Friday, November 30, 2007

Spiritual and intellectual warriors

Every now and then I write about things that I just LOVE. One of these things is quality production of the Baha'i Writings set to music. I find that I can listen to these works of art over and over again feeling them nourish and soothe my soul.

On a new favorite blog Befriended Stranger I just learned of another CD in this genre--Badasht by Eric Dozier and JB Eckl ...(listen to snippets here)--I ordered two copies of the CD one for me and one as a special gift for some special friends.

Here is the other thing about Eric Dozier--he adds to a list of deeply spiritual, incisively intellectual African/African American men that seem to be teaching and inspiring me all at once recently. Lets see, there is Frederick Hanna, Phillipe Copeland, Jonathan Jansen and now Eric Dozier. All of these individuals started out in divinity school/seminary and continue to pursue intellectual endeavors and this is combined with their critical awareness of the ills this world is suffering from. This sounds to me like an explosively powerful combination.

'Abdu'l-Baha, speaking during his travels in the United States in the early 1900s, had much to say about the importance of simultaneous development of material and spiritual civilization:

"Since my arrival in this country I find that material civilization has progressed greatly, that commerce has attained the utmost degree of expansion; arts, agriculture and all details of material civilization have reached the highest stage of perfection, but spiritual civilization has been left behind. Material civilization is like unto the lamp, while spiritual civilization is the
light in that lamp. If the material and spiritual civilization become united, then we will have the light and the lamp together, and the outcome will be perfect. For material civilization is like unto a beautiful body, and spiritual civilization is like unto the spirit of life. If that wondrous spirit of life enters this beautiful body, the body will become a channel for the distribution and development of the perfections of humanity."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 11)

But back to Eric Dozier, he has his masters in divinity from Duke University and he happens to also be a fellow graduate of mine from Landegg Academy. Here is some of his bio on the Amity Records website

"While at Duke, he served as the minister of music for the Duke University Modern Black Mass Choir. Eric’s enthusiasm for gospel and blues music was cultivated from a very early age and during a choir tour to the Czech Republic, he recognized gospel music’s potential to connect people of diverse cultures and languages.

Compelled by the urgent need to help establish unity at a neighborhood, national and global level, Eric Dozier formed One Human Family Music Workshop combining jazz and gospel to create a unique gospel experience. Through his role as co-founder and National Director of Arts and Education for One Human Family Workshops, Inc., Eric devotes his musical, spiritual, and intellectual talents to eradicating social, religious, racial, gender, and cultural discrimination.

A one-time delegate to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, Eric is often invited as a keynote presenter on an array of topics: Community Building; Youth Violence, Punishment and Justice; Black History; Abolitionist History; White Supremacy; Sexism; and Music History; and facilitates workshops and seminars for schools, colleges and universities, community centers, and corporations. His heart stirring music, dynamic speeches, historical presentations, and music workshops serve to weld the hearts and minds of a divided humanity into one loving fellowship."

I can't help but feel that individuals such as Eric Dozier are perfectly situated to take humanity to new places.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Academic integrity

I have been pondering academic integrity recently. Yes, I have dealt with some tough issues with student plagiarism this past week that spiraled out of control and have really gotten me down.

But beyond these issues of academic integrity I am considering the meaningfulness of it all. How does one become a "public intellectual" who conducts research and social analysis in order to bring light to hithero unrealized facets of social reality and thereby act as a force for the healing, regeneration and upliftment of humanity.

My thoughts on this dimension of academic integrity are spurred on by the FUNDAEC model mentioned a couple of posts ago (which focuses on "intellectual preparation for social action") and also by Professor Jonathan Jansen who I had the privilege of hearing speak last week. Thinking of these two examples of academic integrity is giving form to two related ideas...

1. FUNDAEC: The rethinking of oppressed and marginalized peoples around the world. That it is likely not appropriate or beneficial to view them as hungry masses and a bundle of needs and deficits. Rather all of humanity must come to a realization of the infinite potential for all members of the human race as crucial agents of change in the world.

