Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cosmopolitan History

Cosmopolitan History (Part One)

By John Taylor; 2006 October 31

Yesterday we discussed a great peace conference called for by the the "Great Being." We noted that His all-embracing, ongoing gathering of humankind for peace should be seen as the consummation of politics, indeed, as the goal of all of the Great Being's teachings. This event marks, in a well known catch phrase, the end of history. It is surely the beginning of History as well, the arrival of the Kingdom of the One True God on earth. We concluded yesterday a series of essays begun last January in which we correlated each of the Great Being statements in the Lawh-i-Maqsud with at least one of the twelve principles that `Abdu'l-Baha returned to again and again in His talks and letters. The peace convention mandated by the Great Being seemed so momentous that I felt moved to begin a new series about the end of history that would look back to Kant and forward to the talks of the Master.

That there is an end to history is hardly news for Baha'is. Sufficient for us is the fact that Baha'u'llah called for it. His "Great Being" statements, as we have seen, are markers underlining His most urgent and crucial social teachings, all of which find their perfection in global peace. Yet today non-religious people when they hear the expression the "end of history" think of materialists like Hegel and Marx. These are drying tributaries of a living river whose source is Immanuel Kant and his ideas about peace. In his peace essays Kant brilliantly envisioned the unification of religious and scientific thought traditions in the act of forming a constitutional peace.

I have already discussed the "Sketch of a Permanent Peace" at length. The Sketch, in a characteristically roundabout way, sets the tone of any future Constitutional Peace. The constitutions of the League of Nations, the United Nations and of any future world body can do nothing more than fill in the outlines drawn in the Sketch. Now I want to tease apart another, no less important, essay, his earlier, 1784, essay, "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View," which we shall call for short the cosmopolitan history. The cosmopolitan history is best known for taking millennialism out of a strictly religious context with the phrase, the "end of history," as well as his first use of the expression, "league of nations." When originally published a notice set the tone:

"A favorite idea of Professor Kant's is that the ultimate purpose of the human race is to achieve the most perfect civic constitution, and he wishes that a philosophical historian might undertake to give us a history of humanity from this point of view, and to show to what extent humanity in various ages has approached or drawn away from this final purpose and what remains to be done in order to reach it." (Kant, Immanuel, Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View, from Ernst Behler, Ed., Immanuel Kant, Philosophical Writings, Continuum, New York, 1986, n., p. 249)

I suspect that the philosophical historian (in modern terminology we would say "scientific historian") called for by Kant is `Abdu'l-Baha Himself. His talks, along with an entire body of literature updating and reapplying them, will one day serve as the cosmopolitan, scientific history of the times. In upcoming essays I hope to demonstrate how this is so.


Monday, October 30, 2006

End of History

The Great Being's Peace; the End of History

By John Taylor; 2006 October 30

The principle of the Oneness of God has peace as its ultimate goal, for God has called himself the "Giver of Peace" (Q59:23). The highest and ultimate aim then must be to live in a peace confederacy, a constitutional polity of permanent peace. Our Great Being statement from the Lawh-i-Maqsud establishing this principle begins like this:

"The Great Being, wishing to reveal the prerequisites of the peace and tranquillity of the world and the advancement of its peoples, hath written: The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized." (Tablets, 165)

The Great Being stipulates that this peace initiative begin with reconciliation among our leaders, and that it end in a constitutional conference establishing permanent peace. He prophesies that this huge conference of the human race will result from a sea change in public opinion. Surely only a severe crisis could force such unanimity upon the world's contending nations. The assemblage is "all-embracing," meaning a broadening of democracy, a wide degree of participation that would have been impossible before the invention of mass media and the Internet. Everybody would perceive a profound truth: personal happiness is impossible without peace, personal peace comes only of peace in the center of the body politic.

"He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me." (Ps 55:18, KJV)

In the sentences following what I cited above, the Great Being continues to draw a succinct outline of each step to peace. He describes how to create an amicable atmosphere among leaders and representatives, and how they then should carry out their moral obligation to formalize their marriage in a world constitution ending all forms of aggression and military adventurism, including terrorism. The mere act of taking up arms, of preparing to aggress against a neighboring country, will ever after provoke an immediate declaration of war by all other countries against that one misguided leader. This is total, absolute disarmament. In such an order a leader who even hints at tyranny will shock his own people, and all responsible world citizens. As a result all of the fellowship among leaders will aim at avoiding estrangement before it can catch root. Baha'u'llah concludes:

"We fain would hope that the kings and rulers of the earth, the mirrors of the gracious and almighty name of God, may attain unto this station, and shield mankind from the onslaught of tyranny." (Tablets, 165)

While such a measure seems merely pragmatic, inwardly it is much more. It is a solid heart, a burning sun from which the vision of God will be witnessed by all. The gathering will constitute nothing less than THE watershed event in the long political evolution of the human race. In religious terminology, it will mark at once the dawn of theocracy and the twilight of theomachy --strife among the gods. God will be visible.

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." (Heb 12:14)

Seeing the Lord of Hosts is a way of saying that the value of faith in a God of Peace will be visible to all. His Oneness will be recognized as the spirit of the age, His will as its law. We will see that it is good. A long age of disbelief will sink below the horizon and the Kingdom of God, the age of faith will dawn.

From the viewpoint of science the ground rules will be altered forever too. This agreement will mark nothing less than the triumph of reason, childhood's end, the termination of a long era when selfishness and brutish desire and passion predominated. Both secret alliances and open power struggles among states will end; petty nationalism will die out and sane patriotism will thrive. There will be no more oneupmanship, arms races, power struggles, espionage, secret cabals and alliances, lobbying and back room connivance, power brokerage, everything that drowns out the common interest in favor of special interests.

The all-embracing, ongoing gathering of humankind for peace that consummates the Great Being teachings marks, in a well known catch phrase, the end of history. It is the end of history and the beginning of History.

With that I would like to end the "Great Being" series of essays begun last January and start up a new series on the end of history, which will recapitulate the Great Being's great principles. I will introduce it next time.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Price of Fear

The Price Kids Pay for Fear

By John Taylor; 2006 October 29

The news media makes a living by scaring us to death. Their favorite target is the most vulnerable, children. For example, they have stirred up parents so to fear contact with strangers that every parent now considers it a duty to drive them everywhere they need to go, polluting the environment and robbing the next generation of meaningful exercise at the time they need it most, exacerbating the already terrible obesity problem. Everybody profits from the climate of fear, and the victims are common sense and the future good of all. Teachers profit. I have been talking to my kid’s teachers about starting a chess club at our kid’s school. I have my buddy Stu, a retired teacher, ready and available to volunteer. He is doing it at several schools elsewhere, offering complete chess courses, going with the best players to tournaments in Toronto, coaching teams, etc. He has decades of experience teaching primary school and running chess clubs there, and will do it all for free. But no, both teacher and principle told me, after school programs keep kids in school and they often have to walk home alone and that would be putting them in danger. It would be irresponsible to allow anything to happen after school hours. I must say I swallowed it whole, until I told Stu. He said no, that is just an excuse. Hiding behind fear is a chance for teachers and officials there to reduce their own workload, to avoid doing what they are paid to do. Other schools have after-school programs, in both country and city, so there is only one motive on their part: blatant malingering. They do not need to keep the school open and put in a couple more hours if there are no after school programs.

Same thing with fear of abduction. In Canada this happens extremely rarely, but every parent is as terrified as if the neighborhood were prowling with pervs. Thank the media for it. Thank the oil and car companies that profit from it. I mentioned this at a meeting lately and was met with horror. “There are hundreds, hundreds of child molesters prowling the net in the States, constantly plotting to capture kids. They share information with one another and are always coming up with new schemes.” Yeah, hundreds in a nation of three hundred million, the danger is just terrifying. I am not saying one should not be careful, I am just saying that we should be aware of the price we pay for undue caution. I am including the following article (Macleans, September 4, 2006, p. 43) as an antidote.


Have years of child-safety programs turned our kids into ninnies?


Ute Navidi, who heads a British children's charity called London Play, was walking along a Berlin street, on a break from an international conference, when she stopped to watch a group of primary schoolchildren in the schoolyard. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. "If this was London they would have called in search: and-rescue," says Navidi." Or the health inspector would have come in and shut the place down." Young German kids were chopping wood with axes and mixing soups in a cauldron over an open flame. Children who looked like kindergarteners were manoeuvring kayaks on their own in a large pond while the adults chatted on the sidelines. The scene got Navidi worried -- and not for those kids. The risks the German children were learning to manage far surpassed anything schoolchildren in her city were doing.

In Britain, as in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, an overwhelming concern for safety -- along with a desire to safeguard against child-injury litigation-has completely altered the landscape of kids' activities over the past 20 years. On playgrounds, it's meant lowering jungle gyms, rubberizing play surfaces, and eliminating play areas with ponds and trees. Some districts have gone as far as banning swing sets and posting signs prohibiting running. Last summer, a father in St. John's, Nfld., was forced to dissemble his children's tree house after a neighbour complained to the city; he was told it didn't meet building codes. A pamphlet on playground safety from Halifax-based Child Safety Link sets out stringent recommendations to parents: I ensure your child never jumps off a moving swing; be on the lookout for tripping hazards like tree stumps; never let your child wear a scarf, because she could choke.

