisy from their hearts, He does not question those motives. Rather He looks upon them with a sin-covering eye and instead of examining their hearts to find their faults and shortcomings, He calls upon them to serve His Cause and praises them when they do so. Through the outpouring of loving kindness and encouragement He seeks to improve the character of those who have embraced His Cause. Only if a believer arises to actively oppose the Centre of the Cause will he then need to be cast out of the community." (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha'u'llah, 166)

John Taylor

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Conference II

Dear Friends,

It has been several months since I got a peep out of my readers on the Badi List, Blog, and I was beginning to wonder if there were any readers left. After a while one becomes convinced that one can say whatever one wants and there will be no effect, good or bad. I have been disabused of that today. I will share parts of the responses with you, anonymously. But first, a friend sent a link to some online photographs of the event:
Here is the first response:

thanks for your musings/ account of the inter-institutional conference this past week, John. Made me laugh (in agreement) in places. On the first evening, a couple of us sitting at the side were similarly distracted in nervous anticipation of the podium falling over! and the open mouth... great description. So too the illuminations of the counseller, gave me a better appreciation for what Ruhi is supposed to do... (why then were we forced into the 'Ruhi rush' a couple of years ago? do I remember book 6? book 7? all a blur now).

Respondent number two wrote in part:

"Dear John, consider this.  Who appointed Dan Scott?  How much is he paid?  Would you want the job?  What if Dan Scott has a disability that is responsible for some of the behaviors you describe..."

I had assumed that this was a mannerism that the speaker might get rid of with a little coaching. If it is the result of a disability it would be indeed a cruel comment on my part. As the master said, in referring to personalities, silence is best. I tried in the last paragraph to expiate my lack of silence but it looks like I have the hundred years of fire to look look forward to that is the fate of abusers of the tongue.

John Taylor

Monday, May 29, 2006


Inter-Institutional Conference

By John Taylor; 2006 May 29

The Badi' List has been inactive for three days because of a change in the weather which knocked me down for Friday morning (day one) and an inter-institutional conference that I attended at the Toronto Baha'i Center (days two and three).

Riding in Ron Speer's minivan to and from downtown Toronto I was impressed with how much worse the smog is in the whole Golden Horseshoe region since I last lived in what I now think of as the big city, Hamilton, almost ten years ago; the whole area is permanently fog bound. Even on what would have been a clear day, you can see the sky above you but very little is visible horizontally.

This was my first chance to hear the rookie Continental Counselor Dan Scott speak in his new capacity; at the same time the former counselor, David Smith, spoke on the last day to us in his new capacity as National Spiritual Assembly Member. Dan Scott's area of expertise is the Ruhi Institute, and clearly that skill is in high demand right now. And what he had to say really does need saying. His big message, and of the other speakers, was that everything we know about Ruhi is wrong. For example, I have taken Book One several times and not once has the tutor come close to suggesting that we actually do the prayer-sharing "action component" with a real, flesh and blood non-Baha'i. He emphasized that if you do not do that, or if you shirk the home visits suggested in Book Two, or any of the service projects in the other books, you have reduced Ruhi to a mere cycle of sterile deepenings. You have not begun to do Ruhi. This came as a shock to me and on the whole I find it surprisingly encouraging. The Ruhi I have seen is an utter failure, has no hope of working and it hardly justifies the confidence that the House clearly has in it. I am anxious to try out the real Ruhi and see if I can make it work. I taped part of his initial talk on Friday night and will transcribe some of his comments for you.

"It is a joy to be here... The purpose of this meeting is to reflect upon the expansion and consolidation of the community of the Most Great Name and to look ahead to the next steps ahead... Transformation is too often used too casually... think of examples of change in the physical world ... the first example that comes to mind is the profound change of the moth and butterfly... Our purpose is secure the welfare of the entire human race and contribute to the advancement of civilization... There is a twofold process that is (made up of parts that are) fundamentally inseparable. The standard of behavior of the individual shapes the environment by which he or she lives, and he or she in turn is molded by the processes and structures of his or her environment... We have to continually focus our efforts on improving our character and our environment. If we do not, the potential of the age in which we live will not be fulfilled.

"I really cannot overemphasize the reciprocal relationship between spiritual and moral growth ... it is impossible for an individual to grow morally or spiritually in isolation from others. We can only continue through effort and activity for the benefit of others... (this is true of any virtue, think of generosity, soul learns by giving to others) the soul learns forgiveness by struggling to forgive others..."

He continued saying that if you develop your virtues too much and in isolation alone in your room you are at risk of becoming self-righteous. Or you can feel guilt, I do not have all these things and am not good enough. Or I can fall into self satisfaction. Both are forms of ego. Conversely if we become too social oriented we can lose perspective and our work to build a new world will become too fragile. "It is all too easy to lose respect and compassion for others... unspeakable acts have been committed by well meaning people who believed they were performing social good."

Mr. Scott has a strange physical resemblance to his predecessor, David Smith. Maybe the physiognomy is burned into the job description after all these years. But unlike Smith, he is not personable, a hail-fellow-well-met personality. He is no "people person," as one believer who has worked with and been fired by him put it to me; fine with me since I am not one either. At the same time from what I know about the Ruhi cycle, I wonder how to make Ruhi work if you are not a skilled and even bold salesperson. A craven fellow like myself who quails at picking up the phone to call friends, much less cold call strangers or distant acquaintances is not going to make Ruhi work. That became clear. In view of my handicap, I have been pounding my head coming up alternative ways to serve the program, perhaps by means of video or a website. I do not want to be completely out of the teaching loop. I also noticed that those using Ruhi spectacularly well who spoke up there were by and large young people, youth and even children. It seems what the Bible predicted, that a "child shall lead them."

In this maiden speech Mr. Scott reached some intellectual heights, and to me justified Ruhi and himself. He cleared up why Ruhi attempts bizarre things, like posing unanswerable questions, stumpers that would stymie a trained philosopher, to untrained laypersons. The reason is to allow the tutor to provoke discussion and resolve the clash of differing opinions by showing the power of the word and unity in the word. I think. Much else that had been confused in my mind is clearer now too. The program, which seemed replete with errors was, I am told, actually devised over fifteen years of experience in the field; it is crazy like a fox.

He actually gave me reason to imagine for a moment or two that I understood what the Ruhi thing was trying to do with all that talk about being and doing; I have never understood it, nor do I understand why it is given such emphasis throughout the books, especially when the Writings pay it no mind. But then I lost what he said. I forgot and it became a jumble again. The only explanation that sticks in my mind was a comment of Peter Smith, the chair for the weekend, that somebody had given him a button saying, "Neitzche says, `To do is to be;' Kant says, `To be is to do,' but Frank Sanatra says, `Dobe dobedo.'" Toss me into the Sanatrist school of thought; nonsense words are all I get out of Ruhi's convoluted attempts to break down imagined barriers between being and doing.

Scott made some of the mistakes one would expect of a novice speaker. During the entire time he grabbed the podium tight and tilted it forward as far as it would go; for the first twenty minutes I was in suspense, wondering if and when he was going to let it fall forward and crush the feet of the poor fellows sitting in the front row. Then it became clear that this was not going to happen, it was just one of those annoying nervous habits they warn you about in Public Speaking 101 that distract from what the speaker is trying to convey. Much worse, about every minute or so he would pause and look around the room with his mouth gaping in a toad-like expression that seemed to say, "Duh?" or, "What-ever!" When my daughter utters either of those sarcastic words I dock her one reward point, for that is her own substitute for swearing. I was glad she was not there, because Scott gave a lesson in how appear to say something sardonic (albeit unintentionally) without uttering a sound, using facial expression alone. This unconscious mannerism would be a good thing to lose. His voice rose and fell in volume, he sped up and slowed down, making much of what he said unintelligible from the back of the room where I and my voice recorder were. Mr. Scott continued,

"Let us imagine a man ... without prejudice against women... what good would that be if he lives in a society that systematically discriminates against women in everything from opportunity to the timing of examinations? ... It is not enough to have a lack of discrimination; that man must go a step further and try to change the structures of society... This is painful and requires sacrifice. But if he does that, things around him will change and from these changes he will gain a far more profound understanding of what equality means. The relation is reciprocal..."

"Ultimately it is teaching the Cause of God that transforms both individual and society together, reciprocally, that gives the vision of where they are being directed, (towards) the Order of Baha'u'llah... We need to connect volition and action to knowledge. There are lots of people with knowledge, there are all kinds of purposeful people in the world who are destroying it... (With Ruhi we get all three, and we learn to orient all to the Writings, both memorized in our heads and reflected in the environment around us. We learn to take ourselves into account and ask if our knowledge, will, actions and virtues are having an effect. We can criticize self, remove ego and adapt as the situation changes.)

To my relief he then turned from theorizing to his own personal experiences last fall when the Counselors just before they were to read the new plan letter from the UHJ were prepared for the experience with a whirlwind three day pilgrimage, nine days squeezed into three. This caused one of their number to cry out in anguish, "Is this an indication of the intensity which the House is expecting us to act in carrying out this plan?"

"We read the message on the morning of the first day and it came as a great challenge and relief. We had time then to reflect and consult. Two or three comments in, a counselor from Africa stood up to the mike and said that he would like to thank the Universal House of Justice for providing us with such an easy plan. (A few of us looked around in confusion. Did we all have the same plan? A different letter? Then we realized he was right. We all felt a great sense of joy.) The first paragraph of this message summarizes the whole message, and the plan."

I will not give more from this talk. His best talk took place on Saturday morning when he gave many new details about how to apply Ruhi so that it will actually work. This is what he knows, and this was his finest hour. Now LSA members across Ontario are spreading out and bringing to the whole community what he taught us about how to bring about growth.

