LA Class Newsletter [#30]

SKIP TO NEWSLETTER

My Notes:

I found this newsletter a bit dry and boring. But maybe that’s just me. Hope you enjoy it more than I did.

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 . . .

[START DOCUMENT]

[Ed. personal address]
?Land of the Slightly Fat?

Vol. III, No.8
August, 1970

“Hierarchies, Analogies, and Degrees of Reality: A Model,? represents an ambitious effort by Betty Conow of Hacienda Heights (a town east of Los Angeles) to set out a Baha’i view of Reality. Her cosmology, based on the Baha’i Writings, presents an approach to explaining existence as an ordered system, describing what is and how it works.

Conow made her presentation to our study class on August 27, as we met in the lavishly appointed environs of Tony Lee’s apartment, renowned for its sumptuous delights including newly installed hot arid cold, running wenches. Her paper was offered to our class, partly in reaction to an earlier class discussion of John S. Hatcher’s essay ?The Metaphorical Nature of Physical Reality,? In that paper, originally presented to the Canadian Association for Studies on the Baha’i Faith, Hatcher outlined the reasons that mankind, which is fundamentally spiritual, should have a material plane of existence. The Conow reaction to some of Hatcher’s concepts amounted to an elaborate survey of Reality, as viewed through the vehicle of religion. She asserted that the fundamental purpose of religion is to reveal truth to humanity which it does by showing mankind how to understand Reality.

Here, is a summary of her presentation: (The attached charts and short statement were passed out during the course of the class.)

Once we know the reality of things, we can understand what truth is. Truth is those statements made about the condition of reality. And, Reality is all that exists potentially, presently or in the past. There are two ways of considering reality. One is man’s way, that is, from within the system of the universe as part of it. The other lies outside the system, and it is God’s way. Human knowledge uses its own criteria, learned through intellectual discovery, to judge reality. Religion, however, establishes a different standard.

This presents a formidable problem, especially in contemporary philosophy. For instance, two twentieth-century thinkers, Kurt Godel, a German scientist, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian philosopher, both argued that the language we use to discuss Reality itself limits our inquiry.

Wittgenstein, for example, wrote that when men wish to discuss a concept, say, a chair, they do so not by considering the chair, but through the use of language to describe the object. The use of language involves symbolic representations. And these representations themselves limit the field of inquiry. Wittgenstein argued, therefore, that it is not possible for man to look outside the system in which he lives because his language — the tools of his exploration — limit him in finite terms.

Conow challenged that assertion, countering that one of the roles of the Manifestation of God is to present an ?outside view of reality, one that is not constrained by human limitations, riot the limited proofs the mind of man can muster. Her thesis has it that religion, even from ancient times, has presented Reality as existing in various degrees or, as she called them, hierarchies, which stem from one Source which we call God.

Her theme was not an easy one to follow. Consider this passage from the pr?cis she presented to the class: ?The created universe of existence, being composed of matter, reflects Reality on different levels, depending upon which material level each created thing occupies in the cosmic hierarchic order. Each level or hierarchy can reflect only certain aspects of Reality dictated by the laws of that particular hierarchy. We, from the vantage point of our own limited conditions, occupy a unique hierarchy which is simultaneously both the lowest and the highest of all Hierarchies. At our level, Reality is the most differentiated, thereby presenting us with an enigma which speaks both of Oneness and its Appearances.

?Science and philosophy interpret these multiplicities as the standard of Truth whereby all truth and knowledge can be known. The material, visible world encloses us in logic based on probabilities and relativities. inside the system, we define it only by the criteria the system itself provides.

Conow’s presentation continued with a section on analogies and. hierarchies. Reality exists within a setting Like a series of Chinese puzzle boxes, each level lodged within a larger level. This order of things resembles the set Theory of science which holds that everything that exists operates in obedience to the rules of a system. For instance, an atom functions within a system which itself is part of a larger system o the molecule, and so on up the line.

Although mankind is part of this system, human knowledge of it can transcend the limits of the levels through the Manifestation. The Prophet, with Divine Knowledge, understands and explains the entire system, helping man become informed of the workings of the material universe. Manifestations explain the Divine workings by using analogy and symbolism in their language. The purpose of such indirect language is to open up humanity’s inner consciousness. Language is not used so much to communicate ideas as it is wielded to achieve a spiritual reflect on the reader.

The model of Reality presented in the Baha’i Faith amounts to a recasting of an older religious model, connecting the finite, material world to the infinite. In an attempt to demonstrate this link, Conow passed out a chart (see diagram) She defined ?cosmos? as everything, that exists, either in potential or in reality. (This definition struck one member of the class as being disturbingly close to the definition of Reality.) Within the cosmos is the material universe. God, she said, exists within the cosmos as a Creative Force, a Fashioner of all that is, and outside of it as an unknowable Essence. God than has a ?Hidden Aspect?, which we can be told of but do not know of, and a ?Manifest Aspect?, the evidences of which exist as the created, material universe.

Our discussion of Mrs. Conow’s presentation proved to be somewhat of a frustrating experience, for her as well as for the class members. For example, on her chart, Conow placed ?The Reality of Realities? outside the cosmos. But she had, in response to a question, defined the cosmos as everything, all potential and all that exists. A similar definition had been given to ?Reality.? So then, it was asked, how could there be a separate ?Reality of Realities? outside of what she already defined as Reality? And what would such a thing be, anyhow? Conow said that the term ?Reality of Realities? was used by Abdu’l-Baha, but failed to explain its place in the scheme of things or why she chose to include it as part of her chart.

A similar collapse in communication occurred over the concept of what she called ?The Inner Path of Mysticism,? Linking certain enlightened men to God. (See chart.) Essentially, this mystic path is one taken by religious devotees and mystics in an effort to attain unity with God. It is an important concept in Sufi lsam. Baha’u’llah’s work, The Seven Valleys, which traces the journey of the soul back to its Creator, uses the Sufi model of seven stages. Mystics of all stripes, Sufis, Buddhists and the rest, all have claimed to have taken this path (using whatever means their religion prescribed) to attain oneness with God. Baha’is do not believe that such union with divinity is possible. As such it is not possibe to transcend finite limitations to attain a meeting with the infinite.

Still, such a path exists on Conow’s chart and it appears that it leads directly to God. If such is the case, she was asked, why bother with all the rest. What is the use or the Manifestations? Conow replied that, though mystics believe that they have encompassed the whole cosmos within themselves, they have only traveled the path, which is just a small part of the cosmos. So, what is ?the path?? And, if it lends directly to God, why bother with anything else?

Class members received no satisfactory answer to this question, partly because Conow said that she did not wish to become trapped in Wittgenstein’s paradox — being hampered by the limits of language used in an argument. In essence, it appeared that she was unwilling to get into an intellectual analysis of her elaborate system. In particular she felt that a precise definition of terms was inappropriate. That, she implied, would eliminate any possibility of understanding what lies outside the material system because the meanings of words torpedo such an exercise.

When her refusal to talk in specifics became clear, discussion was impossible. The Conow thesis was presented on what amounted to a ?take it or leave it? basis. At least some of the class members chose the latter course.

ABOUT TRANSITIONS

Our valued class members, Jon and Chris Hendershot have left the Los Angeles area and are pioneering in Venezuela. We wish then well and miss them, especially Chris, who patiently typed up and proofread these newsletters. She denies that an overwhelming desire to escape the tedium of such activities played a major role in the decision to go pioneering.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

Tony Lee, our class leader, has forsaken his life of posh lassitude to become a partner in the newly created publishing firm of ?Kalimat Press? based in Los Anqeles. Actually, the company is a partnership between Tony and one other Baha’i. The object of the company is to produce Baha’i-related materials. Tony and his partner feel that an alternative to the Baha’i Publishing Trust in Wilmette is needed in the United States (similar to George Ronald in England).

Right now the company is working on Baha’i children’s materials. But if there are any good manuscripts floating around out there in need of a Baha’i publisher, their starry-eyed authors might write to Kalimat Press, [Ed. business address follows]. (Remember: It never hurts budding authors to be obsequious.)

YES THERE WILL BE A NEXT CLASS:

Dr. Daniel Jordan, member and chairman at the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, recently moved to California with his family. His Anisa program, an approach to education based on Baha’i principles, has moved with him. At our next class Dr. Jordan will speak about Anisa and the Baha’i view of childhood education.

The class will be held. on Saturday evening, September 23rd at 8 P.M. at the home of Sidney and Karan Morrison. The address is: [Ed. personal address and telephone follows]

See you all there !

HIERARCHIES, ANALOGIES, THE DEGREES OF REALITY
A MODEL

Click to make bigger:

mysteries-of-reality-conow

Click to make bigger:

reality-conow

This presentation covers two ways of looking at Reality–from inside our system, or man’s way and from outside the system, God’s Way, or Revealed Religion. The mainstream of Revealed Religion and the ancient religious traditions have all presented Reality as existing in degrees, gradients, or hierarchies, emanating from the Undifferentiated Whole as One Reality. The created universe or existence being composed of matter, reflects Reality on different levels, depending upon which material level each created thing occupies in the cosmic hierarchic order. Each level or hierarchy can reflect only certain aspects of Reality dictated by the laws of that particular hierarchy. We, from the vantage point of our own limited conditions occupy a unique hierarchy which is simultaneously both the lowest and the highest of all hierarchies. At our level, Reality is the most differentiated thereby presenting us with an enigma which speaks both of Oneness and Appearances, Science and philosophy interpret these multiplicities as the standard of Truth whereby all truth and knowledge can be known. The material, visible world encloses us In logic based on probabilities and relativities. Inside the system, we define it only by the criteria the system itself provides.

