Tuesday, July 31, 2007


John Amos Comenius, Pansophist

By John Taylor; 2007 July 31

Yesterday I got off on a tangent, I discovered a new writer, yet another teacher and mentor among the many other dead white men who have taught me so much, and I ended up writing nothing. I am sorry, readers, but what can I say? I am a researcher by hobby and it bugs me no end when I come across somebody that I should know more about and I cannot. If I do not have the entire opus in etext form safely stored in my Ocean text database, I get antsy. The discovery I am talking about, my "it" guy of the moment, is John Amos Kominsky, better known as Comenius (1592-1670), titled "teacher of nations," and author of the masterwork, Didactica Magna.

I first heard of Comenius reading about my wife's homeland -- he was born in Prague -- but beyond that I knew nothing about him. There is precious little by or about Comenius on the Web, a situation that makes me want to scream with frustration. We are spoiled, I know, used as we are to having access to the works of great thinkers but here is one of them who is blocked off by a glass barrier. I did find some bare quotes on Wiki Quotations, but that just made it worse, like a taste of a meal by a great chef. Consider:

"If, in each hour, a man could learn a single fragment of some branch of knowledge, a single rule of some mechanical art, a single pleasing story or proverb (the acquisition of which would require no effort), what a vast stock of learning he might lay by. Seneca is therefore right when he says: `Life is long, if we know how to use it.' It is consequently of importance that we understand the art of making the very best use of our lives."

Comenius was the educational reformer extraordinary, but he has been ignored I think because he was a religious thinker in an age when religious leaders were so fanatical that they were rapidly discrediting themselves in the eyes of cultured, worldly people. For example, most courses today teach that Rousseau's Emile was the first book to teach teachers to take their children off the rack, take them out of the dungeon and let them have free rein in natural surroundings. Not quite. Comenius taught that and publicized it around Europe long before Rousseau was born. But the fact that he was a believer, and from Eastern Europe, tainted him. He was lost in the amnesia that we call the Enlightenment. But consider what he wrote about educational theory:

"Much can be learned in play that will afterwards be of use when the circumstances demand it."

"The proper education of the young does not consist in stuffing their heads with a mass of words, sentences, and ideas dragged together out of various authors, but in opening up their understanding to the outer world, so that a living stream may flow from their own minds, just as leaves, flowers, and fruit spring from the bud on a tree."

"Who is there that does not always desire to see, hear, or handle something new? To whom is it not a pleasure to go to some new place daily, to converse with someone, to narrate something, or have some fresh experience? In a word, the eyes, the ears, the sense of touch, the mind itself, are, in their search for food, ever carried beyond themselves; for to an active nature nothing is so intolerable as sloth."

Comenius, far better than Rousseau (whose outlook was theoretical, he was no hands-on teacher but a philosopher) understood the need to intersperse academic instruction with physical education. Even today many schools are seriously considering cutting out recess. Phys-ed is thought of as peripheral, a luxury. If Comenius were as well known as he should be, such silliness would be dismissed before it arose.

"A tree must also transpire, and needs to be copiously refreshed by wind, rain, and frost; otherwise it easily falls into bad condition, and becomes barren. In the same way the human body needs movement, excitement, and exercise, and in daily life these must be supplied, either artificially or naturally."

Reading over some comments by Comenius, you can see a prototype of the Baha'i principle that the Master often called "Promotion of Education." There it is, growing in the bud. Consider,

"Not the children of the rich or of the powerful only, but of all alike, boys and girls, both noble and ignoble, rich and poor, in all cities and towns, villages and hamlets, should be sent to school."

"Education is indeed necessary for all, and this is evident if we consider the different degrees of ability. No one doubts that those who are stupid need instruction, that they may shake off their natural dullness. But in reality those who are clever need it far more, since an active mind, if not occupied with useful things, will busy itself with what is useless, curious, and pernicious."

Even the Baha'i idea that girls get first dibs on schooling is there in the bud. Comenius understood that a literate mother is better prepared to be the first educator of the next generation. He therefore wrote the first handbook for young mothers in how to educate their tiny charges, and he wrote one of the first children's picture books, a graphical representation of which you can see if you Google hard enough. Neither of these, tots and moms, had ever got that kind of attention from a Dead White Man before. He pioneered what is known as the object lesson, where the teacher holds up some small object and then relates the theory in the form of a story arising from it. This had great influence in Christian pedagogy. He appreciated that the half-formed reasoning of small children responds best when something concrete comes first. Nor is this true only of children.

"If we examine ourselves, we see that our faculties grow in such a manner that what goes before paves the way for what comes after."

Sound familiar? If I were presented with that statement alone, not knowing who wrote it, I would guess it was by Rene Descartes. The Cartesian method, one of the founding discoveries of science, involves just what Comenius says here, breaking things down, then starting systematically with what is clearest and most irrefragable. Similarly, if I were presented with the following, I would have guessed it was written by John Lock, of Tabula Rasa fame,

"Aristotle compared the mind of man to a blank tablet on which nothing was written, but on which all things could be engraved. There is, however, this difference, that on the tablet the writing is limited by space, while in the case of the mind, you may continually go on writing and engraving without finding any boundary, because, as has already been shown, the mind is without limit."

You can read a short biography of Comenius at:


He was twice on the losing end of the bloody religious fighting that characterized the counter-reformation and, specifically, the Thirty Years War. Part of his genius was to see that the violence and fighting of war are caused by ignorance, and that the best way to snuff out that fire is to irrigate the ground with ample education. His "pansophism" seems to resemble in some ways the trinity of Baha'i principles known as the "three onenesses." Here is some more about his life and thought,

"His life was characterized by constant moving, despair and turmoil (this was part of the reason his second wife became ill and died). However, he composed many works on education and became famous all through Europe through his writings. He published ... a work around pansophic principles that gained him wide renown. What does pansophic actually refer to? Comenius believed there was only one truth. The light of reason must submit in obedience to the will of God. This is Comenius's fundamental pedagogical and pansophic principle. In England the English, unknowingly to him, published his notes on the topic, and then invited him to come to England to work there in opening a new school. After arriving, unfortunately, civil war broke out and stopped the possibility of a school."

Comenius was no mean theologian either, and a famous painting depicts him leading the remnants of his church into exile in the dead of winter. He had to deal with the bugbear of Christian thought, original sin. In the little that I have been able to see of his writing so far, it is interesting to witness how cleverly he minimizes the ravaging effects of this pernicious dogma. He cuts away the garbage and goes right to the underlying virtue of his Faith, its emphasis on Spirit over the letter.

"In an age when people believed that human beings were born naturally evil and that goodness and knowledge had to be beaten into them, Comenius believed that they were born with a natural craving for knowledge and goodness, and that schools beat it out of them. Although he did not use the modern words (nor did the Victorian translator who made his work available in English), Comenius addressed such topics as: Education for everyone; Students' natural tendency to learn; Learning by easy stages; Financial aid; Career preparation; Extracurricular activities; and Lifelong learning."

Comenius's masterwork was "The Great Didactic," begun between 1628 and 1632, and published in 1649. It examined what I think is one of the most important questions in the world, especially now that global warming is confronting us with the urgent need to unite the world in heart and mind as fast as possible, we are faced with the question it asks: "Exactly what should be covered by school curriculum?" Comenius treats the whole curriculum, as a united whole, from infancy to university level. The "great Christian thinkers" website devoted to him encapsulates the thesis of Magna Didactica thusly,

"He wrote the book The Great Didactic (published in 1657 in Holland) that encompassed a Christian world view in learning from God's second book, nature, and aiding parents in helping their children learn about God in every way possible. Children in Comenius day were trained to repeat memorized Latin vocabulary and conjugations, but they were not taught to think well. If one cannot think well, how can they learn or understand a given proposition? Education for Comenius stretches beyond the boundaries of the classroom and encompasses all of life."