Let me jump to the last talk he gave on Sunday morning, meant to be his rousing piece de resistance. I had sat alone in the only empty section of the room. I must say that I missed most of what he said, I admit it. It was a more concise address than I expected and I had just got my thoughts in order when it was over. Then he came over and sat down in the next seat but one from me. I felt very uncomfortable. No words were exchanged between us, only body language, a wordless conversation of two non-people persons. I tried not to seem unfriendly, though I had to lean forward in my chair and cut off eye contact; as you can guess from what I have said above, my feelings for him and Ruhi are not entirely unmixed. He removed some obstacles but others remain. I still think it is a grave error for Ruhi obstinately to ignore technical means, video, computers, the Internet, the high technology that is the power and glory of developed countries. Anyway, his body language showed that I did not exist in his mind; it bespoke only immense relief and an almost palpable nervous exhaustion. In spite of myself, I could not help but feel a pang of compassion for the man. Clearly this service of public speaking is tough, a real sacrifice for him, not the enjoyable, laid back experience it was for his predecessor. He is not as funny as David Smith, he is in fact deadly serious. He is working for badly needed change at a crucial time and he wants to see that happen, entry by troops, desperately. I did not doubt that the whole Ruhi thing is be as hard a sacrifice and as against the grain for him as it is for the likes of me. For that he earned my respect, if not as yet my warm affection, and I pray that God will confirm him and us in attaining this high aim of mass entry, or indeed any kind of entry at all.

John Taylor

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Participating in Resurrection


By John Taylor; 2006 May 25


I observe a shift in opinion of influential movers and shakers heavily onto the side of environmentalism, seemingly even during the past few days. In both the latest edition of Scientific American and in an opinion piece in the New York Times, two prominent skeptics announced their conversions in the face of incontrovertible evidence that the planet is warming up. Major changes must be made, radical reforms, fast and right away. One of these born-again environmentalists compared our present political situation to the boiling or freezing point of a liquid, if water heats up one degree over 100C, it vaporizes, or if it slips a degree from one to zero, it freezes. Now, like the warming planet itself, the evidence has taken scientists beyond a critical point and their opinions have shifted to near unanimity.

One savant asked, "Why are nationalist politicians jostling with one another for ephemeral advantages over one another when the fate of the human race is in the balance?" As the Bard's Brutus put it, using an almost too appropriate analogy considering ominous rising sea levels that may drown vast populated coastal regions,


"...our cause is ripe:
The enemy increaseth every day;
We, at the height, are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures."


An environmental tide of opinion that leads on to collective salvation will require a full spectrum of consultation skills, abilities born not only of training but of spiritual sensibility born of faith and devotion. Verbal tact and timing, followed by sacrifice and innovative action, are of the essence if we are to adapt quickly to a worsening climatic shift. Lester B. Pearson once said that if during the Suez Crisis he had introduced the idea of peacekeeping troops to the UN a day earlier or later than he had, he certainly would have been laughed out of the conference hall. Today we have this as a permanent benefit, national soldiers routinely are cooling off hot spots, acting as world policemen in Afghanistan and other war zones; all because of Pearson's fine diplomatic sense at one crucial moment in making that proposal just when those around him recognized the need.

Right now our future rests upon the timing and tact of a thousand Pearsons in a thousand places around the world. Reducing greenhouse emissions to near zero while at the same time reducing smog, jet contrails and other airborne effluents that cause global dimming will require a complete turnaround at all levels, from world leaders to corporations to factory workers and shopkeepers. A Herculean act of sacrifice in response to rapid-fire consultation on a scale never before heard of in the course of human history. How can we do that? The answer lies in the counsel of Baha'u'llah, as we observed a few days ago in this pregnant passage.

"The Great Being saith: Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets." (Tablets, 172)

Verbal refinement is the precondition for consultation. Imagine such a high and holy attitude to speech becoming the norm. How different dialog would be on every level! We have been conditioned by centuries of broken Golden Rules, of forced central planning and slavish swings from one anarchic extreme to the other. Behind it all are profane, undisciplined, gossipy speech habits. Living, creative consultation would have to begin with reforming the speech of the average person, the result of valuing the "refinement" of which Baha'u'llah speaks. We cannot hope to purify the air of the planet physically if our inner world is filthy, if mind and tongue spew pollutants worse than any smokestack or jet contrail, if, in His words, our "hearts" are not "detached and pure."

Refinement begins in accepting the Oneness of God, in willingly accepting His wisdom and learning what He has to teach us.

"And they shall teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least unto the greatest." (Heb 8:11)

Refinement ends in accepting a plan, "from the least unto the greatest." God's plan for our collective salvation, from the least to the greatest, from macro to micro, personal to collective.

Philosophically speaking, refinement requires the reintroduction of agrarianism into every locus of human life, for ultimately we are all soil, our food and energy is all derived from the sun. I have observed at least three people close to me this spring emerge from the funk of a winter depression simply by tending to a small garden. No matter where we are, city or country, all of us need parks, greenery and gardens in our life in order to gain sustenance, physical, psychological and spiritual.

The reason that we cannot plan on a broad level is that we have lost touch with planning, with the discipline of laying out and tending to a garden. Millions people are dumb masses, mere consumers, helpless pawns in the hands of whoever wants to enter the power vacuum because they abdicate their human right actively to plan their own destiny. This is not a matter of lack of education -- we have more schooling now than at any time in history. No, it is the decline of the training and discipline derived by having the vast majority of the population involved in food production, as they were, by the way, in Ancient Athens. A farmer or gardener starts with nothing, bare ground, and ends up with beautiful flowers or a nutritious harvest. In doing that, if she avoids too much plowing and chemical fertilizer, she gets rid of some greenhouse gasses as a bonus.

I call this a fundamental philosophical change because, as we saw yesterday, philosophy begins in our physical robustness, as Socrates taught. A sound mind in a sound body. Socrates understood that we have a basic moral duty to maximize our fitness, of keeping our body in peak physical condition. The implication is a set of tough limits to personal freedom, for example, obeying the consensus of opinion of dieticians as to what we should eat. It means accepting medical advice preemptively. Imagine an annual physical where your doctor had influence not only over you but the wise support of society, of all concerned with your life success,

"I am moving your dwelling to an uphill location to give you more exercise. Also, in view of these test results I am switching you over to such and such a diet. Just swipe this smart card when you go into the kitchen or a restaurant and all will be calculated and portioned out for you. Your meal will be served in the correct weights and proportions. You will still have a wide variety of dishes to choose from, though not what you are used to consuming."

Imagine an equivalent annual intellectual checkup with a teacher or tutor. Whether that person was trained as a psychiatrist, psychologist, philosopher or career counselor would vary according to your needs at this point in your life. What would be invariant is that this tutor would the pull of a wise doctor. Imagine getting this diagnosis:

"I am changing your job because it is not offering you stimulation commensurate with your goals and talents. I will meet with your new boss and talk over what I want from your next position. I judge your skills in such and such an area to be obsolete, so I am sending you on a three week refresher, and here is a new list of books and films to go over during the next year. Plus, I want you to attend this discussion group for three months to discuss this information in detail. This should fill in what I think your education needs at this point. Come back to me in six months and let me know how you are progressing."

When both medicinal and teaching consultants fail to tip the scale toward happiness, wisdom would dictate seeking out an answer in spiritual counsel. Non-Baha'is might consult a priest or other spiritual advisor, who would make adjustments to the believer's devotional life. For a Baha'i it is not as clear and easy, since Baha'u'llah removed the kind of power we are talking about from the hands of professionals.

I took a dip in Ocean to investigate this apparent problem and the answer jumped out at me in the form of a talk the Master gave at His Hotel in Chicago on May 2nd, 1912 (Promulgation, 72-73). By His own testimony, `Abdu'l-Baha was least happy in Chicago because it was a nest of vipers. There was widespread disaffection, contention and rebellion fermenting among believers and certain antinomian Baha'is who were infiltrating and agitating them at the time. His answer to this trial and testing was, you guessed it, spiritual consultation, as laid out unforgettably in this crucial talk.

You can read His Plaza Hotel address yourself, but to me the definition He gives is, in one word, resurrection. His interpretation of resurrection is not superstition, rising from the dead, but a reasoned but nonetheless monumental event. Spiritual consultation, as happened soon after Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross, is a golden path to healing any trial or breakdown in consultation, no matter how grave. What could be worse than the crucifixion? It utterly flummoxed and paralyzed the male Christians, and only the intervention of the spiritually more acute females saved the situation. In the resurrection they all learned together to participate in what `Abdu'l-Baha calls the "most memorable instance of spiritual consultation" in history. Even the dullard men disciples finally understood the teaching of Jesus and the implications of His sacrifice to their lives. After that all, like Peter, became fishers of men.

After going sedulously over that penetrating, refined address in Chicago, I came to understand that `Abdu'l-Baha's answer to the question as to who should be a Baha'i's spiritual advisor is something like Roosevelt's "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." The best spiritual advisor for a Baha'i is spiritual consultation itself. No single individual has the power to plan the garden of our service, but spiritual consultation does. The very act of coming together in loving company with one person or a group, be it formal or informal, gives an increasingly authoritative answer as to how to make the necessary devotional adjustments in our lives, be it more prayer, more meditation or more action.

It is not hard to imagine the spirit of consultation and the living entity called unity becoming universal, spreading -- as did the resurrection of Jesus -- to many billions of souls. We can easily see this happening if only most people were to observe that God is One, and saw everything in terms of that vision. "The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge, and he overthroweth the words of the transgressor." (Proverbs 22:12) This creative insight would cradle innovation and the means of change like plants in a nursery garden. When the seedlings are ready we take them out of the nursery and subject them to the stress and strain of open weather, in changing weather. As long as we keep the big goal of God in mind we would soon regard halting global climate change as a necessary but relatively small step on a long journey towards human oneness and happiness.

John Taylor

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


On Weaklings, Moral and Otherwise

By John Taylor; 2006 May 24


Activities on the Declaration of the Bab


Yesterday for the Holy Day we set out En Famille to visit my mother's grave in Hamilton's Woodlawn Cemetery. It was the first time in some twenty years I had been. Silvie repeated at one point this riddle: What goes up but never comes down? Answer, your age. It is the same with cemeteries, they grow but never shrink. Even if a city's population shrinks, the local cemetery grows all the more. As we drove by the York Street section of the Woodlawn bone yard, Thomas was in awe. "I have never seen such a huge cemetery in all my life!," he declared. When your life is only six years in length, that is not saying much. On the other hand, He is as old as this millennium, so if you put it that way, he seems pretty old.

Overall, I was surprised at how well the kids took this excursion. I had expected protestations of boredom throughout, but they took it as an adventure into the past. Now that I think of it, they were primed for this by watching a cartoon called, "Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat," which lays it on thick about holding due reverence for one's ancestors. Respect for one's forebears is a Chinese value instilled even into cats and bats, it seems, so naturally they were open to this kind of thing.

