Meditations

Talisman messages of June 2003 to November 2004

Date: Mon Jun 2, 2003 10:59 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] ma'sum and the Shi'ahs

>TONY: Otherwise, as Baha'u'llah says, lesser states of infallibility
>belong to every human being on earth. Whenever one acts with righteousness and
>goodness, s/he is partaking of "infallibility" as an attribute of God.

This is exactly right. In the SAQ passage, Abdu'l-Baha compares the action of the attribute of infallibility to the action of the attributes of knowledge and power. In other words, we should look at the attribute of infallibility in the say way that we look any other attribute. Every person reflects the attributes of knowledge and power to some in degree. Each person reflects them differently according to their circumstances and spiritual station, but each soul has the potential to reflect them. The same is true of the attribute of infallibility. Baha'u'llah says that the human being has the potential to reflect *all* the attributes of God. The attribute of infallibility is no exception.

You, Peter, are reflecting the attribute of infallibility when you say you must remember not to criticise people, but rather to put forward an alternative view. That is the goodness Tony is referring to as an example of infallibility.

Alison


Date: Fri Jun 6, 2003 10:42 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] death etc

>Does that mean I'm due for the chop?

Hi Wayne,

No, no, it doesn't work like that. God doesn't chop you; you chop yourself. You say you don't want another life after this one, then fine, you won't. God is very obliging. Our future/eternity is determined by our own decisions. They are not imposed on us.

To make sense of it, you need to think of it in terms of a love affair. If you said to a woman: "No, I don't want a relationship with you", then the result would be that you wouldn't have one. Would it be worth her while pursuing the matter, given that you had rejected her? It would demean her to do so. Similarly, why should God want to pursue the matter with you, given that you have rejected Her? She just lets you go. She doesn't need you. Her way is to invite her lovers to come to Her, but if they reject Her, then that's that.

She is the Most Beautiful One there is. The fire of hell is the realisation that you rejected the Prize and have lost your chance to be near Her. Faith is the same thing as being near Her. It's not some silly illogicality; it is a spiritual experience of ecstastic love.

And just to change the subject for a moment, while I'm in a chatty mood... I watched a TV programme about Shakespeare the other night. One of the experts interviewed made the insightful comment that we make love with language and not with bits of our body. I think that's right. Baha'u'llah makes love to us in His beautiful writings. And He only wants us to make love back in our worship.

Alison


Date: Mon Jun 9, 2003 8:06 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Let the literalists

As I have said before, I think the future is in doing what Baha'u'llah counsels us to do. That hasn't been tried yet.

For my part, I have become a participant in a public Mashriq, which has been set up locally here. The Mashriq is advertised in the newspaper and is open to people from all faiths. It is being run by Mark Choveaux and my hubby, Steve, as individuals.

For me, it is a very exciting thing. At the first Mashriq service, the participants took time to introduce themselves and say why they were there and what they wanted. The almost universal call was for devotional meetings - worship services where Baha'is were free to worship their Lord as Baha'u'llah intended and as Abdu'l-Baha explained to us. You could tell that there was a real thirst in people's hearts for that feeling of union with their Creator.

This is what I mean about doing what Baha'u'llah intended. This new Mashriq has brought into sharp relief the extent of the tragedy that the Baha'i community experiences its religion like a business. Just to think that we are a fully fledged religion and yet the key religious concept of worship is something we've yet to take hold of. Worship in church and mosques is central in Christianity and Islam, and yet the Mashriq is not yet the central institution for Baha'is, and the worship service is not the pivotal activity. Baha'is have yet to establish themselves as a religion in which people really worship God!

On a personal level, this Mashriq is the beginning of my new Baha'i community. I had to hold back the tears when I attended the first one. It was the first "Baha'i" event I have been to since I was kicked out of the AO community. The atmosphere was wonderful. We all did and spoke exactly as we pleased, and the most important Person there was Baha'u'llah.

Although I have been tossed out of the AO community, I still have my principal duties to Baha'u'llah - to worship him and to teach his Cause. This Mashriq has given me another way in which I can carry out those duties.

I agree about leaving the literalists behind. For me, the future is to worship Baha'u'llah. After all, we have been created to know him and to worship him.

Alison


Date: Wed Jun 11, 2003 8:11 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Mas'um and the Shi'is

"First of all, I know of no statement in the Baha'i source texts that
indicates that any level of infallibility is operative in the deliberations
of local and national Spiritual Assemblies, or of any other Baha'i
institution, other than these three: the Universal House of Justice, the
Guardianship, the Centre of the Covenant. Secondly, I know of no process
whereby we can identify the infallibility that is manifest in the lives of
individual human beings."

It's in the passage where Baha'u'llah says that all human beings can reflect all of the attributes of God. Infallibility is an attribute, therefore it can be manifested at assembly meetings.

The writings don't have to state that X attribute applies to X person or institution, otherwise X doesn't reflect that attribute. That's ridiculous. That would mean that unless the writings said that Peter Terry reflected compassion, he wouldn't reflect it.

The general principle applies: all humans can reflect all the attributes, infallibility included.

You need to start thinking of infallibility as an attribute of God, and not as some other special thing. Abdu'l-Baha himself, when explaining the "conferred" nature of infallibility, likens it to the "conferred" nature of the attributes of power and knowledge. Infallibility should be viewed in the same way as power and knowledge. We all reflect (= are conferred with) power and knowledge to varying degrees; similarly, we all reflect infallibility to varying degrees.

Alison


Date: Wed Jun 18, 2003 10:33 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Infallibility is the problem

I've been thinking further about Ron's assertion that infallibility is the problem and his assessment that the House of Justice is our only hope. For those who missed it, here it is again:

>We currently have none. We institutionalize our mistakes. We go
>further; when the obvious and inevitable talk about the mistakes
>surfaces, we idolize our mistakes and make belief in the "rightness" of
>our mistakes a litmus test for orthodoxy.
>
>The Universal House of Justice is our only hope.
>
>There is no other hope to cure this illness.
>
>I have Faith in this Revelation. Baha'u'llah gave us an all-powerful
>Universal House of Justice and It is our only refuge.
>
>But I have no idea how long it will take.

I don't think infallibility is the problem; it is only a symptom.

The problem is our belief that "the answer" (to anything) lies outside of our own selves.

The belief in infallibility is way of justifying locating the answer outside of ourselves. "If X is infallible, then X must have the answer. I can have an easy life, because I don't have to take responsibility for what happens."

This is the central problem with the community and the cause of its woes: the attitude that "I don't have to take responsibility for what happens. The answer lies with someone else."

If I had to boil the revelation down to one sole idea, I'd boil it down to this: "the Cause *is* your reponsibility." If we die and say to Baha'u'llah: "Dear God, the Baha'i community is in a state of confusion. So I sat around wondering when the House of Justice would put it right". What will Baha'u'llah say? I imagine he'd say: "What did *you* do about it?" "Oh, I didn't do anything, Baha'u'llah, because you told us that the House of Justice is infallible/all-powerful. Therefore it has all the answers."

Alison


Date: Fri Jun 20, 2003 11:16 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Working outside the AO

Dear Shining Penny,

>You're so kind! The only thing that bothers me about this is when other
>Baha'is want to denigrate such "seemingly small" acts or criticize us fellow
>believers for not attending every event (or committee meeting).

I have also experienced this. And I have thought about it alot. I've found that whenever I've begun to walk a new path of service that I've discovered for myself through prayer (just as you have), there has *always* been someone to criticise it. And that someone has always given me the message that my new path is not in keeping with "true" service to Baha'u'llah. Then I have found myself in a quandry. Do I go with what I have found for myself or listen to others? I guess I've done both at one time or another, but now I just follow my path and ignore the critics.

I think this criticism is a law of the universe. It helped me when I read this passage from Baha'u'llah:

"Do Thou ordain for me, O my Lord, what will profit me in every world of Thy worlds. Supply me, then, with what Thou hast written down for the chosen ones among Thy creatures, whom neither the blame of the blamer, nor the clamor of the infidel, nor the estrangement of such as have withdrawn from Thee, hath deterred from turning towards Thee." (Baha'u'llah: Prayers and Meditations, Page: 224)

In this passage, Baha'u'llah identifies three categories of people who test our resolve to follow our own path:

1. the blame of the blamers
2. the clamour of the infidel
3. the estrangment of those who have withdrawn from Thee.

Each of these can cause us to turn away from the path.

I see your critics (and mine) as an example of "the blame of the blamers". The blamer is the person who tries to make you feel like your own path is a blameworthy thing. But in this passage, Baha'u'llah tells us not to listen to them. He identifies them as one of the pressures God uses to test our resolve.

Alison


Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 9:47 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Working outside the AO

Penny asks:
>How many
>more Baha'is (or others) have probably faced these same tests, these
>self-doubts, only to lead to greater inactivity and disillusionment?

I'd say we all face them, without exception, and many have fallen away. 'Many are called and few are chosen' - isn't that how the famous saying goes?

Having the courage to follow our own Baha'u'llah star is the key to success spiritually, I believe.

