Saturday, November 19, 2022

thap Gems on the Scintillating Crown of Human Happiness


`Abdu'l-Baha's Encomium on Happiness

Saturday, November 19, 2022

thap Gems on the Scintillating Crown of Human Happiness

`Abdu'l-Baha's Encomium on Happiness

Star of the West, Vol. 13, p. 150-153

"Happiness is the scintillating crown of humanity the shining gems of which are the teachings of the past prophets and the principles of his holiness Baha'u'llah."

Although it is not scripture, this quote is significant to me because it points to the fact that the Baha'i principles, my life's work, are meant for our happiness. This prompted me to reproduce the entire thing here, including the following stories about Esmail the Persian Jew was published in the early Baha'i publication, Star of the West, here:

https://bahai-library.com/pdf/sw/SW_Volume13.pdf 

Since for some reason this diary is not available online now, I will reproduce it all here. It mentions asphodels, so here is the definition of the word:

asphodel ăs′fə-dĕl″ noun. Any of several chiefly Mediterranean plants of the genera Asphodeline and Asphodelus, having linear leaves and elongate clusters of white, pink, or yellow flowers.

Any of several other plants, such as the bog asphodel.

In Greek poetry and mythology, the flowers of Hades and the dead, sacred to Persephone. 

FROM THE UNPUBLISHED DIARY OF AHMAD SOHRAB

During his sojourn in Palestine with the Center of the Covenant, Abdul Baha, while the Great War was raging all over the world.


THE STORY OF ESMAEL, THE PERSIAN JEW

The carriage was waiting for us at the foot of the mountain. We entered it and started on our way. The road was so muddy and slushy that the wheels sank up to their spokes. In the carriage there was a Persian Jew by the name of Esmael who had been a friend of the Master's for forty years. He is an orthodox Jew with a strong faith in prophecy, believing firmly that the Messiah will appear in two years. He knows a great deal about the Baha'i Revelation and has met Baha Ollah. Several times he promised the Master that if the Messiah did not appear at such and such a date he would leave Jewish traditions. But on the grounds that his reckonings were wrong each time he changed the date. Now he swears that this will be the last date and in two years his promised Messiah will appear and will make all the people Jews.

Since our arrival in the Holy Land the Master has seen him many times and helps him always. He is an old man with a thin, white beard and he has been in Acca and Haifa for forty two years. Yesterday he came to Abou Senan and this morning the Beloved took him back.

"Now tell me, Esmael," the Master said, "while patting him gently on back and cheeks, art thou sure that the Messiah will appear in two years? If he does not appear at that time wilt thou continue to believe in the Talmud and the Rabbinical lore? Several times thou hast covenanted with me, and every time thou hast broken the compact. This must be the very last time; otherwise I will punish thee." Esmael pledged his word that this would be the last time and that he was sure, very sure, that the Promised One would appear in 1916. Then the Master spoke about the Mohammedan and Christian calendars, the prophetic dates mentioned in the Book of Daniel, the scattering of the Jews at the time of Titus, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Then he asked me to read aloud, for the benefit of Esmael, the articles published in "Servati Founun," especially the translation of his address in the Jewish Synagogue in San Francisco.

As we neared Acca he related some funny stories of his experiences in Tiberias in former years.

"Esmael" he said at last, "through the power of God I have been able to prove the divine station of Christ to thousands of Jews in America. What can I do with thee? They are the real Israel. They are free from prejudice. But thou art different."

When we reached Acca we were glad to find ourselves once more under the sheltering roof of the home of Baha' Ollah. When `Abdul Baha entered his room he sat quietly on his divan and said: 

"Ah! We escaped from Abou Senan, did we not? Although the weather there was dry and delightful, I did not feel at home. In His room, the room of the Blessed Perfection, I feel happy and composed. Nowhere else do I feel so joyous and happy as in this room. Here, here I realize the peace of the spirit!"

Luncheon was served and Esmael and I found ourselves at the table. The Master said: "Hast thou read Vahye Kouchek' (the little revelation)? It contains many prophesies concerning events in Acca. It is a wonderful book. Mirza Yagoub, who was a good Jewish Baha'i brought it to me. If you can get this hook you will enjoy its contents."

Esmael did not eat the food cooked by the Baha'is so the Master with his supreme attention to all details had ordered a dish suitable to his taste. "We let everyone enjoy freedom of conscience." He said. "We have no prejudice."

 

THE STORY OF THE MISER OF BALSORA

The Master often tells us stories abort the misers of different countries. Here is one of them:

Once upon a time there was a merchant in the city of Balsora. His name was Reza Although he was very wealthy he was the most closefisted, narrow-hearted man that ever lived in his town. For avarice and penuriousness he had become a proverb among his countrymen. Through his stinginess he made his family suffer hunger and starvation.

In his office he had a clerk to whom he paid a very small salary. This clerk had a large family and though he practised the greatest economy he could not make both ends meet. Often he dreamed of a raise in salary, but in vain. At last an idea flashed into his mind and gave him hope that surely there would be a raise soon. There was but one more week before New Year's day and the poor clerk thought that if he gave a present to his master he would undoubtedly reciprocate and increase his salary.

Hence, on that very day he went to the market, bought the head of a sheep, cooked it in his oven and carried it on a tray to the house of his master. The week passed without any sign and finally, on New Year's day he called at the house of the merchant to wish him happiness. He was most hopeful, and anticipated a bright future.

When he entered the room the merchant greeted him effusively. This made him more hopeful still,

"I thank you very heartily," the master said to his clerk. "for the gift you sent to our house. It saved us a great deal of expense, I assure you. We have been feasting on it for the past week. The first day we ate the ears; the second day, the eyes; the third day, the skin of the head; the fourth day, the tongue; the fifth day, the meat; the sixth day we cleaned the bones and on the seventh day we ate the brains.

The clerk was so disgusted with this exhibition of stinginess that he left him, and left the town, and sought his fortune elsewhere. After traveling for several years and acquiring experience as well as riches he returned to his native city and opened a business of his own. One day as he was walking through the main street his attention was attracted by a most palatial residence. He peeped through the gate and beheld a most beautiful garden. He finally inquired from one of the many servants lounging about whose house this was.