And it turned out, it really was an adventure and I had little hope of finding the grave I sought among the thousands and thousands of competing memorials, stones and markers. Our family plots are in the vast, wooded Cootes Paradise section overlooking the Burlington Bay and the city. Since I was there, it has grown considerably. I parked close to where I thought it might be and we all waded out into the sea of gravestones. Marie went off and became separated. The Taylor stones are all the harder to find because they are set into the ground and I coached them in how to help look. At one point I prayed to be guided to the spot, and to my surprise, I was, within minutes. We said prayers when Marie arrived at last. Then they left while I recited alone the Tablet of Ahmad. As we drove off, Thomas piously remarked, "Next time we will bring flowers."

His reverence is purer and better than mine. My reasons for coming there were entirely selfish, I wanted my mother to use her pull in the next world to advance my prospects. My goals are such that major miracles will have to take place if I am ever to justify the space I am taking up on this planet. We then drove to Aunt Marguerite in the retirement home, and she was in a good mood. We showed her the photos of the gravesite that we had just taken on the display of our digital camera. She declared that my older brother Bob, before he left the country used to go to this gravesite every Mother's Day and leave flowers there. I was suitably shamed by his piety. Why should my mother in Abe's bosom listen to my plea for assistance when my visits there are spaced by two decades?

Socrates Meets a Ninety Pound Weakling

I continue, slowly, bit by bit, reading through Xenophon's memories of Socrates. These are not the philosophical mix of Plato, they are the less lofty memories of a more earthy thinker. For me, they are all the more valuable for that. I would like to adapt these recollections into a movie, or perhaps a television series. Here there is humor and human interest along with the lessons of history's greatest teacher (outside the holy Manifestations, of course). The following passage struck me hard. It is revolutionary for us today, what with the epidemic of obesity that we are going through. Xenophon, in Book III, Chapter XII of the Memorabilia, recalls the following mini-lesson of Socrates:

Seeing one of those who were with him, a young man feeble of body, named Epigenes, he addressed him.

Soc. You have not the athletic appearance of a youth in training, Epigenes.

And he: That may well be, seeing I am an amateur and not in training.

Soc. As little of an amateur, I take it, as any one who ever entered the lists of Olympia, unless you are prepared to make light of that contest for life and death against the public foe which the Athenians will institute when the day comes, should the chance betide. [translator's note: Is the author thinking of a life-and- death struggle with Thebes?] And yet they are not a few who, owing to a bad habit of body, either perish outright in the perils of war, or are ignobly saved. Many are they who for the self-same cause are taken prisoners, and being taken must, if it so betide, endure the pains of slavery for the rest of their days; or, after falling into dolorous straits, when they have paid to the uttermost farthing of all, or may be more than the worth of all, that they possess, must drag on a miserable existence in want of the barest necessaries until death release them."

Socrates is talking about being taken as a slave, a fate rightly considered worse than death by the freeborn of that age. Ancient war, in this respect, was more deadly and bitterly fought than modern wars, in spite of the less formidable armament. Any prisoners were automatically killed or enslaved, and the rich held for ransom. There was no Geneva Convention protecting you. Socrates is appealing to self interest, the personal interest behind state interest that everybody keep as fit as they can. A robust army, then more than now, had to be drawn from a vigorous, healthy youth. But the appeal of Socrates goes beyond fear and protectiveness. Health of body is a precondition of emotional vigor, of moral and intellectual well-being. Here personal and state interests coincide perfectly. Socrates continues,

"Many also are they who gain an evil repute through infirmity of body, being thought to play the coward. Can it be that you despise these penalties affixed to an evil habit? Do you think you could lightly endure them? Far lighter, I imagine, nay, pleasant even by comparison, are the toils which he will undergo who duly cultivates a healthy bodily condition."

"Or do you maintain that the evil habit is healthier, and in general more useful than the good? Do you pour contempt upon those blessings which flow from the healthy state? And yet the very opposite of that which befalls the ill attends the sound condition. Does not the very soundness imply at once health and strength?

Many a man with no other talisman than this has passed safely through the ordeal of war; stepping, not without dignity, through all its horrors unscathed. Many with no other support than this have come to the rescue of friends, or stood forth as benefactors of their fatherland; whereby they were thought worthy of gratitude, and obtained a great renown and received as a recompense the highest honours of the State; to whom is also reserved a happier and brighter passage through what is left to them of life, and at their death they leave to their children the legacy of a fairer starting-point in the race of life.

Because our city does not practise military training in public, that is no reason for neglecting it in private, but rather a reason for making it a foremost care. For be you assured that there is no contest of any sort, nor any transaction, in which you will be the worse off for being well prepared in body; and in fact there is nothing which men do for which the body is not a help."

I am reminded of the so-called Soviet School of Chess, which prepared for the most cerebral of games by a tough regimen of hard physical training. Russian chess players continue to dominate by this apparent contradiction of working on the body in order to have a better mind.

Let there be no mistake. Socrates is talking about a moral imperative to keep fit. Canada has spent millions of dollars in its "Participaction" publicity campaigns to try to persuade Canadians to keep as physically fit; I recall as a child learning from these ads that a 30 year old Canadian is as fit as a 60 year old Swede, and that we should be ashamed. I am almost 50 now, which would make me as fit as a Swedish Centenarian, I suppose. Now, thanks to Socrates, I am even more ashamed.

"In every demand, therefore, which can be laid upon the body it is much better that it should be in the best condition; since, even where you might imagine the claims upon the body to be slightest--in the act of reasoning--who does not know the terrible stumbles which are made through being out of health? It suffices to say that forgetfulness, and despondency, and moroseness, and madness take occasion often of ill-health to visit the intellectual faculties so severely as to expel all knowledge from the brain."

"But he who is in good bodily plight has large security. He runs no risk of incurring any such catastrophe through ill-health at any rate; he may well hope to be insured by his good habit against the evils of doing the opposite evil habit; and surely to this end there is nothing a man in his senses would not undergo. . . . It is a base thing for a man to wax old in careless self-neglect before he has lifted up his eyes and seen what manner of man he was made to be, in the full perfection of bodily strength and beauty. But these glories are withheld from him who is guilty of self-neglect, for they are not wont to blaze forth unbidden."

After reading such passages in Zenophon I can see that attempts like the Participaction Campaign at persuading people to be fit are missing the point by a mile. Socrates is saying that we have a moral duty to keep our body in peak physical condition. An obligation to self and others, and above all to God, who created this magnificent human body. Modern philosophers blather on and get lost in ticklish trivialities like mercy killing when they should be instilling prime moral imperatives like this, plain and simple physical fitness.

Governments are even worse, they talk about the expense involved, a fat and sickly population is a heavy burden on medicare. And here Socrates, over two millennia ago, is talking about good health as a form of insurance! Whatever the case, the job of persuading people to exercise should not be left up to a bunch of dumb publicists without moral or intellectual authority. Our best minds and greatest teachers should be at the forefront, they, along with dieticians and other scientists, should make up a program and set of standards of diet and fitness for all, young, middle aged, and old.

Not long after his above encounter with a weak and sickly fellow who had neglected his body, Socrates ran up against a person who had for one reason or another lost his palate for food.

"To the remark of another who complained that he did not take his food with pleasure, he said: `Acumenus (a well-known physician) has a good prescription for that.' And when the other asked: `And what may that be?' `To stop eating,' he said. `On the score of pleasure, economy, and health, total abstinence has much in its favour."

This idea that someone would live a happier, thriftier, and healthier life if he stopped eating, or at least curtailed it, is anathema in our consumer society. Who makes a profit from that? But it is confirmed by modern research. Half starved rats live longer and are much smarter and more vigorous. The best explanation is that the body kicks into high gear and the brain along with it in order to be able to find those extra few calories that seem to be missing. I have written before about Roy Walford the gerontologist who over the past two decades developed the most successful of all known diets, according to long term studies, against the effects of ageing. So far I have not lost enough weight to even begin his regime, but I am working on it. Baha'u'llah's diet is even simpler: He advised getting up from every meal with a pang of hunger still remaining in your gut. Never sate yourself, in other words. Same advice as Acumenus in Ancient Athens. O God, if only I could obey Him in doing that, just once!

But there is more. Observe carefully the following casual bit of advice by Socrates.

"When some one was apprehending the journey to Olympia, "Why are you afraid of the long distance?" he asked. "Here at home you spend nearly all your day in taking walks. Well, on your road to Olympia you will take a walk and breakfast, and then you will take another walk and dine, and go to bed. Do you not see, if you take and tack together five or six days' length of walks, and stretch them out in one long line, it will soon reach from Athens to Olympia? I would recommend you, however, to set off a day too soon rather than a day too late. To be forced to lengthen the day's journey beyond a reasonable amount may well be a nuisance; but to take one day's journey beyond what is necessary is pure relaxation. Make haste to start, I say, not when promenading there and back on the road."

I remark several things more from this.

Socrates has no sympathy for laziness, he does not say stay to at home and relax, he says to go since you are walking all the time anyway. Motion studies have shown that the average "stay at home" housewife walks long distances each day, albeit back and forth inside the house. But it does not feel like travel because she is alone. But at least she is exercising. Modern travel by car is worse than staying home, not only are you alone, isolated in a bubble from the casual contacts that made travel a broadening experience in Socrates' time, but you are not even bearing your weight on your legs.

But note that the structure of Athens (Acropolis means "high city") made it necessary to walk a great deal just to perform the daily tasks of life. Remember, these are people who have slaves to wait on them hand and foot, and in spite of that they still did what we would consider a great deal of strenuous daily walking uphill and down as part of their routine. A whole school of philosophers, the Peripatetics, grew out of their habit of walking and talking and thinking at the same time. One thing you can be sure will not happen today, there will be no "car driving" school of philosophers cropping up. The automobile seals us off, kills all casual contacts, much less deep conversation, that makes for an examined life. Jane Jacobs calls these seemingly insignificant face to face encounters done while walking the thin strands that make up the strong rope of social cohesion.

