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“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”—Tom Paine(1737-1809), an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States
A BURGEONING LITERATURE
I make no attempt to keep up with the burgeoning resources now available on the Babi(1844-1863) and Baha'i Faiths(1863- 2863-circa). If I include subjects related to this religion, a religion which claims to be the latest, the most recent, of the Abrahamic religions, related subjects in what has become in recent decades an interdisciplinary field of study, no scholar--to say nothing about the humble and ordinary individual--can claim to be the possessor of what used to be referred to as the qualification of comprehensive knowledge.
Arnold Toynbee(1889-1975) was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History(Oxford UP, 1934–1961) written between 1921 and 1961, was a synthesis of world history. This 12-volume work contains more than 3 million words and about 7,000 pages, plus 412 pages of indices. This metahistory was based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline. I mention Toynbee here because in this massive oeuvre, which examined history from a global perspective, Toynbee points out that to have read everything in any one major field of study became impossible by the beginning of the 20th century. This was even more true of each and every field of known knowledge on any subject within a field by the 21st century. If a person only wanted to know some simple fact, then Google could provide that fact with a few clicks of one's mouse.
Toynbee gives the example of Lord Acton(1834-1902), the English Catholic historian, politician and writer. Acton, writes Toynbee, was one of the last men who tried to read all there was on a subject before he started writing about it. In the end, he never began to write the book he intended to write. He got so caught-up in the endless reading on the subject that the book he had wanted to write never got written. Of course, there are many topics or subjects within a general field in which it is quite easy to read all the available literature. In some ways, this hardly needs saying, since it is so obvious. I leave each reader to wade in the waters of knowledge as suits their interests and taste, their time & circumstances, their preferences for print or for images, their proclivities for learning via the spoken & visual fields, on the basis of good old-fashioned reading, or on some personal mixture of both, as is the case with most people in the developed world.
In these years of the new Baha'i paradigm, the new culture of learning and growth: 1996 to 2016---there has been a burgeoning of resources with the internet providing a library of virtually infinite proportions to those with (i) access to the internet, and (ii) an interest in utilizing its increasingly vast online libraries. For more on Toynbee go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_J._Toynbee
BASICS AND ADVANCED STUDY
Advanced study of the Bahá’í Faith must still deal with basics. While considerable progress has been made in historical research on Bábí & Bahá’í origins, much foundational work in Bahá’í Studies remains to be done at the level of text. Based on primary sources, the following study will present a type of “symbolic profile” of Bahá’í consciousness. This profile is shaped by the writings of Bahá’u’lláh & ancillary texts. To order & classify the symbols, this profile will employ Ninian Smart’s dimensional model of religion, using the present writer’s acronym, DREEMS: Doctrinal, Ritual, Ethical, Experiential, Mythic, Social. For the above and what follows below, I thank attorney and independent scholar, Christopher Buck, who has written several books of relevance to my webpages on the subject of religion. Buck has written: (i) "Religious Myths and Visions of America", an original contribution to American studies in the Journal of American History(June 2011), (ii) "Alain Locke: Faith and Philosophy" in Paradise and Paradigm (1999); (iii) "Symbol and Secret"(1995/2004) in Religious Celebrations(co-author, 2011). He has also contributed chapters in such books as (a) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey West: The Course of Human Solidarity (2013), (b) American Writers (2010 & 2004), (c) The Islamic World (2008), & (d) The Blackwell Companion to the Qur’an (2006). See: http://bahaiteachings.org/author/christopher-buck
Sherry Ortner’s key symbols paradigm, consisting of thought-orientating “root metaphors” and action-inciting “key scenarios,” completes the profile, while John Wansbrough provides insight into the formation of a new religious ethos through a process of symbolic transformation. This study will highlight some of the predominant Bahá’í symbols, to which others will surely be added. For a lengthy essay published in the Journal of Bahá’í Studies(V 8, N 4, 1998) entitled "A Symbolic Profile of the Bahá’í Faith" by Christopher Buck go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/8.4-Buck.pdf This article is a slightly edited version of “A Symbolic Profile of the Bahá’í Faith” which is the title of a chapter in Paradise & Paradigm: Key Symbols in Persian Christianity & the Bahá’í Faith by Christopher Buck. For several of Buck's books and articles you can go to this website at: http://bahaiteachings.org/author/christopher-buck
OPPOSITION TO THE BAHA'I FAITH: ON THE INTERNET
Just as I was about to retire from a 50 year student and paid employment life, 1949 to 1999, the internet became a place of opposition to the Baha'i Faith. Letters from the Universal House and the International Teaching Center, elected and appointed Baha'i institutions at the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa Israel, as well as a compilation on the nature of opposition to the Baha'i Faith from within academia, especially as conducted via the Internet, are found at the following link. This compilation consists of three parts. The last of the three parts is a compilation on scholarship, "Issues Related to the Study of the Baha'i Faith." This compilation was published in a Canadian publication of the NSA of the Baha'is of Canada, Baha'i Canada, in May 1998. Copies were distributed by the Canadian NSA to a number of other NSAs.
In 1999 this compilation was reprinted by the NSA of the USA(Wilmette: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1999). It was distributed in booklet form with a covering letter from the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, dated 7 April 1999. This covering letter was appended to the compilation already online in May, 1999, and later published in Baha'i Canada in June and in The American Baha'i in November 1999. The International Teaching Center then released a letter elaborating on the themes of the April 7 1999 letter, which follows it. Go to: http://bahai-library.com/compilation_issues_study_bahai For a series of essays and papers, some relevant to this topic, by Duane Troxel go to: http://bahai-library.com/author/Duane+Troxel
LITERAL AND FIGURATIVE INTERPRETATION OF BAHA'I TEXTS
H-Bahai encourages scholarly discussion of the culture and history of millenarian and/or esoteric religious traditions originating in modern Iran, such as Shaykhism, Babism and the Baha'i faith. H-Bahai makes available diverse bibliographical, research, and teaching aids. Go to this link to access this website: http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/ At that website readers can find "Translations of Shaykhi, Babi & Baha'i Texts(V.1, N.12, 12/'97)." Juan R. I. Cole has written the following article: 'A Tablet by Baha'u'llah on the Figurative Interpretation of Scripture (Lawh-i Ta'víl):Text, Translation, Commentary.' He begins as follows: "In both medieval Europe and medieval Islam, two important types of scriptural exegesis were practiced. One was exegesis, the attempt to understand the outward meaning of the text through linguistic and philological analysis, reference to historical events surrounding the verse's revelation, and comparing it with similar verses of scripture. The other was eisegesis, or figurative, esoteric and allegorical interpretation. As most of you know, High Medieval Catholic scripture commentary was only thought perfect if it contained both elements, both literal and allegorical interpretation." Cole continues:
"In Islamic thought, as Todd Lawson has insightfully pointed out (--we are sometimes insufficiently aware of how blessed we are to have someone among us--), over time exegesis came to be known as tafsir and eisegesis was referred to as ta'wil. In his Commentary on the Surah of the Sun Baha'u'llah urges commentators on scripture to engage in both literal and figurative interpretation, and warns about losing the balance between the two. The Western Baha'i tradition of popular Baha'i culture has been insufficiently aware of what a strong denunciation this is of scriptural literalism of the sort that came to be known after about 1905 as "fundamentalism."
"Baha'u'llah does not forbid ta'wil in general. In the Most Holy Book, he forbids the ta'wil of *legal* texts. There is a simple reason for this. A figurative interpretation of a verse of scripture that concerns *law* raises the question of practice, and Islamic tradition is orthoprax. Thus, from Baha'u'llah's point of view it would be wrong to interpret the command to perform ablutions before prayer in such a way as to not in fact require that one perform ablutions. The advent of the next manifestation is also a legal and institutional event, and therefore it would be wrong to interpret the thousand-year interval figuratively." For more go to:http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/
THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE BAHA'I FAITH
MARGINAL BAHA'IS, LEAVE-TAKERS AND APOSTATES
The organisational aspects of any global religion must still be grounded in the spirituality of the individual. Here is my way, my rendition, of a Baha'i view of the importance of this grounding. "The Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine religions, is fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man that has first to be fed; prayer can best provide this feeding, spiritual nourishment. The laws & institutions of the Baha'i Faith, as viewed by Bahá'u'lláh, can only become really effective when the inner spiritual life of individuals has been perfected and transformed. Otherwise religion can and will degenerate into a mere organization, and become a dead thing."
It is my opinion, for what it is worth, that believers in one supreme transcendent Deity should accept what you might call an ultimate truth, namely, that there is only one true religion in relation to that Deity. This one true religion should not be seen in any exclusivist or fanatical manner; identification with one particular religious brand name, and only that brand name for all time can & does present problems. This one true religion should, indeed, must be seen in a progressive, inclusive manner, unfolding over time past and future, consistent with the needs of the age, place, culture and capacity of the recipients. Humanity needs to accept the validity of all the great religions as originally revealed. Exclusivism, bigotry, sectarianism, religious prejudice and fanaticism are at the root of so much of the trouble caused, or contributed to, by so-called religions. Such religions and religious attitudes do not, in my view, represent the religion of that one Deity.
It would seem to me, after more than 60 years of association with and membership in the Baha'i Faith, that there are individuals who are simply not temperamentally suited to being members of the Baha'i community. The Baha'i Faith is a strongly, a highly, organized religion with an emphasis on obedience to rleigious and secular law, and the various centres of institutional authority that this involves. The reasons for this unsuitability are legion. Secularization, materialism, nationalism, racialism, individualism, indeed, many isms and wasms, militate against--and result in--the fact that millions today are simply temperamentally unsuited to become Baha'is, or even to invest any time in seriously investigating its claims.
For better or worse, there are many who are introverted, intellectually oriented, somewhat mystic in their philosophical & religious proclivities, and
highly individualistic. As a professional academic, historian, sociologist or whatever, the life of such an individual is dedicated to free inquiry & he or she is unable to allow an outside body to provide some centre of authority in their lives. Millions are simply disinclined to have some religious authority play any role in how they will function personally and academically. As I have got older, now in my 70s, in many ways I am like such an individual but, after a lifetime of adherence to this newest of the Abrahamic religions it is clear to me that I am an individual who is temperamentally suited to this Faith. Indeed, my life has benefitted from the existence of this spiritual, this religious authority, in my life. I have benefitted by my assoication with the Baha'i Faith as far back as my childhood and adolescence in the 1950s and 1960s.
To put this issue of temperamental unsuitability slightly differently, there is a bad fit between some personalities, and the Baha'i Faith. Juan Cole, an individual who has what you might call an interesting exit narrative, once wrote and I paraphrase: "I would urge all Baha'is to recognize the legitimate authority of the Universal House of Justice in its legitimate spheres of authority; I am only a rather inadequate individual with no pretense to any sort of authority or leadership. I am simply not temperamentally suited to membership in an organized religion. I do not seek any administrative rights in the Baha'i community. I recognize that my views are similar to those of several others I have known; I simply do not "meet the requirements for membership" in the Baha'i World Faith. I do not claim to be a member nor wish to speak for it in any way, although I once did earlier in my life. I suppose, if anything, and at least I like to think, that I am an eternal seeker oriented to Baha'u'llah." For more of this paraphrase of Cole's statement go to: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/bahai/1999/persdec.htm Cole is the first of two former Baha'is who became what one Baha'i scholar, Moojan Momen, called apostates who have what he also called "betrayal narratives."
During most of Bahá'í history, there have been marginal and apostate Bahá'ís. A paper by that same Moojan Momen entitled: "Marginality and Apostasy in the Bahá'í Community"(MABC) and published in 2007 outlines this aspect of Baha'i history. The focus of the article, though, is about a particular type of articulate and well-educated marginal and apostate narratives which first appeared in the West about 25 years ago, in the early 1980s, and reached the peak of their activity in the last decade just as I was retiring from a 50 year student & paid employment life(1949 to 1999). Following a terminological, an ethical and methodological discussion, this paper examined this recent phenomenon & noted the following patterns:
(1) The activity of the majority of apostates can be read as an attempt to reverse an initially negotiated position in relation to the Bahá'í Faith and move it from being a religion which was an "allegiant organisation" to one that is a "subversive organization";
(2) The experiences of apostates now found on the margins of the Baha'i Faith form a dark mirror image of those of the core members of this Faith; (3) The Internet has been used extensively by these apostates to create a community, thereby assisting the passage of many of them from marginality to apostasy;
(4) This community of apostates has developed its own mythology, creed and salvation stories and, in the process, becoming what could perhaps be called an anti-religion;
(5) In furtherance of their aims, several apostates have written papers and books which have been accepted by academic journals and presses. The group's preoccupation with their campaign against the Bahá'í community brings to mind Max Scheler's description of the apostate as "engaged in a continuous chain of acts of revenge against his or her own spiritual past". For Momen's full paper go to: http://bahai-library.com/momen_marginality_apostasy
Just as I(Ron Price) was retiring from my 50 year student and paid employment life, and beginning a sea-change, an early retirement in Tasmania in August of 1999, the Universal House of Justice reviewed a letter of 8 May 1999 written to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. The letter was signed by Juan Cole on behalf of a particular publishing house, & the letter was copied for the House of Justice. The subject matter of the letter included the manner in which that publishing house had promoted to Baha'is Juan Cole's book, Modernity & the Millennium. The House of Justice wrote, through its Department of the Secretariat, as follows: "The House of Justice has written that: 'no one would dispute the right of Dr. Cole to write and publish whatever work a publisher is prepared to handle. Nor has anyone questioned the right of a Baha'i who is interested in such a book to purchase it. To suggest that the House of Justice is saying otherwise would be to seriously misconstrue the nature of its concern.' In what will seem to many, I'm sure, a long & complex letter/argument, the House went on to say much else. Readers with the interest can access that institution's somewhat long letter at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/bahai/2002/fulltext.htm
"God is nearer to man than his jugular vein." -The Holy Qur'an 50:16); & "This most great, this fathomless and surging Ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you. Behold it is closer to you than your life-vein!"--Baha'u'llah
One is entirely free to accept or reject the system of belief Baha'u'llah teaches. The Baha'i Faith is a religion which believes ardently in freedom of spiritual choice. No one is, or can ever be, compelled to be a Baha'i, nor does any discredit attach to anyone who, having decided, for whatever reason, that he or she cannot continue to accept the Teachings, may decide to renounce them. What one cannot properly do is to behave in a way that undermines the unity of the Baha'i community, and to do this by challenging the institutional authority that is an integral part of the Faith one professes to have accepted. For more on this subject of apostate narratives go to: https://www.h-net.org/~bahai/docs/vol3/mckenny.htm
Readers interested in a detailed picture of "Issues Pertaining to Growth, Retention & Consolidation in the United States" in the decades up to 1999 can read the following report by the National Teaching Committee(NTC) of the United States. The NTC is a committee of the NSA of the Baha'is of the USA. The population analyzed included all Baha'is in the mainland United States who were Baha'is on January l,1970, or who joined that community through December 3l, 1998. However certain records had to be excluded because they included insufficient date information. Dates were crucial because the report sought to track people's tangible affiliation over time. There are, in total, 175,000(circa) records in the database, of which 140,000(circa) were included in this analysis. There are approximately 70,000 records with good addresses in the total database. For the full report go to: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/bahai/1999/growth23.htm I took an interest in this report of the NTC because it covered the period of time I was an international pioneer for the Canadian Baha'i community, as well as the period of time up to my retirement from paid FT employment and taking a sea-change in 1999. Since 1999 I have reinvented myself as a writer and author, poet & publisher, reader & scholar, editor & researcher, online blogger and journalist.
TWO ACADEMICS WHO WERE ONCE BAHA'IS: (A) Juan Cole and (B) Denis MacEoin
These two former Baha'is are now non-Baha'i scholars Cole since 1996 and MacEoin since 1980. Any misconceptions either of these two scholars have about the nature of Baha'u'llah's teachings and the various shortcomings, justified or not, in relation to the Baha'i Faith, the religion they once espoused, represent what one Baha'i writer calls often "understandable" views and criticisms "within attempts to explore a religious phenomenon as yet little understood in the West". Indeed, in this context, attempts to make the Baha'i Faith comprehensible to the Western academic mind, however inadequate they might appear to Baha'i scholars, have earned their authors a measure of respect for the writing and research skills deployed in their scholarly efforts. It is due to my respect for a certain erudition displayed by these two individuals, and their extensive writings, that I include some comments on their lives and writings below. I also include a brief discussion of their leave-taking, their exit narratives, indeed, their apostacy because their experience is instructive to the generality of Baha'is, especially Baha'is like myself who have taken their Faith seriously and studiously over many decades.
I am keenly aware of the frequent accusations from both these men, accusations that the Baha'i institutions are 'authoritarian' and ''dictatorial.' Momen refers to both of these men as 'marginals' who have moved to 'apostate status.' Their experience is "the exact opposite, a dark mirror, of that of the core members.'(MABC, p. 18) The greatest Baha'i scholar, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani praised by Baha'u'llah and `Abdu'l-Baha, wrote the following about historiography: "Although Mirza Abu'l-Fadl is a believer in the holy path of the Baha'i Faith, God is my witness, & He suffices as a witness, he has not been unduly influenced in the writing of this history by his love or faith......My devotion to Baha'u'llah has not deflected me from the path of fairness. For the station of a historian is beyond that of love and devotion and too sacred to be defiled by bias and prejudice. A historian must put to one side his love or hate for various groups when writing about historical events and must with the utmost justice and equity record what he knows. For truthfulness is a precious gem and the fairness of human beings is their ornament." - Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani, Letters and Essays, p. 81.
(A) JUAN COLE
John Ricardo I. "Juan" Cole(1952-) is an American academic and commentator on the modern Middle East and South Asia. He is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Since 2002, he has written a weblog, 'Informed Comment' which is also syndicated on 'Truthdig.com'. Cole joined the Bahá'í Faith in 1972, and devoted some of his academic research in those years, when he was a member of the Baha'i Faith, to the history of the Baha'i tradition. Early in his career Cole established contacts with a number of like-minded Bahá'í scholars, whose discussions took on a life of their own with the rise of the internet. For example, Cole created H-Bahai, a now inactive, though still extant, website making available a wealth of difficult-to-obtain primary sources on the religion. In 1996 Cole resigned from the Baha'i Faith. His list of publications at: http://bahai-library.com/author/Juan+Cole , and at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/cv.htm is extensive. I could place Cole and his work in other sub-sections of my website: (i) religion, (ii) history, and (iii) literature due to his very large body of books and essays, papers and journal articles. Cole's exit-narrative, as Momen calls his leave-taking of the Baha'i community, is built upon a 'plausability structure.' Such structures are often found at websites in cyberspace, websites which, in fact, gradually expose the reader to apostate material, attempt to set up splinter groups, and/or create 'an apostate mythology.'(MABC, p.20)
(B) DENIS MACEOIN
Denis M. MacEoin(1949-) is an Islamic scholar, a new-orientalist, a journalist for several rightwing organizations, & a popular-novelist. As a novelist he writes under the pseudonyms: Daniel Easterman and Jonathan Aycliffe. As a zionist advocate, MacEoin often writes letters to the editor of newspapers to highlight Arabic and Islamic issues, and social problems like terrorism & anti-semitism ; alternatively, MacEoin has written a series of articles to The Guardian to "defend Israel". MacEoin also took on a role to oppose various academic concerns and social positions; some of his statements against these issues were well publicized by organizations which championed his views.