But recently, a growing number of people have reached an epiphany similar to Navidi's: despite our best intentions to protect children, our actions have produced the opposite effect. Studies are showing that kids have become less capable, less self-reliant-essentially, more vulnerable to harm. And fear of strangers, in part, has helped drive a push toward organized and indoor activities. "The stranger-danger message," the Canada Safety Council wrote in its October 2005 newsletter, "can hinder children from developing the social skills and judgment needed to deal effectively with real-life situations." Last year, an ll-year-old Utah boy lost in the woods for four days prolonged his ordeal because he'd been hiding from the "strangers" trying to rescue him. A 2005 British study found that one of the main reasons kids don't go outside is fear of being abducted.

Instead, kids today spend 90 per cent of their days indoors. By some estimates, time spent in lessons and other adult managed activities has doubled over

the past two decades to five hours per week.• And kids spend more time with parents -- eight hours more with their mothers and four more with fathers-compared with 1981. The radius of play of the average nine-year-old has shrunk to one-ninth of what it was in 1970.

It's all working to keep SOME SCHOOLS ban swing sets or even prohibit running

kids from doing what they've done since humanity began: going outside into spaces where they can jump streams, climb trees; use sticks as swords, and do unjust things to ants and flies. According to a decade's worth of largely overlooked research, this free play is key to developing physical, mental and emotional skills-such as self-reliance, risk-taking, altruism and delayed gratification-that help children form into competent, functioning adults. "We seem to need to get our hands dirty and our feet wet from time to time," says Richard Louv, author of last year's landmark Last Child in the Woods, which compiled the mounting evidence supporting the need to reconnect kids to the outdoors. "We don't fully understand why that's necessary to our mental and physical health, but there does seem to be something there."

Which is why a new effort is under way to get kids into wild spaces-or perhaps getting the wild spaces to them. "Society seems to think we can keep children cocooned until they're 18 and then they'll just fly out like some well-formed butterfly," says Navidi. She's working with her government on several pilot projects to design quality spaces throughout London for kids to play. In Canada, too, parents, principals and charities, concerned about the kinds of adults we are beginning to churn out, are looking for ways to turn the tide, and they're starting by redesigning school grounds.

At Bala Avenue Community School, a primary school in Toronto, principal Laurie Prince, now retired, was responsible for transforming a third of the flat grounds into a playground with logs, boulders, a half-dozen trees, grassy hills, a sand pit and a garden. Prince had to overcome many parental what-ifs, like the possibility of bees nesting in the logs, but Bala now exemplifies the part schools can play in enriching kids' outdoor experiences. Seven school boards are financially supporting such projects across the country, and big-name corporate sponsors such as Toyota, CIBC and Franklin Templeton are donating money.

While the idea of greening school grounds, as it's called, has been around for over a decade, it's just started to gain momentum in the past couple of years. In Canada, Evergreen, a national organization working to preserve and create green areas in urban communities, has helped develop and fund projects that bring in logs, boulders and trees, or more elaborate designs, such as trails, vegetation that attracts city creatures, and areas for building structures like forts. A growing part of the thinking is to encourage free play with sand, sticks, water, leaves. "That kind of open-ended play is really desirable-things you can manipulate," says Cam Collyer, head of Evergreen's Learning Grounds program. It sparks creativity, problem-solving and imaginative thinking.

It may all sound a little warm and fuzzy, but a study sponsored by the Public Health Agency of Canada this year found that of 59 elementary schools that had been recently greened, 81 per cent reported more civil behaviour among students, and 83 per cent more social play. Other studies show a positive correlation between greened school grounds-especially those used as outdoor classrooms-and academic performance. The ultimate illustration of this is in Finland,

where children don't learn to read until they're 7 and are instead immersed in engaging outdoor play. Finland is the world leader in literacy. Contrast that with Canada, says Tracy Penner, a Vancouver-based landscape architect who consults for Evergreen, where "kids are driven to school, picked up, put in a program, or sit at home on the computer. For some, their whole outdoor experience is available only at school-this is their backyard."

On a broader scale, Parks Canada and Nature Canada have jointly begun to invest dollars in reconnecting kids to rugged outdoor spaces. Launched in 2005, the Parks and People program has whisked eight-year-olds by plane to the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands' Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and organized wilderness camping training in New Brunswick. In just two years, it will have taken 27,800 kids into the country's parks. "No one's really focused on the young generation," says Darcie Laur, the program's community outreach coordinator. "But we're starting to recognize how important that is."

For Ute Navidi, it's nothing less than getting parents to recognize the importance of childhood, and it's become a mission. When she asks audiences to reminisce about their childhood experiences, they recall excitedly how they climbed trees, got dirty, built forts and broke a lot of limbs. Within a couple of minutes, she says she has trouble quieting them down. But when she asks about the same risk-taking opportunities for their kids, they balk. "I wouldn't let my children do that" is the common refrain. "We don't know what the long-term effects of this downsized childhood are going to be," she says. "We can only imagine."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Incipient Manifesto

Incipient Manifesto

By John Taylor; 2006 October 27

At this fall's ARE meeting of Esperantists I met the author of the textbook for a Peace Studies course that I took back around 1990, one Ronald K. Glossop. His book, which I went over with a fine toothed comb at the time underlining passages long and short, is called "Confronting War." He told me that the fourth edition of Confronting War is out. After we had been home a week there arrived in the mail from him an Esperanto version his more recent work, "Monda Federacio? Ampleksa Analizo de Federacia Mondregistaro" or, in the original, "World Confederation?, A Critical Analysis of Federal World Government." Mondfederacio expresses many world-political ideas that Baha'is hold dear but which I have never seen treated in such detail, so critically and forcefully. I will deal with the contents of Mondfederacio in good time, when I have read more of it.

This forces upon me a broader vocabulary. I haven't read any major books in Esperanto since a few years after I first learned it. So far, wading through this is challenging because Esperanto has become a household language, spoken only to wife and children. I found early on that going over entirely to reading and writing in Esperanto sucked the life out of my English inspiration. It is not so much the difficulty of the language that is the problem, it is its seductiveness. I lost desire to write in my native tongue, lost myself in research and hardly wrote anything new for several years in the early 1990's.

At one point in the conference Dr. Glossop and I, and his friend, a tall, bearded, professorly-looking fellow whose name escaped me (he was evidently a linguist, since he spoke of learning a new language with the casualness that you and I do of walking from one room to another) all sat down together and spontaneously discussed world federalism. I laid out my over-baked idea of mound architecture (latest working title: "The Instauration Manifesto"), spontaneously dressing it up as an alternative, non-political way to approach world confederation. Rather than dream and agitate, why not design and build? That will persuade better than just saying over and over, "We should have a world government." My idea, further dumbed down by rudimentary Esperanto vocabulary, went over like the proverbial lead balloon. "What does local housing design have to do with unification of all nations under one government?" they asked, uncomprehending. I tried and utterly failed to get the idea over. I suppose it is expecting a lot; if I cannot finish the book in English, how can I sum it up in another language?

So that is what I will set out to do today, to answer their question in English as concisely and convincingly as I can.

The Instauration Manifesto; First Draft

"Think globally, act locally." This is far more than an inspiring aphorism. Do we have any idea what it means? Do we ever ask ourselves what it would be like if we ever really did think globally?

The particular political arrangements, all the elaborate political and economic theories, the structures and forms of government on every level have little if any visible impact on daily life. Few spend much of their day in town hall, far less the United Nations buildings in New York and Geneva. What affects us every hour of the day, what keeps us alive and happy, is the design of our homes and neighborhoods, and the way we travel from point A to point B.

An ounce of global thinking would mean that dwellings, work places and modes of transit would be radically different, designed from the ground up according to a world standard. As it is, lack of global thinking has already caused massive environmental degradation and global warming, as we all know. The planet is slowly strangling. Governments, thinking only nationalistically, completely neglect the built environment. Local building codes assure that housing built in a sloppy, haphazard manner according to obsolete technology. Roads have taken over from buses, trains and other mass transit technologies.

More profound global thinking would give rise to an urgent demand for a single answer to basic physical and other needs. The human body, be it in New York or Timbuktu, has the same basic, invariant physical requirements, such as clean air, food, clothing and shelter. Our world can and must be built to reflect that. Fulfilling this need is the Sine Qua Non of human rights, not to mention culture and civilization. Far from reducing diversity, a global standard would allow for far more natural and cultural flavor to be designed into the local built environment than we have now.

All that is needed is to agree upon a set of rules and standards to scientifically regulate what affects us most, all day and every day: our health, diet, social contact and other basic needs. The technical means that serve these fundamental physical requirements must be redesigned holistically, according to a consensus of scientists and researchers. After all, the Internet started off as nothing more than a set of specifications for connecting computers together to aid in communication, and look where it has taken us after the Web went global only a decade ago. Imagine what it would be like if roads and buildings were similarly globalized!