Baha'is face this fundamental issue: where do I locate Baha'u'llah? Some locate him in the House/AO and some locate him in their own selves. My reading of Baha'u'llah is that we should look for him in our selves:

"O My servants! Could ye apprehend with what wonders of My munificence and bounty I have willed to entrust your souls, ye would, of a truth, rid yourselves of attachment to all created things, and would gain a true knowledge of your own selves - a knowledge which is the same as the comprehension of Mine own Being. Ye would find yourselves independent of all else but Me, and would perceive, with your inner and outer eye, and as manifest as the revelation of My effulgent Name, the seas of My loving-kindness and bounty moving within you." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Pages: 326-327)

He even goes so far as to say that a true knowledge of our own selves is the same as the comprehension of God's own Being.

Then he goes on to say that if we gain this, we will detach from all save God. This means that we will detach from religious leaders as well as everything else. We'll find his paradise located in our own hearts and it will be so amazing that we'll suddenly realise that, in comparison, all we see before us is of no value.

Now that's what I call working outside the AO!

Alison


Date: Mon Jun 30, 2003 9:38 pm
Subject: eschewing evil

Dear all,

A couple of days ago I decided to try and memorise some Hidden Words. Baha'u'llah counsels us to live in the spiritual world of our remembrance of him. I thought it might help me if I chose one Hidden Word and then said it regularly at prayers and say it to myself whenever my mind was free. Better to fill it with wise counsels from Baha'u'llah than inner idle prattle that brings me down. And so, I chose a Hidden Word and have been saying it regularly and thinking about it. But while doing this, I found I had questions about it and thought I'd pose them here. Maybe others will have ideas about what it might mean.

The Hidden Word is:

"O COMPANION OF MY THRONE! Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep. Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed. Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore." (Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, no 44)

Here are some questions that occurred to me. What does Baha'u'llah mean when he asks us to hear and see no evil? How might we go about doing that; what activities or attitudes are involved? How is it possible to live a life in which we do that? Let's face it, evil is everywhere around us. How can we avoid it?

He also asks us not to speak any evil? What does he mean by that? I am reminded that Baha'u'llah, in his writings, often would speak of people around him doing evil things. Baha'u'llah did not speak evil *to* them, but surely he had to hear and see evil in order to mention it in his writings.

Why does Baha'u'llah ask us to hear, see and speak no evil? What's the purpose in his asking us to do that? He seems to want us to cleanse our inner selves of all regard to evil. And he seems to link this with a good death and eternal life. What is the link between not hearing, seeing and speaking evil and eternal life?

Alison


Date: Sat Jul 5, 2003 1:26 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] nonexistence of evil

I was thinking last night about how to reconcile Abdu'l-Baha's interpretation about the nonexistence of evil and Baha'u'llah's exhortation to not hear or see evil.

I think the guts of what Abdu'l-Baha is saying is that evil has no *source*. Good has a source and that is God, the Source of all sources. But evil doesn't have a source. It is in this sense that it doesn't "exist". The word "exist" can have different meanings. Evil "exists" in the sense that a person can harm another person. But evil doesn't "exist" in the sense that it has no Source of existence in creation, like good does. I guess, if evil has a source, then it is us (our lower nature), but it is not God or another god such as Satan.

My interpretation of not hearing or seeing evil is that, if evil doesn't exist, then it is folly to spend one's energies on trying to counter it on its own terms. Jim's sketch about eliminating the stain on the table illustrates what I mean. The sketch shows how it's possible to become fully involved in countering a perceived evil, and that this is a waste of time. In the end, all you are doing is spending your energies focused on an illusion, an absence of something. And you become caught up in the negative.

If evil is the absence of good, then the way to 'fight' evil is to generate good, rather than become embroiled in a fight with evil. If you generate good, then surely you must be obliterating evil. This appears to be a law of the universe: where ever light shines, then darkness is necessarily extinguished.

But this is very hard to do. When we witness something evil happening, our gut reaction is to want to get in there and react back in a negative way. In those moments, it is hard to remember that good is all-powerful and only good can counter the evil we have witnessed. But that's what I hear Baha'u'llah saying when he counsels us to hear and see no evil. He means for us not to get sucked into the 'domain' or 'realm' of evil, which is only an illusion or a negative. The way to fight back is to extinguish it with light.

This fits in with the next clause of the Hidden Word. He says: "Hear no evil and see no evil, abase not thyself..." I have been wondering why he follows hear and see no evil with "abase not thyself". Is it that if we do hear and see evil, we will be abased? I think the answer is yes. And this because if we hear and see evil, then we have allowed ourselves to get caught up in the realm of the negative. Immediately our efforts are wasted fighting an illusion and we take on the characteristics of that realm.

Why else, for example, would it be (as Baha'u'llah goes on to state in the Hidden Word) that if we magnify the faults of others, our own faults will appear great and if we wish for the abasement of others, then our own abasement will be exposed? What is the relationship between promoting the faults and abasement of others and the necessity of our own abasement? Again, I would argue that we are automatically corrupted the minute we enter the 'realm' of evil and try to fight it there. Part of being in that realm is to become involved in exposing the faults and abasement of those we believe to be evil.

Alison


Date: Fri Jul 11, 2003 7:56 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] nonexistence of evil

Fred,

I'm not denying that evil has some kind of "existence". I am debating what sort of existence it has. This may appear to be a pointless philosophical exercise, but I suggest that it has important practical consequences. What I have been trying to say, so far anyway, is that evil is not a god. It doesn't have a source independent of ourselves. It isn't beamed into our hearts by Satan. Its source is ourselves, and ourselves alone. This makes a difference to how we deal with it. It also means that evil is *not* more powerful than God. When we are surrounded by the evil of humans, it seems as though God has been overshadowed by human agency. But Baha'u'llah is telling us that this can never be the case. God is always in charge, no matter what bad things humans get up to.

As to the quote from Abdu'l-Baha that you cited, I think it is a fabulous one. I wasn't aware of it and was delighted to have discovered it. To me, it says as succintly as its possible to, what evil actually *is*:

"For the spirit and the soul of Adam, when they were attached to the human world, passed from the world of freedom into the world of bondage, and His descendants continued in bondage. This attachment of the soul and spirit to the human world, which is sin, was inherited by the descendants of Adam, and is the serpent which is always in the midst of, and at enmity with, the spirits and the descendants of Adam. That enmity continues and endures. For attachment to the world has become the cause of the bondage of spirits, and this bondage is identical with sin, which has been transmitted from Adam to His posterity. It is because of this attachment that men have been deprived of essential spirituality and exalted position." Some Answered Questions, by `Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 124-125:

He is saying that evil, or as he terms it "sin", is the attachment of the soul and spirit to the human world.

I think this is crucial. The second half of the Hidden Word that I quoted earlier says that a person who frees the self from evil attains eternal life. I was asking why this was the case. What is the relationship between freeing oneself from evil and eternal life? I still think that's a critical question, which we haven't tried to answer yet. Freeing oneself from attachment to the world is key, as the quote above indicates. What then does it mean to detach oneself from the world? Why does this process result in eternal life?

I stumbled upon another relevant quote from Baha'u'llah. I'll quote it below.

Alison

----------

"This lowly one hath read the descriptions of the dialogue with the traveller which thou hast recounted in thy letter to my Lord, may my life be offered up for His sake. The explanations which were set forth awaken the people from the slumber of heedlessness. Indeed the actions of man himself breed a profusion of satanic power. For were men to abide by and observe the divine teachings, every trace of evil would be banished from the face of the earth. However, the widespread differences that exist among mankind and the prevalence of sedition, contention, conflict and the like are the primary factors which provoke the appearance of the satanic spirit. Yet the Holy Spirit hath ever shunned such matters. A world in which naught can be perceived save strife, quarrels and corruption is bound to become the seat of the throne, the very metropolis, of Satan." (Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Pages: 176-177)


Date: Fri Aug 8, 2003 10:56 am
Subject: why blame Baha'u'llah?

The question is: how should we interpret the path the Faith has taken in the last few decades? Many have suggested that its disastrous turn to fundamentalism is reason to leave the Faith and relegate it to the scrap heap.

But I say the opposite is true. What does Baha'u'llah tell us? Does he say that the path of faith will be plain sailing? Or does he say that the sincere will be crushed into the ground, denounced, abused, abased, and in previous centuries, tortured and put to death?

The situation Baha'u'llah found himself in in his life is the same as the one we currently face. The religious rulers have proved to be hypocrites and the masses blindly follow them. The Iqan *tells* us that this is the paradigm that returns and returns and returns. Now that we see it returning in our time, I can't understand why this is reason to lose faith. Surely, this is reason to say to ourselves: Baha'u'llah must be a representative of God. He has shown insight into the spiritual processes playing out throughout sacred history.

Why is it then that we blame Baha'u'llah for what the hypocrites do? I can't understand this. What has he done to any of us? He has warned us about it so that we might be prepared. And yet somehow we feel he should be blamed when it happens. It is as if we see Baha'u'llah as being 'on the other side of the fence' to us. We don't like our situation so we have to ascribe blame. Who can we blame? We'll blame the one claiming to represent the big Guy; after all, he says he's all-powerful. But isn't this the same argument put to Christ on the cross: you say your God is all-powerful, where is he now?

