Meditations

Talisman messages of January to December 2000

Date: Fri Dec 17, 1999 10:45 am
Subject: Re: friday's quote

Dear Astrofix

Thank you for sending along the poem from Ruhiyyih Khanum. I had read it before, but was interested to read it again, in the light of what Bahu has to say and my understanding of it.

Just recently had been thinking about faith and love and was delighted when I discovered this poem last night. I was particularly struck that Bahu said people openly asked for faith but were ashamed of love. This is my experience too. I think this describes Baha'i culture. We will talk openly about our faith in Baha'u'llah but it's not usual for a person to express their love for him. I don't know about your community gatherings, but here it would take an extremely courageous person to speak openly about love as part of their religious experience. It's not socially sanctioned, not that it's banned so much as not done. I have thought this behaviour a Western thing, but here is Bahu saying exactly the same thing about his culture (Pakistan: 17th century). So, I guess it's a spiritual rather than a cultural thing. And that to zoom in on the delicate part of ourselves and find our humanity is the journey of all humans.

I liked the way Ruhiyyih Khanum captured the fact that love transforms our vision. She describes how those with faith see beauty in the seemingly mundane: jewels in stones, trees in sticks and so forth. For me, this captures the difference between a person who just has faith, and one whose faith is based on love. Love transforms vision and enables a person to see the hidden in the manifest. When we look at something with the eye of love, we see its potential. We relate to it from the point of view of both what it is and what we can see it will be. Those who don't see it with the eye of love, see only the manifest and don't believe in its special hidden powers. So faith is blind without love, for love provides vision and guides the way. In the valley of bewilderment, all we have is the fact that we love. If that goes, we are left with a meaningless faith.

I think the Baha'i community has lost its way and is now running on blind faith; I can see this from the fact that there is no love expressed at gatherings. The Baha'is desperately seek guidance, but look for it outside themselves in the form of House letters. They see the outer form of the faith - the administration - and mistake it for the Faith. And I think that the latest message from the House (which was shared on Talisman) is evidence for this too. The language is business-based; what few references there are to love come across to me as decoration. As Mark C so eloquently said in his latest message, when he get got away from the community, he found his love for Baha'u'llah! Same's true for me. I know the Baha'is genuinely believe they love the Faith when they are caught up in their community activities, but the concentration on administration and growth, and silence on devotional life and the mystic relationship between God and the believer, makes the current manifestation of Baha'i life sterile to me. I think the House would do well to listen to this.

[If you're wondering how a Friday quote ended up on Talisman on Wednesday, it's because Alison really believed yesterday was Friday. :-) She even took Bahu out for dinner last night, thinking it was a Friday night! Of course, it was Thursday, and today is Friday, which she found out when Steve told her today wasn't Saturday!]

Alison

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Who is writing the future?
Those who are reading their book.


Date: Sun Dec 19, 1999 8:29 pm
Subject: love is a sanctuary

Dear Astrofix

Wow, what a challenge! Explain love! I've been thinking about it all day, wondering how I might approach it and then it occured to me while pulling weeds around my roses that I would say that love is a sanctuary and hang it on this quote:

"Say: O concourse of monks! Seclude not yourselves in your churches and cloisters. Come ye out of them by My leave, and busy, then, yourselves with what will profit you and others. Thus commandeth you He Who is the Lord of the Day of Reckoning. Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, truly, is the seclusion that befitteth you, could ye but know it.He that secludeth himself in his house is indeed as one dead." (Baha'u'llah: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Page: 49)

Baha'u'llah is telling the monks that if they want to get away from the world and get close to God, they won't achieve this by means of a physical seclusion. Rather they need to attend to the condition of their hearts. They need to live in love within their own beings, they need to seclude themselves within their attachment to God within themselves. Secluding yourself in your house is silly, we must live in the house of the love of God within ourselves. Our being is the house in which we should lock ourselves up and in that house we build a refuge on the love of God.

The idea that the love of God is a stronghold in which we seclude ourselves indicates that it is our place of protection. This is a trick of perception and it takes lots of practice but if we look to Baha'u'llah's example, he was the whole of his life surrounded by enemies and his life was always in danger. How did he survive, stay calm and write things that indicate that he felt totally protected? Because he was secluding himself in the love of God. He and His Beloved were together in his heart and he never left that beautiful place inside himself.

We need to find that place of love inside ourselves and then learn to live there. We have instructions from Baha'u'llah on how to get there. He says that his first counsel is to possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart. And then tells us that in doing so we gain an ancient, imperishable and everlasting sovereignty. You see, that place is powerful beyond our imaginations; certainly it is more powerful than anything in the physical world. Which is why Baha'u'llah was not phased by what was going on around him. Sure, he had plenty to say about it, but deep down there in his heart, he kept safe inside his sanctuary.

There are plenty of references to the idea that love is a sanctuary in the Hidden Words. "My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish." (Arabic: no 9) "Thou art My stronghold; enter therein that thou mayest abide in safety. My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find Me near unto thee." (Arabic: no 10)

An important thing to remember is that love is One. The Sufis and the Baha'is talk about the four loves: God - God; God - creation; creation - creation; and creation - God. Abdu'l-Baha tells us in his Commentary on the Hidden Treasure that there is another one: the love we feel for ourselves. Yes, if we manifest the attributes of God, then it stands to reason that we will love ourselves for we will see God in us. The important thing about these five loves is that they are One. This can seem confusing. For example, Baha'u'llah tells us in the Hidden Words that we can only have the love for him in our hearts - you know, friend and foe cannot abide within the one heart. We think this means we cannot love people, we must love God. But no. The various objects of love in our lives are like the many manifestations. For example, there are a number of manifestations, but what we are asked to do is to look at them from the point of view of their One Reality. They all come from the One Source; they are all the signs of the One Sun; they are all One in that they all preach and represent the One Cause. Well, same's true of the many objects of love in our lives. Whether it be the various people that we love, with varying intensities and in varying situations, or our love for God or for Baha'u'llah or for the House of Justice, they are all manifestations of the One Love in our hearts. From a subjective point of view, they all take us to that sanctuary of the love of God in our hearts.

So what does Baha'u'llah mean when he says to cast out the foe? I think he means the foe to be anything or anyone that attracts us away from that Sanctuary. He wants us to abide in His Sanctuary, he asks us not to stray. But we get ourselves into tangles with the world and we forget that beautiful place inside us - that place of rest and comfort, where everything is perfect and wonderful and we feel invincible and like anything is possible. You see, Baha'u'llah assures us that nothing can befall us except what we he allows. We on the other hand, don't trust him or want to possess something he hasn't ordained for us or have something happen that he hasn't ordained. We try to manage reality so that our desires our realised. This is complex. I won't get into the difference between love and selfish desire. (I haven't thought it through enough yet.) Subjectively, the two can feel the same. The important thing is to acquire the pure, kindly and radiant qualities. It could be said that the wayfarer's journey is about turning selfish desire into love. A person may selfishly desire something, but for that person at that time, it's the best 'love' he or she can manifest. Over time, that emotion can grow into a more mature expression of love.

Anyway, another very important thing is the relationship between love and the covenant. You see, I would argue that the Sanctuary is the Covenant. So when Baha'u'llah talks about faithfulness to the Covenant, he means our faithfulness to that beautiful place inside our hearts where the love of God should reign. The Covenant is that thing that God placed in us in pre-existence when we accepted God as our Lord. "Say: O people, be faithful to the covenant of God, and break not the pact to which you swore in the world of preexistence, in the presence of God, the Mighty, the Glorious, the All-Knowing." (Baha'u'llah: The Garden of Justice) We know from the Hidden Word, that the pact we agreed to then included three things:

"O MY FRIENDS! Have ye forgotten that true and radiant morn, when in those hallowed and blessed surroundings ye were all gathered in My presence beneath the shade of the tree of life, which is planted in the all-glorious paradise? Awe-struck ye listened as I gave utterance to these three most holy words: O friends! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings. Would ye but sanctify your souls, ye would at this present hour recall that place and those surroundings, and the truth of My utterance should be made evident unto all of you." (Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, Page: 19)

1. Prefer not your will to Mine.
2. Never desire what God did not desire for us.
3. Never approach God with a lifeless heart.

If we go back and examine the things that would draw us away from the Sanctuary - you'll recall I said that we move out of our Sanctuary because we don't trust that Baha'u'llah will provide for us. We start to freik out in our hearts, we experience fear or whatever, or we try to possess what he hasn't ordained or to have happen what he hasn't ordained. Or maybe, we simply go to sleep! and close ourselves off to love because we want a quiet life. You see, the very same things take us out of our Sanctuary as are listed as articles of the Covenant.

And finally, one more important thing. Detachment. We think the subjective experience of detachment is emotional cut-off. You know, we can get into a state in our heads where our intellect reigns over our heart and we don't feel anything. This might be the general state for intellectual pursuits. A person in this state is not necessarily detached. Detachment is not defined by this state. Detachment is detachment from the world, and the world, Baha'u'lah tells us, is anything that gets between us and God. In other words, the world is the foe, it is anyone or anything that takes us out of our Sanctuary. A detached person is a person who lives in the Sanctuary, they are faithful to the Covenant. Now, such a person may be operating in what I call "intellectual mode", but this in itself does not define his or her detachment. Such a person is detached because nothing in the world can drag that person from the Sanctuary. This has consequences for consultation. We tend to consult in "intellectual mode", but Baha'u'llah tells us that the heaven of divine wisdom is adorned by both consultation *and compassion*. There is an emotional component: our hearts must be in their Sanctuaries.

I think that's all I wanted to say. :-)

Alison


Date: Tue Dec 28, 1999 8:24 am
Subject: Re: Prayer Power

Dear Astrofix

I agree about the power of prayer. I have always loved `Abdu'l-Baha's statement that if we want something, we should turn to God for it and to no one else:

22. O thou who art turning thy face towards God! Close thine eyes to all things else, and open them to the realm of the All-Glorious. Ask whatsoever thou wishest of Him alone; seek whatsoever thou seekest from Him alone. With a look He granteth a hundred thousand hopes, with a glance He healeth a hundred thousand incurable ills, with a nod He layeth balm on every wound, with a glimpse He freeth the hearts from the shackles of grief. He doeth as He doeth, and what recourse have we? He carrieth out His Will, He ordaineth what He pleaseth. Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All-Merciful Lord. (`Abdu'l-Baha: Selections ... `Abdu'l-Baha, Page: 51)

I agree with Star that a combination of material and spiritual means is required. But how do these work together? I hear `Abdu'l-Baha saying that we turn to God and He provides all, including the money. He doeth whatsoever he willeth, and without His blessing we can kiss goodbye to the material means to do anything.

But this is not an intellectual thing. I didn't come to truly appreciate what this meant until I made the decision in March 1998 to pray in a committed fashion. I was deeply affected by the fact that prayer and the devotional life were undervalued in the Baha'i community and eventually decided that I would act alone to find my "place of worship" inside myself. I began regularly going to a church that was near to my work so that I could say my obligatory prayer and beg Baha'u'llah to grant my wishes. There were things I yearned for, so I got down and began pleading. At the time, I had what I thought were a number of pipe dreams. But after six months, they had all been granted me and I was struggling for things to wish for. My way of seeing God was completely turned around. Now I saw God's power, wealth and bounty. I no longer saw God as one who wants to deprive me. God became the one who stood at the forefront of my dreams shining a light ahead so that I could find the path. My dreams got wilder and wilder and as a result, life got more and more exciting and I realised that there was no limit to that process. That's how big God is! This is my experience of the power of prayer. But it's one of those things you have to experience to believe. Words could never capture how amazing it is.

Alison


Date: Wed Jan 12, 2000 9:16 pm
Subject: Re: Inner Revolution...not really but

Dear Mike

Being interested in visions myself, I was interested to read the following quote you cited from `Abdu'l-Baha and to hear that a couple of Baha'is you know have interpreted it to refer to mystical experiences:

>"Verily, I say unto thee, that if for the appearance of that Divine Essence
>thou desirest to have a definite proof, an indisputable testimony and a
>strong, convincing evidence, thou must prepare thyself to make thy heart
>empty and thine eye ready to look only toward the Kingdom of God. Then, at
>that time, the radiance of that widespread effulgence will descend upon thee
>successively, and that motion rendered thee by the Holy Spirit will make thee
>dispense with any other strong evidence that leadeth to the appearance of
>this Light, because the greatest and strongest proof for showing the
>abundance of the Spirit to the bodies is the very appearance of its power and
>influence in those bodies." Baha'i World Faith, p. 369

I think `Abdu'l-Baha is referring to more than just mystical experiences. I think he is also refering to a permanent condition that a person can be in, in which she sees God in everything and is so elevated by that perception that she finds herself wholly detached from the physical world. However, as the quote says, it is not possible to attain to it without really desiring it and purifying oneself in the process.