MacEoin was a member of the Baha'i Faith from 1965 to 1980. He studied English Language & Literature at Trinity College, University of Dublin, and was a student of Persian, Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He carried out research for his PhD degree at King's College, Cambridge. His PhD dissertation dealt with two heterodox movements in 19th-century Iranian Shi'ism: Shaykhism, and Bábism. From 1979–80, he taught English, Islamic Civilization, and Arabic-English translation at Mohammed V University in Fez, Morocco. In 1986, he was made Honorary Fellow in the Centre for Islamic & Middle East Studies at Durham University. He was the Royal Literary Fund Fellow, assisting with academic writing at Newcastle University from 2005–2008. For a list of his publications: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_MacEoin
In 1980 MacEoin left the Baha'i Faith after clashes with Baha'i administration, and he began to write papers attacking the Baha'i Faith. Momen has an excellent overview of MacEoin's experience in the article above(MABC, pp. 7-10). I leave it to readers with the interest to access Momen's paper at:http://bahai-library.com/momen_marginality_apostasy
A SINGLE SOCIAL ORDER
Planetary unification and global social order: "The Bahá'í International Community regards the current world confusion & the calamitous condition of human affairs as a natural phase in an organic process leading ultimately and irresistibly to the unification of the human race in a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet."--Baha'i International Community
Much of the problem with organised religion seems to stem from the tendency in time to divorce the pure administration of the religion from its fine ideals when first founded, to be replaced by the quest for power, the inflation of the ego & for material benefits for those in control. Shoghi Effendi has repeatedly and emphatically stated that the religion of our age, and the future, cannot be confined to a mere system of organization, however elaborate in its features and universal in its scope it may be. Organization is only a means to the realization of its aims and ideals, and not an end in itself. To divorce the two, however, would be to mutilate the religion, the great Cause itself, as they stand inseparably bound to each other, in very much the same relationship existing between the soul and body in the world of human existence."--Baha’i Writings
BAHA'U'LLAH: WORLD REFORMER
Published in the Journal of Bahá’í Studies Vol. 3, number 4 (1991) "Bahá’u’lláh as “World Reformer” by Christopher Buck the article begins: "Vindicating the mission of the Persian reformer known as the Báb (d. 1850) Bahá’u’lláh’s Book of Certitude (1862) focused on spiritual authority from an Islamic perspective. In this work, a subtext may be discerned, in which Bahá’u’lláh intimates his own mission in the same terms of reference. Later, in his epistles to the monarchs of Europe and West Asia (1866–1869), Bahá’u’lláh exercised that authority and spoke of world reform. This article by Christopher Buck places Bahá’u’lláh in the context of Islamic reform, with particular reference to the advocacy of constitutional democracy by prominent Iranian secularists. In an ideological ether pervaded by “Westoxication,” Bahá’u’lláh sought to reverse the direction of Western influence.
Bahá’u’lláh prosecuted his own reforms in three stages: Bábí reform; Persian reform; and world reform. In the centrifugal sequence, Bahá’u’lláh is shown to have bypassed Islamic reform altogether in his professed role as “World Reformer.” O Queen in London! . . . Consider these days in which He Who is the Ancient Beauty hath come in the Most Great Name, that He may quicken the world and unite its peoples. . . . Were anyone to tell them: “The World Reformer is come,” they would answer and say: “Indeed it is proven that He is a fomenter of discord!” . . . Say: “O people! The Sun of Utterance beameth forth in this day, above the horizon of bounty, and the radiance of the Revelation of Him Who spoke on Sinai flasheth and glisteneth before all religions.” — Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet to Queen Victoria, 1868.
Attorney and independent scholar, Christopher Buck (PhD, JD) has written several books, including God & Apple Pie (2015), with an introduction by J. Gordon Melton (Distinguished Professor of American Religious History, Baylor University), Religious Myths and Visions of America (2009, “an original contribution to American studies,” Journal of American History, June 2011), Alain Locke: Faith and Philosophy (2005), Paradise and Paradigm (1999), Symbol and Secret (1995/2004), Religious Celebrations (co-author, 2011), and also contributed chapters in such books as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey West: The Course of Human Solidarity (2013), American Writers (2010 & 2004), The Islamic World (2008), and The Blackwell Companion to the Qur’an (2006). See christopherbuck.com and bahai-library.com/Buck. For the entire article go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/3.4-Buck.pdf
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
In March 2014 a new official website of the Baha’i Faith was launched providing general information about the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha’i community. The site also makes available selected statements and letters that have been written by it or prepared under its supervision. The Universal House of Justice is elected every 5 years by representatives of over 170 national Baha’i communities. The most recent election took place in April 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of when it was established. The official website for the Universal House of Justice can be viewed at: http://universalhouseofjustice.bahai.org To read the full article making this announcement online, as well as providing photographs and access links go to: http://news.bahai.org/story/985 For the Baha'i World News Service home page, go to: http://news.bahai.org/
The decisions of the Universal House of Justice are not revelational in character. The Universal House of Justice is not a mere recipient, transformer and mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. Its decisions do not come about through quasi-prophetic inspiration (Latin: quasi per inspirationem, Divino afflante Spiritu, but instead they are arrived at in the course of a rational discursive process in which, subsequent to the establishment of the facts and the clarification of the normative guidelines set out in the Writings, a formal process of consultation leads to a consensus, and finally to a decision reached by majority vote or by the achievement of unanimity. As the Universal House of Justice has expressly stated, it is not omniscient. Like any other decision-making body, the Universal House of Justice is dependent on information. The divine, unerring guidance which is vouchsafed to the Universal House of Justice does not hover over it like a deus ex machina. Instead, it manifests itself through the conduct of consultation which precedes the decision stage and in this manner enables infallible decisions through the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Legislation is a highly complex process and impossible without expert knowledge.
Infallibility is a complex term in Bahá'í scripture that has not been much discussed in Bahá'í secondary literature. The concept, which has analogies in Catholicism and Islam, is historically burdened and has become obsolete in secular thought. The following paper written by Udo Schaefer and published in Reason and Revelation: Studies in the Babi and Bahá'í Religions(Los Angeles, Kalimat Press, pages 3-37, 2002) analyses 2 categories of "infallibility": essential infallibility which is inherent in the messengers of God, & conferred infallibility which is a characteristic of the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. This paper focuses on the Universal House of Justice. Does its infallibility operate to an unlimited extent? Are every one of its decisions infallible, and if not, what are its boundaries? The immanent limits of this charisma are analysed and a detailed argument provided that supports a defensible restrictive interpretation. For more on these ideas go to: http://bahai-library.com/schaefer_infallible_institutions
THE BAHA'I CALENDAR
The Bahá'í calendar, also called the Badí‘ calendar (badí‘ means wondrous or unique) used by Bábism and the Bahá'í Faith, is a solar calendar with regular years of 365 days, and leap years of 366 days. Years are composed of 19 months of 19 days each, totalling 361 days, plus an extra period of "Intercalary Days" (4 in regular and 5 in leap years). Years in the calendar begin at the vernal equinox, and are counted with the date notation of BE (Bahá'í Era), with 21 March 1844 CE being the first day of the first year. The period from 21 March 2013 to 20 March 2014 is the year 170 BE. At present, the Bahá'í calendar is synchronized to the Gregorian calendar, meaning that the extra day of a leap year occurs simultaneously in both calendars. Note: The Badi calendar was implemented during the Bábí faith and then adapted in the Bahá'í Faith. For more on this calendar go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bah%C3%A1'%C3%AD_calendar
BAHA'IS AND CHRISTMAS
Do Baha’is celebrate Christmas? This question is a bit of a tricky one to answer because Christmas means different things to different people. Based on the understanding of Christmas as a commemoration of the birth of Christ, the day is clearly of significance to Baha’is, who believe that Christ was a Manifestation of God. Baha’is do not, however, celebrate Christmas within their communities as one of the Baha’i Holy Days. For more go to:http://bahaiblog.net/site/2011/12/25/what-christmas-means-to-bahais-2/
In response to one of the recent discussions about the dangers of claims to exclusivism in many old religions, one writer suggested that some of the old religious scriptures seem to expressly make exclusivist or finality prophetic claims. Can these claims, it might be asked, be reconciled with the view that all the great religions are valid and come from the one and the same Divine source? Think of a lamp or lantern. By itself it is non-illuminating. Put the bright light inside it and it changes completely. You can change the lamp or lantern from time to time, but the light inside is the same and still illuminates. Discolour the lamp or lantern and you see less illumination, but the light inside is still the same.
Now transpose this as a metaphor, with the light being the one Divine light or Spirit, the lamp or lantern being the outer physical manifestation or medium through which the Divine light illuminates the world of humanity, the Word made flesh.
THE BAHA'I FAITH IN CANADA: 1898-1948
The following article was published in the Journal of Bahá’í Studies(V 7, No 3, 1988): "The Bahá’í Community of Canada: A Case Study in the Transplantation of Non-Western Religious Movements to Western Societies." It was by Will C. van den Hoonaard. This article is extracted from the author’s book The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, 1898–1948, published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press. The author expressed his appreciation to the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada for a research grant in support of his research & the Aid to Scholarly Publications Programme for its publication subvention. Dr. Chris Barriger of McGill University made constructive comments in preparing the article for publication after its revision. It was first presented on the author’s behalf by Dr. Anne M. Pearson at the Annual Meetings of the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion, Montreal, June, 1995. It was first published in ARC: The Journal of the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University (24): 97–118. It was reprinted with the kind permission of ARC and it is found at the following link.
This study concerned the transplantation of non-Western faiths into Western settings, taking as a case study the origins and early life of the Bahá’í community in Canada. The article first indicated the historical origins of the Bahá’í Faith as a religious tradition and then gave a short history of the Canadian Bahá’í community. However, since the author’s objective was sociological rather than historical, the substance of this study was an examination of various factors that affected the ability of the Bahá’í Faith to be transplanted into Canadian society. The author is now Professor Emeritus at the University of New Brunswick where he got his BA; he has an MA (Memorial University), and a PhD (Manchester University). His article is found at: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/7.3-vandenHoonaard.pdf
THE BAHA'I FAITH IN CANADA: 1948 TO 1998
My inclusion of this part, the second half-century, on the Baha'i Faith in Canada is primarily because: (i) this part brings the story of the Canadian Baha'i experience to the end of its first century, and (ii) it was during this period that my parents and I joined the Baha'i Faith. The geographical distribution of Canadian Bahá’ís from 1898 & 1948 had contributed to what this author called their "religious singleness." Between 1898 & 1948, the Bahá’í Faith, as a missionizing religion, managed to attract over 550 people; they were all Canadians, three-quarters of whom remained Bahá’ís for the rest of their lives. This was especially the case after 1937, when the then leader of the international Baha'i community, Shoghi Effendi, urged the small band of Canadian Bahá’ís to move to major cities of the provinces which, as yet, had no Bahá’ís. Many individual believers found themselves alone and remote from their originating home community. She or he had already become acquainted with this "religious singleness" even in their home, their urban community; there were too few Bahá’ís, even by the late 1930s and 1940s, to permit otherwise. However, moving into a different part of the country, more usually alone than with someone else, underscored this feeling of 'religious singleness'. Even those who did not find themselves setting off alone to distant places in Canada reinforced this religious singleness by pursuing a lifestyle that seemed to deviate from the norm in several respects.
The first Baha'i in the Hamilton area where my parents & maternal grandparents lived was Miss Lulu Barr. She joined the Baha'i Faith in 1939. I came to know her well. My mother and father and I joined the Baha'i Faith in the 1950s when there were still less than 1000 Baha'is in all of Canada. When I moved to the eastern Arctic, the then District of Franklin, in 1967 this aspect of aloneness and remoteness, mentioned above, from my originating home community in southern Ontario was still clearly the case. It was clear, too, that liberal Protestantism was the principal anvil upon which the Bahá’í community was initially forged as late as the 1950s. By 1998, though, there were over 260 Baha’i communities in all parts of Canada; there were elected administrative institutions called Local Spiritual Assemblies all over Canada by then. Baha’is lived in 1,200 localities in Canada by the turn of the 21st century. In 1998 there were some 20,000 Baha'is in all of Canada.
The Canadian Encyclopedia noted a decade later, in 2008, that 35 of the faith’s elected Local Spiritual Assemblies are on Native reserves, & others, with Inuit members, lived in remote Arctic centres. More than 15% of Canadian Baha’is come from an aboriginal background. A comparable segment of the community are first or second-generation immigrants. The community functions bilingually with its French/English monthly newsletter and national meetings that operate in both official languages. This cohesion and unity among the great cultural streams that make up Canada is a conscious and much prized feature of Canadian Baha’i community life. Canada’s Parliament was the first sovereign legislature to formally recognize the faith by incorporating its governing institution, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, by a special Act of Parliament in 1949. This was one year after the formation of that national Baha’i institution. For more go to: http://www.bahai-ottawa.org/history_canadian_bahai_community.html
THE TEN YEAR CRUSADE
Published in the Journal of Bahá’í Studies (V6, N4, 1994) the following essay by Graham Hassall, entitled: "Bahá’í History in the Formative Age: The World Crusade, 1953–1963" is include here because it was during that period that my parents and I joined the Baha'i Faith in Canada. Readers can watch a u-tube interview with Dr Hassall at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aque3UIzkp0 He is in the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington & is a prolific writer. You can read many of his books & essays at: http://bahai-library.com/author/Graham+Hassall Graham
is a Baha'i I have known now since I arrived in Australia back in the 1970s. He expressed his thanks to Will C. van den Hoonaard, Moojan Momen, and the Journal’s three anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of his paper.
The evolution of the Bahá’í community from its obscure and persecuted origins to world encirclement has been rapid. At the time of Bahá’u’lláh’s death in 1892, there were followers in fifteen countries. By late 1921 when Shoghi Effendi’s assumption of the Guardianship was decreed in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’ís were resident in thirty-five countries. A period of consolidation followed in which Shoghi Effendi sought the administrative and doctrinal maturation of Bahá’í communities emerging in diverse sociopolitical and religious contexts. This article considers the essential features of the last significant phase of Shoghi Effendi’s ministry, the decade of the World Crusade, 1953–1963. In doing so, it seeks to raise questions concerning the contemporary practice of historical Bahá’í scholarship. For more go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/6.4-Hassall.pdf
The corruption of public instiutions is a subject that has come more sharply into focus in recent decades especially as the media, giving the public news on a 24/7 basis, is subjecting both the individual and society to a detailed examination far greater than in previous decades. "From a Bahá'í perspective the emergence of public institutions that engender public trust and that are devoid of corruption is intimately bound up with a process of moral and spiritual development. Governance is referred to in the Bahá'í writings as an expression of trusteeship, as the administering of a trust.
Bahá'u'lláh, the Baha'i Faith's Founder, speaks of the governors and administrators of society as "trustees" or the "trusted ones" of God. He also warns leaders that the vulnerable and the poor "are the trust of God in your midst".....those individuals who are engaged in government service are exhorted to "approach their duties with entire detachment, integrity and independence of spirit, and with complete consecration and sanctity of purpose."
"The challenge of overcoming corruption in public life is multi-dimensional in nature. The adoption of administrative procedures and legal safeguards, however important such measures may be, will not bring about enduring changes in individual and institutional behavior. For governance, in essence, is a moral and spiritual practice whose compass is found within the human heart. Thus, only as the inner lives of human beings are transformed will the vision of a "genuine civilization of character" be realized."-The Baha'i International Community, 2001, Overcoming Corruption in Public Institutions.
A RECENT ITEM ON THIS NEW WORLD FAITH
The following is the latest item of personal interest to me on the Babi-Baha'i Faiths. This website, my website, is an expression of my interests and attitudes, aptitudes and qualifications; if others share them, they will find this site of use. If they do not share my relatively wide-ranging interests, they may find some corners of this website of interest to them. I post this latest item here for the possible interest of some readers. This item below concerns Robert Atkinson, a professor of human development and director of the Life Story Center at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author of seven books, as well as the forthcoming Humanity’s Evolving Story: Seven Principles Guiding Us Toward a Consciousness of Oneness. Go to: http://www.noetic.org/noetic/issue-nine-april/toward-oneness/ for an article by Professor Atkinson on this subject.
"We stand at a critical juncture in our collective evolution," writes Atkinson. He continues: "As our twenty-first century society undergoes rapid change, people seek more solid ground in ethical and moral values to serve as guideposts for navigating these uncertain times. We want answers to the deep questions, which continue to perplex us. questions such as: Is there an underlying purpose that drives evolution, or do change and transformation happen randomly? And if there is a purpose, what is evolution moving us toward?"
I mention Atkinson and his work here because of this website's general orientation to autobiography and biography, memoirs and life-narratives. My own life-narrative and the interdisciplnary field centred around these subjects is found all over my website. Mention is made of Atkinson's book in the latest volume of Bahá'í World(2) which features articles on global terrorism and the UN Millennium events. "Also included in Baha'i World are essays that give Bahá'í perspectives on contemporary topics and trends. An essay by Robert Atkinson entitled "Culture and the Evolution of Consciousness" discusses the relationship between the development of culture and humanity's growing awareness of its essential oneness. Go to the following link for more details: http://news.bahai.org/story/152
Symbols of Transformation is an essay also mentioned in the new list of books available at the USA Baha'i Distribution Service See also: Remembering 1969 by Robert Atkinson, Baha'i Publishing. Remembering 1969 is the story of one man's search for personal spiritual growth during the transitional times of the 1960s. Robert Atkinson offers a beautifully written portrait of a defining, transformative year in his young adult life and, in the process, tells the story of a generation in transition. Also mentioned as co-authors are: Anne Gordon Perry, Robert Atkinson, Rosanne Adams-Junkins, Richard Grover, Diane Iverson, Robert H. Stockman, Burton W.F. Trafton Jr. Some of these names are well-known in the Baha'i community. One or two are well-known outside the Baha'i community, but they all are relevant to my personal interest in biography and autobiography, creativity and the arts.
As I indicated at the beginning of this sub-section on the Babi-Baha'i Faiths, a sub-section of the general category of religion at my website, I make no attempt to provide a comprehensive discussion of the vast literature now available on this new world Faith that is the second-most widespread religion on Earth. I leave this task to readers to use their search engine techniques to locate topics of interest to them.
(1) Abdul-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Baha'i Pub. Trust,, Wilmette, 1975(1957), p.36.
(2) Baha'i World is a series of annual volumes that survey activities of the Baha'i community during the previous year.
THE BAHA'I PARADIGM
Readers can find a 6000 word commentary and context for the annual message from the democratically elected global governing body of the Baha'i Faith, the Universal House of Justice, at the Scribd site. This essay has an autobiographical flavour. Readers only need to google the words: RonPrice at Scribd to access this essay among other pieces of my writing all of which have varying degrees of memoiristic and autobiographical flavours. Also available is my 650 page analysis of the new Baha'i paradigm, the new culture of learning and growth in the Baha'i community in the two decades, 1996 to 2016, at this link:http://bahai-library.com/price_culture_learning_paradigm
THE BAHA'I FAITH AND SOCIAL ACTIVISM
I have personally been accused sometimes of standing aloof from current controversial issues of concern, particularly of local concern. My responses have not always been understood. I searched for some quote from the Writings of my Faith that might explain this much better and found the following: "Bahá'ís are often accused of holding aloof from the 'real problems' of their fellow-men. But when we hear this accusation let us not forget that those who make it are usually idealistic materialists to whom material good is the only 'real' good, whereas we know that the working of the material world is merely a reflection of spiritual conditions and until the spiritual conditions can be changed there can be no lasting change for the better in material affairs."
"We should also remember that most people have no clear concept of the sort of world they wish to build, nor how to go about building it. Even those who are concerned to improve conditions are therefore reduced to combatting every apparent evil that takes their attention. Willingness to fight against evils, whether in the form of conditions or embodied in evil men, has thus become for most people the touchstone by which they judge a person's moral worth. Bahá'ís, on the other hand, know the goal they are working towards and know what they must do, step by step, to attain it. Their whole energy is directed towards the building of the good, a good which has such a positive strength that in the face of it the multitude of evils -- which are in essence negative -- will fade away and be no more. To enter into the quixotic tournament of demolishing one by one the evils in the world is, to a Bahá'í a vain waste of time and effort. His whole life is directed towards proclaiming the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, reviving the spiritual life of his fellow-men, uniting them in a Divinely-created World Order, and then, as that Order grows in strength and influence, he will see the power of that Message transforming the whole of human society and progressively solving the problems and removing the injustice which have so long bedeviled the world." (Baha'i Writings)
Some might see this as escapism. I see it as a plan to improve the whole planet and to create one harmonious human society, one in which war, violence, bigotry and prejudice are no longer acceptable. If I can make even a very small contribution to this I will be grateful
BAHA'I TEMPLE IN CHILE
For a video on the new Baha'i temple in Chile go to:http://templo.bahai.cl/
THE NEW BAHA'I PARADIGM: THE NEW CULTURE OF LEARNING AND GROWTH
This book of 650 pages(font 16) and 230 thousand words contains reflections and understandings regarding this new Baha'i culture of learning and growth, what amounts to a paradigmatic shift, in the Baha’i community which it has been going through since the mid-1990s. This newest, this latest, of the Abrahamic religions, has been developing a new culture in the last two decades(1996-2016). This new culture or paradigm will be developing in the decades ahead at least until 2044, the end of the second century of the Baha'i Era(1844 to 2044), and perhaps beyond into that third century, 2044 to 2144, of the Baha'i Era. Time will tell when the next paradigmatic shift will take place in the international Baha'i community.
