Monday, January 31, 2011

Error in Ruhi Book VIII

Error in Pre-Publication version of Ruhi Book Eight


By John Taylor; 2011 Jan 31, Sultan 13, 167 BE


In Book Eight our Ruhi book tells of the Master's visit to America. At our study circle I suggested that the authors had made a minor mistake in their narrative. Here is the passage in question, from page 47 of the study text:




"Among the many events associated with His visit to the community in the West, two are particularly noteworthy. While in Chicago, 'Abdu'l-Baha laid with His own hands the cornerstone of the House of Worship on the recently purchased property facing Lake Michigan. Earlier, in New York City, He had chosen to affirm the implications of the Covenant instituted by Baha'u'llah. Following the reading of the Tablet of the Branch, which had recently been translated into English, one of those present left a record of the words He uttered on that occasion: `... I am the Covenant, appointed by Baha'u'llah. And no one can refute His Word. This is the Testament of Baha'u'llah. You will find it in the Holy Book of Aqdas. Go forth and proclaim, "This is the Covenant of God in your midst."'"




The reference that the Ruhi mavens give for this "I am the Covenant" quote is to Juliet Thompson's Diary, p. 313. I will include the entire passage from her diary at the end of this blog posting -- the entire text of her diary is included in the Ocean database. According to Juliet Thompson's dating, in July she wrote this recollection of the "crowning" of Lua as "Herald of the Covenant," recalling an event that had taken place right about the summer solstice, slightly over a week before.


In short, she does not mention here a reading of the Tablet of the Branch on that day. Mahmud Zarqani in his diary agrees with Juliet's account that on the 19th of June the Master spoke about the importance of the Tablet of the Branch to a small group, but he does not mention a reading of the Tablet. In any case, the Ruhi pundits should definitely have written "Later" instead of "Earlier in New York City ..." since the dedication of the Chicago Temple took place in early May during the first month of the Master's time in America.


As far as I have been able to determine, Abdu'l-Baha after arriving on 11 April spent only a few days in New York giving just 13 speeches, then on the 20th of April He left for Washington and then Chicago, where He laid the foundation stone of Wilmette Mashriq on the first of May.


It is always difficult to prove a negative, but I have found no evidence of a reading of the Tablet of the Branch before the dedication of the Mashriq in Wilmette on May first. For example, neither of the two main texts documenting His talks in America, Promulgation and Mahmud's Diary, mention the word "covenant" after this general statement of purpose in His first talk upon debarking the boat.


"As New York has made such progress in material civilization, I hope that it may also advance spiritually in the Kingdom and Covenant of God so that the friends here may become the cause of the illumination of America, that this city may become the city of love and that the fragrances of God may be spread from this place to all parts of the world. I have come for this. I pray that you may be manifestations of the love of Baha'u'llah ... This is my highest aspiration." (Promulgation, 3)


The next time the word "Covenant" is mentioned in either book is a month after the Temple dedication, on 2 June 1912 in an address given at the Church of the Ascension in New York. He said,

"In the terminology of the Holy Books the church has been called the house of the covenant for the reason that the church is a place where people of different thoughts and divergent tendencies -- where all races and nations -- may come together in ..." (Promulgation, 163)

The original notes for this talk were taken by Esther Foster. Evidently the text in Persian or Arabic is extant, since the above passage was re-translated in Mahmoud's Diary by,


"In the terminology of the Holy Books, the church is a symbol of the Covenant, in other words it is a gathering place for different peoples and races so that it may become a sign and token of the true Temple and the Divine Law." (Mahmud's Diary, entry for Sunday, June 2, 1912)


After Mahmud's Diary came out I wrote the English editor of that book, Shirley Macias, and asked if we should regard the more recent translations that are in the Diary as "official translations," but she could not help me on that. I find some parts of the new translation sound better in English than the old translation, but others sound worse. Not knowing Persian, I cannot vouch for their accuracy.


In any case, in view of this the text of this passage in Ruhi Book 8 should definitely be changed from "earlier" to "later." But it gets worse. When it says "on that occasion," it is talking about another occasion completely. The Ruhi luminaries confused and conflated two distinct events; one, the appointment of Lua as "Herald of the Covenant," which, as I said, took place sometime in June while the Master was sitting for the fifth time for Juliet Thompson's portrait, with, two, the public reading of the Tablet of the Branch, which took place five months later. Here is Juliet's description of that event.




"... As I said, this happened in the afternoon of 26 November. The morning had been a tremendous one. Knowing that my Lord would be at the Kinneys', I went directly there. On the way up in the bus a great wave of tears, like a tidal wave, rose from my heart (I didn't know why) and threatened at any moment to break over me.

"I found the Master on the upper floor of the Kinneys' house with the Persians, Carrie and Ned, Nellie Lloyd, and Mr Mills. The Tablet of the Branch was being translated under the supervision of the Master. Dr Baghdadi and Dr Farid were working on it, submitting it time after time to the Master before He was satisfied with their rendering. I shall never forget His sternness,

"His terrific majesty as He directed that translation. The wave of tears did break as I listened and watched. I was shaken beyond all control. Mirza Mahmud and Valiyu'llah Khan tenderly tried to calm me."


In this way, Juliet records from her own point of view a smattering of the reading of the Tablet of the Branch that she witnessed that day. Evidently, this was the first translation and public reading of this Tablet -- I speculate that the Master chose it because of something the Nakazin may have said, perhaps that Baha'u'llah had said nothing about the Master's station.


Anyway, it is beyond doubt that this took place during the last month of the Master's visit to America, a period when He was putting tremendous emphasis on the Covenant. He sponsored several meetings and at least two banquets celebrating the Covenant in both Washington and New York during this climactic month.


Baha'u'llah's Tablet of the Branch, by the way, had been revealed in Edirne during Baha'u'llah's most prolific period, around 1867-1868 -- for more details on the Suriye-Ghusn and its translations and publication history, as well as other data see: <>). Amazingly, after all these years it has yet to be officially translated. The version I still use is the one in Baha'i World Faith; it is probably the one the Master helped translate.