Look at Baha'u'llah's life. It was a life of misery. Baha'u'llah has shared all the pains, abuse and abasement we have experienced at the hands of hypocritical religious leaders. He isn't on 'the other side of the fence' from us. He is one of us. He suffered just as we have. We shouldn't blame him. He is our friend. He loves us. That's why he bore our sufferings too.

It isn't just to blame Baha'u'llah for the sins of hypocrites. The hypocrites are not proof against his station as the Word of God.

Alison


Date: Sat Aug 30, 2003 7:47 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] God-talk

>Baha'u'llah says that "The first and foremost testimony
>establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony
>is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one
>or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed
>... " (Gleanings p. 105)

And here's another quote: "He Who is everlastingly hidden from the eyes of men can never be known except through His Manifestation, and His Manifestation can adduce no greater proof of the truth of His Mission than the proof of His own Person." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 49)

Sen, it was interesting to read your understanding of knowing the person of Baha'u'llah. I agree with everything you say. For me, there is another dimension to it too. Perhaps you intended this in what you said. Much of the time I put myself in Baha'u'llah's shoes to find out how he is feeling. For me, how he is feeling is what's important too. I think about how he was broken hearted when humanity didn't pay him any mind, and think about times when I have loved a person with all my heart but they didn't have time for me. Then I read the Hidden Word where Baha'u'llah creates an image where he is sort of flying over a sleeping person, and he sees that they are concerned with the affairs of the world and not with loving him. And I know how that feels. Then I hear Baha'u'llah talk about how the houri disappears in grief and regret because people turn away from her in pride and suspicion, and I know what it means to have to turn away for those reasons. And I often think about Baha'u'llah sitting in the dungeon and in his prison cell in Akka. I wish I could have done something to alleviate his suffering. But I am in the wrong century for that. Instead, I say to myself, I have to do the equivalent now of what I would have done then had I been there. And I feel this burning need to scream at the world to listen. But people don't want to know, and I feel again something of the divine tragedy of it all.

Alison


Date: Mon Nov 3, 2003 11:26 pm
Subject: RE: [talisman9] Digest Number 1462

Hi Woodie,

Your message left me with the impression that you think life is about getting others to be the way we think they should be. For example, you imply that because I believe in Baha'u'llah but don't like what the Baha'i administrators do, the heart of my religious experience must be to try and change that and them. Or, if I don't believe in Baha'u'llah, I should invest in changing others to create a utopian vision. And so on.

But my faith is not about changing others. Yes, I tell others what I believe, but what they do is up to them. My faith is about finding out why I am here, and then finding inner, eternal contentment with God.

People think that they will be happy if other people were different - if so and so could be more this or more that, or if the fundies would go away, or if the liberals could be got rid of, or whatever. They fight and struggle to change the way things are, but in the end they have to admit to their powerlessness. Even if it is on their death beds.

Given the tragic state of the world, we each have a choice: become consumed with bitterness, anger and depression, or close our eyes to the world's torments and find an inner peace in the midst of the ruins.

Baha'u'llah says that there is a good reason why the world is a hopeless case. The lesson is that it forces us to find happiness despite that. A person who has found that sort of happiness is free of every care.

Alison

"For every one of you his paramount duty is to choose for himself that on which no other may infringe and none usurp from him. Such a thing - and to this the Almighty is My witness - is the love of God, could ye but perceive it. Build ye for yourselves such houses as the rain and floods can never destroy, which shall protect you from the changes and chances of this life. This is the instruction of Him Whom the world hath wronged and forsaken." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 261)


Date: Tue Dec 2, 2003 12:47 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: Assimilation or Pluralism? 1482 - 7

Warren comments:
>My understanding of all revelations of God is, that they were an act of
>intervention into our current world of being. Life is life now, not life in the
>future, even if the life we are living now may continue into eternity.
>
>My understanding is that Baha'u'llah came to teach us how to live in this
>material world and to carry forward an ever advancing civilization, based on
>spiritual principles and the gift of reason he has given us, not to simply endure
>this world as a means of achieving some kind of perfected life in another
>dimension of time and space.

This appears to be a Christian interpretation of what I am saying. Earlier this year, someone suggested that I was counselling people to become ascetics. But this is not my point at all. Baha'u'llah forbids ascetism. But he does ask us to detach from the world, so what does that mean?

Being detached means that we will not compromise principle for worldly gain. It is about what we *value*. It isn't that we should take ourselves out of society; it's more about the way we operate in society. When we make decisions, this often means weighing up what we value most. We will base our decision on what we value most. If money is more important to us than spirituality, then we will dedicate our lives to acquiring money rather than to spending time with God and serving humanity. Baha'u'llah explains that the benefits this world appears to offer are an illusion. He is therefore saying that, when it comes to making those crucial decisions, we shouldn't value the worldly benefits over spiritual wealth - things such as service, humility, and honesty. A person who makes a decision in favour of principle, truth or spirituality over a worldly gain is displaying the quality of detachment.

"He must purge his breast, which is the sanctuary of the abiding love of the Beloved, of every defilement, and sanctify his soul from all that pertaineth to water and clay, from all shadowy and ephemeral attachments. He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth." (Baha'u'llah: The Kitab-i-Iqan, Page: 192)

Detachment is a discipline that trains us on the never-ending path towards perfection. So yes, in that sense, this world is a training ground for the next world. I think that theme is clear in the writings. But this doesn't mean we extract ourselves from the world and sit around waiting for death. In order to grow, we have to operate in the world and learn to live with its shortcomings without buying into its apparent benefits or becoming bitter, angry and apathetic. These are very difficult goals to achieve. But as I understand it, this is the method by which we are trained and we are judged on the results.

"57 The world will pass away, and so will all the things whereat your hearts rejoice, or wherein ye pride yourselves before men. Cleanse the mirrors of your hearts from the dross of the world and all that is therein, that they may reflect the resplendent light of God. This, indeed, shall enable you to dispense with all save God, and to attain unto the good pleasure of your Lord, the Most Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. We, verily, have unfolded before your eyes that which shall profit you both in this world and in the realm of faith, and which will lead you to the path of salvation. Would that ye might turn thereunto!" Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p209

If you want to understand about detachment, I suggest reading Summons of the Lord of Hosts cover to cover. It is an extremely powerful and moving book, and leaves you wanting to do all in your power to serve God now, while you still have a chance. Who wants to sit around when the clock is ticking and the opportunity will be irretrievably lost?

Alison


Date: Mon Dec 8, 2003 9:10 pm
Subject: workaholism (was: Secrecy and Election Reform)

>Ulla said:
>"And just this morning before seeing your post I had read this article
>which highlights the unhealthy symptoms that accompany such an
>obsession to keep people occupied at all cost. I wonder what lies at
>the root of such a culture?"

I read a book that argued that it was depression. I was convinced by it. He argued that depression in US society was at epidemic proportions, especially in men. He analysed male conditioning and showed how it leads to covert depression. One thing I really liked about his book was that he argued that workaholism and alcoholism were manifestations of the same thing: addiction. They are both addictions. The trouble is that society frowns on one and rewards the other. But they are both escapes.

The author is a therapist. Middle-aged men whose families and lives are falling to pieces come to him regularly. The only thing these guys have done all their lives is work. Then something happens to them, their wife threatens to leave or they are made redundant or become sick, and suddenly they fall apart and don't know what to do. Then the real work begins because the addiction, or other escape, has been taken away.

Below is a message I wrote in October 2001 about the book. Perhaps it will stimulate discussion. :-) But for those who are interested in this topic, I recommend the book highly.

Alison

---------------
17.10.01

Dear XX,

That is indeed a wonderful quote and excellent advice!

You may be interested to know that I am currently reading a book about that very subject. It's called "I don't want to talk about it. Overcoming the secret legacy of male depression", by Terrence Real (Newleaf). Although it is about depression, it is more focused on male socialisation and how it leads to depression. He examines how men are socialised to compete and win in order to become an accepted member of society - exactly the same idea that is being referred to in your quote, the idea of having to fight and win the race. Terrence examines in depth the impact this socialisation has on the men's relationships to themselves, to women, and to others. He argues that this socialisation begins when boys are psychologically taken from their mothers in order to prevent them from becoming "sissy". They are psychologically wounded by being denied emotional and spiritual connection and when they are encouraged to withstand the pain of the isolation and abandonment in order to be a 'man', the link between themselves and their soul is ruptured. This rupture is the price for acceptance into society. But of course, the acceptance is a hollow reward and men continue to sustain the damage of the socialisation throughout their lives. This unspoken pain is the cause of depression. Terrence argues that men medicate themselves from the pain using props such as work, alcohol, sex, sport, abuse.

He makes an excellent case for how this impacts on morality. Under the socialisation, morality is about keeping with the pack, not about independent examination of virtue in each situation. So, for example, you have the classic moral bind: in a situation where a person is being victimised by the group, should I retain my link with the group and continue to be accepted, or go with my spiritual connection to the victim and risk losing my sense of identity, which the group gives me. Very few people break with the group.

What struck me about all this was just how it militates against spirituality. In a sense, the socialisation that Terrence describes stands in direct contrast to the goal of mysticism, which is to grasp the fact that the spiritual connection is what's real, not the worldly game. Baha'u'llah teaches that only the wise the can figure out why God has put the worldly game before our eyes and hidden the reality of the spiritual connection.

