Saturday, December 19, 2020

Selection from Taherzadeh

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

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

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

Haji Muhammad-Riday-i-Isfahani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full paragraph from the Tablet of the World:

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

My introduction of this post on facebook:

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 12, 2020

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

Bacon, Comenius, Tolstoy, Truth and my Absorption System

By John Taylor; 2020 December 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Lies are always harmful to all things. (Tolstoy)

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

"In brief, dissensions among various sects have opened the way to weakness. Each sect hath picked out a way for itself and is clinging to a certain cord. Despite manifest blindness and ignorance they pride themselves on their insight and knowledge. Among them are mystics who bear allegiance to the Faith of Islám, some of whom indulge in that which leadeth to idleness and seclusion. I swear by God! It lowereth man’s station and maketh him swell with pride. Man must bring forth fruit. One who yieldeth no fruit is, in the words of the Spirit, like unto a fruitless tree, and a fruitless tree is fit but for the fire." (

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 24, 2020

p15 Book Review of Deep Thinking by Garry Kasparov

Review of Deep Thinking, by Garry Kasparov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 08, 2020

Prayer as Soul Polish, Words of Abdu'l-Baha

"Man becomes like a stone unless he continually supplicates to God. The heart of man is like a mirror which is covered with dust and to cleanse it one must continually pray to God that it may become clean. The act of supplication is the polish which erases all worldly desires.

The delight of supplicating and entreating before God cuts one's heart from the world. When the taste of man is nourished by honey he never likes to taste any other sweet-meat. Therefore, prayer is a key by which the doors of the kingdom are opened. There are many subjects which are difficult for man to solve. But during prayer and supplication they are unveiled and there is nothing that man cannot find out. Mohammed said:

"Prayer is a ladder by which every one can ascend to heaven."

If one's heart is cut from the world his prayer is the ascension to heaven. In the highest prayer men pray only for the love of God, not because they fear him or hell or hope for bounty or heaven. Thus the souls in whose hearts the fire of love is enkindled are attracted by supplication. True supplication to God must therefore be actuated by love to God only. .. When a man falls in love with a human being it is impossible for him to keep from mentioning the name of his beloved. How much more difficult is it to keep from mentioning the name of God when one has come to love him. One can pray for the dead and by so doing their spiritual condition will become better. The spiritual man finds no delight in anything save in commemoration of God. When one is confirmed his heart becomes rejoiced through the commemoration of God.

(Words of Abdu'l-Baha, from notes of Miss Alma Albertson and other pilgrims, November and December, 1900.)

Star of the West, Vol. VIII, No. 4, (17 May, 1917) p. 43

Cited in Visiting Abdu'l-Baha, Vol. 1, by Earl Redman, p. 47

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

p17 The Law of Love in Leviticus demands rebukes

 "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." (suffer sin?) (Lev 19:17, KJV)

The King James Bible is full of errors and passages like the above, that are simply incomprehensible. This morning I tried to find out what "suffer sin" could possibly mean. This took me down the rabbit hole that is BibleHub. Here is what I found:

If you Google any bible passage, you get Bible Hub, and it gives you all the translations and cross references. Routine, I know, you do it all the time, but I just looked up "lev 19:17," and it came as a revelation to me.

"You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him." (ESV)

or, in the NIV version,

"Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt."

We are not told just to love our neighbour by the law of love, we are specially instructed by that law to rebuke them privately. In the cross references, it points to this addition in the Christian law of love,

"If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over." (Matt 18:15)

Love is not love if it does not set a process of admonition, correction, forgiveness and reconciliation going. If you don't do that, hatred will start to fester and may turn into murder; it would not be the first time.

"And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad, because he hated Amnon for disgracing his sister Tamar." (2 Samuel 13:22)

Amazing! Silence is like darkness, where mold like a contagion grows. Love demands the reverse, a direct, frank, ongoing dialog about how to tread the path of right and wrong. Neglect that and love's seedling grows into a weed. "Open rebuke is better than secret love…" (Proverbs 27:5,6) Another proverb supplements this, saying that if your friend, brother or neighbour is wise, they will not take it amiss, they will love you for it all the more.

"Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee." (9:8)

Love has to come out of this wisdom, not out of facile admiration. Constructive feedback is what makes love into light, rather than a poison.

