LA Class Newsletter [#35]


My Notes:

This next installment of the LA Class deals with the aftermath of the letter written by Dr. Denis MacEoin regarding the ineffective outreach of the Faith and its flirtation with irrelevancy to an ever advancing world.

There are a wide variety of reactions so I’ll let you read them for yourself. But once again, I’m simply floored by how much time has stood still within the Baha’i community. If no one told me, I would never imagine that this discussion had taken place 30 years ago. Enjoy.

If this is your first newsletter, you can read the introduction to the LA study class, here.

On with the 70′s class . . .


[Ed. personal address removed]

Vol. IV, No. 2
February, 1979

Denis MacEoin’s remarkable and outspoken indictment of misplaced emphasis in the Baha’i Community which he characterized as growth fixation, socially irrelevant and politically naive received both grim agreement and some angry opposition during the lengthy January 28, meeting of our class. At this point, we suggest that you re-read the letter which appeared in the last newsletter.

As the discussion began, Tony Lee expressed the view that Baha’i Communities have two responsibilities. The first of these is to insure their own survival by bringing in new members and ordering their own community life. The second of these is to actively work to assist their fellow men. This active concern for society, however, is usually ignored or forgotten as communities concentrate on developing their own internal structure.
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LA Class Newsletter [#34]


My Notes:

It has been far too long since we heard the whine of the time machine and headed back to the 1970′s to join the LA Baha’i studies class.

This latest edition is wholly made up of letters from members and readers around the world. It offers a glimpse into the ideas that other Baha’is (outside of the immediate LA group) had.

The first is a wag of the finger about the relationship what was described in a previous class between the Baha’is of Iran and the then, Shah of Iran. Here is a brief account of the history the monarch’s of Iran and their reaction to the Baha’i Faith.

The second is a reaction to the previous discussion on Degrees of Reality. Personally, I found this letter very insightful. It made me think of the Baha’i view of evolution as well as how incomprehensible the next world must be. It also made me think of this segment from a scifi TV show where a human is trying to explain to non-human (“God like”) beings what temporal linear existence is like.

The final letter is from Denis MacEoin, a giant of Baha’i theology who after some very nasty run ins with the “appointed arm” decided to become inactive and leave the community. Reading his words, it is hard to believe that what MacEoin wrote is 30 years old! His letter is by far the longest but it is the primary reason why I put this edition together after so much procrastination. A must read.

No wonder that the next class will be a discussion of this very letter. Can’t wait for that!

If this is your first newsletter, you might also want to read the introduction to the LA study class, here.

On with the 70′s class . . .


[Ed. personal address removed]

January, 1979
Vol. IV No. 1

Our newsletter this time consists of several stimulating letters which we have received from abroad. We are delighted to see that we have such an active and involved, international readership. Anyone else out there who has something that he wants to get off his chest, just drop us a line.

We hope that our readers will read the essay which we have received from Mr. Denis MacEoin of Cambridge, England, with particular care. He has raised a number of issues central to the crisis which the Baha’i Community is facing today and are in urgent need of discussion. Your comments will be welcomed.

THE NEXT CLASS WILL BE HELD on Sunday, January 28th at 3:00 PM at the unworthy hovel of Anthony Lee [Ed. personal address]. The topic will be a discussion of Mr. MacEoin’s essay (The one attached.) and it should be lively. You all come, yaheah?
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LA Class Newsletter [#33]


My Notes:

This newsletter is the two year anniversary of the LA Classes! I just had my third birthday, so this is mighty apropos.

Within this newsletter it is obvious that there was now clear friction between the status quo and new ideas being thrown around. In other notes this was implicit if you read between the lines. But here, it is very evident.

Tony Lee presents an idea that can not be easily shot down: that the process of revelation is a dialogue, rather than a monologue. Although most Baha’is assume that individual believers had no role, except as subservient and passive believers that simply followed the Central Figure of their day, the actual historical evidence is surprising.

And although the writer of this newsletter, as always, pokes fun at the class as being “heretical”… the institutions were by now taking notice of the same thing. But they weren’t laughing.

If this is your first newsletter, you might also want to read the introduction to the LA study class, here.

On with the 70′s class . . .


