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Michael Day is a journalist who has worked for daily newspapers in Australia and New Zealand. From 2003-2006 he was the editor of the Baha’i World News Service at the Baha’i World Centre. Now based in Brisbane, he is the national media officer of the Australian Baha’i Community. His contributions to Baha’i Blog are in his personal capacity. His interests are Baha’i history, literature, the arts, rugby union, surfing, and scuba diving.

The Spiritual Appeal of Star Wars

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There is surely something beyond fascinating characters and an exciting if familiar story that has been attracting people by their millions to see the new Star Wars movie.

My feeling is that a big part of the appeal is “the force”, the ongoing theme in the Star Wars series that gives the latest film its name: The Force Awakens.

In the Star Wars movies, the force seems to me to be roughly equivalent to the creative energy that pervades the universe, but there is also a dark side to it.

What might that mean in Baha’i terms? We are fine with the idea of a creative force and are familiar with the concept that “good has a positive existence; evil is merely its absence”. We could view the “dark side” of the force as the absence of the creative energy, a black hole of evil.

So, apart from the other factors mentioned, why do millions of people get attracted to a movie that has “the force” as an ongoing theme in the story?

Hard-wired into us all is a desire to transcend the mundane, the temporary physical realties of our lives. In my view, that desire is intended to motivate us to seek and ever approach the ultimate, everlasting reality, God. Continue reading

The Poems of Ruhiyyih Khanum after the Passing of Shoghi Effendi

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In 1995 Ruhiyyih Khanum published poems she had written after the death in 1957 of her husband, Shoghi Effendi, who had been the head of the Baha’i Faith for 36 years.

On the dust jacket of her book, Poems of the Passing, she explains what she wanted to achieve by finally making the verses public.

It is the author’s ardent hope that in sharing them with others they may echo the grief of separation in this world from our loved ones, and the confident hope of reunion with them in an eternal realm of spiritual progress and mercy.

Anybody expecting an easy journey with gentle poems of love and light and describing a calm acceptance of death is in for a big surprise. Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, who passed away 15 years ago, was unflinching in her realistic approach to life, and she applied the same approach to these poems.

In emotionally wrenching and spiritually challenging verses, she uses her sublime literary skills to lay bare an incandescent agony caused by the loss of her beloved.

So deep, so harrowing is the raw pain she describes – at one point writing of the “unspeakable poison of grief” — many people may find it difficult to keep on reading despite the great artistic beauty of the poetry. Tears are likely. Continue reading

How the song “Imagine” by John Lennon Compares to Baha’i Beliefs

Album cover for John Lennon's 'Imagine', released 9 September, 1971. John Lennon was born 9 October, 1940 and was murdered on 8 December, 1980.

Album cover for John Lennon's 'Imagine', released 9 September, 1971. John Lennon was born 9 October, 1940 and was murdered on 8 December, 1980.

When it comes to uplifting songs, few can match the popularity of Imagine by former Beatle, the late John Lennon (1940-1980).

It was the singer-songwriter’s best-selling single, and it is included in a list of the 100 most-performed songs of the 20th century.

I know many Baha’is who like to sing this song, although they may sometimes wonder about a few of the lyrics, so I thought that on this 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s passing on 8 December 1980 it would be interesting to have a look at Imagine to see how closely it agrees with our cherished Baha’i beliefs.

Continue reading

Herald of the Covenant: A Tribute to William Henry (Harry) Randall

William Henry (Harry) Randall (19 April, 1863 - 11 Feb,1929)

William Henry (Harry) Randall (19 April, 1863 - 11 Feb,1929)

Immediately after my plane touched down in Boston, my host whisked me away in her car with a promise that I would love our destination.

We did not head towards the recognised highlights of the city such as the historic Boston Common or Harvard University or the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

We drove instead to the historic suburb of Medford and arrived at a cemetery where, amidst the golden autumn leaves, was the simple grey slate headstone of William Henry (Harry) Randall (1863-1929).

To the outer world Harry Randall was a multi-millionaire Boston businessman who later lost his fortune.

To the Baha’i community Harry Randall is a true hero of the Faith, one loved by Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. Continue reading

Religion. What is it Good For?

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Religion has produced some of the greatest achievements of humanity but this fact is often obscured today as people and the media focus on the horrors resulting from its power.