"If anyone claims to be in the light but hates his brother, he is still in the darkness." (1 John 2:9)

Hatred is darkness, love is light, and we use light to see reality while the heat from light keeps us alive. Love's vision comes only out of this close dialectic. If it does not, love grows amiss, like a cancer.

"But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness. He does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (1 John 2:11)

Hatred and ill will build up like a poison, and from that, any friendly behavior becomes hypocritical. Like a heartworm, lies enter into the heart and kill everything,

"He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him." (Proverbs 26:24-26)

If an acquaintance does not make you better, they don't love you and they will never be worthy of being called a friend, much less a beloved. I am reminded of the song, "I don't know what love is. I want you to show me." No, the blind cannot lead the blind. It is quite the reverse, neither of us knows how to love, but we will find out only by working it out in the mutual correction society that is friendship. There are many kinds of friendship, but all must be part of a mutual search for betterment or perfection.

This critical process applies for God, the God of love, more than anything. That is why I feel uncomfortable when people talk about unconditional love. Unconditional love is great for babies, but not for responsible adults. And especially not for the highest love, the love of God. God loves us infinitely, but it would be a very paltry love if that were as far as it went.

"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent." (Rev 3:19, NIV)

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

p23 Shoghi Effendi, The Faith of Baha'u'llah, read by John Taylor

The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh:
A World Religion

by Shoghi Effendi
Read by John Taylor

The Faith established by Bahá'u'lláh was born in Persia about the middle of the nineteenth century and has, as a result of the successive banishments of its Founder, 

culminating in His exile to the Turkish penal colony of 'Akká, and His subsequent death and burial in its vicinity, fixed its permanent spiritual center in the Holy Land,

and is now in the process of laying the foundations of its world administrative center in the city of Haifa.

Alike in the claims unequivocally asserted by its Author and the general character of the growth of the Bahá'í community in every continent of the globe, it can be regarded in no other light than a world religion, 

destined to evolve in the course of time into a world-embracing commonwealth, whose advent must signalize the Golden Age of mankind, the age in which the unity of the human race will have been unassailably established, 
its maturity attained, and its glorious destiny unfolded through the birth and efflorescence of a world-encompassing civilization.

Though sprung from Shi'íh Islám, and regarded, in the early stages of its development, by the followers of both the Muslim and Christian Faiths, as an obscure sect, an Asiatic cult or an offshoot of the Muhammadan religion, this Faith is now increasingly demonstrating its right to be recognized, 

not as one more religious system superimposed on the conflicting creeds which for so many generations have divided mankind and darkened its fortunes, but rather as a restatement of the eternal verities underlying all the religions of the past, as a unifying force instilling into the adherents of these religions a new spiritual vigor, infusing them with a new hope and love for mankind, 

firing them with a new vision of the fundamental unity of their religious doctrines, and unfolding to their eyes the glorious destiny that awaits the human race.

The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh, the followers of His Faith firmly believe, is that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the non-essential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

p01 Bacon Against the Mere Search for Truth

John Amos Comenius based his entire philosophy, which he called "Pansophy,"and indeed his entire proposed world government, on the three necessary stages of intentional action, that is, knowledge, volition and action. Comenius, and indeed all subsequent science, rest upon this foundation, first laid out by Frances Bacon. It was Bacon's conviction that mere search for truth is not enough. Knowledge has to be connected to human decisions, and decisions connected to work and action. If an individual's search is left on its own, how do you know when to stop? It has to be when you are satisfied. But satisfaction is not enough. Knowledge is power, and power can only be released by constant application; that is, by establishing a dialectic among all three, knowledge, willing and acting, and repeat. First comes seeking to know, then, forming a resolution based on what you learned from that search, and finally applying that to your life's calling. Because this dialectic is so important to understanding Comenius, I am including here the entire section from the article on Bacon in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Frances Bacon; Against the Mere Search for Truth

from the article "Frances Bacon," in the Encyclopedia Britannica

Frances Bacon, article in Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 995-996
Under: Bacon as philosopher and stylist; Philosophical Works; Bacon's Purpose.

Bacon's grand motive in his attempt to found the sciences anew was the intense conviction that the knowledge man possessed was of little service to him.

"The knowledge whereof the world is now possessed, especially that of nature, extendeth not to magnitude and certainty of works."

