Thursday, November 30, 2017

Twigs of a Family Tree

This is something of a cop out. I'll freely admit that I'm tired of writing right now, and want to take a bit of a break. That's ok. I have a good thing to mention before getting back to my day job, which is as a fashion designer and jeweler.

In case I haven't mentioned it before now, my friend and spiritual mother, Lucki Wilder, inerviewed me a little while ago and used some of my answers, as well as some excerpts from the blog here, to write a book. It is something of a family tree, hence the title, Twigs of a Family Tree.

While we were consulting on it, it became quite clear that she was the author, and so my role in its development took a different turn than I had expected. That's ok. I don't mind. As long as we were clear on it, I was ok with that.

So, in short, the book describes how Razvanieh, the woman who taught her, became a Baha'i. Following that chapter is the story of how Lucki became Baha'i. Then comes my story, and it concludes with my friend Theresa's story.

That's the super short synopsis.

The longer version has all sorts of stories within it about our personal struggles, the question we had, and how the Faith has changed our life.

I find it quite fascinating for a few reasons. First, it's interesting to see how Lucki edited my story together. Second, as I read it, it doesn't sound like my voice at all, not that many others would notice. And third, it's neat to see how some of my stories made their way into her section, as they fit better there, and how some of her stories fit into mine. This was done purely for editorial reasons, to help try and keep the flow, as well as avoiding redundancy.

There are some sections in it that make me think, "Wow, I can't believe it", and others that make we sit up and say, "That's profound."  I had a friend come by my table while I was sitting in a coffee shop reading it, and she wanted to know what I was reading. She said I seemed quite captivated by it. I read her a passage, which had her saying, "I never thought of that in that way before". I agreed, saying that I hadn't either, and then we both realized it was in my section. For the life of, though, I swear it was Lucki that wrote that.

Anyways, I fel like I'm cheating here today, because all I'm doing is writing a bit about that book, and adding in the link to it.


Here's the link:

I hope you read it, and I really hope you enjoy it. If there's anything in there that really touches you, let me know. I'm sure it wasn't written by me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Freedom from Prejudice and Dealing with Oppression

I've noticed some interesting things recently regarding prejudice and the freedom from it. Most of it has to do with on-line ranting against this gross injustice. Oh, and that's against prejudice, not against the freedom from it. But, to be fair, I've noticed some ranting against the freedom from prejudice, too, but that's a different story altogether.

While I have seen and read a lot over the years on this issue, in recent months I have noticed a slight shift in the discussion. As with most areas of life on the net, there seems to be less and less tolerance. People seem to be becoming more polarized on this issue, as with so many others. But in this issue, it is paramount to remain united.

As with most things, though, there are many issues at play here. One is the very concept of freedom from prejudice, and another is how we respond to oppression.

To start, I just want to point out a few things that are in the Baha'i Writings, and then I will conclude with our own response to it. I only mention this so that you can better see where I hope to be going with this. Oh, and just as a reminder, this is only my own take on it, and not authoritative in any way. I'm sure others will read it a bit differently than I am, and I hope to hear from them. My only encouragement, though, is that any responses strive towards unity and leave behind the divisiveness that is so often found in replies on the net.

My starting point on this topic is Shoghi Effendi's seminal letter, The Advent of Divine Justice. In this work, he outlines three "spiritual prerequisites of success". "Upon the extent to which these basic requirements are met..." he writes, "depend the measure of manifold blessings" we can receive. He lists these requirements as "a high sense of moral rectitude", "absolute chastity", and "complete freedom from prejudice". The first two have a number of implications, such as justice, equity, truthfulness and so forth in regards to this moral rectitude, or modesty, pure-mindedness, and moderation in relation to chastity, as he points out later in the text, but freedom from prejudice does not have any implications. It just is.

With this freedom from prejudice, he is not merely talking about eliminating racism, although that is a big part of it. And he doesn't even get into the semantics of racism, which is the belief that one's race is superior to another. You see, it doesn't matter. Racism is but a subset of prejudice, and he is talking about all forms of prejudice. He addresses racism, of course, but he carefully reminds us that racism is not the only form of prejudice.

When he does talk about racial prejudice, with includes racism but is not limited to it, he says "it should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Baha'i community". And note that he doesn't just call it challenging, even though that was the title an editor added in to the first editions. He says it is the "most vital and challenging issue". By including the word "vital", he reminds us how high the stakes are here. It is a matter of life and death.

He also lets us know that he is aware of the difficulty involved in addressing this issue. He talks about the "ceaseless exertions" needed, "the sacrifices it must impose, the care and vigilance it demands, the moral courage and fortitude it requires, the tact and sympathy it necessitates": these are formidable obstacles we must overcome. "Ceaseless exertions", "sacrifices", "care and vigilance", "moral courage and fortitude", and, just in case we forget, "tact and sympathy". That's quite the list. And just in case anybody thinks that this is the work of one side, he points out that "neither race has the right, or can conscientiously claim, to be regarded as absolved from such an obligation". This is something we must all, no matter our race or background, must work on. And these are the guidelines that we all must follow if we wish to be effective in making a difference.

Once he gives us the caution about how difficult this path will be, he goes on to give us the tools that will help us in this. He says that if we want an example in how we are to approach this issue, we can do no better than to look towards 'Abdu'l-Baha. We can "remember His courage, His genuine love, His informal and indiscriminating fellowship, His contempt for and impatience of criticism, tempered by His tact and wisdom." We can look towards "His keen sense of justice, His spontaneous sympathy for the downtrodden, His ever-abiding sense of the oneness of the human race, His overflowing love for its members". These are guiding principles that we all can, and should, remember. If we ever want to speak to this issue, we can always ask ourselves if what we say, and the manner in which we say it, will bring greater unity to the situation, or just perpetuate this cycle of prejudice.

Today it has become commonplace, and even expected, to openly criticize others. If we do not take a hard stand against an issue, then we are, inappropriately, seen as supporting it. Shoghi Effendi addresses even this point when he says "every differentiation of class, creed, or color must automatically be obliterated, and never be allowed, under any pretext, and however great the pressure of events or of public opinion, to reassert itself." This is not to say that he doesn't recognize differences of culture, or the manner in which we express things, but that we shouldn't allow class, creed, or colour to get in the way. He even goes on to say that it is our "first and inescapable obligation to nurture, encourage, and safeguard every minority belonging to any faith, race, class, or nation" within the fold of our Faith, but this extends beyond the boundaries of our Faith and to society at large. In fact, if there is a difference of opinion and a tie in a vote, "priority should unhesitatingly be accorded to the party representing the minority". Quite the statement that.

He also recognizes that there are different roles for different people. Obviously, the people in the majority have a different role to play than those who have been oppressed. For example, in talking about the Black-White issue in the United States, he offers the following:

Let the white make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem, to abandon once for all their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority, to correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race, to persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions, and to master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds. Let the Negroes, through a corresponding effort on their part, show by every means in their power the warmth of their response, their readiness to forget the past, and their ability to wipe out every trace of suspicion that may still linger in their hearts and minds. Let neither think that the solution of so vast a problem is a matter that exclusively concerns the other. Let neither think that such a problem can either easily or immediately be resolved... Let neither think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort, can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country. Let them rather believe, and be firmly convinced, that on their mutual understanding, their amity, and sustained cooperation, must depend, more than on any other force or organization operating outside the circle of their Faith, the deflection of that dangerous course so greatly feared by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, and the materialization of the hopes He cherished for their joint contribution to the fulfillment of that country’s glorious destiny.

"Mutual understanding", "amity", "sustained cooperation": those are some of the things we must see if we hope for "the deflection of that dangerous course so greatly feared by 'Abdu'l-Baha".

That's quite a lot, and I could easily leave it here, but there really is more. After all, how are we to respond to oppression and injustice? Is it all just sweet talk and roses? Well, no. As we have just read, there is a lot to it. We must stand up with assertiveness against the oppressor, but not in a manner that leads to more prejudice. It is too easy to hate the oppressor, and thereby perpetuate prejudice. Here the Universal House of Justice holds up the Baha'i community of Iran as an example for us to see.

The following quotes are all from letters addressed to the Baha'is of Iran, and they offer us insights into how we, too, can respond to perpetual injustice.

In one letter they point out that "the proper response to oppression is neither to succumb in resignation nor to take on the characteristics of the oppressor. The victim of oppression can transcend it through an inner strength that shields the soul from bitterness and hatred and which sustains consistent, principled action." I find this one of the most important of all the quotes here. When I am looking at prejudice within myself, and my own efforts to help rid this planet of prejudice, I ask myself if I am taking"on the characteristics of the oppressor". To ask this, though, I must be aware of what those characteristics look like. And, unfortunately, when I read a lot of the comments on-line, often by those very same people who are trying to overcome prejudice in our society, I see them demonstrating those very characteristics of divisiveness and antagonism in the name of trying to help others. While it is true that "the light of knowledge will inevitably dispel the clouds of ignorance", we have to be certain that the light we shine brings people together and doesn't further divide them.

