Thursday, July 29, 2004


Mentoring Faith

By John Taylor; 29 July, 2004

Aw, isn't that sweet. The kids just went off to Bible school and on the
way out Silvie recited the memorization assignment that they had given
her yesterday. In an act of bravado she handed the hard copy to me on
the way out the door. Now she has to remember it. It says,

"But his delight is in the law of the Lord. And on his law he meditates
day and night." (Psalm 1:2)

That Psalm pretty much foreshadows the Aqdas, doesn't it?, with its
re-visioning of law as a choice wine that you break out day and night
when you recite the Word. Unsealed is a licit love affair with your
Creator. Which brings me to a magazine article in my favorite science
magazine that has haunted me since the moment I came across it in our
local library,

Constance Adams, "It Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist," Popular Science,
February 2004, p. 69

This analysis of the problem with NASA and its suggestions for reform
was published just before G.W. Bush's announcement of the mission to
Mars. Every once in a while I take the magazine out of the library again
and re-read the article. What it says applies to more than space
exploration, important as it is. A race to space is the most likely
candidate for a constructive alternative to war because it redirects
national pride to open up new abilities and resources for all. That is
all very well and good but Adams' criticism of the American Space Agency
seems also says a great deal about how to overcome the obstacles we face
in teaching the Baha'i Faith.

An architect, Constance Adams came to NASA as an outsider to design
TransHab, an inflatable living module for both the space station and
long term interplanetary flights. She used her architect's skills to
mediate several teams of specialists and engineers. She attributes the
success of her re-design of the older, inadequate "crew support
quadrant" to the way each of several disparate teams of experts learned
through consultation to internalize the guiding principles of the
others. In doing this she also discussed the overall problems of the
agency with workers at several levels. This article is the result of
applying her methods to the entire agency. Popular Science headlines it
on the cover: "Attention NASA. You're Broken. How to Get With the

Adams began her job with an investigation of what she calls
"institutional memory." NASA did not have one. "The standard response
when I requested data on old projects was a quizzical stare." The only
way that she could find out the dimensions of the original living area
in space, Skylab, was to get a tape measure and go herself into the old
trainer on display in a space museum and measure the thing herself. This
problem of forgetting the past, starting each project from scratch
without benefiting from previous experience is what she calls the
"knowledge capture" problem. On a personal level, this is what taking
oneself into account does for believers, it prevents us from forgetting
what we have learned on a day to day, week to week level. Anyway, she

"The only American men and women who have ever successfully designed and
flown a spacecraft are retired or retiring; many others are no longer
with us. Without a conscious program of mentoring within the
organization, this knowledge is only intermittently and imperfectly
transmitted to new generations of engineers and scientists. The result
is that young engineers constantly redesign programs without being aware
that previous designs for the same item already exist." (70)

Not having an institutional memory creates new problems and levels of
risk with every step they take. They suffer from a "creeping lack of
real expertise;" the bureaucracy stagnates and supports its own culture
rather than "real intellectual capital." Underlying the knowledge
capture problem looms a worse problem, what she calls the "vision
capture" problem. This is an "institutionalized inability to capture
vision" epitomized in the many attempts to plan a replacement for the
shuttle, whose ten year planned lifespan is long over. Good plans are
constantly reworked, then "radically rescoped to meet immediate
political goals within soaring budgetary shortfalls." (72)

Behind the vision problem is what she calls the "great projects
problem." This is the desperate need not so much for vision as a
consistent vision. NASA had that for a decade. They lived through one
great adventure, the journey to the moon. A clear goal was experienced
together with the whole planet. Without the world on board it sank back
into one hellish, false half-life after the next. Its repeated
self-abortions came of so few Americans seeing their own place in the
stars; whereas war, the profits are clear, that inspires. When a soldier
enters the military everything is clearly laid out and the results of
cooperating with its organization are immediately rewarded. In the space
program that mass organization is missing; only a tiny number of
astronauts get systematically trained.

In the glory days all in NASA focused on the narrow goal of walking on
the moon. Since then, as the investigators of the Columbia crash
concluded, the basis of its failure to go beyond the shuttle represents
a "failure of national leadership." Typically Western and democratic,
Americans now are in imminent danger of being overtaken by the East,
China and Japan, who have the strange ability to look beyond a four year
project lifespan. Needless to say, the surges, cuts and stops in funding
would never have happened if every American once in their lifetime
visited the space centers -- or even had a trip into orbit to visit a
space hotel. In that case each and all would have a personal stake in
the stars and NASA's support would not be so half-hearted and

That consistency is what pilgrimage seems designed to give the Baha'is.
This form of obligatory tourism takes us, if we were born into the
Faith, to the very heart of our childhood ideals. The institution of
pilgrimage spreads the consistent spiritual vision to wherever the faith
abides. The direct, personal visits to the Holy Places, as well as the
contacts with the central Administration in Haifa gives an information
exchange that goes in both directions. The leaders of the Faith use the
flow of visitors to take the pulse of the planet, and the planet learns
from them. Of course, we also gain a consistent vision in more mundane
ways. Especially through prayer and fasting, which invokes the
confirmations of Holy Spirit and shows us where we are headed between
now and eternity.

As for institutional memory, though, that is still a problem. When we
talk about teaching the Faith we are utterly clueless, you get the same
thing that Constance Adams encountered when she came to NASA and asked
about what they knew of the lessons of the past: just quizzical stares.
Yesterday I was reading some science fiction and of all things stumbled
upon this bit of wisdom from Kabir, a 16th Century Sufi poet. He wrote,

"If you have not lived through something, it is not true."

It has been so long since we lived through a successful teaching
campaign that we really do not believe. It is impossible really to
believe that teaching the Faith is possible, however much we may want it
to be so. If we are ever to succeed in systematic teaching campaigns, we
will have to follow what Constance Adams suggests for NASA, set up a
mentoring system. That way the lessons learned by successful teachers of
the Faith will no longer be lost. What Adams found in NASA, massive
waste of effort, was also what the Guardian found when he took on
leadership of the Faith. That at least according to what I heard in an
old recording of a pilgrim who met the Guardian many times. This
pilgrim's recollection of what Shoghi Effendi said is startlingly close
to the prescription for NASA. The Guardian told him, shocking as it may
seem, that all the efforts of Martha Root and the other brilliant early
teachers of the Faith were almost completely lost and wasted. Seeing
this wastage was why the Guardian placed such heavy emphasis from then
on upon raising up the institutions of the Faith. Once erected these
institutions could consolidate the gains of successful teachers.

In spite of this, the Master taught that it was not the framework that
makes an institution effective. Not the structure or design counts but
the virtue of the souls running it.

"It is unquestionable that the object in establishing parliaments is to
bring about justice and righteousness, but everything hinges on the
efforts of the elected representatives. If their intention is sincere,
desirable results and unforeseen improvements will be forthcoming; if
not, it is certain that the whole thing will be meaningless, the country
will come to a standstill and public affairs will continuously
deteriorate. I see a thousand builders unequal to one subverter; what
then of the one builder who is followed by a thousand subverters?" (SDC,

To me the important question is: how do we learn to teach from those
with direct, albeit not recent experience? How do you do it right? And
when you know, how do you convey that knowledge to the body of the
believers? One idea I am contemplating is interviewing older, successful
teachers of the Faith on videotape and then making a "how to teach"
documentary. Even so, this would fall far short of mentoring, a
systematic program of apprenticeships in teaching. One hopes that the
Ruhi institutes will teach that.

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Monday, July 26, 2004


On Katzenjammers and the Abomination that Maketh Desolate

By John Taylor; 26 July, 2004

“... and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall
take away the continual [burnt offering], and they shall set up the
abomination that makes desolate." (Daniel 11:31, WEB)

I want to talk about abomination today. The dictionary defines the word
as "something one dislikes intensely," something "immoral, disgusting,
shameful." What is abominable is repugnant, offensive, of very bad
quality, unpleasant to experience. The crisis the world is undergoing
now is replete with abominations.

The air is filthy; we spill contaminants into God's pure earth and into
our own bodies and minds. Last week I tried once more to regain my
health by going for a walk in the morning, the time when studies show we
burn off the most fat. I found that even a very short walk of a few
minutes blew me away for the rest of the day. I could not think, I could
not write. I missed three days work. Last night I belatedly found out
why, the air pollution index was soaring on those days. With present
levels of ozone, my habit of pushing the kids to go outside and get some
fresh air was in fact endangering them. What kind of a world are we
living in?

Worst of all, we voluntarily pollute ourselves. I just read a truly
staggering statistic, that marijuana users in Canada have soared in the
past decade to as high as forty percent of young people. These potheads
we have to share the roads with! And the hash of today is not just
several times stronger than it was in the hippy generation, it is
hundreds of times more refined. Since study after study has found that
this habit severely reduces intelligence and vitality we can expect
quite literally a dumbing down of just about everything in coming years.

And what is the government's response? An emergency health education
campaign? No. Proposals are restricted to liberalization of drug laws,
to increasing tolerance for this practice. Some things we may dislike,
some differences can be tolerated, but not this. The human brain is our
most precious commodity. We are already plagued enough by folly,
lassitude and stupidity. The mind is an essential, frittering it away
cannot be a "lifestyle choice." We cannot afford to allow people at the
start of life to induce dumb laziness permanently with chemicals. This
kind of pleasure seeking cuts them off from already scarce mental
abilities. If this is not an abomination, I do not know what is.

Returning to the Bible citation that we opened with, Daniel predicts an
abomination that makes desolate, that is, the introduction of impurity
into the main hope of humanity for eternal salvation, religion. As we
all know, the burnt offering that began the abomination that maketh
desolate was a symbol of personal sacrifice to God, of purification of
the soul. Fire, or sacrifice, burns off our personal desires and stupid
follies before they can escape in the form of polluting thoughts, words
and deeds. When that symbolic fire died the corruption of all
corruptions set in. For when religious leaders smoke up on their own
power, the drop in our collective spiritual IQ is just as severe and
permanent as is a pothead's burnout. Daniel predicted that this
abomination would last 1260 years, until the coming of the Lord of

We know that the coming of the Manifestation is the great purification
of the human race, in spite of the inevitable rejection by those in the
know in affairs of religion. Religious professionals miss out because
their own inner fire went out long ago. The filthiness is obvious to
all, though the cause may not be understood. Where there is smoke there
is fire, isn't there? Others follow the bad example of religious
leaders. The effluent of a hidden spiritual problem ends in blatant
physical expressions.

All breathe the same air that is being polluted by those unwilling to
give up a jot or tittle of their own profits for the purity of the
planet. With vast wealth, they corrupt government regulators rather than
clean up their act for the good of all. Those without vast wealth, well,
they seek consolation in the bottle (95 percent of Ontarians drink
alcohol) and, increasingly, in reefers. And what right have we to tell
them to give up what they find pleasant? The end result of the
abomination? It does not take a genius to see it, desolation. Death.

The abomination that maketh desolate, then, is about a condition that is
ugly and repulsive in itself and that has fatal, desolate consequences
in the end, yes. But desolation is more than that, it implies being
totally alone. What, can we not do when alone? We cannot reproduce.
Desolation is impotence, inability to grow and prosper. Which is why the
prophets repeatedly compared Israel's inner, hidden spiritual betrayal
of truth and faith to whoredom. A prostitute betrays long term goals of
family to fleeting profit and pleasure. A pimp panders to men and
exploits women for similar selfish ends. The religious rivals to Judaism
did just this, they hired pimps and prostitutes to frequent their
temples. They made themselves pimp's pimps by grabbing a percentage of
the take. This gained for them great popularity for a time.

But this sort of competition did not worry the prophets so much. The
truth easily overcomes such obvious popularity grabs. What concerned
them most was an invisible whoredom, a hidden pandering that was
overcoming both the leaders and followers of Judaism. Their giving in to
temptation made the whole of Israelite society spiritually desolate. If
the priests put their own good first, why shouldn't I do so too? As
predicted, everybody became selfish, the nation lost social
cohesiveness, became politically weak, eventually was defeated. Finally
the temple fire was extinguished. Rather than conquering the world with
its monotheistic innovation, Isreal became a sad remnant.

Now I have gone into this little history lesson in order to be prepared
to introduce the following Biblical use of the word "abomination," this
time in a sexual context. The law of Israel forbade sexual perversions
using this and another word, "confusion."

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith:
neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is
confusion." (Leviticus 18:22-3, KJV)

I will go on tomorrow with homosexuality as an abomination, but let us
conclude with a brief discussion of bestiality as confusion.

We use confusion today to describe a mental state, but the word means
fusing together, in this case trying to fit together wholly different,
incompatible species. There is good unity and bad unity, and the
confusion of bestiality is definitely the wrong kind of unity.

We have already seen what the fervently atheist founder of
psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud, thought about homosexuality. His theory
about bestiality was similarly "value neutral." He held that we all
start off with sexual desires characterized by what he called
"polymorphous perversity," that is, sexual attraction for just about
anything, humans, animals, warm rocks and radiators. In direct
opposition to the teaching of the Bible, though, he did not judge this
as beneath our dignity, much less defilement. It is natural to sate the
sex drive; what is unnatural and unhealthy is to suppress it. As we grow
into children we narrow sexual urges down to more appropriate objects,
humans, be they of the same or the opposite sex.

Freud's ideal of science was that it is objective, detached, not
directly concerned with what is good or bad for humanity. This was every
bit as opposed to the ideals of the early founders of science, the Royal
Society in England, as his ideas about sex were in opposition to the
teaching of religion. They saw science as very committed to the common
good. His misconception unfortunately has spread until today science,
especially the life sciences, has become one of the greatest threats to
human survival, a truly unspeakable evil beyond conception.

That is why in my opinion this law in Leviticus should be applied today
to a great deal of experimentation in science today. Genetic engineering
has given way to nano-engineering, with the very real possibility of
some interspecies combination between human, bacteria and robot escaping
the lab and unleashing destruction that makes even an atomic bomb seem
minor in comparison. Judging by experience, escape is almost inevitable.

For example, one recent discovery is that nano-engineering effluent is
small enough to pass directly into the brain through the nose. And we
thought ordinary pollution was harmful! Worst case, a doomsday bug could
escape and all life on earth would be turned to goo. What, I ask you,
could be more evil than this? Governments should be quaking in their
boots right now. When scripture says all men will be on their knees for
terror, it is not just awoofin, to use my father's expression. Such is
the danger that a great scientist was recently reported in the press as
giving the human race only a 50/50 chance of making it to the end of
this century. If anything should be utterly taboo, it is bestiality, and
its scientific extension in genetic manipulation, a complete
katzenjammer if ever there was one, confusion taken to the n-th degree.

John Taylor


Badi Web Site: TBA

Saturday, July 24, 2004

At the Confluence

At the Confluence of Sex and Oneness of Humanity

By John Taylor; 24 July, 2004

When you run up against a brick wall, don't think of it as a halt in
your progress, think of it as a crossroads. This is your chance to think
about what you are doing, where you are coming from, where you are
headed. At least that is what I am telling myself. Not that the two
investigations before me are not intriguing. It is just that they show
me up for the sad case I am. I find myself deeply embarrassed. How
utterly clueless about the most basic bases of the basics I really am!

Take homosexuality. To write about that I have the chance to peek into
the mysterious machineries of reproduction, the weird and wonderful
workings of sex. I took out a pile of nature videos from the library and
tried to set the kids to watching them along with me. In spite of how
important the subject is and involving as it does one of their favorite
things, animals, they were hardly enthusiastic. I guess coming from
one's father even sex becomes boring; that kind of thing was meant to be
whispered in dark corners. Finally we got through most of one video,
after gentle coaxing, offering scads of "reward points" and making it a
contest as to which animal had the most fun way to reproduce. For young
Thomas, the winding wrestling contest between two male cobras, each
avoiding a fatal bite by ceding reproductive victory to the one who can
put the other's head to the ground was the "cewelest" of all; for
nine-year old Silvie the singsong of male monkeys swinging high in trees
and the midnight mob scene of male tree frogs piling onto an overwhelmed
female were the best. Hopefully, not a portent of things to come.