"He answered the question: `Is there a way to teach children pleasantly, but quickly at the same time?,' in a most biblical and helpful manner. The various schools of his day thought this was impossible. They leaned upon corporeal discipline to the extreme, and neglected the teaching of girls altogether. Comenius thought that learning should be done in the home (following thoughts surrounding catechizing that began during the Reformation) and thus by parents, which would have included the mother. If mothers, then, were not educated, then children would not be educated as well.

Like myself, like Immanuel Kant, and many others, Comenius was a great admirer of Frances Bacon. I love Bacon because he understood that what we most need in the world is confidence, is hope in the future, and that promoting education is a token of that faith, a leap of faith that says,

"Yes, I affirm life, I accept God when He says to choose life. I believe that knowledge is power and that learning promotes progress and that progress is good. We must be liberal modernists and believe we have the power to make a better world if we turn to God's enlightenment, look at nature, and work for a better world."

All this belief is inherent in modernism, and it is everywhere being insolently denied by reactionaries and post-modernists. This faith in progress is what Abdu'l-Baha argues for in his own masterwork, Secret of Divine Civilization. Such faith in knowledge and future Comenius too affirms, that we must believe in the exalted nature of the calling of the teacher, for they are the first reflections of God's holy Manifestation,

"There is in the world no rock or tower of such a height that it cannot be scaled by any man (provided he lack not feet) if ladders are placed in the proper position or steps are cut in the rock, made in the right place, and furnished with railings against the danger of falling over."

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Dogma, Baha'i Dogma and Intuition

By John Taylor; 2007 July 29

For those on the Badi' buddy list, as opposed to the Badi' Blog, you may be interested to read the following comment added to my recent essay on changes in the Ontario electoral process:

New comment on your post "Electoral Reform," posted by Anonymous to Badi’ Blog at 10:26 PM, July 26, 2007:

"Hello there, I am very pleased that you came across that brochure. I am one of the 103 persons selected and thought I would answer your query regarding the vote. Yes, you will be able to vote for just the person or just the party or both. It will not spoil the ballot if you only fill out half the ballot. Hope this helps."

This correspondent is evidently not a Baha'i and heard about my comments through Google Alert, which picks up on a keyword like "Electoral" or "Reform." So, we can assume that when the time comes the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada will be suggesting to Baha'is that in order to remain apolitical we should only fill out the half of our ballots voting for an individual, as opposed to the half choosing a political party.

Life since my health improved has been busy to the point of hectic, but sometimes a day comes together with enough coherence that I cannot ignore it and I must make it into an essay, in spite of my determination to concentrate only on what will most benefit the human race. This is especially true in a relapse, like now. I have had two close brushes with migraine in the past five days. The day when it all fell together was this Friday, just after migraine number one.

Much of Friday afternoon I listened to an audio book called "The Wisdom of Your Cells," by a maverick biologist called Bruce Lipton. He disagrees sharply with the majority opinion of his colleagues, who are notoriously atheistic, die-hard materialists. They hold to what James Crick called the "central dogma," that cells are machines run by their genome, and that is that. Genetic determinism is the result. Whatever the dogma's merits in seeking truth, this extreme reductionism has proven to be a lucrative grant magnet for working researchers. Presently biology is the best funded of all sciences, having surpassed physics over a decade ago. Lipton, on his website, holds that a new biology is needed to replace the old,

"This new biology takes us from the belief that we are victims of our genes, that we are biochemical machines, that life is out of our control, into another reality, a reality where our thoughts, beliefs and mind control our genes, our behavior and the life we experience. This biology is based on current, modern science with some new perceptions added." (http://www.brucelipton.com/)

Although I avoid trendy New Age pap (mockingly misnamed by its opponents, "New Wage," reflecting how lucrative it is to mix science and faith), this guy seems to be a legitimate researcher. Researching the cell first hand, he realized that genes do not act like they are supposed to. He observed that you can de-nucleate a cell and it will live and reproduce for hundreds of generations, with no genetic material at all. He found that, contrary to received opinion, the "brain" of the cell is not its nucleus with its vaunted genome, but the outer membrane; the latter functions exactly like a computer chip, calculating stimuli and responding to its surrounding cells. He researched quantum mechanics and saw that biology was, in terms of physics, stuck back in the mechanistic Newtonian model and was ignoring the new quantum physics paradigm. Quantum mechanics allows this membrane to function like a radio receiver, and acts like a member of a community of trillions of other cells that make up the human body.

I especially liked his realization of how ideological his discipline is when he did a double take on Crick's "central dogma" saying. He looked up the definition of the word "dogma," and found something like this definition:

"Dogma: A doctrine or a corpus of doctrines relating to matters such as morality and faith, set forth in an authoritative manner by a church. An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true." (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)

Biologists are deeply committed to a central mechanistic dogma. The very word dogma, then, implies that this conviction is outside science, it is inherently religious -- or, to speak more exactly, anti-religious. The central dogma of biology does not necessarily have any relation with the facts staring biologists in the face, Lipton realized.

This made me think about why we Baha'is avoid the word "dogma," in spite of the fact that we hold many truths sacred and untouchable. Perhaps we eschew the word because, unlike certain pre-Islamic religions, we believe in the harmony of science and religion. Nothing is "absolutely true," we believe in the relativity of religious truth. A dogma, on the other hand, according to the Wikipedia definition, is an,

"established belief or doctrine ... thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed or doubted. While in the context of religion the term is largely descriptive, outside of religion its current usage tends to carry a pejorative connotation referring to concepts as being `established' only according to a particular point of view, and thus one of doubtful foundation."

Thus materialist biologists could not object to the spiritual viewpoint of Bruce Lipton without themselves invoking a dogmatic, non-scientific set of beliefs -- a matter of the pot calling the kettle black, and then hypocritically denying that it has any color at all. Wiki then quotes the great apologist of Christianity, St. Thomas Aquinas:

"If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections if he has any against faith."

In this Thomist sense, then, I think there is such a thing as Baha'i dogma. Certainly our belief in the Covenant is as close as you can get to a dogma; certainly, if a person accepts Baha'i beliefs in every way but rejects the covenant, they are not a Baha'i, or even a believer in God. This, I think, is what the Tablet of Ahmad was written in order to establish. First it identifies adherence to the dogma or teaching of the Bab and Baha'u'llah as identical with adherence to God, "O people, if ye deny these verses, by what proof have ye believed in God?" and then, at its climax, it goes a step further by upholding the same identity in regard to the Person of Baha'u'llah, the Ancient Beauty, and God, as well as with the earlier Manifestations of God,

"Be thou assured in thyself that verily, he who turns away from this Beauty hath also turned away from the Messengers of the past and showeth pride towards God from all eternity to all eternity."

If that is not an "established belief or doctrine," I do not know what it is. Since a covenant denier has denied the basis of revelation, as Aquinas says, the only kind of discussion possible would be about their objections to faith. Any other digression would undermine our own faith.

But I digress myself. I was talking about the central dogma of biology. I listened, as I say, to Lipton’s ideas that the unity in our body, even our decisions, can directly affect our health. He even holds that it is the false theory of genetic super-power that has made iatrogenic illness the leading cause of death. This is no idle academic squabble, millions are being killed by this dogma every day (now that I think of it, the same could be said about denial of the Baha’i covenant). No, Lipton says, cells are like little radar stations responding to the condition of the overall organism. We need to tune in.

Having had my cup of Lipton to overflowing, I went for a break to Video Tonite to get a film. I found myself attracted to a new release called “Premonition.” Reading the blurb I found that it stars the only star I love and admire unreservedly enough to watch just because she is in it, Sandra Bullock. Plus, the premise sounded intriguing. A woman gets news of the death of her husband and then wakes up next morning with him alive, getting ready for work. The DVD includes two short films about the real precognition and premonition (there is a difference, it seems) events that inspired this fictional story. One fellow had a premonition of a plane crash decades ago, and breaks into tears in the retelling, he is still so tortured by his helplessness knowing what will happen yet not being able to help the crash victims.

