Saturday, December 20, 2008

Some thoughts about what the House of Justice is promoting

Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.

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."

(Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

"I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee."

(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 313)

"Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him -- a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation...."

(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 64)

"All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth."

(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 214)

"The Great Being saith: O ye children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men."

(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 214)


I see in what the House of Justice is promoting a framework, for people who are interested, to work together to develop and apply their capacities to help people learn to know and love God and carry forward an ever-advancing civilization, using resources that came into the world with Baha'u'llah.

And no, I did not use the Random Policy Generator!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Atheist values

Thinking of critical thinking, I remembered some ideas I had about the values of some people I met in an Internet discussion who called themselves atheists. On the face of it, their atheism consisted of a bashing contest against people who believe in God, especially people they labelled "fundamentalists."

When I looked deeper, to see what values might be behind their decision to call themselves atheists, I thought of these:
- Sound reasoning
- A free mind
- Open discussion
- Loving self knowledge

It wasn't so much that I saw them practicing those principles themselves. It was more that their complaints seemed to revolve around the systematic repression of those values among people who claim to believe in God.

The Kitab-i-Hearsay

Maybe Baha'i training should include a section on the Kitab-i-Hearsay, the Kitab-i-Imitation, and the Kitab-i-Bandwagon.

Better than that, we need training in critical thinking, courage and wisdom.

"The institution" as a synonym for spiritual assembly

Some thoughts after reading Sen's "The Supreme Institution":

Sen says he first noticed people calling the House of Justice "The Supreme Institution" about 1985. That's the same time I first noticed people using "the Institution" as a synonym for "the Spiritual Assembly." I remember one person at a spiritual assembly meeting saying very sternly that is was time to start calling our spiritual assembly by its proper name, "the Institution."

Besides the fact that I see no grounds for that in any of the authoritative writings of the Faith, one of my objections is that it seems to me to undermine the other divine institutions, including the Nineteen Day Feast, the family, the Right of God and the Dawning Place.

At the time I thought it might have come from people who wanted Baha'is to be more aware of the spiritual assembly as an institution, and who sometimes said "the institution" instead of "the spiritual assembly," to emphasize that it is an institution. Also, in prolonged discussions about a spiritual assembly, it's easier to say "the institution" instead of "the spiritual assembly." Fewer syllables. I don't see anything wrong with that. The trouble comes when other people imitate it without understanding it, and turn it into a law.

I definitely would like to see that clarified in Baha'i training.

Jim's Baha'i studies project: framework

1. What it's about
2. Some of my current ideas about Baha'i training

1. What it's about

I was thinking that some friends of mine might do more good with the writings of Baha'u'llah if they had a better vision of possibilities, and if they were less distracted by Baha'i feuding. That led to the idea of helping to transmit encouragement, support and learning through walls of prejudice and over gulfs of estrangement. That led to the idea of reading and commenting thoughtfully and sympathetically on people's writings.

I think it might help me to be looking for ideas to improve Baha'i training. I haven't considered how any of this might actually be incorporated into Baha'i training. Some possibilities do come to mind, but the value of this for me doesn't depend on that.

I might also look for ideas about how to improve the framework of this project.

2. Some of my current ideas about Baha'i training

It might help me to set this in a context of learning and teaching resources in general, for Baha'u'llah's purposes. Examples of resources might include models, study materials, workshops, classes, mentoring, divine institutions, prayer and other spiritual practices, consultation, encouragement skills, fellowship, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, spiritual qualities and Neo-Pagan concepts and practices.

I might generalize what I'm looking for in my reading to any ideas that might help improve any kind of learning and teaching resource for Baha'u'llah's purposes.

Considering the content and methods of training, my thoughts have mostly revolved around mentoring, Baha'i training institutes, and the Ruhi courses as a starting point for widespread training for general purposes. I'm imagining an evolution in mentoring, in the Ruhi courses, and in other training programs which will respond to all of the current possibilities for serving Baha'u'llah's purposes; and to the whole range of interests, concerns and capacities of all the people who are trying to serve them.

Examples of evolution might include improvement in concepts, in ways of developing skills, and in ways of developing our relationships with Baha'u'llah.

Jim's Baha'i studies project

Background: See previous post

I was reading a friend's blog (Vigdisdotter), and I thought of this project and decided to include her in it.

I need to do some more thinking about how to do what I'm trying to do in this project. Meanwhile, I'll just post some disorganized thoughts about training that come to me while I'm reading the blog.

1. A monotheistic view can impoverish our relationship with the world around us.

2. It's good to start with basics.

3. I might like Baha'i training to include making better use of our intuition, the color wheel of life, seeing the magic all around us, finding our own path, gods and guiding spirits, and not depreciating any of our ideas or parts of our personality, no matter how much other people do, including our companions.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jim's Baha'i studies project

Helping to transmit encouragement, support and learning through walls of prejudice and over gulfs of estrangement, between people who are interested in the writings of Baha'u'llah

Special interest:
People involved in Baha'i Internet feuds

Some other people to include:
Artists, people involved in Baha'i studies associations, bloggers, people involved in Baha'i community development programs, people involved in other community service and development projects, people around me whose ideas I've neglected

Current line of action:
Talking to people and reading people's writings, looking for ideas about how to improve Baha'i training programs

Yesterday I talked to one of my friends whose ideas I've neglected in the past. I asked him if he had any ideas about how to improve Baha'i training programs. Here are my notes:

- It would be better to start with people who are interested and committed.
- More activities for practical and occupational training, like in computers and other technology. The training would include writings from Baha'u'llah, in the context of the practical and occupational training.
- Build activities around the most popular educational tools, especially the Internet.
- Include training about the difference between prejudice and preference.
- Include training to help remedy prejudice and misusing people.

