Saturday, December 31, 2005

What is the Crimson Book?

What is the Crimson Book? Part Two

By John Taylor; 29 December, 2005

The Qu'ran prophesies the end time as a shocking moment "...when the
heaven is rent asunder, and then becomes red like red hide," (Q55:37,
Shakir), or red like "red ointment," according to Yusuf Ali's
translation." This was quite literally fulfilled in 1883 with the huge
eruption of a volcano on Mount Krakatoa in the South Pacific, easily
among the most catastrophic geologic events in recorded history. One
might well call Krakatoa the "Most Great Outer Cataclysm," for it
spewed billions of tons of volcanic dust into the atmosphere, a single
act of air pollution without equal until, well, now. Only our present
cumulative activity of thousands of factories and coal burning power
generation facilities around the world can hold a candle to Krakatoa's
scale of damage. Krakatoa caused, among other things, spectacular
crimson sunsets around the world, continuing for a whole year

In the universe of prophesy, air that blocks out all but crimson light
is not without millennial significance. The Ark of Moses' covenant, a
box containing His divine Law written on tablets of stone, was
protected in the holy of holies behind a "vail of blue, and purple,
and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon." (2 Chr
3:14, KJV) The prophet Isaiah predicted the final redemption of
humanity in these terms, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith
the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as
snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isa
1:18, KJV) The prophet Jeremiah foresaw general revulsion for the
sinful, exploitative old order, a time when "every city shall be
forsaken" and,

"Though thou clothest thyself with crimson ... in vain shalt thou make
thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life.
(Jer 4:30)

As we noted last time, crimson and a few other shades are the only
light that penetrates dense dirty air and clouds -- clouds are simply
water condensed around tiny floating dust particles. Clouds symbolize
in scripture the physical body of the Manifestation. This body is the
greatest spiritual test for other body owners, who expect God to
instantiate himself into something more exalted and ethereal. The
failure of their false expectations is punishment for spiritual
impurity; their vision is literally clouded over by the world
Redeemer. In the Tablet to Vafa Baha'u'llah wrote,

"Say, God is my witness! The Promised One Himself hath come down from
heaven, seated upon the crimson cloud with the hosts of revelation on
His right, and the angels of inspiration on His left, and the Decree
hath been fulfilled at the behest of God, the Omnipotent, the
Almighty." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets, 182)

Krakatoa was an outward mark of an appointed hour when the Promised
One, as prophesied by the Bab, would be illumined by a "fierce and
crimson Light that envelops (His) Revelation...," (Selections, 53).
This "fierce" crimson hue is a sort of signature color in
Baha'u'llah's Writings. This marks His Mission from the day He left
Ridvan and Baghdad mounted on a red roan stallion. In a work written
not long before Ridvan, in 1860-1, He wrote:

"Unto none is given to quaff even a dewdrop thereof unless he entereth
within this city, a city whose foundations rest upon mountains of
crimson-coloured ruby, whose walls are hewn of the chrysolite of
divine unity, whose gates are made of the diamonds of immortality, and
whose earth sheddeth the fragrance of divine bounty." (Baha'u'llah,
Gems of Divine Mysteries, 16)

A city built on a mountain of "crimson-colored ruby" and carved out of
that precious stone surely prefigures something more substantial than
some ethereal mystic insight, however profound. It seems to envision a
book, an institution, a fellowship, something that lasts through ages
and eras; surely that only would give it such ineluctable force and
crushing gravity. "Now therefore arise, O Lord God, into thy resting
place, thou, and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O Lord God,
be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness. (2
Chronicles 6:41, KJV) At the same time, Baha'u'llah stresses that
entry is open and membership in this city is free to any and all who
appreciate its value and desire to enter it.

"Every receptive soul who hath in this Day inhaled the fragrance of
His garment and hath, with a pure heart, set his face towards the
all-glorious Horizon is reckoned among the people of Baha in the
Crimson Book. Grasp ye, in My Name, the chalice of My loving-kindness,
drink then your fill in My glorious and wondrous remembrance."
(Tablets, 220)

This seems to be the definition of a Baha'i, a soul who not only
wanders through this ruby city but whose name is permanently written
down "among the people of Baha in the Crimson Book." Which leads to
the question, what is the Crimson Book?

In the Tablet of the World, the Lawh-i-Dunya, (1891) written when He
had been living outside Akka for well over a decade, Baha'u'llah seems
to refer to either the Proclamation to the Kings (late 1860's) or to
the Kitab-i-Adqas (1873), or both, when He writes,

"Whilst in the Prison of 'Akka, We revealed in the Crimson Book that
which is conducive to the advancement of mankind and to the
reconstruction of the world. The utterances set forth therein by the
Pen of the Lord of creation include the following which constitute the
fundamental principles for the administration of the affairs of
men..." (Tablets, 90)

The five principles derived from the "Crimson Book" which follow this
passage in the Tablet of the World were the stimulus that prompted me
to wade into this little enquiry about the color crimson and the book
of crimson. I am grateful to Peter Calkins and Benoit Gerard, two
Quebec agricultural specialists who propose some practical
applications of these five Crimson Book principles to local farming
practices in their paper, "The Village Granary: Spiritual
Underpinnings and Applications to North America." (Journal of Baha'i
Studies, March-June, 1998, 1) This paper startled me, for I admit I
had passed over this passage in the Dunya and missed completely its
implications for the principles. For anyone like myself who is
interested in the provenance of the Baha'i principles, this is
earthshaking. Could it be that the Baha'i principles proclaimed by the
Master to the West are also somehow extracts from this mysterious
Crimson Book? I plan to go into the detail that these five principles
deserve later, but my object before that is to continue to survey some
of the many scriptural passages that outline and illuminate the
meaning of "Crimson Book."

Before finishing for today, let us use Krakatoa to get our bearings.
The year of crimson skies caused by Krakatoa mark the midpoint of
Baha'u'llah's Syrian period, specifically the years when He lived in
the mansions at Mazra'ih and Bahji. The year the volcano erupted,
1883, was the tenth anniversary of the revelation of Baha'u'llah's
Kitab-i-Aqdas, His Book of Laws. The Aqdas (1873, by best estimates)
came near the end of His confinement in the prison of Akka, as
mentioned in the quote above. The Akka period began in 1868 with the
public proclamation to the Kings, and culminated in the Aqdas, whose
concern was legal and internal rather than public.

About eight years after Krakatoa the most important phase of the
gradual revelation of this mystic "Crimson Book" was marked by His
last will and testament, a short document kept sealed and Sub Rosa
from everyone, including `Abdu'l-Baha it seems, until nine days after
His ascension. The exact date of revelation of this Will is still
unknown. About it, Shoghi Effendi wrote,

"The Kitab-i-Ahd is the document that started His covenant, which is
the most distinguishing feature of the Faith. Baha'u'llah Himself
called it the `Most Great Tablet,' His `Crimson Book,' the `Conclusive
Testimony, the Universal Balance, the Magnet of God's grace, the
Upraised Standard, the Irrefutable Testament...'" (God Passes By, 239)

Important as these latter periods of Baha'u'llah's writing no doubt
were, they were hardly the most prolific. By far the majority of
Baha'u'llah's Tablets were written in Europe, in Rumelia, from 1863 to
1867; unfortunately, almost none of this material has been translated.
It is therefore impossible to get a reliable sense of how new or
developed the symbolic term "Crimson Book" was when He entered the
Akka period. The references that we have in English to the Crimson
Book are largely in Tablets written in His last days, a three year
period just before His ascension on 29 May, 1892. They include the
Kitab-i-Ahd, that unique written will, so there is plenty of material
to digest. We will wade into it next time.

John Taylor

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Crimson Book, Part 1

Cracking the Crimson Book, Part One

By John Taylor; 28 December, 2005

My dictionary defines "crimson" as any of several hues of "deep
purplish reds;" it comes to Modern English from an Arabic word,
Qirmiz, borrowed by way of Spanish and Middle English. Physically this
color has unique properties that have been known for millennia.
Aristotle noticed that just as certain rare notes make an especially
harmonic sound, so among the colors of light, purple, scarlet and
crimson seem especially blessed and harmonious. Crimson, he observed,
is one of the few colors that can be seen in the obscurity of night,
when everything else is displayed as a monotone,

"In general, white in contrast with black creates a variety of
colours; like flame, for instance, through a medium of smoke. But by
day the sun obscures them, and, with the exception of crimson, the
colours are not seen at night because they are dark." (Meteorology)

Crimson is a characteristic color of sunset and sunrise, for it seems
that when light penetrates clouds, other sections of the spectrum are
blocked. This section of the spectrum seems to penetrate first and
last, hence "crimson skies" mean very early sunrise or late sunset.
Aristotle observed how artists consciously use this behavior of light
in their painting technique,

"...Black and White appear the one through the medium of the other,
giving an effect like that sometimes produced by painters overlaying a
less vivid upon a more vivid colour, as when they desire to represent
an object appearing under water or enveloped in a haze, and like that
produced by the sun, which in itself appears white, but takes a
crimson hue when beheld through a fog or a cloud of smoke." (On the

Crimson is the color of berries on the bush, often of the lotus
flower, of wine, and of blood. In dreams and in literature, the
plucking of a crimson rose symbolizes a love consummated. Eat a grape,
a pomegranate or other fruit containing healthful, antioxidant
flavonoides, and hands and mouth are stained a light crimson. The
color is mentioned most often in Sikh scripture, always as a symbol of
love for God. Here its penetration as a dye is highlighted:

"Like the deep crimson color of the madder plant - such is the dye
which shall color you, when you dedicate your soul to the True One.
One who loves the True Lord is totally imbued with the Lord's Love,
like the deep crimson color of the poppy." (Shri Guru Granth Sahib,
Section 7 - Raag Gauree)

Probably for similar reasons the poppy was chosen for Remembrance Day
to remember the wasted lives of war, for crimson is the last light of
night as well as the first of morning. Crimson is also a universal
symbol of power and of love, or perhaps love power, the power of love.
Among the Ancient Greeks, a king wore purple and his female retainers
dressed in crimson robes; until recently peasants and the poor were
forbidden to wear royal colors in their clothing, on pain of death.
The Israelites hid their holy of holies behind a blue and crimson
veil, wrought with cherubim. In Ancient Rome a magistrate wore crimson
velvet as a badge of office, a symbol of stability and justice.
Isaiah, in his famous vision of the coming of the Lord of Hosts, saw
scarlet. He prophesied not only that the promised redeemer would be
dressed in scarlet, but that He would be questioned about why he wore
this color. The answer is fraught with baleful symbolic weight.

