Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #38 (English)

Louhelen Baha'i School: Michigan USA

October, 2001.

Cosmos and Chaos: Myth, Creation, and the Bahá'í Administrative Order

by J. Vahid Brown

One of the most significant developments in the 20th century study of religion has been the increasing attention given to the importance of myth, a term used here in its sense of "sacred narrative". As an instrument in the structuring of a coherent and foundational worldview, myth has been shown to be essential to the perception of continuity between the core message of religious traditions and the practices and communities that spring from them, and the study of myth has illuminated the congruence of the experience of spirituality as a sense of meaning and the expression of that sense in religious behavior.

This paper will explore the dimensions of myth in the Bahá'í Faith. Drawing on a broad range of contemporary sources in the study of myth and myth theory, the elements and dynamics of myth will be outlined. This brief survey will suggest our method for what follows. The Bahá'í creation narrative will be described in some depth, followed by an analysis of Bahá'í narratives of religious history. The final section discusses the dimension of myth in contemporary Bahá'í life, particularly in relation to the Bahá'í Administrative Order. It will be maintained that an awareness of the mythic elements in the Bahá'í Faith sheds considerable light on the significance for Bahá'ís of the Administrative Order as a sacred phenomenon.

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Kitáb-i-`Ahdí (Bahá'u'lláh's Book of Testament)

by Ghasem Bayat

The Lord willed the spiritual creation of man through divine education and purification so that he would become worthy of recognizing some aspects of His stations. Bahá'u'lláh in tablet states that love has been the primal reason behind the creation: " O SON OF MAN! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life". At the same time, this relationship requires volition by man to connect to this Source of all good: "O SON OF BEING! Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant". The Lord thus has made this Covenant with man not to leave him without guidance and in return, man has undertaken to respond to the Lord's call at all ages.

How unfortunate that man, throughout the ages, has forgotten his part in this mutual undertaking, and has often rebelled against it. Bahá'u'lláh states: " O MY FRIENDS! Call ye to mind that covenant ye have entered into with Me upon Mount Paran É I have taken to witness the concourse on high and the dwellers in the city of eternity, yet now none do I find faithful unto the covenant. Of a certainty, pride and rebellion have effaced it from the hearts, in such wise that no trace thereof remaineth. Yet knowing this, I waited and disclosed it not".

Kitáb-i-`Ahdí is a reminder of this Covenant. It is a firm and clear testament to His lovers that the Lord has willed in this Day, through this Greater and Lesser Covenant, to protect His Cause and His believers from schisms that befell past religions after His ascension.

The purpose behind the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and all previous Religions has been the spiritual and material education of man and his release from the bondage of self and passion, ignorance and religious intolerance. This Testament invites the believers to rise above such limitations and become worthy instruments in the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The uniqueness of this Testament and His lasting words will be explained using excerpts from the vast ocean of His Revelation. The unequivocal and lucid appointment of The Most Great Branch, `Abdu'l-Bahá, as His Center of Covenant, will be discussed. The duties and responsibilities of the Holy family towards the Cause and the believers, and the duty of the believers towards them will also be covered.


Lawh-i- Karmil (Tablet of Carmel)

by Sateh Bayat

In the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Bahá'u'lláh, after citing the prophetic references made in the Psalms and the Books of Isaiah and Amos, concerning Akka, Jerusalem, Palestine and Zion, states: " Carmel, in the Book of God, hath been designated as the Hill of God, and His Vineyard. It is here that, by the grace of the Lord of Revelation, the Tabernacle of Glory hath been raised. Happy are they that attain thereunto; happy they that set their faces towards it. " The beloved Guardian states that the Tablet of Carmel represents the 'Charter of the World Spiritual and Administrative Centers of the Faith on that mountain'

Since ancient times Mt. Carmel has been considered as the 'Vineyard of God', the nest of the prophets and the site of the cave of Elijah, referred to in the Old and New Testaments in relation to the return of Elijah and the coming of the Messiah in the "Glory of the Father". Bahá'u'lláh Himself designates this mountain as the seat of God's Throne.

A German Christian sect, the Templars, moved to this site before the arrival of the Prisoner of Akka to these shores, and prepared themselves in anticipation for the 'Time of the End'. How unfortunate that their ideas of the circumstances surrounding the coming of Messiah did not coincide with the situation of this Prisoner, and consequently they deprived themselves of the blessing of His recognition.