If the Holy Teachers did not exist, there would be no way to make any statements about anything outside our system. All knowledge of the non-visible or the Divine Spiritual World comes from these Holy Beings. They alone experienced, lived in, and shared with humanity the living Reality behind all realities. With knowledge from that World They were able to establish the relationships and correspondences that exist between the Spiritual World and the created universe of phenomena, They explained the motions, the energies, and the forces which manifest themselves eternally as Universal Laws in both worlds. Through Their religions they balance our laws as social beings so that the two-worlds may be in harmony and connected,

8/22/78
Betty Conow

[END DOCUMENT]

Related Links:

The original scanned documents can be found here.

LA Class Newsletter [#29]

SKIP TO NEWSLETTER

My Notes:
This LA Class newsletter is interesting because it contains the research of Ms. Loni Bramson-Lerche. A quick search on the internet found this paper she wrote in “Studies in Babi and Baha’i History”, titled: Some Aspects of the Development of the Baha’i Administrative Order in America.

She presents her preliminary research resultson Horace Holley, NSA secretary and in his era, the most prominent member of the American Baha’i community. I had already read from other Baha’i theologians that Holley played a pivotal role, as secretary of the NSA, in forming the community and making decisions. The impression given was that he had an autocratic streak. But what Ms. Bramson reveals is even beyond this.

The newsletter also contains information about an upcoming Baha’i Studies seminar to be held in Cambridge, UK.

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 . . .

[START DOCUMENT]

[private home address]
Hermosa Beach, California 90254
August 3, 1978

Newsletter
Vol. III, No. 7

Dear Friends,

Well, much to everyone’s surprise yet another issue of the class newsletter is being sent out. The study group is still on shaky ground, however, especially where finances are concerned. This mailing will use up our last few dollars. Our mailing list has grown quite large and of course, subscribers outside of the United States have not (so far) been asked to pay. Since we do not know how many issues of this newsletter will see the light, we are reluctant to ask for more subscriptions. But, if any of you out there (especially the overseas folks) would like to make a voluntary donation to our worthy cause, please send same to the above address made out to Anthony Lee. Otherwise, we are broke.

Baha’i Studies Seminar, Cambridge — Sept. 30 – Oct. 1

The last page of this newsletter reproduces information on the Seminar on Baha’i Studies organized by some English Baha’is doing academic work on the Baha’i Faith which will be held later this year. You will note that you may obtain a copy of the seminar report (notes on the proceedings) for just 50p (about $1). We hope that many of our readers will take advantage of this opportunity and that some of you will even be inspired to attend in person. Remember, air fares are cheap nowadays!

LONI BRAMSON’S PRESENTATION

At our last class we had the pleasure of having Loni Bramson give a presentation on her work on her doctoral dissertation and her research is the National Baha’i Archives in Wilmette. Ms. Bramson has been a pioneer to Belgium for the last four years. She is currently studying at the Catholic Univerity of Louvain, majoring in contemporary history. Her dissertation will be on the history of the Baha’i Faith. She is focusing on the early years of the Guardianship, from about 1921 to 1937. It will be concerned with the transformation which Shoghi Effendi wrought in the Baha’i community during those years and the opposition which he faced within that community. Before coming to Los Angeles, Ms. Bramson spent two weeks during research in Wilmette.

Ms. Bramson explained to the class that it seems that within the last two or three years Baha’i Studies in Europe has really begun to take off. She named several Baha’is and one or two non-Baha’is who are doing academic work on the Baha’i Faith in England, France, Austria and elsewhere. She estimated that there may be ten scholars now doing graduates work on some area of Baha’i Studies. She pointed to the two seminars which have been held at the University of Lancaster (under the direction of Peter Smith) and the one whcih will soon be held at Cambridge. The hope is that these seminars, sponsored by academic institutions will help to give Baha’i Studies a “stamp of academic approval.”

Ms. Bramson also noted that there has been a revival of interest in the Babi Faith generally in academic circles. Recent books written by non-Baha’is have dealt with this subject extensively. Our speaker expressed the hope that these developments would one day lead to the teaching of courses on the Babi and Baha’i Faiths at major universities around the world.

Anthony Lee suggested that there may not be a real upsurge of Baha’i Studies in Europe, but rather an upsurge in communication between scholars doing this kind of work. He guessed that there must be more Baha’is doing academic research on aspects of the Faith in the United States than there are in Europe, but that the American scholars are lamentably out of touch with one another.

Dr. Amin Banani asked for a definition for a definition of “Baha’i Studies.” Loni responded that she felt that anyone doing graduate or post-graduate research at a university on some aspect of the Baha’i Faith was involved in Baha’i Studies. This is a loose term which applies to a wide area.

At this point, Dr. Banani asked an interesting and pointed question. How do the Baha’is who are presently studying the Faith on an academic level in Europe see themselves, especially in relation to earlier Baha’i scholars? How do they see the work that they are doing in relationship to the work which has gone before, for instance the work of Mirza Abu’l-Fazl [Ed. alt. spelling Mirza Abu'l-Fadl]? are they continuing in a tradition or are they starting a new tradition?

Loni replied that she felt that the scholars studying today were aware of the past and saw themselves in some way carrying on a tradition. However, Anthony Lee objected that he felt that Baha’is studying the Faith in Europe today very much saw themselves as a new breed. Though they may be aware of the scholarship which has gone before, they see themselves as distinctly different from Baha’i scholars of the past… more detached, more “scientific”, perhaps, more “objective”. They are not acting as apologists for the Faith, but as detached academics.

Loni admitted that she could not speak for the other Baha’is studying the Faith in Europe, but that her work at least is something new. There has been no academic work or serious research done on the Ministry of Shoghi Effendi. One reason that she picked that field was that it is untouched.

Dr. Banani was asked to clarify his point. He replied that he felt that the consciousness of any group of intellectuals who see themselves as breaking new ground must include their own relationship to the past. Part of any ?scientific method” must be a firm knowledge of the intellectual history of one’s field. He wondered how equipped present Baha’i scholars are to see themselves in the history of Baha’i scholarship? Can they really see where they stand? Others objected that it really may not be fair to ask where present scholars stand in relation to history? Does anyone know where he stands? Can he see himself that clearly? And besides, it is probably too soon to say.

Our speaker explained that one reason that Baha’is have been drawn to enter Baha’i Studies on an academic level is their desire to rid the Faith of misinformation which is commonly passed around and believed Baha’is. She explained that she was partially motivated by that reason. For instance, Baha’is often say that there is no ritual or dogma in the Baha’i faith. But, this is simply untrue. There is plenty of both. [Ed. Hand written note: ?Can’t say this unless you define terms! SR]

One class member wondered if there are really major adjustments to be made in our understanding of the Baha’i Faith. Are Baha’i scholars really liable to change the way we look at things, say, fifty or hundred years from now? Several Baha’is thought that the answer is decidedly ?yes?. Moreover, they maintained, the whole Baha’i Faith is changing. After all, the way Baha’is say the Faith fifty or one-hundred years ago has changed drastically.

Ms. Bramson pointed out that one of the problems with doing work on the Faith at a Catholic University is the lack of supervision and assistance from professors. Both of her supervisors are Catholic priests who, know next to nothing about the Baha’i Faith. They have simply left her alone and she has had to seek guidance from within the Baha’i Community. Even here there is little help.

Dr. Banani suggested that is probably better for Baha’is to take up Baha’i Studies after they have already obtained a higher degree in some other field. There is a general lack of supervision and sympathy on the part of one’s superiors. Beyond this there are positive hindrances. Most non-Baha’i scholars will be suspicious of the motives and objectivity of any Baha’i who is studying his own religion, scientific method notwithstanding. After one has proved himself in a neutral field, then he can enter the arena of Baha’i Studies with firm academic credentials.

Ms. Bramson explained to the class that her work had gone through a number of stages. She first intended to do a doctoral thesis on the history of the Faith during the stewardship of the Hands of the Cause —1957-1963. She wrote to the House of Justice concerning this matter and they wrote back to her suggesting that she not use this as the topic of her thesis. They gave no reason. The Rouse also expressed concern that she was going to do work on the Faith at such an eminent Catholic University and asked her to work closely with her LSA and the Counsellor for her area. Loni said that she is happy that she did not pursue her topic on the Hands of the Cause since she feels that too little time has elapsed to give us a proper perspective on those years.

Ms. Branson introduced the class to the work which she had done in the National Baha’i Archives by reading a statement which was presented to the government by the Baha’i community shortly before the turn of the century and recorded in the United States Census of 1900. The statement made it clear that one could be a Baha’i and still be a member of another church or religion. It said that the Faith had no organization of its own, but that it as spread through meetings called ?Assemblies? which were open to all who wished to attend. This statement was repeated in the U.S. Census of 1920, apparently with the permission of the Baha’is.

Our speaker explained that the Faith was in this unstructured state at the time that Shoghi Effendi became the Guardian and that he transformed the community into something else. She is interested in studying the history of this transformation — how it came about, what ideas had an influence on Shoghi Effendi, what internal opposition he faced, etc.

At this point some members of the class cautioned against too great an emphasis on the unstructured nature of the Baha’i Community before 1921. They pointed out that the statement published by the Census Bureau was written only six or seven years after the Faith had been introduced into this country and when the believers were still fuzzy about its true nature. It cannot really be used as a statement of the Baha’i situation in 1920, regardless of whether or not it happened to be reprinted. The class recalled the report on Peter Smith’s paper on the history of the American Baha’i Community which was given at an earlier class meeting, (See Vol.. III, No. 5.) Smith noted that there had always been a faction of the Baha’i Community which was interested in organization and structure. It was true that there was also a part of the community opposed to organization, but Abdu’l-Baha had Himself given approval for a substantial transformation in the community by the time of His ascension. So we cannot say that Shoghi Effendi was doing something entirely new when be began to construct a uniform administrative order for the Faith.