"Who is this that cometh from Edom, with crimsoned garments from
Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, stately in the greatness
of his strength?' -- 'I that speak in victory, mighty to save.'
`Wherefore is Thine apparel red, and Thy garments like his that
treadeth in the winevat?' -- 'I have trodden the winepress alone, and
of the peoples there was no man with Me; yea, I trod them in Mine
anger, and trampled them in My fury; and their lifeblood is dashed
against My garments, and I have stained all My raiment. For the day of
vengeance that was in My heart, and My year of redemption are come."

This unforgettable image of wine and blood staining crimson the
clothing of the Promised Redeemer is refracted in several directions
by the Writings of the Bab. For instance, in the following He pictures
Himself as a gate standing in the midst of a sea of crimson elixir on
which float crimson arks crewed by "the people of Baha."

"Indeed God hath created everywhere around this Gate oceans of divine
elixir, tinged crimson with the essence of existence and vitalized
through the animating power of the desired fruit; and for them God
hath provided Arks of ruby, tender, crimson-coloured, wherein none
shall sail but the people of Baha, by the leave of God, the Most
Exalted; and verily He is the All-Glorious, the All-Wise." (The Bab,
Selections, 57-58)

In His early mystical Writing Baha'u'llah speaks in similar imagery
using this color, referring to a "...wayfarer who journeyeth unto God,
unto the Crimson Pillar in the snow-white path." (Baha'u'llah, The
Four Valleys, p. 58) In the final Arabic Hidden Word God points to the
highest possible station of a believer as one who writes on the tablet
of the spirit with "that crimson ink that hath been shed in My path."
(AHW71) This seems to reflect the fact that crimson light is the first
to penetrate mist and darkness. The fact that this age is entitled the
"Day of God" means that its denizens have in their face the utter and
absolute incomprehensibility of God. The Bab declares,

"The sign of His matchless Revelation as created by Him and imprinted
upon the realities of all beings, is none other but their
powerlessness to know Him. The light He hath shed upon all things is
none but the splendour of His Own Self." (Selections, 111)

This reasoning seems to be the precedent for the Via Negative proof of
deity that `Abdu'l-Baha offered in Some Answered Question and
elsewhere. The fact that human understanding falls so absurdly short
of understanding the Mover of the Universe is itself proof that He
must exist and that He must be All-Glorious. In 20th Century
linguistic theory, Noam Chomsky used a similar negative argument to
prove that behaviorism and stimulus response are inadequate to explain
language development in children. Chomsky called this phenomenon the
"poverty of the stimulus;" poverty of the stimulus means that even
those with mean minds and utterly deprived experience still pick up
sophisticated speech abilities, as if speech were an inherent property
of mind, not something that one may learn or not from a given
stimulus. The Master's negative proof of deity could be called, in
these terms, the poverty of ability. We cannot grasp it, so we throw
ourselves on the mercy of the court. Therefore, calling the believer
in this age symbolically the "people of the crimson ark" would seem to
indicate that they glimpse the colors that penetrate mist or cloud,
crimson. To believe in the Day of God is to see the Ark of the
Covenant, which means instant death. Only this is a spiritual death,
and that death is life. Scarlet light penetrates into a world of
inherent limitation and basically flawed understanding, and illumines
it. The Bab wrote:

"And when the appointed hour hath struck, do Thou, by the leave of
God, the All-Wise, reveal from the heights of the Most Lofty and
Mystic Mount a faint, an infinitesimal glimmer of Thy impenetrable
Mystery, that they who have recognized the radiance of the Sinaic
Splendour may faint away and die as they catch a lightning glimpse of
the fierce and crimson Light that envelops Thy Revelation. And God is,
in very truth, Thine unfailing Protector."

Crimson may be the color of blood, of flowers and wine, but such
symbols are in their turn symbols for service and servitude. In the
28th Chapter of the Qayyumu'l-Asma, the Bab declares His servitude to
certain unbelieving family members, possibly the cousins who in
Karbala later rose to the highest levels of the Shiih clergy.

"This Tree of Holiness, dyed crimson with the oil of servitude, hath
verily sprung forth out of your own soil in the midst of the Burning
Bush, yet ye comprehend nothing whatever thereof..." (The Bab,
Selections, 52)

Crimson light, then, is the last glow of evening, the first glimmering
of dawn for us creatures of the half light. It is a new age of
servitude. As soon as all recognize the poverty of both stimulus and
responder, every eye will see him. After that there can never again be
master or slave, only servants. The Day of God makes a servant the
highest, ultimate station attainable for any created being. The Day is
an age where, in the Bab's words, "all are His servants and all abide
by His bidding," that is, there will no longer be injustice, slavery
or exploitation, all will serve the one glorious light from God. Just
as the fictional city of Oz shone green in emerald light, the edifice
of Baha shines in the crimson hues of ruby, the purest of precious
stones. Declaring Himself to the people of the Earth, the Bab swore,

"By the righteousness of the One true God, I am the Maid of Heaven
begotten by the Spirit of Baha, abiding within the Mansion hewn out of
a mass of ruby, tender and vibrant; and in this mighty Paradise naught
have I ever witnessed save that which proclaimeth the Remembrance of
God by extolling the virtues of this Arabian Youth." (The Bab,
Selections, 54)

John Taylor

Monday, December 26, 2005

Life as Self-fulfilling Prophesy

Life as Self-fulfilling Prophesy; Truth Telling, Part the Umpteenth

By John Taylor; 26 December, 2005

This series on lying and truth telling began with `Abdul-Baha
describing (I think) what is now known as the placebo effect. The
Master gave the example of a doctor who lies to a moribund patient,
saying, "Thank God, you are cured!" Even if this is not strictly true,
He absolves such a doctor of blame, presumably because such lies can
and often do act as self-fulfilling prophesies.

Language, by its very nature, creates reality as much as merely
describing it. A word has a mysterious, divine quality, in divine
hands at least. As John put it: "In the beginning was the word, and
the word was with God, and the Word was God." Islamic civilization
gave rise to an art called "Kalam," or the art of the word, that my
Dictionary of Philosophy describes as "the adducing of philosophical
proofs to justify religious doctrine." (Dictionary of Philosophy, p.
189) Later this "word art" was brought to the West by Thomas Aquinas
and others, eventually being dubbed "theodicy," justifying the ways of
God to men. The Muslim doctors who applied kalam were called
mutakallimun; they practiced a rational art for supernatural ends.
Under the Bab's Badi' calendar, we devote an entire 19 day month to
reflecting upon this art of Kalimat, Words. From this we can safely
conclude that the métier of Kalam is no longer confined to
mutakallimun or professional theologians, it is a universal duty of
all who can speak and believe at the same time.

Such is the power of the word, of language and belief combined that it
can transmute even lies into truths and truths into lies. Such is the
contagious influence of an inspired speaker alone, above and beyond
the reality of the context of her words. In the case of our lying
doctor, if he walks in and declares you to be dead meat, that alone
can be the death of you, even if you are ostensibly healthy.

If a doctor tells you the opposite, that you are cured of a hopeless
disease, even if it is not literally the case, the very belief he
instills alone and in itself cures, irrespective of any further
treatment. When just saying so does not suffice, a doctor can hand a
medication to a patient and declare, "This will cure you." Even if the
prescription is null, a harmless sugar pill -- now known to all as a
placebo -- a cure that cannot possibly physically cure the patient, it
has been demonstrated that in a regular percentage of cases the
patient's body is "fooled" into curing itself. A lie is made into a
statement of truth.

In recent months improved brain scans are showing more graphically
than ever before to researchers how powerful and convincing the
placebo effect is in action. The effect is so impressive that they
have taken the unusual initiative of advising doctors to take the time
and effort it takes to sell patients on any medications they
prescribe. The latest scanning technology displays before our very
eyes that a body of a patient who does not firmly believe in a drug
remains utterly sluggish and unresponsive to a drug, one that can and
should work as advertised. The unbeliever's body simply fails to
respond on a molecular level to administered drugs. Every physical
factor is ready but the drug has no effect. It might as well be a
sugar pill. On the other hand, we can see that in every case where the
mind of a patient is duly prepared and hopeful, the drug has exactly
its intended effect.

Soon it will be part of the job description of a good physician to be
a convincing cheerleader and salesperson for her medical treatments.
This is especially so considering that over decades the open use of
placebos has done relatively little harm. Consider that even if a
lying doctor's well meaning untruth fails to work a miracle and the
moribund patient dies, at least that patient will have died a less
hopeless and miserable death. Still, "above all, do no harm" is a
major strut of the Hippocratic Oath, and it could be argued that
sanctioning lying, even in a good cause, does harm to the credibility
of the medical profession.

