The Life of Effie Baker

Life of Effie Baker

Euphemia (Effie) Eleanor Baker, 25 March, 1880 – January 1, 1968.

As most of the world celebrates the new year, January 1st also commemorates the passing of someone special: Effie Baker. In fact, if you visit bahaullah.org (a wonderful photographic narrative of the life of Baha’u'llah) you’ll notice that many of the photographs of 1930′s Iran are credited to Effie Baker. A western Baha’i woman photographer in Iran in those days? I was a fish on a hook and needed to know more.

Effie (a nickname for Euphemia) Eleanor Baker was born 25 March, 1880 in Goldsborough, Australia. She was petite but energetic and had brown hair and blue eyes. Her childhood was spent with her grandparents in Ballarat. Her grandfather founded the Ballarat Observatory and if you visit it today, you can still see a specimen of his award-winning astronomical work: a 26 inch telescope called “The Baker”. Effie inherited an enthusiasm for science, a facility with technical instruments, and a keen observing eye from her grandfather. For a turn-of-the-century country girl, Effie was very well educated and when she wasn’t at school, she could be found exploring the countryside on a white pony named Nugget.

Effie studied and then worked as a visual artist. Armed with a formal understanding of colour, light and composition, Effie became enamored with photography. She also excelled at toy-making at a time when imported toys were scarce in Australia. In 1914 she published Australian Wild Flowers, a small volume of hand-painted photographs of local flora.

The turning point in her life was when she heard Hyde Dunn speak publicly about the Baha’i Faith in 1922. He and his wife Clara responded to the Master’s Tablets of the Divine Plan by moving to Australia two years prior. Effie noticed something radiant about Hyde’s face and during his talk, she wholeheartedly accepted the Faith. Continue reading

The Station of Jesus Christ in the Baha’i Faith

Jesus Christ in the Baha’i Faith
As the birth of Jesus Christ approaches, I reflect on Christ’s wonderful revelation and the profound impact His message of love and fellowship has had on the world.

While busy preparing for their Christmas festivities with their friends and family, many of my friends ask me whether Baha’is believe in Christ.

Indeed we do. Baha’u'llah refers to Christ as the…

Lord of the visible and invisible.

And in a letter to a Christian, Abdu’l-Baha explained that…

to be a Christian is to embody every excellence there is.

Although throughout history, individuals have often used religion for their own gain and used it as an instrument for segregation and war, one cannot downplay the beauty and profound impact the revelation of Christ has had on earth. Christ’s message of love continues to vibrate throughout the world, and one could argue that one of the proofs of His divine message is the fact that His revelation, although written down and compiled some 50 years after His passing, continues to transform the hearts of millions around the globe – even today – some 2,000 years later. Continue reading

The Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States recently released a wonderful new video entitled Done Made My Vow to the Lord: The Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering 1987–2011.

The Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering started over 20 years ago when a group of 12 American men of African descent gathered in a hotel lobby in Greensboro, North Carolina. They came from different parts of the United States, and they came after being invited by Billy Roberts, an Auxiliary Board Member at the time who had noticed that there were very few black males serving on institutions in the Baha’i community of the US. Billy Roberts was also concerned about the state of the black man in North America, as there was a tremendous discourse going on at the time in the US especially, about how black men were an endangered species. Continue reading

3 Ingredients for a Home of Peace

Peace at HomeWhen my husband and I married eight years ago we were given a print of an illumined prayer of Abdu’l-Baha’s. The prayer, found in Star of the West, reads:

My home is the home of peace. My home is the home of joy and delight. My home is the home of laughter and exultation. Whomsoever enters through the portals of this home, must go out with gladsome heart. [1]

How to create a home of peace is a subject of a lifetime’s study and meditation but these are my meager thoughts to date.

It goes without saying that a tranquil dwelling depends upon spiritual qualities: unity, consultation on all matters, kindness and consideration, a lack of backbiting, loyalty and chastity between marriage partners, respect, gratitude and obedience on the part of children, and patience, humility and generosity on the part of the parents. And the list goes on. However, I think there are also tangible elements to creating a home of peace: beauty, a space for prayer and hospitality.  Continue reading

Reflections from the 114 Youth Conferences

114 Youth Baha'i ConferencesAlthough the 114 World-wide Baha’i Youth Conferences drew to a close towards the end of October, the energy generated from these conferences continues to be felt throughout the Baha’i world. I was recently at a reflection gathering in Los Angeles and the energy which the youth brought to the gathering after having attended the youth conference was absolutely inspiring and contagious!

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to see any of the videos from the 114 conferences yet, I highly recommend them! The Baha’i World Centre has posted all of the videos from the individual conferences online, and they’ve also produced a series of five videos called Reflections from the 114 Youth Conferences based on some of the main conference themes, and they’re AWESOME! You can watch these wonderful videos by clicking on the corresponding titles below:

Videos from the 114 Youth Conferences

Reflections from the 114 Youth Conferences

Furthermore, in their recent letter to the Baha’i world last week, the Universal House of Justice wrote: Continue reading

The Style is to be Changed: An Interview with BASS Adjustment

BASS AdjustmentIt’s always great to hear about new musical initiatives from around the Baha’i world, and The Style is to be Changed is the debut album from BASS Adjustment, a musical initiative put together by Austrian musician, songwriter, composer and producer Raha Poostchi.

Raha first began the project back in 2006, and now seven years later, after collaborating with artists from all over the world including Hawaii, Nigeria, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Germany and Switzerland, the album was finally released this year.