In addressing the Baha'is of Iran, the Universal House of Justice gives great praise to "the parents who, filled with sadness, must explain to (their children) such inhumane treatment while preventing the seeds of resentment and hatred from taking root in their innocent hearts". And that, to me, is the greatest test of all. How do we explain such actions while being careful to avoid creating resentment and hatred? I think the first is to understand the history of the issues involved, and see where the oppressor is coming from, to understand their motive. From there, we can understand their mistake, we can sympathize without agreeing with them. My favorite example of this is the Nazi party in Germany back before World War 2, and please remember that I come from a Jewish background. I fully understand that Germany was unjustly oppressed after the First World War, due to the unjust Treaty of Versailles. I can totally see that this oppression led to anger. I am aware that Hitler, despite his later actions and the unjust use of force against his own people, not to mention others, rebuilt the German economy by renovating the garment industry and the auto sector. He successfully raised them out of poverty and gave them a pride in their cultural identity again. I get that. The problem was in having a scapegoat for all their difficulties. I can easily explain the motives for the early Nazi movement, what they got right, and where they went wrong. This is something I regularly discuss with my son, pointing to similar examples in my own culture. We easily talk about the injustices we see, where people are rightfully trying to correct them, and where they are missing the mark. Because of these conversations, difficult as they are, my son is growing up with a clearer understanding of prejudice in our culture, while avoiding the resentment and hatred that is prevalent today.

Finally, I feel I can do no better than to end with the following beautiful paragraph describing the Baha'is of Iran:

You pursue your path with patience and calm and hold before your eyes these words of the beloved Master: “For ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, captivity is like unto freedom and the prison-cell a heavenly mansion. The bondage of chains and fetters is as pleasant as a stroll among flowers in a luminous garden. The lowly mat is as a lofty throne, and the depths of the pit even as the heights of the celestial realm.” Moreover, you know well that establishing the Kingdom of God in this turbulent world is no easy task. It requires unshakeable faith, complete reliance on God, high endeavour, an indomitable spirit, constant striving, and infinite patience and long-suffering. You are aware of God’s method and look upon your efforts as seeds sown by the divine Husbandman in His field. Cultivating and gathering the crop require hard work, time, patience, and sacrifice, but through the bounties of God, an abundant harvest is assured. You remain confident that just as the seed, which through the outpourings of the rain and the exertions of the gardener gradually grows into a mighty and fruitful tree, so too your selfless efforts and the labours of other Bahá’ís around the globe—vividly apparent at the Convention—will, at the appointed time, through the blessings of the Abhá Beauty, yield wondrous fruits; hearts will be enlightened, this darksome earth illumined, and the oneness of humanity ultimately realized.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Being Moved

"In an increasingly interconnected world, more light is being cast on the social conditions of every people, giving greater visibility to their circumstances. While there are developments that give hope, there is much that should weigh heavy on the conscience of the human race. Inequity, discrimination, and exploitation blight the life of humanity, seemingly immune to the treatments applied by political schemes of every hue. The economic impact of these afflictions has resulted in the prolonged suffering of so many, as well as in deep-seated, structural defects in society. No one whose heart has been attracted to the teachings of the Blessed Beauty can remain unmoved by these consequences."
You will likely recall these profound words written by the Universal House of Justice earlier this year, on 1 March, at the beginning of their letter regarding economics. I remember reading them the first time, and just how excited I was at what they were going to say in this relatively short letter. Now, you may notice that I didn't actually copy the entire first paragraph, but only part of it. There is a reason. I wanted to draw attention to that last sentence.

"No one whose heart has been attracted to the teachings of the Blessed Beauty can remain unmoved by these consequences."

You see, dear Reader, we had a presentation on the Right of God in our community the other day, and one of the things we did was study this letter. Oh, in its entirety, not just the beginning of the first paragraph.

It was a wonderful study, and I wanted to share a little bit of it here with you, since I don't think you were there.

Anyways, I could go on for many pages about the video we saw, End of an Era, and this study, but I think I'll just keep it to this one line.

"No one whose heart has been attracted to the teachings of the Blessed Beauty can remain unmoved by these consequences."

When we read this, one of the friends commented that all Baha'is are moved by these signs, those mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph: inequity, discrimination, exploitation, the prolonged suffering, the deep-seated structural defects. Every Baha'i, they said, is moved.

Now, it may just be me, and the training I have had in my life, but I didn't see it this way. I don't see where they say that this just refers to Baha'is. And I said so.

No one, they say, no one whose heart is attracted to the teachings can remain unmoved. They don't say no one who is attracted to Baha'u'llah, but to His teachings.

So what does that mean to me?

Well, to me it means that anyone who is moved by seeing these sufferings might be open to the teachings. Seeing how people react to the state of affairs in the world can be a good indication that they may be receptive.

It's not that everyone who is moved "by these consequences" will be receptive, but it is another sign that they might be. And yo uknow what? That's good enough for me.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Conversation

Yesterday I finished by talking about unit 2 of Ruhi Book 1, and was so rudely interrupted by breakfast. Just kidding. Twasn't rude at all.

But I did want to continue this.

(Pretend I'm re-telling the intro here about summarizing Book 1, few minutes, blah blah, got to unit 2, what's the first topic, prayer they said.) (Go to yesterday's post if you really want the full into.)

So they said that the first topic in unit 2 was prayer. "You're not wrong", I replied, "but all of unit 2 is about prayer. What is the first topic about prayer that they discuss?"

After a bit of reading, someone said "Prayer is like a ladder." "Prayer", another person said, "is a fire."

"Both of those metaphors are true, but they're in section 2. And really, to understand those, you need to work your way through the metaphors. Yes, prayer can lift you up and give you a new perspective, just like climbing a ladder. And prayer is a fire? I really don't want to pray if it's going to burn me. Oh, wait, it burns through the veils. You see, this takes a bit of work. But there is another concept in section 1."

"Prayer", someone realized, "is a conversation with God."

"And why would they begin with that? Out of all the beautiful quotes about prayer and how useful and wonderful and necessary it is, why that?"

There was a bit of silence, and then someone said, "Well, anyone can have a conversation."

"Right. And why is that important?"

Now, you have to understand, I hadn't actually planned any of this. I didn't really have an answer. I was just asking questions that, given what I have seen in the the Ruhi curriculum, I suspected would lead to an deeper understanding.

And this, dear Reader, is what we learned.

Anyone can have a conversation. This is something we can all relate to. We know, intuitively, that there is no right or wrong way to do it, but there are certain things we have to do in order for it to be a conversation. We know that we need to listen. We understand that we need to talk. We even recognize the fact that if we are really paying attention to the person with whom we are having the conversation, then that conversation will be more effective, we will get more out of it.

Ok. This is all simple. So why begin the whole unit with that?

Because it is the simplest way to communicate to others what prayer is.

So many people I have met have a very difficult time with the concept of prayer. Oh, they pray, but they tend to think of it as some sort of formula or recipe. It tends to be either something led by a minister in a church with a particular ritual behind it, or some magic formula by which they can get what they want, if they only follow the directions. They don't think of saying prayers with their children by the be at night as prayer. They forget that thanking God for their food before a meal is a prayer. Quite often their life is filled with prayer, but they don't think of it as such.

When we use the very simple description, the clean and elegant definition of "conversation with God", it is as if turning on a light inside their soul.

When we all realized that this is the first concept in that incredibly rich unit on prayer, it was truly an aha moment for us.

There was an excitement in the air.

And afterwards, after we had gone through a quick review of Books 1 and 2, one of the participants said to me that they now wanted to do Book 1 all over again. They felt an excitement over that book that they hadn't felt in many years.

That was really kind of exciting all by itself.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Beautiful Morning

It's a beautiful morning and the household is just beginning to stir. The wind has been blowing hard all morning, the rain has just finished pouring down, and the sun is glowing bright on the horizon. As I looked up to watch the beautiful colours radiating in the clouds a large flock of birds just darted past my window.

It really is a beautiful morning.

It is now 26 November, and I have just a few more days of writing to meet this month-long challenge of writing an article a day. Well, actually, if the challenge was writing an article a day, I failed. Fortunately it was really publishing an article a day. Most of them were finished well ahead of time, but not this one.

And so I am stuck with trying to figure out what to write on this splendid morning.

A few different things come to mind.

First of all, this evening will commemorate the 96th anniversary of the passing of 'Abdu'l-Baha. I only mention this to put the beauty of the day into a context. Despite all the beauty, there is still a tinge of sadness. It is the same as the fact that despite all the sorrow in the world, there is still  beauty.

Secondly, we just celebrated the 200th anniversary of Baha'u'llah's birth a few short weeks ago. I mention this because it i only the beginning of various celebrations. As members of the Baha'i community, we were asked to prepare our friends to receive an invitation to a celebration for such a momentous occasion. This led me, last year, to write an article about inviting. In it I talked about how going up to a friend and saying, "Hey Joe, do you want to come to the Birth of Baha'u'llah celebration?" likely would not receive a favorable reply. It would more likely lead to, "Well, let's go bowling sometime soon."

No. To really be prepared to receive an invitation, they would need to know more about Baha'u'llah and His life, as well as His teachings. As they begin to get a better understanding of His work, then they may be more interested in learning a little bit more. A celebration might be a nice occasion to learn.

Here in British Columbia, Canada, we were asked to make sure we followed up on our invitations to this celebration, and specifically keep track of all those friends who came to follow up activities during the subsequent month. Why? Because teaching is an on-going effort. It doesn't stop with an invitation.

Anyways, why am I mentioning this? Because we have another celebration coming up soon: the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab. And this is what I am beginning to prepare for now, almost two years ahead of time. How, you may ask? I'm glad you did, dear Reader. I'm studying the stories of His life. I am reading what I can find of His writings. I am researching all I can about His teachings.

And I am getting more and more blown away.