Loni acknowledged that this is true. She further noted that her research indicated that the two factions of the Baha’i Community —- the organizers and the anti-organizers — continued to exist until about 1940. By then almost all of the Baha’is had accepted the need for an Administrative Order and acknowledged its importance.

Our speaker explained that most of her research in the National Archives consisted of a study of the letters of the National Spiritual Assembly to the Guardian. These were written by Horace Holley. The letters are organized up to about 1940, so that is as far as she could go. Loni explained that Horace Holley played in the early years, carried on an extensive, almost personal, correspondence with the Guardian in the early, formative years of Baha’i Administration. She said that she was deeply impressed by the important role which Horace Holley played in the development of Baha’i Administration. It seamed to her that many of the ideas end institutions which later became part of the Administrative Order were first suggested by Holley to the Guardian. The Guardian then picked up on then ideas refined and modified them and made them part of the Baha’i Faith.

Loni cautioned that her research findings were only tentative. She has not had a chance to study her notes or to really develop firm ideas yet. In any case, her impressions were extremely interesting and useful.

Loni explained that the Archives facilities at the National Baha’i Center are still quite small. By no means is everything there organized for use by researchers. Only one archivist is employed there, Mr. Roger Dahl. When Loni was there he was in the process of organizing the papers of Agnes Parsons.

She was able to use some materials in the Archives, but unable to see other things. The files of the International Goals Committee are closed to researchers, for instance, probably because they contain personal information about pioneers – The minutes of the National spiritual Assembly are not open. Neither are the letters of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly, primarily because they are not yet organized. Loni noted that the personal papers of Horace Holley collected in Wilmette are extremely sparse, primarily because most of his correspondence was carried on as the secretary of the National Assembly.

AND, ANOTHER LETTER FROM PETER SMITH:

?Humble apologies for once again writing to your esteemed journal with comments on your presentation of a paper given by myself. This time it’s concerning the Vol. III, No. 5, May 1979 issue.

?The account is generally fine but the comments on early Baha’i factionalism grossly overstate my argument. Whilst the larger communities of Chicago and N.Y. were often badly divided by cliquishness, even they were not characterized by completely mutually antagonistic groups. The situation was one of fluidity. There were cliques and there ware tendencies towards division, but there was also co-existence and a fair degree of tolerance. The sense of common identity as followers of ?Abdu’l-Baha overrode much of the division. In Chicago, where the situation was probably worst, the crunch came in 1917/18 with the allegations of Covenant-breaking and the resultant departure of one of the ?factions’ from the community. In the smaller communities the situation was more straightforward and united — after all, there are difficulties involved if a group of less than 20 people are divided into ?5 or 6 mutually antagonistic groups.’

Advance notice: The next Lancaster seminar will be in 1979 — provisional date, April 6-8. Those wishing to attend must complete a three minute intensive training programme in how to be English (We tried to convert Tony when he was over here but I notice he’s still saying that everything is ?cute’) and send a blank cheque to a numbered Swiss bank account.?

THE NEXT CLASS

The next class will he held on Sunday, August 27th at the home of Anthony Lee, [Ed. Personal address follows]. The speaker will be Mrs. Betty Conow who will make a presentation entitled, ?Hierarchies, Analogies and the Degrees of Reality: A Model.?

She explains her topic in these words:

?Any serious attempt to ?explain’ Reality must make use of certain mental constructs, such as metaphors and similes, analogies, and in the more ambitious attempts, theoretical models. The use of hierarchic order in General Systems Theory is, in many ways, a composite of all of them. (For comparisons, think of Set Theory, Carl Hempel’s ?Covering Law,’ Aristotle’s ’Greate Chain of Being,’ and ?Abdu’l-Baba’s ?Kingdoms of God.’). A model is offered to the class, based en ?Abdu’l-Baha’s, for approximating Truth, for making statements about the ?really real,’ and which demonstrates the inadequacies of traditional logic to encompass Ultimate Reality. It’s the old saw about the part trying to extrapolate the whole.’ We have to reverse the logic process. My argument is that only the Divine Teachers have knowledge of the Whole, or of the Divine World, which our created phenomenal world mirrors. By using a model, we can establish the correspondences which exist, and discover that there is only one Reality, but that it is seen and interpreted according to where the observer is positioned in the universal hierarchic order.?

So, everyone be there. August 27th at 3:00 P.M. at Tony’s house. We can see what we can make out of this.

[Ed. Supplemental information re the then upcoming Baha’i Studies Seminar]

BAHA’I STUDIES SEMINAR
CAMBRIDGE
30 September — 1 October, 1979
PROVISIONAL PROGRAMS

Saturday, September 30th

I. Morning Session, introduced by Peter Smith

JUSTIFICATION FOR BAHA’I STUDIES

Suggested Topics:
Are different areas more justifiable than others at present? Are there areas into which it may not be appropriate to enter now?. How can we justify the use of sensitive biographical arid other material?

2. Afternoon Session, introduced by seo5n 1(omen

METHODOLOGY OF BAHA’I STUDIES

Suggested topics:
?Baha’i’ or ?academic’ standards? Possible variations in approach between Baha’i and non-Baha?i scholars? Discussion of the Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith. Methodological problems in cases of cooperation between Baha’i and non-Baha’i scholars. Double standards in Baha’i and non-Baha’i work? Linguistic style and its bearing on method. The use of confidential archives of LSA’s, NSA’s, etcetera

Sunday, October 1st

3. Morning Session, introduced by Denis MacEoin

RELATIONS BETWEEN BAHA’I SCHOLARS AND THE BAHA’I COMMUNITY

Suggested topics:

Prejudice against scholarship and its removal. Attacks on scholars — what measujres can be taken for protection? The responsibility of scholars to other believers. The review of scholarly works for publication. The role of scholars in fixing limits on the growth of myth and legend in popular Baha’i historiography.

4. Afternoon session

WORK. IN PROGRESS

Suggested Topics:
Progress reports from individuals. Sharing ideas and problems. The production of a bibliography. Difficulties in obtaining materials in various languages. International coordination of efforts. Oral and manuscript history projects. Concrete proposals for future developments Establishment of an International Institute for Baha’i Studies.

BAHA’I STUDIES SEMINAR
CAMBRIDGE

30 September — 1 October, l97

BOOKING FORM

It is hoped to provide accommodation, possibly in College guest rooms at King’s and/or John’s, for those taking part. A limited amount of accommodation in private homes may be available to those booking early. The sessions will, it is hoped, take place in a suitable roan at either King’s or John’s College- There are several cheap but excellent restaurants (largely catering for students) in the city, and it is proposed that we eat at one of these. Those arriving on Friday evening should proceed to the MacEoin’s flat, [Ed. personal address and phone number]. It is suggested that a party go for dinner to a good restaurant (probably Strudel’s) on the Saturday evening. Please fill in the form below, placing a cross against, those items which are applicable.

Baha’i Studies Seminar, Cambridge, September—October, 1978

( ) I plan to attend the seminar or. both days (Registration fee ?1)
( ) I plan to attend the seminar on Saturday only (Fee ?1)
( ) I plan to attend the seminar on Sunday only (Fee ?1)
( ) I shall be unable to attend
( ) I shall require a copy of the seminar report (Charge 50p)

( ) I wish to join the party for dinner on Saturday evening

Please return the completed form to: Denis MacEoin, 961, King’s College, Cambridge by Wednesday 23rd. at the Latest. kny queries or requests for extra forms should be directed to the seine address.
The registration fee includes a 50p charge for the seminar report. Please enclose a cheque or postal order for the appropriate amount.

[END DOCUMENT]

Related Links:

The original scanned documents can be found here.

LA Study Class Newsletter [#28]

SKIP TO NEWSLETTER

My Notes:

This newsletter is quite interesting as it contains a lot of statistical data on the Baha’i community of the United States. It has a summary of the 59th National Convention with data on the number of Baha’is, assemblies, as well as information on the Baha’i budget and funds for that year. It may be enlightening to compare these with the most recent National Convention.

Here are some highlights: back then there were 71,189 Baha’is (of those, 1,844 without administrative rights). With 2,242 enrollments during the year (down appx. 1,000 from the previous Baha’i year) and 605 withdrawals of membership. Comparing these numbers to the most recent data, we see a massively negative picture both in absolute and relative numbers.

In the most recent Baha’i year, enrollments were 872 with 369 withdrawals of membership. This not only represents a two thirds reduction from 1978 but also an increase in relative withdrawals (compared to enrollments) from 27% to 42%. That is back then 27% of enrollments withdrew while today 42% did so – keep in mind that this is just a statistical measure and not indicative that the percentage of people that left were necessarily the same as those that entered the community.

In this Convention it was also reported that the NSA would purchase what has become its permanent seat in Evanston. Also, don’t miss the report about the Hand of the Cause of God, Mr. William Sears at the Convention.

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 . . .

[START DOCUMENT]

[private home address]
Los Angeles, California
July 15th, 1978

Dear Baha’i Friends:

The study class (which still has no official name) met again on June 4th at the home of Tony Lee, whose address appears above. Since Robert Ballenger was not able to be present, Tony took a few random notes on the proceedings. The official topic of the class was to be a critical discussion of Robert Hatcher’s essay The Metaphorical Nature of Physical Reality which has been published in Etudes Baha’i Studies and in a recent issue of World Order. However, the actual discussion ranged far and wide.