You say:
> I've
>heard from a couple different individuals that after purifying themselves
>they had what they described as a rotating of the soul. a spiritual
>experience from the holy spirit...
> I've never received any sort of experience like that, and I'm just
>repeating what other people have said. I'm curious if anyone on this list has
>had such experiences. if so I'd be happy if they shared them with me.

There is nothing mysterious about having visions. I know that people make a big deal about them, but if you look into what has been discovered about lucid dreaming, much of the mystique goes out of it. A lucid dream is called "lucid" because while you are experiencing the dream, you know that you are in fact dreaming. You can have a lucid dream when awake or asleep. If you go to this site, http://www.dreamgate.com/dream/resources/online97.htm, you will find a list of all sorts of things about dreaming. The links about lucid dreams tell you all about them and tell about a psychologist who has dedicated himself to studying them. He taught himself, in three years, to lucid dream at will.

My experience is that the more you pray and become attached to God, the more you experience these sorts of things. By praying and having a meaningful devotional life, your mystical experiences increase and become guides on the way. This is certainly the only way to truly understand the concept of the "houri" on a level that is not purely intellectual. It is your houri, or divine self, that you get to know and s/he appears to you in images that are familiar and meaningful to you, given where you are on your journey. This is what your friends will have experienced. They were influenced by the quote you cite and the idea of the "rotating of the soul", and so their experiences would have reflected that.

`Abdu'l-Baha left advice to those seeking to have visions. It appeared on Talisman way back in 1994! I attach the message below.

Alison

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Date: Wed, 28 Dec 1994 18:07:24 -0800 (PST)
Subject: visions...how to
To: talisman@i...

Dear friends,

Here is finally the posting re: `Abdu'l Baha's comments pertaining to visions. These are found in Baha'i Scriptures, sections 886 and 907. They have also been found in another source, but still unable to locate this....mayhaps someone with the Refer program with His writings could find this out.

"Arise and wash thy body, wear a pure gown, and, directing thyself to the Kingdom of God, supplicate and pray to HIm. Sleep in a clean, well prepared and ventilated place, and ask for appearance in the world of vision. Thou wilt have visions which will cause the doors of doubts to be closed, which will give thee new joy, wonderful dilation, brilliant glory. Thou wilt comprehend realities and meanings."

"When thou desirest and yearnest for meeting in the world of vision; at the time when thou art in perfect fragrance and spirituality, wash thy hands and face, clothe thyself in clean robes, turn toward the court of the Peerless One, offer prayer to Him and lay thy head upon the pillow. When sleep cometh, the doors of revelation shall be opened and all thy desires shall become revealed."

As I have tried these, with much trepidation, but loads of enthusiasm, i experienced a difference......the first was more conscious, the second came after waking consciousness was abandoned. They are, IMHO, both contingent upon Mercy and Grace, but then again, we are told that: "The Mercy of God preceedeth the creation of the contingent worlds."

xxx


Date: Wed Jan 12, 2000 10:05 pm
Subject: our personal houri

Dear all

There is an article on the concept of the Houri that I found very helpful. As Todd has pointed out, the concept of the Houri comes out of Zoroastrianism, and this article explains the concept in Zoroastrianism and its development through the ages right up to Baha'u'llah's use of it. The article is not difficult to read. It is called "Daena-Den-Din: The Zoroastrian Heritage of the 'Maid of Heaven' in the Tablets of Baha'u'llah" by Kamran Ekbal. It is published in "Scripture and Revelation", Baha'i Studies Volume III, edited by Moojan Momen and published by George Ronald. This article helped explain to me how the concept of the houri works in my own personal life. I will quote a passage that I found useful. Note that the passage I am quoting itself contains a long quoted passage.

Alison

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From pages 138 to 140:

"Another enchanting description of Daena and the fragrant breezes accompanying her is given in "Hadokht Nask" (Book of Scriptures), a fragment of the sacred writings of the Young Avesta:

'At the end of the third night, when the dawn appears, the soul of the righteous man seems to be among plants, and to be inhaling fragrant odors. There seems to blow towards him, from the regions of the south, a wind fragrant, more fragrant than all others. And the soul of this righteous man seems to inhale this wind with the nose, (and reflects): "Whence blows the wind, which is the most fragrant wind I ever inhaled with my nostrils?" At the approach of this wind, there appears to him his own Daena in the form of a Maiden, beautiful, radiant, white-armed, robust, fair-faced, erect, high-breasted, of stately form, noble-born, of glorious lineage, fifteen years old in appearance, as beautiful in form as he most beautiful of creatures.

And the soul of the righteous man addressed her, asking: "What damsel art thou, the most beautiful of damsels in form whom I have ever seen?" Then to him his own Daena gave answer: "O thou youth of Good Thought, Good Word, Good Deed, of Good Daena, I am the Daena of thine own self." (The youth speaks:) "And who is it that loved thee for that majesty, goodness, beauty, fragrance, victorious might, and power to overcome the foe as thou appearest unto me?"
(The Maiden answers:) "O youth of good thought, good word, good deed, of good conscience, it is thou that hast loved me for such majesty, goodness, beauty, fragrance, victorious might, and power to overcome the foe as I appear unto thee. When thou sawest another performing burning (ie of the dead) and idol-worship, and causing oppression, and cutting down trees, then thou wouldst sit down, chanting the Gathas, and sacrificing to the good waters and the fire of Ahura Mazdah, and befriending the pious man coming from near and from afar. So me, being lovable, (thou madest) still more lovable; me, being beautiful, (thou madest) still more beautiful; me, being desirable, (thou madest) still more desirable; me, sitting in a high place, (thou madest) sitting in a still higher place."'

...

The Maiden percieved in this passage is without doubt an image of the transcendental double of the soul, a reflection of the own self; she is the 'mirror' in which the righteous man contemplates his ego, and it is because he was a "youth of good thought, good word, good deed", the Maiden tells him, that she now looks so "lovable, beautiful, desirable".

In contrast to this radiant and charming Daena, and in accordance with the Gathas, where the adherents of the "Druj" (lie, falsehood) as well as the wicked spirit Angra Mainyu also possess their own daena, the image of the wicked man appears to him as an ugly and dreadful hag amidst "frosts" and "a wind foul-smelling, more foul-smelling than all others". Man's own self, thus becomes fairer or more foul with every thought and every deed.


Date: Sun Jan 16, 2000 9:15 am
Subject: Re: Arabic, the Capacious Language

Juan says:
>As for being able to say things, I believe Baha'u'llah's metaphysics and
>mystical theology, which is based in subtle Arabic technical terms from
>thinkers like Ibn `Arabi, can be much more readily understood in Arabic
>than in English translation. In fact, I think that the popularity of
>fundamentalism among English-speaking Baha'is is made possible by their
>ignorance of the symbolic and ambiguous nature of the Arabic Baha'u'llah uses.

This last sentence oughta be engraved on the brains of all Baha'is.

This is the thing about the institutes that annoys me. The material that has been produced for consumption by our national institute is awful. If I was fed that as a new Baha'i, I would not have stayed in the Faith. It is not inspiring; it is didactic in its approach, it is administration focused, its underlying message is obedience and a narrow understanding of the covenant.

The beautiful message that Baha'u'llah brought is lost in amongst this. I know that it has been important to spend the 20th century building up an administrative structure, but I feel strongly that the point of it all has been lost. We need to breath flesh back onto the bones and, I think, the only way to do this is to teach the Baha'is about Baha'u'llah's metaphysics and mystical theology. At the moment, the only people who grasp it are the scholars. Your average Baha'i has little-to-no knowledge of it. Although Ibn Arabi is difficult, I think this beast must be tackled for the sake of the Cause.

So, my feeling is that these institutes should be teaching the Baha'is about the technical Arabic terminology that Baha'u'llah uses, so that they understand the full meaning of the English translations they are reading and can grasp Baha'u'llah's mystical take on the purpose of religion. The quotes from the Guardian about the importance of understanding Islam back this conclusion up.

Alison


Date: Tue Feb 15, 2000 1:47 pm
Subject: Re: About Talisman history

Dear Martin

I have been thinking some more about your question and I thought I'd share with you some of the things that have been rattling around my head about it all. The whole unpleasant business of what happened to Talisman and the current situation in the community, which the House of Justice believes to be caused by a campaign of internal opposition, was brought back to me this past week because our community had a meeting to discuss the House's letters on the topic. I actually had not read any House letters on this matter for about two years and after sitting down to read them again after such a long time, I was amazed at what I was reading. I had changed so much culturally, spiritually and socially in that time that, in some ways, it felt like I was reading them for the first time.

The thing that was so glaringly obvious to me was the fact that these letters were expected by the House to be taken at face value by the community. After years of discussing things here on Talisman, my immediate reaction to the content of the letters was: where is your evidence? A really good example is the letter in response to an individual who had written to the House concerned about discussions that were going down on Talisman. It was this person's belief that some people on Talisman were claiming some kind of superior status over other members of the community based on their academic knowledge in Middle Eastern Studies. This person wrote to the House about this and the House wrote back explaining that such a claim would be illegitimate, which of course it would. But the question of fact, was anyone making such a claim, was fudged and eventually became a "fact" to the worldwide Baha'i community by virtue of the House mentioning this supposed claim in its response and releasing this letter to the world. So, three or so years after this person has written this letter to the House, the House's response turns up in a compilation of letters that my local community is discussing. And the context of that discussion is that there are academics trained in Middle Eastern Studies making claims to be ulama and isn't it all very terrible.

I was on Talisman at the time, and from my point of view no one ever made such a claim or implied it. At best, it was all a dreadful misunderstanding. How can I explain this to my local community? My community's way of seeing things is rooted in a literal interpretation of passages from Abdu'l-Baha's Will and Testament, which say that the House of Justice is the source of all good, freed from all error and so forth. At one point, he says "Whatsoever they decide is of God." (`Abdu'l-Baha: Will and Testament, Page: 11) Can you see my dilemma? My personal experience tells me one thing and the House says another and they must be right because Abdu'l-Baha says they are.

It is dilemmas such as these that have split the community and are at the heart of the problem. Some, like Burl, take a literal interpretation of the passage from Abdu'l-Baha and believe that absolutely everything the House says and does is of God and there are no two ways about it. When the House of Justice members get together, a spiritual phenomenon takes place that ensures that everything that results is divinely inspired. It cannot make mistakes; all the believers need to do is welcome, uncritically, everything it says and obey it without question and this is how one is a good Baha'i.

Some, like me, take a less literal interpretation of the passage from Abdu'l-Baha. The House is a legislative and administrative body and, as such, should be looked upon in much the same way as we in the West look upon our respective governments. They manage the affairs of the country, but don't make it their business to climb into the heads of its citizens. Whatever the people are thinking or saying publically is not its concern. Everyone knows that the govt is the govt and we gotta have it and everyday life and discussion takes place in this context. Taking the authority of the govt for granted like this *is* the same as saying that it is "of God"; its authority is set up and there for all time, as divinely planned. "Covenant breakers" in a civic context would be terrorists who go around bombing buildings not academics trained in foreign policy. And academics commenting on foreign policy are, yes, experts in their field, but just doing their job, not trying to be politicians.

You can see from this that there is a clash of competing paradigms. One is based on a literal interpretation of scripture, which in effect, raises everything the House says to the level of revealed scripture equal in status to that of Baha'u'llah himself, making the House a divine authority on every matter it releases a statement on. Any statement by a believer contrary to the House's is potential evidence of heresy. On this take, it makes no sense to say that the House should produce evidence for its position on things. On the other paradigm, the House's job is to administer the affairs of the Baha'i community and pass legislation where needed, but it has no business telling believers what to think and if it goes so far as to make a statement on such things as the meaning of "liberty", it has no legal authority to command believers to agree with it. Similarly, it cannot command believers to adhere to its view on the concepts of "infallibility" and "covenant". The House's statements and laws are the legitimate subject of public debate as part of civic life. If you put these two paradigms together, you get the first one beating up on the second. From the point of view of the first, everything about position two is a heresy. And I think that's what we see in the world now, Talisman9 and some other discussion groups are the hangouts for those who like paradigm two, for the Internet is the one place they can freely congregate and hold discussions. This is perceived by the first crowd as "internal opposition".

Alison


Date: Wed Feb 23, 2000 10:33 am
Subject: the nature of the manifestation

Dear Vaughn

First up, thanks for your moving introduction. I have to admit that after I read it, I had a completely different image of you than the one I had when I read your first message.

You suggest we discuss the nature of the manifestation. You say that you see the manifestation as a "higher order of creation" than ordinary human beings and you describe as "alternative" the view that the manifestation is a "human being with human failings, even if, more than anyone else in the 19th century, he let through the divine light by being a selfless window on it." Your characterisation of the second view betrays your assumption that you are right and the other view wrong and I pick up from the your message that you believe this alternative view to be a perversion of the writings.

