“Thou art what Thou art.”
Let’s face it. I know nothing about the Mystery of Mysteries. Yet somehow my heart rests in deep satisfaction born of my utter cluelessness. It’s even strangely liberating. Blissfully ignorant though I may be of Its nature, yet I am stirred to my depths when Baha’u’llah, in words at once mind-boggling and awe-inspiring, hints at that “Unknowable Essence” which is shrouded behind an impenetrable veil. I am led to humbly acquiesce in the compelling truth that there is ‘Something’ that exceeds everything that I can ever hope to muster in Its praise – the most lyrical verses of poetry, the most mystical of meditations, the most soul-stirring of human experiences, the most awesome of spiritual feelings. Even the abstrusest of allegories. The great prophets, holy ones and sages of old have given that undefinable Something, that hidden Essence, a veritable catalogue of labels that have steadfastly withstood the test of time. Allah, YHVH, Brahman, Atman, The Buddha-dhatu, The Great Spirit.
Why does a just and loving God allow good people to suffer during their earthly existence?
This question is not just theoretical for Marjorie Tidman, the author of Sifting the Dust.
In the 1990s, she was the victim of an assault in her house by an intruder who stabbed her multiple times and came close to killing her.
Dr. Tidman is a psychologist who assists trauma victims. In her book, she takes readers into the world of a psychosis she developed as a result of the attack and then accompanies them out as she analyses the experience. Continue reading
If you have spent a considerable amount of time reading the Writings of the Baha’i Faith, it is likely that you have come across language regarding the relationship between the Faith and a new “World Order.” One of the passages that is most frequently quoted in relation to this theme is this poignant statement by Baha’u’llah:
The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System–the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.
Those who came across such language early in their investigation of the Faith may have been surprised, or even taken aback, at the use of this terminology in the context of religious scripture. Indeed, while some derivative of this phrase is found in countless passages in the Writings of Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice, the Baha’i community is not the only one that uses this terminology. Continue reading
When you hear the title ‘Knight’, different connotations come to mind. Historically speaking, a medieval knight was known for their steadfast honor, their allegiance to God, and their loyalty to their lords and ladies. Their lives were dedicated to religious faith and military action – for example, in the Middle Ages they set out to conquer the Holy Land in the name of Christendom. Shoghi Effendi did not choose his words lightly, and hence the title “Knight of Baha’u’llah” authored by Shoghi Effendi, was a title that was bestowed on those selfless souls who opened 131 specific virgin territories to the Faith during what was known as the Ten Year Crusade.
Even as a child with little knowledge of the development of the Baha’i Faith, the title of “Knight of Baha’u’llah” was connotative to me of the qualities of medieval knights, of spiritual battles and sacrificial heroism. This knightly demeanor is masterfully called for by Shoghi Effendi in a cablegram to the Baha’is of the world sent in 1952 in preparation for the coming Ten Year Crusade which took place between 1953-1963, and which I explain in a little more detail further on. Continue reading
The Shrine of Baha’u’llah (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)
At the hour of dawn on May 29th in 1892, Baha’u’llah, “transcendental in His majesty, serene, awe-inspiring, unapproachably glorious”, passed away in the Masion of Bahji in what is present-day northern Israel. Shoghi Effendi describes the events that followed in God Passes By
The news of His ascension was instantly communicated to Sultan ‘Abdu’l-Hamid in a telegram which began with the words ‘the Sun of Baha has set’ and in which the monarch was advised of the intention of interring the sacred remains within the precincts of the Mansion, an arrangement to which he readily assented. Baha’u’llah was accordingly laid to rest in the northernmost room of the house which served as a dwelling-place for His son-in-law, the most northerly of the three houses lying to the west of, and adjacent to, the Mansion. His interment took place shortly after sunset, on the very day of His ascension.
With His burial, the home of His son-in-law became the most precious spot, the holiest of places, for Baha’is all around the world – a place to which we turn to daily when we recite our obligatory prayers and which we aspire to visit as a pilgrim at least once in our lifetimes. Continue reading
If you’ve never heard of the lyrical medium of what’s known as ‘spoken word’, then in you’re in for a treat! Actually, even if you have heard of it, you’re still in for a treat!