A universal, integrated power grid, transport and transit system could rapidly, efficiently and cheaply connect every point on the planet to every other. Each locale could be regulated by a single, open building code to assure that each building and neighborhood takes advantage of every available solar, wind and other renewable energy resource, that effluent be recycled as conveniently and efficiently as possible, that food is mostly grown and prepared locally, and so forth.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Liberator from Fear

Baha'u'llah, Liberator from Fear

By John Taylor; 2006 October 25

The Tabernacle of Unity continues to occupy the center of our field of vision. Already a brief but accurate article treating the several Tablets in Tabernacle is available on Wikipedia. A cursory check this morning found that there is still no official etext of the authoritative version of Tabernacle available on the Net, but somebody has taken the initiative and scanned the book in; their non-official copy is available at the Baha'i Online Library, at:


Another important document dealing with this Tablet is to be found on this mega-site by one Ramin Neshati. It consists of an earlier provisional translation along with an outline and a more extensive introduction, one that gives details not found in the introduction just published by the World Center. I will include at the end of this mail-out some of its most interesting passages, especially those giving background on who this Manikchi was. Let us now go on to our subject for today, the second Tablet in Tabernacle, entitled:

Responses to Questions of Manikchi Sahib from a Tablet to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl

One of the unique features of the first two Tablets in this set of Tablets to Zoroastrians is how they uncover the extent to which Manikci Sahib failed to understand or misunderstood the answers to his questions that prompted the Tablet named after him. Most other Tablets we are familiar with were to believers (who would have inhibitions about writing back and saying, "I did not understand,") or to Kings and other eminent figures who did not reply at all, directly or indirectly. For example, Manikchi apparently asked which of the prophets of God and which of their holy books is to be preferred, and Baha'u'llah answered in paragraph 1:4 of Manikchi's Tablet as follows:

"As to thy question concerning the heavenly Scriptures: The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements."

Manikchi did not get it. He was unsatisfied and asked for more detailed, explicit answers. Baha'u'llah, in the second Tablet in this compilation, gives to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl more detailed answers but insists in paragraph 2.5 of the Tablet to him through Abu'l-Fadl that the above paragraph in the original adequately answers his question.

"Every fair-minded soul will testify that these words are to be viewed as a mirror of the knowledge of God, wherein all that hath been inquired is clearly and conspicuously reflected. Blessed is he who hath been endowed with seeing eyes by God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Tabernacle 2.5, p. 19)

Not only that particular question either but also several other of his questions all are adequately answered by this pithy paragraph, Baha'u'llah asserts. As the father of a twelve year old daughter, I can imagine how she would express what Baha'u'llah is trying to convey to Manikchi: "What part of `be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in' do you not understand?, What part of `the age ye live in' don't you get? It means now. Now!" she would shout. Of course the Lord of the Age is more patient than that, but He clearly does single out that phrase in that sentence in that paragraph as having the most to say about how to think about religion.

To look at it from another angle, imagine what it would be like if most physicists studied not matter but the history of science. Imagine their exclusive concern being how past scientists used to imagine matter to be, instead of investigating the situation for themselves using the latest tools and theories. Imagine a field dominated by obsolete scientific theory, whose concerns were what past ages thought of the world, rather than about science itself, how atoms and molecules actually behave. That is how religion was studied by Manikchi Sahib and, it is fair to say, by just about everybody else, then and now. If physics were in religion's state of torpor we would be trying to get from place to place in carts with square wheels pulled by oxen.

I have not finished my first reading of this second Tablet, but the following paragraph jumped out at me:

"As to the Sahib's reference to the kings, they are indeed the manifestations of the name of God, the Almighty, and the revealers of His name, the All-Powerful. The vesture that beseemeth their glorious temples is justice. Should they become adorned therewith, mankind will partake of perfect tranquillity and infinite blessings." (Tabernacle 2.10)

Today we have lost the institution of kingship, except for some tiny vestigial appendages in Europe. However, Baha'u'llah seems to imply that if we had just kings the populace would "partake of perfect tranquillity and infinite blessings." This is a very perceptive analysis.

Fear mongering is pandemic. Those in my own trade, writers and especially journalists, are most often guilty of pandering to fear. You can understand that a writer needs to be read, and nothing grips a reader like having the bejeebers scared out of them. So shrill pieces pointing out the dangers of just about anything are common in the media. The result is massive depression. Compare that to the liberal, general, kind, optimistic words and images projected in the talks of the Master in the West.

Ditto for political leaders. They are well aware that a scared democracy is a malleable one. My recent debating partner Lefty had been scared out of his rationality, and he clearly believed that he had to distort the truth in order to defend America. However, as Alexander Trudeau in a recent article points out, the overall effect is that we are being systematically robbed of one of our most fundamental human rights, the right to be free from fear.

from: "We Have to Defeat Fear, In a frightened society, rights are too often abused," by Alexandre Trudeau, McLeans, September 11, 2006, p. 40

From the moment I learned about this measure, before I even met Hassan Almrei or any of the four other men also targeted by security certificates, I was disturbed. In my view, only a nation in the grips of fear would behave in such a way toward a person who has not been found guilty of any crime. I was worried by the idea that Canada might be succumbing to policies of fear, the same policies of fear that have transformed the United States. I am terrified of fear. For me, the arrival of fear in the affairs of state always marks a turn towards a more barbaric order.

When Franklin Roosevelt said that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,' he was addressing his nation in the darkest years of the Great Depression. He was attempting to steady the faith of American citizens in the American economy right after yet another banking crisis. The fear that he described was thus an economic fear, and emphasized the fact that the free-market economy only functions properly when there is trust in the rules of society and confidence in the monetary system.

Over the years, Roosevelt's words have come to resonate far more broadly, however. They have come to represent the fortitude and unwavering dedication to principles of a great nation that stays the course in the face of odds and obstacles. Indeed, Roosevelt's monument in Washington solemnly highlights what one understands to be the four most American types of freedoms. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear.

Freedom from fear is a most abstract principle. But when thought about carefully, it may well be the first freedom of society. It harks back to Hobbes's early logic for the emergence of society: the free man is the one freed from animal suspicion and selfishness by his faith in the protecting force of the law. This freedom also connects back to Roosevelt's warning that fear itself poses a crucial threat to the most basic social union. Really, a society wrought with fear is a society teetering on the edge of anarchy. In contrast, the law is fearless, justice is cold, and a secure freedom is a freedom without fear.

Terrorism is a crime explicitly connected to fear. A terrorist terrorizes us. Granted, the term "terrorist" has been sorely misused over the years, but in essence it usually means someone who uses violence or the threat of violence against civilians to try to influence political realities when other means of change are available. For other means of political change to be available, a certain social order is presupposed, a certain set of rules is deemed to be in place. But the terrorist is the individual who reintroduces fear into the social order. Thus terrorism is deemed such a major offence, because it not only causes loss of life and property, but it also challenges and shakes the social order. Terrorism undermines our freedom by inducing fear in us.

It doesn't take much of a jump to then conclude that the only legitimate war on terror must also be a war on fear itself. Terror is defeated when the fear it has induced is dispelled. Dispelling fear is much more than merely neutralizing a threat. To dispel fear, the threat also has to be rendered irrelevant by precisely a moral fortitude unshaken by terror, by an unwavering dedication to higher principles.

The war on terror as it has been conducted for the last five years has done nothing but increase fear worldwide, and thus enhance the impact of terror. Indeed, increased fear has been sown in so many different ways by those who purport to fight terror. To begin with, the very vocabulary of this new war on terror has been nothing but inflammatory and vague from the start. Terms like "axis of evil," "evildoers" or "crusade" conjure up the most dramatic imagery. How deeply they contrast with the sober words of Roosevelt. The appropriate conduct 'of a leader in the face of adversity should be to exert a calming and reassuring influence on the people, not to rile them up with apocalyptic warnings.

Of course, fear has also been sown in far more concrete ways abroad. I can only think of an Iraqi mother trying to explain to her child why bombs are falling on them. In Iraq, since the onset of violence, originally justified by the most fearful of principles -- the pre-emptive strike -- the social order has decayed to the point where now only violence and fear hold sway. Afghanistan inches closer to such a reality every day.

From introductory notes to Lawh-i-Manikchi Sahib, by Ramin Neshati.


Published in Lights of Irfan 3; pages 121-128

Wilmette, IL: Irfan Colloquia, 2002

Manikji met Baha'u'llah in Baghdad in 1854 while enroute to Iran and later corresponded with Him on more than one occasion. He was impressed by Baha'u'llah's dignity and comportment and in due time became well disposed to the Babi community through an enduring rapport with Him. This tablet was revealed in response to one of Manikji's letters in which he posed specific questions to Baha'u'llah on Divine Names, language preference (i.e., Persian over Arabic), education and the like. Although Manikji did not read or write Persian, he had, nonetheless, a keen interest in safeguarding it in its pure, non-Arabicised form. He hired Mirza Abul-Fadl Gulpayagani, the celebrated Baha'i scholar and recognized expert in pure Persian, to teach in a school he helped found for educating Zoroastrian children. [9] In subsequent letters, Manikji continued to seek out Baha'u'llah's views on the validity of various religions, nationalism, the origin of humanity, and other such topics. [10] For Zoroastrians the tracing of Baha'u'llah's ancestry to the last monarch of the pre-Islamic Sasanian dynastyYazdigird IIIand His claim to be Shah Bahram Varjavand, the latter-day Savior promised in their Scriptures, provided further impetus for their rapid conversion. [13] Ironically, the Zoroastrian priests (dasturs) and the Muslim clergy found themselves united in pressuring these converts to abandon their newfound religion.