When Baha'u'llah was alive, the believers had an argument about whether Baha'u'llah was God or not. His response to this was to say that both positions were right and he forbade the believers from arguing over such matters. Differences of opinion on issues such as this, he said, were a reflection of different spiritual stations. On this basis, you cannot claim that your view is right and another's view is wrong. It is just that you are in a different place spiritually than someone who has a different view to you.

Moreover, not only can you not say a person's view is wrong, you also cannot stand in judgement over it, on the basis that your view accords exactly with Baha'u'llah's, and accuse another of perverting the writings. It is not that a particular view of the manifestation is a perversion, but rather, that the claim to be right and to have the right to stand in judgement over others is a perversion.

You see, Baha'u'llah teaches us that God and the manifestation for that matter are beyond our comprehension. This means that whatever any of us believe about them is wrong and always will be. Your views, my views, the House's views are all wrong. This is the most great leveler; by virtue of this fact, no one can claim the right to make judgements over another. It is by understanding this that tolerance and unity are realised. Unity is not brought about by each of us trying to manipulate the other with the goal that we will all one day subscribe to the same view; it is brought about by us all focusing entirely on a God that transcends us all and by virtue of this being tolerant of each other's experience of that Being.

Alison

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LXXXIV. Regard thou the one true God as One Who is apart from, and immeasurably exalted above, all created things. The whole universe reflecteth His glory, while He is Himself independent of, and transcendeth His creatures. This is the true meaning of Divine unity. He Who is the Eternal Truth is the one Power Who exerciseth undisputed sovereignty over the world of being, Whose image is reflected in the mirror of the entire creation. All existence is dependent upon Him, and from Him is derived the source of the sustenance of all things. This is what is meant by Divine unity; this is its fundamental principle.
(Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 166)


Date: Fri Feb 25, 2000 6:30 pm
Subject: love and knowledge

At 16:24 21/02/00 -0000, you wrote:
>I think the idea of "veils of glory" relates to that of there being
>spiritual stations. Something that might be helpful, or even
>necessary at one stage of spiritual development, could become an
>obstacle to moving on to the next. As Baha'u'llah quoted in the
>Seven Valleys: "Love is a veil between lover and beloved".
>Knowledge is also sometimes referred to as a "veil". Now, love and
>knowledge are essential things to the seeker, but there must come a
>point along the spiritual Path where even these divine attributes
>become a distraction -- veils to reality.

Dear Karen

I've thought hard about this one. I am the sort of person for whom love is the dominant emotion and experience. I fell into a panic sometime last year thinking that maybe one day I would have to abandon love and move to something higher, using the exact same argument that you put forward here. I used to wonder what the quote from Rumi meant. But I didn't want to abandon love because it was so good! But then I found a couple of other quotes that made me abandon my worries. The first is the one from the Bab, which I have quoted here before, but will again anyway (can never get enough of a good thing):

"So Love, Lover, lover and Beloved are four signs issuing from the self-manifestation of the family of God in you and in your soul. Whenever these four signs are remembered within you and your heart is illumined, and your soul stirred, and your spirit moved and your body quakes with longing, then at that time you are truly among the people of paradise and the companions of the Commander of the Faithful, upon him be peace. At that time you are upon the true religion and the true balance and the obvious and clear path. Above this station there is no good. Thus one ascends into the abode of God. There is no end to the love of God and no finish. This is the Axis of the search." The Bab, in his "Journey towards God"

Isn't that wonderful? Well, it is for me. The true religion is sitting around being full of it! Nothing else; chuck out all the rest, it's just white noise. Never mind the House, never mind the dogma, never mind the Baha'i community, never mind what's going on in your life, never mind the physical world, never mind the spiritual world, never mind anything, just be full of it!

And the other quote is from Baha'u'llah (I've posted this one already on Talisman a couple of times too):

"Then know that your love for God is God's good-pleasure with you and your good-pleasure with him. This is the religious path that was ordained by the right hand of God's wisdom, and it shall not change with a change of prophets, nor is it renewed by the advent of a new messenger. Rather, all enjoin this upon the people, and it is a trust of God deposited in the hearts of the sincere. This is what suffices you above all else." -- Baha'u'llah: City of Radiant Acquiescence

So, on the basis of these two quotes, I decided that it was impossible to get beyond love. Also, I believe that that place of love inside us that the Bab and Baha'u'llah refer to is the place where love and knowledge intersect and become the same thing. So, in this sense, we never get beyond knowledge either. Rather, as the Bab says, we just go deeper and deeper into God's love and knowledge into infinity. But the important thing is find the axis of this love inside us, the place beyond which there is no good, so that we can live forever at home.

Alison


Date: Sun Feb 27, 2000 6:02 pm
Subject: Re: On Reality

Dear Juan and Karen and anyone else listening

Illusions: have been thinking about what an illusion is. I really like Shaykh Ahmad's example of identity as an illusion. I think he has hit on a fundamental one there. In Western society, you are defined by what you do. The first thing a person will say to get to know you is "what do you do?". So the role one plays in one's work is often the thing that defines our identity. There is a classic example of this in the TV programme Ballykissangel (set in Ireland, probably doesn't screen in the States). For several series, the tension of the story is created by the main character, a priest who falls in love with a local woman. The tension builds until finally, driven out of his mind with love, he confesses to her that being a priest is just a party piece and the real him is this inner all-consuming attraction that dominates his being. In fact, he'd found religion at last, and discovered that his identity as a priest was just a show. In other words, he effaced the illusion of "priest" and awakened what was known in him.

I think another illusion is physical proximity. Again, we are socialised to think that the people we are closest to are the ones with whom we have physical contact. Often, relationships depend completely on physical contact, and if that is removed, it is revealed that there is no relationship there whatsoever. It was an illusion. I can remember as a child attending family gatherings, such as Christmas celebrations, and looking around at everyone and wondering why they turned up. We were physically proximate and identified as 'family', but from the way we behaved, we were actually quite bored with each other, I think. We assumed that gathering together like that was a demonstration of how to be close. Subsequently, when I became a Baha'i, I considered the local Baha'is to be my family. Now that I am on the net, I consider my family to consist of mostly people I have no physical contact with whatsoever. My family subsists in the spiritual world of cyberspace and when I die those relationships will continue in the next world. In fact, Baha'u'llah says that "Spiritual closeness is prior to and more near than physical proximity". So, by effacing the illusion of physical proximity, we awake the real closeness of our soul for others like it.

Alison


Date: Wed Mar 1, 2000 8:45 am
Subject: Re: reality

Karen and Juan

A week or two ago, I was sitting up in bed thinking hard about what 'Ali could have meant by the "veils of glory" line, when it occurred to me to ask Baha'u'llah to give me a dream that would make me know. Well, nothing happened and I forgot that I had asked, until the night before last when I dreamed about the line after that, the one about illusions and uncovering Reality inside.

Interestingly, the dream was set up around the teacher/student relationship, just as the hadith is. I was still at school, and was on my way to see my physical education teacher. I was aware that I was dressed in everyday clothes, not sports-related clothes, because I couldn't bring myself to put such clothes on, such was my hatred of running. I loathed running and no one was going to force me to do it. I was not a sporty person, I was saying to myself, which is in fact how I've always seen myself in real life. (This is the illusion of identity, here.) I expected to be punished for not wearing the right clothes, but was prepared to live through any punishment, if it meant not having to run. It seems we were expected to run a marathon.

When I arrived at his office, there were a number of other students lined up to see him. All girls. As I entered his office, I turned to them and made smart remarks under my breath about him and sport, which contained innuendo that made the others giggle. I thought I was smart, but knew I was sailing close to the wind. When I turned around, the teacher eye-balled me and asked me if my remarks were designed to mock him. I decided the best option was to remain silent and didn't answer. After a period of thick silence, I eventually said: "I am afraid of you because I don't want to run." The honesty of this statement changed his demeanour and he revealed his true self. He started to speak to me in a very compassionate voice, one that I knew meant he cared for me in an ultimate way. In fact, he reflected God to me. When he started speaking, I registered that I was lying flat on the floor with my forehead to the ground. My body had naturally prostrated itself when it recognised the divinity in the person whose presence I was in. He said to me: "What if I tell you that you can win the marathon without my ever having to teach you how to run?" This option appealed to me greatly. "I will teach you how to completely erase the image you have that you cannot run and replace it with an image that you can do anything", he said. I realised then that "running" was a metaphor for my illusion that there are things I cannot do. And my mind was immediately filled with an image of my true reality and I saw that all things were possible. I got up and left the room.

When I woke up, I realised that the teacher was the embodiment of my higher self, and that I'd had a conversation with my higher self in much the same way that Kumayl does with 'Ali. I remembered Karen saying that she didn't think chatting up inside one's self would create tension, but all I can say is, try it! It does! Our higher self is an 'other' as well as being a reflection of us. It is very difficult to accept our true reality, for the simple reason that it is so good.

Alison


Date: Thu Mar 2, 2000 8:34 am
Subject: Re: Re principle for religious decison?

Thanks to Juan for explaining Kohlberg's theory of ethical stages. I missed the discussion on Talisman I about them and never figured out exactly how they worked.

All this talk about killing for absolute authority takes me back to the following Hidden Word:

"O SON OF SPIRIT! Know thou of a truth: He that biddeth men be just and himself committeth iniquity is not of Me, even though he bear My name." (Baha'u'llah: Arabic Hidden Words, Page: 28)

This says to me that the principle of justice is above authority. In other words, no matter who tries to put something onto you, *even if he bears my name*, if he is not just (asks you to commit murder), then he is not of Baha'.

On Kohlberg's analysis, Baha'u'llah is enjoining us to go beyond level 4, which would be to focus on the name Baha', and reason on the level of principle.

If it's the case that only 5% of the population can reason beyond 4, then only 5% can do as Baha'u'llah asks!

And on a related, but slightly different matter, Juan brought up the question, "what is justice?", and suggested it was about using our own eyes and ears. While reading through the Hidden Words the other day, I noticed that this favourite of mine is actually addressed, "O Son of Justice":

"O SON OF JUSTICE! Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart's desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved." (Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, Page: 4)

I take from this that justice is about our personal journey to God and, as such, justice protects that journey and ensures that it is unfettered. This is probably another way of saying that justice is using our own eyes and ears. The Hidden Word made me think that Baha'u'llah was (on one reading) addressing the rulers, both religious and civil, and alerting them to the fact that their servants are seeking spiritual reunion and that it is the rulers' responsibility to make sure the servants are allowed to get on with the job.

Alison


Date: Fri Mar 24, 2000 8:30 am
Subject: review as censorship

In early 1998, I was approached by the editors of the Baha'i Studies Review (ABS-ESE) and asked to write a review of two volumes of The Baha'i World. I spent the next several months reading the volumes and putting together the review. I approached the exercise in much the same way as I do when my company is asked to review publications for organisations. The review passed without comment the first vetting process, in which the item is read by a group of peer reviewers, and was then sent to the association's institutional panel for review. Its members had a number of difficulties with the review. The editors made various changes to the text in order to accommodate the panel's concerns, but the panel was nevertheless unable to come to a decision and so the editors appealed to the UK NSA for a final decision. The NSA sent the review to the House of Justice, who decided that it would be "inadvisable" to publish the review because of its generally critical tone.

I have posted the book review in a second e-mail message. The message I relieved from the secretary of the ABS ESE states:

--

As you might have guessed with our long delay in getting back to you, we have had many discussions with the UK Bahá'í reviewing panel about your book review. Unfortunately, the piece did not pass institutional review. The UK reviewing panel was unable to make a decision. They referred the matter to the UK NSA, who, in turn, sought advice from the Universal House of Justice.

In a letter to the National Spiritual Assembly dated 22 August 1999, the Department of the Secretariat replied that the publication of your review was considered inadvisable, because of the generally critical tone.

Since then, the executive committee of the Association for Bahá'í Studies-ESE has further reflected on the implications of this decision. The committee is aware that Bahá'í scholarship is a developing field and striking the right tone and balance when critically reviewing any publication is one of its more difficult challenges.

---

Although the letter says that the issue is a general one of criticising any publication, we need only open any issue of the Baha'i Studies Review to find book reviews equally as critical about publications not produced by the World Centre. This decision shows just how sensitive the House of Justice is to criticism of its own publications. The review is critical, yes, but it is constructive, containing practical suggestions as to how the publication might be improved. In my work, I am *paid* by companies to give them this sort of feedback.

To me, this decision is a good example of how review acts as censorship. Baha'i review is used by the Baha'i administration to further its own agenda. This agenda is focussed on creating and maintaining a particular public image, which can be gleaned from The Baha'i Worlds themselves. The administration will not tolerate any speech that might blemish that carefully crafted persona. The Baha's Studies Associations are not independent of the Baha'i organisation and therefore cannot publish any material contrary to these purposes.