I noticed, during the Baha'u'llah's bi-centennary celebration, that there was a lot of focus on His teachings. Makes sense to me. That wonderful movie from the World Centre, while talking about His life, really focused on the social aspect of the Faith. It was great. We could see the impact He had on so many cultures around the globe.

But what about the Bab? What can we focus on there? His prophecies about Baha'u''llah? That seems a bit off, to me.

No. I want to really learn His stories.

As much as I am being blown away by the concepts I am reading regarding the Writings of the Bab, and His teachings on unity and God, Baha'u'llah is so much more clear. I find His teachings far more illuminating.

But the stories, ah, there's what captures me even more.

I remember a Counsellor, a number of years ago, commenting that Christians all knew the stories of Easter and Christmas and everything in between; Baha'is knew the social teachings. And it seems to me that it is the stories that are so useful in attracting attention. The social teachings keep the interest, but it is the stories that attract. And while some are attracted first by the teachings, most are not.

So my study, starting a few weeks ago, has been the stories of the Bab. In preparation for this great celebration coming up in a couple years.

Finally, I am also thinking, this morning, about a gathering I went to a few nights ago. This group wants to do a study circle, but didn't know which book. I suggested going back and just reviewing the first few books before deciding. I said we were not going to do them, but just look at their outlines and remind ourselves where we came from in the sequence of these courses.

Now you've probably read my quick review from a few weeks ago of Book 1. You know that I can summarize it in under 5 minutes. "Action, because if the teachings don't lead to action, what good are they? Truth, because if your actions aren't grounded in truth, then they are not good actions. Kindliness, because you might be acting, and you could be truthful, but you might be mean. And then, ending unit 1, no backbiting. You might be acting, be truthful, think you're being kind, but accidentally be backbiting." And then on units 2 and 3.

But a couple nights ago, I added something new for me. I asked them what the first topic in unit 2 was. "Prayer", they responded.

And you know what? I'm going to save this for tomorrow, because my wife just came downstairs. Time to spend a bit of time with her.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Given what I see in the world today, especially given what passes for religion, I totally understand atheism. It really makes sense. I cannot blame anybody for being an atheist today.

But I'm not an atheist. I do believe in God. However, and here's the kicker, I think we need a new definition of God.

Baha'u'llah has said that He has "instilled into every word a fresh potency", so why not the word "God"?

In many ways, this reminds me of science. Up through the late 19th century, we had taken science about as far as we could, given the definitions that we had. If you're not studied in the sciences, this maybe difficult to explain, but it's true. Given the various definitions of things like "time", "space", "energy", "atom", and all sorts of other things, we had taken science about as far as we could. But then, in the early 20th century, Einstein gave us a new scientific definition of "time". It was no longer this thing that flowed forward at the rate of one second per second, although that sort-of definition describes our every day life with it. Nor was it the mare dictionary-esque "the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole". No. Einstein postulated a flow of time that was directly related to its proximity to a gravitational source. All of a sudden that not only eliminated some discrepancies that arose from the old definition, but showed us many new possibilities that we hadn't even considered.

All because our definition was limited.

Now let's look at God, not as some mystical entity, but as a word.

For a long time, God was seen as a superhuman being that was worshiped because it had some power over nature and our lives. In fact, this definition not only worked for poly-theistic religions, but also describes the common Christian concept of God, too. While Christianity, in general, would see God as the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority, they still view God as "superhuman".

And you know what? This definition has gotten us as far as we can go with it.

Muhammad, and Islam in general, seems to define God mostly through the virtues. This, too, is a good, but limiting definition.

The Baha'i Writings elevate God even above His attributes, removing Him from any direct connection to His creation. The concept of all creation "emanating" from God is quite remarkable. The fact that Baha'u'llah says "And if I proclaim Thee by the name of Him Who is the All-Compelling, I readily discover that He is but a suppliant fallen upon the dust, awe-stricken by Thy dreadful might, Thy sovereignty and power", truly astonishes me. It made me completely rethink my very concept of God.

So when an atheist tells me that they don't believe in God, I usually suggest that it might be a question of definition. After all, Baha'u'llah Himself says, "Whoso claimeth to have known Thee hath, by virtue of such a claim, testified to his own ignorance."

Changing definitions to be more accurate, closer to the truth, can change so many things. This is really hitting home as I read more of the Writings of the Bab. The way that He equates the understanding of how God interacts with the world, recognition of His own station as a Manifestation, and our service to the world shows me more and more how important this subject is.

And again, when I think about just how much the world itself changed with this new definition of time, and space, and the very matter that makes up our universe, I can only imagine the changes that will occur as we, as a society, begin to come to terms with these new definitions that Baha'u'llah has given us.

These words really have been given a new potency.

Friday, November 24, 2017


Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder should carefully deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible. The Great Being saith: One word may be likened unto fire, another unto light, and the influence which both exert is manifest in the world. Therefore an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding and nobility. And likewise He saith: One word is like unto springtime causing the tender saplings of the rose-garden of knowledge to become verdant and flourishing, while another word is even as a deadly poison. It behoveth a prudent man of wisdom to speak with utmost leniency and forbearance so that the sweetness of his words may induce everyone to attain that which befitteth man's station.

This quote, from Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, is a very interesting one. Which, given that it is from the Pen of Baha'u'llah, is not surprise. I mean, it's kind of like when someone asks me to read a "good prayer". Well, it's kind of difficult not to. So, yeah, this is an interesting quote from the Blessed Beauty.

To start, "Every word..." Not just one or two, a few or even a lot, but all of them. "Every word is endowed with a spirit..."

But what does that mean, to be endowed with a spirit? Well, to be endowed means to be given or to have a quality or ability. In one sense, it could mean that every word has a particular quality to it. The best explanation I ever heard for that was from Edgar Allen Poe, in his essay on how to write a short story. He mentioned the idea of looking at synonyms and finding the one that had the write sound, the tone you wanted in the story. To me, that speaks of the spirit of the word, beyond its definition. For example, "majestic" just sounds much grander than "awesome", even though they are very similar in definition.

Now, beyond the sound of the word, there is also the mystical side of it, in which every word actually has a meaning in the spiritual realms. It is as if they are alive, in some sense. This strikes me in the same way as when Baha'u'llah is addressing, for example, Mount Carmel in the Tablet of Carmel. He talks to it as if it were a living entity. And perhaps, in the realms of the spirit, it is. Who am I to question this?

Here, in this passage, Baha'u'llah seems to imply that there is far more to our words than we imagine.

I mean, we could easily read this passage as simple guidance to choose our words carefully, or we can see a deeper meaning in it. I feel that the choice is ours. We can read this to whatever degree of mysticism we desire.

And that, to me, is a beautiful thing. It makes me feel even more like these little articles I write are like little children put out into the world.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Little Gem

But hear, O My brother, My plaint against them that claim to be associated with God and with the Manifestations of His knowledge, and yet follow their corrupt inclinations, consume the substance of their neighbour, are given to wine, commit murder, defraud and slander each other, hurl calumnies against God, and are wont to speak falsely. The people attribute all these deeds unto Us, whilst their perpetrators remain shameless before God. They cast aside that which He hath enjoined upon them and commit that which He hath forbidden. Yet it behoveth the people of truth that the signs of humility should shine upon their faces, that the light of sanctity should radiate from their countenances, that they should walk upon the earth as though they were in the presence of God and distinguish themselves in their deeds from all the dwellers of the earth. Such must be their state that their eyes should behold the evidences of His might, their tongues and hearts make mention of His name, their feet be set towards the lands of His nearness, and their hands take fast hold upon His precepts. And were they to pass through a valley of pure gold and mines of precious silver, they should regard them as wholly unworthy of their attention.
These people, however, have turned aside from all this and placed instead their affections upon that which accordeth with their own corrupt inclinations. Thus do they roam in the wilderness of arrogance and pride. I bear witness at this moment that God is wholly quit of them, and likewise are We. We beseech God to suffer Us not to associate with them either in this life or in the life to come. He, verily, is the Eternal Truth. No God is there but Him, and His might is equal to all things.

I was reading a bit of Gems of Divine Mysteries, that wonderful book by Baha'u'llah, when I ran across the preceding passages. I was going to just look at the second paragraph, but realized that it needed to first one to explain who "These people" are. I apologize, dear Reader, you are stuck reading 2 paragraphs instead of just one. Well, I'm not really sorry. I mean, it is the Writings of Baha'u'llah, after all.

So, let's begin at the beginning.

A "plaint" is an accusation or a charge, so Baha'u'llah is making an accusation against a group of people. Specifically, He is accusing them of saying that they believe in God, but then lists a whole whack of things that they are doing that goes against the Divine teachings. They "follow their corrupt inclinations, consume the substance of their neighbour, are given to wine, commit murder, defraud and slander each other, hurl calumnies against God, and are wont to speak falsely." They accuse Baha'u'llah of these very crimes, yet commit them themselves with impunity.

Then, as we would expect, He counsels us as to how we should behave. It's quite the list, and worthy of study.

The first thing He says is that "the signs of humility should shine upon their faces". This is interesting, for it determines, to an extent, the first impression we make on others. And we all know how important first impressions can be. But to try to make this an expression on your face? Wow. That's difficult. I have a hard time imagining it. It seems to me that the face would be relaxed, with a soft look of love, never showing any sneering sign of superiority. But to shine? It seems to me that this implies a smile of some sort, and we know, from Haji Mirza Haydar-Ali, that Baha'u'llah loved to see a face wreathed in smiles.