Comparisons and contrasts are made to several previous paradigm shifts in the Baha'i community. Thoughts on future developments within this paradigm and future paradigms are suggested. In the first six years, 2007 to 2013, of the presence of this book, this commentary, on the world-wide-web, this work has contributed to an extensive dialogue on the issues regarding the many related and inter-related processes involved in the many ongoing changes in the international Bahai community, a community which exists in more than 200 countries and territories on the planet. Some 20,000 hits have been recorded at the several internet sites where this book is found.
This work is dedicated to the Universal House of Justice, trustee of the global undertaking which the events of more than a century ago set in motion. The fully institutionalized charismatic Force, a Force that historically found its expression in the Person of Baha'u'llah, has effloresced by a process of succession, of appointment and election, at the apex of Bahai administration for more than half a century since 21 April 1963. For that commentary, I repeat, on the new Baha'i paradigm, the new culture of learning and growth go to: http://bahai-library.com/price_culture_learning_paradigm
AN ESSAY ON BAHA'U'LLAH
The following essay appeared on Baha'i Blog on 11/11/'13 and I post it here since I found its tone and style appealing. It is written by Sam Karvonen. Sam Karvonen is a globe-trotter, a truth-seeker and an aid worker turned into a security analyst. He says that he is "a ridiculously fortunate husband and a thoroughly entertained father." Baha'i Blog is a website with many useful resource materials for both Baha'is and those interested in this religion which claims to be the newest of the Abrahamic religions. The essay begins with a question which the author then proceeds to answer: "What possible connection could a Persian prisoner in a culturally stunted corner of the 19th century mideast have with the progressive spirit of our age?" Well everything, says Karvonen. The story of modernity, writes this popular Baha'i author, is the story of the spirit of a beaten mankind arising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of pride and prejudice to the glory of unity & brotherhood.
Biased though I may be, as a Baha’i I also embrace wholeheartedly the inspiration of every visionary that has called for a wider appreciation of humanity. Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi and Dr. King come readily to mind. Today Baha’is everywhere gather to commemorate the 196th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u'llah. It would be only befitting to pause and glance at the quiet revolution of human consciousness brought about by this serene child prodigy born on 12 November, 1817 to one Khadijih Khanum and Mirza Buzurg.
A few years back I threw myself into an amateur historical research project. Mainly for my own sport. My ambitious purport was to scan through all the known historical figures preceding Baha’u'llah. Leastways those that have mentioned the unity of mankind or the brotherhood of man, even if only passingly. At the outset I summarily dismissed all hypocritical imperialist declarations and manifests for world peace. Such as the Roman Pax Romana or the Nazi German “one People, one Nation, one Leader.” The “world-embracing” aim of these campaigns was tainted from the start by their square rejection of equal humanity. My little research project yielded fruit. Out of the welter of dead men and women emerged some dozen more or less renowned historical figures worthy of serious consideration.
One of the most awe-inspiring verses on world unity preceding Baha’u'llah is from his medieval compatriot — Persian poet Sa’adi (1184-1283). The poem depicts the world as a body whose members feel one another’s hurt. This famous poem is also displayed on the wall of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Of One Essence is the Human Race,
Thusly has Creation put the Base.
One Limb impacted is sufficient,
For all Others to feel the Mace.
The Unconcern’d with Others’ Plight,
Are but Brutes with Human Face.
British poets Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) and William Blake (1757-1827), both slightly older contemporaries of Baha’u'llah, envisioned in a few isolated verses a unified future world. Particularly Tennyson’s famous words in his poem “Locksley Hall” (written in 1835) ring near-prophetic in their panoramic vision. But the poem is in fact more dystopian than utopian. It depicts a war-weary soldier deciding to interrupt his march to enter a house known as the Locksley Hall. Inside the house he drifts down the memory lane back to his childhood, allowing youthful dreams of a “Parliament of Man” and a “Federation of the world” where “the war-drum throbb’d no longer” to soothe him in his sorrows.
Ancient Hindu scripture, namely the Maha Upanishad, tells about the magnanimous man for whom there are no “strangers” – for whom “the entire world constitutes but a family.” (Chapter 6, Verse 72) The prophet Isaiah (circa 800-700 BC) as well as Jesus of Nazareth (circa. 2 BC – 30 AD) prophesied a future “Kingdom of God” to be established on “earth”. The vision of Isaiah paints perhaps the most well-known vista of the great peace: “…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (KJV, Isaiah 2:4) Socrates (circa 469-399 BC) is told to have declared: “I am not Athenian nor Greek, but a citizen of the world.” The very term ”cosmopolitan” (ie. ”world citizen”) appears to trace back to this statement. Needless to say, the term ”world” had a somewhat different connotation in the Hellenic Age than today.
Prophet Muhammad (570-632) reveals in the Qur’an how mankind was in the beginning a “single nation” (002.213) and that the diversity of sexes, tribes and nations were created for the sole purpose of us coming “to know one another.” (049.013) William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), the American abolitionist, declared after the manner of similar statements by Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and Thomas Paine (1737-1809), that “our country is the world — our countrymen are all mankind.” German philosopher and freemason Karl Krause (1781-1832) speculated, in his essay “The Archetype of Man” (1811), about the possibility of a world republic consisting of continental federations.
These few statements constitute the main findings of my little foray into history. Similar declarations from other figures cannot be ruled out. But I daresay they haven’t left much of a dent on mankind’s collective memory. A common denominator of most of these sages was that their vision for universal brotherhood was either a distant and dream-like longing or a political theory. Only the statements of Isaiah and Jesus constituted a confident prophecy, yet ones of a distant future. Only Karl Krause set forth the “unity” of mankind as an explicit notion. But for him “oneness” meant a literal esoteric union of earth, man and God.
The Prisoner had no interest in dreaming and speculation. Baha’u'llah championed the cause of unity. Even this is a gross understatement. He appears to be the sole historical figure to have personally taken upon the task of uniting all mankind. Not instantly, but as his words and ideas slowly permeate the world. The “perversity” of mankind, according to his own prophecy, “will long continue”. The diffusion of his ideas would not happen overnight. Yet he declared that the time for unification is now if mankind is to avoid further, and more violent, conflict and bloodshed.
The great Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948), some half a century later, chose to restrict his own noble mission to the attainment of India’s independence and unification. He succeeded in the former while he admitted, with regret, to failing at the latter. Far from limiting himself to mere national emancipation or poetic device, Baha’u'llah’s explicitly called for the ”unification” of all mankind. He gave lucid descriptions on the nature of such a unity, the stages, both destructive and collaborative, whereby mankind will attain it, the institutions needed for its maintenance, and prophecies as to its final achievement. Never did Baha’u'llah cherish mankind’s unification as a hopeful dream or a utopian vision. Not even as his personal belief. He regarded it a certain and inevitable fact. Baha’u'llah stressed that mankind is one and interdependent whether or not it will admit it. The well-being and security of mankind hinge on mankind’s acute awareness of its own interdependence. "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."
Lastly, Baha’u'llah seems to be the only figure in known history to declare the unification of mankind as the Will of God Himself. His personal commandment to all the world’s peoples. A commandment the observance of which will produce well-being and security, both personal and planetary, and whose disobedience will unavoidably result in worsening worldwide havoc. He declared the unity of mankind to be, in our day and age, “the monarch of all aspirations.” That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.
Yet one fact renders Baha’u'llah’s universalism truly extraordinary. Almost all of his high-minded contemporaries — poets, philosophers, political visionaries — who had in one way or another longed for common weal, were Western aristocrats inspired by the American and French revolutions. All of them were well-schooled and well-respected fixtures in the social elite, pampered with luxuries and ease. What was Baha’u'llah? An inmate, an outcast, a victim of unrelenting oppression. He had never had the time nor luxury to immerse into books, much less to attend colleges. He grew up in a culturally sunken corner of the world fanatically opposed to every social reform and innovation. He paid for his peaceful calling with the plundering of his wealth, a life of imprisonment, and the torture and mass-murder of his admirers. Meanwhile the enlightened minds of his Western contemporaries soared from their leather armchairs, teak wood desks and calabash pipes within the comfort of stately manors.
And yet it was this far-off Exile in Ottoman Palestine who remains the sole figure in history to make unity his life mission and to set it for all men and women of our time as “the monarch of all aspirations.” Ironically, my confidence in the eventual establishment of world unity rests on the utter failure of torture, defamation and two score years of incarceration to quench the undying fire for worldwide fellowship burning within the breast of but one Man. One whose pen refused to halt despite trembling from the effects of poison until the end of his days. Whose dignity could not be robbed by 100-pound iron chains that had cut into his flesh and hunched him for life. One whose crime was to claim to have brought a new commandment of oneness from God.
Baha’is are simply those that have taken Baha’u'llah’s mission to their heart. They have adopted it as a collective programme entrusted by God no less. Yet one does not, and need not, become a Baha’i to feel welcome to participate in Baha’i activities aimed at creating service-oriented communities unified in their diversity. For the ultimate aim of Baha’u'llah was not to gain converts, but to transform the world.
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. The term was frequently used by governmental leaders in public discourse during the post-WWI period in their arguments for greater international cooperation and support of the fledgling League of Nations (now the United Nations).
However, more recently it has become the language of conspiracy theory, evidence of a secret plot for world domination being orchestrated by a handful of nefarious individuals who wield undue influence on global affairs. (In my research on the subject, I even stumbled across websites pondering whether Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, is the Antichrist because of his use of “world order” language). It seems prudent, therefore, to distinguish the meaning of the phrase as it is used in the Baha’i Faith from other, possibly less savory connotations. I’ll attempt to do this by discussing the “World Order” that Baha’is envision as it pertains to a number of subjects: politics and governance, economics, society, and religion.
Politics and Governance
One of the lenses through which Baha’is view the progress and evolution of humanity is the lens of unity. From this perspective, we understand mankind as progressing successively through various stages of affiliation and cooperation. Although the specific stages and their order may have varied from culture to culture, we can generally say that peoples around the world have traversed, or are in the process of traversing, the unities of the family, the tribe, the town/city-state, the empire (a loose conglomeration of city-states), and the nation-state. Each stage brings new challenges of coordination, but also unleashes humankind’s potential to a greater degree. There are surely a number of examples of governmental instability around the world, but the majority of nation-states are now fairly well established. Baha’is therefore view the final and inevitable stage of humanity’s evolution as the achievement of global unity. This is why Baha’is support efforts such as the United Nations (although not necessarily all of its policies and practices, a full discussion of which is outside the scope of this post) which attempt to achieve political and governmental unity on a global scale.
Many view this new “World Order” of international governance as a threat to national sovereignty. This fear appears to be driven by a paradigm of political competition and a “zero sum game” mentality, whereby the victory of one group (such as a political party, nation, etc.) is necessarily a loss for another. Sadly, this paradigm, even in democratic societies, is far too common given the widespread influence of partisanship, which necessarily pits different groups against each other.
But the existence of a global system of government by no means necessitates the elimination of national autonomy, just as the establishment of states and provinces did not eliminate local control, nor did the creation of nations eliminate states’ rights. On the contrary, Baha’is believe the establishment of international governance is necessary to ensure that the rights of all individuals and communities are fully safeguarded against tyranny, despotism, and political repression.
As a genuinely Iranian intellectual and religious movement emerging in the mid-nineteenth century, the Baha'i Faith has encountered relentless and sustained repression and scapegoating in the country of its origin. Exploring various aspects of the Baha'i Question in Iran over the past century & a half, the scholars participating in this international conference critically reflect on a wide range of issues related to the similarities & differences between Shi'i Islam and Baha'i Faith, and the role of Baha'is in Iranian cultural & intellectual life. The fact of the continued repression & intellectual 'Othering' is also examined in some detail. For more on the Baha'i Faith and politics go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtVY1BW9s0A
Much of humanity has experienced tremendous growth in its material prosperity over the last two centuries, and Baha’is fully believe that both spiritual and material development are noble goals for humanity to pursue. However, this prosperity has not been enjoyed equally, and the disparities between the wealthy and the destitute are tremendous and growing; the top 0.5% of the population controls more than a third of the world’s wealth, while the bottom two-thirds of the population (roughly four billion people) control less than one-twentieth.
One of the foundational principles of the Faith is the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty, so we view this growing inequality as something that must be combated. This does not mean we support measures to artificially equate the incomes of all people or promote economic systems such as communism which attempt to do so, but nor do we believe that the “unbridled capitalism” which has come to dominate the world economy is achieving a just distribution of resources. In the World Order Baha’is are hoping to build, all peoples of the world will have the ability and capacity to contribute meaningfully to the world’s economy, abject poverty will be eliminated, and the extremes of wealth and poverty will be greatly reduced.
Although we believe that international political unity is necessary to achieve world peace, Baha’is also believe it is insufficient. A necessary precondition of true unity and prosperity is the recognition by all people of the fundamental oneness of humanity. This consists of an elimination of all forms of prejudice, be they racial, ethnic, national, or of any other type, an appreciation for the incredible diversity of humankind, and a respect and protection of the freedoms which all individuals must be granted. This interpersonal and spiritual unity, rather than international political cooperation, is the true bedrock and foundation of the World Order Baha’is hope to achieve.
Although the implications of a new World Order for the three themes discussed above may seem innocuous, some may wonder what role the Baha’i Faith itself wishes to play in the unfoldment of this new age. Are Baha’is set on world domination? Do they want the whole world to become Baha’i? The short answer is: it depends what you mean by Baha’i. Just as it has become commonplace to view politics through the lens of competition and dichotomies, so do we often think about religion. You are either a Christian or a Buddhist, a Muslim or a Jew, a Zoroastrian or a Hindu, as if an acceptance of one faith necessarily entails the rejection of all others.
From the Baha’i perspective, this is one of the most destructive paradigms of present-day society. Instead, Baha’is view all of the major world religions as chapters of an ever-unfolding book which is the revelation of God. While social teachings may differ between religious traditions, at the foundation of all religions is a common set of spiritual principles: be kind, be just, be truthful, be generous, be compassionate, and the like. To Baha’is, what matters not is the religion by which one identifies himself or herself, but the degree to which one reflects these spiritual principles.
So do Baha’is want everyone to call themselves a Baha’i? It doesn’t matter to us at all. What matters is that we all strive to embody these spiritual principles, recognize the commonalities in our respective Faith traditions, and use those commonalities as the foundation for a world civilization built on respect, collaboration, and unity.
COMPLEXITY AND CHANGE
My Revelation is indeed far more bewildering than that of Muhammad...if thou dost but pause to reflect upon the days of God. -The Bab, Selections, Haifa, 1976, p.139.
“There are decades when nothing happens. And then there are weeks when decades happen.” Lenin
THE BAHA'IS, IRAN, AND ISLAMIC INTOLERANCE
"From Moorish Cordova To The Bahá'ís Of Iran: Islamic Tolerance And Intolerance" is an article by Boris Handal, 8 September 2007. The article is located in the online electronic journal IDEA. The author describes the current persecution of the Bahá'í community of Iran and how it contrasts with Muhammad’s original teachings in the Qur’an, a teaching prescribing understanding and respect towards religious minorities. Cordova, once the capital of Moorish Spain, known as al-Andalus, is set as an example of tolerance where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed harmoniously under Islamic rule. The paper also describes the persecution of the members of the Iranian Bahá'í community within a theological and historical context. Go to this link to read that article:http://www.ideajournal.com/articles.php?id=45
As a genuinely Iranian intellectual and religious movement emerging in the mid-nineteenth century, the Baha'i Faith has encountered relentless and sustained repression and scapegoating in the country of its origin. Exploring various aspects of the Baha'i Question in Iran over the past century & a half, the scholars participating in this international conference critically reflect on a wide range of issues related to the similarities & differences of Shi'i Islam and Baha'i Faith. The following video also reflects on the role of Baha'is in Iranian cultural and intellectual life, and the fact of their continued repression and intellectual Othering. Go to this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtVY1BW9s0A There are also an additional 20 u-tube items for readers at my webpage here. They are, for the most part, talks given on a variety of topics at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtVY1BW9s0A
THE BAHA'IS AND INDIA
Even though the Bahá'í Faith in India is tiny in proportion of the national population, it is numerically large and has a long history culminating in recent times with the notable Lotus Temple, various Bahá'í schools, and increasing prominence. According to the 2005 Association of Religion Data Archives data there are close to some 1,880,000 Bahá'ís. For a history of the Baha'i Faith in India, its development and emergence from obscurity in the last half century go to this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bah%C3%A1%27%C3%AD_Faith_in_India
In 2015 the Indian government decided to initiate a survey of the socio-economic status of those categorised as “others” in the census. This survey was initiated because these "others" do not fall into the existing list of six minority communities: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains. “Until 2015, minority in India meant only Muslims. That’s going to change as more communities will be included,” an official working with the Ministry of Minority Affairs said. According to this official, 7.3 million people, or 0.6 percent of the total population, are "others." To begin with, the ministry has decided to look into individual applications from communities to be included in the list; the first one likely to be added is that of Bahais. When asked about the financial clout of the community and the need for assistance from the government, the official said the Bahais were not asking for financial help but for recognition as a minority community.
Sources within the ministry said that recognition to Bahais, who are being persecuted in Islamic countries, especially Iran, will send out a message to the international community that often accuses India of shortchanging its minorities. For a u-tube item on the persecution of Baha'is in Iran go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdsFrwJb8NM&feature=youtu.be The official said the minority ministry had asked the National Commission for Minorities for its opinion & is about to take a final call in the matter. According to him, the government is also looking at the issues of linguistic and ethnic minorities. For more on this subject go to: https://sensday.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/bahai-community-in-india-tipped-to-be-first-as-government-expands-recognition-of-religious-minorities/
Since Shoghi Effendi’s writing has strongly influenced my life, and since his rhetoric was not used merely to embellish his epistolary style, but also to fulfill a practical purpose, I will comment briefly on his writing. I am drawing here on the writings of an old friend, Jack McLean. I used to go to Baha'i firesides, or discussion groups, in Toronto Canada in the early 1960s. Jack went on to study at the Sorbonne and I went to live in Australia. Our paths have not crossed since those early 1960s. Jack notes that rhetoric is still used in teaching, law, politics and religion to instruct, to move and to convince as a form of “suasive speech.”
Shoghi Effendi exercised his rhetorical art for similar purposes. During his administration from 1922-1957, writing qua head and Guardian of the Bahá’í community, his main tasks were, not only to interpret the Bahá’í writings, and to instruct in matters of faith. Just as importantly, he aimed to exhort the Bahá’ís “to arise” to execute the sequential Plans he had devised for developing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Plan. I was one of those Baha'is, and that Plan was put into action just before my parents met in the late 1930s, and just before my maternal grandmother passed away in Hamilton Ontario where I was born.
In fulfilling this function, Shoghi Effendi demonstrated considerable rhetorical skill, a talent that was developed, not only by his divine charisma, from a Baha'i perspective, but also by formal study and practice. The Guardian was clearly cognizant of certain classical elements of rhetoric, but owing to its Bahá’í-specific, that is, religious content, and the originality of his magisterial style, his discourse also exhibits certain atypical features. In this paper, which readers can read in full at the link below, McLean's analyses Shoghi Effendi’s rhetoric by explicating the following five points: (1) the historical background to the teaching and function of rhetoric, (2) the Guardian’s interest in and formal study of rhetoric, (3) the connection between Shoghi Effendi’s moral authority and his credibility as a rhetorician, (4) the rhetorical effect of the Guardian’s epistolary, and (5) a paradigm of seven rhetorical modes used in his The Art of Rhetoric. In substantiating these points, McLean correlates selected material from the history of rhetoric and rhetorical theory to the writings of the Guardian. While some of the material on rhetorical theory is capable of standing on its own, it has been selected and analysed because of its relevance to the topic. This paper situates Shoghi Effendi's rhetoric within a long rhetorical tradition, which his writings perpetuate. McLean's essay also offers an understanding of the underpinnings of the Guardian's rhetorical technique. For more on this subject go to:http://irfancolloquia.org/pdf/lights8_mclean.pdf
In a faith without clergy, Bahá’ís all over the world are learning about the importance of two inter-connected principles: individual initiative and universal participation. In a culture of statistics, we’re asked regularly to give a tally of the numbers of people participating in the core activities, as if this is the only true measure of participation. For those of us living in communities that are largely inactive, this can be really discouraging! We long to have more people to do things with, particularly when we’ve watched so many of our friends withdraw from active service or even resign from the Faith. The Baha'i Writings tell us about universal participation and see if we can get some comfort & ideas to help move our communities forward. If you go to this link you will get an interesting video and story about this concept:https://vimeo.com/120642202 For a comprehensive view of the concept of universal participation go to: http://susangammage.com/encouraging-universal-participation
J. Hillis Miller(1928- ) is an American literary critic who has been heavily influenced by—and who has heavily influenced—deconstruction. Since deconstruction usually requires some explanation to the vast majority of readers whose familiarity with philosophy in general and literary criticism in particular is minimal to non-existent, the following link will be of use: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstruction
In his analysis of the writings of the Polish novelist who wrote in English, Joseph Conrad(1857-1924), Miller informs us that Conrad saw the habit of profound reflection as, ultimately, pernicious in its effects. This was because such deep reflection led to passivity and death, to the dark side of a somber pessimism, and to the view of his own personality as ridiculous. The result, thought Conrad, was an aimless masquerade of something hopelessly unknowable.(1) Profound reflection, indeed, a general anti-intellectualism is common in today's world for many reasons not the least of which is (a) the world's profound complexity, and (b) many people's preferences for activities rather than thinking about life's complexities. Gardening and galivanting, cooking and cleaning, watching TV and listening to music are all pleasures which are relatively free of life's profound issues, puzzling paradoxes and immense complexities. Several of my wife's doctors over the years have told her: "you think too much". Such is yet another expression of this anti-intellectualism, the culture of fun-and-partying, and what has become a now cultivated need to be entertained. Much of the affuent west is immersed in this culture. Me too!