Anyway, it is not completely surprising that our anonymous Ruhi pundits conflated these two crucial events during the Master's visit. The chapter on the visit to America in Hasan Balyuzi's biography, "Abdu'l-Baha," does not mention either covenant event at all, and He was a Hand of the Cause! Of course, we have to bear in mind that Juliet's Diary was not published until fifty years after these event, because (as it says in the introduction) its reviewers deemed it "too emotional" and forbade publication. For that reason, Balyuzi may not have seen Juliet's diary. The Guardian probably did, however, since his summary of the American travels of the Master in God Passes By includes this summary,


"... the dynamic affirmation by Him ['Abdu'l-Baha] of the implications of the Covenant instituted by Baha'u'llah, following the reading of the newly translated Tablet of the Branch, in a general assembly of His followers in New York, designated henceforth as the "City of the Covenant.'" (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 288)


It is clear what Juliet considered this "dynamic affirmation" was after the Master read the Tablet of the Branch -- it left her in tears, not knowing entirely why. As I said, the Master insisted that several commemorations take place throughout November in Washington as well as New York, but the Guardian makes it clear here that the reading of the Tablet of the Branch is what gave New York the appellation "city of the Covenant," and is exactly what we now celebrate as the Day of the Covenant, on or around the 26th of that month.


Interestingly, much later the Guardian in a letter to Dr. Muhlschlegel called this translation, personally supervised by the Master, "poor." He requested that it not be published, beyond the selections that he himself had translated in World Order (see Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 65). A provisional translation is available on the net, at the above link.


There was another dramatic event in November other than the reading of the Tablet of the Branch. That was when the Master, in front of everybody, all but forced Howard MacNutt to eat crow and renounce his attempts to reconcile and associate with the Nakazin. That, evidently, had happened a few days before the 26th. Once MacNutt had disobeyed and repented, after that most of the Master's work seemed to go into persuading the Baha’is _not_ to shun MacNutt.


In any case, since these events are what we celebrate every year on the Day of the Covenant, we should all be clearer about this story than we are. Juliet, May and Lua, having such devoted and sensitive female hearts (what a heart it would be, the Master told them, if three such hearts could be combined into one), had intimations of the coming occasion of the Day of the Covenant during the summer, the climax of the Masters visit to America, but we should not confuse that with the actual event.


The Ruhi doyens may have taken this wrong turn because of a similar mistake made in Ramona Brown's book, "Memories of Abdu'l-Baha." Here Brown makes a second-hand, after-the-fact recollection that she says she heard from Lua, maybe in California, maybe not. She writes,


"Lua travelled with the group. She (Lua) told me that it was in New York City that Abdul-Baha first taught the Baha'is about the protecting power of obedience to the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. There, on June 19, 1912, when the friends were gathered in the basement of His house, the translation of the Tablet of the Branch was read for the first time in this country. It is for this reason that New York is called the City of the Covenant." (Memories of Abdul-Baha, Ramona Allen Brown, p. 15)

She is perfectly correct that Lua was laying great emphasis on the 19th of June. One month later, she had been sent to California to lay the groundwork for the Master's imminent visit there (although nobody was certain that He would go West, except Himself, probably). In a public address, Lua told a San Francisco audience,



"On the 19th of June, Abdu'l-Baha made this proclamation of being the Center of the Covenant of God to about one hundred and twenty-five people who were gathered at His house on West 78th Street. Those present will never forget that day, I am sure. Though He spoke the message very quietly and impressively, it went forth with such a power that I am sure the whole city of New York was affected by it, and I know, without any doubt, that every person present that day was touched with a spirit which in itself was recreative..." (Velda Piff Metelmann, "Lua Getsinger, Herald of the Covenant, p. 164)


Later on in this speech, Lua quotes the entire text of the speech that the Master had given on 19 June. She was clearly affected by that day, but there is no mention of a reading of the Tablet of the Branch. If I get the chance, I will scan in this talk by Lua, and include it here on the Badi' Blog.




Appointment of Lua as herald of the covenant

The following Juliet's diary entry for 5 July, where she describes the Master appointing Lua as "Herald of the Covenant." As she says, she is referring to an event that had already taken place a couple of weeks earlier, on 19 June, 1912. Note that the title "herald of the covenant" was a non-exclusive thing. The Guardian later named 21 heralds or apostles of Abdu'l-Baha, and in their eulogies called many believers, including Harold MacNutt, "herald of the Covenant."


5 July 1912

The Beloved Master's portrait is finished. He sat for me six times, but I really did it in the three half hours He had promised me; for the sixth time, when He posed in His own room on the top floor, I didn't put on a single stroke. I was looking at the portrait wondering what I could find to do, when He suddenly rose from his chair and said: "It is finished."

The fifth time He sat, Miss Souley-Campbell came in with a drawing she had done from a photograph to ask if He would sign it for her and if she might add a few touches from life. This meant that He had to change His pose, so of course I couldn't paint that day. And the fourth time (the nineteenth of June) -- who could have painted then?

I had just begun to work, Lua in the room sitting on a couch nearby, when the Master smiled at me; then turning to Lua said in Persian: "This makes me sleepy. What shall I do?"

[Photograph: Portrait of 'Abdu'l-Baha painted by Juliet Thompson, 1912.]

"Tell the Master, Lua, that if He would like to take a nap, I can work while He sleeps."

But I found that I could not. What I saw then was too sacred, too formidable. He sat still as a statue, His eyes closed, infinite peace on that chiselled face, a God-like calm and grandeur in His erect head.

Suddenly, with a great flash like lightning He opened His eyes and the room seemed to rock like a ship in a storm with the Power released. The Master was blazing. "The veils of glory", "the thousand veils", had shrivelled away in that Flame and we were exposed to the Glory itself.

Lua and I sat shaking and sobbing.

Then He spoke to Lua. I caught the words, "Munadiy-i-'Ahd." (Herald of the Covenant).

Lua started forward, her hand to her breast.

"Man?" (I?) she exclaimed.

"Call one of the Persians. You must understand this."

Never shall I forget that moment, the flashing eyes of 'Abdu'l-Baha the reverberations of His Voice, the Power that still rocked the room. God of lightning and thunder! I thought.

"I appoint you, Lua, the Herald of the Covenant. And I AM THE COVENANT, appointed by Baha'u'llah. And no one can refute His Word. This is the Testament of Baha'u'llah. You will find it in the Holy Book of Aqdas. Go forth and proclaim, 'This is THE COVENANT OF GOD in your midst.'"

A great joy had lifted Lua up. Her eyes were full of light. She looked like a winged angel. "Oh recreate me," she cried, "that I may do this work for Thee!"

By now I was sobbing uncontrollably.

"Julie too," said Lua, not even in such a moment forgetful of me, "wants to be recreated."

But the Master had shrouded Himself with His veils again, the "thousand veils". He sat before us now in His dear humanity: very, very human, very simple.

"Don't cry, Juliet," He said. "This is no time for tears. Through tears you cannot see to paint."

