Sunday, December 12, 2010

Relationships -- Reflections On the 2010 Ridvan Message of the Universal House of Justice

After the first three careful readings of the 2010 Ridvan Message of the Universal House of Justice—thirty-three paragraphs on eleven pages—it seemed that I hadn’t penetrated into its meaning. There was so much substance I felt somewhat overwhelmed. I decided to look for words or phrases that were repeated and might be keys to understanding.

The message begins bringing attention in the second and third paragraphs to “developments at the more profound level of culture.” What are some of the words that pertain to this? They include “to converse,” “teaching,” “ties of friendship,” “shared understanding.”

In paragraph four the word “conversation” occurs three times: “conversation between two souls,” “a conversation distinguished by the depth of understanding achieved and the nature of the relationship established,” “the conversation continues.” Also, “friendships are formed,” “newly-found friends,” “every soul feel welcome to join the community.”

Walking along later during my fifteen minute break from my job, mulling over what I perceived to be the words that might be the focus of the message, the word “relationships” popped into my mind. It was like a light was switched on. When I again had the message in hand it seemed like I had found the philosopher’s stone, a magic talisman that opened doors of understanding. Suddenly the heart of the message seemed crystal clear, beaming forth in profound simplicity.

Relationships. Continuing from paragraph five: “In every cluster…extending,” “a network of co-workers and acquaintances,” “a neighbourhood,” “a small village would offer a suitable social space,” “community building,” “calling upon the residents,” again “newly found friends,” “the devotional character of the community,” “open to all,” “equal footing,” “assistance,” “a rhythm of community life.”

In paragraphs six and seven the expression “the friends,” referring to the Baha’is, appears three times. Not long ago I had heard one of the local Baha’i youth ask ‘Why do the Baha’is refer to one another as “the friends?”’ It’s a good question. One that we see goes straight to the core of Baha’i identity. Those new to the Faith often find this use of the term “the friends” a bit odd at first. But that’s who we are and what we must become.

It behoveth thee to be content with the Will of God, and a true and loving and trusted friend to all the peoples of the earth, without any exceptions whatever. This is the quality of the sincere, the way of the saints, the emblem of those who believe in the unity of God, and the raiment of the people of Baha.

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 24)

In this relationship of friendship we are involved in actions: “The process of community building,” “teach within one or more receptive populations,” “find those souls longing,” “work alongside one another,” “learn the ways and methods of community building” “universal participation,” “acting as tutors of study circles,” “foster a vibrant community life.” All this language from our mandate is about relationships. We are lead to “that aspect of Baha’i culture which pertains to deepening.”

At this point in writing these reflections, I listened online to the wonderful talks and comments on the Ridvan Message by the Counsellors and others at the US Baha’i National Convention, and all of a sudden my thoughts seemed feeble and I quit this analysis. However, now, several months later in November, (and on into December), reading the above again, I’m thinking ‘This isn’t so bad, and it may even be useful.’ Although a new five-year plan will be introduced about four months from now, I’m confident that the emphasis on relationships won’t go away. So here goes again.

Paragraph eight talks about an approach to the study of the writings that would “spur large numbers into the field of action” and explains that the Universal House of Justice asked that “training institutes assist ever-growing contingents of believers in serving the Cause through the provision of courses…” in which, as elaborated on in paragraph nine, “study and service are joined and carried out concurrently.” If anyone is involved in these actions, that person has active human relationships with other people.

Paragraph nine explains the significance of the tremendous breakthrough in the “system of distance education” through which “the worldwide Baha’i community has acquired the capacity to enable thousands, nay millions, to study the writings in small groups with the explicit purpose of translating the Baha’i teachings into reality, carrying the work of the Faith forward into its next stage: sustained large scale expansion and consolidation.” Talk about meaningful relationships!

We learn that “the Baha'i world has succeeded in developing a culture,” that focuses on “a common path of service – supporting one another and advancing together, respectful of the knowledge that each one possesses at any given moment and avoiding the tendency to divide the believers into categories such as deepened and uninformed…” This is something special in the sphere of human relationships, calling attention to a potential pitfall in relations between seekers or new Baha’is and veteran Baha’is who might be regarded as knowledgeable solely due to some assumed concept of seniority. Instead, tutors go into status-free relationships that pertain to helping “effect individual and collective transformation.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Plaques For A Baha'i Inscription Garden

All of the quotations below are from Baha'u'llah, (1817-1892), Founder of the Baha'i Faith. The concept I have here is to use these inspirational words to enhance a garden stroll. In my mind's eye I was picturing a grand public garden of hundreds of acres and varied themes. I've stretched the scenario; there may be no garden in existence with all of the elements fantasized here. Not all of the plaques in this sample inscription garden would be year-round, and a myriad more quotations that pertain to the garden metaphor could be selected from His Writings, especially if seasonal themes were emphasized.

The key to the source abbreviations are at the end below.

