38. BAHA’I PHILOSOPHY
There is much already written on the subject of Baha’i philosophy but no attempt has been made yet to provide a systematic and comprehensive overview of this subject. This is certainly not my intention here. You will find several poems that deal with the subject directly, obliquely, tangentially:
Strangers, vagabonds, refugees, tourists and pioneers have all travelled in different ways. They all come from somewhere else to 'our society,' 'our homeland.' For some, like many of the strangers and vagabonds, the travelling is from a different psychological space. For the others, they have left their own homes behind and ventured forth in various ways to make some other place or foreign land their home for varying lengths of time. For tourists this process is not expected to be arduous. They are relatively well heeled. For the pioneer the process is sometimes arduous, unrewarding, lonely and routine in many respects. The pioneer trys to remove strangeness from the heart and make it home, to make a home for the Revelation he believes in in some strange place. Strangers or refugees can be many things: enemies, parasites, service people, prisoners, etc. They both belong and don't belong. They are hybrids, often unclassifiable, often seen as monsters, as threats, as the end of normality, symbol of modernity. -Ron Price with thanks to Peter Beilharz, Zygmunt Bauman: Dialectic of Modernity, Sage Pub., London, 2000, pp. 129-133.
No fear of 'one world' being
some glib phrase, some cliché,
some ideal…seen with
an easy carelessness….
….words which are destined
to forge together and restructure
a world civilization…..
For I find myself homeless
and at home
as I pray in this wilderness:
here am I! Here am I!
I trust there is here:
the lover seated
within the heart
sagacity in motion.1
1'Abdu'l-Baha in Four on an Island, Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, GR, 1983, p.67.
31 October 2002
Religion alters the whole landscape presented to common sense, alters it in such a way that the moods and motivations induced by religious practice seem themselves supremely practical and the only sensible ones to adopt given the way things ''really'' are. Hence, religion changes man and his common sense perspective. It is the particularity of the impact of religious systems upon social systems which renders general assessments of the value of religion in either moral or functional terms impossible. At least that is the way Clifford Geertz puts it in his article on religion.1 Religious concepts spread beyond their specifically metaphysical contexts to provide a framework of general ideas in terms of which a wide range of experiences can be given a meaningful form. A set of religious beliefs is a gloss which makes life graspable and a template which, in turn, shapes our experience of the mundane world of social relationships and psychological events. Tracing the social and psychological role of religion is a matter of understanding how it is that men's notions of the ''real'' determine and color their sense of the practical and the moral. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System," Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, M. Banton, editor, Tavistock Pub., NY, 1966, pp.1-45.
There is much here
to synthesize an ethos,
a tone and quality,
a style and mood,
a world view,
a way of life--suited,
for me anyway:
to sheer actuality,
to shaping dispositions,
and pervasive. There's
susceptibility to moods
like some scents, suffusing,
evaporating and part of
cultural patterns that order
my world, defining an authority
which transforms my experience.
There is much here
to help me accept the difficult.
Still, even then, there is angst
which blots out time,
dulls my memory,1
erases the future,
but brings, over time,
1Rollo May, The Discovery of Being: Writings in Existential Psychology, W.W. Norton and Co., NY, 1983, p. 110.
16 November 2002
One can appreciate the archaeology of human knowledge and the way in which the Baha'i Faith and the postmodern fit into this archaeology, by a closer look at the missions, methods and effects of each epoch. The Baha'i teachings provide not only quite a precise definition of the epochs we are living in, but also the goals, the purposes and the contexts for these epochs. Knowing as we do that each human being has a different idea about how reality is organized and how knowledge should be pursued, we can easily appreciate that each of us has a different perspective on the knowledge process. The quest in these postmodern epochs, in this tenth stage of history, is for knowledge about self and how this self might best fit into the world as it is or as it could become. All knowledge requires intersubjective understanding: words, ideas, theories, and social life worlds cannot exist separately in the minds of human beings. Knowing, speaking, thinking and communicating is a collective, not an individual activity. The Baha'i Faith provides that collective, that global, that community perspective for a useful archaeology of knowledge.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 14 November 2002.
