Saturday, January 31, 2009
"And when Thou didst purpose to unveil Thy sovereignty, and to glorify Thy word, and to reveal Thy bounteousness and mercy, Thou didst raise up one of Thy servants, and didst choose Him above all Thy creatures, and didst single Him out for Thy purpose, and didst clothe Him with the robe of Thy guidance, and didst immerse Him beneath the seas of Thy majesty and grandeur, and didst sanctify Him from all that beseemeth not the greatness of Thy glory and the power of Thy might, and didst bid Him to cry out before all that are in heaven and on earth, and summon the multitudes to the Manifestation of Thy Self and the Revealer of Thy signs." (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, 96-97)
The world's oldest scripture:
"Erect, preserve us from sore trouble; with thy flame burn thou each ravening demon dead. Raise thou us up that we may walk and live. So thou shalt find our worship mid the Gods." Vedas, Rig Veda, Book 1, Verse 14)
You Raised Me Up (Song, Act of God)
"Moses came during a time of darkness, when ignorance and childishness prevailed amongst the people, and they were waverers. ... He raised up the people from their degradation and caused them to be highly honoured. He taught them Sciences and Arts, trained them in civilization and increased their human virtues." (Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 44)
"This is indeed the eternal Truth which God, the Ancient of Days, hath revealed unto His omnipotent Word -- He Who hath been raised up from the midst of the Burning Bush." (The Bab, Selections, 41)
Lyrics: You raise me up
When I am down and so oh my soul so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me
You raise me up so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up...to more than I can be
"And they swear by Allah with the most energetic of their oaths: Allah will not raise up him who dies. Yea! it is a promise binding on Him, quite true, but most people do not know." (Qur'an 16:38, Shakir tr.)
By John Taylor; 2009 Jan 31, 11 Sultan, 165 BE
Theodor Holm Nelson is a pioneer of the internet; he coined the word "hypertext," which later became the basis of the links we use constantly for surfing on the World Wide Web. One of the fellows who sat in on his master classes at Berkley wrote the "Idea Processor" program that I use all day in my writing, Maxthink. In a recent interview Nelson said,
"I have long been alarmed by people's sheeplike acceptance of the term computer technology -- it sounds so objective and inexorable -- when most computer technology is really a bunch of ideas turned into conventions and packages." (quoted in "In Venting, a Computer Visionary Educates," By John Markoff, New York Times January 10, 2009, <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/business/11stream.html?th&emc=th>)
Nelson believes that the computer should transform the printed page first, and that the received design of the programs we use is "the arbitrary result of business practices and not the inevitable result of technology evolution." Certainly, the history of communications bears him out on that. For example, the major religious traditions of the past developed their own language and script to express that selection of the truth they found most useful. It is reasonable to expect that as the world fuses many cultures into a universal one, that computers and software will change radically. They will stop following old ways of doing things and start new paradigms entirely.
I am thrilled by the prospect of in the near future of everyone having an internet-connected robot as a work partner. The real hyperlink should be built between us and our robot buddies, not between us and our computers.
Most literature on robots was devised before there was an internet. As a result, it was assumed that robot intelligence would come out of some kind of souped-up positronic brain backed up by a magnetic memory, all packed into the head of the machine. Unfortunately, that has not been as quick and easy as we had hoped. Computers, even supercomputers, in spite of geometric growth in some aspects of processing capability, have not progressed much further than that of the brain of the average insect. It is entirely possible that computer intelligence will hit insurmountable barriers and never will be of much use on their own. But if we can only bring them to a level of intelligence where they can connect our brains to the already impressively advanced "world brain," the shared intelligence of all human beings mediated by the Internet, our efficiency in every endeavour will be amplified tremendously by having such a work partner. It would unite personal experience with the experience of many minds.