Man's sovereignty over nature, which can be founded on knowledge alone had been lost, and instead of the free relation n between things an the human mind there was nothing but vain notions and blind experiments. To restore the original commerce between man and nature and to re-establish the dominion of man (imperium hominis) is the grand object of all science. The want of success which had hitherto attended efforts in the same direction had been due to many causes but chiefly to the want of appreciation of the nature of philosophy and its real aim. The true philosophy is not the science of things divine and human; it is not the search after truth.

"I find that even those that have sought knowledge for itself, and not for benefit or ostentation, or any practical enablement in the course of their life, have nevertheless propounded to themselves a wrong mark, namely satisfaction (which men call Truth) and not operation."

"Is there any such happiness as for a man's mind to be raised above the confusion of things, where he may have the prospect of the order of nature and error of man? But is this a view of delight only and not of discovery? of contentment and not of benefit? Shall he not as well discern the riches of nature's warehouse as the beauty of her shop? Is truth ever barren? Shall he not be able thereby to produce worthy effects, and to endow the life of man with infinite commodities?"

Philosophy is altogether practical; it is of little matter to the fortunes of humanity what abstract notions one may entertain concerning the ultimate nature and the principles of things. This truth, however, has never yet been recognized; it has not yet been seen that the true aim of all science is "to endow the condition and life of man with new powers or works," or "to extend more widely the the limits of the power and greatness of man."

Nevertheless, it is not to be imagined that by this being proposed as the great object of search there has thereby been excluded all that has hitherto been looked upon as the higher aims of human life, such as the contemplation of truth. Not so, but by following the new aim we shall also arrive at a true knowledge of the universe in which we are, for without knowledge there is no power; truth and utility are in ultimate aspect the same;

"works themselves are of greater value as pledges of truth than as contributing to the comforts of life."

Such was the conception of philosophy with which Bacon started and in which he felt himself to be entirely original. as his object was new and hitherto unproposed, so the method he intended to employ was different, he felt, from all modes of investigation hitherto attempted.

“It would be," as he says, "an unsound fancy and self-contradictory to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried."

There were many obstacles in his way, and he seems always to have felt that the first part of the new scheme must be a pars destruens, a destructive criticism of all other methods. Opposition was to be expected, not only from previous philosophies but especially from the human mind itself. In the first place, natural antagonism must be looked for from the two opposed sects, the one of whom, in despair of knowledge, maintained that all science was impossible; while the other, resting on authority and on the learning that had been handed down from the Greeks, declared that science was already completely known and consequently devoted their energies to methodizing and elaborating it. Secondly, within the domain of science itself, properly so-called, there were two "kind of rovers" who must be dismissed. The first where the speculative or logical philosophers, who construe the universe ex anologia hominis and not ex analogia mundi -- or, in terms of their knowledge of man rather than of nature -- who fashion nature according to preconceived ideas and who employ in their investigations syllogism and abstract reasoning. The second class, equally offensive, consisted of those who practised blind experience, which is mere groping in the dark (vaga experientia mera palpatio est), who occasionally hit upon good works or inventions, which like Atalanta's apples, distracted them from further steady and gradual progress toward universal truth. In place of these struggling efforts of the unassisted human mind, a graduated system of helps was to be supplied by the use of which the mind, when placed on the right road, would proceed with unerring and mechanical certainty to the invention of new arts and sciences. Such were the peculiar functions of the new method, though it had not yet definitely appeared what that method was, or to what objects it could be applied.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

p14, p39 Naw Ruz Eve Thoughts, from 16 Years Ago

Thoughts on Naw Ruz Eve; 20 March, 2004

I started this fast easy, even for a time laughing contemptuously at healthy people who complain how tough it is, "Just try it with the sword of a migraine hanging by a thin thread over your head, me hearties," Thought I, "Arrr!" I only missed the first day to a migraine. I was not much bothered since. Not by that, not that, only by a fast that weighs down a little more each day.

Not eating at first seems like the pain of nostalgia, the loss you feel when you visit an old school after years of absence. You attended this institution ... it was your whole life and all your friends were there and now you are gone and they are gone and every face is new and strange and unknown but walking the same footsteps with the same vain hopes, thoughts, illusions and fears as so long before. You hated every minute you were there but now it is gone and missing it is worse than having it ever was. You hate it all the more for doing this to you now, more now than ever then. And you try oh so hard not to but you have to wonder: what became of the personalities who tread these halls with you? Are they even more the aliens now than they were then? What becomes of old acquaintanceship, is there a heaven or hell for nodding knowledge, a sewer for likes and loves as for other effluent? They all seemed so alive and unique, as did you, and now they are dried out like my gut and even the memory is faded to ghostly incoherence, like the memory of your last meal.

