Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #135 (English)

Louhelen Bahá'í­ School: Davison, Michigan

October 8–11, 2015.

Alwah-i-Salman: An Introductory Review

by Habib Riazati

This presentation includes introducing Shaykh Salman who served as the messenger between the Blessed Beauty and believers, a general review of some of the important Tablets of Baha'u'lláh addressed to Sheykh Salman, and content analysis of one of those Tablets, Madinatu'l-Tuhid (Tablet of Divine Unity).

Examining Inherent Oneness of Phenomena

by Kamran Sedig

In this session, we will examine conceptualizations of a number of phenomena (science, religion, physical and abstract things, ...) at different levels of granularity. We will look at these through the lens of systems theory. The goal is to highlight how, despite diversity of phenomena, at a deep level they are inherently one.

Haj Mehdi Arjmand: A Biographical Review

by Faris Badii

Annual sessions of Irfan Colloquia were established about 18 years ago in honor and memory of Haj Mehdi Arjmand. Irfan has enjoyed continuous support and sponsorship of the grandchildren of Haj Mehdi Arjmand.

Haj Mehdi Arjmand is arguably one of the most successful, most skilled and most eminent Baha'i teachers of Iran. He embraced the Baha'i Faith as a young man. He was from a Jewish background and as such had not learned the Farsi language. To be able to understand the readings during Baha'i gatherings, he decided to learn Farsi. With his innate ability and keen intellect, he taught both Farsi and Arabic to himself and mastered the Old and New Testaments as well as the Qur'an. His mastery of scriptures made him a respected and renowned teacher in Baha'i communities. When Dr. Holmes traveled from America and took up residence in the city of Hamadan in order to convert the Jews to Christianity, the LSA of Hamandan asked Haj Mehdi to represent the Baha'is in religious debates with Dr. Holmes. Weekly meetings that lasted at least one and a half years resulted in Dr. Holmes becoming respectful of Baha'i revelation and confessing to Haj Mahdi's mastery of the Holy books. Haj Mehdi published a collection of his talks with Dr. Holmes in a comprehensive book titled "Golshan-i-Haqayeq" which can be translated as "Flower Garden of Truth". He became the honored recipient of several tablets from Abdu'l-Baha.

A brief account of his life and teaching activities, cursory look at the contents of his book, and a review of some of the tablets he received from Abdu'l-Baha are included in this presentation.


Holy Places and Historic Sites Mentioned in Memorials of the Faithful

by Foad Seddigh

Memorials of the Faithful is not merely a book devoted to the hagiography of some believers and historical narrative of their lives, rather a depository of matchless beauty in Persian writing, an exquisite text of profound meaning, and a testimonial to the devotion to the Cause of God and the Covenant, of some believers among whom were low as well as high in rank, poor and rich, semi-literate and learned. In the book Memorials of the Faithful, `Abdu'l-Bahá, in the course of portraying the life history of some believers, has cited many villages, cities, and sites, some of which were blessed by the foot-steps of the twin manifestations of God for this age, and others are important due to being the scene of significant historical events of the Faith.

In this paper four such places are selected from among them and their niche in history is further elaborated. These are: (1) The Most Great House in Baghdád, (2) The ruins of Madaen, located some thirty km south of Baghdád, on the banks of Tigris, where Blessed Beauty visited many times, and once graced the palaces of great kings of Sassanid dynasty which were destroyed by the army of Arab invaders and subsequently lost their glory, (3) Surroundings of the Sheikh Tabarsi's tomb where Bahá'u'lláh visited once, (4) City of Mosul in the northern Iraq at the banks of River Tigris which is built on the ruins of the ancient and historical city of Nineveh where a number of believers and the Holy family were kept as captives for several years, and Bahá'u'lláh's caravan in His exile to the seat of the Ottoman Empire passed through it.

Click here to read this paper online.

