You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Bahai’ category.
Do we need God because the universe is just too strange, empty and frightening without Him? Do we know enough to decide about what created the universe? Isn’t the discovery of the cause of creation a continuous process for us?
Eric Stetson, a Facebook friend, entrepreneur and visionary, wrote a stimulating post the other day. It was Eric’s reaction to this article.
Eric wrote: Thoughts upon reading this article:
1. These people need to start calling themselves Unitarian Universalists, rather than Christians.
2. That realization just reminded me of what the UU brand has become — i.e. “the church for people who don’t believe anything religious” — and why I’m somewhat uncomfortable identifying with it, just as I also have mixed feelings about identifying with the “Christian” brand as it’s defined today.
The article quotes Rev Klass Hendrikse:
“Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death,” Mr Hendrikse says. “No, for me our life, our task, is before death.”
Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing.
“When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that’s where it can happen. God is not a being at all… it’s a word for experience, or human experience.”
I believe some members of UU, maybe most, do not believe in God the way more traditional Christians do. UU is much less a Christian organization that it was years ago. What I find interesting is that many people feel they need to pick either belief in God or atheism. Faith or no faith. For me the question of God is unanswerable. We simply don’t have enough knowledge or insight to know. That’s why belief in God depends on Faith. Defined by Mark Twain Faith is believing in something you know ain’t true. At the very least its believing when you have doubts or not enough information. So people choose Faith or no faith. Of course lots of folks don’t care where we came from, why we are here or where we are going so they don’t raise these questions for themselves. (Do you think there are many people like that?)
Here is what I posted on Eric’s FB page:
“God is not a being at all… it’s a word for experience, or human experience.”
Some people experience something they call God. The creative force of the universe some call it. Or the echo of the big bang. Or our Father in Heaven. But whatever we call it it is a phenomenon for some people — an observable occurrence. The infinite – anti-chance – the first cause. Science and art seek to understand these terms. Abstract terms that we can’t get our minds around because we are finite (at least I think we are!). This phenomenon, whatever word we use to describe it, is a reflection of the mystery of creation and existence. Striving to grasp a small measure of understanding of this mystery is included in the work or art and science as well as religion and philosophy. In this striving we have two extremes — those who say they know God and can therefore know the unknowable (the paradox of some Western religions) — and the atheists who say they’ve got it all figured out — there is nothing beyond what our 5 senses tell us nothing transcendental nothing super-natural. Any time I read that there is no more mystery no more to discover in any field including religion I reject the notion. We are born from mystery, die in mystery, and are surrounded by mystery during our lives. If we try to cap that mystery and put it in a ‘NO’ bottle I think we shut off an important part of being human. Religion claims that periodically the mystery around us speaks. Emerson wrote “God has not spoken — He speaks” now and continuously. I don’t know God or god but I do feel surrounded by mystery and I sometimes pay attention.”
So that’s my answer — its a mystery. Sounds lame — like what a priest tells a parishioner when the priest is stumped. But it works for me. No religion speaks to me very well right now. The traditions and dogma of religion makes them confusing to me. But they all have wisdom and beauty as well as dogma so I might change my mind at some point. I am sure that in the next few hundred years people will learn much more about the mysteries. I think learning about black holes and the holographic universe may reveal much about the nature of creation and reality. Meanwhile the importance of staying in touch with Nature if you are a human being presses on us to a greater extent as we put pressure on Nature. Thoreau had it right — “In wildness is preservation of the world.” Nature is the tool of creation as well as the result of it. Nature is also where the clues to the mysteries lie. Let’s not calcify our thinking with dogma or emptiness.
The unity provided by religion, that is.
Here is a post I just made to Talisman9, a Bahai oriented discussion group:
It was written, “I doubt that religion — the most divisive force we have ever had — will unite us.” Yes this has been written many times and recently by me. Your comment that this is like saying unity is divisive points to a paradox and sets up a question.
If religion unites groups large and small why can’t it be used to unite the world?