The search for simplicity has been one of the many threads of modern man's search, at least since the days of a man whom some say was the first environmentalist in North America, Henry David Thoreau(1817-1862). This search, it could be argued, is nothing new and has been going on for centuries, perhaps even millennia. It has been one, as I say above, of the central threads of the great searches of human beings in the west since the Greeks and the Hebrews. Thoreau's journal, kept from 1839 to 1861, is useful to those who would like to study autobiography and memoirs, journals and diaries. Here are two of my favorite quotations from Thoreau: "All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hour's toil. The fight to the finish requires a certain kind of spirit. It is that kind of spirit that is the one characteristic we must possess if we are to face the future as finishers." Here is a second quote from Thoreau: "All men are children, and of one family. The same tale sends them all to bed, and wakes them in the morning."(2) I'm not so sure about that same tale, but I like the spirit of Thoreau's words.-Ron Price with thanks to: (1) J. Hillis Miller, Poets of Reality, Belknap Press, 1965, pp.33-34, and (2) Brainy Quotes, an internet site.
The desire, as I see it, Mr. Miller,
is to obtain His bounty and tender,
so tender, mercy; to be a recipient
of a leaven that will leaven
the world of my being,
furnish it with writing power
and to be given the honour
of His nearness. The dark side
of existence, indeed, my corrupt
inclination is due to my failure
to achieve this communion.
It is a hopelessly appauling
process, Mr. Miller, quite
beyond the profoundest reflection,
but with plenty of room for any
reflection I might want to entertain.
1 This poem draws on a prayer of the Bab in Baha’i Prayers, p.151.
20 June 2000 to 11 July 2011
For aerial view of the Baha'i terraced gardens and the Shrine of the Bab go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxesOz6rRlw&feature=player_detailpage
The small nuclear family of my mother, father and myself, came in contact with the Baha'i Faith during the Baha'i Holy Year October 1952 to October 1953. That year saw the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the rise of the Orb of Baha'u'llah's most sublime Revelation. It marked the consummation of the six thousand year cycle ushered in by Adam, glorified by all past prophets and sealed with the blood of the Author of the Babi Dispensation.
As each national Baha'i community reached the point of readiness to implement a Plan for this Faith's extension, expansion, and consolidation, such a Plan was formulated. The North American Baha'i community in 1953 was about to begin a world-embracing spiritual crusade, a crusade which marked the third and last phase of the initial epoch of the evolution of 'Abdul-Baha's Divine Plan. These plans were mainly designed to increase the size of the community and the number of local spiritual assemblies, as well as to consolidate them as institutions and as communities. Part of these national plans were goals to multiply the number of Bahá'í centres within each national community's boundaries -- and beyond.
One of the first communities to launch such a Plan was the British Baha'i community. That community began its first Plan, a Six Year Plan, in 1944 about two months before I was born. Other plans followed within two to three years. Each Plan had a certain duration and ended either in 1950, the hundredth anniversary of the Martyrdom of the Báb, or in 1953, the Holy Year described above. That Holy Year was the commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation in the Siyah-Chal, the Black Pit, of Tihran. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 283) For an interesting event that coincided with the beginning of that Baha'i Holy Year go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jun/07/how-computers-exploded/
DIVINE AUTHORITY AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
The coexistence of divine authority and individual freedom of expression is a very important characteristic feature of the Baha'i Faith. Some believers take the view that, hypothetically speaking, if the Guardian was sitting in the meeting of the Universal House of Justice it would have been impossible for the members of the House of Justice to say frankly what they thought. Ian Semple, who gave the talk from which these two paragraphs and the following link are quoting, had the privilege of a few hours in the presence of the Guardian. He does not agree with that hypothetical point of view. Semple said he believed that in Shoghi Effendi's presence one would not have dared to do anything but say exactly what one thought. He says he was confirmed in this view by the actions of the Hands of the Cause of God since the coming into being of the Universal House of Justice.
These were Hands who had worked closely with the beloved Guardian. These Hands, Semple emphasized, always demonstrated absolute loyalty and also absolute frankness in all their consultations with the Universal House of Justice. This combination was, Semple went on, a tremendous source of strength and inspiration to the Universal House of Justice. For a letter on the subject of the infallibility of the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith written by the Universal House of Justice letter to one of the believers on 25 July, 1974 go to this link:http://irfancolloquia.org/pdf/lights6_infallibility.pdf For Ian Semple's talk on Interpretation and the Guardianship given at a seminar in Haifa on 18 February 1984, go to this link:http://irfancolloquia.org/u/semple_guardianship
THE EXISTENTIAL MOMENT
This poem was written while sitting on a couch along the edge of the window gazing out from the Pilgrim House at the Shrine of the Bab. The poem is a meditation on the Shrine and the self. It was the morning of the Fifth Day of my pilgrimage in the year 2000, just aftyer I had retired from a 40 year working life. This poem was written in the few minutes before going up the Hill of God as Mt Carmel is sometimes called, as a pilgrim group, to the Archives Building. It was a warm day, as all our days were in June, in the beginning of summer in Israel. I did not get to know the temperature because radio and TV were not part of my day-to-day experience; and when it was it was never in English. Our pilgrimage, as I wrote these words, would soon be half over.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 9 June 2000.
Oh apocalyptic one:
still a surprise,
place of sudden meeting
with the shadow self
which rejects divine law
in the interests of
his own imperious demands,
his alter ego,
a peeling away
of the old self.
His higher self
like this golden-tipped shrine
amidst the monster of selfishness,
quintessence of passion,
weed, stark and real,
angel of darkness
that is his destiny
and the reality of
9 June 2000
There are now many outstanding pieces of architecture at Baha’i centres around the world which have inspired my poetry. Perchance these words have come from a leaven that leavens the world of being and furnishes a certain power for this art to be made manifest. Thus and so, perchance, perforce, perhaps, this poetry grows in the flowers of the crannied walls of my own life, as the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote:
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower -but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
MY WRITING: Part 1
Most of my writing comes from the period of the fourth(1986-2001) and fifth(2001 to the present) epochs of a new formative age, a formative age quite unlike its Greek predecessor, in the paradigm used by historians to study Greek history more than 2500 years ago. The internet has a lengthy essay on the collection of my letters found in the Australian National Baha'i Archives, a collection from 1961 to 2011. This essay can be googled by using the words: Ron Price Letters. For a general time frame of a Baha'i view of history and its epochs go to the following link:http://bahai-library.com/bolhuis_chart_eras_epochs
My writing is part of a wider artistic experience of the time when what some now call the eighth wonder was designed and constructed. The precise location on Mount Carmel was designated by Bahá'u'lláh himself to his eldest son, `Abdu'l-Bahá, in 1891. `Abdu'l-Bahá planned the structure, which was designed and completed several decades later by his grandson, Shoghi Effendi. The major embellishment of the several that have taken-place---to the spiritual and administrative centre of this new Faith---was completed from the late 1980s to the first years of the 3rd millennium.
If my poetry comes to be seen in no other light than as basking in the reflected, refracted, light of the spiritual and administrative centre of that eighth wonder of the world on Mt. Carmel I will feel I have made a useful, albeit microcosmic, contribution to civilization as it was going through one of its greatest climacterics, perhaps the greatest and most awful in the history of humankind. -Ron Price, “ A Retirement-New Direction Prose-Poem,” Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2005 to 2012.
Perhaps the reason this poetry
has taken on such importance,
such meaning, to me during the
construction of this tapestry of
monumental terraces is the fact
that I’ve spread myself out over
two dozen towns during a pioneer
life across two continents, nearly
five decades and over four epochs.
MY WRITING: Part 2
TRAVELLING AND AT REST
I was conceived in Hamilton Ontario,
in 1943 in a city they called the lunch-
pail city, and I lived there from 1944 to
1947; then I lived in Burlington from 6/
'47 to 9/'62. Now that I have been able
to give my spirit a rest....I am ready to
launch out into a different series of (1)
shorter teaching exercises-not like the
ones I’ve already had in places & towns
as listed in these 30+ localities below...
Dundas Ontario------September 1962 to May 1963
St. Thomas Ontario--May 1963 to June 1963
London Ontario------June 1963
Hamilton Ontario----June 1963 to December 1963
Dundas Ontario------January 1964 to May 1966
Windsor Ontario-----May to June 1966
Hamilton Ontario----June to September 1966
Windsor Ontario-----September 1966 to May 1967
Brantford Ontario----May to August 1967
Frobisher Bay---------August 1967 to June 1968
Whitby Ontario-------July to December 1968
Toronto Ontario------January to May 1969
King City Ontario----June to August 1969
Picton-------------------September 1969 to June 1971
Whyalla South Australia
--------July 1971 to December 1972
Gawler South Australia
---------January 1973 to December 1973
---------January 1974 to December 1974
Elwood Victoria------December 1975 to February 1976
Kew Victoria----------March 1975 to March 1976
Ballarat Victoria-----March 1976 to December 1978
---------December 1978 to February 1979
Smithton Tasmania--February 1979 to May 1979
----------May 1979 to January 1981
Zeehan Tasmania-----February 1981 to July 1982
Katherine Northern Territory
------July 1982 to March 1986
South Hedland WA---March 1986 to December 1987
Stirling Western Australia
------------December 1987 to July 1988
Belmont Western Australia
---------------July 1988 to July 1999
Wagga Wagga NSW--July 1995 to October 1995
-----August 1999 to September 1999
George Town -------September 1999 to the present
MY WRITING: PART 3
I am now living in George Town Tasmania which some call the oldest town in Australia due to the fact that Sydney and Hobart are now cities. I have lived in this little town with a population of 5000 from September 1999 to the present day. I have lived here longer than in any other town in my life. I have lived in or visited over 80 other towns on the planet and they are listed at the following link: http://www.itourist.com/members/tips/index.php?id=1051
I write all this down to tie-me-down
and so define my life and the who
and what I’ve been......so memory
will not scatter my psyche so thin
& lose a sense of who I am & was.
I write it down as I am now involved in
another launch in this 3rd millennium
pregnant with something new involving,
sitting in one place and scattering in
cyberspace the seeds of this new Day
of Revelation perhaps more effectively
than in those first 40 years: '59 to 1999.
(1) retirement from: (a) FT work in 1999, (b) PT work in 2001 and (c) volunteer or casual work in 2005. My main tasks now centre around:(i) writing and internet teaching, as well as (ii) domestic, family, and community tasks
There have been what you might call 3 great Baha'i diasporas in its history: 1894 to 1921, 1922 to 1963 and 1963 to the present. These diasporas are of a particular type and quite unlike the Jewish diasporas. The word diaspora comes from the Greek and means: dispersion. It comes from the word diaspeirein to scatter, and from dia- + speirein to sow. It's first known use was in 1881. In the process of these 3 dispersions and sowings, if you like, the Baha'i Faith has become the second most widespread religion on Earth. Harold Bloom, the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale Uni., counts at least seven great Jewish Diasporas: Babylon-Persia; Hellenistic Alexandria; Muslim and Christian Spain, including Provence-Catalonia; Renaissance Italy; Eastern Europe– Russia; Austria-Hungary together with Germany; the United States. For a context in relation to these diasporas go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/jun/28/the-lost-jewish-culture/
For the past twenty-five years, 1990-2015, academics and other social commentators have, by & large, shared the view that the phase of modernity through which we are currently passing is defined by two interrelated catalysts of change: the physical movement of people & the virtual movement of information around the globe. As we go through this second decade of the new millennium, it is certainly a timely moment to reflect upon the ways in which the prognoses of the scholars and scientists writing in the late twentieth and early 21st centuries have come to pass. The revolutions that have taken place in the Arab world; the 60 million refugees world-wide appear to be realising the theoretical prediction that the ever-increasing “flows” of people and information would ultimately bring about the end of the nation-state & herald an era of transnationalism according to Arjun Appadurai, and John Urry. For more on the many diasporas go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/373
Below are several recent videos about the BAHA'IS IN IRAN:
MY WRITING: Part 4
I have written many poems, inspired as I was by many facets of the Bab’s and Baha'u'llah's lives. Some of them are found below; some are available at the Baha’i World Centre Library in Haifa and some at several libraries around the world. Some are found at my old website at:
http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/ Click on the words "Visit the Old Ron Price Website" at the top of that link. Some of my poetry is found on the internet at 1000s of websites or internet locations. The poems found on the internet are usually ones in which: (a) the lives of the Bab and Baha'u'llah are given some wider, some social and personal context; or (b) the Baha'i Faith and some aspect of the wider society is given some context. Here are some of the sites below:
Reviews of and bibliographies of AUTO/BIOGRAPHIES of Baha'is can be found by googling: Biographies of Baha'is and going to:
http://bahai-library.com/books/biblio/biography.autobio. and http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=8947
AN EMBRIONIC COMMUNITY
"People entering Gothic cathedrals left behind their life of material cares and seemed to pass into a different world," writes Kenneth Clark as he makes his feelings of the arts contagious in his book Civilization. In other ages buildings were constructed simply to give pleasure. Twentieth century wars have destroyed many of these buildings in a fit of modern barbarism. As this was taking place, as this barbarism was hacking into the evidences of civilization humans had erected over many centuries, a small and embryonic community that followed the teachings of its prophet-founders, the Bab and Baha'u'llah, began to erect new symbols of a new civilization.-Ron Price with thanks to Kenneth Clark, Civilization, Pelican Books, 1969, p. 167.
It was an age of minarettes
that staggered the imagination,
built high into the sky,
immense heaps of stone
and glass and aluminium.
It was also the end
of the Heroic Age
and the start
of the Formative Age
and they used this social art,
to help us lead fuller lives,
to touch life at many points,
to give us that douceur de vivre,
that sweetness of life
at places all over the world.
29 May 2003
A LETTER TO PHILIP ADAMS
86 Fitzroy Road
Western Australia 6103
20 September 1996
After listening to LNL, Late-Night-Live and reading your columns for over twenty-five years, since coming to Australia from Canada in 1971, I first want to thank you for giving me a great deal of pleasure. I have always been more comfortable in your brand of atheism with its great interest in ‘things religious’ than in a wide range of various theisms that have been unattractrive to me intellectually.
I would, though, like to share with you page 771 from Arnold Toynbee’s Study of History, Vol. 7B(Oxford University Press, NY, 1963). The two religions, according to Toynbee, that have emerged in Western civilization are: Baha’i and Ahmadiyah. Just what makes a religion separate from a sect, cult, denomination, indeed one of several other sociological terms that give what one might call a typology or classification framework for the study of religions and their many offshoots—is quite a complex question.
I particularly enjoyed your TV series with Paul Davies. I thought he opened the door to a view of religion that was acceptable to the skeptic, the rationalist, the so-called unbeliever. I look forward, as I’m sure millions of others in Australia, to your own continuing development as a person who has broadened the religious experience of the faithful from many religious persuasions and softened the anti-religious sentiments of the avowed atheists and agnostics.
I remember seeing you from a distance at a podium at the then Ballarat College of Advanced Education in, I think it was 1977 or 1978, when I was myself lecturing there in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. I am now working in the Tafe system in Western Australia as a lecturer. I am fifty-two and will retire in a few years.
As I have got older I am finding myself writing more letters. Perhaps I will write to you, I think to myself, more regularly than once in every quarter-century. We shall see. In the meantime thank you again for the very rich contribution you have made to my intellectual life Downunder. The God you don’t believe in I don’t believe in either. Einstein liked the term Mystery. Perhaps ‘Unknowable Essence which the wisdom of the wise and the learning of the learned have failed to comprehend’ gets a little warm.
I leave this large question for now and wish you well in your future professional and personal life. May you go on to have many years pondering both the imponderable and the ponderable. It makes great listening.
George Town Tasmania 7253
THE WILMETTE INSTITUTE
The Wilmette Institute, an agency of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, operates as a center of learning offering academic, professional, and service-oriented programs related to the Bahá’í Faith. It delivers flexible, well-organized, formally conducted programs, both online and onsite, that are designed according to standards of excellence and the Bahá’í standard of independent investigation of truth, exemplifying a spirit of humility, service, and unity. It contributes to the development of human resources within the Bahá’í community, its friends, and supporters.
The Wilmette Institute’s programs and services aim to enhance unity and fellowship among people of all ethnic, national, and religious backgrounds. The Mission Statement is based on the following values: Pursuit of knowledge of the Bahá’í Faith, Application of the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith to current thought and problems, Appreciation of all aspects of diversity, Participation in the process of community building. A link to a recent issue of its newsletter is at: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/148348e44c0eeab5 A link to the Wilmette Institute is at: http://wi.bahai.us/about-the-wilmette-institute/mission-and-values/
A LINK to a recent reports: (1) in Time magazine about the Baha'i Faith and (2) the Baha'is in Egypt:
A NEW CONSCIOUSNESS
The New Negro Movement, sometimes called the Harlem Renaissance, took place at the same time as the development of the Baha’i Administrative Order, 1921-1936. The Baha’i Faith in America evolved from a small local group to a national unit of a world society during these years.(1) Some writers take the boundaries of the evolution of each of these movements from the late teens to the late thirties. In 1937 the Baha’is launched their first teaching Plan and in Harlem at the Apollo Theatre, the epi-centre for the largest urban centre for Negroes--some 400,000—Negroes were allowed to sit in with the whites for the first time anywhere in the USA—in back rows in upper balconies.(2)-Ron Price with thanks to (1)Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration,” Studies in Babi & Baha’i History, Vol.1, Moojan Momen, editor, Kalimat Press, 1982, p. 255. There has been a relative paucity of scholarship on both the Baha’i movement for this period and the Negro movement; and (2)ABC Radio National, “The Harlem Renaissance,” 2:00-2:30 pm, September 16th 2006.
Henry Gates said there were(1)
four cultural renaissances for
African Americans and I’d say
they mirror the years of the first
century of the Baha’i Faith
in America: 1894 to 1994.
The Baha’i renaissances are
of a different order & quality.
But there was an optimism in
unrealistically high expectations,
a blinkeredness, understandings
beyond the reach of those times,
those generations but growing
now and underpinning a new
determination to serve a purpose
unfolding within an old obscurity
and a vision of world-shaping trends.
1 Henry Gates, “Harlem on Our Minds,” Critical Inquiry, Autumn 1997.
September 16th 2006
BURSTING THE WALLS
In June 1852 Karl Marx obtained an admission card to the reading room of the British Museum. There he would sit from 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. every day, pouring over Blue Books of factory inspectors and perusing the immense documentation about the inequities of the operation of the capitalist system that was to become an important part of Das Kapital published in 1867. Here also, filling notebook after notebook, he deepened his knowledge of the British political economists whom he had begun to study during the Paris days. -Ron Price with thanks to Lewis A.. Coser, Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context, 2nd ed., Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., Fort Worth, 1977, pp. 63-65.
In that same June 1852 Baha’u’llah began His last two months before His imprisonment in the Siyah Chal on August 16th 1852. He stayed at the summer residence of the brother of the Grand Visier in Lavasan outside Tihran. During this summer He was kept informed of the rising and ultimately engulfing tide of anger and hatred against Him, especially from the Shah’s mother. We are informed by Balyuzi that “Baha’u’llah remained calm and composed.”1 Baha’u’llah’s enemies wanted to arrest Him and while they were looking for Him Baha’u’llah rode out toward them without fear or panic.-Ron Price with thanks to H. Balyuzi, Baha’u’llah The King of Glory, George Ronald, Oxford, 1980, p.77.
