Saturday, November 29, 2008

Eric Stetson's apology

Eric Stetson has asked me to publish his apology.

An Apology to the Baha'is of This World and the World Beyond
by Eric Stetson - November 12, 2008

Here's the first paragraph, to set the context:
I declared my faith in the Baha'i religion on March 21, 1998; was an observant and active Baha'i for about four years; and resigned my membership in the Baha'i community on November 5, 2002, about six years ago. Before leaving the faith, I wrote and published on the internet a book calling for reform of the Baha'i Faith and claiming prophetic authority to do so, but soon decided I no longer believed in Baha'u'llah's claim of prophethood nor my own. I became a Christian and a strong critic of Baha'u'llah, the Baha'i faith and its organization. Because of the high visibility of my website,, many thousands of people were exposed to my critical views, which I couched as a Christian witness to the truth of Christ and the falsehood of Baha'u'llah and his religion. I apparently became well enough known among Baha'is that I was identified in an academic article by Baha'i author Moojan Momen as one of twelve noteworthy modern "apostates" of the Baha'i Faith.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Note to Fred

Fred, I love your new blog, The Globe, and I'd like to find some way to encourage and support what you're doing there. The last I knew, you didn't want me to try to contact you, so I'm writing to you here, because I can't think of any better place to do it. Maybe you'll read this some time.

I was disappointed when you took "Letters from the American Desert" off line. Many times I've wished to see again the person I saw in those letters. Now I see him again. Thank you, thank you!

I'm very happy about the awakening that you're describing in that blog. It's wonderful to be able to watch it while it's happening.

I'll be thinking about what you're trying to do there, and how I might help.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Exploring the Ocean Together

I've been awake since 4:30 this morning thinking about an idea. In my new blog I might post examples of what I'm learning with other people in exploring the writings of Baha'u'llah, especially with people I see being scorned, defamed and stigmatized by others. That would include people I myself have been tempted to scorn and malign.

Now I'm imagining a series of articles sympathetically discussing ideas about the writings of Baha'u'llah from people I've seen scorned, defamed and stigmatized, including:
- people I've associated with the Dialogue/Talisman Chronicles.
- people I've been tempted to scorn and malign.
- the House of Justice.
- members of the House of Justice.
- people promoting a Guardian after Shoghi Effendi.
- loners.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Performance and Self

I see RVCBard wondering how to get outside the box of revolving around a concept of self in our performances. She quotes Isaac Butler at Parabasis:

". . . most acting methods center around finding some kind of true self of the character."

After some discussion of that, she asks:

"What other ideas of Self can we use or create that include seeming contradictions?"

I have an image of a performer asking herself "Who am I? What kind of person am I?"

How can that help us do whatever we're trying to do with our performances? How can it confine us? What can we do about it? Can we free ourselves from the limitations without losing the benefits?

I have some ideas of how it can help, but I'll leave that for some other time. Now I want to discuss concepts of self, and how we might get outside the box of revolving around them.

Concept of Self

My concept of who I am, what kind of person I am, might include some qualities, interests and capacities. My qualities, interests and capacities are different in different circumstances, and continually evolving. Considering what people might mean by "true self," one idea that comes to mind is that I see us all repressing some of our ideas and parts of our personalities, because of how other people might react to them. A person might think of the ideas and parts of his personality that he represses as part of her true self. Another idea is that sometimes we try to put on an appearance of having qualities, interests and capacities that we don't really see in ourselves, in order to be admired, to be part of a fellowship, or to influence people. A person might think of those as not part of her true self. One way or another, a person might think of some of her qualities, interests and capacities as part of her true self.

I'm using qualities, interests and capacities as examples. Other people might have other ideas of what a person's true self is composed of.

In my performances I'm trying to shape my life to illustrate visions I see in the writings of Baha'u'llah. To exhibit those performances, I'm hoping to either learn to write stories about them myself, or find a good story teller who would like to do it for me. In my case I'm not revolving around a concept of qualities, interests and capacities I already have. I'm revolving around a concept of qualities, interests and capacities I would like to have. Interestingly, according to Baha'u'llah, that is my true self.

I want to do all the good I can do, and be the best person I can be. The individuality of that comes from the possibility that the good I can do might be different from the good that another person can do. The best person I can be might be different from the best person another can be.

That might raise red flags for some people. It would have for me, some time ago. I want us all to love ourselves the way we are.

Now I don't see trying to improve ourselves, and loving ourselves the way we are, as mutually exclusive. In fact, they might be complementary.

How to get out of the box

I have an image of a fish wondering how to get out of its fish bowl, without even having a clear idea of what it is. It sees some other fish in other fishbowls. It watches what one of them does, and tries to learn to do the same, trying to imagine itself in the other fishbowl. It does the same with some of the others. What it learns helps it get a clearer idea of its own fish bowl, and how to get out of it.

That brings up a question. Where will I be, if I get out of my box? If a fish jumps out of its bowl without jumping into some other water, it will die. Maybe, at the right time, it can jump into a pond, or a lake or an ocean.

I'm trying to jump out of my fish bowl into Baha'u'llah's fathomless and surging Ocean.

What are some other ways a performer might get out of his fish bowl? One way might be to spend some time with other performers in their fish bowls. Another way might be, instead of asking "Who am I, what kind of person am I?" to ask "Who am I, what kind of person am I, in this scene at this time?" looking for different answers, even contrary answers, in different cases.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Exploring Baha'u'llah's writings together

One purpose of my blog and Web pages for exploring Baha'u'llah's writings together will be to help transmit encouragement, support and learning through walls of prejudice and across gulfs of estrangement.

Here are some ideas for visions, goals, strategies and references.



1. Learn more from a wider variety of people about using Baha'u'llah's writings, and about encouraging and supporting people.