The film, though complex and confusing at times, was very good, just the kind of food for thought that I like sometimes. Then, for bedtime reading, I started to read Ramona Allen Brown’s memoir of the early days of the Baha’i Faith in California, “Memories of Abdu’l-Baha.” She, as a young Baha’i, gained about the greatest honor you can imagine, she was a friend of Lua Getsinger. The greatest thing I have got out of this memoir so far is the insights it gives into Lua’s character. I had forgotten how soon Lua died, 1916. That changes how I look at that momentous experience she had with the Master and Juliet Thompson, when the Master pointed to Lua and told her to go proclaim that He was the Center of the Covenant. At the time there was great confusion as whether He was the return of Christ, or what? Through her, we learned a new term, center of the covenant. Anyways, in California Lua and Ramona together practiced a unique form of what I believe is called bibliomancy.

“Lua and I became very good friends, and she called me her “little Persian sister.” I often visited her in her hotel in San Francisco. Many times we were together, teaching problems would arise, and decisions would have to be made. I remember once when Lua was asked to speak in a city south of San Francisco, and the question arose as to whether to spend the money for the trip or buy a pair of shoes for a very needy Baha’i. We considered the question and prayed sincerely while holding a volume of my book, “Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha,” which I then opened for guidance. The decision was reached that the shoes were to be bought.” (Memories, p. 13)

Another time they had to choose which city to teach in, San Francisco or Palo Alto, and she opened the book and read “The path has been cleared, the way opened for her.” That decided them on Palo Alto, which the Master later visited personally. They later mentioned their bibliomancy to the Master, and His reaction was different from what I would have expected, considering the troubles he had in America with the occult and other superstitions. He smiled at Ramona and said,

“You have intuition. You must follow it always, because when you follow it, it increases and becomes more clear. Only a few have this gift. It is like the tinkling of bells, a sixth sense, like the voice of God speaking. The more one follows intuition, the more it increases.” (Ibid. p. 14)

Having just read how the latest discoveries indicate that the cell is more of a radio transmission beacon than a mechanical clock, and have just seen a film showing how time for some is not as linear, fixed, cut and dried as we in our right minds usually think, this came to me as something of a revelation. If only I got some sort of intuition like that! True, I could not very well deny the guidance that gave me the insights of this freaky Friday in the first place, and I do seem in some of my essays to be guided from idea to idea with the blind luck of a Mr. Magoo, but how much more impressive it would be to say to somebody, “Do not take that trip, you will be killed in an accident if you do.” Another freaky thing about that film was the fact that Sandra Bullock’s character’s husband is beheaded in a traffic accident, just like my brother Tommy was in his fatal car/train accident. That freaked me out a little too. Anyways, maybe I should put a hard copy of that book, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, onto the top of my “books to buy” list, especially in view of the following,

“Lua asked the Master if I might use the book for guidance in the future. Smiling at me, He said, `Yes.’ Then He took my book, opened it, and, resting it on the palm of His left hand, wrote His name on it.” (Id.)

The book “Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha” has been out of print for a good eighty years, so it may not be so easy to get a hold of a copy. As a compromise, I thought of an alternative that in some ways might be even better. Somebody should take the electronic text of TAB and make up one of those “quote-a-day” servers on the Web. That way you could choose the method, either random or chronological, and have a Tablet sent to your email box every day. That way, even if the selection you get does not work from a “bibliomancical” perspective, at least you would get a little insight into what it must have been like for the early believers, who could and did write the Master with their problems, and whose only Baha’i scripture was a handwritten copy of these letters from Abdu’l-Baha.


Friday, July 27, 2007


Epicyclical Planning

By John Taylor; 2007 July 27

There is a saying among planning professionals that "crisis creates consent." The severity of climate crisis threatens our future on this planet and will soon create consent to changes that otherwise would be left on the drawing board indefinitely. This has emboldened me to contemplate the following ideas for a reordered world order.

In this series I have been proposing a world center, a universal capitol city called Terra City, to be built at the South Pole. Here a small but busy world government would coordinate the plans of seven much larger regional governments located in China and India (based on population) and the five continents (based on geography).

The architecture of Terra City is specially designed to fit an epicyclical schedule. This model would build and improve upon the present system of years and decades sponsored by the United Nations.

Many are familiar with the international years and decades sponsored by the United Nations. These laboriously negotiated plans draw attention to urgent needs and crises that transcend national borders. For example, 2003 was the "International Year of Freshwater," and 2006 was the "International Year of Deserts and Desertification." 2007 is one of the few years lately that does not have a theme. They also promote longer term project planning in the form of decades, such as the Literacy Decade (2003-2012), the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World, (2001-2011), the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001-2010) and the Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa, Decade (2001-2010). Others decades are for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006), Human Rights Education (1995-2004) and the World's Indigenous People (1994-2004). There is also is the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1993-2003). They are all listed on the International Years site at: http://www.unac.org/en/news_events/un_days/international_years.asp

Unfortunately, like the United Nations in general, these years make little impression on the popular mind. There are many reasons that they have so little impact, they are incoherent, the years do not coordinate with one another, they are not written into a world constitution, and they rarely repeat or otherwise connect with everyday concerns.

The Earth Charter, which we looked at last time, is a major step towards clearing away the confusion. It is the closest thing we have to the kind of short, readable world constitution that would clarify universal values and unite the hearts and minds of all of us, no matter who we are or where we happen to live. Whatever agenda a world government adopts, it should connect closely with the earth charter. The epicyclical timetable I have in mind is designed to do just that.

An epicycle is an image borrowed from the natural self-recapitulating structure of atoms and the galaxy. For example, our Milky Way has stars orbiting in a spiral, our sun has planets orbiting it, and the larger planets have moons. Thus an epicyclical agenda would be a repeating schedule of ten or twelve topic areas covering the whole form of human polity, that is, each major need and sphere of concern of our time. This epicyclical schedule is inspired by the Zoroastrian calendar, which repeats the names of days within months, months within years, and years within longer groupings of years. Thus the agenda of our world parliament would orbit around polity that might be listed as follows:

One, Reflection and Enlightenment
Two, Unity in diversity.
Three, Parliament of Religions
Four, Parliament of Science and Technology
Five, Eliminating Prejudice
Six, Economic Intervention
Seven, Promotion of Education
Eight, Parliament of Media, Communications and Languages
Nine, Equality of the Sexes
Ten, Universal Peace and Ethics

Each month the world parliament at Terra City would go through this polity list, and these themes would also recapitulate yearly and by decade. This variation would satisfy the most jaded and experienced specialist while allowing the repetition necessary for full participation of all levels of society and, especially, the continual recruitment of each new generation of children and youth.

As mentioned, the architecture of TC is physically structured around this schedule. The central dome is surrounded by ancillary domes, one for each of the ten items of world polity. We have mentioned that the first dome to be built will probably be number four on the list, the Parliament of Science and Technology. That is because this entire initiative is a response the "crisis that creates consent" of climate change, caused by science misapplied and gone wild. As soon as TC is built, scientists will rapidly agree to world technical standards with zero ecological footprint, especially in travel and housing. But after the science parliament is built, the wisest course would be to erect parliamentary domes in the order listed above.



Thursday, July 26, 2007

Electoral Reform

“One Ballot, Two Votes”

By John Taylor; 2007 July 25

Here is news from the Times of India about the first Hindu prayer to open the US Senate, and the mixed, positive and bigoted, reactions that it provoked.


The prayer is available on Youtube, which has this comment: “He is the first Indian after Vivekananda to have an effect on the American public on the subject of Hinduism ...Hindu prayer in session is American values on faith in practice at their very best.” Baha’is will recall that Vivekananda spoke to tremendous acclaim at the first Parliament of Religions, where the first major mention of the Baha’i Faith in public also took place. Vivekananda offered for one of the first times in the West what we now consider an essential Baha’i principle, the Oneness of Religion.