For me peeking into sex is not so much a matter of my interest as its
interest being peaked in me. I look into it and I see my face looking
back, an awesome miracle, what brought me into being, and every new
life. I see here that sex is no switch that you turn on or off, it is on
every second that blood surges in your veins. Here the might of God
rules; the more science discovers the less we seem to grasp of it.

We try to put everything in our little pigeon holes, not realizing that
what we categorize as a "sex drive" is not just a part of life, it is
life. Sex is no mere force of life, it is force itself. If we knew life
we would know God's might. If we understood sex we would hold the
creative Might of God in our hands, and that could never be. Might in
its very definition is arbitrary power, the naked act of God. It is the
stupefying mower-down of all that is not that. But above it floats a
halo of intoxicating delight.

"Behold, this is the joy of his way: Out of the earth shall others
spring." (Job 8:19)

What little I of this joy I have experienced, especially the children,
changed me forever. Before I was a bloated ball of uncreativity but now,
well I just won't be the same again. Not that I know anything of what I
witnessed. I remain worst and first among the ignorant. It is just that
the "joy of His way" touched me, impregnating my spirit in holistic ways
I cannot say.

My second ongoing investigation is more daunting still, the principle of
oneness of humanity. As I broach it my being whispers in my ear, over
and over, `you are not worthy, you know nothing of what is going on
here, or why.' What could be of more awesome gravity than the welfare of
the whole human race?

Especially right here, this beginning point. This is the holiest of holy
ground, where two great principles meet. The creativity of independent
investigation of reality merges into common conscience, an awareness
that empowers united group action. Unlike sex, this is not a hidden
mystery. It is not masked, it is open, worked by each and by all. It is
a public space, wide and vast, a huge stadium, like that in yesterday's

"...this is the arena of insight and detachment, of vision and
upliftment, where none may spur on their chargers save the valiant
horsemen of the Merciful, who have severed all attachment to the world
of being." (84)

Everybody watches this spectacle but down in the pits only the most
worthy, a new spiritual Aristos, are allowed to present the results of
their independent investigation of truth. The story they show and tell
is the ultimate love story.

The funny thing is that the story of sex and the story of the oneness of
mankind are one story, the story of the oneness of God. The
Manifestation is the advocate of one God in the face of those who,
whether they realize it or not, are deniers.

"Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy
commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept
thy word. Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes. The
proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my
whole heart." (Ps 119:65-69, KJV)

The deistic type of denier says that God, if he exists at all, winds the
clock of creation and leaves it, just like an absentee father leaves as
soon as the thrill of sex is over with. Atheism, in short, accuses the
human race of being a bunch of bastards. Our origin is not God but
chance. We were not planned, wanted, loved, and raised by Him for a
serious purpose. At heart, we are an accident. If God exists he is
beyond caring. The consequence is clear: we are not noble beings of a
high heritage, we are blips in a static filled signal. Whether the blip
beeps on or halts is, ultimately, of no consequence at all.

Monotheism fervently denies this. It is definitely not "value neutral,"
it is quite the reverse. Life matters, human life above all. The only
thing that matters more is the life of God, and human life is the living
reflection of that. As soon as you accept that there is an All-high God,
you have to accept this one thing: God has to be the Best of Fathers,
His Spirit the Best of Mothers. He has to want us, care about our fate
and give us the means to find happiness now and throughout eternity. The
name for this family compact between God and us is covenant. The
covenant of God is, first and last, a covenant of life.

The oneness of humanity is this set of presuppositions put into
practice. It is loving care for the rights and privileges, and above all
for the happiness, of every member of the human family. It is about our
present welfare, our happiness now, but like every parent, it is about
our future well being as well. The frequent tension between parent and
child is most often a result of the difference between the child's
present and future good. The tension of the Covenant of God is just the
same, temporal and eternal viewpoints in opposition.

God the Father's covenant of life upholds love, the force of life. There
is no way we are ever going to have a holistic, healthy relationship
with God until we do our part to carry on His process of creation,
recreation and meta-creation, that is, until we become parent and
grandparent. The values of the family of God are no material bent or
leaning, they are of the essence of Spirit infused in life. All that
stands in the way of that is, in the words of the King James Version of
the Bible, abomination. We must have faith that we can overcome all that
goes against or misdirects love and life.

"But there is need of a superior power to overcome human prejudices, a
power which nothing in the world of mankind can withstand and which will
overshadow the effect of all other forces at work in human conditions.
That irresistible power is the love of God." (Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation,

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Sunday, July 18, 2004

programming ourselves

We Either Program Ourselves or We Will Be Programmed

By John Taylor; 18 July, 2004

Today I want to launch from a London study reported in a newspaper
article called, "TV `programs' us to be unhealthy, Study shows childhood
viewing habits could put long-term health down the tube," in The
Hamilton Spectator, 16 July, 2004, A9, by Sue Leeman. This study finds a
direct correlation between obesity and the amount of time spent watching
television in youth. Basically, their finding was that the more
television the fatter kids are likely to be as they grow up, the more
likely they will smoke, the higher their cholesterol, the less general
fitness. A shocking indicator of how embroiled in television we really
are actually limited the study. Towards the end of the article the
report is quoted as saying that,

"it could not define a safe level of TV viewing because it couldn't find
enough people who watched no television to serve as a control group..."

Normally testing with humans is severely limited because of ethical
restraints. But here we find a scientific study that needed a few
non-television watchers and they could not be found. This is hardly
cruel and unusual punishment. It would not be unethical to subject a
human to no television but evidently there were no takers. I find this
unbelievable and frightening. Surely there must be groups who watch no
television! What happened to diversity? Surely a percentage of society
relies upon something other than TV for its information and
entertainment! The journalist continues, saying that among children,

"... those who watched an hour or less a day were the healthiest. The
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents limit their
child's viewing to two hours a day."

The researchers point to two explanations for television being such a
bad health influence, perhaps the main cause of obesity. First the
obvious, viewing is an idle, passive habit in itself; it uses leisure
time that otherwise would be active, burning away many calories. But
this applies to computers, videos and video games as well, perhaps more
so. Second, television advertising works. It persuades youth that bad
lifestyle decisions are the best, that processed food is better, that
fast food restaurants are the best places to eat. This is reflected in
the conclusion of the study,

"Measures to limit television viewing in childhood and ban food
advertisements aimed at children are warranted, before another
generation is programmed to become obese."

This rather timid suggestion is very unlikely to make an impact upon
public policy in the face of millions of dollars of lost advertising
revenue from politically influential processed and fast food producers.
Not to say that this will never happen. We know that the idea is not
absurd; a generation ago banning cigarettes from public places and
television seemed a pipe dream but it happened, though not without a
long struggle. Sadly, as this study found, the ban on advertising
cigarettes on television does not mean that there is not a startling,
strange correlation with watching television. Their only explanation is
that smoking is portrayed in positive ways in many television shows that
children watch.

The real problem in the long term will not be public policy but "private
policy," the resolve of individuals to cut down on television. The
personal decision to watch television is subject to a much more powerful
pull than mere corruption. Other recent studies back this up. A couple
of years ago Scientific American produced a cover article called,
"Television Addiction is No Mere Metaphor," reporting that the hypnotic
process of watching television is now considered to fill enough agreed
upon criteria to be called addictive. We are embroiled with a boa
constrictor and do not realize it. Being squeezed to death you can
expect bloating and swelling. The epidemic of obesity is quite literally
that, the result of bodies expanding and bursting from this pressure,
the fatal result of being programmed and brainwashed into obesity.

I called this essay, "We Either Program Ourselves Or We Will Be
Programmed," because I think that part of the reason that television is
so addictive is because it subtly imposes a structure, a schedule, a
plan, and we fall into that rather than our own plan. A television
episode is called a program because it is built into a schedule, a
particular plan, an agenda of its own. Watch one program and you jump to
the next, then the next, and so forth. After the experience is over, the
Scientific American Article pointed out, you cannot remember what you
just saw, you do not feel better or more relaxed. Like a drinker after a
binge, you wonder what just happened and why you wasted so much time
without realizing what you were doing.

We could kick the habit if we made sure that private policy was more
closely allied to public policy. My plan, our plan, not television's
plan. Television is so very appealing, especially to those already
inclined to obesity because instead of laboriously planning your own
leisure time for yourself, television plans it for you. Addiction is in
the plan and the plan is addiction.

As it is, society participates in the planning unreservedly. It, in
effect, helps put our minds up for sale. The only ones who can get a
piece of our attention are those who buy advertising time. Even
governments have to buy television spots to get their points across. The
government is the people, so in effect we are paying out our own money
to hypnotize and propagandize ourselves.

As Baha'is we believe in a cheaper way, seeking truth directly, for
ourselves, then using that discovery in common presuppositions based
upon the truth that all are one, the principle we call the oneness of
humanity. Rather than putting our brains up for sale to ourselves, we
make up a program together, assisted by the power of the Holy Spirit.
That is what Baha'i is all about.

"Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and
transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the
divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas, and convictions of the children
of men. Verily it is the penetrating power in all things, the mover of
souls and the binder and regulator in the world of humanity."
('Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, 292)

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Saturday, July 17, 2004


The Love that Now Dares Say its Name; Series on Homosexuality

By John Taylor; 17 July, 2004

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."
(Romans 8:14)

This saying of Paul epitomizes the core spiritual reason for suppressing
homosexuality adduced by all monotheist religions, including the Baha'i
Faith. Theism understands shunting gay tendencies out of the mainstream
to be in the interest of the human race. It is important from the first
to emphasize that the justification for this is not merely furtherance
of physical life. In Paul's words, it is to be "led by the spirit," to
follow a Holy Spirit that has its own reasons for approving or
disapproving of what we do.

In theistic belief God is no distant, detached observer but is deeply
concerned and involved in our welfare. He is not only like a father or
mother, He actually *is* our One True Parent. His Holy Spirit makes its
own image in our spirit, not the other way around; we do not construct
Spirit's ideas for our own ends, It makes us. To say that God is our
Father means being taught of Him, as opposed to our physical nature.
This opposition is real. God's ways are not our ways, and the necessary
blood price of following His way is pain, suffering and sacrifice on our
part. The body also demands to be our "father."

It is useful to recall that theism is not the only contender for our
attention. Other belief systems have different attitudes to
homosexuality. Atheism, for example, regards homosexuality as benign.
The polytheistic ancient Athenians accepted gays and integrated many of
the values of homosexuality into normal everyday life, including
pederasty. Sigmund Freud, an evangelizing atheist, gave the following
famous advice in the early 1930's to a mother seeking a cure for her gay
son. His opinion that it is not an illness to be cured sums up almost
precisely the commonly accepted wisdom of today.

"Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be
ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an
illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function,
produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly
respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been
homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them (Plato,
Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to
persecute homosexuality as a crime -- and a cruelty, too. If you do not
believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis. It is a great injustice to
persecute homosexuality as a crime -- and a cruelty, too." (April 9,
1935, in Ernst L. Freud, ed., Letters of Sigmund Freud [New York: Basic
Books, 1960], letter 277, p. 423)

The more advanced religions stand in direct opposition to this judgment
of homosexuality as innocuous. The reason is not bigotry --- as too many
liberal thinkers now blithely assume. It is bound up in the very nature
of the Godhead. Insofar as an incomprehensible Being can be known, we
can deduce that God must love Himself most because He Himself is the
only Being worthy of such Love. This is a love from which all other
loves are born. In other words, divine love is transcendent; it is
meta-love in its essence. That is to say, it is a parental love for all
else in creation.

So, when Paul says that those are sons of God who are led of the spirit
he is saying that anyone who loves must loves in this spirit, as God
connecting with Himself. God is father in that we take on the "genes" of
that ultimate self love. And the main expression of that self-love is
transcendence, fructification, continuance into infinity. Baha'u'llah,
in the Seven Valleys, specifically the Valley of Unity, addresses the
consequences of this deep truth about love.

In this valley the seeker has passed through the three "planes of
limitation," search, love and knowledge, and enters the Valley of Unity,
the first of four transcendent valleys. These trace the ascent from
plurality to the One. You go from in and out, first and last to unity,
the One. Baha'u'llah in this all-important section explains first and
last in terms of parenthood. The fact that we are all offspring helps us
understand God as First. The fact that we bear and raise children helps
understand God as last. He says,

"Although a brief example hath been given concerning the beginning and
ending of the relative world, the world of attributes, yet a second
illustration is now added, that the full meaning may be manifest. For
instance, let thine Eminence consider his own self; thou art first in
relation to thy son, last in relation to thy father. In thine outward
appearance, thou tellest of the appearance of power in the realms of
divine creation; in thine inward being thou revealest the hidden
mysteries which are the divine trust deposited within thee. And thus
firstness and lastness, outwardness and inwardness are, in the sense
referred to, true of thyself, that in these four states conferred upon
thee thou shouldst comprehend the four divine states, and that the
nightingale of thine heart on all the branches of the rosetree of
existence, whether visible or concealed, should cry out: "He is the
first and the last, the Seen and the Hidden...." (Qur'an 57:3)
(Baha'u'llah, Seven Valleys, 26)

It is a central conviction of both theism and mysticism that love of
parent and child is not a temporary stage but continues forever through
all the worlds of God, as does parental authority. This, in turn, the
only way we know God, as first and last, as parent and as child.

Here is the High Noon of the covenant. Every being who loves must
confront it here and now. Each forges a sacred bond of son or
daughtership with God and, since God *is* love, love for Him means
living up to His example of love by loving others His Way. In this Way
only does love express its eternal aspect. Therefore, the only moral and
pure path is, insofar as providence allows, picking out one most worthy
of a total sexual commitment, forming a family together and raising
children in that shelter. In this way firstness and lastness transcend.
They are expressed not just in theory but outwardly.

Now whatever we may think about homosexuality we have to admit that it
stands as a barrier to the furtherance of parental relationships. By
this I do not mean that it assaults parenthood itself. If my children
become gay, that is beyond my power and in an immediate sense I will
still have done my duty as a parent. What that would totally destroy,
though, are any hopes I may have had of becoming a grandparent. That is,
gay "rights" stand directly in the path of grandparent's rights. Like a
teeter-totter, if one side goes up the other goes down.

Fostering new and better human life in every morally possible way was
part of the deal when He created us. There is no getting around this.
The fulcrum on which the teeter-totter balances is just what Paul says,
being led by the spirit as "sons" of God. God as creator wants to be not
only Father but Grandfather too. He is a Parent but also a meta-parent.
His quality of transcendence leads straight down this garden path. No
theist cometh unto it save by this.

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Thursday, July 15, 2004

On the love now dares say its name

On the love now dares say its name

On the love now dares say its name; Series on Homosexuality Continued

By John Taylor; 15 July, 2004

Beloved friends, I promised to continue my discussion of homosexuality
begun last fall. I primed the pump with an article a reader sent me
presenting a case against accepting gay unions. I have reviewed the
Baha'i literature to the best of my ability, which is largely confined
to two brief mentions by Baha'u'llah, some comments by the Guardian, and
several letters by the House of Justice. Going through these letters, I
would suggest reading the more recent letters of the UHJ first, since
these come at last to what I consider the nub, the spiritual
implications of sexuality. This is particularly so in their September
11, 1995 letter on homosexuality. Before I dive into that, a few more
words about the importance of this issue.

Confronting this subject effectively is increasingly necessary for every
teacher of the Faith, far beyond any inherent interest it may have for
us personally. The condemnation of homosexuality in the Kitab-i-Aqdas
has become one of the two most popular "turn-offs" for seekers hearing
about the Faith (the other being men only on the UHJ).

Whether the seeker has anything to do with homosexuality or not,
complete acceptance of homosexuality is now so politically correct in
the West that it is pretty much the distinguishing mark of an
enlightened individual. If you do not accept homosexuality unreservedly
you are nine tenths of the way to being a bigot. This is especially so
for liberals, whose other beliefs tend to be close to Baha'i belief in
many other respects. Here free thinkers and Bohemians are no longer few
and outcast, they are an orthodoxy that, in this sense, has set itself
directly against the otherwise very liberal teachings of the Faith.