2. Offer encouragement, support and learning opportunities to a wider variety of people.

3. Encourage and support other people doing the same.


1. Spend time with people, doing things that interest them.

2. Study and practice ways of using Baha'u'llah's writings.


1. Tablet of the true seeker

2. Writings of the House of Justice about the study of the Baha'i Faith

Other ideas

Some people I might try to spend more time with:

1. Some people I've associated with the Dialogue/Talisman chronicles.

2. People whose articles are published in Baha'i Studies journals.

3. Authors of Baha'i blogs.

Dominant culture in the arts

RVCBard asks:

How and in what way do you see the arts (whatever your specialty) as being dominated by a particularly White and masculine aesthetic? To what extent is the current artistic climate able to enter meaningful discourse with divergent works? How should artists and audiences go about doing that? What can we do to expand our artistic paradigms (and vocabulary) to incorporate different methods of artistic expression?
My specialty is a performance art in which I try to shape my life to illustrate visions I see in the writings of Baha'u'llah. I do see what I would call a dominance of white male interests among Baha'is. I've seen a lot of discussion of that, and what to do about it, among Baha'is. One idea I've been practicing and promoting is to spend time with people from other cultures, immersed in their cultures, doing things that interest them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Exploring Baha'u'llah's writings together

Today I was thinking about some friends of mine who are interested in Baha'u'llah's writings, and who might do more good with them if they had a better vision of the possibilities, and if they weren't continually distracted by Baha'i feuding. I was also thinking about all the people who are interested in His writings, but whose prejudices and estrangement from each other are getting in the way of them encouraging and supporting each other, and learning from each other.

One way I've thought of helping is to study and practice what the House of Justice has written about the study of the Baha'i Faith. Another way was with my Dialogue/Talisman Chronicles. Now I've thought of another way: I'd like to help transmit encouragement and support and learning through the walls of prejudice and across the gulfs of estrangement.

I've decided to create some new Web pages and a new blog for that purpose. I don't imagine that any of my blogs and Web pages will ever be widely read. It's mostly for my own reference, and for the possibility that some of my ideas will find their way into blogs that are widely read. I've seen that happen already.

One way I might help is to deepen my existing friendships with some people who are interested in Baha'u'llah's writings, and to develop new friendships with others. The existing friendships are mostly with people I associate with the Dialogue/Talisman Chronicles. Two places I might look for new friends are in Baha'i blogs and in Baha'i Studies associations.

Rediscovering Baha'u'llah

Yesterday I thought of some of my favorite prayers that seem related to my feelings about rediscovering Baha'u'llah. One is the one that begins "O God! Guide me . . ." Another is "O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit . . ." Another is "Make firm our steps in Thy Path, O Lord . . ."

Today I was thinking that my project of practicing and promoting what the House of Justice has written about the study of the Baha'i Faith might help me in rediscovering Baha'u'llah. More about that later.

I started posting in my "Deeds, Not Words" blog about searching for passages in the writings of Baha'u'llah addressed to the "people of Baha," to study and practice them. I've decided to move that discussion here.

I've started my search in The Summons of the Lord of Hosts because I've been wanting to read that.

"O people of Baha! Subdue the citadels of men's hearts with the swords of wisdom and of utterance."

(Baha'u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 78)

In the other blog I posted some of the context of that passage. I won't re-post all that here. It's from a letter to Napoleon. Among other things, Baha'u'llah says to Napoleon: "Adorn the body of Thy kingdom with the raiment of My name, and arise, then, to teach My Cause." Then he says some things that seem to be addressed to all people, along with some things addressed specifically to the people of Baha. After that he addresses the priests and monks.

After I read the whole letter, I'd like to consider this section addressed to the people, one sentence at a time, and look for ways to improve my practice of what Baha'u'llah is saying.

I'm sitting here wonder how I might do that. What can I do, for example, to improve my practice of "O people of Baha! Subdue the citadels of men's hearts with the swords of wisdom and of utterance."? I just remembered that I can always practice in make believe if I don't find any other way. I can try to think of examples of subduing the citadels of men's hearts with the swords of wisdom and of utterance, and act them out.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Globe

I'm very happy about Fred's new Web site and what he's been saying in his new blog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm half Swiss

I'm going through the Love's Labors Lost blog from the beginning. In one post the author wonders why some people call themselves half-X. I've sometimes said I'm half Swiss, so I'll try to answer the question for myself.

First of all, what I mean by that is that I'm imagining that all of my father's ancestors three or four generations ago came from Switzerland. I haven't actually done the investigation I would need to do to prove that. I just know that he was born in Berne, Indiana, which was virtually a Swiss colony at the time. I might only be 40% Swiss. That's close enough to half, isn't it?

I'm trying to remember when and why I've sometimes said I'm half Swiss. The only example I can think of is when there's been some discussion of my mechanical aptitude. Then I've sometimes said, half jokingly, that I'm half Swiss. I say half jokingly because I do think there's something to that.

Maybe it also feels good to me to say I'm half Swiss, because I have romantic feelings about Switzerland. Maybe that comes from reading Heidi.

A few years ago I started exploring and emphasizing my Swiss heritage, to practice and promote European Americans taking an interest in our European heritages. I'm imagining that might help improve our relationships with other people.

"Another thorny issue about half-identity is this: why call attention to one half instead of the other?"

The Swiss part is all I know about. I spent of lot of time in Berne with my Swiss relatives, surrounded by signs of Swiss culture. I don't know anything about my mother's European ancestry, except that I've heard that it's partly German.

When people say they're half Jewish or half Chinese, maybe that's the only cultural background that they know about, or that interests them, or that they think might interest others, apart from the dominant culture that surrounds them.