The second part is "that the light of sanctity should radiate from their countenances". It seems to me that this is a step above the first. You can be humble, but still be a fairly wretched person, mired in all sorts of issues. I just imagine the stereotypical broken-down drunk. There may be a humility to them, more from being humiliated, but not the light of sanctity. So here He seems to be saying that humility is a good first step, but our actions must also be pure and free from sin.

Then He says that we "should walk upon the earth as though they were in the presence of God". Ok. Sometimes when I'm all alone, I'll slouch a bit, or be a bit more bedraggled in my attitude. Guilty as charged. But what if I were to always recognize the fact that I'm in the presence of my Lord? I would hold myself, carry myself quite differently. And this, I feel, is quite important. We never know who's watching. More importantly, it will become an ingrained habit. And there's something about carrying ourselves with dignity: we feel more dignified.

Finally, He says we must "distinguish (ourselves) in (our) deeds from all the dwellers of the earth". To be honest, that's not that difficult these days. With so many people mired in complaining about injustices, lusting after material wealth, working the merest minimum amount they can get away with, this is not too difficult. We can distinguish ourselves by standing up to injustice through encouragement to others, practicing detachment and contentment, and striving for excellence in all that we do. I'm not saying it's easy, but just that compared to the world around us, even trying to do things distinguishes us.

"Such must be their state that their eyes should behold the evidences of His might, their tongues and hearts make mention of His name, their feet be set towards the lands of His nearness, and their hands take fast hold upon His precepts. And were they to pass through a valley of pure gold and mines of precious silver, they should regard them as wholly unworthy of their attention." We must learn to see God in everything, speak only that which upholds the underlying unity of all creation, and feel that unity deep within our very heart, for it is that unwavering love of all that will help us better understand this message that Baha'u'llah has brought. And we must continually walk that straight path He has laid out before us, striving with all our strength to help build His promised kingdom. And as for money? It's only a tool that we can use in our efforts, worth no more than that.

But really, the reason I shared this paragraph was so that I could look at the next one.

The people that Baha'u'llah condemns in the beginning of that first paragraph are the ones who "have turned aside from all this and placed instead their affections upon that which accordeth with their own corrupt inclinations." They don't care about justice or integrity. They only care about their own base desires, doing whatever they feel is good for them at the moment, with no regard for others or the future.

Interestingly enough, He says that they are wandering "in the wilderness of arrogance and pride". What an interesting turn of phrase. I had never thought of arrogance and pride as a wilderness, but really, is there anything else further from a true civilization? And this is not the nice nature of a Disney movie, the kind of sweet forest I love to walk around during the day. no, this is a wilderness, harsh and dangerous, deadly, where every moment of survival is a struggle. That, to me, describes arrogance and pride, for I see within the hearts of those who have succumbed to their lure that very struggle every moment. It is such a sad waste of time and energy, so much effort to maintain for so little reward. Ah, the dangers of the ego.

"I bear witness at this moment that God is wholly quit of them, and likewise are We. We beseech God to suffer Us not to associate with them either in this life or in the life to come." And if hell is defined as remoteness from God, well, you can't be more remote than that.

"He, verily, is the Eternal Truth. No God is there but Him, and His might is equal to all things."

Ok. This is what really caught my eye, thanks to my loving wife.

"Eternal Truth", sure. No problem. Truth being that which accords to reality, it makes sense. No God but Him? Again, no problem, for there is only one reality.

"His might is equal to all things." Hmmm.

Might is power or strength, a form of energy that is used in action.

Equal to? Well, that just means they have the same value, can be exchanged for each other.

All things. Every bit of matter in all of creation.

So God's might, His energy, is equivalent to all of creation, every bit of matter in the entire universe. They are equivalent. Of course, like two different currencies, there is an exchange rate involved.

And what would that exchange rate be?

E = mc2

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Clouds of Knowledge

Over the last couple of days I've been looking at this one quote from Baha'u'llah, found in Gleanings, number 18, if you really want to know. I've looked a bit at the sleeping, the divine alarm clock, the wool, and all sorts of things.

Well, here is the next paragraph from that same quote:

This is the Day whereon the All-Merciful hath come down in the clouds of knowledge, clothed with manifest sovereignty. He well knoweth the actions of men. He it is Whose glory none can mistake, could ye but comprehend it. The heaven of every religion hath been rent, and the earth of human understanding been cleft asunder, and the angels of God are seen descending. Say: This is the Day of mutual deceit; whither do ye flee? The mountains have passed away, and the heavens have been folded together, and the whole earth is held within His grasp, could ye but understand it. Who is it that can protect you? None, by Him Who is the All-Merciful! None, except God, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Beneficent. Every woman that hath had a burden in her womb hath cast her burden. We see men drunken in this Day, the Day in which men and angels have been gathered together.

"This is the Day whereon the All-Merciful hath come down in the clouds of knowledge..." Today. Not tomorrow. Not some time in the distant future. Now. This is wonderful news. Shocking. Surprising. But He hasn't just given us this knowledge. No. He has descended amidst the clouds of this knowledge. So it is as if this knowledge that He has given us is actually, in some way, a barrier to seeing Him. Of course, given the racism and sexism that is rampant, anyone who claims racial unity, or gender equality, automatically has a barrier between them and their audience. However, and I feel this is important, that barrier is caused by the prejudice of the listener, not the speaker. it goes back to "Love Me that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in wise reach thee." If we don't love God, then His love cannot reach us. We have placed ourselves in a position whic hit cannot reach.

"...clothed with manifest sovereignty." Well, this is interesting. Looking at the Kitab-i-Iqan, it seems that this concept of sovereignty was a big one. So much of that incredible book deals with the concern from the uncle of the Bab, trying to understand how the Bab demonstrated His sovereignty. And you will recall, of course, that the sovereignty was not what he thought. it was the same sovereignty shown by all the Manifestations, visible so clearly throughout history, not necessarily at the time of Their presence here on this planet. Today the sovereignty of Jesus, or Muhammad, or Moses or Buddha is beyond any shadow of doubt. Even though we cannot quite so clearly see that same sovereignty of Baha'u'llah yet, we are certain that it will be blindingly evident in the years to come.

"He well knoweth the actions of men." Ok. This is where I'm in trouble. I think I'll just leave it at that.

"He it is Whose glory none can mistake, could ye but comprehend it." None can mistake this glory? That's wonderful. I'll put it in the same category as the sovereignty mentioned above.

But what about "The heaven of every religion hath been rent"? "The earth of human understanding hath been cleft asunder"?  I mean, "the angels of God are descending" sounds good. But what about those first two?

Well, "rent" means to be split, torn apart, or divided. So, the heaven of every religion has been ripped open. That doesn't sound too good, but then again, if we look in the Kitab-i-Iqan, then we get a different understanding of it. "By 'heaven'", He says there, "is meant the heaven of divine Revelation, which is elevated with every Manifestation, and rent asunder with every subsequent one. By "cloven asunder" is meant that the former Dispensation is superseded and annulled."

Fair enough. That's one of the special powers of a Manifestation, isn't it? To change the laws of the previous dispensation?  All right.

And we can see what has happened to human understanding since this was written. That's a no brainer.

But "the angels of God are descending"? Well, that sounds like a promise, or more accurately a statement of what is happening. I'm not sure what it means, but it sounds good. Perhaps He is referring to those angels He describes in the Kitab-i-Iqan: "By 'angels' is meant those who, reinforced by the power of the spirit, have consumed, with the fire of the love of God, all human traits and limitations, and have clothed themselves with the attributes of the most exalted Beings and of the Cherubim." It seems to me that as we continue to teach, continue to study the Word of God, continue to really dive into the Writings and apply them in our lives, more and more of this new generation of Baha'is are exemplifying these words describing what a true angel looks like.

As we move on in the paragraph, we see that "This is the Day of mutual deceit; whither do ye flee?" Wow. What an indictment. "Mutual deceit". It's not just one side, or another, but all sides, and to each other. That sounds so much like what I'm seeing out there, whether in politics or the interpersonal stuff on the various social media sites.

"The mountains have passed away..." Here I'm reminded of what I wrote yesterday. Going back to that, the mountains could be those people we look up to. Now, not only are they like flocks of wool, they are dead, too. They have passed away. Well, that doesn't mean dead, does it? It could be that they have eroded away. Either way, they ain't there now.

"...and the heavens have been folded together..." If we look at the Kitab-i-Iqan again, we see that the heavens could refer to "the heaven of Divine Revelation, which is elevated with every Manifestation". And isn't this just what Baha'u'llah has done? He has folded all the Divine Revelations into one. He has helped us understand the continuity and singularity of all of the Divine Messages.

"...and the whole earth is held within His grasp, could ye but understand it." Once again, He is reminding us that we are not in charge. We do not hold supreme sway over what happens. That is God. Everything is in His power. Doesn't that just get us off our high horse? "Who is it that can protect you? None, by Him Who is the All-Merciful! None, except God, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Beneficent." This is always a good reminder.

"Every woman that hath had a burden in her womb hath cast her burden. We see men drunken in this Day, the Day in which men and angels have been gathered together." What a day indeed. A day in which the women have suffered such untold hardships that they have literally had a miscarriage. Men are drunk, too besotten to be able to hold reasonable discourse, even though this is the very day in which they could, if they were sober, actually converse with those divine beings, the angels.

That's kind of what I think of when I read this: missed opportunity.