A human-robot-world-brain partnership would change the professions into something entirely different. An old school accountant or farmer would be as different from the new kind as they were from the hunter-gatherers of pre-history. Even more broadly, eventually the present chasm between the individual and the collectivity of all human beings would start to break down. We know this intuitively. It must happen because it is of the nature of the universe. Consider what the Master said, "Unity is the expression of the loving power of God and reflects the reality of Divinity." (Promulgation, 13) He envisioned everything following the model of the divine gardener and a beautiful garden. The following, which He said at the building later named Carnegie Hall, I think of as His "holographic unity" passage, since the smallest part of a hologram can be cut out and it will still reflect the entire picture.
"The favors of God are unending, limitless. Infinite bounties have encompassed the world. We must emulate the bounties of God, and just as each one of them -- the bounty of life, for instance -- surrounds and encompasses all, so likewise must we be connected and blended together until each part shall become the expression of the whole.
"Consider: We plant a seed. A complete and perfect tree appears from it, and from each seed of this tree another tree can be produced. Therefore, the part is expressive of the whole, for this seed was a part of the tree, but therein potentially was the whole tree. So each one of us may become expressive or representative of all the bounties of life to mankind. This is the unity of the world of humanity. This is the bestowal of God. This is the felicity of the human world, and this is the manifestation of the divine favor." (Promulgation, 13)
Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
"Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations." (Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 12)
I stumbled across this saying of Baha'u'llah a few weeks ago and it has been goading me ever since. I can well imagine that justice is a guardian watching over mankind, but what is this about its twin, equity? How does equity guard the world? Do I even know what equity is? And if so, how do you distinguish between equity and justice? Or, as "twins," are they all but identical? And what is this linguistic angle about the two of them "revealing" words which promote well-being and protect the nations?
One difference would seem to be that equity is more about balance inside, whereas justice is concerned with outer action. Justice, Baha'u'llah implies here, is "blessed" and equity is "perspicuous," or clear. Equity's limpid quality comes from an inner inclination to perceive and internalize truth, whereas the holy quality of justice is carrying right out in relation to others.
Both guardians keep us from making mistakes. The guardian that Baha'u'llah calls justice rights wrongs in the world and erases gross violations of law. Equity, on the other hand, seems more concerned with prevention, with countering systemic imbalances and curing chronic illnesses.
Be that as it may, somebody referred me to a humorous essay called "The Laziest Man on Earth's Guide to Green Living," which is to be found at:
It is significant that Baha'u'llah in that quote personifies justice and equity; they are not abstractions but people. This, Plato did too. He envisioned an entire class of guardians protecting the general interest. I always imagined that as meaning the protective professions like police and the legal profession, but now that I am reading Comenius I am not so sure. Comenius envisioned specially trained guardians in all three estates of society, science, religion and politics, who would protect us against all sorts of disintegration and decay.
"To dispose of the danger confronting us (that Universal Affairs, which affect the order and security of mankind, may perchance fall apart and disintegrate) I say that the most effective remedy available is the appointment of regular guardians as soon as our sacred constitution is established, who shall have permanent responsibility for certifying that schools enlighten men's minds, churches inspire their hearts, and parliaments maintain national peace and for preventing errors from creeping in or developing." (Panorthosia, Ch. 15, para 7, p. 217)
"Every school, every church, and every state will have its guardians of law and order (I mean Scholarchs, Elders' and Senators). But as continuous progression is needed in each case towards the highest office of its kind, we must not leave any gaps especially here and now, when everlasting foundations for general salvation must be laid.
For example, just as people living together make up the family, families the state, states the province, provinces the kingdom, and, in fact, the entire community of kingdoms makes up one common state of mankind, so every home, state, province, and kingdom, and finally the whole world, should have its own Tribunal. Similarly there must be respective grades supervising the order and proficiency of schools and churches up to the highest level, and these must be vested with power to gather all men and all things together and to keep them within the bounds of salvation." (Panorthosia, Ch. 15, para 8, p. 218)
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
VIRTUES SUPPORT GROUP
Prayers are healing and empowering
Virtues (Qualities of Character) are healing and empowering.