[garden gate/entrance]

"Solaced are the eyes of them that enter and abide therein!" (PHW, #18)

[start of path]

"The beginning of all things is the knowledge of God…" (GL, p.3)

[gravel pathway]

"...a Revelation that hath enabled every least pebble to resound again with Thy praise... (PM, 144)

[garden bench under large shade tree]

"…abide under the shadow of the green and goodly Tree…" (GL, p.189)

[garden wall]

"The Beloved shineth on gate and wall..."

(SV, p.38. Baha'u'llah quotes the Persian Sufi poet Attar.)

[lawn/grassy area]

"Within every blade of grass are enshrined the mysteries of an inscrutable wisdom..." (KI, p.198)

[alpine rock garden]

"…God hath never burdened any soul beyond its power." (GL, pp.106-107)


"…for every thing a time hath been fixed, and for every fruit a season hath been ordained…" (GL, p.262)


"Be thou patient, though thy heart be consumed in its separation from God…" (SLH, p.148)

[large grape arbor]

"The bounties of the Source of Bounties are at every moment visibly descending." (BM, p.1)

[elaborate trellis/espalier]

"…the mesh of divine destiny exceedeth the vasteth of mortal conceptions…" (KI, p.251)

[drinking fountain]

"Drink your fill from the well-spring of wisdom, and walk ye in the garden of wisdom..." (TB, p.212)

[floral bower/arch/pergola]

"...blossoms from the bowers of His grace and stars from the horizon of His providence." (SLH, p.136)

[newly-seeded garden bed]

"In the soil of whose heart will these holy seeds germinate?" (KI, p.61)

"I am, O my God, but a tiny seed which Thou hast sown in the soil of Thy love…" (PM, p.178)


"...the Balance hath been appointed, and the Bridge hath been laid..." (GDM pp.19-20)


"Withhold not, O my Lord, the water that is life indeed from running down…" (PM, p.69)

"How plenteous, O my God, is the stream of Thy knowledge!" (PM, p.213)

"I was withered, Thou didst revive me with the heavenly stream of Thine utterance..." (PM, p.264)


"...incline mine ear to the sweet melodies of the birds that warble their praise of Thee..." (PM, p.5)


"If it be Thy pleasure, make me to grow as a tender herb in the meadows of Thy grace..." (PM, p.240)

[pond with waterlilies]

"Create in me a pure heart, O my God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me…" (PM, p.248)


"Well is it with the sincere in heart for their share of the light of a mighty Day!" (KI, p. 211)

[tulip bed]

"Its wondrous tulips unfold the mystery of the Burning Bush..." (KI, p.198)

[hyacinths in other early spring bulbs]

"They will hearken unto infallible proofs from the Hyacinth of that assembly..." (KI, p. 199)


"In every leaf ineffable delights are treasured..."
(KI, p.198)

[fragrant garden area]

"…endeavor to inhale the fragrance of the incorruptible Flower, to breathe the sweet savors of holiness..." (GL, p.321)

[bed of salvias/lavenders]

Consider how all created things eloquently testify to the revelation of that inner Light within them." (KI, p.140)

[giant boulder]

"...shouldst Thou point to a mute rock with a single finger of Thy will, Thou wouldst enable it to unfold the knowledge of all past and future ages..." (IOPF, p.34)

[tall column/cypress/redwood]

"...that out of their hearts may ascend that which will be worthy of the court of Thy majesty..." (PM, p.79)


"Magnified, O Lord my God, be Thy Name, whereby the trees of the garden of Thy Revelation have been clad with verdure…" (PM, pp.160-161)


"O FRIEND! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love…" (PHW, #3)

[fire pit/outdoor oven/grill]

"This divine Fire burneth of itself, with neither fuel or fume... (TU, p.72)

[garden canopy]

"...suffer me not to be far removed from the shadow of Thy mercy and the canopy of Thy bounty." (PM, p.288)


O MY SERVANTS! Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits…" (PHW, #80)


"Cleave unto that which draweth you together and uniteth you." (GL, p.217)


"...the fingers of Him Who is the Ancient of Days are ringing, in the name of the All-Glorious, the Most Great Bell, in the midmost heart of the heavens." (GL, p.32)

[stone obelisk]

'...every stone and every tree shouteth aloud: "The Lord is come in His great glory!"...' (TB, p.13)


"Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator." (TB, p.142)

"Nature is God’s will and is its expression in and through the contingent world." (TB, p.142)

[fallen tree]

"...We send forth the tempestuous gales of Our decree, tear it up by its roots, and lay it prostrate upon the face of the earth." (SLH, p.37)

[briar patch]

"Obstruct not the luminous spring of thy soul with the thorns and brambles of vain and inordinate affections..." (GL, p.323)

[compost pile]

"...This is an existence which knoweth no decay..." (TB, p.142)

[tree nursery]

"Ye are the saplings which the hand of Loving-kindness hath planted in the soil of mercy..." (ESW, p.25)

[windsock/wind wheel/wind chimes]

"Be light and untrammeled as the breeze..." (GL, p.323)

"I can hear from the whisper of the winds the sound of Thy glorification and praise..." (PM, p.272)