And yes, I know, I'm only touching the merest bit on the surface. But trying to write an article this quickly, this late at night, after coming home from the Feast, knowing I have to get some sleep, what do you expect?

I'd be very curious to see what you think, dear Reader, of this paragraph.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Flocking Wool

"This is your Lord, the God of Mercy."

"Ding ding ding. Good morning. This is the God of Mercy with your early morning wake-up call."

That's kind of what I hear when I re-read that quote I ended with yesterday.

"Witness how ye gainsay His signs! The earth hath quaked with a great quaking, and cast forth her burdens. Will ye not admit it?"

"In the news this morning another natural disaster has occurred, with many thousands dying."

Can't you see? It's happening every day now. The earth, as He says in the Hidden Words, "is weary of you and everything within it shunneth you." And yet we still refuse to recognize that we are doing anything wrong.

"Say: Will ye not recognize how the mountains have become like flocks of wool..."

Alright. This is the one that got me looking more closely at this particular quote. The rest of it is fairly straightforward, in my opinion, but "the mountains have become like flocks of wool"? What the heck does that mean?

My first image is that of a huge mountain suddenly transforming into this giant pile of sheep. It seems messy for the sheep on the bottom of the pile, but I kind of get it. Yet that's not quite what it says. He doesn't say that they have become "flocks of sheep". He says that they have become "flocks of wool".


So now I sort of picture a huge pile of wool. What's wrong with that? Seems like it might be kind of comfy on a cold winter's night.

But that's not what it says either. He doesn't say a "pile of wool". He says "flocks of wool".

Ok. Back to the drawing board.

A "flock of wool"? Well, I have the flock image, no problem. But I first imagine a flock of sheep. But they're not just sheep. Well, they are, but they're not the whole sheep. They're just the wool.

Ah! There's no meat. In fact, there's no brain either. They look like sheep, but they're empty. They're surface only.

Ok, so what about the mountains? After all, this flock didn't just appear out of nowhere. The mountains themselves became like these flocks of wool. Oh, wait. They didn't become them; they became like them.

So, mountains. What do the mountains refer to? Well, they are something you look up to. Perhaps at one time they might have been political leaders, but maybe they are also the heroes that people look up to. That kind of makes the most sense to me. They seem to be a metaphor for those people that the everyday individual looks up to. Whether it's an actor, or a sports figure, or a politician, it doesn't matter. When we're talking about the walking dead (remember yesterday's article?), then the heroes tend to be very superficial. We base our heroes on things such as how well they can toss a ball, or how long their legs are. We base our heroes on things like how well they can stir up the emotions of a mob, or how smooth their skin is. It's silly, really. Our heroes should be based on their virtues.

But these heroes are empty shells.

" the people are sore vexed at the awful majesty of the Cause of God?"

Okay, wait a second. What does this actually mean? To be sore vexed means to be displeased or upset. "Awful" doesn't mean horrible. It actually means inspiring of awe and reverence. So the people are upset and displeased at the awe-inspiring majesty of the Cause of God?

Well, I guess they are, aren't they? Due to the rise in egotism and individualism, they want to be completely in charge of their own lives, able to do whatever they want with impunity. They don't like the thought of being held responsible for their own actions. They are jealous of the dignity and beauty and stateliness of the Cause of God. And it may not be that they want the actual beauty of the Cause of God, but rather their own concept of beauty. They may not be interested in true dignity, but dignity as they understand it. They go after beauty, but since they don't understand true beauty as defined by Baha'u'llah, they settle for ornate junk, or superficial trivialities. They think that standing up and shouting what they believe constitutes stateliness.

Even with the concept of atheism as I generally see it on the internet today, I see that there. They want to understand everything, for there to be no mystery. Again, they want to be the highest authority, subject to none. So, yeah. I can see how this applies.

"Witness how their houses are empty ruins, and they themselves a drowned host."

Here I am powerfully reminded of Moses and the Egyptians. Egypt called down a myriad of plagues on themselves, due to their stubbornness, and for many their houses and livelihood were destroyed. As for the army sent after the Jewish peoples? They were a drowned host.

The spiritual houses that so many of us have built, based on greed or fear, self-centredness or pride are just empty ruins.

It's a tragedy, really.

And that, to me, is the bottom line of this entire passage. We are witnessing a tragedy. Not just a tragedy in the making, but a tragedy today.

"This is the Day whereon the All-Merciful hath come down", Baha'u'llah continues, "in the clouds of knowledge, clothed with manifest sovereignty. He well knoweth the actions of men. He it is Whose glory none can mistake, could ye but comprehend it. The heaven of every religion hath been rent, and the earth of human understanding been cleft asunder, and the angels of God are seen descending."

Monday, November 20, 2017

Much Better

It's now Sunday morning, and the sun is rising nicely over the horizon. The house is quiet, and I feel much more refreshed this morning than I did last night. Which, I guess, is a good thing. I mean, that's the purpose of sleep, isn't it? To wake up nice and refreshed?

But what about "sleep" in the Writings?

There are ample references to sleep as a function of the body. The prayer that begins "This, Thy servant, seeketh to sleep in the shelter of Thy mercy..." is but one of many examples. And it is from this peaceful, restful sleep, in which we might find ourselves dreaming, that we ask Him to "make of what Thou didst reveal unto me in my sleep the surest foundation for the mansions of Thy love..."

Then there are the more negative references to sleep: "Speed out of your sepulchers. How long will ye sleep? The second blast hath been blown on the trumpet."

It is this second definition that I'm interested in right now.

Baha'u'llah describes, in many places, the peoples of the world as if they are fast asleep, unconscious, unaware of what is happening. They move as if they are in a daze. And this is what I see all around me in the world today. People are walking, talking, acting as if in a daze. They seem wholly unaware of the consequences of their actions. They appear oblivious of the disasters that are awaiting them. They are, for all intents and purposes, like zombies, the living dead.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Baha'u'llah, in that previous quote, asks us to hurry out of our sepulchers.

In many ways, that reference of the trumpet, and its second blast, reminds me of my alarm clock. It's already gone off once, and I have hit the snooze button. Now it's ringing a second time, and I need to get up. If I don't, there will be consequences. I might be late for work, or miss an appointment. I could even lose my job, if this is a regularly occurring thing.

Or maybe that alarm isn't my alarm clock. Maybe it's a fire alarm. If there's a fire in the house I may lose everything, including my life.

This whole metaphor just keeps going on and on in my mind.

Looking at the fire alarm aspect for a moment, what is our role in it? Obviously we need to get up. But what if there are other people in the house? We need to try and get them up, too. But what if we can't? What if we can't get to their room, and our yelling hasn't had any effect that we've noticed? Well, maybe they're already outside. We need to save ourselves, too, so we better get out of there. It's a tough call, though, isn't it? Do we fight our way to someone else's room, risking our own death, or do we get out of there and pray that they have, too?

This seems to me to be the state of the world right now. We're hoping to wake up others before it is too late. And you know what we call that? Teaching. We know the house is burning down. We know it is beyond any hope. And with the core activities, we're building a new house right now, one that is much nicer and far safer. We know for a certainty that there are many still asleep in the old house, but we also know that most of them refuse to wake. They are like the stubborn child who holds their eyes tightly shut, mumbling, "No, I won't get up", or maybe "Just five more minutes".

"This is your Lord," Baha'u'llah continues in that same paragraph, "the God of Mercy. Witness how ye gainsay His signs! The earth hath quaked with a great quaking, and cast forth her burdens. Will ye not admit it? Say: Will ye not recognize how the mountains have become like flocks of wool, how the people are sore vexed at the awful majesty of the Cause of God? Witness how their houses are empty ruins, and they themselves a drowned host."

Remember, though, this is God of Mercy. He is giving us ample chances, trying to wake us from our slumber.

And when we waken to His Revelation, you know what? It is refreshing. We do feel far more clearheaded. We are more vibrant, ready to face the day.

The only question, though, is whether we want to wake up to the cooing of the birds and the gentle rays of the rising sun, or to the blaring clang of the fire alarm. In a strange way, that choice is actually ours.

For me, I prefer to wake just before sunrise and enjoy a few moments of quiet contemplation before acting like the fire alarm for the rest of my family.

Speaking of which, gotta wake up the son. He's off to his junior youth group this morning.

Heh heh heh. Here I go!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What to Write?

It's been difficult to figure out what to write about today. I was going to write about my son, and a conversation we had about the second Hidden Word, and how important it is to think for yourself. But it's just not working for me. I don't seem to be able to write much of anything on that right now.

Nah. I think I'll just look through the Writings of the Bab and see what comes out of it.

Hmmm..... Interesting...... Oh that's a nice quote...... But what would I say? Hmmmm......... Ah! There we go.

"Regard ye not others save as ye regard your own selves, that no feeling of aversion may prevail amongst you so as to shut you out from Him Whom God shall make manifest on the Day of Resurrection."

So, it seems to read very similar to the Golden Rule, but there is a bit of a difference, isn't there?

What really strikes me is the fact that our "aversion may prevail amongst you so as to shut you out from" God. I mean, think about it. What is He saying? Our aversion? Our strong dislike of something? How would this prevent us from recognizing Baha'u'llah?

I'm no authority, but it seems to me that He is saying that if we see anybody else, or another group, in such a way that we have a strong dislike of them, then we are not capable of recognizing Baha'u'llah. For really, if we see someone in such a negative way, how would we be able to see the brilliant light of Baha'u'llah?