[Ed. personal address]
“Hermosa Bench, love it or leave it.”
Vol. III No. 11

We celebrated the second anniversary of our study class with a verbal dustup over what special role – if any – individual Baha’is have in shaping the Abha Dispensation, Tony Lee got things off and running by re-stating a favorite theory of his. It is his thesis that the Baha’i Faith as we know it is the result of interaction between the Central Authorities of the Faith (be they the Bab, Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi or the Universal House of Justice) and individual Baha’is. Most Baha’is, however, behave as if the revelation as a monologue spoken from the prophet to the people. While a central figure provides authority and spiritual impetus for the body of the believers, Lee argued that it is an interaction between charismatic figure and the followers that creates the dynamic of growth and change.
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LA Class Newsletter [#32]


My Notes:

This newsletter is noteworthy not only because it contains a report about a scholarly conference held in England but also because it was later cited as an example of naughty behavior by the NSA of the United States and figured into their decision to ban further publication and dissemination of the LA Class Newsletters.

The class also discusses the crisis brewing in the cradle of the Faith. This discussion was held in October 1978; you may wish to refer to the time line of events leading up to the Iranian revolution for context.

If this is your first newsletter, you might also want to read the introduction to the LA study class, here.

On with the 70′s class . . .


[Ed. personal address]
Hermosa Beach, California
?Impiety is our only Sacred Cow?

November 1978
Volume III. No. 10

Our October study class meeting featured a report by Tony Lee on the two-day Baha’i Studies Seminar at Cambridge University held from September 30 to October 1. It also took up the topic of the current political unrest in Iran and how that affects the Persian Baha’i community.

Tony reported that the Baha’i Studies seminar was called to survey a variety of scholarly topics. Those participating included Peter Smith1 studying sociology at. the University of Loncaster; Moojan Momen, research assistant to Hasan Balyuzi (now assisting the Hand of the Cause with an upcoming book on Baha’u’llah); Denis MacEoin, pursuing a doctorate in Oriental Studies at Cambridge and working on Babi history; Wendy Momen, who holds a doctorate in International Relations; Loni Bramson, studying the history of religions as the Catholic University of Luvain and doing her dissertation on the Faith; Viva Perdu, doing a doctorate in theology at Oxford and writing a dissertation comparing Baha’i and Christian notions of the Kingdom of God. In all, about 35 people attended the conference. Most were spectators. (An official report, of the seminar can be obtained by sending the equivalent of one British pound to Denis MacEoin, Kings College, Cambridge University, England.)

Most of the discussion at the seminar centered on the justification of Baha’i Studies at this point in Baha’i history, the methodology which the Baha’i scholar should use and the role of the Baha’i scholar in the community. Tony summarized some of the highlights of the session which interested him most.

Several of those attending the seminar agreed that, within the last 30 to 40 years, there has been very little Baha’i scholarship. Most of the commentaries on the Faith which we use now in the West were written during the 1920’s and 1930’s. They focus on the problems of that time: war and peace, international cooperation, race relations, etc. Since that time there have been few new ideas introduced into the Baha’i community.

This is because Shoghi Effendi, beginning in the late 30’s turned the attention of the Baha’i Community toward the urgent need for the Baha’i Faith to become a world religion. Scholarship dwindled under the Guardianship. However, in the 1930’s most outside observers who noticed the Faith at all came to the conclusion that it was a Persia religious movement which had spread in some circles in the West, but had gone about as far as it would go outside of its native land.

Shoghi Effendi directed a series of global campaigns which were able to spread the Faith all over the planet and forever change the character of the Baha’i community. Nonetheless, the activity of expansion and multiplication occupied the Faith and its followers almost exclusively on through the 1960’s and into the 1970’s. And it was argued, that emphasis left the Faith largely unprepared to face the social crises which the world must deal with today. While it is true that the Faith has solutions to the world problems today the major works by the believers which interpret what these solutions might be — such as those of Horace Holley and John Esslemont were written in a different period and in the idiom of a different age. The remedies offered in those books are largely obsolete and irrelevant to current considerations. This leaves the average believer simply unprepared to address contemporary social issues, such as world starvation, population explosion. neo-colonialism, world socialism, ecology arid pollution, women’s liberation, economic exploitation, the alienation of industrial society, dwindling fuel resources. etc.

It was argued at the conference that the American Baha’i Community is in a State of stagnation due to a lack of ideas arid a paucity of discussion which fosters change and growth. Therefore, Baha’i scholarship is an essential priority at this time, if the community is to grow arid develop. Often teaching at the local level has become a formula recitation of the ?12 Principles? (most of which are already realized or have been supplanted as front-rank social concerns in most parts of the world). While the conferees seed to agree that a steady stream of ideas and proposals is essential to the development of the Faith, they also argued the lack of fresh impulse is one of the reasons that the teaching work is now so difficult and consolidation such a problem in most parts of the world.