I tried hard to hold back my tears and to work, but painting that day was at an end for me.

The Master smiled lovingly.

"Juliet is one of My favourites because she speaks the truth to me. See how I love the truth, Juliet. You spoke one word of truth to Me and see how I have praised it!"

I looked up to smile in answer, and in gratitude, then was overwhelmed again by that awful convulsive sobbing.

At this the Master began to laugh and, as He laughed and laughed, the strangest thing happened. It was as if at each outburst He wrapped Himself in more veils, so that now He looked completely human, without a trace left of His superhuman majesty. Never had I seen Him like this before and I never did afterward.

"I am going to tell you something funny," He said, adding in English, "a joke".

"Oh tell it!" we begged; and now I was in a sort of hysteria, laughing and crying at the same time.

"No. Not now. Paint."

But of course I couldn't paint.

Later, walking up and down, He laughed again.

"I am thinking of My joke," He explained.

"Tell it!" we pleaded.

"No, I cannot, for every time I try to tell it I laugh so I cannot speak."

We got down on our knees, able at last to enter into His play, and begged Him, "Please, please tell us." We were laughing on our knees.

"No. Not now. After lunch."

But, alas, after lunch He went upstairs to His room, and we never heard the Master's joke.

Perhaps, there wasn't any joke. Perhaps He had just found it necessary, after that mighty Declaration, to bring us down to earth again. He had revealed to us "The Apex of Immortality." He had lifted us to a height from which we could see it. Now He, our loving Shepherd, had carried us in His own arms back to our little valley and put us where we belonged.

(from Diary of Juliet Thompson)


Friday, January 28, 2011

Two UHJ's?

What defines our Baha'i-dom?

jet, Jan 28, 2011:

Here are three interesting quotes from the Master about the Covenant. They say that beginnings and ends are the most important, that you leave the best for last, and the Master certainly did that in America. In November, when He was preparing to leave for England, He spoke again and again about the Covenant. He held banquets in New York and Washington to celebrate what we now call the Day of the Covenant. Certainly, He put what He considered His most distinctive message at the end of that journey. The same is true of these citations. My first quote is in the Master's farewell address to the believers in California.


"The friends in Los Angeles and San Francisco are very firm in the Covenant. If they sense the least violation on the part of anyone, they shun him entirely; for they know that such a person is engaged in extinguishing the lamps of faith ignited by the light of the Covenant, thereby producing weakness and indifference in the divine Cause.
For instance, the firm ones teach a person. Then the violators go to him and instill suspicion until he becomes lukewarm. There have been violators here in Chicago for twenty years. What have they done? Nothing. Have they been able to teach anybody? Have they been able to speak in churches or address audiences elsewhere? Have they been able to make anybody firm in the Cause?
They are doing nothing except extinguishing the lamps we ignite. The friends in San Francisco are exceedingly firm. They do not receive violators in their homes. Recently a violator went to that city. The Baha'i friends turned him away, saying, "You are not with us; why do you try to come among us?" Today the most important principle of faith is firmness in the Covenant, because firmness in the Covenant wards off differences. Therefore, you must be firm as mountains." (Promulgation, 381)

The second quote comes at the end of a talk He gave in Chicago a few weeks before, on 16 September, 1912, at the home of Corinne True. Again, He was about to leave town.

"Therefore, you must read the Tablets of Baha'u'llah. You must read the Tablet of the Branch and regard that which He has so clearly stated. Beware! Beware! lest anyone should speak from the authority of his own thoughts or create a new thing out of himself. Beware! Beware! According to the explicit Covenant of Baha'u'llah you should care nothing at all for such a person. Baha'u'llah shuns such souls. I have expounded these things for you, for the conservation and protection of the teachings of Baha'u'llah, in order that you may be informed, lest any souls shall deceive you and lest any souls shall cause suspicion among you. You must love all people, and yet if any souls put you in doubt, you must know that Baha'u'llah is severed from them. Whosoever works for unity and fellowship is a servant of Baha'u'llah, and Baha'u'llah is his assistant and helper. I ask God that He may cause you to be the very means of agreement and unity, that He may make you radiant, merciful, heavenly children of the divine Kingdom; that you may advance day by day; that you may become as bright as these lamps, bestowing light upon all humanity. Salutations and farewell!" (Promulgation, 323-324)

My third quote I blogged several years ago on my Badi' blog. It was called:
Two Universal Houses of Justice?, or, The Covenant defines Baha'i-dom


At one point, Mahmud's Diary recounts, the Master even discusses the possibility of there being one day two Universal Houses of Justice. Sure, several centuries ago there were as many as three Popes at the same time, so why not two Universal Houses of Justice? Such an eventuality is, to say the least, utterly inconceivable for Baha'is. Here is Mahmud-i-Zarqani's summary of what the Master said,

"...He spoke about differences that arise within religions after the ascension of their Founders, the Manifestations, to the heavenly abode. But the Blessed Beauty has shut the door on such differences so that whatever the House of Justice commands, all must obey and submit to it. He said that if the Baha'is should become divided into two branches, each establishing a House of Justice of its own in opposition to the other, both would be false. Baha'u'llah wrote His Covenant with His own Pen..." (Mahmud, 127-8)

So ... the very second that there was disagreement on that issue, both sides would cease to be Baha'is, for a Baha'i is defined as someone who agrees with the Covenant.

(from “Tell the socialists; The Covenant Clause in our Heritage," blogged Nov 05, 2004)

Jim offered the following comment on this post:
Hi John,
Yes, the Baha'i principle of non-association with Covenant-breakers is probably the most serious one of our Faith.  Also in Mahmud's Diary -
Mahmud records how Mr. Howard MacNutt foolishly associated with a declared Covenant-breaker and then showed up at a couple of Baha'i meeting where Abdu'l-Baha was speaking:
"Today He (Abdu'l-Baha) called on Mr MacNutt and spoke to him in strong terms about his relationship with the Covenant-breakers and showed him a letter Mr MacNutt had written to Chicago offering help to and praising Dr Nutt, a friend of Kheiralla. The Master asked, `Is this your writing?' Mr MacNutt replied, `Yes, but my intention was something else.' He tried to give a different angle to his purpose but could not. The Master was saddened about Mr MacNutt but His purpose was to admonish and warn him against his own conduct."
(Mahmud's Diary, page 393)
"As Mr MacNutt's apparent equivocation and lack of firmness seemed to be causing his degradation in the eyes of the friends, he came to the Master and implored Him to recommend him to them. The Master replied, `The remedy depends upon your sincere repentance and your open denouncement of the violators in the meetings of the friends.' In compliance, Mr MacNutt rose and gave an account of his journey to Chicago and his meeting with Kheiralla. Some felt that he spoke ambiguously. 