The answer and more questions lie within the quote from Abdul Baha that you provided — as is often the case with his writing. He often provides answers that also contain challenges.
“After the moral aspect of humanity becomes readjusted, then the greatest unity will be realized; but without this moral readjustment it is impossible to establish harmony and concord, for it is a fact that war, conflict, friction and strife are but the visible results of deterioration of morality and corruption of character. But when the morality of humanity is beautified with praiseworthy virtues there will be an end to war.”
Here AB doesn’t say that religion will change the moral aspect of humanity (not in this quote) — he says that once the readjustment has taken place — then unity will occur.
I agree with this completely.
Abdul Baha was an enthusiastic supporter of many religions. He said to Elbert Hubbard that his trip to the US would have been worthwhile if it had accomplished nothing more than introducing him to Christian Science. He told many Baha’is who where troubled by the thought of a father or daughter who held onto their birth religion that they should be left alone because their faith was serving them well. I don’t believe that he really thought that everyone would become a Baha’i or that this was necessary for the establishment of a new world order and world peace.
The readjustment that Abdul Baha wrote about will occur one person at a time. There will always be many religions in the world, some making more sense and being more useful than Baha’i. But Baha’i and many other religious movements will continue to help improve the moral aspect of humanity. This does not depend on a particular belief set or particular mythology. Many belief sets and mythologies work well to move people toward Abdul Baha’s vision of moral readjustment.
The paradox of unity is divisive will be undone when people are willing to share and work together with folks who believe differently from them. Many Baha’i’s do this today, some with no intention of converting their colleagues in other religions
What is needed is not one over arching religion designed to unite the world, what is needed is a readjustment of the moral aspect of humanity. This will be done one person at a time through education, communication, study, prayer, philosophy, poetry, religion, literature, painting, photography, altruism, good causes and all of the other positive forces in the world.
The world shrinks more everyday. We know of the suffering of people on the other side of the world in minutes. People are mobilized to help. They join forces even though they probably have differing views of the heavens and earth, of the existence or non-existence of god or gods; of life after death or oblivion. As the Buddhists believe — these things are irrelevant to the readjustment to the moral aspect of humanity. It is the readjustment that is important.
In the end it is love that will unite us, or nothing will
Here is another reply to Alex, my Talisman9 correspondent who has been gracious and patient with me. Please let me know what you think — & Thanks to Sen for his comments — I will reply to him later today.
Good Morning Alex,
Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
I think with religion generally and Baha’i in particular a leap of faith as you say is required in order to buy the whole package. Unusually one must hold his nose to some degree and then take the plunge.
But this requires a set of beliefs about the universe we live in. Belief in God certainly but also belief in some very particular attributes of God. The most fundamental of these beliefs is that the nature of God includes a conscious planning process similar to but far superior to that we humans use.
You cite the cruelty of evolution and natural selection. You wrote:
“I have had to come to terms with a God who uses Evolution and Natural
selection (with all its struggle and seeming random cruelty) as part of His
cosmic scheme to produce the big wide world and creatures (us) who can know
Him and love Him. Why does He do that? Certainly the Big Picture is well hidden from us… but I can’t accept that God is “fallible” – that is all
too human an attribute. Subtle but never perverse?”
I think this is square one in the Parcheesi board of religious thinking. Is God aware of the cruelty inherent in his scheme? Or is he opposed by an evil force that can challenge him going toe to toe? (Scratch the devil of course) And does he use this inherently cruel method so he can be loved? What a cad!!
Personally I reject these ideas. The forces of life that we humans have called God for centuries is a combination of things like the collective conscious, nature, the ineffable world of spirit (invisible part of life’s spectrum) and other stuff I’m sure. Religion tries to package all of this and then tops it off sometimes claiming infallibility!! Cool but I’m not buying.
The Baha’i writings say that all the books are open, all the letters of knowledge revealed. Doesn’t this imply that the writings tell it like it is? But aren’t we still dealing with allegory here? I think the term God represents a force in nature a power that propels existence but any personification of this is allegory near as I can tell. This is my way of explaining the cruelty of life. A personified God who was allows what goes on to continue? Unthinkable. Life as a struggle for the sun light? That’s the life I know.