It is unfortunate, then, that the all important apologetic material
defending the Baha'i position is relatively hard to attain, buried in
the House's letters, sunk in Ocean as it were. Unfortunately it is not
finding its way into introductory printed books. Nonetheless, I will
confine myself here to comments going beyond the defense the House
presents of the teachings, without trying to rehash what they say --
again, I recommend digging their letters up and reading them for

The Columbia Dictionary on Yahoo offers two definitions of
homosexuality. The first is a feeling, an attraction to members of the
same sex. The second definition deals with the act expressing that
desire. Only the second sense of the word is subject to legal sanction.
Baha'i teachings do, however, require effort, largely on the part of the
individual who feels that desire, to snuff that out as well. Going on
for a deeper explanation of the origins of homosexuality, I noted in the
Columbia Encyclopedia, the following,

"Some researchers have contended that a disruption in the hormonal
processes of the mother while she is pregnant may be one explanation.
Simon Levay, a neurobiologist at the Salk Institute, has suggested that
homosexuality may be related to brain functioning, as part of the
hypothalamus in homosexual men is about a quarter to half the size it is
in heterosexual men. Several studies have pointed to a genetic
predisposition governed by one or more genes on the X chromosome."

Other studies have found that the probability of homosexuality increases
with the number of births a mother has had previously. My next question
was, what the heck is the hypothalamus? Hyper-jumping to the article on
that, I read that it is about the size of an almond and that along with
the thalamus it monitors the sleep wake cycle. It is,

"an important supervisory center in the brain, rich in ganglia, nerve
fibers, and synaptic connections. It is composed of several sections
called nuclei, each of which controls a specific function. The
hypothalamus regulates body temperature, blood pressure, heartbeat,
metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, and sugar levels in the blood.
Through direct attachment to the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus also
meters secretions controlling water balance and milk production in the
female. The role of the hypothalamus in awareness of pleasure and pain
has been well established in the laboratory. It is thought to be
involved in the expression of emotions, such as fear and rage, and in
sexual behaviors..."

So it would seem that to say someone is a homosexual is to say that they
were born with a partly stunted hypothalamus. This is an innate
condition in the sense that a person is born with it physically. So when
the house says that a Baha'i with homosexual tendencies should not
regard this condition as innate, they evidently mean by "innate" the
spiritual sense of the word. Homosexuality they mean is not an inherent
quality of the soul, only a physical quality like having one leg longer
than the other. To call yourself a "homosexual Baha'i" makes as much or
as little sense as saying that you are a "short" Baha'i, or a tall one.
Except that Baha'u'llah did not condemn shortness. There lies the

A recent article in Time Magazine about those unfortunates, who are born
without any distinguishable sex at all known as hermaphrodites, makes
some interesting points as well. Most important is to realize that
astonishingly little about sex is known by science. Its operations,
mechanisms, distinctions are all largely unexplored territory.
Generally, when a hermaphrodite baby is born doctors have made them
female because it is, in the words of one surgeon, "easier to dig a well
than erect a flagpole." I confirmed this with my own little experiment.
I showed the pictures of hermaphrodites in the article to five-year old
Thomas and in most cases he said that it was a girl or woman.
Unfortunately sometimes the doctors change their minds several times,
resulting in pain, suffering, and subsequent lawsuits. Such is the
importance of having a clear sexual orientation in our society that many
hermaphrodites end up seriously dysfunctional, many committing suicide.

Since almost nothing is known about sex in the human body, it hardly
seems justified to cut every person into two sexes. Even our language
does that; you are either a he or a she, there is no middle ground. I
have always felt uncomfortable with this either-or that is built into
our languages. For example, pronouns cut everybody into male or female
only, even God. If anybody is above sex it has got to be God, but even
he is a he, albeit a He. The Czech language, I am told, has a third
gender, "middlesex," which it applies to animals and others of ambiguous
sex. A baby or small child, for example, is not male or female but
middlesex. It would be interesting to check out the Czech suicide
statistics for hermaphrodites.

I think one thing in the UHJ's explanatory letters deserves more
prominence. We know, and often repeat when the subject of homosexuality
comes up, that the Baha'i position condemns the illness, not the
patient, the sin and not the sinner. We are to be tolerant and loving to
gay persons, even gay believers, unless their disobedience is flagrant,
in which case it becomes a matter for the institutions. As individuals
we love and forgive. The House at one point in their letters points to
the origin of this principle in the Writings. It is laid out in the

"And likewise He saith: The heaven of true understanding shineth
resplendent with the light of two luminaries: tolerance and
righteousness. O My friend! Vast oceans lie enshrined within this brief
saying. Blessed are they who appreciate its value, drink deep therefrom
and grasp its meaning, and woe betide the heedless..." (Tablets, 169-70,
mentioned in Universal House of Justice, 1989, June 21, 'Dialogue', 'A
Modest Proposal')

By pointing to two separate luminaries, righteousness and tolerance,
Baha'u'llah is eliminating any real chance for moral bigotry to thrive
in the future. There will never be the same tension in moral issues. For
one thing, there can be no more swings toward license, which is
tolerance without virtue, or in the other direction towards Puritanism,
virtue crowding out tolerance. With two independent sources of light
there will be strict self monitoring of desire combined with acceptance
of a broad diversity of tastes and personal preferences, including
sexual ones. As BahaÂ’uÂ’llah suggests, let us all drink deep from its
meaning, and grasp it well. A powerful saying, and an appropriate one to
break off on today.

John Taylor


Badi Web Site:

Mailing list, join or quit, or read over archive of past essays:

Monday, July 12, 2004

Oneness of Humanity

Note: I have completed our Haldimand LSA's website to the point where I
do not feel too embarrassed to announce it on this list. I stole much of
the design from the website of the believers of Bradford, England, God's
blessings be upon them. The new Haldimand website is, or, Now for the usual essay.

Oneness of Humanity As Open Secret

First of a series on the Oneness of Humanity

By John Taylor; 11 July, 2004

Scholars working for a doctorate are obliged to prove their expertise by
discovering something new in their chosen field. An independent scholar
like myself, though, is under no pressure to produce original work at
all. Far from publish or perish, we are not obliged to write a word if
we do not feel the need. So it was when I started off on my writing
career, such as it is, I decided that I would take advantage of my
independence by consciously concentrating on what is *not* new and
original. Far from narrowing down the amount of labor that I had taken
upon myself, I soon found the reverse, that I had opened up the field
dauntingly. Integrating the massive discoveries of this age, even in
theory, is the most arduous and lonely of challenges. Millions of
brilliant students put out new discoveries daily and, outside the
frantically overworked teaching profession, few thinkers are concerned
with integrating that into common knowledge, with making wisdom out of
raw data.

In the image of Isaiah, we are in a massive flood of information; our
concern is not how to drink or irrigate or pipe the water into sewers,
it is just keeping from drowning, how to keep our heads above water. A
flood kills quicker than a drought. In Jesus's parable, we suffer from
the "wineskin" problem, whether to put new wine in old wineskins (which
burst with too much new wine) or into new ones, and what these new
wineskins should look like. Right now almost all new wine is spilling
out onto the ground. There is massive waste of the knowledge that could
be used in saving the world from itself.

We need integrating knowledge most desperately in the area of self
improvement, both physical and mental. The findings of social science
are not being included in daily life. We work on slapdash, badly
obsolete assumptions about who and what we are. Worse, there seems to be
open season on common sense. We accept fads and superstition as normal,
ignoring even the possibility of a consensus about how to be successful
and happy. Instead of working on what is known and sure, we accept
substitutes, welcome superstition, imitation, and feed upon plausible,
contradictory generalizations.

You would think that physical health would be the first area to be
integrated. Whatever our diversity in thinking, bodies tend to be
largely the same in every important way. Health is important to every
one of us, literally a matter of life and death. You would think there
would be few arguments about how to be healthy and free of disease since
virtually every discovery about the workings of the body underlines the
fact that differences among bodies are minor to negligible. Genetics,
for example, has found that even the use of the word "race" to describe
the widest differences among bodies is a misnomer; there is far more
genetic variation among members of the Black "race" than between
Aboriginals and Whites, between Orientals and Blacks. With very minor
exceptions, what helps and aids one person is the exact same thing that
will assist any other human being on earth. In `Abdu'l-Baha's wording,
we all breathe the same air and ingest the same food.

Now the principle I have just outlined is the one known as "oneness of
humanity" in the schema of the Baha'i principles. I am taking the corner
now in these essays, turning from investigation of reality to the
oneness of humanity, from what I call ST to OH. The Oneness of Humanity
is, as I hint above, a principle of consensus, of common agreement upon
commonalities among all human beings.

But it is also a principle of compassion. We are all one, so we should
treat others, even the weak and infirm, as we would ourselves. One and
all deserve the love, the rights and the respect that any creation of
God merits. The Oneness of God must reflect Itself in the oneness of His
creation, the image of God; if it does not, we have broken our covenant
with our creator at the most fundamental level, for His is a covenant of

I think it is clear that in the current debate over public policy the
closest apologist outside the Baha'i Faith for this principle is Michael
Moore. His "Bowling for Columbine" made more money than any documentary
film in history for very good reason. It documents the use by narrow
interests of fear, hatred and racism to manipulate the public to their
shallow advantage. He documents the human cost of brutal, anti-liberal,
anti-welfare policies that are so popular among other American White
men. A recent editorial in the New York Times points to the irony that a
working man's working man like Michael Moore should be the main
apologist for a policy that the right is in the habit of stigmatizing as
the product of a "liberal elite." Truly, the old lines between right and
left, liberal and conservative are breaking down.

I haven't yet had the chance to see "Fahrenheit 911," his latest effort
but in preparation I viewed the earlier film last night for the second
time, which I came across in DVD format. A friend of the believers in
our community works for the production company that made "Columbine,"
and before it was generally available we had the chance of viewing
together a pre-release version complete with time codes. As patriotic
Canadians we cheered at parts of the film that were obviously intended
to draw a stunned silence. We felt reinforced in our liberality, never
thinking of it as a proud national attribute before. As Baha'is, we
cheered these same parts too, though of course guiltily aware that
probably we should not identify ourselves so completely with any
political stripe. But then again, in view of the advice Baha'u'llah
gives here in the Suriy-i-Muluk, maybe we should not feel so guilty
about feeling this way.

"It behoveth every king to be as bountiful as the sun, which fostereth
the growth of all beings, and giveth to each its due, whose benefits are
not inherent in itself, but are ordained by Him Who is the Most
Powerful, the Almighty. The King should be as generous, as liberal in
his mercy as the clouds, the outpourings of whose bounty are showered
upon every land, by the behest of Him Who is the Supreme Ordainer, the
All-Knowing." (Summons, 5.70, p. 213)

But going through my mind as I watched "Columbine" for the second time
last night were questions like, Why? Why are the elites so fearful and
the masses so easily manipulated by less than noble, illiberal motives?
What causes us to betray our humanity? Why cannot we come to a consensus
on obvious basics? Why in spite of the advance of knowledge is humanity
as reflections of a loving God so weak? What makes us prefer to express
our nature as reflections of a warring, competitive, exploitative
nature? These are some of the questions I'll try to work through in
essays to come on the principle of the oneness of humanity.

In the meantime enjoy where we are now, at the crux of the matter. This
is a sublime point indeed, where search for truth passes over to the
oneness of humanity. I had a wonderful vision of this the other day
watching the climax of Akira Kurosawa's film, Ran, an adaptation of King
Lear. I had heard that Kurosawa had made the best film adaptations of
Shakespearean tragedy ever done, and I watched to see how that could be
done without using the main power of the Bard, the English language. I
was very impressed with how Ran staged Lear's battle scenes, which go on
behind the scenes in the stage play.

But the wonderful climax comes after the action of the film is over. The
clown reviews and assesses the events that brought down his master; he
laments the tragedy of life, how the gods crush us at their whim and
then laugh at our weakness and suffering. No, responds the noble, its is
not the gods who are to blame, no, they are in tears at how we cast
aside love and peace and choose for ourselves war, hatred, personal
tragedy. We unthinkingly choose hate and intrigue and then when the
consequences arrive we lament the tragedy. They lament the folly of
mortals on a deeper level than we can imagine.

In my mind, this almost universal human leaning to folly and violence
demonstrates what a hidden secret the Open Secret really is. I am
devoting my career to opening it up.

John Taylor


Badi Web Site:

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Sin Tax

Note on the Badi list: the Lyris Badi mailing list in its present
location will be shutting down within a few weeks when I switch servers.
I have collected all of your emails together and will be carrying them
to my next home on the web. In the meantime, if you want on or off the
list, please contact me directly at this email, which will also be
changing soon. So, heads up. I am putting everything on the Blog, so if
you get cut off from me you can always go to:

Health and the Syntax of Sin Taxes

By John Taylor; 10 July, 2004

I have been trying hard lately to overcome what is making me an invalid
barely able to walk. I have the body of an aged codger and it is just
two years before my fiftieth birthday. In order to find the causes, I'm
devouring piles of books and magazines. My questions are: what are the
causes of obesity, migraine, arthritis and swollen ankles and knees?
More to the point, what are the causes that I can change?

I am not confining myself to theory. After a week or two I've already
made major changes to my diet. Without getting into tedious roommate
issues, let us say that I have let it be known that I have a policy of
dumping junk food wherever I find it in the home. Procrustean as it
sounds, it is I who ends up consuming most of this stuff most of the
time, so it is not unfair to forcibly reject this role of walking
trashcan that has been assigned me by the cravings of others. Garbage
cans do not suffer from obesity or clog up their arteries no matter what
you throw into them.

At the same time I have instituted policies of going out and buying food
myself once a day, of largely preparing it myself and restricting
purchases only to dietary items found scientifically to be of benefit to
the body. Just as with self improvement books, there seems to be an open
contract with the reader that if it is general and sounds impressive,
they will accept it. Health and dietary systems need to encourage us to
make difficult changes, but that does not mean I want to make them my
religion, and even in my religion I expect reasonableness and cogency.
In any case, I spend lots of time combing the internet to learn what
food to buy and what to avoid, not only for myself but because I need to
persuade a very reluctant, rebellious, skeptical significant other.

I had hoped to contact my doctor and go right onto Dr. Walford's special
"120 year lifespan" diet. This is the only diet that is not faddish,
that has half-decent scientific backing in the form of long term,
controlled studies. I’m no scientist, but that is what I hear in the
news. But reading what Walford says about the nature of nutrition I have
decided for at least the rest of the summer to concentrate just on
buying and eating the right foods, relearning how to cook, increasing
exercise, etc. Only after that break in time will I gradually slip into
his low calorie regime, which requires tight calculations so that you
take in very few calories without slipping into malnutrition.

According to Walford's findings, if you eat the right foods even without
counting calories your weight will drop and the appetite will naturally
fade. That is because you fill the stomach with low cal foods and the
body stops craving sugar, fat and other junk to fill it up. If you lose
weight this way, the main concern is limiting weight loss. Good food,
nuts, fruits, grains and vegetables, is high in bulk, low in calories,
and it changes your outlook as well as your cholesterol levels and blood
pressure. The high bulk, low calorie food fills the gut, satiates
appetite and starts to allow the brain to decide rather than fat. When
that process begins it no longer seems like a deprivation to be on a
reduced calorie diet. Your body may seem to a fatty to be half-starved,
but inside it does not feel like a deprivation. That is why the rats fed
a low-nutrient diet are more energetic, active and vital.

Now I'm getting greater skill and control, confidence in myself as cook,
dietician and person of will and decision I accept that I still need to
psych myself by reading and practicing many new skills right away.

By far the bitterest pill I have had to swallow is paying more money for
good food, especially eating out. For years I had rejected eating salads
in restaurants because they cost more. In Wendy's, for example, my
regular order was a shake and chili for less than four bucks. Salads
cost six or seven. This made no sense: if the ingredients, lettuce,
paper thin tomato slices, cost less for them to purchase why should I
pay more for it? These clowns are just exploiting the fact that rich
people know more about nutrition and are in a position to pay more for
it. This is unfair, exploitative and I hate it.