We first discussed the present state of the class itself and its prospects for the future (which, unfortunately, do not look very good). Several of the key members of the class are leaving the Los Angeles area and are leaving the country also. Mehrdad Amanat is in Iran for the summer. Chris and Jon Hendershot are planning to move to Venezuela next month. Tony Lee hopes to go to Kenya in the fall. Et cetera. On top of that, we have been having great difficulty obtaining topics for more classes. We have relied heavily on guest speakers recently adn we are simply running out of them. The time and effort required for class members to present well-researched classes seems to be just too much for most of us. So, dear readers, we may be nearing the end of the line. Watch out for signs up ahead warning of a dead end.

METAPHORS AND REALITY

The class found difficulty sticking to the topic of the metaphorical nature of physical reality or the lack of same. Our discussion was free and we talked about everything from abortion and unwed motherhood to capital punishment. But, when we were discussing Dr. Hatcher’s essay we approached it with some caution. Everyone agreed that it is a brilliant piece of work. It is extremely provocative and original in concept and can only be a joy to read. It opens new areas of discussion on the Baha’i approach to reality and life and is a welcome relief from the same old rehash of ideas whcih is so common.

Our caution stemmed from wondering just how seriously we should take Dr. Hatcher’s arguments about the intent of God in bringing into being this created world. His perspective is, to say the least, broad. Should we literally think of the world as a metaphor? Or, is that itself just a metaphor, an instructive tool for thinking about things — not to be taken literally? And, isn’t the whole argument rather circular?

Well, our discussions really didn’t get very far and so there is little more to say. The subject is still open and could easily form the topic of another class.

A REPORT FROM THE AMERICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION

The 59th annual National Baha’i Convention took place in Wilmette and Evanston, Illinois, from May 25 to 28. Class member Bob Ballenger attended the soiree, representing the Hermosa Beach Baha’i Community. Here is his summation of the proceeding:

At Ridvan, a nationwide telephone check tallied the existence of 1,004 local assemblies in the continental United States. However, the final election reports showed the lost assemblies (60) lead advances (new: 23; restored:24), and we wound up with about 993 LSA’s. In his reading of the annual report to the delegates at [the] convention, NSA secretary Glenford Mitchell, said there are about 400 Baha’i groups with five or mroe adult members in them. It is on these large groups that efforts will be concentrated as the American Baha’i community strives to attain its goal of 1,400 spiritual assemblies on the homefront by Ridvan 1979.

(One report, from a member of the California Regional Teaching Committee, had it that “a couple of hundred” of these large groups had nine or more members — but had failed to form at Ridvan. Ballenger asked Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh of the NSA about this. Dr. Kazemzadeh confirmed the existence of some such groups, but said he did not think there were a couple of hundred. He explained that some such large groups were formed as teh result of street teaching campaigns and, in some areas, people came into the Faith who now simply could not be located. He added that the movement of 500-600 Baha’is on the homefront could insure victory for the plan.)

Of the roughly 1,000 assemblies in the states, 201 of them exist in California. At a meeting, during the convention, of the California Baha’is representing local assemblies, it was pointed out that had it not been for out lost assemblies, we would have already made our 1,400 nationwide assembly goal. By the end of the Five Year Plan, California is to have 265 assemblies, an addition of 53 assemblies with no losses. (Illinois has not had a lost assembly in two years.) By way of comparison, it was pointed out that the Faith in California has grown from 30 to 201 local assemblies in only 25 years.

Current statistics: There are (as of March/April figures) 70,055 Baha’is in the continental United States, plus another 1,844 Baha’is who are without administrative rights, for a total of 71,189 on the rolls. During the last year (April 1977 to April 1978) there were 2,242 enrollments, a figure that is down about 1,000 from the previous year. (In addition, 310 American Baha’is died and another 605 withdrew from membership.) There are about 7,000 Baha’i youth in the states, but only 3,000 to 5,000 of these have known addresses. This is down considerably from a few years ago.

BUDGET

Dr. Dorothy Nelson, the national treasurer recommended, and the convention accepted, a new budget of $4 million, up $400,000 from last year’s $3.6 million. With more than 70,000 Baha’is on the rolls, it works out to just over $57 per Baha’i for the year to make that goal. Contributions from the previous year amounted to only $2.94 million, $560,000 short of the annual goal. However, the National Fund received $588,000 in estate bequests. By holding actual expenditures to only 93% of the amount budgeted, and adding in the bequests, the NSA managed to avoid a deficit and end the year about $25,000 ahead.

ELECTION RESULTS

There were 171 delegates eligible to vote in the National Assembly election. Of that amount, 157 did so in person and another 11 by mail, for a total of 168. Three delegates did not vote. As a result of this balloting, (surprise!) the same nine National Assembly members were elected. Here, in order of the votes they received is the membership list: Soo Fouts (153), Dorothy Nelson (150), Dan Jordan (138), Franklin Khan (128), Glenford Mitchell (127), Firuz Kazemzadeh (120), James Nelson (104), Magdalene Carney (102), Richard Betts (89). The election of officers on the assembly produced these results: Chairman: Dan Jordan, Vice Chairman: James Nelson, Treasurer: Dorothy Nelson, Secretary: Glendord Mitchell, Assistant Secretary: Magdalene Carney (who replaced Soo Fouts at this post). And, a new office was created this year and Soo Fouts was elected special assistant secretary for teaching.

The tenor of the convention itself wavered somewhere between a sales meeting and a church revival. Remarks such as those Dan Jordan made when he said “the whole of mankind is at a crossroads and we’re directing traffic” were fairly common. On another occasion, it was said that if the Baha’is are to renew themselves spiritually, “every cell is going to belong to Baha’u’llah and the Five Year Plan.” If you like that kind of talk, you would have loved the convention. While there were a number of spiritual highs, it also ought to be noted that the quality of consultation was ragged. In fact, consultation in the sense of agreement on the facts and ascertainment of the underlying spiritual principles never existed.

An inordinate amount of time was expended, for example, on the relatively minor issue of whether an “official” set of convention notes ought to be kept. This issue arose when one delegate complained that last year’s convention highlights excluded much of what occurred. He wanted access to an official set of convention notes to share as part of his report to the constituency he represented. Dan Jordan, the acting chairman of the convention, responded that the problem with “official” notes was their inaccuracy. Past notes have listed motions as having passed when they did not, and, in general, were of varying quality and accuracy. Delegates discussed the issue, which is to say they argued about it, re-stating the problem and generally got nowhere. The proposal finally went down to defeat.

It was annonced at the convention that the National Assembly is spending $2.5 million to purchase an office building in Evanston to serve as the administrative headquarters of the Faith in the United States. Offices now scattered in six or eight various locations will be consolidated in this building.

In another bit of building news, it was learned, although not announced at the convention, that the bottom steps at the House of Worship were never constructed as a single, integrated unit with the rest of the House of Worship. As a result, the expansion-contraction cycle of summer and winter in Wilmette has meant that a steady round of repair work on the deck of the Temple has to be undertaken. The deck area is constantly buckling and is even hazardous in some areas. One estimated cost to correct the problem: About $2 million, or roughly as much as it cost to erect the entire House of Worship in the first place.

By special request, a portion of the convention was given over to the topic of divorce. Dr. Jeff Marke of the National Center was asked for his views on the topic. He said, although he has no figures comparing Baha’i divorce with that of the national average, there seems to be no significant difference between the two. Marks noted that there seems to be a disproportionate divorce rate among Baha’i couples in their 20′s, which indicates that Baha’i youth have no real understanding of what Baha’i marriage means. Many marriages between Baha’is collapse for shallow reasons of boredom or a feeling that the spark has evaporated from the relationship. Marks said the only valid grounds for Baha’i divorce is deep personal aversion amounting to antipathy, repugnance and loathing. Too often, he noted, local Assemblies function as passive partners in marital breakup, handling Baha’i year of patience cases as routine events, recording them but making no real effort to affect a reconciliation between couples.

The highlight of the convention was the appearance on Saturday night, May 27, of Hand of the Cause of God Mr. William Sears. He spoke at a special outdoor dinner held on the lawn of the National Hazira[tu'l-Quds], across the street from the House of Worship on teh lakefront property owned by the Faith. A huge blue and white tent had been erected for the occasion. And, as the breeze from the lake cooled off the end of a hot, muggy day, Mr. Sears began by reminding his listeners that, when Abdu’l-Baha laid the cornerstone of the House of Worship, that meeting was also held in a tent. Similarly, the cornerstone ceremony for the House of Worship in Kampala, Uganda also was held under a tent. At one point during His life in the Holy Land, Baha’u’llah pitched His tent on the side of Mt. Carmel.

Surveying the audience, Mr. Sears said, “They tell me this is a victory tent, and this is a victory convention. I hope that the spirit of all these tents will rub off on us tonight.” He urged the Baha’is to unite and win the goals because, as Shoghi Effendi said, the Baha’is have to get better as the world turns worse and so far, things are getting worse faster than we are getting better. Noting that the American Baha’i community was seriously lagging in reaching its Five Year Plan homefront goals, Mr. Sears said the situation reminded him of a story he ehard about two Irishmen caught up in the events of the French Revolution. They were arrested and sentenced to die by beheading. They did not discuss their fate with each other until the day of their execution, when both men were laid out, side by side, on twin guillotines. As the blades were released and dropped toward their necks, one Irishman turned to the other and said, “Now here’s my plan…” Mr. Sears paused while the audience roared with laughter and said “And, that’s the status of the homefront.”

IN THE MAIL

We got a letter from Peter Smith of Lancaster, England, commenting on our analysis of his paper The Routinization of Charisma: Some Comments on Peter L. Berger’s ‘Motif Messianique et Processus Social dans le Bahaisme’ (March 1978 Newsletter). He writes:

“I wonder if I might be allowed a couple of comments on the class discussion of my The Routinization of Charisma paper.