Many of those attending the Cambridge seminar were concerned that new ideas should be presented in a gentle and non-threatening manner. Challenging old ways of thinking or overturning popular myths may well shake the faith of some. There is a need for Baha’i scholars to exchange ideas and devise some way to have them filter through to the community at large. As things stand now, the practices and concerns of the scholar are not those of the mass of the faithful. To most Baha’is, tracking down the historical errors in “The Dawn Breakers” is not only a pointless exercise, but possibly heretical as well. How can the scholar communicate what he is trying to do to the body of the believers?

Also discussed was the issue of censorship and review, Although Shoghi Effendi declared that the review of any materials on the Faith written by Baha’is by the administrative institutions which is now required was a temporary measure, it has been in force now for more than 50 years and shows no signs of withering away. How much, if any censorship ought to be permitted in the Baha’i community? If a scholar spends several years researching some topic in the Faith. who is qualified to review his work? Who can challenge the accuracy of his conclusions besides someone who has spent as much time researching the topic as he has. Doesn’t this place the scholar in the position of having to submit his work to a committee which may be wholly ignorant of the topic upon which he has written. And this committee has the absolute right (with the approval of the National Spiritual Assembly involved) to prevent his work from being published.

The topic of Baha’i methodology, especially in the area of history, raised questions of what assumptions the Baha’i scholar ought to make. Is “methodological agnosticism” (where the scholar essentially becomes a non-Baha’i for purposes of research) essential or ever legitimate? If the teachings of Baha’u’llah are for the illumination of the whole world, surely they can illumine scholarship at well. But how? As scholars how are we to regard the Central Figures of the Faith? What about the question of infallibility? Is it absolute or specific? We know that Shoghi Effendi is not to be regarded as infallible in matters of history. Where does this put Cod Passes By When accounts from Baha’i sources and Covenant-breaker sources differ diametrically and there are no third party accounts (there are dozens of historical incidents in which this is the case) should the Baha’i automatically accept the Baha’i version?

If the Cambridge Seminar wondered about these provocative topics, so did our class members as they discussed the same issues. In class, it was argued that we must establish new standards of scientific investigation. Our concepts of empiric investigation were formed during the Renaissance, when the basic criterion required that the scientist look with a neutral, unbiased eye at how natural phenomena performed. The outgrowth of this training is that now we have a scientific method which is devoid of faith. Perhaps a new form of scientific method must be developed, one that acknowledges the appearance of a Messenger of God Who has proclaimed the interdependency of science and religion. Still, an issue that was raise, but not resolved, is what impact this change might have on scientific investigation.

In our rambling discussion, we examined our own role as a class of interested observers (scholarship, in the strict sense of the word cannot be applied to our class), Over the past couple of years, we have examined a variety of topics, raised some provocative questions, but without any real effect on the Baha’i community at large. It was argued that we should intensify our efforts with the aim of making an impact with ideas on the policies and practices of the Baha’i community. The prevailing attitude iii the American community, at least, is that the Prophet comes and delivers a package (an instruction manual, perhaps) to the world. Then it is the simple task of His followers to just apply what has been revealed (that is, follow instructions). But, this notion leaves no room for thought or creativity on the part of the believers. Their only task is to become good robots. In fact, creativity is to be looked upon with suspicion and innovation avoided as possible heresy. But this view supposes a static society with no social change, and this is just not the history of man. Class members agreed that the Faith works best as an interchange between the individual and the institution. New ideas and new approaches are needed or religious notions become antiquated and a kind of spiritual arteriosclerosis sets in. Very often in the recent history of the Faith policy has come about as a result of just such an interchange. But that spirit seems to have evaporated, and now, more often than not, the body of the believers are expected to only carry out policies, rather than help form them.

Ironically, as the Faith became more institutionalized, the result of Shoghi Effendis work, individual Baha’is became less innovative and more dependent on the administrative institutions to do their thinking for them. This they are incapable of doing of course, because they were never intended to act as a substitute for individual thought.

As a result; in recent years, the Faith has become neglectful of the pressing social issues of our day. What (for example) are our stands on the issue of illegal aliens entering the United States?

What about busing to achieve school integration? What is the Baha’i response to the Marxist view of capitalist exploitation? (See also above.)