This mighty Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh was revealed in Arabic when Bahá'u'lláh visited Haifa for a fourth time in 1891 under extraordinary circumstances on that mountain. He pitched His tent, in the vicinity of the Carmelite Monastery, Stella Maris, near the cave of Elijah and chanted the words of that Tablet with supreme majesty and power.

In presenting this mighty Tablet the following topics will be discussed:

The circumstances surrounding its revelation; The significance of this Day of God, the station of Bahá'u'lláh and His names and titles: Glad tidings of His Coming from the scriptures of the past; His invitation to the general masses to recognize His Revelation; His commandment to carry His Message to all the corners of the world; Glad-tidings of future institutions of the spiritual and administrative center of the Cause of God and its Universal House of Justice on this mountain; The flow of God's laws from this mountain to the world; And finally the language of this Tablet.

On this last visit Bahá'u'lláh instructed `Abdu'l-Bahá to arrange for the interment of the Blessed remains of the Martyr-prophet, the Báb in the heart of this mountain.


Mystical Heart of Knowing, The: Toward a worthy, Baha'i-inspired, epistemological model

by Roger Prentice

(God's) purpose, however, is to enable
the pure in spirit and the detached in heart to ascend,
by virtue of their own innate powers,
unto the shores of the Most Great Ocean.

(Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 71)

The larger the island of knowledge, the longer
the shoreline of mystery."

Huston Smith

The presentation will seek to justify the mystical dimension as essential, in both Baha'i, and holistic, forms of knowing — within the context of philosophy and pedagogy of education.

  1. Views of prevailing models of knowledge and knowing, in the wider community, will be reviewed critically, along with alternative approaches.

  2. Key concepts and principles of knowledge and knowing in the Baha'i writings will be presented.

  3. Mystical 'principles' and insights will be presented and it will be argued that the mystical should constitute the very centre of education in general, and of our notion of knowledge and knowing in particular.

  4. A Baha'i-inspired, whole-person, model of knowing, centring on the mystical, will be presented.

Short Review of the Mystical Meanings of Some of the Terms Used in Bahá'u'lláh's and Rumi's Mathnavis, A

by Moozhan Khadem

A number of terms and expressions with mystical connotations are used in both Bahá'u'lláh's and Rumi's Mathnavis. These terms carry various levels of meanings and interpretations. An attempt will be made to present some of these meanings and connotations in the context of both poems.

Tablet of Glad-Tidings as a "Proclamatory Aqdas," The

by Christopher Buck

On 22 January 1891, Bahá'u'lláh ordered the Tablet of Glad-Tidings (Lawh-i-Bishárát) to be sent to E. G. Browne at Cambridge. The prefatory note by one of Bahá'u'lláh's sons, Mírzá Badí`u'lláh, written on folio 1a of F.25(9) in the Browne Manuscripts, Cambridge University Library, states: "These Divine ordinances and commands formerly revealed in sundry epistles, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, in the 'Illuminations,' 'Effulgences,' 'Ornaments,' etc., have, agreeably to the Supreme and Most Holy Command, been collected, that all may become cognizant of the grace, mercy, and favour of God (Great is His Glory!) in this Most Mighty Manifestation and this Great Announcement." A source-critical analysis of the Tablet of Glad-Tidings shows that Bahá'u'lláh's proposed reforms were drawn almost entirely from the Most Holy Book (Kitáb-i-Aqdas)and its subsidiary texts. The selection of some twenty-one principles of reform adumbrated by fifteen headings indicates a process of prioritization and privileging of certain Aqdas principles over others, for immediate disclosure both within and outside the Bahá'í­ community. Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that Bahá'u'lláh selected particular principles from the Aqdas precisely for the purpose of proclamation.

The Tablet of Glad-Tidings, therefore, functioned in a way somewhat similar to a press release. If true, this indicates that, while all of the laws, ordinances, and principles of the Most Holy Book have been revealed for implementation in a future Bahá'í­ society, there existed a discrete set of teachings that Bahá'u'lláh intended for immediate publication. This suggests what might be termed a "Proclamatory Aqdas" within the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, a "canon within canon." This brief Tablet comes close to being the most programmatic and representative epitome of Bahá'u'lláh's world reforms to be found in a single text. It may have set the single most important precedent for `Abdu'l-Bahá's presentation of Bahá'í­ teachings to the West, in the form of numbered principles. The order and number of such principles varied, however. This process of selection and reordering of Bahá'í­ principles by the Central Figures of the Bahá'í­ Faith indicates a regard for both exigency and audience. Thus, a new selection and reordering process of Bahá'í­ principles for proclamation can rest on precedent that permits a more effective promotion of Bahá'í­-inspired reforms for realization in present-day society.