Firstly, a correction. The point about the messianic motif is not that it faded in importance in the period after Baha’u’llah (as stated in the class report), but that it became transformed. In the paper I distinguish between two aspects of the ‘messianic motif’: expectation of a messianic figure and expectation of a millenium. There seems every reason to suppose that the early Babis (a similarity here to the early Christians) expected that the coming of the Bab heralded the near advent of the millenium. In contrast, later Baha’is distinguished between the period when their messiah figures came (The Heroic Age) and the future period of the millenium (The Golden Age, The Most Great Peace). The period we are now in (The Formative Age) is seen by Baha’is as linking these two: using the spiritual impetus of the former to establish the latter. The strong emphasis given by Baha’is to the shortcomings of the present age and the need to build a New World Order are a testimony to the continuing importance of the messianic motif. The bulk of the Baha’i teaching endeavour would seem to centre on this concept and much of the rationale for various Baha’i activities (eg establishing LSA’s) is presented in terms of preparing for the future World Order.

Secondly, to defend myself against the charge of ‘Babi bias’ (ie that the analysis is more suggestive for Babi history than it is for Baha’i), as you correclty state the ‘esoteric-gnostic’ motif is no longer of much importance (although there may be certain aspects which might be due for a revivial) which leaves the other three motifs: polar (The Covenant); messianich (work towards a future World Order); and legalistic (the development of Baha’i Law and Administration) as the characteristic features of the Baha’i religion in the modern period. I would argue that this is precisely the case. In contrast to the Heroic Age and the early part of the Formative Age (the establishment of the Administrative Order) when a complex relationship existed between the various motifs and dramatic changes in their development occured, the modern period has been far more stable, the great changes which have occurred in the Faith since the 1930′s can all be more easily conceptualized as changes within these three motifs rather than any actual change in motifs.

Bearing in mind that motifs are only analytical constructs, aids for conceptualizing complex historical processes, you could always run a motif-spotting competition, of course. Say, one free copy of the Hermosa Beach Bulletin for every fresh motif identified in Baha’i history — Second prize: Two copies.”

AND MORE LETTERS

Ron Carrigan of Santa Monica writes:

“… let me make a few observations about the newsletter and the class. I have had a wealth of positive reaction to both over these past several months. Howeer, I must echo the sentiments of a recent correspondent to the Editor who suggested that there seems at times to be an air of cynicism and sarcasm toward the Faith and its institutions. For example, I have had two very negative reactions to two comments made in the newsletter. One was in the last issue, it was mentioned that in the initial days of the Five Year Plan, Baha’is had behaved in a ‘blitzkrieg’-like manner with regard to teaching activities. In additon to the authors poor judgement in these word choices, there is an irony about the thinking invovled. The Faith is so opposed to the use of guns and violence, that linking it to such become a tasteless derision. I am sure the author can do better.”

AND THE NEXT CLASS…

We are lucky enough to have Loni Bramson in town for a few weeks. Ms. Bramson is doing her doctorate in Religious Studies in Belgium where she is also a pioneer. Her dissertation will be on some aspect of the development of the Baha’i Faith under the Guardianship. She has recently completed two weeks of research in the National Baha’i Archives in Wilmette. She will speak to the class about her work and may be able to giv eus some news of the Five Year Plan in Europe.

The class will be held at 2:00 pm at the home of Tony Lee [private address follows] on Sunday, July 23rd. Please try to be there.

[END DOCUMENT]

Related Links:

The original scanned documents can be found here.

LA Study Class Newsletter [#27]

SKIP TO NEWSLETTER

My Notes:

This is a very informative edition of the LA Class Study Notes because it contains a summary along with discussion of the papers presented at the 1978 Baha’i Studies Seminar held at the University of Lancaster. Inside you can find out such interesting tidbits as: the history of the Finnish Baha’i community, the interaction of the early Babi and Baha’i community with Christian misionaries, whether the Bab claimed to be sent by the Hidden Imam or to be the Hidden Imam, the reconciliatory nature of Baha’i mysticism, whether the early American Baha’i community was as disorganized as usually thought and finally the already discussed history of the Baha’is of Ishqabad (Mentioned in the notes previously here, here, here and here) .

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 . . .

[START DOCUMENT]
Hermosa Beach, California 90254

May, 1978
Vol. III, No. 5

NOTWITHSTANDING his long and valiant service to our study class, our faithful note-taker and scribe left for the day our last class held on May 7th at the Hendershot abode. We therefore have a substitute scribbler who may or may not be able to make sense out of the proceedings any better. Please, therefore, forgive the inaccuracies in reporting and the typos since this is all new to this pen-holding hand.

Our speaker at this gathering was Tony Lee who recently returned from an international Baha’i Studies Seminar held at the University of Lancaster in England. The seminar was sponsored jointly by the Departments of Religious Studies and Sociology at the institution through the encouragement of Peter Smith, a Baha’i who is a graduate student there. Six papers were presented and discussed and about twelve or fifteen people participated in the seminar. Despite his unfamiliarity with the Queen’s English (he kept risking his life there by calling the houses in Lancaster “cute”), Tony managed to present a paper and take excellent notes in order to report the proceedings to us. A copy of the program is attached to this newsletter and if anyone is particularly interested in receiving copies of any of the papers after reading the summaries, they should try writing to the authors:

  • Denis MacEoin, Kings College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK
  • Tony Lee, [Ed. personal address follows]
  • Denise Mossop, (c/o Peter Smith)
  • Peter Smith, [Ed. personal address follows]
  • Harri Peltola, [Ed. personal address follows]

The first paper which Tony discussed was “The Shaykhi Reaction to Babism in the Early Period” by Denis MacEoin. Mr. MacEoin was not at Lancaster to personally present his 41 page document, but the paper was read and generated some discussion. The paper is concerned with the attitudes which certain Shaykhi leaders, particularly Haji Muhammad Karim Khan Kirmani, to the Bab and to the growth of His new religion. The principal argument of the paper was that the Babi Movement spread initially among the Shaykhi networks, shattering the unity of the Shaykhis and causing them to beome the most vigorous enemies of the new Faith. The Shaykhi opposition to the Bab provided the leaders of the school with a point of agreement with orthodox Shi’ih ulama. This point of common opposition to the Babi Faith was used by the Shaykhi leaders to reintegrate their school into mainstream Shi’ih Islam and repudiate many of the radical and distinctive teachings of Shaykh Ahmad [Ahsayi] and Siyyid Kazim [Rashti]. The paper also shed some new light on the Bab Himself and onto the Baha’i understanding of Babi history.

For example, MacEoin makes the point that the Bab did not claim to be the Return of the Hidden Imam until the time of his imprisonment in Mah-Ku [Ed. also Mahku] in 1847/48. He states that those Babis who met the Bab in Shiraz in May of 1844 and thereafter accepted Him as the representative or gate (bab) of the Imam, who would make things ready for the coming of the Imam. Of course, if this is so, it would have tremendous implications for what the Bab actually told Mulla Husayn on the night of His declaration and what Mulla Husayn was actually looking for when he came to Shiraz.

MacEoin develops his position by quoting from early works of the Bab in which he prays for the appearance of the Imam (or the promised Qa’im), He claims that the Qa’im has inspired his work, etc. One quote from the Sahifa-yi ‘Adliyya of the Bab reads:

The meaning and form of expression of all the verses which God hath caused to flow from my tongue are as utter nothingness when compared with a single letter of the Book of God (Qur’an) or the words of the people of the House of Purity (the Imam)

and again

the words that have flowed forth from my tongue and pen…can never equal a single letter of the prayers of the People of Purity, for they dwell in the substance of the Will of God while all others are subject to the influences of their actions.

MacEoin claims that Nabil and other Babi and Baha’i chronicles have gone wrong by attributing the Bab’s later claims to His initial meetings with Shaykhis. In the beginning, the Bab was believed to be sent by the Hidden Imam. This seems to have meant that He has a higher status than Siyyid Kazim or Shaykh Ahmad, but a lower status than the Imam himself. Nor, according to MacEoin did the Bab urge his followers to abandon the Shari’a, the Muslim laws and rituals. In this early period He specifically wrote to His followers that they must observe all of the externals of the Law.

Perhaps because of its uncommon theme, this paper generated much discussion among the study class members. Some felt that much of MacEoin’s evidence could be interpreted in several ways. Perhaps the Bab had only veiled his real claims (perhaps made only verbally) by the use of vague and misleading language in his Writings. Another question asked was: If the Bab was only claiming to be the leader of the Shaykhi school, why was He imprisoned and regarded as so much more dangerous than the other Shaykhi leaders? Why were His followers persecuted?

One possible answer to this question is that the Bab, while not claiming to be the Qa’im Himself, did claim to be in communication with the Qa’im and thereby excited messianic expectations and demonstrations among the people. This may have caused His arrest. (It should also be remembered that the Shaykhi leaders became implacable enemies of the Bab and were largely responsible for his persecution, and finally, His execution.) In Shi’ih doctrine the Hidden Imam is believed to be the ruler of the whole world. He is in hiding, but when He appears, He will take control of the political system of Iran and conquer all of the nations. Even today, the Constitution of Iran states that the Shah rules the nation on behalf of the Hidden Imam (and adds “May God hasten his cming!”). So, the claim to be the Hidden Imam, or even to be in direct communication with Him, is a highly political claim. If taken seriously, it would mean that the state would be delivered into the hands of the claimant.