When I look at George W Bush, I see a man who is medicating his depression (the rupture of relationship to the inner self) with alcohol, work and self-aggrandizement. His whole sense of well-being is vested in winning the race and he has taken much of the world with him. It's a collective delusion.

Alison


Date: Fri Dec 12, 2003 9:17 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] workaholism

Hi Anna,

Your comment “Anna, who listens to that still small voice” made me think about the saying that's attributed to Jesus: 'Unless you be as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God'.

I listened to a song by Sinead O'Connor at our Mashriq meeting a couple of weeks ago and it was all about listening to the little child inside. I loved it. I got the CD so that I could share the words with you. The song is called The Healing Room. And the words are wonderful; sort of a Sinead O'Connor 'hidden word', if you like. I think she has captured the essence of religion in this song. I particularly like the words:

It doesn't matter who you think you may be You're not free until you know me

Baha'u'llah also says we must know ourselves to know him.

Alison

--------

Sinead O'Connor: "The Healing Room"

I have a universe inside me
Where I can go and spirit guides me
There I can ask oh any question
I get the answers if I listen

I have a healing room inside me
The loving healers there they feed me
They make me happy with their laughter
They kiss and tell me I'm their daughter
I'm their daughter

They say
You have a little voice inside you
It doesn't matter who you think you may be
You're not free if you don't know me
If you don't know me
See I'm not the lie that lives outside you
And it doesn't matter what
You think you believe
You're not free if you don't know me
If you don't know me
See I am the universe inside you
You come to me and I will guide you
And make you happy with my laughter
I joy in seeing you're my daughter
You're my daughter
So believe you're not free if
You don't know me
If you don't know me


Date: Sun Dec 14, 2003 8:15 pm
Subject: Mashriq meetings

Hi Paul,

A Mashriq meeting? I am using the word "Mashriq" as an abbreviation for the word "Mashriqu'l-Adhkar". It is Arabic for "dawning point of the remembrance of God". That is the name Baha'u'llah gave to Baha'i houses of worship. You know, the temples that are dotted over the globe.

But if you read what Abdu'l-Baha tells us about the institution of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, we learn that it isn't a building, it is a place where people remember God. Abdu'l-Baha explains that it is a vital institution and that it is imperative that the Baha'is raise them up.

55. "It befitteth the friends to hold a gathering, a meeting, where they shall glorify God and fix their hearts upon Him, and read and recite the Holy Writings of the Blessed Beauty - may my soul be the ransom of His lovers! The lights of the All-Glorious Realm, the rays of the Supreme Horizon, will be cast upon such bright assemblages, for these are none other than the Mashriqu'l-Adhkars, the Dawning-Points of God's Remembrance, which must, at the direction of the Most Exalted Pen, be established in every hamlet and city... These spiritual gatherings must be held with the utmost purity and consecration, so that from the site itself, and its earth and the air about it, one will inhale the fragrant breathings of the Holy Spirit." (`Abdu'l-Baha: Selections ... `Abdu'l-Baha, Pages: 93-94)

You can see from this quote that although the Baha'is have a few temples across the globe, the thing Abdu'l-Baha wanted was to have houses of worship everywhere. They should be ubiquitous like churches and mosques.

Some years ago, about 1997, I began my own Mashriqu'l-Adhkar. I was the only one to attend it. After a few years, I was joined by others and now I attend two meetings - a private one and a public one. It was at one of these meetings that I heard the song I quoted for Anna. (BTW Anna, the album is called "Faith and Courage").

If only I had the words to describe how my life changed when I began to participate in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar. My devotional life took off like a rocket in 1997 when I took action to realise the institution in Dunedin. Then all sorts of astonishing blessings came my way when others joined me. I remember saying at the time that we would soon look back and say to ourselves how extraordinarily our lives had changed once we committed to meeting regularly.

Sen has pointed out that the institution of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar is independent of the Baha'i administration. I encourage all Baha'is everywhere to take up Baha'u'llah's and Abdu'l-Baha's counsel and establish a Mashriq in their location. All it requires is a decision to meet regularly in some place and read the writings, even if you do it alone at first. I swear by my life that your life will change forever. Things will happen that will astonish you. And this will happen in only a matter of months. Test it out and see. I remember looking back after four months or so to note that all the personal goals I'd set for myself had already been well exceeded and looked petty.

And if you think you are too busy for the Mashriq, then I respond with some wisdom I once heard at a Baha'i conference. If you're too busy to pray, then you're busier than God meant you to be.

Alison


Date: Mon Dec 29, 2003 8:59 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Saddam Hussein and the Death Penalty

"IMHO, Blair , Bush , Mugabe, Sadaam, Musharraf, Idi Amin (now decsd) and several others (alive or dead) are well qualified to be tried before a world tribunal (Not western dominated).I have little doubt as to the outcome."

Hi Wayne,

Yes, I'm with you on this one. I think they are all culpable. It may be that some committed worse crimes than others, but they have all committed crimes against humanity. As you suggest, this conclusion is inevitable if the facts are examined.

I think the culpability issue is hidden behind talk of who is worse than who. Yes, Saddam committed more crimes than Bush, but that doesn't make Bush a good person. Baha'u'llah instructs not to see evil. I think what he is saying is that if you, for example, get all steamed up about Saddam and go on about him being evil, it can blind you to the injustices perpetrated by Bush. You begin to see things in black and white: if Saddam is evil, then Bush must be good because he got Saddam. But it doesn't work like that. They are both bad. All that's happened is that one bad guy got another one.

But pendulums swing and the loser will be the winner next time around. It's just a game that God creates to hook the foolish.

Alison


Date: Wed Dec 31, 2003 10:30 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Saddam Hussein and the Death Penalty

>The Americans and British
>diplomats were counting heads, and were confident enough to
>put the resolution forward.

You also have to factor in the economic pressures being placed on the smaller countries voting and the economic benefits if they voted with the US. And is it right that Russia and China should abstain?

"Of all men, the most negligent is he who disputes idly and seeks to advance himself over his brother."

This is what the US and UK "diplomats" were doing.

The whole thing is ludicrous. There isn't a hint of Baha'u'llah's fragrance in it.

As I see it, this is the Day of God, and that means that *only* pure deeds bear the stamp of divine approval. God is in no need of these hyprocritical rulers. They are nobodies in his sight. God lends his power to the little ones with pure hearts. If you want to look to the ones who will change the world, it will be the humble who have no worldly power but who God supports with his almighty power and beautiful grace. This has always been God's way. But it is all the more so in the Day of God, with a revelation whose essential principle Baha'u'llah himself has defined as "virtues".

Alison

"Note that what appeared was virtues, of which all remained ignorant. It would be the indisputable truth to say that all of these virtues were hidden and concealed in the scriptures and that in the dispensation of the Point (the Bab) of the Bayan, the veiled faces of meaning came out from behind the curtain in the chambers of the divine verses. And if it were said that what went before was a concise mention, whereas thereafter came one who clarified and spoke in detail, that would be the truth, in which there is not doubt. If it were said that what became manifest in the new revelation had not been apparent in previous dispensations--though all are wondrous and new--this saying is also correct and complete."

Baha'u'llah: Tablet of the Son


Date: Fri Jan 2, 2004 9:34 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Terrorism threat up for New Year's: Bishop Spong's message

>The scandal (as in Bosnia) is that it took the
>world community so long to get around to doing what was
>clearly both right and unavoidable.

There is also the scandal that the Western powers helped Saddam into power, armed him, gave him the WMDs that he used against the helpless and supported him. If Saddam is guilty of crimes against humanity, then Thatcher and Reagan should be tried as parties, along with anyone else who supported him. He was a thug for the capitalists. Those who benefitted from his thuggery are just as guilty in my view.

The trouble with all this talk of what's "moral" in international affairs is that no one is. And it seems arbitrary to pick out just one person and condemn him and not the rest. In the case of Saddam, we have those who benefitted from his thuggery standing in judgement over him! The US won't even allow its members to be tried for war crimes, and yet it claims the right to judge others!

The other consideration is that if we don't address the issue of how Saddam got there in the first place, then we are left asking ourselves: how many Saddams are being created as we speak?

Alison


Date: Sat Jan 3, 2004 8:29 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Terrorism... Bishop Spong's message

I think Baha'u'llah is the only answer to the problem. I know that makes no sense to most people. But that is how I sincerely see it. I'm not just repeating a formula. I believe it is the genuine answer because of how Baha'u'llah has educated me to be free from tests. "The healer of all thy ills is remembrance of me. Forget it not". I think the world's situation is caused by the fact that Baha'u'llah is ignored.

"I swear by My life! This Revelation is endowed with such a power that it will act as the lodestone for all nations and kindreds of the earth. Should one pause to meditate attentively he would recognize that no place is there, nor can there be, for anyone to flee to." Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Page: 200

What would Baha'u'llah have done? I think Baha'u'llah would have seen it in a different way. First and foremost is that God is in charge and is all-powerful. The situation could be different tomorrow if God willed it. God is the one with the power to change hearts. God could unite the world. Baha'u'llah never despaired of God's grace. Once we know who is in charge, then we can turn to the Boss for things. Most people think that Bush is the boss. But Bush is a speck of dust in God's palm.

