The Journey West Podcast: Exploring Abdu’l-Baha’s Travels to the West

The Journey West podcast is an audio initiative which explores and celebrates the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s travels to Egypt, Europe and North America in 1911-1913. Each episode features a reading of one of Abdu’l-Baha’s talks, as well as dramatized stories and historical accounts. You can also hear discussions of the talk that was featured, and some personal thoughts on how the ideas discussed in the talk are applicable today.  Continue reading

Seeking a State of Heaven: A Book About the German Templers by Carolyn Sparey Fox

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.

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“What I Saw of Abdu’l-Baha”: Vignettes by Laura Barney

Abdu’l-Baha on the steps of 7 Haparsim Street, His home in Haifa, May 1921. Photo: courtesy of the Baha'i International Community

May 16, 1909, New York City: a group has gathered to hear Laura Clifford Barney speak. Her name is familiar to the audience from Some Answered Questions, which was published last year. This book brought Abdu’l-Baha’s commentary on subjects ranging from the New Testament to criminal justice to the newborn Baha’i community in the United States.

Barney, the book’s compiler and translator, has spent most of the past decade far from this, her homeland, living in Paris and Akka. She lived for months at a time in Abdu’l-Baha’s household—a “village” bustling with Baha’is of all ages, as she fondly recalls—from 1904 to 1906, when she compiled Some Answered Questions. During these Akka sojourns, she had many opportunities to interact with and observe Abdu’l-Baha.

“It is not what I think [that] is of much importance but what I saw…of the characteristics and habits of Abdu’l-Baha,” she tells her New York audience. One attendee has a pen poised above a stack of lined paper, ready to transcribe Barney’s words. Thanks to this unnamed scribe, we have a record of Barney’s comments that day. For this post, passages have been arranged by topic: first, anecdotes of Abdu’l-Baha; second, reminiscences of life in His household; and third, reflections on His attributes and guidance. These excerpts have been lightly edited for readability.  Continue reading

New Letter from the Universal House of Justice About Abdu’l-Baha

In these precious hours between the Day of the Covenant and the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha, when our hearts and our minds are turning towards Him, the Baha’i world has been gifted with a letter from the Universal House of Justice (this letter can be read in full or downloaded from the Baha’i Reference Library here). For ease of reference, we have quoted it in full below:  Continue reading

New English Translations of Prayers, Tablets, Extracts and Talks by Abdu’l-Baha

In honor of the Day of the Covenant (the day when Baha’is celebrate the appointment of Abdu’l-Baha as the Centre of Baha’u’llah’s Covenant), we thought it would be a perfect time to bring our readers’ attention the exciting news of the newly translated prayers, tablets, extracts and talks by Abdu’l-Baha, recently made available on the Baha’i Reference Library. Continue reading

Rooftops and Sidewalks: An Album by Jose Maria Fierro

While I was visiting Green Acre Baha’i School in the US a couple of years ago, a young man came over to chat with me and to thank the Baha’i Blog team for all the work we had done in the online space, and to especially thank us for our dedication to encouraging Baha’i-inspired musicians. Little did I know that the young man was Jose Maria Fierro, a voice I had heard on numerous Baha’i-inspired songs over the years with the likes of artists such as Colby Jeffers, Karim Rushdy and Bass Adjustment. As fate would have it, about a year later, I was temporarily living in Phoenix, Arizona, and Jose Maria helped organize some Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions there. We even recorded one of his songs called ‘In Thy Hands‘.

I’m excited to let everyone know that Jose Maria has just released an exciting new double album called Rooftops and Sidewalks so I decided to find out more about the album and his inspiration behind it: Continue reading

The Symptoms of the Soul

The body is great at telling us when something isn’t functioning. Aches, pains, rashes, lumps… all of these tell us that something is wrong with the body and we need to find out what it is. The symptoms are signs leading to a deeper underlying problem. But we don’t just have a body; we also have a soul. In fact, we are souls living with a body. So, if there are signs in the body of good and bad health, are there similar signs in the soul?

The perplexing thing about the soul is that it is so elusive and mysterious. We cannot see or touch it. Baha’u’llah says of the soul:

Verily I say, the human soul is exalted above all egress and regress. It is still, and yet it soareth; it moveth, and yet it is still. ((Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p.161))

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Launching 200 New Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith in Honor of the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab

The Baha’i Blog team is excited to announce that starting tomorrow, we’ll be launching another 200 portraits and personal reflections from people around the world as a part of our “Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith from Around the World” initiative, and this time it’s in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Birth of the Bab.

Baha’i Blog’s “Personal Reflections” initiative started last year to honor the bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, and approximately every 24 hours, we shared one of 200 photographs taken of Baha’is and their friends, each coupled with an extract taken from an interview about what the Baha’i Faith means to them personally, and how it has touched their lives. Continue reading

Universal House of Justice Announces Creation of the Baha’i International Development Organization

On the occasion of the Twin Holy Days, the Universal House of Justice has joyously announced that the Office of Social and Economic Development at the Baha’i World Centre has blossomed into a new global institution: the Baha’i International Development Organization. This organization will assist development work occurring and emerging around the planet. Continue reading