I really had little appreciation
back then in the fifties
when baseball, passing exams
and making it with the girls
kept me pretty busy
with my small life
in Canadian summers
by that big lake
and in Canadian winters
in a drama of death,
with the Rockies always there
in a gargantuan aloofness
far off to the West.
Little did I know in 1959
when Yuri Gagarin went into space
that I had joined a Movement
which defined my world
as precisely, as logically,
as coherently, as sensibly,
as it possibly could be defined
and I had unobtrusively laid
a foundation for an archaeology
of knowledge that would build
a world civilization: epoch by epoch.
14 November 2002.
Many cultural traditions in the West often define personality, achievement and the purpose of human life in ways that leave the individual in isolation. Values and priorities are not justified by any wider framework of purpose or belief; what is good is what one finds rewarding. Ethical values are justified as part of a value system of personal preference. People pursue their own interests as long as it doesn't interfere with others. Solving conflicts is treated as a technical, rather than a moral, problem. Emphasis is placed on honesty and communication. There is a vague idea of what makes up a set of values, but it always seems to return to a matter of personal preference. This is one way of expressing the individualism at the heart of much of Western culture. Some see a return to older, traditional, small town values of the past as the way to deal with this fundamental human problem of community. This is, however, an unrealistic objective since it consists of a subjective and false view of the past. A true analysis and reflection of the small town values of the past reveals their narrow and prejudiced notions of social justice and a great deal of human suffering.
Many express the idea that the most important thing in life is doing what you chose to do as well as you can living up to a set of personal values. The happiness of a fulfilling life cannot be won without the willingness to make the effort and pay the costs that such effort brings. Each person is ultimately responsible for her/his own life and must accept responsibility for themselves. Some seem to have a much clearer idea of what they are against than what they are for. In the end, it is values such as these that have militated against a more widespread acceptance of the Baha'i Faith in the first half-century since the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth in 1953.1--Ron Price with thanks to Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, Internet, 12 November 2002; and 1Shoghi Effendi, God passes by, p.351.
The big picture is inspiring,
but the day-to-day level
of teaching this Cause
can be downright discouraging
and much of this meagre response
is due to a socio-historical reality
over which the individual has
little to no control.
A cultural, an ethical, tradition
that is in many ways antithetical
to everything that this Faith
stands for: it's like pushing
a rock uphill and having it
roll back down, again and again.
The key, of course, is that
in this process we must be happy!
14 November 2002.
It is difficult to grow up and live your life in the half century 1953 to 2003 which I have been associated with this new world religion without involvement, in varying degrees, with the world of buyers and sellers, advocates and clients, pushers and users. It is a world of competing experts, prophets and neo-tribes, each promoting its ideology or its ethnicity or its cure for the world's ills or its style of clothing or its fast-food outlets or its better brand of soft drinks. Within this world scene, the blandishments of the market where lifestyles are for sale are interwoven with the threat of violence and oppression. Warring tribes aggressively compete for space and attention and do harm to anyone under their control who does not fit in with their ideas. Within this world scene, too, the Baha'i, who has as his goal, the goal of the Revelation he is associated with, the oneness of mankind, aims toward a "dynamic coherence between the spiritual and practical requirements of life on earth."1 -Ron Price with thanks to Dennis Smith, Norbert Elias and Modern Social Theory, Sage Publications, London, 2001, p.127; and 1 The Universal House of Justice, 20 October 1983.
Are these the tribes You spoke of
one day when they would arise with
all their power to resist His Cause?1
Is this the early stage, the first view,
of the cry of the European
and of the Turk, the groaning
of India and China? Is this
the embryogenesis? This chaos?
These fifty years have just been
a warm-up, a first flight, a start,
little did I know, a warm-up
after the first warm-up of two wars:
a beginning to the beginning
of the dark heart of an age.