Art thou a stranger?" they asked.

Not exactly."

Well, how is it that thou dost not know that this is the house of Kareem, the son of Reza?"

"Oh," gasped the former clerk, "what the father hoarded the son is spending!" and disappeared through the crowd.

 

ANOTHER INCIDENT REGARDING ESMAEL, THE JEW

This morning Abdul Baha called us into his room. Esmael, the Jew, was also present. The Master was in a jovial mood and asked Esmael whether bread, tea and olives were "Kosher." He replied, "They are Kosher."

"Art then thyself Kosher or Taref?" `Abdul Baha asked him pleasantly.

"I hope I am Kosher. I wish good to everyone. I am not seeking to harm any soul. If a man curse me or beat me I still like him. I am living according to the religion of my father. If these things constitute the condition of being Kosher, then I am Kosher."

Well said. replied the Master, "I know thou art sincere in the profession of thy religion and that is the reason why I love thee so much."

Esmael replied: "I know one thing. Any moment I am ready to sacrifice my life for the Master. For the last forty two years you have ever been kind to me and on several occasions have saved my life. This has nothing to do with faith. This is love. I declare by Jehovah, if you ask me at this very moment I will die for you gladly, knowing well that I have won the good pleasure of Abraham, Jacob and Moses."

Then the Master asked Esmael: "How old was Moses?''

"One hundred and twenty years," he replied. "But the patriarchs, such as Noah and others lived many hundreds of years."

The Master said: "The age of those ancient prophets as recorded in the Old Testament is symbolic. It has a spiritual interpretation. Wert thou informed of the science of anatomy thou wouldst realize that this human mechanism and these material organs cannot last more than one hundred and twenty years."

Esmael inquired: "Where is the seat of thought?

The Master replied: "It is generally understood that the seat of thought, consciousness and volition is in the brain. The brain is the organ of the intellect and understanding. The heart also plays a part through the central nervous system. Thus the activities of the brain and the heart by means of afferent and efferent nerve fibers are linked together. Figuratively speaking, the brain is like a mirror. When it is turned toward any object, whether in the east or in the west, that object will immediately be reflected on its surface and consciousness is realized. In the world of dreams consciousness is awake and works uninterruptedly."

Come, come, friends, the Master said, as we waited at the threshold. "Let us talk tonight of the old times." He asked me what news I had. I told him I had heard that Badi Effendi's school in Abou Senan had increased in numbers and that it was no more my room but a Baha'i school. He laughed and said: "What dost thou want with a room of stone and clay? I have prepared for thee glorious rooms the walls, the roofs, the floors, and the furniture of which are of pure deeds and immortal virtues." Therein thou shalt abide forever. Badi Effendi is a capable, efficient teacher and loves the children. He is striving in service and wishes to perfect the work which he undertakes. Perfection of work is man's greatest reward. When a man sees his work perfected and this perfection is the result of incessant labor and application he is the happiest man in the world. Work is the source of human happiness.

About two hours before sunrise I was called from my bed by one of the two Baha'is who spent the night here in the house. The Master was up; the samovar was boiling and tea was prepared for our delectation. It was thirst for the spiritual tea which awakened me and I dressed hurriedly and made my way through the darkness to the other house.

I opened the door of the blessed room and entered unannounced. The Master was sitting in his accustomed place on the divan in the corner next to the window.

Only a candle was burning on the opposite table which was strewn over with books. There was a pause and a stillness and the dim light added to the mystery and the magic of those sacred moments.

`Abdul Baha's eyes were closed, his white beard shone; over his countenance was spread the calm of the deep. His spotless white turban towered above his head and as I looked I beheld his silvery locks flowing beautifully over his broad shoulders.

Out of the unutterable stillness the voice of the Beloved of the hearts was heard.

Happiness is the ambrosia of the spirit and the nectar of the souls. It confers on man the boon of immortality and the gift of spiritual vision. Happiness is the morning star guiding the wandering to the perennial abode of the blessed. Happiness is the crystalline river flowing from the heavenly mountains through the paradise of the mind and causing to grow upon its banks the imperishable ideals of humanity. Happiness is the cherubim of the Almighty which inspires mankind to perform feats of self -sacrifice and deeds of disinterested philanthropy. Happiness is the melodiously singing nightingale which transforms the darkened world of sorrow into the gleaming realm of celestial beatitude. Happiness is the surging ocean in the depths of which the diver finds the pearls of resignation and the corals of renunciation. Happiness is the Elysium wherein grow the asphodels of goodwill and the amaranths of forgiveness. Happiness is the heaven of God, the blue fields of which are studded with the bright rolling orbs of satisfaction and the fixed stars of contentment. Happiness is the scintillating crown of humanity the shining gems of which are the teachings of the past prophets and the principles of his holiness Baha'u'llah.

“The happiness of man is not dependent upon outward things such as riches, ornaments and clothes. It is, however dependent upon the susceptibilities of the heart and the attitude of the mind.''

Monday, October 18, 2021

Talk given by Abdu'l-Baha to Theosophists at Marseille

Talk given by Abdu'l-Baha to Theosophists at Marseille,

from: Abdu'l-Baha in France, 1911-1913, by Jan Jasion, pp. 247-254

p. 247

6 December, 1911: Wednesday

'Abdu'l-Bahá gave a talk at the theosophist meeting. It is possible that this took place at 25, boulevard Baille in Marseille. A short note appeared in Le Lotus bleu: revue théosophique française. It stated that He spoke at the central theosophist centre on materialism. It further added 'that as was His style He spoke in a manner clear, simple and just'. Another article appeared in the Christian paper Le Chrétien which made further laudatory comments on the translations by Hippolyte Dreyfus and Henri Leblais.