"Consider, how the wind, faithful to that which God hath ordained, bloweth upon all the regions of the earth..." (GL, p.339)

[newly-sprouted garden bed]

"What myrtles of unity hath the soil of their hearts produced!" (KI, p.46)

[garden gazebo]

"...shareth as an intimate the pavilion of the Loved One." (SV, p.18)

[garden exit]

"From the garden of whose soul will the blossoms of the invisible realities spring forth?" (KI, p.61)

Key to the Sources

AHW - Arabic Hidden Words
BM - Baha'i Meetings
ESW - Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
GDM - Gems of Divine Mysteries
GL - Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah
IOPF - Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting
KI - The Kitab-i-Iqan, The Book of Certitude
PHW - Persian Hidden Words
PM - Prayers and Meditations By Baha'u'llah
SLH - Summons of the Lord of Hosts
SV - The Seven Valleys
TB - Tablets of Baha'u'llah
TU - The Tabernacle of Unity

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Fountain and the Cauldron

“May you consider all religions the instruments of God and regard all races as channels of divine manifestation.”

Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.420

“The superior man is always filled with reverence at the manifestation of God; he sets his life in order and searches his heart, lest it harbor any secret opposition to the will of God. Thus reverence is the foundation of true culture.”

The I Ching, p.198 (Wilhelm/Baynes translation)

A fundamental Baha’i belief is that the religious teachings and ethical traditions of every culture should be regarded as part of one spiritual heritage to be treasured by the whole human race. Moreover, the Baha’i Faith seeks to build bridges of understanding with all the peoples of the world.

Given this context, far be it from any fair-minded Baha’i to disparage or dismiss the venerable work of the ancient Chinese sages known as the I Ching or The Book of Changes. This repository of wisdom has for centuries provided spiritual underpinning for Chinese thought – the I Ching’s origins are traditionally believed to extend back to prehistory. According to Carl Gustav Jung, its insights inspired the philosophies of perhaps China’s two greatest teachers: Lao Tzu and Confucius.

It is true that the I Ching has been abused by careless people; the superstitious have had a party and used it as a plaything. It is one of the most famous oracles of antiquity and is widely used as an oracle even today. The seeming magic of its consistently sound and relevant counsel has been subverted into fortune telling, its rich symbolism and archetypal imagery used for low purposes.

Nonetheless, through the grace and insight of the Wilhelm/Baynes translation, many parallel values are seen to exist between the teachings central to the Baha’i Faith and those which lie at the heart of the I Ching. The shared emphasis on character development and the acquisition of virtues is striking. Courtesy, humility, service, sincerity, moderation, perseverance, wisdom, reverence, forbearance, and universal fellowship are taught in both sources, sometimes using the same analogies from nature. Both worldviews look to the development of society through empowering the individual, fostering the family, and emphasizing consultation. Both are based in an awareness of fate and are concerned with the conscious shaping of the destinies of individuals and nations. Moreover, both systems delight in the synchronicity of events while being grounded in the steady process thinking that prizes systematization.

The universality and timelessness of the I Ching are centered in its exploration of the human response to change. Its explanations of eternal truths -- its insights into cycles and attitudes, goals and motives, situations and choices -- are fresh and useful, a source of wonder.

Writing of the I Ching in 1949, Jung said: “Like a part of nature, it waits until it is discovered. It offers neither facts nor power, but for lovers of self-knowledge, of wisdom – if there be such – it seems to be the right book.”

[Excerpt from] #51. Chên / The Arousing (Shock, Thunder)

"The shock that comes from the manifestation of God within the depths of the earth makes man afraid, but this fear of God is good, for joy and merriment can follow upon it. When a man has learned within his heart what fear and trembling mean, he is safeguarded against any terror produced by outside influences…"

[Excerpt from] #64. Wei Chi / Before Completion

“The conditions are difficult. The task is great and full of responsibility. It is nothing less than that of leading the world out of confusion back to order. But it is a task that promises success, because there is a goal that can unite the forces now tending in different directions…"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mary Magdalene

"There was one name," the Master answered, "that always brought joy to the face of Baha'u'llah. His expression would change at the mention of it. That name was Mary of Magdala."

(Words attributed to Abdu'l-Baha from 23 June 1912, The Diary of Juliet Thompson

"Consider how a Pharisee who had worshipped God for seventy years repudiated the Son when He appeared, whereas one who had committed adultery gained admittance into the Kingdom. Thus doth the Pen admonish thee as bidden by the Eternal King, that thou mayest be apprised of what came to pass aforetime and be reckoned in this day among them that truly believe."