But again, what I find fascinating is that it is not God preventing us from recognizing, but ourselves. It reminds me of that Hidden Word: Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant.

Here, it is our own lack of love that prevents God's love from reaching us. In other words, it is our own perspective that keeps us back. It's like standing under an awning when it's raining. The rain is falling, but our own position keeps us from receiving its bounty.

And you know, when I think about this, the idea that our own dislike of anybody else can keep us from recognizing, it occurs to me that this stance of strongly disliking others is in fundamental opposition from the unity that Baha'u'llah is bringing.

Everything in the Writings leads us to unity. And if we take such an opposite view, then we are missing out on the basic unity that Baha'u'llah wants us to recognize. There is a fundamental oneness to creation, and by disliking something else so strongly, we are, in a sense, disliking ourselves.

That's just a thought that I'm having at 9:30 at night, with a bunch of youth yelling at the video game console and playing very boisterously tonight. It's fun, but I'm sure having trouble concentrating. Ah well.


I'll try to write something more coherent tomorrow.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


There are many things in the Writings that catch my attention and make me think, "Well, that's odd." And when that happens, I'm reminded of Isaac Asimov, who famously pointed out that the greatest discoveries in science came about not from some "Aha!" moment, but rather from someone following through on something odd that they noticed. Now for most of you, those things that make me sit up and pay attention, those things that change my own perspective on some aspect of the Faith, are probably things that you noticed a long time ago, dear Reader. And that's ok. They're new for me.

The other day, during that conversation about the Kitab-i-Aqdas with my wife, we noticed a phrase that made us think, "Hmmm. Odd phrasing there." It's in paragraph 36, where He says:

Make not your deeds as snares wherewith to entrap the object of your aspiration...

To give a bit of context, He's talking about those people who pretend to a station of humility, but secretly want to be the centre of attention. He says that you may pretend to be humble, but that doesn't mean that God will accept your deeds as sincere. We read, in that paragraph, "Were anyone to wash the feet of all mankind, and were he to worship God in the forests, valleys, and mountains, upon high hills and lofty peaks, to leave no rock or tree, no clod of earth, but was a witness to his worship—yet, should the fragrance of My good pleasure not be inhaled from him, his works would never be acceptable unto God." Pretty explicit that.

But what exactly does it mean to make your deeds "snares"?

As usual, I won't pretend to be an authority, but it seems to me that He's talking about those people who believe that prayers and deeds are like a recipe. If you follow them, then something special will happen. It's a sort of magic. In some faiths, people believe that if you do a certain ritual, then a particular effect must happen. It's kind of like if my son were to come up to me and say, "Papa, if I jump up and down on my left foot, then I get an extra dessert." Really? I don't think it works that way. After all, I never said anything about that deal.

And then there are the faiths that have their excuse-o-meter: "Oh, well you weren't sincere enough." They like to lay the blame for the effect not occurring on some deficiency of the person doing the act.

No. I really don't think religion works this way.

Our actions are not some sort of trap by which we can force God to do whatever we want.

It reminds me of the beginning of the Kitab-i-Iqan, where He says, "Sanctify your souls, O ye peoples of the world, that haply ye may attain that station which God hath destined for you..." The first part is up to us; we have to sanctify our soul. But after that, it's up to God. That's what "haply" means. It is with luck, by chance. It's not just a done deal. Perhaps that's one of the reasons that detachment is so important. It helps us avoid becoming bitter if we don't get what we pray for.

Anyways, this quote also reminds me of the story of Mulla Husayn when he first met the Bab. He had that book of his in which he had written down a lot of the puzzling and abstruse teachings from Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, and he had decided that whoever could unravel its mysteries would be the Promised One. He had forgotten, as the Bab lovingly pointed out, that it is not for us to test God. Mulla Husayn had inadvertently tried to make his book a snare by which he could trap the Promised One into revealing Himself.

It is an interesting statement, and has gotten me to think about it a lot. Am I somehow guilty of making my own actions a snare? Do I do something thinking that somehow I will be rewarded for it? Am I, somehow, trying to trap God into doing what it is that I want? An excellent question, and it sure gets me to look again at my own personal motives.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pure Perfume

Another section that Marielle and I looked at in the Kitab-i-Aqdas were those passages on cleanliness. There are quite a few of them, mostly dealing with getting rid of the concept of something being considered "unclean", and keeping your clothing free of dirt. Of course with the clothing, Baha'u'llah gives us an out: "Whoso falleth short of this standard with good reason shall incur no blame." And that's wonderful news if you're a gardener.

But one part of paragraph 76 caught our attention:
Make use of rose-water, and of pure perfume; this, indeed, is that which God hath loved from the beginning that hath no beginning, in order that there may be diffused from you what your Lord, the Incomparable, the All-Wise, desireth.

That sounds good, but what about those people who are allergic to perfume?

Well, He does say "pure perfume". So what exactly does that mean? As usual, I'm not sure, but I have a sneaky suspicion. For those of you who don't know, I used to work as a perfumer, years back. I would smell the wrist of a client and design a perfume around their own personal scent. It was quite an interesting job. It helped me gain a greater appreciation of the diversity of people out there.

One thing I learned though, was that most perfume out there is really, quite simply, cheap junk. It's usually a base of cheap rubbing alcohol, or other forms of solvents, with a minuscule amount of essential oils in it. Personally, when I smell this stuff, either on a person, or when forced to walk through the perfume department of some store, I want to gag. Literally. It actually makes me feel a little bit ill.

But when I smell essential oils, I don't get that sensation at all. Not even from civet, which is a very rank and stinky scent, second only to that of a skunk, but is still used in the perfuming industry. (Don't ask.)

So what are essential oils? They are the volatile aromatic compounds of a plant. There are numerous ways of extracting them, but the simplest is to crush the flowers, or stems, or whatever part of the particular plant in question which has the oils you seek, and then soak them in some sort of a solvent. Over time the oils will leech out of the plant matter into the solvent.

If you take a pound of rose petals, for example, crush them, and then soak them in water, you will over time notice a thin layer of oil floating on the water. That oil is the essential oil of the roses. The trick now is to get the oil without getting the water. There are numerous ways to do this, but let's just say that it's not too difficult.

Anyways, most of the people I know who are allergic to perfume are actually allergic to the solvents. I know. We've tested this. Of course, there are some people who actually are allergic to the essential oils, but they really are a rarity.

However, and this is the point I really wanted to make, please people "Whatsoever", Baha'u'llah tells us, "passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence."

That's all.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Back to my conversation with Marielle, the woman for whom I have the bounty of being her husband, about the Kitab-i-Aqdas. As I mentioned a few days ago, we sat down over tea, while our son was in a Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment group, and we looked through the Aqdas together. A few things stood out, only one of which I've mentioned so far.

Here's another:
We have decreed that a third part of all fines shall go to the Seat of Justice, and We admonish its men to observe pure justice, that they may expend what is thus accumulated for such purposes as have been enjoined upon them by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

Wow. Wait, what? A third of all fines? So if I am late in returning a library book, and have to pay $1.50 for being overdue, $.50 goes to the House of Justice? If I get a speeding ticket, and have to pay a fine of $999, then $333 goes to the House of Justice? (You like how I kept the math simple?)


Now, or at least when this law comes into effect, if we break a rule, then it is no longer just a local matter, with a fine payable to some local institution. Of course, we can, at that point in time, presume that the laws are just and the fines appropriate. And we can see that in the example of an overdue library book I may have caused a minor inconvenience to the person awaiting it (like the DVD I'm waiting for someone to return to my local library), but a dollar more than covers it. With speeding, the danger is greater, and the fine is greater.

But just imagine the rippling effect with this "inconvenience". When we break a rule, this law seems to be saying, it has an effect on the whole planet. And when you violate a rule, you need make restitution to the whole world.


And when I think of all the local libraries around the planet, all the people speeding, or parking illegally, or doing anything else for which there is a fine imposed, and then contemplate all that money flowing into the hands of the Universal House of Justice, I can see so much good coming out of it.

I feel like I am just beginning to get a glimpse of the implications of this subtle law.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


I love this letter. Oh, you don't actually need to read it, if you don't want to. I just put it here so that you could, if you wished to see what I was writing about.

I mean, I love the sentiment, the encouragement, the love. I especially love the way that he uses the Master's reference to the country, the soil, the position and the spiritual receptivity. It's interesting, isn't it? How he goes from the country, which is merely a political designation, to the soil, which is the basis for the growth of food and the feeding of the peoples, to the position, which he doesn't define but it seems to be more important than the soil itself, and then on to the spiritual receptivity, which is the most important of all, for that is what will assure the future of that location.

He gives his consolation, and shows he is aware of what is happening. He let's them know that they're not alone. He gives guidance and encouragement, and let's them have a glimpse of where we are all heading.

It really is a beautiful letter of love.

But you know what touches me the most? The typos. And yes, I know that it is spelled incorrectly in the title. That was deliberate. And yes, I'm sure you just glanced up to check.

But why would I love the typos the most? Because even those send a deep message.

Obviously he corrects some of them, as evidenced by the xxxs and scratches here and there. But he doesn't correct all of them. Why not? Because I believe he can't be bothered. They're not important.

Who cares if he misspelled "unslacking"? It doesn't matter. We know exactly which word he meant. We can correct it ourselves.

What's important is the love.

It's as if he is telling us not to be concerned with perfection.

December 1923? He was busy. We know he was working hard, day and night, burning the candle at both ends, as they say. But he still found the time to write them, even though "as yet no letter" had reached him from them. He reminds them of his unfailing love.

