BOOKS BY PATRICIA WILCOX

* 'BAHA'I FAMILIES; Perspectives, Principles, Practice', GEORGE RONALD publishers

*'CHANGE YOUR LIFE, one Thought at a Time,' GEORGE RONALD publishers

* 'AT THE THRESHOLD - a Guide to the Baha'i Marriage Ceremony.'

 


016. The Extraordinary Life of 'Abdu'l-Baha.

 As a child 'Abdu'l-Baha (b.1844) often played happily with his sister in the mansion of their wealthy family home and it was anticipated that his father would later succeed his own father who had an important role in the Government of the Shah (King) of Persia.

Then at the age of 8 'Abdu'l-Baha's life changed forever.

Baha'u'llah's growing public popularity was perceived as a threat to the Shah's sovereignty. He was dragged away, imprisoned and chained to many others in a dark airless underground dungeon 3 levels below ground.

It was in this stench-filled place that He received a divine revelation that He was the Promised One foretold by all the prophets.

Public opposition, incited by the government, resulted in young 'Abdu'l-Baha enduring stoning and then, in company with his family, a succession of exiles from Iran (the first whilst His mother was heavily pregnant), over snow-covered mountains during which the boy suffered frostbite.

They were never to see their native land again and 'Abdu'l-Baha would spend the next 40 years of His life in a series of bleak prisons.

Exile proceeded through the Ottoman Empire over the next 15 years, culminating at the desolate prison city of Akka in Palestine (today  known as Israel) where Bahá’u’lláh spent the last years of His life under house arrest at the mansion of Bahji where he passed away in 1892, aged 74.

This final banishment determined that the Holy Land of Israel would be their eventual destination, and ultimately the World Centre of the infant Bahá'í Community.

It was from here that 'Abdu'l-Baha gained a Knighthood from Queen Victoria in recognition of  His far-sighted services in alleviating a terrible drought then ravaging the people.

'Abdu'l-Baha did indeed succeed His father, but not in service to the Shah. His service would be to His father Baha'u’llah (this being an Arabic name meaning 'The Glory of God') Who became recognised as Prophet-Founder of the Baha'ı Faith.

'Abdu'l-Baha's future role was to lead a progressively established global community. Despite spending 40 years in prison with considerable opposition from both ecclesiastics and governments, He became well known in Palestine and abroad.

“The Funeral of 'Abdu'l-Baha "a funeral the like of which Palestine had never seen" drew no less than ten thousand people...representing every class, religion and race in that country." "A great throng," the British High Comissioner wrote, "had gathered together, sorrowing for His death, but rejoicing also for his life." The Governor of Jerusalem at the time also wrote in describing the funeral: "I have never known a more united expression of regret and respect than was called forth by the utter simplicity of the ceremony".---Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Chapter XXI -The Passing of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá

Today, of all the world religions, the Baha’i Faith is the newest and the fastest-growing. According to 'The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography', 'The Baha’i Faith was the only religion to have grown faster in every United Nations region over the past 100 years than the general population'.

 


015. THE DIRE CONSEQUENCES OF A RELIGIOUS LEADER'S DEATH.

 Did you know that many of your forebears were quite likely killed in a religious war in some place at some time?

Conflict often resulted because of contention over divine leadership. These conflicts may seem distant concerns until we consider the numbers of wars fought both presently and historically for this reason. Which seems ironic to the many today, who believe that religion should be about love and peace.

However, when the life of a Holy Figure ends, the ramifications are grave. It is a dangerous time for the followers connected with His mission, who can expect retribution from those who felt adversely affected by their leader's teachings. For those anointed to continue a holy figure's mission into the future, succession is also fraught with danger, not just immediately but sometimes for centuries into the future.

Successions are of many kinds, like the birth right of the “first-born” child in Jewish law or the eldest son or daughter to a kingly throne.

Some situations require election to select a candidate by the vote of the majority.

In religion the roles of God’s chosen Messengers are considered as theological appointments by Divine Decree, such as the call of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and Baha'u'llah who were divinely appointed to their office in this manner.

However, when succession is disputed the consequences are grave.

Both Moses (who preceded Jesus Christ by some 1300 years) and Jesus were rejected over their claimed right to be a 'prince and a judge over Israel'. Some six centuries later, Muhammad succeeded to the high office previously held by Jesus, immediately causing dispute over His station.

Each event was, and remains, highly contentious. Among the dramatic acts of the disciples who gathered to plan for the consequences of the execution of Christ, His successor quickly became a subject of contention.

Today the Catholic Church claims a unique leadership role for the disciple Peter, who was believed to have been named by Jesus as head of the Apostles and a focus of their unity, later becoming the first Bishop of Rome.

The rift between Catholic and Protestant festers even to today.

Muhammad is considered by Muslims as the natural successor to Christ, Who is the most mentioned figure in the Quran. Muhammad's succession became the central issue that split the Muslim community in the first century after His passing, even today resulting in violent contests between Shia and Sunni branches of Islam.

The core institution of a covenant between God and humanity finds expression in all Faiths, and underpins all Baha'u'llah's teachings upholding the principle of unity. It is a covenant that clearly defines future successor-ship, and is to be accepted by all believers.

It was to avoid disunity that the Will of Baha'u'llah clearly delineated as successor His son Abdu'l-Baha. Later, with the passing of Abdu'l-Baha the matter of succession was again paramount, becoming a source of disunity amongst those few who refused His Covenant and Testament. Abdu'l-Baha nominated as successor, first His grandson Shoghi Effendi and thence a future divinely established, elected body, the Universal House of Justice.

"Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth; it should give birth to spirituality, and bring light and life to every soul. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it would be better to be without it... Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion." --- Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks part Two, 40


014. BLACK DAYS FOR BAHA'I'S in IRAN    -reprinted

Something is very wrong with the wonderful country of Persia that gave us exquisite architecture, illumined poets and extraordinary contributions to our collective human history. No longer is it taking a lead in the world. Perhaps it is not surprising that such ancient cultures and institutions are slow to change.

In contrast with this long and inspiring history the Baha'i Faith, with its origins in Iran, is the world's youngest religion. However, the laws of that country of its birth do not even recognize the Baha’i Faith as a religion. 

Dating from the time when international attention became focussed on TV footage of a humbled deposed Shah of Iran overcome by the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Baha'is have been the target of government policy.

During that first decade of persecution, more than 200 were killed or executed. Hundreds more were tortured or imprisoned, and tens of thousands lost jobs, access to education, and other rights – solely because of their religious belief.

Despite fresh hope engendered by the 2013 coming to power of President Hassan Rouhani who promised to end religious intolerance, a committee of the United Nations General Assembly was shortly impelled to condemn Iran for its continuing violations of human rights; specifically of Baha'is, highlighting continuing economic and educational discrimination and calling on Iran to release the more than 97 Baha’is who are today unjustly held in Iranian prisons.

Other restrictions include exclusion from university education, and prevention from working in a wide range of jobs including those in government offices and the private sector.

Last year a hundred shops belonging to Baha’is were closed, and 115 were banned from attending universities.

Youth is a time of idealism, of opportunity to begin the realisation of dreams, preparing for future possibilities. Instead, BahaiNews website reported that efforts by Bahai youth to enter university often led to long-term imprisonment.

Baha’is who have succeeded in passing their entrance exams have been told by officials that they might be able to study if they write a letter to disavow their faith; most won’t, under any circumstances.

So what are the teachings of Baha'u'llah that are so deserving of extinction?

"We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations, that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened... what harm is there in this?... these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come". - Baha'u'llah

The following news item will make you love Muslims as much as I do; https://blavity.com/83-year-old-muslim-cleric-from-nigeria-honored-for-saving-the-lives-of-hundreds-of-christian-refugees

This short but comprehensive animation explains the situation of Baha'is in Iran; https://www.facebook.com/foaad.haghighi/videos/10209391987457184/UzpfSTEwMDAwMjcxMzMwMTQ3NjoxOTQ1MjE4NTg4OTExODk5/?

And here is an inspiring project by concerned non-Baha'is in support of those affected; www.AQuietGenocide.com

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013. UNITY IN DIVERSITY - reprinted

 One thing that really aggravates some people is that we don't all see things in the same way.

But if we're to continue as one peaceful global community we need to allow for this diversity.

I will have certain views and you will have others. And that's ok.

Imagine a garden where all the flowers were the same colour. Or, if you're no gardener, a wardrobe where all your dresses and accessories were identical. And to be fully gender-free, imagine trying to find your car in a parking lot where all the cars were the same.