So much had got going back in ’44,
manuscripts produced in that spring
and summer, a fertile partnership,1
one in Paris and one in Shiraz,
would transform the world.
Much more got going in ’52
when a Revelation flowed out
from His travailing soul,
piercing the gloom of that
pestilential pit and bursting
its walls to propagate itself
to the far ends of the earth.
And from that museum, too,
something would infuse the
entire body of humankind
with its potentialities shaping
the course of human society.
1 Marx’s first writings The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts date from the summer of 1844; the Bab’s manuscript, the Qayyum’u’l-Asma, written in May of 1844 was read later in the summer by a scholar named Qujjat and 1000s of Qujjat’s fellow townspeople in Zanjan became Babis.
July 15th 2006
Bahá'í literature, like much religious text, covers a variety of topics and forms, including scripture and inspiration, interpretation, history and biography, introduction and study materials, and apologia. Sometimes considerable overlap can be observed in a particular text. The "canonical texts" are the writings of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice, and the authenticated talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá. The writings of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh are considered as divine revelation, the writings and talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá and the writings of Shoghi Effendi as authoritative interpretation, and those of the Universal House of Justice as authoritative legislation and elucidation. Some measure of divine guidance is assumed for all of these texts. The Bahá'í Faith relies extensively on its literature. Literacy is strongly encouraged so that believers may read the texts for themselves. In addition, doctrinal questions are routinely addressed by returning to primary works. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bah%C3%A1%27%C3%AD_literature
SOME OF MY WRITING ON BAHA'I HISTORY
I have written several pieces on Baha'i history and they are all available on the internet. Readers who would like to read my 10,000 word history of the Baha'i experience in the Northern Territory of Australia can do so at: http://bahai-library.co/articles_history_published_australia
Readers wanting to have an overview of my internet history writing on the Baha'i Faith can do so at this link:https://www.google.com.au/#hl=en&gs_nf=1&tok=G45w5pS0sNwomXM3xMmyAg&pq=ron%20price%20history&cp=17&gs_id=rv&xhr=t&q=Ron%20Price%20Baha%27i%20history&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&oq=Ron+Price+Baha%27i+history&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=22a3c0ce448c25ca&biw=1080&bih=537
......and on history in general at :https://www.google.com.au/#hl=en&biw=1080&bih=537&sclient=psy-ab&q=Ron+Price+history&oq=Ron+Price+history&gs_l=hp.12..0i8i30.1956.5695.0.9518.104.22.168.0.0.0.955.7547.2-7j2j2j1j4.16.0...0.0...1c.vSWi5Ri1pfg&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=22a3c0ce448c25ca
WRITING BIOGRAPHIES: SOME INITIAL COMMENTS
Readers will find below the exploratory beginnings of three biographies. Each of these biographies has been, is and will be, a biography written in consultation with its subject, because that is the only way in which any one of these biographies could be written satisfactorily in the lifetimes of any one of the three personalities. The secondary literature that existed on any one of these three people was too insignificant to take seriously. Only those about whom each of these three biographies are intended to be written are able to provide a clear foundation of reliable fact upon which my narratives & analyses can be built. Only they can ensure that the families & friends will cooperate with me as the biographer. Only they are able to authorise access to any correspondence & give permission to publish copyright material. Only they can release any photographs for publication.
Each of these biographies is now being written with the permission, cooperation and, at times, participation of the subject. The subject's heirs and executors may one day be involved, if that proves necessary. With the technological advances of the twenty-first century, multimedia biography has become more popular than traditional literary forms. Along with documentary biographical films, Hollywood has produced numerous commercial films based on the lives of famous people. The popularity of these forms of biography culminated in such cable & satellite television networks as A&E, The Biography Channel, The History Channel, and History International. My 3 biographies will all be written and produced and, hopefully, one day published in the traditional literary form.
More recently, CD-ROM & online biographies have appeared. Unlike books & films, they often do not tell a chronological narrative: instead, they are archives of many discrete media elements related to an individual person, including video clips, photographs, and text articles. Biography-Portraits were created in 2001 by the German artist Ralph Ueltzhoeffer. Media scholar Lev Manovich says that such archives exemplify the database form allowing users to navigate the materials in many ways. (Manovich, 220) General "life writing" techniques are a subject of scholarly study. While I would like to venture into such multi-media biographical forms, I have neither the plans, nor the skills, nor the finances to do so. For an excellent overview of the subject of biographies go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biography
All truthful biography is very difficult. Family feeling must be respected, & at the same time the truth must prevail. My three biographies are authorized biographies, each written with the permission, cooperation, and at times, participation of the subject. The question of the subject's heirs or the role of the subject's executors has not, as yet, arisen. My works make no attempt to be definitive biographies, nor official ones, in the several meanings of those terms. Some people make all their faults open to inspection, so to speak. The novelist Evelyn Waugh was such a person. I have no idea how each of the three people about whom I am writing feel about confession in principle and their own confessions in particular. Time will tell.
In my own autobiography I have taken a stance of a moderate confessionalism. Confessional poetry or confessionalism is a style of poetry that emerged in the United States during the 1950s. In literature, confessional writing is a first-person style that is often presented as an ongoing diary or letters, distinguished by revelations of a person's heart and darker motivations. Originally, the term derived from confession: the writer is not only autobiographically recounting his life, but confessing to his sins. Among the earliest examples is St Augustine's Confessions, perhaps the first autobiography of Western Europe. In it, he not only recounted the events of his life, he wrestled with their meaning and significiance, as in a passage where he tried to fathom why he had stolen pears with friends, not to eat but to throw away.
Confessional poetry has been described as poetry "of the personal," focusing on extreme moments of individual experience, the psyche, and personal trauma, including previously taboo matter such as mental illness, sexuality, and suicide, often set in relation to broader social themes. It is sometimes also classified as Postmodernism. The school of "Confessional Poetry" was associated with several poets who redefined American poetry in the '50s and '60s, including Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Anne Sexton,Allen Ginsberg, and W. D. Snodgrass. Life writing can be seen in many ways, one of which is confessional prose. It is the recording of selves, memories, & experiences, whether one's own or another's. This applies to many genres & practices, under which can be found autobiography,biography, memoir, diaries, letters, testimonies, personal essays and, more recently, digital forms such as blogs and email. For now, though, I leave the aspect of confessional writing in any form in relation to these three biographies because, as yet, the issues related to confession have not arisen.
The discourse at the following website is generated through an ongoing process of consultation, action, and reflection among diverse collaborators. It is inspired by the Writings of the Baha’i Faith and concerned with the advancement of civilization. The content represents, it goes without saying, the understanding of those putting these words and images together. Bayan Aghdasi, MD is a resident orthopaedic surgeon at the Texas Medical Center, Methodist Hospital. He is a published medical researcher and lives in Houston, Texas. Sana Rezai, MD is a Northwestern University family physician at Erie community health center. He is married to Elena Rezai and lives on Chicago’s west side in Illinois. As reality is multifaceted, understanding about reality is achieved through a multitude of perspectives. The authors welcome, encourage, and value the thoughts and contributions of others. Go to this link for a variety of essayistic material: http://achievingcoherence.com/category/knowledge/
A BIOGRAPHICAL PROJECT:
BIOGRAPHIES OF HOWARD PERKINS, BILL WASHINGTON, AND ARINI BEAUMARIS
THREE OF MY LONG-TERM WRITING PROJECTS
The following project, or projects, found their inception in and after the winter of 2010. By the autumn of 2015 the 3 parts of this project had all been discontinued. During the four-and-one-half years, between 21/9/'10 and 21/3/'15, I began work on three biographies, continued the work on each of the three biographies and, by 21/3/'15, had brought them all to an end. All three of these biographies will never see the light of day. I had initiated these 3 biographies in the following ways: (a) I made the decision to write the biographies, and (b) I wrote an outline & a delineation of the concept, my approach, a starting point, for each biography. The process, the content and the style, for each of these 3 works was seen, during those 4 and 1/2 years to be very different piece of writing. I have described briefly in the paragraphs below the beginnings of each of these three biographies, and what led to their demise. As the evening of my life stretched ahead through my 70s from 2014 to 2024, into my 80s in 2024, &, perhaps, even into my 90s in 2034, into whatever years The Good Lord granted me, so to speak, I had taken-on the writing of these biographies. In taking-on these very large tasks I was quite aware that I would not, in all likelihood, finish all three. Indeed, I would be lucky to finish even one.
In the first four years of my retirement, 21/9/'06 to 21/9/'10, from FT, PT and casual paid employment as a teacher & tutor, lecturer & adult educator, among a range of other jobs and roles going back into the 1950s, writing had come to occupy virtually all of my attention. This was true when I was not in bed & when I was not attending to domestic & marital life, social & family obligations as well as personal hygiene. I had no idea when I initiated each of these biographies, as I said above, whether any one of them would ever be completed. I took on the writing of these works, as I explain below, each for different reasons. The writing of these biographies represented one area of my literary interests, but only one. For 4 years I worked on these 3 books when time & the inclination permited. When I received information in relation to any one of them, information which allowed me to update the chapters, the text, the content of any one of the three works, I was inspired to do a little more writing on one of the books. When no other writing with more interest to me occupied my attention during those 48 months, I turned to these works. By the southern winter of 2014, though, four years after the inception of this personal biographical project, and of giving these literary works some thought, I came to realize more and more that I was rarely turning to work on any one of them for several reasons which I describe below.
I found in the years since I took an early retirement from FT paid employment, a sea-change as it is sometimes called in Australia, at the age of 55 in 1999, that I gradually came to like to have a variety of literary tasks to work on at any one time. This multi-literary-tasking helped to provide a rich & diverse base of activity, but it was all a type of activity that involved writing in cyberspace: writing & editing, reading & researching, publishing & poetizing, online blogging & journalism, scholarship & study. Since I had spent so much of my time writing in the previous 20 years(1989-2009), since I had had a website for a dozen years(1997-2009) and, since I had gradually removed myself from FT, PT and most volunteer work by 2009, it had become important to me to keep my work, my imaginative and intellectual life, as fertile as I could. In 2009 I was 65 & on two old-age pensions; my retirement had been prepared, in the previous decade, 1999 to 2009, for a literary life as I hit the pension-age in Australia for men born during WW2 and the baby-boomers. Some generational markers included me as a baby-boomer, and others as a war-baby.
This fertility and diversity of task, to which I referred above, helped to enhance my creativity, helped me to keep my pot boiling, my literary imagination burning, so to speak. At least that was, and is, how I have come to approach & experience my literary life in these recent years without the concerns that came: (i) from FT, PT, & casual paid employment, (ii) from being a student or a teacher, a son or a father, (iii) from raising children and earning a living, as well as (iv) from the many responsibilities of community life that had occupied me, in various ways, for 60 years, from 1949 to 2009. I started school in 1949, began PT work in 1950, joined the Baha'i Faith in 1959, started my career as a teacher and got married in 1967, and began my role as a parent in 1974. Those 25 years launched me into the next 25 years(1974-1999), and their demands on my time from a myriad of sources.
I have now been freed from the insistent impositions of employment, from the necessity of earning a living, from the exigencies and tasks that came from raising children, as well as from the many responsibilities that, for years, came as a result of my several volunteer interests, particularly those that were part of my commitment to the Baha'i Faith, but also less time-consuming interest groups like: the Lions Club and fitness clubs, Rostrum & the Red Cross, & many categories of in-house-in-school clubs & societies, unions & associations, as well as events, parties, & social activities of all kinds.
More than 25 years ago, in the two year period from 1989 to 1991, I tried to write a novel but, after several attempts over that two year period, I came to the conclusion that novel-writing was not for me. It was during those 2 years that I slowly turned to poetry & publishing, to research and reading, to editing and to scholarship, to biographical and autobiographical writing, and to the earliest phases of what became online blogging & journalism. After I left the world of paid employment: FT, PT and casual work, in the years 1999 to 2005, I was able to devote myself, my time, entirely to my literary & academic interests. I have now enjoyed ten full years, 2006 to 2015, without any concern for paid employment, & far less concern for the active social and family, community and volunteer life that had occupied me from the early 1950s to the early 2000s.
I mention hygiene in the above section because of its importance to the ongoing nature of my work. Hygiene is defined as the set of practices perceived by an individual or a community, or both, that is associated with the preservation of health and cleanliness, sleep and rest, as well as a sound mind in a sound body--healthy living. There is a plethora of aspects of this healthy mind and healthy body story that is now available to interested readers in cyberspace. I leave it to readers to fleshout what has become a seemingly burgeoning & endless information base on this subject. As I headed through my 70s, beginning as my 70s did on 23 July 2014, hygiene had come to occupy more time than it once did---probably because: (i) I was more interested in living as long as possible in a condition of good health, & (ii) the new medications for my bipolar 1 disorder had altered my emotional and intellectual capacity for sustained literary & academic work, social & community activity.
In the last two decades, as the internet has advanced into becoming the wonderful source & resource that it now is, at least to me, I have: (i) had my own website, (ii) contributed to over 8000 websites, and interacted with its membership as time and circumstances permitted, and (iii) written several books. So it was that, if any one or all of these 3 biographies were to be completed, I would need many more years of living & writing. This literary-biographical project would never be completed, if I could not sustain the 6 to 8 hours a day in literary pursuits that was my current regime and habit back in 2010 as well as it is now in 2015. This literary lifestyle has occupied me in the last decade, as I say above, since taking an early retirement from the FT, PT & casual-job world in the years 1999 to 2005. Even with my several domestic & family concerns, social & community responsibilities & inevitable life-duties, I am currently able to find from 6 to 8 hours each day to engage in activities of a literary nature, the activities listed above.
But these hours are not, and were not, at one stretch; I spread the hours over the time, the 12 hours, that I am awake and not in bed. I have to work in short bursts. I utilize what is sometimes called the Swiss-cheese method or, to draw on an expression in the language of Iran, once called Persia, the language of Farsi: "kam kam, ruz beh ruz," little by little & day by day. This is largely due to the medications I take, as I say above, for my bipolar I disorder as well as several other infirmities. These medications do not allow me to work for an extended period of time. I find that about 2 hours at any one time is the maximum that I can work at any of my several literary tasks. I also have to deal with: (i) a mild case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, (ii) moderate chronic kidney disease, (iii) an enlarged prostate, (iv) gastroenterological problems, as well as (v) optometry and podiatry difficulties. I am currently in the care of: a urological surgeon, a renal physician, a psychiatrist, two GPs, & a gastroenterologist. This is to say nothing of: (a) my dentist & my dental technician who care for my two partial-plates and my remaining 6 teeth, (b) the several medical infirmities that my wife has to deal with, & (c) an increasingly long list of members of my extended family & my many aging-friends with their particular medical maladies.
As my mother used to say, when I was a child & adolescent, back in the late 1940s to the early 1960s: "when you get old, boy, one of the main things you talk about will be your ailments." How right she was! The wonders of modern medicine, though, keep me in a condition: (a) of no pain & 9 hours of sleep out of 12 in bed, (b) of a state of comfort and a sense of well-being, and, as I say above, (c) the capacity to engage in literary work for 6 to 8 hours a day. I try not to talk about my ailments; indeed, my decreased social life gives me fewer opportunities to commiserate anyway.
In writing biography and essays over the last half century, say, 1965 to 2015, I find that the story, the account, of the man or woman who is the object of the literary project often undergoes a certain type of hardening-smoothing-out. The turmoil, the inconsistency, any of the groping-life-confusion of some person who has come to occupy my biographical attention are by necessity refined, polished & set into a narrative whole. Even the most sensitive of biographers sacrifice throb & raggedness in the name of storytelling; their work would be, could be, unreadable otherwise. In the act & process of writing biography, too, a writer wants to bring himself nearer to the person about whom he is writing in a human way; he wants more of what Freud called "affective relations" with the person. These words of Freud's are found in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. XXI(1927-1931), The Hogarth Press Ltd., London, 1961, p.36. The act, too, of writing an essay, requires a set of slowly acquired skills which, even after 50 years of such literary engagement, I feel it is still a work-in-progress, as they say.
I have spent more than 30 years, 1984 to 2015, in autobiographical studies, & have written several thousand pages about my life & my society, my values and beliefs, my attitudes and convictions, in a word---my religion. But I am no Montaigne, Pepys or Rousseau, perhaps history's 3 greatest writers of autobiography. To tell the truth about oneself is no easy task. To tell the truth about someone else is, in some ways, a more difficult task. My books and my ebooks, my poetry and my essays, my emails and internet posts are each and all about my road in life. Writing about someone else, though, was for me a more rugged road. For this reason, among several others, I had hardly made a beginning to any one of the 3 biographies which I discuss below. After the slow evolution of 4 and 1/2 years not much had been accomplished.
Retirement and contemplation, retirement from FT, PT and most vounteer work, has only come to me in recent years, since going onto 2 old-age pensions at the age of 65 in 2009. The last decade (70 to 80) of my late adulthood, the years from 60 to 80, are mine to use now in any way I like. If I live into old-age, the years beyond 80, that will be a bonus. If my health allows, there will be much more writing to be done in the late evening of my life--in 2024 and beyond. The way modern medicine is going and barring accidents, I may just live to be 100 in 2044. Of course, in the end "no man knows when his own end shall be" wrote some poet or, as it is said in Ecclesiastes 9:12, "No one knows when his time will come," to use one of the more modern of translations from the Bible.
The story of any person, their autobiography or their biography, is to be found, writes that eminent sociologist Anthony Giddens, "in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going." Who the following three people are, how they each came to be the person they have become, their life-narrative, has yet to be written. That was my task, as I saw it, for those last four-and-one-half years. It was no easy piece of work, to put it mildly, to keep any one of these three narratives going. If I did not have so many other literary activities to pleasantly occupy my time or, if I had the stamina of a Flaubert or a Herbert, two of history's most persistent and energetic, indeed, obsessed writers---it might have been an easier task.
My mind has been feeding on the printed-page for at least 65 years and, with increasing interest and enthusiasm, as the decades have advanced incrementally, annalistically, as the Romans used to say. In this 21st century, the years from 2001 to 2015, the literary pastures on which I now feed have become immense, but those pastures dealing with the biographies of the following three people, I must now admit, had slowly come to lose some of their savour, their attractiveness. In the more than four years I had been feeding on them, as I say above, little had been accomplished. This was due to the following facts, as I say and to emphasize several points, (i) that there is, and was, so much else that I enjoyed writing about in these years of the evening of my life, and (ii) that I had lost the capacity, perhaps it was the interest, or both, for sustained work on any one topic or subject. These biographies required, if nothing else, sustained work. But there were also other reasons why each of these potentially lengthy works had hardly got off the ground, so to speak. I discuss this issue in some detail below.
The following paragraphs outline where I was at, the progress I had made or not made, in relation to the first of these three biographies on: The Life of Howard Perkins. I have now shelved this literary task.
The biography of Howard Perkins never got past what I came to call "its embryonic phase". Howard was a veteran Baha'i, a Baha'i of long-standing who had lived in Melbourne Australia as long as I had known him. I first came to know of Howard back in the early 1970s, just after arriving in Australia as an overseas-pioneer from the Canadian Baha'i community. I had come to know him, it should be said, from a distance. Howard and I decided during two months of email consultations, in November and December 2012, to go ahead with this project. This biography was the last one of the three that I had decided to take on. It would have been quite a different work than the other two which I have described below and which, as the years went on, I seriously came to surmise would never see the light of day.
Howard, like me, had his own health battles, to say nothing of the health battles of those around him--or the health battles of those around me. This project, for several reasons, never got off the ground. Howard was not able to send me any material in those last two years since we had first agreed on the project. I had decided before beginning this work, this biography of Howard Perkins, that I would not be pestering Howard with emails asking for information. The writing of this biography would be organic, but it would depend for the most part on Howard, & the interest and initiative he took in the process. He was happy with this arrangement, as was I. This was more than two years ago, in late 2012.
Howard and I had agreed on the writing of the biography, but the general framework for this work, and my MO, my modus operandi, had yet to be decided. Perhaps the work would just be about his life as a Baha'i; perhaps the work would be concerned with his entire life-narrative; Howard and I never got further than what you might call 'the consultative', the initial, stage after first broaching the subject more than two years ago as I update this page of my website: 21/11/'12 to 21/3/'15. With the other two biographies that I had begun to work on in those last 4 years, 21/9/'10 to 21/9/'14, & which are described below, this third biography would have been, as I say, my final major biographical work in the evening of my life, as I went through my 70s from 2014 to 2024, and my 80s in 2024, if I lasted that long. I would not be taking on any more lengthy biographies or, indeed, any other lengthy literary works in addition to these three. I already had several other lengthy books on the go, & I added to and edited them from time to time when circumstances permitted.