He said:

The greatest of the blessings offered to humanity is divine Wisdom, and this Wisdom consists in knowing and analysing all that exists. The science that consists of discerning Truth has no reason for existence without this divine Wisdom. But there are two kinds of science: that which consists in knowing and that which consists in research. For example, we know that water exists, but the day in which we have tasted water, we have analyzed it and we have understood what it is. It is because of this that we say that complete science is not a question of imagination, but a question of experience.

Thus when a man is aware that a thing exists, this does not suffice, he must go beyond this even to the mystery of this thing, he must know the essence of it; we are aware for example that there is honey, but until we have analyzed and tasted it, we cannot say that we know it.
We have said that true science, divine Wisdom consists in knowing things, and it is for this that God has made of man the gathering together of the perfection of all the inferior existences. Thus in the world, we see that there are mineral, vegetable, animal kingdoms, and that man was created with the perfections of all of these kingdoms which permits him to attain the knowledge of all the things that they contain. For example, the mineral world is the perfection of corporal things, [and] in man there is a material body.

We see in the vegetable [kingdom] the force of growth, [and] it exists also in man.

The perfection of the animal kingdom consists in the sense faculties, which also exist in man. There is thus in man the reunion of all these mineral, vegetable and animal qualities. But in addition this reunion of qualities is favoured with a special power: the Spirit that renders man superior to all other creatures.

Hence man is the gathering, the synthesis of all existing perfections, and through the divine Spirit he is at the same time the possessor of divine perfections. All the qualities we attribute to God, we find them in man: we say, for example, that God sees, and the sign of this is found in the eyes of man. If we did not have eyes we could not comprehend what is vision.
Another of the perfections that we attribute to God, that is, that He hears, then we say that He lives, that He has a will, that He is powerful - these are divine perfections and all of them have their sign in man. Hence these perfections are the divine blessings and man is the veritable gathering of these perfections of the Creator and furthermore he receives the divine blessings by the Spirit.
This is what permits man to have dominion over all that exists. All creatures are prisoners of nature; for example, the sun, notwithstanding its greatness, is the prisoner of the laws of nature; the sea with all of its extent is prisoner of the laws of nature; it is thus for all that exists and nothing can escape the laws of nature, even to the thickness of a hair.
The sun will never quit its orbit, and the earth will never quit the path that was traced for it, but man can command nature.
The exigencies of nature cause that man is said to walk upon the earth, inasmuch as he can breathe only upon the earth. But man knows how to adapt the laws of nature. He builds aeroplanes and he flies in the air, he voyages on the sea, he even constructs submarines, even though this is outside of the exigencies imposed upon human nature.
Electricity, this force which is found widely in nature, man knows how to capture it, how to guide it and make it serve as his light in the lamp This is a force that no other being is able to control. Yet, according to the laws of nature, electricity is free, it is found everywhere, and man has known how to domesticate it contrary to natural exigencies. Thus he is not the slave of nature; he is superior to all the other beings and this derives from their being reunited in him the perfections of all that exists and [also] the special blessings of God.
How strange it is that the materialists do not understand this. They continually say that all beings are prisoners of nature and that no being can escape its laws. They do not see that man dominates nature and notwithstanding all of his marvellous inventions they continue to call him a prisoner.
Man is upon the earth and he makes discoveries in the sky. He displays in broad daylight the most hidden things among the mysteries of nature. Photography, wireless telegraphy and other inventions existed in potential but had remained undiscovered; man discovered them, and notwithstanding that the exigencies of nature would have caused these discoveries to remain forever unknown. The intelligence of man, which is the divine blessing, has
forced nature to yield its secrets and it has transformed the world.
Hence, one cannot say that man is in the same condition as the other beings, which are prisoners of the laws of nature.

p. 249

Even though the materialists see that nature is not intelligent and that it does not have the power of man, they revere it and consider it as God.
They say as their opening argument that all that exists emerges from the composition of the elements, and that the non-existence or death derive from the decomposition of these elements.
For example they say that a certain composition of elements produces a man, and that when these elements are disassociated the man dies. Then they say, as existence is in reality a composition of elements and death is a decomposition or a disassociation what is the need of having God intervene?
But their rationale is without foundation for, based on reasoning itself, the composition of elements cannot be due but to one of these three causes:
Either it is due to a simple chance.
Either it is due to the necessity in the life of atoms,
Or it is due to an exterior will and we arrive at God.
It is impossible for there to be a fourth cause.
If we say that it is due to chance, [we imply] that there exists a fact without cause, which is not admissible.
If we claim the second cause, the atoms combine in this or that fashion, in accordance with their necessity, then if there exists a necessity there should be no disassociation; for example, heat is a necessity of fire; humidity is a
necessity of water; but we cannot disassociate heat from fire, humidity from water. If then the combinations were due to an an essential necessity, there would never be disassociation, for an essential necessity does not disassociate.
Hence this second cause is also erroneous.
It remains then that this combination of atoms is due to an exterior will and here we have arrived at God.
It is thus evident that things have a Creator and it is clear by means of these proofs derived from reason that the materialist theory is false. Human reason, even upon their own ground can convince them, this is as evident as the Sun, for human reason envelops all creatures.

p. 250

The spirit of man contains all that exists which permits him to comprehend everything.
But this human power, which is that of the soul with the gift of reason, even though it is universal, has nonetheless its limits. See all the great philosophers of the past who have made discoveries through the power of reason, their influence has been very limited.
While the influence of the Holy Spirit is unlimited. Whatever may be the capacities that a man may possess in philosophy, whatever may be the degree of his reason, he always has need of the Divine Spirit. Consider Plato, Pythagoras, Euclid, all these great philosophers of Greek antiquity, their influence has been very restricted. Notwithstanding all of their knowledge, their philosophical capacities, they could not effect the inspiration of a single being with the spirit of sacrifice.

While other beings, ignorant ones, simple people, inspired by the Divine Spirit have conducted individuals to sacrifice their lives.