Some class members even objected that the same Baha’i principles which may have been clear 50 years ago are so no longer. The principles raise all sorts of questions. What is the equality of men and women? What does that mean for changing sexual roles? How do we apply this principle to real situations? How are men and women equal? it was pointed out that, looking at the Baha’i communities around the world, this principle seems to mean little in practice. The Baha’is have not distinguished themselves as models of sexual equality, but have followed the customs of their respective cultures. If we are supposed to be in the vanguard of social change why have we failed? For lack of fresh and new ideas to spur us on?

In our discussion, it was suggested that a series of weekend seminars on different topics involving Baha’is who are professionals or scholars in various fields ought to be formed to offer advice and suggestions to the National Assembly. But,others contended that it is just not that simple. One does not sit dawn on a weekend and bash out a raft of bright, new ideas. Such ideas must rise naturally from debate and discussion, within the Baha’i Community as a whole.

For such developments to take place, we must first agree that new ideas are necessary at all and commit ourselves, as a community, to some degree of intellectual life. Right now, the entire National thrust is towards spreading the Faith and multiplying its institution and nevermind new ideas. The achievement of statistical goals has gotten to the point that it is pointless and uninspiring. After a while no one cares if we have 1,400 or 1,800 local Spiritual Assemblies or how many languages Baha’i literature is translated into. The excessive concentrattons on such ?shopping list? goals has left the Baha’i community without any sense of culture or unique identification.

And what happens if our zeal for expansion pays off big? Suppose there is a massive influx of new believers’? Is the Baha’i community prepared to handle such an influx. Do we have the flexibility and adaptability to receive large numbers of people into the Faith and socialize them quickly — bringing them into the mainstream of Baha’i life and allowing them to change the course of that mainstream? Experience shows that we do not. Even the recent influx of deepened Persian believers into the United States has caused problems which we are not prepared to handle because we have never thought about them. How does a Baha’i community overcome a language barrier? Some communities in the Los Angeles area have chosen to have translations at the Feasts, while others have steadfastly refused to have them (except, perhaps, for the Treasurer’s Report). And what if Armenians and Chinese and Mexicans enter the Faith in large numbers all at once? Do we then translate into four languages? Do we ignore then and go on only in English?

Questions like these came a lot easier than answers. While we could ask how we should socialize ethnic minorities in the Baha’i community, we could not agree on the best methods, or how to safeguard the rights of Baha’i minorities. The unhappy conclusion we arrived at is that the administrative institutions have not identified problem areas. And barring some major re-thinking on the highest levels, we will continue with what one class member termed the ?body count’ theory of expansion which ignores the question of quality in the quest for quantity.

After a break our discussion shifted to the political situation in Iran, Attending our class session were a number of Iranian Baha’is, including one man who had recently returned from that crisis-torn country. He reported that the recent wave of anti-government demonstrations, strikes and riots has left Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi in a very bad situation. The Baha’is of Iran have not gone untouched by this widespread social upheaval. There have been hundreds of incidents of beatings, torture and other persecutions outside of Tihran, Our class was told of a Baha’i Center in Gurgun in the province of Mazindaran [Ed. alt spelling: Mazandaran] that was burned to the ground by a mob. Baha’is have been purged from all high government positions. Gen. Khademi, the head of Iran Air and a Baha’i, was fired from his job and them murdered by a group of Muslim youth.

Behind these incidents lies the fact that opposition to the Shah is spearheaded by religiously super-orthodox mullas who have deep antipathy for the Baha’i Faith. Since the pulpits of the mosques have remained for the last many years the only avenues of dissent which have not been crushed by the government of Iran, the frustrated masses of a nation have rallied behind these reactionary leaders. This places the Baha’is is a very dangerous position — especially if the Shah should fall.

Beyond this, there is an even more serious problem. Baha’is in Iran are popularly regarded as firm supporters of the Shah’s regime. In the eyes of the leftist revolutionaries, the Baha’i community is committed to the Pahlavi dynasty and, therefore is a common enemy. This is largely due to the fact that some prominent Baha’is have made fortunes by placing themselves in partnership with the royal family and participating in their corrupt dealings) and partially due to a general misunderstanding of the Baha’i Teachings on obedience to government. However, the Baha’i Community has not taken steps to make its neutrality in the current crisis clear.

