Friday, October 26, 2007


Wings of Soul

By John Taylor; 2007 October 26, 11 Ilm, 164 BE

"And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: `My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy ...'" (Q17:24, Yusuf Ali, tr.)

Some of the most exciting advances in scientific knowledge over past decades came out of research into the world's most powerful computer, the human brain. Now we know that the brain is bicameral in structure, and that one conscious, language-oriented half of the brain always dominates, or thinks it dominates, its opposite side, a spatial, iconic, inter-relational side. This understanding came out of a series of experiments where the anesthetic sodium pentothal was injected into the right carotid artery, putting out of commission the left side of the brain. Later it was injected into the left carotid, outing the right side. Patients thus disabled remained conscious with only one side of their brain functioning.

The researchers posed puzzles that require spatial reasoning in order to solve, first to subjects in their normal state, then with one side of their brain asleep. With their spatial hemisphere in good working order, the subject would succeed but after the fact the language side of the brain always took credit for solving it. Then, when the spatial brain was anesthetized and subjects inexplicably were no longer able to solve the puzzle, invariably they were surprised, embarrassed and puzzled. Why can I only move these blocks around? Why does this easy problem that I solved only a few minutes ago evade me now?

All this is perhaps too well known in the popular imagination today. We all know that we have so-called "right-brain" and "left-brain" competencies. This of course is a misnomer since in left-handers the language dominant side is on the right, not the left side. More correct and less confusing is to speak of a "language dominant brain" and a "spatial brain." Whether on left or right, the inarticulate spatial hemisphere is a highly efficient real-time computer specializing in imagery and the relations between objects. Its counterpart concentrates on coding what it calculates into language.

The research shows that if the two sides of the brain are put out of balance, the results are predictable. If there is a swing to the language hemisphere, our thoughts get lost in impotent theorizing and motor-mouthing. The speech brain cannot move percepts around, solve relational problems, innovate or even perceive anything beyond the outer surface of the reality around us. On the other hand, if the brain swings out of balance the other way and becomes overly spatial-oriented, it loses verbal creativity and cannot communicate what it perceives and calculates; more seriously, it loses contact with its purpose, its reasons for calculating.

Why is this? Does the brain have to divide its work up in this way? Why does consciousness, the "I," always seems to reside in the language brain? Why cannot the "me" part of the brain reside in the spatial realm?

The reason the brain divides its labor like this seems to be because of memory. Memory works by storing experience using the code of language. Whatever the brain cannot translate into words becomes isolated and lost because memory cannot access it. The "me" in the brain seems to wish to reside on the more permanent, lasting side of the equation. The self cannot directly appreciate what is not verbalized, nor can the world around the self profit from what is not translated into words. Calculations and comparisons depend totally upon the integrating, contextualizing capacity of words, as John the Evangelist said,

"In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Substitute "self" for God and John's meaning remains unchanged. The very structure of the language brain pushes out images and attracts the self by communicating with it. In a mirroring process, the self can only communicate with other selves by coding experience into language.

Music seems to be a partial exception to this rule, and that seems to explain its universal appeal. Music has been found to affect all regions of the brain. A book I read recently called "This is Your Brain on Music" points out a very recent finding by the author that while everybody hears music using the spatial regions of the brain, those with musical training, especially musicians who read musical notation, tend also to be stimulated by musical sounds in their linguistic regions.

Other research shows that the brain is much more plastic than was previously thought. It adapts using built-in redundancy; when one brain region is destroyed, another part often takes over its functions. Another significant finding is the so-called "mirror neuron." Mirror neurons constitute an entirely unsuspected sub-system of the brain. They are designed to solve what is called in philosophy the "other minds" problem. Without mirror neurons, sympathy would be incomprehensible; they seem designed to do what the Golden Rule asks of us, to put ourselves into the shoes of others and act according to that understanding.

These findings jibe with two of the most often-used analogies for the soul, the soul as a pair of wings, and the soul as mirror. Let me close with two selections from two great minds that apply the "two wings" understanding of soul. The first is Plato, the second Jalalu'd-Din Rumi.

From Plato's Phaedrus

The wing is the corporeal element which is most akin to the divine, and which by nature tends to soar aloft and carry that which gravitates downwards into the upper region, which is the habitation of the gods. The divine is beauty, wisdom, goodness, and the like; and by these the wing of the soul is nourished, and grows apace; but when fed upon evil and foulness and the opposite of good, wastes and falls away. Zeus, the mighty lord, holding the reins of a winged chariot, leads the way in heaven, ordering all and taking care of all; and there follows him the array of gods and demigods, marshaled in eleven bands; Hestia alone abides at home in the house of heaven; of the rest they who are reckoned among the princely twelve march in their appointed order.

... The rest of the souls are also longing after the upper world and they all follow, but not being strong enough they are carried round below the surface, plunging, treading on one another, each striving to be first; and there is confusion and perspiration and the extremity of effort; and many of them are lamed or have their wings broken through the ill-driving of the charioteers; and all of them after a fruitless toil, not having attained to the mysteries of true being, go away, and feed upon opinion. The reason why the souls exhibit this exceeding eagerness to behold the plain of truth is that pasturage is found there, which is suited to the highest part of the soul; and the wing on which the soul soars is nourished with this.

... But he whose initiation is recent, and who has been the spectator of many glories in the other world, is amazed when he sees any one having a godlike face or form, which is the expression of divine beauty; and at first a shudder runs through him, and again the old awe steals over him; then looking upon the face of his beloved as of a god he reverences him, and if he were not afraid of being thought a downright madman, he would sacrifice to his beloved as to the image of a god; then while he gazes on him there is a sort of reaction, and the shudder passes into an unusual heat and perspiration; for, as he receives the effluence of beauty through the eyes, the wing moistens and he warms. And as he warms, the parts out of which the wing grew, and which had been hitherto closed and rigid, and had prevented the wing from shooting forth, are melted, and as nourishment streams upon him, the lower end of the wings begins to swell and grow from the root upwards; and the growth extends under the whole soul -- for once the whole was winged.

... And this state, my dear imaginary youth to whom I am talking, is by men called love, and among the gods has a name at which you, in your simplicity, may be inclined to mock; there are two lines in the apocryphal writings of Homer in which the name occurs. One of them is rather outrageous, and not altogether metrical. They are as follows:

Mortals call him fluttering love,
But the immortals call him winged one,
Because the growing of wings is a necessity to him.

... After this their happiness depends upon their self-control; if the better elements of the mind which lead to order and philosophy prevail, then they pass their life here in happiness and harmony -- masters of themselves and orderly -- enslaving the vicious and emancipating the virtuous elements of the soul; and when the end comes, they are light and winged for flight, having conquered in one of the three heavenly or truly Olympian victories; nor can human discipline or divine inspiration confer any greater blessing on man than this.