The diversity of musicians working on the album has helped shape the diverse musical styles found on the album, which range from House to Pop, RnB and Smooth Jazz with influences from Oriental, Latin and African based music.

I decided to catch-up with Raha to find out more about BASS Adjustment and the debut album The Style is to be Changed.

Baha’i Blog: Hi Raha! First of all can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your musical background?

Well, I kind of grew up with my parents being part of the Austrian Dawn Breakers and I was touring with them when I was only a baby. So I guess you could say that I got the love for music through my mothers milk. As far as I can remember I started composing my own music at the age of 8 and have been doing so since then.

Continue reading

Baha’i Elections: 3 Steps to Becoming an Intelligent and Well-Informed Elector

Over the next few months, Baha’is around the world will attend their unit conventions and elect individuals to serve as delegates at the upcoming National Conventions. These elected representatives will then go on to elect members of each National Spiritual Assembly.

Unique to the Baha’i Faith is its process of electing competent souls to serve in various capacities. It is democratic in every sense of the word: there is no campaigning, voting is conducted by secret ballot, and whether we are electing our unit delegate, the members of our Local Spiritual Assemblies or the members of the Regional Baha’i Councils, the electoral process stays the same all around the world.

Further contributing to the uniqueness of the Baha’i electoral process are the duties required of us as electors before, during and even after the election period. It is quite easy for us to forget these points and fall in the habit of casting our votes on election day without giving enough thought to who we are voting for and why, and without taking a meditative approach.

Based on the writings of the Universal House of Justice and the Guardian, I have split my interpretation of these writings into three steps. Continue reading

Prison Poems by Mahvash Sabet

Prison Poems by Mahvash SabetI recently finished reading Prison Poems, a collection of poetry written by Mahvash Sabet on the fifth anniversary of her incarceration. She is a prisoner of conscience. She was arrested simply for being a Baha’i, along with six other members of the Yaran (the national level group that guided the affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran of which Mahvash served as secretary).

I often find myself sitting in my driveway, with my baby fast asleep in her carseat. I can be found just sitting and waiting. But this week, I read this anthology. It is difficult to imagine Mahvash’s situation today — still imprisoned —  and it is equally difficult to imagine that the words in my hands were written on scraps of paper and smuggled by intermediaries out of her cell until they made their way to French homes of Violette and Ali Nakhjavani and their author daughter, Bahiyyih Nakhjavani. Their adaptation of these poems into English is a labour of love to Mahvash, and all those imprisoned without a voice.

Mahvash Sabet is a 60-year-old former teacher and school principal and a mother of two. After being dismissed from her work during the Revolution, she began informally teaching Baha’i youth who were denied the right to higher education.  She was arrested in 2008 and after three years of show trials on trumped up charges, she was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. She is being held in Evin prison, Iran’s infamous and brutal detention block. Continue reading

Abdu’l-Baha: Unique

Baha'i Abdu’l-Baha Unique

Abdu’l-Baha (23 May 1844 – 28 November 1921). On November 28, members of the Baha’i Faith throughout the world commemorate the passing of Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son and successor of Baha’u'llah, the Prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith. Abdu’l-Baha passed away in His home in Haifa, Israel at the age of 77 and there are no prescribed ceremonies but gatherings usually involve prayers and devotional readings. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

One of the most common mistakes in English usage is the term “very unique,” and its close cousins, “most unique” and “so unique” — as in, “that is a very unique painting” or “that is one of the most unique songs I have ever heard.” We all commit this error from time to time because we mistake the word “unique” for the word “unusual.” In fact, “unique” means there is nothing else like it in existence. Like pregnancy, something either is unique or it is not; there are no degrees of uniqueness, as there are with unusualness.

Tonight, on the anniversary of His passage from this world to the next, we turn our thoughts and hearts toward Abdu’l-Baha, one who actually was in fact unique. Baha’u’llah wrote:

When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.

And again:

…refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock.

Abdu’l-Baha Himself wrote,

In accordance with the explicit text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha’u’llah hath made the Center of the Covenant the Interpreter of His Word—a Covenant so firm and mighty that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like.

Though there is no greater love on earth than that of a father for his son, the rapturous feeling that Baha’u’llah held for His eldest son far surpasses even that, as we read in this extraordinary passage from a letter from Baha’u’llah while Abdu’l-Baha was away from Akka on a visit to Beirut: Continue reading

Thank You Abdu’l-Baha

Baha'i Abdu’l-Baha

Photo taken of Abdu’l-Baha in 1912, New Hampshire, United States (Courtesy: Baha’i Media Bank)

There are thousands of reasons we can all be thankful for as Baha’is, and as there are two significant days on the Baha’i calendar this week — the Day of the Covenant followed a couple of days later by the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha — something I’ve been personally reflecting on recently is the gratitude we owe Abdu’l-Baha for so many of the things which we perhaps take for granted relating to the Faith.

I’m sure we each have our own special relationship with Abdu’l-Baha, and as we continue to work towards understanding the special station of Abdu’l-Baha and the significant role He played in the course of Baha’i history and the covenant, I’m sure we could come up with a list of hundreds of reasons we all need to thank Him.

On that note, in honour of celebrating the Day of the Covenant, I thought it would be interesting to see how many things we could thank Abdu’l-Baha for, by asking you all to leave something in the ‘Comments’ section below. It can be anything which comes to mind such as a book you’re reading like Paris Talks, a prayer by Abdu’l-Baha which you particularly like, or something you’ve been reflecting on lately. Continue reading