2. The second idea is the awareness that traumas that are also endured by perpetrators of injustice and oppression in the world.

This latter was one of the themes that Jonathan Jansen spoke about. He has been studying the white South Africans who perpetrated the most heinous acts during the South African apartheid regime. He talks of how his choice as a black man to study white people was a political act on his part. For so long it has been white people wielding their magnifying glasses onto social reality and defining and labeling the "other." Professor Jansen turns the tables in a sense and he studies his "subjects" with the most peculiar compassion and capacity for forgiveness. He now seems to be traveling the world with a message of racial unity and of healing for humanity in all the multitudinous and seemingly ever multiplying contexts of conflict around the world. He also unabashedly proclaims his Christian spirituality and seems implicitly to suggest that solutions to such intractable problems cannot but be spiritual in nature. I found his simultaneous call for justice and forgiveness and for facing head on the extraordinarily painful processes of healing to be quite freshly new and intense. All who hear him seem similarly moved into deep reflection on the implications of his thoughts.

He is also undoubtedly inspired by that great world leader Nelson Mandela who he mentioned often as he spoke. It is long overdue for me to read about him. How about this book? "Mandela: An illustrated biograpy" which draws on Mandela's autobiography "A long walk to freedom" and adds lots of pictures.

While Mandela is Africa's Martin Luther King, Steven Biko is Africa's Malcolm X. Have you seen the movie Cry Freedom? I remember being proud that it was filmed in Zimbabwe.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Hungarian thanksgiving

Cathy, Terry, Jessie and Matt invited us to join them at their friends' home for Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon/evening. It was QUITE the elegant experience. Their friends, Peter and Yudit, come from Hungary and are very warm and artistic people.

One of the guests in attendance, Tom, a professor of medieval literature at the University of Connecticut was very pleased and proud to let me know that he was also a half-Finn and told me all kinds of stories about fishing with his Finnish grandfather and visits to his grandparents' sauna using birch and willow switches to get the circulation going. I did feel that I was talking to some long lost uncle somehow on my mother's side. I reflected on how much I enjoy searching for and finding little pieces of my family as I travel along life's pathways. I construct my own family members as I go with reckless abandon, even if they are just temporary connections.

Julia showed us how to put together the Hungarian crepes that were served for dessert. DELICIOUS!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application?" Confucius

I feel so completely overwhelmed with opportunities to learn this Fall that I am feeling a little giddy at the moment with all the excitement of the interactions. My heart is full and brimming with a sense of expansive gratitude. The most exciting soures of learning really are my wonderful "students" this semester who are my greatest teachers.

In the recent couple of weeks I have also been invited to attend several other exciting events.

Last week I was invited to the opening ceremony of the Confucius Institute at the university where I teach. There were uplifting speeches by the President of the university and the Consul General of the PRC consulate in New York who both spoke of the coming together of peoples from different nations in the world and the relevance of Confucius' doctrine of harmony for the relationships between nations in an emerging global society.
We were even treated to an up close and personal performance of a Lion Dance. Very fun. (Not sure why they turned off the lights!)

From the Wikipedia entry on the Confucius Institute "The Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China estimates that, by the year 2010, there will be approximately 100 million people worldwide learning Chinese as a foreign language, and it plans to set up more than 100 Confucius Institutes worldwide."

The most important Confucian classic is The Analects. Here are the comments about this book on Google books:

"No other book in the entire history of the world has exerted a greater influence on a larger number of people over a longer period of time than this slim volume. The spiritual cornerstone of the most populous and oldest living civilization on Earth, the Analects has inspired the Chinese and all the peoples of East Asia with its affirmation of a humanist ethics. As the Gospels are to Jesus, the Analects is the only place where we can encounter the real, living Confucius. In this gem-like translation by Simon Leys, Confucius speaks with clarity and brilliance. He emerges as a man of great passion and many enthusiasms, a man of bold action whose true vocation is politics. Confucius (551-479 B.C.) lived in an age of acute cultural and political crisis. Many of his observations mark a world sinking into violence and barbarity. Unable to obtain the leading political role he sought, he endeavored to reform society and salvage civilization through ethical debate, defining for ages to come the public mission of the intellectual."