The Man Who Prayed Earnestly to be Fed Without Work.

from the Mathnavi of Rumi, Story VII, translated by E.H. Whinfield.

In the time of the prophet David there was a man who used to pray day and night, saying, "Thou hast created me weak and helpless; give me my daily bread without obliging me to work for it." The people derided him for making such a foolish petition, but he still persisted, and at last a cow ran into his house of its own accord, and he killed and ate it. This illustrates the saying of the Prophet that God loves earnest petitioners, because He regards the sincerity of the prayer more than the nature of the thing prayed for. All things praise God, but the praises of inanimate things are different from the praises of men, and those of a Sunni different from those of a Compulsionist (Jabri). Each says the other is in the way of error, but none but the truly spiritual man knows the truth.

Knowledge or conviction, opposed to opinion.
Little is known by any one but the spiritual man,
Who has in his heart a touchstone of vital truth.

The others, hovering between two opinions,
Fly towards their nest on a single wing.

Knowledge has two wings, opinion only one wing;
Opinion is weak and lopsided in its flight.

The bird having but one wing quickly drops down,
And again flies on two steps or more.

This bird of opinion goes on rising and falling
On one wing, in hope to reach his nest.

When he escapes from opinion and knowledge is seen,
This bird gains two wings and spreads both of them.

Afterwards he "goes upright on a straight path,
Not groveling on his face or creeping."

He flies up on two wings even as the angel Gabriel,
Free of opinion, of duplicity, and of vain talk.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Planning God

The Basis of Principled, World-wide, Standardized Planning
by John Taylor; 2007 October 25, 10 Ilm, 164 BE
Yesterday I had promised to attend a fireside and take some pictures but was laid out by long bouts of diarrhea. Just like old times. That and the depressing content of my reading and writing lately combined to drag down my spirits. Especially saddening is the thought of millions of children living miserable, exploited lives in the vast slums and favelas of the world, permanently exiled to shanties on the outskirts of obscure but huge cities, most of whose names we have never heard but each with a population larger than all of Canada.
This morning, feeling after a day of depression a need for prayer to start the next, I woke our children from their slumbers by reading the part of Gleanings (XXIX) which assures us that God created us for a purpose, in order "to know his Creator and attain His presence;" for the morning prayer I came across in an old compilation a selection from the following prayer and tablet of the Master evidently written to a child. It was balm to one's heart.

"O thou darling dear!
"Turn thy face toward the Supreme Kingdom and chant thou this commune:
"O Thou Pure God! I am a little child; make Thou the bosom of Thy Gift a dear resting-place of comfort, suffer me to grow and be nurtured with the honey and the milk of Thy love and train me under the breast of Thy knowledge; bestow Thou freedom while in a state of childhood and grant Thou excellence!
"O Thou Incomparable One! Make me the confident of the Kingdom of the Unseen! Verily, Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful!
"O Unequalled Lord! (A prayer for children)
"For this helpless child be a Protector; for this weak and sinful one be kind and forgiving.
"O Creator! Although we are but useless grass, still we are of Thy garden; though we are but young trees, bare of leaves and blossoms, still we are of Thy orchard; therefore, nourish this grass with the rain of Thy bounty; refresh and vivify these young, languishing trees with the breeze of Thy spiritual springtime.
"Awaken us, enlighten us, sustain us, give us eternal life and accept us into Thy Kingdom!" (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets, vol. 3, p. 588)

I think of the Master and how He spent his days, morn to eve, the whole time between His morn and eve prayers and readings doing hands-on charity work, helping the poor in every way He could, financially and administratively -- just the fact that somebody lived such a life is a comfort in itself.
What can I offer?
Nothing but thoughts and words. Let us at least direct those words where they may do good. Puffs in the wind, wherever they are blown can at least be puffed in the right direction. And I do believe, depressing as they are, that climate and poverty are what I need to be thinking and talking about.
But the thing is this.
The world's climate would not be deranged and poverty would not be widespread if only we had been attentive to our purpose, which is, we have seen, to know and enter the presence of God. All this selfishness and evil come of mass rejection of God. That is why it is essential not to look only at the outer manifestations of evil, of what Baha'u'llah calls the "metropolis of Satan," but to pay attention to the inner cause, rejection, rejection of God, and especially rejection of religion, our way to God. I found the following video important in this respect, because it shows how even secular thinkers are beginning to recognize the importance of seeing that every child is taught at least a minimum amount of facts about the various beliefs of world religions.

Here is the blurb that the TED website gives for this lecture:
"In a direct rebuttal to Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, Tufts philosophy professor Dan Dennet presents the idea of religion as a natural phenomenon -- one that has evolved over millennia to meet humanity's changing needs. While acknowledging that this idea stirs up anxiety, Dennett asserts the importance of studying religions rigorously, even proposing that children be required to study world religions along with reading and math. Dennett, who followed Warren on stage at TED2006, goes on to criticize The Purpose-Driven Life for several claims -- among them a belief that in order to be moral, one must deny evolution."
Another fascinating high-profile debate going on is the controversy between the evangelizing atheist Richard Dawkins and fellow Oxford don Alastair McGrath, who weighs in on the side of theological apologetics. TVO's wonderful lecture television series, Ideas, recently featured a talk that McGrath gave recently in Canada, and you can find that on their website archive at, specifically the episode of October 13,

Another lecture he gave in England, called "Has science eliminated God? Richard Dawkins and the meaning of life," is available at:
This site comes complete with McGrath on video, an Mp3 audio version, a text version, and even his PowerPoint slides. From our Baha'i point of view, the most significant part of his lecture is the following, which of course offers evidence for the principle I categorize as p03rmb, Religion as Mighty Bulwark. Let us give McGrath the last word for today.

"A 2001 survey of 100 evidence-based studies to systematically examine the relationship between religion and human wellbeing disclosed the following:
1. 79 reported at least one positive correlation between religious involvement and wellbeing;
2. 13 found no meaningful association between religion and wellbeing;
3. 7 found mixed or complex associations between religion and wellbeing;
4. 1 found a negative association between religion and wellbeing.
"Dawkins' entire worldview depends upon precisely this negative association between religion and human wellbeing which only 1% of the experimental results unequivocally affirm, and 79% equally unequivocally reject. The results make at least one thing abundantly clear: we need to approach this subject in the light of the scientific evidence, not personal prejudice.
"I would not dream of suggesting that this evidence proves that faith is good for you. But I need to make it clear that it is seriously embarrassing for Dawkins, whose world seems to be shaped by the core assumption that faith is bad for you - a view which is unsustainable in the light of the evidence." (