Consider a man like Peter, the Apostle; a simple ignorant fisherman, who did not even know how to count numbers: who was obliged to divide the catch from his fishing in seven in order to recall the Sabbath day; such a being, so simple, inspired by the Holy Spirit, see what influence he had upon the world.
I want to say that whatever may be the progress that a man has made in science, whatever may be his intellectual progress, he cannot dispense with turning towards the Holy Spirit; whatever may be his power, it is limited, it cannot arrive at being universal, whereas the prophets of God have set in motion the universal world, they have manifested an extraordinary power.
Consider Abraham, the son of a simple stonecutter, what influence He exercised in the world.
Moses was a simple shepherd; consider nonetheless what revolution He brought into the world.

p. 251

Jesus was born of a poor family and witness His influence upon the thoughts, He manifested a very great power, His influence invaded the entire world.
Muhammad was but an ignorant one set in motion the world of thoughts, He transformed the Arabs to the highest extent.
In the same way the Báb had a considerable influence and see how Bahá'u'lláh knew how to transform thoughts.
You thus see that the real influence, in the world, appertains alone to those individuals who are assisted by the Holy Spirit. They renew the world. They give eternal life. They illumine the Orient and the Occident. Their influence is
unlimited.
The world of spiritual thoughts was as if asleep; there remained, so to speak, no spirituality in the world; then Bahá'u'lláh appeared in Persia, and His presence alone, His mission set all thoughts in movement. He began by giving the Persians the feelings of spirituality. He enabled them to understand what divine Wisdom is and their thoughts, their words, their actions were transformed.
Hitherto in Persia, they were all prisoners of their dogmas and their rituals, and we see that all religions are at the same place. They have forgotten the reality in the divine religions, they no longer think of obeying the Spirit, they follow nothing but the letter.
A Jew whose father is a Jew, is Jewish simply by birth. If his father had been Christian or Buddhist he would have been Christian or Buddhist or even Zoroastrian. Thus without understanding what religion is, they follow only the rituals, they only follow the practices of the ancestors.
Bahá'u'lláh has come and said: “Do not follow traditions, follow your reason"559 and He has informed men that religion and science are one and that there is no reason to oppose the one to the other. A religion that would be contrary to science and to reason would not be a religion, it would be but a superstition, for science is the truth and religion cannot be opposed to science.
If religion was contrary to science, it could not be anything but error.
Religion must be a cause of love and union between men, it must unite the hearts and the souls. If religion was a cause of enmity, non-religion would be preferable to religion. Religion must result in unifying the human world and not in creating divisions. All true religion has the effect of immediately uniting all the sects. If a religion does not result in unification, it would be better if it did not exist. Religion must also be the means for the eradication of superstitions.
Otherwise it is not a religion. It must obey only Truth.
And as God has created all men with the same affection, and He is at peace with the whole world, that He is merciful towards everyone, we must follow God and no longer have superstitions. We must love all the beings upon the entire earth, we must be merciful towards all, we must abandon all our prejudices - religious, patriotic, racial, sectarian - for these prejudices are the cause of all the divisions that have caused blood to flow. It is these prejudices, which have caused women to weep at the death of their children, which have rendered so many children orphans, that have taken from elderly fathers their children.
It is these prejudices which have destroyed the kingdoms, which make of the world a hell. And if there were not all of these prejudices of homeland, of religion, of sect, of politics, humanity reconciled could live in the greatest happiness.
We must live by the example of God and we must follow the divine politics. For all of His creatures, God is light! Why are we in shadow? God loves all His servants! Why do we not love them?
He protects all of them! Why do we act differently?
If we want to follow the precepts of the Holy Spirit, we would be a cause of life for all. If we receive the blessings of the Sun of Reality, we will be light for all. If we receive the blessings from their true source, we will be merciful to all.
But this evening I am happy to be amongst you, and to have had the pleasure of meeting you; by the grace of God, your souls are brilliant, your hearts are pure and you understand the joyous news of God and you are the seekers of Truth. I ask of God that He aid and secure you; that in this centre you will become, bit by bit, beams that illumine the world, that disseminate the divine Wisdom, which will permit new discoveries. That you may be enveloped by the blessings of God and that France may become soon a celestial paradise.
That is my wish for you.

Dreyfus then commented:

"All the Theosophists applauded these words (so) full of life and of spirituality.”

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Little Known Talk by Abdu'l-Baha

There are more talks from the Master given in Paris than we find in Paris Talks. Here is one collected in Jan Jasion's book, "Abdu'l-Baha in France." This talk by Abdu'l-Baha is about prayer, education, the need for knowledge-based leadership, the harmony of science and religion, and the need for religious leaders to keep from interfering in political affairs.

 First, though, a couple of notes:

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matt 6:6, NIV)

Jasion identifies the "man" of science who promoted heliocentrism that Abdu'l-Baha mentions as being persecuted by the Pope as Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), but more likely it was Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), who was killed for promoting that idea.

from pp. 261-263, Abdu'l-Baha in France, 1911-1913, Jan Jasion

Undated Talks

There are also a number of undated talks and fragments of talks which `Abdu'l-Bahá gave it is presumed in Paris in 1911 and which were published in a variety of sources. They are included here exactly as published:

