May 14, 2018

The “world of existence is a single world, although its stations are various and distinct” – including the world beyond

Your questions, however, can be answered only briefly, since there is no time for a detailed reply. The answer to the first question: the souls of the children of the Kingdom, after their separation from the body, ascend unto the realm of everlasting life. But if ye ask as to the place, know ye that the world of existence is a single world, although its stations are various and distinct. For example, the mineral life occupieth its own plane, but a mineral entity is without any awareness at all of the vegetable kingdom, and indeed, with its inner tongue denieth that there is any such kingdom. In the same way, a vegetable entity knoweth nothing of the animal world, remaining completely heedless and ignorant thereof, for the stage of the animal is higher than that of the vegetable, and the vegetable is veiled from the animal world and inwardly denieth the existence of that world—all this while animal, vegetable and mineral dwell together in the one world. In the same way the animal remaineth totally unaware of that power of the human mind which graspeth universal ideas and layeth bare the secrets of creation—so that a man who liveth in the east can make plans and arrangements for the west; can unravel mysteries; although located on the continent of Europe can discover America; although sited on the earth can lay hold of the inner realities of the stars of heaven. Of this power of discovery which belongeth to the human mind, this power which can grasp abstract and universal ideas, the animal remaineth totally ignorant, and indeed denieth its existence.

In the same way, the denizens of this earth are completely unaware of the world of the Kingdom and deny the existence thereof. They ask, for example: ‘Where is the Kingdom? Where is the Lord of the Kingdom?’ These people are even as the mineral and the vegetable, who know nothing whatever of the animal and the human realm; they see it not; they find it not. Yet the mineral and vegetable, the animal and man, are all living here together in this world of existence. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (‘Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’)

May 10, 2018

Difference between a prophet and an ordinary person

‘Abdu’l-Bahá used often to say that the difference between a prophet and an ordinary person is that the latter looks only to the present. He does not try to imagine the future victories and thereby forget the present trivial obstructions. The prophet, however, having a deep insight in the future condition of things sees his ultimate victory and does not get disheartened even though he sees a whole-sale massacre of his followers.

As Baha’is we should follow the prophet’s method. We know that the Cause will ultimately conquer and its ranks be fully united. We know that the Master’s promises will ultimately be realized, therefore why be discouraged by trivial oppositions we see on our way. We should rather add to our zeal and persist in our prayers and endeavours... 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 10 July 1926 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi; ‘Dawn of a New Day’)

May 8, 2018

Keith-Ransom-Keher – Hand of the Cause, first American Baha’i martyr, “the symbol of the unity of the East and West”

Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehler's passing is, indeed, an irretrievable loss which the Bahá'í world has come to suffer at a time when her presence in their midst was so greatly needed, not only because of her inspiring personality, but due to her intelligent, wise and energetic handling of the many and varied problems confronting the followers of the Faith in Persia. For more than one year she toiled and suffered, undismayed by the forces of darkness which so increasingly challenge the devotion and loyalty, and hamper the progress of the work, of our Persian brethren. Nothing was strong enough to sap the vitality of her faith and neither the opposition of the Government, nor the slackness and inefficiency of those with whom she had to work, could possibly discourage and dishearten her. Her faith was deep, her energy inexhaustible. And she was, indeed, fully repaid for all that she did, whether in connection with the teaching of the Message, or in regard to the consolidation of the nascent administrative institutions of the Cause in the very land of its birth.

The Guardian, fully aware of the noble gifts of her heart and mind, has given her not only the station of a martyr but that of a Hand of the Cause of God. In two telegrams addressed to the Tihran and Isfahan Assemblies he has requested our Persian friends to fix her final resting place in the vicinity of Sultanu'sh-Shuhada's grave in Isfahan.

May 2, 2018

Newly elected members of the Universal House of Justice - April 2018

The members of the Universal House of Justice are, from left to right, Paul Lample, Chuungu Malitonga, Payman Mohajer, Shahriar Razavi, Stephen Hall, Ayman Rouhani, Stephen Birkland, Juan Mora, and Praveen Mallik. The House of Justice was elected by delegates to the 12th International Baha’i Convention in Haifa.