Observe too, like `Abdu'l-Baha pacing up and down on the boat from America in order to keep in shape for the trip from Haifa to Akka, these Athenians were walking all the way on their pilgrimage to Olympus and Delphi, and they were not finding it easy in spite of being in better shape than almost any lazy modern. They had donkeys and horses, but they walked all the way, probably for the same ancient, mysterious religious reasons that the Master tacitly accepted when He eschewed donkeys and horses and went to His Father's tomb on foot. The reasons no doubt have as much to do with using your mind and face and tongue as well as your legs as nature indended that they be used. The reasons no doubt have to do with what it means to be truly free.

When some one else remarked "he was utterly prostrated after a long journey," Socrates asked him: "Had he had any baggage to carry?"

"Not I," replied the complainer; "only my cloak."

Soc. Were you travelling alone, or was your man-servant with you?

He. Yes, I had my man.

Soc. Empty-handed, or had he something to carry?

He. Of course; carrying my rugs and other baggage.

Soc. And how did he come off on the journey?

He. Better than I did myself, I take it.

Soc. Well, but now suppose you had had to carry his baggage, what would your condition have been like?

He. Sorry enough, I can tell you; or rather, I could not have carried it at all.

Soc. What a confession! Fancy being capable of so much less toil than a poor slave boy! Does that sound like the perfection of athletic training?

John Taylor

Monday, May 22, 2006

Most Great Thing

The Most Great Thing

By John Taylor; 2006 May 22

Going through each Baha'i principle in the spotlight of the Oneness of God, today we turn to language. God in a very intimate sense is language. The Bible states that "in the beginning was the Word and the Word ... was God," and Baha'u'llah entitled God the "Tongue of Grandeur." (Tablets, 47) Since God is without peer, his words ultimately find no listener. Like the light of the sun, virtually all of His enlightenment radiates off into the void. As the Hidden Word puts it,

"Myriads of mystic tongues find utterance in one speech, and myriads of hidden mysteries are revealed in a single melody; yet, alas, there is no ear to hear, nor heart to understand." (PHW 16)

The principle of universal language specifically is the eventual adoption by governments and schools everywhere of a common official second language for all. This would not only end the language barrier and the invisible structural iniquities that it instills, it would allow mortals reflect particularity and universality, the contradictory ability of God to be alone and unique yet omnient, omnipresent and all-powerful.

More broadly, this principle deals with language and its products, culture, literature and consultation. Our ability to apply language to share thoughts and mold one common purpose out of many is our defining attribute as human beings. Wonderful as this potentially is, misused language is our downfall. Words are the spark of war, terror and crime, and as long as we fall short of what Hindus call Ahimsa, total non-violence in thought and word as well as deed, these destructive forces will flare up spontaneously and spread uncontrollably.

For language blocks as well as promotes understanding of God. The word "God" itself can be understood in so many mutually exclusive senses that a believer in "God" is often closer akin to an atheist or agnostic than many who place fervent claims on the same "God." Consider Baruch Spinoza,

"Spinoza had used the word "God" for historical reasons: he agreed with atheists, who claim that reality cannot be divided into a part which is "God" and a part which is not-God. If God cannot be separated from anything else, it is impossible to say that "he" exists in any ordinary sense. What Spinoza was saying in effect was that there was no God that corresponded to the meaning we usually attach to that word." (Armstrong, History of God, 343)

Older Baha'is will recall Bill Sears and his lighthearted declaration to an atheist that he did not believe in the god that he did not accept either. But still, to understand that God is One is to accept a single purpose, and that there must be "locations" where God is closer in spirit than others. Blasphemous, horrible places exist where He and His remembrance are far removed. Such is a battlefield or where a terrorist bombing occurs, here most certainly God ain't.

Surely, surely God lives and abides wherever words marry deeds, where love and justice rule and life aims at more than merely growing and propagating physically. Just look at the illumination of the martyrs. From that we learn that the purest, most divine place is in and around the love inspiring words of His Manifestation; here are Nirvana, Ahimsa, where the remnants of God are most in evidence and whence we gain potential to share truth in consultation. This is the Most Great Thing, the key to our survival as a species.


We have been examining over several months the proposition that the "Great Being" statements in Baha'u'llah's Tablet to Maqsud may be meant to influence what some philosophers call "natural religion," the universal human impulse to faith, the leaning toward the Locus of God. Natural religion is beyond belief and conviction, it is faith in the unknowable that transcends the particular label we stick on belief, be it atheist, agnostic, theist, deist, or whatever.

There are two "Great Being" statements that seem to me to bring the Oneness of God into contact with universal language, and both focus upon consultation. Here is the first:

"The Great Being saith: The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding." (Tablets, 168)

The very act of consulting in the right spirit, whatever the specifics, makes language a "lamp of guidance," a sum of agreement greater than the parts of belief that enter into it in the first place. As the Bhagavad Gita puts it, "their wisdom is unto them a sun..." (5:16) The consultative lamp illuminates variant opinions and shows their common aspects; this common vision makes the path to purpose clear.

This is the front door into what we entered into yesterday by the back door when we touched upon the "Abilene Paradox," a parable showing how important is the initial phrasing of questions at issue. If a problem is not put tentatively enough at the beginning of consultation the consultative stream grows into a mighty river whose course cannot be altered. Unfounded misconceptions and fallacies become entrenched and universal. Detachment is impossible, the truth politicized and all sides have everything to lose by it. A hint at change provokes preemptive truculence. In such clouds the light of God is diffused and consultation impossible. Hence our second "Great Being" statement is concerned with the holism of language, from initiation to expression to response:

"The Great Being saith: Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets." (Tablets, 172)

We will carry this as far as we can next time, when our strength is recovered.

John Taylor

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Consultative Cooking

Consultative Cooking and the Principle of One God

Universal Language and the Oneness of God

By John Taylor; 2006 May 20

Oneness of God is perhaps a deceptive name for this principle. Really what seems to be meant is "Unity in Diversity of God." This I am realizing as I wade through the abstruse article "God" in Mortimer Adler's "Syntopicon." The proofs of God, for instance are either before or after the fact, that is, a priori or a posteriori. Proof does not stand on an either-or basis but on both, on the reconciliation of two ways of looking to Him. I call your attention to two thinkers who understood this particularly well. The first was Isaac Newton.

"`The most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final causes' seem to (Newton) the best way of knowing God. `Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety in things. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing.'" (Adler, Mortimer, Ed., The Great Ideas, A Syntopicon, "God," Encyclopedia Britannica, Chicago, 1980, p. 553)

A God Who created nothing but unity would be less masterful than One Who created variety. Since the very idea of God involves perfection, God would have to make unity, and make many kinds, and then bring them together to do more than both separately. In the image of the Master, a garden that displays variegated varieties of flowers is most beautiful. Such unity in diversity is the only possible result of the total perfection worthy of God. Berkley, as well as Newton, understood this.

"Berkeley maintains that `if we attentively consider the constant regularity, order, and concatenation of natural things, the surprising magnificence, beauty, and perfection of the larger, and the exquisite contrivance of the smaller parts of the creation, together with the exact harmony and correspondence of the whole, but, above all, the never enough admired laws of pain and pleasure, and the instincts or natural inclinations, appetites, and passions of animals; I say if we consider all these things, and at the same time attend to the meaning and import of the attributes, one, eternal, infinitely wise, good, and perfect, we shall clearly perceive that they belong to the ... Spirit, who "works all in all," and "by whom all things consist."' This seems to him so certain that he adds, "`We may even assert that the existence of God is far more evidently perceived than the existence of men.'" (Id.)

For those of us who are convinced that God exists, our task is not to try to prove what is obvious, His unity in diversity, but to live it out to the fullest, together and apart. That is the principle of the Oneness of God. QED.

Yesterday we reviewed the contribution of a great architect, who understood and applied the principle of diversity in the buildings and regions that he designed around the world. Instead of building on flat ground, he designed a town in Israel along a fertile river valley. In Singapore he designed a large city where the view from taller buildings shared a seaward panorama on one side and a green area running down the middle.

I find this man's leaning toward vision and diversity stimulating at this point in my investigation of the principle of the oneness of God. The idea of an almighty God involves a seemingly impossible reconciliation of the opposites of oneness and diversity. If I have known God first-hand all my life, and you have too, we have to be one in essentials and different in incidentals. Yes, but only if we are absolutely sincere and truthful. And the word "absolutely" is the rub. Nobody can come near absolute sincerity without great agony and suffering. The Master compared human suffering to food being "cooked." Only if our soul is well cooked in truth will it be ready to bring diversity and unity together.

Oneness is the easy part. Diversity is difficult. Our differences, diversities and incidentals are not at all what the word "incidental" seems to imply, that is, trivial and unimportant. Our variations and differences are in a profound sense the essentials to our true unique self, and God created that as much as He created our oneness. I must be true to my unique path and you true to your experience and together true to ours. Truth together takes as much trial and effort as being true to ourselves in the first place. The common effort to this ensures that the oneness we attain will be genuine, not a lazy short cut to conformity, not a product of illusion or imitation.

The principle of unity in diversity is not theory, it is practical too. Farmers apply it in planning what they grow. If a crop or livestock are too uniform they will be subject to destruction by viral attack, as chicken farmers are finding out right now with bird flu. Unity in diversity applies to every word that comes out of our mouth. Mere talk cannot arrive at truth, for prevarication, lies and falsity will act like disease to an undiversified crop. The result is failed consultation, complete fiasco. Consider the following web essay, which you can read at:


It is called "The Management of Agreement," and was evidently produced by a group of librarians who observed the dangers of lack of diversity in group problem solving among researchers. The beauty of the "Abilene Paradox" mentioned here is that it is a trivial example of failed consultation. Trivial, but we have all seen much bigger failures caused by the same phenomenon. Here is how the Abilene paradox goes:

Everyone in a certain rural family went along with the half-hearted suggestion of the father to go for dinner in a greasy spoon in Abilene. A terrible time was had by all, and later it turned out that nobody really wanted to go there in the first place, they were just trying not to stir the pot. The whole family wanted just to be agreeable. Even the father did not really want to go. He just wanted to get the ball rolling by offering that suggestion. This lovely little essay suggests several ways an animator or person posing a suggestion to a group can avoid provoking such missteps.