For the wheels of God grind slow.
It takes so much living for us to know.
1'Abdu'l-Baha in The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p.16.
28 October 2002
Just got back from a walk in the bush to mail a letter to a former colleague whom I have been writing to once a month for several years now. I was listening on my walkman to an interview with Rachel Seafert, the author of a book, The Dark Room, on communist East Germany in its forty years after WW2, and Professor Wolfgang Benns, a sixty year old German historian with special interests in the Nazi period. Gazing at the bush on this cool mid-winter afternoon, on this my fifty-eighth birthday, I could not help but draw some parallels between the nature of Baha'i history, identity and memory and the kinds of history in the 20th century, not only German history but the myriad other national and personal histories that fill our world to overflowing with social analyses, autobiographies, biographies, histories, et cetera. This poem attempts to explore some of what is involved, for me, in identity, memory and personal history. -Ron Price with thanks to "LNL," Radio National, 4:05-5:00 pm, 23 July 2002.
I'm not a German or a Russian or a Jew
and so I insert my story in a queue
to join the myriad others who work
with Negroes, Hottentots or the many
others each of who has their special quirk.
I've had quite a strong sense of who I am
as far back as about '62
when sport and girls and TV programs
and the great spaces by the lake
assumed their readjusted place
beside the birds of Akka
and His beauteous Face
removed now to His retreat
of deathless splendour and those
sweet-scented streams of eternity.
Now, forty years on,
this inner Voice that speaks
to me with faint whispers
of a Beauty deep-ingrained,
is filled with memories
far-far from the great tempest
blowing across this earthly sphere
and which fill the public space
in a so many ways: memories
of a different holocaust.
I learned, or began to learn,
to acquire the ancient patience
of the land, mute witness
of misfortune's scorching kiss.
I often reached for rain
and reached for His hand.1
When I sound His name
in prayer it is to praise His fane.
For His words help me regain
and live with what has become my shame.
1Roger White, "Sonnet for the Friend," Another Song Another Season, p.119.
Ron Price 23 July 2002
There are very few of humankind, wrote the philosopher Matthew Arnold, for whom the summum bonum of life is an eternal series of intellectual acts, for whom this life is seen essentially as subject-matter for thought, for whom thought is a series of elements in a vast movement of speculation. The few who do live this sort of life stand apart, and have an existence separate, a distinctiveness, from that of the mass of mankind. The region which such individuals inhabit is a laboratory wherein are fashioned new intellectual ideas, syntheses of old ideas and serendipitous connections between ideas which would not otherwise have occurred had not such an intense amount of intellection taken place. There are few individuals who live the "purely intellectual life, whose life, whose ideal, whose demand, is thought, and thought only."1 As I approach the age of sixty I found this emphasis on thought, which Arnold apotheosized and which the Central Figures of the Baha'i Faith place in an important position,2 very much to my liking. It fitted in with the significant diminution that had taken place in my late fifties of the social dimension of my life's journey and my strong disinclination to spend great quantities of time, as so many in my society and at my age did, in gardening, watching TV, playing some sport or game or being engaged in one or several of a host of manual or artistic activities. -Ron Price with thanks to 1David J. DeLaura, Hebrew and Hellene in Victorian England: Newman, Arnold and Pater, University of Texas Press, 1969; and 2'Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, p.1, among a host of other locations in the Baha'i Writings.
I could not, of course,
pursue this path
to the utter exclusion
of everything else.
About eight hours a day
of writing, reading
and focused thinking
was all I could manage
given the limitations
of my concentration,
the realities of my life
which dictated social intercourse,
some relaxation and exercise
and the general necessities of existence.