The writings of Emerson tackle these issues pretty effectively — but not completely or infallibly. I’m reading (wading through is more like it) Kant now and therein lies lots of wisdom regarding how we arrive at ‘judgments’ and make decisions, learn. All good grist for the mill, but Kant is so dense and difficult that there is no consensus re: what he was trying to tell us. I still read Bahaullah and Abdul Baha from time to time but find them no more infallible than Kant or Emerson.
But lets suppose for a moment that Kant was and his writings are infallible. Would it matter? Put 5 expert philosophers in a room and you will have 5 differing views re: what Kant was actually trying to tell us. So Kant’s infallibility would be of no use IMO.
The same is true of much of what Bahaullah wrote. Some of it is very clear (as you say) — the laws for example – other parts are subject to interpretation and will mean differently depending on the reader. Other parts seem haphazard and not well thought out (The Aqdas). Of course the Baha’i answer to this amounts to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” (That is – don’t judge God by human standards.)
I think at two ends of the Baha’i story there are important questions — was Bahaullah constantly in touch with the Godhead? Was he damn near God? (as Bahaullah implied and many Bahia’s believe – or even more extreme — many believe he was God). Did a God who knew exactly what she was doing put him here on earth or was he the outgrowth of a natural process? And at the other more worldly end of the spectrum is the Baha’i way of elections the best way and is the supreme governing body of the Baha’is — the Universal House of Justice — infallible here on earth?
If the answer to either or both of these questions is no then we humans are better off taking from Baha’i writings the nuggets that are helpful and leaving the rest behind. That’s my path; what about you, Alex?
Religions tend to claim infallibility. Its either overt or implied — infallibility.
Perhaps this is a result of dealing with the infinite. If a being, text or object is infinite, perfect or immortal then it is infallible. But this idea raises questions: infallible when, were and to whom? Situational infallibility — is it possible?
We live a life wherein nothing is infallible. Some of us long for an absolute source of guidance.
Below is a post I wrote on Talisman9, a discussion group among Bahais, ex-Bahais and etc. Some background first. Many Bahais believe that the Bahai faith will become the state religion of one country then another and then finally at some point — of the world. They also believe that the governing body of the Bahais is in some matters infallible and will become the governing body of the world in the future. I am responding here to someone who I think believes both things.
Excellent post Alex — thank you for it.
I sincerely hope we will never have another “state religion.” How a state religion and at the same time the separation of church and state is possible eludes me. Your post implies that over time people will see the need for a state religion but I hope not.
“The Guardian’s vision of the future of the Baha’i Faith was inspired by God
(i.e. “infallible”). Accepting this we go on with our lives and try to help
the Faith as best we can, believing that eventually it will bear fruit no
matter how long that might take.”
You equate infallible with inspired by God. This is so very dangerous and extreme. Many ideas are inspired by spiritual sources, the ultimate source is of course ‘God’ the unknowable essence. Sublime poetry is inspired that way. Brilliant flashes of insight as well or at least so it seems to many. If we have tablets of stone that must be followed where is the room for further growth? Of course the Guardian’s vision included a succession of Guardians and that vision he himself rendered impossible. Why did this happen? It happened because people cannot infallibly foretell the future.
Inspired by God is a good term if its is used properly. Inspired by one’s muse perhaps an even better one (after all we can’t know God — “unknowable essence”) By used properly I mean that even ideas inspired by God must be tested and corrected if necessary. We have no choice in this matter as I think the history of Baha’i proves.
Infallibility does have its uses. It is the glue that holds many religions together. But as others have implied, it is only any good to those within the religion claiming this. It is of no use to outsiders and is in fact generally repellant to them (a paradox). And certainly any government that seeks guidance from an infallible source is a dangerous, potentially uncontrollable and monstrous thing. We humans are part of an organic, growing apparently flawed universe. Whether the universe is becoming more perfect or less is as unknowable as God herself. We do know that God makes mistakes — deformed babies born every day prove that.