In the first five years, 2009-2014, since retiring from FT, PT and most casual-volunteer employment, after a student-working-writing life of some sixty years, 1949-2009, and since going on two old-age pensions: one from Canada where I worked from 1950 to 1971s, and one from Australia which I began to receive at the age of 65 in 2009, I have written on literally hundreds of subjects. In the 20 year period, 1995-2015, I joined 8000++ internet sites where I posted my writing, & interacted(as little as possible) with others. I emphasize this 'little-as-possible' level of interaction because if I had taken that interaction seriously that is all I would have done 24/7, as they say. I now have millions of readers, something unbelieveable, hardly imaginable, back in the far and distant 20th century.
In those two years I had more contact with Howard's wife & his daughter-in-law, Helen & June Perkins, respectively, for the most part in cyberspace and virtually entirely at Facebook. Both women had written a great deal themselves, and I thought I would be able to draw on their work, especially Helen's autobiography, to some extent anyway, as I worked on the biography of Howard in the years ahead. Time, of course, would tell. In the month before my 70th birthday though, in early July of 2014, I unfriended my 150 Facebook friends because I had come to find my Facebook-friend world, where 150 people posted a great assortment of material, of little interest. I did not want to respond to all these people for many reasons often associated with what I came to see as the utter triviality of much of the communication between me and these 150+ Facebook-friends. Facebook had become a serious distraction from my writing life. My contact, then, with Helen & June Perkins virtually ceased. My contact also ceased, thankfully, with literally dozens of others who posted on my 'Facebook-Friends-Page' with their daily enthusiasms & life-interests, their photos of themselves & their friends, their philosophical & religious convictions, their psychological aphorisms, their pop-culture diversions & absorptions, ad nauseam.
With the other two biographies, and a host of other writing activities, though, this biographical work fitted comfortably into my writing life, or so it seemed to me for most of those four years. As I began my 70s in July 2014, I still thought that I could keep working at this biography on Howard Perkins. It fitted-in comfortably because I only gave to the task of writing this work, and to the other two biographical works, a small portion of my time, and only when interest and circumstance, as well as those mysterious dispensations of a watchful Profidence, met in their many and several serendipitous junctures.
As I wrote these words on 21/3/'15, with the aim of both updating and concluding this 3-pronged-biographical project, I had already decided some months before, that this biographical project of writing 3 biographies had to come to a halt. As the year 2014 was coming to a close I had decided to no longer wait for Howard to flesh-out his initial proposal. I was far from proactive in relation to this biography nor, I should add, in relation to the other two which I discuss below. Neither Howard nor I were in any rush; we had both had years, indeed, decades, of rushing, and we were now in our golden-years, as they are sometimes called. I had kept readers informed of my progress on this biography of Howard Perkins at this section of my website, as I kept others informed of the progress on the other two biographies in the paragraphs below. Howard would one day read what I had written here, and there was no need to write to him personally unless, of course, he wrote to me for some reason or another.
Bill Washington was an old friend who joined the Baha'i Faith in Australia back in the early 1950s. My biography of Bill, if it was ever to see the light of day, would have amounted to a history of the Baha'i Faith in Australia beginning in that country's first organized teaching Plan in the late 1940s & early 1950s. A biography of Bill would, in all likelihood, have been a history of the Baha'i Faith in Australia, in miniature, at least after Australia's first 25 years of its Baha'i history: 1923-1947. Such a book would, as I say, have had a special biographical-historical focus on a man who had been a Baha'i for more than 60 years. In 2014, before Bill passed away, he was one of the few Australian Baha'is still living who had met the then leader of the international Baha'i community, Shoghi Effendi, in the '50s. Shoghi Effendi was the appointed leader of this world Faith from 1921 until his death in London on 4 November 1957. Just before Shoghi Effendi's passing, Bill had met him.
When I first asked Bill if he would allow me to write a biography of his life he asked: "why me?" I said to Bill at the time that I had not known any Baha'i in Australia who had been in this Faith, a Faith I had myself been associated for more than 60 years(1953 to 2014), for as long as Bill had been an enrolled Baha'i. In addition, I said to Bill that over the years we had developed what I had come to see as "a working relationship" due to his editing role in relation to much of my writing. My own peripatetic life-style over the decades had also resulted, I added in explaining to him "why him", in my losing touch with so many of the Baha'is I had known in the many towns in which I had lived in my life as a Baha'i since the '50s & '60s. In addition, my more reclusive life-style by my late 60s and early 70s and, the frequent alterations to my medications since the age of 60, had resulted in a limitation on my social, my former gregarious, nature. My interaction with others had become, by the age of 70, averaging about 1hr/ day. This did not count the life I had with my wife both in the 12 hours I was awake, & the 12 hours I was in bed, in the empty nest we had shared for the last decade after our three children had all left home. Our 3 children had themselves married or partnered as they say these days, and begun their own families.
Many former friendships, in towns across Australia & Canada, had become characterized by virtually no personal contact, except for the occasional email exchanges, as I headed through my 60s. Many people I had known for years, even decades, prefered telephone or texting as I approached my 70s. My own preferred communication medium had become, by degrees, over those last 20 years from 1994 to 2014, the email. I now had an extensive email list of correspondents. For the most part, though, I had come to not initiate communication any more, at least very little after I got to the age of 65 in 2009. I had become a letter and email writer who only replied to those who first wrote to me. My correspondence, since I went on those two old-age pensions in 2009 at the age of 65, had become largely one-way, at least initially. If people did not write to me, the former relationship tended to wither. This is because, as I explained on my website from time to time, there are just too many people to write to in this new world of cyberspace, at Facebook, & at the 1000s of websites at which I posted & interacted with others. I was still able, though, to reply within 24 hours to those who did write personally. Everyone seems to have developed their own particular methods of exchange, of communication for the most part, in cyberspace. Many who used to write emails now communicated using their iphones and ipads, texting and telephoning as they went, & so they have dropped-out of my email world and, therefore, off my radar.
In the last several years I have virtually ceased initiating communication because: (i) I have my time full with responding to those who write to me first, and (ii) I have reinvented myself, my roles in life, since retiring from paid employment in the years 1999 to 2005. I am now a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, online blogger and journalist, scholar and reader, as well as my own office-assistant and cleaner, CEO & publicist-marketing manager. Anyone who writes to me, as I say and just to reiterate for emphasis, usually gets a response out of courtesy or duty or both, if not interest and enthusiasm, within 24 hours.
By the time my biography of Bill Washington was published, or at least as I initially envisaged this particular aspect of my 3-part project, the history of the Baha'i Faith in Australia would have passed the 100 year mark: 1923-2023. But Bill passed away in October 2014. By then, he had been a Baha'i for 60 years; he had lived through more than 60% of the first 94 years of the Baha'i Faith in Australia. He had been a member of a religion which claimed to be the newest, the latest, of the Abrahamic religions. Bill had given me the go-ahead to write his life-narrative, but only tentatively so. We had discussed the project by email in the last two years of his life, but Bill was disinclined to have such a special literary focus on his life experience. Such a literary exercise about his life was not something he entered lightly. Before he passed away, Bill sent me several pages of his reflections on some of the central experiences in his 82 years of living, & 60 years as a member of the Baha'i Faith. His visit to Haifa Israel, and his meeting with Shoghi Effendi back in the 1950s was one such reflection of the several documents I had received from Bill.
Bill had edited much of my writing, as I say above. The two major tasks he accepted, and which became some of my first published works, were: (i) a 300 page book on the poetry of Roger White and (ii) a booklet of my poetry which I presented to the Baha'is of Tasmania through Tasmania's then Regional Baha'i Council. Bill also edited some of my other prose and poetry which I requested of him over the years. Most of this editing was done in the early years of the 21st century. Bill was a professional editor with Hansaard first in the Northern Territory & then in Tasmania. It was during the time when he was my editor, as well as many other times going back to the 1970s, that I got to know Bill and his Japanese wife Hiroko.
I have known literally 1000s of Baha'is since my first contact with this new Faith in 1953 more than sixty years ago, but Bill was one of the few that I had taken an interest in writing their detailed and extended story, their life-narrative. I had written several dozen mini-biographies as part of some of the history of this Cause in Australia, but no major works of a biographical genre. My peripatetic life-style, as I say above, among other factors had militated against my writing about virtually anyone else whom I had come to know in the Baha'i community since my childhood. In this the evening of my life, as I now headed through my 70s, I had lost contact with most of those I once knew. I had also become somewhat reclusive, as I indicated above, in these years of my retirement due to: (a) my bipolar 1 disorder among several other medical infirmities, (b) my need for solitude to write, & (c) my general disinclination to be as social, as gregarious, as I once was. I had a highly gregarious nature & lifestyle from my childhood in the late 1940s, through my adolescence in the 1950s and early 60s, and up to my late 50s when I went on a disability pension at the beginning of this 21st century, and then on two old-age pensions in 2009 at the age of 65.
Bill passed away in late October 2014 at the age 82, the same year I turned 70. With the documents Bill had sent me I was certainly in a position to begin writing the first chapter of his biography. This chapter would not have appeared here, though; indeed, it would not have appeared here until I had finished the book. Perhaps one day, I thought to myself, readers would find here at my website a link to whatever portion of this biography of Bill Washington that I had completed. Readers can now assume that this project has been cancelled; there will be no more incoming resources for "a possible biography." The only thing that would have been posted here would have been a link to an ebook, if this exercise had ever got that far.
The work I have done, the process that has been involved with the biography of Arini Beaumaris, in the last 4 and 1/2 years, had not been the same as the biography of Bill Washington, or Howard Perkins. The biography of Bill Washington, as I had envisaged it, would have been a more sharply focussed work on Baha'i history, a historical biography to give it a term. That work would have begun, as I indicated above, from the first Baha'i teaching Plan in Australia, 1947-1953. There would have been no need for me to contact others for information and resources. On Australia's spring equinox, 21 September 2010, more than 4 years ago, I wrote to several members of Arini's family & a few of her friends. I wrote in connection with a long-range project which, I indicated to everyone, would take me many years. Back then, on 21/9/10, I was at the beginning stage of taking-in, of gathering, as much information as I could on the life of Ms Beaumaris, sometime member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Australia Inc. I first came to know Arini back in 1971 when I arrived in Australia from Canada with my first wife. For a period of more than two months in late 1973, I lived with Arini and her first husband, Rob Jones. Then, In December 1973, I moved to Tasmania, and my contact with Arini became mainly a connection by letter and, since the 1990s, by email. I have gradually got to know Arini reasonably well in the more than 40 years, 1971 to 2015, during which our relationship deepened.
Since those early 1970s, Arini has been accumulating many feathers in her cap, or arrows for her bow, so to speak. In those last 40+ years she has had an interesting career, and a rich & varied personal & Baha'i experience, an experience which, by the look of things, was one that was far from over. For several reasons I came to take an interest, by sensible & insensible degrees, in writing a biography of Arini's life with a special focus, of course, on her local and regional, national and international, Baha'i activity. Arini's Baha'i life began in South Australia. That is where I first came to know Arini during my years in that state of Australia, from 1971 to 1973, as an international pioneer myself from Canada to Australia during the first teaching plan of the Universal House of Justice, the then Nine Year Plan: 1964-1973.
Arini is now an international consultant, educational leader and trainer who is highly experienced in facilitating the growth and development of human relationships and teams, organizations & leaders. Five years ago, in 2010, she got her PhD with a dissertation which focussed on moral development and ethical judgement---and so she became Dr Beaumaris. She has had a colourful life, a life not without its tests & difficulties. Her corporate consultancy work has embraced the hospitality, tourism, child care, health, communications & IT industries with: business leaders, government, community and educational institutions in several countries---Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Canada and the United States of America. Go to this link for more information about Arini's professional life and experience: http://highcapacitycommunications.com/our-people
As I put it 4 and 1/2 years ago, in writing to Arini's several friends and relatives, using email addresses Arini had sent me on request in September 2010---the more information that these several family members, friends and associations of Arini could send to me in 2010, & in the following years, the better. It was my hope then that in the years ahead, especially as the international Baha'i community headed to 21 April 2021, and the end of the first century of what the Baha'is call the Formative Age--that I might gather an extensive base of information about Arini & her life. I concluded that email of 21/9/'10 with the words: "Looking forward to hearing from you when and if the spirit moves you."
I went on to say more than two years later in 2012, in an email to those same people I had written to before: "You will be pleased to know that the project has been moving ahead well in these last two years: 2010 to 2012. I have received some useful data, stories and impressions, among other sorts and genres of information." After more than four years, though, I had become more and more aware, and I wanted others to also be aware that, if the book was ever to have any significant amount of meat on its bones, so to speak, meat I was aiming to place on the bones of the book by April 2021----I would need much more input, more testimonials than I already had received, more accounts of peoples' personal experiences and impressions of Arini, as well as more background notes and data, facts and figures than had currently come in. Arini would herself be a crucial, a critical, perhaps my main source of information as the years went on.
I have pointed out to everyone: (i) to all the people on that email list which Arini gave me 4 and 1/2 years ago, as well as (ii) to other potential sources of assistance in the final delivery of this project----that it was not my intention to press people for information. I said I would be in touch with everyone occasionally, as the years went on, with my gentle and regular or irregular, as the case may be, reminders. In many ways I originally saw this book as a collaboration, a collective effort. If the book was ever to be published, though, it would depend on everyone, or at least on as many people as possible from that original list of email addresses, as well as on Arini herself. I have since written to many other people informing them of this project.
Without more information from the several people on that original email list, people whom I had first contacted in September 2010, and some of the many others I had written to since then, the book would never see the light of day. That presented no problem to me, nor did it present a problem to Arini. She was not, and has not been, passionately pursuing this biography; she is a busy person with many other things on her personal & on her professional agenda; she also had no plans to exit this life in the short term! I, too, was and am a busy writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, online journalist and blogger, scholar and my own office-assistant, CEO, and cleaner. I am not looking for more work to do. In this, the evening of my life, I write on many subjects of personal interest, subjects that have long held a fascination to me, that engage my imaginative faculty and creativity. The biography of Arini Beaumaris was just one of these subjects.
Often, at least in the case of the writing of a biography, it is better to wait until the person in question is dead. Arini said this herself in writing to me in the early months of this biographical exercise back in late 2010. It is better for many reasons, not the least of which are the conflicts & tensions that exist in the life of the person in question. There are also, and often, tensions and conflicts in the lives of the family members, as well as in the lives of the other people whom the biographer, the writer---namely me---has come to be familar with since beginning the biographical project. A person's life is not all a bowl of cherries, with everyone thinking everyone else is sugar-sweet, with no negative impressions and attitudes, beliefs and values existing in relation to the person concerned. Life is, in many ways a rag-and-bone shop, as the famous Irish poet W. B. Yeats(1865-1939) put it. Yeats was one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature, & a pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments. I am more than a little aware of life's rag-and-bone shop, not only in relation to the lives of the three people whose biographies I have started, but also in relation to my own life and its 8 decades now of life's narrative in the lifespan.
To write a biography that is not a hagiography, that has some, if not many and rarely all, of the warts and blemishes, faults and shortcomings of the person concerned---requires a certain diplomacy on the part of the writer of the biography. That is especially the case if the person is still alive. If the person about whom the biography is written is to be happy with the product, the product in all its complexity, an ongoing dialogue between the writer and that person is essential if, as I say, that person is still alive. That dialogue needs to be an intimate & open, honest & fruitful exchange.
Often the line between honesty & tact is such a fine one that many people of some fame & renown simply prefer not to have their biography written. They never authorize anyone to write the story of their life; they keep a strong hold, even after their death with written instructions to their executors concerning any and all of their writings, their personal letters and files & assorted memorabilia. This was not the case with Arini but, as it became obvious to me after four years of considering & working on writing her biography, the task was & would be a challenge. It was also one that would engage me for many years. In the four years, 21/9/'10 to 21/9/'14, a start had been made and that was all, a start, an ingathering of resources, with nothing written as yet. In the next six months, from 21/9/'14 to 21/3/'15, I formalized in writing what I had already decided mentally, namely, to completely discontinue this biographical project.
Arini is and was, and will be a busy person. And that is-to put it mildly. I, too, was, am, and most probably will be busily occupied until dementia, Parkinson's disease, some other disabling infirmity, or death itself strikes me down. Arini has always been an active person; some might say hyperactive; she might even call herself hyperactive. Time will tell what she calls herself as she contributes to this biography, a biography she gave me permission to write back in the winter of 2010, nearly five years ago, but will now be the work of someone else should they arise in the years, the decades or perhaps centuries ahead.
After discussing this biographical project with Arini over some months in the winter of 2010, & possibly over several previous years, if I went back to the first intimations of this biographical project, the decision to go ahead with the work was mutually agreed upon. It was signed and sealed by the spring equinox in Australia, 21/9/'10. The project, the book, would be delivered, as it were, at some unspecified time in the future. Of course, as Arini headed into her 70s, her 80s & then her 90s, should she last that long in the lifespan, I assumed the pace of her life would slow down and she would have more time to reflect, gather her thoughts on life retrospectively, and contribute extensively to this work. If this biography was ever to assume the 200 to 400 pages that I had originally hoped it eventually would assume, there was much work to be done: on Arini's part, on the part of the many contacts I had and, of course, on my part.
I had come to find, since I first wrote to everyone more than four years ago, that nearly everyone on the list of recipients of my original email was a busy person in one way or another. Although there were only a few people who had actually sent me useful information for this biography, there were at least 2 or 3 people on the receiving end of my emails who had boxes of correspondence and information, as well as memorabilia of various kinds. I encouraged those who did have such collections of resources, resources that could be of use in connection with this proposed biography, to send them to Arini in the first instance to what was then her home address in St Ives, a suburb on the Upper North Shore of Sydney in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Arini lived, at that time, about 20 kilometres north of the Sydney CBD in the local government area of the Ku-ring-gai Council. She came to have a new address & it was my original intention to keep readers informed of her snailmail address when I became aware of it myself.
People could always send materials electronically to Arini's email address at: "Arini Beaumaris" <firstname.lastname@example.org> , or whatever new address she came to have in cyberspace. Arini had moved many times in her life &, at that point in time, I saw no reason why her peripatetic life-style would change. Her email address might remain the same, but I was not holding my breath in this regard. I informed my contacts that, if they contacted me in the first instance about their intentions to contribute to this biographical project, I would then get back to them with some more specific advice regarding their box or boxes of resources.
With the internet and social networking sites, with emails and ipods, with iphones and ipads, with texting and faxes, with mobile and cell phones, as well as more communication devices coming onto the market with increasing regularity; with 24/7 radio and TV news, to say nothing of the more traditional ways people get in contact with each other like: telephone & snailmail, personal visits & those subtle mediums of prayer & meditation, the pace of life for millions has certainly speeded-up, at least for those with access to the technology. Those who had been the recipients of my emails in relation to this project in the 4 years, 21/9/'10 to 21/9/'14, all seemed to be busy people. In the first 15 years of this 3rd millennium, this 21st century, the tempo of life seemed to be accelerating and intensifying in more ways than one.
Peoples' use of leisure time was also fracturing into a wide range of personal uses & activities. Most people on this list, but not all, were not inclined outside of their employment and personal email-load to write as a hobby, as part of their leisure-time and, in their emailing and texting, their online writing was often & mostly short & sweet, or not-so-sweet as the case may be. Not everyone, though, on my list of contacts were essentially non-writers. Several people on this list were themselves authors with books and/or extensive posts and publications in cyberspace to their credit and under their name.
This biography of Arini Beaumaris was only one of my projects. My late 2014 I had more than 60 books: (a) in cyberspace at my website, a website now in its 19th year and in the 5th year of its 4th edition, with an average of 80,000 words per book, & (b) at other locations on the internet. Some 30 of those books, in round figures, were resources written by others, and they were found at my website. I also had my writing, several million words spread over more than 8000 internet sites in the years, the 15 year period, 1999-2014. This biography of Arini had fitted into my general literary work, my publications in cyberpsace. This section of my website was intended to serve as a link as I headed through this most recent decade of my life, 70 to 80, my years of late adulthood, the years from 60 to 80 according to one model of human development used by psychologists. I would be 77 years old in 2021 when the first century of the Formative Age of the Baha'i Faith was completed, and when I hoped to have at least an initial draft of this book available. It was to be available: (a) for those who had been involved in this project, (b) as well as for a broader public of those who might be interested across the vast tracts of cyberspace where the book was first to appear. Such was my aim; the achievement of this aim would depend to a large extent on my receiving much more material, as I had emphasized, from others, from Arini and, of course, from my own pen, this personal computer, this useful tool in my literary life.