Wednesday, October 24, 2007



By John Taylor; 2007 October 24, 09 Ilm, 164 BE

Today I want to call to your attention the book "Planet of Slums," by Mike Davis (Verso, New York, 2006) which yesterday I began to peruse. The book details the truly frightening growth of slums throughout the world over the past several decades. Who caused it? As what he calls an "enviro-socialist," Davis blames the world bank, whose policies of tight money and agrarian land reform have driven millions out of the countryside into cities that do not have money, plans or infrastructure to take them in. Over a billion people live outside the accepted laws, structures and strictures of society. They are left without homes or jobs, and in their desperation fall victim to crime and exploitation. Davis writes,

"There is nothing in the catalogue of Victorian misery, as narrated by Dickens, Zola, or Gorky, that does not exist somewhere in a Third World city today. I allude not just to grim survivals and atavisms, but especially to primitive forms of exploitation that have been given new life by postmodern globalization  and child labour is an outstanding example." (186)

The more I read about this terrible quasi-urban decline the angrier I get at the bad guy I call Adolph Nobody. The ideologues of today are like Charlie Brown in his pumpkin patch, eternally waiting for the appearance of their Great Pumpkin, the invisible hand of economic self-adjustment, an invisible hand, by the way, that does not appear in the writings of their hero, Adam Smith. Instead of a benevolent invisible hand making things right, we get Adolph Nobody, the lack of planning turning the lives of billions into hellish receptacles of pain and misery. Davis, at the end of his first chapter, writes,

"Thus, the cities of the future, rather than being made of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of urbanists, are instead largely constructed of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks and scrap wood. Instead of cities of light soaring toward heaven, much of the twenty-first century urban world squats in squalor, surrounded by pollution, excrement and decay. Indeed the one billion city dwellers who inhabit modern slums might well look back with envy at the ruins of the sturdy mud homes of Catal Huyuk in Anatolia, erected at the very dawn of city life nine thousand years ago." (19)

Let me restate that: the first city in history, a 9,000 year old ruin in Anatolia, had far better accommodation than a modern city for most new, poor residents. This is why I am so committed to the idea of a world government that would as its first order of business see to it that there be a standard, modular housing unit issued to every human being at its birth. There is no way these illegal, unplanned superslums should ever have been allowed to come about, and there is no higher priority for a world government than to see to it that they are made into minimally humane places to live.

Before I read this I had no idea what a favela is. Inspired by Lewis, here is an interesting article about the favelas of Brazil, and their increasingly violent struggle for justice and recognition.

If you want a full scale review of Lewis's book, Derrick O'Keefe has written one at:

Needless to say, if you crowd millions of people together without food, work or shelter, there is a potential for violence. As this reviewer of Davis's book points out, the American military is openly preparing for war in these slums, buying new equipment and changing the training of its troops, so as to be ready for urban or slum warfare. The world cop's leadership is convinced that this is where the war of the future is going to offer employment. And they have already proven themselves correct by embroiling themselves in the present quagmire in Iraq.

"The powers that be have already begun preparing for the new urban theatre of poverty, war, and resistance. Davis details the importance that Pentagon military strategists now place on MOUT, or Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain. Stressing realistic training (including in North American cities), the MOUT doctrine is a brutally rational perspective for the planners of empire. (205).

What got me interested in this book is its headpiece quotation, which is:

"Slum, semi-slum and superslum, to this has come the evolution of cities." -Sir Patrick Geddes

Readers of this blog will be well familiar with that great Scot who was not only the first regional planner, but also a friend of Abdu'l-Baha. Geddes was probably responsible for the Master coming to visit Scotland, and later on he planned the layout of Haifa in close collaboration with Abdu'l-Baha. As well he made an early design for a Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in India. According to the Wikipedia article, Geddes (1854-1932) was

"a Scottish biologist and botanist, known also as an innovative thinker in the fields of urban planning and education. He was responsible for introducing the concept of `region' to architecture and planning and is also known to have coined the term conurbation... Geddes shared the belief with John Ruskin that social processes and spatial form are related. Therefore, by changing the spatial form it was possible to change the social structure as well."

It goes on to tell how Geddes used Edinburgh's run down "Old Town" as a living testing ground for his planning theory. This place, including the Watch Tower with its giant camera obscura, the Master visited in 1913. His residential halls were an early example of planned slum clearance, which connected with the past rather than eradicating it. Although it does not mention Haifa, the Wiki article does say that, "He collaborated with his son-in-law, prominent architect, Sir Frank Mears on projects in the Middle East where in 1919 Geddes provided consultation on urban development of Jerusalem and authored 1925's master plan for Tel Aviv." As a biologist, Geddes had a unique insight into the environmental grounding of all cityscapes. Geddes is quoted by one Scottish university website as saying,

"This is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent on the leaves. By leaves we live. Some people have strange ideas that they live by money. They think energy is generated by the circulation of coins. Whereas the world is mainly a vast leaf colony, growing on and forming a leafy soil, not a mere mineral mass: and we live not by the jingling of our coins, but by the fullness of our harvests." (Patrick Geddes) (

Lewis Mumford, who was heavily influenced by Geddes, wrote that he was " of the truly seminal minds the last century produced: a philosopher whose knowledge and wisdom put him on the level of an Aristotle or a Leibniz." That is high praise indeed. Could it be that some of the Master's greatness had rubbed off on him?

Nor is it entirely out of the question that the rubbing did not go both ways. Consider that it was just after Abdu'l-Baha came back from His Western journeys that He wrote the series of letters we now call the "Tablets of the Divine Plan." Planning was not, as far as I can discern, a big part of the Master's leadership style before then. Certainly both men were heavily influenced by nature, especially by that combination of nature and artifice that we call the garden. Geddes is cited as saying,

"Everything I have done ... has been biocentric; for and in terms of life, both individual and collective; whereas all the machinery of the state, public instruction, finance and industry ignore life, when indeed it does not destroy it. The only thing that amazes me, therefore, as I look back over my experiences is that I was not caught and hung many years ago."

One of Geddes's books is available for free on the Net, "Civics: as Applied Sociology," at:


In the introduction to this book, Geddes says, "Civics, as one of its main departments, may be defined as the application of Social Survey to Social Service." If I understand this right, he seems to be saying that this field of civics -- I think we now call it city planning -- should be rooted in what could be called "applied social science." If that is what he means, then I agree completely. I have always felt frustrated whenever I read social science. It is far too theoretical; it is absolutely divorced from active application and experimentation. Everybody who applies to become a sociologist or other social scientists should first be required to work as an apprentice town planner for several years first. That would larn 'em.

The spread of slums and superslums around the world under the rule of Adolph Nobody points to a dual winged solution, one wing being the knowledge-based regional planning or "civics" of Geddes, and the other planned application of spiritual principle, as pioneered by the Baha'is. Flying those two wings is the only way I can see to rise up once the superslum mess collapses. Meantime, let us think about how rational, world-wide, standardized planning might be worked out.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Political Poem

Political Poem

By John Taylor; 2007 October 23, 08 Ilm, 164 BE

The American NSA's website has a regular feature called, "Why Baha’i?" where they ask believers why they are Baha'is. I liked what the latest fellow they interviewed, Jason Ritchie of South Carolina, had to say; as a new Baha'i he says he felt as if he had just heard from Bill Gates in the early days that he had just started up a new company called "Microsoft." ( That is how I feel, except that Gates great idea did not go through a stage of development where its executives were blown out of cannons or hacked to pieces by raving fanatics.