Christ said, “Go into thy chamber and shut the door, and pray to the Father which is in heaven." Why did he say this? It is with the tongue that man expresses his feelings to another man. But with the language of the heart man prays to God. Though God is within the heart of man, is ever present in every place, yet man lifts up his eyes to heaven and prays as if God were there, seated upon a throne. Surely this is pure superstition! Why should he utter the words, “O heavenly Father? Why should it be necessary for him to repeat prayers aloud and with the tongue? One reason for this is that if the heart alone is speaking the mind can be more easily disturbed. But repeating the words so that the tongue and heart act together enables the mind to become concentrated. Then the whole man is surrounded by the spirit of prayer and the act is more perfect. Another reason is that by the outward signs of entering into his room and praying the attention of others is attracted and they begin to ask, “Why does he do this? and are aroused to inquire about the truth.
Man may say, “I can pray to God whenever I wish, when the feelings of my heart are drawn to God; when I am in the wilderness, when I am in the city, or wherever I may be. Why should I go where others are gathered upon a special day, at a certain hours, to unite my prayers with theirs when I may not be in a frame of mind for praying?” To think this way is useless imagination for where many are gathered together their force is greater. Separate soldiers fighting alone and individually have not the force of a united army. If all the soldiers in this spiritual war gather together then their united spiritual feelings help each other and their prayers become more acceptable.
A wise schoolmaster may send his scholars out to play or to practice gymnastics for an hour so that their minds and bodies may be refreshed and during the hour of the lesson they may learn it better. If the teacher proves that his pupils are advancing no onlooker has a right to object to his system or to question his wisdom and say, "Why does he waste the boys' time?" If a wise father plays with his children who has the right to say it is not good for them? He calls them to come to him as the hen calls her chicks, he knows that they are little and must be coaxed along, coaxed along, because they are young and tiny.
For the time of Moses the law of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” was ordained. It is very hard to see the wisdom of this, but the people then were in the wilderness and needed teaching. Different teachings were needed for different people, If you give the same teachings to all some might be retarded by them instead of helped. Christ taught some things to his disciples which he commanded them not to tell the Pharisees. It is not for the soldier to question the general's orders. If he knows him to be the real general he must carry out and obey his orders exactly. If the general orders that a certain place must be taken and held the soldiers might say, "Why risk so much by leaving this secure and safe position to a point which is the aim and target of the enemy?" But the general knows that this is the important point which must be held at all costs. The true doctor, the true teacher, the real captain must be obeyed.
If every man knew what was best for his health, if every man could teach himself, if every soldier knew how to fight by himself, if every passenger could sail the ship, what need would there be for the doctor, for the teacher, for the general or for the captain? As he has not this wisdom he must first ascertain their truth and then follow their directions. Until he does this he cannot advance.
The Priests say that Religion and Science cannot agree. Look how the Pope treated the man who discovered that the Earth went round the Sun! Priests used to believe that the passage in the Old Testament relating to the sea and sky meant that there were lands and seas above as well as on the Earth. Astronomers found that the sky was boundless ether. Moses meant that the sea was the Bounty of God. Baha'o'llah teaches that a Religion without Science is no religion. Through ignorance alone the idea became accepted that Science and Religion were enemies.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Selection from Taherzadeh

A Selection from Taherzadeh's Study on the Writings of Baha'u'llah about the Lawh-i-Dunya and the Martyrdom of Muhammad Rida and the Praiseworthy Forgiveness that Followed

This I am including as part of our study of chapters 76 and 77 of Some Answered Questions


from: Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah v 4, pp. 342-345

Haji Muhammad-Riday-i-Isfahani

There is a passage in this Tablet which may not be apparent to some as being a reference to the martyrdom of Haji Muhammad-Riday-i-Isfahani. Baha'u'llah describes this episode with great feeling:

"Day and night this Wronged One yieldeth thanks and praise unto the Lord of men, for it is witnessed that the words of counsel and exhortation We uttered have proved effective and that this people hath evinced such character and conduct as are acceptable in Our sight. This is affirmed by virtue of the event which hath truly cheered the eye of the world, and is none other than the intercession of the friends with the high authorities in favour of their enemies.




Haji Muhammad-Rida was originally from the province of Khurasan, but lived in Isfahan and worked as a merchant. He was a devoted believer and a very active teacher of the Cause. Because of his teaching activities he was put in prison, but was released after some time. He then left Isfahan and eventually went to 'Akka and attained the presence of Baha'u'llah. Coming into contact with the Person of Baha'u'llah was the cause of igniting within his heart the fire of love and devotion for his Lord. He begged Him to accept him as a martyr and enable him to lay down his life in His path. Baha'u'llah is reported to have told him that it was not necessary, as many souls had already sacrificed their lives in His path. But Haji Muhammad-Rida was so intoxicated with the wine of Baha'u'llah's presence that he wanted to give his all to his Beloved. So he repeated his plea. This time the Blessed Beauty remained silent and he took it as a sign of consent. Later he asked Baha'u'llah to assign for him a city to reside in. He was bidden to proceed to 'Ishqabad. He lived there for several years and was engaged in teaching the Cause among the Muslim population.

On 1 July 1889 Haji Muhammad-Rida received a Tablet from Baha'u'llah in which He praises him for his devoted services, bestows His blessings upon him for his steadfastness and devotion to the Cause, and assures him that all his deeds and aspirations are manifest before Him. He further states that a grievous upheaval has occurred in the city of Ishqabad and describes it as the attack of a serpent upon one who is the recipient of the bounties of His Lord.

Although the identity of the believer who was the target is not disclosed by Baha'u'llah, He prays for Haji Muhammad-Rida that God may give strength to his body and assurance to his heart. This Tablet arrived at a time when Haji Muhammad-Rida had invited all the believers of 'Ishqabad to a feast. When it was read out to the friends, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl explained that although no upheaval had taken place so far in 'Ishqabad, since Baha'u'llah has used the past tense and clearly indicated that one of the believers had been struck down by the enemies, it was an absolute certainty that this upheaval was inevitable. It would happen soon and only one person would be martyred. Haji Muhammad-Rida said to the friends that he believed that he was the believer whose martyrdom Baha'u'llah had foretold in this Tablet. And this happened two months later.

Incensed by the remarkable progress of the Faith in 'Ishqabad, the Shi'ah Muslim community had been secretly planning to assassinate a number of believers. Although their plan did not materialize, they succeeded in murdering Haji Muhammad-Rida. Two men armed with daggers attacked him in the bazaar and stabbed him to death. This was on the morning of 8 September 1889. It is reported that they stabbed him thirty-two times amid the jubilation of a great number of people who had gathered to watch him die. Some of the believers attributed the prayers revealed by Baha'u'llah in the Tablet he had received, which beseeched God to give strength to his body, as an indication of the agonizing and torturous way in which he was to be martyred. The murderers were so bloodthirsty that they were seen licking their daggers which were dripping with blood, until the Russian police arrived and took them into custody.