11 March 2002
A FRESH IMPULSE
The five years which followed his drive to Yerrinbool from Ballarat in December 1977; and the five years which followed his first days at university in September 1963 were without doubt the years of his life in which he experienced his most intense and extensive depression, confusion and disorientation. These years of internal and external crises, of varying severity were devastating in their immediate effects. Each of these five year periods resulted in the complete breakdown in his capacity to earn a living and function in day-to-day society. But by December 1982 and September 1968, it could be argued, these crises were beginning to release a corresponding measure of divine power. His life could and did continue unfolding his potentials, his capacities. A fresh impulse had been lent to this process of unfoldment by these same crises. It took him some years to understand what could be called this 'life process;' some years to begin to regulate his life to its rhythm. It became his view, his understanding, slowly with the years, that his very happiness as a Baha'i depended, in part at least, on the extent to which he understood this life process. -Ron Price with thanks to the NSA of the Baha'is of Canada, "Letter to All Pioneers," Pulse of the Pioneer, January 1979, p.2.
I was stimulated to write the above paragraph by reading a paragraph in a biography of the English novelist Thackeray(1811-1863), the first novelist to "hold a mirror up to real life." It was a paragraph which began "......The five years which followed his night flight to Paris were bitter and restless ones for Thackeray." (Ann Monsarrat, The Uneasy Victorian: Thackeray the Man, Cassell, London, 1980, p.121) For some reason my own mind immediately switched, on reading this line about Thackeray, from his bitter five years to some of my own bitter-sweet years of the blues. I believe my journey, intellectual and otherwise, becomes more complete through the study of biography. Our personal troubles are, partly, public problems. Such was the view of sociologist C.Wright Mills in his Sociological Imagination(1959) written the year I became a Baha'i.
It's about linking happiness
and the keenness of our tests,
the test to be happy
both within and without
the Baha'i community,
a whole of life process.
you're not responsible
for the present condition
in the community,
only a small part.
Trust to the life processes
set in motion by the Cause.
22 January 2002
copyright Marco Abrar
The fire of the poet must burn slowly and the poet must constantly turn away to think and to analyse what he has done. He must be content, too, to have little life outside his work. In this way he conserves his vitality, keeps his mind under control and makes his poetic technique sufficiently flexible for the expression of the emotions of life as they arise. -Ron Price with thanks to W. B. Yeats in Autobiographies, 1955, p. 318.
I have a way of knowing and describing,
my style, brewing as it has been all my life,
without a need for applause,
although life has brought me lots of that,
in classrooms at the drop of a hat.
In a world with no central point of reference
I have found mine,
pervasive through my words,
the centre of nine circles,
balanced by an axis,
spread over a ten stage history:
cycles, eras, ages, epochs and stages.
Part of a great ocean-river system,
a small creak, up-stream,
emerging in the mountains,
merging with a gush,
perhaps over a precipice,
down a verticle face.
I feel a peace fall
in the heart of the winds,
where a tempest has been blowing-up
all my years---and my father’s,
and a quiet dusk settles somewhere,
far in me, the edge of night,
or earliest morning,
where I walk
to the Lord of the mercy-seat
enthroned in the highest1
and His mighty arms enfold me2
in ways I simply will never know.
1Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, USA, 1985, p.144.
2Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations, USA, 1938, p.227.
6 March 1999
A NEW POETIC AMIDST THE WASTELAND
About the time that ‘Abdu’l-Baha was released from prison(1908) and the Bab’s remains found their home on Mt. Carmel(1909), a new poetic began to take shape in the then stagnant sensibility of modern poetry. It attempted to draw into itself both moral and aesthetic qualities to make a richer form, more alive, more intensely expressive of the full human condition. This was evident in the poetry of T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and W.B.Yeats. By the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in 1921 this new poetic and artistic sensibility had become more articulate. It was one that was highly autobiographical, had no fixed centre, was often unintelligible and possessed, what Robert Hughes was later to call, "the shock of the new." -Ron Price with thanks to C.K. Stead, The New Poetic: Yeats to Eliot, The Athlone Press, London, 1998(1964), p. 191.
It had come west and He had gone,
Whose soul could now transform the world
and it did in such a multitude of ways
in science and the arts.
Then His Son came ,
the product of that mystic intercourse
opened a whole new spirit.