The Writings tell us that only true consultation, the product of sincere reflection and prayer, is capable of bringing unity and diversity together. Consultation, however casual, must touch upon the truth of each and all, or mistakes will propagate. This is being found out by non-Baha'i managers the hard way. Products are introduced at the price of millions of dollars and they fail. After the disaster it often turns out that all employees involved in the project or theatre production knew that they were dealing with inevitable failure. But for one reason or another nobody wanted to stand up and try to stop it. After all, they get paid no matter what.

Myself, I have observed this in committees and Assemblies. For one thing, it makes a tremendous difference how the chair poses a proposal. The mere wording of the proposition is often more decisive than the arguments for or against it. If the chair says, for example, "Shall we not do this?" the proposal can be sunk just by that negative phrasing. Nobody likes a negative proposal. Turn it around and say, "Shall we do this?" and everybody is all for it. Everybody loves to be agreeable. I fervently would suggest that anybody who is elected chairperson go over the suggestions in this essay for the steps to gaining consensus very carefully. It should be in the Chairperson's handbook, should such a book ever be published.

A chairperson is asked by his or her Creator to be a cook, to cook up the oneness of a group from its diversity of opinion and viewpoint. A cook does not create food, farmers do that. But a cook prepares it, makes it palatable, pleasant, easily and efficiently consumed. Perhaps we should change the job title from chairperson to "consultative cook." Lately in the Globe and Mail I came across a thinker who proposes that our ability to cook food became, long ago, the defining factor of humanity. I cite the passage in full:

"Cooking makes us human? Cooking is what makes humans different from the apes, contends Alfred Crosby, author of `Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity's Unappeasable Appetite for Energy.' The skill, which arrived some time in the Upper Paleolithic Period, allowed humans to do some of the work of digestion outside the body, clearing the way for a smaller gut and larger brain, and enabling that gut to harvest stored solar energy from previously unappetizing or inedible sources, such as hard grains. "Cooking, like hunting, obliged human hunters, gatherers, fire tenders, and cooks to plan and co-operate ... Chimps spend six hours a day chewing; cookivores only one."

This supplements Jared Diamond's thesis that the most effective food producers (that is, farming, fishing and other ways to mass produce food) always win out over inefficient producers, such as hunter-gatherers. The big leap in agriculture was the discovery of grain in the Fertile Crescent, a grass that can support millions of people, not just thousands. We could not have eaten grain without cooking. In the same way, consultative cooking can take our individual search for truth and "cook" it together to arrive at a truth greater than the sum of its parts. This truth can support the whole world, rich and poor, weak and powerful. Such effective work in groups and committees is our only realistic hope for a viable world. Only that could erase war and stop global warming.

John Taylor

Friday, May 19, 2006

Treading Down

The Day of Treading Down


By John Taylor; 2006 May 19


"At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them." (Psalms 104:7-8, KJV)

I am just finishing Moshe Safdie's "The City After the Automobile, An Architect's Vision" and I have had to make some adjustments to my master plan for reforming the world. For one thing, he proposes to solve the automobile problem with what he calls utility cars, or "u-cars," which would be along the lines of the free bicycles that you can use and leave wherever you please in cities like Amsterdam and a few others.

A U-Car parking garage would store several times more cars than the current lots because u-cars in it would be stored close together, like sardines, and would enter and leave on a last in first out (LIFO) basis. Any cleaning and maintenance it needs would be done while it is in line. You drop off your u-car in the parking garage and when and if you come back there you pick up the next u-car in line on a conveyer belt. That way you never need bother to park or maneuver your own vehicle into a small parking space. Unlike the free bikes though, u-cars would not be free, you would be charged according to mileage and the wear and tear you subject it to, which can now be easily monitored by tiny RFID sensors. It would be a combination of rental car and public bus, a kind of self-driven taxi cab. This, according to Safdie, in combination with trains and other mass transit, would change the vocabulary of architecture, allowing for what the title of his book says, a city after the (private) automobile.

But for me this Israeli architect's most exciting idea is one that should have been obvious to me, given my attempts to be a Baha'i all my life, but it was not. It is the quest he has undertaken during his entire professional career for diversity. The great failure of 20th Century architecture, in his view, was to spawn malls and cityscapes around the world that are stultifying in their sameness, dull, flat, and unmarked by notable landmarks. He was called into the ill-fated superconducting supercollider project in Texas and designed a huge super-office that would have been built around and over a small lake; that is, like the old London Bridge, there would be offices situated inside a couple of bridges over the lake. That way the physicists' workplace would not be a nameless, placeless, timeless cubicle lost in a sea of identical cubicles, it would be placed in an attractive, memorable location relative to the lake and other architectural landmarks.

Safdie started his career with Expo 67's Habitat, an attempt to open up apartments to the maximum amount of air and give each a panoramic view of the surroundings. He used Lego blocks to design it and decades later found out that his design had been fractal in nature. Under a protective dome a series of modular apartments like Habitat would be fractal, it would approach the ideal of visibility and flexibility for its inhabitants, though it would take some doing to make it a beautiful feature itself. But for me his greatest triumph was the design of a small planned city between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv called Modi'in.

In every other development around the world the first thing planners do is whip out the bulldozers and flatten every hill and even out every valley, and culvert over every stream and watershed. Is it any wonder that structures on that same flat surface look the same, and that life inside is boring, suicide inducing, and that if you try to park anywhere and try to find your car you are out of luck, for it is lost in a sea of total sameness.

Modi'in was situated along a long valley surrounded by hills. Safdie's great master stroke was to leave the bulldozers in the garage and build around the valley and hills and streams. That way one could orient oneself to one's surroundings wherever one happened to be. He left the valley for parks and roads and built the housing and other buildings up the sides of the valley. He further differentiated areas by planting one species of plant and tree in one park, another in another. On the top of the hills he made tall buildings to give a further perspective on where you are, long views of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. To think, the Master traveled through here several times on the way to Jerusalem, and now a model city for the future is being built here, the first of its kind. I am certain that this style of taking advantage of the natural features of local landscape (and, I am sure will happen soon, using bulldozers to increase variety, rather than erase it) will soon be the way of the future. Isaiah prophesied our traumatic phase of suffering and monochromatic conformity:

"For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains. (Isaiah 22:5, KJV)

To me the possibility of building cities up and down mountainsides offers wonderful prospects. I still remember visiting Juneau, Alaska, and seeing its streets and buildings run up and down the foothills of the Rockies. To walk from point A to point B was a very strenuous activity indeed, and I was only 19 years old at the time.

Some months ago I saw a travel documentary about Turkey that focused in on two little towns in Turkey, one built on relatively flat land and the other in a mountainous region. The inhabitants in the latter town had to climb a steep incline to go anywhere, and as a result obesity was unknown. Young, old, in between, everybody was thin as a rail. The other flatland town was more like here, some individuals were fat, some thin, others in-between. Just to emphasize the difference, the filmmakers showed the cuisine of the mountain villagers. They prepare the fattest, richest, most cholesterol loaded dishes of any place on earth. Eat like that here and you would be dead of heart failure or stroke in a few years. But there it does not make a whit of difference. Their energy output is so huge that they burn the fat before it can clog up any arteries.

The implications of this diversity of planar surface for my modular city plans are clear. Last night we had an 86th birthday celebration for "Gramps" and I indulged in more junk food than I should have. If I were living in a modular home in a town like Modi'in the result would be automatic: I would wake up the next morning a little higher up the hillside. I would stay up there, climbing more stairs and fighting my way uphill until I burned off those extra calories, after which I would slip downhill again. I might not even notice it, nor would there be a sense of being punished or shamed. I took in more calories so I have to burn more off for a while, so what is the big deal?

As always, the physical just reflects the spiritual. The spirit, being essential, has to be flat, the same, obligatory in the same way for every soul, even as the Christ prophesied,

"Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3:5-6, KJV)

But in every other, outer way, variety is good, diversity is as essential an attribute of divinity as is standardization. We will talk more about that next time.

John Taylor

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Source Material on the Master

Source Material on the Master in England

By John Taylor; 2006 May 18

Those who viewed the new pilgrimage promo DVD will recall certain recommended books and other readings that they recommend in order to prepare the pilgrim for the experience of visiting the Holy Land. I was interested this morning to come across the following, which shows that the Master put Himself under fairly rigorous physical training in order to be in condition for the difficulties of this sacred act.

"Many years later during His Western visit, while crossing by ship from New York to Liverpool, He paced up and down the deck for a long time; when at last He sat down to rest, He told His attendants: 'I walked 4600 feet, the length of the road between 'Akka and the Shrine of Baha'u'llah. I want to practise walking, perchance I might be able to go on foot to the Shrine. In latter times, in the Holy Land, I was too weak to go on foot and was deprived of this bounty.' He was in His sixty-ninth year." (H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 43)

I notice too that, like the Persians who walked all the way from Persia to Akka, He did not ride or otherwise take the easy way out, because, apparently, a Hadith prohibits that when going to visit the Lord. He followed that rule strictly, He either walked the whole distance from Akka to Bahji or He did not go at all. Very interesting.

Here is another glimpse into the personality of the Master. He takes a cheeky little dig at the most famous feminist of the age, or as they were known then, suffragette, E. Pankhurst.

"The first public meeting which 'Abdu'l-Baha addressed on this second visit to London was held at the Westminster Hotel, in the evening of December 20th. Sir Thomas Barclay was in the chair. Mrs. Despard, the famous suffragette leader, was present, and after 'Abdu'l-Baha had given His address, both she and Alice Buckton spoke to express their gratitude and appreciation. When that most famous of all the suffragettes, Mrs Pankhurst, visited 'Abdu'l-Baha and referred to Him as a 'prophet', He said with a broad smile: 'Oh, no! I am a man, like you.' A number of suffragettes, who called on Him on another occasion, were strongly advised to desist from violence, and to observe moderation. That was His counsel at all times." (H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 347)

Balyuzi is no doubt correct in his dating here but Abdu'l-Baha did give at least two talks before He arrived in London from Liverpool on the second visit in December, 1912. He had arrived there on the 13th, eight days after leaving New York. These two speeches are difficult to find; they are uncollected in published compilations of His talks in print. They are new to me, anyway. Abdu'l-Baha in London, for example, covers only His first visit to England in 1911. They are not in Ocean either. For that reason I am extracting the text from "Sifter, Star of the West" of the two Liverpool addresses, proofing them and setting them out here in their entirety. Almost certainly these articles and addresses will be new to the readers of the Badi' Blog.

from Star of the West, January 19, 1913

Star of the West, Vol. 3, No. 17, p. 2

`Abdu'l-Baha's Arrival in England

by Isabel Fraser

Abdu'l-Baha arrived in Liverpool from New York on the White Star liner Celtic, December 13th

The boat was late and it was about nine o'clock before it docked. Miss Elizabeth Herrick, formerly of Liverpool, now of London, had gone up to Liverpool a day ahead to arrange for the addresses. M. Hippolyte Dreyfus Barney had come from Paris to meet Abdu'l-Baha and a group from Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds, in all about a dozen, watched the great liner come slowly up the stream, literally out of the dark night. Suddenly we caught sight of Abdu'l-Baha in the ship's bow, and as she hove to he walked slowly down the long deck till he stood quite alone, in the very center of the center deck. All eyes on the landing stage were at once riveted upon him as he peered over the ship's side into the rain and gloom of Liverpool. The huge modern boat made a fitting frame for the Master-symbol, as it is of this outpouring of power, designed as it is to bring brothers into closer touch, and Abdul-Baha, the Center of this dispensation, appeared standing in command.