Manikji, it appears, was not merely a promoter of the Persian language or a protector of Zoroastrian rights. His activism and influence spanned the socio-cultural, religious and political spheres. Being reform-minded, he routinely communicated with Persian intellectuals, political activists and dissenters such as Mirza Fath Ali Akhundzada, Aqa Buzurg Kirmani, Mirza Malkum Khan and the like. [14] Also, doubts have persisted about the nature of his Anglo-Indian connections and his possible role as a British mole. [15] He frequently commissioned others to write on topics that held his interests, but would either tamper with the finished product or would claim authorship for material he did not write. [16] As mentioned, he employed prominent Baha'is and specifically commissioned Mirza Husayn Hamadani to write a history on the Babi religion that came to be known as New History (Tarikh-i Jadid), a work not devoid of controversy. Despite the growing tensions between the Zoroastrian dasturs and prominent Zoroastrian converts, however, Manikji retained a favorable outlook toward the Babis and Baha'is and continued to maintain a warm friendship with Baha'u'llah.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Tabernacle

The Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting

By John Taylor; 2006 October 24

Yesterday I spent my morning writing time making up a photo presentation of our family's trip to Adirondack Park, at the request of some of the Esperantists who organized it. I would share it here, except that it takes up the better part of 100 megabytes even after massive cutting in order to have it come under fifteen minutes in duration.

A reader commented on my recent habit of looking at people in terms of the size of the vat of sewage they produce in a year, a trick I find more effective in quelling attachment or feelings of being overawed by personalities than saying to myself, "Well, he puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like me." No, I was instructed, rather than imagining vats of excrement I should instead think when I look into our malfunctioning toilet (which we must flush with a pail of used bath water) about what a miracle it is that the human body can sort out the nutrients it needs from all the food it ingests. The junk it tosses out proves how much it does not need, and how good it is at telling the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is a beauty even to the most repulsive processes. One thinks of the Qu'ran's example of the cow, which produces pure milk in spite of slopping around in mud, dirt and grass all day. Of course modern technology has got around that miracle of nature and now with the aid of high tech milking machines and cleverly designed drugs, the milk is no longer pure, it is mixed with puss, antibiotics and other carcinogens.

I admit I had not thought of that, and the point is underlined by the number of pretty photographs I had to eject from the slide show yesterday. Our eyes are taking in images at a rate of three or four megabytes per second, and to it the brain acts as both body and toilet, rejecting far more than it takes in. And going over the photos yesterday, it was strange to see how much these piles of images miss from our experiences that weekend. Even if you add in words, masses of data can pile up and you still get what Plato called a mere imitation of imitation, a lie compounded. That same reader mentioned that she had in mind as an antidote to my polluted way of thinking about people the contents of the following eponymous quote from Tabernacle, which I promised to talk about this time anyway. I suppose she was referring to the general dictum in it asserting that whatever increases knowledge or decreases ignorance is acceptable before God. Anyway, here is the quote:

"The incomparable Friend saith: The path to freedom hath been outstretched; hasten ye thereunto. The wellspring of wisdom is overflowing: quaff ye therefrom. Say: O well-beloved ones! The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Verily I say, whatsoever leadeth to the decline of ignorance and the increase of knowledge hath been, and will ever remain, approved in the sight of the Lord of creation. Say: O people! Walk ye neath the shadow of justice and truthfulness and seek ye shelter within the tabernacle of unity." (Paragraph 15, Tabernacle, p. 9)

So it seems that at the core of this statement -- protected as it were underneath the tent or tabernacle of unity -- is a re-definition of holiness. According to this, holiness has two aspects, oneness and knowledge.

The first aspect of holiness involves recognition of human oneness, "Ye are the fruits of one tree, and leaves of one branch." (Not to quibble but the translator should have lost the comma in this sentence.) This may well be, as the editors imply in their promotional material, the first use in Baha'u'llah's opus of the phrase, "Ye are the fruits of one tree," Baha'u'llah's most famous and characteristic aphorism.

However, as we have noted many times before on this Badi' Blog, this appears to be in its turn a reference to a passage in the Bab's Kitab-i-Asma (Selections, 129). Briefly, here the Bab re-interprets the Golden Rule and places it under the concept of human oneness, consummating in the dictum, "It behooveth you all to be one indivisible people; thus should ye return unto Him Whom God shall make manifest." In other words, unity in religion puts us into a Catch 22. We must be unified in order to understand the value of unity, but we need to understand unity in order to unify. So to enter unity's tent and be qualified to sit down and learn the lessons of the tabernacle of unity, we must first already in heart, mind and deed, be unified as "one indivisible people." In this manner God always creates Ex Nihilo, by a primordial act of will: "Be thou," and it is.

The second aspect of holiness is knowledge. The Lord of creation approves "whatsoever leadeth to the decline of ignorance and the increase of knowledge." At first blush this does not appear to be saying much. Of course, every rational person approves what increases knowledge or decreases ignorance. The operative word here seems to be "and." God, speaking through Baha'u'llah, is establishing that if something does both, increases knowledge and decreases ignorance, then it is to be regarded as holy, untouchable, automatically approved of God.

Science is not separate from or, worse, opposed to revelatory knowledge. This was already hinted at but not made explicit in earlier revelations. The strongest hints, of course, are in the Qu'ran. The discoveries made by scientific research are the unfoldment of the same process as divine knowledge. If any discovery, sacred or profane, furthers the overall increase of knowledge or decreases ignorance, and preferably both, it is holy. That is what Baha'u'llah is establishing here. Thus knowledge of science and religion are holiest, most reliable, when combined into one common process, like the flight of a bird, making full use of two healthy wings. Taken apart, they are fallible, potentially harmful.

A few weeks ago an ambitious non-Baha'i scholar startlingly compared the Babi and Baha'i Faiths to Protestantism in Christianity. That is, he said that they are nothing but a protestant form of Islam. While it is true that the Babi Faith in particular acted as a protest movement, on the whole this is a deceptive comparison. Both Protestants and the Catholic Reformation utterly changed their doctrinal world view in response to rapid revolutions in scientific knowledge of the time. And even afterwards, Protestant leaders still found themselves un-reconciled with the claims of science, and continue to do so today.

But further East in Islam there was and is no need for such a tortuous doctrinal about-face. Islam is based upon orthopraxy, not orthodoxy. The Qu'ran offers no opposition to scientific discovery and in fact uses nature as a standing parable, a reliable way to understand the operations of divine will. Think of the pure milk coming from the grungy cow. At the same time it is all too obvious that Islam is profoundly corrupt, and has been for centuries. But it is unjust to lose historical perspective and forget, as Westerners both religious and secular too often do forget, that without Islamic civilization modern science in its present form would have been inconceivable. No, the Babi protest was against a sepsis in Islam that runs far deeper than its ability merely to accomodate advances in worldly knowledge. The essence of the Babi protest is to be found in our statement from the Kitab-i-Asma,

"We have created you from one tree, that haply ye may become a source of comfort to one another. Regard ye not others save as ye regard your own selves, that no feeling of aversion may prevail amongst you, so as to shut you out from Him Whom God shall make manifest on the Day of Resurrection." (Id.)

This, as we have noted, Baha'u'llah makes into a main strut of His tabernacle of unity. This Babi' protest, then, is against the "aversion" and estrangement pandemic in Islam, its "two trees" view of the world -- with a good tree of believers and a bad tree of evildoers -- and its consequent suspicion of outsiders and general reluctance to treat members of other Faiths according to the Golden Rule, has made Muslim communities into seedbeds of resentment and terrorism, into standing dangers rather than aids to world unity. This is what the Bab protested, and what Baha'u'llah later actually implemented.

The proof is hinted at in His choice of the word "tabernacle" in our featured paragraph for today. Baha'u'llah twice mentions the word, bookending the twin definitions of holiness that we just discussed. Before it He says, "The tabernacle of unity hath been raised," and then afterwards closes by saying, "seek ye shelter in the tabernacle of unity." What are we to make of this? First of all, the word "tabernacle" or tent has a special meaning in the history of religion. Consider this, from the Jewish translation of the Bible,

"And they ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem; and they took their station at their service according to their order." (1 Ch. 6:17)

The tabernacle, then, was the tent in which Moses met personally with the tribal elders, and after his passing the law of the covenant prescribed that the tent of meeting became the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. Here the ark of the covenant was stored, a box holding in it the stone tablets on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments. As a mobile construction, the tent of meeting was carried from place to place on the journey to the promised land. Later, under Solomon, the revelation came to full flower and the permanent temple, the "house of the Lord," was erected. Tabernacle also signifies the "song" or spirit, the joy and happiness gained from divine law, as opposed to the dead letter, the stultifying, alienating bureaucratic regulations that characterize secular ways of governance.

"How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearneth, yea, even pineth for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy unto the living God." (Ps 84:2-3)

The tent of meeting then would be in the first place the location of personal meeting with the Manifestation of God and after His passing it would be His Writings, and especially His Law. In the Baha'i Order, what would be the parallel to the tabernacle or tent of meeting, living on as the final fruit of Baha'u'llah's Mission? The Kitab-i-Iqan, written at the dawn of His revelation, offers an answer. It starts off in its first paragraph by saying:

"No man shall attain the shores of the ocean of true understanding except he be detached from all that is in heaven and on earth. Sanctify your souls, O ye peoples of the world, that haply ye may attain that station which God hath destined for you and enter thus the tabernacle which, according to the dispensations of Providence, hath been raised in the firmament of the Bayan." (Iqan, p. i)

Shoghi Effendi's answer to what the tabernacle raised in the sky of the Bayan is the Kitab-i-Aqdas. He wrote in God Passes By,

"Unique and stupendous as was this Proclamation (to the Kings), it proved to be but a prelude to a still mightier revelation of the creative power of its Author, and to what may well rank as the most signal act of His ministry -- the promulgation of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Alluded to in the Kitab-i-Iqan; the principal repository of that Law which the Prophet Isaiah had anticipated, and which the writer of the Apocalypse had described as the "new heaven" and the "new earth," as "the Tabernacle of God," as the "Holy City," as the "Bride," the "New Jerusalem coming down from God," this "Most Holy Book," whose provisions must remain inviolate for no less than a thousand years, and whose system will embrace the entire planet, may well be regarded as the brightest emanation of the mind of Baha'u'llah, as the Mother Book of His Dispensation, and the Charter of His New World Order." (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 213)

Revealed not earlier than 1873, the Aqdas was written probably only a couple of years before the Tablet to Manikchi Sahib. So we may assume that this paragraph and its reference to the "tabernacle of unity" is part of the "promulgation," the public announcement that a new law is in effect, of the Aqdas. The opening three paragraphs of the Aqdas, with their emphasis on the Law as not a mere set of rules but a "choice sealed wine" is highlighted and prophesied in the above psalm, "How lovely are thy tabernacles." The Aqdas itself defines "tabernacle" as the physical body of Baha'u'llah.