But is the letter perfect, free from typos? Nope. And that's alright. The message is perfectly conveyed.

Does that mean we shouldn't strive for excellence? Of course not. We should, but we should not be concerned about perfection. There comes a point where something is "good enough". We have far more important things to worry about than catching every little detail.

This is such a good reminder in this rapid age of the internet. It's an important reminder in this age where so many are swift to find fault. Our progress is slow. Our task is far beyond our severely limited strength. We will suffer setbacks, neglect, indifference.

And yet we carry on, helping unfold the Plan that we see so much more clearly today than we did back in 1923.

Yeah, it's a beautiful letter, perfect, with typos and all.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Commotion

Know ye from what heights your Lord, the All-Glorious, is calling? Think ye that ye have recognized the Pen wherewith your Lord, the Lord of all names, commandeth you? Nay, by My life! Did ye but know it, ye would renounce the world, and would hasten with your whole hearts to the presence of the Well-Beloved. Your spirits would be so transported by His Word as to throw into commotion the Greater World—how much more this small and petty one! Thus have the showers of My bounty been poured down from the heaven of My loving-kindness, as a token of My grace, that ye may be of the thankful. (Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, paragraph 55)

My wife and I were reading this the other day, talking about our understanding of this paragraph. Or, in my case, lack thereof.

We thought the beginning of the quote was fairly obvious to understand. "You think you know Me? Heh." There's even more to Him than we can possibly imagine. If we had but an inkling of His true Station, wow, then just imagine what we would do to share it with others. And if we really had the slightest awareness of that, we would give up everything in this world and "hasten" with our "whole hearts" to His presence.

But wait a second.

How can we hasten to His presence? He has passed on to His eternal home. Does that mean we would kill ourselves? Nah. I don't think so.

I think it means that those who read it while He was alive would quickly go to be with Him, while the rest of us, and those who read these words for the next thousand years, have to strive to live our lives so well that we feel His presence in our daily lives. Or it could mean going to work in the Holy Land, but again, I don't think so. To me, it means striving every day through prayer and service to live my life ever closer to how the Master lived His.

But this is not what caught our attention.

No, what really got us talking was the next sentence: "Your spirits would be so transported by His Word as to throw into commotion the Greater World—how much more this small and petty one!"

To start, what is meant by "the Greater World"? We presume He is referring to the spiritual realms, the next world, that place to which our spirits go when we bite the big one. So how in the world would we "cause a commotion" there? What could that possibly look like?

Aside - I'm reminded of the story of the misery of the devil in the 1960s. Someone went down to hell and Satan was just miserable. When the person looked around there were all these wonderful activities happening. Children were all playing together. People were praying. When asked what was going on, Satan said, "It's the Baha'is. They're all Pioneering down here."

All right. This is really beyond me. I honestly have no clue. A commotion in the Greater World? I think I'll just leave that one alone for now.

So what about "this small and petty one"? That I can relate to. Small and petty is so much easier for me to grasp.

Well, to be honest, I'm reminded of my Facebook feed. (Hmmm. Feed? I really don't like that term. Feed is the nutritional stuff that you give farm animals. I think I'll refer to it as my wall instead.)

(Okay. Take two.)

Well, to be honest, I'm reminded of my Facebook wall. (That's better.)

I've been noticing a series of very disturbing trends on the internet over the past little while. People are becoming more and more divided, less tolerant, more judgmental. People are becoming far more openly racist, misogynistic, and hateful of the other. Or they are becoming more judgmental of the abuser, refusing to listen to them, insistent on swift punishment, demanding harsher and harsher penalties immediately. But really, I see these both as the same thing. I think this comes from an insistence that others be more like oneself.

Now I'm not saying that we should tolerate the racist, or the abuser. No. I believe we should educate them. They are human, worthy of honour and respect, the same as any other person. They should be subject to the same laws, and the same rights as anyone else.

Personally, I have no problem if someone is uncomfortable with me, solely due to my skin colour. My problem arises when this affects their hiring of me for a job, or their basing legalistic decisions on that same discomfort. This is when the discomfort of the unknown turns into the disease of racism. That's where I draw the line. But honestly, I can't fault anyone else for being uncomfortable around the different.

Then there's the issue of gun control in the US, to name a singular example. Despite what many of my friends believe, I'm not against gun ownership. I truly believe that they have a place in the world, in society. But I do question the gross proliferation of gun ownership there, and the laxity in the application of the laws regarding that. I do question the use of gun ownership as a means of identity. I highly question the lack of moral education that is being given to those who most heatedly contend the need for guns. There are many things that I question, but gun ownership itself? No. I see the call for safety on both sides of the issue and do not see it as the dichotomic issue that many would try to force on me.

Quick aside: I'm so very grateful to my friends on Facebook who respond so eloquently on both sides of this issue, clearly stating their points, and respecting those on the other side of this divisive issue. They set such a great example. And the fact that not a single friend has "unfriended" me on it speaks volumes for their integrity and willingness to work with the "other" side.

Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, commotion.

I've been posting some very contentious posts in recent months. Just recently I posted some things about those high profile people in the news who have been fired from their jobs, digitally edited out of movies, or otherwise punished based solely on accusations of sexual abuse. Now to be clear, I'm not promoting sexual abuse. I never have, and I never will. What I'm pointing out, though, is the lack of justice these people are facing without due process of law. They are being presumed guilty, and suffering harsh consequences based on nothing more than an accusation. Now some of these people have admitted guilt, and that's fine and wonderful. I'm glad for them. But some are denying it, and they deserve the chance to face these charges.

However, I'm not really looking at the Hollywood bigwig side of the issue. As I wrote in response to one comment on my.... wall, "I'm not talking about the ultra-privileged, but the local school teacher who is fired because a student decides to toss out an unfounded accusation because the teacher gave them a harsh grade on a test, or the individual who loses their desperately needed job at a local store due to another accusation merely because they wouldn't give someone a refund."

You see, it's really easy to say "This person did such and such, and since they are in the position of power, they must be harshly punished." And yes, we can look back at the history of abusers in the court system and easily recognize how rarely they get found guilty. And of course we can also look at the untold horrors that the victims often face, usually in those same courts that are designed to punish the guilty. None of this is in question here. My point, though, is that every accused must have the opportunity to defend themselves, should they wish. Without that, then there is no purpose to the legal system, and public lynching is, quite simply, the next step.

Of course we need to revamp the legal system. After all, it's only concerned about legality, not justice. This has been demonstrated time and again.

And as you can see, by really pushing for justice, both for the accuser and the accused, I am creating something of a commotion. Because I am not willing to see this as a dichotomy. I do not believe that you are either for the abuser or for the victim, with no in-between.

I stand for justice.

Baha'u'llah has placed justice on so high a pedestal that I am willing to go through hell and high water to defend it. "No light", are His poignant words, "can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquility of the nations depend upon it." We only need to look at the pain and suffering going on around us to begin to get a sense of the truth of these words.

So when I read this quote from the Kitab-i-Aqdas, this is what I am reminded of. I feel like my spirit is so transported by His vision of Justice, as just a singular example, that I may be causing a bit of commotion in my small part of this world.

And you know what? I am thankful. Maybe, just maybe, I can help a few of my friends see beyond the divisiveness and find solace in the greater truths that Baha'u'llah has shared.

Monday, November 13, 2017


My son, age 12, and I, age older, have had some fascinating conversations over the past few days. The essence of them was what, in Baha'i literature, is considered authoritative. Some of this came because of some concerns we had seen on-line where questions were being raised in regards to letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi.

It was quite obvious that only the letters and writings from the central authorities of the Faith, Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice, would be considered authoritative or official. This blog, for example, is not. What I write here is only my own opinion, and should be taken as such. There's a reason I write this statement often. It's to avoid confusion. For example, there are some on the internet who write about the Faith as if they are some kind of authority, and get upset when others question this, such as when they try to insist that letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi shouldn't be quoted as authoritative. They fall back on the "But I'm a scholar" line, not recognizing that this was the very same excuse that many of the Covenant-breakers of the past used. Now, I'm not saying that these people are violating the Covenant, for I'm in no position to do that, but just that I recognize it as a very dangerous line. And this is why my son and I were talking about it.

So, back to the question at hand: What is considered authoritative?

Well, to begin, anything written by Baha'u'llah, obviously, would be considered authoritative. In addition to this, though, or perhaps a subset of this, are those letters that He wrote as if they were written by His amanuensis. They are also authoritative. And from what I understand, they all have His seal, so it really isn't a question.

The next are the letters from 'Abdu'l-Baha. Anything written by Him, obviously, is considered authoritative. No question there. The things that were dictated by Him are also authoritative, as long as we have the original copy with His seal. There are whole whack of things that were published under His name in Star of the West, for example, which are quite wonderful, but if we don't have the original, then it is just "attributed" to Him. We can take it or leave it.

Another odd point, though, are the talks He gave. This would include books such as "Promulgation of Universal Peace", "Paris Talks, "Some Answered Questions" and the like. In relation to these, there is a letter from the Research Department that says:
The original of "Some Answered Questions" in Persian is preserved in the Holy Land; its text was read in full and corrected by Abdu'l-Bahá Himself. Unfortunately, Abdu'l-Bahá did not read and authenticate all transcripts of His other talks, some of which have been translated into various languages and published. For many of His addresses included in "The Promulgation of Universal Peace" and "Paris Talks", for example, no original authenticated text has yet been found. However, the Guardian allowed such compilations to continue to be used by the friends. In the future each talk will have to be identified and those which are unauthenticated will have to be clearly distinguished from those which form a part of Bahá'í Scripture. This does not mean that the unauthenticated talks will have to cease to be used -- merely that the degree of authenticity of every document will have to be known and understood. (23 March 1987)
So for now, "Some Answered Questions" is considered authentic, since it was reviewed by Him, while the others are just amazingly awesome.