And when He left
The Wasteland1 would tell
of the music, the emotional tone
of the world He left behind,
the world which rejected
77 years of continued revelation:
fragmented, kaleidoscopic confusion,
full of drought and sterility,
death in our time,
a loathing and horror of life,
a dramatizing of the elusive play of myth,
echoes of Ezeliel,
paradoxes of life and death,
failure of sexual love,
despair and claustrophobia,
pointlessness and artificiality,
revulsion at the sordidness
of the lives of the lower orders,
the animalistic lifestyles,
a growing intimation of the sinister,
all of life turned into a wasteland,
with glimpses of a more spiritual reality.
7 March 1999
1T.S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland, published in October 1922.
A BIG YEAR: 1948
The Guardian initiated in Canada a Five Year Plan in 1948, a plan that was part of a ‘world-encompassing mission’. The Guardian pointed to the ‘future greatness and glory’ of the Canadain Baha’i Community in the same letter announcing this Five Year Plan. The wider Canadian community was one that shied away from experimentation of any kind. This new religious movement could not be, then, or now, judged by its ‘local strength’, but rather by its international context. -Ron Price; see Messages to Canada, 1965, pp.7-8; and The Origins of the Baha’i Community of Canada, 1898-1948, Will C. van den Hoonaard, Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1996. pp. 295-296.
1948 was a very big year:
Babe Ruth died,
the Yankees celebrated
25 years at their stadium;
it looked like Jackie Robinson
was in the majors to stay
and the Baha’is of Canada
formed their first
National Spiritual Assembly.
A largely invisible,
in a society increasingly
fragmented and conservative,
had completed its first half-century.2
11 February 1999
1 the first American negro to play baseball in the major leagues.
2In the years 1898 to 1948, 555 people had been Baha’is in Canada: ibid., p.310.
INTELLIGENCE’S MOST IMPORTANT TOOL
Part of my ambition with this poetry is to describe the metaphorical nature of Baha’i history, its origins and development, the archtypal deep structure found in the Baha’i community’s consciousness, to generate a series of interpretations, each of which returns to its source in that history and so becomes refreshed for a new birth into contemporary discourse, into our daily life. Baha’i history becomes assimilated, through this process, for the purpose of expanding and reducing it, reforming it to a new purpose, twisting it askew to serve the needs of the present. Andrew Taylor, Australian writer and poetry critic, argues that this process has to do with need and power and is, therefore, an ideological act.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 13 March 1999.
This history is no end in itself,
no dry fact from the past,
laid on to memorize in class:
the Baha’i Faith began in 1844
blah, blah, blah...la de da...but
a reflection of a spiritual world,
a means of access to that world,
a shadow, pictures to the eye,
a way of salvation,
a means of transportation....
this history must make us think,
be creative about ourselves
and all that has gone before,
some mystic intercourse,
explaining the familiar,
our own nature and experience,
by the unfamiliar,
intelligence’s most important tool,
forever and ever, dramatizing God,
our own lives and the Prophets,
richly allusive, highly imagistic,
establishing the Kingdom of God
on earth, in a world largely beyond
our control and beyond evaluation,
but we control and we evaluate
for, it seems, we must;
we do, endlessly.
13 March 1999
A VAST CONTINENT
The poetic world of Pioneering Over Three Epochs is animated by a complex inexhaustible life. We revisit it as we might a great city, one of the vast continents of the planet or, indeed, the planet itself. Gradually we come more and more to recognize certain places, certain faces, understand situations and grasp relations. Gradually readers are enabled to find their bearings through greater and greater familiarity with the terrain. Each poem alters somewhat the existing relationships, the nature of the total design. A single pattern emerges from a vast mosaic of fragments, from what appears to be an unbelieveably laborious fragmentation of narrative structure. But each piece of land, each poem, has its own discrete charm, simplicity, story, insight. Some of the landscape, the poetry, is refreshing, stimulating; some is banal, quotidian; some repetitive containing a sense of deja vu.-Ron Price with thanks to A. Walton Litz, The Art of James Joyce: Method and Design in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Oxford UP, NY, 1961, Chapter II.