"Be not dismayed, O peoples of the world, when the day-star of My beauty is set, and the heaven of My tabernacle is concealed from your eyes." (Aqdas, 32)

But entry into the tent of meeting is also a station that it is possible for the likes of you and me to attain, though never see with physical eyes. It abides in an invisible realm, one that rests behind things, and is only revealed after life is over and all our deeds are done. The Bible speaks of it like this:

"...the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying: `Go and tell My servant David: Thus saith the LORD: Shalt thou build Me a house for Me to dwell in? for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle." (2 Samuel 7:4-6)

This station of unfolding, mystically derived virtue, negative and positive, is also upheld in the Aqdas.

"They who eschew iniquity and error, who adhere to virtue, are, in the sight of the one true God, among the choicest of His creatures; their names are extolled by the Concourse of the realms above, and by those who dwell in this Tabernacle which hath been raised in the name of God." (Aqdas, 45)

One is reminded of Baha'u'llah's assertion elsewhere that the tent of existence is held up by two pillars, reward and punishment. So here the behavior praised by those living in the tabernacle is portrayed as a twofold process, as eschewing iniquity and holding to virtue. Reward and punishment, in another guise. In the next paragraph Baha'u'llah forbids contention, again using the imagery of the Ten Commandments being kept in the tabernacle of meeting.

"Let none contend with another, and let no soul slay another; this, verily, is that which was forbidden you in a Book that hath lain concealed within the Tabernacle of glory. What! Would ye kill him whom God hath quickened, whom He hath endowed with spirit through a breath from Him? Grievous then would be your trespass before His throne!" (Aqdas, 45)

The intent of this passage seems to be to extend the Decalogue’s law "thou shalt not kill" even further. Now contention is considered an insipient form of murder. Now the law sets its against even to those who verbally or otherwise enter into opposition. This is why in the commonwealth of Baha'u'llah there can be no "loyal opposition." Contending with or backbiting another soul is as serious a breach of the law as murder, if not more so. If you want to contend with this interpretation, go ahead. I dare you. No, we all take refuge in the Law which now forbids anything of the kind.

Let us end with this tabernacle prayer, from Baha'u'llah's Tablet to the Shah; it is one of the few prayers by and for Baha’u’llah himself, and that alone indicates how close one is to Him when under the roof of the Tabernacle of Unity.

"I implore Thee, O My Lord, by that most exalted Word which hath struck terror into the hearts of all who are in the heavens and on the earth, save only those who have taken fast hold of Thy Sure Handle, not to abandon Me amidst Thy creatures. Lift Me up, then, unto Thyself, cause Me to enter beneath the shadow of Thy mercy, and give Me to drink of the pure wine of Thy providence, that I may dwell within the tabernacle of Thy majesty and beneath the canopy of Thy favour. Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee. Thou, verily, art the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting." (Summons, 1.251, 126-127)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Marguerite's Eulogy, Yours and Mine

Marguerite's Eulogy, Yours and Mine

By John Taylor; 2006 October 19

Yesterday we buried my Aunt Marguerite. So organized was she that she had the flowers "from the family" bought and paid for, so that we did not even have to go to the trouble of forgetting to offer that final gesture. My father's doddering frailty has upped several notches in the past few weeks and it was all we could do to get him to the funeral just a little late.

Aunt Marguerite was an ardent upholder of the Anglican Church, a lay nun, and very much of the old school. By that I mean that she strongly objected to women priests. They were allowed in about a decade ago and in that short time have made an exclusively male institution into an almost exclusively female one. Marguerite's church, St. Albans, still had a man priest but she fell out with him, as she did with so many friends and contacts in her darker, migraine ridden hours. When she moved to the nursing home in Stoney Creek she was delighted to find a man running it, until he moved to Winona and a woman took his place. She was furious with him for doing that but my brother succeeded in persuading him to give the funeral. Unfortunately, the eulogy was tattered by Bob's bred-in-the-bone pessimism and negativity. The poor priest clearly wanted to say good things about Marguerite but did not know her very well personally and had been fed a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde portrait by big brother Bob. True, she had been the spoiled youngest child of the family (the only girl of a generation of boys, long awaited and fawned over by all the adults, according to her brother, my father) and had become increasingly short tempered in her declining years... for a tiny woman of less than 5 feet tall she somehow had all of us, especially the men in the family, terrified to death of her. His speech showed that he had little, beyond her dedication to faith and the church, good about her to say. That was a pity, for she lived as saintly a life as you could ask for. She was surprisingly learned in Christian lore. A decade ago she donated her library of theological literature to some higher-ups in the church, and by her account their jaws dropped and wondered who this was who was reading such weighty tomes. The eulogy, unfortunately, she could not control as had done the giving of the flowers from the family.

We gathered at the grave site, the priest read some words from the printout and we said hello and goodbye to a handful of Marguerite's friends and traveling companions. The curator of the Battlefield House museum was there; she had helped as a volunteer there for time out of mind. Her traveling friend handed out to the family framed photos of Marguerite and herself in Israel, at Gaspe, in England, France and other places they had traveled. These huge chunks of her life, as well as her love of her family, nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews, were not mentioned in the oration. The traveling companion said uncertainly, "Oh, these are Thomas and Silvie I guess, I heard so much about them as they were growing up..."

Afterwards the remnants of this family got together at a retro hotdog and hamburger joint near Woodlawn Cemetery and ate overpriced ice cream. Silvie and Thomas played happily together and Thomas played away at the under-priced video machines, which cost a quarter to play. The scales cost only a penny, and I found out that I weigh a good ten pounds less. Good news. Bob's American wife, Louise, whom I had met only twice before, was present and his daughter Bobbie and her daughter Angel. We mentioned the possibility of an annual family picnic, perhaps in Leamington where Jitka is. I indulged in an orgy of photos and Silvie spontaneously took a video with the digicam of Bobbie enquiring about their pets, Twitchy and Malley.

Then we all drove over to Aunt Marguerite's place to divide the spoils, which Bob has to get out of the retirement home apartment before the weekend. I took a car full of junk, including boxes full of Marguerite's photo albums. I will have to go back to Stoney Creek again today for another load, probably. Silvie was and is still pocked by chicken pox and Grandpa stayed in the car with the kids so that she would not communicate the illness to the still living residents of the retirement home. As always, Grampa let Thomas play with every knob and dial in the car, and my trip home was spent driving and flipping knobs back to where they are supposed to be.

Before retiring for the day I went cursorily through these photos and wondered what to do with the bundled mass of ancient photos of old relations, most of whom she could not name or remember herself when we taped her a couple of years ago reminiscing over them. She had tried to organize this job to, but it came after her first stroke and, pathetically, the handwriting on some of the packages was a scrawl, written by a useless, floppy appendage that had been a steady right hand before. Marguerite had given up, put a rubber band around them and simply scrawled "Old Relations" on a paper attached to the bundle. Thus fades the glory and name of the family.

I found myself yesterday at the funeral and now the next day, pondering weak and weary over how such a fiasco might be avoided at my own funeral. I would not have any life summed up as was Marguerite's -- though I must say I have attended far worse eulogies. My Aunt Amy's second husband Russ's oration was given by an egotistical pastor who positively imagined flaws to flaunt during the oration. People are bad enough without having their eulogist dream up bad deeds done in youth! Come to think of it, I would not have any stranger give the eulogy, far less a friend or family member. Only I am qualified. I joked afterwards that I would climb out of the coffin and give the talk myself rather than have such a eulogy. Somebody suggested a posthumous video. Yeah, that is the ticket. I fervently disagree with Aristotle, who wrote in the Rhetoric that,

"All eulogy is based upon the noble deeds -- real or imaginary -- that stand to the credit of those eulogized. On the same principle, invectives are based on facts of the opposite kind: the orator looks to see what base deeds -- real or imaginary -- stand to the discredit of those he is attacking..."

Rather I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson, who very perceptively noticed that, "The eye repeats every day the first eulogy on things,- `He saw that they were good.'" Yes, a eulogy has little to do with our good or bad points, it has to do with the wonder of God looking back at what He has created and seeing that it was good. That, and nothing more, for there can be nothing more.

So first off, I would avoid talking about myself, good or bad. Not that I am not the most self-centered SOB you could ever ask for, I am. It is just that I am sick of it all. Life and death, good and bad. What are life and death supposed to be but jumping off points, releases from all this garbage?

I think my own bred in the bone cynicism has been worsened since our toilet broke down. Now every time we flush we have to dip a pail into the bathtub and dump it into the old trlet. I look back at what my body has created and see that it is bad, very bad. Evil smelling, ugly.