The Master asked him to explain his actions in plain words so that the friends might be satisfied and this blemish on his character be removed. Again he testified in clear terms of his faith in the Covenant and his rejection of the Covenant-breakers. The Master went to the podium and expressed His pleasure at Mr Harris's talk and for Mr MacNutt's words of repentance. The Master then went upstairs and called Mr Hoar, Mr Harris, Mr Dodge and other friends to Him and asked them to embrace Mr MacNutt and exhorted them to have the utmost love and unity among themselves. He encouraged and inspired them to spread the divine word and to diffuse the fragrances of God. He told them that they must sacrifice all other affairs for the accomplishment of this great affair.
Despite this, the Master and the friends, in their inmost hearts, were saddened by Mr MacNutt's earlier actions. Some felt that he was not trying hard enough to show his humility and firmness in the Covenant. After the Master's departure from America, Mr MacNutt went to California and other regions of America. The believers stayed away from him. He wrote many letters of repentance to `Abdu'l-Bahá, who sent him many encouraging and kind words.

Wednesday, November 20, 1912 [New York]
The Master again called some of the friends and asked them to show kindness and love to Mr MacNutt and to be patient with him. Some of His words were these:
"You must all arise in unison to serve the Cause of God. You must work hand in hand to teach the Cause and know that the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh will descend upon you. My hope is that New York will excel all other cities because at the beginning it had precedence over them. God willing, it shall be so again. The favors of the Kingdom of God are great, the attention and bounties of the Blessed Beauty are fixed upon you and His hidden hosts are assisting you. Arise in this arena and you shall see what will transpire. 
I am but one of His servants. After the ascension of the Blessed Beauty, the Ottoman people and government arose against me as did enemies of the area from different nations and religions. In such a state everyone was attacking me from outside and even my brothers from inside opposed me. But in a short time the enemies were frustrated and brought low so that some of them cried, `Would to God that Bahá'u'lláh had not ascended because this Cause has become even greater, its fame has spread to more places, and its support has become stronger.' Therefore, we must arise in servitude so that His confirmations may surround us from all sides. Undoubtedly whenever you arise to serve and proclaim the Cause you shall be assisted and shall attain success. Rest assured." "
(Mahmud's Diary, page 400-402)
Although Abdu'l-Baha publicly asked the friends "to show kindness and love to Mr. MacNutt and to be patient with him", Mr. MacNutt wasn't able to re-establish the friends trust in him apparently.  
Hi Jim,

Yes, Howard MacNutt did have a tough time for a while there. Mahmud was not around for it, but in the end the Master did affect a reconciliation, and had MacNutt handle the job of compiling, translating and editing Promulgation; he even had him write the intro "so that thy name will be remembered forever." MacNutt is an example of a believer who had to be fired in the oven before he became firm.

Can you believe it?

JANUARY 28, 2011

Internet Essay Teaching Opportunity

I was just listening to Arnold Toynbee's Credo on the old radio program "This I believe," and found that it is now a web site on which you can submit your own essay. The guidelines for writing it are at:


I did a search for the word "Baha'i" and found only a few references, listed below. Maybe some of the readers of this blog would be interested in submitting their own credos.


I also did a search for "Bill Sears," since he mentions in God Loves Laughter (a book that I have read aloud seven times to my son, who continues to pester me to read it yet again) that he recorded his own segment for "This I Believe," back in the 1950's sometime. Evidently they do not have the Hand's recording up on the site yet. If anybody knows more about this, please let me know.


Fasting: More Than Just Skipping Lunch « Katy | This I Believe 9 Oct 2008 ... It was the first of nineteen days when I wouldn't eat or drink from sunrise to sunset as part of the Baha'i Fast, a fast that I would ...


I Quit Carrying a Gun « Robert Powers | This I Believe 5 Mar 2010 ... And from Baha'i—“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”—I became aware that my prejudices had always imprisoned, ...


A Sustaining Force of Humanity « Aleah | This I Believe 26 May 2005 ... Inspired by a Baha'i friend, I have concluded that a faith is true to its believers, and every person must find his or her perfect fit. ...


This I Believe « Anisa | This I Believe 26 May 2005 ... I was born into a Baha'i family and its spiritual beliefs were placed upon me as I began memorizing prayers and learning virtues that I ...


This I Believe « Karen | This I Believe 18 Sep 2007 ... I write today not only as a Baha'i but as a mother and educator ... (from the writings of Abdu'l-Baha, leader of the Baha'i Faith 1892-1921) ...


This I Believe « vernyce | This I Believe 25 Oct 2005 ... One summer Larry and I were both attending a Baha'i summer school in Michigan. My twin brother Vern and I began our mornings cleaning and ...


This I Believe « Darrell | This I Believe 7 Nov 2005 ... This time it was Religions of the World and I learned about Baha'i, Sikhism, Jainism, etc. It was Information overload. ...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Next Chapter of Cosmo-Earth

Touristic Democracy


By John Taylor; 2011 Jan 27, Sultan 09, 167 BE



Legislators often give visitors and school tours limited access to their facilities. In recent years, parliaments, senates and congresses have been invaded by live video feeds and entire television networks are devoted to politics. As we transition from nationalism to a cosmopolitan order, contact with the public will become ever more prolonged, meaningful and intimate. The former hard lines between ruler and ruled, between insider and outsider will break down. Observers will become participants as, eventually, participatory democracy replaces leadership by proxy, that is, representative democracy. It happened, albeit briefly and in an incomplete way, in Ancient Athens. It can happen again.


Like any plan, the plan in Panorthosia is not without its biases; it definitely puts some sectors of society before others. However, it picks the right parts, most notably teachers. Teaching (not prostitution!) is truly the oldest profession. Without it, we would sink into barbarism in less than a generation. So yes, teachers must come first in any global plan. Comenius's system is designed for educators by a major educational theorist.




Not, of course, that teachers will need any special favoritism under this plan. As the structure of universal reform is erected, teachers will surely come to the fore on their own in every aspect of public policy, elbowing out the power mongers, lobbyists and partisan pretenders who now obstruct our progress.


Most importantly, will surely include the world's largest industry, tourism. As teachers learn to mold the travel industry to educational ends, tourism will cease to be a mere commute or an idle, random amusement. It will be an integral part of everyone's pursuit of perfection. Our main reason to move around will be to further our own investigation of truth. This will especially be the case in governance.