Depending on where on our planet you live, the Creator of this existence - if you believe such a being even exists, and more and more people don't - is variously known as Yahweh, Atua, Dieu, Krishna, God, Jehovah, 'He who has no name' or any one of many others, depending on our languages.

In the past many people understood this diversity of names to mean that the religions concerned worshipped many different gods. However, it is increasingly recognised that these seemingly diverse names often merely reflect a variation of language. In reality, there is great comonality.

Some religions use, in the place of God, those names that express various divine attributes, such as Power, Might, Love, often with different names for feminine or masculine qualities, yet they still describe that single God. One God.

This complex Creator is increasingly recognised as a vast unknowable force of indefinable nature whose influence is capable of creating vast solar systems, the size of which is beyond our mortal capacity to comprehend.

This God needs no feminine or masculine name and is beyond gender.

However, due to our own limited consciousness, the very idea of a limitless eternal existence daunts the human mind, so it's not surprising that we have needed to develop much simpler, often childlike, embodiments of this 'force' or 'being' that will also embody the attributes of knowledge, intelligence, attraction and love that are associated with such a Being.

Baha'is believe that there is only one God, known by different names that reflect our different languages. All humanity is but one common race. The Prophets have come to different places on our planet at different times, bringing messages inspired to them by our one God, offering new teachings which have the capacity to heal the diverse problems that are uniquely applicable to the age in which each appears, and lighting the way to greater future development.

Humanity's great challenge in this day is to recognise the extent to which in the past we have 'anthropomorphised' this vast force that is God, and to find new ways of exploring what is meant by that great Reality which is beyond our limited human minds to comprehend.

We are being called to find a new way of 'being' within this wonderful earthly family, and to recognise that now is the time for the unification of the whole human race.

'The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens'. -Baha'u'llah


012. RELIGION IN HARMONY WITH SCIENCE ...Reprinted

 Some things just go in and out of fashion, like bellbottoms, bouffant hair and stiletto heels. (Hint; you’ll need to ask a woman over 60). Religion has suffered the same shifts in popularity over the past century.

Back when I was a pre-teen undergoing religious instruction, our national statistics showed that pretty much everyone was 'religious', except for a few hardy atheists and communists.

Religion was for the most part like the recently ended war - not a polite topic of conversation - and attitudes to religion seemed to follow what would in future become the U.S. Armed Service’s attitude towards homosexuality of 'don't ask, don't tell'.

I had found Sunday School to be an interesting story-telling event, during which parables were like fairy tales where amazing things happened, of seas being parted and people walking on water.

Every year I strived to succeed in my personal goal to win the annual Sunday School prize which was invariably a well chosen book, thus providing me with quality reading for the long school holidays ahead.

However, these pleasant story telling sessions became increasingly troubling when my forthcoming Religious Confirmation classes began insisting I believe that hell lay beneath the surface of the planet, where souls of the unbelievers were condemned to eternal fire and brimstone, whilst heaven soared triumphantly above our heads, lorded over by a grey-bearded God on his throne, surrounded by adoring cherubim and seraphim.

At the same time, my science class taught contradictory things like the earth having a molten core, and the heavens being a vast universe of increasingly identifiable planets and supernovas.

The creation story of Adam and Eve was similarly perplexing. God made Eve from one of Adam's ribs? That didn't help the gender equity issues I struggled with, having been raised an only girl in a family of boys.

When my biology class that taught about the function of ectoskeletons and endoskeletons, this suggested to me that ribless Adam must have had a hard time manning up to whatever dinosaurs etc. still roamed the earth in his day, and required conquering. So I was labelled argumentative and certainly not encouraged for having such a 'thoughtful' attitude to my religious studies.

Eventually, an emerging atheism triumphed over the easy temptation to maintain a double standard, and I knew the time had arrived to 'come out'.

It was only many years later when I explored the Bahai teachings and realised those early Bible stories were our 'Europeanised' Semitic creation stories; our 'Adam and Eve' were like 'Rangi and Papatuanuku', or much later, like the morality tales of Hans Christian Anderson.

They served an important purpose at the time, but now was a new age; now it was essential that religion be in harmony with science.

"Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require."


011. One School, Many Teachers - Reprinted

Suzi labouring in her garden.

 One day whilst wandering round my new neighbourhood, I came across a neighbour toiling in an unkempt vegetable garden. Keen to get to know my fellow residents, I invited this sweaty new friend into my flat and we introduced ourselves.

I had long been an active feminist, so I was surprised when it was Suzi herself who first introduced the subject of the equality of men and women, which she then began  to talk enthusiastically about. This wasn’t a dialogue I had been expecting.

Intrigued now, I listened with growing attention as she asked if I knew about such matters as the first women’s suffrage conference and the first women’s suffrage martyr.

Humbly admitting my ignorance, I began to learn about a woman who was such a greatly respected poet that the Shah of Iran himself, in this very male-dominated nation, held her in high esteem.

Then Suzi asked if I’d like to read some more about this unique figure, Tahereh. To mix metaphors, the die was cast and I was hooked.

One book followed another, as I learned about the very subjects – life after death, care of the environment, principles of education, and many more – that had been the focus of passionate enquiry for much of my adult life.

Over 3 days and nights I used every moment of whatever spare time could be snatched between my occupations as teacher and parent to devour the many books Suzi shared with me, whilst in passionate conversation we discovered so very much in common with two otherwise vastly different lives.

Although it may seem sudden now, after those 3 extraordinary days and nights I was like a new creation. I found to my surprise that I now considered myself a Bahai.

Equal only to the sheer joy and wonderment this realisation brought was a sense of irritation. Why, I asked myself, after all those years of passionate search, had I never heard of this before? And how did Suzi, admittedly no great feminist or intellect, know about it years before myself?

And that’s where Barry Crump fits in, because it was he – renegade hunter, author and raconteur – who did a search of his own and found Lena. And Lena found the Bahai Faith from Shirley Charters who, as legend had it last time I heard, simply read a newspaper article about it back in the ‘50’s and found herself hooked forever.

Shirley turned out to be a kind of Johnny Appleseed because, thanks in large part to her, Lena, Barry, Suzi, and the considerable number of spiritual ‘seekers’ they went on to inspire, the Bahai Faith is today increasingly known and respected in this country, and  growing in influence around the world.

And all this is the fruit of those great Teachers - Abraham, Krishna, Christ, Mohammad, Baha’u’llah and that divine company - who brought us to this pivotal time in the development of our mutual home, the Earth.

"These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source, and are the rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated." - Baha'u'llah


010. MY JOURNEY FROM ATHEISM TO BELIEF ... reprinted

 I am always amazed to learn of the ways in which past generations recorded their history; in cave paintings, in cuneiform images in clay, in dance, music, story telling. It's hard for our present generation to believe that so much could be recorded long before we had access to the electronic means on which we now depend.

It took countless years for the story of Adam and Eve and the teachings of Abraham and Krishna to reach today’s world and, like the old game of Chinese Whispers, it changed over the years in many ways, but the underlying message remained the same. These stories began many centuries ago yet still retain their inspiration and power to touch and change the lives of millions.

My first teacher was just the beginning of a lifetime of learning, successive teachers adding layers to what was previously acquired.

During my school week I studied various aspects of material education, and then on Sundays my attention turned to spiritual education, passed on over the ages from great Teachers like Moses and Christ.

Leaving those years of formal schooling behind my education continued, sparked by sheer curiosity about this amazing world we share.

In the 'hippy' years to come I learned about Krishna and Buddha, and in the atheist years that followed, of C. S. Lewis and Bertrand Russell, all of whom would provoke my father and I to exchange passionate, contrary yet respectful views over Sunday lunch.

These lengthy and pleasurable conversations were made even more so because, my being otherwise occupied with a subject both parents approved of, the brothers would be roped in to wash dishes in my place as the only girl in the family.

After all those year’s study of both religion and science I became despairing of anything better to follow atheism, and threw myself into feminism with a vengeance.

However, whilst continuing with a lifelong belief in the equality of the genders, beneath it all my heart was dissatisfied and restless.

Unexpectedly I found myself by choice living in a lowly council flat, rubbing shoulders with a diverse group of people and cultures I’d never had an opportunity to meet previously.

I was teaching a small group of 4 ‘special class’ or developmentally delayed children from Samoa, Tonga, Nuie and Maori backgrounds. Whilst it was every teacher’s dream to have only 4 pupils, this was a group unlike any previously experienced, who dispensed hugs, kisses and bruises in equal measures, and whom I will never forget for the very best of reasons.