"Far be it from us to despair at any time of the incalculable favours of God, for if it were His wish He could cause a mere atom to be transformed into a sun and a single drop into an ocean. He unlocketh thousands of doors, while man is incapable of conceiving even a single one." Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Page: 176

Given that God does as he wills, I don't think in terms of 'saving the world' or 'saving the Iraqi people' or whatever. In reality, we can't save anyone. The situation is too complex. Coming to terms with our powerlessness is an important part of what these situations are designed to teach us. Baha'u'llah says that recognising our poverty is the essence of understanding. Most people's reaction to their powerlessness is to invest their belief in a character like Bush, who promises them what they imagine to be a moral path to power. With Bush, they feel powerful and good and like they are saviours and heroes. Never mind the hypocrisy.

There is a passage in Gleanings that, for me, bears on how Baha'u'llah might see the invasion of Iraq. He is talking about hypocrites who teach others but have not taught themselves. These people are in effectual. But, if they succeed in influencing anyone, it is due to the decree of God. I see the invasion in this way. It is the action of ignorant men, who have not taught themselves and haven't the slightest interest in democracy. If any good comes of it, that will be due to God, not due to the leaders.

"Whoso ariseth among you to teach the Cause of his Lord, let him, before all else, teach his own self, that his speech may attract the hearts of them that hear him. Unless he teacheth his own self, the words of his mouth will not influence the heart of the seeker. Take heed, O people, lest ye be of them that give good counsel to others but forget to follow it themselves. The words of such as these, and beyond the words the realities of all things, and beyond these realities the angels that are nigh unto God, bring against them the accusation of falsehood. Should such a man ever succeed in influencing any one, this success should be attributed not to him, but rather to the influence of the words of God, as decreed by Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Wise. In the sight of God he is regarded as a lamp that imparteth its light, and yet is all the while being consumed within itself." (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 277)

Alison


Date: Mon Jan 5, 2004 10:20 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] the beloved of hearts & the desire of the nations

You seem to be making some assumptions about my position that aren't the case. I have no argument with Baha'u'llah being the desire of nations or that one of the goals of the revelation is the development of human knowledge and political unity. I disagree with you about how we are going to get there. And I am questioning whether what you support is effective.

I am not advocating inaction. Your position seems to assume that if one does not go to war, then one is doing nothing. And so you assume that if I don't support the war, then I am advocating inaction. But I am not advocating inaction. I am advocating a different action. One that I believe is more effective. I think that spiritual considerations such as purity of heart REALLY ARE fundamental to realising political unity. Emphasis on these is not "inaction". To see them in this way is to pay them lip-service.

You gloss my point here:
>Inaction is not a safe option: the archetype of "I wash my
>hands of the matter" is Pontius Pilate. There are a few nations
>that have the capacity to change oppressive regimes around
>the world, in countries such as Burma and Iraq where the
>people do not have the ability to do this for themselves. They
>are condemned if they fail to use the power they have. More
>countries have the capacity to exert a beneficial influence on
>their immediate neighbours. Whether they actually installed,
>supported, or unintentionally aided the tyrants in the past is a
>secondary issue. It is in any case no defence, to argue "I
>contributed to the problem, so I have no right to interfere in its
>solution."

But what is the "solution"? You are assuming that the current war is a solution. That begs the question.

It isn't that these countries that once contributed to the problem should not act. I am arguing that, for their actions to be *effective*, they must first acknowledge their part in the problem. They must have pure hearts. Hypocrisy will not do. This is "teaching oneself first" before teaching others. This is not a "secondary issue". It is a necessary spiritual requirement.

We are all linked spiritually. One of the consequences of our being "one" is that, for any given situation, we ourselves have played a part in its creation. If we want to change it, then we must look at ourselves. People avoid this because of the shame involved. Instead, what they do is generate a lot of activity to distract themselves from the truth. And they make out that this is a "solution". They keep themselves occupied with this 'solution', all the while making out to themselves and others that they are made of pure light, so that they never need look inside.

In my view, the 'solution' you back has been generated in this way. It is spiritually flawed and therefore ineffectual. I do not preach inaction. It's more that I do not support ineffective, spiritually bankrupt methods.

Alison


Date: Tue Jan 6, 2004 9:30 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Wrestling with Shoghi

“I think what is generally not understood is that you cannot understand the things Shoghi Effendi wrote unless you view his writings thru the prism of Baha'u'llah's new reality. Everything that Shoghi Effendi wrote needs to be viewed in a special way with a special understanding of the diction employed. For example when Shoghi Effendi wrote "divine New World Order" the keyword is "divine" which many people misunderstand. They think the world order will be an actual material World Order rather than a divine world order that will exist only in the hearts of men.”

Gee, Randy, that's a great insight. If you have time and the inclination, I'd be interested in hearing you comment more on this. For example, can you cite any particular quotes whose meaning changes hugely in the light of this new interpretation? What new things did you see after you noticed it?

I'm also hearing Sen say (forgive me if I'm wrong Sen) that the Revelation is also designed to bring about political unity. This understanding would be the usual interpretation of "New World Order". What thoughts do you have on this? Perhaps we are back to the place Sen and I got to over Iraq. That "New World Order" means both a spiritual and political order. Certainly, my position is that a political world order isn't possible without the spiritual one; it is a manifestation of it.

Alison


Date: Fri Jan 30, 2004 11:36 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] the beloved of hearts & the desire of the nations

>I agree entirely with your sentiment "that spiritual
>considerations such as purity of heart REALLY ARE
>fundamental to realising political unity." I am not quite clear
>what the practical consequences are, in a world in which we
>do not yet have political unity, and may have our suspicions
>that some world leaders are less than pure, and when we
>know that we are not so pure ourselves. I will take your word
>for it that you do have a plan for more effective action, and I
>will certainly join you in it. I hope it doesn't involve us ignoring
>the crises of the day and the cries of the oppressed while
>perfecting ourselves, and looking for snow-white partners.

Hi Sen,

I come at these issues from a completely different place to you. I look at them in terms of spiritual reality rather than managing politics. I believe that the realm of politics is the effect of the the hidden reality. If you want change, then you look to change the spiritual realities and then the manifested reality will follow. You would label this 'impractical'. But because I see an unbreakable link between the hidden and the manifest, then I would argue that my position is very practical. The assumption that the spiritual isn't practical is wrong in my view. The 'manifest' is the robe of the concealed. "He who changes the earth [of men's hearts] and makes it another earth is able to alter everything upon it and all that moves across its face." (Gems)

So, what does Baha'u'llah tell us about reality? There are a couple of principles, which are closely related, that I think are fundamental here. The first is the principle of the divine unity or the many/One distinction, and the second is the principle of separation and distinction.

Baha'u'llah explains in the Commentary on a Verse of Rumi that the divine light is manifested to the world from the Throne and then it reflects in the mirrors of all things. Each thing will reflect that light in different ways, and Baha'u'llah explains that this reflection process is the source of conflict in the world. The manifold dispositions in the mirrors mean innumerable 'multi-coloured' reflections. As a result, conflict is *built into* the reality of the world. It is an inevitable result of the way the world is designed.

So, what should one do about conflict? I argue that because conflict is built into reality, it is a mistake to try to eradicte it by manipulating things in the world. This is the trap that most people spend their lives in. They believe that if they dedicate themselves to rearranging the furniture of the world and put it into the order they suppose will bring peace, then the world's problems will be over.

But this is a mistake because God has created the world with conflict inherent in its reality, and He has done this for a particular reason. That leads us to the principle of separation and distinction. If conflict is a part of the world's reality, then the only way out of conflict is to detach from the world. In essence, this means "soaring up to God" in one's heart. It is only from the vantage point of God's Oneness that the conflicts of the world can be stilled. There is NO OTHER WAY. God alone is the only answer.

You can see then how reality filters the sincere. The sincere, who love God, will readily tire of the world's conflicts and vanities, wanting only tranquillity and peace in their hearts. They'll tire of the world and naturally reject its torments and soar to heaven. The "blamers" of the world tell them that they 'need a crutch' or 'are running away'. But I would argue that they are responding naturally to the structure of reality and are doing exactly what God planned. They are drawing close to him, having been repelled by the world's Fire.

I believe that what I have just argued is found in the following from the Tablet of Radiant Acquiesence:

"Say: People of the earth, do you not see the transformations occurring in the land, and the changes the earth is undergoing, such that no second goes by without most affairs therein suffering an alteration? Therefore, what sign reassures your hearts and souls? Woe unto you! Upon what basis have you acted in this vain life? For you have advanced toward your base selves, and turned away from the one who created you, nourished you, and showed greater compassion to you than has any other. Say: By God, you are only as a wayfarer resting in the shade of a tree. But that shade is of necessity ephemeral, and you must not repose your confidence in it or in anything that will pass away. Put your trust in what does not perish, in what endures in the immortality of God, the everlasting, the eternal, the glorious. Have you found that your mornings are like your evenings, or that your youth is like your old age? All this is a reminder to you, Muslims. The contradictions apparent in all things were only ordained to remind you of the impermanence of your selves, so that you might become aware of it and not be obdurate. Hold fast instead to the cord of God, then firmly grasp the firm handle of the Bayan."

