Shoghi Effendi: Through the Pilgrim’s Eye – A New Book by Earl Redman

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Earl Redman is the author of an exciting volume about the Guardian that is fresh off the press called Shoghi Effendi: Through the Pilgrim’s Eye. You may already be familiar with his work; in celebration of the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to the West, Earl Redman gathered together all the historical accounts of the Master’s travels and put them into chronological order in Abdu’l-Baha in Their Midst. When I contacted Earl about a possible interview, we discovered we had a mutual friend — my grandma and writer, Claire Vreeland. She compiled a book of pioneer stories (entitled And the Trees Clapped Their Hands) in which both of our families’ pioneering accounts are included. Linked through stories, I was keen to ask Earl about his creative process and the legwork behind his fascinating new book.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Earl. To begin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as a writer?

In 1977, I fell off a mountain. Or rather was invited to fall off the mountain when a friend I was roped to was blown down a steep, icy face on Mt Foraker in Alaska. We fell about a thousand feet and, during the fall, I left my body. The body was on its way to death, but I didn’t care. When I finally stopped the fall, I had two powerful emotions. First, while the body and the soul were separate, I was absolutely disgusted because I was back in, at that time, a rather battered body. That was followed, after the soul rejoined the body, by a feeling of absolute delight that I was still alive.

Knowing that the body and the soul were separate, I was prepared to listen when I met a Baha’i named Sharon. She talked of the Faith and, on the day we were married in 1980, I became a Baha’i. Since then, we pioneered in Chile for six years and have now been pioneering in Ireland for sixteen years.

I have always like to write, though I never expected to write a book. Some of my early stories somehow ended up in a book called And the Trees Clapped Their Hands. I also contributed to the Alaska Baha’i News. Professionally as a geologist, I wrote many reports and my first published book was about the history of the mines and miners in Southeast Alaska, based on many old newspaper stories. I never set out to write books on Baha’i history. They all just sort of appeared on my computer screen, quite to my surprise.

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Community-Building and the Reframing of Service

Members of a community in Brazil plant flowers. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Members of a community in Brazil plant flowers. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Baha’is and their friends around the world are currently engaged in a process of community-building that primarily consists of four core activities: the education of children, the spiritual empowerment of junior youth, the strengthening of the devotional character of communities through prayer gatherings and collective worship, and engagement in the institute process which serves both to deepen our understanding of the Baha’i teachings and to develop our skills to carry out these various acts of service. These are obviously not the only arenas of service for Baha’is. For example, the Universal House of Justice has begun to increasingly emphasize the role Baha’is play in social action, or efforts to improve the social and material conditions of our communities, as well as public discourse, or the infusion of Baha’i ideals into spaces dedicated to discussing social issues such as the media, governments, and civil society organizations. Continue reading

The Baha’i Fund: An Introduction

Baha'i Fund

Abdu’l-Baha said that the material and the spiritual are closely linked. Have you ever seen something reflected in water so still that it seemed a perfect, upside-down duplicate but beyond the reflection were unfathomable depths? That is how I imagine the connection to be between this material world and spiritual existence.

Recently I’ve been thinking about this relationship, particularly as it relates to the Baha’i fund, where money is no longer just money. Continue reading

5 Thoughts About Oneness

5 Thoughts about Oneness

I find that sometimes having a question in the forefront of my mind can make certain answers more apparent — like when you close your eyes, think of the colour blue, and then open them again. Everything blue pops out in sharper contrast than before. What was muted becomes vibrant, and impossible to ignore.

These days I am wondering about oneness and am trying to keep the question in the fore of my personal deepening. What does “oneness” truly mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that it is “the state of being completely united with or a part of someone or something” but what does that mean in practical terms? What effect does it have on our spiritual lives?

I have often explained the Baha’i Faith in terms of believing in the three onenesses: the oneness of humanity (that we are all equal despite differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, and our physical bodies), the oneness of the Manifestations (that They are all divine in origin), and the oneness of God (regardless of whether we call Him Dieu, Allah or Jehovah, He is one in essence). These words have rolled off my tongue without deeper, significant thought but recently I have been contemplating these five points: Continue reading

Portraits in Faith – Video Interviews About Faith from Around the World

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I wanted to share with everyone a wonderful initiative a couple of my friends told me about. It’s called Portraits in Faith, and it’s a series of video interviews and portrait photographs aimed at taking a look into the lives of people of faith around the world.