Tourism will take on a more central role in every phase of management. Government buildings will be erected for edification, their entire design welcoming guests and accommodating tourism. There will be intermixing and visitation in the halls of power to an unprecedented degree. To our eyes today, the seat of government will resemble a theme park more than the solemn, imposing buildings we see now.


As we have seen recently, the first priority of the tourism industry must be to get as many leaders and young people into orbit as possible, if only for a few days at first, then as prices drop for a full two week stint. If we have to, give select tourists free passes. We must do whatever it takes to see that selected leaders of thought and influential people of this generation and the next see what astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts have been observing for many years. Whatever it costs, it is worth the price. It is scandalous that the ISS, the world's most expensive structure, is orbiting without an observatory able to accommodate large numbers of space tourists.




Seeing our Earth revolve below our very eyes is the quickest and probably the only way to wake large numbers of people from what Kant called a "dogmatic slumber." It is the only likely way to awaken religious leaders from their parochial, sectarian slumbers. Is is the only likely way to awaken scientists and science policy makers from their turpitude, their sorry lack of influence in progress, or environmentalists from their stupefied denial of cosmopolitanism, the only way to save earth's natural beauty.


Throughout history only a few great minds have succeeded through main ratiocination to awake from dogmatic slumber and observed with their mind's eye the unity of humankind and the planet on which we live. These include, most notably, Socrates, Plato, Kant himself and, of course, John Amos Comenius. Covering all three cosmopolitan aspirations in a single paragraph, Comenius wrote,



"Just as the universe of things, granted to us to behold, is one coherent and unbroken unit, so its beholders should be united to help and not hinder one another. And just as the globe of the earth is one, and is not divided but rather held together by mountains, rivers, and the seas themselves, so the masters of the earth and its inhabitants, should be as one, combining forces everywhere in the cause of peace and concord, and no more attacking one another than the earth beneath them attacks its parts. Lastly, just as God the Creator and Saviour of all is one, so all who worship Him should be as one." (Panorthosia II, Ch. 10, para 12, p. 157)



The rest of us mere mortals must see for ourselves the vision of the peaceful revolution of our beautiful planet before we will awake, before we can every hope to see how it is possible to revolve in the same way, to make great changes in total, silent harmony, without violence or conflict. Once we see that, we also will need to see universal governance itself in operation. That is why, as soon as Comenian institutions are erected, they will open for as much tourism as is practicable.



Government by Theme Park




How would a typical capitol building look? Let us describe the fora and observation decks of Terra City and the continental capitol buildings. No doubt the same basic architecture will characterize every level of cosmopolitan government, from homes to city hall to the orbiting station itself.


Lower and outer levels of the building are designed in the normal way. The space is dedicated to meeting rooms and offices for workers, leaders and their support staff. Inside, though, is where group research, conferences and other public deliberations go on. Here officials and elected politicians consult in multi-media consultoria (consultoria will be described in detail in later volumes of this series) that are situated in the center and middle level of the building. A large plenary meeting chamber in the center of all has glass ceilings, making what takes place there wholly visible and audible to observers on the upper level.


Below the transparent ceiling, overlooking the main room, is an observer's gallery. Above the ceiling is an upper level, a museum area entirely devoted to tourism, education and intermingling with occupants of the building. This top floor area is covered over by a transparent dome, letting in ample light for the museum area's plants and gardens. Sunlight also filters through many fissures and windows to the lower levels as well. Spread throughout are displays and interactive exhibits designed to introduce tourists and pilgrims to what policy makers are deliberating upon just below.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chapter Sixteen; Cosmopolis

The Architecture of Terra City

By John Taylor; 2011 Jan 21, Sultan 03, 167 BE

JANUARY 25, 2011

Chapter Sixteen; Cosmopolis

The Architecture of Terra City

As we have seen, for the first century or so the global capitol is called Terra City; it rotates around the planet. Its capitol buildings are entirely utilitarian with no specific style, or even a single, static location. Rather they consist mostly of a building code, a set of open standards and designs meant to be reproduced in new city halls, neighbourhoods and even households around the globe. More than anything, Terra City fits a temporal rather than spatial order, an order based on the schedule of principles in the planning decade. The designated world capitol, Terra City, moves as each decade plan ends to a new continent. The legislators, leaders and other users of the capitol buildings feed their experience back so that the specifications of the next set of buildings will be better each time.


Let us say that a consensus vote among experts and continental parliamentarians for the duration of Decade One settles upon Antarctica as the first provisional location for Terra City. This remote location near the South Pole forces everyone there to concentrate on the global picture, to set up communications networks to link continental parliaments as efficiently as possible. It obliges them to pay close attention to what is essential to the design of the buildings they occupy, and how to improve upon it.

The designers of the first set of highly self-contained structures for capitol buildings in Antarctica will be forced to keep to bare essentials and use the latest, high technology materials. At the center will be a transparent central dome for well-illuminated plenary gatherings during the long days of summer. In the long night of winter, the dome ceiling may be used as a mirror, or perhaps as an Imax-like cinema screen and data display. Such a video display would allow a live link to the eight continental parliaments, allowing, for example, votes among all continental representatives to be held either simultaneously or over a twenty four hour period.


This central dome is surrounded by ancillary buildings, also bolstered by extremely tough exteriors insulated by aerogel or vacuum barriers. Lodging will be Spartan and compact, located within walking distance of offices and meeting rooms, but not so close that occupants will not have to walk around and take in the varied visual stimuli needed for mental and physical health.

Once this core station, dubbed Terra City Antarctica, has been in use for its designated period, the scientists, politicians and spiritual leaders who have occupied it during decade one will move on to their next designated capitol buildings on another continent. Once vacated, scientists will continue to monitor the station's operation and use this experience to determine how soon it will be feasible to assemble a similar Terra City base of operations in orbit, perhaps alongside or connected to the present International Space Station.

Even if financial or technical obstacles block the construction of a complete Terra City station in orbit for several decades, I consider it imperative that everyone elected to continental office spend at least a few days in an orbiting observatory of some kind. The saying goes that "without vision the people will perish;" it is essential that as many leaders and bright young people as possible gain this vision by spending at least a few days just looking down at the planet they propose to manage. Without aggressive efforts to implement massive space tourism, it is unlikely that our first priority, the collective survival of the human race, will ever be heard above the noise of lesser priorities.