Still, it stands to reason that cheerleading lies can do little harm
to physicians' reputations among the living, since, as the saying
goes, a doctor buries his mistakes. Who cares if legions of dead
people can justly object: "Man, I will never trust the word of a
doctor again!" What matters is that a few living survivors can
truthfully say,

"He said `you are cured' and I was cured. Just as God said, `be thou
and we were created, so the doctor said I was cured and I was. I
cannot believe this! Actually, I must have believed it or I would not
be here, would I?"

By no means is the placebo effect (and its ethical repercussions)
restricted to medicine. The effect applies to everyone, every moment
of the day, especially when talking about oneself. Whenever someone
asks, "How are you?" you can truthfully answer, "Terrible." This is
always a truthful answer, considering the dark shadows, the dashed
hopes and realized fears that loom in everyone's temporal existence.
Or just as truthfully, even should afflictions be mounting like a
flood, one can say the opposite.

"I am just great, wonderful! I am doing better than ever in my life! I
am content. It could not be better."

The placebo effect of saying it makes it so, words becoming flesh,
makes life a little sweeter - or sourer -- at every turn. So when I
ask how you are doing, go ahead, tell me a lie. Be a cheerleader to
yourself, about yourself. The only one you will be deceiving will be
your own dark side.

If the human race is to survive, in the near future our political
understanding will have to become much more sophisticated very
quickly. Just as a doctor's job description will require cheerleading,
the job description of a citizen will demand learning the art of
Kalam, acting effectively and consistently as a mutakallimun. For it
is faith, belief, that sustains our success as a species. Each and
all, every minute of the day live on truth telling, on faith and the
words that sustain rather than cut away at faith. As God in the Bible
advises, "Choose life," for our attitude to life is a self-fulfilling

John Taylor

Friday, December 23, 2005

Commissars of Capitalism

PHW49 and the Commissars of Capitalism

By John Taylor; 23 December, 2005

"The light and heat of the sun cause the earth to be fruitful, and
create life in all things that grow; and the Holy Spirit quickens the
souls of men." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 59)

In the past week we have looked over Marxism and how the former
transmogrified into postmarxism, with its doctrine of "agonistic
pluralism." Although most of Marx's ideas have been refuted,
postmarxists justify continuing in their radical persuasion by
pointing out that in terms of numbers there are more poor people and
higher rates of unnecessary deaths of innocent babes in the world than
ever before. This cannot be denied or ignored, whatever you think of
Marxism or Capitalism. Shoghi Effendi spoke of a coming "world
community in which all economic barriers will have been permanently
demolished and the interdependence of capital and labour definitely
recognized..." (World Order of Baha'u'llah) What exactly does that
mean? Sure, profit sharing would break down our present hard
distinctions between owners, managers and workers, but would the
demolition of barriers mean no more poverty? Jesus did say, "The poor
will always be with you." And Baha'u'llah in the Persian Hidden Words

"O Children of Dust! Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the
poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and
deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are
attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My
virtues." (49)

This, it strikes me, is an ineluctable mandate, a divine dictate to
writers to take on a special mission, to go beyond "telling truth to
power" and take the truth about the poor to the rich. Think of Hans
Christian Anderson's haunting tale "The Little Match Girl," a
wrenching tale about the death of an innocent child in hopeless
poverty. That is no fairy tale, and neither is the death of dozens of
babies every minute. Truth telling is our holy grail, the object of
every thinker's effort -- to touch others like Hans Christian

An exemplar on the opposite end of the moral spectrum is David Fromm,
a Canadian mouthpiece for privilege so eloquent that he was hired as
speechwriter for Bush II. He is best known for coming up with the nice
sounding shibboleth, "The Axis of Evil." Fromm sticks in my craw. He
makes me ashamed of sharing the same word "writer" for what we both
do. Why is he so annoying? Because what he says makes no sense,
morally or rationally, (for example, his Axis of Evil bugbear was
Korea, Iraq and Iran, the latter two had been at war with one another
for a decade, and the former was on the other side of the planet) he
is clearly selling himself as an intellectual hired gun for the
wealthy few, but worst of all we have no word for such a person.

What do you call a David Fromm? A brown nose? A brain whore? The best
suggestion I have heard so far comes from Noam Chomsky, who suggests
the old Soviet term, "commissar." Commissars are secular priests,
arbiters of political correctness. Commissars were the censors, the
party members who snitched on their neighbors. During the battle of
Stalingrad they were the petty officers who volunteered to shoot those
civilians who attempted to leave town when the going got hot. Chomsky
is right, capitalism has its commissars too. As long as there is so
much prosperity in rich lands they will not be shooting any of us but
as I said at the start, there are more people dying per second now
than at any time in history, so they bear as heavy a moral burden as
the ones who laid aside their pens for guns in the battle of

The 49th Persian Hidden Word is a call for all not to lay aside the
teaching function formerly taken on by priests and commissars. Even if
we are smart enough to fire all the priests and commissars of the
world, even if we expunge all propaganda we still cannot leave aside
the vital teaching functions that commissars and propaganda performed.
People's lives and happiness are at stake. We all have a firm duty to
tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, not as authorities
but as fellow seekers of the truth. Above all, this mandate applies
for scientists who must see to it that the knowledge they produce
serves all humans, not the privileged elite and their hired
mouthpieces only.

Consider this letter to the editor published in the latest Scientific
American. A reader objected to economist Herman F. Daly saying in an
analysis of world poverty that "the well-being induced by an extra
dollar for the poor is greater than that for the rich." The reader
ripostes: "He can prove that only if he can define `well-being' as an
objective unit. Because that is not possible, he cannot prove his
statement." This is an attempt to do what Karl Popper did to Marx, to
show that he was wrong in his claim to being scientific. You can only
be scientific, that is, if what you say can be proven wrong. If you
try to defend the rights of the poor, you are being emotional, not
scientific. Here is Daly's devastating response, repeating a lesson
from Economics 101 but one that bears repeating over and over in a
selfish society.

"Most people feel that a leg amputation hurts Jones more than a
pinprick hurts Smith. We make interpersonal comparisons of welfare or
utility all the time on the democratic assumption that everyone has
the same capacity for pleasure and pain. We do not need an objective
"utilometer." Add to that the law of diminishing marginal utility of
income (we satisfy our most pressing needs first), and it follows
logically that an extra dollar of income is of more utility to the
poor than to the rich." (Scientific American, January 2006, p. 14)

Less, for haves, is more. This law of diminishing marginal utility is
a fundamental law of economics, but even defenders of the poor often
forget to invoke it when it should on the tips of everyone's tongues.

But the wisdom of the 49th PHW is not about do-gooder writers boring
complacent rich people with sob stories about the down and out. Read
it again. It says, tell them about suffering, why? In order to save
them from certain destruction. This is evident in the last few pages
of Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival," which I reviewed a few weeks ago.
If you do not have time to read the whole book, check out its last

This, in essence, is what the Bush II administration has been doing
since 911: it is blaring out a huge ballyhoo about security, but when
it comes to real security risks, like the spread of fissile material
from Russia, money is strangely absent. Real dangers get no attention
at all. Everything he does seems calculated to sit back, arm them,
anger them, and then the bad guys stir up trouble. And why shouldn't
it, the only time the Republican party is popular is when America is
under attack. Economically, the right rapidly makes itself unpopular
since advocate for the rich and stomp on the poor; and remember, the
law of diminishing marginal utility decrees that giving to the rich
quickly sets the economy into a downward spiral. Bush I was unpopular
at the end of his administration, as Bush II is now; this the
capitalist commissars know about and allow for in their calculations.
So from their point of view, another, much more deadly attack like
9-11 would be manna from heaven, the best thing that could happen to
them. It would be a free ticket back into the White House.

We all know that the Guardian predicted that Paris, New York, Chicago
and other Western capitols would be simultaneously nuked by an
"inveterate enemy." The Bush II administration is doing everything in
its power to see to it that he is proven right, that Qaida and their
ilk will load their suitcase bombs and do their worst. This is not
governance, is partisan advocacy become a cancer. And as the HW warns,
it is cutting directly at the root of the tree of wealth, the very
prosperity they claim as their power base.

If this sounds like rule by suicide, you are getting my drift. My
theme of late has been lying and truth telling, and in exploring this
theme everywhere I turn I find the same thing. Suicide. In the same
issue of Scientific American a columnist suggests "murdercide" as a
new word to describe what suicide bombers do. They are not just
committing suicide, nor are they just assassins, they are both,
murdercides. He discusses a good explanation as to why most suicides
take place, by psychologist Thomas Joiner in a new book.

"People desire death when two fundamental needs are frustrated to the
point of extinction; namely, the need to belong with or connect to
others, and the need to feel effective with or to influence others."
(Thomas Joiner, Why People Die by Suicide, quoted in Scientific
American, January, 2006, p. 34)

Suicide, then, is a direct result of the old, male dominating view of
power, power as "me over you," as "he over she," as "we over them,"
rather than networked, female power, "we and you working together for
a single common cause." In order to tell the whole truth, the former
type of power must serve the latter. To tell a lie is to participate
in a common suicide. Whether you are on the side of the commissars in
power or not, the only hope is to build together upon the Golden Rule.

"Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar,
but is a stab at the health of human society. On the most profitable
lie, the course of events presently lays a destructive tax; whilst
frankness invites frankness, puts the parties on a convenient footing,
and makes their business a friendship. Trust men, and they will be
true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great,
though they make an exception in your favor to all their rules of
trade." (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, Vol. 1)

John Taylor

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Several Things

About Several Things

By John Taylor; 23 December, 2005

One Laptop per Child

This is a snippet from the Globe and Mail's technology page, and it
too could be excerpted as a support for a Baha'i principle: the
principle of promotion of education:

Nicholas Negroponte's "One Laptop per Child" initiative aims to get
cheap, robust sub-$100 laptops into the hands of third-world children.
He describes it thus: "Every single problem you can think of, poverty,
peace, the environment, is solved with education or including
education; so it is an education project, not a laptop project."