If readers who came to this section of my website and found there was no link to the ebook, they would know that nothing resembling a book or an ebook had been thusfar achieved by me, the biographer. If this biography was to make it into some general shape in the next several years(2015-2018), the next decade(2015-2025), or even the next quarter-century(2015 to 2040), I would need much more material, many more notes. If the facts & figures, data and impressions did come in well and good; if they did not, the book would not likely ever make it to an initial draft stage by the early 2020s, to say nothing of a final product by, say, the late 2030s. My aim, in the first four years of this exercise, was to have a final draft reviewed & published in hard cover by 2044. If I lasted that long, if I lasted to the year 2044, I would be 100! Such was my aim over the four year period, 2010 to 2014.
Those to whom I first wrote 4 and 1/2 years ago(21/9/'10 to 21/3/'15), and again more recently, and those to whom I had written since that original email on the spring equinox of 2010 in Australia: 21/9/'10 would by now be aware that this project had "bitten-the-dirt," to put it colloquially. When, and if, anyone still feels or thinks that they would like to put pen to paper, they will be able to add their contributions to those I have already received; these contributions would still be gratefully received at my email address: email@example.com. But they would only be archived for some future writer should he or she arise. Those who came to this section of my website could still contact me at my snailmail address: 6 Reece Street, George Town, Tasmania, 7253---if they wanted to send me any hard-copy material. Such people should also feel free to telephone me on 03-63824790. My wife answers the phone most of the time since that is one of her preferred mediums of communication, although not one of mine after some 60 years of extensive telephone use: 1950 to 2010.
If anyone has boxes of letters & information, memorabilia, inter alia, send them to Arini after first writing to me. My study, and my house, is already busting-bursting-at-the-seams; I do not want to add to my piles of paper in my world which is downsizing in more ways than one as I head through the years of this, the evening of my life. A necessary downsizing has already begun to appear on the horizon in our lifespan, the lifespan of my wife Chris & I, as old-age makes its appearance in our lives, & as life's wear-and-tear takes its inevitable, or not-so-inevitable, course in the years ahead.
I will also be happy to hear from anyone else in cyberspace who comes across this section of my website and who would like to write about their experiences with Arini over the years, about their experience in relation to biography in general, or in relation to the other two biographies I had originally decided to write. I also want to take this opportunity, in closing these comments, to thank all those who have already responded in those last four years, 21/9/'10 to 21/9/'14, to my initial request for information on the life of Arini Beaumaris. Readers will find in what follows, in Part 4 of this section of my website devoted to the biography of Arini, the penultimate email I wrote to her in connection with this project. That email to her was written nearly 3 years ago, on 8 August 2012. It was my intention, back then, to keep readers informed of any significant, ongoing dialogue with Arini. The following words are, & were, a summary for Arini about what was, then, the state of this biographical project. This summary & my comments below will also serve to keep all those involved in this project up-to-date on this 21st day of March 2015. That email to Arini on 8/8/'12 read, in part, as follows:
"Whenever you want to know the state of play on the biography of your life just go to: http://http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/Babi.html Then type the word 'Arini' into your 'find-box,' or scroll-down to the photo of the seat of the Universal House of Justice in the bottom half, the bottom section, of this part of my website. The state of play in relation to the biography of your life will be found in the several paragraphs above that photo. I have already said, and I will often say, to anyone who writes to me in connection with this work in the months and years ahead: "go to this link at my website." This will save me reinventing the literary wheel, so to speak. I won't be pestering people to write and to send me their words & thoughts, their ideas and experiences, inter alia, in relation to your life-narrative. I'll just be taking-in-and-filing whatever people send to me, and that includes, of course, whatever you send to me."
"Over time, as more and more resources come in, of course, I will be trying to integrate what is sent to me into some coherent literay whole. But, for now and in the years ahead, all I am really doing is: (i) responding personally to whoever writes, and (ii) filing what is sent to me in my computer directory under several sub-headings of this biogrpahical work: (a) individuals, (b) topics/subjects, (c) divisions by years, by activity in your lifespan, & (d) larger-thematic issues. As yet, with the first two years in this project nearly gone, & perhaps several years since my first intimations, my first intentions, began to form, I am not even in a position to begin writing."
"As the years go on, as I say at my website and which you can easily and always access on your computer at the link I have provided, I may just end by giving everything I've collected beginning in 2010, and everything I've written by some future date---to someone else. All the bits-and-pieces that have been sent to me will, then, go into the hands of someone else. That person can write the biography or pass the resources on to some one who is interested in this project, this biography. I now see this project as a lifelong exercise, that is, an exercise during the rest of my life, as long as I am a functioning adult & not laboured with some disability or incapacitating illness. I hope I will always see this project in this way. It may be, though, as I say above, that for various reasons this project will not progress. When, and if, I do pass on while I am engaged in this project, all that I have written and collected will go to someone else. Of course I will first have had your permission to do so while I was still alive and functioning on all or most of my cylinders."
"The writing of your biography is, for me, an exercise of personal pleasure as well as an intellectual challenge. It is a pleasure in this life for me and, hopefully, it will be at least an equal pleasure in the next---my next---as I gaze-earthly at some other person who comes to be interested in completing this project. If I do not in fact complete your biography, I hope someone else will do so. I'm not that worried if I am not the final, the sole, author of the work. This biography is worth doing as far as I am concerned. This hardly needs saying. I'm sure someone else will arise(or so I like to think) at some time in the 21st century, or even the 22nd, who will want to continue what you might call the Beaumaris industry, for want of a better term. I've just started the ball rolling and, after two years, the ball has only collected a relatively small amount of literary string."
"We shall see what eventuates, Arini, in the years ahead and, by then, let's say by the 2050s at the latest if not well before, you & I will be in that land of light, I trust. I will be 106 in 2050, if I last that long---and, if you last that long--that is into the 2050s--you will already have received your letter from the then King or Queen, unless Australia becomes a republic! I won't hold my breath on that topic."
Note: The above photo was taken in 2004 at the age of 60 in Hobart. It was the only photo-shoot I've ever been involved with. The year 2004 was the beginning of my late adultlhood, the years from 60 to 80 according to one model of the lifespan used by developmental psychologists. I like this particular model for the lifespan because old-age does not begin, in that model, until the age of 80. I will be 80 in in 2024. That gives me a little less than 10 full years before I am old. It also gives Arini a dozen years or more.
THE ABOVE SECTION OF MY WEBSITE
It was my initial intention, at least over those five years from the winter of 2010 to the autumn of 2015, to use the above section of my website as a location to place what I hoped would be, at first anyway, an ebook in cyberspace, an ebook that did not require the formal approval of any Baha'i reviewing committee. If any of the above 3 biographies were ever to become a published book in a hard cover---a fully published work and a work reviewed by some agency, a reviewing committee, of the NSA of the Baha'is of Australia Inc---there was much work to be done. The road ahead in the writing of these three books, at least for me the writer, was clearly a long one. I have advised all the recipients of my first email more than four years ago now, as well as many other possible sources, other people, since then, of the existence of this section of my website. Anyone who became in the slightest way involved in these projects, as they developed, was given the link to this part of my website.
This sub-section of my website, a sub-section which deals with the Babi and Baha'i Faiths, has been updated from time to time as the project, the books, took on more and more form and content. I have not been sending-out emails and letters to everyone now that this website has become the central-processing-unit, as it were, the central communication point for everyone involved in putting any of these three books together. I will not be writing to anyone any more as I had been in those first four years. I had been writing, in the main, only to individuals on a one-to-one basis, and only to individuals who contacted me first. In the months and years ahead this will also be the case. I do not have, at present, any intentions of sending out another general email to everyone in the years ahead, unless some literary, some biographical and presently unforeseen circumstance makes it a necessity.
MY BIOGRAPHIES AND MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY
I began writing biographical material as far back as the 1970s, just after I arrived in Australia as an international pioneer-traveller from the Canadian Baha'i community. I was asked by a Canadian in Ontario, a man whose name escapes me now, to write my impressions of, and my experiences with, another Canadian Baha'i whose name was Miss Nancy Campbell. That man was gathering resources for a biography of Miss Campbell. I had lived in the same Baha'i community of this veteran Baha'i for more than three years, and I was part of Nancy's world in southern Ontario from about 1953 to 1971 when I moved to Australia. At the time of my writing that first mini-biography, those impressions of a person I had come to know for nearly 20 years, I was in the second decade of my pioneering life: 1972-1982, and my first decade in the international field. Miss Campbell died in 1978 seven years after I arrived in Australia from the Canadian Baha'i community.
Since that first piece of biographical work, I have written many short pieces: some on request from Baha'i institutions, & some on my own initiative as part of my writing of history in the various Baha'i communities where I lived. I have also been working on my own autobiography for more than 30 years: 1984-2015. If you google the internet site Baha'i Library Online(BLO), you can find the documents which give an overview of the developing nature of my now extensive autobiographical work. This overview will also give readers an outline, a sense, an intimation, of how I would have liked to approach the writing of the biography of Arini Beaumaris over the next quarter century: 2015-2040, had the project gone ahead.
If I last until the year 2044, the end of the 2nd century of the Baha'i Era, I will be 100 years old--and I will get a letter from that future King or Queen, assuming Australia does not become a republic. This link at BLO should be of help to those readers who would like to get some perspective on my own autobiographical writing. If readers here go to the following link they will gain access to more than four dozen documents relevant to my autobiography as well as the autobiography itself in six parts---at: http://bahai-library.com/users/Ron%20Price
Biography and autobiography share a great deal in common, at least in my mind. My work on Howard's, Bill's and Arini's life would have taken me at least 25 years to put something together that would have been of use to others. My short-term time frame had been: 2010-2021, the end of the first century of the Formative Age of the Baha'i Faith. Readers can access that series of documents at BLO, the key documents at BLO being my autobiography in six parts, if they are interested. These are the 6 major Parts of my 2600 page autobiography. This will give readers a picture of the evolving nature of my own work, the only work which has any resemblance to the work I initially wanted to achieve in relation to Howard's, Bill's and Arini's lives. My biography of each of these 3 Baha'is would have been far shorter than 2600 pages. As I say above, I would think 400 pages would have been a maximum for each of these works. I was initially envisaging a final product of somewhere between 200 and 400 pages, inshalla, as they say. I did, indeed, bite-off more than I could chew, as they say.
Four years, 2006 to 2010, after my early retirement from FT, PT and casual employment, years of giving some thought to writing a lengthy biography of someone, I finally made a decision to do a biography on the lives of these three people. The decision was made between the winter of 2010 and the summer of 2012, that is, between September 2010 and December 2012. By 2010, when I made the decision to write the biography of Arini, I had been writing short biographies, as I say above, for close to 40 years. The details of the overall framework of the book had been discussed with Arini, but they were never finalized. Arini and I had a picture of the work, but it was just that--a picture without the fine details, the chapter outline. Readers can have a look at some of my general comments below on the subject of biography, if they have the interest.
Readers can also go to this link for many biographies of Baha'is:http://bahai-library.com/biography/#M There is a link to the 77 mini-biographies that Abdul-Baha wrote in His immortal work Memorials of the Faithful at:http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/MF/ My review of that book, containing as it does my discussion of biography, is found, in part, at:http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/Oldsite/05Society.html
I was off to a start in the years 2010 to 2014, but the biographical road for me in relation to this biography of Arini Beaumaris, as well as the other two, was too arduous. It would also have been an arduous one for Arini and Howard, and Bill Washington had he continued on his earthly life after the age of 82. We were all in the evening of our lives when I started this project; whether it was to be the early evening or late only time would tell, and those mysterious dispensations of Providence would also play their part. As one of those more popular Baha'i quotes goes: "where there is love there is always time." I have always found this a difficult aphorism to put into practice, having spent so much of my life in what is often called the fast lane. Arini Beaumaris had certainly lived most of her life in another fast lane, a lane which my biography of her had hoped to describe in some detail. I had the rest of my life to work on this project, and the rest of Arini's---whatever years God granted to us before the roll was called up yonder. Bill and Howard have had their own particular lanes-in-life that they have travelled. I had hoped that one day I would have described all these lanes to the benefit of a reading public. But that was not to be.
ONE VIEW OF BIOGRAPHY
Here is how the biographer of New Zealand writer Janet Frame(1904-2004) put the project of her biography to Janet before beginning his work: "If you are prepared to cooperate with me, to talk with me, to make your papers and your friends and family available to me, I would need something like two-and-a-half years for research, and a further two years to write a manuscript in close consultation with you, researching further gaps as they become apparent. There would then be something like a six-month period in which the book would be in production. That would add-up to at least five years." Janet brightened at once and said, "Of course I'll be dead by then." And that seemed to make the whole idea not just more tolerable, but more acceptable to her.
Five years, for me, were not long enough. I had too many other writing projects on the fire and I lacked the necessary persistence to carry out the legwork for any one of the initially three projected biographies. If the first four years, 9/2010 to 9/2014, of biographical work were any indication, the incoming material was going to take much longer to gather than I had originally anticipated. This initially presented no problem. I was not in a race; I've run enough races in my life and, in these evening years, I'm walking more slowly. Most of my life now is quite solitary, and it is given over to writing when and if I am inclined.
The purpose of auto/biography is the recreation, the nostalgic or not-so-nostalgic closure, the simple or not so simple delineation, of a life. This is one way of expressing the purpose of an autobiography or of a biography. But the writing of such a life is also much more. Many writers describe the purpose of these genres & their several country-cousins: memoir or monograph, diary or journal, life-narrative or commentary, or various forms of essay and poetry. A search for some clearer understanding of the auto/biographer’s identity is a commonly found aim in the now massive literature on the subject of why auto/biographers write.
For some auto/biographers of a scientific bent their work is animated by the purpose of proving that the lives of those in question are: (i) ultimately fulfilling some purpose, or (ii) ultimately purposeless. At the base of every literary work is some philosophy of life, of existence. The English mathematician and philosopher who wrote on algebra and logic, the foundations of mathematics and the philosophy of science, as well as on physics, metaphysics & education, Alfred North Whitehead(1861-1947), stated in his book The Function of Reason that: the examination of biographies and autobiographies would constitute an interesting subject for study in itself. My own 2600 page autobiography has been written with these words of Whitehead in mind.
My autobiography is more about, or at least significantly about, the field, the genre, of autobiography---than it is about my life. I found, after writing the first edition of my autobiography, and after reading about the field during the years 1984 to 2004, that I became more interested in integrating the intellectual, psychological and sociological issues of biography and autobiography into my work, than I was in writing my simple or not-so-simple life-narrative. The field of auto/biographical studies had become massive by the 21st century,
The biographies of Howard, Bill and Arini that I had been working on were each and all animated by a significant sense of purpose. They were also animated by a metanarrative, a cosmology, about which I did not possess any emotional incredulity, although I maintained an intellectual doubt about many of their aspects, partly, to protect me from any overweening and potential arrogance that I might have entertained about their content.
These literary and biographical exercises involved a significant psychological dimension with its interface between the active, public self and the more contemplative private underside--side by side. There was the via activa and the via contemplativa, as they say in Latin, in everyone's life. Biography constituted in the main a process of investigation, at least for me, rather than a finished product. It was inevitably open-ended, and the key word, a key word, in this description, this concept, is and was, "process".
Until my early retirement at the age of 55 in 1999, and my retirement from PT and most casual and volunteer work in the years 2001 to 2005, my identity was tied-up with my career in the teaching profession and my employment-student-family-life over more than sixty years: 1943 to 2005. My identity was also tied up with, involved intimately, my community life, a life in a multitude of communities. Far, far back was my writing-life, the part that writing played in my sense of identity. That writing life always had to fit itself into the corners of the other aspects of my daily life. My writing life saw the light of day, the light of publication by the '70s and moreso, by the '80s. Most of my writing was part & parcel of my paid employment. Occasionally my writing burst the walls of my job & got into a newspaper or a magazine, a journal or a book. When some literary duty &, sometimes, pleasure called---my writing occurred outside my 60 hour working week and, with its community and social, family and friendship demands and responsibilities, that 60 hours often approximated 80. This happened for many, many reasons.
I have had no trouble agreeing with Herbert Marcuse(1898-1979), the German Jewish philosopher, sociologist and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory in politics & sociology, when he wrote that: “people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment,"(1)---and I might add: their music, their love-affairs, what they eat, and their many and several interests from sport and scuba-diving, to gardening and galivanting. One’s appearance, clothes, hair-style, and deportment became entwined with identity, historically. This became particularly true in the nineteenth century, if not before, so argues one analyst. Clothing and the body, the body's allurements and its images have become, for millions, a significant part of their identity. The “idea of the Self as a Work of Art,” also came to be seen as a false self, as I write about below.
This falseness was expressed by a French existentialist philosopher, public intellectual, political activist, feminist theorist & social theorist, Simone de Beauvoir(1908-1986) in her book The Second Sex as follows: “The least sophisticated of women, once she is “dressed,” does not present herself to observation; she is, like the picture or statue, or the actor on the stage, an agent through which is suggested someone not there, that is, the character she represents, but not the character she actually is. Often, she really has little idea of who she is and she does not want to think too much about 'the real-her' because the subject is far too complex---if indeed there is a real-her.
It is this identification with something unreal, fixed and perfect that gratifies her.”(2) In my case I have a different set of commodities which play a role in the formation of my identity: books and essays, ideas and concepts as well as, and especially as I got into my 60s and 70s, the metaphorical nature of the flora, fauna and material phenomena of existence, the close connections between physical & spiritual reality. My wife takes a serious and active role in the beautification of our home and garden and I am a beneficiary of her domestic enthusiasms. I am sure my identity is also formed in ways that are subtle and complex by my domestic surroundings. This is a complex subject, the metaphorical nature of physical reality. It is difficult to deal with here, although John Hatcher, the now emeritus professor of English Literature at the University of South Florida, deals with it well in his book Close Connections(3), and I have dealt with it in my autobiography in a chapter entitled ‘memorabilia,’ but not in the kind of detail and depth that Hatcher has done.
In the last 20 years, 1995 to 2015, my life and its roles as a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor & researcher, an online journalist & blogger, scholar and reader, CEO and publicist, cleaner & marketer---have all been involved in shaping my identity in different forms and directions than that identity had been shaped in the previous six decades from 1943 to 1995. As the American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright, whose body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings---e.e. cummings(1894-1962) once wrote, "if the artist does not shape his or her identity to their work, their life will crack open."
My life had already cracked open several times before my early retirement in 1999 at the age of 55. It cracked-open, so to speak, in the form of burn-out, a psychological term for a syndrome, a syndrome characterized by exhaustion and diminished interest, especially in one's career. Occupational burnout is characterized by exhaustion, and reduced professional efficacy within the workplace. In the last few months of my employment as a FT teacher in 1999 I was taking shots of testosterone to get though the day & not have to go to sleep at work in the afternoon. All my burn-outs, going back to the first ones in my late teens and early twenties, though, were part and parcel of my bipolar 1 disorder which I have written about at this website in the mental health sub-section, and which you can read about at this link:http://bahai-library.com/price_mental-health_history_autobiography-memoir
With the medication package I acquired for my bipolar I disorder during this last ten years, these years of extensive writing, and as I entered my 60s, I think I have seen the end of those cracking-open, those burn-out, experiences. This new-found tranquillity is not in the main because I am free at last to write; nor is it because I no longer have to spend 60 hours a week in a job & another 20 engaged in various social, community & family responsibilities, although all these are contributing factors to my present tranquillity, it is due to the new medications for my bipolar I disorder. These medication packages, or cocktails as they are sometimes called, have got better with each shift in their names and quantities since the early years of this 21st century, indeed, as far back as the late 1960s when I first enjoyed & appreciated, as well as debated & argued-with their soporific and anesthetizing, their pacifying and emotionally ameliorating functions. If readers are interested in this aspect of my life they can go to the bipolar sub-section of mental illness at this website or click on the above link.
I acknowledge my religious identity as a Baha’i and, as I do, I am aware of the place of history, language and culture in the construction of my particular subjectivity, my particular sense of who I am. I also acknowledge that all discourse and writing, is placed, positioned and situated on all sorts of criteria which I write about a great deal in my now extensive literary corpus. All of my knowledge, all of my writing, to put this another way, is contextual. I find it helpful and fertile, useful & engaging, if the way of looking at my Baha’i identity is contested by others, subjected to a dialectic and praxis, dialogue and discussion, apologetics and rhetoric. The assertion of differences, a clash of opinions, is a helpful way of establishing identity. In this way my identity develops from, is clarified by and is based on, a process of engaging & asserting difference, as well as, it must be admitted, suppressing difference and seeking-out similarities.