Beyond this, the Persian Baha’is themselves have cone to confuse loyalty to government with support for the Shah. It was reported, for example, that it is a well-known fact that there are Baha’is who work for SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police, notorious for systematic torture, of political prisoners. Rumors are rife in Iran that Amir Abbas Hoveida, the now-jailed ex-prime minister, is a secret Baha’i. (His father was a Covenant-breaker.) For years the Baha’i community did nothing to discourage these rumors. It was evidently felt that such misinformation would provide a measure of protection for the Baha’i community, With the fail of that minister and the wholesale expulsion of Baha’is from government posts, the community is suffering a double blow — partly of its own making.

The bottom line here appears to be that the Baha’i community of Iran is isolated and without allies in Persian society. Even the intellectual classes, who might have opposed the persecution of Baha’is on humanitarian grounds, have written off the Baha’is as servants of the Shah and, therefore, traitors to the nation. As for the Shah himself, his continued reign seems to be the only hope the Baha’is have of avoiding full-scale persecution. But, several class members agreed that the Shah would throw the Iranian Baha’i Community to the mobs without hesitation if he thought that it might shore up his tottering rule.

The Persian Baha’i Community may not be the only one to suffer from having become too identified with a repressive regime. One member of our class had received a letter from some American pioneers in South America. They reported that some native believers in their part of the world had been distressed by a photograph published in a recent issue of Baha’i News (June 1978, p; 13). That picture showed a group of Baha’is (including members of the Continental Board of Counsellors and the Chilean National Spiritual Assembly) posing with Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the dictator of Chile. Gn. Pinochet, it is widely acknowledged, runs one of the most brutally regimes in Latin America. Further, in the picture in the Baha’i News, television cameras were clearly recording the event for the Chilean masses. By posing for pictures with the General, some class members argued, the Baha’is were allowing themselves to be used as pawns in a political game of power. They were giving a de-facto seal of approval to Pinochet’s government – a fact that may be remembered some day, if and when his regime is overthrown. And sometimes military regimes do not last long in South America.

Another class member related a story about the political naivet? of the Baha’is. In Belgium at one time the Baha’i community was asked to send some Persian believers to greet the Empress of Iran as she arrived in the airport in Brussels. Every Persian Baha’i in Brussels, save one, turned out to greet the Empress with smiling faces. The news media duly recorded the event. It turns out that no other Persians (non-Baha’is) in Belgium were told that the Empress was to arrive, because the government feared negative demonstrations which would cause some bad publicity, it seems that the Baha’is could he counted on to provide just the political support that the Persian government wanted. And the Baha’is went along, naively thinking that they were being honored by the government and, apparently without the slightest idea that their actions had any political implications.


Actually, the next class has already been held. You will get the notes from that one shortly. But, the class after that will he held on December 17th (a Sunday) at 3:00 P.M. at the home of Anthony A. Lee (also known as Tony) [Ed. personal address and phone number follows] It is not clear just what the topic of the class will, be, bt uTony has been urged to give a lecture on African Traditional Religions and their relationship to the Baha’i Faith. And, if no one comes forward with some other presentation, then that’s what it will be. Everyone is requested to bring a needle or two to stick into some object which Tony is preparing. Come prepared!


Related Links:

The original scanned documents can be found here.

LA Class Newsletter [#31]


My Notes:

This newsletter contains a summary of the presentation of Dr. Daniel Jordan on ANISA – a framework for education. Unfortunately, Dr. Jordan’s life was cut short by murder approximately four years from this LA class presentation; which left ANISA without a champion.

ANISA sounds very promising and it is most tragic that its founders’ life was so untimely cut. Who knows what it may have flowered into had it been given a chance? Searching on the internet, there are a few people (no doubt associates and partners of Dr. Jordan) who are continuing to work along similar lines. If you wish to learn more about Dr. Daniel C. Jordan, here is a biography written 10 years after his death.

It also bears highlighting that Dr. Jordan was inspired by Baha’i principles and values but that the framework that he developed was based not truly based on them. This is a limiting factor that I’ve seen in Baha’is of all fields – they automatically assume that the Baha’i Faith contains the answer for their field… be it agriculture, biology, commerce, etc…

The Faith is beautiful but it isn’t everything. Baha’i specialists may start with the Writings but to corral oneself inside them and insist that nothing else outside is of value is devastating. Sadly I’ve seen many Baha’is take this approach and their projects suffer for it. The Baha’i Faith can’t be wrangled and coerced to give answers to everything under the sun. Do you really think that God would make things as simple as that?