On the dusty floor of the teacher's cupboard in my new classroom I discovered a book entitled "Guidance for Today and Tomorrow" by an unknown author named Shoghi Effendi. Surprisingly true to its title, that guidance for today and tomorrow is exactly what I found in it.

Thus began an endless experience of healing and learning, when I was led to recognise the Bahai Faith.

'The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” - Bahaullah


009. PRESCRIPTION FOR LIVING      - reprinted

’God is dead’ exclaimed German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as far back as 1882.  

Today as I write in 2019, God has often become little more than an exclamation of irritation, or a personal lifestyle choice like one’s brand of soap or political party. Either that or it is a source of interpersonal conflict amongst total strangers.

I have previously described the differences that make up the various religions, when viewed in the right context,  as constituting diverse ‘ingredients’ that work together to make a delicious recipe capable of healing and restoring human society.

Many cultures use food, applied according to the correct methods and necessary amounts, as a prescription for illness.

By practising the teachings of the prophets within the various communities in which they arose, inherent social weaknesses were overcome and the establishment of new and powerful civilisations was enabled. These are examples of religion acting as a 'prescription for living'.

I believe that this is the true function of religion; to offer an ideal pattern or prescription for optimal human lives and communities.

The various ingredients of each was designed specifically to heal the unique and differing problems of the age in which they appeared. However, the teachings of these religions and prophets have all too often become highly contentious, and can only be summarised in a most superficial way;

Hinduism (approximately 500 BC) prescribed eternal principles such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings, patience, forbearance, self-restraint, and compassion, among others. The wisdom of the sacred cow, often scorned by ignorant westerners, has actually ensured the preservation of its countless adherents over millennia, ensuring a sustainable source of needs as diverse as transport, ‘vegetarian’ drinks and food which require no refrigeration. They also provide building materials, with dung being used in many ways; as an energy source, as ‘plaster’ for walls and floor, a skin coating against insects and sunburn. 

The teachings of Buddha (2500 years ago) include not harming others and to live peacefully and gently, working towards the ultimate goal of pure and lasting happiness for all living beings.

Judaism was founded in the Middle East over 3,500 years ago and teaches that the unspoken divinity appointed Jews as a chosen people in order to set an example of holiness and ethical behaviour to the world. It teaches that divinity is one, unique and eternal, with prayer being directed to that divinity. The words of the Torah given by Moses, greatest of the Hebrew prophets, are accepted as truth. This divinity knows the thoughts and deeds of men, and will reward the good and punish the wicked. (However even these very basic and general principles are disputed by the liberal movements of Judaism).

Christianity (2,000years ago) teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His teachings can be summarised briefly as the love of God and love of one's neighbour. Today there are countless denominations of Christianity, each with unique beliefs and practices.

Islam is another Abrahamic monotheistic religion, teaching that there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is his Messenger. The teachings of Muhammad united the warring tribes of Arabia and succeeded in establishing a great civilisation, extending at its peak from Spain in the west to Indonesia in the east, going on to exert a powerful influence on many branches of science

 Bahá'ís see the Báb as the forerunner of Bahá'ullah the second century of whose Birth we are currently celebrating. His writings introduced the concept of a Messianic figure (Baha'u'llah) whose coming was foretold in the scriptures of all of the world's great religions.

The Baha'i Faith, established by Baha'u'llah, upholds the oneness of God, the unity of religion, and the oneness of humankind. It promotes the agreement of science and religion, the equality of the sexes and the elimination of all prejudice and racism.

In this extremely basic exploration of the world religions a pattern emerges. We can see humanity over the ages as pupils in a graded school.

The earliest of the religions offered a syllabus for grade 1 children, teaching the very basics of elementary school, including ideas around sharing, safe foods, and basic hygiene.

Subsequent religions built upon and reinforced what was learned in earlier grades. They taught principles upon which advanced societies could become developed.

The most recent of these religions, the Bahá'í Faith, teaches principles at ‘college’ and ‘university’ level, whose application can result in a harmonious global world community.

This is where we stand today. We, the collective descendants of that single African woman, and working together with our newly discovered global family, are collectively charged with the peaceful unification of our home, the Planet.

"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established" -Baha'u'llah


008. THREE SONS of Abraham    - reprinted

PLEASE NOTE;   Because of our various 'family disputes' over the ages, it's not really possible to give one definitive accurate lineage for the various genealogies here, with the exception of the more recent Babi and Baha'i Faiths. However, I include them for your interest.

Oh dear; I had only been writing this blog for a short while and within days one of our unidentified 'cousins' was angry with me. So angry that he/she hacked my writing and left in its place some obscene material. You see how hard it is to keep unity in the family? And their hacks have continued ever since...

That's pretty much been our history ever since Abraham thought he could keep several wives happy at the same time.

Depending on which one of our family you're talking to, the story goes something like this; in brief, Sarah was Abraham's wife. Hagar was a concubine or 'secondary wife' given to Abraham by Sarah who was considered too old to produce a child of her own. This task she passed on to Hagar. Just to confuse the story, in old age Sarah did unexpectedly produce a healthy son.

After Sarah's death, Abraham took another "wife", Keturah, according to Genesis 25:1. (In a later record she is called a concubine).

To the sons of his 'secondary' wives Abraham gave gifts and sent them away from his son eldest Isaac.

Now, you don't have to be a Marriage Counsellor to see that right there, in the opening chapters of the Bible, we have a recipe for a soap opera of magnificent proportion. And so it proved to be, because least we take all this too lightly, the descendants of these three wives became founders of four great world religions; Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith.

In this way it can really be claimed that Abraham fulfilled the prophecy of becoming the Father of many Nations.

As a consequence of this convoluted past, the various family stories that were recounted in the Torah, Bible, Quran and Kitab-i-Iqan have been creating confusion and disagreement ever since.

According to Biblical account, Christ is descended from Abraham through Sarah's son Isaac. Muhammad, prophet of Islam, is descended through Ishmael, born to Abraham's and Sarah's handmaiden Hagar, and He is viewed as the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, though some modern denominations diverge from this belief.

Finally, Bahá'ís trace Baha'u'llah's ancestry through Abraham's wife Keturah , but He is also of the family of Zoroaster and of Jesse of the Tribe of Judah; all three branches.

You can probably guess from the story so far that we did not live happily ever after.

"Polygamy is a very ancient practice among the majority of humanity. The introduction of monogamy has been only gradually accomplished by the Manifestations of God.

Jesus, for example, did not prohibit polygamy, but abolished divorce except in the case of fornication; Muḥammad limited the number of wives to four, but making plurality of wives contingent on justice, and reintroducing permission for divorce; Bahá’u’lláh, Who was revealing His Teachings in the milieu of a Muslim society, introduced the question of monogamy gradually in accordance with the principles of wisdom and the progressive unfoldment of His purpose". ---Bahá’u’lláh, 89 The Kitáb-i-Aqdas


007. Peace, More Than Just An Absence of War. ...reprinted

I loved the '70's. I loved the blend of that good time rock' n'roll with gentle folk music, and the great outdoor concerts like Nambassa and Sweet Waters.

I loved the dancing and the beads, the long hair and long hemlines, the very air itself perfumed by incense, and especially the great prophetic folk music.

I loved our wonderful N.Z. United Women's Conventions, and the challenges and pleasures I found in helping convene the last one held back in 1979, but in my view, there was one serious omission. Whilst we showed significant leadership in providing workshops for Maori women and a considerable number of other important areas, there was no plan for women as mothers.

Back in the 60's and 70's, being a mother conversely seemed a serious impediment to the vision of Abdu'l-Baha that 'when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease'.

This attitudinal shortcoming contributed to the development of many harmful attitudes to youth, children, women, and marriage.

In the process, we also rejected Doctor Spock (not he of Star Trek fame, but a highly respected U.S. doctor by whose wisdom generations of Kiwi kids were raised) as well as religion, the nuclear family and their various limitations, yet nothing very helpful was put in their place.

The attention that might have been paid to the healthy optimal development of youth, children, women, and marriage was lacking. Little attention was focused on their needs. And this resulted in a lack of those conditions that contribute to a truly peaceful society.

I think we need a branch of Women Wage Peace right here in New Zealand. Why, you may ask, does our nation - globally applauded for its world-leading anti-nuclear policy, votes for women, and innovator of great early social reforms - need such a thing?

The 'war' we need calls for both men and women, and its battlefield is wide. We need to fight against the nation-wide horror that is child abuse, the high youth suicide rate, school bullying, the incidence of domestic violence, and the rising inequality of income that creates homelessness.