This morning those of us who subscribe to Google Alerts using the keyword "Baha'i" were notified of a Toronto Star article called, "The Holy Land's low-profile religion; The Baha'i faith, based in Haifa, Israel, boasts 6 million adherents and an agenda to unite people." ( The article is interesting in that it comes up with a unique transliteration of "Baha'u'llah" that was unheard of even in the wild and wooly days before the Guardian regularized it to what we use today. What the reporter finds most interesting about the Faith is that we are not allowed to get involved in politics. "... in a part of the world where religion is intertwined with conflict, bloodshed and death, the Baha'i faith seems to be an exception." The reporter interviewed a Baha'i worker at the World Center about this.

"Some people think it's a cop-out for us not to be involved in politics," says Sally Weeks, originally of Urbana, Ill., and now one of some 650 volunteers from around the world who work at the Baha'i headquarters in Haifa. "It was hard for me at first. But we have a different agenda, which is to unite people."

But the fact is, that is what politics is supposed to do too. Really.

Which brings me to my latest audio book, Al Franken's "The Truth, with Jokes," a sequel to his, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," which I missed. This text is read by the author. Franken is the sort of comedian who has such a comical face that I am rolling on the floor before he even opens his mouth. Forced into an audio format, he does not go over as well as I had expected. His seriousness smothers over his humor and the laughs are few and far between. Maybe it is his subject, which is clearly the passion of his life, the sordid, backbiting-filled world of American politics.

If you have any doubts about Baha'u'llah's laws on erasing personality, eliminating gossip, avoiding campaigning and conflicts, about the dire need to clean up the entire political thing, then read this book. I had known that there were shenanigans going on in the political arena, but I had no idea how bad the lying, toadyism, swindles, and disinformation campaigns were. Little wonder God chose the North American continent as the cradle of the Administration, for the political and administrative corruption here is rank to high hell. After listening to this I did not feel the relief one feels after having a good laugh, I feel soiled, as if I just talked with a person who insisted on gossiping and backbiting, and I guess I have.

I have been interspersing excerpts from the writings of my latest hero, Chinese philosopher Mo Tzu, into my daily ruminations. And now, now that I am spiritually mucked up by the "hard-hitting" political culture that is dragging us into imminent destruction, now is a perfect time to take a quick shower in Mo Tzu's clean words about the foundational role of love in politics.

Universal Love; A Political Poem, by Mo Tzu

When feudal lords do not love one another there will be war on the fields. When heads of houses do not love one another they will usurp one another's power. When individuals do not love one another they will injure one another. When ruler and ruled do not love one another they will not be gracious and loyal. When father and son do not love each other they will not be affectionate and filial. When elder and younger brothers do not love each other they will not be harmonious.
When nobody in the world loves any other, naturally the strong will overpower the weak, the many will oppress the few, the wealthy will mock the poor, those honored will disdain the humble, the cunning will deceive the simple. Therefore all the calamities, strife, complaints, and hatred in the world have arisen out of want of universal love. Therefore humanists disapprove of this want.
Now that there is disapproval, how can we have the condition altered?
Mo Tzu said it is to be altered by the way of universal love and mutual support. But what is the way of universal love and mutual support? Mo Tzu said:
It is to esteem other countries as much as one's own, the houses of others as much as one's own, the persons of others as much as one's self.
When feudal lords love one another there will be no more war; when heads of houses love one another there will be no more mutual usurpation; when individuals love one another there will be no more mutual injury. When ruler and ruled love each other they will be gracious and loyal; when father and son love each other they will be affectionate and filial; when elder and younger brothers love each other they will be harmonious. When all the people in the world love one another, then the strong will not overpower the weak, the many will not oppress the few, the wealthy will not mock the poor, the honored will not disdain the humble, and the cunning will not deceive the simple. And it is all due to universal love that calamities, strife, complaints, and hatred are prevented from arising.
Therefore the humanist praises it.
But worldly people would say: "So far so good. It is of course very excellent when love becomes universal. But it is only a difficult and distant ideal."
Mo Tzu said: This is simply because the worldly people do not recognize what is to the benefit of the world, or understand what is calamitous to it. Now, to besiege a city, to fight in the fields, or to achieve a name at the cost of death -- these are what men find difficult. Yet when the ruler encourages them, the multitude can do them.
In comparison, universal love and mutual aid is quite different from these. Whoever loves others is loved by others; whoever benefits others is benefited by others; whoever hates others is hated by others; whoever injures others is injured by others. Then, what difficulty is there with universal love? Only that the ruler fails to embody it in his government and the ordinary man in his conduct.

Monday, October 22, 2007

2 wings and the UIS

Our Universal Intersection Set; Weathermakers, Two Wings and Venn Diagrams

By John Taylor; 2007 October 22, 07 Ilm, 164 BE

The past few weeks I have been slowly going through Tim Flannery's "The Weathermakers," a book that gives ample background about the mechanisms of climate change. I relearned my Grade Six lessons on the layers of the atmosphere, Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere and Exosphere. Now I have a more adequate understanding of how the whole system works, after so many years. Flannery also gives an introduction to the history of air pollution. I hate to think of the number of history books I have read, yet all this was spanking new to me. I had no idea that people were writing about the effects of air pollution in London four or five centuries ago, and that as late as the 1950's there was a "great smog" that killed over 10,000 Londoners. You can see this Aussie author introduce his book himself in a televised CBC interview at:


What got me interested in this was Mark, local French teacher at Dunnville Secondary School and regular contributor at the Wainfleet Philosopher's Cafe. He had just read Weathermakers and demonstrated an impressive grasp of the details of the world's climate, even in the face of our usual rapid fire, heated argumentation. He demonstrated that it is necessary for anybody concerned about saving humanity to go much deeper into what should be called "climate destabilization" (rather than the more usual global warming) than just watching Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

When, after the meeting, I asked Mark how he gets this sharp command of what he has read, he kindly shared with me the secret of how he works. In every book he reads he marks the most important parts and when he is done he keeps the volume permanently on a bookshelf in his office. The "books read" library is in chronological order, according to when he read it. That way he can go over the most important parts of each book, and when something comes to mind, he has the information right at hand. I wish somebody had told me to work like that when I first started out. Instead, because migraine wove agony into my experience, I always felt a visceral revulsion for what I had just read, and got rid of the book as fast as I could. Bad mistake, it turns out; now I am three steps closer to Alzheimer's and have little to show for years of study. Since our conversation, I have torn apart my office and research system and am trying to reorganize it all in a more sensible, useable system, one not unlike Mark's.