Another complex question was raised: Do the Manifestations of God know from the beginning what the full degree of their Revelations are? Do they fully recognize from the first moment of their awareness their special station as Manifestations of God? Or, is the matter, perhaps, even unclear to them? In other words, is it possible that the Bab (or Baha’u’llah, or Muhammad, or Jesus for that matter) did not claim their full stations at first because they were not fully aware of their station at first?

One member of the class approached these questions from a broad philosophical perspective. He suggested it is natural for human beings to want to see things in an easy categorical terms. The history of religion especially seems to be the history of people jumping to conclusions and reading the present back into the past. The Guardian has stated that religious truth is “relative, not absolute”. This statement applies not only between religions, but also within a particular dispensation. We know that the principle of progressive revelation applies to each dispensation as well as to the history of religions. (Cf., the Introduction of the House of Justice to the Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas) Perhaps there is also a kind of progressive revelation that occurs in the lives of the Prophets Themselves before the full plentitude of their powers are revealed to them. Perhaps this unfolding is simply the way human beings are prepared by Divine forces for the full impact of a Revelation.

Since Tony Lee had presented his paper on the Baha’i community of Ishqabad to this class earlier in the year, we skipped discussion of his paper and went on to Denise Mossop’s paper on Baha’i Mysticism. (See program.) The paper which Ms. Mossop read at Lancaster was a composite of excerpts from her senior thesis at that university. It received a rather cool response. Though she is English, Ms. Mosop was a Muslim, on her way to becoming a Sufi, when she heard about the Baha’i Faith and embraced it.

The paper compared the Baha’i teachings with Sufi mysticism on one hand, and the formal legalistic tradition of Islam, on the other. The thesis was that the Baha’i Faith establishes a middle ground between an individual mystic experience and a community-oriented, external religious practice. It is a balanced compromise between the two traditions found in Islam. The major question raised at Lancaster concerned the definition of mysticism. The paper never gives an adequate definition, and neither did the participants in the conference. Therefore, no one was quite sure what Baha’i mysticism might be, if indeed it exists at all. One class member observed that since Ms. Mossop does not speak Arabic or Persian, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for her to compare the Baha’i Writings to those of Sufi mystics.

The next paper discussed was that of Moojan Momen — “Early Contacts Between Baha’is and Christian Missionaries in Persia”. The paper was based on research done in English archives of certain missionary societies which sent workers to Iran in the mid-nineteenth century. It was presented to the seminar in rough, unfinished form, without footnotes. This paper and the one presented by Peter Smith were both drafts of papers which will appear in a forthcoming publication edited by Moojan Momen, entitled Studies in Baha’i History, to be published by George Ronald in England.

Momen’s paper brought to light a number of previously unkonw contacts between missionaries and Babis/Baha’is in the period between 1844 and about 1910. The paper was primarily concerned with English missionaries and their encounters with the Faith, but also included some closing notes on American missionaries. Both sets of missionaries initially reacted with enthusiasm to their discovery of Babis or Baha’is. They saw them as a liberal group, liberated from Muslim superstition and ripe for conversion to Christianity. They hoped that the Babi Faith would provide their opening to the eventual evangelization of all of Iran.

Momen was able to uncover one fascinating incident in which a number of Babis (Azalis) in Isfahan pretended to convert to Christianity in 1871. Rev. Robert Bruce, the missionary who presided over these conversions, sent enthusiastic reports home. However, he was soon to be disappointed when it became clear that these conversions were a result of a major famine which was killing thousands in Iran. Since the missionaries had ready access to famine relief funds, it is not surprising that a few individuals should be willing to come to Bruce and express an interest in Christianity and even pretend to be converted.

Momen writes: “This episode is of great interest since Bruce’s reports shed some light on the state of the Babi community in what can perhaps be termed the Dark Age of Babi-Baha’i history. By that appelation is meant that there is a period from 1852 until about 1875, for which there is a great dearth of source materials that shed light on what was happenign to the Babi community in Persia during this crucial phase of its development, when, bit by bit it was being transformed into the Baha’i community.” Bruce reports a great deal of fragmentation among Babis. There were at least three different groups of Babi/Baha’is in Isfahan during this period — all antagonistic to one another.

Another account from Barfurush (now Babul) in 1852 demonstrates the disorganization of the Babis and their bitterness towards Islam. A missionary relates that he met some Muslims in the street who asked for some Christian tracts against Islam. He asked why, to which they replied:

“Because we detest Mohamed, and ridicule his Koran.” During the short conversation which I had with them in the street, I learnt they were secret followers of the Bab, the renowned Persian socialist, whose community two years ago menaced both the religion and throne of Persia…. I informed my aquaintances in the street, that I should be happy to see them in the caravanserai, but they were afraid to see me, for fear of exciting suspicion. One of them, who from his white turban appeared to be a mullan, ‘Inshallah,’ (ie please God,) ‘we shall yet drive Mohamed, Ali, and all the Imams from Persia; and whether we become Ingleese, or Russ(ian), (meaning Christians of either Churches) is to us a matter of indifference, since all creeds are better than that of the Arabian robber.”

The missionary left their company quickly, feeling that their language was too violent and their hatred of Islam too bitter to continue the conversation in a public thoroughfare.

This quotation excited some discussion in the class. One person felt that it was quite odd to find Babis attacking Muhammad and Islam. Though they may be bitter towards Muslims, (this was a year of major persecution against Babis in Iran) they should not have attacked the Prophet. He wondered if the Babis had not tailored their remarks for the missionary, pretending to hate Islam in order to gain his attention and favor. It is also possible that the missionary misunderstood what the Babis were actually saying and took their disaffection from Islam as an attack on the person of Muhammad and the Koran.

Others felt that there was no reason to make these assumptions, but that the incident could be taken at face value. If so, it is a valuable indication of the nature of the Babi community during this period — confused, frightened and antagonistic to Islam.

Of course, the relationship between Baha’is and missionaries eventually turned sour as the Christians realized that the Faith would not be a rich source of converts and even threatened to be the greatest rival in the field of conversion. By the turn of the century, English missionaries were writings tracts in Persian against the Faith. Within a few years initial cordial relations were cut off completely.

American missionaries in the north of Iran followed a similar pattern of interest, disillusionment and then antagonism towards the Baha’is, but here the final break was a much more dramatic and bitter affair. Several missionaries printed articles in English journals highly critical of the Baha’i Faith. Rev. S. O. Wilson of the Tabriz mission finally published Baha’ism and its Claims, the first full volume written in a European language attacking the Faith. This was followed by other works of similar nature. It is interesting that the only serious, full-scale attacks on the Faith in the West have been written by former-missionaries to Iran. (This includes Miller’s latest volume, The Baha’i Faith: Its History and Teachings.) This is the primary fruit of this early Christian-Baha’i interaction.

One criticism of Momen’s paper was that he presented the missionaries as the active element and the Baha’is as a passive element in their encounters. While he is careful to explain the motives of the missionaries and the factors which attracted them to the Baha’i community, he fails to provide similar explanations for why Baha’is may have been attracted to missionaries. This is, of course, partially a result of the sources used (ie missionary records). Yet, even here there are some hints. The French consul at Tabriz reported in 1910 that disturbances had broken out in Urniyyih [sic] because the missionaries there had hired a Baha’i to teach Persian in their school. He took the opportunity to convert every one of hsi students to the Baha’i Faith! He was dismissed and the missionaries were asking that he be expelled from the town. (Smile.)

The next paper discussed was that of Harri Peltola, “The History of the Baha’i Faith in Finland: A Case Study in the Sociology of Counterculture.” Although the paper was written in Finnish, Mr. Peltola gave highlights of the paper in English. He began with a long, theoretical introduction on the definition of counterculture and the nature of this phenomenon. Unfortunately, this analysis was then dropped and he began recounting the history of the Faith in Finland without ever integrating these two sections of the paper.

The history of the Faith began in Finland in 1933 when Martha Root gave a talk there in Esperanto. However, the Faith had been mentioned in print in Finland as early as 1897. The first Baha’i moved to Finland in 1938 from the U.S. and converted the first believer, a young priest, to the Faith the same year. But, by 1952 there were still only 8 Baha’is in the whole country. They were all (it seems) from theosophical or metaphysical backgrounds and saw the Faith as a ‘society’ to which they belonged… (in Peltola’s own words) a kind of hobby.

In 1958, the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land recommended to the Baha’is in Finland that they sever their church affiliations. However, this was only a suggestion and many chose not to follow this advice. In 1962, there being now 80 Baha’is in the country, the government afforded full recognition to the Faith. This recognition obliged the believers to leave their churches and register as Baha’is. Some refused to do so and left the Faith.

By 1969 there were 120 Baha’is in Finland, but still no youth. The greatest growth in the Faith took place in the years between 1970 and 1973, when scores of young people became Baha’is (perhaps because they saw the Baha’i Faith as a counterculture). There are now about 250 Baha’is in the country. Sadly, many of the young converts to the Faith have gotten lost.

Peltola reported that in 1962 a Finnish priest wrote a full volume book attacking the Faith. The book has recently been reprinted. This is pretty amazing considering the number of Baha’is in the country and the fact that Finnish is not a very popular language. Someone in Finland must see the Faith as a big threat.

The final paper discussed was by Peter Smith, “The American Baha’i Community, 1896-1925: Emergence from a Cultic Melieu.” Peter himself has summarized the argument of his paper in a recent report on the conference as follows”

Peter Smith (Lancaster) in a paper entitled, “The American Baha’i Community, 1896-1925: Emergence from a Cultic Melieu”, sought to identify the main themes in early American Baha’i history, giving particular attention to questions of authority. Part of the paper consisted of a description of the gradual emergence of a national administrative structure, centering on the Baha’i Temple Unity. It was argued that as many early American Baha’is came from a particular religious background (the Metaphysical movement) which inclined them towards suspicion of “organization”, tentions were engendered within the American Baha’i community by this emerging administration. These tensions came to a head at the time of the First World War, after which there was a gerater acceptance of organizational forms which presaged later developments during the period of the Guardianship and which marked the American Baha’i community’s emergence from the cultic melieu.