The only thing the press has to say about this historic initiative is
how it must be worrying Microsoft, now that open source computers are
being sold en mass, ten million at a shot, to poor nations. How sad
Bill will soon be to have to fight his way into such a huge installed
base of a rival operating system. No sense of joy for how this will
potentially rapidly revolutionize the Third World, stamp out poverty,
and not incidentally turn out to be the best thing that has happened
to the world economy, perhaps ever.


Last month Silvie's grade six teacher read to their class a fantasy
novel about bats called "Silverwing" by Toronto novelist Kenneth
Oppel. She went all starry-eyed about bats and when we came across the
second and third novels in the series in the Dunnville Public Library,
she snatched them up and spent every spare moment reading them until
they were finished. She is not exactly precocious and these were by
far the largest "chapter books" she had ever read on her own. By then
my curiosity was aroused and when I came across Silverwing in the
Wainfleet Library this week I took it out and now Silvie and I are
reading it aloud together -- she was more than happy to go through it
again. I read a page or two and then she reads. We are at about
chapter three now and I recognized the "seed" of the story, one of
Aesop's fables about how the animals and the birds had a war and the
bats switched sides half way through. This angered both sides and the
bats were therefore banished to spend their waking time only in the
dark of night.

Silvie is insatiable about Silverwing. We just went on the author's
website and she insisted on downloading and printing out the teacher's
supplementary questions and answers. She is now happily filling out
the answers to the study questions and checking them with the given
response. Imagine, voluntarily doing homework; I never saw the like.

Albert Camus

I just finished an "Introducing..." book about Camus. One paraphrased
quote from his writing might well be applied as a slogan for the first
two Baha'i principles, "Out of solitude, solidarity." Two Latin
sayings, ruefully quoted by bourgeois members of Germany under Nazism,
also point to principle:

Principiis obsta: Resist the beginnings (of evil)
Finem respice: Consider the end.

Which is why I think that most of the present political discourse of
today will soon be tossed into the garbage bin of history. How can we
resist beginnings or consider ends when there is no means, no
technology for mediating opinions? What does more babble and dredged
up thinking add to the mix? The only thing worth doing is to improve
democracy technically, to computerize it. There is a real revolution
in the making with recent improvements in the mechanics of meetings
called conferencing software. It takes care of group think, absorbs
rapid fire brainstorming, mediates questions and proposals, does a
thousand things at once. For the first time in history, there will
soon be no need, perceived or otherwise, for individual leaders.
People will revere and trust groups because they will see how
extremely effective they can be, given the proper technical mediation.

Synthetic Biology

Consider this, from "Creating first synthetic life form" By Carolyn
Abraham, Globe and Mail, December 19, 2005

Work on the world's first human-made species is well under way at a
research complex in Rockville, Md., and scientists in Canada have been
quietly conducting experiments to help bring such a creature to
life... "We're going from reading to writing the genetic code."... The
work is an extreme example of a burgeoning new field in science known
as synthetic biology. It relies on advances in computer technology
that permit the easy assembly of the chemical bits, known as
nucleotides, that make up DNA.
... Government and scientific bodies in the U.S. have investigated
safeguards for the new technology, given its potential to yield new
pathogens as weapons of bioterror. Ethicists have raised concerns
about humans altering the "nature of nature." But proponents feel the
many benefits of redesigning micro-organisms to do human bidding far
outweigh the risks.

Now I ask you, who are these proponents? They are a handful of curious
scientists and some investors who see a great deal of profit flowing
into their pockets if this catches on. Who stands to lose if the
nature of nature is permanently altered? Everybody else, every human
who will ever be born from now to the end of time. Um, give both sides
a democratic vote and my bet is that foolish gambles like this would
not carry. But both sides do not have a vote.

This is perhaps the greatest flaw of democracy right now, a tiny few
who, admittedly have drive and initiative, want to do something. It
does not matter what it is, everything has good and bad results, and
the bad tends to be irreversibly, especially in this area of
artificial life. The victims have no vote because they are not born
yet. Democracy only gives votes to the living, not to the yet to be
born (YTBB). It doesn't matter that the YTBB is the hugest majority

What ever happened to the idea of sanctity? Holiness? Surely life is
sacred if anything is. And sacred means untouchable. You do not go
into the holy of holies and fool around. That is what the word means.
And what would be lost if we did not make artificial life? Not much.
Anyway, if there are any fellow Baha'i scholars out there, here is a
challenge for you. It seems to me that long ago I read somewhere in
the Baha'i holy writings that creating life is forbidden. But now I
cannot remember where I read it. If you can point out to me where that
is, I would be in your debt.

John Taylor

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Marxism, II

Introducing Marxism, A Book Review, Part II

By John Taylor; 21 December, 2005

Yesterday we went through a distillation of the Communist Manifesto, a
sort of ghostly declaration of war: "A spectre is haunting Europe --
the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered
into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre." This warlike view of
things pervades Marx's thought. Here, in one sentence, is Marx's
summary of world history: "The history of all hitherto existing
societies is the history of class struggles." Karl Marx saw capitalism
as the final stage of this age old struggle between haves and
have-nots. Under capitalism there are two classes, the bourgeoisie who
own the means of production and the have-nots, a non-owning class to
whom he gave the Roman term, "proletariat." The proletariat are forced
by economic necessity to sell their labour to the bourgeoisie, which
means that they end up as exploited and helpless as the slaves of old.

In Ancient Rome the proletariat were the bottom rung, a garbage class
good only for brute labour and producing more children. The Romans
ruling class were terrified of a slave revolt, for good reason, since
the proletariat were very good at producing children and soon became
the majority. Under feudalism the poor majority got limited rights but
were still forced to work as peasants. As capitalism emerged, the
chains binding the proletariat became transparent but were just as
real. The Roman exploitative relationship remained essentially
unchanged, even emotionally, the bourgeoisie fearing the proletarians
and the proletariat hating them. Marx saw himself as an intellectual
Spartacus leading a revolt of the proletariat that he called the

Several times in Marx's lifetime, most notably the Paris Commune of
1871, the Revolution seemed to be happening but in a way reminiscent
of Gandhi, Marx always said: "The proletariat is not ready yet." Above
all, Marx believed that the Revolution would somehow end history
(remember, history _is_ class struggle). Out of the Revolution would
emerge a "dictatorship of the proletariat," and that would lead to a
utopia, one not only for proletarians but for all. He wrote only a few
spare lines on what would happen after the Revolution, and some are
quoted in "Introducing Marxism."

"If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is
compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a
class; if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class,
and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production,
then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the
conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes
generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a
class. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and
class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free
development of each is the condition for the free development of all."
(Introducing Marxism, p. 5)

Thus communism is a free ticket into heaven that gets by the gate, St.
Peter, God and all that religious stuff. Instead of birth by devotions
and personal sacrifice, you get birth by history. This parturition has
as birth pangs the historical travail of the Revolution. But this
heaven still looks suspiciously similar to what people of faith have
been aiming at since day one. Marx's "free development of each part
acting as the condition for the free development of all" is mighty
close to the Golden Rule and its descendent, Immanuel Kant's
categorical imperative. This is no coincidence, as "Introducing
Marxism" points out, since Marx read Kant closely and placed the
categorical imperative at the center of his moral philosophy. If all
goes well, I will include jpegs of two pages detailing Marx's debt to
Kant from "Introducing Marxism" as enclosures in this mail-out. These
are the most important pages in the book and give a good idea of what
an "Introducing..." book looks like inside. The Kant in Marx makes up
what is called today "ethical Marxism," and it is the part of Marxism
that has best stood the test of time.

After Marx, Marxism was modified and souped up, most notably by V.I.
Lenin and Antonio Gramci. It became a dominant factor in political
events. Then in mid-20th Century it took a flying body slam from Karl
Popper, who in "The Poverty of Historicism" demolished Marx's most
precious belief, that his system was scientific.

"How could Marxism be scientific?", asked Popper, "A scientific theory
by definition must be capable of being proven wrong. Your ideas
cannot, not even in principle. So they belong to the realm of
non-science, not to say religion."

For an atheistic ideology to be accused of being a quasi-religion is
of course anathema. Marxism never really recovered. After all,
religions are much better at being religions than Marxism; they have
been in the business for millennia. After Popper, Marxism's body was
picked over by socialists and anti-communists alike. Postmodernists
and semiologists picked at the corpse in the 1970's and 1980's.

What remains today is now known as postmarxism. The most prominent
exponents of postmarxism are Laclau and Mouffe, who modified the
Marxist idea of class struggle into something less reductionist,
something closer to what is actually happening in the world, something
they call agonistic pluralism. In place of "communist utopia," the
preferred term is now "civil society," since democracy has taken a
place, at last, in the Marxist lexicon.

Agonistic (from the Greek for struggle, or athletic contest) pluralism
is the Baha'i slogan of "unity in diversity" stood on its head. It is
the view that there are many classes and identities, not just
bourgeois haves and proletarian have-nots, there are any number of
"class loyalties," including ethnicity, races, gender, nationality,
etc. A society where all conflicts are resolved would be a science
fiction nightmare. Therefore "societies today should foster democratic
and low-intensity conflicts between a variety of different groups."
Agonistic pluralism, to my mind, resembles the original meaning of
"Agon," the mentality of sports. The way to promote tennis is to stage
tennis tournaments, the only way to make football popular is to have
interesting, real contests between football teams. Government is a
sort of referee whose job is not to end the match but to help it along
by keeping order, assuring that the rules are adhered to by all sides.

