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.
In my travels I have had the privilege and honor of meeting incredible people who are doing incredible things in loving and humble ways. Brian O’Toole is one such person I recently met and I’m so grateful our paths crossed. Brian recently put out a book that offers some of his thoughts and honest reflections on the last four decades of development work that he’s been involved with in Guyana, where he has pioneered with his wife. The book is called Educational Leadership: A Guyanese Perspective, and I decided to ask Brian about his book and his work and here’s what Brian had to say:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about the book? What’s it all about?
We have now been 40 years in Guyana having left the UK as a young married couple. Guyana has proven to be a very receptive country to the Faith with Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism well established in the country. By the early 1980s, Guyana had more than 7% of the population as declared Baha’is. My thinking was: if a significant percentage of the population embraces the Faith and nothing seems to change then what is the point? This led us to introduce a number of development projects in literacy, youth leadership, disability and education to see what it means to try and put the principles of the Faith into practice. The book is a reflection on these efforts.
A new resource for anyone thinking about finding a marriage partner is hot off the presses! Susanne Alexander, Johanna Merritt Wu, and Jeremy Lambshead teamed up to write a book called Starting with Me: Knowing Myself Before Finding a Partner. Its tagline is “9 transformative steps based on the Baha’i Faith’s teachings about relationships and marriage”. This fantastic book is inspired by the Baha’i Writings and draws on the authors’ collective experience as a marriage and relationship educator, psychologist, and writer respectively.
Susanne, Johanna, and Jeremy were happy to tell us how their book came together. Here’s what they shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?
In Our Seven Families, Elaine McCreary describes invisible human worlds so clearly that you can see them for yourself. She does this with an easy-flowing narrative through scholarly content in a manner described by Dr. Janet Khan in the book’s forward:
Drawing on her experience as a social scientist and on insights derived from a deep study of the Baha’i Sacred Writings, Elaine McCreary offers a fresh perspective on human affairs, revealing new hope and opportunities for action.
This book strikes me as unique, not only in the content it offers, but also in the way it is structured as it moves through seven different worlds that we all live in. Doesn’t that sound fascinating? Elaine agreed to tell us all about her new book, what it explores and how she presents her ideas!
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
From earliest childhood I was aware of the reality of God, at first as Jesus, then as the presence of a Holy Spirit that was something beyond the Person of Jesus. This conviction about spiritual reality never left me, but as a young adult I stepped out to find God elsewhere and practiced a refined form of Raj Yoga (hatha, bhakti, jnana, and karma yogas) for 19 years, accepting Lord Krishna as an avatar in the same station as Lord Jesus, before finally accepting Baha’u’llah at the age of 42. A complete reading of Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah convinced me that He is indeed the Lord of the Age and His Revelation has indeed unveiled a completely new perception of the world.
Over the years, we’ve highlighted new Baha’i-inspired books and we’ve had the privilege of getting to know so many brilliant and creative writers! We’ve also been honoured to write about volumes of the Baha’i Writings, or about statements and books written by the Universal House of Justice. In honour of International Literary Day, we thought we’d celebrate all the books we’ve featured on Baha’i Blog so far. We hope this list, and the snippets of their accompanying articles or interviews, inspires you to add some of these titles to your reading lists! Continue reading
It’s interesting to see Baha’i-inspired book publishing flourishing and covering a wider and wider array of subjects and genres for a growing diversity of audiences. Jenina Lepard, for example, just released a book titled The Fashioner: Reflections on the Role of Music and the Arts in Building a Global Community with a suitably vibrant and eye-catching cover by Misha Blaise — I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but I totally do when the cover is something I can’t stop looking at!
The Fashioner explores the various ways in which the arts can touch people’s lives by drawing on quotations from the Baha’i Writings, as well as concrete examples of the transformative power of the arts. Jenina discusses a variety of art forms, she looks at the way in which Baha’i artists have applied principles of the Faith to their art, and she shares the ways in which the arts can be used to inspire and enhance core activities.
This is subject close to my heart as Baha’i Blog aims to create, celebrate and explore Baha’i-inspired content, artistic expression and use of media. I was thrilled when Jenina agreed to tell us a little about her book. Here’s what she shared: Continue reading
A new Baha’i-inspired crime novel has recently been published by my dear friend, Alan Manifold, and to be honest, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of a novel of this kind being released, so I’m so excited to share this everyone!
Alan Manifold is the author of Consulting Detective, a murder mystery set in contemporary United States, and it’s centred around a Baha’i character whose actions are guided by principles and teachings of the Baha’i Faith. We eagerly chatted with Alan about his new crime novel, and here is our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Alan, can you tell us a little bit about the book?
Consulting Detective is quite possibly the first murder mystery to feature a Baha’i detective. Police Detective Mihdi Montgomery is called to investigate the murder of a Jewish Rabbi in a synagogue in his Chicago suburb. Montgomery works to find the murderer amongst all those with a motive and opportunity. Mihdi questions people to determine how and to what extent they are involved, but he also uses the Baha’i process of consultation with multiple groups to tap into the power of collective experience and wisdom.
I had the privilege of meeting Michael Burke at last year’s ABS conference. He, Kevin Smith and Gordon McComb have co-written a book called Moving Beyond Compromise: Why Stop There? The purpose of the book is to introduce the principles of Baha’i consultation to businesses and other organizations in a way that is easily accessible and understandable, even if they’ve never heard of the Baha’i Faith. The book presents a fictional company in crisis and its CEO, Lily O’Hara, needs to determine how to survive. The CEO begins to learn about a process of decision-making, which the authors call ‘Solution-Building’ and which is based on the principles of Baha’i consultation.
I was keen to hear more about this new book, and Michael graciously agreed to tell us about it: Continue reading