Paying more for cheaper food went against every fiber of my Scottish
being. My economic self told me never to pay more for something that has
less value, for what costs less when you buy and prepare it yourself.
That is how I reasoned before I lost the ability to run. Last month it
was like pulling teeth to start shelling out for that eight dollar salad
at my favorite fast food joints, Wendy's and Subway. Now that I have
done it a few times I am starting to get used to the pain. Plus, the
fact that I seem to be feeling better physically helps, even if it is
only a psychological illusion.

What finally persuaded me was thinking generally about the medical
system. The train of logic went like this: The reason that Tommy
Douglas's Medicare plan for socialized medicine caught on here and
remains Canada's biggest contribution despite waves of privatization and
the emergence of a multi-billion dollar drug and insurance lobby
corrupting governments left and right, is that it is a demonstrable fact
that though many purchases work best when you base them on parsimony,
picking the cheapest deal, it is in nobody's interest to do that when it
comes to health.

You do the right thing because it is the right thing, no matter what the
cost. You cannot afford to allow the briefest thought of money to
intercede. You go to the doctor and tell her what is wrong; if you think
for a second, "I'd be saving money by not reporting this problem, or
maybe by reporting it next year when I have more money," or, "Hmm, if I
have this symptom it will cost me less than that symptom." To think that
way is false economy. Almost always, the earlier you report and treat a
problem the better, the less the cost, the more likely a small ill will
be cured before it becomes mortal. If we think about anything but the
right thing to do everybody loses, we all pay more.

Ditto for the doctor. Economic motivations are wrong here too. They are
utterly out of place; they only interfere and confuse an already
difficult process of assessment, diagnosis and treatment. It is illegal
for doctors to treat themselves or family members for this very reason,
personal considerations always occlude an unbiased analysis. So
concentrated has wealth become in the past few decades that the entire
scientific and industrial system is corrupted, unable to make the
simplest diagnosis of social ills.

The more I think along these lines, though, the more I have to accept
that good governance has a positive obligation to make the right
decision into an economic decision. Why should I have to pay more to eat
the right thing, especially when good food actually costs less to
produce than bad food? I would not have to fight temptation, to wade
constantly against the stream, if it were cheaper and easier to eat
right. I'd do the right thing naturally.

There should be, that is, a tax on sugar, a heavy surcharge on fat,
donuts, desserts and other tempting but dangerous foods. No, not a minor
imposition like the tax on oil, not a small charge that still allows
people who have no real need for them to buy gas-guzzling trucks,
minivans and SUV's at a whim, I am talking about a sky high, crippling
sin tax. If science has found that sugary junk should only be eaten
rarely, if at all, we have an obligation at least to make it an
expensive option, a rare thing that you can only rarely afford. I hate
taxes as much as anybody, but I see no other way around this.

The price of food is a structural factor for health that would be fairly
easy to tweak. Another easily changed structural factor is the place you
choose to live in. If you live in a neighborhood where you have to walk
to do just about anything, it is now known that your chances against
heart disease and many other ills are much lower. In Italy, for
instance, heart disease is half that of the United States, land of super
sized portions, of driving everywhere and whole divisions without
sidewalks. The "walkability" of every house could be illustrated in big
charts wherever real estate is purchased. If that does not work, again,
a sin tax. Suburbs should have ten or twenty times higher property taxes
since the health and environmental hazards of forcing the inhabitants to
drive instead of walk are so much higher. We all pay for this folly, so
it is not unfair to ask the perps and victims to help compensate the
rest of society for their splendid isolation.

Next time I'll get back to the Open Secret, my plan for involving Baha'i
individuals and institutions in pushing aside public space for the sort
of healthier living we all need.

John Taylor


Badi Web Site:

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Diaries, why I hate them

The Open Secret Project, III

By John Taylor; 7 July, 2004

The Secret of Divine Civilization is the most revolutionary, evolutionary document for sustainable human development ever produced. The open secret project would be a moderated discussion based upon each sentence of this, the first book by `Abdu'l-Baha, published long before He assumed leadership of the Baha'i Faith. Let us go on to the next sentence.

"Senses and faculties have been bestowed upon us, to be devoted to the service of the general good..."

Not to indulge us, not for profit, pleasure, distraction or curiosity, but for the general good, to benefit the public thing first.

The Master is developing a famous criticism that Jesus directed towards both the Pharisees and His followers of little faith. He warned us not to be hypocrites, naysayers or doctrinal malingerers, "Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?" (Mark 3:18) The miracle of the loaves and fishes was wonderful because of the good it did and can continue to do, not because of any supernatural means. It was a miracle confirmation that repeats every time we have faith, which is action based on conscious knowing. We cannot forget that or we throw out the very goal of religion, which as much as science is concerned with the full use of our gifts and faculties for the "general good."

All therefore should welcome the benefits of science and technology, especially of communications technology. Such are ways of extending human senses and powers and insofar as they help us promote the general good, they are miracles, truly wonderful developments. But it is all useless if we, each and all, do not wholeheartedly think in altruistic terms and long for the real benefit of all. The Master places this purpose at the root of our humanity:

"...we, distinguished above all other forms of life for perceptiveness and reason, should labor at all times and along all lines, whether the occasion be great or small, ordinary or extraordinary, until all mankind are safely gathered into the impregnable stronghold of knowledge."

As Baha'is we often are confronted with this objection from those who first encounter Baha'u'llah: "You guys seem to think that human progress is inevitable but we can and are screwing up. Nothing is inevitable." Needless to say, not only the Baha'i Writings but all scriptures are full of warnings that our progress is conditional upon a willed, conscious decision on our part. So no, nothing is inevitable. But note what the Master says here. What is an impregnable stronghold? Not us but knowledge. Our ability to know is what gives us our high possibilities. Not destiny or luck or magic but our ability to know and improve knowledge. That and that only gives impregnable grounds for progress.

I'm reading "A History of Knowledge," by Charles Van Doren, a brilliant work that draws this aspect of the Master's thesis out to book length. Van Doren starts off admitting that the human race can and often does slip backwards in many respects,

"The voluminous literature dealing with the idea of human progress is decidedly a mixed bag ... the fervent belief ... in the inevitability of progress in all fields of human endeavor must be viewed as insupportable. We cannot accept it any longer, even if we once thought it was true." (History of Knowledge, xv)

But the fact is that humans can see, hear, think, and mostly remember. That gives us something that no other animal has, knowledge. What is more, we can extend and improve our vision, hearing and the tools we use to think and write what we learn. This launches a unidirectional vector forward.

"Progress in human knowledge is another matter. Here it is possible to argue cogently that progress is in the nature of things. `Not only does each individual progress from day to day,' wrote ... Pascal, `but mankind as a whole constantly progresses ... in proportion as the universe grows older.' The essence of man as a rational being, as a later historian would put it, is that he develops his potential capacities by accumulating the experience of past generations." (Id.)

Over the generations, knowledge grows and grows inevitably, ineluctably and we can catch onto its coattails. It is a sure handle, and "Sure Handle" is a synonym for the Manifestation of God, in the Writings. Van Doren goes on to point out that the fact that we can extend and improve the tools of communications and thought actually allows acceleration of progress based on knowledge. The invention of the computer and the internet put rockets on the shoes of such advance.

In spite of these amazing tools for seeing, hearing, thinking, they still require consciously effort to see and hear with our own senses and mind. We may improve vision aids and thought tools at every step of the way, but they are only "how’s." We cannot leave aside the "why" of religious investigation. Harmonizing science and faith in service of common knowledge is the Open Secret, the Master's main thesis in "Secret of Divine Civilization."

Abdu'l-Baha hints at what I call openness when in the above citation he says we must labor, "at all times and along all lines, whether the occasion be great or small, ordinary or extraordinary, until all mankind are safely gathered..." What is ordinary and extraordinary? What can be great or small? Why, your own journal or web page. You use it every day, but if all adopt a common, public, open interface or template, the results will be far reaching indeed.

I have been running over this same thing in my efforts to improve my health. Over and over, again and again it is the same advice. I read about how to get rid of migraines, the counsel is always the same, keep a headache diary of everything you do and eat and watch out for triggers. I read about how to lose weight, the same deal. Keep track of what you eat in a journal and try to improve this and that factor in your diet. Easy and simple as it sounds, I find it extraordinarily difficult to follow this advice.

The longest I've been able to keep a headache diary is ten days, which I managed last month. Doing it was so unpleasant that my entries petered out pathetically. I am disobeying a doctor's advice, which means disobeying Baha'u'llah, but O God! I hate it. I guess the way I keep sane and advance spiritually is by determinedly _not_ thinking about the very things I am supposed to be recording in my journal.

It is the same with personal finances, I absolutely hate every minute of it and -- I admit it -- in spite of five years of accountancy training, I have never in my life balanced a checkbook. Literally, I would rather have a root canal than look at those horrible numbers obscenely humping each other before my very eyes. My shameful secret is out. I am a writer who hates writing, a journalist who hates journals. Here is the real reason why I propose a website journal that would automatically write itself. That would be the secret solution to my ills and those of mankind. It is out there now. As of now it is now an open secret.

Until tomorrow, join me in giving thought to the next sentence from the Secret,

"We should continually be establishing new bases for human happiness and creating and promoting new instrumentalities toward this end."

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Open Secret, II

The Open Secret Project, II

By John Taylor; 6 July, 2004

Last month I started a series of essays foreshadowing what I hinted would be an "open secret project," but I was called away before I could explain what I was talking about.

The open secret project will be the first step to implementing the open systems proposals that I have been working out over the past year. The open secret project is a dynamic web document based upon the Master's masterwork, "The Secret of Divine Civilization." This work was commissioned by Baha'u'llah Himself and it is, I believe, the gift of everything Baha'i to the world, particularly to the secular, public world. We know that the Faith is essentially mystical, concerned with God and spirit but the Secret of Divine Civilization is a proposal for systematic application of the fruits of that in the material world. The Master is emphatic from the start about the disinterestedness of the book's purpose,

"God is our witness that we have no ulterior motive in developing this theme ... We speak only as one earnestly desiring the good pleasure of God." (SDC, 13)

The hypertext commentary on this web site would mediate a group writing process intended to encourage broader discussion about the Master's ideas and proposals, and new ideas and projects based upon these. Commentary would begin with the text of the book, word by word, sentence by sentence, and proceed from there.

Of course the book "Secret of Divine Civilization" itself is copyrighted by Baha'i institutions, but I envision all other content in this dynamically updated hypertext document as "open." That is, the material would be contracted from the start under "copyleft," which is a new form of communal copyright that allows and even encourages free copying and reproduction. All contributions are given and taken on the condition that any changes or improvements will be re-submitted so that the group can modify and improve the original.

In essence, I do not see the Open Secret process as beginning and ending with words. Commentary on scripture has been going on for millennia without much benefit other than ever more sterile verbiage. The more words written, the more obscured and constipated society has become. Edifying as a limited amount of exegesis can be for some, especially those of literary bent, here all would be designed as a first step in a creative process culminating in specific inventions, systematic plans and practical socio-economic projects.

The web site would be designed to be an alter where individual inventors can meet, court and marry institutional implementers. It would also (eventually) take in hand the core development of the mother of all personal websites, the personal improvement portal for each person, each family, in the world. The textual analysis of the book, Secret of Divine Civilization, would abide on the site only if it fosters this new kind of creativity that is both personal and collective.

Let me pick out a few sentences from Secret of Divine Civilization and try to imagine how discussion and invention based upon it might play out.

"God has given us eyes, that we may look about us at the world, and lay hold of whatsoever will further civilization and the arts of living." (SDC, 3)

I expect that there would be a great deal of discussion about what the "arts of living" might be. How might we integrate the social sciences, psychology, sociology, etc., into a scientific "art of living?" How might faith, prayer, reflection, enter into that more systematically and creatively? Out of discussion of this sentence might arise a huge idea database collecting together ideas and suggestions to do with whatever might "further civilization."

Inventions implementing this could include simple adjustments, like allowing everybody to contribute an idea or suggestion easily to the right authority by putting a "suggestion box" button on their personal web portal. This could even be solved "in-house" at the "Open Secret" site, if it produced standards for open personal website portals. Pushing a button on my web portal would allow each thinker to quickly contribute a suggestion to improve just about anything.

The tremendous problem of directing all the ideas and proposals of just about anybody to the right ears would actually now be a relatively simple problem for computer science to solve. We already have a foreshadowing in Google, a huge question database service that accommodates all questioners. You can ask anything of this single supercomputer oracle plugged in to the web, which includes the collective, interconnected knowledge of humanity. As news events break, it is possible to watch on a display at Google headquarters the upsurge of new questions and enquiry based upon it. I think they even allow you to see the questions being asked on their website.

The difference with this is that the suggestion button would act as a reverse Google, the single supercomputer oracle would become a dynamic poll dealing in answers rather than just queries. The ideas and suggestions to every conceivable sort of problem that human beings are encountering would then be brokered to all appropriate "powers that be." Not only opinions but the demand for solution would go instantly to the servants of humanity, academe, government and private industry.

"He has given us ears, that we may hear and profit by the wisdom of scholars and philosophers and arise to promote and practice it."

God has given us ears to enable us to think for ourselves, and that can be reflected in our personal website as well. Backed up by their own personal computer, every individual is now capable of building a machine that, like our physical ear, will collect information, process it, and feed back our original contribution to the web, and thereby to the benefit of the whole human race.

Discussion based on this sentence, therefore, would be concerned with how to increase benefits of the "wisdom of scholars and philosophers." Inventions arising here might be the institution of new discussion areas on the web, and eventually perhaps even connected discussion sites in real, physical places, notably ones situated in the gardens and auxiliary institutions of the Mashriqs.

"Arising to promote and practice" the wisdom of the best minds is terribly neglected in philosophical discussion. We are used to ivory towers. When we talk, we have no concern or even expectation for implementation of the ideas that come up. Clearly, we need change this by circuiting back our every discussion to the dynamic suggestion feed of the "reverse Google" we talked about above. That means directing all problem solving, and all verbal discussions of theory to this supercomputer oracle, which tells right away what most people consider most urgent.

I know, we Baha’is call this discipline “consultation,” but it is a new thing to most of the world and it needs to be packaged in a non-threatening, secular way; as Baha’is we concentrate upon the spiritual pre-requisites. The discussions of the Open Secret would concentrate upon how to take advantage of the many exiting technical tools being invented every day to foster this consultative process.

Tomorrow we will go on to the next sentence in Secret of Divine Civilization.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Law and Principle

On the Interaction of Law and Principle

Series on Investigation of Reality

By John Taylor; 4 July, 2004

Let me propose a hypothesis, a generalization about the nature of principle that may be proven wrong as I look closer but which is still useful early on, flimsy as it is. The proposition is this: Baha'u'llah laid principle's foundation in His Law but that there is a "lote tree beyond which there is no passing," in either direction, from us to Him, from Him to us. The mission of `Abdu'l-Baha, therefore, was to extend law into a realm that religion had left untouched until now, that of principle. Thus Baha'u'llah laid down the backbone of principle, the inflexible part that principle relies upon in the form of laws which, as He says here, are the very heart of what is right and just.

"Know verily that the essence of justice and the source thereof are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him Who is the Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize this truth." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, 175)

The high station of the Manifestation by its very nature holds Him back from the push and pull, the compromise, the flexibility of principle. The embodiment of the Word is inflexible, perfect, unchanging now and in eternity. Only His Son could embody service, utter submission to the law, and only in His (`Abdu'l-Baha's) Mind could religious principle as a consistent system find, in the above phrasing, its source and essence. Only here, in the son who is the "secret essence of the father" is the right combination of authority and independent, logical thinking to be found and derived. Only the Master, that is, could tell us this about the first principle, search for truth:

"He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality." (Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation, 291)

If Baha'u'llah had said that, it would be a command from on high. We obey a law without necessarily understanding it, agreeing with it, or ever choosing to opt out. You obey even if logic and circumstances rule it out; for example, an honest person obeys the commandment "thou shalt not steal" even if it is easy, practical, convenient, to take something, even when taking it can be done with utter impunity, indeed, when the loss could actually benefit the victim. But to command: "search truth voluntarily out of your free will" is to make it an obligatory law. And it is, but as we saw yesterday, as such it is an oxymoron, like my giving you an order to love me, and like it.