I will come back to this soon, I hope, but now I want to cite the ten
point program made up by the authors of "Introducing Marxism" to
summarize the revisions of postmarxism. They contrast this ten point
program with that of the Communist Manifesto that starts off the book
(we cited that yesterday). As Baha'is, of course, we cannot help but
juxtapose both 10 point programs with the 10 or 12 point principle
program that the Master promulgated to the West in His journeys
between 1911 to 1913. Here is the postmarxist manifesto in ten points
(my comments are in square brackets):

1. Socialism does not work and neither does any other grand narrative.
The ideologies associated with them are always false.

2. Classes are degenerating and disappearing and attempts to explain
things in terms of them are reductionist and wrong. There are many
other significant sources of identity and conflict, such as gender,
ethnicity, sexual preference. [still no mention of religion, is

3. The state as such is always dangerous and cannot deliver effective
social welfare; this can only be done by civil society.

4. Any form of central planning is inefficient and tends to
corruption; markets are the only mechanism which allows for fair
distribution. [Which would explain why the Chinese government still
considers itself communist]

5. The old left approach to politics always ends in authoritarian
regimes which crush civil society. Politics should exist only at the
local level, with local struggles over local issues. [How is that ever
going to happen without a unified, central world government, even if
it works mostly through moral authority?]

6. Conflicts (antagonisms) are inevitable and while some may be
resolved, this merely transforms and clears the ground for further,
newer antagonisms. An overview of all conflicts and their eventual
resolution is impossible. All we can have are understandings of
particular situations at particular moments. [how is this different
from the faith perspective, that the world is inherently chaotic and
conflictive, that God is inherently ordered, and human understanding
of both inherently limited?]

7. This is a good thing, since the resolution of all conflicts would
result in a stale, rigid society. An ideal would be a pluralist
democracy, providing a stable framework for many local conflicts.

[Mostly this is the Baha'i position, except the struggle part. The
alternative is `Abdu'l-Baha's paradigm of diversity as "flowers in the
garden," humans have no more reason to struggle in the Kingdom of God
than flowers do in a formal garden. The beauty of each plays off the
beauty of its neighbors. Although we know that flowering plants are
engaged in evolutionary struggles, being domesticated means that they
operate under artificial selection, not natural selection. Thus
staging fights between them would make no sense and do good to

8. Revolutions either cannot happen or end badly. The alternative is
democratic transition.

9. Solidarity can exist within and across a range of different groups,
it is a humanitarian gesture. A belief in class solidarity as the only
valid form of solidarity is harmful to this process. [Change the name
of this to "oneness of humanity," move it up to number one or two, and
you have `Abdu'l-Baha's "principle manifesto," the world's first
declaration of peace]

10. In an interdependent, globalized world, anti-imperialism has had
its day. The world is too complex. [anti-anything is not going to cut
it. We need positive peace, to stand for something not against. Why
not let God introduce His Kingdom?]

John Taylor

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Introducing Marxism

Introducing Marxism, I

By John Taylor; 19 December, 2005

I continue going through every volume I can get my hands on of the
illustrated "Introducing..." non-fiction series put out by Icon Books
in England. I enjoy and learn from these because they cover ground
otherwise inaccessible, plus their illustrations offer another path
into and around the text. Encountering both words and drawings
balancing one another makes arcane ideas clear, stable in memory. You
use both sides of the brain, visual and verbal. If one flags the other
can grasp the meaning, which means that when I would otherwise be too
tired or distracted, I can now read with profit. This changes
everything. Ordinary prose now seems like a unicycle, an illustrated
book like riding a bicycle. I wonder how I got along with just that
one wheel.

What is more, and this is indeed strange, I can be wading through an
abstruse discussion (the most difficult of the half dozen or so
Introducing books so far is "Introducing Semiotics") and then my
six-year-old son Tomaso will peek over my shoulder and follow along. I
amuse myself by going over the twenty or thirty pages just read and
retelling the story for him, giving the cartoons an alternate story. I
keep the names the same but give the illustrator's pastiches and
caricatures a funny of plot. The comic book-like format is attractive
to him and I find that the strange and unfamiliar names of
intellectuals, strange and difficult to me even, for Tomaso are not
nearly as demanding as the imaginary names in Japanese comic series,
such as Yugi-oh or Pokeman. Surprisingly often, though, I do not have
to change much. The battles between rival schools of thought are not
all that different from the incessant violence in ordinary comic

I just finished the 2004 volume, "Introducing Marxism," and will look
at that in detail today. Thomas found the antics of Karl Marx and his
sidekick, Fredrick Engels especially intriguing. I asked him
rhetorically: "Why is Marx so famous and Engels so little known?" He
guesses right away. Obviously, because his beard is so huge. That sad,
scraggly little beard that life saddled poor Frederick Engels with
impresses nobody. Of course, as an adult I know the real reason that
Marx's ideas are so powerful today. Because he had that sidekick. Only
in the Twentieth Century did Walt Disney discover the evocative power
of the cute sidekicks on the imagination of young and old. I am not
the first to think of Disney as a Marxist, though.

The caricature of Marx runs through this volume, asking questions
disputing with his critics, turning up at unexpected times. That huge
beard and thick body kicking away at his opponents and then being
kicked back in turn amused me until I woke in the middle of the night
with an off-putting thought. Marx in physical appearance, stocky body,
wide head, very much resembles Baha'u'llah. Or at least the pictures
that I have seen, and they may or may not be authentic. Every
description that I have read of the Manifestation is of a mesomorph
like Marx, thick beard, though not quite as broad; Marx does not wear
a fez, though. Which is why Baha'is had better start making
illustrated books about the Faith avoiding picturing the
non-portrayable before non-believers jump in with their own
caricatures that we would find offensive.

Introducing Marxism begins with a good little synopsis of the
Communist Manifesto (CM), which I include in full below, with comments
after each platform. As you can see, the CM is in its own way a
caricature of the Baha'i principles. Of course, since the Manifesto
came first -- around the time that the Bab declared -- one might say
that the Master's set of principles were consciously drawn up as a
comment, correction or purification of the Communist Manifesto. A
manifesto, by the way, was a document widely posted either to
promulgate a law or by an aggressive power to declare war on another
nation. That is why the CM starts

The Communist Manifesto (summary from pp. 4-5 of "Introducing Marxism")

CM1. "Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of
land to public purposes."

While Baha'is hold to private property, ownership of land is not
regarded as inviolate, much less a Causus Belli. "Land belongs not to
one people, but to all people. This earth is not man's home, but his
tomb." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, 28) We envisage a united world
government as having final say over resources, including land. As the
world order is now, the worst thing that can happen to a small nation
is for oil or other discoveries take place on its land. The battle
over who gets the cash tears the nation apart, as demonstrated most
recently in Chad. Bad as over-concentration of land ownership may be,
regarding religion as one's own private domain is much more harmful:

"Those who would have men believe that religion is their own private
property once more bring their efforts to bear against the Sun of
Truth: they resist the Command of God; they invent calumnies, not
having arguments against it, neither proofs. They attack with masked
faces, not daring to come forth into the light of day." (Paris Talks,

This masking and hiding in darkness explains why the Manifesto starts
off so ominously, more like a ghost story than a political
declaration. It says that the "spectre of communism is haunting
Europe..." Communism, it avers, is a Power in itself, and it was
scaring the bejeebers out of politicians everywhere, who were using it
as a "nursery tale" to scare children. Nobody had a clear idea of what
communism means, so the purpose of the CM was to give the floating
phantasm a concrete, understandable form.

CM2. "A heavy progressive or graduated income tax."

Not original to Europe, a graduated income tax was part of its "open
secret" inheritance from Islam. Radical as it seemed, when the CM was
written Islamic nations had had a thousand years experience in such

The following forced equalization by a centralized state are too
radical, dangerous and unnecessary.

CM3. "Abolition of all rights of inheritance."

CM4. "Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels."

CM5. "Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of
a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly."

CM6. "Centralization of the means of communication and transport in
the hands of the state."

Is this so radical? The Internet originally was put together by the
military and then according to good capitalist doctrine was handed
over and financed privately. It remains today strictly in corporate
hands, and Bush II raps the fingers of anyone who suggests it be
passed over to public hands. Now we find that whenever a security
expert points out a flaw or vulnerability in the structure of the net,
corporations take the easy way out. They fire the security expert,
suppress the information and save money on repairing the cracks in the
dike. The proto-fascist structure and absolute power of the modern
corporation assure that every day our world is a bit more precarious.

CM7. "Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by
the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the
improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan."

Now of course extensive environmental degradation means that the tough
planning challenge is to resist overdevelopment. As Paul said, "for
meat, destroy not the work of God..." (Rom 14:20) But even today, in
reaction to Communism, any hint of planning is still anathema to
hegemonists, except of course planning that benefits them directly.

CM8. "Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial
armies, especially for agriculture."

The first sentence here became Baha'i law, and it too was first
broached by St. Paul. The second I do not know exactly what Marx and
Engels were talking about, but if it was the systematic application of
technology to agriculture, this again was pioneered under Islam.

"One of the chief causes of the prosperity of the people under the
Islamic regime was the attention given to agriculture. The caliphs
were very enlightened in this respect. They scoured the known world
for new plants or varieties; they fostered with all the means at their
command the use of irrigation; and they protected the peasant in his
modest individual holding of land. They seemed to realize that
agriculture is, indeed, the basic industry." (Stanwood Cobb, Islamic
Contributions to Civilization, Avalon Press, Washington, DC, 1963, p.