(edited to clarify an example)

Reminder to me

1. Develop friendships
2. Improve my practice of whatever I want to promote.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Infallibility of the House of Justice

Abdu'l-Baha might have meant that the House of Justice can't fail.

In any case, I'm imagining that we can't fail by following the House of Justice.

Blog reading lessons

That's (blog reading) lessons, not blog (reading lessons).

Blog reading lesson #1:

Before I comment on a blog post, I need to read the other comments.

Some ideas about Baha'i training programs

I didn't try to organize this at all.

1. I sometimes think of current Baha'i training programs as training programs for people who are working to spread peace, justice, beauty and kindness.

2. I sometimes think of what we're learning to do in the training programs as bringing a new spirit into the life of society.

3. I would like there to be a more clear and sharp distinction in the Ruhi courses, between the writings of Baha'u'llah and the opinions of the authors.

4. I would like to see more encouragement and support for mentoring, to make part of the training available to people who are not well served by formal classes.

5. I would like to see better support for the practices. More ideas, more training in helping people do them.

6. I would like to see more in all the training about developing our relationship with Baha'u'llah, together.

7. I would like to see more visible and systematic efforts to improve the training, and more encouragement and support for all people to participate in that development.

8. I would like the training to include:
- freedom from estrangement
- learning to offer encouragement and support that really helps, to every person
- better appreciation for other initiatives besides those that are derived from community goals
- not stigmatizing members who dissociate themselves from community goals and plans, including Ruhi courses

9. Some possible references for encouragement training:
- Dinkmeyer and Losoncy
- Gerard Egan

10. I think a lot can be learned for training purposes from Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rediscovering Baha'u'llah

One of my ideas to help me rediscover Baha'u'llah is to study and practice passages addressed to the "people of Baha." I'm starting with The Summons of the Lord of Hosts" because I've been wanting to read that. I read the whole tablet in which I found the first passage. Then I thought about how I could practice subduing the citadels of people's hearts with the swords of wisdom and of utterance. Then I thought about memorizing more of Baha'u'llah's words. I chose a passage from Ruhi Book 6, which led me to the tablet to Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Dahaji. In that tablet, Baha'u'llah says:

"In such manner hath the Kitáb-i-Aqdas been revealed that it attracteth and embraceth all the divinely appointed Dispensations. Blessed those who peruse it. Blessed those who apprehend it. Blessed those who meditate upon it. Blessed those who ponder its meaning. So vast is its range that it hath encompassed all men ere their recognition of it. Ere long will its sovereign power, its pervasive influence and the greatness of its might be manifested on earth. Verily, thy God is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed."

(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 199)

Now I'm going through the Kitab-i-Aqdas again, trying to memorize one paragraph each day, and think about it throughout the day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What to do about defects in Baha'i administration

A person who has a favorable view of Baha'u'llah, and wants to do something about defects in Baha'i administration, might look through the writings of Baha'u'llah for ideas about what to do. There might be some good ideas in His writings about what to do if His estate is being administered in ways contrary to His purposes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Memorize and recite

"The sanctified souls should ponder and meditate in their hearts regarding the methods of teaching. From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages bearing on various instances, so that in the course of their speech they may recite divine verses whenever the occasion demandeth it, inasmuch as these holy verses are the most potent elixir, the greatest and mightiest talisman. So potent is their influence that the hearer will have no cause for vacillation. 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."

(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 199)

That's exactly what I was thinking when I thought of memorizing more of Baha'u'llah's words!

Baha'i feuding and Baha'u'llah's purposes

I keep thinking about how the training, experience, interests and ideas that I see behind Baha'i feuding on the Internet could be turned more towards serving Baha'u'llah's purposes. This morning while I was studying the Tablet to Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Dahaji, I thought of going through some feud-related writings to look for ideas that might help people teach the Cause of Baha'u'llah. Later I thought more specifically of looking for ideas that might improve our training programs.

Rediscovering Baha'u'llah

The verse I'm trying to practice now is:

"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. 76)

I thought it might help me to memorize some more of Baha'u'llah's words. I looked in Ruhi Book 6, because I'm currently involved in a Book 6 study circle. I memorized this:

"Say: To assist Me is to teach My Cause. This is a theme with which whole Tablets are laden. This is the changeless commandment of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. Comprehend this, O ye men of insight."

(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 196)

Now I'm reading the whole tablet (Tablet to Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Dahaji).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange

I found this while I was looking for some ideas about what to call my new blog and Web pages:
"Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process is a widely-recognized method that nurtures the development of artistic works-in-progress through a four-step, facilitated dialogue between artists, peers, and audiences."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Milestones: in medias res

"In medias res, also medias in res (Latin for 'into the middle of things'), is a literary and artistic technique where the narrative starts in the middle of the story instead of from its beginning (ab ovo or ab initio)."

Fred, I'm so, so happy to see this. I've dreamed of something like this, longed for it, for years. I wish I could at least offer you some moral support, or even find someone who could.

I love the photos.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Some Responses to the writings of Baha'u'llah

I've been wondering what to call my new blog and Web pages, about transmitting encouragement, support and learning through walls of prejudice and over gulfs of estrangement. I'm thinking now of calling them "Some Responses to the Writings of Baha'u'llah."

I might start by an overview of what I've seen in some people's responses to the writings of Baha'u'llah. I'm thinking in particular of people I've seen depreciated by others. That would include the House of Justice and its members, Fred, Wahid, Karen, Alison, Steve, Sen, Susan, firestorminitiative, Eric, Darrick, Moojan Momen and George Wesley Dannells.

I also want to include other kinds of responses besides ideas. Artistic responses and practicing responses, for example.