As we can see from the above letter, the Baha'i administration assumes the right to define "scholarship" for its members and to set it within very narrow parameters, placing emphasis on intangibles like tone. This decision highlights the fact that those parameters are used to serve the purposes of the administration, but are masked here as objective criteria for acceptable scholarship.

Alison


Date: Tue Mar 28, 2000 1:07 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Overreaction squanders credibility/legitimacy

Dear Paul

I think your point is spot on. The fact that this decision is obviously silly and it has been made by the House seriously damages the House's credibility. If it keeps up with this sort of thing, it is going to end up the laughing stock of thinking people. But as you say, if a person is socialised into believing that the House is right no matter what it decides, then you are not going to see the writing on the wall.

From what I can see, current Baha'i thinking (not supported by the writings) seems to assume that what the West has to offer humanity in the form of critical thinking, rule of law, human rights and so forth is not a part of Baha'u'llah's Revelation, but constitutes an evil, irreligious (material) influence. The community hasn't yet seen that the Cause is manifesting itself in the world in these so-called evil things as much as in the Baha'i community, and that these Western contributions have a very important role to play in the long-term shaping of the Baha'i community. I think the mistake of vision that we have made is to assume that the Baha'i community, through reading its scripture, would simply embrace these influences as Abdu'l-Baha encouraged it to. But it looks to me like the Western contributions will eventually be absorbed into the community only as a result of a battle against them. I refer to the fact that when two parties war, they end up being influenced profoundly by each other.

This process makes me think of Sen's "Theology of the state from the Baha'i Teachings", where he argues that "Religious institutions have no monopoly on the sacred." Civil government, the scientific community and so forth are all bearers of the Revelation. To me, this means that they will discipline the Baha'i community and have the authority from Baha'u'llah to do so. The Baha'is are going to have to bury their egos and accept it.

Alison


Date: Thu Mar 30, 2000 3:33 am
Subject: removal from membership

Well, my dear friends, I write to tell you that the House has asked my National Assembly to remove my name from the New Zealand Baha'i community membership list. As you will see from the letter below, they have decided that over the last 2-3 years my statements, behaviour and attitude have not met the requirements of membership. I can only conclude that the decision is based largely on my Talisman messages, for that is the only place I have lived over that time.

I want to make it clear that I am not upset about this decision at all. In 1998 I had a dream about my mystical death and described it on Talisman. Since then, it was in the back of my mind that I was preparing for this day. And now that it has come, I feel deeply honoured. The reality is that I am a nobody; what do I have to give that is worthy of my beloved? A registration card? If I had a thousand cards, I would gladly give them up. But Baha'u'llah has accepted this small token for my sake and I am overwhelmed by his kindness. Surely, the House has acted as God has instructed it to, and I thank them for playing their part that I might be so blessed.

Alison

-----------------

NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY OF THE BAHA'IS OF NEW ZEALAND

EMAIL MESSAGE (CONFIRMATORY COPY TO FOLLOW)

28 March 2000 Our Ref: 2/10/156

Dear Mrs Marshall,

The Universal House of Justice has advised us of its conclusion that, on the basis of an established pattern of statements by you and behaviour and attitude on your part over the past two or three years, you cannot properly be considered as meeting the requirements of membership in the Baha'i community. Accordingly, we have removed your name from our membership rolls and have informed the Baha'i institutions concerned.

Sincerely
NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY
OF THE BAHA'IS OF NEW ZEALAND


Date: Thu Mar 30, 2000 8:26 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] removal from membership

Martin,

I have had no contact whatsoever with the administration. If they have had concerns for the past 2-3 years, then they never officially communicated them to me. There was no process here. I just got active on Talisman early in 1998 and gaily posted messages to my heart's content. That's all. Three years later I am condemned for it. This is certain proof of the Panopticon. All that time I was being spied on here on Talisman, a private list that has no business with the institutions. Clearly, someone on the list is forwarding Talisman messages to Haifa in direct violation of list rules.

Alison


Date: Sat Apr 1, 2000 12:13 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] review

>IAN: As I recall, the editors had some doubts which is why they went upstairs to
>the next level, where the review was finally rejected.

Ian,

I dealt with the two editors of the journal. Both of them were very happy about the book review and were very disappointed that the House decided against its being published.

The father of one of those editors lives in my local community. Sometime last year, he came up to me at a Baha'i function and *congratulated* me on writing the review. The only reason he knew about it was because his son had told him and had said it was a good article.

There is no doubt that I gave the editors exactly what they wanted. Just think about it Ian, they know who I am politically. They knew exactly what they were going to get. They got what they wanted. There were no misunderstandings between myself and the editors.

The reason the book review went upstairs was because the editors are forced to submit journal articles to adminstrative-controlled censorship. If this procedure was not in place, the book review would have gone straight to the printer. In fact, it got so close to the printer that I checked the galleys. The rejection by the review panel came as a surprise and the book review had to be pulled at the last minute. It was fully expected to appear in mid-1999 issue.

Alison


Date: Sat Apr 1, 2000 2:02 pm
Subject: RE: [talisman9] Baha'i Basics

This seems to be an oft-quoted passage to support obedience to the House:

>"O people of God! That which traineth the world is Justice, for it is upheld
>by two pillars, reward and punishment.

The by-laws of the House of Justice, written by the Guardian, state that members must "purge ... the general conduct of their affairs of ... the stifling atmosphere of dictatorial assertiveness". A dictator is a person who thinks he can do what he likes. He has no regard for spiritual principle or law, he simply makes law up as it suits him. He is a person who labels his will justice.

Baha'u'llah has given the House the authority to administer the affairs of the Baha'i community. But that does not mean they can do whatever they like. It does not give them the right to define justice as their will. A decision isn't just because they make it; it is just because it conforms to the principle of justice. Justice judges the House. The two pillars of justice are reward and punishment, and this spiritual principle applies to the House just as much as it does to any other institution. "Know thou of a truth: He that biddeth men be just and himself committeth iniquity is not of Me, even though he bear My name."

Collapsing the principle of justice to a thing or person in the physical world is idolatry (unless you equate it with the manifestation). Idolatry is believing that a power or intelligible, like Justice, actually adheres in a thing. It is the same phenomenon as believing that a graven idol has God-like powers. There, people believe that the power actually adheres in the thing. This is a fundamental mistake. (This is also the reason why the House is not the Qutb.)

Things in the physical world *reflect* the names and attributes of God, such as justice, but they cannot be equated with them. For example, we know that a thing is beautiful because it reflects beauty, but it does not embody Beauty itself. Nor does it define Beauty. Beauty is something other than anything in the physical world. Similarly with Justice. A thing in the world is just because it reflects the attribute of Justice. No thing in the world can embody or define Justice.

Therefore, we can know that the House of Justice is just by assessing whether what it does is in accordance with the principle of Justice. The community and the House members must assess what it does against Baha'u'llah's criteria for justice, His spiritual principles. It is not an act of betrayal to make such assessments. It is what we are required to do by the Hidden Word, which clearly states that Justice demands we see with our own eyes. It is the right and duty of all responsible community members to assess House decisions against the community's agreed standard - the writings - and report their conclusions.

Alison


Date: Tue Apr 4, 2000 11:23 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Alison's exclusion

Martin,

Thank your friend very much for inquiring into the facts of my case. This is what the people in Baha'u'llah's time never did, although he repeated asked them to, and that's why he was a prisoner all his life. Please tell your friend that I had no position at all within the Baha'i community when I was expelled. In fact, I had very little to do with the community. I rarely attended local events and had long since stopped attending any national ones. Talisman is my community. On Talisman I can have my say and even if people disagree with me, at least no one can stop me from sharing my opinions. Also, Talisman is outside of the control of the Baha'i administration, so it cannot be closed down. All the House can do is inspire its members with fear, which is what it is trying to do by expelling me summarily.

Also tell your friend that I am not a big shot in the non-Baha'i world either. I am not an academic in the sense that I do not work in a university, I have no high-up position or any position at all in any organisation in the wider New Zealand community. I own a small company and work as a business writer part time. So in the sense of worldly power, I have none and am not even an ant beside the enormously powerful House of Justice.

Nevertheless, they deem me a threat. Why? It can only be because of my opinions and the fact that I express them on Talisman. And what do I believe? I believe in Baha'u'llah. I love him to distraction. I can't get him out of my head. He is always on my mind. In 1998, I became so obsessed with him that I decided to cut my working hours considerably so that I could be occupied with studying his Revelation. Things I used to consider important fell away as I could think of only him and the amazing things he said. I tried to share my awe and wonder on Talisman, and often felt silly because I would came across so passionate about it - in much the same way that I am now. Here is a passage that explains it:

"Abandon the world to those who seek it, and depart from the prison of earthly hopes. Content thyself with My love, for, verily, it is better than the treasures of the heavens and the earth, and more excellent than all that was and is yet to be. This is my command to thee, and My counsel to the people of sanctity." -- Baha'u'llah: Surah of God

Alison


Date: Wed Apr 5, 2000 9:11 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Contact with ABM or NSA

Jack,

You ask me if the following is true:
“APPARENTLY, THE ABM, THE NSA OF NZ, AND EVEN THE UHJ TRIED REPEATEDLY TO REACH ALLISON AND CONSULT WITH HER, AND SHE REFUSED TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEM. THEN WAS UPSET BECAUSE THEY TOOK ACTION WITHOUT CONSULTING WITH HER.”

The above is not true. No institution of the Baha'i community and no person representing an institution of the Baha'i community contacted me personally to consult with me about my statements, attitudes and behaviour, which were obviously of concern to the House.

On the contrary, I have a reported statement from the ABM that is evidence against what your friend asserts. The ABM came to our local community towards the end of last year to consult with the community about the April 7 letter. She repeatedly said at that meeting that she was quietening fears of Baha'is in the area that there were local people who were implicated by the House's letter. I took minutes of the meeting, and the relevant passage reads as follows:

"Mina reiterated that the letter [of 7 April] has created concern among the believers. She has seen this in her travels around the South Island. Believers have asked her if there are any members in the South Island that are a part of the internal opposition. She has reassured them that she is not aware of there being any problems in New Zealand."

Following this consultation with the community and the ABM, the local assembly posted the following in the local newsletter: "The LSA does not feel that any of the issues raised in the UHJ 7th April letter are relevant to Dunedin at this time." This newsletter covers the period November 23 to December 12 1999.

So there is solid evidence that my ABM and local assembly had no knowledge of the House's concerns. They could not, therefore, have contacted me about them.

Also, the Counsellor for New Zealand came to visit our fair Dunedin city recently, within the last two months. She did not contact me while she was here. We have not communicated by e-mail in several years.

I have had no communication with my NSA about this matter. The last I heard from them was when the secretary asked me if I had a file of an NSA statement, which the NSA no longer had. I was pleased to have been able to provide it.

I have received no communications direct from the House of Justice on the matter of their concerns or on any other matter. The House does not deal directly with individuals in situations like this. They always work through the institutions that have jurisdiction of the area, which is why I received my notification from my NSA and not from the House.

Finally, I can only say that if any institution had contacted me about the House's concerns, Talisman would have been the first to know about it. This is, of course, the reason they didn't contact me.

Alison


Date: Mon Apr 10, 2000 11:42 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Enantiodromia etc.

Dermod has two questions:
>Is the Faith a way of living one's life or is it the AO?
>Does the AO exist for the Bahais or do the Bahais exist for the AO?

Clearly, the Faith is currently defined as Baha'i administration, the two concepts having been conflated. And, yes, the Baha'is now exist for the administration, which follows if you believe that the administration is your faith. The fact that the administration has become the faith is proved by messages such as those proposing that the administration is the mystical axis of the believers' imagination. This is idolatry, the very way of being that Baha'u'llah denounces in the Kitab-i Iqan. Baha'u'llah teaches that the believer's access to God is through one's self, the heart being the only thing that can contain him, and not any religious authority. We are in the ironic situation now where a person who believes what Baha'u'llah taught is liable to expulsion from his community for openly teaching it.

I don't believe this sad state of affairs is the end of the religion though, or in fact any cause for a person to lose faith. I believe that the faith is going through a major paradigm shift. It is terrifying when everything we once believed seems to go up in the air and we wonder what is going on, but Baha'u'llah has everything in hand. God's hand is never chained up, and as we all know, this is his Cause. We just need to investigate what is happening with faith and with an open mind and ask for insight and gradually his plan will be revealed to us.