Then it gets worse. Day by day the drought exacerbates until a wilderness is spread all over your world, a desert that makes your pure blue planet into a dead, brown wasteland. I feel it, ill in my skin, washing, excoriating, red throbbing rash whose dried out ouch lays every nerve exposed to the raw caress of unfeeling events. 

A long sere night of soullessness almost over with. There is no consolation in this ... strangulation grips your throat without touching you, dry retching of heart -- dry retching is when your body orders you to vomit and does not care that your stomach is long empty -- only this is a retching you cannot put your finger on, it is spiritual. Mental. You try to think a thought and there is no content or meaning to the thoughts but you must think them nonetheless. Mental retching.

My long unwholesome fast days drag on without content, discontented, wintering, disemboweled, lackluster, they lack not so much stomach content as guts ... the gumption to stumble on to the next step, the moxie to molt my "my," an emptiness that goes beyond body to all being, body, mind, soul. I stand, a sun-dried John. My entire nineteen months are dried tomatoes, all that fructified in the other eighteen are laid without juices in one span of nineteen.

"Does the wild donkey bray when he has grass? Or does the ox low over his fodder? Can that which has no flavor be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? My soul refuses to touch them; They are as loathsome food to me." (Job 6:5-7, WEB)

I wander the streets in the afternoon like a zombie eating out its own brain, a cannibalistic ice cream cone without a single scoop of wholeness in it ... and you think, surely people will see the emptiness behind my eyes. But they overlook even the outside, the drying face, and care not what is within.

"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." (Matt 6:16-18)

I don't know about washing the face, but this fast I have tried turning up the dental hygiene. When I brush, floss and swish around this special fluoride mouthwash my dentist recommended I take first thing in the morning, I find that I enter the fast day with a special lift that lasts about -- I don't know -- five minutes until that too is browned, dry and lifeless.

And now dawns the nineteenth day, Naw Ruz eve. Happy New Year's everybody! Let me wish you the open reward of our Father which art in heaven. In Him are spring and its green gardens with streams flowing underneath.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

p30, p06 Oligarchy's Squeeze Play

Oligarchy's Squeeze Play

by John Taylor, 2020 Mar 08

In 2011 economist Paul Krugman pointed out that calling the wealthy the "one percent" is quite inaccurate. They should be called the one in a thousand. Where does the money of this tiny elite come from? What do the powerful oligarchs do for a living? In view of how events over the past nine years have played out, Krugman's list is prescient.

"Who is in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they are corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance, i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we are talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth." (Oligarchy, American Style, Paul Krugman, New York Times, November 3, 2011

Sound familiar? This one in a thousand are executives, lawyers and real estate tycoons. Worse, at the very top of this pyramid sit the heirs to even vaster fortunes who own it all, and who never had to earn money in the first place.

When so few rule, they have to know their job, because the one who satisfies the other members of the elite will surely rise above all others. This is done by keeping other oligarchs busy, and offering them hope of even greater fortunes. The one at the summit must provide the skilled and ambitious oligarchs just below with gainful employ and easy money.

Is it any wonder that Donald Trump rose above all others?

Counter-intuitively, his notoriety and incompetence gave him a decisive advantage over other, more placid heirs to mega-fortunes. It attracted Russian money to bail him out and compromise him, then, after his rise to power, laws designed to protect privilege from their rightful due, and bountiful government funding, protect him. Trump precariously surfs the wave of an ever toppling real estate empire perpetually on the brink of bankruptcy, eating up huge loans from the powerful financial sector. His criminal transgressions, even now, provide lucrative employment to an army of influential lawyers -- members in good standing of the oligarchy -- busy fending off lawsuits initiated by victims and opponents.

Why do other oligarchs tolerate him? Stupid question. Free tax cuts permanently transfer ever more money to the top of the heap, into the avid hands of inherited drones and corporate leaches.
And how do the keep the schmucks, the 999 out of a thousand, in line, especially in an age when communication technology displays their shenanigans on everyone's palm? The oldest play in the book, divide and conquer. Keep them scrabbling, stir up outrage about anything and everything; pump up the volume, remove their ability to think straight, delude them until even love and truth fail to move. The ancient Hindu book, the Panchatantra, expresses our vulnerability poetically.