On discovering the plot, which had been intended to kill a number of prominent Baha'is, the believers sent a petition to General Komaroff, the Governor-General of Transcaspia, and appealed for protection. This was granted to them and in this way the enemies' plans were frustrated. A prolonged investigation was conducted in the law courts where, in the presence of spectators, many Baha'is and non-Baha'is were questioned. At the end the court delivered the verdict of guilty and sentence was pronounced. The two murderers were to be executed by hanging, and a few men accessory to the crime were to be exiled to Siberia.

This was the first time in the history of the Faith that those responsible for killing a Baha'i had been brought to justice. The verdict infuriated the Shi'ah clergy in Persia, who were in the  habit of decorating the murderers of the Baha'is. They made desperate attempts to free the criminals, but did not succeed in influencing the Russian government.

In the meantime, while the prisoners were behind bars awaiting their execution, a number of their relatives accompanied by a few leading merchants visited some prominent Baha'is and begged them to intercede with the government for the commuting of the death sentence. The Baha'is held a meeting, consulted and decided to take action. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl and another believer made representations to the Governor on behalf of the Baha'i community and interceded with the government, in the first place to absolve the murderers of their crime, and if not possible to mitigate their sentences. The Governor was deeply impressed by the attitude of the Baha'is and their willingness to forgive the assassins.

This request was passed on to the Czar, who approved the commuting of the sentences. But the decision was kept a secret and only revealed dramatically at the last moment. On the execution day gallows were erected and graves dug. The prisoners dressed in white robes and ready for execution were brought out of the prison and led to the scaffold. When the moment arrived a government official, in the presence of great multitudes, read out a proclamation announcing that as a result of the intercession of the Baha'is with the government requesting pardon for their enemies, His Majesty the Czar had commuted the sentences of the two murderers to life imprisonment in Siberia, and halved the sentences of the others.

This act of intercession on behalf of their enemies was acclaimed by Baha'u'llah as a princely deed. It brought great satisfaction to His heart that through His counsels and exhortations for well-nigh forty years, the believers had at last risen to such heights of faith as to intercede for the release of those who were their deadly enemies.

Full paragraph from the Tablet of the World:

"Day and night this Wronged One yieldeth thanks and praise unto the Lord of men, for it is witnessed that the words of counsel and exhortation We uttered have proved effective and that this people hath evinced such character and conduct as are acceptable in Our sight. This is affirmed by virtue of the event which hath truly cheered the eye of the world, and is none other than the intercession of the friends with the high authorities in favor of their enemies. Indeed one's righteous deeds testify to the truth of one’s words. We cherish the hope that men of piety may illumine the world through the radiant light of their conduct, and We entreat the Almighty -- glorified and exalted is He -- to grant that everyone may in this Day remain steadfast in His love and stand firm in His Cause. He is, in truth, the Protector of those who are wholly devoted to Him and observe His precepts." (Tablet of the World, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, www.bahai.org/r/840010249)

My introduction of this post on facebook:

This guy, Muhammad Rida, was the first pioneer to Ishqabad. The Shi'ah Muslims there did not take kindly to his success in converting local Muslims to the Baha'i Faith. They responded as they had always done in Persia, that is, they sent out a hit man to off him with extreme prejudice. This had always earned rewards from the authorities. But this time the murder was, for the first time in Baha'i history, prosecuted by the authorities.
Here, I reproduce the entire selection from Taherzadeh's Study on the Writings of Baha'u'llah, a sub-section of the chapter about the Lawh-i-Dunya, one of His last Tablets. Here he mentions the martyrdom of Muhammad Rida and the "praiseworthy" forgiveness by the new Baha'is of Ishqabad that followed upon that prosecution. This is supplemental to our Zoom deepening on chapters 76 and 77 of Some Answered Questions.
Interestingly, in Some Answered Questions Abdu'l-Baha, explaining why it is not possible for the body politic to forgive crimes, says that by meting out sanctions society punishes "without prejudice."
"The body politic is not prompted by ill will in meting out its punishment; it acts without prejudice and does not seek to gratify a sense of vengeance." (Some Answered Questions, www.bahai.org/r/621210423)
As the story of Muhammad Rida points out, the Russian authorities in Isqabad came up with a sadistic way to forgive the murderers of Muhammad Rida, with great prejudice, by doing so at the last minute while the firing squad was about to dole out their death penalty. Their sentence was thus reduced to exile in Siberia. The same thing happened to Dostoevsky and other famous Russian writers. In Dostoevsky, at least, this trauma led to his conversion to religion.

That great scholar, gentleman and student of the last major work of Baha'u'llah, Steve Maclean, points out that Baha'u'llah also mentions this Muhammad Rida of Isfahan here,

"Likewise, ponder thou upon the martyrdom of Ḥájí Muḥammad-Riḍá in the City of Love (‘Ishqábád). The tyrants of the earth have subjected that wronged one to such trials as have caused many foreigners to weep and lament for, as reported and ascertained, no less than thirty-two wounds were inflicted upon his blessed body. Yet none of the faithful transgressed My commandment, nor raised his hand in resistance. Come what might, they refused to allow their own inclinations to supersede that which the Book hath decreed, though a considerable number of this people have resided, and still reside, in that city." (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, www.bahai.org/r/684455299)

"We entreat His Majesty the Sháh,—may God, hallowed and glorified be He, assist him—himself to ponder upon these things, and to judge with equity and justice. Although in recent years a number of the faithful have, in most of the cities of Persia, suffered themselves to be killed rather than kill, yet the hatred smouldering in certain hearts hath blazed more fiercely than before. For the victims of oppression to intercede in favor of their enemies is, in the estimation of rulers, a princely deed. Some must have certainly heard that this oppressed people have, in that city (‘Ishqábád), pleaded with the Governor on behalf of their murderers, and asked for the mitigation of their sentence. Take, then, good heed, ye who are men of insight!" (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, www.bahai.org/r/630211313)

Saturday, December 12, 2020

p18tru, p18wri, p24; Bacon, Comenius, Tolstoy, Truth and my Absorption System

Bacon, Comenius, Tolstoy, Truth and my Absorption System

By John Taylor; 2020 December 12


Long ago I began what I call my "system" of quotations revolving around on the Baha'i principles by collecting together my notes from the writings of Frances Bacon. Bacon inspired my whole career, and his idea for "nursery gardens of the mind" is the basis of all the directions in which the internet, education, libraries, virtual reality and social media SHOULD be going.