(Baha'u'llah, Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 70)

"Consider! The station and the confirmation of the apostles in the time of Christ was not known, and no one looked on them with the feeling of importance -- nay, rather, they persecuted and ridiculed them. Later on it became evident what crowns studded with the brilliant jewels of guidance were placed on the heads of the apostles, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of John."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, pp. 39-40)

"Peter was a fisherman and Mary Magdalene a peasant, but as they were specially favoured with the blessings of Christ, the horizon of their faith became illumined, and down to the present day they are shining from the horizon of everlasting glory. In this station, merit and capacity are not to be considered; nay rather, the resplendent rays of the Sun of Truth, which have illumined these mirrors, must be taken into account."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 104)

"O thou maidservant of God! Every woman who becometh the maidservant of God outshineth in glory the empresses of the world, for she is related to God, and her sovereignty is everlasting, whereas a handful of dust will obliterate the name and fame of those empresses. In other words, as soon as they go down to the grave they are reduced to naught. The maidservants of God's Kingdom, on the other hand, enjoy eternal sovereignty unaffected by the passing of ages and generations.

"Consider how many empresses have come and gone since the time of Christ. Each was the ruler of a country but now all trace and name of them is lost, while Mary Magdalene, who was only a peasant and a maidservant of God, still shineth from the horizon of everlasting glory."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 122)

"At the time of the ascension of the Spirit (Jesus Christ), the company of those who accepted the new Revelation numbered no more than a few souls. So intense was the alarm and perturbation to which that event gave rise that, for a time, these souls were quite overcome by their agitation and confusion. Then, a few days later, a woman by the name of Mary Magdalene arose, and, by her own example, instilled into them a constancy and firmness which enabled them to arise for the propagation of the Word of God. Although to outward seeming they were no more than fishermen and dyers, yet, through the holy confirmations of the Cause of God, they carried the divine fragrances far and wide, sweetening the breaths of all who inhaled their fragrance and bringing new life to every understanding heart."

(Abdu'l-Baha, cited in "Crisis and Victory," The Compilation of Compilations Vol. I, p. 136)

"Again, it is well established in history that where woman has not participated in human affairs the outcomes have never attained a state of completion and perfection. On the other hand, every influential undertaking of the human world wherein woman has been a participant has attained importance. This is historically true and beyond disproof even in religion. Jesus Christ had twelve disciples and among His followers a woman known as Mary Magdalene. Judas Iscariot had become a traitor and hypocrite, and after the crucifixion the remaining eleven disciples were wavering and undecided. It is certain from the evidence of the Gospels that the one who comforted them and reestablished their faith was Mary Magdalene."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 133)

"The one whose heart is purest, whose deeds are most perfect, is acceptable to God, male or female. Often in history women have been the pride of humanity -- for example, Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was the glory of mankind. Mary Magdalene, Asiyih, daughter of Pharaoh, Sarah, wife of Abraham, and innumerable others have glorified the human race by their excellences. In this day there are women among the Baha'is who far outshine men."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 174-175)

'After the martyrdom of Christ, to Whom be glory, the disciples were greatly disturbed and disheartened. Even Peter had denied Christ and tried to shun Him. It was a woman, Mary Magdalene, who confirmed the wavering disciples in their faith, saying, "Was it the body of Christ or the reality of Christ that ye have seen crucified? Surely it was His body. His reality is everlasting and eternal; it hath neither beginning nor ending. Therefore, why are ye perplexed and discouraged? Christ always spoke of His being crucified." Mary Magdalene was a mere villager, a peasant woman; yet she became the means of consolation and confirmation to the disciples of Christ.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.282)

'When Jesus Christ died upon the cross, the disciples who witnessed His crucifixion were disturbed and shaken. Even Peter, one of the greatest of His followers, denied Him thrice. Mary Magdalene brought them together and confirmed their faith, saying, "Why are ye doubting? Why have ye feared? O thou Peter! Why didst thou deny Him? For Christ was not crucified. The reality of Christ is ever-living, everlasting, eternal. For that divine reality there is no beginning, no ending, and, therefore, there can be no death. At most, only the body of Jesus has suffered death." In brief, this woman, singly and alone, was instrumental in transforming the disciples and making them steadfast. This is an evidence of extraordinary power and supreme attributes, a proof that woman is the equivalent and complement of man. The one who is better trained and educated, whose aptitude is greater and whose ideals are higher is most distinguished and worthy -- whether man or woman.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 394)

"Mary Magdalene was a villager of lowly type, yet that selfsame Mary was transformed and became the means through which the confirmation of God descended upon the disciples. Verily, she served the Kingdom of God with such efficiency that she became well-known and oft mentioned by the tongues of men. Even today she is shining from the horizon of eternal majesty. Consider how infinite is the bounty of God that a woman such as Mary Magdalene should be selected by God to become the channel of confirmation to the disciples and a light of nearness in His Kingdom. Consequently, trust ye in the bounty and grace of God, and rest assured in the bestowals of His eternal outpouring."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 420)

"Where is the majesty of the Emperor of Russia? Where is the might of the German Emperor? Where is the greatness of the Emperor of Austria? In a short time all these palaces were turned into ruins and all these pretentious edifices underwent destruction. They left no fruit and no trace, save eternal ruin.