I think seeking the infallible is not good for human nature — having been born into a world created by a fallible God we should use methods that allow for fallibility. Checks and balances, skepticism, rejection of “foolish consistency,” and a recognition that our progress will all ways be one of step wise refinement AKA taking two steps forward and one step back. No infallibility no matter how it is defined. Inspired by God does not mean — “oh than it must be true.” Not all inspirations are ‘true’ not all apply to this situation or that. All must be tested.
Bahia’s are taught not to judge God by human standards. Herein lies another danger. We have no standards other than those we ourselves have developed through the age-old process of formulate (through thought or inspiration), test, reformulate (seek further inspiration) — IOW step-wise refinement.
I have an old friend who was visited in a dream by Abdul Baha. He discussed an idea during that dream and than awoke to tell the world about it. It was a very good idea and my friend went on to develop it and it was a very good development. But I wish he had kept his dream a secret. It is very difficult to challenge an idea inspired by Abdul Baha. I’m pleased that the idea was developed and tested and proved to be good. But I am fearful of ideas that we can’t challenge.
Thanks again Alex for your good work.
We need myths; they help define who we are. In Christian countries the myth of the virgin birth of Christ has persisted for centuries. Jesus is our Superhuman being who transcended all human limitations. Buddhist myths seem to be the opposite. They center on a man who through his own determination became enlightened — awake. He discovered the middle way and enjoined compassion. Jesus taught that through him mortals could attain eternal life. Buddha taught impermanence. Nothing persists, all things perish. Treat your fellows with compassion — we are all here for a short while. Here in suffering because we want more than we deserve.
The myth of Buddha is that through meditation any person can become awake and aware of the true nature of life. Buddha proved that in the way he lived. The myth of Jesus is that a deity — God the creator gave us his only son to redeem us and wash us clean of sin. Jesus lived to die for our sins.
I have been at a Christian service and was told that I was forgiven no matter what I have done in my past. I was at a Bahai service and was told that Bahaullah was the perfect reflection of God, who brought God’s message for today which if applied correctly will solve all of our problems. I was at a Buddhist service and was told that only I know how good I can be. I prefer the Buddhist wisdom.
Of course I am ignorant of Buddhist culture and context and probablty too aware of the Christian and Bahai ones. Its a problem. But one I hope to solve.
This is a holiday season because we have always feared the darkness. Not so much now with electricity and enlightenment. Yet still we fear death because it is the dying of the light and might be painful. Today marks the longest night and shortest day. We no longer believe that our ceremonies and rituals are needed to ensure the rebirth of the light on earth, but what do we believe about death? James Carroll wrote a good column today in the Globe “Religion, science, and the solstice.” He concludes that knowledge is holy. But what of our knowledge of the soul and its rebirth after death? Is — as Carroll writes — today’s darkness tomorrow’s” light, or is it just more darkness?
Is our lack of knowledge proof that no rebirth is possible? I don’t think so. Yet we are in the dark about this in the same way as our ancestors were in the dark about the cycles of the earth thousands of years ago. I have faith in the economy of the universe — that nothing is wasted and that our essence has a future. Whether my consciousness survives remains for me to see (a contradiction — yes this is a contradiction and paradox). None of the proofs of the immortality of the human soul seem to work for me. And I observe no rituals to ensure its progress after death. Maybe I should seek some potent rituals designed for this purpose. Or maybe I should simply live my life knowing that I will eventually experience death and transfiguration — a process not to be feared because it is inevitable. As Baha’is chant — in the end “We will all verily abide by the will of God.”
What do you think? Do you fear that the light, once extinguished will not be reborn?
Did we lose our innocence on 9/11/2001? What did we learn? Did we learn anything?
I was dazed by the event not reacting until much later. Did the bastards who did it even know what the impact would be? Did they care about anything but their anger, their own needs? Did they understand the death and horror they inflicted on strangers?
What should we care about now? Anger? Defiance? Revenge? Or should it have driven us to our core? Should we have learned what to care about? Yes but did we?