But the Master said this, and that makes all the difference. Now it is something entirely different, more in the nature of an instantiation coming from another human being whose life is proof that it is possible, practical, not a dream or mere theory. He offers a free permission to us, saying, "Here is my core, your core, the inner sanctum where everything you make is yours and yours alone. Grow here; you and you alone are responsible for all that comes out of it, so make it yours as I have made it mine in me." In the Guardian's image, the warp has been laid over the woof, the horizontal thread of principle is laid over and under the vertical threads of law resulting in a single fabric that warms and protects both individual and society.

So in this sense the Master was the first person in history truly qualified to set forth search for truth -- sorry, I mean investigation of reality -- as a base principle of faith. Before that it was a law only, the law of love. As a law it was sublime, an inspiration to the heart, but undeniably it was an inherently self-contradictory notion. Divorced from principle it failed to fire the imagination of the best minds, most of whom sank in futile, materialist ideology. Now that ideology has failed, all that is left outside principle is cynicism and Realpolitik.

But aren't Baha'is supposed to "implicitly rely" upon the Master's example? No, not without investigation, which means a history lesson, a familiarity with the art of biography. And this is best given in childhood, when the imagination is ready to catch flame. The Master had lived a life of complete service to His Father, He fainted when He saw Baha'u'llah emerge from the depths of the Siyyih Chal, then fell to the ground as soon as He saw what His Father had seen deep down there. He accompanied Him throughout the exile and imprisonment. He read and memorized the Writings of the Bab in youth but when called upon to defend His Father's Faith, He did so using His own independent reasoning, not just by citing authorities. He expects the same of us, hence the priority of this principle of investigating reality.

Another aspect of the Master's role in establishing principle was His close friendship with the academic, Mirza Abu'l-Fazl. The Master did not just promote His own views and Writings, He recommended careful study Abu'l-Fazl's insights as well, particularly his apology, The Brilliant Proof. In this book Abu'l-Fazl offers a list of several new aspects of Baha'u'llah's revelation. When the Master in New York addressed this question, he laid out, as we know, the dozen or so Baha'i principles, along with that of Covenant. Abu'l-Fazl did not contradict these, of course, but in his independent analysis of what is new in the law of Baha'u'llah he offered an interesting parallel in the Law of Baha'u'llah.

The first unique aspect of the law of Baha'u'llah, he says, is "abstaining from crediting verbal traditions." A dispute over how much to credit the traditions of the Talmud split Judaism into Rabbinites and Karaites and similar disagreements over and among different authorities split both Christianity and Islam.

"But Baha'u'llah closed to the people of the world this door which is the greatest means for sedition; for He has clearly announced that "in the religion of God all recorded matters are referable to the Book and all unrecorded matters are dependent upon the decision of the House of Justice." Thus all narrations, relations and verbal traditions have been discredited among the Baha'i people and the door of dissension, which is the greatest among the doors of hell, has been closed and locked." (Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, The Brilliant Proof, p. 24)

The second unique aspect of Baha'i law that Abu'l-Fazl points to is its restrictions on interpreting scripture. The practice of holding to contradictory, personal interpretations has "darkened the horizon of faith" by making religion a cause of dispute. Abu'l-Fazl points out that, aside from disunity, the failure of our best minds to agree among each other has split intellectuals from the rest of society, the elites standing off in their ivory towers, and the laity sunk in anti-clericism and anti-intellectualism. He points out that a great point of division has been understanding the nature of the Manifestation.

The Council of Nicea, for example, was one of a long string of failed attempts by leaders of religious thought to come to an agreement upon abstruse but important metaphysical points. Under the law of Baha'u'llah nobody dares persist in his or her opinion at the expense of harmony, "for fear of falling." Fazl paraphrases the tablet of Baha'u'llah that, he says, ends forever this whole destructive genre of squabbling,

"Since men differ in their degree of knowledge, if two persons should be found to possess different viewpoints as regards the degree and station of the Manifestation of God, both are acceptable before God, for in accord with the blessed verse: "Verily, we have created souls different in degrees;" God has created men different in understanding and diverse in manners. But if those having two points of view engage in conflict and strife while expressing their views, both of them are rejected. For, by knowing the Manifestation of God it is intended to unify the hearts, cultivate souls and to teach the truth of God, whereas conflict and strife of two persons with two different points of view would do harm to the Cause of God. Consequently both of them are referred to the fire." (Id.)

I think these are two points where the thread of investigation as a principle passes over the opposing thread of law, and you witness a mutual interdependency forming. Here the single fabric holds and pulls one thread on another. Before this, search could not be treated as a universal principle simply because it was too dangerous. If the best minds themselves were in a stranglehold of contention among themselves, what hope was there for the participation of all? Why, it would be like a Western movie with its obligatory barroom brawl, everybody fighting with everybody else. Chaos would have ensued, and the only answer ever worked out was suppression, obscurantism, concentration of power. Mirza Abu'l-Fazl was the first intellectual to learn from the Master the real basis of both seeking mind and the open society: holy Law.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

More on the Investigative Imperative

note: for some reason this blog removes all URL's, in case you are wondering

Search for Truth, Research Progress Report; 20 June, 2004

I continue my investigation of the independent investigation of truth, piling digression upon digression, my every effort pushing me further from where I want to go. This time around it is a real mystery tour; I have no idea where this is leading. This morning I stumbled on a new thing that changes a lot of old things. I learned that if you want to get the pure message on the principles you only have to go to bahaiprinciples dot com.

This site is chary about revealing who is running it but it appears to be legit. We know that when a Russian porn monger appropriated "Bahaiwomen dot com" Baha'i institutions sued and shut them down, so we have to assume that this bahaiprinciples site is run by believers. For example, the site has under search for truth the full text of the Master's presentation in Paris Talks on independent search for truth, along with some pictures from, not surprisingly, bahaipictures dot com. Unfortunately the photos are not thematic or related to the text in any way. Nonetheless, they are nice shots of the holy places, many of which I've never seen. It is at this URL:

Now I know many of my readers must be getting sick of my harping on about the Kitab-i-Iqan and its importance to this principle. But lest there be any doubt about the fact that it is the base text for the principles, you can read a compact, readable and very convincing study of the Kitab-i-Iqan at:

Here I learned that Baha'u'llah Himself called the Kitab-i-Iqan the lord of books, that it inspired George Townshend to write his series of studies of the Christian message, including "Heart of the Gospel," and that that this great book inspired the Guardian to make the following statements about it, all of which are footnoted in this lovely little study,

"The significance of the Iqan, he states, lies in the fact that it "is the most important book wherein Baha'u'llah explains the basic beliefs of the Faith", and "contains the basic tenets of Faith" and "the very essence of the Teachings, and because of its clarity and relative simplicity can greatly appeal to every thoughtful reader". In it "the entire religious philosophy of the Cause is clearly sketched and every thoughtful student of religion cannot but be interested in it", and it "explains the attitude of the Cause to the Prophets of God and their mission in the history of society," describes "the mystic unity of God and His Manifestations" and "deepens the knowledge of the reader by acquainting him with some of the basic theological problems of the Faith. It is therefore indispensable for every student of the Movement". It is "Baha'u'llah's masterful exposition of the one unifying truth underlying all the Revelations of the past," and can lead the reader to "obtain a clear insight into the old scriptures and appreciate the true mission of the Bab and Baha'u'llah."

In other words, the KI is not only a summary of the essence of what was obscure before in religion, it is also an apology for it; that is, it does for mysticism what in science is called a popularization or popular science, a work that makes obscure mathematical truths palatable and understandable to the general reader. Even the most involved, specialized scientist recognizes that such works, while derivative, are crucial to public support and the furtherance of the funding of scientific investigation.

Similarly, the mystic is no longer someone who goes off and meditates alone, the principles set out in the KI act as a net to catch the mystic personality and lump them together with practical people, including scientists. The KI is the glue for all the principles because it persuades the scientist to welcome the mystic and persuades the public to join in with both in the same systematic application of the principles. It also sets out to accomplish the toughest challenge of all in the current world, uniting quarrelling religious groups. As the Guardian says,

"Well may it be claimed that of all the books revealed by the Author of the Baha'i Revelation, this Book alone, by sweeping away the age-long barriers that have so insurmountably separated the great religions of the world, has laid down a broad and unassailable foundation for the complete and permanent reconciliation of their followers." (God Passes By, 139, cited in the above paper)

Once the institutions of religion come together, they can support mystics, scientists, artists and others in a united, popular, public application of the social principles.

As my steadfast readers well know, my deep conviction is that principle is all about walking in the footsteps of a Master who, "walked the mystic path with practical feet." While casting about for an understanding of the philosophic and mystic aspects of search for truth, I have at the same time been centrally concerned with practical measures to express each and all of the principles. These public lifestyle controls I used to call "nursery gardens" but lately have been calling "open systems." These would be software portals run by scholars operating behind the scenes, as Linus Torvalds does the Linux operating system; that is, they would incorporate changes into a public, open set of standards sometimes called "copyleft." Under copyleft, changes and improvements are not secret or proprietary, users are legally bound to share them openly with the world community.

In the search for truth the mystic path trodden by practical feet aspect of the principle is summed up in a saying quoted to me by my psychologist in college, Bruno, who told me:

"If you are having mental problems, concentrate on the physical; if you are having physical problems, concentrate on the mental."

That is, if you had a Baha'i principles website that did more than just present a talk from Paris Talks, what would it set out to do? Clearly, it would be a reflective place designed to assist people to make that kind of turnaround. If they are bogged down in material problems, to seek out the spiritual solution at the root; if they are getting too isolated in their prayer and meditation, to seek out practical measures.

Which brings me to a progress report on my own search for practical aids in the search for truth. Several weeks ago there was a spate of articles around the world reporting the positive results of a long term gerontological study of humans confirming one of the major findings of 20th century science, that rats kept in a state of semi-starvation live longer, healthier, more energetic lives. I have steadfastly ignored health fads but this, it seemed to me, seemed to be a genuine advance in our knowledge of the requirements of the human diet. I Googled the articles and eventually found the source, an article in the Washington Times reporting on a specially designed low calorie diet devised by the doctor of the biosphere project, Roy L. Walford. I was anxious to try this diet right away but the low calorie diet website, dedicated to Walford, warned against doing it without consulting the several books he has written, and your doctor.

So I ordered the fellow's work by inter-library loan and on Friday I received "The Anti-Aging Plan," by him and his daughter, Lisa Walford. I have been devouring this book the first half of which is an explanation of the diet, the second half consisting of recipes made up with a computer diet planner based on the specially designed high nutrition, low calorie diet based on the findings of this gerontologist.

The way he markets his findings, as a way of living longer, does not seem appealing to the likes of me. I am not anxious to spend any more time than I must in this veil of tears. I am mostly intrigued by the prospect of more energy. When you see on television those famous energetic, calorie starved mice running around their cages and compare them with their sated controls, the difference is glaring. It seems unavoidable that the only way I'm ever going to accomplish what I have before me is to become the reverse of what I have always been, soporific, sluggish, and sleepy most of the time.

Every biography I read seems not only to confirm this but to mock me in my lassitude. They endlessly repeat this quality in describing the great person in question. Without exception, including the Master, they always have this one common factor, they lived their prodigious life full of energy, drive, vitality, perseverance, moxie. Whatever synonym you want to choose, it adds up to the same thing, the only way to have more life in your life, to get anything accomplished is to be energetic, to have a superabundance the demeanor that the first Hidden Word calls a "pure, kindly and radiant heart."

Now I am going to have a lot to say about this diet if I have the guts to go onto it -- though according to Walford if you eat the food he recommends their high bulk, low calorie quality actually lowers one's appetite; one does not long have that hungry look in one's eyes. But before I do, I want to report in detail on what I have found out about the Lawh-i-Tibb, the Tablet in which Baha'u'llah actually starts off by advocating "in the absence of physicians" just such a diet. He says,

"Say: O People! Eat not except after having hungered, and drink not after retiring to sleep (al-huju`)."

This is from a provisional translation that first came out in 1991 and was until quite recently unavailable. After quite a lot of surfing, however, I eventually came across a recently revised version put on the web by some academic publisher. Refreshingly, they include the Arabic in both the original chicken scratches and in transliteration throughout the text. You can read it for yourself at:

The first half of this truly astonishing Tablet is concerned with diet, and some statements would serve as nice summations of what Walford says at length in his part of the "anti-aging plan," citing study after study confirming that, in Baha'u'llah's words, "He whose eating hath been excessive, his malady will be heightened." The second half of the Tablet morphs into a love letter, an analysis of why and how to teach the Cause, and -- in my admittedly biased eyes -- an advocacy of "open systems:" "Thus it is binding and necessary that all may protect themselves and their brethren for the sake of the Cause of God."

I have exceeded my paragraph limit for today's essay, so tomorrow hopefully assisted by confirmations of the Spirit we will continue this investigation.

Some comments on parts of the Lawh-i-Tibb

21 June, 2004

I have no medical qualifications (except as a victim or bare survivor of the medical system, or lack thereof) but I cannot let the release of a revised Tablet of Medicine go by without comment. Having just read Dr. Roy L. Walford's "Anti-Aging Plan," I will intersperse references to his findings about the long term benefits of reduced calorie diets as well. As you know, the Guardian warned that one would not only need a medical background but also training in the particular, ancient school of medicine that the recipient of the Tablet had in order to understand this tablet. Nonetheless, parts seem clear enough even to the general reader.

"Do not avoid medical treatment (al-`ilaj) when thou hast need of it but abandon it when thy constitution hath been restored (istiqamat)."

Istiqlal, of course, is Friday in the Badi' Calendar, the day of the divine virtue of Independence. So Baha'u'llah starts by suggesting a physical sort of independence of the body from constant medical attention.

Case in point: Viagra. I read that the makers were surprised at its instant acceptance, for lack of sexual drive is not a "sickness" and the ethics of prescribing it were by no means clear. The trend has continued, and "male enhancement" drugs are widely advertised, making what five years ago would have seemed an absurdly frivolous reason for taking a drug seem a normal choice. "Makeover" reality shows are rapidly making plastic surgery for mere unprettiness seem the norm; as always, a few profit and the public suffers.

Another recent study found that streams and lakes are now showing high levels of tylenol, caffeine and other "normal" drugs that people take as a matter of course; levels are already high enough in many places to threaten wildlife. We have got to get the monkey off our back if only for the sake of the environment! Another study found that youths are popping non-prescription drugs like candies for minor stress, the sort of problem that lifestyle can and should absorb. Medical researchers were astonished to find how much they were taking and the youths were surprised to learn that non-prescription drugs can harm or even kill you. Obviously, this is another price we pay for dropping religion; prayer, reflection and fasting are drug free ways of alleviating stress. This, along with education, especially "training in hardship," proper exercise, holidays, strong family ties, all that can and should solve problems before drugs, prescription or not, even come into the picture.

"Do not commence a meal except after full digestion [of the previous meal] and swallow not save after the completion of chewing."

A bad habit I have fallen into over the years and cannot get out of now without conscious effort, constant attention. You turn your mouth into an assembly line by filling it before you've swallowed the previous bite. It is efficient, expedient and you don't even realize it is bad for the alembic or chemical retort we call a stomach.

Worse, you eat at all hours, whenever food is available. Youths sometimes go out and gorge themselves on pizza at 1 AM and end up in the Emerg, not realizing that it can kill you. Businesspersons in a hurry eat too fast, do not sit down to eat and then are surprised when they get irritable bowel syndrome, which afflicts a surprisingly large percentage of the population. As Walford points out, our collective diet is getting worse with every decade. Only lately is the fast food industry realizing that this slide is not in their interest either. The changes they are suggesting are so inadequate it is laughable.