My old friend Bob Morrison used to say that whenever he felt himself falling in love he would look very close at the skin of what he called a "being" (an eligible female) and think about all those blemishes and flaws on that microscopic level. After that he lost his avidity. For me, after the toilet broke down whenever I find myself attracted to someone, being or not, I think of the vat of excrement they produce in a year. I think of flushing their toilet for them. Is that person's toilet or yearly vat of bowel movements any smaller or less foul smelling than mine, or anybody else's? I find this very effectively rubs out the magnetism, even any affection that might have remained. I look at everybody with disgust, and I can almost reach out and touch what it says in the Bible about God being no respecter of persons. I think of that stinking vat and all respect is out the window.

So for my eulogy, the less said about me, my body and all it produces, the better. I see every eulogy as a last gasp attempt to avoid the topic of me, good and bad, and a way to help others think about things other than that too. Eulogize to help others jump off from my life and look only at where it was leading when it ended, where good and bad seemed meant to be leading. I will never reach it but I can point that way. My ability to do that is what makes me a servant of the All Highest.

As for my eulogy, I would talk about the Baha'i principles, where they are, where they are going, where I think we could go in carrying them out. I would take my last chance to go over the Badi' calendar, the measure of our life time in relation to the Manifestation's life. I would try to hint at where we could take principle and time -- and I would still say "we" in this presentation because my mission will not stop, it will continue in the breast of Abraham. I will be behind every effort to carry them out.

Ask yourself: what is the meaning of my life? It has no meaning in itself for you. Its meaning is primarily for me, not anybody other than me. You get the message through my service to God, indirectly. That is why God enjoys calling us servants, because that is the part He made, the part He finds good. We are here to serve, we are not ends in ourselves like He is. For all others a life lived acts as a vector, an arrow pointing to places the servant never visited, never accomplished, but which others can attain. As "He saw that it was good" teaches, the most important function of a eulogy is not to praise or blame, it is to perform in the broadest sense of the word, an autopsy like the one God performed on the Sabbath day.

That is why only I can give my eulogy, for that is my eye on my life and the world, and it must sum up all of my times when I took myself into account at the beginning and end of the days of my life, like an hourglass with the sands of time dropping smoothly through to the bottom ... add up all of my self-examinations and you get this, my final autopsy, my eulogy.

In fact, when my brother messed up a little and placed Marguerite's obituary on the same day as the funeral, I thought of Aunt Marguerite's disapproval. "You should have had it into the Spectator yesterday," she would have complained. Instead he was busy flying up here from Florida, where he is working as a carpenter. I thought: this is how people live on from beyond the grave, when those who have known them think of what they would think as they do things that would have concerned them. And that is why backbiting and gossip are such bad infections, because they live on after we have been buried, like our excrement lives on if improperly recycled. So yes, when you think of me do not think of my misstatements and verbal slips, think of my love for the Baha'i principles, they have sustained me through all this. In fact, do not wait until I am dead, you can start practicing now. John, principle. John, not gossip.

In my self-eulogy, then, I would talk about the Master's Tablets of the Divine Plan, how we are following them through. I would talk about the needs of humanity, especially our need to find a common path back to our creator. I have learned writing about the principle of One God over the past year that One God is the principle of the principles, that this is the only thing that is worth talking about, all else is frivolous distraction, unworthy of mention at a eulogy.

In my eulogy, I would also include news, news about the world and about the Faith, about things that matter more than that corpse in that coffin there. In fact, why not have a twelve day long funeral festival, one oration for each principle? If only there were enough time in the day to prepare it, eh?

If I had my way, there would be so much substance in eulogies that there would be funeral groupies going around from funeral to funeral just to benefit from the edifying eulogies. And for those who do not have the gift of eloquence, let them hire a learned scholar to do so in their stead. The most brilliant young minds should be able to make a living and a name by giving eulogies for homeless, unknown stiffs, anybody who could not give or pay for their own eulogy. That expense can be covered by the state and rich donors, as were the theatre performances of Ancient Greece. These performances would assess and give meaning to the sad lives of those who fill the unnamed pauper's graves in cemeteries.

In fact, these funerals of the indigent should have the most attention, attract the most interest. If a person was sick or poor or died before their time, that should be the object of a major enquiry, consummated by the funeral oration. Only the best intellectuals should have a right to speak there. Make it such an event that policy makers would have to attend in order to do their job. Even when a life and death were routine, without lessons, why not share news at the eulogy? Let there be no newscasts on TV, TV should be banned for health reasons anyway, along with other inherently sedentary "activities." Let news and events be fed out to the world in eulogies.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Pivotal Commandment

The Pivotal Commandment

By John Taylor; 2006 October 17

Yesterday I juxtaposed a discussion of demographics, specifically the prolific Muslim immigrants in Europe who by sheer ability to reproduce are forcing their values and opinions upon a reluctant, ageing population, with the principle of the Oneness of God, specifically Grotius's explanation of the first four of the Ten Commandments. Grotius himself juxtaposed four truths with the first four of the Ten Commandments.

Commandment 1. The unity of God

Truth 1. the being and unity of God

Commandment 2. No representation, by painting or image, of that Being, who is invisible to mortal eye.

Truth 2. God is not any of the things that can be seen, but of a nature too sublime to be the object of human conception, or of human sight.

Commandment 3. He has knowledge of all human transactions, even of our very thoughts; an omniscience upon which the obligation and sanctity of oaths is founded, for God is a witness even of the secret designs of the heart, so that every solemn oath is an appeal to his justice and his power, for the vindication of truth, and the punishment of falsehood.

Truth 3. With the eye of his providence he regards the events of this world, and regulates them with the most equitable and unerring judgments

Commandment 4. The fourth commandment presents us with an account of the creation of the world, to commemorate which God appointed the Sabbath, commanding it to be observed with a degree of reverence above every other sacred institution.

Truth 4. God is the creator of all things, except himself.

One of the most important abilities of God is his creative ability to, well, create. As the Master often pointed out, a God who does not manifest Himself in creation is like a king without a kingdom, that is, not a king at all. The sun is known by its radiation, and a God that does not radiate is not a God at all. Creativity, effective action then is the Sine Qua Non of God's Being. Similarly any and all living species exist by grace of their effectiveness at reproducing. And, as Jesus said, each species reproduces its own kind; a fig does not bring forth thorns, or a thorn bush dates. Each kind of human is duty bound to spread what he stands for. That is as true for us as it is of our greatest enemies, rats.

"Rapid-fire reproduction that incorporates an entire colony's gene pool is the key to rat adaptability. Twice in the past 50 years, rats have evolved resistance to anticoagulant poisons, our most potent anti-rat weapons. Fresh generations keep tried-and-true traits -- lab rats 200 generations removed from the experience of a cat will still panic at the smell of one -- and quickly spread new adaptations." ("Second to humans, and trying harder, The hatred we feel for rats is the respect due our toughest enemies," by Brian Bethune, Macleans, June 12, 2006, p. 40)

The sexual prowess of rats is truly frightening. Consider the following details about their sex life.

"Any female you see is pregnant: after a four-week gestation period and the birth of up to 12 pink, hairless offspring, she can ovulate, mate and conceive again within hours; she announces her availability by running through the colony spreading pheromones, upon which the males will line up to mate with her, more or less politely, so long as the biggest get to go first. The newborns will nurse for almost exactly the same length of time as the next litter takes to gestate, as the perpetual motion breeding machine rolls on. It's possible for a three-year-old female to have more than 500 offspring; with their young factored into the equation, she could be responsible for 16,000 new rats in one year, almost 100,000 in three. Male rats are ready, aye, ready to do their part. When they are not eating or fleeing for their lives, male rats are having sex. Despite the constant availability of receptive females, they aren't very patient during the rare downtimes. In the absence of females, males have sex with each other; in the absence of live rats of either gender, males have sex with dead ones. To cope with the sperm demand, a one-pound male rat has testicles -- known familiarly as torpedoes -- twice the size of a 400 lb. gorilla's." (Id.)

Rats, then, worry only about surviving long enough to reproduce; their only conscious concern is whether the biggest males get into the copulation line first. Nature does the real selection, brutally, by killing off the scum. After that the sole aim of males is more sex, the sole aim of females is more babies, as quickly as possible.

Humans do not reproduce nearly as quickly as rats, but that does not mean that genetic adaptations play no role in our advancement. Quite the reverse, I think. It is very doubtful that we could have become what we are today, that we could have developed our huge brains and formidable theoretical abilities in only a few million years, without some sort of very effective eugenics program going on in our recent past.

Humans do not and cannot take a shotgun approach. We live by our intelligence, and our intelligence is gradually augmented over decades and centuries. That means that we must provide a greater role for rationality in reproduction. In order to learn from the past we need long schooling for our young. We do this not by turning intergenerational control over to natural selection or to chance or to passion, desire or taste, but to the agents of evolution themselves, that is, parents.

In fact, that is what traditional sexual morality, as sanctioned by the world religions, was designed to do. The institution of marriage is designed to act as a buffer between social and personal demands in sexual reproduction. Note, for example, that the Ten Commandments do not even mention obedience to government, they mention only obedience, reverence and respect for parents. So right after establishing God's supremacy, they immediately command obedience to parents. Why? To give parents a say in their children’s choices, especially their choice of mate. As we have learned, the Law of Demographics recognizes that, long term, genetically, the choice of mate is the only choice that makes any difference. The institution of marriage allows love and rationality to enter into the otherwise random machineries of mixing genes.