These are peace issues. There is no peace in the home of a child living with family violence. There is no peace in the existence of a youth who has no sense of life purpose or well-being in his life. There is no peace for a woman experiencing domestic abuse, or for a man living under plastic sheeting on the streets.

How does all that relate to the idea of religion? It seems that for many religion has become nothing more than a kind of brand, a label like Macdonalds or BurgerKing, Democrat or Liberal; contentious and with little relevance to the world we now live in.

True living religion is intended to be a 'recipe' for human wellbeing and a healing balm for the ills of the age.

On consideration, it will be seen that the great civilizations of the past - the early Vedic religious communities of the Indus Valley, those of Greece, Rome, Angkor Wat, Persia, the Incas, and Aztecs of Mesoamerica and more - were built upon moral and social foundations laid by religion.

True religion is not just a noun. It is a verb, a 'doing' word. It holds practical advice, social guidance, and a recipe for the needs of each age in which it was revealed. Unless and until that recipe for the unique needs of today is widely recognised, and that healing balm applied, for so long will true Peace evade us.

"Thy day of service is now come". - Baha'u'llah


006 FIXING A BROKEN FAMILY   ...reprinted

What a contentious subject my previous article proved to be! Why are some in our global family so aggravated by the idea that we are one human family with mutual forbears?

What happened to the Summer of Love, to the 'peace, love and mung beans' days of the 60's and 70's with flowers in our hair, to all those uplifting folk songs calling us to 'give peace a chance'?

To the inspiring influence of Bob Geldof, singer-songwriter and political activist, and Michael Jackson's 'Man In The Mirror', challenging each of us to demonstrate personal commitment to betterment?

It was supposed to be about peace, love, and unity. Instead of Nirvana, what followed the Summer Of Love was the Vietnam War and Helter Skelter, a cult of Charles Manson responsible for committing a series of gruesome murders, followed by the 1993 siege and consequent burning of 76 members of the Branch Davidian family at their Waco compound, all accompanied by an escalation of other social disorders which proved that love needed to be much more than the feel-good consequences of chemically induced highs.

Into the social and moral vacuum that followed the rejection of organised religion and its accompanying cynicism, I first heard the words of the Baha'i Faith, a new faith once again calling us to love, but this time with clear guidance on how that could be achieved.

It was not just a 'feel-good' love. This was a love that called for deeds, not words, for the practical application of true unity and equality of opportunity - for all religions, for women and men, blacks and whites, for equal access to education and economic advantage.

I realised that what was necessary was a vastly different concept of what constitutes a family; not a Charles Manson family, not a Branch Davidian family but one that saw itself as a part of a greater whole...

Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household, and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations, and you have all humanity. The conditions surrounding the family surrounds the nation. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation. Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, all fighting, pillaging each other, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore, as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered. - ‘Abdu’l-Bahá / 58. Theosophical Lodge

Rather than sitting back idly and leaving our brave new world in the hands of others, this present day requires women and men of all faiths, like those who supported Women Wage Peace, to join countless others in our global family to Wage Peace. And so increasing numbers of us are arising with spiritual ideals proclaiming 'One Planet, One People Please'.

'Glory not in love for your country, but in love for all mankind' - Baha'u'llah


005. Some Family Secrets    ...reprinted

I've been working on this blog for a while now and supposedly it has had over 25,500 different visitors, which is great if people are actually reading it. But unless people leave comments, how do I know if it is being read, or just glanced at and immediately flicked away to some item more appealing to public interest like hair restoration or an article on the Kardashians or Angelina Jolie?

An earlier reference was made to the ability of genetic science to prove that we are all genetically related.

This means that we all share common ancestors, by extrapolation can imagine one ancient African grandmother.

Some call her Eve. Ethiopians claim as family a woman known as Dinquines, aka 'Lucy', whose complete fossilised bones, dating back 4 million years, helped to clarify the lines of our human evolution.

Maori call her Papatuanuku. Although Maori had no written language, they did have prodigious memories, and so even today many can recite their forebears back many many generations.

Preserved knowledge of the past continues to be treasured within ancient tribes like the Jews, Arabs, and those of the early Persian dynasties. An example of how this awareness lives in the present can be seen in a previous entry about the movement Women Wage Peace, where on their March for Peace a tent was named for Hagar and Sarah, wives of Abraham and scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of both Muslims and Jews (Genesis 25:1).

This commonality was really foretold way back when our earliest books like the Bible and the Quran began, with a story of how one of these ancient ancestors, Abraham, was promised by God that he would become the Father of Nations.

Not only did his three sons go on to establish the great communities of Jews, Christians, Muslims and Bahais that would eventually become established across the planet, but these are very active and influential even to the present day.

The impetus behind Women Waging Peace was not only an Israeli/Palestinian creation; rather, it was inspired by earlier women's movements in Northern Ireland and Liberia, where women of different faiths had also united to help resolve violent conflicts.

However, true to our ancient family roots, all has not been well within the family, and certain members have disowned others. To be frank - and since you and I are family, I can trust this will go no further - some terrible things have been, and are being, done.

Poor old Abraham must be turning in his grave. More about our 'family shame' to follow...

"Pride is not for him who loves his country, but for him who loves the [whole world]." - Abdu'l-Baha


004. WOMEN WAGING PEACE    ...reprinted



Because I've recently lost some use of my hands for typing, I'm reprinting my earlier Baha'i Comment blog posts which had seemed to be well received. I hope you understand and won't mind a repeat visit.

Writing that blog was a personal first for me; although I've written a few books, prior to that earlier blog I had never even read one. 

It was my daughter who first suggested I try writing one and, for some reason now forgotten, I ended up with the name bahaigirl9.

It was only after having chosen that name out of a narrow list of possibilities that a friend pointed out that names ending in '...girl' are common on rather distasteful sites.

Reflecting on this new piece of information (while idly wondering to myself how he knows so much about them), I decided that even people with unsavoury interests need to care about this world we're all part of, and whether we truly like the way things are going with it. That's pretty much what motivates me.

Not only am I a blog newbie and not the 'girl' that my website name might have you believe (although I like to think that I still have much of the sense of wonder and amazement of that time) but now my own girls have had girls, and the world has moved on.

However, in many ways we're still struggling with the same old things, so it gave me great pleasure to listen to one news item in particular that caught my attention.

I was having an appointment with a delightful cardiologist who told me a little of her grandparents' experience of the holocaust. I mentioned that I had been to Israel twice, and so it was with echoes of that conversation and the age old struggles of the Jewish people still fresh in my mind that I listened to a radio news item about a movement called Women Wage Peace.

This grass-roots movement, inspired by similar groups in Northern Ireland and Liberia, began with the purpose of raising awareness, and engaging the public in consultations about the possibilities of a political resolution to the Israeli Palestine situation.

During formal and informal meetings of individuals and groups, national events such as demonstrations and protests became organised, aiming to pressure decision makers to work toward reaching a viable peace agreement.

It is an inspiring example of a simple grass-roots effort, proving what can be achieved when women and men of different races, languages and religions come together in a spirit of good will and commitment.

Dressed in white, the women gathered together to demand a political solution to the conflict which has divided the two communities for decades. They also demanded that women have an equal say in peace negotiations.

“We are women from the right, the left, Jews and Arabs, from the cities and the periphery and we have decided that we stop the next war," they stated.

The gathering lasted for two weeks and culminated in a meeting in a “tent of reconciliation”, where women and children crafted signs reading “peace be upon you” in Arabic and Hebrew.

The tent was named for Hagar and Sarah, scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of Muslims and Jews.

When all mankind shall receive the same opportunity of education and the equality of men and women be realized, the foundations of war will be utterly destroyed. Without equality this will be impossible because all differences and distinction are conducive to discord and strife. Equality between men and women is conducive to the abolition of warfare for the reason that women will never be willing to sanction it. Mothers will not give their sons as sacrifices upon the battlefield after twenty years of anxiety and loving devotion in rearing them from infancy, no matter what cause they are called upon to defend. There is no doubt that when women obtain equality of rights, war will entirely cease among mankind. -Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace p 172

I remember all the strife-torn members of our human family each time I hear this inspirational anthem; 'One Day',  by Koolulam, and recorded in Haifa.

Please take a minute to enjoy;                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqvKDCP5-xE


003  One Family    ...reprinted

Isn't it lovely that our genes have proved that we all belong to the same family? That's really worth celebrating.

But what do we know about that solitary symbolic woman from whom we are all descended? The Bible calls her Eve. Maori call her Papa which, for English-speakers, sounds like it should be her partner's name but no. Her full name is Papatuanuku, mother of the earth and all things.

Both stories show what an influential role this woman had. But how did that work out for her?