To the little group on the landing stage it seemed ages before the first, second and third class baggage was arranged in the customs, and the porters and reporters dashed aboard.

Finally we caught sight of the Well-Beloved's white turbaned head, and directly back of him, as they came slowly down the gang-plank, one of the Persians carried a tiny Japanese orange tree from California. Laden with fruit it looked like an offering from the tropics as it swayed in the gusts of the broad Mersey.

He stayed two days in Liverpool, stopping at the Adelphi hotel. During that time he made two addresses, one to the Theosophical Society on Saturday night, December 14th, and one at Pembroke Chapel, a Baptist church, Sunday evening, December 15th. He left for London the next morning.

Since leaving London a year ago, Abdu'l-Baha has traveled far. From here he went to Paris, and from thence traveled to Alexandria and Cairo. Last April he visited the States, going as far west as San Francisco. It was in this city that he made his famous address to the Jews, speaking on the relations between Judaism and Christianity, an address which is far-reaching not only from the Jewish but from the broad Christian standpoint.

On being asked what the Jewish attitude toward him was on that occasion, Abdu'l-Baha said: "Many of those present came up and shook me by the hand, and a certain Jew came to me as I was leaving the synagogue and said, `I am ashamed to be prejudiced any longer.' And, again, as I was walking one day in the Street another Jew came to me and said, `We were neglectful and heedless, and you enlivened us; we slept and you awoke us. It behooves us to remain steadfast now and look to true knowledge, and forget our 2,000 year old differences '"

The Search for Truth

(Star of the West, Vol. 3, No. 17, pp. 3-4)

Address of Abdu'l-Baha before the Theosophical Society, Liverpool, England,

Saturday night, December 14, 1912.

By Isobel Fraser.

The President of the Theosophical Society, Mrs. Armour, introduced the speaker by saying that he needed no introduction and at once Abdu'l-Baha began speaking to the group of earnest listeners. He remained seated and spoke in Persian, M. Hippolyte Dreyfus Barney, of Paris, acting as interpreter.

WHEN I was in America, I had many opportunities of addressing the Theosophical Society there. In every city I spoke once to them, and in some cities many times. The Theosophists are very dear to me, for they have abandoned all prejudice. They do not abide in the confines of dogma, but are seeking truth in a spirit of freedom. All the religions of the world are submerged in prejudice. A Jew is a Jew because his father was before him. A Christian is such for the same reason, and it is the same with a Mussulman. All follow the precepts of their fathers, refusing to go forth and seek for themselves.

We both (Theosophists and Baha'is) have abandoned all dogmas in our earnest search for truth. But look at the tribes and nations of the world -- why are they seething with contention? Because they are not seeking truth. Truth is one. It admits of absolutely no division and accepts neither limitations nor boundaries. All dogmas differ, hence the nations are opposed. The different dogmas make wars and strifes. Behold the events of these days! If it were not for these differences in religions there would be no wars.

We would not see what is now taking place in the Balkans if both sides were sincere seekers after truth.

Regard Persia: in that land there were many tribes, governments and religions, but they cut down the barriers of dogmas, became followers of BAHA'U'LLAH, and are now as one. Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, et al., meeting together as we are doing here to seek for truth. Truth is one, so they became united.

All the different religions of God that have risen on the face of the earth have one purpose: to educate man and to inform him of the spiritual, the luminous, the divine, so that he may partake of heavenly spirit and find eternal life, show forth the virtues of mankind, and from a world of darkness enter a world of light.

There is no other reality of meaning to the different religions. Their purpose is one, the teaching is One.

Man may be said to have three natures: The first is sunk in darkness and here he is a prisoner to his desires for here he is co-possessor of the same qualities as the animals. The second nature might be called his human nature and in this human nature is the home of the mind and the soul. The third is his likeness to God and this he possesses in proportion to the divine qualities he imparts, the breeze of the holy spirit, pure spiritually, luminosity.

All the religions, all the prophets, all the great teachers had no other purpose than to raise mankind from the animal to the divine nature. Their purpose was to free man and to make him an inhabiter of the realm of Reality. For although the body of man is material, his reality is spiritual; although his body is darkness, his soul is light; although his body may seem to imprison him, his soul is essentially free. To prove this freedom, the prophets of God have appeared and will continue to appear, for there is no end to divine teachings and no beginning.

The thoughtless say that the power of God is occasional; some will say that this material universe is hundreds of thousands of years old. But the power of God is eternal and the creation of God is likewise eternal. Divinity is dependent on creation. Can you imagine a king without a people? Can you imagine our sun without light and heat? The sun to us means light and heat. The king needs his kingdom and the qualities of God are eternal. As long as God exists his creation will exist and the manifestations of God in the divine teachers have always existed as an energy of God and will always continue to exist.

The very greatest blessings of God are represented by these divine beings who come and who will continue to come forth to humanity for hundreds of thousands of years. They represent the blessings of God and the blessings of God never cease.

Always hope that one day a Sun of Truth will rise and bring a Dawn whose light will destroy all the darkness of the human world, will unite hearts and make souls happy, do away with contention and establish universal Peace. Then there will be no divisions. All will be united and live as one family under the flag of unity and love. Then will mankind be inspired with a new progress and show forth diverse virtues. A new spirit will be given to him and the new world will be in vested with a divine beauty. I hope we will always be expecting the appearance of such an One, for he will have education marked with a divine power. Such an One will be superhuman in all conditions, able to subdue material limitations, able to free man from his bonds of country and unite east and west. Such an One will make the Kingdom to appear, for such an One is, in his essence, superior to the laws governing human education. In his essence he is a universal teacher and does not depend on human means for knowledge. He does not need the light from a human lamp nor yet from an astral body. His mission is to give light.

Such an One is a pure mirror in which the Light of Reality is reflected in the world of humanity. We must be looking for such an One to the end that we may be attracted when he comes to go on wings flying to such an One, born with a new spirit each day to do new works. Thus we will invite this greatest of divine blessings to appear.

Again let us look at Persia! More than 20,000 there have sacrificed their lives -- joyfully giving them in the path of God. They were supplemented by hosts of Heavenly spirits so that they never tired of any kind of trouble; they never complained; nay, as trouble increased, their efforts increased and day by day they were enlightened with the Light of the Eternal.

My hope for you is that you may do all in your power to invite to this earth Gods greatest blessing in your search for truth.


Liverpool, England, Sunday, December 15, 1912.

By Isabel Fraser

(Star of the West, Vol. 3, No. 17, pp. 4-5)

AFTER a few appreciative words of welcome by the Rev. Donald Fraser, Abdu'l-Baha addressed the congregation at Pembroke chapel, at the evening service, December 15th. Mr. Fraser welcomed this herald of peace and expressed his deep appreciation and honor at having Abdu'l-Baha in his church.

He made a remarkable picture as he stood in the pulpit, which at first he hesitated to ascend, saying that he did not like to be above the rest of the people. But when it was pointed out to him that he would not be above some of them the gallery and that they could hear better, he complied. He said in part:

"Tonight I am exceedingly happy to find myself in an assembly, the members of which are a recognized factor in philanthropy and well being. Therefore, I supplicate at the throne of God that He may bestow divine confirmations upon you that at all times you maybe the vehicle of divine mercy and the means of prosperity to the individual members of the world of humanity.

"Man should endeavor always to realize the Oneness of Humanity. We are all the children of God; all created by God; all provided for by God and all under the protection of God. God is kind to all His children. Why should they wage war between themselves? God is the Real Shepherd all are His sheep. There is no difference whatever among the members of the flock. He educates all of us, is compassionate to all of us; protects all of us. Ponder and you will understand that with the bounties of God there is no restraint. His grace encourages all mankind. All live under His bounty.

"What benefit do we ever draw from separating ourselves one from another? Why should we wrangle and battle to kill each other? God is kind. Why are we unkind?

"The first separating principle is religion. Every sect and community has gathered around itself certain imitations of Reality in ceremonies and forms, and as these imitations differ, contentions follow. Each division is encompassed with thick clouds through which the Sun of Reality cannot penetrate. If these divisions should forget the differences in imitations and seek for the underlying Reality, all would be united and agreed and fellowship would be established between the organizations of mankind.

"As His Holiness Mohammed states, 'God is Love upon Love, with Love.' Therefore it is evident that the foundation of Religion is Love and the fundamental purpose of religion is Unity. The Religion of God is honor to humanity; why make it the cause of degradation? Why make it the cause of darkness and gloom? Assuredly it is a thousand pities that the cause of such a glorious reality should become the cause of degradation and hatred.

"It was at a time of great darkness that His Holiness BAHA'U'LLAH appeared in Persia, summoning all to love and friendship. Now, in Persia, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and other contending religionists who heard the words of BAHA'U'LLAH are living in the utmost state of love and reciprocity.

"This Cause is great and it was at great cost that BAHA'U'LLAH strove to spread these principles in the world. During his life he was imprisoned, his property was pillaged. He was separated from his friends and 20,000 of his followers were martyred. They sacrificed their lives in the glorious cause of doing away with imitations and limitations, to this end that Unity might be established among the children of men.