The law of God in the fourth commandment thus confers an unprecedented influence and unique power upon parents. At the same time, it sets upon their shoulders a special obligation, to teach to their offspring the preceding Commandments, to love God, not to make images of Him, to uphold divine history in the form of the Sabbath to the next generation. This was the first instance of what is now called "viral marketing," and Baha'is have adopted a similar self-sustaining process lately with our three core activities, devotional meetings, children's classes and Ruhi institutes. By putting parents into the mix so early in the Ten Commandments, Moses opened up a much more prominent role for reason, love and past experience in the life of the family. This in turn conditioned what evolutionary theory now calls artificial selection. Except that this was not artificial, it was divine selection. Parents' job was to hand it all over to the commandments that precede obedience to parents. The mix of divine and artificial selection allowed past experience with divine intervention in history and the particular social contacts of parents to enter into human evolutionary adaptation by deciding whom their children would marry. Baha'i law has reduced this to a veto, but the principle, the truth behind the command, stands and always will. Out of many, one, and out of one, many. The Great Being Himself affirms this.

"The Great Being saith: The Tongue of Wisdom proclaimeth: He that hath Me not is bereft of all things. Turn ye away from all that is on earth and seek none else but Me. I am the Sun of Wisdom and the Ocean of Knowledge. I cheer the faint and revive the dead. I am the guiding Light that illumineth the way. I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty. I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight." (Tablets, 169)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Incredible Shrinking Morals

The Incredible Shrinking Morals

By John Taylor; 2006 October 16

My father now subscribes to MacLean’s, Canada's Newsmagazine. The quality and interest of its writing has improved over the past year or two. As a result, I have been reading it regularly. Two articles in particular are worth discussing today. One is "The Incredible Shrinking Dad, An old debate finds a new twist: fathers may not be essential after all," by Lianne George (MacLean’s, Sept. 25, 2006, p. 62) and the second is "The New World Order," by Mark Steyn (Macleans, October 23, 2006, p. 30).

The Shrinking Dad article is a discussion of a documentary film screened at this year's Toronto Film Festival called Shot in the Dark, the story of Mark Grenier's search for his absentee father. This young man was raised by his mother, his father being permanently estranged from her. This of course is increasingly common for as the article notes the number of single parent families (almost always single mothers, not fathers) has gone from ten percent to well over thirty percent of households in the past three decades. In light of Grenier's success in life, the question arises, did he need a father?

In his documentary, Grenier notices his loss of a father growing up and decides to look his up. Eventually he finds this missing but not missed father and befreinds him. In the end he says that he now thinks of him not as a parent but as "just a guy." The writer of the article wonders whether fathers are as necessary as once was thought. Mid-Twentieth Century a male role modeler in the house was thought essential to a boy's growing up sane and well adjusted. Today shrinks are beginning to have doubts about that. Too many boys from these single parent households are growing up just fine thanks without a Dad for such psychological arguments to be taken very seriously anymore.

It seems that parenting manuals of the 17th Century were addressed not to mothers but exclusively to fathers. Raising children was father's responsibility. Today in Western culture child rearing has become a primarily female concern. Men are men, not fathers first. I read that and wonder: perhaps that is so, but what about the slightly longer term? What kind of fathers are these fatherless boys growing up to become? Oh yeah, I forgot, fathers do not matter in the first place, so who cares what kind of fathers they grow up as? Fathers are expendable. Worst comes to worst males can just have fun impregnating females and happily rush back to their sports and video games. Slam dunk, men are happy, mothers have a free hand in raising their children without bothering about those aggressive, abusive males. Everybody wins.

New World Order, our second article, is an antidote to the delusion infused in the first article. It is an excerpt from Mark Steyn's just released book of that title. His thesis is that 9-11 was not an aberration; it was a wake-up call to a future that belongs to Muslims. He has a conservative ax to grind, it is true. He believes that big government is inherently bad because it discourages people from taking responsibility. That may be the case, but the excerpt chosen by McLeans is all about demographics and the rising giant of oppressive, scary Islam. I recommend reading it for yourself, but my perspective here is on how his demographics is all that matters these impacts on fatherhood, as explained away in the Shrinking Father article. The rise to prominence of Muslims in Europe offers the perfect response to the question raised in Shrinking Father: "Who needs fathers?" Answer: any culture that wants to survive needs fathers.

Stayn's thesis is perfectly summed up by a statement he cites at the very end of the excerpt, by a Norwegian Imam, one Mullah Krekar, who speaking for Muslims and addressing the prime movers of the Shrinking Dad society, that is, Europeans, said,

"We are the ones who will change you. Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children. ... Our way of thinking will prove more powerful than yours."

Steyn sees Europe, enlightened as it is in cooperative social policy, as moribund, ripe for takeover, because it is simply failing to reproduce, almost as much as Japan, which is the extreme case. He uses a beautiful illustration. So few babies are being born in Japan that one toy company decided to keep busy by trying to market dolls to childless seniors. Not having had the experience of raising their own children the company reasoned that they might like to pretend that they have a "grandchild" baby to tell the stories of their lives to. As my daughter Silvie always says, "That is just sad." Yes, "that is just sad" is a catch phrase for tweenies now, but really, that is just sad. All the energy, history and hard won experience of a culture wasted by small families, and now corporations cashing in on the death pangs by selling dolls to oldsters. Call it the shrinking grandpa -- and shrinking grandma too. That is really, really sad.

This is happening in every "developed" (read: corrupt) country. Older, less than vigorous cultures everywhere are literally being smothered out by prolific minorities from poor countries, and in almost every case Steyn implies (but does not out and say) the corrupt ones are white and the up and coming ones are brown and Muslim.

Why is this happening?

Islam, like other traditional monotheistic religions, encourages a patriarchal family. Whatever you may say about patriarchy, it is the most efficient baby producer ever invented. Women specialize as mothers, fathers specialize as producers and supporters, and the number of children brought successfully to adulthood is maximized. Patriarchy has fed cannons and war machines, it has been the engine of imperialist nations and empires for millennia. Patriarchy swells armies like nothing else. This is nothing new.

The fact is that patriarchal (or if you happen to be a Baha'i, patrinomial) sexual morality works, it produces, and other systems fall by the wayside. They may be nice, they may be evil, but it does not matter. They are snuffed out anyway. Patriarchal sexual morality is a set of rules and laws designed to support large, growing families. And as Steyn makes clear, demographics is all that matters in the long run, in the reach of history. It is the sole measure, long term, of a culture or religion's ability to reproduce, thrive, go forth and multiply. This is what wins wars and struggles between peoples, violent or otherwise.

The implication? Demographics is the obvious but forgotten factor in ethics. Your Sodoms and your Gommorrahs may thrive for a decade or two, they may seem enlightened and accepting of the broad diversity of forms of human sexual expression, but they snuff themselves out. They do not, they cannot last. Nothing else matters but demographics. In a time when liberal societies like Canada are switching social supports over to same-sex unions, a form of marriage that is sterile by definition, demographics are the last thing on peoples' minds. Are we mad?

The fact is that there is only one consideration in politics that is legitimate and worthy of serious, continuous consideration, demographics. Conversely, in anything but personal, selfish, short term matters, nothing makes a difference but sexual morality, the set of habits, laws and rules that allow for optimum expansion in numbers of children born to a family. Stasis, two children per couple does not cut it. It spells stasis, falling behind growing, vigorous, vital, and to use the operative word here, virile cultures. Virile means putting men to the yoke, putting them at the head of the family, making them take full responsibility for family planning. A culture that puts men out to pasture playing video games and obsessing on sports is not going to survive, it will cut off half of its human potential. Westerners look at the suppression of women in oppressive Muslim countries, the loss of half the population, but here we lose half too, we waste our men. We sell them off to activities that, whatever their merit, do not contribute to the family, to the continuance of society into the future. Sooner or later a society that does not make use of both men and women will be overwhelmed. It is already happening if we but take the trouble to look.

This morality should be taught in primary school, and earlier, if we want our highest ideals, values and principles to continue into the future. But what interests me is where God fits in. I want to end this with an excerpt from Grotius's On Law of War and Peace, section XLV, a seminal work in the history of political ideas. Here Grotius addresses the crux, the place where the basics of monotheistic belief fit into and vivify patrinomial sexual morality,

"But to take a closer view of the subject, we must observe that true religion, which is the same at all periods of time, rests upon four evident and universally acknowledged truths. The first of which is the being and unity of God, -- the second, that God is not any of the things, that can be seen, but of a nature too sublime to be the object of human conception, or of human sight, -the third is, that with the eye of his providence he regards the events of this world, and regulates them with the most equitable and unerring judgments, -- the fourth is, that he is the creator of all things, except himself.

"And these four truths are unfolded and laid down in an equal number of commandments, the first of which plainly declares the unity of God -- the second forbids any representation, by painting or image, to be made of that being, who is invisible to mortal eye. Tacitus bears testimony to the spiritual nature of the Jewish religion: for he says, that "the Jews have nothing but a mental conception of one God, and they look upon every attempt to represent him under the appearance of human form, as a profanation of his heavenly nature."

"From the third commandment we deduce his knowledge of all human transactions, even of our very thoughts; an omniscience upon which the obligation and sanctity of oaths is founded, for God is a witness even of the secret designs of the heart, so that every solemn oath is an appeal to his justice and his power, for the vindication of truth, and the punishment of falsehood.

"The fourth commandment presents us with an account of the creation of the world, to commemorate which God appointed the Sabbath, commanding it to be observed with a degree of reverence above every other sacred institution. For the violation of any other rites, such as those respecting forbidden meats, was left to the discretionary punishment of the law: but offences against the Sabbath were capital; because, considering the nature and design of its origin, such contempt implied a disbelief, that the world was created by God.