Should it have taught us that we are one with the terrorists? Reminded us that our nation has used terrorist methods against our enemies?
Why are we enemies with Muslim extremists? Must we hate them? Should we? Or is love the answer, all we need?
Our leaders tell us we were attacked because of jealousy and hate, because our enemies hate us for our freedom and are jealous of our life style. Is that it?
Are we too quick to defend “our interests abroad (oil)?” Too ignorant of the needs and lives of brothers and sisters around the world? Yes? But if so does it justify what was done?
Baha’ullah wrote that there must be a spiritual solution to the economic problem or words to that effect. But that leaves it up to us. What does it mean anyway? What are we to do, live for the benefit of others? Maybe that’s the key.
Baha’i’s, many of them wait for ‘the calamity’ foretold by Baha’ullah to teach mankind a final lesson and drive us all to God. But we have had calamity after calamity and yet we seem not to learn. And will some may have turned to God, others just turn away. Calamity seems not to be our salvation (for which I am grateful.)
So the West spends billions on space exploration and particle accelerators — we want to know where we came from. And the West spends millions on aid to the needy — we want to feel as if we are helping.
Don’t we have our priorities backwards? Our interests come first, second our science and exploration, a distraction from work to feed and heal the poor — which seems to be our last priority — and build a safe, healthy world for everyone not just for Americans or ourselves.
Sorry this is a ramble. I will try it again if I ever have a moment of clarity. But right now I think the lesson is that we in the West are too selfish and cut off from the world. And that people are capable of anything — the holocaust and WWII should have taught us that.
The Twin Tower destroyers and their leaders were and are unspeakable bastards but we have been behaving like spoiled children.
Do you think we have learned anything from 9/11? If so please tell us what you think it is.
I have long wondered about the Baha’i teachings on Nature. On Talisman9, a Baha’i discussion group, we have been debating the merits and meaning of Abdul Baha’s reference to ‘the impurities of Nature.
Here is my post on this from T9:
” In Some Answered Questions chapter 19 “The Baptism of Christ” Abdul
Baha wrote: “But the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge
and life, make the human heart good and pure; the heart which receives
a portion of the bounty of the Spirit becomes sanctified, good and
pure — that is to say, the reality of man becomes purified and
sanctified from the impurities of the world of nature. These natural
impurities are evil qualities: anger, lust worldliness, pride, lying,
hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.”
I am intrigued by the use of the phrase “impurities of the world of
nature.” I wonder exactly what Abdul Baha meant.
For one thing we read elsewhere in SAQ of the non-existence of evil.
“God exists; evil is non-existent.” And then we read of the impurities
of the world of nature. Is this contradiction, I wonder.
In Baha’i nature is sometimes described as the source of impurities or
of evil, yet evils such as hypocrisy are found only in human affairs.
Nature is authentic and never hypocritical. The same can be said of
fraud and perhaps lying.
As we come from nature and as we can see evidence of God in nature I
see little benefit from denigrating nature in this way. It is the
foundation that we stand on and our origin. We are the brothers and
sisters of the creatures that we share the earth with. While it is
true that we can and should accept the breath of the spirit in ways
the animals cannot we need to respect nature as our physical mother
and symbol of our spiritual mother and father.
So — what do you think about this? Is this an example of translation
issues? Or is Abdul Baha saying that to become spiritual we must
reject the physical and the world of nature? Or grow beyond it? Can’t
we appreciate both aspects of our lives? What do you think?”
It seems to me that the impurities that Abdul Baha apparently finds in Natue are actually in human nature.
Personally I find spirit in Nature more than anywhere else.
The first part of the quote is particularly interesting to me:
“But the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge
and life, make the human heart good and pure; the heart which receives
a portion of the bounty of the Spirit becomes sanctified, good and
pure — that is to say, the reality of man becomes purified and
sanctified from the impurities of the world of nature.”