My buddy Ed sent me this link to an impassioned speech given by a girl who at the time was the same age as my daughter Silvie is now, twelve. It brings tears to your eyes. For me, I get a vague feeling of vindication, that even though I often get angry and show it in my essays, at least I am not the only one; the insanity of world leaders fully justifies anger.


The site says: “You may be wondering who this amazing orator and activist is, and where she is now. She is the daughter of Canadian environmental guru, writer and leader David Suzuki. Fifteen years later, she is now an environmental leader in her own right <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Severn_Cullis-Suzuki>.”

One of the main causes of the problems of the world right now, including bigotry, poverty and the environmental degradation that so discouraged this young girl, is the sorry state of democracy. Since Churchill made his famous witticism, “Democracy is the worst form of government in the world, except all the others,” the democracies of the world have done little to improve or update how they choose leaders. Our ways of voting are obsolete; our elections horrifically corrupt and inadequate.

If you want a picture of modern democracy, think of an abandoned, derelict house. If we have poor governance, it is because the only denizens of this abandoned house are phantoms, their only vision, phantasms. For years I have been calling it “gun-to-my-head democracy” because that is just what voters are doing, we are inviting the highest bidder to shoot us in the head. A candidate in the present presidential campaign cannot hope to enter the “race” without raising a cool half billion dollars from corporate sponsors. That is the price Americans are presently asking to be executed by shot to the head; at least they are not selling themselves cheap.

Anyway, I was delighted yesterday to come across a pamphlet in our library describing an innovative bid to reform the electoral system in Ontario. You can read more about it at: http://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca/ Even the way the proposal was made is innovative. A citizen’s assembly was chosen randomly from each riding in Ontario; they studied election reform around the world for a year and made a simple suggestion to change the way we cast our votes. The chair of the citizen’s assembly writes on their web site: “The Assembly brought together 103 randomly selected Ontario citizens to learn, consult with their fellow Ontarians, deliberate, and come to a decision on an electoral system for Ontario. The Assembly was guaranteed its independence from government, and direct access to Ontario voters through a referendum if it decided to recommend change.” Their idea is summed up in the title of the pamphlet: “One Ballot, Two Votes.” You get a vote for an individual and one for a party. The brochure shows a sample ballot, and it looks fairly simple. There will be a referendum on this proposal on my 51st birthday, October 10, 2007.

I am so happy that any kind of improvement to democracy is being considered that I am willing to overlook the problems that this particular idea poses for Baha’is. We are asked to vote for the individual not the party, as you probably know. But this system will make it impossible not to vote for a party. I do not know if voting only for the individual half of the ballot will be counted as a spoiled ballot or not. If so, Ontario Baha’is will probably have to seek guidance from Haifa, not for having multiple votes – we get more than two votes in Baha’i elections after all, we get nine – but for being forced to vote for an inherently divisive system, groupings based on competition and preconceived opinion rather than encounter with a reality that has not yet taken place.

Myself, I wish I had been selected to be on this citizen’s committee because I have dozens of ideas about how voting should be reformed. These are just my thoughts; they have nothing to with my being a Baha’i.

For one thing, I did not vote in several elections through the years, not by choice but either because I forgot or because I had other last minute tasks to do on Election Day that made it impossible to get to the ballot boxes. This gave me an idea: why do we only get one shot, one time, at voting? Why not have a standing vote? By standing vote I mean one that stands all the time, until the day I die. With a standing vote I could switch my support around whenever I wished and however often I wanted. You may say: that would blur the line between an opinion poll and a vote. Exactly. As it is, opinion polls are done unofficially by private companies, and they have tremendous influence on policy. Why not admit that they exist and force them out of the closet? A standing vote, you might object, would boot out world leaders in the second half of their second terms, when they almost always become unpopular. Exactly. That would be more, well, democratic, wouldn’t it?

What would enhance standing votes would be more use in elections of both randomness and meritocracy. Start with randomness.

I was pleased that this citizen’s committee was chosen randomly. We do not make nearly enough use of the tossed coin, or whatever the computer equivalent is. The democracy of Ancient Athens made many far more important choices of judges and leaders by lot. It is a great way to get around the inherent biases involved in human selection methodology, including popular elections.

Meritocracy could be mixed in much better with the egalitarian “one man one vote” aspect of the democratic system. With standing votes you could enhance your vote by gaining expertise in certain areas, which would include the privilege of voting in periodic plebiscites on specialized issues.

Take, for example, medical issues. If people got a special right to vote along with their credentials when they graduate, their expertise would shape policy much more effectively. But why only involve experts? There are some issues that only experts have anything worthwhile to say about, but other medical concerns require only an interest and a grasp of a small number of pertinent facts. Here the principle of one person one vote would come into play. Standing votes would allow a “community of interest” to work along with the professionals in decision making. Thus if you are like me and have a lay interest in medical things without any special expertise, you would earn the right to vote by studying up for the next plebiscite. You would take a basic test proving that you have grasped the technical facts, and then you would cast your “lay” vote. The lay election would be balanced by the expert voting, according to how specialized the issue is. If I persist in my interest in medicine, testing might be reduced or dropped, only being given randomly to a percentage of voters, in order be sure that a large enough number of experienced lay voters are sufficiently well informed. This would be borrowing from the sophisticated statistical ways of pollsters.

Caves, II

Cave of Covenant, II

By John Taylor; 2007 July 26

We have been discussing caves and their implications for faith and philosophy. The cave is where we all dwell mystically when we pray, meditate or go on pilgrimage, or whenever we are directed to a spiritual mission. For this reason, the cave turns up as a metaphor throughout literature, but from our point of view it is most telling that Abdu'l-Baha used the expression "cave of the covenant,"

"O ye co-workers who are supported by armies from the realm of the All-Glorious! Blessed are ye, for ye have come together in the sheltering shade of the Word of God, and have found a refuge in the cave of His Covenant ... " (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, #42, p. 85)

Caves, then, are a metaphor for the most distinctive feature of this Revelation. Every idea and institution in the Order of Baha'u'llah is somehow grounded in the firm, unambiguous written contract that Baha'u'llah set up with His followers in His Kitab-i-Ahd. This covenant cave is an impregnable place of refuge in an age of change, anxiety and confusion.

On a broader scale, that of the entire human race throughout history, God has maintained what we term the Greater Covenant, His perennial promise never to leave humanity without guidance. This too is a sheltering cave. Without the light of guidance of the Greater covenant, humanity would have long ago been lost. Like the return of the summer sun, the Manifestation of God, like a sun of enlightenment, returns in every age. Baha'u'llah explains how the greater contract works,

"For were it not for those effulgent Lights that shine above the horizon of His Essence, the people would know not their left hand from their right, how much less could they scale the heights of the inner realities or probe the depths of their subtleties!" (Javahiru'l-Asrar, 14)

One cave in particular figures repeatedly in history, and, as I hope to establish, in philosophy. This cave, the ultimate cave of the covenant, is located on the slopes of Mount Carmel. It is now known as the Cave of Elijah.

Since ancient times Carmel has been the proverbial locale where divine truth is revealed, sheltered and tested. The Bible in one of its most important stories tells how on Carmel the One vanquished the many. The prophet Elijah took shelter in this cave just before his final conflict, his crucial intervention in history. In this cave on Carmel, not for the first or last time, a prophet was exiled by wily power brokers for stirring up disorder, creating disunity in a stable situation, their stability. He sat alone in that small cave on the slopes of Carmel -- it is about the size of the average living room -- his life in imminent peril from the powers that were. Nearby, he was soon to confront an idolatrous enemy, alone, one against eight hundred and fifty opposing priests.

This cave is still there for us to visit. It is a place for pilgrimage and reflection, the site where we can settle for a moment of contemplation before entering into life's testing, sorting, proving, sifting and dire conflict.

"And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from My sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them." (Amos 9:3)

Elijah witnessed the serpent bite on Carmel with his own eyes, first inwardly, then in the machinations of history. Carmel leads down to the sea; the sea is the symbol of religious knowledge, an ocean of huge breath and weight. The serpent biting those hiding at the bottom of the sea refers to those who become deeply ensconced in the particulars of religious systems and hierarchies. They are always jealous of their privileged position, and are willing to crush all pretenders.