I paint a canvas here,
sing my song:
an emotional complex
in an instant of time.
simultaneity of effect,
Never seen poems
quite like them, mine,
fixed points along a line
of a spiritual
and imperishable fragrance;1
and my life, making a narrative order,
a comfort, at the core of the design,
the flickerings of an innermost flame
that flashes its messages
through the brain,
in an unending search
for consistency and harmony.
20 February 1999
1Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, p.8.
THE FIRST LAW
Gregory Bateson in his Steps Toward An Ecology of Mind(Chandler, San Francisco, 1972) argues that the ecological system as a whole is more important than the individual organisms that comprise it. The unit of survival is not the organism or the species but the entire environment. "Mind," to Bateson, "is a vast and integrated network." This statement seems to be eminently sensible and clearly one that is consistent with Baha'i philosophy and its approach to ecology. -Ron Price with thanks to Gregory Bateson, quoted in Christopher Lasch, The Minimal Self, WW Norton, NY, 1984, p.258.
The poetic imagination
and selfhood itself
lies in an awareness
of my divided nature
and the immense gulf
between aspiration and limitation.
Such is the critical polarity
at the base of my life
and the foundation
of the Baha'i community,
producing, as it does,
the perpetual balancing act
of unstable and inner forces
we must reconcile or be torn apart.
Such is the first law of human psychic life1
as we accept that the whole is definitely
more than the sum of its parts.
1Charles Fair, The New Nonsense: The End of the Rational Consensus, p.45.
13 May 2001
Baha'i philosophy and Baha'i theology are, it would seem, embryonic disciplines. Here is a good book for starters: Revisioning the Sacred: New Perspectives on a Baha'i Theology.
These apocalyptic elegies are indeed not conventional expressions of consolation but triumphant outbursts directed...to the dead and Emily Dickinson’s own anguish...an anguish distilled...into triumph.1 Here, in this poem below, is my own triumphant outburst with my usual cautionary note derived from Baha'i theology regarding our final moments. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Benjamin Lease, Emily Dickinson’s Readings of Men and Books: Sacred Soundings, MacMillan, London, 1990, p.xvii.
All across the world they lie
behind grey stone
and obscurest graveyards
in places noone’s heard
on the edge of town.
Yes, heaven’s humble handful
among simple stones
Hardly heroes, hardly known:
servants, gentlemen, ladies,
every conceiveable type,
they're all here behind stone.
Words carved by unknown hands:
Pioneer Canada Nine Year Plan.
He’d planned his. Knew who he was.
Identity grew into stone
that would last a thousand years.
He was going to end this one befittingly;
I mean it was his life, himself,
his mirror of some eternal hyacinth
growing forever in a garden
of eternal splendour, forged,
cut diamond-edged, glittering whiteness
on that snow-white path so close,
touching that Crimson Pillar
and trustworthiness’s pillar of light.
He would, at least, feel it.
28 October 1995
VISION IN MID-STREAM
Most people have looked in vain to history for some explanation of themselves. It appearS that meaning was not to be found in theology, the social sciences or indeed in the humanities. Some suggested we would be best to look within ourselves and that seemed to make sense, since the notion of the Real Me had been popular for some time. But this was fraught with problems of egotism, a radical subjectivity, a simplistic pragmatism that avoided serious thought and a do-your-own-thing vacuity. Then someone talked about the dream of that city on the hill and that we should rivet the eyes of the world on that city. Having failed with so many other cities, secular and sacred, some of the people were skeptical. Was this city the genuine article? It involved the fulfillment of an ancient covenant. It just might be the real thing. -Ron Price, 1:25 pm, Tuesday, 23 January, Rivervale WA.