CM9. "Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries;
gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a
more equable distribution of the populace over the country."

This sounds like a great idea. As it is, the mass of the populace fled
to city life while political power stayed in the country. The flight
from representation by population perverted democracy and made it
easily skewed and manipulated by the Few. My mound architecture
proposals would allow rapid shifts of the population between rural and
urban conditions when the need arises.

CM10. "Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of
children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of
education with industrial production, etc. "

This no longer sounds very radical, does it? Next time we will look at
how the Communist Manifesto has been edited and changed by just about
everybody, including Marx himself, through the following century and
more than a half, as explained in "Introducing Marxism.

John Taylor

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Positivism and the Fruit of Truth

Positivism and the Fruit of Truth

Truth Telling Series, Part VIII

By John Taylor; 17 December, 2005

Yesterday we glanced at Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary, a morality
play that a deeply hypocritical bourgeoisie tried to suppress just
around the time when Baha'u'llah questioned it for worshipping names.
One may well ask. What is a name that describes nothing? A deception
at best, a lie at worst. The civilization of the West had people
sacrificing their all for airy nothing, since, Baha'u'llah admonished
them, whatever does not relate to God is valueless. Even family, the
foundation of society, becomes nothing but a hollow name without truth
or value. This existential quandary does not come out of a clear blue
sky, it is payback. Baha'u'llah says that their vain imaginings took
hold of them in requital for what their hands had wrought.

The story of Madam Bovary shows how false word and deed, lies and
deceptions can become embodied in personal existence; a faithless wife
was embroiled to the end of her days in worthless desires while
married to an uncritical medical practitioner who lured unsuspecting
patients into a harmful, irreversible surgical procedure. Together
they make up to a single lie, false faith and unscientific knowledge.
Such misery multiplied in a thousand wasted careers and agonized,
self-deluding hearts degrades the social fact into a mere name.
Baha'u'llah continues,

"Consider the pettiness of men's minds, they seek with utmost exertion
that which profiteth them not, and yet wert thou to ask of them: `Is
there any advantage in that which ye desire?,' thou wouldst find them
sorely perplexed." (Summons, 82-3)

He hastens to add that no fair-minded soul would answer yes to this
question. In order to be just and true effort and sacrifice in life
and career must be for something profitable to oneself, to others or
preferably both. It seems to me that this question of profit or
advantage is key to understanding how lies disseminate in society and
leave only name worship behind. "Such is the condition of the people
and of that which they possess." The only thing left for the Spirit to
do is turn away and worship God.

Baha'u'llah in this Tablet to Napoleon III calls onto the carpet the
ruling ideologies of the West, positivism and modernism, as understood
in that era. Injustice is woven into them, and as a result all held
dear becomes mere name worship. Name worship -- or ideology -- is
worse than idolatry since an idol at least has physical substance
whereas an empty name is nothing at all, a false illusion without

Let us take a closer look at positivism. In one sense, positivism can
mean belief in progress through accumulation of knowledge. According
to this Darwinism, Freudianism, Communism, and even the Baha'i Faith
are positivist. At that time, however, positivism was taken as
outright denial of metaphysics and theology. Positivists held only
scientific knowledge as of value, and when it did not fit, as in the
social sciences, it was made to fit with lies and half-truths.

Gustave Flaubert himself, through his reading of Spenser and others,
came to reject the dogmatic, exclusionist kind positivism and in the
end flirted with something close to the Baha'i principle that science
and religion are harmonious as long as each keeps within its own
limits. This is reflected in Flaubert's early work, Madame Bovary,
which takes the religious-superstitious wing of the bird to task, as
well as his later novel, Bouvard and Pecuchet, which satirizes the
other positivist wing, scientism, the superficial misunderstanding and
misapplication of science.

Religious superstition and scientism will not let go their grip so
long as God is kept out of the equation. And until we include Him,
Baha'u'llah warns, we will never be just, or even come to grips with
what profits or harms us.

What a Manifestation of God does for truth is to embody in His Being a
clear criterion between right and wrong, truth and falsehood. Without
that balance by which to judge what is of benefit, a civilization
loses its bearings, ceases to moderate and like an addict can only
mistake truth for error and error for truth. This wisdom can only take
root when planted deep in the soul, as all scriptures teach, including
the Qu'ran.

"In the past We granted to Moses and Aaron the Criterion (for
judgment), and a Light and a Message for those who would do right.
Those who fear their Lord in their most secret thoughts, and who hold
the Hour (of Judgment) in awe. (Qur'an 21:48-49, Yusuf Ali tr)

By rights this Qu'ranic idea of a Furqan or Criterion should have
given birth to science in the Islamic civilization but unfortunately
its corruption resulted in a castration or divorce between its mystics
or Sufis, who called themselves the People of the Truth (Ahl-i-Haqiqa)
and its legalists (Ahl-i-Shari'a, people of religious law). Science
fled its cradle and became identified with the European enlightenment.
The Bab offered an explanation as to why this happened.

"Ponder a while and observe that everything in Islam hath its ultimate
and eventual beginning in the Book of God. Consider likewise the Day
of the Revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest, He in Whose
grasp lieth the source of proofs, and let not erroneous considerations
shut thee out from Him, for He is immeasurably exalted above them,
inasmuch as every proof proceedeth from the Book of God which is
itself the supreme testimony, as all men are powerless to produce its
like. Should myriads of men of learning, versed in logic, in the
science of grammar, in law, in jurisprudence and the like, turn away
from the Book of God, they would still be pronounced unbelievers. Thus
the fruit is within the supreme testimony itself, not in the things
derived therefrom. And know thou of a certainty that every letter
revealed in the Bayan is solely intended to evoke submission unto Him
Whom God shall make manifest, for it is He Who hath revealed the Bayan
prior to His Own manifestation." (Selections, 104, Persian Bayan, V,

The Sufis not only rejected the "source of proofs," they also spurned
obedience to the Qu'ranic law as essential step in the path to truth.
They held that enlightenment comes only to the elect after a long
journey to mystic truth assisted by a Pir, or guide.

"The Sufi must first reach the state of fana (passing away of the
self), in which he becomes free from attachment to the earthly world
and loses himself entirely in God. After he is awakened from that
state he attains the state of baqi (subsistence), and Haqiqah
(reality, truth) is revealed to him." (Haqiqah. Encyclopaedia
Britannica. Retrieved December 13, 2005, from Encyclopaedia Britannica
2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD)

Baha'u'llah had first hand contact with the Sufis and was extremely
critical of the results of their devotional quest. Some of their
spectacular devotional feats He called "naught but tricks, fraud and
deception..." He severely applied the same criterion to them that He
did to Western positivism and its complete rejection of both religious
law and mysticism. In both cases He asked: "What good or benefit are
you accomplishing?" Of Sufis He wrote,

"Shouldst thou behold the mystic knowledge of the mystics, thou wilt
know that, by My Life, all rove distraught in the wilderness of vain
imaginations and are drowned in the sea of idle fancies. Should any
one, for example, study geometry in this day, such a pursuit is
exalted in the sight of God above memorizing all the books written by
the mystics inasmuch as the former yieldeth fruit, but the latter doth
not." (quoted in, Nader Saiedi, Logos and Civilization, pp. 40-41)

A society that is "true," then, will be made up of individuals who not
only seek truth for a reason (profit) but who are qualified to judge
the worth of entire bodies of knowledge according to the fruit they
bear. Whether a body of knowledge claims allegiance to the East or to
the West, to science or religion, it will still have to justify itself
to every new investigator. The same applies to one's love life, what
Flaubert appropriately called a person's "sentimental education." The
fruitfulness of both knowledge and love is essential to both personal
happiness and the true kind of positivism in society.

John Taylor

Friday, December 16, 2005

Name Worship

Name Worship and the Truth Teller's Paradox, Part VII

By John Taylor; 16 December, 2005

A lie has long been understood not to be natural or built in deception
but a linguistic ploy only possible for free agents using a full-scale
language. This was laid out as long ago as the 17th century by the
Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius,

"Words, or signs, importing the same meaning as words, are generally
taken for conceptions of the mind, yet it is no lie for any man to
utter a falsehood, which he believes to be true; but the propagation
of a truth, which any one believes to be false, in him amounts to a
lie. There must be in the use of the words therefore an intention to
deceive, in order to constitute a falsehood in the proper and common
acceptation." (On Law of War and Peace)

Lying, then, is an intention to deceive peculiar to those with free
will and the ability to talk. A striped or speckled animal whose skin
covering deceives the eye into thinking that it is a branch or pile of
leaves is not lying in any real sense. Such camouflage is its means of
survival among foreign organisms in an often hostile environment.

Human survival is based upon the opposite of deception, we build up an
artificial environment using language reliably in social interaction.
Truth is both root and fruit, our means of survival both individually
and collectively. In our world, deceptions and intentional ploys are
not survival mechanisms but the reverse, pathology. Aristotle wrote
that, "Falsehood is in itself mean and culpable, and truth noble and
full of praise." (Nic. Ethics, Book 4, Ch. 7) Truth and veracity have
positive worth that has often compared to the nutritive value of food.

"Does not the ear try words, even as the palate tastes its food?" (Job 12:11)

According to this metaphor, mistakes, errors and unintended deceptions
in speech act as bulk in the diet. As modern medicine has discovered,
bulk has no nutritive value in itself but in passing through the
digestive system it helps the body by carrying off its own toxic waste
products. A supposedly optimal diet without bulk leads in time to
morbidity, including cancers of the gut. Similarly, I suppose, a
healthy mind that constantly is sorting out truth from error in the
words it speaks and hears is exercising it faculties, eliminating
prejudices and errors. A healthy soul eliminates error by holding to
divine law, becoming aware mostly by examining its own speech of its
own inadequacy and imperfections, and this carries away sin.