I understand Baha'u'llah to be arguing that there are changes going on all around us, so what should we do? Upon what basis do we act? He accuses the people of advancing to their base selves rather than to God. He warns them that the thing they rely on is transitory, only the shade of a tree. Instead they must turn to God, who does not perish. "The contradictions apparent in all things were only ordained to remind you of the impermanence of your selves". The point being that things in the world will not be a lasting answer for us. The only thing that brings us true answers and peace is God.

I argue then, that the world is designed to 'drive' us to despair and force us to reach for God. Just like the man in the Valley of Knowledge is driven to scale the wall. The 'answer' for him was not to stop and accuse the guards of injustice. If he'd done that, then he'd still be hooked up in the world's conflicts. Instead, he had to let that go. He then died to the world and was ushered into the reality of peace.

What is my practical response to the world's afflictions? Teach the Cause so that others can know God's peace too. This, in my view, is the only remedy for their torments. But if people do not choose it, then that is not my responsibility. I cannot free people from their own fire if they do not want to be freed. God has arranged things in this way so that he can filter his true lovers. If people do not choose to free themselves, then, as I understand it, God leaves them to their cavillings.

Alison


Date: Fri Feb 6, 2004 10:17 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] the beloved of hearts & the desire of the nations

> we cannot first obtain spirituality and
>then change the world, because we cannot obtain spirituality
>except by learning what the spirit is, in the world, primarily in
>other people. If the world did not contribute to our spiritual
>growth, would it exist ?

Well, this is how I learned what the spirit is and it has nothing to do with the world. For me, everything changed when I finally read Baha'u'llah's lips, took him at his word and carried out his command here:

"O SON OF DUST! Blind thine eyes, that thou mayest behold My beauty; stop thine ears, that thou mayest hearken unto the sweet melody of My voice; empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My knowledge; and sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from the ocean of My eternal wealth. Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My word; empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me; that with a clear vision, a pure heart and an attentive ear thou mayest enter the court of My holiness." (Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, Page: 11)

When I did attempt with all my heart and soul to do this, my life was transformed in a way that I could never describe. All I can do is report that this is what I did and, having taken it as my path, I would stake my life on the fact that it was the right thing to do. This isn't about reason, or a thing I hope for or imagine. It has nothing to do with trying to enter the essence of God. It is simply about *actually walking* on the path Baha'u'llah has laid down for us, as described above and in many other places.

Having taken this course, it has meant that I cannot see the world in the way I used to - which is the way that you and the rest of society see it. But I don't worry about this because I took the guidance of my Lord Baha'u'llah and would now, never for a moment, want to be separated from the place I have found myself in.

All I can do is commend to others that they take Baha'u'llah's loving counsels to heart and discover for themselves the mind-blowing transformation that will result.

Alison


Date: Tue Feb 24, 2004 11:09 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] The Cause, The Faith, The Religion

Hi Jamal,

This isn't a direct answer to your three questions, but more a related comment about something I read recently.

Recently I read Mirza Abul'Fadl's "The Baha'i Proofs". (Published by the US Baha'i Publishing Trust, with a foreword by an unknown calling himself Juan Ricardo Cole, who made this insightful comment: "For too long Mirza Abdu'l-Fadl has been a revered memory rather than a living influence on our thought and spirituality.")

This book consists mostly of five "introductions" to the Faith, as well as quite a few other bits and pieces. Abu'l-Fadl was, effectively, lovingly ordered by Abdu'l-Baha to write proofs of the Faith for the American believers, who had no access to good materials on the Faith. They are a stimulating read.

In the Third Introduction, Abdu'l-Fadl discusses four proofs for the Faith: 1. the Book and the revelation; 2. the logical argument or proof of stability; 3. signs and miracles; 4. prophecies and records. I was particuarly struck by the logical argument. Although Abdu'l-Fadl makes many complex points here, one key point he argues is that a new religion (yes, he calls it a 'religion') does not depend on anything in the world for its success. So, for example, the long-term success of a new religion does not depend on the manifestation having "any material or phenomenal kingdom or authority, nor any glory, majesty, family influence, financial wealth or affluence" and he also adds later, any human learning. In subsequent discussion, Abu'l-Fadl discusses the lives of those who have founded religions and examines whether they were aided by any of these things and shows how they weren't. And also argues that, of those who have had these worldly benefits, none have succeeded in founding a new religion like, for eg Christianity, where for centuries people have lived by its law and made extraordinary sacrifices for it.

Abu'l-Fadl explains why it is crucial that a new religion not be dependent on any material means for its success. Religion must have a cause, but if its cause can be put down to anything worldly, then it can be explained away as not being divine. But if all worldly causes are stripped from it, then one can only conclude that it has a divine origin. Hence, the manifestations are stripped of all earthly benefits but their religions prevail in the long term because the prophets really did bring a message from God and have divine sovereignty.

So, in relation to your questions, I would say that the terms themselves are not important, although I understand why you make the distinctions you do. Whether it is called the Cause, the Religion or the Faith, in the final analysis, it is a thing that is sanctified above all earthly things. That is the important point. It's not that we can't call it religion, it's more that we can't say the Cause/religion/Faith is the same thing as, or has its cause in, its leaders of religion or a religious organisation. We go astray when be come to believe that the Cause requires the backing of anything worldy in order to prevail long term. That's the reason why I'd never say that Bush was important for Baha'u'llah's Cause. The Cause is sanctified above all nations as well as all religious institutions. It can't be identified with them.

I know it seems to many that the Baha'i Faith is a lost cause and I can still hear Sen's comment that Abdu'l-Baha's vision for world peace cannot be a dead letter, but Abu'l-Fadl is saying here that that is the whole point! The Faith must appear to be a loser in worldly terms so that it can demonstrate its divine Power.

Alison

PS: many of Abu'l-Fadl's books (with translations by Juan) can be obtained from Kalimat Press - kalimatpress.com .


Date: Wed Mar 17, 2004 11:09 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Love

Dear Steve,

When I read your message, my dominant reaction was that I was looking at an old 'me'. I used to view these mystical issues through Ibn Arabi eyes too. And I used to think that Corbin and Ibn Arabi were authorities. But, I don't believe that any more. I have changed so much. And it is all due to what Baha'u'llah has taught me. I can hear him saying in his tablet on the Rumi verse that everything that the mystics of old have said is all on the same plane. Forget it, he says, 'the Source of all Truth has come in the Person of Baha'u'llah. If you want to know what's what, come and read what I [Baha'u'llah] have to say.' So that's what I did. Now, well, you might as well be citing the House of Justice as citing Corbin and Ibn Arabi. They are all the same for me in that none of them is authoritative, none of them is the Source of Knowledge. In my view, Corbin is simply an academic who specialised in the writings of Ibn Arabi. I wouldn't turn to him for guidance on love.

Baha'u'llah has important things to say about love. But you won't find those ideas in Ibn Arabi. In the Tablet of the Son, Baha'u'llah explains that with each new revelation, all things take on a new meaning. And that is true of love. Baha'u'llah defines love: "The essence of love is for man to turn his heart to the Beloved One, and sever himself from all else but Him, and desire naught save that which is the desire of his Lord." (Baha'u'llah: Words of Wisdom. p155 in Tablets) There's no mention here of that stuff about reconciling physical and spiritual love that Corbin refers to. Rather, it is a simple case of: turn to Baha'u'llah, and get rid of everything else in your heart.

Another important thing Baha'u'llah says about love is in the Arabic Hidden Words: "O SON OF MAN! For everything there is a sign. The sign of love is fortitude under My decree and patience under My trials." You speak of love of God and the Hidden Treasure - well, it seems to me that Baha'u'llah is saying that the only path to those is the path of tribulation. It is the same idea as in the quote I sent to Gerald. The daystar of God's grace shines above the horizon of tribulation. In other words, we have to be steadfast in faith and not let the trials and changes of this world deter us from turning towards Him. We have to weather the storms and not get sucked into the world's turmoil.

To me, these are the fundamental themes of love. If by 'love' is meant these things - turning to God, detaching from the world and being steadfast - then no, these aren't veils. But any love that gets in the way of these things is a veil.

Alison


Date: Sun Mar 21, 2004 11:41 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Love

Dear Steve,

Happy Naw Ruz.

I've read your message closely. I could write a book in response to it. And yet, words couldn't contain what I would want to say. Trying to convey spiritual truths using words is like trying to get blood out of a stone. They are made of different stuff. I am powerless. Knowledge is a light that God casts into the heart of whoever he wills. I can't tell anybody anything. I just say things and let the Lord make hay where he will.

You ask:
>The question turns back to: what does
>it mean to love your Lord (rabb)? You say all you need to do is to
>turn to Baha'u'llah, but how do you do this without using imagination
>and forms?

In a nutshell, my response is that Baha'u'llah is the form of God. He claims to be the manifested Self of God. This means that if we worship the Person of Baha'u'llah, then we worship God. Worship of, or closeness to, anything else is idolatry.