And here are some quotes from The Analects :

"To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness."

"He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it."

"Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? ...Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? ...Is he not a man of complete virtue, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?"

"To rule a country of a thousand chariots, there must be reverent attention to business, and sincerity; economy in expenditure, and love for men; and the employment of the people at the proper seasons."

"A youth, when at home, should be filial, and, abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful. He should overflow in love to all, and cultivate the friendship of the good. When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these things, he should employ them in polite studies."

Yesterday I was invited to give a talk at the University of Delaware. I have been invited to give academic presentations on several occasions previously but this is the first time that I have been invited to give an academic presentation at a University. Interactions with the faculty members there were so fruitful in helping me to think about my own work.

This morning I went to give a presentation at the annual Model United Nations event that is held at our university. I was asked to speak to UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization) on the topic of secondary schooling. This is not my area of expertise at all but in my second year as a professor I am now used to having to prepare things to say every week in areas that are outside my area of expertise and it is one of the things that makes this job so WONDERFUL--- the learning that one must engage in on a daily basis.

So I gave my few comments to a beautifully diverse collection of about one hundred bright young high school students all representing a particular country to which they had been assigned. The students were all so CUTE that I just wanted to hug them all. That sounds so silly but it accurately expresses the desire I felt. And they had such wonderful questions to ask.

A couple of the things that I found myself telling them in my brief "speech" were ideas that I gleaned from the FUNDAEC philosophy of rural education. These included the point that much of secondary schooling serves to alienate learners in rural areas of the world from their environment. There are six principles that guide the FUNDAEC approach to rural education. I shared with them the following two:

Consider the people as potential resources and not as problems

"The populations with which FUNDAEC works are not perceived according to the visions common in projects of social action—as masses of undernourished people, overwhelmed by problems and needs. For FUNDAEC, the people are irreplaceable resources in a self-sustaining process of change; the challenge is to find methods that allow them to fully express this potential in all its dimensions."

Do NOT look at them as "masses of undernourished people, overwhelmed by problems and needs."
Instead see them as "irreplaceable resources in a self sustaining process of change". I LOVE this. I am just letting the potency and power of this switch of thinking penetrate my conciousness and I LOVE it.

I also shared with them the wisdom contained in principle number 4--that of

Engaging in the search for pertinent knowledge and the integration of both the traditional and the modern:

"The villagers of the world receive a technology that is the result of scientific progress applied to the conditions of larger farmers whose logic of production is entirely different from that of campesino societies in the process of transition and/or disintegration. In its search for such structures, FUNDAEC conceived the University for Integral Development as a social space in which two systems of knowledge, a modern one (in all its sophistication) and a traditional one, pertaining to the people of the region, would interact in a healthy way. "

The spiritual foundations for the work of FUNDAEC are far more key and so thoroughly revolutionary to the dominant materialist paradigms that determine the structure of current global society but I did not try to share these. I am looking forward to exploring understandings of the harm that dominant paradigms of modernization have wreaked on humanity more fully as I work on developing my course in Comparative Education next semester...