Peter Smith is a graduate student at the University of Lancaster working on a doctorate in sociology. The topic of his dissertation will be on the sociological development of the Baha’i Faith. (Apparently, he intends to take on the whole thing.) He has done research in the Baha’i National Archives of Canada, the United States and Great Britain. His paper was based on his research in Wilmetter.

Smith’s paper implicitely attacked the widespread notion that the American Baha’i Community was, during the time of Abdu’l-Baha, a loose, unstructured and unorganized group which only took on shape and organizational form during the ministry of Shoghi Effendi with the rise of the Administrative Order. The paper demonstrated that from the early days of the Faith in America there have always been two tendencies in the community: one towards organization and structure, the other towards spiritual speculation and lack of structure. During Abdu’l-Baha’is time, these two factions of the Baha’i community sometiems took each other on in full battle.

Smith’s paper was fascinating in the light which was able to throw on the nature of the Baha’i community before 1925. The most striking feature of that community, for the modern Baha’i at least, is its unrelieved factionalism. Each city would have not one Baha’i group, or even two, but five or six mutually antagonistic groups all calling themselves Baha’is. This might include groups of Covenant-breakers and Baha’is who followed different teachers. Often the women would have a group of their own, though it is usually centered around a male figure. In Chicago, for instance, there was established the House of Spirituality (that is, the Spiritual Assembly) to which only men could be elected; and then, there was the Women’s Assembly of Teaching. These two bodies were not always on the best of terms. In light of these kinds of divisions, Abdu’l-Baha’s constant exhortations tothe community for unity take on new meaning.

Smith noted that before the Faith was established in America it had not attracted any substantial number of believers from a Christian background and remained essentially a phenomenon within Persian Shi’ih Islam. It was this initial period of growth outside of the Faith’s original Islamic melieu which established the breadth of its appeal and its ability to adapt to alien religious traditions. What we have in the West is, in some sense, our own ‘home grown’ variety of the Faith.

Peter Smith has summarized some of the common themes found in the historical papers presented at the Lancaster Conference as follows:

The historical papers ranged considerably in time and locale… A common theme which might be discerned in mos tof the historical papers is the way in which Babi and Bah’ai communities have evolved into relative independence from various milieu: from a movement within Shaykhism to an independent religious community bitterly condemned by the new Shaykhi leadership; from a de facto part of a newly established Persian Shi’a community in Ishqabad to an independent religious community officially recognized by the government and possessing its own distinctive institutions; from a loosely organized part of the “cultic milieu” of early twentieth century America, to a more tightly organized community with a stronger sense of its separate identity and mission; and from an individualistic “Baha’i Society” whose members retained nominal membership in the state church, to an independent religious community officially recognized by the Finnish authorities. In two of these cases (Lee, Peltola) government recognition has been an important feature in this evolutionary process, whilst in the Babi case governmental and clerical opposition was a major factor; in two cases (MacEoin, Smith) internal tensions within the community contributed significantly, and in the Ishqabad, American and Finnish examples external directives from central Baha’i authorities were important.

The study class went on to discuss other general concerns which were raised at the Lancaster Conference. These included the question of the role of faith in the academic study of the Baha’i Faith. What assumptions, if any should the Baha’i make as he approaches a serious study of the Faith from an academic point of view? The importance of this kind of study of the Faith was also discussed. At this point in Baha’i history, is it just a luxury or does it have an important role to play in the Baha’i Community. Unfortunately, spce does not allow a summary of these discussions.

BAHA’I STUDIES SEMINAR

Saturday, 15th and Sunday, 16th April, 1978

PROGRAMME

All sessions will be held in Room B65, Sociology Department, Cartmel College, University of Lancaster.

Saturday, 15th April

11:00 – 12:15 Denis MacEoin (Cambridge)
“The Shaykhi reaction to Babism in the early period”.

12:15 – 2:00 Lunch

2:00 – 3:15 Tony Lee (Los Angeles)
“The Baha’i community of Ishqabad, Russian Turkistan”.

3:15 – 3:45 Tea

3:45 – 5:00 Denise Mossop (Lancaster)
“The mediatory role of Baha’i: a comparison of Sufi and Baha’i mysticism”.

5:00 – 6:00 General discussion of the three papers.

Sunday, 16th April

10:00 – 11:15 Moojan Momen (Cambridge)
“Early contacts between Baha’is and Christian missionaries”.

11:15 – 11:45 Coffee

11:45 – 1:00 Peter Smith (Lancaster)
“The American Baha’i community, 1894-1925″.

1:00 – 2:00 Lunch

2:30 – 3:45 Harri Peltola (Helsinki)
“The history of the Baha’i Faith in Finland: a case study in the sociology of counterculture”

3:45 – 4:15 Tea

4:15 – 5:30 Discussion of last three papers.

5:30 – 6:30 “Baha’i Studies” – general discussion

Peter Smith
Department of Sociology
University of Lancaster

[END DOCUMENT]

Related Links:

The original scanned documents can be found here.

LA Study Class Newsletter [#26]

SKIP TO NEWSLETTER
My Notes:

The main topic of this edition of the newsletter is a discussion of the 5 Year Plan (1974-79) and its goals. It includes the thoughts of a then member of the US NSA (Betts) and also mentions, very frankly, a marked decrease in the growth rate of the Baha’i community – as measured by new enrollments. This decrease in growth has since continued and just recently there was a comment from a person at the US National Assembly that it is currently the lowest (since records have been kept). The Baha’i community in the US is in danger of total quantitative stagnation. I’d like to talk about this and explore it is so and perhaps offer some salient ideas about how it may be reversed. But that will be for a future post.

As well, the newsletter includes a few more reader’s comments. They show not only how far reaching the newsletter was but just what exactly individual Baha’is thought of it.

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 . . .

[START DOCUMENT]

Hermosa Beach, California 90254
“Have you hugged your
boa constrictor today?”

Vol. III, No. 4 — April, 1978

It seemed, back in 1973, the American Baha’i Community had at last — at long last — turned the corner. We came off the Nine Year Plan in blitzkrieg fashion. Toward the end of the Plan, new Local Assemblies were being formed at a pace of more than 100 a year. By the year’s end, there were over 900 Local Spiritual Assemblies in the country. The ranks of the believers were expanded as never before.

When the House of Justice established the new Five Year Plan (1974-79) goals at 1,400 Local Assemblies in the United States, there was no doubt that we could achieve that mark — and not even have to strain much to do so.

It is now four years since the House set domestic expansion goals for America, we are nowhere near attaining most of them. We have about 1,000 Assemblies (roughly 50 to 100 more than when we began work in 1973). The Faith, once bursting with enthusiastic growth, seems to have stagnated for the last several years. What went wrong?

Essentially, that is the question our study class asked Richard Betts, one of three members of the National Spiritual Assembly living in the Los Angeles are. At 39, Betts is the yougest member of the national body. He has served on the NSA since July, 1973.

He summarized passages from the Writings, noting that the purpose of man is to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization and that the goal of the World Order of Baha’u’llah is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race. This principle of the oneness of mankind is the distinguishing characteristic of the Faith, Betts said, noting that the role of religion is to spiritualize the human race and act as the best means of establishing world order. All pretty basic stuff, all of which we are pretty much familiar with.

These idealistic goals will be attained through a slow but steady growth process in which the Faith permeates and influences the affairs of man, Betts said. And then he read from an address that few — if any — of us had heard of or knew about. In 1953, Ruhiyyih Khanum represented Shoghi Effendi at the dedication ceremonies of the Wilmette House of Worship. At that time, she read on his behalf, what amounted to an analysis of the historical states of the spiritual development of mankind. Shoghi Effendi’s ten-stage survey of humanity’s spiritual growth began by describing the first period as a 6,000-year-long epoch during which various Manifestations began the transformation of the human race. The second period culminated with the declaration of the Bab in 1844. Period three ended with the Bab’s martyrdom before a military firing squad in Tabriz, Iran. The fourth period began with Baha’u’llah’s incarceration in the Siyah Chal [Ed. the Black Pit, alt: Siyyah-Chal] and His realization of His religious mission. Period five covered the declaration of Baha’u’llah in the Garden of Ridvan. The sixth step included Baha’u’llah’s banishment to Adrianople and ‘Akka, and the period of His letters to the kings and rulers of the planet. The seventh period covered the beginning of Abdu’l-Baha’s ministry while still held in the Most Great Prison and His writing of the Tablets of the Divine Plan — the first organized approach to the systematic expansion of the Faith. Period eight covered the series of national plans, the First and Second Seven Year Plans ending respectively, in 1944 and 1953. Period nine in this spiritual development of the human race ended with the centenary of the declaration of Baha’u’llah at the Ridvan Garden (1963). The final period covers the penetration of the Faith to all corners of the planet and numerous crusades in carrying the message to all. We are now in that final period.

Bretts said the current Five Year Plan is best understood in the perspective of all this. The plan involves consolidating victories won in previous plans, a vast expansion of the number of locations where Baha’is reside, and the development of the distinctive character of Baha’i life. With respect to attaining these goals, Bretts pointed out that we have pretty much preserved the victories of earlier plans and have at least begun the process of developing the distinctive character of Baha’i life. This last is a qualitative goal and one which is somewhat difficult to measure in terms of success. The development of the Comprehensive Deepening Program represents an effort by the National Spiritual Assembly to begin work on that goal. The revamping of the declaration and enrollment process also is an outgrowth of that goal.