The needed lifestyle adjustments have to be taught early and carefully regulated throughout life. This is a direct concern of the open system reforms I have in mind. For example, it would be easy to make a diet card like an ATM machine card that you would swipe whenever you eat at a restaurant. Doing that would be step towards keeping the full record of food intake that we need. It would allow a breakdown of the amount of bulk and calories we are taking in and the balance of our diets. As Walford points out, when we eat "empty calories" like candies and sugar the appetite is increased, the stomach is empty and we want to snack more. This initiates a vicious circle. On the other hand, good nutrition reduces appetite by filling the stomach with high bulk, low calorie food. Monitoring this aspect of diet would be a good first step towards ending a slippage that is all the more dangerous when we do not realize it is starting.

"Treat an illness firstly with nutrients [or foods, aliments, aghdhiya) and proceed not [immediately] unto medications (adwiyat)."

Baha'u'llah is giving advice to a physician here but we are all doctors to our own body and medical advice is increasing important to our whole culture. Now we have the image that medicine is all about doctoring, needles, drugs and high-tech procedures. No, those are last resorts, extreme measures for exceptional cases. Normal bodies respond to diet adjustment first. By ignoring diet medicine has been overwhelmed by extreme illnesses that become common. Doctors are so busy cleaning up they have no time to educate or monitor health when the problems are minor. Like me chewing improperly and too fast, they rush to clean up after the results of their leaving us in collective ignorance and total lack of body management. Only recently are medical educators reluctantly even recognizing the primary importance of diet in health.

"If that which thou desire results from elemental nutrients (al-mufradat) refrain from the compound treatments (al-murakkabat)."

I don't claim understand this specifically but it hints at something important. Like maybe, don't spend billions researching new drugs and virtually no funds on fundamental, commonsense lifestyle corrections. This is Occam's Razor: a simple solution trumps a complex, involved one. It is not only a philosophical principle it applies to medicine through the divine virtue of wisdom.

"Abandon medication (al-dawa') when thou art healthy but take hold of it when thou hast need thereof."

This statement by the Manifestation of God is so important because it is addressed to a member of the medical profession, but in this sentence at least it addresses the possessor of a body as DIY'er. It prescribes to both individual and prescriber a limit to prescriptions. Medication is a temporary measure, not part of normal lifestyle. This ends a sad, self-destructive misunderstanding of the nature of cure, one that has led to an epidemic of obesity, among other things.

Right now we do not even have a name for a doctor who treats people's bodies before they get sick; preventative medicine is generally regarded as an oxymoron, not really medicine at all. This new definition of cure places it in the center of a normal lifestyle with intervention by means of medication a rare exception. A good model for a medicine built along these lines would be how we already deal with mental health, with psychologists treating healthy minds and psychiatrists for the severe, delusional, worst cases. The ratio between doctors of preventive medicine and the number of interventional doctors should be a rough indicator of the overall health of a region.

"Commence first with the light food (al-raqiq) before moving on to the heavier one (al-ghaliz) and with the liquid before the solid."

In Walford's terms, the advice would be to start with a small salad, low calorie high bulk, which takes away the appetite for the main meal. You eat less while feeling just as sated.

"When you would commence eating, begin by mentioning My Most Glorious Name (al-abha) and finish it with the Name of Thy Lord, the Possessor of the Throne above and of the earth below."

The Guardian said that saying grace is not a Baha'i tradition, but this sounds awfully close to it. Food may not be a sacrament but if you do this it will be a sort of physical act of worship. Perhaps we are not to take saying the Greatest Name here literally or we can say it silently to ourselves without making a social thing of it. Note the mention of God as "Possessor of the Throne," an echo of the last statement in the Long Obligatory Prayer. We possess the food, or the long prayer, but the real owner is the One above.

"Eat a little in the morning for this is as a lamp to the body."

Also confirmed by recent studies. Exercise in the morning takes off more weight than at any other time. Food first thing adjusts blood sugar and other rates to optimum levels, as well as reducing appetite for the rest of the day. From a spiritual point of view, this may also be an allusion to the Book of Matthew, which uses the same comparison of the body to a lamp.

"For where your treasure is, your heart will be there also. The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon. Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will put on. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing? See the birds of the sky, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of much more value than they?" (Matt 6:21-6, WEB)

This is not only a prescription against a society of unhealthy livers who are at the same time hypochondriacs, it also prescribes a policy of placing the spiritual cure first, the love of God. If we feel content in that we have attained the purpose of health, even if the body is falling apart.

"Counter disease by utilizing established means (bi'l-asbab). This utterance is the decisive command in this discourse."

Established means being, I think, the general consensus of opinion in the scientific as well as religious community of experts. With the World Wide Web this community will in the long run become more vital and effective in influencing health. Established means also applies to the system of gaining credentials and extending rewards and punishments, which open systems is centrally concerned with broadening.

Baha'u'llah begins the next section of the Tablet by alluding to the contentment that a single "light of the body" would promote.

"Most necessary to thy well-being is contentment (al-qana`at) under all circumstances for through it will the soul be saved from sloth and ill-being."

We think of modern life as hurried and frenetic, but most of us are getting fat, the outward sign of sloth. Something is definitely missing here! Through all circumstances may mean that we should not just pay attention to our physical diet but our media diet as well. In conversation with other netizens I have noticed that people who watch the news in the morning very often complain of being distressed and depressed throughout the day. We know not what we do. I will never forget watching the film Goodfellas, a fairly innocuous black comedy but because I watched it first thing in the morning I was shocked and trembling for days afterwards, as if I had seen a shock-horror film. The morning is the light of the day, as Bahaullah says, and we have to be especially careful of what we expose ourselves to at that time. Ideally, wed all stroll down a lovely tree lined lane to the Mashriqul-Adhkar where we would chant the praises of God. Failing that, we especially have to watch ourselves.

I've run out of time and space, so let us both think about this, you and me, in the time we have until tomorrow. So in the meantime, take it easy, be content, let your spirit shake hands with your body.

More Comments on Parts of the Lawh-i-Tibb, Part II of II; 22 June, 2004

A reading of the entire Tablet to a Doctor gives this impression. Baha'u'llah is the doctor of humanity, so when He talks to a doctor the first part of the Tablet naturally deals with the nature of the doctor's prescriptions for bodies. Then He turns to the believers and talks about His prescription for us, the Manifestation as doctor of the world. This prescription, we know, is to prescribe ourselves, to teach the Cause, administer a spiritual cure to the planet. He plays on the two punning meanings of Hikmat, wisdom, one being systematic application of knowledge, and the other wisdom with the connotation of silence, refraining from rocking the boat. There has to be a balance between both types of wisdom, we need to be outspoken but not to such an extent that we will be wiped out by the evil-eyed -- chillingly, a possibility that He seriously entertains.

He comments on the terrible oppression and persecution of the believers -- the recipient of this tablet lived in Yazd, a center of fanaticism, which has had more than its share of martyrdoms in the history of the Faith. He particularly dwells upon our natural tendency, as lovers of Baha'u'llah, to dwell upon his own sufferings. Do not sink in morbid penitence, Baha'u'llah says but love in a healthy way. He then ends the Tablet with,

"Great is the blessedness of him who leads another soul to the Immortal Faith of God and guides him to life everlasting. This is an act of supreme importance in the presence of thy Lord, the Mighty, the Most Exalted. May the Spirit be upon thee! And may the Glory be upon thee also!"

We, unfortunately, do not value this as much as God does. His ways are not our ways. This all-important prescription of teaching we, lousy patients that we are, have failed to follow through on. (Just as studies have found that a large percentage of patients, even when drugs are free, do not even bother to fill their prescriptions, and when they do, they forget to administer them, and when they administer them, they do not do it correctly) How do we know that we are not doing it right? Simple, by the smallness of our numbers; if we were applying the supreme remedy the world would be crowding to be cured as well. Thus the penultimate pronouncement of the Lawh-i-Tibb,

"If the beloved of God had performed that which they were commanded, the majority of the people of the world at this time would have been adorned with the garment of faith."

Look at silly old me, I cannot even go through this tablet in the right order, I am going backwards. So let us jump back to where I left off. Baha'u'llah continues the doctor's Tablet here by laying the ground of what is now called holistic medicine, treating the whole patient, not just the malfunctioning part or parts of the body.

"Eschew anxiety (al-hamma) and depression (al-ghamm) for through both of these will transpire a darksome affliction (bala' adham)."

How to avoid stress? By wisdom -- the Arabic word for doctor is Hakim, literally meaning "wise." Medicine is rule of wisdom, knowledge systematically applied. The best things in life reduce stress by focusing, narrowing choices and, paradoxically, broadening opportunity. You go for one God and love Him forever. You choose one lover, marry, and abide in the fruits of that union. You pick one career, one mission, one thing, and if it is fruitful a variety of good, fulfilling rewards will come out of that self restriction.

What cause calm and anxiety? What give rise to depression or contentment? That is what the doctor has to ask herself on behalf of the patient in each examination. Generally speaking, the causes rest in having a multitude of choices and conflicting values. In diet, the enemy is eating whatever is cheapest or most convenient instead of what is best. In teaching the faith, it is concentrating on how the writings will help this person with her particular concerns -- which may be why we are told to memorize a wide variety of pertinent quotes from Baha'u'llah's words.

Baha'u'llah then goes on to the emotional grounds of illness, the morbid degradation of love into something perverse, harmful and abusive.

Say: `Envy (al-hasad) consumeth the body and rage (or anger, wrath, al-ghayz) burneth the liver: avoid these two as ye would a fierce lion (al-asad).'

Advertisements do the reverse of this they try to stir up envy in order to persuade us to buy the solution offered by that product. Writers, especially journalists, try their best to stir up anger in order to attract interest in whatever solution they have in mind. Since the fall of Communism many in East and West have bought into a Muslim fundamentalist versus the rest of the world mentality, again, stirring up both envy and anger on all sides. Baha'u'llah is telling us to avoid this agitation because that way of thinking acts like a wild beast, it takes on a life of its own and destroys all who come across its path.

The importance of Baha'u'llah's statement here seems to be that avoiding the sources of anxiety and depression are not idle philosophical desiderata but the central concern of medicine. And later on in the Tibb -- lest anybody downgrade medical concerns -- He places this discipline at the forefront of all others, it is the definitive, formative discipline of civilized life.

"Say: `The science of healing is the most noble of all the sciences'. Verily, it is the greatest instrument given by God, the Quickener of mouldering bones, for the preservation of the bodies of peoples. God hath given it precedence over all sciences and branches of wisdom."

So, along with teachers, medicine comes first. Like the faculty of reason itself, this is the first gift of God to us all. May we all hold on to this cure and improve it together. There are several more major issues in this tablet but let this suffice for now. Tomorrow we'll get back to search for truth.

Quiz, Diet, etc.; 23 June, 2004

"The sole cause and root of almost every defect in the sciences is this; that whilst we falsely admire and extol the powers of the human mind, we do not search for its real helps." (Frances Bacon, Instauration, Aphorisms #9)

If that is so of the mind, how much more so must it be for the body! I continue studying Roy Walford's special diet, a low calorie system that makes your main concern limiting rather than inducing weight loss. He has an interesting plan for easing onto the diet. You save time by cooking up eight meals, eating one and freezing the others. If you do that once a week, and eat sensibly for much of the rest of the week without eating all the frozen TV dinners, after a while you build up a freezer full of meals ready to eat. That way you avoid the bouncing back and forth common to less sensible diets.

Since many of my readers are within driving distance, I invite you to come on over sometime this summer and we can spend an afternoon cooking up a storm; then you can go home with seven meals to put in your freezer to get you started. Some sample recipes are at Walford's, and at: This section of the CRSociety website ( features member contributed recipes. They say, "We welcome your contributions. Don't be overwhelmed by all the information requested. Fill in what you have and we'll fill in the rest (e.g. nutrition information)."

I came across this quiz today, which was published in the Kansas City Star. Don't be too confident, or you might even end up messing up the question about the Baha'i faith.

What is your religion quotient?

You think you know about the development of various faiths? Well then, of these 13 statements which are true? The answers are appear below (nine correct is a good score).

1. Some scholars suggest that after the Buddha's death, his followers added to his teachings the Hindu idea of reincarnation, that after death one is reborn in a new body, animal or human, to begin another life.

2. The American Indian Ghost Dance was developed in prehistoric times.

3. Although the Zoroastrian faith developed in ancient Iran, more Zoroastrians now live in India, where they called Parsis.

4. Early Christian church leaders forbade Christians from being judges who might impose capital punishment because they believed the shedding of blood was always wrong.

5. The church father Tertullian (160-225) asked women not to wear anklets and necklaces because such worldly adornments might suggest their unreadiness for martyrdom.

6. Before Constantine (A.D. 288-337) all Christian writers unanimously condemned war, so as existing texts indicate.

7. The doctrine that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were not equal to God the Father was hotly debated in the Christian churches until 381, with disagreements persisting for centuries after.

8. Augustine (AD 354-430) developed the just war theory as Christians considered the use of force to settle a theological controversy.

9 In AD -1054, an argument over the Trinity led to the split between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches.

10. The two main forms of Islam, the Sunni and the Shia, have radically different views of God.

11. The 10th Sikh guru, Gobi Singh (1675-1708), announced that the next and final guru would not be a human, but rather the Guru Granth Sahib, a collection of writings including Hindu and Muslim texts.

12. All Bahai scriptures were originally in Persian.

13. The first Jewish denomination to appear in America was the Orthodox.

Before I give the answers, check out this free virus checker at: Now, are you sure you have the right answer? Check again. The author of this quiz, by the way, is Vern Barnet, who does interfaith work in the Kansas City area. Email him at Don't email me if you have quibbles, email him.

Answers: 1, 3-9 and 11 are true. 2. Is false: the dance was a reaction to the encroachments and oppression by white folk in the late 19th century. No. 10 is false; the Sunni and the Shia theologies are largely indistinguishable; they differ only on who should have succeeded the prophet Muhammad. No. 12 is False; some are in Arabic and Shoghi Effendi (1897-1951) the great-grandson of founder, Bahaullah wrote in English. No. 13 is false; the Reform movement was the first to appear, with a platform declared in 1885 in Pittsburg.

Search as First Principle, First of a series on how `Abdu'l-Baha presented Search for Truth

24 June 2004

I have treated search first among the Baha'i principles because I believe it is first in importance and universality as well as priority. In this I am following in the footsteps of the Master Who tended to do that too, though He was not absolutely rigid. In His lists and brief summaries of the Baha'i principles, `Abdu'l-Baha put search first on at least fourteen of eighteen occasions. He mentioned it second in the Tablet to the Hague. Other than that, the only place where He deviated from the rule of search for truth first was in New York, the city where according to His own testimony He spent more time and gave more talks than in all other North American cities combined. In the Big Apple He listed the principles five times, two with search placed first, two with it listed second and in the fifth He mentions it as sixth of thirteen principles.

As students of the principles we become accustomed to hearing the Master lay it out in an orderly manner, as He does in this letter addressed to "lovers of truth" and "servants of humankind," where He lists search as the first of five "various teachings for the prevention of war,"

"The first is the independent investigation of truth; for blind imitation of the past will stunt the mind. But once every soul inquireth into truth, society will be freed from the darkness of continually repeating the past." (Selections, 248)

You read statements like that often enough in isolation and the principle starts to seem pretty innocuous. You forget how provocative it really is. That is why I enjoy Khorsheed's "Seven Candles of Unity" so much, because it details the response to His words during His visit to Edinburgh, Scotland, along with the words He said themselves. This city was admittedly a center of Christian orthodoxy, the old stomping ground of John Knox, but still it comes as a revelation to see people write letters in response to the Master saying, in effect, "Hey, you talking to me? You TALKIN' TO ME!" -- which, by the way, may explain why He did not always mention search for truth first when He was in New York City, whose mean streets gave the world Robert De Nero, the actor who popularized "You talkin' to me?".