Created by Daniel Epstein, a Marketing Director who was born and raised a Jew, Portraits in Faith was carried out as a sort of spiritual exercise where Daniel would keep his own faith alive by gaining from the experience of others – regardless of their religion or beliefs. By interviewing and documenting their spiritual experiences and the role of faith in their own personal lives and told in their own words, now, nine years, 27 countries and 400 spiritual journeys later, Portraits in Faith delivers a new Portrait each week.

I decided to get in touch with Daniel Epstein to ask him more about this wonderful initiative: Continue reading

The Food of the Future

Food of the Future

What will be the food of the future?

This was a question that was once asked of Abdu’l-Baha.

Although what constitutes the optimal diet for good health has been debated for centuries, it has become a particular concern for many in today’s society, as the average waistline gets larger and, for the first time in a thousand years, we face the possibility of a decline in our life expectancy.

In a recent article on diet and health, I looked at what the Baha’i Writings say about the important role of diet in both preventing and treating disease. The natural question that then arises is this: which diet, among the hundreds out there, is recommended by the Baha’i Faith? Continue reading

Reach Out: A New Album by Karim Rushdy

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Best known for being one half of the Baha’i hip-hop and RnB duo Nabil & Karim, Canadian-based rapper and producer Karim Rushdy has released a new solo album containing 14 tracks that are sure to get you talking about positive change in the world!

Karim introduces his new album by saying:

It is inevitable that life will throw challenges our way. what’s important is how we chose to deal with our struggle – whatever that may be. I believe that we are all noble beings with infinite potential, we just get bogged down by so many distractions that it sometimes feels impossible to change. This album attempts to capture those trans-formative moments where hopelessness becomes courage, and a pebble becomes a pearl. My hope is that by listening to this, you will be reminded of what you struggle with, yet be inspired by the greatness that you inherently possess to rise above whatever situation you’re in and Reach Out to help someone else in need.

I decided to catch up with Karim and ask him a few more questions about his new album Reach Out: Continue reading

Learning to Be Still: A Personal Reflection on Meditation in the Baha’i Faith

37 seconds. I have been sitting still for 37 seconds now. I am not kidding. And with my eyes closed all this time. Well, nearly all this time. I had to open them to see how many hours minutes seconds (sigh) had passed. I close them again. Focus, I tell myself. Concentrate. I am aware that my foot is itching. Now I am aware that I am focusing on my foot instead of…? What am I supposed to be focusing on? Now I am just feeling irritated. I open my eyes again. 52 seconds.

Clearly this is not working.

Meditation: something that I have been struggling to learn for years. I call to mind the simple and direct plea from TS Eliot’s ‘Ash Wednesday’: “Teach us to sit still.”

The words resonated deeply with me those many years ago in my high school poetry class, just as they do today. How do we learn to ‘sit still’, to truly be still, particularly in the midst of the mayhem and madness of life?

What does it mean to meditate? Continue reading

The Passing of Baha’u’llah and His Covenant

Baha'u'llah's bed in the Mansion of Bahji, located just outside of Akko, Israel. (Photo:  Bahai.us via Flickr)

Baha'u'llah's bed in the Mansion of Bahji, located just outside of Akko, Israel. (Photo: Bahai.us via Flickr)

In the early hours of 29 May 1892, Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, passed away in the Mansion of Bahji (located just outside of the prison city of Akko in present day Israel), where He had been a prisoner for nine years. Baha’is around the world commemorate the day of Baha’u’llah’s passing as one of the nine holy days where work should be suspended, and it is known to Baha’is as ‘The Ascension of Baha’u’llah’.

Just after sunset on the day He passed away, Baha’u’llah was buried in a simple room in a house next to the Mansion of Bahji, turning it into the holiest place on earth for Baha’is and making it the place where Baha’is the world over turn towards in prayer, and come from all corners of the earth to pay their respects as Pilgrims.

As I join fellow Baha’is around the world in commemorating the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, I am reminded of the fortune we as Baha’is have in knowing that Baha’u’llah’s successorship was made so explicit, and as a result, this has protected us from schisms. Compared to the passing of other Messengers of God, this is what has made the Baha’i Faith truly unique: The fact that for the first time in history, the founder of a world religion had made His successorship explicitly clear to His followers. Continue reading

The Wilmette Institute: Celebrating 20 Years of Baha’i Learning

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This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Wilmette Institute, an online Baha’i learning centre that offers academic, professional and service-orientated Baha’i classes. In celebration, they are offering a series of free web talks throughout the whole year. These talks are being recorded and posted to their YouTube Channel, in case you miss their live presentations. We’d like to join in the happy occasion by telling you a little about the Institute and about all the exciting things it offers to students around the world. Continue reading