Somewhere along the way, Eve's female descendants got relegated mostly to the home and child rearing whilst men went out with their bows, arrows, and tiaha to kill the enemy which, thanks to our new genetic understanding, very often happened to be their own cousins.

Progress in DNA science shows that we are no more than 50th cousins of one another.

Now, after conquering threats to our existence, shaping the lives of the next generation has got to be the most important thing we could be doing. It would be nice to think that there was lots of support for shaping, and a diminishing need for conquering these days.

But no. Our screens show a never-ending procession of soldiers in Yemen, Syria, Korea, Somalia, ... still, the list goes on.

Men never suffer from a want of employment when there's a good war to carry on, and it does great things for many economies.

The real-life picture captured on camera is truly appalling as we are gripped by footage of exhausted Rohingya trudging ankle deep through mud and driving rain, carrying frail elderly relatives strapped to their own emaciated bodies as they abandon a country established in the spirit of Buddha.

Restricted from freedom of movement, state education, and civil service jobs, the legal conditions faced by the majority Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar have been compared with apartheid.

We need the true spirit of Buddha now more than ever, He of the golden head, whose visage is so well loved of exclusive interior designers, who appears in countless glamorous interiors and designer courtyards, exuding peace and tranquillity, but also a comforting unattainability.

We need to find our way back to the true spirit of the Eightfold Path and its eight practices of right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right "samadhi" or meditative absorption.

Every one of the world's great religions has come with 'dietary' practices for the new age in which they appeared, with social and spiritual 'recipes' or 'prescriptions' which, if rightfully carried out, were capable of resolving the crying needs of that time, of returning people to a society that would be just, unifying and peaceful.

The reality that each eventually failed to accomplish those ideals in their entirety does not mean that the ideals were faulty, only that a subsequent age needed to find a recipe more appropriate to the needs of the new time.

So, getting back to that 'recipe' calling for a 'great big melting pot', it's my view that it's time for a new recipe that will suit the special dietary needs of this unique age.

'Abdu'l-Baha states; "Thus should it be among the children of men! The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord. If you meet those of different race and color from yourself, do not mistrust them and withdraw yourself into your shell of conventionality, but rather be glad and show them kindness. Think of them as different colored roses growing in the beautiful garden of humanity, and rejoice to be among them". Paris Talks 17, – 15 – Beauty and Harmony in Diversity October 28th


002. MELTING POT    ...reprinted

I like to think that I will learn something new every day. Recently I learned of such a thing as a mini-nuclear warhead.

This sounds more loveable than the large economy-sized one but, by burrowing through the earth below to knock out underground military facilities, it apparently still has the tendency to kill large numbers of people. Yet it also has the advantage of helping people to believe that we can now have nice clean international warfare whilst allowing our fellow world citizens to go quietly on with their daily lives.

They're faceless strangers after all, aren't they? And there are no shattered villages and broken bridges to tell the tale, no battered crops or destroyed vegetation to see. And so the dream goes on...

Well, it must have seemed downright disillusioned to believe in a time of future peace in days gone by, whilst engaged in those countless wars our forefathers fought.

Today, thanks to the knowledge that we are all genetically descended from the same symbolic African woman, now we know that we are originally one single family, subsequently dispersed over the face of the planet, where we went on to acquire different colourings, different beliefs, learned different languages, dances, foods, arts and crafts; all those things that make this such a fascinating planet to learn about, to communicate amongst, travel over.

Remember that song that sings of a 'great big melting pot, big enough to take the world and all its got'? Well, that pot is here and it's happening, and we, the brothers and cousins and aunts descended from that African lady, had better learn the new recipe.

It's a combination of ingredients both new and very old that I think about a lot and that I enjoy sharing with other friends who, like me, have found other parts of that recipe. I'd like to share them with you.

‘Ye are all the fruit of one tree and the leaves of one branch.’ Pride is not for him who loves his country, but for him who loves the [whole] world.” - Abdu'l- Baha. A Traveler’s Narrative


POST 001. ONE SCHOOL, MANY TEACHERS    ...reprinted

Like most of you, my first and most important teacher was my mother to whom I will be forever grateful, although she never managed to teach me to like eating peas or tidying my room.

Five years after my birth I met the next person to be my teacher at our local school. Shortly thereafter, at the nearby church, I was introduced to yet more teachers, this time specialising in the greater, yet complementary, field of spiritual education.

It was at our local primary school that I met Mr. Tibbits who taught me the excitement of drama. A year or two later I met Mr. Elliot who introduced me to times tables, a knowledge which I found to have a very short shelf life. Then Mr. Whitmore taught me to love gymnastics, and later Miss Smith revealed the charms of Shakespeare.

Despite my varying capacity in each of these areas, I knew to treat these teachers with equal respect and courtesy and to value what they taught as stepping stones to my further education.

All had my education at heart, although each approached it in different ways that reflected my growing needs and capacity.

Religion shares many features in common with schooling. Since reality is one, it follows that spiritual education should be compatible with material education.

There was no competition between my various childhood teachers, just as there should be no competition between our spiritual teachers. They do not come to the earth as competing 'brands' to foster the many wars that have been fought on their names but as a series of great educators.

What we learn in religious education should harmonize with scientific education. If these two are not harmonious, this must be challenged, for science and religion are expressions of the one reality and therefore must be in unity.

Effective schools require knowledgeable teachers. Each teacher is uniquely qualified to teach their specific level. However, he or she is also required to be thoroughly familiar with the previous grades which their children formerly experienced and also of what will be studied in the future classes for which their pupils are now being prepared.

This is the function of a school, to offer a series of progressive classes, each of which builds upon the knowledge received in previous grades. So it is with divine teachers.

Each one is teaching the same Divine Curriculum at different levels reflecting the spiritual needs of the people of that time and place.

So, for example, the Buddhist Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path teach themes that are complementary with all the other religions, although they differ in relationship to the time and place of their teaching. Similarly, Baha'is believe that just as the Torah tells the story of the early Hebrew prophets and teachers, so the Bible and Quran continue these stories and reinforce them with yet more advanced concepts. So, too, do the teachings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah build upon the earlier teachings of Moses, Christ, and Mohammed; one Divine Curriculum taught to humanity at different stages of our collective development.

It is this continuing revelation of knowledge, both material and divine, which has enabled humanity to develop an ever-advancing civilisation.

Throughout human history we find that although the very apex of human virtues has been reached at various times, yet they were limited, whereas divine attainments have ever been unbounded and infinite. The limited is ever in need of the unlimited. The material must be correlated with the spiritual. The material may be likened to the body, but divine virtues are the breathings of the Holy Spirit itself. The body without spirit is not capable of real accomplishment. Although it may be in the utmost condition of beauty and excellence, it is, nevertheless, in need of the spirit. The chimney of the lamp, no matter how polished and perfect it be, is in need of the light. Without the light, the lamp or candle is not illuminating. Without the spirit, the body is not productive. The teacher of material principles is limited. The philosophers who claimed to be the educators of mankind were at most only able to train themselves. If they educated others, it was within a restricted circle; they failed to bestow general education and development. This has been conferred upon humanity by the power of the Holy Spirit. -- Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, 73 –18 June 1912 Talk at 309 West Seventy-eighth Street, New York Notes by Emma C. Melick




POST 166 The Future has Never Looked so Bright

Many of us share the dream of our worldly family living together as one. We share a recognition that our birthplace is Earth, our race is Human, our politics are freedom and our religion: LOVE.

We write about this oneness. Some of our most beautiful poems celebrate it. Many of our most moving songs sing about it. And some of our most stirring speeches (like Martin Luther King's famous 'I Have a Dream' speech) describe it. But not our national anthems.

Most national anthems remain celebrations of uniqueness and - dare I say it - superiority. So the dreaming of unity and the singing and talking about it were the easy parts. Now we've moved beyond the pleasant stage of 'dreaming'.

Now we're at the pointy edge; the 'doing' stage. How do we go about keeping our diversity whilst achieving unity, because it's the doing of it and living it - day by day- that brings the real challenges.

Many of our differences are readily apparent; our skin colour, our language, our dress. Less apparent are our unique beliefs, our traditions and social behaviours; the practices of generations. Yet often we cling to practices that are not suited to today's world and actually constitute a barrier to development and unity.

To what extent do we need to agree on these important subjects, or is there some way to live together that accepts differences without disharmony?