"Now the creation of the world by God affords a tacit proof of his goodness, wisdom, eternity and power: and the effect of this contemplative knowledge is the offering of honour, love, worship and obedience to God. So that Aristotle says that the man who denies that God ought to be honoured, or parents loved should be taught to renounce his error, not by reasoning, but by punishment. And, in another place, he observes that some actions are proper on certain occasions, but reverence for the majesty of God is requisite at all times, and in all places."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fishy Work

How Fishy is Work As Worship?

By John Taylor; 2006 October 14

Last Tuesday Ron Speer gave a presentation called "A New Way to Look At Work," based upon holy writings and a high priced seminar he attended recently in his capacity as a volunteer for the March of Dimes based upon the "Fish Method" of motivating work groups. It seems that there was a fish market near Seattle that was in deep trouble. The workers and employers got together to try to solve the many problems they were having. Some naive youth suggested, "Let us become world famous!" And they did just that; the workers worked out a method that infuses fun into their workday. Some fishmongers found that it was more fun to throw the fish to one another. Their antics have become a tourist attraction as they catch the fish from one another and then give an observer a chance to catch one. Of course they drop it every time. This fun method was expanded into a four or five point program, which includes a "make somebody's day" goal, has been adopted with great success in several various corporate workplaces. Here is the blurb that Ron had me put on the Haldimand monthly fireside poster:

"Work, whether paid or volunteer, is the key to our happiness, success and well-being, but as we all know it presents tough challenges too. Ron Speer recently attended a leadership conference at Geneva Park. Using materials from that as well as  personal life experience and the spiritual teachings of the Baha'i Faith and other religions, he will lead us in exploring a whole new way to look at work."

Ron told of his own experience as principal of Central Public School, the place where Silvie and Thomas are currently studying. He had great success using this method, along with the Baha'i principles, such as avoiding gossip and backbiting, consultation and, though he had never heard of the Fish program, infusing fun into the routine of daily teaching. For example, he would occasionally make a crazy announcement through the public address system, an in joke that would have the teachers cracking up and the children saying, "What?"

My interest was piqued in this Baha'i teaching of Work as Worship. One quote that Ron cited in his material was a statement by the Master that work is the "highest form of worship." This borders on an extreme statement, as it seems to put more direct forms of worship into second place. Upon further investigation it turned out to be from "Abdu'l-Baha and Divine Philosophy," a not-entirely-reliable, if not totally unauthentic source. The earliest and heaviest pronouncement on this theme that I found is the big one in the Aqdas, which raises work to the level of worship -- but not above.

"O people of Baha! It is incumbent upon each one of you to engage in some occupation -- such as a craft, a trade or the like. We have exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship of the one true God. Reflect, O people, on the grace and blessings of your Lord, and yield Him thanks at eventide and dawn. Waste not your hours in idleness and sloth, but occupy yourselves with what will profit you and others. Thus hath it been decreed in this Tablet from whose horizon hath shone the day-star of wisdom and utterance. The most despised of men in the sight of God are they who sit and beg. Hold ye fast unto the cord of means and place your trust in God, the Provider of all means." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 30)

A year after the revelation of the Aqdas, which is thought to have been in 1873, Baha'u'llah was asked about the means of livelihood. He replied that "the benefit thereof will be gained by yourself as well as other servants of God, both outwardly and inwardly." (Tablets, 267) Judging by the following, later on in this same letter to an unnamed recipient, He applied this law to His followers at this time, one year after writing the Aqdas, simultaneously with the rest of the laws in the Most Holy Book:

"A year ago the Most Holy Book was sent down from the heaven of the bounty of the Lord of Names. God willing, thou mayest be graciously enabled to fulfil that which hath been revealed therein."

"Concerning the means of livelihood, thou shouldst, while placing thy whole trust in God, engage in some occupation. He will assuredly send down upon thee from the heaven of His favour that which is destined for thee. He is in truth the God of might and power." (Tablets, 268)

In His Tablet of Bisharat the twelfth of fifteen Glad Tidings reiterates this law in the Aqdas almost word for word, except that this time he repeats twice the fact that this activity has been elevated to the station of worship, and gives greater emphasis on our need to appreciate this bounty and thank God for it:

"It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God, the True One. Ponder ye in your hearts the grace and the blessings of God and render thanks unto Him at eventide and at dawn. Waste not your time in idleness and sloth. Occupy yourselves with that which profiteth yourselves and others. Thus hath it been decreed in this Tablet from whose horizon the day-star of wisdom and utterance shineth resplendent."

"The most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg. Hold ye fast unto the cord of material means, placing your whole trust in God, the Provider of all means. When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty." (Tablets, 26)

Now I ask you, is it not in the spirit of one who has been given this great bounty from God to be exuberant and, once in a while, maybe throw a fish around the room? Or the equivalent, should there be no fish at hand, play some other harmless little prank? I would think so, as long as the nature of the work is boring and repetitive enough for workers to need such an outlet. At the same time, we probably do not realize today how this teaching will burst through the divide between the sacred and the profane. Consider this "permission" to be holy that the Master gave to a typically overworked worker in an age when menial workers slaved from sun to sun, six days a week.

"A workman who had left his bag of tools in the hall was welcomed with smiling kindness by 'Abdu'l-Baha. With a look of sadness the man said: "I don't know much about religious things, as I have no time for anything but my work." "That is well. Very well. A day's work done in the spirit of service is in itself an act of worship. Such work is a prayer unto God." "The man's face cleared from its shadow of doubt and hesitation, and he went out from the Master's presence happy and strengthened, as though a weighty burden had been taken away. (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 152)

In a Baha'i world a "workaholic" will be a rarer phenomenon, but he or she will be given more respect, perhaps not unlike the reverence formerly given the village idiot. In another Tablet, Baha'u'llah seems to offer a further stipulation for work to qualify as worship. It must be done as a means of instituting a virtue, not unlike the Fish goal of trying to get over your own tests and difficulties by aiming to make somebody's day.

"We have enjoined upon all to become engaged in some trade or profession, and have accounted such occupation to be an act of worship. Before all else, however, thou shouldst receive, as a sign of God's acceptance, the mantle of trustworthiness from the hands of divine favour; for trustworthiness is the chief means of attracting confirmation and prosperity. We entreat God to make of it a radiant and mercifully showering rain-cloud that shall bring success and blessings to thy affairs. He of a truth is the All-Bountiful, the Gracious." (Tablet of Baha'u'llah, in Compilation of Compilations vol II, #2045, p. 335-336)

Today the world of business is regarded as inherently cut-throat, as the reverse of the Golden Rule. But there is nothing in the nature of things saying that this has to be so. In fact, Baha'u'llah states that, from a spiritual point of view, it must be the reverse of that.

"Commerce is as a heaven, whose sun is trustworthiness and whose moon is truthfulness. The most precious of all things in the estimation of Him Who is the Sovereign Truth is trustworthiness: thus hath it been recorded in the sacred Scroll of God. Entreat ye the one true God to enable all mankind to attain to this most noble and lofty station." (Baha'u'llah, in Compilation of Compilations vol. II, #2046, p. 335-336)

The law that everybody works is a big step towards an answer to this prayer for trustworthiness to become universal. Really, the law of God is the answer to all of our prayers, it is the ideal that makes high aspirations real. The BIC, our UN NGO, puts this nicely, "The work done by the individual in trade, craft, art or profession is the core of his life and not merely the source of his living." In fact the Fish philosophy says this too, they say that most of your waking lifetime is going to be spent at work, so why not enjoy it? Why not make it into a fulfilling, expansive experience? That is the key to happiness. From a personal point of view, that is spot on. But that is still not enough, as the Baha'i Declaration of Human Rights and Obligations points out, we still need a world of justice, one that will erase unfair distribution, cheating, in sum everything that makes the workplace unfair and unworshipful.

"Wealth results from the co-ordination of a variety of efforts directed upon the equipment and material. A sound economy deals with the whole process in its variety of human relationships and does not seek to center the process around the point of any group advantage, whether ownership, direction, technical knowledge, manual skill or consumption. Wealth in part is the right of the individual and in part the right of the community. Under conditions of international competition desperate social emergencies arise when no just distinction between private and public wealth can be made. True justice and social philosophy await the formation of world institutions and the predominance of the world view." (Baha'i International Community, 1947 Feb, A Baha'i Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights)

This hints at the fact that there is still a notwithstanding clause to the principle of work as worship. Work is a form of worship but it does not take the place of other forms of worship. Great institutions are being raised at great cost by Baha'is called Mashriqs, which embody the pure form of worship. As the following citation shows, the Mashriq is intended as a morning institution to supplement and condition our all day long workship, a session of communion with the creative word designed to set us into a new perspective that will make the day that follows a different, far more productive endeavor than workplaces of the past.

"Teach your children that which hath been sent down from the heaven of majesty and power that they may recite the Tablets of the Merciful in the halls of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkars in most melodious tones. Verily, he who hath been drawn by the magnet of the love of My Name, the Merciful, will recite the verses of God in such wise as to enrapture the hearts of those who are fast asleep. Well is it with him who hath quaffed the choice wine of immortal life from the utterances of his Lord, the Lord of Mercy, through the power of this exalted Name whereby every high and lofty mountain hath been reduced to dust." (quoted in Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah v 3, p. 344)