Or provide some sort of infallible oracle to which one can put all questions for the final answer?

Finally Dr. Jordan’s comment on Baha’i pioneers is interesting. His prediction hasn’t become reality but it is true that people are skeptical if all you offer is to preach. They’ve had enough of that. Especially in poverty stricken countries. What they need are real answers and solutions which are borne out of the seed of Faith that pioneers take with them.

If this is your first newsletter, you might also want to read the introduction to the LA study class, here.

On with the 70′s class . . .


[Ed. personal address]
Hermosa Beach, California 90254
October, 1978
Volume III, No. 9

Most of us went to school under an educational system that functioned as a kind of crude computer theory. Students, like machines, it was believed, could be programmed with knowledge by stuffing their heads full of facts — the multiplication tables, important dates in history, the parts of speech, etc. This approach to leaning is based on the notion that students are empty vessels, in school to be filled with a universe of knowledge. It has always found greater acceptance among educators than educatees.

But suppose that someone developed a theory of education that was less concerned with instilling some state-approved curriculum into the heads of pupils; but was more attuned to the development of the students’ inherent potential? In fact, such an event has already taken place and, at the September meeting of our study class, some 50 people crowded into the home of Sid and Karan Morrison to hear about it.

The speaker was Dr. Daniel Jordan, chair of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, discussing ANISA, a unique educational program he has developed over the last 18 years. In a lecture lasting more than two hours and representing ?only the tip of the iceberg,? as Jordan termed it, he outlined what the program is and how it works. Here is a summary of his talk:

The ANISA project recently has moved to the West Coast and is now centered in Escondido, California, a city about 100 miles south of Los Angeles. ANISA was refined at the University of Massachusetts but, after a ten-year association with that institution, the program had to decamp. Its departure was occasioned partly because of a $700 million state budget deficit which threatened to end the project’s funding and partly because of a restructuring of the university’s academic hierarchy which forecast a limited future for the experimental model.

Jordan, the founder and program head, decided to take ANISA out of the public sector, and put it under the sponsorship of a private university — an educational institution he founded. The decision to end ANISA’s association with recognized educational establishments was not an easy one to make. When it became apparent that the program at U. Mass. faced diminishing odds, some 27 colleges and universities were sounded out about giving it a home. There was some interest, but as Jordan recalled, “Their first questions were not about the quality of the ideas but were on political issues and money.”

That was not the only problem. In a couple of cases, university officials showed interest in the ANISA program and called back to
U. Mass. for references. They were told that ANISA was a Baha’i front organization for religious proselytizing. Interest waned after such misinformation was given them, despite ANISA denials.

There is considerable confusion, especially in the minds of Baha’is, about the nature of the ANISA program. Although ANISA draws some of its inspiration from the Baha’i Writings (and less than many Baha’is believe), it is not a “Baha’i educational system”. However, Anisa is an Arabic term meaning ?the tree of life? and, in a Baha’i context, has been identified by Abdu’l-Baha as symbolizing the Baha’i Covenant. In the early days of the program, the word ANISA was used as an acronym for “American National Institute for Social Advancement”. This usage seems to have been discarded now.) In the Baha’i Writings, a great emphasis is place on education, the purpose of which is to develop latent human potentials, according to Baha’u’llah. However, Baha’u’llah never specified what would constitute a proper education and Shoghi Effendi wrote that future scholars would have to figure out what such an education would entail.

When ANISA was moved to the West Coast, Jordan took over a financially ailing institution called California American University and started a Master of Science program in education at the new school. It is here that the experiment resumes.

ANISA came into being during the early 1960’ s when Jordan began wondering why the educational system all but ignored the exploration of how humans develop and learn. While new discoveries generally take about three years to penetrate the scientific community, in education, 50 years can pass before any innovative thinking makes its influence felt in the classroom. Learning in America and elsewhere has concentrated on the development of curriculum, excluding much consideration about the person to be educated. There is no fundamental statement about the nature of man [and] the direction of his development through education.

ANISA is one approach to such a system, and one that attempts to create an educational system based on spiritual, and scientific values. The initial work for creating such a system began with a survey of the Baha’ i Writings regarding learning, but that was not satisfactory, for there still was not enough there on which to base an educational system. The groundwork made progress when a survey of the writings of Alfred North Whitehead, and English philosopher, turned up his observation that the success of any unified system requires a basic principle around which everything else is organized. That discovery led ANISA researchers to ask themselves what the first principle of education is. Queries to professors of education did not help much, for none of them knew what such a first principle might be and a few dismissed the importance of even having such a basic statement.