The heavenly water and spirit refers the sacred teachings and the Holy Spirit, I think. And yes these are uplifting at times — sacred writing usually, the holy spirit always. But so is Nature when one becomes immersed in it. In fact it can make one feel purified and sanctified, I believe. It’s a tonic for what ails you!
What do you think? Are the impurities we need to purge from ourselves in Nature or are they in human nature? Thanks for any thoughts you may be willing to share.
Marsh Loop, Plum Island
Sorry I haven’t written a new blog entry for a while. Last time I was in a bad mood over the long winter, now I’ve been busy with Spring.
So what’s going on? Well, I formally left the Baha’i faith fifty years almost to the day I declared my belief at fifteen in 1958. I also joined a cooperative art gallery in Newburyport and sold three prints during my first weekend there. Website: http://bridgegallerynewburyport.com/
Maria, my youngest daughter is graduating from college and preparing to start graduate school this fall. We attended her thesis presentation and she was as her professor said, ‘perfect.’ Aurora and I are enjoying our membership in First Parish Church United in Westford. Lad is going to turn 15 next month, he has the wise old dog look as if he is seeing into the world of mystery and spirit.
My grown daughters are living their lives and I hope are happy. Aida is settling in to a new job while also doing well with painting and consulting. Robin and I had a great visit in March and she seemed so relaxed and happy — I hope she continues to be that way. I haven’t heard from my eldest free spirit, Dawn for a while — I hope she is well and happy. (Sent Robin and Dawn Mom’s day cards — they each have done wonderful work in raising their kids — many thanks to them and the universe for that!)
My Grandchildren are growing up — Jack has a new job, Eddy is teaching Freshman English and doing well in graduate school, Shaylyn is thinking of going to college on the East Coast — yeah!! — and Elliot is growing up and enjoying his new school (how I miss them all!) Shay paid us a visit in April and it was such a treat. She is so delightful to be with and I think she had a good time as well. Visited RISD and some art schools in Boston. I hope she picks one next year.
Meanwhile politics, local and national, marches on in its surrealistic way. Extremists abound. Mean spirits continue to rule and the rest of us rue the day. Yet our problems are not petty nor mean. They are the result of our success as a species. Its pretty clear that what is needed is for us to grow up and quickly. It is human nature itself that is challenged and needs to evolve — with great rapidity – if that’s possible.
While I feel very good — liberated — about the Baha’i decision, I think it a shame the Baha’i faith hasn’t had greater impact. Some of what the Bahia’s teach is good medicine. But its such a stew of mixed and contradictory beliefs and behaviors that in good conscience I can’t call myself a Baha’i. Greater impact would stir some of the questions that need asking now — I don’t hold hope that Baha’i has all the answers but questions? Yes it offers many.
I saw Karen Armstrong speak at a TED conference recently. She was receiving an award and gave a wonderful talk. From the TED website: (Armstrong) “talks about how the Abrahamic religions — Islam, Judaism, Christianity — have been diverted from the moral purpose they share to foster compassion. But Armstrong has seen a yearning to change this fact. People want to be religious, she says; we should act to help make religion a force for harmony. She asks the TED community to help her build a Charter for Compassion — to help restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.”
The thoughts from this talk that have stayed with me include the conclusion that religion is not primarily about beliefs; rather its about behavior. I suppose the beliefs are a means of encouraging certain behaviors. Another lasting thought is that the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) all have the virtue of Compassion at their core — embodied in the Golden Rule. Simple. Makes me wonder why the religions have gotten so complex. (Maybe its because as Karen says, “the Golden Rule is difficult.”
Here is a link to the talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/234
For me the problem with religion is that most of ’em claim to offer the infallible word of God. If you need to know what to do and you are religious you can look it up in the holy book. Of course this breaks down at times (often) and then the believers need to come up with logic that explains away the contradictions, logical fallacies, and misinformation. I think that only if we keep things simple — the golden rule, the four noble truths, “Love one another as I have loved you” — there is hope.