Often it is those very differences that become reinforced in the political vying of the electoral process, which is of its nature divisive. Bahais avoid this division by remaining apart from politics. "Speak thou no word of politics; thy task concerneth the life of the soul, for this verily leadeth to man’s joy in the world of God. Except to speak well of them, make thou no mention of the earth’s kings, and the worldly governments thereof.'---'Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, 53

The Bahai Writings proclaim that "the most important condition that can bring about peace is unity—the unity of families, of nations, and of the great currents of thought and inquiry that we denote science and religion". ---Universal House of Justice, 19 Oct 93 to an indidual.

For Bahai's '...the principle of the Oneness of Mankind, the cornerstone of Bahá’u’lláh’s world-embracing dominion, implies nothing more nor less than the enforcement of His scheme for the unification of the world—the scheme to which we have already referred. “In every Dispensation,” writes ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, “the light of Divine Guidance has been focussed upon one central theme.… In this wondrous Revelation, this glorious century, the foundation of the Faith of God and the distinguishing feature of His Law is the consciousness of the Oneness of Mankind.”---Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh

"How pathetic indeed are the efforts of those leaders of human institutions who, in utter disregard of the spirit of the age, are striving to adjust national processes, suited to the ancient days of self-contained nations, to an age which must either achieve the unity of the world, as adumbrated by Bahá’u’lláh, or perish. At so critical an hour in the history of civilization it behooves the leaders of all the nations of the world, great and small, whether in the East or in the West, whether victors or vanquished, to give heed to the clarion call of Bahá’u’lláh and, thoroughly imbued with a sense of world solidarity, the sine quâ non of loyalty to His Cause, arise manfully to carry out in its entirety the one remedial scheme He, the Divine Physician, has prescribed for an ailing humanity'. ------Shoghi Effendi, The Guiding Principles of World Order, The World Order of Baha'u'llah

Yet in achieving this, we do not overlook those structures necessary to a politically united world, or lack a sustainable growth strategy. In 2001 as our world emerged from the strife and challenges of the 20th Century, The Universal House of Justice thrillingly declared that "the future has never looked so bright". "A long and arduous process of struggle, experimentation and construction has led to the victories that lift our hearts as a new century opens. Through the rapidly proliferating system of institutes and the energy being invested everywhere in area growth strategies, the Bahá’í community has moved swiftly to capitalize on what has been achieved. However deep may be the gloom enveloping the world, the future has never looked so bright for the prosecution of Bahá’u’lláh’s mission." ---UHJ 24 May 2001 To the Believers Gathered for the Events Marking the Completion of the Projects on Mount Carmel.

"Every nation and every group—indeed, every individual—will, to a greater or lesser degree, contribute to the emergence of the world civilization towards which humanity is irresistibly moving. Unity will progressively be achieved, as foreshadowed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in different realms of social existence, for instance, “unity in the political realm”, “unity of thought in world undertakings”, “unity of races” and the “unity of nations”. As these come to be realized, the structures of a politically united world, which respects the full diversity of culture and provides channels for the expression of dignity and honour, will gradually take shape"---2 Mar 2013 UHJ to Bahais of Iran


POST 165 Apologising; The Use and Abuse of "Sorry"

 We live in a time of unprecedented change, affecting our values, our culture, and even our terminology. Even our most personal exchanges, such as saying 'sorry'.

For example, the earliest account of the term 'apology' is found in 4th century B.C. Plato's Apology, a philosophical dialogue dealing with the trial of Socrates in which he answered the charges of his accusers by giving a brief history of his life and moral commitment, intending to convey an understanding of his circumstances.

Today's use of the apology often overlooks this important aspect of mutual understanding. Instead it is a self-justification, or admission of some degree of responsibility for a situation.

Saying “sorry' is a quick way to achieve smooth, harmonious interactions, but meaningless if it is insincere and fails to understand the real needs and feelings of the offended party.

The broader definition of the term 'sorry' in Dictionary.com is less judgemental and more compassionate. It includes expressing regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: to be sorry to leave one's friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble, for a regrettable or deplorable action. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/sorry

Apologies are culturally and even legally defined. One cynic observed re the use of 'sorry' that 'Americans do not say it, the British do not mean it and Canadians overdo it'...

In Canada the term "I'm sorry" does not assume guilt – to the extent that the country even created an Apology Act to protect individuals from legal suit!

Apologizing is seen as a virtue in Japan and is often coupled with a bow. The more sorry you feel, the deeper you bow. In Brazil, the best way to apologize is by giving a small gift accompanied by a note of apology. Depending on the type of apology you want to convey, there are multiple ways to say sorry in China. The phrase "yi han" is used to express regret or pity. An example is if you have to turn down an invitation or deliver bad news. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/12004-apologies-around-the-world.html

It is also influenced by gender. American Karina Schumann, a psychologist and expert in the use and abuse of “sorry', discovered that men have a higher moral threshold for offensive behaviour than women, and so they apologize less frequently, and rarely for the little things.

Nearly 20 centuries after Plato, the few references to 'sorry' and 'apology' in the Bahai Writings attribute to it only a minor value. One rare reference to apology can be seen for example when the erudite Mírzá Aḥmad-i-Azghandí arose to defend the newborn Faith, refuting the arguments of His opponents, and exposing their odious deeds. Otherwise it is occasionally used as in 'He was sorry to learn of..' or 'In a sorry plight', 'a sorry spectacle'.

The Baha'i practice is quite different from current usage. Whilst the principle of justice is supreme in Bahai Teachings, it is achieved through the 'art' of consultation and requires us to avoid criticism of others, abstaining from the tendency to blame or take offence. Of course we are always free to express our own disappointment or remorse for our actions but this expression comes freely and sincerely, is not a response to social expectation, and is intended to foster mutual understanding.

All our actions must reflect the keynote of the Faith which is Unity. Bahá’u’lláh has established consultation as one of the fundamental principles of His Faith, exhorting us to “take counsel together in all matters”, describing it as “the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way” and “the bestower of understanding.”---Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas 52.

Whenever we as parent, teacher, friend or partner experience a situation in which we feel blaming or critical of another, an ideal response is to prayerfully call ourselves to account, to review our own response and if still necessary, to seek an opportunity for loving consultation.

"You must consider your enemies as your friends, look upon your evil-wishers as your well-wishers and treat them accordingly. Act in such a way that your heart may be free from hatred. Let not your heart be offended with anyone. If someone commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of others." ---Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace – 134 – 2 December 1912 Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney 780 West End Avenue, New York Notes by Edna McKinney


POST 164 ; There is no Cause for Despair

Our earliest forebears and all those generations who, over time, have shared this beautiful planet, have been collective participants in an amazing series of events.

Humanity has been travelling from the earliest days of family life to the level of tribal solidarity, to city-state and currently to our present stage of independent, sovereign nations.

Now, genetic science has established that we are one family.

With this new awareness of our oneness, the human race stands on the threshold of its maturity. Our collective task is to confront the destabilizing forces that now threaten this world and prevent attainment of the next phase of our development.

Although the dream of world unity is possible it cannot be achieved without full and unreserved acceptance of the cardinal principle of the oneness of humankind which is described by the Guardian as “the pivot round which all the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh revolve”.

The reality that humanity is one people must be the starting point for a new order; all relations among nations need to be re-envisaged in this light.

Such a radical re-conception of our origins requires a huge shift in understanding. Presently, the will to achieve this transformation is still wanting. Sooner or later, it will require an historic feat of statesmanship from the leaders of the world.

The progressive recognition of our diversity, and the turbulence created as a result, has all humanity - both nations and individuals - gripped in a crisis of identity, as various peoples and groups struggle to define themselves, their place in the world, and how they should act.

Without a vision of shared identity and common purpose, they fall into competing ideologies and power struggles. Recognition of our diversity has produced countless permutations of “us” and “them”, defining group identities ever more narrowly and in contrast to one another.

This has resulted in a splintering into divergent interest groups, weakening the very cohesion of society itself. Beliefs about the primacy of any particular group obscure the reality that all humanity is on a common journey, in which we are mutual companions.

Our earlier perceptions of human identity differ radically from what is emerging with this new perspective of our human oneness. The value inherent in our diversity actually endows us with new richness and the promise of exciting potential and possibilities.

Unity, in its Bahá’í expression, embraces the essential concept of diversity, whilst clearly distinguishing it from uniformity.

It is through love for all people, and by subordinating our lesser loyalties to the best interests of all humankind, that the unity of the world can be realized and our infinite expressions of human diversity may find their highest fulfilment.

It calls for unity and a selfless love for humankind. This is the task of religion. At this momentous time in our history, religious leaders have the opportunity to recognise the great possibilities before them to cultivate fellowship and concord. Or they can incite violence by using their influence to stoke the fires of fanaticism and prejudice.