But, the nub of the issue — the homefront expansion and consolidation of the Baha’i localities — is another story. At the beginning of the Five Year Plan, our goals were to have at least 7,000 localities in the United States where Baha’is reside. We now have about 5,000 such places. We were to have at least 1,400 Local Spiritual Assemblies, including no fewer than 25 on Indian reservations. We are barely above the 1,000 mark. (Betts mentioned that the NSA thought the Indian reservation quota would be the toughest domestic goal to win; instead, it was one of the first accomplished.) Class members asked him if there had been a dro in the enrollment rate which might explain some of the slowing growth trend. He replied that adult enrollment is growing slightly, although youth enrollment is down. And he put the current American Baha’i population at about 70,000 persons.

Indicating that the problem of the American Baha’i Community is not as grave as it would seem, Betts said the relocation of as few as 200-300 Baha’is could mean the difference between winning and losing the homefront goals. Even so, the NSA member said, “Things are now down to the 11th hour and we have a lot to do before midnight.” He was asked if the American Baha’i Community isnot, in fact, teetering on the brink of disaster with respect to winning the plan goals. Betts responded that this is not the first time the Community has come right down to the wire before making its goals. The First and Second Seven Year Plans were both won in the final year; it was only in the Nine Year Plan (completed in 1973) that the homefront goals were achieve much before the deadline. He explained his optimism by saying, “If one loses genuine confidence, then defeat is at hand.”

Perceiving a new mood of success following a successful Baha’i proclamation earlier this year in the small border town of El Centro, California, just north of Mexico, Betts said “all we need is a handful of Baha’is” and victory “is still possible.”

He also touched on some of the negative aspects of the American Baha’i Community, noting that the divorce rate among Baha’i couples appears to be on the rise and the number of youth enrollments is dropping. Enrollments are coming in at a rate of about 150 a month, which Betts called a “very slow growth” for the Faith in the United States. He said National Assembly members are watching for any signs of a growth spurt, figuring any place where about 500 persons enroll in the Faith during the course of a year heralds the “entry by troops in the Cause.”

That remark triggered a reaction among class members, many of whom voiced displeasure at he entire mass teaching/mass enrollment concept. Betts, however, defended the practice, saying it had been almost totally misunderstood and misapplied in home front teaching. Teaching the masses means reaching most Americans with the Baha’i message. Somehow this idea got twisted into a campaign that concentrated on the poor. A further complication arose when the notion got out that teaching the masses also meant taking an indirect approach to the Faith, that is, teaching the Baha’i Faith without mentioning Baha’u’llah. That practice soon led to trouble with persons being enrolled in the Faith without having any real idea of what they were doing. When word og this reached Wilmette, the National Assembly stepped in and bega downplaying teaching the masses until someone could figure out how to make the idea work as it was designed. Even though teaching the masses, or mass teaching, depending on who is using he phrase, has been misinterpreted and misused, Betts said the total effect of the experimet has been a good one. The mass teaching concept shook up a placid Baha’i administration and forced local communities to become more flexible in their approach to teaching the Faith.

Betts shed some light on a question that perplexed class members (and many others in the American Baha’i Community). In the early 1970′s, the Community’s growth rate was steady, if not phenomenal. We were riding the crest of a boom and — suddendly — things went bust. For the last four years we have been unsuccessful at doing the same thing that worked in the period of the late 1960′s and early 1970′s. Class members asked Betts: What went wrong?

Essentially, he said, the mood of the country took a turn that the Baha’i Community failed to follow. The 1960′s was a period of intense social activism. Beginning with the civil rights movement and ending with the anti-Vietnam war activism, people were involved in causes on a collective level. Individuals put their lives on the line for one movement or another. This was a good time for the Faith. Our social principles enjoyed broad appeal and many people were attracted to the Faith because of these ideals. But somewhere in the early 1970′s, the public mood shifted. The Vietnam war ended on a sour note. Americans became more introspective and introverted. Self-improvement became trendy and a variety of self-realization movements came into vogue. People turned from social activism to personal concerns and materialism reestablished its influence.

But the Baha’i teaching strategy did not change and there was no effort to capitalize on this new mood, Betts said. Instead of emphasizing the power of the Faith to spiritually transform individuals, we kept plonking at the same old themes which, by the mid-1970′s, had simply lost much of their punch. The Baha’i Faith has not addressed the issue of personal salvation in its teaching work, eventhough no religious revelation in the history of man has more to say about how man can related to God, Betts said.

Looking ahead, he said issues that remain to be resolved include the racial question which has been relatively calm in recent years, but which could flare up at any time. Racial polatization remains very much in effect in the United States and, while a measure of racial equality has been attained, race unity still elludes us. Baha’is, at least, are committed to the concept of racial unity, althoughmuch more needs to be done within the Community. He also sugested that the American Baha’i Community would do well to emphasize the issues of morality and rectitude of conduct among the believers and the administrative institutions, as well. Betts said that, while we are now in a cycle of personal awareness and emphasis on the individual, that could give way to, say, more nationwide awareness of human rights as an issue (one of the major themes of the Carter administration).

One of the persistent problems of the American Baha’i Community is bureaucracy and dysfunction at the National Office. Class members asked Betts about that. He conceded there are staff problems at the National Center, saying there is too much lag time between teh presentation of a problem and its resolution. A large administrative load is handled by relatively few people, and staff turnover compounds the problem. Betts said one of the distressing aspects of this is that, in some cases, employees at the National Center have exercized what amounts to a “pocket veto” by simply refusing to carry out policies or directives with which they did not agree. In other cases, people are sincere but so afraid of doing the wrong thing that they take excrutiating — and time consuming — care trying to follow instructions from the National Assembly.

Motivating the American Baha’i Community and getting the National Center on track is a “slow and difficult process” with its ups and down, Betts said. But, optimism and the conviction that we are making progress prevails and, “if we lose that sense that victory is ours, we will taste defeat much more often,” he commented.

*********************

HUMBLE APOLOGIES DEPT. We regret the fact that our April newsletter is so late in coming out. The reason is that shiftless Bob Ballenger did not get around to writing up the notes until recently. He’s a newspaper reporter and claims that the pressure of writing stories on California’s June 6 primary election kept him from getting to the notes. That may even be true. Ballenger promises everything will be normal with him… atleast until the November general elections.

LETTERS DEPT.

We got a note from Dr. John Cornell of Reedley, California, who taught our class on Baha’i justice in March. While complimenting us on the newsletter summary, he wrote, “I would like to call your attention to one error, however. It was not I who said that individuals cannot administer justice. I maintain just the opposite. It is easy to understand how you could have thought that came from me, because ideas were bouncing around the room think and fast. It is precisely to counteract what we consider to be this mistaken notion that we made a special section on justice by individuals on pp. 28-29 of our study course, Six Lessons on Baha’i Law.”

Nahed Rushdy of Barrhead, Alberta, Canada, writes: “It’s amazing how efficient these California Baha’is are. I’ve been receiving your newsletter since the annual meeting of the Association of Baha’i Studies in Vancouver [in late December, 1977] and I’ve been planning to write and tell you how much I enjoy reading it… Reading the newsletter is almost like being there in person. It’s great food for thought while I’m working in a small country town in Northern Alberta. Hope to make it to the class some day.”

Sohaila Samimi of Portugal writes: “Thanks so much for sending me the newsletter — not that I agree with or enjoy reading every single one. I personally think the scathing remarks are absolutely not mind-opening an dconstructive and sound like they belong to the mid-’60s. The beauty of giving an intelligent, gentle but precise and loving idea is what is so unique about the Faith. It has never been tried before and, if so, has been abandoned as impossible — which makes the challenge all the more exhilarating and mind blowing. I do not think blasting people and tearing them apart does anything except ease the frustration in our hearts and furnish an easy channel for our egos and makes this beautiful refuge as cold and lifeless as the rest of the world. Excuse the poetry, but it’s not gentle rain of spring that opens blossoms and buds. By all means, inquire and probe and think and so on — but actually what are we doing in the name of open-mindedness and etc?”

Alan Coupe of Burlington, Ontario, Canada writes: “Thanks very much for putting me on the list for the study class notes. I enjoyed reading the commentary on my presentation (Zarathustra and the Baha’i Faith, at the Canadian Association conference in Vancouver). Did someone use a tape recorder? If not, then they took very good notes. You may be interested in knowing that the Universal House [of Justice] has advised me in a letter that there is nothing in the Baha’i writings to suggest that 2 or more Manifestations cannot appear at the same time.”

CHANGE OF CLASS TREASURER: Please note that from now on class newsletter subscriptions should be sent to: Mr. Anthony Lee, [Ed. personal address follows]. Subscriptions are $12 per year (12 issues) for those living in the United States and are free for those outside the U.S. Back issues and copies of written presentations are $1 apiece for all.

NEXT CLASS: Since these notes are being sent very late, it should be noted that the next class was already held — on May 7. Notes from that class are being prepared and will be sent out in June. Since they probably will not be mailed before the June class, however, we wish to notify everyone that the next class session will be Sunday, June 4, at 2:00 pm at the home of Tony Lee [Ed. personal address and phone nuber follows]. The topic of the class will be John S. Hatcher’s essay “The Mataphorical Nature of Physical Reality.” All class members will be expected to have read the most recent issue of World Order (the Summer 1977 issue) and was published as Vol. No. 3 of Etudes Baha’i Studies, a publication of the Canadian Association for Studies on the Baha’i Faith.

[END DOCUMENT]

Related Links:

The original scanned documents can be found here.