Again, the scientists and educators who make up the college of light will use the polls and other data from Decade One to decide upon the technical specifications for the next Terra City station. Like all new buildings, future capitol buildings will be required to have a zero ecological footprint, even though they will be built in much more benign conditions than those of Antarctica. In time for the opening of Decade Two, the second, improved set of global capitol buildings, will be completed at a crossroads of the World Belt somewhere within the continent of Africa, the original home of all humans.


In this scenario Terra City in Africa is the first capitol situated on habitable land, albeit in a desert -- most probably the Sahara Desert. It may take decades of massive tree planting and other terraforming projects to make the climate near Terra City II pleasant enough to attract massive immigration from other places in Africa. But an initially harsh climate will not affect the leaders in their self-contained capitol buildings.

Nonetheless, this time the Terra City project takes on a far more daunting proposition, erecting the core structures of an entire planned city, the core of what will become the capitol of a united Africa. Starting off in an empty desert ample room is left for growth, without land speculation. Once Decade Two is played out, the global parliament and Terra City moves on to a desert in the next continent in line.

The buildings they vacate become the capitol buildings for Africa's continental government, and around the capitol buildings will grow a beautiful city. Since it is Africa's permanent continental center of governance, it might be named thereafter Africa City. From Africa City, the same ultra-efficient, universal building standard of the capitol will spread along the World Belt to neighbourhoods and arteries throughout the continent. With each walkthrough of the decade the standard will evolve closer to the particular culture needs of every region in Africa.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

ISS Tour - Welcome To The International Space Station!

The International Space Station (ISS) is an internationally developed research facility, which is being assembled in low Earth orbit. On-orbit construction of the station began in 1998 and is scheduled for completion by 2011. The station will remain in operation until at least 2015, and likely 2020.

With a greater mass than that of any previous space station, the ISS can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, and, as of 2010, is the largest artificial satellite orbiting the Earth.

The ISS serves as a research laboratory that has a microgravity environment in which crews conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology.

The station has a unique environment for the testing of the spacecraft systems that will be required for missions to the Moon and Mars. The ISS is operated by Expedition crews, and has been continuously staffed since November 2000—an uninterrupted human presence in space for the past nine years.

The ISS is a synthesis of several space station projects that includes the American Freedom, the Soviet/Russian Mir-2, the European Columbus and the Japanese Kibō. Budget constraints led to the merger of these projects into a single multi-national programme.

The ISS project began in 1994 with the Shuttle-Mir programme, and the first module of the station, Zarya, was launched in 1998 by Russia. Assembly continues, as pressurised modules, external trusses and other components are launched by American space shuttles, Russian Proton rockets and Russian Soyuz rockets.

The cost of the station has been estimated by ESA as €100 billion over 30 years, and, although estimates range from 35 billion dollars to 160 billion dollars, the ISS is believed to be the most expensive object ever constructed. The financing, research capabilities and technical design of the ISS programme have been criticised because of the high cost.

The station is serviced by Soyuz spacecraft, Progress spacecraft, space shuttles, the Automated Transfer Vehicle and the H-II Transfer Vehicle, and has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chapter Fifteen, Cosmopolis Earth

A Rotating Global Capitol

By John Taylor; 2011 Jan 22, Sultan 04, 167 BE


It may take a century, ten decade plans, or more for the local, continental and global governments envisioned by Comenius to come into full flower. In the next volume of this book series I will suggest possible physical features of the massive planet-wide building project that will accompany the formation of these governments. However, now that we have discussed stiles and the recapitulating decade we can discern how personal and global plans might bootstrap this evolution by means of designated capitol cities, first of each continent and finally settling upon a permanent capitol city of Cosmopolis Earth.

Since the astronomical name of our planet is "Terra," it would be natural to call its capital city "Terra City." In the 17th Century, Comenius proposed that the provisional world capitol be Rome or London. A similar continentally-based proposal for a world government made in the early 19th Century suggested that an intercontinental capitol city be built on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. Another idea that appealed to me for some years is to situate Terra City at the South Pole, or somewhere else in Antarctic, which has no native population to displace and is already largely neutral, international territory.

Such a remote location, buffeted by the world's coldest winds, would have three more advantages. One, it would force designers to apply cutting-edge technology to make Terra City's buildings safe, sustainable and energy efficient. Two, the location, unlike the South Pacific, would eliminate distractions and force officials and elected representatives to give their full attention to their work, before getting home as soon as possible. Three, an Antarctic outpost would make it difficult for terrorists or ambitious leaders to start a coup d’état without being detected. Of course, an even better location for security would be on the International Space Station. This would have the advantage of a spectacular view of the spinning planet below, ensuring exactly the right mind set for caretakers of our beautiful home.


Another possibility is to place Terra City where capitol cities are normally located, in a city that is already close to the center of activity. That would be somewhere in the Middle East or the Fertile Crescent, the crossroads among three of the largest and most populous continents, Africa, Europe and Asia. This place is of great historical significance, for it was through here that Homo Sapiens emigrated out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago. It is also the birthplace of several of the world's religions and remains a center of pilgrimage for believers from around the world.

These alternatives are by no means mutually exclusive. Cosmopolis earth's capitol city could rotate among these and other locations until the advantages of one over the others is apparent to all. Indeed, it would not be a good idea to settle too soon on a permanent world center. The great challenge in this first century of transition will be to strengthen the democratic roots of the new continental governments, while at the same time firming up local institutions at the levels of family, household, neighbourhood and city. Only when local foundations are stable and continental pillars are strong will we be ready to lay on the roof, the permanent planetary capitol called Terra City.

At Terra City, wherever it may be at first, elected representatives from all the continents will work out global policy for all continental governments. They will also have to devise standards for whatever applies to all people, everywhere. In the beginning, though, global legislators may restrict themselves to coordinating the decade plans in at least seven larger continental governments located in China and India (because of their large population, these two nations are best treated as continents in themselves) and in six populated continents, North America and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia, whose mandate is based less on population than on geography. It will take many decades of experimentation and building by these eight continental governments before Terra City will be cosmopolitan enough to be considered a truly global capitol city.


Therefore, for at least the first several iterations of the Comenian decade plan, the provisional seat of intercontinental deliberations should rotate among the continents. During these early plans the name "Terra City" will signify the currently designated world capitol. Each time it rotates a new, planned city will constructed for it. Here, the world government will meet in specially designed capitol buildings for several years. Once that decade plan is complete, the designated Terra City will move on to the next continent, while its former global seat of governance is occupied by that continent's house of representatives.