Sure, nobody likes to think of their mind as stunted, and you can understand some taking umbrage. As a student of history I can attest that you do run into the same thing over and over. History does repeat itself, especially when you trace the causes of wars. It is the same story each time, [warning, Shoghi Effendi sentence to follow] a general lack of education and attachment to tradition, the stranglehold on the many of a few leaders who see their profit in proliferation of hate and prejudicial thinking, obscurantism consequently stunting the mind further, of both individual and society, narrowing of political options to the same absurdity, war, conflict, violence. In this metropolis of Satan anger, sloth and the other seven deadlies become virtues. As the Bible says,

"Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife." (Prov 30:33, KJV)

Ignorance and dislike push unity and positive change out of the question. As in a poor diet where body fat takes on a life of its own and instills its own peculiar appetites, in the same way if enough people renounce free and open search for truth and too many refuse to give up its super-sweet, low nutritional substitute -- imitation -- only wasteful, selfish appetites remain, a sort of mental fat that churns up anger, exploits ignorance and thinks only of initiatives based negative aspects of our nature.

The Master's following statement in Paris in 1913 also gives a nod to the overweening role that imitation has had throughout history.

"In this cause we have many principles to which we adhere, the most important is to avoid that which creates discord. We must have the same aspirations and become as one nation. Humanity must feel entirely united. Until this glorious century the power of unity has been ineffectual and the forces of discord have augmented. Men never reflect that they are brothers." (Abdu'l-Baha on Divine Philosophy, 100)

He said this in reference to something else; that is, the above was not part of a principle summary. I mention it here because it demonstrates how close He perceived search to be to the oneness of humanity, usually listed second in principle order. Although the listings tease search for truth apart from oneness of humanity, I think it is important to bear in mind that they are so intimately connected that at times they seem indistinguishable.

In an address of September 30th, 1911 to the Theosophist Society of London, the Master presents search as the first of eleven distinguishable principles, though he emphasizes that there are many more. Here too He lays stress on its purgative or renunciation aspect. More than elsewhere, though, He portrays the principle as the image of Baha'u'llah's discovery of where we are at in history. The human race, Baha'u'llah evidently concluded, is more attached to where it has been than to where it is headed. Again, this is part of the same historical thesis.

"Firstly: He lays stress on the search for Truth. This is most important, because the people are too easily led by tradition. It is because of this that they are often antagonistic to each other, and dispute with one another. But the manifesting of Truth discovers the darkness and becomes the cause of Oneness of faith and belief: because Truth cannot be two! That is not possible." (Abdu'l-Baha in London, 27-28)

The Manifestation "discovers" a heart of darkness that we barely perceive. This obscurity is an aspect of our imperfection, but more to the point, it is inherent to the order of the heavens in which we are living. It is an old world order. The Holy Manifestation exposes the hidden root or means of unity, a new ordering of the spheres that is already there, though well hidden. The most important aspect of this uncovering is the idea the Master emphasizes here that truth or reality is one. If this is so, then unity exists before and after search.

One enters into a journey expecting to turn up some aspect of the same universe. The center will not fall apart. This inherently unitary nature of truth, Baha'u'llah teaches, informs our search and assures that no matter who we are, we will not turn up something incompatible. From the point of view of the history of ideas, this is the very definition of anti-postmodernism. You could call it hyper-modernism. Tomorrow we will dip into other principle summaries in order to see if this early thesis developed or changed at all throughout the more than two years of arduous journeying that the Master undertook for us.

The Open Secret Project, I

25 June 2004

Yesterday I was watching Daniel Yergin's PBS documentary, "Commanding Heights" (highly recommended) and one of the talking heads, a prominent player on the world stage (I think it may even have been my nemesis, Donald Rumsfeld), was saying something like, "No single group has all the answers to the muddle we are in and if they think they do they are wrong," and I laughed to myself thinking that most Baha'is I know would at this point be jumping up and down saying, "But we do!" No, we don't, or this fellow would know about it. That's his job. I firmly believe that we could, though, if only we went about it right. And then I had an idea. I even came up with a catchy name for it, "The Open Secret." But I'm jumping ahead of myself.

This train of thought started back in May, about 34,000 words ago according to the Badi' Blog's convenient word count, when I was writing a series of essays on responsibility. I had ordered the latest Baha'i World Volume, 2002-2003, justifying the expenditure of 40 bucks to my wife as a "professional development training expense." Just after it arrived, it was night, and I needed to do my evening scriptural reading. Seeing that an early section of this Baha'i World contains selections from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, I picked the first one. It went like this,

"All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, 214)

Later, since I was vitally concerned with what the Faith has to say about responsibility I jumped forward to a rather uninspired essay with its main points of interest sunk in the footnotes written -- not surprisingly -- by a sociologist. It had a promising title, at least, "Obligation and Responsibility in Constructing a World Civilisation." At one point it said,

"The more fundamental moral or spiritual attributes that are at the heart of influencing society and advancing it from one that is purely materialistic to one that strikes a balance between the material and spiritual are outlined by the Universal House of Justice as follows, `The virtues that befit human dignity are trustworthiness, forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.'" (Baha'i World, 167)

The author cites as the source the UHJ's peace letter, "The Promise of World Peace," but, clearly, the House in turn was quoting Baha'u'llah almost word for word. The editors themselves had placed the same passage at the start of that volume! Does that mean that even they did not have the time to read it cover-to-cover? A slip like that seems less excusable now that a thirty second search using the Ocean search engine can resolve it. This is a minor quibble, I know, but it indicates a bigger, more serious underlying problem with how we approach the entire enterprise of writing, publishing and indeed studying the Writings.

Consider, if you will, the rest of that same passage in Gleanings, which continues,

"Say: O friends! Drink your fill from this crystal stream that floweth through the heavenly grace of Him Who is the Lord of Names. Let others partake of its waters in My name, that the leaders of men in every land may fully recognize the purpose for which the Eternal Truth hath been revealed, and the reason for which they themselves have been created." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, 214)

We are to drink from that single stream of Revelation ourselves and invite others to drink too -- the natural consequence being that the "leaders of men in every land" would drink too. Whether it is a democracy or not, leaders have to be followers of the consensus of the masses, even when it is dead wrong. A good leader plunges into the best of what the people are inclined to do, pulls out his thumb and calls it wisdom. It may not sound like it but it is a love story, as Plato pointed out in a letter,

"It is a natural law that wisdom and great power attract each other. They are always pursuing and seeking after each other and coming together." (Collected Dialogues, p. 1564)

Why do all this drinking from the same stream of revelation? Baha'u'llah says above that we do it so that we can help our wise leaders discover the reason for the revelation and their own reason for being. What does all this imply? I've been thinking long and hard about that and the best answer I have yet is the "Open Secret Project." Details at 11, tomorrow morning that is.

Abiding Between the Brackets

26 June, 2004

Life is a long series of nested parentheses whose closing brackets only come in the next world. Okay, your life may not be like that but mine is and certainly that is how my essays must seem to you, a thousand beginnings, a couple of middles and no conclusions, no climax, no resolution.

Last night I viewed two films, one "A Matter of Taste," a sub-captioned French production about a strange affinity that grows between two men, one a tycoon and the other a very intelligent, refined drifter. He hires the fellow as his "taster" -- there is talk, but they never become lovers. The remarkable similarity of the two men makes their closeness a non-creative and ultimately a very destructive force; cruelty takes over, their financial inequality makes it an unfair contest and the drifter kills the tycoon in the end.

After seeing the film I thought of the closeness that existed between the two most developed Beings in our time, the Bab and Baha'u'llah, who never met face-to-face in this world. I think Baha'u'llah said that if they had, they could never have borne a separation. If two people are sufficiently spiritual I guess their love has to remain positive and creative no matter what; they can transcend similarities, differences and they are impervious to any inequality between them.

The other film was "The Guru," a Hollywood production nicely incorporating the new "Indo-chic" phenom. It playfully adopts some Bollywood conventions, including the newlywed's car that flies off into the sunset at the end of the film. It does not adopt the Bollywood convention of three-hour long musicals, which is all for the best. (I once watched parts of a Bollywood film while flipping the dial late at night over two decades ago. I remember one amazingly catchy song in the film. If I were a musician I'd find that song and do what Paul Anka did with a French song he liked -- he bought the rights, changed the words and it became Frank Sinatras signature tune, "I did it my way." Now that Sinatra is dead, Anka is hiring himself out to retirement parties with that horrible song, which always seemed false and egotistical in its sentiments.) The Guru is about a dancer and aspiring actor who emigrates from India to America and makes it as a sex guru. He tries out as a porn star but is a dud. He meets a female "actress" on the set and she offers some offhand advice for "getting it up" in front of a crowd.

The aspiring actor then meets some success at a party by using her ideas to help him pretend to be a sex guru. The female love interest, it turns out, is that reluctant porn star who is trying to keep her fame secret because she is engaged to a prim, religious firefighter. The "Sex Guru" hires her to give him more ideas about sex and she becomes the sex guru's guru thinking that she is just giving advice to a new porn actor. For her the ideas she shares are coping mechanisms for the shame of her job but he plies it as advice for everybody in their sex lives. According to comic conventions his ploy works nicely for all concerned until he finds he has to renounce deception to find true love. The lies seem pretty innocuous and the characters seem angrier than they should be about them, but that shows love and integrity I guess. In the end everybody renounces their lies, finds true love, harmony abides between East and West and it is a true Bollywood ending.

I dreamed about this film, I dreamed that I was in a similar quest for recognition and fame as an intellectual. I recall no details other than the fact that I was conversing with famous intellectuals from various cultures. Unlike in real life perhaps, their ideas fascinated me. I woke with the impression that I would get a lot out of such intellectual intercourse. I know, sort of obvious but that was the dream and that is that. In the dream the feeling was special, a combination of both films, the unity between two souls of A Matter of Taste, the unity of East, West, love, sex and the intellectual quest in the other, all were melded into something new and intriguing in my silly little mind.

Yesterday I broached the idea of an Open Secret project. This is my answer to what I regard as the greatest intellectual challenge of our time, the information explosion. Sooner or later the expansion of information will destroy all social cohesion. Our minds will have nothing in common, we will not be able to agree on anything, things will fly apart and the center will not hold.

The biggest challenge facing every bearer of wisdom today is how to find common ground. It is no longer just east and west, it is me and anybody else, just any other mind. The scope of the information explosion is truly astonishing. Walk through the shelves of your library and you will see what I mean. Even here in our little Dunnville library I make this calculation as I walk through: You could send everyone inclined to reading in this town through these bookshelves and they could start reading every book that they had time for. There are so many volumes here that even if they read all their lives, no two need ever read the same book.

If each person is reading different books, taking in variant data, working on different assumptions, how will they ever love or understand? And with the internet it is now much, much worse. The data flow is expanding a thousand-fold faster, the flood is compounding beyond comprehension. For beyond the visible internet is the so-called "dark internet." Like the proverbial iceberg, most is below the surface. Entire university libraries are being digitized. These various resources comprise a much bigger ocean of data than what turns up in your average Google search. How are we ever to make sense of it all?

I know, the short answer is for all to do what we Baha'is do, read at least one small selection from the Writings every morning and evening. We read and worship using a single corpus, a consistent, monocular body of literature and that gives us common ground. I may read AHW#1 this morning and you may read AHW#2, but ultimately our paths will cross, for we read from the same relatively small number of books. We enter into the same Truth from the same point of view. That is God and God is that. This role Bloom's Great Western Canon is supposed to play, a set of classics that acts as common ground between all of us. The Open Secret I conceive of as more systematic management and nurturing of that Great Canon, a Canon that would be consciously Eastern as well as Western.

I am pleased to say that my thoughts about dieting have elicited reader response. The author of the following letter is the other writer in our community, Betty Frost, author of "A Key to Loving," put out by George Ronald Publishers. I include this here with her permission.

Needless to say, I agree with her ideas entirely. I would only add that the ideal solution would be for society to build Bettys diet consciousness into the structures of daily life so that everybody will think that way automatically. For example, hospitals already have shirts available for patients that monitor blood pressure and dozens of other bodily markers. The day is soon coming when an alarm will go off when we dip above the optimum weight. Smart cards will monitor food intake and weight scales and other sensors built into toilets will monitor the bodys excreta. I am anticipating these developments in my Open System proposals, hoping that these technologies will thereby be adopted more quickly and that they will serve the interest of the people rather than usual few corporate interests. The essence of open systems is pushing more closing brackets from the next world to this in order to give us feedback to guide us in leading a good life not unlike that of exemplars like Betty.

Dear John,

I was impressed, initially, that you acknowledged that one of the root causes of your health (problems) was being overweight, and then, when I read the article you wrote about diets, equally impressed that you were pressing forward in a practical way on a path to better control of your weight. The idea of making a great many meals and then freezing them so that you wouldn't be inclined to "stray" from the path of good eating isn't a bad one. Still, I feel that to cook an entire meal and freeze it would be to limit your intake of certain things which are more nutritious when cooked for a short period just before eating. I'm speaking mainly of veggies. I think it is a good idea to freeze the main meat/fish course and then at supper time, simply add the veggies.

What I've been doing for years is to make extra, usually when we have company, and then freeze the leftovers in margarine containers (enough for two). Then I simply cook some potatoes; mash them with a small amount of butter and milk; cook some carrots and another green vegetable such as broccoli, beans, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, etc. You can "pig out" on the veggies (other than potatoes) as they are almost without calories.

As for the main course, one can cook a pot roast or a ham and then slice it up into meal-sized portions. I often make a chicken dish of some sort (with pineapple, apple, broccoli [divan] or whatever and do the same thing with whatever is left over. One can think of various types of main courses - meat balls, beef stew with onions, meat loaf, etc Another possibility is using the main course along with a salad made fresh that day. Many people think when they see someone who is relatively slim that it has something to do with genes. I do not happen to believe that. In my family the person who had the most NON role model on me was my Grandma. She was overweight. She always seemed to just sit in her chair without moving, without doing anything. I determined even as a youngster that I would not be like that.

Actually, as a child, I was very thin. As one of five children in my family, I was given extra milk and encouraged to eat two helpings at a meal. Since I was extremely active, thinking nothing of walking down to the beach (about two miles) often twice a day, this extra food did nothing for me but to give me energy! Entering High School, I was the second smallest (in height in my class and my weight was a mere 85 pounds. However, by the time I left High School I had achieved what I think of as an optimum weight - 125 pounds.

Some time later when I began working, there were no more long walks to school; only a streetcar ride. It was not long before I began putting on pounds, going up to about 133 pounds. Although I was not what could be termed fat, I soon began to realize that unless I did something drastic, the pattern of gaining weight would soon put me in that category. So, no more extra helpings, efforts to watch my calorie intake were undertaken, and I tried to do exercises every day. At one point in my career (while serving at the World Centre) one of the House members wives told someone that I knew the exact number of calories of everything I ate! This was a slight exaggeration. But I certainly watched my food intake and began a lifelong practice of getting on the scales each morning. If there was an upswing, Id quickly cut down on any sweets. The consequence of this was that my weight remained virtually the same for years - between 132 and 133 pounds.

It was not until I had a bone scan about three years ago that my weight finally returned to what it was when I left High School. It was determined that I suffered from osteoporosis, a bone density problem. In addition to increasing my calcium intake (with 1% milk and a calcium tablet), I followed the advice taken from the internet to do weight-bearing exercises. The simplest form of this is, of course, walking. My plan was to walk two miles a day - and this is what I have done every day since then, regardless of weather - wind, rain, snow, freezing cold, very hot, whatever. I walk quite quickly, doing one mile in 18 minutes. I would say that I walk or do some other form of weight-bearing exercise such as gardening, at least six days a week. The result is that my weight is now 123 pounds. While I do not actually count calories anymore, the routine of sensible eating has taken firm hold and my diet runs something like this;

BREAKFAST: One egg, 1 slice of homemade 7 grain whole-wheat bread, small glass of milk, coffee. Two or three times a week, I have cereal with banana instead.
LUNCH: one sandwich made of the same bread as noted above, carrot sticks, milk - tea
COFFEE BREAK mid-afternoon - coffee, homemade muffin usually
SUPPER: portion of some type of protein - meat, fish, chicken - potatoes, lots of vegetables, milk - tea
SNACK: in the evening - possibly some fruit and one cookie with hot chocolate made with a minimum of the chocolate mix.