 Until a mortal's belly pot is full,
 He does not care a jot
 For love or music, wit or shame,
 For body's care or scholar's name,
 For virtue or for social charm,
 For lightness or release from harm,
 For godlike wisdom, youthful beauty,
 For purity or anxious duty.
 (Panchatantra, p. 401)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

p19 Beyond the veils

Beyond the Veils

by John Taylor, 20 February, 2020  

For the past week I've been slowly reading through the the Maximes of La Rochefoucauld, which cut through the pretence that we think is our virtue like a cold shower on a cold winter's morning. Here is an example,

"We sometimes think we hate flattery, but what we hate is merely the way it is done." (Francois de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes)

These are powerful witticisms that, if you are not careful, will make you suspect your every virtuous thought to be nothing more than vanity hiding behind a veil of vain illusions behind yet more veils of delusions and self indulgence. Behind the veil, the heart shrivels and dies.

At the same time, over the same week, I coincidentally watched two movies starring the British actress Kiera Knightly. The first, Official Secrets, was based on a true story about a young woman working for British intelligence who breached the Official Secrets Act in order to expose the illegal actions, initiated by US President Bush, that manufactured the excuse for the invasion of Iraq. US President Bush had asked the Brits to back up his war-provoking lie about Saddam Hussein's non-existent nuclear munitions. Everyone in her MI6 office got the memo and realised right away the injustice of blackmailing other members of the UN security council to agree to backing up America's aggression, but they were bound by their contract to keep the skulduggery secret. She broke the law and leaked the news to a boot-licking press, who reluctantly printed it. Fortunately for her, though, in order to prosecute her, the British government would have had to admit to complicity in that war crime, so the crown dropped the charges, eventually.

I firmly believe that one day official secrets and confidentiality agreements will themselves be illegal, for the same reason that selling yourself into slavery is now outlawed. In Ancient Athens, that law against selling yourself into slavery, by the way, was the main reform of Solon, one of the founders of what we now call democracy. Democracy could never have come into existence as long as the freedom of citizens was up for sale. In the same way, our free speech is a right that people died for, and it cannot be compromised by any contract, voluntary or not. Free speech is the foundation of the rule of law, which in turn is a pillar of justice.

The second Kiera Knightly movie I saw was an earlier role in her career, as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, a movie that I had seen long before but we watched it again for the benefit of our guest, Kornelius. Conditioned by the previous Knightly movie, I saw for the first time why Jane Austin's masterpiece has the unique potency that it does. How rare it is that a rich man can thread the needle while riding the camel of power and influence! But Mr. Darcy does so in the story, and at the same time -- for love of her -- saves Elizabeth's two sisters from becoming fallen or jilted women. He does not have a high bar, admittedly, his main ideal and virtue being his loyalty to his friends. However, I accept that even that feat is rarely achieved by members of the ownership class, a group once laughingly called the "nobility" but who now are known by the more clinical, statistical nomenclature of "the one percent."

Pride and Prejudice is the story of a man with all the power and money who wins the heroine by going a little out of his way to establish justice for her and her sisters. How can love not follow from that? In the BBC mini-series, Elizabeth rather baldly admits that it was her walk through Mr. Darcy's vast, sumptuous estate that changed her heart towards him, but not in the Kiera Knightly version. I guess what I am trying to get at is that the story behind Pride and Prejudice has such an extraordinary effect, even after centuries, because it touches upon the junction between love and justice. Just acts, pure acts of equity and fairness, rare as they are -- at least among the privileged -- are what create love and make this life in this miserable world tolerable.

I believe it was in the first, or almost the first, talk of Abdu'l-Baha in England, where he paraphrases the second Arabic Hidden Word, saying that God loves justice more than anything in all the world. That has heavy implications. Whereas the God of the Gospel of John was love, the God of Baha'u'llah is love, yes, but love of justice above all. Austin's Pride and Prejudice is such a beloved fairy tale romance because it describes how sharp the sword of equity is in cutting through the many layers of amour propre, self flattery, vanity and pride that shut out the heart from pure deeds, justice and love.