Concurrent with this rotation, there will be a major building program called the World Belt. The World Belt is a housing, HVDC power line and high speed transport corridor connecting each continent. The purpose of this massive megaproject is to make a virtue of necessity by building improved homes for the billions of refugees expected from rising sea levels, while at the same time populating the world's deserts and relieving pressure on environmentally sensitive regions. Again, the World Belt will be described in more detail in a future volume of Cosmopolis Earth. The current Terra City will be strategically placed at a crossroads of the World Belt, a location that is not only central to a continent but one that will tend to expedite construction of the World Belt.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On cows as philosophers

"Strange indeed that after twenty years training in colleges and universities man should reach such a station wherein he will deny the existence of the ideal or that which is not perceptible to the senses. Have you ever stopped to think that the animal already has graduated from such a university? Have you ever realized that the cow is already a professor emeritus of that university? For the cow without hard labor and study is already a philosopher of the superlative degree in the school of nature. The cow denies everything that is not tangible, saying, "I can see! I can eat! Therefore, I believe only in that which is tangible!" Then why should we go to the colleges? Let us go to the cow." ('Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation, 356-361)

"The modes of living in different countries, and the various views with which men travel in quest of new scenes, having been talked of, a learned gentleman who holds a considerable office in the law, expatiated on the happiness of a savage life; and mentioned an instance of an officer who had actually lived for some time in the wilds of America, of whom, when in that state, he quoted this reflection with an air of admiration, as if it had been deeply philosophical: 'Here am I, free and unrestrained, amidst the rude magnificence of Nature, with this Indian woman by my side, and this gun with which I can procure food when I want it; what more can be desired for human happiness?' It did not require much sagacity to foresee that such a sentiment would not be permitted to pass without due animadversion.

JOHNSON. 'Do not allow yourself, Sir, to be imposed upon by such gross absurdity. It is sad stuff; it is brutish. If a bull could speak, he might as well exclaim, -- Here am I with this cow and this grass; what being can enjoy greater felicity?'" (Boswell, Life of Johnson)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Two Book Reviews

A Biography of Muhammad, PBUH; Plus, All You Can Eat of Samaric Democracy

By John Taylor; 2011 Jan 17, Sharaf 18, 167 BE

A mixed bag of books recently completed...

I am very much a slow reader; it takes years and determination to get through many books I read. I often forget the start by the time I get to the end. What is worse, lately when it comes to a choice between a screen and a page, too often I choose the former. So when I complete a book it is an event that I detail here on the Badi' blog. Often lately, I prefer to audit a book rather than read it, since listening to a narrator read aloud on an iPod or other portable medium encourages me to take the dog on longer walks. It reduces boredom while getting more exercise.


Recently, libraries around here have been trying out the "Playaway" format. I listened to a science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clark on a Playaway mini player, which has a very simple interface that I found that I much prefer to an iPod or MP3 portable player. The latter require much more fumbling with buttons, and often jumps into other recordings on their own. My iPod died recently anyway, so the question is moot. There is still a pretty sparse selection spoken Playaway books in that section of the library, so I was fortunate to come across one I really liked. It was:

"Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet," by Karen Armstrong, read by the author. The latest paperback version is published in 2001, by Orion Publishing.

I have read several biographies of old PBUH through the years and, as far as the women's point of view goes, this is by far the best. Male biographers really mess it up; in fact this is the only biographer to make it clear at all what was going on with all those wives, and the amount of pressure Muhammad lived under in Medina, and the complexity of the Muhajiroun and the Ansar all their tribal relationships. It makes clear many obscure points and verses in the Qur'an, why and where they were revealed. I had no idea, for instance, that the wives of PBUH got together and asked why women were not in the Qur'an. The response was a verse that provoked a surprising reaction among the men, and that in turn provoked another verse that had always puzzled me. The Wikipedia article about this book points out another good aspect of Armstrong's approach,

"The book gives a comparison between the three major monotheistic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It also derives relevant examples from Buddhism and Hinduism. It does not only speak about the life of Muhammad but also discusses the relationships and conflicts between the Western and Islamic worlds. The book also discusses the effect that Western attitudes have had on the Muslim psyche and attempts to explain the diverse attitudes of many modern Muslims towards the Western world today."


I highly recommend this book, especially if the details of His Holinesses life are getting misty in memory, as they were in mine; if a hard copy version of it ever comes into my hands, I will snap it up and put it in my personal library for sure -- however hard you listen to these spoken books it always happens that outside noises make you miss sentences and whole sections, so I would like to read it again.

Another book recently completed was:

Linda McQuaig, All You Can Eat; Greed, Lust and the New Capitalism, Penguin, Viking, Toronto, 2001

Her promotional literature calls McQuaig "Canada's Michael Moore," and that pretty much sums her up, except that she is not as fat -- in fact she is a bit of a babe -- nor is she as funny as Moore, but she has a lot more substance intellectually. I got this copy of her book in a "dollar for a bag full of books" sale, so I did not value it as I should have.

I read the first few chapters and it sounded like little more than your usual leftist rant against the North American free trade agreement and how companies can overrule sovereign nations trying to protect their citizens. Read something like that for a while and depression will take over and you will start to long for Michael Moore's humour. So I set it aside on my huge pile of "books being read" and, last month, which was several years later, I read the rest of it. She had really saved the best for the last.


First a bit of background. Our neighbours to the south have a single party system run by business, finance and the military. Unlike a bird, which has a left and right wing, this party has only a right wing. We Canadians, proud as we are of our maple trees, look at their ruling party as a sort of samara, otherwise known as a maple key. This one winged seed does not fly forwards the way birds do. The samara spins around on a single wing. If it goes around fast enough it will be caught by the wind and hopefully land far from the mother tree. In the case of the American political party, if all goes well its samara will land in the right pockets.

Anyway, the business party offers its corporate customers two sides of the samara, the "R" party and the "D" party. Depending on the whim of the breezes, the leading edge of the samara's wing is called "D" or "R," depending on which party raised the most money. The job of the thinner trailing edge, be it "D" or "R" at the time, of the samara's right wing is to steer all motion and all discussion in a single direction. The more it is buffeted by contrary winds of opinion, the faster the samara spins. This spin the natives call "democracy," and it works quite well for what it sets out to do.

When "All you can eat" was written, the wing's leading edge was called "R." It took me so long to read this book that now the "D" party has its moniker on the leading edge -- they got there by doing an end run on the R's; the R's had been funded and staffed by corporations, but the D's learned to do the same with the financial industry, which is more flush with cash.