May 1, 2018

Soul and Body

The soul of man is the sun by which his body is illumined, and from which it draweth its sustenance, and should be so regarded. 
- Baha’u’llah  (‘Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah’)

April 24, 2018

“…although divorce is permitted in Bahá'í Law, it is nevertheless condemned…”

It is, of course, important for the friends to realize that although divorce is permitted in Bahá'í Law, it is nevertheless condemned, and great efforts should be made to avoid it. It is always the hope that, during the year of patience, affection between the couple will recur and that divorce will not be necessary. Therefore, although normal social relationship between each of the partners and members of both sexes is permissible, it is quite contrary to the spirit of the teachings for either party to be courting a new partner during the year of waiting. This should be made clear to the couple and they should be exhorted to conduct themselves as Bahá'ís. However, this is not an area in which the Assembly should resort to sanctions if either or both of the pair disregard this principle. Naturally, if one of the parties conducts himself or herself in a way that is blatantly or flagrantly immoral the matter should be handled as any other similar case would be, but from your cables we understand that this is not the situation in the case at present before you. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter to a National Spiritual Assembly, February 15, 1973; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

April 20, 2018

The appearance of two contemporaneous Manifestations of God and the resulting effect

All the peoples of the world are awaiting two Manifestations, Who must be contemporaneous. This is what they all have been promised. In the Torah, the Jews are promised the Lord of Hosts and the Messiah. In the Gospel, the return of Christ and Elijah is foretold. In the religion of Muhammad, there is the promise of the Mahdi and the Messiah. The same holds true of the Zoroastrians and others, but to belabour this matter would prolong our discourse. Our meaning is that all have been promised the advent of two successive Manifestations. It has been prophesied that, through these twin Manifestations, the earth will become another earth; all existence will be renewed; the contingent world will be clothed with the robe of a new life; justice and righteousness will encompass the globe; hatred and enmity will disappear; whatever is the cause of division among peoples, races, and nations will be obliterated; and that which ensures unity, harmony, and concord will be promoted. The heedless will arise from their slumber; the blind will see; the deaf will hear; the dumb will speak; the sick will be healed; the dead will be quickened; and war will give way to peace. Enmity will be transmuted into love; the root causes of contention and strife will be eliminated; mankind will attain true felicity; this world will mirror forth the heavenly Kingdom; and the earth below will become the throne of the realm above. All nations will become one nation; all religions will become one religion; all mankind will become one family and one kindred; all the regions of the earth will become as one; racial, national, personal, linguistic, and political prejudices will be effaced and extinguished; and all will attain everlasting life under the shadow of the Lord of Hosts. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (Table talks in Akka, authenticated by ‘Abdu’l-Baha; ‘Some Answered Questions’ – 2014 revised translation by the Baha’i World Centre)

April 16, 2018

North American Baha’i community’s contributions under the guidance of the Guardian

After the passing of 'Abdu'l-Baha and under the guidance of the Guardian the Baha'is of the world witnessed with awe and admiration the North American community arising as one man to champion the Administrative Order taking shape on their own soil, to embark upon the first collective teaching plan in the annals of the Faith, to lead the entire Baha'i world in intercontinental teaching campaigns, to demonstrate with devotion their exemplary firmness in the Covenant, to extend their support and protection and relief to the oppressed followers of Baha'u'llah throughout the East and particularly in His native land, and to send forth valiant pioneers and travelling teachers to every continent of the globe. These marvellous and noble exertions, calling for the expenditure of resources almost beyond their means, paved the way for the achievement of glorious victories which synchronized with a series of world convulsions, signs of universal commotion and travail, and with repeated crises within the Faith. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a message to the friends gathered at the Baha'i International Conference in Montreal, 5 September 1982; Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986)

April 13, 2018

circa 1900: The Barracks in Akka

The eastern face of the barrack-square in Akka, with the stairway and gateway through which Baha'u'llah and the exiles first entered the prison. ('Door of Hope', by David Ruhe)

April 9, 2018

Reincarnation – an explanation by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

O thou servant of the Holy Threshold! We have read what flowed out from thy pen in thy love for God, and found the contents of thy letter most pleasing. My hope is that through the bounty of God, the breaths of the All-Merciful will at all times refresh and renew thee.