In Aqdas 1, we are told that our first duty is to "recognise" God. We have to recognise God in his most recent manifested form, and see that all his manifestations are the same person. But God has made this task a tricky one, because he periodically changes form and he reveals himself with human limitations. He does this to catch the ones who are not worshipping God at all, despite appearances. Maybe they are worshipping religious authorities, or religious laws, or mystics and saints, or human knowledge, or worldly power. This is how the imagination system actually works. We have to abandon the forms and images that we have of God so that we can recognise him as his manifested Self. This means detaching from all things, including those I have listed above and images, derived from the world, that form our identity. In the 7th valley, for example, Baha'u'llah says we must be detached from all personal opinions. Another good example would be how the Baha'is need to detach themselves from their identity as members of the Baha'i community.

If Ibn Arabi and Rumi worshipped God and not their own idle imaginings, then they themselves wouldn't have us quoting them when God himself has appeared to both worlds and is shedding a grace on creation that has never been seen before. Right now, they are bowing the knee before Baha'u'llah and would shudder to think that their names were mentioned before his. If Baha'u'llah used, or referred to, anything they said, it was because their writings were known to his audience and their ideas provided him with a common language.

>>Another important thing Baha'u'llah says about love is in the Arabic Hidden
>>Words: "O SON OF MAN! For everything there is a sign. The sign of love is
>>fortitude under My decree and patience under My trials." You speak of love
>>of God and the Hidden Treasure - well, it seems to me that Baha'u'llah is
>>saying that the only path to those is the path of tribulation.
>>
>
>I always feel uneasy when I hear that this way or that way is "the
>only path". I don't read this passage as saying that tribulation is
>the only path to Love or to God. He simply says that one sign of love
>is fortitude in times of tests.

I don't hear him saying that fortitude is "one" sign. I hear him saying it is "the" sign. In this revelation, steadfastness is all important. Here's Abdu'l-Baha commenting on this:

"O thou who art happy with the glad tidings of divine bestowal! There are those who believe that the cause of salvation is none other than a confession of Divine Unity. There are those who say: This is not sufficient. Belief in Divine Unity must be combined with righteous deeds as prescribed by the All-Merciful. There are still others who aver that the above must be combined with a most praiseworthy character blessed by God. And yet again there are those who assert that one must encompass all the grades of spiritual perfection and attain the beauty of an inner conscience before one can be truly saved. But undoubtedly, what is most certain, most sure and incontrovertible, what the People of God cling to most confidently is that the true cause of salvation is none other than steadfastness in the Testament and firmness in the Covenant of the All-Merciful. This faithfulness is the particular characteristic of our belief in the Supreme Manifestation of God in this Day. This is the truth enshrined in the safeguarded Mystery of this Cause and verily, in this faithfulness can be found all the other grades and standards of salvation." Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá', No. 196 SWA, volume II

The principle is: it is by means of tests that we demonstrate our love for God. A test is always a situation where we have to choose the Lord over a worldly benefit of some stripe or another. This is obvious if someone says: 'hey, I'll give you a million dollars if you kill this person for me'. But the tests are more difficult to identify if, for example, you are grossly wronged by someone. How do you stop that wrong from eating away at your heart? How do you free yourself from hatred and revenge, despair and depression and so forth? Blocking your emotional response isn't an answer. That only delays the inevitable process of confronting and overcoming your pain. Baha'u'llah frequently warns us not to let the injustices of the world come in between us and God. All of the above emotions are veils between us and God. Baha'u'llah requires us to find an inner place of radiant acquiescence in the midst of tribulation. This is the sign of love. If we can do this, then we prove our hearts are attached to none other than God. (You'll find this explained in the Tablet of Radiant acquiescence.)

>PS: One last thought. I am never sure what it means to say that with
>Baha'u'llah all words have new meanings.

Below, I post the passage [from Tablet of the Son] I took the idea from. You'll recall that the Bab introduced 25 of the 27 letters of knowledge. This has to mean that the Word now has new meanings. The quoted passage also discusses the ideas I have tried to convey above; for example, Baha'u'llah says all mystics are on the same plane and defines mystical insight as recognition of himself. In other words, what does it mean for a person to claim mystical insight when they can't see God standing before them?

"For instance, the souls who have ascended to the peaks of mystical insight and those who remained at the lowest rank have precisely the same station in the eyes of God. For the nobility of knowledge and insight is not dependent on these attributes in themselves. If they lead to the Eternal Truth and acceptance of it, they are approved. Otherwise, they are rejected. On this plane, all words are mentioned on the same level."

Alison


Date: Tue May 18, 2004 9:11 pm
Subject: Re: Buddhism

Dear Frank,

You can't compare Michael with Baha'u'llah. It's like comparing apples and oranges (or worse). You have to look at what they are doing with language and why. Micheal is simply explaining some religious ideas. Baha'u'llah is trying to get people to transform themselves spiritually. He is trying to get people to make an inner transformation somewhat akin to the journey Neo makes in the movie "Matrix". The matrix is a program that generates the physical world's reality. Those who travel through it and out the other side can see it for what it is. That is the best way I can think of to illustrate what Baha'u'llah is trying to teach us. He wants us to see the impermanence and transitory nature of physical reality. He explains that when we die, it is just like travelling through the matrix and seeing it for the first time from 'outside' of it. But while we are in it, we are trapped and imprisoned. Baha'u'llah teaches how to free ourselves from it. This is a completely different goal to the one Michael is trying to achieve. His writings exist 'within' the matrix. Baha'u'llah stands outside of it and is calling us to free ourselves.

Now, you may well be sceptical about what I'm saying. But give me the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and let's try a thought experiment. Imagine that God has given you the job of telling people about the matrix. Who on earth is going to believe you? And, what's more, what language can you use that will explain what you have to teach? You want to tell people about a reality that they are completely absorbed in and convince them that it is transitory and ephemeral. That what they do in this reality matters a lot, because one day they will no longer be in it and they will have to account in another world. What language that exists on the planet will capture such ideas?

"What language should He Who is the Mouthpiece of God choose to speak, so that they who are shut out as by a veil from Him can recognize His glory?" (Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, p 108)

Alison


Date: Thu Aug 26, 2004 10:28 pm
Subject: Re: Infallibility of the House of Justice

In my view, Baha'u'llah, from his All-Highest Paradise, weeps over his community, seeing it consumed with this pseudo issue.

I now think the whole debate is idle imaginings. It is an example of a non-issue just like the "seal of the prophets" in the Islamic community, which is also held up as fundamental dogma. For centuries and centuries that community has held to that non-issue, imagining itself to be pleasing God in doing so. But what does Baha'u'llah say about it? He says that the matter was a veil that covered the sight of all those followers - the whole lot of them were blind!

The Baha'is are the same with this issue. We imagine ourselves to be devout when we turn our minds to it. We talk about it endlessly just like the Muslims did their dogmas. And some insist on this 'right thinking', imagining themselves to be the essence of piety. But what is the profit in it? Will it bring even one soul closer to God? No. It is a total waste of time and energy and, I would say, of no interest to God whatsoever. What does Baha'u'llah say will happen to those who forget God? "We will chain a Satan to him and he shall be his fast companion." You got it, this debate is a Satan that has caught everyone in its snare.

What was the fruit of the Seal of the Prophets illusion? It was used to denounce Baha'u'llah. What will be the fruit of the infallibility illusion? It will be used to reject the forthcoming manifestation. When the next manifestation comes, the Baha'is will say: "No, you must be wrong because the House says you are a heretic and it's infallible. We will only believe in a manifestation the House tells us to."

Alison


Date: Tue Aug 31, 2004 9:21 pm
Subject: Re: Question about New Testament Reference to Baha'u'llah

Dear Ruhwachin (I'm sorry I don't know you name),

I enjoyed your message very much. I think your deeper comments have got to the heart of the matter. The Word of Baha'u'llah is indeed the most weighty testimony. Divine guidance comes if we abandon everything else and look to Baha'u'llah.

I'm particularly fond of the following Hidden Word, which relates to this: "O moving form of dust! I desire communion with thee, but thou wouldst put no trust in Me. The sword of thy rebellion hath felled the tree of thy hope. At all times I am near unto thee, but thou art ever far from Me. Imperishable glory I have chosen for thee, yet boundless shame thou hast chosen for thyself. While there is yet time, return, and lose not thy chance." Persian HW no 21

I think it's all in there. If we feel like there's no hope, then it's because we've forgotten to turn to Baha'u'llah. He is all-powerful after all. Baha'u'llah says in the Summons that he/God can make suns out of dust. I love that.

I love the quote from the Seven Valleys: "recall the holy sanctuaries of preexistence and soar on the wings of longing..." It's tragic that people don't give Baha'u'llah a real chance to show them that these experiences aren't just rhetoric but are real places they can go to if they want to. There is no unhappiness there or anywhere.

Alison


Date: Wed Sep 1, 2004 9:29 am
Subject: Re: Question about New Testament Reference to Baha'u'llah

Cal lamented:
> Which means an
> awful lot of people--some good, some bad--are standing in the space
> between me and my Lord.

Then get rid of them by turning your attention away from and to Baha'u'llah. Yes, it does take a mighty kind of strength. But it is worth it.