Writing of religion, Bahá’u’lláh’s words are emphatic: “… make it not”, He warns, “the cause of dissension and strife.” Peace, for “all who dwell on earth”, is one of “the principles and ordinances of God”.

We are regularly confronted by the suffering endured by so many because of disunity. We cannot shut ourselves off from the increasing turmoil of the society that surrounds us, yet must be on guard, too, from becoming enmeshed in its conflicts or falling into its adversarial methods. No matter how bleak conditions may appear at any given time, no matter how dismal the immediate prospects for bringing about unity, there is no cause for despair. The distressing state of the world only spurs us to redouble a commitment to constructive action.

“These are not days of prosperity and triumph” cautions Bahá’u’lláh. “The whole of mankind is in the grip of manifold ills. Strive, therefore, to save its life through the wholesome medicine which the almighty hand of the unerring Physician hath prepared.” ---The Universal House of Justice 18 January 2019 To the Bahá’ís of the World


POST 163 Erratic Movements Towards an age of Peace

There is seldom just one cause of international disputes. However, many scientists anticipate that as the world's population increases and our basic resources become scarce, wars are more likely to be over material essentials, such as water and food.

My grandparents lived through that conflict that would come to be known as the first “World War”. Today, greater knowledge makes us feel appalled by its horrific severity, its unprecedented scale and ferocity. Yet despite this horror it gave birth to new possibilities for stability—notably at the Paris Peace Conference, which opened exactly one century ago, in this very year.

Reassuringly, Shoghi Effendi described these tumultuous events as fitful forces "working in harmony with the spirit of the age”, moving humanity towards an age of peace—a peace not merely a condition without armed conflict, but "a collective state of being", manifesting unity.

Over the last century, three historical moments seemed to foretell real, lasting peace. First was the establishment of the League of Nations, picturing for the first time in history, that system of collective security first enjoined upon the world’s rulers by Bahá’u’lláh.

Yet these premature hopes led only to a second World War, judged by historians as the deadliest conflict in human history.

However out of the ashes of the League a second hope emerged, as a system of international economic institutions came into being, forming a United Nations Organization. From here historic advances would be made in human rights and international law.

But as these encouraging plans for regional cooperation developed, so too did distrust between the world’s two major power blocs, producing the Cold War and bringing the use of nuclear weapons ever closer.

The close of the twentieth century--within our lifetime--produced explicit calls for the establishment of a new global order, creating a third moment when universal peace seemed to be within grasp.

Consequently a series of world conferences on humanity’s future was convened by the United Nations. Titled 'The Millennium Forum', it was a meeting of representatives of over a thousand civil society organizations, from more than a hundred countries, and was followed by the 'Millennium Summit', an unparalleled gathering of world leaders which led to agreement on a set of objectives representing a shared ambition of humanity.

These 'Millennium Development Goals' signalled a widespread, gradual but unstoppable rise in global consciousness on the part of the earth’s peoples and expressed our attraction to universal justice, to solidarity, collaboration, compassion, and to equality. But times change quickly.

Today, many of the dominant currents in society are pushing people apart, not drawing them together.

Cliques with grossly exorbitant wealth continue to grow. Rising religious fundamentalism has warped communities, and even whole nations. The failings of so many organizations and institutions within society have led to a decline in public trust.

That earlier promise of shared ethical principles is eroding, and the will to engage in international collective action is sapped through a revival of racism, nationalism, and factionalism.

The Universal House of Justice warned in its latest message to the world that the course humanity takes to achieve its future destiny may very well be tortuous.

The tumult raised by the contending peoples of the earth threatens to drown out the voices of those noble-minded souls in every society who call for an end to conflict and struggle. As long as that call goes unheeded, there is no reason to doubt that the world’s current state of disorder and confusion will worsen—possibly with catastrophic consequences—until a chastened humanity sees fit to take another significant step, perhaps this time decisive, towards enduring peace. ---The Universal House of Justice 18 January 2019 To the Bahá’ís of the World

We can't predict the future solely by the present. Yet despite the direness of the time, we take comfort in this assurance of Abdu'l-Baha;

Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain! Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God. If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men. Do not despair! Work steadily. Sincerity and love will conquer hate.---Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, – 6 – The Pitiful Causes of War, and the Duty of Everyone to Strive for Peace October 21st


The Oneness of the Entire Human Race.

POST 162. ONE FAMILY

Who are we, and where did we come from?

Usually we will know our ancestral family names and birthplaces, but what of our nationality? And is our nationality the same thing as our race?

Until recently the answers seemed fairly simple and well known. People didn't move around much. However, as processes of migration occurred with more frequency over greater areas, information on our origins became more clouded.

Today we know that we come from 'all over'. Today we can prove that all modern humans have a common ancestry. The truth is clear that together we possess a bit of everything; we are all one single human species.

According to a study published in the journal 'Science', all humans are 99.9 per cent identical with only a tiny 0.1 per cent difference.

We are 'walking history books' who carry the traces of all our ancestors in our cells. The advent of cheap genetic sequencing enables the history of modern-day humans to be clearly revealed for the first time, confirming the theory of one single, common origin for everyone. https://www.theguardian.com/science/commentisfree/2015/may/24/business-genetic-ancestry-charlemagne-adam-rutherford

Recent DNA evidence confirms the “Out Of Africa” hypothesis that all modern humans stem from a single group of Homo sapiens who emigrated from Africa 2,000 generations ago and spread throughout Eurasia over thousands of years. These settlers replaced, rather than interbred with, other early humans (such as Neanderthals).

Until now, one of the main reasons for doubting this “Out Of Africa” theory for the recent African origin of modern humans - a doubt of special relevance to my own Pacific corner of the world - was due to inconsistent evidence from Australia. Skeletal and tool remains found there are strikingly different from those elsewhere on the “coastal expressway” – the route through South Asia taken by the earliest settlers.

However, a genetic survey, produced by a collaborative team led by scholars at Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin Universities, shows that Australia's aboriginal population did in fact spring from the same tiny group of colonists as their New Guinean neighbours. This showed that both Aborigines and Melanesians share genetic features linked to the exodus of modern humans from Africa 50,000 years ago.

Just how far back can we trace our DNA? The answer is; about 700 years. The Mitochondrial DNA Full Genomic Sequence test shows that you and I have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last 5 generations (about 125 years). So you and I are just distant cousins!

Today as we roam with increasing ease across the entire planet, we recognise the absolute validity of the words of Bahá’u’lláh spoken nearly 2 centuries ago: "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”“It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world.” And again, “That one indeed is a man who today dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.”“Through the power released by these exalted words,” He explains, “He hath lent a fresh impulse, and set a new direction, to the birds of men’s hearts, and hath obliterated every trace of restriction and limitation from God’s Holy Book.” --The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, A World Religion 15.

The core focus of the Baha'i Faith is the establishment of precise principles and laws that will prove capable of addressing the needs of a timeless, ever-growing global community.

 

 


POST 161  UN Report; Really A Spiritual and Moral Crisis

"About 70,000 years ago Homo Sapiens was still an insignificant animal who made his own business in a corner of Africa ... Today he is on the verge of becoming a god, ready to acquire not only eternal youth, but also the divine abilities to create and to destroy ... Can there be something more dangerous than a mass of dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who do not even know what they want?" ---Yuval Noah Harari, "From Animals into Gods - A brief History of Humankind"

The dubious advice -"If it feels good, do it" - recently inspired a therapist writing for 'Psychology Today' to comment; "Maybe, like me, you're just barely old enough to remember this expression. To my father, a minister, this dictum summed up everything that was wrong with the emerging values of the 1960s and 1970s. Can you imagine? If everyone just did what felt good? Anarchy! Ribaldry!"

Fortunately we've matured a bit since then. But collectively we are still being guided by such self-focussed factors as the search for pleasure, fame, wealth and eternal youth. Unlike many other cultures, maturity of years in the western world is considered a social negative. Without any collective charter of spiritual or moral limits, we are continuing to produce that "mass of dissatisfied and irresponsible gods..."

The closest thing we have to any collective social responsibility can be found in standards set by United Nations agencies.

Lacking universally ethical and enforcable standards of behaviour, we have used scientific capacity to create without limit, to consume without restraint and to vastly increase our ability to destroy.

A recent report notes a mass exodus out of organized religion in the United States, stating that the number of Americans with "No Religion" has soared 266% over the last 3 decades. https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-04-06/

The most comprehensive study of life on Earth ever undertaken was leaked this week.