Elijah was it, the last living of Israel's prophets. Arrayed against him were popular, learned, established priests of Baal and the Asherah. Here is the Biblical account of Elijah,

"He came there to a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of Yahweh came to him, and he said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? He said, I have been very jealous for Yahweh, the God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and slain your prophets with the sword: and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." (I Kings 19:9-10, WEB)

Dozens of Israelite prophets had been murdered, leaving only Elijah, who had been forced into retreat. God was well aware of that. But note what God asks. He asks it of Elijah twice, "What are you doing here?" God is not concerned about whether he is perfect, good or saved, his only concern is what he is doing. This is a God of action. The Bible tells how Elijah then had a tremendous mystical experience, the one that gave the world the expression "a still small voice," not to mention "God Passes By," the name of Shoghi Effendi's history of the first Baha'i century.

"He said, Go forth, and stand on the mountain before Yahweh. Behold, Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before Yahweh; but Yahweh was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but Yahweh was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but Yahweh was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. It was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. Behold, there came a voice to him, and said, What are you doing here, Elijah?" (I Kings, 19:11-13, WEB)

Still wrapped in a veil, Elijah, after seeing this wondrous revelation, hears the still small voice ask him one thing: what are you doing here? Again, deeds, not thoughts or words.

But note, when God passed by there were four events. There was a rock destroying wind, an earthquake, and fire (and God, we are told, is not in any one of these) and finally there remained only a "still small voice." It is not denied that God may not subsist in that. The still small voice, in other words, is guidance in action.

These familiar four steps of causation are also in the opening lines of the Tablet of Ahmad. The Nightingale of Paradise first informs the sincere how near God is, then, second, calls the monotheist to that presence, third, explicates the content of His message to the detached, and, fourth and finally, guides the lovers to a seat of holiness and "resplendent Beauty." God passes, the sincere catch whiff of his breeze, and the earth shakes with His call, a fire burns away impurity and attachment, and finally a small still voice, the whisper of a lover in your ear, telling you what to do and say.

So here, in the cave and just outside it, is the holiest spot on earth, the place where God passes by, and where the Administrative Order has been erected in surroundings of the utmost beauty. Here Elijah learned the first and last lesson of mystic knowledge: that it is first to know, then to act. Act and you will be guided and protected. The protective cave of the covenant is not static like a physical cave, we carry it with us as long as we are firm.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Master Chronology

Scanned by John Taylor; 24 July 2007

The following information is from A Basic Baha’i Chronology, by Glenn Cameron, with Wendy Momen, George Ronald, Oxford, 1996, pp. 100 – 200. As always, I do this for my own information but share it for those other students of the Master who may be interested. This is not casual reading, I know, but such things have their uses, especially for the Baha’i speakers I am serving on this Badi’ list. I have concentrated on what covers the ministry of the Master, a period that I find is very hard to get your head around without a chronology, since the events are described in dozens of books unrelated to each other.

As you also see, many of the dates of early Baha’i history are vague and antsy, even with the assiduous tracing of these scholars. I have scanned and corrected the following segment. It is very long, boring and tedious work, so if anybody knows that this chronology has already been scanned and is available on the Web somewhere, please let me know. I have left out many of the birth dates of prominent later Baha’is in this chronology, leaving only what is relevant to the Master. The abbreviations of the books referenced are to be found in the front section of Cameron’s book. I may scan that too, if I live long enough. I have tried to remove all the scanning errors I saw but there are a million of them, so let me know which ones slipped through.  

 A Chronology of the Ministry of the Master (this installment, 1886-1900)
1886 Sep Mishkin-Qalam leaves Cyprus on a Syrian vessel going direct to 'Akka.


1887 Mirza Musa, Aqay-i-Kalim, the faithful brother of Baha'u'llah, dies in 'Akka. He is buried in the Baha'i section of the Muslim cemetery. He was designated by Shoghi Effendi as one of the 19 Apostles of Baha'u'llah.

1887 April The first mention of the concept of 'Hand of the Cause’ in Baha'u’llah's writings is within a Tablet revealed in honour of Ibn-i-Asdaq

1887 – 1888 EG Browne, the noted orientalist, spends 12 months in Persia. An important purpose or his journey is to contact the Babis.


1888 Nabil begins his chronicle, The Dawnbreakers

1888 Jamal Effendi, accompanied by Haji Faraju’llah-i-Tafrishi, embarks on a long journey to the East, visiting Burma, Java, Singapore, Kashmir, Tibet, Yarqand, Khuqand in Chinese Turkistan, and Afghanistan.

1888 c. Jul-Aug Two Baha'is are arrested in Sarvistan, Fars, and are sent to Shiraz, where one is imprisoned, [BWI8:383]


1889 Mar The first lecture in the West on the Baha'i Faith ('Babism') is given by E. G. Browne at the Essay Society, Newcastle, England.

1889 Apr E. G. Browne gives a paper on the Baha'i Faith ('Babism') at the Royal Asiatic Society, London.

1889 Jun E. G. Browne gives a paper on the Baha'i Faith ('Babism') at the Royal Asiatic Society, London.

1889 Jun Aqa Najafi, the 'Son of the Wolf', initiates a campaign against the Baha'is in Isfahan, Sidih and Najafabad. [BWI 8:383]

1889 Jul 17 Upheaval in Najafabad: Aqa Najafi, the 'Son of the Wolf', drives over a hundred Baha'is out of Sidih and Najafabad. They take sanctuary in the Telegraph Office and in the stables of the governor of Isfahan. [BWI8:383] cf. BBR 280-4 for Western reporting of the episode.

1889 Jul 18 The Baha'is are persuaded to leave the Telegraph Office after being assured that they will receive protection in their villages, [BWI 8:383] Baha'is of Sidih and Najafabad, having received no help or protection, go to Tihran to petition the Shah, [BWJ 8:383]

1889 Sep 8 Haji Muhammad Riday-i-Isfahani is martyred in 'Ishqabad. Czar Alexander III sends a military commission from St. Petersburg to conduct the trial of those accused of the murder. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl serves as chief Baha'i spokesman at the trial. [ABI09] Two are found guilty and sentenced to death, six others are ordered to be transported to Siberia. (ABI 09; BBR 297; GPB203) Baha'u'llah attaches importance to the action as being the first time Shi'is received judicial punishment for an attack on Baha’is. The Baha'i community intercedes on behalf of the culprits and has the death sentences commuted to transportation to Siberia. [ABI09; BBR'297; GPB'203] For Western accounts of the episode see BBR296-300.


1890 In the decade of 1890, Baha'i books are published for the first time, in Bombay and Cairo. [GPB 195; SA250]

c. 1890 Nabil presents his chronicle, The Dawn-Breakers, to Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha for approval. [DB XXXVII] In the year 1890 By 1890 about a thousand Baha'is have settled in 'Ishqabad ... [BBRSM9 I]

1890 E. G. Browne is in 'Akka. Baha'u'llah is staying in the Templer colony in Haifa when he arrives. [BBR'253]

1890 A number of people of the Jewish, Zoroastrian and Buddhist Faiths become Baha'is. [BBR 248-9; GPB 195]

1890 Ibrahim George Kheiralla (Khayru'llah) becomes a Baha'i in Cairo under the tutelage of 'Abdu'l-Karim-i-Tihrani. [BFA 19] It is probable that he is the first Baha'i from Syrian Christian background. [BFA 19, cf. BFA:175 for pictures.)