The search for a first principle led to a survey of the educational literature of the twentieth century and a tabulation of statements about the nature of man. But the search kept returning to Whitehead’s writings and his musings on the nature of the Universe. Whitehead observed that when one sees the universe, what one sees is change. Change is process and it presupposes potentiality. Translating potential into actuality is creativity, the philosopher wrote. Based on this notion, the ANISA founders decided that the purpose of their system would be to translate a child’s potential into actuality. That became the organizing principle.

Ironically, for a system that is designed to develop a child’s potential, ANISA has never commanded enough money to run its own school. It has, for the most part, concentrated on training teachers. As Jordan explained it, what a teacher believes about a child influence how the teacher will instruct and the child will learn. “If you think that kids are mean little monsters, then you will relate to them in that way and on that basis, and help create a self-fulfilling prophecy Therefore, ANISA programs have concentrated on teaching teachers not reduce the ability of students to absorb education by patronizing or humiliating the children.

Over the eighteen years of its existence. ANISA has refined a philosophical statement that is expressed through its theory of development. Since development is the realization of inner potential, ANISA programs, in part, focus on problems of development. It was discovered, for example, that development was brought about through interaction with the environment. Therefore, from the ANISA point of view, teaching means arranging the environment so as to foster the development of the child’s potential. Two factors were revealed to come into play here: biological and psychological.

After examining the matter, ANISA researchers came to the conclusion that the basis of biological development is nutrition. As Jordan put it “A significant percentage of the world’s children are mentally deficient — simply because of inadequate diet.” ANISA spent $1.5 million in grant funds on this aspect of education alone, field testing the nutrition theory over a five-year period and proving a link between proper diet and the ability to pay attention to what the teacher is saying. “Poor nutrition leads to limited attention and limited learning,” Jordan said, adding, “We find a large number of kids with learning deficiencies that are nutritionally related. Under the ANISA system, even teachers have to understand the importance of proper diet for themselves. “Being with kids is stressful, in case you haven’ t noticed,” Jordan quipped.

Tuning to the psychological aspects of development potential, the ANISA model divides these into five categories: psychomotor, perceptual, cognitive. affective and volition.

PSYCHOMOTOR development was defined as the capacity to differentiate between body muscles and control them. The point here is that gaining psychomotor control of one’s body increases one’s potential and leads to success in other learning areas. A child who is not confident about using his body will shy away from new learning environments out of fear and will limit his own growth.

PERCEPTION relates to the ability to take in visual information and make sense out of it. This ability varies from child to child and must be developed for the student to gain better advantage of the learning process.

COGNITIVE development has to do with thinking, which everyone agrees is important, but no one can define with precision. ANISA has a cognitive competence curriculum that focuses on teaching a child how to think. Most schools concentrate on teaching children what to think but not necessarily how to think or use critical judgment.

AFFECTIVE deals with learning and organizing emotion, one of the most powerful and least understood influences on human behavior. Jordan noted that people are seldom in charge of their emotions, and it is feeling, more than abstract thinking, that influence human behavior. Under the ANISA model, emotions are placed in two categories: those which relate to hope and enhance development and those that have their basis in fear and impair development.

VOLITION (Will): relates how to pay attention, a subject that is never taught in schools. Young students are required to hold their minds on a particular subject, but never taught how to do so. Volition training centers on the ability to set goals and create steps to accomplish those goals.

During the question period, Jordan was asked whether ANISA had ever attempted to prove its theories through field experience. He responded that ANISA had been field tested, for five years, but that, there had never been enough money to found an ANISA school to verify the system’s fundamental ideas. One overall test was conducted in Springfield Mass. school system where an ANISA program was temporarily installed. Jordan said that data collected found reading scores were significantly higher for the ANISA-trained students than a non-ANISA control group. He also appeared to reject the notion of strict scientific proof, at least in part. The rigid and narrow criteria demanded for accurate field testing have only limited meaning in proving our ANISA, he said, because such variables as personal belief simply defy measurement. Even the ANISA modal rests on the recognition that a child has some control over his own development. There is no way one can predict with 100% accuracy what humans will do; they are just too complex to be measured with reliable accuracy.