"Development defined in terms of certain patterns of “modernization” seems to refer exactly to those processes which promote the domination of man’s material ambitions over his spiritual goals. One of the manifestations of this type of progress, and this unbalanced obsession with industrialization is the accelerated disintegration of rural life witnessed during the past few decades. The analysis of the existing rural problems and the historical evolution of development efforts in the post war era convinced the founders of FUNDAEC that this false version of modernization is not only a goal unattainable by the majority of humanity but also one that is undesirable, and that the misery that reigns in rural areas and the slums of many cities is nothing but a logical consequence of the bankruptcy of dominant social ideologies. FUNDAEC’s development programs are carried out in the context of a search for a scientific and technologically modern society, but one that will base its educational, economic, administrative, political, and cultural structures on the concept of the integral nature of the human being and not only on his or her material needs."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weirdly wonderful

Well Love from Leila has tagged me in something called a Meme. My instructions are to write seven weird facts about my life and then tag seven other friends. I am going to request that my readers volunteer to be tagged and send me a link to their answers in a comment.

1. My mother was perhaps the most wonderfully weird person that I have ever met. She used to swim in holes cut in the ice during the Finnish winters and then when she moved to Africa she would often say that she had never felt as cold in Finland in the winter as she did in Africa in the winter as the winters were too mild in Zimbabwe for people to have heating in their homes or to wear heavy coats. My mother was intrigued by all things alternative--she was interested in UFOs and the Urantia book and most especially in alternative health remedies. Garlic was her cure all and was administered to me at the first sign of a cold. (I still use garlic as my main defense against the first signs of illness). She loved her Tianjin Keep Fit tea, Rooibos tea and her Acutouch equipment from Korea. She set up a little "clinic" in her home joining forces with a traditional African herbalist to treat any adventurous clients. She took in a man who had been one of my father's fieldworkers who knocked at her door dying from AIDS. None of his family members would have anything to do with him. She cooked for him and served him her special "healing" meals in her kitchen when others would not even dare to shake hands with him and arranged for him to go around talking to students in schools around the country doing AIDS awarness work. He lived for two years with her until he died.

2. My mother's eccentricities such as her opinions on health and UFOs, were difficult for my father to tolerate and yet he was equally eccentric in his own right. He dressed quite flamboyantly in his later years. An outfit you might frequently find him in would be a plaid shirt, rainbow colored suspenders and his prized Navajo turquoise bolo tie fastened around his neck.

[This is not a picture of my father but it is apicture of rainbow suspenders]

He was always sure to draw on what little money he had left in his US bank account to subscribe to a variety of reading materials including Popular Science, Science News, National Geographic, Mad Magazine and the National Enquirer! (just now that I think about it, he might have subscribed to this latter for my mother. She certainly enjoyed reading all the unlikely stories contained therein). He also subscribed to World magazine for me when I was a child and Seventeen as I grew close to that age.

He spent as much time out in the bush doing his work as a geologist as he could. He used to say that he could feel his blood pressure rising as soon as he started drawing close to the city. His time in the bush is how he came to have so many African friends who all called him Uncle John.

3. When I was a child, my parents would take me into the villages every now and then when they were out visiting Baha'i communities, going out to teach people about the Baha'i Faith or assisting in the establishment of Local Spiritual Assemblies. Sometimes I would play dodgeball with the other village children using balls they had made out of plastic bags bound up tightly together. Sometimes little girls would play with my long blonde hair braiding it tightly into many tiny braids. Once I stayed in the car on my own to read a book while I waited for my parents to finish their visit and within minutes I had a whole crowd of children pressed against the windows looking in on me like an exotic animal in a museum exhibit. They were shouting things at me through the glass like "Are you a boy or a girl?" and "How old are you?" and "What is your name?" I remember being frightened by the sheer number of the faces peering in on all sides of the car all shouting questions simultaneously.

4. Even though I grew up in the city it seems to me I was surrounded by wildlife. Large wall spiders with flat bodies scurrying along the walls two to three inches in diameter. Geckos and lizards. I had a door to the outside from my bedroom and there was a little shrew that would crawl under the door into my room at night in the winter. There were large rats in the attic that would run above my head at night making a such a noise and I would be afraid that they would drop through the ceiling onto my face. If you walked outside in the garden at night you could hear the squeaking of the fruit bats in the enormous avocado tree in our front yard. They would nibble at the large avocados until they knocked them off the branches and the avocados would come crashing down through the foilage with a heavy thud as they reached the earth below. I have yet to find avocados as large, delicious and creamy as the avocados that grew on the splendid tree in our front yard.
There were all manner of glorious birds in our garden as well like hoopoes and go away birds.