This is my take on things. I think the Baha'i community, as it currently stands, is dead on the water. It has reached the peak of its growth on the concepts and paradigms that currently make up its identity. Unfortunately, the concepts that we have been living with have been limiting, for example, the fear of western contributions to civilisation like the concept of the rule of law. The way that I was expelled from the community is proof that the Baha'is have not yet gotten a hold of the idea of the rule of law. The rule of law is built on the idea that the law rules us all, institutions as well as citizens. Law is above us all, regulating our interactions and making them predictable. This has a stabilising effect on society, because all interactions are understood in terms of agreed standards. The fact that the Baha'is are so willing to accept arbitrary House decisions, such as the one against me, shows that they currently operate on an old paradigm, one based on the power of Authority as opposed to that of Law.

But I don't believe this is something to worry about. Baha'u'llah has made it clear that what will regulate society from now on is Reason. Juan's book proves this. It is inevitable that any organisation that does not fit in with this new creation will be brought to naught. This is what is happening to the Baha'i community. But it will grow again. After its disintegration, it will grow on a more universal set of understandings, more akin to the ones Baha'u'llah taught.

I believe that over the years in which the community declines, it will at the same time bust out of the limiting concepts that bind it. For example, the threat of sanctions will no longer have any effect on members. People will stick around and say "so what?", just as I have done. Civil Baha'i society will continue to grow on the Internet. We need only look at the growth of Talisman to see that it is not going to go away. And as Juan has said, we don't need an administration to live the life, the centre of which is a devotional life of remembrance. Perhaps someone will set up a Mashriq on the Internet. Over time, I also believe that the administration will realise that it must respect the rule of law, allow freedom of speech, and stop censorship.

In short, I believe that the Baha'is will realise that being a Baha'i has nothing to do with the administration, except inasmuch as it is there to serve the spirit of its members.

Alison


Date: Tue Apr 11, 2000 8:39 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] My first year off the rolls

Dear Karen,

Your comments about pilgrimage reminded me of Baha'u'llah's Commentary on a Verse by Sa'di. The relevant verse from Sa'di is: "The Friend is closer to me than I am to myself; But even more amazing is that I am so distant from Him." You see, we live in a world that gives the illusion that the physical is what's real, so we think that nearness is based on physical closeness. But in this commentary, Baha'u'llah states that the opposite is true. He says: "Spiritual closeness is prior to and more near than physical proximity." So, for example, you and I have never met, but I am closer to you than to people down the road. This is proved by the fact that I never interact with the people down the road, but am with you on a daily basis here on Talisman. The fact is that people always gravitate to the ones who live in their hearts, those with whom they share a spiritual bond, understanding and love.

Given this, real pilgrimage is a movement of the heart towards God. Baha'u'llah says:

"Yes, proximity to the Absolute Truth in this station is turning one's attention to Him, while remoteness is forgetfulness of Him. For instance, every soul that has quaffed the most pure, the most glorious Wine has ascended to the zenith of nearness and union. Without that, they would be on the lowest rung of remoteness and separation, even though they might at every moment utter the mention of the All-Merciful and act according to His commands."

A person could travel to Haifa and not pilgrimage at all. Moreover, a person who makes you feel bad because you can't do a physical pilgrimage and does so in order to coerce you to rejoin the community puts on only the appearance of closeness.

Baha'u'llah wants us to love him, above all else: "...were a soul to come with sincerity before the compassionate Countenance, it would be equivalent to all the good deeds performed by the ancients and the moderns." It seems to me that your Mashriq-centred activities are what a person who is really on pilgrimage does.

Alison


Date: Tue Apr 11, 2000 8:32 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Enantiodromia

Dear Harry,

My thinking is that the Baha'is have wrongly claimed Baha'u'llah and his revelation for their own exclusively. Under this vision, the Baha'i community is the saviour of all other sectors of the global society, which will one day be reduced in a calamity to beg the Baha'is for their wisdom. Moreover, the Baha'is believe that the civil governments will one day ask the Baha'is to take over the reigns of power.

However, I think this vision is short sighted and limited. Baha'u'llah's revelation is impacting on all sectors of the global society and all sectors of society are a recipient of his grace and a legitimate part of his new world order. Sen's essay, "A theology of the state from the Baha'i teachings" argues that "Religious institutions have no monopoly on the sacred". Sen argues that each section of society reflects a name of God. For example, "charity reflects the name of God "the Giver"; the arts reflect "the Creator"; science reflects "questions" (which in Baha'i theology is an attribute of God); systematic knowledge reflects "the All-Knowing", and the civil state reflects the sovereignty of God." On this basis then, the Baha'i community is just one section of many in society, and all sections share in the sacred, because they are all reflections of God.

We know that Baha'u'llah's revelation is universal. We have always been taught that a unity that is restricted by physical irrelevancies like culture or sex are no longer a part of God's plan and are non-starters. Similarly, a vision that privileges the Baha'i community over other sections of society is a non-starter. I believe that these other sections of society will over time impact on the Baha'i community and change it. We can already see this happening. Now that scholarship has broken out of the strictures of review, academics are impacting on the community with new research findings. The Internet community is having an enormous impact on the Baha'is. In time, I think we will see other sections of society coming up against the Baha'is and making the community examine itself.

For those who think that the existing Baha'i community is fine and dandy, this will be a terribly painful process. But I see it as part of God's plan; something to get excited about and to embrace.

Alison


Date: Sat Apr 15, 2000 7:06 am
Subject: love is the only power

I have been thinking about what's happened to Talisman since my expulsion. Before my expulsion, Talisman was a safe haven for me. I would do my spiritual thing - you know, pray, meditate and reflect - and then maybe share some of the things that got me excited with my Talisman community.

But things have changed. I can hardly read Talisman messages anymore. I was so grateful to Karen for the opportunity to exchange some simple words about spirituality and love, and I am also grateful to my close friends for their ongoing kindness and support. But I am going to have to accept that, in the meantime anyway, the Talisman sanctuary I once enjoyed has been destroyed by the House, and I am sure that they will be pleased about that.

I couldn't possibly have imagined what it would be like to suddenly become the property of others, to be constantly discussed as an object of fascination, to be picked apart, examined, judged, denounced, attacked, to have become an object worthy of contempt and hatred.

To all those who have joined Talisman in order to tell my friends here that I am such an unworthy creature, I say this to you: no matter how cruel you are to me, you will not stop me from believing that there is only one power in creation, and that is the power of love. Your power of denunciation is an illusion, it can create nothing, it can only destroy. You may think you can destroy me with it, but in the end, you will find that the only thing you have destroyed is your own souls. This is the one lesson Baha'u'llah and all the other manifestations taught. Never mind what is written in scripture, we could debate it for centuries and achieve nothing. The point is: what is written on the tablet of our hearts? I believe in love and I believe love is identical to the Cause. This is my understanding of Baha'u'llah's message and I will willingly suffer *any* consequence you bring down on me as a result. Baha'u'llah tells me repeatedly to stand up for love of him, and I will do as he says.

"O people of the Bayan, the spirit of true understanding will never speak in your hearts until after My love hath entered them. This is a fundamental principle of religion, if ye be of those with certitude." -- Baha'u'llah, Surah of Blood

Alison


Date: Sat Apr 22, 2000 11:14 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] covenant: another take

"O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH! Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive any man's injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and sealed it with My seal of glory." Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, Page: 64

Cliff,

You ask about this quote. I've come across a passage from Juan's book, which I think gives the context for this Hidden Word. In his conclusion, Juan says:

"They [the Baha'is] disparaged tyranny and depriving the people of their rights. They demanded a rule of law, codification of law, and due process. They announced that absolutism as a political system was foreordained for the trash heap of history, in view of the advent of Reason among all citizens. They saw these aspects of European modernity as potentially liberating in the context of the absolutist nineteenth-century Middle East. The radical and daring nature of this critique by prisoners of conscience is now hard to appreciate, given that Ottoman and Qajar tyranny so long ago faded from the scene." p. 191

You see, rulers, whether they be religious rulers or secular ones, must act in accordance with justice and the law. They cannot do whatever they like. Baha'u'llah is saying in the Hidden Word that He will not forgive a ruler who rules unjustly, and I think that means he will reduce that ruler to the trash heap of history. This is His promise, His covenant. When Baha'u'llah made this promise in the nineteenth century, he was oppressed by absolutist regimes that looked set to survive forever, and everyone ignored Him. Who was this crazy man, locked up in prison, to say such things? But, with the benefit of hindsight, we know, for example, that the Ottoman regime that existed then no longer exists now.

The House of Justice is not exempt from the covenant Baha'u'llah has made with the people, in His revelation. If the House acts as a tyrant, it can expect the same treatment from Him. This is what faith in Baha'u'llah's revelation means to me. Tyrants will be brought to naught, no matter who they are. But to see this process, you have to see into the long term. And if you hold to this faith, like Baha'u'llah, you can expect to be denounced and considered crazy. Who am I, a Baha'i heretic, exiled from the homeland of my faith community, to be pointing to Baha'u'llah's covenant here?

Alison


Date: Sun Apr 23, 2000 12:15 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] covenant: another take

Burl points out to me that: >"This institution [the House] is under the protecting power of Baha'u'llah Himself."

Of course, I agree with this Burl. It's just that I have a different interpretation of it than you. You think it means that at every second and in every conceivable way, the House Of Justice is infallible. I think your interpretation is not only contrary to the writings, but contrary to reason and therefore pure superstition.

I think the passage means that the House of Justice, the institution, is with us forever. Members will come and go and bring their own flavour to life on the planet while they're aboard, but the House is here to stay. The House will sway from a conservative to a liberal take on the revelation and back again, and believers like myself will be affected and become statistics accordingly, but life will go on over the centuries and gradually humanity will live out an ever-advancing civilisation.

But if the past is anything to go by, God will keep us on our toes. He will do things contrary to current beliefs, as He is doing now. It is not only me who is judged by my expulsion, it is the House and all the members of the community. Read the Kitab-i Iqan. The Will and Testament is not the only piece of Baha'i scripture.

Alison


Date: Tue Apr 25, 2000 8:44 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] spiritual vs. registered Baha'is

Dear Alan,

Baha'u'llah says in the Book of the Covenant what a Baha'i is: "Every receptive soul who hath in this Day inhaled the fragrance of His garment and hath, with a pure heart, set his face towards the all-glorious Horizon is reckoned among the people of Baha in the Crimson Book." Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p 220

At the same time, Baha'u'llah also tells us that being of Him has nothing to do with putting on His name: "O SON OF SPIRIT! Know thou of a truth: He that biddeth men be just and himself committeth iniquity is not of Me, even though he bear My name." Baha'u'llah: Arabic Hidden Words, p28

If you equate "being a Baha'i" with the name "Baha'i" then you collapse a spiritual reality to a bunch of letters on a page, or to a name recognised in a particular social context. The name "Baha'i" can point to many different realities: it can point to the reality of the Baha'i community in the physical world; it can point to the love for Baha'u'llah the believers have in their hearts; it can point to the Cause of His Revelation, which is shaking the world; it can point to the Reality of the Manifestation of Baha'u'llah in the All-Glorious Paradise.

But you can see from the Hidden Word, that the primary reality to which the name "Baha'i" points has to do with spiritual qualities such as justice, and not to do with what you call yourself.

Alison


Date: Thu Apr 27, 2000 10:55 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] knowing your left from right

"Were He to pronounce the right to be the left or the south to be the north, He speaketh the truth and there is no doubt of it. Verily He is to be praised in His acts and to be obeyed in His behests" - Baha'u'llah

Alan,

This 'power' applies only to Baha'u'llah. This is what is meant by the designation "Most Great Infallibility". It is a station of the Manifestation alone. As I said in another message, Baha'u'llah called himself the Ultimately Real. Being a manifestation, his "self" is the "self" of God, so he can interpret reality for us. He tells us what God has planned for reality and gives us principles upon which we can anticipate those deep paradigms. In doing so, Baha'u'llah explains to us in the Kitab-i Iqan, social setups get turned upside down. Leaders of religion, for example, are stripped of their authority. So, the leaders of Islam, although they appear to the masses to have the power invested in them for centuries, have in fact been stripped of it at the level of Reality. In this way, Baha'u'llah pronounces the right to be left. Those with spiritual insight "know" this change by recognising Baha'u'llah (the Real) in their hearts and examine the "signs" in the world accordingly. But many don't get to it.

The House of Justice, and all souls that are not manifestations, are required to "recognise" and act in accordance with these deep spiritual paradigms and principles that the manifestation heralds and teaches us about. The passage does not mean that the House of Justice can act in an unjust manner. In fact, one of the principles that Baha'u'llah tells us he brought with his new revelation was that he would not tolerate injustice. So the House of Justice is subject to this.

Alison


Date: Thu May 11, 2000 9:21 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Liberal - Orthodox (was Preaching it..)

Ian, again, wisely says:
>What I mean is that significant theological advances have to be understood
>by the vast majority of believers: they shouldn't be expressed in terms that
>only highly educated intellectuals can understand.