"The souls who have been enlightened with the light of the Kingdom, however, have founded eternal sovereignty. They shine, like unto the stars, upon the horizon of everlasting glory. The Apostles were fishers. Consider thou to what a high station they did rise; and to what great sovereignty they did attain, whose duration and permanence runs to eternity! Mary Magdalen was a peasant woman. She was without any name and fame or consequence. But her candle is, in the assemblage of the world, lighted till eternity."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, pp. 384-385)

'A friend asked Abdu'l-Baha how far the individual could attain to that Christ consciousness in himself of which St. Paul speaks as our hope of Glory.

'Abdu'l-Baha turned with a look of great joy and said with an impressive gesture: "The bounty and power of God is limitless for each human soul. Consider what was the quickening power of the Christ when He was on earth. Look at His disciples! They were poor and uncultured men. Out of the rough fisherman He made the great Peter, and out of the poor village girl of Magdala He made one who is a power in all the world today. Many queens have reigned who are remembered by their dates in history, and nothing more is known of them. But Mary the Magdalene is greater than them all. It was she whose love strengthened the disciples when their faith was failing. What she did for the world cannot be measured. See what a divine power was enkindled in her by the power of God!"'

(Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 88)

'Upon another occasion Abdu'l-Baha said to a group of friends around him: "Taken in general, women today have a stronger sense of religion than men. The woman's intuition is more correct; she is more receptive and her intelligence is quicker. The day is coming when woman will claim her superiority to man.

"Woman has everywhere been commended for her faithfulness. After the Lord Christ suffered, the disciples wept, and gave way to their grief. They thought that their hopes were shattered, and that the Cause was utterly lost, till Mary Magdalene came to them and strengthened them saying: 'Do you mourn the body of Our Lord or His Spirit? If you mourn His Spirit, you are mistaken, for Jesus lives! His Spirit will never leave us!' Thus through her wisdom and encouragement the Cause of Christ was upheld for all the days to come. Her intuition enabled her to grasp the spiritual fact."

'Abdu'l-Baha then added: "But in the sight of God sex makes no difference. He or she is greatest who is nearest to God."'

(Abdu'l-Baha in London, pp. 104-105)

'Let us make a comparison with the days of Christ. He had eleven disciples only, for the twelfth was the cause of his crucifixion. The leader of the apostles was Peter and on the night of the crucifixion his faith was shaken and he thrice denied Christ, though afterwards he became firm.

'All were shaken but Mary Magdalen. She was a veritable lioness. She gathered the others together and said, "Why do ye mourn? Did not the Christ foretell his crucifixion? Arise, and be assured. They have killed but the body; the reality can never die, for it is supreme, eternal, the word of God, the son of God. Why, therefore, are ye agitated?" Thus this heroine became the cause of re-establishing the faith of the apostles.

'My hope is that each one of you may become as Mary Magdalen -- for this woman was superior to all the men of her time and her reality is ever shining from the horizon of Christ.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 50)

"If a man become touched with the divine spark, even though he be an outcast and oppressed, he will be happy and his happiness cannot die.

"Whatever man undertakes he achieves some result, whether through statesmanship, commerce, agriculture, science, etc., he receives a compensation for his efforts. Consider what will be the result of those who work in the universal cause!

"He who has the consciousness of reality has eternal life -- that lamp which can never be extinguished. The humble peasant girl, Mary Magdalene, -- to what splendor she attained! A wise man sees no satisfaction in the material world; he is not content to be one of the creatures. In the world of divine effulgence he finds eternal life and becomes aflame with the fire of the love of God, the great source of life of the immortal kingdom and his head is adorned with a crown of eternal jewels."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 57-58)

'O maid-servant of God! Verily, Mary, the Magdalene, was a villager, but she kept firm in the Cause of Christ and confirmed the apostles at the time she declared to them (thus): "Verily, Christ is alive and eternal and death did not overtake Him; and verily, the foundation of His religion is not shaken by His crucifixion at the hand of the oppressors!" By this her face is eternally shining from the horizon of guidance.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha Vol.2, p. 268)

"Announce, on my behalf, respectful greeting to the attracted maid-servant of God, Miss ..., and say: O thou beloved maid-servant of God! Now is the time, now is the moment in which, like unto Mary Magdalene (who loosened her tongue in the city of great Rome), thou mayest arise and become engaged in teaching the coming of the Kingdom of God and spread far and wide to the ears the glad-tidings of the Realm of Eternity!"

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha Vol.2, p. 467)

'Address thou the maid-servants of the Merciful One, and say: "Verily, Mary Magdalene was a villager, but on account of her keeping firm in the Cause of Christ after His death, she was rendered successful in such a matter, whereby her face is shining and beaming forth on the horizon of the universe forevermore! And she surpassed even men in defending the fortress of the Cause of God against the attack of the hosts of suspicions. This is indeed a glorious condition! This is indeed a great matter! This is indeed a manifest light!"'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha Vol.3, p. 601)

'To an American lady, in August 1912, Abdu'l-Baha said:

"...Let your heart be confident and assured that through the Bounty of Baha'u'llah, through the Favor of Baha'u'llah, everything will become pleasant for you... But you must turn your face wholly towards the Abha (All-Glorious) Kingdom, giving perfect attention -- the same attention that Mary Magdalene gave to His Holiness Christ..."'

(Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha'u'llah and the New Era, pp. 109-110)

"That night [December 22, 1912] after dinner, in the drawing-room of 97 Cadogan Gardens, He talked about Christ and His advent, about Christians of early days and particularly Mary Magdalene. Mary, He said, made her way to Rome, sought out the Emperor and interceded for the Jews whom Pontius Pilate was persecuting for having misled him to condemn Jesus to death. Christians, Mary told the Emperor, did not desire revenge. She begged him to send orders to Pilate to cease persecuting the Jews, and the Emperor complied with her wishes."

(H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 348)

"It is certain, and indeed has been prophesied, that the earth's powerful will be raised up to spread the Cause of Baha'u'llah. But we are sure, as well, that shouldering the burdens of the Baha'i Faith is often the privilege of many whom the world would call unqualified. It was always so: what human pundit would have chosen a band of fishermen and a village woman of bad reputation to spread the Faith of Christ worldwide?"

(Marzieh Gail, Arches of the Years, p. 51)

'This new strange spiritual conception of the Messianic office bewildered the disciples. They did not, they would not reject it; they tried to accept it. But their minds were not flexible enough to grasp it. It sank into their hearts very, very slowly. In spite of their Master's vigorous and reiterated teaching, they could only abandon the familiar idea of the Messiah with toil and pain; they clung to it, as it were, in spite of themselves. Even at the end of Jesus' ministry, they had not been able to understand His meaning nor succeeded in their efforts to accept His statement as to His sufferings and His violent death. They still expected He would set up some form of external kingship in which they would enjoy positions of glory and power among men; and Jesus' last efforts in their spiritual education were directed to training them in the virtue of humility and in the ideal of service.

'Before He could bring home to their hearts this difficult and unwelcome lesson, He was taken from them. The tragic close of His career brought their spiritual failure to unmistakable expression. Peter denied His Master thrice; Thomas doubted Him; Judas betrayed Him; all in the hour of His danger forsook Him and fled. The crucifixion cast them into utter amazement and despair. The whole mental fabric which their pride and imagination had built up was shattered in a moment and fallen. Their world was empty. Their beloved Lord was defeated -- the mocking scribe was right. They had made some terrible mistake... For three days the Cause of Christ lay in their hearts dead and buried. None can tell what
might have happened, had it not been for the intuition and courage of one who was not of their number -- a woman, Mary of Magdala. She it was who was the first to understand the reality of Eternal Life and Christ's Eternal Sonship. She understood before those to whom they were spoken, the words of Jesus after His rebuke of Peter.

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it... the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels..." (Matt. 16:24-25, 27.)

'Quicker than any of the Twelve, she perceived the reality of His kingship, and recognised that if His body was dead, His spirit was indestructible and was alive breathing in mortal power. She cheered the disciples. She communicated to them her vision, quickened their faith and renewed their courage. Purified by their suffering, animated by her spiritual power, they now perceived for the first time the incorporeal nature of the dominion and glory of their Lord and of His kingdom. Not till the first Easter was the great confession of an earlier day completed; and if the glory of that confession belongs to Peter the glory of making it in the fullness of its spiritual sense belongs to the Magdalene.'

(George Townshend, The Heart of the Gospel, pp. 132-134)

'Love is not blind, it is "quick-eyed," George Herbert said. Abdu'l-Baha likened Juliet to Mary Magdalene because she loved, and saw, so much. She had that same storied love that Mary had -- that love which after all is the only thing that holds the Baha'is together, or for that matter holds the Lord to His creatures, or keeps the stars in their courses.'

(Marzieh Gail, Preface to The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

'Juliet said that she used, in her story of Mary Magdalene (whom, as Abdu'l-Baha remarked in the diary, she even physically resembled) many things she learned from the Master himself. This book has inclined many a heart toward our Faith, and Stanwood Cobb considered it "one of the most graphic and lofty delineations of Christ ever made in literature."'

(Marzieh Gail, Preface to The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Here is a link to Juliet Thompson's historical novel, I, Mary Magdalene:

"Had you been there, you would have seen that Mary of Magdala even looked like Juliet."

(Words attributed to Abdu'l-Baha from 19 April 1912, The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Juliet Thompson

Once He [Abdu'l-Baha] called Mamma and me into His room and among other things He said was this: "There are correspondences, Mrs. Thompson, between heaven and earth and Juliet's correspondence in heaven is Mary of Magdala."