One of the most impressive lessons I got out of Weathermakers is his capsule history of how the science of climate change is being studied. There are, it seems, two schools of thought, the holists and the reductionists. Mathematician James Lovelock's holistic Gaia hypothesis of the 1970's was excoriated as mysticism rather than science at first, but lately it has been coming back into favor. It seems, looking at the record over billions of years, that life as a whole has been cooperating to make this planet stable and livable. Life processes over millions of years sequestered masses of carbon, while releasing a balanced amount of oxygen into the air.

The Aboriginals of Australia believe that by digging into the ground with mines and drills we are entering the land of the dead and releasing evil spirits to roam the land. As Flannery points out, this is literally the case. Science is discovering the actual names of these evil spirits, greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane, plus several new ones that were unknown even in the hellish conditions that ruled in the first three billion years of this planet's childhood. Then there is the ozone layer, a belt in the middle of the stratosphere the thickness of two pennies laid together that surrounds our planet and keeps us from being fried. We have been fooling with that. Enough said.

Thus, to say that we up to our necks in deep doo doo is to state what is quite literally the case. Worse, we are up to our necks in rotting corpses. We are digging up the graves of dead plant matter and burning them, we are base grave robbers groveling in our precious fossil deposits, madly pumping carbon back into the air, making it as un-breathable as it was two billion years ago. Massive climate instability was the norm in prehistory, before life collectively (at the cost of many mass extinctions) gradually made the air breathable and the temperature tolerable. Just when it got livable, humans learn industrialization and the planet, Gaia, is now rapidly regressing back to an unlivable beginning. Even so we reap the whirlwind...

Depressing? You bet. But strangely I have found courage to go through the painful details. Time was, I would be weighed down and have to turn away but now I feel as a Baha'i and aspiring world citizen I must grit my teeth and do my best to understand what is going on. One thing that the Master said is always on my mind,

"Regarding the "two wings" of the soul: These signify wings of ascent. One is the wing of knowledge, the other of faith, as this is the means of the ascent of the human soul to the lofty station of divine perfections." (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha vol. 1, p. 178)

We see the two wings failing to coordinate or make us soar in climate science. Only now is the wing of reductionistic science beginning to recognize the value of the holistic Gaia hypothesis. They are not flying yet, but at least they know about one another and recognize a complementary role. Similar pairs of wings resolve themselves in every aspect of human activity, not only in the two sexes but in the very quarks and atoms that compose the universe. Even daily life duality reflects itself in our two rituals, prayer and reading the Writings, that we Baha'is perform each morn and eve. Prayer stretches the faith wing, reading the knowledge wing. Even Shakespeare recognizes this polarity:

"Ignorance is the curse of God,
Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven." (King Henry VI, Act IV, Sc. VI)

A Baha'i hearing this is immediately reminded of Baha'u'llah's Tablet known as the Tajalliyat,

"The third Tajalli is concerning arts, crafts and sciences. Knowledge is as wings to man's life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets, 51)

If we are to escape the curse of ignorance, we must seek knowledge, not just any knowledge but knowledge that is useful, that makes a difference. That is why I suffer through the Weathermakers, because I cannot imagine a more important thing to know about than how we are affecting the climate. Our future on the planet hangs on this hair.

If there is a single message that we Baha'is should be giving the world, especially the world of scientists, is that everybody should do what we do. I do not say believe what we believe but do what we do, that is, take that morn and eve ritual. This practice preens both of our two wings, knowledge and faith. The morn and eve study and meditation session should be universally applied, no matter what the content or outer form of one's beliefs. Anybody can and should do it, even an atheist. Everybody needs to think holistically and reductionistically together, to exercise those two wings regularly, keep them in shape and ready to use during the day. Who knows, if scientists had done it faithfully, they might not have rejected the Gaia hypothesis out of hand, and we might not be as deep in it as we are.

Lately my thinking along these lines has been resolving into a single image: a Venn diagram. Everything I know is a circle, everything you know is a circle, and at some point our circles intersect. That is common knowledge. Here lies common faith. That can be portrayed on a Venn diagram. I was researching Venn diagrams for this reason and came across a humorous version of what I just said. On the left circle a wag had written, "Music I like." The left circle was labeled, "Music you like." In the intersecting space was "Music I used to like."

In any case, there is surely an intersection set of knowledge and faith that everybody, no matter who they may be, no matter how varied their two wings may be, still accepts and knows. And even if we do not, with love we can build it; if so, we might label it "music I now like." That space we can call the universal intersection.

Here, I truly believe, the believer and the atheist, and even the agnostic, have surprisingly firm common ground. Consider this prayer or meditation of Baha'u'llah. Here He seems to be talking to that universal intersection set, saying that here we can build a common, stable climate of harmony and agreement.

"The mind of no one hath comprehended Thee, and the aspiration of no soul hath reached Thee. I swear by Thy might! Were any one to soar, on whatever wings, as long as Thine own Being endureth, throughout the immensity of Thy knowledge, he would still be powerless to transgress the bounds which the contingent world hath set for him. How can, then, such a man aspire to wing his flight into the atmosphere of Thy most exalted presence?" (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, 133)

How indeed? Only on the wing of faith, supplemented by the wing of the best that we know. If we do not build up that common intersection space we will be weak, deluded and in imminent danger of collapse. Long before Jared Diamond wrote his all-important warnings, Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel, the Master pointed to the same danger, only instead of pointing to the failed civilizations of the Americas and the Pacific, He only needed to point to the ruins that litter central Asia. These ubiquitous ruins litter the plains, and are repeatedly mentioned in most if not all of the world's holy writings. Here is His warning. I will close with it.

"If one were to travel through the deserts of Central Asia he would observe how many cities, once great and prosperous like Paris and London, are now demolished and razed to the ground. From the Caspian Sea to the River Oxus there stretch wild and desolate plains, deserts, wildernesses and valleys. For two days and two nights the Russian railway traverseth the ruined cities and uninhabited villages of that wasteland. Formerly that plain bore the fruit of the finest civilizations of the past. Tokens of development and refinement were apparent all around, arts and sciences were well protected and promoted, professions and industries flourished, commerce and agriculture had reached a high stage of efficiency, and the foundations of government and statesmanship were laid on a strong and solid basis. Today that vast stretch of land hath become mostly the shelter and asylum of Turkoman tribes, and an arena for the ferocious display of wild beasts. The ancient cities of that plain, such as Gurgan, Nissa, Abivard and Shahristan, famous throughout the world for their arts, sciences, culture, industry, and well known for their wealth, greatness, prosperity and distinction, have given way to a wilderness wherein no voice is heard save the roaring of wild beasts and where bloodthirsty wolves roam at will. This destruction and desolation was brought about by war and strife, dissension and discord between the Persians and the Turks, who differed in their religion and customs. So rigid was the spirit of religious prejudice that the faithless leaders sanctioned the shedding of innocent blood, the ruin of property and the desecration of family honour. This is to cite only one illustration.
"Consequently, when thou traversest the regions of the world, thou shalt conclude that all progress is the result of association and co-operation, while ruin is the outcome of animosity and hatred. Notwithstanding this, the world of humanity doth not take warning, nor doth it awake from the slumber of heedlessness. Man is still causing differences, quarrels and strife in order to marshal the cohorts of war and, with his legions, rush into the field of bloodshed and slaughter." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, 288-289)