5. When I lived in China there was only hot water at specific scheduled times and even then it was not very hot and sometimes there was no water at all. I got tired of trying to schedule my baths around the irregular availability of water so I finally broke down and started going to the public bath house just outside the university where the water was always plentiful and came down copiously at a gloriously high temperature. There was a 2 yuan entrance fee. It took much courage because I was already tired of being stared at as a foreigner whereever I went and that was WITH my clothes on. I was expecting it to be insupportable to go to a public bathhouse where everyone stands under showers in the same big room together and to have people staring at me WITHOUT any clothes on. It was no problem though. All the ladies were engaged politely in civil disattention involved in their own washing. The women in Shanxi seemed to be able to wash themselves for two hours scrubbing and scraping at the coal dust in their pores. I could never stay for more than 30 minutes hard as I tried and when I would come out the lady in charge would invariably ask me "Are you finished already?" I felt myself quite the unclean foreigner.

6. My dear Chinese husband is wonderfully weird in so many ways that I won't outline here. He sometimes likes to heat his orange juice in the microwave so that it is lukewarm.

7. My parents in law who live with us here in CT are also wonderfully wierd in so many ways. When they went back to China for a couple of months over the summer my father in law put his large collection of goldfish into the bathtub to that it would be easier for us to change the water while they were away! So I would go up to their apartment every day to feed the goldfish and let half of the water out and pour in the buckets of water I had prepared ahead of time.

They continue to discover the most amazing discarded treasures when they go out to throw out the trash. Their most recent gift to me is a brand new toaster with Mickey Mouse on the side that sings when the toast pops up. I love it. Might not sound like your cup of tea but I happen to love it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tea and thoughts matter

I am sitting here savoring a beautiful moment immersed in some gifts that I recently bought for myself and that just arrived today. These gifts are all the more special as they make me think of some of the precious friends who are filling my life with wonder and beauty this year.
I am listening to music played by a Turkish instrument called the taz on the cd Music from the Tea Lands that was played at the devotional gathering the other night.

This CD goes VERY well with the book that was recommended for me when I asked R.H. about prayer and whether or not he had any suggestions as to how I might enter a deeper state of connection with God through meditation.
The book draws on the Christian mysticism of the early "desert monks".
I have only read the first couple of chapters but I already see that this is JUST what I need at the moment and have needed for some time. It offers such sound magnanimous guidance for those who would walk a spiritual path through life. It offers advice on how to gain some focus and to rein in the power of thought.

"Only when I sensed the power of my thoughts and was able to renounce them could I hear the ever so small voice of God deep inside...The work of everyone of us is interior work, the practice of training our thoughts."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Where is the love?--Black eyed peas

Continued reporting on the musical gems that George Wesley Dannells has unearthed.

"...Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y'all, y'all
People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above'
Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)Where is the love
The love, the love....

...Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found
...Sing wit me y'all:One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That's all we got)
One world, one world
And something's wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something's wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something's wrong wit the wo-wo-world, yeah
We only got(One world, one world)
That's all we got(One world, one world)"

Life of Baha'u'llah

A new website on the life of Baha'u'llah

Early life of comfort and wealth:

"Bahá’u’lláh, a title that means "the Glory of God" in Arabic, was born on 12 November 1817 in Tehran, Iran. His given name was Husayn Ali, and He was the son of a wealthy government minister, Mirza Buzurg-i-Nuri. The family could trace its ancestry back to the great dynasties of Iran's imperial past. Bahá’u’lláh led a princely life as a young man, receiving an education that focused largely on calligraphy, horsemanship, classic poetry, and swordsmanship...