In my declining years I am finishing it all off by "absorbing" John Amos Comenius, collected under each principle. Comenius also was inspired by Bacon's suggestions for collecting knowledge into a single, encyclopedic system and then distributing it through specially designed means and institutions. Comenius added on to Bacon a new and crucial idea, that of turning all knowledge into the Most Great, the grandest of consummations: the formation of a democratic world government.

During the forced pause of the pandemic this year, I have absorbed and organized the entire digitized portion of my collection of quotations. For this, I used a now ancient (1986) program called Maxthink. In a fireside talk last week, I even presented my findings in Maxthink on Zoom, which I would not have thought possible. Now that the quotes are accessible, I plan next year to take my system to the next level by plunging into organizing my vast newspaper article collection.



Lately, I realized that it was so long ago that I studied Bacon's works that I no longer seem to have the hard-copy books that I made use of so long ago. So I ordered this more recent collection of his English (as opposed to Latin) writings,

"Francis Bacon, The Major Works, including New Atlantis and the Essays," Brian Vickers Ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K., 1996, 

I have been forced by my disability, which leaves me with brief, unpredictable moments of clarity, to deal mostly with short quotes in this system. But now, going over Bacon, I see that what he called "apothegms" is indeed central to the project he had in mind. The book's editor explains,

"The main value of the aphorism for Bacon was not so much its brevity as the fact that it could contain original observations of nature or human life in separate, uncoordinated units. This meant that they could not be prematurely forced into a system, which would then close down further development. `Knowledge, while it is in aphorisms, is in growth.'" (Ibid, Introduction, xxiv)

If it is growing, it is changing. That is why Socrates and Plato were so suspicious of thoughts even written down. Once it is committed to writing, it dies, like an organism under a microscope. The principles should be kept alive.

The fact that I am up to my elbows in quotations does not mean that I do not sometimes feel that I am missing out on some. For example, I remember reading somewhere in Tolstoy where he said something like, "truth is self-evident and spreads naturally, but lies have to be constructed with great effort and fall apart soon enough without constant effort." I have tried several times through the years to find that saying but all the keywords and all search engines on the net failed to turn it up.

Lately, I found in my library a little-known final work of Tolstoy called "A Calendar of Wisdom" where he collected for each day of the year eight or ten quotations from himself and others. Apparently, he read these daily readings intensively during the last decade or so of his life. The entry for December 15th recalls that long lost quote about truth by him, and also, I think, illuminates the Master's central postulate that truthfulness is the bedrock of character. So here, without elaboration, before I absorb them severally into my system, are Tolstoy's apothegms for that day in mid-December (p. 350) on truth and being truthful.


Truth is not a virtue in itself, but it is a necessary condition of everything that is good. (Tolstoy)

A lie can be deliberate if a person knows that he tells a lie and takes some profit from this. At the same time, there are unintentional lies, such as when, in certain circumstances, a person would like to tell the truth but cannot or does not know how to say it. (Tolstoy)

Only misconceptions need to be supported by artificial arguments. Truth can always stand alone. (Tolstoy)

All goodness is nothing compared to the goodness of truth, all sweets are nothing compared to the sweetness of truth, and the bliss of truth is greater than all the joy in the world. (Buddhist Wisdom)

No one can be completely truthful all of the time because different forces and aspirations are fighting within him and sometimes he cannot express them. (Tolstoy)

Misconceptions exist only for some time, but the truth persists in spite of sophistry. (Tolstoy)

 At all times, you should learn how to do, think and say the truth. Only those who start to learn this can understand how far we are from the real truth. (Tolstoy)

 Lies are always harmful to all things. (Tolstoy)

 From: Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom, Wise Thoughts for Every Day, Peter Sekirin, tr., Hodder and Staughton, London, 1997

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Good news, the Sufis and my kitab-i-hearsay

When you get to my age, the size of "kitab-i-hearsay" swells out of all proportion. Recently I reached into this book and found myself saying, "Abdu'l-Baha said that Sufism almost destroyed Islam, but Jalalu-Din Rumi, a minor prophet, saved it from totally losing its moorings." Somebody challenged me on that, asking where I got that bit of hearsay, so I had to go back into the actual Writings and find out where I got that idea. Here is the best answer I can give right now.



I seem to have got this impression from an early translation of the Glad Tidings of Baha'u'llah, which says,

"Every sect has followed a way and held fast to a rope; notwithstanding their blindness and ignorance they account themselves as endowed with judgment and perception. Among them are the mystics (Sufis) of the Islam religion. By the life of God, this lowers man's station and increases pride. Man must show forth fruit. A fruitless man, in the words of His Holiness the Spirit (Christ), is like unto a fruitless tree, and a fruitless tree is fit only for the fire. Those souls (Sufis) have affirmed ideas concerning the stages of "Divine Unity" which are the greatest cause of addicting people to idleness and superstition." (Baha'i Scriptures, Section 101, p. 145, https://bahai-library.com/compilations/bahai.scriptures/3.html#GladTidings)

The latest, official translation of this passage somehow seems to partly disappear this rather severe assessment of Sufism.

"In brief, dissensions among various sects have opened the way to weakness. Each sect hath picked out a way for itself and is clinging to a certain cord. Despite manifest blindness and ignorance they pride themselves on their insight and knowledge. Among them are mystics who bear allegiance to the Faith of Islám, some of whom indulge in that which leadeth to idleness and seclusion. I swear by God! It lowereth man’s station and maketh him swell with pride. Man must bring forth fruit. One who yieldeth no fruit is, in the words of the Spirit, like unto a fruitless tree, and a fruitless tree is fit but for the fire." (https://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/TB/tb-7.html)

In the following paragraph of this official translation, Baha'u'llah clarifies just what it is that He objects to in Sufism, or mysticism, if you prefer.