See a continuation of this discussion in the author's earlier presentation Tablet of Glad-Tidings as a "Proclamatory Aqdas" and his later article Bahá'u'lláh's Bishárát (Glad-Tidings): A Proclamation to Scholars and Statesmen.


Tablet of Visitation for the Báb

by William McCants

Most Bahá'ís know of only one Tablet of Visitation for the Báb, which is comprised of several brief selections from Bahá'u'lláh's writings compiled by Nabíl at the request of `Abdu'l-Bahá. In a well-known volume of Persian and Arabic Tablets, however, there exists a hitherto untranslated Tablet of Visitation revealed by Bahá'u'lláh for the Báb. The Tablet is important not only for its devotional content, but also as a eulogy of the Báb written by one who so closely identified Himself with His Forerunner's mission and as a creedal statement pertaining to the station of the Báb and His metaphysical relationship with Bahá'u'lláh.

In this paper, an English translation of the Tablet will be presented, preceded by a brief discussion of the practice of zíyára in Islam, particularly in the Shi'i community. The performance of the zíyára for the Báb will be discussed and the Tablet will be compared with other Tablets of Visitation written by Bahá'u'lláh. Finally, the various motifs present in the Tablet will be examined.

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Tablets

by Muin Afnani

Surah Al-Shams, The Sun:

This Tablet was revealed in response to queries of Shaykh Mahmúd, the religious judge of Akka. He had requested for an explanation of a surah (chapter) of the Qur'an called the Sun. This Tablet is revealed entirely in Arabic. Shaykh Mahmúd became a believer in Bahá'u'lláh and collected, in the form of a book, many prophecies from Islamic traditions on the blessings of Akka, the Holy Land, and the visitors of Akka.

In this Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh first admonishes him to leave aside question and answer, purify himself of worldly attachment, and ascend to the heaven of nearness of the Beloved. Then, He comments on the worldly knowledge that has made some people arrogant and has been the cause of Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment. Then He proceeds to give some of the meanings enshrined in this surah. As for the word Sun, He says there are numerous meanings, of which He offers four: 1) First and foremost, Sun refers to the Primal Will of God. No one except God knows the secret of this sublime station; 2) In the second place, Sun refers to the station of Manifestations of God Who are the spiritual Suns of Divine Names and Attributes in the world of creation. For instance, those who followed Christ were illumined from the rays of that luminous Sun until it dawned again from Hijaz (Arabia); 3) Next, Sun refers to the Holy Ones who succeed the Manifestations of God, and also refers to friends of God; 4) Finally, the word Sun encompasses all the Divine Names such as All Knowing.

Bahá'u'lláh gives explanation for other words and phrases of this surah such as Moon, Noon, Night, Heaven, Earth, etc. At the end of the Tablet Bahá'u'lláh offers a prayer for Shaykh Mahmúd so that he may be able to drink of the cup of detachment destined for the holy ones of God.

Surah Al-Sultán, The King:

This relatively long Tablet which is entirely in Arabic appears to have been revealed in Akka because in one passage Bahá'u'lláh refers to His calamities and exile in a land where no one was allowed to enter, which is reference to pilgrims not being allowed to enter Akka to see Bahá'u'lláh. This is one of the most beautiful Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh in Arabic from linguistic point of view. Many of the passages are in the form of rhymed prose full of metaphors and mystic expressions. It contains a wide variety of subjects from apologetics, historical points, moral teachings, and mystical concepts. The name of the Tablet, Sultán, appears to have been derived from a sentence where reference is made to the city of Sultán-Ibád, which today is known as Arák.