1890 25 Feb Seven Baha'is from Sidih who had gone to Tihran to petition the Shah for protection secure a decree from him permitting them to return home. When they try to enter Sidih they are killed. [BBRXXIX, 285-9; BWI 8:383]

1890 April Baha'u'llah visits Haifa for a third time. He first stays near Bayt-i-Zahlan, near the town. [BKG374] He then moves to Oliphant House in the German colony. His tent is pitched on a piece of land opposite. [BKG374; BPPI73]

1890 15-20 April E. G. Browne is granted four successive interviews with Baha'u'llah at Bahji. [BBD 43; BBR 225; BKG 37I; GPB 193] See BBR225-32 for Browne's own account of the visit. See BBR229-3I, BKG37r-3 and DHIIO for Browne's pen portrait of Baha'u'llah. Browne is given the manuscript of A Traveller's Narrative in the handwriting of Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin. [EGB 54] Cf. also BFAI:44-5; Balyuzi, EDWARD GRANVILLE BROWNE AND THE Baha'i FAITH and Momen, SELECTIONS FROM THE WRITINGS OF E. G BROWNE.


1891 In the year: On the instructions of Baha'u'llah, the Kitab-i-Aqdas is published for the first time in Bombay. [SA250] It is published in Arabic. [SA250]  

1891 A Traveller's Narrative is published in two volumes by the Cambridge University Press. [BBD226; EGB55]  

1891 Baha'u'llah reveals the Kitab-i-'Ahd. [BBD32; CBI42; GPB236-4o} It was probably written at least one year before His Ascension. [CBI42] Baha'u'llah alludes to it in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf as the 'Crimson Book'. [DGI6; ESW32; GPB238] In it Baha'u'llah explicitly appoints Abdu'l-Baha His successor, the Centre of the Covenant and the Expounder of the revealed word. [BKG420; GPB239]

1891 Baha'u'llah reveals Epistle to the Son if the Wolf, addressed to Shaykh Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Najafi (Shaykh Najafi), the son of Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir. [BBD78, 164; BKG382; GPB2Ig; RB4:368] It was revealed about a year before the ascension of Baha'u'llah. [GPB220 ] It was Baha'u'llah's 'last outstanding Tablet'. [BBD 78; BKG 382; GPB 219] For an analysis of its content, themes and circumstances of its revelation, see RB4:368-412. For a study guide to the Tablet see RB4:433-40. Baha'u'llah reveals the Tablet to the Times in which He recounts the circumstances of the martyrdoms in Yazd. [RB4:348-50]

1891 Feb 15, First public lecture in the West on the Baha'i Faith, given by E. G. Browne at the Southplace Institute, London.

1891 May 19 The execution of the Seven Martyrs of Yazd. [BBRXXIX, BWI8:384] Seven Baha'is are executed on the order of the governor of Yazd, Jalalu'd-Din-Dawlih, at the instigation of the mujtahid, Shaykh Hasan-i-Sabzivari. [BWI8:384] For their names see BWI8:384. For details of the executions see GBP201-2. For Western reports of the episode see BBR30I-5, 357-8.

1891 summer: Baha'u'llah visits Haifa for the fourth time. [BKG374; DHI 109; GPB 194; RB4:351] He stays three months. [BBD94; BKG374; DHI09; GPBI94; RB4:351] He lives in the house of Ilyas Abyad, near the Templar colony, his tent pitched nearby. [BKG374; DHIS6] It is during this visit that Baha'u'llah points out to 'Abdu'l-Baha the site for the Shrine of the Bab. [AB45; BKG374; DHI34-5; GPB194] One day He pitches His tent a few hundred yards east of the Carmelite monastery and visits the monastery. [DHI86] Baha'u'llah visits the cave of Elijah. [BKG375; DH174; RB4:351-2] He reveals the Lawh-i-Karmil (Tablet of Carmel), the 'Charter of the World Spiritual and Administrative Centres of the Faith’ the site of the future Mashriqu'l-Adhkar. [BBD118-119; BKG375 DH174; MBW63; RB4:352] For the text of this Tablet see BKG376-7, GI4-I7 and TB3-5. For an analysis of the text see RB4:353-67.

1891 Jul – Aug Members of the Afnan family meet Baha'u'llah in Haifa. [BKG374,406] For details of this visit see BKG406-13


1892 In the year, Mu'tuminu's-Saltanih is poisoned in Tihran on the orders of Nasiri'd-Din Shah. [BWI8:384]

1892 May 8 Baha'u'llah contracts a slight fever. [GPB221] See RB4:414-17 for the progress of this illness.

1892 c. 24 May Baha'u'llah calls to His bedside all the believers, including many pilgrims, for their last audience with Him. [GPB222]

1892 May 29; The Ascension of Baha'u'llah Baha'u'llah dies at Bahji in His seventy-fifth year. [AB47; BBRXX1X, 233; BKG420; CB148; GPB221; RB4:411] For an account by Tuba Khanum see CHI05-9. Baha'u'llah has spent 23 years, 8 months and 29 (or 30) days in the Holy Land. [DH12] He passes away eight hours after sunset. [GPB221; UD170] The news of His passing is immediately communicated to Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid by 'Abdu'l-Baha: 'the Sun of Baha has set'. [AB47; BKG420; GPB222] Shortly after sunset, on the very day of His passing, Baha'u'llah is buried beneath the floor of a room in the house adjacent to the mansion of Bahji, the Qiblih of the Baha'i Faith. [AB47; BBD211; BKG427; GPB222] see CBI49 and RB4:149 for the effect of Baha'u'llah's ascension on 'Abdu'l-Baha. See AB52-3, CBI48-9 and RB4:148-9 for the theft of Baha'u'llah's cases containing His seals, papers and other items. See AB52-61, CBI48-51 and RB4:148-54 for the Covenant-breaking activities of Baha'u'llah's family immediately following His death. See GPB222-3 for the mourning following the ascension of Baha'u'llah. At this time the Faith has spread to 15 countries. [MBW61] See BBR234-6 for a list of Europeans who met Baha'u'llah.

1892 Sometime after the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha asks Nabil to choose a number of passages from the writings of Baha'u'llah to be used as a Tablet of Visitation. This Tablet is also used at observances commemorating the Martyrdom of the Bab. [BBD234; BKG427; GPB222; RB4:419] For an analysis of this Tablet, see SAI21-2. 'Abdu'l-Baha rents the house now known as the Pilgrim House at Bahji from its Christian owner Iskandar Hawwa', the husband of 'Udi Khammar's daughter Hani. [DHI114, 226]

1892 7 Jun On the ninth day after Baha'u'llah's passing the Will and Testament of Baha'u'llah, the Kitab-i-'Ahd, is read at Bahji before a large assembly in His Most Holy Tomb. [AB51-2; BBD132; CBI50; DHII3 GPB238; RB4:419-20] See CBI50, I64 for the effect this has on the believers.

1892 16 Jun 'Abdu'l-Baha sends a message to the Baha'is of the world calling for steadfastness. [AB48-9; DHI 13] This is 'Abdu'l-Baha's first message. [AB48-9; CHIIO]      For the text of the message see AB48-9, CHIW-II, DHII3 and SWAB17-18.

1892 Summer 'Abdu'l-Baha goes to Haifa and Mount Carmel and isolates Himself in a small apartment in the stone building west of the lower cave of Elijah. [DHS9, 188]

1892 Summer Aqa Murtada of Sarvistan, who has been in prison for five years, is executed in Shiraz. [BWI8:384]

1892 Summer Anton Haddad arrives in the United States. [BFAI:26] He is probably the first Baha'i to reach American soil. [BFAI:26]

1892 Jul 06; Death of Nabil-i-Akbar, Hand of the Cause, Apostle of Baha'u'llah, in Bukhara. [EB115] The Lawh-i-Hikmat was addressed to him. [EB115] For details of his life see EB112-15

1892 Dec 20; Ibrahim Kheiralla arrives in New York. [BBDI29; BFAI:26; SSBHI:88] See BFA1 for Kheiralla's life, work for the Baha'i Faith and defection.

