Carolyn Sparey Fox’s newest book is titled Seeking a State of Heaven and it tells the story of the German Templers who settled at the foot of Mount Carmel beneath the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel.
Their avenue of homes has become an iconic landmark of Haifa and for Baha’is they have become symbolic of those who are searching and yearning to hear about Baha’u’llah’s teachings of unity, equality and oneness. To be honest, that’s the extent of my knowledge of the German Templers so my curiosity was definitely piqued when I learned that a book about them has been written.
It was great to catch up with Carolyn Sparey Fox, who I had interviewed before, about her latest book. Here’s what she shared with me:
Baha’i Blog: What was the inspiration for putting this book together?
Since writing my first book, The Half of it was Never Told, many Baha’is have spoken to me about the German Templers, wrongly believing that they settled at the foot of Mount Carmel because they believed that the return of Christ was about to take place there. I knew that this wasn’t entirely correct, but I didn’t really have the answer, so I started doing some research — it turns out that the Templers initially called themselves “Friends of Jerusalem” and Jerusalem was actually the focus, the goal of the German Templers’ spiritual journey, not Haifa. Initially my plan was to come up with a few sentences, but as I read more and more my sentences became paragraphs, my paragraphs became chapters, and before I knew it I was launched into writing a book, which describes all about how the Templers ended up in Haifa, instead of Jerusalem.
I was also fascinated by the connection between the German Templers in Haifa and the Baha’is living in Akka, and latterly Haifa. Abdu’l-Baha knew several of the Templers personally of course, and Baha’u’llah actually wrote a Tablet to David Hardegg, one of the two men who were behind the creation of the Templers.
Baha’i Blog: What was something you learned during the process of writing this book that you cherish?
It was a real eye opener for me to discover how widespread Adventism was during the 19th century (not to be confused with 7th Day Adventism of course). I already knew that it was a big movement, but it wasn’t until I really got into the business of writing this latest book that I realised just how massive it was. It was humbling really. So many people believed so strongly that the return of Christ was imminent, and they really put their personal lives on hold in order to follow their dream.
Baha’i Blog: What was a challenge you had to overcome in the process of putting this book together?
Patience!! I managed to make contact with a lovely Templer living in Australia, who offered to send me an in-depth history of the Templers which had been translated from German into English. He told me that there were dozens of copies and that he was happy to send me one for nothing! I was thrilled, and really keen to get my hands on it as soon as possible, but since he sent it by sea it took over two months to reach me here in Scotland, by which time I was just about giving up hope. But it was certainly worth the wait.
Baha’i Blog: How has writing this book changed you?
There’s no easy answer to this. In one way it hasn’t changed me at all, because my first book, The Half of it was Never Told, had already put me on the map as someone with in-depth knowledge on 19th Century Adventism. In another way it has changed me, because it’s given me even more enthusiasm for the subject, which I’m still researching.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope others will take away from this book?
I’m hoping that Baha’is who visit Haifa on pilgrimage will finally have a true understanding of the German Templers who built their homes at the base of Mount Carmel. I also hope that anyone reading the book will be inspired by the extraordinary spirit of those intrepid Templers who gave up their country and their comforts in order to travel to a virtually unknown country and culture in order to follow a deep spiritual conviction.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Carolyn, for discussing your new book with us!
You can purchase a copy of Seeking a State of Heaven here from George Ronald or from your local Baha’i bookstore.