Look at the Imagery and Parables Used in the Persian Tablet of Ahmad, A

by Foad Seddigh

The Persian Tablet of AhÌ£mad is neither a long Tablet by any standard nor is a short Tablet. It was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople in the second year of His sojourn in that city, and is addressed to a believer in the cause of the Báb, named AhÌ£mad from Káshán. AhÌ£mad was one of the four brothers who pursued life in four different directions; one became a famous martyr in the Bayán Dispensation, another one became a devoted servant of Bahá'u'lláh, the third one never showed any interest in the claims of the Báb or Bahá'u'lláh. However AhÌ£mad travelled to Baghdád and resided there and was among those who were exiled to Adrianople with Him; and he had an ample opportunity to associate with Bahá'u'lláh and gain wisdom and receive spiritual bounties from Him. But, instead he was much like a man who did not differentiate between pearl and stone, an imagery used in the Tablet, became inclined towards Mirzá YahÌ£yá Azal. At the end, he despite much association with the Blessed Perfection, failed to recognize His Beauty. This Tablet is addressed to AhÌ£mad and discusses the conditions for eternal salvation. In this Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh warns him against idle fancies and vain imaginings which are great obstacles in the way of recognition of the truth. Tablet of AhÌ£mad is written in a lucid and simple language. One cannot find even one reference to Qur'ánic verses and past Islamic traditions, Persian or Arabic poems and verses, historical facts, Arabic prose, references to the past philosopher's opinions, references to mystics and their beliefs; though there are several hints. The most important objective for this Tablet, seems to be the persuasion of AhÌ£mad to recognize the station of Bahá'u'lláh, through the means of reasoning. In this Tablet, He refers to the recognition of God and states that it is nothing more than the recognition of His manifestation. Practically the whole content of the Tablet is applicable to the peoples of the world who have abandoned searching for the truth in this time or any period of time.

As of now, we do not have an authorized translation of the Tablet into English. However, the Guardian translated selected passages from this Tablet which constitute half of the Tablet. The author made an effort to provisionally translate the remaining passages in a manner and style which would be compatible with those of the Guardian. This provisional translation will be used in the discussions of this paper.

In this tablet the use of imagery and the use of parables are very prominent. Often times for clarifying a point, particularly abstract subjects, one might resort to the use of the images familiar in the material world; this is the case for the Persian Tablet of Aḥmad. These two features in particular, but not exclusively, will be discussed in this paper.


Memorials of the Faithful: The Virtues of Inner and Outer Transformation

by Marlene Koswan

Abdu'l-Baha wrote "The most vital duty, in this day, is to purify your characters, to correct your manners, and improve your conduct".

This paper will investigate the virtues identified for the faithful individuals mentioned in Memorials of the Faithful and how they exemplified character, manners and conduct. The Seven Valleys will "be used as a guide for human conduct." (Promulgation of Universal Peace, page 244)

Click here to read this paper online.

Memorials of the Faithful: An Introduction

by Faris Badii

Composed in Farsi by Abdu'l-Baha in 1915 and translated into English by Marzieh Gail, "Memorials of the Faithful" is an anthology of biographies of some early believers of the east. During those tumultuous years of WWI when people of the earth, ignorant of their savior, were contending with fire and death, and at a time when followers of Baha'u'llah, for the most part, were temporarily barred from beholding the beauty of its Center of Covenant, bounteous will of the Master graciously moved to immortalize the lives of over ninety God intoxicated men and women. In this presentation, we will consider a general overview of the book along with some select episodes from its contents.

Parallels in the Ministries of Táhirih and St. Paul

by JoAnn Borovicka

In the preface to Memorials of the Faithful —`Abdu'l-Bahá's work that immortalizes the lives of sixty-nine early Bahá'ís —Marzieh Gail, the translator, states that the book is more than a collection of brief biographies of early Bahá'ís; it is somehow also a book of personality and character types. With the concept of 'types' in mind I compared the stories of the early believers of the Bahá'í Faith as presented in Memorials of the Faithful to the lives of early believers in Christianity as recorded in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. In the course of this study I noticed a striking parallel between the life of Táhirih, the only woman among the Báb's Eighteen Letters of the Living and the last entry in Memorials of the Faithful, and the life of the Apostle Paul of early Christianity; that being that both are recognized in their respective religions for initiatives that contributed significantly to distinguishing the new Revelation from the old. This paper explores this and other parallels in the lives and ministries of Táhirih and Paul and suggests that, though different in gender and religion and separated by 1800 years, in many ways Táhirih and Paul may be seen as representing a similar type of early believer in a New Dispensation.
Click here to read this paper online.

Phenomenon of Newly Emerging Entities and the Twofold Process

by Jena Khadem-Khodadad

The following words of Bahá'u'lláh launch this session:
I testify that no sooner had the First Word proceeded, through the potency of Thy will and purpose...than the whole creation was revolutionized, and all that are in the heavens and all that are on earth were stirred to the depths. Through that Word the realities of all created things were shaken, were divided, separated, scattered, combined and reunited, disclosing, in both the contingent world and the heavenly kingdom, entities of a new creation...
Newly emergent entities arise de novo; they introduce new possibilities and fresh propensities into a system: that which was impossible becomes possible; that which was highly improbable becomes probable. Two examples of newly emergent entities - metaphors - from natural sciences will be offered for reflection: (1) the emergence of oxygen, a significant product of the activity of photosynthetic molecules and (2) the birth of a new star in the physical universe.