1892-3 Nabil, inconsolable at the death of Baha’u’llah, commits suicide by drowning himself in the sea. [AB56; BBD167; BKG427-8; DH81; EB270: GPB222] He leaves a note paying homage to 'Abdu'l-Baha, writing the date of his death in the single Arabic word 'Ghariq' (drowned), the numerical value of which is 1310 AH (AD 1892-3). [MF35; RBI:205] See DH81 for his own epitaph. He is buried in the Muslim Cemetery near 'Akkit. [DH81]

1892-3 'Abdu'l-Baha writes Risdliy-i-Siydsiyyih (Treatise on Politics). [ABMM]


1893 Aqa Muhammad-Riday-i-Muhammadabadi is killed by three men on the orders of two of the 'ulama of Yazd. [Bw18:384; GPB296] He is the first to suffer martyrdom in the ministry of 'Abdu'l-Baha. See GPB296 for details of his martyrdom.

1893 Sep 23; First public reference in North America to the Baha'i Faith. Reference was made to it in a paper entitled 'The Religious Mission of the English Speaking Nations' by Rev. Henry H. Jessup, a retired missionary from north Syria, read by Rev George A. Ford at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. [AB63-4; BBD241-2; BBR57; BFAI:32-3; BW2:230; GPB256; SBBH1:76, 88, 202] See AB63-4; BW2 169 for text


In the year Green Acre is founded by Sarah J. Farmer in the aftermath of the World Parliament of Religions. [BBRSM:I04; BFA2:r42-7; BWS:2g; GPB26r; SBBHI:r2S]

In the year Two Baha'is are arrested and bastinadoed in Nishapur. One dies seven days later, the other two years later. [Bw18:384]

1894 Haji Yari, a Baha'i of Jewish background, is arrested and imprisoned in Hamadan. [Bw18:384] A Baha'i in Dastjirdan, Khurasan, Aqa 'Abdu'l- Vahhab Mukhtari, is beaten and expelled from the village. [BWI8:384] Baha'is in Faran, Khurasan, are beaten and Baha'i homes are looted. [BW18:384]

1894 Feb Ibrahim George Kheiralla settles in Chicago. [BFAI:xxvii] Owing to his work, the first Baha'i community in North America is soon formed in Chicago. [BBRSM:100; BW10:179]

1894 Jun 5; Thornton Chase becomes a Baha'i in Chicago. [BBD53; BFAI:35-6] He is designated by 'Abdu'l-Baha the first American believer. [BBD53; GPB257] See BFAI:35 for his own account of how he became a Baha'i. See BFAI:33-7 for other Americans who became Baha'is around the same time. He was given the name Thabit (Steadfast) by 'Abdu'l-Baha. [BBD53; GPB257]


1895 Mrs Kate C. Ives of Orleans, Cape Cod, Massachusetts becomes a Baha'i, making her the first woman born in the United States to accept the Baha'i Faith. [BFAI:37] c. summer Miss Marion Brown becomes a Baha'i in London, the first European to accept the Baha'i Faith. [BFAI: 37]


c. 1896 Mirza Muhammad-'Ali sends letters with misleading statements and calumnies against 'Abdu'l-Baha, thus making widely known his Covenant-breaking activities. [CB151,178]

In the year 1896 'Abdu'l- Baha is forced to withdraw from 'Akka to Tiberias owing to the accusations levelled against Him by Mirza Mul;tammad- 'Ali. [SBBR1:77 ]

1896 Diya'iyyih Khanum, the eldest daughter of 'Abdu'l-Baha, marries Mirza Hadi Afnan of Shiraz. [BW4:234 (GENEALOGY); DR59-6o] These are the parents of Shoghi Effendi. For a picture of Diya'iyyih Khanum see MA105.

1896 Aqa Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Yazdi is martyred in Tabriz. [BW18:384]

1896 Mulla Hasan Khaza'i is arrested in Khuzistan. [BW18:384]

1896 Apr 19; Nasiri'd-Din Shah is assassinated on the eve of his jubilee. [BKG455] BBRXXIX and BBRSM2 19 say it was 1 May. His assassin is a follower of Jamalu'd-Din-i-Afghani, one of the originators of the Constitutional movement in Iran. [BBRSM87; GBP296]   For an account of his assassination see PDC67-8. See BKG430-55 for a history of his reign. He is succeeded by his son Muzaffari'd- Din. [GPB296]

1896 May 1; Martyrdom of Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad, Varqa, and his l2-year-old son Ruhu'l1ah, in Tihran. [BBRXXIX] For the method of their martyrdom see [GPB296] Their martyrdom is a consequence of the assassination of the Shah, for which the Baha'is are erroneously blamed. [GPB296] For the story of their lives see MRHK405-22. For a Western account of the episode see BBR 361-2., see also BBD199, 234,

1896 Jun-Jul Several Baha'is are beaten and four are imprisoned in Turbat-i-Haydari when two mujtahids stir up the townspeople against them. [BW18:384]

1896 July 21; Haji Muhammad Sadiq is stabbed to death in Turbat-i-Haydari. [BWI8:384]

1896 July 24 Four Baha'is are executed in Turbat-i-Haydari on the order of the mujtahid. [BWI8:384; BBR405] BBRXXIX says the four Baha'is were martyred in August. These four together with Haji Muhammad Sadiq are known as the Shuhaday-i-Khamsih (Five Martyrs). [GPB296] Their martyrdom is the result of the assassination of the Shah, for which the Baha'is are erroneously blamed. [GPB296] For Western accounts of the episode see BBR40S-6.

1896 c. Oct; 'Abdu'l-Baha rents the former Governorate of 'Abdu'llah Pasha in the northwest corner of the city of 'Akka at the inner moat. [BBDI3, 108; DH60] He establishes it as His residence and as the home for His daughters, their husbands and families. [DH60]


c. 1897 Mirza Aqa Jan, Baha'u'llah's amanuensis for 40 years, throws in his lot with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and becomes a Covenant-breaker. [CEl8I] For the story of his downfall see CB 181-92.

In the year 1897 In the year Haji Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the first Baha'i to have settled in China, dies in Bombay on his way back to Shiraz. [PH24]

1897 The Hands of the Cause appointed by Baha'u'llah are instructed by 'Abdu'l-Baha to gather to begin the consultations regarding the future organization of the Baha'i community in Tihran. This gathering leads to the formation of the Central Spiritual Assembly of Tihran in 1899. [BBD 98, 114, 115; EB268]

1897 Fifteen Baha'is are arrested in Saysan, Adharbayjan. They are taken to Tabriz, imprisoned and fined. [BW18:384] Three Baha'is are arrested in Nayriz on the orders of Aqa Najafi, the 'Son of the Wolf'. [BW18:384] The homes of several Baha'is in Ramadan are looted and ransacked after complaints by Jews of the town against Baha'is of Jewish background. [BWI8:384]

1897 Feb; Six Baha'is are arrested in Mamaqan, Adharbayjan. Three are bastinadoed and three are imprisoned in Tabriz. [BW18:384]

1897 March 1; The birth of Shoghi Effendi, in the house of 'Abdu'llah Pasha. [BBD208; BKG359; DH60, 214; GBF2] He is descended from both the Bab and Baha'u'llah: his mother is the eldest daughter of 'Abdu'l-Baha; his father is an Afnan, a grandson of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, a cousin of the mother of the Bab and a brother of His wife. [CB280; GBF2] He is the Ghusn-i-Mumtaz, the Chosen Branch. [BBD87] 'Shoghi' means 'one who longs'. [CB281] 'Abdu'l- Baha commands everyone, even Shoghi Effendi's father, to add the title 'Effendi' after his name. [CB28 1; GBF2] 'Abdu'l-Baha gives him the surname Rabbani in the early years of his study in Haifa so that he will not be confused with his cousins, who are all called Afnan. Rabbani is also used by Shoghi Effendi's brothers and sister. [BBD191-2; DH60-1] See GBF6 for the schools he attends. See also: Rabbani, THE PRICELESS PEARL, Rabbani" THE GUARDIAN OF THE BAHA’I FAITH, Giachery, SHOGHI EFFENDI: RECOLLECTIONS.