Much of the Iqan is devoted to the subject of other people getting in the way of our direct connection to God. Baha'u'llah is unequivocal that we should get rid of them. Here it is in the 'tablet of the true seeker', where Baha'u'llah lays down the essential conditions for true knowledge. They are all aimed at getting rid of the things that get between us and God:

"But, O my brother, when a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the path leading to the knowledge of the Ancient of Days, he must, before all else, cleanse and purify his heart, which is the seat of the revelation of the inner mysteries of God, from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge, and the allusions of the embodiments of satanic fancy. He must purge his breast, which is the sanctuary of the abiding love of the Beloved, of every defilement, and sanctify his soul from all that pertaineth to water and clay, from all shadowy and ephemeral attachments… That seeker must at all times put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords." (Iqan)

If you take another look at the Hidden Words, you'll find the same theme again. In fact, you'll see it everywhere once you wake up to it. Here are quotes from the Hidden Words and Gleanings on this theme.

Passages from The Hidden Words:

  • Close one eye and open the other. Close one to the world and all that is therein, and open the other to the hallowed beauty of the beloved.
  • Turn thy face unto mine and renounce all save me.
  • Forget all save me and commune with my spirit. This is of the essence of my command.
  • Busy not thyself with this world.
  • Blind thine eyes… to all save my beauty. Stop thine ears to all save my word.
  • Set not your affections on this mortal world of dust.
  • Wouldst thou gaze upon my beauty, close thine eyes to the world and all that is therein.
  • Barter not the garden of eternal delight for the dust-heap of a mortal world.
  • Free thyself from the fetters of this world and loose thy soul from the prison of self.
  • Didst thou behold immortal soverignty thou woulds't strive to pass from this fleeting world.
  • Turn not away thine eyes from the matchless wine of the immortal Beloved, and open them not to foul and mortal dregs.
  • Pleasant is the realm of being, wert thou to attain thereto. Glorious is the domain of eternity, shoulds't thou pass beyond the world of mortality.
Passages from Gleanings:
  • It behoveth the people of Baha to die to the world and all that is therein. 100
  • Delight not yourselves in the things of the world and its vain ornaments, neither set your hopes on them. 127
  • Cast away all that you possess, and on the wings of detachment, soar beyond all created things. 139
  • They whose hearts are turned towards Him who is the Object of the adoration of the world must pass beyond and be sanctified from all created things, visible and invisible. 200
  • Had the world been of any worth in His sight, He surely would never have allowed His enemies to possess it, even to the extent to a grain of mustard seed. 208
  • Forbear ye from concerning yourselves the affairs of this world and all that pertaineth unto it. 240
  • Detach yourselves from all else save me, and turn your faces towards my face, for better is this for you than the things you possess. 256
  • [The true seeker] must sanctify his soul from all that pertaineth to water and clay.263
  • Cleanse from your hearts the love of worldly things 274
  • Disencumber yourselves from all attachment to this world and the vanities thereof. 274-5
  • Purify [your souls] from all attachment to anything besides me.293
  • Strip yourselves of every earthly affection.320
The thing is, once you gain a bit of distance from the world as Baha'u'llah counsels, you begin to see that what you were immersed in was an illusion. You realise that you were all wrapped up in nothing at all except unhappiness and despair. And you see that the only thing you have given up is the very thing that was enslaving you. The sheer bliss of this realisation and its associated freedom are a thing you would happily give your life for.

Alison


Date: Thu Sep 2, 2004 11:43 am
Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Question about New Testament Reference to Baha'u'llah

Dear Ruh,

Gee, it's not everyday I find someone who agrees with me about turning to Baha'u'llah. It seems people like to pay it lip service, but doing it is another matter. You appear to have avoided your own regions - a rare thing indeed! As you say, the world has forgotten that all we need to do is turn to Baha'u'llah. People haven't figured out that the 'Baha'u'llah' they need to turn to is *inside* them - as your quote from the HW indicates. If they turn to Baha'u'llah at all - and of course, most don't - they turn to external things, thinking that's Baha'u'llah.

I remember thinking long and hard about the three things Baha'u'llah has us remember:
-- Prefer not your will to Mine,
-- never desire that which I have not desired for you,
-- approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings.

I struggled for ages trying to figure out the difference between the first two; I think they amount to the same thing in different words. The third one alone would change one's life, I reckon. It's easy to pray and to forget who you're talking to! Speaking of Abdu'l-Baha, his counsel about remembering death has always stuck with me. That sure cuts the crap of the lifeless heart! So now, sometimes I talk to Baha'u'llah as if I am in the next world conversing with him. It is so real! I'm not able to sustain that level of intensity much, but I can do it sometimes. At the moment, I'm reading Balyuzi's "Baha'u'llah: King of Glory" and I am learning more about Baha'u'llah's personality. I'm getting more of an idea of who I am talking to when I pray and what he'll think about what I'm doing on a daily basis. These things have changed me in a big way. Now I see life in terms what service I can render in the few years left to me. And I spend my days devoted to those things, when I'm not working. I don't want to get to the next world knowing there were things I could have done but didn't.

Which brings me to your comment: "Sometimes, I feel like there is no point in saying anything, except it is interesting to explore it." Believe me, I know how you feel! But when I read King of Glory and the writings, I see Baha'u'llah in the same predicament, and I try to see how he responded to it. The early pages of Suriy-i Haykal were helpful here. In a few places, the houri is counselling Baha'u'llah to simply ignore the ignorant and to spend his time making sure he leaves his testament. So, overlook those who deny, and just make sure that before you die, you have produced your personal testimony of faith. That's how I've interpreted it anyway. That understanding changed me heaps. I don't think in terms of countering the opinions of those who deny, I think in terms of writing my own statement on the faith for those who might want to listen. God will raise them up as he pleases. That's why I'm currently writing another commentary called The Kawthar of Divine Knowledge, which is about the very things we've been discussing. In no small measure, it was inspired by what you have labelled the veil of intellectual narcissism, which I think is what Baha'u'llah means by "veil of knowledge". I used to be a prisoner of it. Getting free of it has brought me such joy that I can't stop wanting to tell others about it. It's all you can do, anyway. The other thought I have about not saying anything is this: the more you are the only one to know it and say it, the more you have been blessed and the more you can demonstrate your constancy and faith. If you are the only on earth to testify to what all others deny, then you are a very lucky person indeed. I think this time of great commotion is a time when we can show forth deeds to great courage and steadfastness. And, in addition to that, there is the fact that this Day is one a great blessings anyway.

>"Reflect thou, how, in one hand, He hath, by His mighty grasp, turned
>the earth of knowledge and understanding, previously unfolded, into a
>mere handful, and, on the other, spread out a new and highly exalted
>earth in the hearts of men, thus causing the freshest and loveliest
>blossoms, and the mightiest and loftiest trees to spring forth from
>the illumined bosom of man." (Iqan, p. 48)

This is a cracker isn't it. I want my commentary to tell others about the exalted earth in men's hearts. But there you have it, so long as people look outside of themselves for it, they'll not find it.

Alison


Date: Tue Nov 9, 2004 10:08 am
Subject: Re: Individualism

> Individualism is not a selfish philosophy. Adopting individualism
> means accepting that you have a very high spiritual station, and
> trying to live up to it.

Here's a proof-text. :-)

"How sweet was Thy dawning on the horizon of the Covenant among the stirrers of sedition, and Thy yearning after God, O Love of the worlds. By Thee the banner of independence was planted on the highest peaks, and the sea of bounty surged, O Rapture of the worlds. By Thine aloneness the Sun of Oneness shone, and by Thy banishment the land of Unity was adorned. Be patient, O Thou Exile of the worlds." (Fire Tablet)

The reference to the covenant is important too. Accepting our very high station and living up to it is also our fulfilment of the covenant.

It has nothing to do with submitting to religious authority. It is about standing alone before creation and testifying to the Lord. (Often this means having to stand up to religious authority.)

Alison


Date: Tue Nov 9, 2004 7:21 pm
Subject: Re: Individualism

Hi Jerome,

Good to hear from you. A while back, I was thinking that you hadn't posted here in some time.

I do not post here regularly any more. When I do feel moved to say something, it is usually that I want to shout how much Baha'u'llah means to me and how exciting it is that he has ushered in the Day of God.

It'll be Baha'u'llah's birthday on Friday and I have been preparing readings. This one got me going:

"O Pen! Raise the call among the Concourse of Eternity and say: O people of the plains of eternity and the pavilions of grandeur! And O gems hidden from the sight of the people of creation! Rise up from your couches and rejoice in jubilation, magnify the name of your Lord, and drink deep from the goblets of eternity proffered unto you by the all-glorious fingers of this Youth on this day, whose like the eyes of the universe have never seen, and on which the eyes of grandeur, upon the praiseworthy seat of might, were solaced."
Baha'u'llah: Surah of the Pen
http://bahai-library.com/provisionals/surat.qalam.tarj.html

I love this tablet and am grateful to the Tarjuman group for putting in the time to translate it. I like that word "jubilation". It's a tragedy the world is too busy doing other things to share in the joy of Baha'u'llah's message.

I have recently written another commentary; this one is on divine knowledge.

Alison