Healing and Transformation
With Prayers and Compassionate Communication
The common denominator of all spiritual teachings
is prayer and development of virtues.
Come join us for prayers, chanting and meditations followed by open dialogue of Compassionate Communication and its uses.
Intended to be healing, empowering and supportive for self
development and expanding the quality of all our relationships.
every 1st and 3rd
Sunday 1:30 – 4:00PM
Registration 1:00 Start @ 1:30 – 4:00PM
153 King Street West, Dundas
Drive to back for parking and auditorium entrance
Monthly Devotional & Virtues Support Group:
1st & 3rd Sundays of the month
Refreshments @ 1:30 start 2:00 – 4:00PM
Location:: 168 Park Street South,– Unit 3,
For Information & Please Confirm / RSVP
Tracey Farrell Munro
By John Taylor; 2009 Jan 27, 09 Sultan, 165 BE
Thoughts about Next Month's Feast Virtue
Several years ago I wrote a series of essays on the 19 virtues in the Badi' Calendar -- probably the main reason I called this the "Badi' Blog." Since then, a book on the calendar has been published by George Ronald, and a study of the Writings of the Bab has come out as well. The mistakes I made back then are clearer. Still, some still stands, and I want to go over it and re-post the best of them over the next year or two. So let us start with the virtue for the next feast: Mulk, or Dominion.
The Dominion of Mulk
In the early 1860's the safety and sovereignty of Canadians were gravely threatened by the great power to the south, which had split into a bloody Civil War among its states. Young men walking the streets of Canadian cities, including my home town of Hamilton, were regularly shanghaied by army recruiters with urgent quotas to fill. Some were persuaded, others seduced by prostitutes, plied with free alcohol only to wake up the next day as canon fodder. One day a boy or young man might walk free and two weeks later die a foot-soldier, overtaken by a violent, obscure death in the front lines of a foreign war. Nobody knows precisely how many disappeared there were. Most fought for the Northern Union but others, willingly or not, somehow turned up in the dead lists of the Confederate Army.
After hostilities stopped there came threats and saber rattling by hawkish elements pressuring a victorious American government to invade Canada. This persuaded a reluctant Canadian government, in spite of reservations about how ready we were for independence, that there was no choice but to join in confederation. In 1867, the provinces merged into a single country they called the "Dominion of Canada." The Fathers of Confederation chose the word "Dominion" carefully. They wished to have the rights due an independent nation, but not to follow the rebellious ways of their neighbor to the south and arrogate to themselves absolute sovereignty. Canadian leaders, backed by large numbers of "United Empire Loyalists" who had immigrated from America, held fiercely to the British Empire. They wished to leave all final decisions to the English parliament in London. Canada persisted in its reluctance to take the reigns completely for many decades afterward.
Only in 1983 was the Constitution repatriated and Canada ceased technically to be a dominion and became a fully federated nation. Still, that did not mean that we had to get rid of the name. Partly out of a misguided fear of offending anti-royalist sensibilities in Quebec, we got away from using this wonderfully distinctive appellation. Dominion Day has been changed to Canada Day, and the Dominion Government is now called the Federal Government. As the Faith becomes better known, I hope that Canadians will return to using this wonderful attribute of God in our name.
It was therefore with a thrill of nostalgia that I read the recent letter of the Universal House of Justice addressing us thus,
"With exultant hearts we hail the followers of Baha'u'llah assembled at the conferences convened in the Dominion of Canada." (Letter, 10 Jan, 2009)
What is past is prophesy. May the day come soon when Canada is a dominion again, only this time not of an empire but a world government whose dominion extends wherever humans abide.