According to the custom of that time, as the son of an influential government official, Bahá’u’lláh did not receive a formal education. Yet by the time He was fourteen, he became known for His learning. He would converse on any subject and solve any problem presented to him. In large gatherings he would explain intricate religious questions to the ulama (the leading religious figures in Islam), and they listened with great interest...

Instead of pursuing a life of power and leisure, Bahá’u’lláh chose to devote His energies to a range of philanthropies which had, by the early 1840s, earned Him renown as "father of the poor."...

...and a long life of suffering

Once the arrest warrant was signed, Bahá’u’lláh's admirers offered to protect Him from the wrath of the Shah's ministers who were intent on taking His life. Instead, refusing to go into hiding, He rode out to face His accusers.
Without shade, under a blazing August sun, Bahá’u’lláh was forced to walk to the place of imprisonment in Tehran. All along the route He was stoned and pelted with whatever came to bystanders’ hands and was vilified by the crowds flocking to the scene..."

Continue reading...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beautiful African Women

Peter Gabriel and Youssou Ndour sing a song called "Shaking the tree" in celebration of women's liberation and empowerment. "WOMAN let your new life start!"

One of the many wonderful songs that abound in popular global culture that have a positive message in keeping with the New Age of social justice and inevitability of world peace that are collected together by George Wesley Dannells, a DJ extraordinaire, on his Facebook page where I have become a frequent visitor to acquaint myself with these songs.

Monday, November 05, 2007

New Sudan Education Initiative

Just got back from a presentation by Abraham Awolich founder and director of the New Sudan Educational Initiative (NESEI). He told his incredible story of fleeing at the age of 7 from the 1983 conflict between North and South Sudan running first to Ethiopia and then Kenya and surviving untold sufferings from long walks through the bush, snakes, lions, disease, hunger, thirst, crossing rivers in the rainy season and finally ending up as a refugee in Burlington, VT. It was a moving story and he told it with dignity, humility, and strength.

He was here to tell us though about the work that he is engaged in along with many supporters to raise money for his people to rebuild the Southern part of Sudan starting with education. Education so that people will have the basic knowledge to prevent disease, education so that child soldiers will have something to hope for so that they will put down their guns which is all they have known after losing their families, education so that there will be teachers and farmers and small businesses. An entire society has been decimated by over 20 years of war.

Going to these events is both inspiring and upsetting for me. I am upset by the inequality. I am upset by the thought of all this senseless war and violence. I am upset that I am not doing anything about it. I am upset by the comfort and peace that I enjoy. I am upset by the sense of responsibility that I feel to be doing something for Africa.

When I walked outside this morning into the cool Connecticut autumn sunshine I had a strange recollection of sunny winter mornings in Zimbabwe when the air is crisp and cool against the skin but the sun is bright and warm. I remembered a particular trip to a village when a group of us drove over dusty roads to visit with Baha'is. I remember walking with a beautiful girl who was not dressed for the cool evening air but who assured me she was not cold as she was used to it. We walked together and climbed onto a large rock that was still warm from the sunshine it had absorbed during the day to watch the sunset over the Southern African savannah. She was teaching me a song they had been singing that day. I remember being aware that the experience was as perfect and complete as beauty could ever be.

Why do I have this longing to do something? It is a longing that is coupled with both a sense of helplessness and a sense of deep fear and deep dread. Africa frightens me with my perception of the depth of its need and suffering. It torments me with the thoughts of my mother's violent death in the home where I grew up. On the one hand I feel that I have nothing to give Africa and on the other I feel that I too must offer up my life for Africa. Not for Africa's sake but just so that I myself can be healed. Healed from the weight of unformed, unspoken and yet still broken promises.

Well Abraham Awolich is doing something and I gave his efforts a small token of my support.