"That which the aforesaid persons have mentioned concerning the stations of Divine Unity will conduce in no small measure to idleness and vain imaginings. These mortal men have evidently set aside the differences of station and have come to regard themselves as God, while God is immeasurably exalted above all things. Every created being however revealeth His signs which are but emanations from Him and not His Own Self. All these signs are reflected and can be seen in the book of existence, and the scrolls that depict the shape and pattern of the universe are indeed a most great book. Therein every man 61 of insight can perceive that which would lead to the Straight Path and would enable him to attain the Great Announcement. Consider the rays of the sun whose light hath encompassed the world. The rays emanate from the sun and reveal its nature, but are not the sun itself. Whatsoever can be discerned on earth amply demonstrateth the power of God, His knowledge and the outpourings of His bounty, while He Himself is immeasurably exalted above all creatures."

In other words, they have taken the unity of God, monotheism, the whole message of Islam, and reduced it to a single entity called the unity of existence. Existence is one thing, like, say, the electro-magnetic spectrum. God is at one end of the spectrum and humans, indeed ants and microbes, are at other points all along the same plane of being. This removes the transcendence of God and pretty much, as kitab-i-hearsay had assured me, destroys Islam as a religion. A philosophy may hold that all existence is one thing, a religion worships a transcendent Being permanently beyond our ken.


Facebook postscript: "Did Sufism kill Islam? Did Rumi save it? That idea is in the Writings, I think. Here, on my Badi Blog, I discuss how I came to that tentative opinion lately. Another idea I ran across lately is that Baha'u'llah, chronologically, first addressed the mystics (or Sufis), then the Mullahs, then the kings, then the world, in His Writings. In that case, the passage in question, being in the Glad Tidings, a late Tablet, would be a partial renunciation of certain assumptions in the earlier work addressed to the mystics.



Sunday, May 24, 2020

p15 Book Review of Deep Thinking by Garry Kasparov

Review of Deep Thinking, by Garry Kasparov

I was a casual club chess player in the 1970's and 1980's. It mattered to me that computers were challenging humans, and I wanted to beat The Machine. I remember when Mohawk College had an open house with access to a mini-computer that played chess, I very much wanted to beat it. I had to line up, but it did win. Once it had bested me, I considered chess to be "solved," and I went on to other challenges. I am grateful to have lived in a time where computers went on to the much more notable heights of beating the best human chess player ever, Garry Kasparov, in the late 1990's. In this book by him, Deep Thinking, he recalls teaming up with a machine and checking the work of chess masters who went before him. Backed up by the powerful chess programs available now, he tells of the mistakes that were routinely made in the analysis, without the help of computers, found in chess books and magazines in the past. You might think that the analysis made in the calm of one's study with no time limits would have made it easier to grasp the best move than players working under time pressure. Not so.

"Hindsight is 20/20, is it not? But one of my first discoveries was that when it comes to chess analysis in the pre-computer age, hindsight was badly in need of bifocals. Paradoxically, when other top players wrote about games in magazines and newspaper columns they often made more mistakes in their commentary than the players had made at the board. Even when the players themselves published analyses of their own games they were often less accurate than when they were playing the game. Strong moves were called errors, weak moves were praised. It was not only a few cases of journalists who were lousy players failing to comprehend the genius of the champions, or everyone missing a spectacular move that I could easily find with the help of an engine, although that did happen regularly. The biggest problem was that even the players would fall into the trap of seeing each game of chess as a story, a coherent narrative with a beginning and a middle and a finish, with a few twists and turns along the way." (Deep Thinking, pp. 137-138)



How often is such a flawless retrospective accounting possible in any field of human knowledge? How natural it is for us to make up stories about what we only partially grasp. It may well be that someday the works of philosophers, policy makers and lawmakers will be just as easily and clearly refuted by some similar partnership between human and machine, I don't know, but the observations of Kasparov are very illuminating as a sort of autopsy of human attainment in this realm of intellectual endeavour. How foolish we are to put entire reliance on human expertise, which is oh, so fallible!

At one point in the book, Kasparov tells an anecdote about Bobby Fischer, the American chess prodigy of the 1960's and 1970's. "An eager fan fan pressed him after a difficult win. "Nice game, Bobby!" Fischer answered, "How would you know?" (Deep Thinking, p. 92) A bit rude, but that is just it, we can only understand what is on our own level, and anything above that is a mystery, a frightening mystery. Kasparov, in partnership with modern chess algorithms, is reflective about the lessons that can and cannot be derived from past ignorance and errors for the future.

"I took two lessons away from this discovery. The first is that we often do our best thinking under pressure. Our senses are heightened and our intuition is activated in a way that is unique to stress and competition. I would still rather have fifteen minutes on my clock than fifteen seconds to make a critical move, but the fact remains that our minds can perform remarkable feats under duress. We often do not realize how powerful our intuitive abilities are until we have no choice but to rely on them.

"The second lesson was that everyone loves a good story, even if it flies in the face of objective analysis. We love it when the most annoying character in the movie finally gets what he deserves. We root for underdogs, cringe at a hero's downfall, and sympathize with the unlucky victim of the Fates. All these tropes are in play in a chess game, just as they are in an election or the rise and fall of a business, and they feed the powerful cognitive fallacy of seeking a narrative where often none exists."

"Computer analysis exploded this lazy tradition of analyzing chess games as if they were fairy tales. Engines don't care about story. They expose the reality that the only story in a chess game is each individual move, weak or strong. This isn't nearly as fun or interesting as the narrative method, but it's the truth, and not just in chess. The human need to understand things as a story instead of as a series of discrete events can lead to many flawed conclusions. We are easily drawn away from the data by a nice anecdote that fits our preconceived notions or that fulfills one of the popular tropes. This is how urban legends propagate so efficiently; the best ones tell us something we really want to believe is true. I'm certainly not immune to this tendency myself, and it's impossible to overcome all our intellectual biases. But becoming aware of them is a good first step, and one of the many benefits of human-machine collaboration is helping us overcome lazy cognitive habits."
 (Deep Thinking, pp. 138-139)