(The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Here is an account of how Juliet Thompson learned of the Baha'i Faith:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Commemorating the Birth of the Bab

In The Kitab-i-Iqan, The Book of Certitude, Baha'u'llah answers questions
posed by Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, an uncle of the Bab. These are related to religious expectations surrounding the advent of the Bab. First Baha'u'llah explains certain realities pertaining to the history of various Manifestations of the past, and to the Manifestations of God collectively, (including some allusions to His own Station). Baha'u'llah then turns specifically, in The Kitab-i-Iqan, to the truth of the Bab's identity with references such as these:

"God's wondrous Manifestation" (p.201, para.221)

"Gem of Immortality" (p.215, para.210)

"Him Who is the Source of Purity," "Cloud of divine mercy" (p.216, para.240)

"Revealer and Author," "Sun of divine bounty," "divine Soul," "holy Breath" (p.221, para.245)

"most mighty Sovereignty," "His divine Presence," "the Beloved" (p.222, para.247)

"Sun of divine Revelation" (two times, p.223, para.248 and para.249)

"Well-Beloved" (p.224, para.249)

"the All-Glorious" (two times, p.224, para.249 and p.226, para.251)

"resplendent Light," "First Leader of all mankind" (p.227, para.252)

"The Bab, the Lord, the most exalted," (p.229, para.256)

"eternal Beauty" (two times, p.230, para 257 and p.234, para.263)

"the Revealer" (p.232, para.260)

"Sadrih of the Ridvan of God," "Beauty of God" (p.233, para.262)

"Sadrih of Blessedness" (p.234, para.262)

"Revealer of Being," "Manifestation of the Adored," "Essence of Essences," "Sea of Seas," "divine Luminary," "eternal Sun," "Ocean of divine wisdom" (p.234, para.263)

"Beauty of the Merciful" (p.238, para.267)

"celestial Herald," "the Truth" (p.239, para.268)

"the Mihdi" (p.240, para. 269)

"Youth from Bani-Hashim," "Hashimite Light," "divine Manifestation" (p.241, para.270)

"the immaculate Essence of knowledge and of holy utterance," "the Essence of Truth" (p.242, para.270)

"Revealer of the divine mysteries," "Expounder of the hidden and ancient wisdom," "the Qa'im" (p.243, para.272)

"the Primal Point," "the most exalted Word" (p.252, para.279)

"Essence of divine virtue" (p.254, para.282)


In these two passages the Bab refers to His own birth:

Through the revelation of Thy grace, O Lord, Thou didst call Me into being on a night such as this,[1] and lo, I am now lonely and forsaken in a mountain. Praise and thanksgiving be unto Thee for whatever conformeth to Thy pleasure within the empire of heaven and earth. And all sovereignty is Thine, extending beyond the uttermost range of the kingdoms of Revelation and Creation.

Thou didst create Me, O Lord, through Thy gracious favour and didst protect Me through Thy bounty in the darkness of the womb and didst nourish Me, through Thy loving-kindness, with life-giving blood. After having fashioned Me in a most comely form, through Thy tender providence, and having perfected My creation through Thine excellent handiwork and breathed Thy Spirit into My body through Thine infinite mercy and by the revelation of Thy transcendent unity, Thou didst cause Me to issue forth from the world of concealment into the visible world, naked, ignorant of all things, and powerless to achieve aught. Thou didst then nourish Me with refreshing milk and didst rear Me in the arms of My parents with manifest compassion, until Thou didst graciously acquaint Me with the realities of Thy Revelation and apprised Me of the straight path of Thy Faith as set forth in Thy Book. And when I attained full maturity Thou didst cause Me to bear allegiance unto Thine inaccessible Remembrance, and enabled Me to advance towards the designated station, where Thou didst educate Me through the subtle operations of Thy handiwork and didst nurture Me in that land with Thy most gracious gifts. When that which had been preordained in Thy Book came to pass Thou didst cause Me, through Thy kindness, to reach Thy holy precincts and didst suffer Me, through Thy tender mercy, to dwell within the court of fellowship, until I discerned therein that which I witnessed of the clear tokens of Thy mercifulness, the compelling evidences of Thy oneness, the effulgent splendours of Thy majesty, the source of Thy supreme singleness, the heights of Thy transcendent sovereignty, the signs of Thy peerlessness, the manifestations of Thine exalted glory, the retreats of Thy sanctity, and whatsoever is inscrutable to all but Thee.

[1 Refers to the Báb's birthday on the first day of the month of Muharram, 1235 A.H. (October 20, 1819).]

(The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, pp. 173-174)

Thou art aware, O My God, that since the day Thou didst call Me into being out of the water of Thy love till I reached fifteen years of age I lived in the land which witnessed My birth [Shiraz]. Then Thou didst enable Me to go to the seaport [Bushihr] where for five years I was engaged in trading with the goodly gifts of Thy realm and was occupied in that with which Thou hast favoured Me through the wondrous essence of Thy loving-kindness. I proceeded therefrom to the Holy Land [Karbila] where I sojourned for one year. Then I returned to the place of My birth. There I experienced the revelation of Thy sublime bestowals and the evidences of Thy boundless grace. I yield Thee praise for all Thy goodly gifts and I render Thee thanksgiving for all Thy bounties. Then at the age of twenty-five I proceeded to thy sacred House [Mecca], and by the time I returned to the place where I was born, a year had elapsed. There I tarried patiently in the path of Thy love and beheld the evidences of Thy manifold bounties and of Thy loving-kindness until Thou didst ordain for Me to set out in Thy direction and to migrate to Thy presence. Thus I departed therefrom by Thy leave, spending six months in the land of Sad [Isfahan] and seven months in the First Mountain [Maku], where Thou didst rain down upon Me that which beseemeth the glory of Thy heavenly blessings and befitteth the sublimity of Thy gracious gifts and favours. Now, in My thirtieth year, Thou beholdest Me, O My God, in this Grievous Mountain [Chihriq] where I have dwelt for one whole year.