By now we should all know that if people want to use religion as a method to get their own way, they have an ominous weapon.

Religion taps the very source of motivation because it has to do with the absolute and the eternal, so if somebody or a group successfully manipulates it for negative ends they can achieve their aims with the help of followers whose morale is sky high.

Down the centuries there have been many wars and atrocities because of this manipulation of religious feeling and allegiance. When that happens, religion becomes a counterfeit version of the real thing. Continue reading

A Prayer to Power Up Your Day: The Long Obligatory Prayer

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Whenever I face a long afternoon of work with pressing deadlines, I decide to put off knuckling down and getting on with it.

But this reaction is not one of those inevitable procrastinations that nearly all of us are prone to at various times. I see it rather as an important decision which leads me to undertake a major refuelling, without which my afternoon might just splutter on in an unsatisfactory manner.

The reason I don’t start immediately on the nitty gritty of work, is that it is my time to say the long obligatory prayer as revealed by Baha’u’llah. Yes, that prayer may be said at any time, but for me, when the day is on the verge of waning, I opt for revival.

I find this prayer to be a daily energy source, the equivalent of plugging into the essence of reality for about 15 minutes to obtain the force that comes with it, a power that can mysteriously inspire and direct the rest of the day. Baha’u’llah did say, after all, that through obligatory prayer we may draw “nigh unto God.” That will do me. Continue reading

The Apostle of Peace and the Great War

Abdu'l-Baha in Paris near the Eiffel Tower in 1913. (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)

Abdu’l-Baha in Paris near the Eiffel Tower in 1913. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

As the world commemorates the centenary of World War I, it is timely to recount the story of one who predicted with sublime accuracy the outbreak of that conflict and who also explained and developed a peace plan highly relevant to humanity today.

Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921) spoke often about the plan which came from His father, Baha’u’llah (1817-1892), the prophetic figure Who founded the Baha’i Faith and laid out the path to peace in His letters to the kings and rulers of the world.

For example, during His journey throughout North America in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha emphasised the need for international peace, calling it “the most momentous question of the day.”

Newspapers gave Him such labels as the “Persian Peace Apostle” and “the Prophet of Peace”, and their journalists reported how He linked the concept of peace to the need for a world tribunal and collective security. Surprisingly for audiences at that time, He also connected peace to topics like the education and advancement of women. War will cease, He said, when women have full equality because “they will be the obstacle and hindrance to it.” Continue reading

Why is the Baha’i World Centre in Israel?

Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr)

Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr)

For centuries, the Holy Land has been recognised as sacred for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Moses and Jesus established their religions there, and Muhammad visited on His night journey and ascension.

But how did this land on the shores of the Mediterranean come to be associated with the Baha’i Faith, a religion born in Persia, more than 1500 kilometers away? Continue reading

The Bab – What was He like?

green background abstract cloth wavy folds of textile textureAs Baha’is around the world gather on 9 July, they will focus on the Bab’s martyrdom in Tabriz in 1850, ponder its spiritual significance, and offer their supplications to the Divine.

On that holy day commemorating the horrendous event of His execution, it is also probable that many will wonder what it would have been like to encounter the One who was the Prophet-Forerunner of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith. Continue reading

Ugo Giachery: A Spiritual Hero with Practical Feet.

Dr. Ugo Giachery 1896-1989. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Dr. Ugo Giachery, May 13, 1896 – July 5, 1989. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

When we think of spiritual giants, we may fall into the trap of picturing them deep in prayer or meditation without a care for the practical world in which they live.

But if we have such a view of them, then it is likely to be far too narrow and therefore inaccurate.

In this regard, have a look at the life of Ugo Giachery, a man born into an aristocratic family in Palermo, Sicily in 1896. Dr. Giachery was deeply spiritual, yes, but also immensely practical.

His life could have been one of waltzing about in elite circles or retreating into the academic world making a career out of his doctorate in chemistry.

However, he chose another path. After becoming attracted to the world-embracing teachings of the Baha’i Faith, he set about implementing them the best he could. World peace was no abstract notion for him. He had been wounded in World War I and so he knew the horrors of global conflict. It was perhaps inevitable that he would find appealing a religion promoting a practical path to peace. Continue reading