"Nations sometimes say, 'We wish to extend our boundaries' Consider with me for a moment 'What is the earth?' We live for a few years on its surface and then it becomes our eternal cemetery. Millions of generations are buried there. It is the universal graveyard of humanity. Is it praiseworthy to engage in war for a cemetery -- to pillage the wealth of nations for an eternal graveyard?

"Praise God, this nation at this time is striving with all its energy for International Peace. Rest not from your endeavors until international peace become established. This is my request of you and my earnest hope for you is that you may always be protected."

After the hymn, "All People That on Earth Do Dwell," Abdu'l Baha pronounced the following benediction in Oriental fashion, with hands outstretched and upturned: "0 Thou most kind Lord, this reverent assembly is calling on Thy name. These souls are seeking Thy good pleasure. They are seeking the prosperity of the world of humanity. 0 Lord, confer upon their souls life evermore. 0 Lord, forgive their sins and keep them in Thy protecting shade in both worlds. 0 Lord, confer upon them Thy great pleasure. All are servants of international peace, all are servants of humanity. Thou art The Merciful, The Generous, The Forgiver, The Almighty, The Praiseworthy!"

Afterward, in the vestry, Abdu'l-Baha wrote the following beautiful blessing for the Rev. Donald Fraser. He inscribed it in Persian in the church book: "0 Thou Kind Almighty, confirm Thou this servant of Thine, Mr. Fraser, in the service of Thy Kingdom. Make him illumined; make him heavenly; make him spiritual; make him divine! Thou art the Generous, the King!"


(Star of the West, Vol. 3, No. 17, pp. 5-10)

By Isabel Fraser

A REMARKABLE cosmopolitan gathering filled the large ball at the Westminster Palace Hotel, Friday evening, December 20th, to listen to an address by Abdul-Baha. His topic was one that is agitating many of the thinking minds of today -- the vast subject of Peace.

Sir Thomas Barclay was in the chair, and among the audience were scientists, diplomats, leaders of the great movements of the day, including a number of Orientals. So great was the overflow that many were compelled to sit on the floor and a fringe standing at the outer edge extended out into the hall.

Abdu'l-Baha (Servant of God) as he calls himself, endured a forty years' martyrdom in the cause of peace, by virtue of which he has been called "the world's greatest peace advocate." The world has seldom given heed to its Divine messengers during their lives, but it is impossible not to feel that Abdu'l-Baha is carrying conviction to the eager thousands who listen to his inspired words -- words which convey a subtle but unmistakable promise for the future. He made us all feel the first stirring birth pang of a deeper peace than the world had ever known -- the peace which Abdul-Baha expounded and which he declares is the world's heritage today.


I am not here really to speak but to listen as a Western European deeply interested in Persia, in Persian thought and in Persian literature and glad of an opportunity to do honor to a venerated Persian. Abdu'l-Baha is known far beyond the immediate ranks of Baha'is, known not only for his own sake, but also as the accredited Messenger of the Baha'i teaching. Persia has been a fatherland of religions, but the Revelation of Baha'u'llah is a system of thought and conduct.

"All prejudices," said Baha'u'llah, "whether prejudices of religion, prejudices of race, prejudices of politics or prejudices of nationality must be cast off, for they are a cause of the sickness of the world."

Then again he says: "There is no contradiction between true Religion and Science. When a religion is opposed to Science, it is superstition. Prejudice and superstition are the enemies of human development.

"If a man would succeed in his quest for truth, let him first shut his mind to the traditional superstitions of the past." These traditional superstitions have grown over and disfigured true religion and the object of the Revelation of BAHA'U'LLAH is to get to the original truth and exclude no conscientious searches after undistorted truth.

I wonder if I have understood the Revelation of BAHA'U'LLAH. If I have, it has a singularly good Christian ring and I should interpret its meaning as "Be a real Christian and you will be a good Baha'i."

But I am merely presiding and not proselytizing. I am proud to have been asked to preside at a meeting of those who have come to gather to do honor to one who deserves it so richly.

Abdu'l-Baha commenced speaking at once, Mirza Ahmad Sohrab translating. Abdu'l-Baha remained seated, He spoke earnestly, gesticulating freely and one could almost follow his thoughts as the light and fire played over his countenance. He spoke on the subject of Unity and Peace and expounded some of the teachings BAHA'U'LLAH gives for the attainment of these two much desired conditions of the world today. He said:


Scientists tell us that the world of matter is made up of constellation of molecules, which hold it in its various forms; each molecule consists of a similar constellation of atoms which in turn recent discovery shows is made up of tiny worlds of electrons. Thus we see that this law of affinity is the very basis of existence.

As in the material, so in the spiritual world, love is the attracting force that welds together the constituent elements into a composite unity and holds them firm against disintegration.

Love is the cause of life, and hatred or animosity spell death or disintegration. Just as affinity is the fundamental principle of composition, the greater affinity, ov is the light of unity and the lack of love is the darkness of separateness. Love is conducive to existence, difference is conducive to disintegration. Love is the cause of the illumination of the whole of humanity, discord and dissension are the cause of the destruction of the human race.

All the divine messengers have come to this earth as specialists of the law of love. They came to teach a divine love to the children of men; they came to minister a divine healing between the nations; they came to cement in one the hearts of men and to bring humanity into a state of unity and concord. In this pathway, each one of these divine Manifestations of God's love has accepted innumerable calamities and hardships. For the sake of a realization of love and concord amongst men, they have sacrificed their lives. How many persecutions have they suffered; so that they might bring into a state of harmony those contending nations and religions; so that they might create peace and consolation between these various peoples of the earth!

Let us consider His Holiness Jesus Christ: how many trials be accepted along this pathway, how many difficulties and persecutions, even giving up his life. He chose for himself the cross, so that the light of love might shine in the hearts of men, and the various contending nations come into a state of affinity and love, so that love might encompass the hearts of humanity. This was the purpose. When a holy and divine man shows us the way and sacrifices himself like Jesus Christ for the sake of love and affinity amongst the children of men, our duty is plain; it is evident that we, likewise, must follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

We too must be ready to sacrifice our lives, so that this love may live. We must accept every hardship, so that this love may come to the hearts of the people.

Consider carefully that for the last six thousand years there has been constant strife and warfare amongst the people. All the wars which have occurred in past history have been the basis of the destruction of the human race; love, on the other hand, has been the cause of cementing the people together.

Consider how Jesus Christ, through the power of his love, brought a state of harmony between the Egyptian nation, the Assyrian nation and all the nations of ancient times. Such a unity and concord was realized amongst these various peoples that the pages of history are adorned with their accomplishments, although formerly these nations were in a state of constant strife and contention. Formerly their business was war, but, through the Breath of the Holy Spirit, unity became a creative factor. The great and wise men of the world have ever striven hard, so that the hearts of humanity might be cemented together by the heavenly teachers, whose mission it is to bring into the world this divine state of love.

The foundation of all religion as taught by all the divine messengers has been love and affinity. A hundred thousand pities alas that the divine message has become the means of warfare and strife!

In the Balkans blood is being freely and copiously shed, lives are being destroyed, houses are pillaged, cities are razed to the ground, and all this through religious prejudice; while in reality the foundation of the religion of God is love. All the divines and holy manifestations invite the exercise of love. In reality we are living in the midst of the greatest proof of divine love. For at a time when, in the Orient there existed the utmost state of strife and sedition, warfare raged be between the nations; warfare raged between the religions and between the various sects; darkness encompassed the horizon of the Orient, and each religion asserted its claim over the other -- at such a time, under such circumstances, His Holiness BAHA'U'LLAH shone from the horizon of the East. He declared that the reality of all religion is one, that all religions have the same foundation for their teaching. He taught men that the foundation of the religion of God is love. Alas, that they should have entirely forgotten this foundation! They have created blind dogmas, and as these blind dogmas develop, we observe constant bloodshed and strife. If all the religions and sects were to quit themselves from all past limitations and search diligently for the foundation (as the foundation of the divine religion is one) there would follow unity and concord, these terrible events would not happen, bloodshed would cease, and hatred between the hearts of men would be dispelled. Heavenly illumination would dawn, divine love would be created, the efforts of the divine teachers would be held and would yield results, hearts would be knit together, the basis of strife and quarrel would be forgotten, divine justice would be revealed and divine radiance diffused.

In order that the darkness of strife and sedition might be entirely banished from the human world, His Holiness BAHA'U'LLAH established and taught certain declarations or principles. The first principle which He proclaimed was the principle of the Oneness of the human family. He said, "Humanity constitute the sheep of God's flock. The real shepherd is God." The real shepherd is compassionate and kind towards all the members of his flock. Humanity was created by God; He provides for all, protects all. He is kind to all. Why should we treat each other harshly? He has made a plea for love, not for difference, or hatred, or animosity.

God created humanity; none of us were created by Satan. All are edifices of God, therefore we must strive that these edifices be protected and not seek to destroy them.

The second principle of BAHA'U'LLAH concerns international peace and to this end He wrote all the nations and sent special epistles to the rulers and kings of the earth. Likewise he proclaimed peace amongst the religions. Was not peace the foundations of religion? It is time that these limitations and dogmas be done away with, that the foundation of the religion of God be made the means of union and good fellowship.

Again, He proclaimed inter-racial peace, for humanity is the progeny of one Adam -- all belong to one lineage. "This sphere is one globe," He said, and is not divided, the various continents on the face of the globe are in reality one native land, inhabited by one human family; therefore, there should not exist between the various countries this warfare and strife.

Another principle of BAHA'U'LLAH is that religion must ever be the means of love; that is, if so called religion be the cause of hatred and animosity, it is better to quit such religion. Every affair, every matter which in the world of humanity is the cause of love, that matter is good; but if it is creative of difference amongst the children of men, that matter is evil. If it be a cause of hatred amongst the people, it is absolute evil. Irreligion is better than that so-called religion. The people have made religion the cause of warfare and strife, while the reality of religion is the cause of unity and love.

The fourth teaching of BAHA'U'LLAH is relative to the conformity of science and reason with true universal religion. If it is contrary to science and reason, it is superstition. A theory which is not acceptable to the mind of man and which science rejects is devoid of reality. It is a vision of superstition.

