Friday, January 16, 2015

A Single Kernel

The day I became a Baha'i, I ran into Mrs Khadem, widow of the Hand of the Cause of God, Mr Khadem. I know that I mentioned meeting her a few times in previous articles but I never actually said what happened.

I was at the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette, near Chicago, and I had just been given a lengthy lecture in the library about what it meant to be a Baha'i, none of which I remember. In a post-oratorial daze, I opened the door and meant to step into the visitor's centre, but stepped, instead, into Mrs Khadem. Full on. Bang. Knocked her right over.

After much apologizing on my part, helping her up all the while, she, too, proceeded to tell me the importance of what I had just done. Enrolling in the Faith, not knocking her over.

Out of all the things that people said to me on that first day of my life as an actual enrolled member of this Faith of ours, only one thing stands out, and it came from Mrs Khadem. "You must", she said, "read the writings of the Guardian."

Over the years this has been one of my guiding lights in the Faith: to continue to read the writings of the Guardian.

In fact, whenever a friend declares their faith, I strongly encourage them to read Shoghi Effendi's writings. To my great surprise, though, I have seen many veteran Baha'is try to talk others out of reading his works. "It's too difficult", they claim, "for a new Baha'i." To which I lovingly reply, "Hogwash."

I love the Guardian's works. They are precise, beautiful and very inspirational. They not only give me a clearer understanding of what Baha'u'llah teaches, they raise my vision, too. They challenge me, and change me. They get me to not only rise beyond my own vision of what I think this Faith is, but they challenge me to better understand my own mother tongue.

And today, it seems to me that many new Baha'is I meet are only reading those portions of the Guardian's writings that are either found in the Ruhi curriculum or quoted by the Universal House of Justice. Of course, there are those who do read his works, but I'm finding more and more who are not.

I suspect they don't know what they are missing.

I was reading "Citadel of Faith" the other day, not a common one to read for sure, when I ran across the following passage. It was written for the centenary of the Martyrdom of the Bab and shared at the gathering in the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette. (Yes, the same place I unceremoniously plowed into Mrs Khadem.)

It's only two pages long, and begins with a reminder that the Bab was the "Founder of the Dispensation marking the culmination of the six thousand year old Adamic Cycle" and the "Inaugurator of the five thousand century Baha'i Cycle". In two paragraphs he briefly outlines the history of the Faith of the Bab, and the incredible turmoil that occurred within the world's governments and religious institutions from that time through the writing of his letter. He takes another couple of lines to outline the history of the Baha'i administration as well as mention the valiant deeds of those believers who were present on that occasion, and adds another single line casting our sight into the future to the Golden Age of the Faith. Then, and this is where I wanted to begin, he gives us yet another vision altogether.

"Lastly", he writes with such beauty, "the Holy Seed of infinite preciousness, holding within itself incalculable potentialities representing the culmination of the centuries-old process of the evolution of humanity through the energies released by the series of progressive Revelations starting with Adam and concluded by the Revelation of the Seal of the Prophets, marked by the successive appearance of the branches, leaves, buds, blossoms and plucked, after six brief years by the hand of destiny, ground in the mill of martyrdom and oppression but yielding the oil whose first flickering light cast upon the somber, subterranean walls of the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, whose fire gathered brilliance in Baghdad and shone in full resplendency in its crystal globe in Adrianople, whose rays warmed and illuminated the fringes of the American, European, Australian continents through the tender ministerings of the Center of the Covenant, whose radiance is now overspreading the surface of the globe during the present Formative Age, whose full splendor is destined in the course of future milleniums to suffuse the entire planet."

Just imagine that. Take a moment, dear Reader, to visualize what he is saying. Envisage this tree, growing through all history, through all seasons, surging forth with each subsequent Revelation, producing a shoot, a small branch, eventually growing into a larger tree with leaves, and finally, after many centuries, a flower. This flower has grown to produce a seed, which has been taken and ground to produce an oil, which, in turn, has been ignited, casting a light that has shone within their hearts and throughout the world.

What a vision.

But then, as if that wasn't enough, he shows them how much the Faith has grown in the one hundred years since that momentous event. And he doesn't just give them the statistics; he prefaces it within this beautiful poetical vision. He says, "the crushing of this God-imbued kernel upon the anvil of adversity has ignited the first sparks of the Holy Fire latent within it", and then proceeds to unveil to them the immensity of their successes and victories.

The Guardian not only gave us a clearer vision of the teachings of our faith; he not only showed us where we were going as a community; he not only outlined for us the full scope of our Administration and showed us the way to victory; he did all this, and more, with a sense of beauty and poetry and grace.

And with far more grace than I showed when I first enrolled.


  1. Hello everyone: My name is Tony Hipszer. I represent a small team of graduate students that desires to study the worldview perspectives of people who are Baha'i friendly (current members, former members, or seekers). The technical term for the study is "Ethnography," but you might think of it as cultural anthropology research.

    We invite you to participate in our study by agreeing to an interview where we will ask you questions about your understandings of origins, power, destiny, truth and good vs evil. The interviews generally take 60-90 minutes. If you live within driving distance of Columbia, SC we would prefer to meet in person - and we can treat you to lunch or dinner in appreciation for your efforts. If the distance is too great, we are able to chat via phone, Skype or some other electronic means.

    To learn more on how you can help us, email or call 856-889-0265. Please leave a message if I do not answer.

    In the interest of transparency, my teammates and I are Christian theology majors (M.Div. and MA) however this is research only and not an attempt to evangelize. I personally am a M.Div. Chaplaincy student who graduates next year. I intend to apply the results of my learning in this project practically – as a chaplain, I will encounter people of many faiths. This study will enable me to represent the presence of God and care for people in a way that does not violate their heartfelt beliefs, or mine.
    I look forward to hearing from you!

    God bless!

    Thanks – T