Thou didst write of reincarnation. A belief in reincarnation goeth far back into the ancient history of almost all peoples, and was held even by the philosophers of Greece, the Roman sages, the ancient Egyptians, and the great Assyrians. Nevertheless such superstitions and sayings are but absurdities in the sight of God.

The major argument of the reincarnationists was this, that according to the justice of God, each must receive his due: whenever a man is afflicted with some calamity, for example, this is because of some wrong he hath committed. But take a child that is still in its mother’s womb, the embryo but newly formed, and that child is blind, deaf, lame, defective—what sin hath such a child committed, to deserve its afflictions? They answer that, although to outward seeming the child, still in the womb, is guilty of no sin—nevertheless he perpetrated some wrong when in his previous form, and thus he came to deserve his punishment.

These individuals, however, have overlooked the following point. If creation went forward according to only one rule, how could the all-encompassing Power make Itself felt? How could the Almighty be the One Who ‘doeth as He pleaseth and ordaineth as He willeth’?

April 8, 2018

The world of dreams…

Consider thy state when asleep. Verily, I say, this phenomenon is the most mysterious of the signs of God amongst men, were they to ponder it in their hearts. Behold how the thing which thou hast seen in thy dream is, after a considerable lapse of time, fully realized. Had the world in which thou didst find thyself in thy dream been identical with the world in which thou livest, it would have been necessary for the event occurring in that dream to have transpired in this world at the very moment of its occurrence. Were it so, you yourself would have borne witness unto it. This being not the case, however, it must necessarily follow that the world in which thou livest is different and apart from that which thou hast experienced in thy dream. This latter world hath neither beginning nor end. It would be true if thou wert to contend that this same world is, as decreed by the All-Glorious and Almighty God, within thy proper self and is wrapped up within thee. It would equally be true to maintain that thy spirit, having transcended the limitations of sleep and having stripped itself of all earthly attachment, hath, by the act of God, been made to traverse a realm which lieth hidden in the innermost reality of this world. Verily I say, the creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world, and creatures apart from these creatures. In each of these worlds He hath ordained things which none can search except Himself, the All-Searching, the All-Wise. Do thou meditate on that which We have revealed unto thee, that thou mayest discover the purpose of God, thy Lord, and the Lord of all worlds. 
- Baha’u’llah  (‘Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah’)

April 4, 2018

The “worst human quality and the most great sin”

Thou hast written regarding thy aims. How blessed are these aims, especially the prevention of back-biting! I hope that you may become confirmed therein, because the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting; more especially when it emanates from the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of back-biting could be shut eternally and each one of the believers of God unsealed his tongue in the praise of the other, then the teachings of His Holiness Baha’u’llah would be spread, the hearts illumined, the spirits glorified and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity.

I hope that the believers of God will shun completely back-biting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that back-biting is the cause of the Divine wrath, to such an extent that if a person back-bites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is faultfinding. One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a Tablet to Dr. N.G. Skinner, Washington, D.C., revealed August 12, 1913, at Ramleh, Egypt; Baha’i News, no. 46, November 1930)

March 31, 2018

1877: Carmelite Monastery on Mount Carmel – Baha’u’llah revealed the Tablet of Carmel in its vicinity

In that same year [1890] Bahá'u'lláh's tent, the "Tabernacle of Glory," was raised on Mt. Carmel, "the Hill of God and His Vineyard," the home of Elijah, extolled by Isaiah as the "mountain of the Lord," to which "all nations shall flow." Four times He visited Haifa, His last visit being no less than three months long. In the course of one of these visits, when His tent was pitched in the vicinity of the Carmelite Monastery, He, the "Lord of the Vineyard," revealed the Tablet of Carmel, remarkable for its allusions and prophecies. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (‘God Passes By’)