I agree with you 100 percent. The vast majority of the believers know nothing about mysticism - I mean Sufism, the theological backdrop to the Faith. And this is the reason they swallow the adminstration = Baha'i Faith formula.

If I had to pick one key ingredient that characterised the changes that went on in me over the past 2-3 years, while I was being watched on Talisman by the House, it would be my coming to understand the mystical dimension of the Faith. My belief went from being centred in the administration to Baha'u'llah's "Book", the Reality of Him in Lahut. But you just can't explain this to people using words and intellect. What on earth is the Reality of Baha' in Lahut? Baha'u'llah tells us that we can read His Book only by reading our own book (ie, our "selves"). The mass of believers try to read Baha'u'llah's Book by reading physical books and by thinking that the House's expressions are a magical pathway to His Book. They don't know about, much less have read, the Tablet of the Disconnected Letters, which explains, among a zillion other things, the relationship between our book and His Book. That tablet is absolutely wonderful! I go into a dream just thinking about it. Clearly, the adminstration has not considered it important to have this tablet officially translated. And so the vicious cycle is perpetuated.

Anyway, it's a passion for me to translate mysticism into ordinary language so that the Baha'is might understand what their Faith is really about. I think my expulsion is proof that I was being successful, and I'm grateful to the House for their help. "The head raised up in the love of God will certainly fall by the sword..." -- Baha'u'llah

Alison


Date: Fri May 19, 2000 9:39 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Caught in a Bind

>I believe the UHJ would not reverse itself, unless further evidence arose
>in a particular situation. Furthermore, I believe that neither SE or the
>UHJ have the spiritual station that would allow them this
>level of humility

You cannot have a spiritual station without having the requisite humility. A person with no humility is a person with a very low spiritual station. As you move higher up in spiritual station, your real humility deepens. I'm not talking about the fake humility that is considered the mark of a wise person in some cultures. I'm talking about real humility. The sign of real humility is the ability to be vulnerable, take emotional risks in relationships. Listen to Abdu'l-Baha taking an emotional risk:

"188. O ye the cherished loved ones of Abdu'l-Baha! It is a long time now since my inward ear hath heard any sweet melodies out of certain regions, or my heart been gladdened; and this despite the fact that ye are ever present in my thoughts and standing clearly visible before my sight. Filled to overflowing is the goblet of my heart with the wine of the love I bear you, and my yearning to set eyes upon you streameth like the spirit through my arteries and veins. From this it is clear how great is my affliction." Abdu'l-Baha: Selections `Abdu'l-Baha, p 216

This is a proof of Abdu'-Baha's station. His ability to openly express the love in his heart. He actively experiences it as a burning in his veins and he's not above telling those he loves about how he feels.

"The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion." If you love as Abdu'l-Baha loved, you would listen to those you love and talk to them. The issue of saving face would not come into it. This is leadership, and infallibility.

Alison


Date: Mon May 22, 2000 11:19 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] peace process

Dear Robert,

Thank you for your reasoned and reasonable message. I appreciate what is obviously your genuine concern and efforts to sort through the issues.

Just a note about the background to my expulsion. Initially, because of the timing of events, I made the assumption that the posting of my book review to Talisman and H-Baha'i was perhaps the action that provoked my expulsion. But I now know for a fact that this is not the case. The House instructed my NSA to take my name off the rolls on March 4. I posted the review of The Baha'i World to Talisman around Naw Ruz. As yet, I still do not know what prompted the House to send those instructions to the NSA when it did.

I also wonder why you are concerned to protect the understanding of infallibility as it is held commonly by Baha'is. Shouldn't the concept be examined, along with all others? Why should it be sacrosanct? A non-Baha'i friend of Steve and myself told us that he'd had a conversation with a Baha'i who had maintained that even if all nine members of the House were corrupt, nevertheless decisions made in that exalted anti-chamber would be infallible! I argue that no person can come up with a credible argument that explains, in terms of Baha'i theology, how exactly such thing would work. How could anyone see it as anything other than superstition? And you don't have to read the Baha'i writings in depth to discover what they say about superstition.

When superstitions are blindly cherished like this, the inevitable result is darkness. It impedes progress. The community wants to *grow*, but it can't fit any more into the paternalistic paradigm where we all assume that the guys at the top know better. Baha'u'llah tells us that the heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with "consultation" and "compassion". If we want infallible leaders, this is the path to getting them. We are all grown ups now. We need a religion that is different from the old ones; we need one that values everyone's real contribution. Baha'u'llah gave us a religion based on personal responsibility - justice is seeing with our own eyes. We must therefore give up the notion that father knows best, because he doesn't any more.

Alison


Date: Mon May 22, 2000 11:58 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Baha'u'llah on Love

Dear Juan,

Many, many thanks for your translation of the beautiful tablet on love from Baha'u'llah. I think it's wonderful. It gave me the courage to keep on doing what I'm doing and, basically, using the love in my heart as my guide.

I understand Baha'u'llah to say that the one whose heart is filled with love is guarded from the rebellious. There is no need to grieve over any matter, for his unfailing protection and will encomapasses all that happens. Of course, the injustices of the world suggest that the one who loves and is vulnerable is the weak fool. But theirs is a different victory.

Alison


Date: Wed May 24, 2000 8:55 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Peace Process

Dear Claudia,

For me, Baha'u'llah is both father and mother. Baha'u'llah teaches me about things like the law, so I can find the boundaries of reality, but Baha'u'llah also brings me unconditional love. No matter what, I know Baha'u'llah loves me. That is never in question. Sometimes, I get confused and I can't figure out what he is trying to teach me, but throughout that process of search, I know that he loves me. Even when I can't find paradise inside, I know he loves me, and that it is just a matter of time before I find it again.

It's from this paradise of Him inside me that I relate to the world and make decisions on things. In order to see with my own eyes, I go to that place and test worldly situations there and come up with responses. I believe this is me taking responsibility for myself. If, on the other hand, I let someone in the physical world tell me what to think or feel, then I would be abdicating that responsibility to that person. People usually do this out of fear. Baha'u'llah says, however, that we should fear God, not people. We must assess things in our own conscience - that way we test it before God.

"As to Paradise: It is a reality and there can be no doubt about it, and now in this world it is realized through love of Me and My good-pleasure. Whosoever attaineth unto it God will aid him in this world below, and after death He will enable him to gain admittance into Paradise whose vastness is as that of heaven and earth." (Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p189)

Alison


Date: Thu May 25, 2000 8:37 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: Peace Process

"Robert",

You say that in a business you don't question the theory of capitalism and in a monotheistic religion you don't question the fact that there is one God. I say, why not? Unless that business and religion can examine critically the paradigms on which it is based, then it is founded on illusion. The role of the scholar or researcher is precisely to come up with reasoned arguments to substantiate those paradigms. Otherwise, how else are you going to convince others that you've got something they want, short of brainwashing them?

You base much of what you say on the "Covenant". But you beg the question, what is the Covenant? You seem to assume that it is the same thing as the divine legitimacy of the administration. This is a common view, but I think that aspect of the Covenant is only a small part of it. And not only that, one that is subsidiary to many other fundamental aspects of it. For example, Baha'u'llah tells us that the Hidden Words are the essence of religion clothed in brevity. But is there any mention of the administration in the Hidden Words? No, but there is talk of the Covenant:

"We have taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue." Arabic Hidden Words, p1

As for the House being like the Supreme Court, yes, I agree there are useful parallels there. For starters, when academics discuss Supreme Court decisions in journals and in e-mail discussion groups, the authorities know that every word spoken by those academics is a treasonous attempt to usurp the Supreme Court's power. The US Police are monitoring their every word, ready in wait for the go ahead to declare them non-American and chuck them out of the country. The Supreme Court judges are all well educated for their tasks, for they all have science degrees. And when the Supreme Court makes a decision, there are no agreed procedures as to who it will take evidence from, it makes its decisions without a hearing and behind closed doors, and when it comes up with a decision, everyone agrees it is infallible. Is that how it works?

Alison


Date: Fri May 26, 2000 7:05 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Peace Process

>How did you come by this? I have no paradise inside that I know of. Only an
>abiding sense of loyalty, commitment, responsibility. But those are self
>orientated. Conditionals... Loyalty so long as... Commitment so long
>as... responsibility so long as.. To look outward and expect to see
>anything are hopes I dare not raise, for what if in that hope... I see
>nothing? It is a kind of despair which is my real fear. What if... >nothing?

Conquering that inner fear and discovering that reality is love (and not your enemy) is the essence of religion. If you want to find the inner paradise and live in it, you need to go to that fear and get to know it. You'll find out it's not what you imagined it to be and that your fears were groundless. But it's the most terrifying and courageous journey of all; it's the path of the mystic and it's the real challenge Baha'u'llah issues.

Alison


Date: Mon May 29, 2000 7:56 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] peace process

Dear Robert,

I used to think like that too. All I had to do was say my bit and be polite about it and no harm would come to me. If you had been on Talisman during the two to three years that my email was being read by the House, you will see that the majority of my messages are about mysticism. Mysticism is my passion. I will be putting up on the net one day most of those messages so that people can see for themselves how "offensive" my messages were in that time. A few months ago, I wrote a very straight message about infallibility (which I'll post below), which Sen said was "straight down the middle" theology-wise. But sure enough, it ended up on my NSA's desk and is now an official example of Baha'i heresy.

Politeness is not sufficient to keep one safe from sanctions. If you are so sure about being safe, then why do you use a pseudonym? Why don't you come out of your hiding place like a true lover and prove to us with your actions that the House is the institution you are telling us it is?

Alison

-------------------------

Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 21:16:46 +1300
To: "Ta'wil"
From: Steve Marshall
Subject: [tawil] Infallibility

At the recent small-group discussion at the Centre on the compilation "Issues related to the study of the Baha'i Faith" the issue of the "infallibility" of the Universal House of Justice came up a few times. It's a subject that crops up every so often on the discussion group, Talisman, and Alison wrote something there recently that I thought might be of interest.

ka kite
Steve

From: Alison Marshall

The Guardian explains that in general terms, the twin institutions of the House and the Guardianship are set up as complementary to each other; that is, the Guardian's responsibility is to interpret scripture and the House's responsibility is to legislate for what is not in the Book. This creates spheres in which each institution has legitimate authority within the covenant of Baha'u'llah. This means that the House's sphere does not give it authority over matters such as history, scholarship, definition of infallibility or even of its own sphere, theology, and so forth. Basically, it is entitled to pass laws that relate to what we do but it is not empowered to tell us what to believe.

As for "freed from error", Abdu'l-Baha says in his explanation of infallibility in Some Answered Questions that conferred infallibility applies potentially to all souls as well as to the House. Conferred infallibility is an attribute of God that we all share in, in the same way that compassion and mercy are. And like all divine attributes, it is something you develop as a result of effort. For example, Abdu'l-Baha explains that, like infallibility, there is essential and acquired knowledge, but we know that a person manifests acquired knowledge by making an effort and going through a process. Conferred or acquired knowledge cannot be magically bestowed on a person because he or she is described in the Will and Testment as having acquired knowledge. Similarly, the House demonstrates its acquired infallibility in its actions in the world and over time; it is not infallible by fiat. Its infallibility is not a necessary attribute. The Baha'is, however, generally believe infallibility refers to a magical process whereby everything the House says on any matter is necessarily an inerrant proposition or opinion. It is also important to note that Baha'u'llah never said that the House was infallible, but rather, that it was "inspired".

I suggest then, that there are two common misunderstandings. First, that the House's sphere of authority over the community extends to *everything* and not just to legislation, administration and so on; and second, that infallibility means that everything the House says is necessarily an inerrant proposition or opinion.

There is no quick way to understand these issues. I strongly suggest reading Juan's book "Modernity and the Millennium", which not only covers this issue in detail but argues that Baha'u'llah envisioned his Faith to be run using Reason not Authority. It is not so much the case of a group of people in Haifa mediating divine guidance for the rest of humanity, but a process of consultation that requires the whole community to participate in in order to be effective. This is, arguably, the process of acquiring infallibility.

"Baha'u'llah spoke of the house of justice as "inspired" (mulham), but, as we have seen above, he connected inspiration with parliamentary deliberation; that is, it is the democratic character of these religious institutions, and their embodiment of public reason, that guaranteed their inspiration. Baha'u'llah never used the word ma'sum, or sinless, or infallible to describe these institutions and appears to have seen them more as instruments of spiritual republicanism than as inerrant centers of unchallengeable theocratic dicta." (Modernity and the Millennium p. 96)

Suffice to say that the concept of infallibility is not as simple as the passages from the Will and Testament indicate. It has to be understood in the context of the whole corpus of the writings.