"I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love." (Psa 119:163)

Mendacity is harmful, then, because far from carrying away the bulk of
mental misconceptions, it acts as a poison itself. Some poisons kill
immediately while others act slowly, building up toxicity over time.
The decline and perversion of slow poisoning is now called by medical
science an addictive reaction. According to this analogy, a mind
seduced by a slow acting lie or half-truth learns to mistake
withdrawal pains from the lie for error and the false highs of further
poisoning doses for pleasure. Falsity's insidious perverting process
of often pictured in Holy Writ as Satan. The devil,

"...was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth,
because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh
of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." (John 8:44)

An inert chemical can act as a slow poison in the soul but only a
person, depicted as a demon or devil, can symbolize a nefarious human
will. Hence the resonance of the character Satan, father of lies, in
both scripture and literature. A father of lies not only is embroiled
in untruths but like a double agent his will is "turned," it goes over
to the enemy and as it were spies upon and subverts the truth.

Gustave Flaubert depicts what is for me the most memorable example of
the moral decline of lying in his novel "Madame Bovary." Madame Bovary
marries a doctor, a promoter of a surgical technique that turns
semi-disabled patients into complete cripples; his harm, though real
and tragic, is "honest," an unintentional deception. Presumably
medical science learns from such mistakes even if he in his career
never did. Meanwhile only Bovary's reverential love for his wife
sustains him in the face of professional failure. Madame Bovary,
however, is addicted to intentional lies. She lies so much that if she
walks down the north side of the street she later makes it a point to
tell everybody that she walked down the south side of the street. Only
after her death does her grieving husband discover her secret diary
that documents her lifelong lies and infidelities.

The quack-by-mistake Bovary's emotional delicacy results from
ignorance and non-intentional errors in his medical practice but it is
intentional lies that push him over the edge. He is so shocked and
disillusioned by the truth of her falsity and the falsity of her truth
that he eventually commits suicide. A habitual liar's therapeutic
attempt to "get it out of her system" by writing a true diary acts as
a delayed reaction pill, poisoning her husband's shaky illusions.

Flaubert based his novel on the memoirs of a "fallen woman" whom he
had befriended, but when asked upon whom he had modeled this character
he gallantly and not wholly untruthfully replied, "Madame Bovary,
c'est moi." He could as easily have said that she is you too, a
wavering Eve or soul for the Adam that is everyman.

One would think that such an exquisite morality play would have won
acclaim, but quite the reverse. Flaubert was charged and taken to
court for "Madame Bovary" and came within an ace of being prosecuted
for spreading immorality. Clearly, lies had become so widespread in
Napoleon III's France that even morality plays were mistaken for
pornography. Here is some of what Baha'u'llah had to say to this
successor to Napoleon Bonaparte, from the concluding paragraph of His
1867 Tablet to that insincere reformer rightly judged the "first of
the modern dictators."

"We behold the generality of mankind worshipping names and exposing
themselves ... to dire perils in the mere hope of perpetuating their
names, whilst every perceiving soul testifieth that after death one's
name shall avail him nothing except insofar as it beareth a
relationship unto God, the Almighty, the All-Praised. Thus have their
vain imaginings taken hold of them in requital for that which their
hands have wrought. Consider the pettiness of men's minds. They seek
with utmost exertion that which profiteth them not, and yet wert thou
to ask of them: "Is there any advantage in that which ye desire?",
thou wouldst find them sorely perplexed. Were a fair-minded soul to be
found, he would reply: "Nay, by the Lord of the worlds!" Such is the
condition of the people and of that which they possess. Leave them in
their folly and turn thy sight unto God. This is in truth that which
beseemeth thee. Hearken then unto the counsel of thy Lord, and say:
Lauded art Thou, O God of all who are in heaven and on earth!"
(Baha'u'llah, Summons, 1.157, pp. 82-83)

John Taylor

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Truth Paradox, Part VI

Truth Teller's Paradox, Part VI

By John Taylor; 15 December, 2005

Let us revert to our earlier discussion of truth telling and lying.
The other day as I was preparing my bean salad I heard a pounding on
the door. It was a neighbor woman, the mother of a tyke named Isaac.
She was furious that my 6 year old son Thomas had bit Isaac on the
finger on the playground. I asked if he was hurt and she said no but
made it an unpleasant confrontation. After further questioning from me
she stormed off saying, "I know that what he said is true, Isaac would
never lie to me." Since she had demanded that I punish Thomas so
fervently I asked Thomas what had happened as soon as he got home.

"Isaac was sitting on me and I could not breathe. He would not get off
me no matter what I said, so I bit his finger. That got him going."

It seemed then that she was right, Isaac was telling the truth to his
mother. Just not the whole truth. Since his teacher had brought up
other issues with Thomas's behavior during the day, I duly sentenced
him to a "time out" to cover the whole day. I then ordered him to
avoid Isaac in future, since a kid whose mother does his fighting for
him is dangerous to everybody -- except perhaps to the kid he is
fighting. Later I summarized the kafuffle to my sage-like friend Stu,
a retired primary school teacher, and his answer was a sort of
combination of Karma and the Golden Rule.

"We get what we dish out in life. If we are angry and lash out, that
is what will come back to us. If we love and send out positive
vibrations that will ultimately be our recompense."

My thought was that in a competitive or confrontational situation,
telling the truth must perforce be impossible because the whole truth
itself is not whole, it is smoked out by hatred, seething with
poisonous wrong. This is the nature of truth, it is as much love as it
is correspondence to reality. In a battle everything becomes hate, not
love. Truth is then a weapon, whether said for purposes of contention
or not. Even true statments get caught up in strife's flames and are
consumed as war materiel. This is the sad reality: telling the whole
truth is impossible in a competitive situation.

"Do not let kindness and truth forsake you. Bind them around your
neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart." (Prov 3:3)

There is no dichotomy between love and truth, both are essential to
truth telling. This seems to be the intent of the wording of in the
King James Version the 9th Commandment, forbidding both lies and
truths that harm others. "Neither shalt thou bear false witness
against thy neighbour. (Deut 5:20) This choice of words portrays a
witness testifying in court. Bearing false witness against a neighbor
in a court case may include lies and calumny, of course, but a "false
witness" can still be false without deviating from truth. For example,
he might expose embarrassing, confidential or compromising
information. It is possible to betray friendship any number of ways
without deviating in the slightest from the "truth, the whole truth
and nothing but the truth." A Psalm warns against those,

"Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of
falsehood." (Psalms 144:8)

The press over past weeks has been covering an interesting
demonstration of this "bearing false witness" at a provincial enquiry.
It seems that a friend of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris happened
to be present when he gave his notorious order to expel Native
protesters from a provincial park. Harris's noble aim at the time was
to build picnic tables or a parking lot in the park and peaceful
Native protesters were objecting to the choice of location on sacred
burial grounds. Harris's friend revealed that the Premier's exact
words in giving an expulsion order that lead to the police shooting a
protester dead were:

"Get those f-ing Indians out of my park!"

The friend of Harris was evidently upbraided by the commission of
inquiry for not revealing this information earlier and his defense was
that he did not wish to betray his friendship with Harris. Thus he got
the worst of three worlds, he spoke the truth but too late to help
much. In spite of the delay he was still false to his powerful friend.
And most of all, the majority got the short end of the stick. His
delay in testifying betrayed the honor of the people of Canada --
since that killing we were placed on Amnesty International's list of
nations with bad human rights records.

So telling the truth means not only speaking kindly and veraciously
but also speaking promptly, at the correct time. Like food, speech
must come in the right amount at the right time, when it helps and
does not harm the health of the body politic. But most of all, telling
the truth is building an atmosphere of loving consultation where lies
and strife cannot breathe.

"But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God
perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." (1 John 2:5)

John Taylor

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cruel Indifference

Cruel Indifference, Book Review of "Hegemony or Survival," A Masa'il

By John Taylor; 12 December, 2005

Today let us review a fairly recent book called:

Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, America's Quest for Global
Dominance, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2003

This as far as I know is the latest book of a series lasting decades
by the world's greatest linguist reviewing the sinister power politics
lurking behind recent history and events still unfolding. Why does a
linguist need to do an historian's work? Because, it seems, historians
are easily fooled by the language that power mongers use. Sly words
fool them, throw them off the track and they miss the whole discourse
behind world events. For example, historians probably read the
following comment of President Truman and laughed heartily. A
linguist, on the other hand, can see beyond the cleverness and
deconstruct an imperial president's bigotry:

"Truman was outraged by India's disobedience. His reaction, no less
elegant than the current reaction to disobedience of Old Europe and
Turkey, was that India must have "consulted Uncle Joe and Mousie Dung
of China." The white man got a name, not just a vulgar epithet. Partly
that may be ordinary racism, or perhaps it is because Truman genuinely
liked and admired "Old Joe," who reminded him of the Missouri boss who
had launched his political career. In the late 1940's, Truman found
Old Joe to be a "decent fellow," though "a prisoner of the politburo"
who "can't do what he wants to." Mousie Dung, however, was a yellow
devil." (Hegemony, 153)

What historian even knows the difference between a name and an
epithet? I sure did not. That is why no historian can touch Chomsky,
even though he is trampling on their home ground.

The thesis of "Hegemony or Survival" is simple and clear. The world
has two choices, the current American Empire or survival. Unlike past
tyrannies, the American Empire has the entire planet by the throat. It
is not a question of mere massive injustice or extermination of
millions as it was in the past, the very survival of the human race is
at stake. Billions, not millions of victims, total destruction of the
environment, suicidal wars whenever it suits a cabal of ignoramuses.