1897 May 21; Lua Getsinger becomes a Baha'i in Chicago. [BFAI:xxvii]


1898 In the year 'Abdu'l-Baha instructs that the remains of the Bab be brought from their hiding place in Tihran to the Holy Land. [BBD209]

1898 The Tarbiyat School for boys is established in Tihran by the Baha'is. [BBD221]
1898 The first anti-Baha'i polemical tracts are published by Christian missionaries in Iran. [SBBHI:69]

1898 Several Baha’is are arrested and imprisoned in Qazvin. [BW18:384]

1898 Jan 1; Eighteen people become Baha’is in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the visit of Kheiralla in the autumn of 1897. This marks the establishment of the third Baha’i community in North America.

1898 Feb Kheiralla arrives in New York and begins classes on the Baha’i Faith.

1898 Feb 9; Haji Muhammad-i-Turk is shot, beaten and then burned to death in a main street in Mashhad by four religious students. [BBRXXX, 406: BWI8:384] For Western accounts of the episode see BBR406-17.

1898 April Nine Baha'is attending a Ridvan meeting are arrested, beaten and imprisoned in Hamadan. [BWI8:384]  

1898 Jun; In New York City, 141 people become Baha'is in the five months since Kheiralla's arrival. [BFAI:XXVIII, 125]

1898 Aqa Ghulam-Husayn-i-Banadaki is killed by a mob in Yazd after refusing to deny his faith. [BWI8:384]

1898 summer Phoebe Hearst becomes a Baha'i in California through the efforts of Lua and Edward Getsinger. [BFAI:XXVIII, 139] note: BFAI:XXVIII suggests this might have been August.

1898 Aug 20; Jamal Effendi dies in 'Akka. [EBI28]

1898 Sep 22; The first Western pilgrims depart for 'Akka, travelling via New York and Paris. [BFAI:XXVIII, 140-1, 230] Notes SBBHI:93 says this was July, based on Kheiralla's autobiography; BFAI is based on a letter from Phoebe Hearst. It is arranged by Phoebe Hearst, who had already planned a journey to Egypt for the autumn. [BFAI:140] There are 15 pilgrims in all. [AB68]

1898 Nov 11; Kheiralla arrives in 'Akka. [BFA J: XXVIII, 141] 'Abdu'l- Baha confers titles on him: 'Baha's Peter', the 'Second [Columbus' and 'Conqueror of America'. [BFAI:142-3; SBBH2:112]

1898 Nov 13; Abdu’l-Baha commemorates Kheiralla’s arrival by ending the period of mourning for Baha’u’llah and by opening His Tomb to pilgrims for the first time.

1898 Dec 10 The first Western pilgrims arrive in Akka. They divide themselves into three parties, using Cairo as a staging post. [AB68: BFAI:143; SBBHI:93] See AB68-72; BFA2:9; DH61; GPB257, 259 for those included in the pilgrimage group. See BFA1: 143-4 for those included in the first group. Among the group is Robert Turner, the first member of the black race to become a Baha'i. [AB72; BBD227; BFAJ:139; GPB259] 'Abdu'l-Baha receives the pilgrims in the House of 'Abdu'llah Pasha. [BBD13, 108; DH61] See AB68-71; BW16:I04-5; CH235-6 and GPB257-9 for the pilgrims' responses to the pilgrimage. Edward Getsinger makes a recording of 'Abdu'l-Baha chanting a prayer. [BFAI:160] The Getsingers returned from the pilgrimage with an Arabic copy of the Kitab-i-Aqdas which was later translated by Anton Haddad. [BFA2:11]

c. 1898 Dec 20; The second group of Western pilgrims arrive in 'Akka, staying three days before returning to Cairo. [BFA1: 145] See BFAI:I45 for those included in this group.


1899 In the year Miss Olive Jackson of Manhattan becomes the first black American woman Baha'i. [BFAI:126-7]

1899 The Serpent by Thornton Chase, an 18-page pamphlet on the image of the serpent in the Bible, is published in Chicago. This is probably the first published essay written by an American Baha'i. [BFA2:26]

1899 The Consulting Assembly of Tihran, a forerunner of the National Spiritual Assembly, is established. [EB175-6] Four Hands of the Cause are permanent members; nine others are elected by special electors appointed by the Hands. [EB17S-6]
1899 Siyyid Mustafa Rumi and others carry to the Holy Land the marble casket made by the Baha'is of Mandalay to hold the remains of the Bab. [BW10:517] The remains of the Bab arrive in the Holy Land. [BBD209; DH66; GPB274] They are stored in the room of the Greatest Holy Leaf in the house of 'Abdu'llah Pasha until the Shrine of the Bab is completed. [DH66]

1899 Feb; The first Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha arrive in America. [BFA I: 143] See BFAI:143 for the recipients.

1899 c. Feb-Mar 'Abdu'l-Baha, accompanied by Kheiralla, lays the foundation stone for the Shrine of the Bab. [BFA1:XXVIII,142; BBD2og; GPB27S; SBBH2:112]

1899 Feb 16; The third group of Western pilgrims arrives in the Holy Land. [BFAI:145] See BFAI:145 for those in the group.

1899 Spring On her return from pilgrimage, May Bolles establishes the first Baha'i group on the European continent in Paris. [AB159; BBRSM:106; BFA2:151; GPB259; SBBHI:93] For those who became Baha'is in Paris, including Thomas Breakwell, the 'first English believer', and Hippolyte Dreyfus, the 'first Frenchman to embrace the Faith', see BFA2:151-2, 154-5; and GBP259

1899 Apr 9; Upheaval at Najafabad. [BBRXXX, 426; BW18:384-5] Mirza Baqir-i-Ha'i is arrested, several Baha'is are beaten. Baha'i homes are looted in Najafabad. [BBR426; BWI8:384-S] Some 300 Baha'is occupy the British telegraph office hoping the Shah will intervene on behalf of the Baha'is. [BBR427-8] For Western accounts of the episode see BBR426-30.

1899 May; A council board of seven officers, a forerunner of the Local Spiritual Assembly, is established in Kenosha. [BFAI:112; GPB260]

1899 Kheiralla returns to the United States from 'Akka. [BFAI:XXIX 158] His ambitions to lead the Baha'i Faith cause a crisis in the American Baha'i community. [BFAI:158-67; GPB259-60;SBBHI:94, 239] In the coming months 'Abdu'l-Baha dispatches successive teachers to heal the rift: Haji 'Abdu'l-Karim-i-Tihrani, who had taught Kheiralla the Faith, from c. 26 Apr to 5 Aug 1900. [BFAI:173-6; BFA2:17-29] Haji Hasan-i-Khurasani, from 29 Nov 1900 to Aug 1901. [BFA2:35,38-9] Mirza Asadu'llah-i-Isfahani, from 29 Nov 1900 to 12 May 1902. [BFA2:VI, 35-43FF] Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, from Aug 1901 to Dec 1904. [BFA2:XVI, 80-7; BW9:855-60] See BFAI:177-8 for lists of believers who sided with Kheiralla, left the Faith or remained loyal to 'Abdu'l-Baha. See SBBHI:98-101 for Kheiralla's teachings.

1899 Summer; Ethel Jenner Rosenberg accepts the Baha'i Faith, the first English woman to become a Baha'i in her native land. [AB73-4; ER39; GPB260;SBR20, 33; SEBW56] See also Weinberg, ETHEL JENNER ROSENBERG; SEBW55-64

1899 Oct- Nov Stoyan Vatralsky, a Harvard educated, Bulgarian Christian, attacks the Baha'is, 'Truth-knowers', in a series of talks in a church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. [BFAI:XXIX, 114-15; SBBH2:111] By this time two per cent of the population of Kenosha are Baha'is. [BFAI:114]

1899 Charles Mason Remey becomes a Baha'i in Paris through May Bolles. [BFA2:151-2]


c. 1900 For the state of affairs in Haifa just after the turn of the century see CB223-4. The Kitab-i-Aqdas is translated by Anton Haddad. It is not published but circulates in typescript form. [BFA2:27; SA25I]