The fifth teaching of BAHA'U'LLAH is relative to prejudice, which must be abandoned. National prejudice must be forgotten, racial prejudice must be obliterated, and patriotic prejudice must likewise be lifted from amongst the people.

Since the beginning of history all the wars which have occurred have been caused primarily through religious prejudice, or racial prejudice, or patriotic prejudice. As long as these prejudices are not broken, the world of humanity will not attain to perfect peace and tranquillity.

Another teaching of BAHA'O'LLAH is relative to the equality of men and women. In the human family of God there is no distinction. God is no respecter of gender. The religion of God is one. The human family share in common all the faculties; they share in common all the divine bounties. God has not accredited any difference between the male and the female. The same education must be given to women as to men, so that they may acquire science and arts, so that they may advance along the course of civilization, in order that they may become proficient and attain to the level of men.

In the Orient women have been very degraded in the past, men giving no importance to them, thinking that men were created superior, but through the teaching of BAHA'U'LLAH who declared that a great calling is destined for women, they promoted the facilities for the education and training of the girls. In a brief space of time the girls and the women alike have advanced along the pathway of education. Now, in the country of Persia alone, many schools have been organized for the girls, and girls are engaged in the study of the sciences and arts.

The seventh teaching of Baha'u'llah concerns itself and is in accord with this system of universal education; it is that all the children should study and acquire a profession, that there should not remain a single individual without a profession whereby he can earn his livelihood. Baha'u'llah further declares that through the equipment of science and art the misunderstandings which have prevailed between religion and science will become reconciled.

The nonconformity of science and religion has been the greatest factor in keeping the religions apart.

If this misunderstanding be taken away from amongst religions, perfect love will be established. For example, for nearly two thousand years there has been strife and contention between Jews and Christians and it is evident that if the cause thereof be understood with intelligence, it would wipe away from among them all discord; there would remain love and concord.

While in California, in a Jewish Synagogue, in San Francisco, I spoke on this subject. There were nearly two thousand Jews present I said to them, "This long misunderstanding which has been between you and the Christians is very pitiable. You think that His Holiness Christ destroyed all the foundation of the Mosaic law. You think that He degraded the law of Moses, you go further and think that His Holiness Christ was the enemy of Moses, while all these things are contrary to history. The first teaching that His Holiness Christ gave was in regard to the prophethood of Moses. The first mention He made was in praise of the law of Moses. His Holiness Christ spread the foundation of the law of Moses, but He abrogated and extended that law to accord with His times. Before the appearance of Christ the name of Moses was confined to Palestine only, but His Holiness Christ spread the name of Moses throughout the world, and promulgated the Old Testament throughout the nations. Were it not for Christ, who would have heard the name of Moses in America? Were it not for the existence of Christ, how would this Bible have been spread so broadcast for 1,500 years? You could not translate and spread this Bible throughout the nations were it not for the blessings of Christendom. The Old Testament has reached every corner of the globe, His Holiness Christ established the fact that you are the people of God. Let us be fair and see whether Christ was the friend of Moses or His enemy? Let us be just. Was there ever a greater love than this, and was there ever a greater assistance than this? His Holiness Christ spread the name of Moses everywhere. He proclaimed the teachings of the Old Testament.

Consider how this lack of understanding of the Jewish people has created enmity and strife. His Holiness Christ was the first to proclaim worldwide the name of Moses. Read the Gospel and you will find out how His Holiness Christ reverently mentions His name.

The paramount declaration of BAHA'U'LLAH is that peace must be realized between all the nations of the Earth. International tribunals will be established and certain representatives from amongst all the governments of the earth will be sent to that inter parliamentary gathering. The era of "the parliament of man" will be ushered in. This international tribunal will be the court appeals between the nations. Fifty years ago Baha'u'llah wrote to all the rulers of the world about this international tribunal of arbitral justice.

These are some of the teachings in the religion of BAHA'U'LLAH of which would take a great deal of time to expound. I will just add that it is my hope that during these days in which this Peace Conference' is discussing negotiations for terms of peace, you will strive to the utmost that peace measures and peaceful negotiations may be carried on among them. I am pleased that I am living in London during these days. I supplicate that the Conference may be crowned with success, so that peace may be established in the Balkans, so that this bloodshed may cease, so that this Conference (note: Held in London during the armistice of the Balkan-Turkish war.) may become a working basis for the future international peace. May all the nations and all the countries of the world strive with us, that in the future there may be no war and no bloodshed.

As the English government is a just government and as the British nation is a noble nation and accomplishes whatever it under takes, it is my hope that in this matter it will manifest the utmost wisdom and sagacity, so that the sun of peace may dawn on the horizon of the Balkans, so that eternal fellowship may be realized among them, and whenever in the future there is any difficult problem a conference may be called for its settlement, so that through these various conferences all the troubles of humanity may be solved.

May there remain no more war and strife; and tranquillity dawn on the world of humanity expressive of the world of light, so that this nether world may be transformed by love and concord and may become the foretaste of the other kingdom. Then all humanity will be sheltered under the shadow of the Almighty. This is my hope, this is the highest desire of my life day and night. I pray and I beg confirmation from God for this government that this nation may be assisted to hold aloft the banner of international peace.


After the deep silence which followed Abdu'l-Baha's stirring address, the chairman introduced Miss Alice Buckton, who has been closely associated with this great movement, both here and in America.

A word from Miss Alice Buxton

Miss Buckton read the Hidden Words, commencing: "0 Ye Discerning Ones of the People." She told how these "Hidden Words" had been written in prison and how they had come out of that prison and gone all over the world. She spoke of the significance of the Peace Conference being held in England and recalled Queen Victoria's answer to BAHA'U'LLAH message proclaiming that war should cease and that the day of peace was at hand. Queen Victoria's reply was that if this proclamation was of God, it would stand.

Miss Buckton emphasized the fact that this was no new religion, it sought the Unity of all Religions, shutting out none of them, but finding a common meeting place for all. She likened it to a garden of flowers where vast variety did away with monotony and made an interesting Unity.

The chairman then introduced Mrs. Despard, President of the Women's Freedom League, who spoke as follows:

Talk by Mrs. Despard

I am perfectly convinced that every one who has heard him, who so many today are calling the Master, one of the great Masters who has come to enlighten the world, are feeling how deeply privileged we are to have had the presence here in our western isle, of this eastern Master among us. I had the joy of seeing him when he was last over in this country. I have heard of the wonderful journeys that he has made. I know how he never falters. He believes that he is bringing a message to the world and we believe it too.

I sometimes think that when in the future the story of the present generation comes to be summed up, we shall be shown it under two aspects. One aspect is that which is troubling us so much at the present moment unrest. There is unrest everywhere, unrest in industry, unrest among the women of the country, unrest intellectually and unrest religiously, and some are frightened as they look out, and wonder if these days mean the disintegration of which we have been hearing, which is the very fruit of this. But some of us think that this unrest at the present moment is actually a healthy symptom. That it is on account of the unreality of things that people generally are troubled and anxious and longing for some settled thing.

We have the mighty movements the women's movement, the religious movement, the spiritual movement. At the basis of all the great religions that have moved the world there are the same great truths. This unrest at the moment, and of ancient times though in different words and different form are still the same. God is one. There is nothing but God anywhere. He is the one eternal life; because we are in Him therefore we are eternal; death is but the dropping of a garment.

This is the principle of unity and we are thankful beyond measure that it has been brought to us today.

Closing remarks by M. Hippolyte Dreyfus Barney of Paris

Ladies and Gentlemen: After the beautiful and interesting addresses you have heard, I have to make you a promise, it is, not to take up too much of your time, but I wish to say what a joy it is to me to see the wonderful interest that the movement has now awakened in London.

Is it a religion, this movement? Some say no, looking only at the philosophical aspect of the teachings, looking only to its code of ethics; but I say yes, and you certainly will say so, too, after having heard what you have from this platform. It is a religion because it is founded upon the knowledge of God. The knowledge of God is the first thing we should try to acquire. It has, in former times, I think, been very difficult for, in the past the esoteric part of religion was hidden from the people and the truth was only given in symbols. But in this day BAHA'O'LLAH appeals to our reason.

Reason is the greatest gift of God to man, and it is through reason we can know God. How? BAHA'U'LLAH teaches us that we can know Him best through His Manifestations. What does that mean? I think we should say, in order to make ourselves understood, through the greatest manifestation of God, because everything in the world manifests God to a greater or less degree. We can find the divine in the beautiful melodies that are sung by the birds in the forests, the divine in nature, but we find it specially in man, who is at the summit of creation, and especially in those supreme beings who are called the prophets. It is in understanding their teaching that we can reach the knowledge of God. But I said in the beginning I did not want to take up too much of your time. I think we can move in a high spirit in thanking the Chair for this wonderful gathering, which I hope will be the beginning of many similar ones in this city.

"The Blessing," by Abdu'l-Baha

Again a deep and reverent hush fell on the people as Abdul-Baha gave the blessing in Oriental fashion with hands outstretched and palms upturned: --

"Thou Kind Almighty, we supplicate at the Throne of Grace for mercy for the blood that has been shed in the Balkans; the children that are being made orphans; the mothers losing their dear sons; the sons who have become fatherless; the cities that have been destroyed; the many hearts that have been filled with sorrow; the many tears that are being shed and the many spirits that are in a state of agitation.

"Lord, be merciful, extinguish this spirit of war, this consuming fire, this peril, this gloomy darkness! Cement together these hearts, let the sun of Thy Truth dawn upon all.

"Lord! this world is dark, guide us toward a brilliant light. The horizons are glooming with the clouds of war; disperse these impenetrable clouds. Grant us holiness and calm! Dispose of these quarrels, illuminate the horizon of life, so that the sun of real loyalty may shine with its rays. May these dark hearts become illuminated, may these blind eyes become open, may these deaf ears become gifted with hearing.

"Lord! cause Thy divine justice to appear in this world. Summon these people to the Banquet of International Peace, so that they may live together in the utmost state of love. May all the religions and all nations embrace each other with this spirit of universal kindliness, and may hatred be forgotten.

"Lord! confirm this just government in the establishment of peace, so that it may hold aloft the banner of reconciliation in the Balkans. May the light of love shine and flame forth undefiled. 0 Lord! Thou art Almighty; Thou art Merciful; Thou art Clement; Thou art Kind!"

John Taylor