Interestingly, Chomsky holds that though most people think that there
is only one superpower at large in the world, they are wrong. There
are in effect two rival superpowers, the American Regime and world
opinion. And since world opinion does not have on its side the One
Percent Who Own Just About Everything (the OPWOJAE --my term, not
Chomsky's), not to mention the massive military machine that the
OPWOJAE's huge resources fund, the only role of the second superpower
is to act as a sort of Greek chorus. It can impotently comment on what
is happening, and deplore the onrushing end of the human race. The
only way the chorus can hope do its job of saving the world is to sing
very loudly and on cue. And it does.

"You are killing us. We are all in the same boat. If the boat sinks
you will go down too, no matter how rich and protected you think you

So as the OPWOJAE and its puppet, the American Empire, were preparing
to invade Iraq, world opinion did something unprecedented in world
history, it engaged in massive peace demonstrations before the war had
actually begun! Good move, but it was a cantor's tactic, utterly
non-violent and ineffectual. No matter how loud and prompt their
voices, you cannot send a choir against tanks and guns and the OPWOJAE
know it well.

Chomsky's linguistic ability is needed to inject satire where a
professional satirist would throw up his hands in despair. You cannot
satirize these paid mouthpieces of power any more than you can mock a
ventriloquist's dummy. Anything you say about the dummy is directed
off stage, it bounces off the dummy and goes nowhere. That does not
daunt Chomsky. As a trained linguist, he does not let a sentence go
by, or even a clause or sub clause, subjunctive or not, without
refuting the OPWOJAE and their minions. Here, though, is a fairly rare
example where he resorts to satire.

"Eliminating social programs has goals that go well beyond
concentration of wealth and power. Social security, public schools,
and other such deviations from the "right way" that US military power
is to impose upon the world, as frankly declared, are based on evil
doctrines, among them the pernicious belief that we should care, as a
community, whether the disabled widow on the other side of town can
make it through the day, or the child next door should have a chance
for a decent future. These evil doctrines derive from the principle of
sympathy that was taken to be the core of human nature by Adam Smith
and David Hume, a principle that must be driven from the mind."
(Hegemony, 119-120)

This, Baha'is will recall, is the principle we call the oneness of
humanity, the core principle of everything we know and hold divine. I
note that a professor of religious studies in the States specializing
in Christian fundamentalism is in very hot water right now for calling
them on his website "moral retards." His mistake was not expressing
what is not obvious to all observers, it was saying it of those with
their fingers on the pulse of power. You cannot do that and not suffer
consequences. But think about it. Chomsky mentions Smith and Hume, but
before them was a guy called Jesus Christ and all His talk about being
a Good Samaritan. Who but a moral retard would cast aside the
substance of the teachings of Christianity and implicate themselves in
the most brutal, heartless regime in the history of the world?

Chomsky continues this passage, solving a little mystery that I
mentioned a few essays ago. "Why is it," I wondered, "That investors
are intentionally flooded by the media with data about the stock
market when increased data flow actually leads to decisions that lose
money, that never improves a portfolio?" Here is why.

"Privatization has other benefits. If working people depend upon the
stock market for their pensions, health care, and other means of
survival, they have a stake in undermining their own interests:
opposing wage increases, health and safety regulations, and other
measures that might cut into profits that flow to the benefactors on
whom they must rely, in a manner reminiscent of feudalism." (Hegemony,

This is one of the few moments in Chomsky where you get an explanation
of what is going on in the heads of the OPWOJAE. Most of the time,
though, he is an unrelenting recorder of every one of the thousands of
lies, evil deeds and dirty tricks that these power mongers come up
with to rationalize doing what they please. Since mostly the American
Empire is concerned with intimidation and state terror, that is what
you get from Chomsky's record. You are in clear and present danger,
that is, of getting depressed if you do not take Chomsky in small

What I do sometimes to get a writer out of my system to check out his
opponents on Google. But if you do that with Chomsky you do not come
up with much. The most substantive criticism you will find is that
enemies read him carefully and make use of his points to undermine
American foreign policy goals. In other words, they do not challenge
what he says, only the uses to which it is put. Nobody can deny that
he documents everything that he says very carefully. If the pile of
footnotes at the back of this book are not enough for you, you can go
to the author's website and read even more. Um. No thanks.

In interviews Chomsky is often asked why it is that he is allowed to
go about impervious when other critics, such as certain Black Panthers
leaders, get wasted with extreme prejudice by establishment stooges,
as he himself documents. He always answers, "Because I am a member of
the elite that I am attacking." In other words, being the world's
greatest linguist has its privileges. Wait a minute! I am not the
world's greatest linguist. There is nothing to protect me if I agree
with Chomsky. Maybe I had better shut up or I will be exterminated

These and other depressing thoughts were running through my head just
before the Feast of Questions last night. At the last minute I
remembered that the LSA, in view of the Master's admonition to teach
children to give public talks from an early age, had asked that 11
year old Silvie give a short talk during the business portion of the
Feast. Thinking fast, I rifled through Paris Talks to find the
shortest disquisition in there for her to read aloud. I picked what
seemed the briefest and read it aloud to her beforehand to sort out
the pronunciation of the hard words. When we were there she
reluctantly agreed, lamely protesting: "I should memorize it
beforehand, then I will be able to do the proper hand motions." I
replied, "Next time, my dear, for now just read it. We will practice
more next time." Then as I listened to her, and she did read it very
well in clarion tones once she got going, I heard the Master's words
in a new light. God chose that talk for me, just then, to answer my
questions. I felt `Abdu'l-Baha's anger with the cynical way of the
world, and how similar his anger is to Chomsky's bitterness.

Before, I had taken this talk to be about the local bias that the
press must have in order to attract local readers. But no, that was
not it at all. He was talking about the Italo-Turkish war, one of the
invisible, contained conflicts that go on when the mainstream press
pronounces the world at peace. But `Abdu'l-Baha could not have been
indifferent to this smoldering conflict, especially since He had been
refused entry into several hotels during His recent time in America on
the suspicion that his party of exotically dressed non-whites were
Turkish. Even when it was explained that He had been a prisoner of the
Turks for four decades, they were not swerved in segregating their
superiority away. This is especially amazing since Italy was a
barefaced aggressor in this war. Surely a just person would sympathize
with the Turks on principle, but no, since the Italians' skin was
lighter and they followed the Christian faith, they had the
unqualified sympathy of most Americans at the time. Now of course race
and religion do not enter in, if you exclude the Iraq conflicts,
Kosovo, East Timor, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Palestine, and thousands of
other "limited" (read "not between Christian, white nations")
conflicts. The question I asked myself was, "How many of these bloody
wars by proxy would the American Empire have been able to sponsor if
it were not for the cruel indifference of most people?" Not bloody
many you can bet on it. So the reality behind Chomsky's reality is a
spirituality gap of huge proportions.

Anyway, without further ranting, here is the full text of the Master's
talk that Silvie read for the Feast of Questions.

November 24th (1913)

'Abdu'l-Baha said:

I have just been told that there has been a terrible accident in this
country. A train has fallen into the river and at least twenty people
have been killed. This is going to be a matter for discussion in the
French Parliament today, and the Director of the State Railway will be
called upon to speak. He will be cross-examined as to the condition of
the railroad and as to what caused the accident, and there will be a
heated argument. I am filled with wonder and surprise to notice what
interest and excitement has been aroused throughout the whole country
on account of the death of twenty people, while they remain cold and
indifferent to the fact that thousands of Italians, Turks, 115 and
Arabs are killed in Tripoli! The horror of this wholesale slaughter
has not disturbed the Government at all! Yet these unfortunate people
are human beings too.

Why is there so much interest and eager sympathy shown towards these
twenty individuals, while for five thousand persons there is none?
They are all men, they all belong to the family of mankind, but they
are of other lands and races. It is no concern of the disinterested
countries if these men are cut to pieces, this wholesale slaughter
does not affect them! How unjust, how cruel is this, how utterly
devoid of any good and true feeling! The people of these other lands
have children and wives, mothers, daughters, and little sons! In these
countries today there is hardly a house free from the sound of bitter
weeping, scarcely can one find a home untouched by the cruel hand of

Alas! we see on all sides how cruel, prejudiced and unjust is man, and
how slow he is to believe in God and follow His commandments.

If these people would love and help one another instead of being so
eager to destroy with sword and cannon, how much nobler would it be!
How much better if they would live like a flock of doves in peace and
harmony, instead of being like wolves and tearing each other to

Why is man so hard of heart? It is because he does not yet know God.
If he had knowledge of God he could not act in direct opposition to
His laws; if he were spiritually minded such a line of conduct would
be impossible to him. If only the laws and precepts of 116 the
prophets of God had been believed, understood and followed, wars would
no longer darken the face of the earth.

If man had even the rudiments of justice, such a state of things would
be impossible.

Therefore, I say unto you pray -- pray and turn your faces to God,
that He, in His infinite compassion and mercy, may help and succour
these misguided ones. Pray that He will grant them spiritual
understanding and teach them tolerance and mercy, that the eyes of
their minds may be opened and that they may be endued with the gift of
the spirit. Then would peace and love walk hand in hand through the
lands, and these poor unhappy people might have rest.

Let us all strive night and day to help in the bringing about of
better conditions. My heart is broken by these terrible things and
cries aloud -- may this cry reach other hearts!

Then will the blind see, the dead will be raised, and Justice will
come and reign upon the earth.

I beseech you all to pray with heart and soul that this may be accomplished.

(Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 113)

John Taylor