Along the way, Dr. Jordan mode one interesting digression in which he touched on the future of Baha’ i pioneering. The influence of the Faith is not spreading through its assimilation in the American population. He noted, for example, that the birthrate in the United States is about 10,000 babies born every day “and our enrollment isn’t even close to that.” But, bypassing American society, the Baha’i Faith could make significant inroads in the world’s social agencies, a more important target group. This could come to pass by training Baha’is in any of a variety of occupational skills, such as agronomy, land reclamation, and the like. These are skills essential to developing nations. As the world’s political situation hardens, it is less and less likely that Baha’is will gain admission to Third World countries if their approach is purely as religious missionaries. But, if they can offer the technical skills that match their religious dedication, they can have a potent influence on the course of events in such nations.

Dr. Jordan was asked about the likelihood of having the ANISA model adopted by some major school district. He said that he hoped that would happen, but that the ANISA program would not compromise its principles for the sake of being so adopted. He related his presentation of ANISA to the chiefs of the Navaho Reservation. Some of the traditional old men asked if a child, having gone through the ANISA system would still participate in rain dances with his tribe. Jordan replied carefully that the ANISA child might dance for reasons of social solidarity, but would not believe that the dance would bring rain. The chiefs were not happy with his answer.

One class member remarked that if ANISA intends to socialize children into a full, new cosmology, it is unlikely that it will find acceptance by any society, since they will quite naturally want to protect, their own cultural values.


Betty Conow of Hacienda Heights sent us a letter to clear up some points Which she feels were incorrectly summarized in the previous newsletter and not presented in the way she would have done. Regarding the newsletter report on Wittgenstein’s paradox, she wrote that the view presented in the notes was not what she presented in the class: “Your view is from his ?Tractatus’ a philosophical stand he completely reversed later.” {Actually, the newsletter summary of “Wittgenstein’s paradox” was culled from notes taken when a college philosophy instructor was contacted for an explanation of the term.} To resume from her letter: “His paradox is quite of a different order. In his first view, he distinguished between mind and matter (objects in the world) and said language merely labels object, etc., in the manner of the logical positivists. This view still admits to the reality of both subjective and objective principles. Later, in ?Philosophical Investigations? and his lectures, he essentially denies that mind and matter exist at all, except as words we invent to give order to things. He says that language creates reality God, Mind, etc. are all part of our language games. If enough people agree on what a word means and agree as to how the word should be used, then order is created. That is the Wittgenstein dilemma — all philosophy, religion, mysticism, then are simply games we play within a context we all agree to abide by
the rules. I am not an expert on Wittgenstein; I am only interested in creating a framework of intelligibility that destroys his paradox. His own argument is of course, based upon just another language game itself.”

Continuing she wrote, “I’m not say that ?God exists within the cosmos as a Creative Force’ to imply that God apportioned a part of Himself as a Force with discernible properties. What I talked about was the important distinction between creation as emanation rather than as manifestation and is the crucial point of argument between Baha’i and those religions which are pantheistic. I remember speaking to that point extensively.

“I never did explain the smaller separate chart that appeared on the handout. It should have been framed or blocked to show that it was not a part of the larger chart. However, it portrays as a symbol what the other chart portrays in words. ‘Reality of realities’ signifies all that is fundamental or all that which underlies all reality. Sometimes Abdu’l-baha uses this phrase to mean this and sometimes He uses it to mean God. There is no cut and dried definition for it — if there were any further meditation upon this idea would effectively be cut off.

“The smaller chart shows Reality as One, portrayed by a Sphere. In the material world of relativities we all look at Reality and see it, not as One but as separate ‘points,’ dissimilar aspects of one thing. The popular Sufi fable of the blind men feeling the elephant, all touching different parts of it, and so all supposing only ?his’ sensory experience is correctly describing the elephant, and getting into endless arguments about it. That is what the smaller chart was supposed to convey, although no one even asked me what it meant…

“It is right that I didn’t want to use the intellectual tools that most of us apply to solve all problems. To do so means we have not escaped Wittgenstein’s paradox — that we will only end up talking about definitions of words and not best to use them. It was the very problem I set out to answer a different way, using different tools…”


The next class will be held on October 29th on a Sunday afternoon at 3:00 P.M. at the home Mehrdad Amanat. His address is [Ed. personal address follows]. At this class Tony Lee will present his resent trip to England where he attended a Seminar on Baha’i Studies held at Cambridge University. He will speak on some of the issues that were raised at that seminar and some of the controversies which were left unresolved. You all be there, y’heah!


Related Links:

The original scanned documents can be found here.