Anyway, the delegates gathered at Canada's Confederation convention in 1867 considered for a while calling the new nation the "Kingdom of Canada." However our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, thought the name would "wound the sensibilities of the Yankees." The Canadian Fathers of Confederation were not ignorant of the Bible. As a result, Sir Samuel Tilley suggested the name, "Dominion of Canada;" his inspiration was from the Psalm,
"He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." (72:8)
Because of this, the Coat of Arms for Canada has the Latin inscription "Ad mari usque ad mare," from sea to sea. Baha'is believe that this is a prophesy of the banishment of Baha'u'llah from the Caspian to the Mediterranean seas. As we shall see later on, 'Abdu'l-Baha made much of the fact that we are (or were) the only nation in the world to call itself a dominion.
The word "Dominion" is a Biblical term with a long history and far reaching millennial implications. The Psalm speaks of the power of God reaching out everywhere, without limit, as a dominion from sea to sea,
"He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth. Those who dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him. His enemies shall lick the dust." (Ps 72:8-9, WEB)
This reminded Canadians of our borders, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. In fact, now that the Arctic Ocean is melting, soon we may be a land extending from sea to sea to sea. The river going to the "ends of the earth" was in their view our largest river, the St. Lawrence. The mention of "wilderness" struck a chord, since we were a nation of pioneers, many subsistence farmers lost in the endless forests of the north. Canadians living a hardscrabble life looked with longing eyes at the permanence and compassion, the absolute over-lordship of God's kingdom.
"Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. Your dominion endures throughout all generations." (Ps 145:13, WEB)
Having been tossed in the wake of the terrible Civil War so close to home, the word dominion in the 19th Century also offered a promise of peace.
"...the battle bow will be cut off; And he will speak peace to the nations: And his dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth." (Zech 9:10, WEB)
At the same time, as a scriptural term dominion implies moral rule, placing the Word and teachings of God first, and putting them into action in our lives.
"Establish my footsteps in your word. Do not let any iniquity have dominion over me." (Ps 119:133, WEB)
This moral nuance shows up in the prophesies of Amos, who predicted the desolation of materialism that now grips the world, from sea to sea.
"Behold, the days come," says the Lord Yahweh, "That I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Yahweh. They will wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will run back and forth to seek the word of Yahweh, and will not find it." (Amos 8:11-12, WEB)
During this month of Mulk we living here might well reflect: How can we escape the ravages of materialism? Might it not be our destiny, handed to us by Sir Samuel Tilley, to be the first nation to submit to the material dominion of a world government, or even to the spiritual dominion of the Lord of Hosts? Could it be that the many blessings showered upon our nation, both material and spiritual, are meant as steps to that high calling?
Next time we will look in detail at the link Abdu'l-Baha made to Canadian Dominion in the Tablets of the Divine Plan.
Revised from 1995, and Apr 05, 2006
Monday, January 26, 2009
Comenius's peace plan, Part II
2009 Jan 26
I have been reading Daniel Murphy's "Comenius, A Critical Reassessment of His Life and Work," which devotes an entire chapter to the precedents and influences on the great educator's thinking. I learned, for example, that the principle of universal education, although advanced significantly by Comenius, was very much a part of the Zeitgeist of the reformation, especially after the invention of the printing press. The idea had been put forward by several previous thinkers, including Erasmus, Montaigne, Luther and Calvin, as well as several others I was not familiar with, such as the German educational innovator and pioneer Wolfgang Ratke, John Henry Alsted and the Spanish philosopher of education, J. L. Vives, an early advocate of universal education for girls as well as boys. Clearly, a great number of giants have to stand on one another's' shoulders to see something as great and panoramic as a divine principle like universal education, equality of the sexes, or peace.
Plus, it is one thing to advocate a beautiful sounding desideratum and quite another to implement it universally, to see that it applies wherever human beings live. In that sense we are as far from principle as ever we were. Even in the wealthiest country, America, poor students who should be considering higher education are refraining for fear of the massive debts that it entails.
In order for an idea like universal education to be applied, there has to be set up, as Comenius taught, though not in as many words, a dynamic equilibrium or feedback loop among knowledge, volition and action. Without such direct experience a thinker remains just that, a mere theorizer or utopian. For example, although Frances Bacon advanced the idea of "nursery gardens of the mind," it was Comenius who took that idea, molded it in his broader hands-on experience running educational institutions, and presented it in a form that became the inspiration for the England's Royal Society, the "think tank" that became the model and impetus for modern science.