Alison


Date: Tue Jul 4, 2000 10:06 pm
Subject: the three aspects of folly

"Three outstanding attitudes -- obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, [and the] illusion of invulnerable status -- are persistent aspects of folly."

Barbara Tuchman: The March of Folly


Date: Thu Jul 13, 2000 9:49 am
Subject: Re: administrative rights

Les,

I am not burning any bridges. They divorced me, I didn't divorce them. And even though they have divorced me, I remain a Baha'i. If they change, they will demonstrate this by voluntarily and sincerely apologising and inviting me back.

It is up to us how soon it will happen. This is something I have come to firmly believe. Baha'u'llah has told us in the writings about the joyful religion he has brought for us. Now it is up to us to choose it and realise it. Baha'u'llah will back us all the way.

Alison


Date: Tue Sep 26, 2000 7:57 am
Subject: errors and humanity

Dear Vaughn,

When it comes to errors and being greater-than-human, we tend to think in terms of right and wrong, that an action is either one or the other against some objective standard that sits outside of us. Your characterisation of the manifestation leaves me with the image that God is "outside" Baha'u'llah, and that being a manifestation leads to some superhuman ability to read that external God's rules perfectly, hence the manifestation wouldn't do anything wrong or commit an error.

I look at it another way. The manifestation is God, and the way the manifestation knows God is by listening to himself. And it works the same for us. If there is ever any error it is in not listening to ourselves. It's not so much that actions are right or wrong according to an external objective standard, but more that if we act contrary to our best judgement, usually because we have allowed fear to take us from it, *then* we have acted with error. To my mind, this is the reason the manifestation has perfect infallibility, not because he didn't make historical errors (which he did), but because he never let anyone take him from the truth God places in his heart. He never feared anyone, and no matter what, always had the grace to carry himself with vulnerability, love, dignity and truth.

It is significant that in the Revelation Baha'u'llah *defines* justice as seeing with your own eyes and knowing with your own knowledge. At a mystical level, justice is not an external, objective standard that judges us right or wrong, it is a *process*. Something is just if we have listened to ourselves about it.

Alison


Date: Thu Sep 28, 2000 7:15 am
Subject: maidens and prophets

Aziz,

Have you read Ode of the Dove? It is one of Baha'u'llah's poems that he wrote about his houri or Maiden. Juan has translated it and it is up on his site at http://www-personal.umich.edu/ ~jrcole/ ode.htm. It paints a picture of the Maiden or Houri as the very embodiment of the Cause. She makes alot of exalted claims about herself. She says: "My raining Cause made deities divine; all Lords by my ample order thrived". She is the Source of Divinity in the world. She is before everything that is. Her attributes make all attributes in existence as nothing. She even says that Baha'u'llah's claim to love her is nothing special in that she has lots of lovers just as good as him and even better.

What is her influence in the world? I'd say that in this Revelation She is Power. Not only does this result in the equality of men and women, but also I think it means that the spiritual and mystical realms of our beings will not be successfully controlled by tyrants and oppressors, as has happened in the past. Usually, the spiritual and mystical are destroyed by worldly powers (leaders of religion, governments) but I'm hopeful that if She is Power then in this Revelation there will always be ways to challenge that tendency in humanity. The Internet, for example, has given humanity the means to be free in spirit no matter what those worldly powers do.

Alison


Date: Sun Oct 1, 2000 10:37 pm
Subject: errors and humanity

Dear Vaughn,

>When you write that the manifestation is God, I think your
>concept is that God is in all of us and all of us are, in a
>sense, God.

I am speaking mystically, as in this tradition: "I have with God states in which He is I and I am He except that He is He and I am I."

>When you write it works the same for us, I
>think your concept is that the manifestations can lead the
>way, but it is for each of us to walk the path and reach for
>ourselves the station of the manifestation.

I am not saying that we all become manifestations. But I think we miss the importance of the fact that the manifestation is the perfect *human*. We tend to think of manifestations as these beings so different from ourselves that we cannot relate to them at all. But nothing could be further from the truth! The manifestation is the quintessential human. They experience their humanity at the most profound level. What makes them stand apart from us mere mortals is not that they are above being human, but rather that they are incapable of denying their humanity. That is what makes them perfect. Error is in the denial of one's humanity. This is why I say it is the same for us as for manifestations. By being perfectly what they are - human - manifestations teach us humans to value our humanity.

Alison


Date: Tue Oct 3, 2000 11:42 pm
Subject: Re: manifestations

> From: "Mother BE" : > The Divine knowledge is separate from the 'person' manifesting.

I don't believe it's possible to separate the two. I think the Revelation is very much about the person of Baha'u'llah, his personal characteristics and such like. For example, take the effect on Baha'u'llah, the child, of hearing about how Muhammad allowed a follower to massacre a whole tribe of people who had rebelled against him. This story had a profound impact on Baha'u'llah. It plunged him into great sorrow. He says so himself and links this to the importance for him of eradicating during his revelation all excuses for religious conflict and cruelty (M&M p115). You know, Baha'u'llah was a really sensitive guy, and we've got a yummy mushy, gooey, revelation that's full of love and houris and lets-get-along-folks because of it.

If you read Juan's book, you can really get a feel for how Baha'u'llah the person is influencing the revelation all the time. Of course, this is one of the reasons Juan gets a hard time about his book, because he's included Baha'u'llah the person in the story. And even though he has done this because he is an historian, well I think it's right to do that anyway, from a spiritual point of view.

And if you read Resurrection and Renewal, you can see that it's not just the Bab influencing that revelation, but the letters of the living as well - in a very significant way.

Alison

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

"Say: the spirit is from my lord's command!"
Qur'an 17:85


Date: Wed Oct 4, 2000 2:45 pm
Subject: Re: errors and humanity

Cliff asks: "What makes you feel that humans are prone to deny their humanity?"

OK, I've given some thought about how to get across the spirit of what I am trying to say. An extreme example of denying one's humanity might be the torturer. He (yes, it's a he!) is able to deny in himself, or shut off, his capacity to relate to the experience of the person he is hurting. This is called narcissism; it's about being absorbed in oneself and therefore unwilling or unable to 'reach out' to or become the other. In Baha'i terms, being absorbed in one's self is the lower self and our ability to reach out to others and display qualities such as love and compassion are the abilities of our higher, or spiritual, self.

The spiritual journey is about travelling from that lower self-absorbed state to the state where we reach out and actually become the 'other' in an ecstatic mystical union. And I am arguing that the perfection of the manifestation lies in the fact that He is always in that ecstatic mystical state. The likes of us ordinary humans, however, are learning how to get there. The process of developing our humanity is like a process of deepening our sensitivity to the wonders of creation. We pray and meditate in order to develop our inner appreciation of the delicate beauty of the universe. I would measure our humanity by the extent to which we are 'with' that state. And I would measure error by the extent to which we deny that state within us. Mostly ordinary life and the cares of the world, which dominate us, take up our time and claim importance, are like a huge blanket that suffocates our spiritual reality (or humanity).

Alison


Date: Mon Oct 16, 2000 10:37 pm
Subject: love based on justice=Baha'i

Dear Mother Be,

I loved your argument that justice is based on love. It was a beauty. It's late, but I had to write. You lit me up.

Here's another quote that supports your argument. Notice it starts with "O son of justice" and then goes on about how a true lover is compelled to follow the path to the beloved:

4. O SON OF JUSTICE! Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart's desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved. (Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, Page: 4)

There's definitely a link between love and justice, as far as I'm concerned. Justice is defined as seeing with your own eyes and knowing with your own knowledge. In other words, following the inner light and love that inspires us (the beloved), and not letting ourselves be swayed by others, who would try to wield control of our spirit and dictate truth to us.

Alison


Date: Sat Oct 28, 2000 9:55 am
Subject: Re: Continental Boards

"Robert",

If you are looking for the name of the leading revolutionary, I can give it you to. His name is Baha'u'llah. He no longer has a body in the material world, he has shifted his headquarters to the spiritual world, and from there he directs reality. Everything in the physical world acts at his bidding. If you want answers to any matter, you can reach him by developing a sincere heart.

Alison


Date: Wed Nov 1, 2000 11:50 am
Subject: Re: Heaven and Hell

Juan said:
>Your friends who said they might as well have a 'good old time'
>if the journey toward God could be begun again were just deluding
>themselves. Most of these 'really good times' produce only emptiness and
>various sorts of betrayal over time, and leave the individual alone and
>lonely.

That's right. If you don't chose nearness to God in this life, then what will make you suddenly chose it in the next? If nearness to God is your heaven, then you will chose it now in this life over and above the attractions of the physical world. It is through discovering that the attractions of the physical world are an illusion that the person then choses nearness to God instead and would never stray from that place inside.

Alison


Date: Fri Nov 3, 2000 8:00 am
Subject: Re: Backbiting and fault-finding

If a person is doing something morally wrong, you always have the option of going to the person and telling them what you think. That is of course, after you have considered whether it is any of your business. I generally don't interest myself in others' actions unless they impact on me personally.

If you report wrong doing to the police, you are then expected to give evidence against the person. You have to produce some kind of substance to your accusations. If you can just go around saying things about others and always expecting to be believed, then you can say any old thing and the other person will immediately be condemned for it. If people are never required to stand up and testify before others to their accusations then of course people are going to use the system to bring trouble on those they don't like or whose opinions they don't like to hear.

The trouble with blind obedience is that it creates a society of people who are just waiting to be taken advantage of by evil people. The communities are riddled with fear and people are too scared to ask questions for fear of reprisals. It is the perfect environment for evil to prevail. Evil people can just come in, play the perfect Baha'i in public, and then move their way up and everyone will adore them. Who will notice, or ever know, what they are doing behind the scenes? And if a believer ever does find out, they will be silenced through fear. It follows like night and day; you get a community of people who are trained to be yes-men, and you'll eventually have evil people seeing their chance for an easy life at the top, living off the profits of people's stupidity.

Alison


Date: Sun Nov 12, 2000 11:51 pm
Subject: my expulsion

Dear Jennifer,

Yes, no doubt I was a threat. However, the threat has not gone away! Here I am, doing my thing just as I have done over the past 2-3 years. If believers who are expelled or sanctioned keep their faith and stay and speak out against injustice, then increasingly expulsion and sanctions will not be seen as a solution to the problem. No sanctions will work. It's like the guy on the movie "Monty Python and the holy grail", he has all his limbs cut off and he's just a torso bobbing around on the ground and he's yelling "It's just a flesh wound!" You can't win against that sort of response. "Always look on the bright side of life." :-)

Alison


Date: Mon Nov 20, 2000 9:19 am
Subject: Marginalisation

You said: >In fact, the periphery is present in the very language of the >center, as for example when the NSA admits that the review was "too >critical." We are all then invited to read that statement as a manifesto not >just of the desire to keep pure a discourse but also to read it as the very >betrayal of this "purity" and power.

I think that the calls here on Talisman for the tone of my review to be changed are examples of people being influenced in the way that you suggest. I am perceieved as one who is betraying the purity of the community by critiquing a "pure" publication and by using language that accurately describes that publication. My betrayal is labelled the minute the book review is described as too critical. The call here on Talisman for the tone to be modified has its basis in this preconceived notion of a pure discourse in the community.

The administration controls community discourse and people such as myself never get to influence it, except by being free agents floating around on the periphery. I figure that the more the periphery is heard (which is happening with the Internet), the more it will break down the notion of purity.

Actually, Peter Khan was in NZ giving a talk a few months ago. You'd be amazed at how many times in that talk he uses the word "pure". The idea that the community's purity has to be protected from impure elements runs right through the talk.

Alison


Date: Thu Nov 23, 2000 10:31 pm
Subject: power words

Jennifer,

>I think it would be interesting to do a study of the way in which words
>operate as power codes in the Baha'i community. In other *words*, what do
>you think of the possibility that there are series of words which, when
>uttered or written, can be evoked in order to produce a train reaction in the
>believer?

I think there are many power words in the community. And yes, a study on the use of them would be very illuminating. Probably, the words that stick in my mind are the ones that are used to produce fear: opposition, covenant, obedience, protection, CB, Juan Cole. There are also words that produce guilt: teaching, fund, backbite, morality. I think, though, that a study would show just how much words are used to produce fear.

>City on the Hill stuff, right? Did he mention anything how the Puritans used
>to whip and burn "marginal, impure" people right in the center of town, for
>the benefit of the gazing townspeople?

No, I think he must have figured that it would be more effective to give a demonstration of it. In fact, I'll post the passage below, and you can analyse it for power words, if you like. If any passage was designed to instill fear, this one was.