The spark of truth comes from the clash of differing opinions: Baha'is refer to this theme time and time again throughout their lives. A tolerant assertion of preferences, not an intolerant insistence on agreement; upholding one's absolutes and categorical imperatives without calling down fire from heaven on those who do not agree with us; seeing reality as a white light, so to speak, broken down into a prism, a spectrum of different colours or values. Many people, though, are not able to discuss serious issues of meaning and purpose, philosophy & religion, without arguement.
In my years of retirement from being "jobbed", and with several changes in my drug regime, my meds, I have tended not to engage with others intellectually, at least others who have difficulty discussing things outside of the quotidian. The sole exception to this generality is my wife who keeps my mind on all ahead full when we explore life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In cyberspace, though, my pen has been very busy in the last two decades. For decades I was, for the most part, able to maintain my cool in talking about controversial issues in politics and religion. By the time I retired from a 50 year student-&-paid-employment life, 1949 to 1999, I had had enough conversation: deep & meaningful, trivial & shallow, to sink a ship. I've often wondered what Baha'u'llah meant when He wrote that "excess of speech is a deadly poison." I tend to think each person has to work out that meaning within the context of their own lives. I certainly thirsted for solitude by my mid-50s for a great assortment of reasons. Now, more than 15 years later, and in my 70s, I am continuing to enjoy solitude's finest fruits.
Anger and bipolar disorder have, for many of its sufferers, a strong corelation. Anger, of course, has a strong corelation in people with many temperaments and disorders, personalities and styles of life. In the last dozen years, though, and on my new medications, my experience of anger has become a rarer event. Indeed, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have got angry, controlled or uncontrolled, in the last dozen years. Resilience & composure, even a touch of radiant acquiescence, only a touch mind you, are qualities I have learned over the decades. But all of this is due, for the most part at least, to the adjustments to my body chemistry that have come from the field of pharmacology or drug therapy, & especially in the last dozen years, in this 21st century. I would like to say that my tranqillity is due primarily to my spiritual development but that would, as they say, be drawing a long bow. My anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication has been the underpinning of most of my tranquillity in the last several years. I write about this in my online account: Ron Price BPD which can be easily Googled by readers.
After a lifetime of discussing serious issues in philosophy and religion, the social sciences and humanities, I now engage in most of my dialogue, my interchange, with others in cyberspace. For this reason I have found the internet to be a wonderful place to discuss issues close to my heart, issues that I have thought about for years, and issues that still engage me in the evening of my life. The whole question of dialogue & discussion, though, on or off the internet is quite a complex question which I won't go into here in any more detail.
This identity, which I have been discussing in various ways in the above paragraphs, acknowledges the reality of and the need for decentralised and centralized, diffuse and specific, as well as systematized & fractured knowledge. This sense of identity acknowledges a sense of power which also has a diffuse set of sources. At the same time this inner and outer sense of identity accepts the useful concepts of periphery and centre, margins and depths, surfaces and heights in the expression of that power. Once I clarify the notion of identity, once it is redefined in a universal and non-derogatory way, once it engages difference without implying superiority and hierarchy, I hope that this expression, this set of views, will help those who read these paragraphs, those who are both part of the Baha’i community and those in other interest groups, help them express their own group consciousness, help that consciousness to develop in a manner which is unfettered by the accrued and often inaccurate associations of history & culture, tradition and ignorance.(4)
All this, at least what I have written in the above paragraph, is quite complicated; I do not expect readers to take a great interest in the complexities
associated with these subjects. I'm sure, though, that a coterie will show interest. Most of my writing is aimed at a coterie I will never know and will certainly never meet. My identity and my autobiography is wrapped up in, is part and parcel of, my search for and experience in a collective solution to the problems of our age. This collective solution is presented to me as both a moral imperative and the logical consequence of reason applied to my intelligible, and I trust intelligent, rendering of history and the nature of my society. The measures needed to cure the ills of civilization are identical with those needed to cure the individual but these measures must be practiced in a social milieux. Indeed the social milieux, the social interaction within the social order revealed in the Bahá'í scriptures, is the workshop for both my individual fulfilment and for any collective solution that I have found. I see myself as part of a functioning unit by my free choice. Individual identity and a more inclusive identity as part of a social structure and as a world citizen are inextricably conjoined for me—and they are examined in my lengthy memoir, as well as in my more than 7000 poems.
For additional perspectives on my autobiography readers can go to several sub-sections of this website and to this link at google, at Baha'i Library Online: http://bahai-library.com/users/Ron%20Price
There are so many ways of looking at identity. One popular view is expressed as follows: What really shapes, conditions & makes us is somebody only a few of us ever have the courage to face: and that is the child you once were, long before formal education ever got its claws into you. That impatient, all-demanding child who wants love and power and can't get enough of either must be faced: so goes one arguement. It is those pent-up, craving children who make all the wars and all the horrors. They also make all the art and all the beauty & discovery in life. This is because they are trying to achieve what lay beyond their grasp before they were five years old."(5)
My autobiography, which in many ways is a series of depictions of my identity, is presented as a pastiche of many types of writing: first, second and third-person point of view narration, the use of the past as well as the present tense, letters, newspaper articles, speeches, lists, historical accounts, scientific jargon, definitions, photographs, recipes, conversations, obituaries, wedding announcements, telephone conversations, an assorted memorabilia, and much else. The inclusion of all these kinds of writing both loosens and strengthens the genre boundaries within which I work. This inclusion also points to blurring and cross-pollinating between genres as being more useful.(6) This work is no mere imparting of information. Alfred North Whitehead once wrote: “no university has had any justification for existence since the popularization of printing in the fifteenth century.”(7) I would not go that far with Whitehead, but the point he makes about information certainly applies to my auto/biography. It is not essentially an information base, a data base, for my life.
Anthony Giddens(1938- ) is a British sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies. He is also considered to be one of the most prominent modern sociologists. He is the author of at least 34 books, & published in at least 29 languages; he has much to say of relevance to the auto/biographer & the literary expression of human identity. “Each of us not only 'has', but 'lives' a biography,”says Giddens. “Biography is reflexively organised in terms of flows of social & psychological information about possible ways of life. Modernity is a post traditional order, in which the question, 'How shall I live?' has to be answered in day-to-day decisions about how to behave, what to wear and what to eat, and many other things, as well as interpreted within the temporal unfolding of self-identity.”(8)
In writing my memoirs, my auto/biography, I am defining myself by putting my consciousness and my conscience into text, into words. In some ways I'm exploring personality, trying to understand myself better and at the same time I'm opening-up personality. I'm writing out of personality & it's my canvas for a portrait in a sense. I could never have written my memoirs, or got a handle on my identity without postmodernism, without the licence to collapse generic conventions and see myself as many selves. I like the idea of calling my work a novel and then to define it further as creative non-fiction.(9) But, again, I must emphasize, the overview of all of this life-narrative, the general context, the total orientation, the moulding and remoulding of my world, is in the form of a conscious participation, often on a very small scale, in the forming of a new society. The context is one of commitment, of solitude and solidarity.(10)
The Bahá'í community which I have been a part of for more than 60 years gives to me a happy mix of creative expression and group solidarity. “Originality,” writes the English psychiatrist and author Anthony Storr(1920-2001), “implies being bold enough to go beyond accepted norms. Sometimes it involves being misunderstood or rejected by one's peers.” In these last six decades I have often been misunderstood by my fellow Baha’is, by my students, by my friends, by my family and by my wife---the person in life with whom I have spent the most time. Such an experience is an inevitable part of virtually any intense group experience. “Those who are not too dependent upon, or too closely involved with, others,” continues Storr, “find it easier to ignore convention. Primitive societies find it difficult to allow for individual decisions or varieties of opinion. When the maintenance of group solidarity is a prime consideration, originality may be stifled.”(11)
I have not found a stifling of my creativity to be the case in this new faith, this new international community. This is not to say that I have not experienced tension in the many Bahá'í groups of which I have been a part. As Alfred Adler(1870-1937), medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology, writes: we make our own choices on how we are to belong. I have done this all my Bahá'í life. Decisions on how best to make my contribution to the whole, to the local and to the national and international Bahá'í community have not always been easy. I have done this by means of my efforts in my career, my intimate relationships, my friendships and, as I say, the larger Bahá'í community. But in these areas of my existence there has been frustration and tragedy. Fulfilment, the release of psychic energy, has been an emergence, at least as I look back over my life, from the tragedy among other sources. Perhaps this is, in part, due to my view of religion as world loyalty, of unity as the first and last word and of tolerance as the requisite of high civilization.
The ultimate ends of my lifelong education process are a living religion, a living aesthetic enjoyment and a living courage which has urged me toward a creative adventure. I play my part in the maintenance of the language, the history, the symbolic code, of my Bahá'í society and in the relevant application of its teachings to the society I live in. My identity is, therefore, bound up with an appreciation of the past, with history and with tradition. All of these things are necessary to a full life, a life which develops organically rather than one which is radically cut off from its roots. The roots of my society are Judaeo-Christian and Greco-Roman and the new Faith that has inspired my life, and which is at the centre of my identity, has a rich appreciation of these two roots. These words of Virginia Woolf are an expression of the centrality of identity and autobiography in this writer's life: "I sometimes think only autobiography is literature--novels are what we peel off before we come at last to the core. This core is only me."(12)
There has developed in recent years an extensive novelistic literature written by Baha'is. The Bahá'í Faith & related topics have appeared in fiction in multiple forms. The mention of the Bahá'í Faith, prominent members, or even individual believers have appeared in a variety of fictional forms including science fiction, and fantasy, as well as styles of short stories, novelettes, and novels, and even diverse media of the printed word and TV series. A 2005 estimate is of more than 30 references though it could be far more. Out of these near three dozen references, there are perhaps a dozen where there is a significant relationship with the religion, where the Bahá'í Faith is a crucial aspect of the story. The first occurrence known is perhaps by Marie von Najmajer who wrote a poem dedicated to Tahirih published in 1874.
After a series of works covering the events of the Bábí period most of the focus in fiction shifted towards Bahá'í-specific-related connections. Soon Khalil Gibran wrote two books, The Prophet and Jesus, The Son of Man. There was some second hand evidence for the sustained influence of `Abdu'l-Bahá in these works. In modern times the first known occurrence is of a short story by non-Bahá'í Tom Ligon The Devil and the Deep Black Void, He also wrote a sequel The Gardener. The next fictional publication, in 1991, which references the Bahá'í Faith may be a short story "Home Is Where…" by Bahá'í Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bah%C3%A1%27%C3%AD_Faith_in_fiction
Since moving to Australia in 1971 in my mid-twenties, humour has become an important part of my identity. The nearly total absence of humour from the Bible, the Bahá'í writings and, indeed, from most of religious and philosophical literature, a literature in which I have immersed myself for several decades, has made of me a highly serious person.(13) Of course, other factors led to the seriousness of my temperament and personality. Living in Australia has brought-out in me an appreciation of the funny side of life. I became conscious of this slow development when, in 1980, I got a job as a probation and parole officer in Tasmania and it was largely due to my sense of humour, or so I was told by the interviewing panel. More than thirty-five years later, in 2015, humour is part of my soul’s salvation, my modus operandi, Downunder, one of the main gainers from living in the Antipodes for nearly 45 years: 1971 to 2015.
Joan Didion(1934- ), an American author best known for her novels, her essays, and her literary journalism has influenced my sense of identity, but so, too, have literally 100s of other writers. Didion, though, explores the disintegration of American morals and the cultural chaos; she explores the overriding theme of individual and social fragmentation, and she emphasizes again and again, the sense of anxiety & dread which permeates much of western society. It also permeates her work, I conclude this brief essay with a paraphrase of her words, words which she acknowledged from the English novelist and journalist, George Orwell(1903-1950). His work is marked by clarity, intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and belief in democratic socialism.
In many ways writing. Orwell, says, is the act of saying “I” and of imposing oneself upon other people. It’s a way of saying: “listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.” Writing can also be seen as an aggressive, even a hostile, act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses & evasions with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating. But there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion. It is an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the readers most private space. I have never thought of myself as a bully; but my wife, who knows me better than anyone, might beg to differ. She says I am many things & bully is a word she uses from time to time, even if I do not acknowledge the veracity of this word as applied to me. What each of us acknowledges & what we are, goodness, "there is the rub", as Shakespeare wrote in another context.
Didion says that she stole the title “Why I Write?” not only because the words sounded right but because they seemed to sum up, in a no-nonsense way, all that she has to tell us her readers. Like many writers, she says, she has only this one "subject," this one "area": the act of writing. She can bring readers no reports from any other front. She acknowledges other interests, as I do, but—like Didion—in these my latter years—writing is my game. Like Didion, too, I needed a degree by the end of one summer, for me it was the summer of 1966, so that I could enter teachers’ college. Like Didion, my attention was always on the periphery, on what I could see and taste and touch. But, unlike Didion, it was also on ideas, hundreds of them. Like Didion, though, I knew only too well what I couldn’t do. I knew what I wasn’t & it took me some years to discover what I was. Increasingly as the years went on, by the age of 55 in 1999, 60 in 2004, 65 in 2009, and 70 in 2014, I knew I was a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, reader and scholar, online blogger and online journalist. I also had to attend to those domestic and literary necessities: my own cleaner and office assistant, CEO and publicist, marketer and IT designer of my own literary wares.
Didion goes on to say that when she said that she knew she was a writer--she meant not a "good" writer or a "bad" writer but simply a writer. To her this meant a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are/were spent arranging words on pieces of paper. In Didion’s case she emphasizes that had her credentials in her early life in her post-secondary education been in order---she would never have become a writer. Had she been blessed with even limited access to her own mind there would have been no reason to write. She wrote entirely to find out what she was thinking, what she was looking at and what it meant---as well as what she wanted and what she feared. I had a different set of reasons, a different raison d’etre. I have been exploring this raison d’etre in a series of essays on auto/biography, on identity, as well as many other subjects.
For over four years, 2010 to 2014, I had intended to explore all sorts of things in the writing of several biographies. But I bit off more than I could chew. I have often done this in life; perhaps it was one way of finding out what I could and and what I could not achieve, one way of finding out my limits. We all have limits and part of life's journey is finding out what those limits are and working, living, within them, it's about accepting what one can achieve and what one can't. This is not always an easy road to travel on, an easy lesson to learn. Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs have expressed this lesson in the following literary form:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
29 December 2009 to 9 April 2015.
--------------------SOME FOOTNOTES ON THE ABOVE ESSAY ON IDENTITY--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society, 1964.
 Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, Vintage, NY, 1952, p. 125.
 John Hatcher, Close Connections: The Bridge Between Physical and Spiritual Reality, Bahá'í Publishing, Wilmette, 2009.
 Emma Heggarty, “Native Peoples of Canada: Rewriting the Imaginary,” 14th April 2003, Internet, 2004.
 Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels, MacMillan, Toronto, 1981, p.33.
 For this concept I want to thank Winifred M. Mellor’s Review "THE SIMPLE CONTAINER OF OUR EXISTENCE": NARRATIVE AMBIGUITY IN CAROL SHIELDS'S THE STONE DIARIES,” in Studies in Canadian Literature, Vol. 20 No.2, 1995.
 Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims of Education and Other Essays, MacMillan Company, 1929; reprinted in Education in the Age of Science, edited by Brand Blanshard, New York, Basic Books, 1959.
 Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity, Polity Press, 1991.
 An interview by Christine Hamelin, “JOHN MOSS: CONSCIOUSNESS AS CONTEXT,” in Studies in Canadian Literature, Volume 20, No. 1, 1995.
 Rollo May, The Courage To Create, W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1975, p. 11.
 Anthony Storr, Solitude, Ballantine Books, 1989.
 Virginia Woolf, “Letter to Hugh Walpole (1932),” The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. V: 1932-1935, ed. Nigel Nicholson and Joanne Trautmann, Harcourt Brace, NY, 1979, p. 142.
 Quoted in Price's Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead
 Joan Didion, “Excerpts From Why I Write,” The New York Times Magazine, December 5, 1976.
SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT: A GROUP PROCESS
The social dynamics of the Bahá’í community and the resultant development of spiritual qualities has been discussed by Daniel C. Jordan. For some background on Dr Jordan go to:http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/anisa/jordan_bio.html I have been influenced by Jordan as far back as the late 1960s in relation to education and spirituality. When one joins a Bahá’í Community, says Jordan, he joins a family of extremely diverse human beings with whom he will have to work and establish meaningful relationships. The first thing he finds out is that his old repertoire of responses is no longer adequate. So many different human beings represent a great many unknowns, and trying to relate to those unknowns creates energy and anxiety which sets that reciprocal process of knowing and loving though faith and courage in motion.
Defining a legitimate goal which will constructively utilize the energy from that anxiety will call forth a new repertoire of responses. Each new response is a bit of one’s latent capacity made manifest—a release of human potential. Another way of saying it is that the Bahá’í Community offers more opportunities for knowing and loving under growth-fostering circumstances than can be found anywhere else. Thus the Bahá’í community, because of its diversity, provides many of those tests which are essential for our development. At the same time, guidance from Bahá’í institutions and the commitment of members of the community to accept each other for what they can become provides the courage to turn those tests into vehicles for spiritual development—for the release of human potential.
The processes of consultation and community interactions provide the corrective mechanism for delusions and self-deceptions in the Bahá’í community. It is very easy to think that one has achieved such qualities as patience and love if one is in an isolated cocoon in a monastic setting. It is much more difficult to be self-deluded when one is interacting in a diverse community and trying to consult with individuals of a widely differing social, cultural and educational background to oneself. Lastly, in the processes of the Bahá’í community that lead to spiritual development and progress, great emphasis is given to the concept of service. Thus for example, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is enumerating what will lead to the mystic’s goal of nearness to the Divine, He includes service to humanity and service in the cause. To conclude this part of this webpage on spirituality, and spiritual development I offer to readers this link:http://bahai-library.com/hatcher_bw18_spirituality
SOME PROLIFIC BAHA'I WRITERS
There are many Baha'i sites in cyberspace you can google yourself. The first is a series of articles by one of the most prolific, indeed, I would add one of the most erudite Baha'is, Udo Schaefer: http://www.udoschaefer.com/articles/english.html & https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#inbox/13640f227a69387c
For an excellent list of books and articles on the Babi and Baha'i Faiths as well as a substantial part or the entire book itself go to:
There have emerged on the internet a number of staunch defenders of the Cause against critics who have only emerged in the years of the great extension of the internet in the first two decades of the 21st century. This period has coincided with the new Baha'i paradigm: 1996 to 2016. One of these erudite writers is Susan Stiles Maneck. For some context on the life and work of Susan Stiles Maneck, Associate Professor of History at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi go to her website at the first link below. For her article entitled: A Review of Sen McGlinn's Article on Theocracy go to the 2nd link. Maneck is one of the many supporters and defenders of the Cause against critics, especially on the internet, who have arisen during the years of the new Baha'i paradigm, the new culture of learning and growth: 1996 to 2016.
Another suporter and defender of the Cause is Dr. Mark Foster, a Profesor of Sociology at Johnson County Community College Overland Park, Kansas U.S.A. His internet site is, arguably, the most extensive and creative of all the sites I have seen thusfar. It is also found below. I could list other impressive writers and their sites, writers and Baha'is in good standing like: Jack McLean, William Hatcher, John Hatcher. It has become the responsibility of Baha'is during this new Baha'i culture to seek out sources of interest to them. Not everyone has academic interests; some are happy with general reading; some are happy with the Ruhi books. Many people don't like reading much at all, and prefer audio-visual materials. To each their own in this new age, this new Baha'i culture and paradigm.
The reader will find attached the bulk of McLean's published and unpublished writings. To 2013, these writings include: books, academic articles, essays, poetry volumes, book reviews, newspaper articles, engaged responses, a short autobiography, appreciations, and a 1967 interview with Laura Dreyfus-Barney, the compiler of the Bahá’í philosophical theology volume by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. The material that has not yet been uploaded will be gradually added. The user will also find links to the books Jack has written. This website replaces the one he did himself, and should be considered the definitive version. If there is any discrepancy between the website version of a text and the printed version, the printed version should be considered definitive. Go to this link for more: http://jack-mclean.com/