I left off two weeks ago broaching Comenius's peace proposal in the Panorthosia. Let us continue broaching today. Comenius wrote that,
"The goal of human society is general peace and safety. And the good of the people must be the greatest concern of any republic or kingdom. Thus everything must be prevented which could in any way disturb society, confuse or complicate or sever social ties and personal safety. And the first among these things is war." (Comenius, Consultatio, in Wikiquotes)
Since the danger of war and disputation is not going to go away, an indefinite peace must be protected by permanent institutions designed to work what Comenius calls "Universal Politics,"
"Universal Politics is the light of the human mind so directed to all human affairs that over the entire field of human activities fighting, confusion, and revolution are forbidden, but all things are restored to harmony and contribute their share to the common good of all human society." (Panorthosia, Ch. 13, para 12, p. 205)
Just as universal reform is a completely different animal from mere reform, universal politics has completely different goals and rules from mere politics. The present-day United Nations came from mere politics and mere reform, and in fact is designed to prevent their universal forms from coming about. It has at its center a security counsel dealing with politics in its narrowest sense. Upon that other institutions such as UNESCO, UNICEF, and NGO's were tacked on later as afterthoughts.
Indeed, in the 1950's when UNESCO was founded, the three chapters of the Panorthosia dealing with this subject, chapters 15-18, were translated into English from Latin for the first time. Only some three decades later was the project of translating the entire Consultatio (that is, the General Treatise on the Remedy of Human Affairs -- De Emendatione Rerum Humanarum Consultatio Catholica -- which includes the Panorthosia) begun. As far as I know, Daniel Murphy is the only academic to try to assess this later body of work of Comenius, and he is primarily concerned with education rather than peace.
Comenius's vision of a world government in Panorthosia is the most universal and integrated that I have seen outside the Baha'i Writings. It avoids tokenism and takes in philosophy, science, language and religion on an equal basis from the get-go. Comenius is unlike other thinkers about peace who split off into mutually exclusive religious and secular schools, expunging one essential or overvaluing another. Each and all are required for full universality to come into effect.
The governmental pillar, which Comenius termed the "Dicastery of Peace," was just one of three foundational institutions, the other two being a parliament of religions and a ministry of science and philosophy. This is similar to the Baha'i "three onenesses," Mankind, science and religion each aspects of one reality. Each of the three institutions has its own ideal or virtue, and can never be in opposition with any other.
"But please notice that although Universality, Simplicity, and Agreement (the three banners of Christ in his triumph over Babylon) seem to apply to all three estates of Wisdom, Religion, and Politics, yet there is good reason for close relationship between the first and the first, the second and the second, or the third with the third. For example, our new Universal Wisdom or Philosophy ought to be just as universally available to all human minds as is the light of day to all men's eyes, our new Religion just as pure and simple as God, who is its object, and the new Government of man by man just as peaceful as that of the body by the soul." (Panorthosia II, Ch. 10, para 49, pp. 171-172)
Each of the three institutions is charged with a clear sphere of influence and a specific goal of purifying and vivifying one of the three stages of all real, conscious progress: knowing, willing and acting. Each is charged with formulating a common language based on a unitary educational agenda -- thus excluding any need for compulsion, manipulation or propaganda -- and takes in all three phases, knowing, willing and acting. Each institution has its own particular questions, science has "What do I know? What can we know?", politics, "What can we do?" and religion, "Why am I here? What will become of us?"