Another way the R party distinguishes itself from its rival D's is that they are for free trade and the D's are all for protectionism. It is a subtle difference but it has a big effect in a little pond like Canada. As the U.S.'s largest trading partner, Canadians reap great benefit financially from free trade. That is why, although we dream of there being a left wing to the samara, our present government still leans more towards the R name being put on the samara's cutting edge than that of the D's.

Anyway, that explains why the complaints in the first part of All You Can Eat are now largely moot. But what surprised me in the second half of the book, and what grabbed me so that I actually finished reading it is that free trade is not at all what the book is about. In fact, if you read the brief summary in Wikipedia of the contents of All You Can Eat, you will be deceived completely. Clearly, the wikipedian responsible did not get past chapter four either. As she makes clear towards the end of the book, finally, is that what she is really trying to do is popularize the thought of a great economic thinker, Karl Polanyi.


McQuaig persuaded me that this fellow is important, although ignored by those sitting on the samara right now. I will not try to summarize Polanyi's life or ideas, she does a good enough job of it half way through All You Can Eat. It is indeed a dramatic story. Polanyi's masterpiece, "The Great Transformation," looks intriguing. Reading it might help improve my book in progress, Cosmopolitan Earth. In Wikipedia's words,

"The Great Transformation ... became a model for historical sociology. His theories eventually became the foundation for the economic democracy movement."

Economic democracy is very important to cosmopolitan thinking, so yes, I have got to get this book. But I do have one quibble about how McQuaig presents Polanyi's ideas. She goes through a whole mini-history of the reductionist tendencies of modern economic theory while herself reducing humans to non-religious beings.

She talks about the three century long history of the enclosure movement in England, which is the granddaddy of modern market liberalism, and does not once mention the role of religion in the "holistic" vision of the old, medieval system of mercantilism. For example, in and around the following passage she talks about how the system was based on common use of land. Peasants and the poor were allowed to go through fields after harvesting to pick out the leftovers. This forage was called "gleanings," a term familiar to my Baha'i readers. Anyway, the law of leaving the gleanings to the poor is straight out of the Bible, a fact that she does not mention at all. Even if she hates religion, she should mention this fact. It is right here, in the book of Deuteronomy:


"You shall not wrest the justice [due] to the sojourner, [or] to the fatherless, nor take the widow's clothing to pledge; but you shall remember that you were a bondservant in Egypt, and Yahweh your God redeemed you there: therefore I command you to do this thing.

When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgot a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to get it: it shall be for the sojourner, for the fatherless, and for the widow; that Yahweh your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the sojourner, for the fatherless, and for the widow.

When you gather [the grapes of] your vineyard, you shall not glean it after you: it shall be for the sojourner, for the fatherless, and for the widow. You shall remember that you were a bondservant in the land of Egypt: therefore I command you to do this thing." (Deut 24:17-22, WEB)


Very annoying and, frankly, unjust for secular scholars and socialist imitators of religious teachings not to give credit where credit is due.


Anyway, I will close with this selection from All You Can Eat, which shows how, as religious strife pushed the church away from economic involvement just after the English Revolution of the 18th Century, it was replaced by an alternative: the precedent of bare faced bigotry by judges against God's blessed poor. Same thing is still taking place today with market liberalism. It is little more than a wolf of haughty greed dressed up as liberal outrage.


Linda McQuaig, All You Can Eat, on the insolence of the poor.

When workers defy the market, they risk ending up unemployed. And if that happens, it's their own fault, according to market supporters. There is no unemployment, they argue, when workers do as the market demands. In this view, which prevailed throughout much of the Depression, it is up to workers to lower their expectations when the market requires it. There can be no intervention by the state that would allow labour to escape the harsh realities of the marketplace. The efficient operation of the market demands nothing less than full human submission to market dictates -- that is, full acceptance by people of their status as commodities.

Given the scope of the market's demands, it's understandable that humans would instinctively seek protection from its dictates. The counter-movement, then, was to a large extent about people organizing themselves into labour unions or forming other sorts of pressure groups to force the market to make concessions to human needs. The resulting legislation left them less vulnerable, and therefore in a position to be more demanding about wages and working conditions. That was the whole point -- to remove human labour from the orbit of the market and return it to the realm of human decision making, in order to safeguard its humanness.

So Polanyi adds an interesting twist to the idea that the market is an artificially constructed system based on man-made laws. Not only is it artificial, he suggests, but the market might actually be at odds with the natural human instinct for self-protection and security. This would seem to present an interesting challenge to John Locke. Rather than asserting that the market and private property rights are rooted in natural law, as Locke and other market supporters would have us believe, Polanyi makes the case that the market is an institution that is contrary to some of our deepest natural human urges. While it is right in tune with our natural instincts for material gain, the market is antithetical to our equally powerful instincts for self-protection.

Rather than being based on natural law, the laws that create the market seem to be based mostly on the narrow self-interest of the propertied classes, who have everything to gain by excluding the rights of others. This was evident in some of the early legal decisions that helped establish the market system. Judges in eighteenth-century England unabashedly rejected common rights simply on the basis of how much "inconvenience" they caused (although presumably not to the people possessing them). In an important case in 1788, Mr. Justice Heath decided to discard the long-established right of the poor to pick up grain left in the field after harvest. As he noted, the "inconvenience arising from this custom being considered a right by the poor would be infinite.... It would raise the insolence of the poor."

The judge had a point; it undoubtedly raised the "insolence" of the poor -- that is, their sense of entitlement and empowerment -- to be assured of this "gleaning" right, which had enabled them to feed their families. Better simply to remove this right than to risk insolence -- which is exactly what the courts did.

Another judge, Mr. Justice Wilson, lending support to Justice Heath's opinion in the gleaning case, made sweeping conclusions about the property owner's natural rights in another case. "The soil is his, the seed is his, and in natural justice his also are the profits." As E. P. Thompson notes,

"It is difficult to think of a purer expression of capitalist rationality, in which both labour and human need have disappeared from view, and the 'natural justice' of profits has become a reason at law."

The honesty of the judge's position was at least refreshing. There were no soothing bromides here about how the poor, deprived of the rotting grain left in the field, would develop more character. Stamping out the insolence of the poor was the sole reason for taking away their rights, and the judge stated this simple truth without the layers of dissembling rhetoric we so often have to wade through in political debate today.

Ultimately, these rulings seem to reflect nothing more than naked class bias. They certainly reveal the ability of the judges to identify with the property owner, and their total inability to identify with the guy scrounging around in the field for bits of leftover grain.

(passage from All You Can Eat, chapter: The Master, The Servant, The Horse and the Grass, pp. 208-209)