Alison

---------------

Peter Khan at the New Zealand Teaching Conference, 2000:

"We need a greater commitment on the part of the friends to deepening in the covenant. Deepening in the covenant is a very important issue in all parts of the world. It involves much more than being able to recite a catechism of who elects who and the national assemblies are elected this a way and that a way and all the rest of it. It involves a philosophic understanding of the role of authority in religion. And we need this in all countries of the world and we need this particularly in New Zealand. The House of Justice has been appalled in recent weeks to receive vitriolic, nasty, vicious letters from New Zealand Baha'is concerned about actions the House of Justice took with regard to a believer from the South Island. I'm sure you are aware of it. These letters are not many, there are a few of them, but they're probably the worst letters I have ever seen written to the House of Justice and they came from people who are part of the New Zealand Baha'i community. That, if nothing more, is an indication of the need for a far greater attention to this issue in this country as well as in other countries. New Zealand surely doesn't want to go down in Baha'i history as the community that has produced such nasty correspondence. Correspondence of such a kind that I am embarrassed to have my secretary see it because of the kind of language that it uses. Anyhow, be that as it may, it's their spiritual problem and they will deal with Baha'u'llah as they wish. But the point is that here it is an indication that something is fundamentally wrong with the Baha'i community in this country in terms of its depth of understanding of the covenant and the authority of the institutions of the Faith. What you take as normal is not normal, but abnormal. What is normal is to have in a Baha'i community a number of Baha'is who are very knowledgable about the covenant who can share their insights with others so that the entire community has a good knowledge of the covenant and follows it. And if that is not done, then what I foresee in the future in New Zealand is more of the same - more vitriol, more foulness, more people rebelling against that crowd of kill-joys in Haifa who call themselves the Universal House of Justice and what do they know and this kind of stuff. That is what I see in the future in this country unless there is sharp, urgent and prolonged attention to a far greater deepening and understanding of the covenant."


Date: Tue Nov 28, 2000 12:42 pm
Subject: Private Organizations and Governmental Ones

And a sixth reason for why the administration of the Baha'i Faith should be seen as a public institution is because its assemblies are incorporated organisations. The whole point of having an organisation incorporated is to give it a public and legal personality. This is why the Guardian wanted the assemblies incorporated, because he was proud of them and wanted them to have standing in the public and legal worlds. If they have this status, they are more able to make a difference; that is, they can use their incorporated status to impact positively on things like human rights.

The Guardian is usually used by Baha'i conservatives to justify their abusive administrative actions, such as the one taken against me. But they misunderstand the Guardian. The Guardian incorporated assemblies to make them accountable, not so they could run rough shod over believers' human rights. The Guardian's vision has not yet come to fruition.

In commonwealth countries, the decisions of assemblies can already be reviewed by the civil courts because of the assemblies' incorporated status. These rights should be exercised by believers who have been affected by an illegal decision of the administration.

There is a push internationally to bring religions into line by bringing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into the civil jurisdictions of member countries. It's just a matter of time before this happens. This will make religions accountable in non-commonwealth countries.

If Baha'i administrators think that the Guardian will be their saviour, they have another thing coming to them. Proper legal and administrative procedures were important to him. If these are working properly, then abuses can't be hidden and rights like free speech are protected. When Baha'i administration is properly carried out, it will be the downfall of Baha'i fundamentalism.

Alison


Date: Wed Dec 6, 2000 5:43 pm
Subject: marriage rites

Jack,

That is a really good point you bring up about non-Baha'is being allowed to have a Baha'i marriage ceremony, whereas a Baha'i without voting rights is not.

I'm not sure the Guardian thought the logic of it through. My understanding is that the concept of a Baha'i without voting rights is a person who is considered a believer and member, but has no rights of membership. Is a Baha'i marriage ceremony a right of membership? Did the Guardian intend for rites of passage to be exclusively rights of membership? I think not, because non-Baha'is can have a Baha'i marriage and a Baha'i burial. Baha'is without standing can have a Baha'i burial, why not a Baha'i marriage? I think this is an anomaly. I think the Guardian made a mistake excluding those without standing from the Baha'i marriage ceremony.

Why did he do this? If you combine the idea that those without standing are prevented from having a Baha'i marriage with the fact that a Baha'i can lose standing by having a non-Baha'i ceremony, you can see that the Guardian used marriage rites of passage as discipinary tools on Baha'is. It betrays the thinking that religious benefits can be bestowed on, and withdrawn from, the masses by spiritual leaders.

But I think that by removing the clergy from the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah wanted to free the masses from this type of thinking. The Baha'i administration cannot bestow or remove the spiritual benefits of the Baha'i Faith. In the case of marriage, it is possible to have a Baha'i marriage ceremony and burial without any reference to the Baha'i administration. The ceremonies themselves can be carried out without contacting a Baha'i assembly at all.

I suggest that the idea that the Baha'i administration can use the marriage rites as disciplinary tools is a conceptual mistake, and the practice will die out. Baha'i rites of passage should be available to everyone, no matter what, and should be freely chosen.

Alison


Date: Wed Dec 13, 2000 9:47 am
Subject: doctrinal unity and administrative unity

Dear friends,

I thought I'd post (again) this interesting message from Sen to H-Baha'i. In it, Sen cites a quote from the Guardian in which he says that doctrinal unity comes about, not by any one interpreter enforcing one interpretation, but by each and every one of us adhering, of our own volition and with our own understanding, to the Revealed Word. This shows how loose the notion of doctrinal unity is. As Sen says, for all intents and purposes, it is simply a "common allegience" to the Faith.

Then the Guardian says there is administrative unity, which asks for obedience to the divinely ordained institutions that administer the Faith, and not any illegitimate ones such as those formed by covenant breakers.

The problem the community faces is that these unities have been merged. It is assumed that the institutions maintain administrative unity by claiming the last say on doctrine. For example, the House of Justice claims the right to punish a believer for expounding his or her personal views on matters such as infallibility (which a number of Talismanians were threatened for doing) or women on the House (which Micheal McKenny was expelled for).

But, in fact, the institutions do not have the power to do this. Believers are free to express their consciences and it's none of the institutions' business. If this was understood, the crisis the community faces would instantly disappear.

Alison

-----------------------

To: H-BAHAI@h...
From: "Sen McGlinn"
Date: Mon, 9 Mar 1998 18:24:52 +0100
Subject: Re: elucidation

X wrote:

> If the Universal House of Justice does not have the authority to
> "elucidate" the "authorized interpretation" of the Baha'i
> Scriptures then it must follow that there is no doctrinal unity to
> the Baha'i Faith, that nobody has authority to delimit doctrine and
> hence that anyone may interpret doctrine as he or she sees fit.

Yes and no. There is a letter on behalf of the Guardian, July 10, 1936, in Dawn of the New Day pp. 60-61, which states:

“With regard to the problems confronting the believers; these; the Guardian fully realizes, are by no means easy to solve .... There are two main principles which the Guardian wishes the friends to always bear in mind and to conscientiously and faithfully follow. First is the principle of unqualified and wholehearted loyalty to the revealed Word. The believers should be careful not to deviate, even a hair breadth, from the Teachings. Their supreme consideration should be a safeguard the purity of the principles, tenets and laws of the Faith. It is only by this means that they can hope to maintain the organic unity of the Cause. There can and should be no liberals or conservatives, no moderates or extremes in the Cause. For they are all subject to the one and the same law which is the Law of God. This law transcends all differences, all personal or local tendencies, moods and aspirations.

Next is the principle of complete, and immediate obedience to the Assemblies, both local and national. ... Doctrinal unity and administrative unity, these are the two chief pillars that sustain the edifice of the Cause, and protect it from the storms of opposition which so severely rage against it.”

I know there is a letter from the UHJ which also distinguishes between doctrinal unity and administrative unity (the first ensured by the writings or the Guardian (?), the latter by the UHJ). I haven't got a search programme which includes their letters, so perhaps someone who has immerse could dig this out - search on `doctrine'.

So yes, everyone is obliged to interpret doctrine of himself or herself, but on the other hand no, it is not true that there is no doctrinal unity. There is no body (nobody) empowered to enforce that unity, so it arises from the voluntary dedication of the Baha'is to "the revealed Word". That's pretty broad, since there is no likelihood even of agreement about what 'revelation' means or the Word is, with views ranging from a take-it-or-leave-it published-in-heaven literal book to the person of the Manifestation as an epiphanic locus in which one can perceive the meaningfulness of history. And the odd postmodernist screwball who believes in both. A unity based on a voluntary allegience might seem weak, but becoming or remaining a Baha'i is also voluntary, a state of mind and heart.

However I think X meant to say that there is no doctrinal *uniformity* under such a system, and this is quite correct. There is only a common allegience

Sen


Date: Wed Dec 13, 2000 10:22 am
Subject: disagreeing with the Guardian

Gary,

You objected a while ago to my disagreeing with the Guardian. Here are some issues to consider about that.

In my earlier message, I was discussing the issue of punishment in the Baha'i community - the fact that a believer can have his or her voting rights removed for not having a Baha'i ceremony and so forth. The right to punish or sanction believers is a *legislative* power. Baha'u'llah has legislated a few sanctions in the Aqdas, but where the Aqdas is silent or unclear, then it is the job of the House of Justice to fill in the blanks. This means that the issue of sanctions and marriage rights actually falls under the jurisdiction of the House and not the Guardian. The fact that the Guardian made any decisions on the matter was because he had to, there being no House then. In fact, much if not all of the administrative decisions the Guardian made could be overturned tomorrow by the House, including things like the electoral system.

Given then, that these matters are fluid and not set in stone, I think it is good that the believers discuss them. It is through consultation that the community develops new ideas and grows. Although, as you point out in your latest message, the covenant tells us which institution has the final say on a matter, I suggest that issues in the community are better sorted by *consultation* rather than by authoritative pronouncements.

Alison


Date: Thu Dec 14, 2000 12:05 pm
Subject: disagreeing with the Guardian

Gary,

Yes, I'm getting you mixed up with Brad. Sorry about that.

You mention the matter of women on the House. This is a question of law. It bears directly on the constitution of the House of Justice. Under the covenant, the two legislators are Baha'u'llah and the House of Justice.

Baha'u'llah did not legislate specifically on the gender of the members of the House; that is, he did not say: "membership of the House of Justice is confined to men". In passing, he referred to its members as "rijal", which has a variety of meanings including men, people who stuggle courageously for their Lord. Based on this, Abdu'l-Baha said that membership of the House was confined to men, however, Abdu'l-Baha, like the Guardian, was not empowered to legislate.

The whole issue is therefore one that is not clear in the Book, and it therefore falls to the House to legislate on it.

Alison


Date: Sat Dec 16, 2000 8:43 am
Subject: definition of covenant

Dear Jennifer,

While looking through my Talisman archives, I came across Sen's attempt at a definition of the covenant:

>The covenant is the constitutional law of the Baha'i community,
>it establishes and regulates institutions, provides authorities
>and limits, nominates successors and the procedure for nominating
>successors.

But I'd say that that is the legal and administrative aspect of the covenant. I think there are many other aspects to the covenant and I think you are onto it when you suggest that the whole of the Kitab-i Ahd should be thought of as the covenant. I liked your commentary on that tablet very much and agreed completely with your reading of it. There is a book just out from Kalimat Press (kalimat.com) that contains an essay about the Kitab-i Ahd. It is called "I beheld a Maiden..." and is written by Terry Culhane. The essay is basically a commentary on that tablet. In it, he argues very much along the lines that you have. He goes right through the tablet line by line and shows up the many aspects of the covenant, including the fundamentally important mystical ones, such as "Say, all things are of God", arguably, the basis of unity. He argues that defining the multifaceted concept of the covenant as 'who has power' is an outrageous reductionism.

The book also contains an essay on the Houri.

Alison


Date: Thu Dec 28, 2000 8:03 pm
Subject: Re: no voice

Ian said:
>Finally, I think if Allison Marshall published all of her posts to the old
>Talisman and T9, most Baha'is would naturally come to agree with that the
>AO's decision was rational and appropriate.

All my Talisman messages of the past couple of years are up on my web site. The URL is in my signature line. I invite anyone who is interested to read them.

My position is this: I believe in Baha'u'llah and accept the conditions for membership as set down by the Guardian. Beyond that, my beliefs are no one else's business, including the Baha'i administration. But if people would like to pour over my Talisman messages for heresy, then they are welcome to do so. But I say that in the end, we are accountable to Baha'u'llah for our *own* state of being, not that of others.

Baha'u'llah is the Ever-Forgiving and All-Merciful; I choose him as my judge over the self-righteous on the earth. I am not concerned that I am condemned by them. Believe me, Baha'u'llah is a sweetheart, and I consider myself the lucky one to have chosen him as my lord, and no longer try to live up to the expectations of a heartless administration. Religion isn't about self-flagellation and heartlessness; it is about realising inside ourselves that we are creatures of God's love. God absolutely adores us, he yearns for us and can't wait to have us return to him. So I now like to spend my days focused on that task.

Alison