This hill is fit for pearls
and diamonds for young girls,
a freshness here, although it is
a place of thrones. So, if your
heart aches with a numbness at what
the world makes, cast your eyes to
this melodious plot of apple green
and emerald sheen and enjoy a full-throated
ease far removed from weariness, fever and
fret and hearing humans groan.
I will fly to thee and climb your hill
on these viewless wings, these words,
however perplexed my brain may be;
in the tender night with the moon and
the stars for guides, and in day the firey
sun will lead me straight to thee, as if blown
on breezes sent across my wild and winding ways.
I have yet to see the flowers at your feet,
nor smell the soft fragrance from your boughs.
I have often tasted death along the way
and wished it take away my silent breath,
but now I wish to live beyond midnight
so that I may pour forth my soul and sing
but not in vain. For I was not born for death
but to hear, to see, to feel the sweet ecstacies
of the most beautiful gardens in the world on
the consecrated Spot where are arrayed the
trees of especial lives with a consecrated joy:
this is no dream; this is vision in mid-stream.
23 January 1996
...the countless days, months and years I have spent studying my craft, developing and honing my skills...the untold lonely hours of persistence and drudgery....so the believer as aspirant must constantly struggle to discover how best to dramatize the tenets of faith in daily action. -John S. Hatcher,The Arc of Ascent: The Purpose of Physical Reality II, George Ronald, Oxford, 1994, p.32.
Salvation, now there’s a word
that has bedeviled history, theology,
people, religions and me at least
since we struggled out of animism
between 7000 BC and 2000 BC,
if not long before neolithic times.
Salvation is more of a process
than an event, a constant monitoring
of one’s condition, a persistent
evaluation of one’s performance
and an expanding expression
of our understanding in daily life.
Salvation requires a social context;
a theoretical spirituality must be
practiced in a social milieux;
indeed salvation applies to the
whole society as much as it does
to the individual in it.
Salvation involves our detachment
from our personal trip and our
involvement in the social institutions
which are the more inclusive expressions
of our own identity: this verity underpins
the oneness of humankind.
Salvation is an expression of the
desire to belong and to be appreciated
by the group, of the intertwined nature
of self-interest and collective interest;
for salvation is a social reality; personal
transformation involves social transformation.
Salvation, then, is about passionate intensity,
chaos, perplexity and consternation,
about being overwhelmed by longing
and unable to attain one’s desire,
about bewilderment, action and a
whirlwind of wonderment and exhaustion.
Salvation is about a sense of selflessness
that is acheived by individual action in
a divine plan and universal structure,
a perception of ourselves within a
collectivity of meaning, a catching
of a fragrance from an eternal garden.
Salvation is an entering and reentering
the world of shadows and its ephemeral
visions, an uplifting of the human condition,
an experience of the world of creation as an
emotionally charged vision and mystic journey
in this deathbed childbed age.
7 January 1996
ONE OF THE GREATEST PUZZLES
Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of the world, can alter. -Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p.155.
How is it that the same looking cells-
with the same genetic blueprint-
early in the development of the human
embryo become different tissues?
It’s one of the greatest puzzles in biology.
The recipies are genes; the cookbook
is the chromosomes and the chefs the
protein molecules on DNA which switch
genes on and off.
How is it that the same looking people
with the same basic human physiology
for the first phase of their existence-
some four score years and ten-
have such different soul experiences
after their separation from the body?
It’s one of the greatest puzzles in
the history of religion, philosophy
and theology. The recipies are the
specific theologies of the afterlife;
the cookbooks the Holy Writings
of the great religious traditions
and the chefs the prophetic Teachers.
4 January 1996
THIS NEW KINGDOM’S ARTICULATE SONG
Baha’i teaching\ s operate in at least three time frames that are equally important: the past, the present and the future. This triple perspective gives life and enriches meaning; these perspectives all interact; they cannot be divorced from each other, but possess a certain simultaneity of relevance. My poems detach somewhat seductively, silently, convulsively, unobtrusively, from the world and its time frames. In the process I am restored to reality, its fire and its life. In these moments I seek the death of self, the quiet centre, while I try to define my reality and world: the starry pinnacle of the commonplace and the depths of a silent and mysterious necromancy.-Ron Price with appreciation to Richard Howard and his essay on ‘John Logan’ in Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950, Atheneum, NY, 1980, pp.56-71.