But now we get to Shoghi Effendi. Prior to 1941, when Ruhiyyih Khanum began helping him, "he had had", in the words of Philip Hainsworth, "few helpers and his secretaries caused him much suffering." The Guardian, however, wrote "I wish to add and say that whatever letters are sent in my behalf from Haifa are all read and approved by me before mailing. There is no exception whatever to this rule." So while this makes the guidance authoritative, we read in a letter written on his behalf, "Although the secretaries of the Guardian convey his thoughts and instructions and these messages are authoritative, their words are in no sense the same as his, their style certainly not the same, and their authority less, for they use their own terms and not his exact words in conveying his messages." In short, yes, these letters written on his behalf are authoritative. They may not be written in his style, or convey his exact wording, but "these messages are authoritative". "The Guardian's statement that he reviewed every letter written on his behalf without exception", writes the Research Department, "makes it clear that the authority of the letters was independent of whatever personal 'sufferings' might have been caused by certain secretaries, and that there was no 'delegation' whatsoever of his interpretative authority, but merely a use of secretarial assistance for his huge burden of correspondence."

So, any questions about the authority of the letters from the Guardian are answered. Whether they written by him, or on his behalf, they are authoritative.

Finally, there is the Universal House of Justice. Letters written by the Universal House of Justice are, of course, authoritative. The question that has come up, though, is whether letters written by the Secretariat are authoritative. Fortunately the Universal House of Justice has answered this for us:
As to whether there is a distinction between correspondence from the World Centre that has been signed "The Universal House of Justice" and that signed on behalf of the Secretariat: In brief, the manner in which each of these letters is prepared depends upon the contents of the letter. Drafts of letters which contain newly formulated policies are consulted upon and approved during a meeting of the House of Justice; correspondence dealing with previously enunciated policies, or with matters of a routine nature, are prepared, as delegated by the House of Justice, by its Secretariat and initialed by at least the majority of the members of the House of Justice before being dispatched. All letters written over the signature of the Department of the Secretariat are authorized by the Universal House of Justice.
Boom. Done. Now we know. All the letters sent from the Secretariat are considered authoritative.

There are a number of letters that detail all of this, many of which are found on-line, but my favorite is probably

And as for all those friends on-line who are trying to stir up trouble by saying anything different, that the letters written "on behalf of" any of the authority figures are not authoritative, well, I leave them to themselves. It is not worth trying to fight their ego. That fight is for themselves alone. Instead, I just try to offer what little I have been able to find by looking at the guidance.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Sun of God

It's a cloudy morning here on the coast. A fairly cool and dismal looking sort of day. The type of day that is just perfect for either bundling up and walking on a storm-swept beach, if you're into that sort of thing, or cuddling up in a thick blanket with a nice hot mug of cocoa and a good book, if you're not.

Or, if you're like me, sitting on the computer tossing a few thoughts down on the virtual paper.

This morning, while looking through Gleanings, I ran across the following passage:
Consider the sun. Were it to say now, "I am the sun of yesterday," it would speak the truth. And should it, bearing the sequence of time in mind, claim to be other than that sun, it still would speak the truth. In like manner, if it be said that all the days are but one and the same, it is correct and true. And if it be said, with respect to their particular names and designations, that they differ, that again is true. For though they are the same, yet one doth recognize in each a separate designation, a specific attribute, a particular character.
I just love this piece, on so many levels.

In the original, Baha'u'llah is talking about the essential unity of the various Manifestations, and how They are all the same, in the spiritual realms. And this is a wonderful explanation that I have paraphrased so many times over the years. I just love it.

But what really gets me, at least this morning, is the new perspective of the sun itself. I mean, really, how many times do we consider the perspective of the actual sun?

Just think about it. We experience time by the rising of the sun, the changing of the seasons. Our entire concept of time, at least until we developed atomic clocks, was based around the sun. And if we think that it might have been lunar based, just remember that our measuring of lunar time is due to the moon's reflection of the sunlight. Even that is such a powerful metaphor.

But all of this is only due to our very limitation of experience by being trapped on the surface of this planet. The earth itself rotates under our feet. We cannot help it. We cannot stop it. The earth is hurtling around in such a manner that every 24 hours, or so, it rotates on its axis and we experience the rising and setting of the sun. Due to its orbital movement, we experience the changing of the seasons.

This is all beyond our control, and we just take it for granted.

So much of what we experience is solely due to our circumstances.

But then, consider the sun.

The sun doesn't experience time as we do.

It just burns. It processes its hydrogen and helium, and radiates its light. It casts its glow in all directions, unconcerned about the various bodies zipping around it. The sun just is.

The very concept of a day is ridiculous in the perspective of the sun. After all, how is it any different 24 hours from now? Or 48 hours hence? Or in a week? A month? A year? What possible difference could it see between the years 117 and 2017? It still shines on.

And in the end, isn't this a most beautiful aspect of the metaphor of the sun as God?

It makes the cloudy day almost irrelevant to me. After all, if I just go up a little ways, above the clouds, then the sun is still shining.

Mind you, though, it is still a little chilly today.

Maybe I will just curl up in that blanket now and read.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Broad Outline for Ruhi 7

Book 7, Walking Together on a Path of Service. The last book in the first series of books in the Ruhi curriculum. This is the one that ends the look at the individual and their path of service. I mean, that's not quite true. The later books do, also, but this is the one that really finishes this grouping. The next one deal more with the community as a body and society as a whole.

Here we get a better idea of how to assist others in their path of service through tutoring the previous books in the sequence.

And 7:1 really helps us maintain this humble posture of learning.

It helps us look at the various qualities we need to be a more effective tutor, and understand that our true value in tutoring comes not from ourselves, but from our ability to help reflect the light of God. It also comes from our ability to help others reflect this light. We look at the capacity of those in our study circles, and really take our joy in watching them grow and develop in their service. We look at the the attributes they are showing, such as love, the appropriate fear of God (true fear, that mild discomfort, not terror), hope, that longing to act continually and constantly, their awareness of true sacrifice, and most of all, joy. We watch as their joy grows greater and greater.

From there, we move into 7:2 and actually begin the act of tutoring others. We explore our motivations to do this, as well as the motivation of those whom we will be accompanying. We look at the concept of understanding and its relationship to motivation. We examine the various aspects of a study circle that are conducive to making the most joyous learning space possible, such as the beauty of the place and the loving atmosphere created. We even discuss things like how we understand our role as a tutor, and the pacing of the group. We see a greater connection between the working with adults in this setting and the teaching of children in a children's class. Now we have a far better understanding of how Books 3 and 5 were preparatory for tutoring.

It is only after exploring all these aspects of the study circle in brief, and really becoming more aware of our role as a tutor who accompanies others on their path, that we go into the books. Each section from 7:2:12 - 7:2:17 look at just a bit of the book, just a small component that helps us gain a greater appreciation of this series. They help us focus on the greater themes of the book by consciously being aware of them, and allowing us that greater ability to keep the group focused on them, too.

Then, after this brief glance, we look at the nature of the study circle itself. What is its purpose? How does it operate? What is the role of the tutor? How do the tutors grow and develop in their capacities? What is this tutor gathering they are talking about? (I don't know about you, but I still rarely see tutor gatherings. They seem to get confused for reflection meetings in many communities, even though they are very different. But hey, we're still learning as a community. That's ok.) What is the impact of the institute on the individual, the institutions and the community?

All of this discussion, which tends to be both highly enthusiastic and encouraging, helps us gain a greater appreciation of the dynamics of the study circle and how it contributes to the moral and spiritual empowerment of the participants.

It's truly wonderful. And I've only given the briefest of overviews here.

But wait a second! What about 7:3? After all of this, what on earth can be left for 7:3?

The arts.

Do you recall from your own studies that every study circle is to have an arts or craft component? There is a great wisdom in this, even though so many of the study circles have skipped it due to lack of time.

When we think about community, what is it that helps bind a community together? Well, one thing is its sense of being part of a culture. And what defines that culture? One thing, a major component, is the arts. Many of the study circles I've been in, when looking at this section focus on the "how" of the arts, but I think it's real importance is in the "why" of them.

In this unit we begin our exploration into the breadth and purpose of the arts, the importance of harmony, and our natural attraction to beauty. This latter finds its highest expression, of course, in our attraction to the Blessed Beauty.

We also explore some of the types of arts found in cultures all over the world, whether its music or story telling, drama or crafts. We learn a little bit about the importance of promoting the arts as a way and means of promoting community and culture.

We also, through this, begin to get a reminder that there is far more to the arts out there than we would see through the mass media. (You don't need to be highly polished and perfect in your craft to get enjoyment out of it.) And we are also reminded that each and every culture out there contributes its share to the global arts scene.

What a way to end this sequence. Wow.

Oh, but wait a second. We've noticed that every final section in each and every book has led us on to the next book in the sequence. Is this book somehow an exception?

Of course not.

This leads us right into Book 8 and the universal nature of Baha'u'llah's Covenant. But more on that later.