March 29, 2018

Educational responsibilities of institutions of the Faith

The challenge you face in helping the friends in your community to understand the Bahá’í teachings and to apply them in their lives, as the forces of materialism continue to grow in strength, is appreciated by the Universal House of Justice. … As the letter makes clear, the issues involved can best be considered in light of the relationships that the Administrative Order seeks to forge among the individual, the institutions, and the community. While responsibility for adhering to the Bahá’í standard rests primarily on the individual believer, it is incumbent upon the institutions of the Faith to support the individual, largely through educational endeavours, and to foster a pattern of community life that is conducive to the spiritual upliftment of its members. It is understood, of course, that in the assumption of these and other sacred duties, Bahá’í institutions may find it necessary at times to take specific action as a means of protecting the community and the integrity of Bahá’í law.

In discharging their educational responsibilities towards the body of the believers, the institutions of the Faith need to bear in mind how little is accomplished when their efforts are reduced to repeated admonitions or to dogmatic instruction in proper conduct. Rather should their aim be to raise consciousness and to increase understanding. Theirs is not the duty to pry into personal lives or to impose Bahá’í law on the individual but to create an environment in which the friends eagerly arise to fulfil their obligations as followers of Bahá’u’lláh, to uphold His law, and to align their lives with His teachings. The efforts of the institutions will bear fruit to the extent that the friends, especially those of the younger generation, find themselves immersed in the activities of a vibrant and growing community and feel confirmed in the mission with which Bahá’u’lláh has entrusted them.
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated April 23, 2013, to a National Spiritual Assembly)

March 26, 2018

The “sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world”

That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth, and all else naught but error. Each time that Most Mighty Instrument hath come, and that Light shone forth from the Ancient Dayspring, He was withheld by ignorant physicians who, even as clouds, interposed themselves between Him and the world. It failed, therefore, to recover, and its sickness hath persisted until this day. They indeed were powerless to protect it, or to effect a cure, whilst He Who hath been the Manifestation of Power amongst men was withheld from achieving His purpose, by reason of what the hands of the ignorant physicians have wrought. 
- Baha'u'llah  (Tablet to Queen Victoria, Suriy-i-Haykal [Tablet of Temple]; ‘The Summons of the Lord of Hosts’)

March 22, 2018

Prayer for “representatives of the people” to say as each directs himself/herself to fulfil their duties

And if any one of them directeth himself towards the Assembly, let him turn his eyes unto the Supreme Horizon, and say:

O my God! I ask Thee, by Thy most glorious Name, to aid me in that which will cause the affairs of Thy servants to prosper, and Thy cities to flourish. Thou, indeed, hast power over all things! 
- Baha'u'llah  (Tablet to Queen Victoria, Suriy-i-Haykal [Tablet of Temple]; ‘The Summons of the Lord of Hosts’)

March 20, 2018

Worlds of God

As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise… Verily I say, the creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world, and creatures apart from these creatures. In each of these worlds He hath ordained things which none can search except Himself, the All-Searching, the All-Wise. 
- Baha’u’llah  (‘Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah’)

March 19, 2018

The beginning of creation…

As regards thine assertions about the beginning of creation, this is a matter on which conceptions vary by reason of the divergences in men’s thoughts and opinions. Wert thou to assert that it hath ever existed and shall continue to exist, it would be true; or wert thou to affirm the same concept as is mentioned in the sacred Scriptures, no doubt would there be about it, for it hath been revealed by God, the Lord of the worlds. Indeed He was a hidden treasure. This is a station that can never be described nor even alluded to. And in the station of ‘I did wish to make Myself known’, God was, and His creation had ever existed beneath His shelter from the beginning that hath no beginning, apart from its being preceded by a Firstness which cannot be regarded as firstness and originated by a Cause inscrutable even unto all men of learning.