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Post Birthday

Yesterday was the Birth of the Bab

By John Taylor; 2007 October 21, 06 Ilm, 164 BE

I was to do a visual presentation on the Birth of the Bab, my favorite Holy Day, on Friday night but two bugbears elbowed in to prevent me. First was my audio-visual curse. Every time I try to extend my writing to sound and pictures as well as words, something obstructs me. In this case, one of our computers crashed and fried; then, for the first time I recall, I lost the working file in which I was writing the Birthday essays. I scrambled and managed to partially reconstruct it from older backups. I had lost data but pieced together a condensed, revised version of the previous two essays on the Bab's Birthday, which is at the end of this installment.

The other bugbear was changeable weather. Although I do not get head pain migraines much any more, I have learned to cope and stave them off, still I get severely dragged down by rainy weather, with a vague but constant emotional pressure; not illness but not ease either. Late Thursday night, Thomas came into our bedroom in mute anguish. He was making jactitations; hand motions that strangely resembled an orchestra conductor in a moving musical passage. He said nothing, but it was clear he was in pain. It transpired that the top of his head was splitting. We asked if this happens often. "Only when I vomit." What? He has been vomiting? We are sending him to the doctor, but these are pretty clear symptoms of the abdominal migraine typical of certain blond children, an affliction that I too suffered at an early age. It is agonizing for a parent to find that he has passed on faulty genes, and that the exquisite agony you have suffered all your life is going to be shared by your only male heir. Truly, we put our hopes in Baha'u'llah when, speaking in the voice of God, He said: "my calamity is my providence."

At Friday night's Birthday of the Bab, Helen Kelly told about her pilgrimage to the House of the Bab, and I found it so inspiring that I asked her to retell it over the phone the next morning. The result of this interview you can find on the previous Badi' Blog entry for the day of the Birth of the Bab.

Normally I make my annual (sometimes semi-annual) contribution to Huqqu'llah on or soon after my favorite Holy Day, the Birth of the Bab. But this time I had watched the video about the Huqquq -- which features the recently deceased Dr. Varqa, the last of the Hands -- and it assures us that the Huqquq is not acceptable unless it is given with joy. And in spite of all my efforts to prepare for this event, in spite of writing two and a half essays and spending far more time on it than most of my fellow believers have leisure to spend, I had still come across great tests and difficulties, only some of which I have mentioned. True, working on Helen's pilgrimage did bring some joy on the holy Birthday, but so much else spelt only sorrow. Did this mean I could not give Huqquq this year? But then I thought of the saying "joy and sorrow embrace." And I thought how much tighter the embrace must have been for the Bab. I have a migrainy son, but his son died in childbirth. I have a scattered brain, His whole body was scattered by several hundred bullets. So, I realized, the presence of worldly darkness was not an excuse, it was in fact a dark shadow that makes the light all the brighter. So, I gave, smiles and tears blended in one.

So, the following is an abridged and condensed version of the two longer essays I produced last week. When my plans for an audio/video presentation did not pan out, I simply read this, and Silvie read the quotes, at our local Birth of Bab celebration, 19 October, 2007, at the Caledonia library. It is revised slightly from how it was when I read it. Some of it is based on the BIC biography of the Bab on the website.

Talk given for 2007 October 19, 04 Ilm, 164 BE; Birth of the Bab

Tomorrow, on the 20th of October, we stop our daily routine and celebrate the birthday of the Bab, among the most joyous celebrations in the Baha'i year. It marks the most momentous imaginable turning point in spiritual history: the birth of a Manifestation of God. The Bab was born Siyyid Ali Muhammad on the first of Muharram, 1235 A.H. in the Muslim calendar, to a businessman by the name of Siyyid Muhammad-Rida -- he was a mercer by trade -- and Fatimih-Bagum. His father died when the boy was nine years old; after that He was under the guardianship of his mother's brother, Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali. This was the only relative of the Bab to openly accept His Cause during His lifetime.

The Bab's birth took place early in the morning, reportedly before dawn, on this day in 1919. A dawn prayer prescribed in the Qu'ran seems to foreshadow this early morning event because it mentions Ali Muhammad's title, the Bab, or gate. The Qu’ran asks that all Muslims say this invocation in the small watches of the morning so that soon the Lord will raise them to a "station of Praise and Glory,"

"Say: O my Lord! Let my entry be by the Gate of Truth and Honour, and likewise my exit by the Gate of Truth and Honour; and grant me from Thy Presence an authority to aid (me). And say: Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish." (Q17:80-81, tr: Yusuf Ali)

Later in His life the Bab even adapted another dawn prayer, written by one of the twelve Imams, that mentions over nineteen attributes of God, as the framework for His calendar. This calendar is known today as the Badi or Baha'i calendar. In spite of this strong association with pre-dawn events, Baha'is are mercifully left free to pick a convenient time celebrate the happy occasion, as long as it takes place at some time during the twenty four hour period beginning at sunset of the 19th and ending on sunset the next day.

A recurrent theme in the Writings of the Bab is -- appropriately enough, in view of when His birth took place -- the image of a rising sun at dawn. He says, for example,

"Verily, the sun is but a token from My presence so that the true believers among My servants may discern in its rising the dawning of every Dispensation." (The Bab, Selections, 159)

In this we discern glimmerings of the new idea that divine revelation is progressive, that the sun dawns at diverse points on the horizon but always remains one sun. This is the essence of monotheism, the essence of faith. The sun's dawning points vary, they progress through different points of the horizon as the seasons progress, and in different constellations through the millennia, but there is ever only One God, a God not defined or limited to where His light originates but One that stands Independent. This idea later became central to Baha’u’llah’s teaching in the Iqan. And of course Abdul-Baha gave it tremendous emphasis in His expositions of Baha'i belief.