Praise be unto Thee, O My Lord, for all times, heretofore and hereafter; and thanks be unto Thee, O My God, under all conditions, whether of the past or the future. The gifts Thou hast bestowed upon Me have reached their fullest measure and the blessings Thou hast vouchsafed unto Me have attained their consummation. Naught do I now witness but the manifold evidences of Thy grace and loving-kindness, Thy bounty and gracious favours, Thy generosity and loftiness, Thy sovereignty and might, Thy splendour and Thy glory, and that which befitteth the holy court of Thy transcendent dominion and majesty and beseemeth the glorious precincts of Thine eternity and exaltation.

(The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, pp. 180-182)


Shoghi Effendi begins his primary exposition on the significance of the Bab thus:

Dearly-beloved friends! That the Bab, the inaugurator of the Babi Dispensation, is fully entitled to rank as one of the self-sufficient Manifestations of God, that He has been invested with sovereign power and authority, and exercises all the rights and prerogatives of independent Prophethood, is yet another fundamental verity which the Message of Baha'u'llah insistently proclaims and which its followers must uncompromisingly uphold. That He is not to be regarded merely as an inspired Precursor of the Baha'i Revelation, that in His person, as He Himself bears witness in the Persian Bayan, the object of all the Prophets gone before Him has been fulfilled, is a truth which I feel it my duty to demonstrate and emphasize. We would assuredly be failing in our duty to the Faith we profess and would be violating one of its basic and sacred principles if in our words or by our conduct we hesitate to recognize the implications of this root principle of Baha'i belief, or refuse to uphold unreservedly its integrity and demonstrate its truth. Indeed the chief motive actuating me to undertake the task of editing and translating Nabil's immortal Narrative has been to enable every follower of the Faith in the West to better understand and more readily grasp the tremendous implications of His exalted station and to more ardently admire and love Him.
There can be no doubt that the claim to the twofold station ordained for the Bab by the Almighty, a claim which He Himself has so boldly advanced, which Baha'u'llah has repeatedly affirmed, and to which the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha has finally given the sanction of its testimony, constitutes the most distinctive feature of the Baha'i Dispensation. It is a further evidence of its uniqueness, a tremendous accession to the strength, to the mysterious power and authority with which this holy cycle has been invested. Indeed the greatness of the Bab consists primarily, not in His being the divinely-appointed Forerunner of so transcendent a Revelation, but rather in His having been invested with the powers inherent in the inaugurator of a separate religious Dispensation, and in His wielding, to a degree unrivaled by the Messengers gone before Him, the scepter of independent Prophethood.

(Shoghi Effendi,
The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 123)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Create In Me A Pure Heart

'Referring to the Tablet of Baha'u'llah which was revealed in Sulaymaniyyih and which began "Create in me a pure heart, O my God,...", Abdu'l-Baha said: "When, for the first time, I read this Tablet, I wept openly." (Words of Abdu'l-Baha, as recalled by Dr. Diya Baghdadi, unpublished memoir)'

Stories of Baha'u'llah, Compiled by Hand of the Cause of God Ali-Akbar Furutan, p. 20

In 1990 the elderly and ailing Hand of the Cause of God William Sears, (he died less than a year and a half later), addressed a rapt audience composed mostly of Baha'is. It was in an auditorium as part of the Desert Rose Baha'i Conference in Tucson, Arizona. From the podium on the stage he held up his open prayer book for all to see. The following is my recollection of the gist of his accompanying words, which were fraught with emotion:

I don't know if you can all see this from where you're sitting, but I have on this page of my prayer book a small red heart, like a sticker that children use, up in the corner, to help me find this prayer. It's the one that begins 'Create in me a pure heart, O my God...'. I read this prayer once, twice, sometimes many times a day. I don't have that pure heart yet, but someday I'm going to get it.

And then he read aloud the prayer.

"Create in me a pure heart, O my God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O my Hope! Through the spirit of power confirm Thou me in Thy Cause, O my Best-Beloved, and by the light of Thy glory reveal unto me Thy path, O Thou the Goal of my desire! Through the power of Thy transcendent might lift me up unto the heaven of Thy holiness, O Source of my being, and by the breezes of Thine eternity gladden me, O Thou Who art my God! Let Thine everlasting melodies breathe tranquillity on me, O my Companion, and let the riches of Thine ancient countenance deliver me from all except Thee, O my Master, and let the tidings of the revelation of Thine incorruptible Essence bring me joy, O Thou Who art the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden!"

Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 248)

This prayer can be found in many compilations of Baha'i prayers.