Here is a poetry of a Kingdom of God,
not found, a city on the hill not achieved,
a history not understood, a theology abandoned,
a self examined in micorcosm, for it seemed
the only truth worth defining in this wilderness
with a tempest invading the remotest and fairest
regions of existence and harrowing up its souls.
For the Kingdom of God was there, is there, found
in the very heart of America, the very heart, from,
say, the time of the Korean War. The city on the
hill, too, had its foundations well-laid by then
and you could see it with its golden dome
purchased with the treasure of a precious few.
The poetry came, then, even then, trickling,
trickling, unseen, in the earliest days of this Kingdom.
A new gold, untouched by Midas’ hand, the
natural product of astrophysics’ timeless and
precious order, longed for in our delirium
and chaos, attained in history’s dread end-time
where with fire the gold is tested. Our hands
have touched this golden world, we few tenants
of a grey plain. We have eaten delicate foods
of endless significance, drank new wines,
enjoyed some fragrance of a new garden;
indeed every several atoms of existence were
made fresh for our training as we came close
to the essence of all created things.
Amidst the muddle and the mud they searched
to find the cosmos out of chaos, the radiance
of the moments, the immensity and dazzling
prospects in these transforming and bewildering
times of deranged equilibrium. It is a telling and
a told, working its worked space: now settling, now
flashing by. Its vain meat of will does not nourish.
How long will it be before that thin feast speeds on
to see the dawn of this new Kingdom’s articulate song
which touches with gold that inward world with some-
thing powerful, mighty, self-subsisting, unfurled?
18 February 1996
SECULAR PRIESTS AND HETERODOXY
The Hidden Words is a "dynamic spiritual leven cast into the life of the world for the reorientation of the minds of men, the edification of their souls and the rectification of their conduct." It was revealed just as the institution of literary criticism, in Anglo-American culture, was being launched. In 1857, a few months before this revelation, a revelation which was part of the most rapid and extensive outpouring in the entire Adamic cycle, Matthew Arnold, the first non-cleric, was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford. -Ron Price with thanks to Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, USA, 1944, p.140; and Frank D. McConnell, "Will Deconstruction be the Death of Literature?", WQ Winter, 1990, p.103.
...a heterodox and seemingly neglibible offshoot of the Shaykhi school.... -Shoghi Effendi, op.cit., p.xii.
...consider their opposition and persecution as the caprice of children and do not igve any importance to whatever they do... -‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West Vol.1 No.10, pp.1-2.
You1 saw the Messiah as a fully*
energetic, fully visionary poet,
someone mankind would have
to turn to to interpret life for us,
to console us, to sustain us-but
not the Messiah who had just then
descended from the Realm of Glory2,
not a heterodox and seemingly negligible
religious institution. Did you think fine words
and finer sentiments could do it, some secular
humanism and reformed Christianity could bring
about the massive influx of Truth that the world
needed? The world of literature-and its critics-went
merrily down the highway of the secular critic-priest
to personal civilization, to democratic culture and then
to deconstruction and the unity of all being in language:
literature and criticism matter---heterodoxy---covenant
breaking---matter because they clarify, define with greater
precision, the Source, the Orthodox, for That is not on trial.
22 December 1997
1Matthew Arnold heir of the romantic vision and a founder of modern criticism in literature.
2Baha’u’llah revealed His "Hidden Words" in 1958 just after Arnold was appointed to his professorship and began to develop a theology in search of objects of worship, to propagate the best that is known and thought in the world.
*A vahid(from the Persian language, meaning ‘unity’) is a poetic form I use from time to time. It consists of 19 lines of poetry and allows more amplitude than the 14 line sonnet. It is not a poetic form I have found elsewhere.