Most faiths act as if they had the only or ultimate truth. Baha’i says — all religious are true but ours is truer because its the latest revelation from God. Seems simple — but its a dangerous and divisive attitude. The concept that God progressively reveals more truth over time to meet the needs of each age seems simple too. But its simplicity precludes the problem solving and truth finding that we need to do in our lives as we follow our own unique path.
This is what drew me to the church we recently joined. It is affiliated with Unitarian/Universalist and through them with the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I get much wisdom and pleasure from his writings. His advice is to listen to one’s inner voice, to intuition. He advises us to not seek the truth in books but in our own ‘genius’ — that is the spirit within. A kind of contradiction because I am seeking wisdom in books of his. At least Emerson doesn’t claim to be the voice of God!
The UU approach implies that truth can be found in many places, sacred and secular. I think this is good advice. Also the rejection of the belief that certain historic figures were unique and were incarnations or direct voices of God is good. As Emerson taught, the same source of truth that Christ had we may have as well. Christ set an example of how to find that source and we would do well to emulate it. But to worship him as God or nearly God or God’s only son is rejected. I agree. And I also reject the infallibility of Baha’ullah and the others in Baha’i who claim it because no one born of flesh was ever infallible. Worth following? Possibly. Infallible? Not possible.
I hope to write in this blog more often. I’ll get back to being more specific and reporting events that might interest others — like apparently skunk cabbage — one of my readers (or I guess searchers/googlers) most favored subjects strangely enough.
Meanwhile enjoy the springtime and let me know your thoughts if you want.
Elbert Hubbard was a prolific writer of the early twentieth century. He was a major figure in the Arts and Crafts movement having establish a hand crafted publishing house called Roycrofters, famous for beautiful, illuminated limited edition volumes, bound in leather.
His book “Hollyhocks and Goldenglow” is a collection of essays on topics from the Titanic to Abdul Baha. (I recently made an entry on the Talisman9 discussion forum about this and what follows was drawn from that post.)He writes movingly about the Titanic recounting the bravery, loyalty and love of Mrs. Straus who refused to leave her husband for a life boat. Ironically Hubbard and his wife, Alice perished three years later aboard the Lusitania. Survivors told stories of their courage, matching the characteristics of Mrs. Straus.
There is also an essay about Abdul Baha entitled “A Modern Prophet.” The first sentence reads “A very great man has recently visited America.” It continues: “So out of Persia comes Abdul Baha, who calls himself “The Servant of God.” His followers are called Bahais. This man has diverted one-third of the population of Persia from Mohammedanism. …. This man is the modern Messiah.”
I find this essay an engrossing report by a non-Baha’i. Particularly interesting is this:
“Christian Science interests Abdul Baha greatly. It is somewhat humiliating thing for us when we think that this new American religion was never heard of by Abdul Baha until recently. Now he has practically embraced it. He says it represents one arc of the great circle of truth, and that if he had learned nothing else from his trip to America but the truths of Christian Science, he would be amply repaid.He says he comes more as a learner than a teacher. Nevertheless, he is obliged to give out the light that has been given to him. He keeps the good by giving it away.He quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson freely, delights in Walt Whitman, and loves the memory of Tolstoy, and is on terms of great tenderness toward every good and noble thing that makes for human betterment.No man of recent times has shown such a magnificent affirmative spirit as this Abdul Baha.”
Hubbard was a prolific writer who is not very well known today — not the household word one might think he would be. (The exception might be his “Message to Garcia” that I believe was read in grade or high schools years ago.)His contemporaneous account of Abdul Baha’s visit is precious I think. There may be errors in the essay but it rings true. He doesn’t say that he met Abdul Baha but I think he must have. Does anyone have knowledge of this possible meeting? I find the comments about Christian Science, Emerson and Whitman intriguing and perfectly consistent with my mental and emotional image of Abdul Baha and his approach to life.The book is available as a reprint or as an antique in its original leather bound form if you can find it.I love the idea that Abdul Baha quoted Emerson and loved Whitman but this is the only reference to that I know of. I think many Baha’is would reject the idea. If you are a Baha’i what do you think? And please let me know of other references like this that you are aware of.Many thanks,Frank