This global assessment report, compiled over three years by the UN’s leading research body on nature, warns that the planet’s life-support systems are approaching a danger zone. All future generations and wildlife are at risk unless urgent action is taken to reverse the loss of plants, insects and other creatures on which humanity depends for food, pollination, clean water and a stable climate.

The present 'immoral, overconsumption, extinction crisis' is an aggregate of ignorance, greed, inequity and other self-serving 'if it feels good' values-deficiencies. As such, it is essentially a Spiritual crisis.

It happened despite the passage of centuries since Homo Sapiens first set about 'his own business in Africa', during which humanity continued to be guided by a series of Divine Messengers addressing the specific needs of their places and times.

The values of those past civilisations may still be found today in such sources as the four Noble Truths of Buddhism, the Jewish Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule of Jesus and The Five Pillars of Islam.

Every culture had mutually agreed charters of collective social and spiritual responsibility. Today, many of those  who still adhere to religion are either in conflict or diminishing in influence.

From a Bahai perspective these charters of collective social and spiritual responsiblity were not merely the result of random development, but a divinely inspired cycle reflecting humanity's growing material and spiritual capacity, emanating from a progressive revelation of divine principles.

This is why the Bahai message is uniquely relevant to the needs of our time.

Our increasingly global and interconnected world demands collective values and principles that support and sustain the harmonious development of one unified world.

Belief in the essential oneness of science, religion and the essential oneness of God is the central focus of the religion for our time; the Bahai Faith.

Exert yourselves with heart and soul so that, perchance, through your efforts the light of universal peace may shine and this darkness of estrangement and enmity may be dispelled from amongst men, that all men may become as one family and consort together in love and kindness, that the East may assist the West and the West give help to the East, for all are the inhabitants of one planet, the people of one original native land and the flocks of one Shepherd.       --Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 469.


POST 160 Criticism; What Makes it Hurtful or Helpful?

Studies show the early childhood years are the most crucial in our lives.

A focus on limitations at that time reinforces a child's feelings of inadequacy, stunting the confidence that is so necessary for their future growth. Wise parents and teachers need to identify shortcomings, but only in order to highlight areas in need of future development, for which they can plan accordingly.

Often children need their behaviour to be corrected. But more than anything, they need patience, understanding and gentle loving encouragement. The same applies to adults.

Abdul-Baha enjoins us to 'exercise mildness and forbearance and calm, to be sincere, amenable, clement and compassionate'.

It takes a very wise and constructive parent, teacher or instructor to get the timing and balance of correction just right. Otherwise, there are very few occasions when any criticism of others is warranted. No matter how well meaning, it is likely to offend.

The Bahai Writings make little reference to criticism, strongly emphasising the need for forgiveness and overlooking of faults.

The negative effects of criticism are many, yet they seldom receive due recognition.

Whether in an occupational or personal situation, studies show that it decreases enjoyment and confidence levels,  affecting the development of a person's self-concept. In an educational situation, criticism has broad consequences. People find it more difficult to communicate with an instructor following criticism, thus reducing motivation and affecting performance. On a personal level, people report feeling that they improve less in response to criticism.

The receipt of negative verbal feedback corresponds with adverse behavioral, mental health and emotional consequences. These negative effects, especially among youth, need wider recognition.

Popular social media even encourages such behaviour, feeding a desire for attention through the expression of opinions on everything; the more negative the opinion, the more attention is received.

Some people seek to elevate themselves by 'downing' others. We are developing a very negatively based culture where criticism often receives huge unmoderated attention. It has been expressed as the "I know but you know not" posture.

Well deserved praise is important. My own rule of thumb as a parent and educator is that to whatever extent correction is needed, I look for 9 times more reasons to praise. As the old saying goes; You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

The Universal House of Justice discourages criticism, describing its negative effects in religion and politics thus; "...criticism is a two-edged sword: it is all too often the harbinger of conflict and contention." Instead, we are enjoined to "...refrain from such a pattern of criticism, which stunts the growth and development of the community." --UHJ9 December 1988, To the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh in the United States of America.

Shoghi Effendi encouraged us to recall Abdu’l-Bahá's words and to "...remember His contempt for and impatience of criticism."-- Advent of Divine Justice, To the beloved of God and the handmaids of the Merciful throughout the United States and Canada. "He feels that you should do your utmost to call the attention of the friends to these large things and real triumphs, and away from their personal differences and petty pre-occupations. Now is certainly not the time for any man to think of himself, or busy himself with the weaknesses of his brother; but, rather ...concentrate in the tasks ahead and be reborn in the service of Bahá’u’lláh." ---Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92

Sadly, criticism often achieves a result directly opposite to what was intended, when it is motivated by a deep love for the individual, friend or family, and a desire to see them free of any flaw. Human beings are not perfect. Others must be helped through our example and loving encouragement to refrain from that criticism which actually stunts further growth and development.

When conflict is mismanaged, it can cause great and ongoing harm to a relationship. When handled in a respectful, positive way, it provides an opportunity to strengthen the bond between people. It is better to strive and thereby make mistakes to learn from, than not to try at all.

Some degree of conflict is an integral part of any healthy relationship. After all, two people can’t be expected to agree on everything, all of the time. The key is not to avoid conflict but to learn how to resolve it in a healthy way.

This is why Bahá’u’lláh has established consultation as one of the fundamental principles of His Faith, exhorting us to “take counsel together in all matters.”, describing it as “the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way” and “the bestower of understanding.” ---Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas 52.

Whenever we as parent, teacher or friend, experience a situation in which we feel critical of another, the response should always be to prayerfully call ourselves to account, to review our own behaviour and if still necessary, to seek an opportunity for loving consultation.

 


POST 159. YOU are an Idea Whose Time has Come

This world is a school room. It is exists solely for our personal training.

O SON OF BOUNTY! Out of the wastes of nothingness, with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things. --Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words 29

What a remarkable statement. Imagine; every single atom has been created for our training! Every thing you can see, or hear or smell or touch. Both the known and even the unknown. Even all that is out there in space...

There is no randomness.

Everyone here has been created for a purpose and is a participant in the very purpose of all existence. And that means YOU.

You have been created for a purpose. You are a participant in the very purpose of all existence.

Clearly we could all have been programmed in advance with all knowledge of all things. Then, like clones, we would all know the same things without the least effort. And there would be no losers... But there would also be no winners, no diversity in our expression of that knowledge, no pleasure in our accomplishment, no need for effort.

Earthly existence provides all the tools required for our learning. However, what we do about these tools is the result of our individual choice - our personal actions; the outcome is ours to decide.

It requires acquiring knowledge, displaying volition, and then acting upon those;

The attainment of any object is conditioned upon knowledge, volition and action. Unless these three conditions are forthcoming, there is no execution or accomplishment. In the erection of a house it is first necessary to know the ground, and design the house suitable for it; second, to obtain the means or funds necessary for the construction; third, actually to build it. Therefore, a power is needed to carry out and execute what is known and admitted to be the remedy for human conditions—namely, the unification of mankind. --Abdu'l-Baha. The Promulgation of Universal Peace 58

The growth and progress of all humanity is derived from the education and teachings of the holy teachings. We are here for a reason. We must not only derive our personal growth from the Teachings, but to be most effective we must share them with others. In the process of sharing our understanding, it becomes reinforced and strengthened in ourselves.The teacher learns 9 times as much as the student.

In 'Paris Talks' Abdu'l-Baha explains that, unlike plant and animals who develop though various phases - inevitably ending in death and a return to the mineral form - the potential of our human growth is unlimited:

All creation, whether of the mineral, vegetable or animal kingdom, is compelled to obey the law of motion; it must either ascend or descend. But with the human soul, there is no decline. Its only movement is towards perfection; growth and progress alone constitute the motion of the soul. Divine perfection is infinite, therefore the progress of the soul is also infinite. From the very birth of a human being the soul progresses, the intellect grows and knowledge increases. Bahá’u’lláh has announced that the foundation of all the religions of God is one, that oneness is truth and truth is oneness which does not admit of plurality. --Abdu'l-Baha Promulgation of Universal Peace, 110 –8 October 1912 Talk at Leland Stanford Junior University, Palo Alto, California

Once the physical development is completed our continuance is as a spiritual being.

And that point of physical completion takes place at the moment of death. Whatever we have learned of this physical world ends, and our spiritual development continues. We take with us whatever we have acquired of our spiritual being. --Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks.

The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High.---Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1984), Sec.81, pp.156-7

Victor Hugo, French poet, novelist, and dramatist, observed; "Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come. No army can stop an idea whose time has come. Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come".

The one thing that is stronger than all the armies in the world and is capable of transforming human existence, is the power of unity; a principle and idea whose time has now come.         ---more on this topic to follow.