You can too at

Friday, November 02, 2007

The True Seeker

A new and VERY dear, respected and distinguished friend of mine recently asked me about Salvation in the Baha'i Faith. This and other questions that he asks me have me pondering things in a way that I haven't pondered them in a VERY long time and he will never know just how invigorating and joyful this experience has been for me. In addition, the new and deep spiritual insights that he brings to bear are extraordinarily precious. In my pondering of the question of salvation in the Baha'i Faith I got to thinking about the important Baha'i principle of the "independent investigation of truth". That we are all responsible for our own journey to truth. One of my favorite passages in the Baha'i Writings (Leif maybe we can put this in my top ten list! :) is the Tablet to the True Seeker. The way I see it anyone who wishes to call herself a Baha'i cannot relax and rest on her laurels and imagine that the search is over. It seems to me that the search for True Knowledge continues at least during all our days on this mortal plane and perhaps even in the worlds beyond it.

Also, is it the arriving at the "station of the True Seeker" that constitutes salvation? Or is it that in arriving at this station we can begin the work of an eternity of striving towards a salvation and that this search and striving is every bit as wonderful, mysterious, and enjoyable as the journey's end?

Here it is-- an excerpt from what has come to be known as

"The Tablet to the True Seeker"

"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. 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. Even as thou dost witness in this day how most of the people, because of such love and hate, are bereft of the immortal Face, have strayed far from the Embodiments of the divine mysteries, and, shepherdless, are roaming through the wilderness of oblivion and error.

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. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence, and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endure a century.

That seeker should also regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. He should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire. He should treasure the companionship of those that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit.

At the dawn of every day he should commune with God, and with all his soul persevere in the quest of his Beloved. He should consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention, and, with the swiftness of lightning, pass by all else save Him. He should succour the dispossessed, and never withhold his favour from the destitute. He should show kindness to animals, how much more unto his fellow-man, to him who is endowed with the power of utterance. He should not hesitate to offer up his life for his Beloved, nor allow the censure of the people to turn him away from the Truth.

He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfil. With all his heart should the seeker avoid fellowship with evil doers, and pray for the remission of their sins. He should forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be. How often hath a sinner, at the hour of death, attained to the essence of faith, and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the celestial Concourse. And how often hath a devout believer, at the hour of his soul's ascension, been so changed as to fall into the nethermost fire.

Our purpose in revealing these convincing and weighty utterances is to impress upon the seeker that he should regard all else beside God as transient, and count all things save Him, Who is the Object of all adoration, as utter nothingness.

These are among the attributes of the exalted, and constitute the hall-mark of the spiritually-minded. They have already been mentioned in connection with the requirements of the wayfarers that tread the Path of Positive Knowledge. When the detached wayfarer and sincere seeker hath fulfilled these essential conditions, then and only then can he be called a true seeker. Whensoever he hath fulfilled the conditions implied in the verse: "Whoso maketh efforts for Us,"[1] he shall enjoy the blessing conferred by the words: "In Our ways shall We assuredly guide him."[2]
[1 Qur'án 29:69.]
[2 Ibid.]

Only when the lamp of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of passionate devotion, of fervid love, of rapture, and ecstasy, is kindled within the seeker's heart, and the breeze of His loving-kindness is wafted upon his soul, will the darkness of error be dispelled, the mists of doubts and misgivings be dissipated, and the lights of knowledge and certitude envelop his being.

At that hour will the mystic Herald, bearing the joyful tidings of the Spirit, shine forth from the City of God resplendent as the morn, and, through the trumpet-blast of knowledge, will awaken the heart, the soul, and the spirit from the slumber of negligence. Then will the manifold favours and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit confer such new life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind. He will contemplate the manifest signs of the universe, and will penetrate the hidden mysteries of the soul. Gazing with the eye of God, he will perceive within every atom a door that leadeth him to the stations of absolute certitude. He will discover in all things the mysteries of divine Revelation and the evidences of an everlasting manifestation."

(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 195)