Ladies and gentleman, please welcome to the stage ‘Andrea Hope’!
I first came across an example of Andrea’s spoken word from a video she posted on Youtube based on one of her tracks called ‘World Citizen’ (which I’ve included for everyone to watch further down in this post). According to the Portland Poetry Slam “Andrea journeyed to the center of the Earth and has brought back its heartbeat, carrying the delicate fire on her tongue.” Andrea is co-administrator of the Portland Poets Exchange and she dedicates her time off stage to social progress by teaching community children’s classes, biking in dresses, hosting couch surfers, teaching visual art to men in recovery, and hugging trees.
I got in touch with Andrea to find out more about her and the art of spoken word. Continue reading
Pictured above is the House of the Bab in Shiraz, Iran, where the Bab revealed His message. This house is considered to be one of the holiest sites for Baha’is and it was destroyed by Revolutionary Guards in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)
On May 22nd
, Baha’is around the world will celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab
, the forerunner of Baha’u’llah. In honour of that joyous holy day, let’s take a look at the Bayan, a priceless gift the Bab bequeathed to mankind.
What is commonly referred to as ‘the Bayan’ are in fact two distinct and separate texts: the Persian Bayan and the Arabic Bayan. The word “bayan” means ‘exposition’ or ‘utterance’ in Arabic, and there are also instances in the Writings where it refers to the entirety of the Bab’s revelation. Continue reading
The use of the arts is extremely important in the Baha’i Writings and we’re starting to see more and more Baha’is express Baha’i-inspired values and ideas through the audio-visual medium of film and video.
An example of this expression can be seen in the award-winning experimental short film titled Dimensions. Written, directed and produced by Neysan Sobhani – and inspired by the Baha’i Writings – the film aims to spark ideas and discussion around whether loss is truly loss, permanence is truly permanent, and whether the cords that are embedded in the fabric of our lives are, in fact, illimitable.
Dimensions is the first in a trilogy of related films, and it made its way through the festival circuit last year. It garnered an impressive 22 Official Selections and 2 Best Short Film awards at various major International Film Festivals, at times up against competition that included a few thousand other short films.
The reviews on the film have been effusive with the official festival review at the Canadian premiere calling it “an impressive experimental attempt at storytelling, utilising unique methods… the most unique film of this year’s line-up” and the Australian premiere review describing it as a “great emotive idea… strikingly executed… incredibly fresh and lively… one of our favourite Shorts of the year.”
The Chinese version was made available online in October 2013. He teamed up with Soulpancake in late 2013 to distribute the English version online.
I had a chance to catch up with Neysan as he was putting the finishing touches on the second short film in this trilogy to find out more about Dimensions. Continue reading
The Baha’is of Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia gather together. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)
Ever wondered how to solve the world’s problems? If you haven’t, I’m sure you’ve at least wondered how to solve some of your own, right?
As Baha’is, we’ve actually been told how, and it comes down to this one little word:
Okay, maybe it’s not so little a word. And it’s definitely no small concept. But it can be simple. Continue reading
Nancy Cambell (1906 – 1980)
At the end of the last century Ani Difranco cleverly and accurately sang that…
…every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.
This idea, that most objects and activities – including all sciences and arts – are neutral in value and can be utilized for good or evil, had also been expressed at the beginning of that century by Abdu’l-Baha. He stated:
All things are beneficial if joined with the love of God; and without His love all things are harmful…
He went on to show how this is particularly true of the arts, stating that:
…a melody sweet to the ear, bringeth the very spirit of life to a heart in love with God, yet staineth with lust a soul engrossed in sensual desires.
If a woman at the Three Arts Club in New York City had not introduced Nancy Campbell to the Baha’i Teachings in 1938, she may have become just another talented artist, using her skills and opportunities to entertain and distract. Instead Nancy Campbell attended ‘firesides’ (informal presentations of the Baha’i Teachings) at the home of New York Baha’is, Saffa and Carrie Kinney. Three years later upon return to her adopted homeland, Canada, Nancy Campbell sought out the Baha’is and formally registered as a member of that community. She was immediately engaged in direct service to the Baha’i community, and became a founding member of the Hamilton (Ontario) Local Spiritual Assembly. Continue reading