Bahá'u'lláh mentions names of several individuals and to each one gives special counsels. Some of the main themes in this Tablet include:

  1. Importance of accepting the Word of God and being steadfast in His Cause.
  2. Several summons and counsels to Yahya Azal. Bahá'u'lláh tells him that while he was spending a time of comfort alongside his wives, Bahá'u'lláh was in chain defending the cause of Truth. Then He tells him that His whole being has been the target of shafts of deceit and machination launched by Azal and his associates. Even then, He harbors no anger or ill feeling toward Yahya; however, unless he changes his behavior and turns to God soon he and his associate will witness their spiritual decay.
  3. Today the only thing, which will benefit humankind, is recognition of the Manifestation of God and love of this Youth (Bahá'u'lláh).
  4. God, through His inscrutable wisdom, has hidden from people the end result of many affairs until it is beneficial to reveal them.
  5. One's actions should speak louder than his words. Attire yourselves with the ornaments of justice, forbearance, truthfulness, helping the needy, and keeping your promise.
  6. The cornerstone of faith is being steadfast in calamities for the sake of the love of God.
  7. God has built His House in the hearts of His servants. Be vigilant and safeguard this House, which is the true place for pilgrimage.

At the end of this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh bids the handmaidens of God to be patient in the calamities they have suffered for the sake of the Cause, and assures them of His blessings.

Tablet of Basmalah:

This Tablet is revealed in Akka partly in Persian and partly in Arabic. From the content appears that it is revealed to some one who had harbored some enmity towards the Faith. Bahá'u'lláh admonishes him to turn his face towards the message of God; also, He ends the Tablet with a long prayer and asks the addressee to offer this prayer so that he may be forgiven for all that he has done against the Faith. The name of the Tablet is derived from the opening phrase that is used at the beginning of all, except one, of the surahs of the Qur'an, which says: "In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate."

Some of the main themes of this Tablet are:

  1. The purpose of creation is the recognition of God (His Manifestation).


  2. It is incumbent upon everyone, after attaining maturity, to search after truth without any trace of prejudice or enmity. Everyone in the world is following a different creed, but if they were to look with eye of justice and fairness they would recognize the truth of the Cause.


  3. His holiness Christ was the target of countless calamities such that He ascended to the fourth heaven.


  4. That which is the cause of betterment of the world and prosperity of its people has been explained by Him (Bahá'u'lláh) at all times even when He was under the most severe persecution in the Most Great Prison (Akka).


  5. This Youth (Bahá'u'lláh) never entered any school, neither was he trained in sciences.


  6. This is the great Day of God in which the secrets of hearts will become manifest to all.

Epistle to the Son of the Wolf

According to the beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, this magnificent Tablet was revealed one year before Bahá'u'lláh's ascension. Among the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh this Tablet occupies a significant position; for that reason Shoghi Effendi decided to translate this Tablet into English in its entirety. One of the reasons for its importance lies in the fact that Bahá'u'lláh has re-revealed some of the texts from His previous Writings such as The Hidden Words, Tablets to the King and Rulers (King of Iran, Napoleon III, Czar of Russia, Queen Victoria), the Book of Iqan (Certitude), Tablet of the Proof, and many others. The extent and scope of the themes in this Tablet are such that practically most concepts of Bahá'í Writings are mentioned in this book, e.g., moral and spiritual teachings, social principles, theology, apologetics, prophecies from the Bible and Islamic Texts, mystical expressions, issues related to civilization and world governance, the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, etc. In other words, the reader finds a summary of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings in this marvelous Tablet.

Epistle to the Son of the Wolf was addressed to a cleric of Isfahan known as Najafí, whom Bahá'u'lláh called Son of the Wolf. He was responsible for the martyrdom of many Bahá'ís in that city, and later was instrumental in the massacre of Bahá'ís of Yazd in 1903. His father, Muhammad Baqir, who was also a cleric in Isfahan, was responsible for the martyrdom of two devoted believers known as the King of Martyrs and the Beloved of Martyrs. He was stigmatized by Bahá'u'lláh as The Wolf. Both of these two clerics fell to great misery even in their physical life. For detail see God Passes By, Notes in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, and The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Vol. IV, by Adib Taherzadeh.


True Unity: Divinity and Manifestation

by Habib Riazati

One of the basic principles of Bahá'í theology, and an essential factor in the Bahá'í belief system, is the principle of true unity as mentioned and interpreted in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. One can hardly find a Tablet in which this unique fact is not somehow referred to.

God, the Creator, God being beyond any name or attribute, inability of humankind to understand the nature of divinity, unity of God and diversity in His creation, and unity vs. limitation are among the topics that will be discussed in this presentation. These are the foundations of Bahá'u'lláh belief system and the principle of Manifestation of God is its cornerstone.

Other topics that will be presented are stations of the Manifestations of God, true unity, true monotheism, Primal Will, and Indivisible Reality (Basítu'l-Haqíqih). The presentation will also include identifying the sources and references in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh for each one of the above-mentioned topics.