I also take vitamin C, brewers yeast, kelp, folic acid, Vitamin E and Vitamin D.

If something yummy is served at anothers house, I do not keep strictly to the above regime! Anyway, this is what I have found to be successful. Hope it will be helpful to you.

Kindest regards - Betty

Back from Our Summer Vacation

1 July, 2004

It is Canada Day today, so have a good one. We just arrived home from our three-day camping trip to Rondeau Provincial Park, towards the opposite end of Lake Erie from Dunnville. I am still involved in heavy research into the Master's principles and will have to put off further essays until I have my principle analysis system set up to my satisfaction.

In the meantime, to keep you thinking about this principle of investigation of truth, I include an essay by one of my favorite writers, and I don't just mean favorite Baha'i writers but favorite writers period, Marzieh Gail. It seems to me I heard she died lately. She was the product of a marriage uniting east and west, sponsored by the Master Himself. When she entered university the other students called her their "Persian princess." That is how I think of her too, as my Persian princess. Enjoy her wonderful words; I hope she becomes your Persian princess too.

The Goal of a Liberated Mind, By Marzieh Gail

What is truth, said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. Pilate, it would seem, was much given to washing his hands of things. Truth, if it existed at all, was something which other people could take care of -- just so long, of course, as it did not interrupt his meals or his business. And so, he would not stay for an answer.

The world has always been full of Pilates -- of people who wash their hands of truth. Our present day problems are their legacy. They are those who live along comfortably, safe in their ruts, careful to use as few of their faculties as possible. And when they die, they sleep beneath complacent epitaphs -- unless of course they are fashionable, in which case they are reduced to ashes and repose sedately in marble bureau drawers. And alas, they are not remembered.

To be remembered, a man must have had a tussle with truth. He must have sat under the Bo tree with Gautama, or gone up to Mount Sinai, or dreamed over the crucibles in Leonardo's laboratory. He must have investigated truth for himself, refused to conform to his surroundings, dared to do his own thinking. I think, therefore I am. It is equally true that if I do not think, I am not. And to think means independently to investigate truth.

Baha'u'llah has commanded His followers to do their own thinking, and to look into all things with a searching eye. (BWF, 142) He says in the Words of Wisdom,

"The essence of all that We have revealed for thee is justice, is for man to free himself from idle fancies and imitation..." (BWF 142)

It is, then, through justice -- best beloved of virtues -- that we are to know things by our own understanding and see them with our own eyes.

But the question arises, how are we to achieve this justice, how are we to recognize the truth once we have started on our search? To this, Abdul-Baha answers that there are four standards of judgment, four ways of proving a thing true. The first is sense perception, the second is the intellect, the third is traditional authority, and the fourth is inspiration. When applied individually, these tests are obviously inadequate, for the senses are frequently unreliable, even the greatest intellectuals are often at variance, traditional authority is easily misunderstood, and the still small voice may at times be quite other than divine. But when all four tests are brought to bear and result in a convergence of evidence, we have satisfactorily proved a truth.

Baha'is, then, are commanded to seek independently for Reality, and are told how to recognize it. They are forbidden to take anything for granted. Even a child born into a Baha'i family must begin, so to speak, from the bottom and work up. He cannot be fed truth with his cereal, and must prove to his own satisfaction the reality of what he is taught. But it is obvious that a search started in an atmosphere of faith is more readily successful, because faith seeking understanding will achieve, where unbelief seeking understanding must fall by the wayside.

And now, what is Reality? Why, Reality is water, says Thales. Reality is a sphere packed solid, insists Parmenides. Reality is convergence of evidence, drones the psychology professor. Some of our moderns deliver beautifully patronizing definitions of Reality, as if they had it at home in a test tube. Others stutter when confronted with the unwelcome question.

The Baha'i view of Reality presents the only one that is impregnable and withstands the test by the four standards of judgment.

Baha'u'llah proclaims that Reality is the Word of God. The significance of this statement is recalled by the opening lines of the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This Word is revealed to humanity by a Divine Manifestation -- by one of those all-illuminating Beings whom Abdul-Baha refers to as Suns of Reality -- a Buddha, a Christ, Moses, Muhammad. Reality, then, constitutes the teachings of the Divine Manifestations, and Reality in this day consists of the teachings of Baha'u'llah.

Having found Reality, realities are not far away. The true in art, in science, in every phase of human activity, is that which is in accordance with the Word of God, and that which is like God. Therefore, a study of the Word of God, and a knowledge of God Himself as revealed through His Manifestations, are infallible determinants of Truth. And as learning is nothing more or less than discovering and applying the truth of phenomena, it is absolutely essential -- if we wish to be learned -- that we should attain to the knowledge of God; that we should investigate Reality. Baha'u'llah says, "the source of all learning is the knowledge of God," (BWF 141) and Abdul-Baha tells us that the origin of all learning can be traced to religion.

The failure to seek for Truth results in lasting and increasing peril to the human race. The greatest cause of bereavement and disheartening in the world of humanity is ignorance based upon blind imitation... From this cause hatred and animosity arise continually among mankind. Through failure to investigate Reality, the Jews rejected His Holiness Jesus Christ. (Promulgation, 285)

That no one is exempt from the search for Reality is proved by the further words of Abdu'l-Baha; after saying that each human being is equipped for the investigation of Reality, He continues,

"each has individual endowment, power and responsibility... Therefore depend upon your own reason and judgment and adhere to the outcome of your own investigation.... Turn to God, supplicate humbly at His Threshold ... that God may rend asunder the veils that obscure your vision." (Promulgation, 287)

Henceforward no one should expose himself and humanity to the dangers of ignorance.

Originality is one of the thousand refreshing outcomes of the independent investigation of Truth, for the simple reason that if we look at anything, we look at it in a way peculiar to ourself. We have to. We will all see the same Reality, but at different angles. A change from the past, when originality has been so rare as to be a matter of comment, and we have praised people as original thinkers. And with so many such thinkers in circulation, the impetus to all the graces of civilization is self-evident. Besides which, when each of us has to discover life for himself, each will be as exultant as Columbus when his first redskin glittered through the shrubbery.

-from Marzieh Gail, Dawn Over Mount Hira, 115

Search for Truth, Leading Once More into the Cat Saying

2 July, 2004

The more I study the Baha'i principles the more intimately I find myself nuzzling up against Jesus. As a former atheist who fervently hated of all things Christian, I do not always feel entirely comfortable with this. I certainly should not be surprised, though. Shoghi Effendi called it a "central principle of Baha'i belief" that there is a close identity of its spirit with that of Christ. No faithful appraisal of Baha'i could ever in "any aspect of its teachings, be at variance, much less conflict, with the purpose animating, or the authority invested in, the Faith of Jesus Christ." (World Order of Baha'u'llah, 185) As I examine this principle of searching out truth, here too I continually uncover the spoor of the Christian teaching that love is not in word, nor is it merit in itself; love is good in action.

"For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified." (Rom 2:13, WEB)

Like love, search for truth is both a law and a principle. The Guardian gave a wonderful metaphor for how laws and principle interact in the Faith as the warp and woof, the opposing threads that laid one over and around others opposing them at 90 degrees, make up the fabric of both faith and science.

"Nor are they unmindful of the imperative necessity of upholding and of executing the laws, as distinguished from the principles, ordained by Baha'u'llah, both of which constitute the warp and woof of the institutions upon which the structure of His World Order must ultimately rest." (Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, 199)

Search is a law in that it is a fundamental element of justice. God gave us these wonderful brains and minds, our most amazing characteristic as a species and cannot abide our leaving it fallow. So as a law, investigation of reality cannot be left aside and stored like an arrow in its quiver until the need arises, in the way that principles sometimes can. It must inform every act, every thought, each day and moment of our lives.

But in its very essence, search is a principle as well. It is the very element of submission that places our every idea, every leaning of the mind at the service of the Will of God. It is the "deep" in deepening. The Bab said,

"Ye spend all your days contriving forms and rules for the principles of your Faith, while that which profiteth you in all this is to comprehend the good-pleasure of your Lord and unitedly to become well-acquainted with His supreme Purpose." (The Bab, Selections, 140)

Thus to investigate reality, to uphold truth, is to get up on the cross, to hang like the Companion, Anis, from a nail in that barracks square with our head at the breast of our lord, and sacrifice all in communion with Him.

Which brings me once more to what Silvie calls the "cat saying." She calls it that because this passage in her children's prayer book sports a sticker of a cat next to it, a prize she won as a prize for some good act long ago and she chose to place it there, by a passage full of difficult words that for a long time she could hardly pronounce. Now she says it so often that she has it memorized. Here it is,

"The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, 178)

When we were camping those two nights and I woke in the night, my knees swollen like balloons from the damp tent, I could not fall back to sleep. For hour after hour I said lonely prayers from memory under the full half-light of the Milky Way. Often I felt like calling her and waking her up just to hear that cat saying from her lips. Later in the morning I told her of my late night desire and my little walking Ruhi exemplar did me the favor of citing it for me then and there. It felt good to hear that in her still, small voice, for more reasons than one. Another reason to memorize, for charity, consolation of hearts in need when they need it.

Re-examining the Naming of the Investigative Imperative

3 July, 2004

From the start of my Baha'i life I was conscious of the principles and what they should be called. I became a believer after researching an essay featuring the Baha'i principles for a Grade 13 English Literature Course. I am still writing that essay today, over and over; it is a treadmill that will never stop turning up new things for me. I hope never to get off through all the worlds of God. In that High School essay I listed the principles with a comment next to it.

The principle I liked most was independent investigation of truth and the one I out-and-out hated, I recall, was "compulsory education." At the time I had problems with being forced to go to school, as do many youth, and I rejected that as a principle. The Master did use this phrasing, it is true, but on most public occasions He called it, "promotion of education." The words "compulsory" and "education" to some extent form an oxymoron, and quite a lot of explanation is required to get at the actual Baha'i principle.

Generally speaking the name, phrasing or even the order of expression of the ideas that make up a principle can inadvertently unearth any number of landmines for those without proper grounding in Baha'i ideas and philosophy, and more particularly those unfamiliar with the Personalities Who gave them their impetus. The American National Spiritual Assembly gives this much needed warning about thoughtlessly using Baha'i jargon in contacts with the media.

"In public information, a wise and careful approach to publicity and contact with the media is required. The Baha'is must often put aside their uniquely Baha'i perspective in order to imagine that the meaning of certain concepts and terms will not make sense to people who are not Baha'is. "National Assembly," "Auxiliary Board Member," or "Manifestation of God," and "progressive revelation" have little meaning to someone who has limited or no knowledge of the Faith. Concepts like world government and compulsory education are, when given superficial treatment, often threatening and confusing." (Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities)

Just as "compulsory" is easily misunderstood, the "independent" aspect of independent investigation of reality can lead the new learner down the wrong path. "Independent" does not mean that we do not depend upon God, the Holy Spirit or the Manifestation of God in our search for truth, quite the reverse. Without knowing and ultimately coming to grips with these three dependencies it is impossible to rightly grasp this principle. All but a tiny minority will trip up on any or all three of these fundamental dependencies. Without understanding dependence, submission, Islam, you cannot go on to independence.

For that reason I believe that the Baha'i teacher should regard God, Spirit, Manifestation, as signposts for teaching. The three are a bridge over a wide gulf, a bridge that must, sooner or later, be crossed. It may be interesting for you and me to discuss the number of Auxiliary Board Members in the world and their role as distinct from National Assembly Members, but specifics like that are trivial distractions compared to the Bridge.

The most prominent teacher of the Faith in our locality, Nancy Campbell, understood this danger in using the word "independent," I believe. Once, however, in a talk she went too far and claimed that "the principle of independent investigation of truth that you read in all the pamphlets is a misnomer. `Abdu'l-Baha called it `search for truth' and other names but did not use the word, "independent." I was dismayed. How could my favorite principle be a misnomer? Thus started the first of many disputations I have been involved in as a Baha'i.

In those long ago days before you could resolve such questions with a couple of punches on a keyboard, I had to go over the entire corpus of the works of `Abdu'l-Baha to prove her wrong. It was very instructive for a new believer and I soon fell in love with the mind of the Master. He was truly a very rare genius. To this day I think of myself as an "`Abdu'l-Baha-ian." Eventually I did turn up a few examples, albeit only a few. According to my latest research, `Abdu'l-Baha gave it the exact title "independent investigation of truth" at least three times; once in a letter to a believer in Japan (Japan Will Turn Ablaze, 35), once in a listing given in New York (Promulgation, 440) and once in Paris, as recorded in the listing in the long out of print, "`Abdu'l-Baha and Divine Philosophy". At other times, as we shall see, He used other close variations and combinations of as many words. The Guardian favored this particular phrasing, which I think may be why it was so common in pamphlets.

Nancy Campbell, spinster ballet teacher sporting signature horn-rimmed glasses, having taught the Faith to virtually everybody in the whole Hamilton area had long, first-hand experience with its drawbacks, hence, as I say, her dislike of the word, "independence." Nonetheless, `Abdu'l-Baha undeniably called it "independent" search, and, in spite of her intimidating mein, her almost notoriously vast knowledge about the Faith I rushed to confront her. I do not remember what happened, which means she probably freely admitted her error. With her name she was probably used to suffering from the `curse of the Campbells.' Here was proof that a good teacher can instruct as much by errors as by factuality, for in this and several other points at issue between us she piqued a life-long interest in the Baha'i principles and in the nature of principle itself.

In the years since then Gordon Naylor, another of Nancy's former students in the Faith and one of my spiritual parents, named a Baha'i high school in her memory, the Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute. If I ever come into money I would like to send our children to attend it for from what I hear it is an excellent institution for instilling creativity, diligence and moral values into children, all elements of principle.

Now comes the inevitable owning up to an error for me as well. All these years I have been calling this principle "search for truth" but lately for the first time I went over what the Master Himself actually named it in the principle listings that I have collected together (unfortunately my listing of His listings is not complete, though it includes all of the usual, attainable published sources; it does not include at least one uncollected listing made in Edinburgh, and there may be others extant as well, notably from talks given during His visits to Germany and Hungary). To my surprise I find that I would have been closer to complete accuracy if I had called it, "investigation of reality."

Only twice in my list of eighteen mentions does He use the exact phrase "search for truth," once in London (ABL 27-8) and once in Paris (PT 129). He calls it some form of "investigation of reality" seven times, sometimes including "independent" as well. Here is a list in order of intensity, from "to investigate" to "duty incumbent upon all," along with the city where the talk was given or the Tablet addressed,

Seven "Investigation of Reality" Phrasings

"First, to investigate reality," New York, Promulgation 169
"Investigation of reality," New York, Promulgation 433
"Investigation of reality," Philadelphia, Promulgation 180
"Independent investigation of reality," Tablet to the Hague, Selections 298
"Man should investigate reality," Sacramento, Promulgation 372-3
"Man must independently investigate reality," Montreal, Promulgation 314
"Duty incumbent upon all to investigate reality," Washington, Promulgation, 62-3

In seven other talks and tablets He used some combination of "investigation of reality" and "search for truth." On one occasion in New York He called it the "injunction to investigate truth," (Promulgation, 454) and in Pittsburg He said, "it is incumbent upon all mankind to investigate truth," (Promulgation, 105-6) So, though He did not use the word "compulsory," that was the implication, as much for search as for education.

In Montreal (Promulgation 297) He once refrained from giving the principle a discernable title at all, other than "one foundation, the science of reality." Sometimes I think this "non-title" is the best of all, for it is in essence the treatment of all truth, including spiritual truth, in a scientific manner. If it were not likely to cause even more mis-understandings, you could even call it the "Investigative Imperative," as He very nearly did once in New York, saying, "truth or reality must be investigated." (Promulgation, 127-8)

So, since the Master did say that we must be willing to begin our education again from the very start, I will now admit my error and make a point of calling this principle "investigation of reality," the Master's most common appellation, more often than "search for truth," which is definitely a variant.