"This will come to pass if philosophy submits all things to the human intellect, and politics commits human power itself to human prudence, and religion truly refers all men and all things to God. To achieve this, Philosophy must be a true mirror of God's wisdom, which contemplates all things; Politics must be a living example of the power of God, which manages all things rightly; and Religion must sweetly dispense the goodness of God, which spreads through all things." (Panorthosia II, Ch. 10, para 38, pp. 167-168)
Keeping to an overall plan for the entire human race would give to each individual a clear role in carrying it out. That is, it would be based on what Baha'is call the principle of independent search for truth,
"Universal Politics will strive to keep the common faculties of all men in order so that we do not disagree in our policies and endeavours, but every individual plays his private part peacefully and thereby fosters and promotes public peace." (Panorthosia II, Ch. 13, para 12, pp. 203)
As mentioned, Comenius was not at all pie-in-the-sky; he held that every ideal requires a means for carrying it into action. As Benjamin Jowett put it, "We cannot seek or attain health, wealth, learning, justice or kindness in general. Action is always specific, concrete, individualized, unique." Each of the three institutions, therefore, has its own means as well as its own questions and purposes,
"The means or instruments of Philosophy are all books of divine and human authorship according to necessity and choice. Nothing is excluded except what is evil, useless, or harmful. Those of Religion are all manner of ceremonies appropriate to the needs of the occasion, as for example in prayer, sitting, standing, kneeling, or bowing the head, etc. Those of Politics are any measures, popular or unpopular, which make for the introduction and maintenance of peace and tranquillity." (Panorthosia, Ch. 13, para 12, pp. 205-206)
When he speaks of philosophy (science) as being concerned with "books," he meant the "book of nature" as well as what we now would call the media and information technology. Thus the press and public opinion would not be left to the devices of private ownership as they are now, but would the direct instrument of the science wing of a world system of governance.
Next time we will look at who will make up these three institutions of world order.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Here is Silvie's depiction of the funniest passage we have ever read in any book, the story in God Loves Laughter of how Bill Sears secretly read the Bible under the bedcovers, late at night in his darkened room. The kids were screaming, literally ROFL, rolling on the floor laughing.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Here is Silvie's illustration for an incident involving a stork trap, a bear trap set on the roof that a very young Bill Sears set in order to catch the stork. While doing so, the future Hand of the Cause of God fell and broke his ankle. This is told in the second chapter of God Loves Laughter.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
This conference was held for eastern Canada and Bermuda. We learned that Bermuda was honored by the first use of the word "cluster," by none other than the Master Himself.
I had the pleasure of meeting old friend and Badi blog reader Ed, after almost thirty years. He is taking visual notes here.
More Badi' blog readers, Tim and Jim, and Tim's new bride, Tala.
Peter declaring his availability, presumably for fulfilling the goals of the Plan.
This woman from New Brunswick explained her success in reaching out to new immigrants.
Toronto's South York Baha's have been reaching Iranian immigrants with great success. This believer explained what does not work, long lectures, and what does, professionally recorded prayers followed by informal fellowship.
Below is a photo of a remarkable new Baha'i. She is a university student, though she looks and sounds like a junior youth herself. She had been heavily involved in charity work in Toronto before she came across the Baha'i junior youth program. This put her in a unique position where she could compare how the Baha'i program works to how non-Baha'i youth groups operate. Unlike them, the Baha'i junior youth were left completely to themselves, other than being brought into contact with the Creative Word. What they did with that so amazed her that she recently declared her faith in Baha'u'llah.
The Toronto Baha'i bookstore was full in the morning and all but empty at night. I made the mistake of setting aside some books to buy later when the huge crowds were lighter later on. But they were all gone when I got back. Now I have to wait.
Brian Graham at the Sunday breakout session where we consulted on how to get an accelerated program of growth in Niagara region. As you see on the people's faces, there was some headscratching going on.
The ever dapper Carson Knox regaled me with stories of his travels to China, Singapore and Malasia. I later told them to the kids, and they were amazed at the contrast between the laws of the latter two countries.
Contrast Carson's immaculate garb with my slovenly appearance. This is me in the hotel room just before checking out. Note the bottle of water, my almost-free migraine medication.
For another blogger's impressions of this meet, go to: http://pizza.sandwich.net/2009/01/toronto-regional-conference-first-reflections.shtml