That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different. Thus doth the Great Announcement inform thee about this glorious structure. Such as communicate the generating influence and such as receive its impact are indeed created through the irresistible Word of God which is the Cause of the entire creation, while all else besides His Word are but the creatures and the effects thereof. Verily thy Lord is the Expounder, the All-Wise. 
- Baha’u’llah  (‘Tablets of Baha’u’llah revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas’)

March 16, 2018

Not to make “the slightest distinction between friend and stranger, believer and unbeliever, supporter and antagonist”

[Baha'is] should have the most scrupulous regard to safeguarding the legitimate personal and civil rights of all individuals, whatever may be their chosen career or station in life, and irrespective of their racial, religious or ideological backgrounds. It is not permissible in matters related to such rights to make distinctions and disctiminations or show preferences. In all transactions and dealings that affect basic human rights, the standard required of the chosen supporters of Baha’u’llah - a standard that must claim their unhesitating and unreserved acceptance, and which they must meticulously and assiduously uphold - is that they should not make the slightest distinction between friend and stranger, believer and unbeliever, supporter and antagonist. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (Translation of a letter to the Baha'is of Iran, July, 1925, included in an article titled: ‘Human Rights Discourses: A Baha’i Perspective’, by Matthew Weinberg; ‘The Baha’i World 1996-1997’)

March 12, 2018

Power of the Holy Spirit working through the soul of a human being

By the power of the Holy Spirit, working through his soul, man is able to perceive the Divine reality of things. All great works of art and science are witnesses to this power of the Spirit. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a talk, Nov. 9, 1911, ‘Paris Talks’)

March 10, 2018

We are called upon to “shine a light that can illuminate the way and offer assurance to the anxious, hope to the despairing.”

The obligations that must be met by the company of the faithful are made the more pressing by the confusion, distrust, and cloudiness in the world. Indeed, the friends should use every opportunity to shine a light that can illuminate the way and offer assurance to the anxious, hope to the despairing. We are reminded of the counsel given by the Guardian to one Bahá’í community in words that seem intended for our own time: “As the fabric of present-day society heaves and cracks under the strain and stress of portentous events and calamities, as the fissures, accentuating the cleavage separating nation from nation, class from class, race from race, and creed from creed, multiply, the prosecutors of the Plan must evince a still greater cohesion in their spiritual lives and administrative activities, and demonstrate a higher standard of concerted effort, of mutual assistance, and of harmonious development in their collective enterprises.” Always emphasizing the spiritual significance of the work of the Faith and the singleminded resolve with which the believers are to discharge their sacred duties, Shoghi Effendi warned too against having any share in political controversies, entanglements, and bickerings. “Let them rise above all particularism and partisanship,” he urged on another occasion, “above the vain disputes, the petty calculations, the transient passions that agitate the face, and engage the attention, of a changing world.” These are the inevitable foam and spray cast up as wave after wave convulses a turbulent and divided society. Too much is at stake to be occupied with distractions of this kind. As every follower of Bahá’u’lláh knows well, humanity’s ultimate well-being is dependent upon its differences being transcended and its unity firmly established. Every contribution Bahá’ís make to the life of their society is aimed at fostering unity; every community-building endeavour is directed towards the same end. For those tired of contention, the communities growing under the shadow of the Greatest Name offer a potent example of what unity can achieve. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (Ridvan 2017)

March 7, 2018

Baha’i fasting period: “essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation”

The fasting period, which lasts nineteen days starting as a rule from the second of March every year and ending on the twentieth of the same month, involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset. It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.  
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, January 10, 1936; Lights of Guidance)

March 6, 2018

Baha’i “Fasting is a symbol”

Fasting is a symbol. Fasting signifies abstinence from lust. Physical fasting is a symbol of that abstinence, and is a reminder; that is, just as a person abstains from physical appetites, he is to abstain from self-appetites and self-desires. But mere abstention from food has no effect on the spirit. It is only a symbol, a reminder. Otherwise it is of no importance. Fasting for this purpose does not mean entire abstinence from food. The golden rule as to food is, do not take too much or too little. Moderation is necessary. 
- 'Abdu'l-Baha  (Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by Miss E. S. Stevens in Fortnightly Review, June 1911; included in ‘Baha'u'llah and the New Era', by Dr. J.E. Esslemont; Star of the West, vol. 3, no. 6, June 24, 1917)