It is perhaps for this reason that Baha'u'llah spoke of the Bab in His Ishraqat as the Point from where all knowledge grows,

"Praise be to God who manifested the Point [the Bab] and caused to proceed therefrom the knowledge of all that was and shall be.... He is that Point which God hath made to be an Ocean of light unto the faithful among His servants, and a Ball of Fire unto the deniers among His creatures and the impious among His people." (Tablets, 102)

On this birthday celebration we should realize how fortunate we are to have the story of the Bab's birth and childhood in His own words, albeit tersely described. In a prayer the Bab wrote:

"Thou art aware, O My God, that since the day Thou didst call Me into being out of the water of Thy love till I reached fifteen years of age I lived in the land which witnessed My birth [Shiraz]." (Selections, 180-181)

We cannot know whether His peculiar expression, being "called into being out of the water of God's love," refers to His conception or His birth, but the idea that God's love is life-giving water is echoed in all scriptures, and especially the Qu’ran, which says, for instance,

"And God has created every animal from water: of them there are some that creep on their bellies; some that walk on two legs; and some that walk on four. God creates what He wills for verily God has power over all things." (Q24:45, Yusuf Ali)

By all reports the Bab had tremendous personal magnetism. T.K. Cheyne wrote the following about the Bab:

"Such a prophet ... was the Bab; we call him prophet for want of a better name, yea, I say unto you, a prophet and more than a prophet. His combination of mildness and power is so rare that we have to place him in a line with super-normal men.... We learn that at great points in his career, after he had been in an ecstasy, such radiance of might and majesty streamed from his countenance that none could bear to look upon the effulgence of his glory and beauty. Nor was it an uncommon occurrence for unbelievers involuntarily to bow down in lowly obeisance on beholding His Holiness while the inmates of the castle though for the most part Christians and Sunnis, reverently prostrated themselves whenever they saw the visage of His Holiness. Such transfiguration is well known to the saints. It was regarded as the affixing of the heavenly seal to the reality and completeness of [the] Bab's detachment." (quoted in Vamberi, Reconciliation of Races and Religions, pp. 8-9, and in Dawn-breakers, 514)

Perhaps the greatest tribute possible to the Bab comes from Baha'u'llah himself, in the third paragraph of the Isriqat,

"Praise be to God who manifested the Point [the Bab] and caused to proceed therefrom the knowledge of all that was and shall be.... He is that Point which God hath made to be an Ocean of light unto the faithful among His servants, and a Ball of Fire unto the deniers among His creatures and the impious among His people."

Here Baha'u'llah identifies the mission of the Bab as the establishment, once and for all, of the knowledge of the Oneness of God as one point, one dawning point. Thus, on this day, the dawning point entered into this world. This special relation to divine Oneness is made even clearer by Baha'u'llah in the section of His Tablet of Ahmad dedicated to the Bab. We are all familiar with this powerful invocation, so I will just sum it up: Baha'u'llah tells Ahmad, who was one of the few Babis who had actually met the Bab in person, that any who deny the Bab must perforce be a false one. A denier cannot really believe in God. They can never prove their sincerity in believing in God, even should they combine to assist one another.

The Bab Himself confirms this understanding of His role in the following passage from the Qayyumul-Asma, addressed to the "delight of the eyes," in other words, Baha'u'llah,

"O Qurratul-Ayn! Say: Verily I am the Gate of God and I give you to drink, by the leave of God, the sovereign Truth, of the crystal-pure waters of His Revelation which are gushing out from the incorruptible Fountain situate upon the Holy Mount. And those who earnestly strive after the One True God, let them then strive to attain this Gate. Verily God is potent over all things..." (Selections, 50)

And again, He writes in the seventh chapter of that same book,

"O peoples of the earth! Bear ye allegiance unto this resplendent light wherewith God hath graciously invested Me through the power of infallible Truth, and walk not in the footsteps of the Evil One, [Q2:204] inasmuch as he prompteth you to disbelieve in God, your Lord, and `verily God will not forgive disbelief in Himself, though He will forgive other sins to whomsoever He pleaseth.' (Q4:51) Indeed His knowledge embraceth all things... (Selections, 48)

As you just heard in the above quotation from the Qu’ran, the Muslim teaching is that only by truly believing in God can we attain sure forgiveness for our sins. Since that is only possible, according to what the Bab Himself asserts here, to those who believe in and accept the Bab, it follows that His Way is the only assured way to divine forgiveness. This He assures us repeatedly in His Writings,

"O children of men! If ye believe in the one True God, follow Me, this Most Great Remembrance of God sent forth by your Lord, that He may graciously forgive you your sins. Verily He is forgiving and compassionate toward the concourse of the faithful." (Selections, 45)


Saturday, October 20, 2007

19 at the House

Nineteen at the House

Results of an interview with former pilgrim to the House of the Bab, Helen Kelly

By John Taylor; 2007 October 20, 05 Ilm, 164 BE

In 1970 I was among the first (and for all I know maybe the last) group to go on pilgrimage to the Baha'i holy places in Iran. We had been chosen by the NSA of Persia to have the unique bounty of going on an extended pilgrimage to Tehran and two other cities following our pilgrimage to Haifa. This extension to our pilgrimage lasted five days, after our normal nine days in Haifa and Akka. We were all Canadians in our group, and mostly we were entire families. Among us were almost all of the Reiner family, the Shermans, the Dainties, the Trantors and the Aiduns. The pilgrims made up a total of 22 souls, including the children.

The first holy place we visited was the house of Baha'u'llah in Teheran. This was sad because it had been vandalized, everything had been torn off the walls. No photos were allowed, of course, at the holy places, but I do have some slides from this trip. The women were all told how to wear the full-body-covering veils known as chadors, so as to remain inconspicuous. Our headquarters was a hotel room in Tehran.

After Teheran, we went to Isfahan, and then back to Teheran. In Isfahan we visited the resting place of the American doctor sent to Persia by Abdu'l-Baha, Keith Ransom-Kehler. There at the grave site we met and said prayers with Baha'is from the twin cities of Isfahan and Julfa. There were not many, so they were probably just the members of their two spiritual assemblies. We had all arrived separately so as not to attract attention, but suddenly we were told to leave quickly. A menacing crowd had gathered around and were ready to throw stones at us.

Again, for obvious reasons we did not get a spiritual charge from this city. This was where the twin martyrs were killed, and it felt like butcher shop in a way. Not a good feeling. Nonetheless we were impressed in other ways with the city of Isfahan, which is a center of commercial and manufacturing activity. The rugs are woven there by tiny girls, child labor; the other work was done by men, but the tiny fingered girls actually wove the rugs. We saw a salty pool where the women washed their clothes; they constantly walked to and fro carrying baskets on their heads. I recall that when we went to the Bazaar, Bruce Reiner bought a big samovar.

On the last day we flew to our last place of pilgrimage, Shiraz. This was an astonishing experience that I shall never forget. I remember that only 19 of our number could make it on the flight to Shiraz. This was due to two cases of illness and one of a death in the family. Diana Dainty and one of the children were sick and could not attend. We all noted with wonder that our number had been reduced to the number of unity, 19.