The emergence of oxygen made animal life possible. Sentient beings evolved capable of consciousness and self awareness. The emergence of oxygen - that essential stuff of life - is an apt metaphor for the emergence of the life giving forces with their vivifying influence which are introduced into existence through Divine Revelations.

The birth of a new star in our physical universe is another insightful metaphor for the birth of a new Star, a new Revelation, in the spiritual universe. The birth of a star generates around itself a whole new field of gravitational forces which had not been there before. These forces pull, attract, and create tension - generating conditions hitherto unimagined. The birth of the Star of the Revelation, of the twin Manifestations, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh in mid-nineteenth century inaugurated a new Dispensation. It unleashed powerful gravitational forces — the onrushing forces - into creation. In a passage, Shoghi Effendi attributes: "The onrushing forces so miraculously released through the agency of two independent and swiftly successive Manifestations..." to the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.

These forces attract, pull and also create turbulence with consequent disequilibrium and chaos. Their tumultuous effect may be discerned from the following statement of Bahá'u'lláh:

No sooner had that Revelation been unveiled to men's eyes than the signs of universal discord appeared among the peoples of the world, and commotion seized the dwellers of earth and heaven, and the foundations of all things were shaken. The forces of dissension were released.
Numerous passages in the Baha'i sacred texts, also bear the tidings of the quickening, vivifying and regenerating outcomes of that discord, commotion and dissension.

In conclusion, this session highlights a direct connection between the emergence of the new entities through the revelation of the twin Manifestations to the culmination of the twofold process in history. Two examples, of perception and physiology of vision, are offered as metaphors to illustrate and explain the assurance which the Baha'is evince in a glorious outcome of the titanic struggle between these two forces of disintegration and integration.


Review and Content Analysis of Aflakiyyih, `Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablet of the Universe, A

by Habib Riazati

Abdu'l-Bahá in the "Lawh-i-Aflákiyyih" translated as "Tablet of the Universe" describes different aspects of what he refers to as "the holy realities" and the reality as "established in both the hidden and manifest worlds", The realities that "capable neither of being defined by limits nor contained within the compass of signs and allusions"; He moreover, describes how through "the power of attraction and propagation," the existence has become manifested and been "set in order" and each and every being has "became the recipients and the manifestations of "the Divine conditions and Eternal signs. Emerging from behind the veils". He furthermore explains how natural "evolution" takes place within the realm of "creation". Lastly Abdu'l-Bahá touches on the various descriptions of the Universe as explained by Ptolemy and Al-Farabi.
[The original Tablet in Arabic is published in Makátib-i 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. 1, pages 13-32. There is also a provisional translation of this Tablet that can be found at bahai-library.com/abdulbaha_lawh_aflakiyyih.]

Scientific Insights into "Here Am I": Consciousness and Space-Time

by Mehrdad Ehsani

In the Long Obligatory Prayer of Bahá'u'lláh there is a passage:

"¦ I entreat Thee by Thy footsteps in this wilderness and by the words 'Here am I, Here am I' which Thy chosen ones have uttered in this immensity "¦
We will use "Here Am I" as the gateway to a scientific investigation of the nature of consciousness and its significance in our spiritual development and in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.

Through a simple review of the special theory of relativity of Einstein and Lorentz transform equations, we will establish the relationship between consciousness and space-time. Further, we will show that there exists for every entity a privileged present moment of time and that the present moment has an almost magical nature, as it is only in the present moment that reality lives and things happen. All entities must exist only in the same present moment to be able to interact. This is the only place in time in which anything actually exists and has reality.

It will become apparent that there is clearly something incredibly mysterious that only this one instant actually exists. There is a present moment independent of clock time through which clock time flows, that this flow carries a sequence of seemingly connected 'experiences' that become real only as they pass through the present moment. This will lead us to the spiritual concept of "ancient-eternal", "domain of eternity", and seeing "the end and the beginning as one" according to Bahá'u'lláh's Seven Valleys.

We will use this physical insight as a stepping stone into spiritual approach to "consciousness", "enlightenment", and the state of "Absolute Nothingness", as described by Bahá'u'lláh in the Seven Valleys.

The talk will end with describing some of the attributes and consequences of human enlightenment, how this is the purpose of our being, and the greatest obstacle to its realization: the human ego. The topics of ego and liberation from "self and passion" will then be the subject of follow up talks in this conference or future conferences.