In view of what almost happened in Isfahan, we had to exercise extreme caution. Not all of us went to the House of the Bab at once. There was one morning group and, I think, one in the evening. There were five women who went together very early in the morning. The House of the Bab is in a rundown area of Shiraz. The chador-clad women in the street were like fishwives, constantly fighting with one another. We walked through these barren, depressing surrounds in small, separate groups, trying to look like we were not together. In order to allay suspicions we kept our heads down, never looking up at people or making eye contact.

 Entering the garden surrounding the House of the Bab was like stepping into another world. There was a beautiful flower garden, with birds and butterflies flying about. A member of the Afnan family, the custodian, came smiling, greeted us and made us feel welcome. He brought us each a fruit drink and talked about the Bab. He gave each of us a leaf from the Bab's lemon tree to keep; I still have mine in my prayer book. I felt a tremendous power. I do not know what happened to me, but as he was talking I must have dropped into a trance. The force of that location was so strong! It was as if it had hit me and knocked me out. My state must have lasted only a minute or so but suddenly I was alone and I could hear the footsteps of the others walking off into the House. I hurried after them.

 This was the original house where the Bab was born and raised. I felt it throbbing with power, even in the courtyard felt the vibrations. It was everywhere, even coming out of the walls. As you may know, there are very narrow steps leading up to the apartment of the Bab, which is on the second floor. When you get to top, there is a very narrow turn, and suddenly you are in the room where it all started, where the Bab declared to Mullah Hussein.

 Everyone was there, sitting on their knees on the rug. The famous candelabra marking the spot where the declaration to Mullah Hussein took place -- I am sure you have seen it in pictures -- well, right next to it was the only place left for me to sit. Looking around, I noticed that lovely wall, made of ceramic, multi-colored, elaborate. They were already saying prayers. I felt very moved, and though I was not crying, tears were welling out of my eyes and down my face. I began saying the prayer, "O God, my God, my beloved, my heart's desire," over and over. I could not stop, I must have repeated it maybe 19 times. Then finally I stopped, then we went down the steps and left.

 We went to the airport and flew right back to Tihran to our hotel.

 The throbbing power that I felt at the house was so impressive that it made me wonder afterwards. I realized that this is where this entire cycle all started, where the Bab was born, raised, and spent the early years of His marriage. Here is the dawning point of the Dawn-breakers, the point of the Point of the Bayan. Then I found a passage from the Writings telling how the Bab would say with tears in his eyes over and over that same prayer that had jumped to my lips in those holy environs, "O God, my God, my Beloved, my heart's desire!"

 Note: Helen was probably thinking of the passage in the Dawn-breakers where the Bab, Himself on pilgrimage to the Shiih shrines near Baghdad, was heard to repeat that prayer:

 "The words 'O God, my God, my Beloved, my heart's Desire' were uttered with a frequency and ardour that those of the visiting pilgrims who were near enough to hear Him instinctively interrupted the course of their devotions, and marvelled at the evidences of piety and veneration which that youthful countenance evinced. Like Him they were moved to tears, and from Him they learned the lesson of true adoration. Having completed His prayers, that Youth, without crossing the threshold of the shrine and without attempting to address any words to those around Him, would quietly return to His home." (Shoghi Effendi, Dawn-Breakers, p. 30)

 Some accounts tell of the Bab saying this prayer on the rooftop of a Mosque; even passers by with heavy burdens on heads and shoulders would stop, astonished, to hear his ardent praying. Though I am no expert at Arabic, I got the impression researching this that this prayer seems to have eschatological echoes, since "Muhammad" is derived from a root meaning praised or beloved. Hence the following anecdote about a seminar of Siyyid Kazim, foreshadowing the Bab's mission while He was visiting the same holy place as above.

 "This added still further to my perplexity. I had already heard my teacher observe that so great is the perversity of this generation, that were he to point with his finger to the promised One and say: 'He indeed is the Beloved, the Desire of your hearts and mine,' they would still fail to recognise and acknowledge Him. I saw the Siyyid actually point out with his finger the ray of light that had fallen on that lap, and yet none among those who were present seemed to apprehend its meaning." (H.M. Balyuzi, The Bab - The Herald of the Day of Days, p. 43)

 The Bab, just after His son Ahmad died stillborn, prescribed a prayer with echoes of this prayer written into it.

 "(Ahmad) died in the year 1259 A.D., the year preceding the declaration of the Faith by the Bab. The Father did not lament his loss. He consecrated his death by words such as these: `O God, my God! Would that a thousand Ishmaels were given Me, this Abraham of Thine, that I might have offered them, each and all, as a loving sacrifice unto Thee. O my Beloved, my heart's Desire! The sacrifice of this Ahmad whom Thy servant Ali-Muhammad hath offered up on the altar of Thy love can never suffice to quench the flame of longing in His heart.'" (Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 76)

The House of the Bab was destroyed by the blathering fanatic eight years after Helen’s pilgrimage. For a filmstrip of the pilgrimage to the House of the Bab made around then, go to: <>


Thursday, October 18, 2007


UN Birthday, A Birthday after the Birthday of the Bab

 Note to readers of the Badi list: I have included pictures of last night's visit to the Baha'i library of Hamilton and the fireside at Mrs. Javid's place; go to to see them. Let me know if you like the much larger format of the photos this time. To see all photos that have appeared on the blog, go to:

 Mrs. Javid's Wednesday night proclamation is a major institution of the faith in this region, it has been going on thirty years now and nobody knows how much longer it can continue. The inimitable hostess is well into her eighties and no successor is in sight. So do take advantage of what may be one of your last chances to participate in this historic institution of the Faith.  She tells me repeatedly to tell everybody to come out as much as you can, and bring your friends, especially young people. Mrs. J is well in her eighties and needs as much help as she can get, ideally by bringing people who want to hear about the Faith, but even if it is just helping out with refreshments or assisting with her large home and garden. Most people her age have to give up their large homes, but for the sake of the Faith, she soldiers on.

Next week will see an especially interesting event, her annual UN Day “birthday” celebration, complete with cake for the United Nations. Each year a Baha'i and a non-Baha'i speaker share the podium. This time the non-Baha'i will be Dr. Graeme McQueen, of McMaster University, a prominent peace activist. The Baha'i speaker will be Dr. Anne Pearson. She of course is the granddaughter of Lester B. Pearson, the latest Canadian winner of the Nobel Prize. A Canadian almost won last week, but was elbowed out by Al Gore. As well, there will be music, a boy's choir and percussionist, and the usual food and gabfest afterwards.

In an especially creative move that I have found very advantageous, they have coordinated the visiting hours of the Baha’i library so that you can visit the books in Dundas, then go directly to the fireside on the edge of the mountain. That way, anybody who does not have transportation (as happened once to me when my car’s battery failed), Joe can drive you to the fireside from the library.

For more information about the fireside, call Mrs. Aghdas Javid at 905-627-0352. Meetings take place in a lovely setting on the lip of the escarpment, at 132 Hillcrest Ave., Dundas.